Daily Archives: January 7, 2008

Whooping Crane record broken in Texas

Texas is the winter home of the only self-sustaining wild population of Whooping Cranes Grus americana in the world and this winter record numbers have completed their migration and returned to the southern state.Whooping Cranes have been on the endangered species list since 1970, when only 56 birds survived in the wild in the world. These birds nested in Canada and migrated south to spend the winter in Texas.Since then, habitat conservation and protection of the birds has enabled the wild population to increase and in 2007 there were a total of 73 pairs which produced 80 chicks, of which 40 survived to the autumn migration.So far 257 Whooping Cranes have reached the Coastal Bend area of Texas, breaking the previous count of 237 in winter 2006/07. National Whooping Crane Coordinator, Tom Stehn, said: “I estimate that more than 97 per cent of the flock has completed the migration so far. We know of four birds that are still in migration, so that raises the estimated flock size to 261.”

Read the rest here.

Lamarckian Mechanism in Ciliates

A group of scientists … has uncovered a new biological mechanism that could provide a clearer window into a cell’s inner workings…..What’s more, this mechanism could represent an “epigenetic” pathway — a route that bypasses an organism’s normal DNA genetic program — for so-called Lamarckian evolution, enabling an organism to pass on to its offspring characteristics acquired during its lifetime to improve their chances for survival.

Continue reading Lamarckian Mechanism in Ciliates

Scientists Reinvent The Plant

Carbon is cycled from gas (C02) to solid (plant tissue) and and back (through fire, digestion, fermentation, etc.) again and again.Some of that carbon is trapped over long periods in the form of “fossil fuels.”The earth has, in a sense, grown accustom to having a huge chunk of the available carbon stored away in coal and oil, so the recent (last century or so) release of large quantities of this carbon is a problem. This is why fuels made of plants (ethanol, diesel) are of interest. But those fuels require two steps: The carbon is captured by plants, then the plant matter is converted to something that can be burned in machines.Why not cut out the middle-man, and replace the plant with a machine that may make the process more efficient? Continue reading Scientists Reinvent The Plant

Bill Clinton: TED Prize wish: Let’s build a health care system in Rwanda

Accepting the 2007 TED Prize, Bill Clinton says he’s trying to build a better world to hand his daughter. Unequal, unstable, and unsustainable, our world must correct its course, and private citizens (“like me”) can be powerful forces for change. His Clinton Global Initiative, fresh from success negotiating down pharmaceutical prices in the developing world, is now running a pilot health care system in Rwanda, based on the work of Dr. Paul Farmer in Haiti. In 18 months, its shown potential as a model for the entire developing world. Clinton’s TED wish: Help him build this system in Rwanda, to bring world-class health care to a people who have overcome deadly hatred to rebuild their nation.

Continue reading Bill Clinton: TED Prize wish: Let’s build a health care system in Rwanda

Twin Cities Science Events

At the Bell Museum of Natural History

Cafe Scientifique: Looking at LichensTuesday, January 8, 2008; 6 p.m.Kitty Cat Klub, DinkytownWe’ve all seen lichens growing on rocks, trees, or buildings. Yet their unusual and complex structure often goes unnoticed. Though they appear to be a single entity, lichens are actually complex and versatile organisms. Bell Museum Curator of Lichens, Imke Schmitte, will discuss the evolution of lichens, which species provide food, medicines and clothing dyes, and which help out nature by cleaning the air and adding color to the landscape.Cafe Scientifique: Is Minnesota at a Climate Crossroads?Tuesday, January 15, 2008; 7 p.m.Bryant-Lake Bowl, UptownOver the past ten years, winters in Minnesota have been unusually mild. Many climate models predict that this trend will continue – a local example of the dramatic rise in world temperatures known as global warming. What will warmer winters and earlier spring thaws mean Minnesota’s natural landscape? Join the Bell Museum for a discussion about how these changes could affect our state’s ecology, culture and economy.Science on ScreenThe Gorillas of My Grandfather (2004)Thursday, January 17, 2008; 7:00 p.m.Bell Museum AuditoriumIn 1902, German army captain Robert von Beringe photographed a mysterious black creature while climbing an unexplored volcano in central Africa. From this chance encounter, a dramatic story began to unfold. The creature was a new species: a mountain gorilla. A hundred years after the discovery Robert’s grandson, Andreas von Beringe, sets out on a journey to retrace his grandfather’s adventure and to reveal the whole story of the mountain gorilla. (Austria, 53 minutes)Science TriviaWednesday, January 16, 8 p.m.Nomad World Pub501 Cedar Ave. S.$10 registration fee per teamDo you love science news? Can you name the first person to eat in outer space? Do you own copies of Blade Runner or watch Star Trek reruns?Then join Nomad World Pub and the Bell Museum of Natural History for Science Trivia, hosted by Doomtree MC and self-professed science geek Dessa. Test your knowledge of science and nature with questions ranging from current events to science fiction. Gather a group of up to five friends and compete for gift certificates, Bell Museum memberships, and other prizes. Registration is recommended but not required; call 612-624-9050.

Open Source Hardware

i-236c3a5c5906139c87d48a830af96ebc-neuro_osd.jpgThe com units are broken, the transporter can’t penetrate the ion clouds, and the Klingon have you surrounded. You turn to Scotty and say, “Scotty, if you were any kind of engineer, you’d whip us up a Klingon Repellent device using this tricorder and these useless communicators.””I cannae mind what I was thinkin’, Captain! I can give it a try. Geese a dod of that Tricorder, Mr. Spock and I’ll sort you up a real sloater of a Klingon Killer .. oh wait, no, sorry. It says here: ‘No user serviceable parts’.”Then the Klingons kill them all. Continue reading Open Source Hardware

Robot Update

High school robotics competition kicks off

Some 35,000 high school students from over 1500 high schools in eight countries today began competing in the annual US FIRST student robotics contest.This year’s competition, dubbed “FIRST Overdrive,” challenges the student teams to build semi-autonomous robots that will move 40-inch diameter inflatable balls around a playing field and score the most points.

The Evolution of Altruism in Robots

Despite the fact that many fundamentalists believe morals come directly from god, scientists have long known that it’s not just humans who are capable of showing altruistic behaviour. There are many stories of dolphins saving people from shark attacks or drowning and recent studies have shown that chimps will help humans in need even if there is no return benefit for the animal. But now researchers at the Laboratory of Intelligent Systems have used an evolutionary process to create robots that help their comrades.

Species Names

I’m currently working on a project to assemble species names for various uses, and came across this interesting post by Podblack Cat on Podblack Blog. The author explores the interesting variants of species names of interesting species…

What about a spider called Draculoides bramstokeri? Or the sand-crab Albunea groeningi, named after Matt ‘The Simpsons’ Groening? A big winner in terms of nomenclature nods would have to be Frank Zappa, who has at least five different species named after him… one because the orb-weaver spider, Pachygnatha zappa, features abdominal marking that resembles his mustache. Oh, and Playboy founder Hugh Hefner has… yeah, you guessed it, an endangered rabbit named after him.