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.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Hurricane killers

Stopping hurricanes is science.

Wow, I've been away from science blogging for a while. I've been concentrating on finishing a book (writing) and another new writing opportunity.

But today's article in the Birmingham News about stopping hurricanes in their tracks is intriguing. Software wiz and zillionnaire Bill Gates is seeking patents on a gizmo that would suck the warm water from the surface and replace it with cool water from the depths.

I just hope I'm not floating in a sailboat nearby when the big suck begins.

There are other problems I see with this, but I am sure these things will be taken into account. My main concern is that the rain from tropical systems, hurricanes included, often saves the southeast from drought conditions. Now if his idea just reduces the killer storm to a tropical storm and we still get the rain, then maybe OK.

And I understand his concern that climate change may be leading to more powerful and more frequent storms. So getting ahead of the game is good.

"This type of technology is not something humankind would try as a 'Plan A' or 'Plan B, ' " he (Paul Holman) wrote. "These inventions are a 'Plan C' where humans decide that we have exhausted all of our behavior changing or alternative energy options and need to rely on mitigation technologies."

Lots of people on blogs and on are noting that concern about weather patterns and heat transfer and such and are warning not to mess with Mother Nature.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

47 million year old ancestor?

Fossils are Science

A 47 million year old fossil is shedding light on evolution and human ancestry. The skeleton was found in Germany. Read it here.

Picture credit The Guardian

From that story:

"She tells so many stories. We have just started the research on this fabulous specimen," said Jorn Hurum, of the University of Oslo Natural History Museum, one of the scientists reporting the find.

Read about Hurum here.

Photo credit Atlantic Productions

She just might be our direct ancestor. Or an "aunt."

Read about the upcoming film here.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

And liftoff....

STS-125 is Science

"And, liftoff of space shuttle Atlantis, the final visit to enhance the vision of Hubble into the deepest grandeur of our universe."

Keep up to date on the mission here, at NASA.

Here's what's on tap for today:

STS-125 Crew to Inspect Heat Shield, Prepare for Rendezvous with Hubble

During their first full day in orbit, the STS-125 crew members will inspect space shuttle Atlantis’ heat shield and prepare for Wednesday’s rendezvous with the Hubble Space Telescope.

The crew will use Atlantis’ robotic arm and orbiter boom extension to check out the spacecraft’s underside and the leading edges of its wings. The inspections are conducted to see if any damage occurred to the heat shield during the climb to orbit that began when Atlantis lifted off at 2:01 p.m. EDT Monday from Kennedy Space Center, Fla.

The crew members will check out tools they will use during the rendezvous with the telescope. They also are slated to check out spacesuits they will use during the mission’s five scheduled spacewalks.

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Rare Sight in Bessemer

Is this Science? This was spotted in Bessemer today. This is a close up.

One might think it is the backdrop for those Baptist Princeton Hospital Ads, but it's really just the blue sky, something of a rarity over the last week or so.

Here's another view.

Why is the sky blue? Here's the answer, at Science Made Simple with charts and figures and all. Basically, though, the answer is that the light from the sun is scattered after hitting gas molecules in the atmosphere (this is caused Rayleigh scattering). The scattering is more effective at short wavelengths or the blue end of the spectrum.

In space, the sky looks black because there is no scattering, since there is no atmosphere.

Enjoy the sky, and the clouds. Lay in the grass and look up at the clouds and name the shapes. Act like a kid.

Wooly Mulleins are science. This is a Wooly Mullein. Verbascum thapsus. Also called Great Mullein. There are several species and hybrids of mulleins. So maybe its not, but anyway, it's a weed, they say, but I have a difficult time killing one. I will mow around them, as I have this one for two years (they are biennials) or plant around them. There are a couple coming up next to my gate by the sidewalk in front. I guess I will just let them grow.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

...Bring May Flowers

Flowering Plants are Science.

The rain is great for the flowers (and weeds) but sure cuts into the ability to run outside and take bug, herp and bird pictures.

Here are some of the flowers that are blooming this week. You can see water on some of these, and they may seem a little beat down. that is because I did run outside between rainstorms to get these pictures yesterday.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Empty Nest Syndrome

Leaving the nest is Science. Remember the Robin's eggs hatched on April 17. Thirteen days later, the babies have flown the coop.

I saw all three, but could only photograph two. Now the journey begins. Remember I mentioned a mortality rate of about 80% for Robins. I saw a stray cat in the backyard this morning, just after I took these pictures. The cat was no where near these guys, though. Still, danger lurks.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Robins on the Attack

Robins protecting their young is Science.

