Thursday, April 7, 2011

A gay caveman has been found

Fossils are science (II).

Two years ago I posted a story about an important archaeological find, a 47 million year old ancestor.

Now archaeologists in the Czech Republic have found the 5,000 year old remains of a gay man. The skeletal remains were positioned in the way that women were normally buried, and were surrounded by domestic jugs rather than flint knives and hammers, as men were normally buried. In addition, the head of the body was positioned toward the east when buried, as the remains of women were.* Men were buried with their heads toward the west.

The male body – said to date back to between 2900-2500BC – was discovered buried in a way normally reserved only for women of the Corded Ware culture in the Copper Age.

The skeleton was found in a Prague suburb in the Czech Republic with its head pointing eastwards and surrounded by domestic jugs, rituals only previously seen in female graves.

Picture from the Daily Mail UK

Not only is this significant in that it shows homosexuality has been a factor throughout human existence, but it also indicates that it was accepted at the time.

*I noticed that one article stated the head was facing east, and the other said it was facing west. But both articles pointed to the importance of the direction and indicated the head was facing east. I think the one article just misstated the direction.

"From history and ethnology, we know that people from this period took funeral rites very seriously so it is highly unlikely that this positioning was a mistake," said lead archaeologist Kamila Remisova Vesinova.

This is an important anthropological and ethnological find.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Benthic Community

Microscopic ecosystems are science.

The BP oil spill threatens to destroy an entire ecosystem. More than one, actually, since the coral reefs of the Florida Keys are now under threat. And the ocean floor, one mile deep, is an ecosystem as well.

But the benthic community is the ecosystem that is of the most urgent concern. The wafer-thin top two millimeters of mud in the coastal Louisiana marsh, made up of microscopic algae and invertebrates are what holds the marsh together and what provides the nutritional support for everything from shellfish, crabs and shrimp and eventually to gators and fish and ducks.

This information comes from an article printed in the Times-Picayune in New Orleans.

The tiny microscopic algae in the mud produces a sticky substance that helps bind the soils in the marsh, and thus is of huge importance as far as fighting the loss of the coastal land.

Picture credit Ellis Lucia/Times Picayune

Marine biologists estimate that 97 percent of all marine species in the Gulf of Mexico depend on the estuaries at some point in their life cycles.

Picture credit Dan Swenson/Times-Picayune

"It's an incredible engine for a wide range of life," said Kevin Carman, dean of the College of Basic Sciences at Louisiana State University.

How will it cope with the possibility of a covering of oil?

"If the toxic components of the oil kill those invertebrates foraging on the algae, then the algae will grow out of control," Carman said.

The algae eventually would form a thick mat over the marsh mud, preventing sunlight from penetrating below its surface.

"If the algae can't get sunlight, they die. If they die, the invertebrates have no food, and the whole web is disrupted."

There is no best-case scenario as far as the benthic community is concerned. Not if the oil reaches the marsh, which apparently it has, in some areas.

We will all watch, with great concern, what happens, and how the entities that are responsible and those that are responding react.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Intersex fish in Alabama waterways

The environment is science.

Parade magazine on Sunday January 31, 2010 published an article describing mysterious intersex fish appearing in increasing numbers in rivers in the United States.

Included in the study was the Mobile River Basin which covers most of Alabama.

One third of male smallmouth bass and one fifth of male largemouth bass exhibit both male and female sex characteristics.

Photo credit Parade magazine

"Lab studies are under way to isolate potential causes," lead author Jo Ellen Hinck says.

Katherine Baer of the nonprofit group American Rivers says, "We see what's happening to the fish, and the water they're swimming in is the water we are drinking."

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Symphony of Science

Music is science.

The Symphony of Science is a musical project headed by John Boswell whereby science and philosophy are delivered in musical form.

There have been four installments, and I am including all of them here. I hope you enjoy auto-tune. In my opinion, it gets better with each video.

The newest video, released yesterday, is the last in order on this page, and includes Carl Sagan, David Attenborough, and Jane Goodall. It is titled "The Unbroken Thread."

First, "A Glorious Dawn," featuring Carl Sagan and Stephen Hawking.

Let me stop right here and say that the mysteries and beauty of our planet rival anything seen on Pandora, in the movie Avatar, and I love that movie. That sentiment is brought out in the next video.

OK, the next video is "We are all Connected," and features Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Bill Nye.

The third video is "Our Place in the Cosmos," featuring Carl Sagan, Robert Jastrow, Richard Dawkins, Stephen Hawkins, and Michio Kaku.

Finally, "The Unbroken Thread."

More information, and the lyrics are included at the link above.

Monday, September 28, 2009

The Gulf Fritillary

Butterflies are science.

I chased this little fritillary around the backyard for a while before she got comfortable enough with me to let me approach her while she was feeding.

The Gulf Fritillary is common across much of the United States, and even can be found far out over the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Here she lighted on this tall stem and her weight pulled it over so she was practically hanging upside-down.

She landed on a variety of flowers in the yard.

You can see the silver-white orbs and streaks below on her wings.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What's happening on Saturn???

Astronomy is science.

There is no better place to let your imagination run wild than in space. So when I came across this picture taken by the Cassini spacecraft during its exploration of Saturn, I wondered. Something is piercing the F ring of Saturn.

The blog post (on Discover) where I saw it was titled "Like the fist of an angry god," and that is a great place to begin to imagine what is really going on.

"I mean, seriously: what the hell happened here?"

I'm not a big fan of science fiction, but even I could make a story out of this, as the Saturnians might be sending a probe to try to figure out why the earthlings are destroying our own planet.

Or, as the "bad astronomer" speculates,

"Is this object on an orbit that intersects the rings so that it plunges up through them and then again down into them every time it circles Saturn? If so, how does that affect the rings overall, especially over millions of years?

"Or was this a singular event, some small object whose orbit was affected by a nearby massive moon, changing its path, putting it on a collision course with Saturn’s mighty and vast ring system?"

Here's a zoom of the event.

One of the comments on The bad astronomer suggests, "Fist? No, more likely evidence of Thor’s hammer being thrown around."

Open the link and read the post and comments. And wonder.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Robins and a plant id question

Juvenile robins are science

I was cleaning out a flower bed in the front yard last week and leaned up against a crepe myrtle to rest. The tree shook, I was unaware that there was a bird nest above me, and three robin juvies flew out. The mama and the poppa were around too, and went ballistic. Sorry birdies, I didn't know you were there.

Plant identification is science

This plant and another just like it came up among the hills of squash in the garden. None of the gardeners know what it is. It has a really pretty flower.

The leaves have an almost rubbery feel and the entire plant is covered with a sticky substance that gets on your hands.

A fruit is beginning to develop.

They think some seeds must have mixed in with the squash seeds.