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Friday, February 24, 2017

Dendritic Images: From Gems to Streams: AGate-Way Drug?

     Herewith: some striking geologic/gemologic/geomorphologic images of a dendritic, or tree-like branching, nature this week. {Most of my allotted words have been used up on SAT preparation for six juniors this week.} I've chosen to focus on the geologic dendrite set, though dendrites are found throughout the body's cells and organs, in various microscopic growth patterns, and many other areas.

      1. Australian opal with a dendritic pattern

      2.  Copper dendrite growth

        3. Manganese oxide growth on limestone slab

4. Dendritic pattern in agates (Agate-way drug)

5. Dendritic pattern in unusual black and white opal:

6. Dendritic drainage pattern in geomorphology:

7. Dendritic, fractal growth in ice crystals


      8. Dendritic pattern of (actual) trees against the backdrop of the sheer rock walls of Zion National Park.

Brought to you by the Branch Chief,

Thursday, February 16, 2017

"Like New" Coprolite Fossils From East Central Utah

     You can't make this stuff up!

      I ordered several Jurassic age coprolite (fossilized dinosaur scat) from east central Utah from a rock shop. 

       The order form lists the condition of this "Christmas Poop -- Better than Coal" as "Like New." These are "Authentic Fossils" and they are "Like New."      



      The Cleveland-Lloyd Dinosaur Quarry of east central Utah has produced some of the most well-preserved and complete sets of carnivore dinosaur skeletons (and dinosaur poop!) in the Jurassic formations of North America. 

     Over 15,000 dinosaur bones have been discovered so far from this quarry, a natural predator trap (similar to the La Brea Tar Pits). Many of the rearticulated dinosaur skeletons reside in over 65 museums worldwide. 

      The quarried mudstone is part of the distinctive red Morrison Formation (of Colorado's Red Rocks Amphitheater fame).

      Interstate-70 divides the area into the north and south halves of the San Rafael Swell, where the quarry is located. (I-70 starts/ends west of the quarry).

      The atypical predator/prey ratio (3:1) represented at the quarry may be explained by the pack hunting tendencies of the most prevalent skeletons, the Allosaurus.  

       The high percentage of smaller individual allosaurs suggests that younger dinosaurs worked together to capture and kill prey. The predators may have followed their prey into the mud and subsequently became mired in the predator trap themselves. (Insert "drain the swamp" joke here).

Look! Fossils "like new!"

Sunday, February 12, 2017

March for Science: Earth Day, April 22

     The upcoming March for Science will be held in Washington, D. C., and in satellite cities across the country and around the world on Earth Day, April 22.

     Planning for the March for Science has been gaining momentum. I am playing a small part in organizing Denver's march.

           There are hat knitting  patterns

and t-shirts,

and even NPR Science Friday valentines.

         We are already thinking up signs.

        My favorite sign is worth one more look:

        Maybe it's time for that trip to France, oui?

     Will you be participating in a March for Science ?

      P.S. I tucked that tardigrade valentine in there because, well, how could I RESIST?!

The Polar Bear Experiment (see comment section below).

1. Making clay mountains with topo lines: 

2. Adding water and "icebergs:" 

3. Time passes, the icebergs melt and the polar bears' home is submerged:

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Dark Skies Communities: Westcliffe/Silver Cliff, Colorado -- A Cliffhanger?

     The International Dark Skies Communities of Westcliffe and Silver Cliff, Colorado,

 just east of the Sangre de Cristo Range in the Wet Mountain Valley,

were part of our late January into February camping adventure. I read about the February camping sleep reset after returning home; unplugging definitely worked for me. Maizie, my pup, and I fell asleep to the moon setting and arose to or before the sun rise. {That sleep schedule continued after our return to Denver.}

      Most lights and street lamps in both communities have covers over them so that the light is directed downward only. Thus, evening skies are filled with a plethora of stars and a raucous view of the Milky Way. It also adds a cozy glow to the town while eliminating wasted upward light.

        It took nearly ten years for Jim Bradburn, a retired Denver architect, to convince folks in both communities to put the covers on the lights with the official designation as an International Dark Skies Community coming in 2015.

         The Smoky Jack Observatory in Westcliffe is a real treat in a community of about 1100 people (the combined populations of both towns which share a main street).

       I asked many folks there why these tiny towns connected to one another had separate names but no one had a definitive answer. A rancher laughed heartily when I said the answer would just be a cliffhanger, then. . .Maizie did not care either way and chose instead, a solar soaking.

     We did manage a trip to our favorite Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve. We had the entire park to ourselves after a wave to the park ranger. (I have my Alternative National Park Service decal, of course).

       If only the Pinyon Campground at GSDNP had been open; talk about Dark Skies!

Have you been to any International Dark Skies Communities?

     1. Here's the list of current (pun intended) International Dark Sky Communities.

     2. And here's the "make it up as we went" route of our "Angel Bat Tour."

     {Paper maps work best in this part of Colorado; they're also lots more fun for meeting folks.}