These are not the best pictures, but this is what I have to deal with when taking pictures of the babies. She comes right at me.

If these were Blue Jays I would be wearing a hard hat because I have dealt with them before and they will strike you. The Robins are not quite as aggressive.

She's doing a good job. So far the babies are safe and growing like weeds.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Recycle this

Rethinking Recycling is Science. I don't mean, stop recycling. But lets look at where the trash comes from.

In the top circle, Gross National Trash, notice that only 2.5% comes from municipal solid waste. Most, 76%, comes from industrial waste.

Look at the bottom circle. What do you recycle? Paper? Some plastics? Yard trimmings? Even if we recycled 100% of the waste we generate in our homes, it would still just be a fraction of the waste that is generated in the country.

So, we need to focus on making sure we support companies that work to reduce waste, and encourage all industries to do better.

This article from Mother Jones, via my cousin at Niches, explains it all.

Whose waste do you think is more damaging to the environment. The neighbor's yard clippings and newspapers or the waste generated by the Mercedes Plant? Now don't get all over me for picking on Mercedes, I just used them because they are close by and big.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Robins of Power

Growth rates are science.

Baby robins and most other birds grow fast. These guys are getting feathers and their eyes are open and they will flying the coop within a few days.

My pictures are not as good, but of course my robins are 12 feet up in the air and hard to get to, but outside the White House Press room is a nest, and this photo by Ron Edmonds of the AP shows one of the babies being fed a worm. Ron has primo photo equipment, I am sure.

Earth, the movie, is science. Speaking of birds taking their first steps, or flights, did you see Earth, the movie? We saw it this weekend and the baby ducklings jumping from the tree to the ground was great.

I give the movie 5 stars because it reminded me of watching Disney on Sunday nights on a black and white TV when I was growing up. But the shots in this movie far surpassed the nature scenes of 50 years ago. The New Guinea Birds of paradise were unbelievable, as was the "circle of life" footage. Not all nature stories have happy endings (at least for the prey, the hunter seems pretty satisfied).

And on Earth Day 2010, Oceans will premiere.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Plants and Animals

Behavior is Science. When I climb on the ladder to get a picture these baby Robins now open their mouths wide thinking Momma is here with food.

But when Momma and Daddy Robin notice I am there and start squawking the babies shut their mouths and flatten out so the supposed predator might not notice them.

Medicinal plants are science.

Foxglove is Digitalis purpurea and is the plant from which some cardiac glycosides such as digitoxin and digoxin are derived.

Roses that change color are Science. Mutabilis is a rose from prior to 1894 (about the same age as our house). It opens a peachy yellow, changes each day, first to a light pink and then to a dark pink. The change is caused by sunlight acting on the pigments. The fragrance changes daily too.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Happy Earth Day

Earth Day is Science. Today is Earth Day. Read my essay on Human Responsibility As Part of God's Creation if you haven't already.

See the movie Earth. Here's the trailer.

I've been trying to get pictures of the baby robins and they all turned out fuzzy, then I realized that the babies are fuzzy.

Daddy Robin was not happy with me hanging around for so long, and tried to distract me. What was very interesting was that as Momma and Daddy Robin were calling to lure me away from the nest, a male cardinal showed up to assist. I guess they feel they were successful, because I went on about my business in another area of the yard.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Big Momma

Protecting kids is science. Well at least protecting baby robins is. During the storm yesterday momma robin stayed on the nest, and spread herself into a wide bodied robin to keep her babies dry. She covered the entire nest.

After the storm (between storms, I should say) when the sun came out for a few minutes, momma robin left the nest to go find worms. The babies were dry and safe from harm (but not from a marauding photographer).

Saturday, April 18, 2009


Hatching is Science. Yesterday I noticed poppa Robin on the nest with momma Robin. If you look closely, you can see two birds in the picture. Momma's sitting and Poppa is behind her.

I thought he was just bringing her some food (they did exhibit some beak to beak action) but his interest may have gone beyond that. The eggs hatched yesterday, two days earlier than I predicted. Here two have hatched and there is one egg that has a hole in it and the baby inside can be seen.

Later all three eggs had hatched and now they are hungry. They are pretty much all beak and eyes at this point (though their eyes are not open). I can't get a picture looking straight down into the nest because of the way it sits in the Camellia bush, so one hungry mouth is all we see.