Daily Archives: July 17, 2009

The Family (The Book)

I have too many books to read in too little time but I’m making a push. And I’ve just added to the list one entitled The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.

Yes, yes, I know, everyone else on the planet has already read this and knows about it and since the book was published a very very long time ago (late 2008?) it does not deserve to be discussed in the blogosphere.

But it is relevant as news because of the connection between various nefarious players who have done recent stupid stuff and the organization outlined in the book.

I’m especially looking foward to the author’s discussion of the 18th century preacher Johathan Edwards, which I understand to be absolutely scandalous and novel. Maybe too novel. Maybe not.

Most likely, though many of you have already read this book and have much more to say about it than I do, so please … do so.

A True Ghost Story Part 5: The Grave on the Hill

… continued …

One of the main reasons we were staying in Kimberley at all was to assist the museum staff with a particular, and rather singular, survey and excavation. The location and circumstances of this field project were quite remarkable.
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The Evolution of Cats: Sabertooth vs. Regular


Sabertooth Cat, Megantereon nihowanensisl
There are two kinds of “true cats.” Cat experts call one type feline or “modern” partly because they are the ones that did not go extinct. If you have a pet cat, it’s a modern/feine cat. This also includes the lions, tigers, leopards, etc. The other kind are called “sabercats” because this group includes the saber tooth. It is generally believed but not at all certain that these two groups of cats are different phylogenetic lineages (but that is an oversimplification).

It has been suggested for some time that the bite force mechanics for at least the most derived, latest (but, alas, still extinct) sabercats was less than modern cats. Specifically, this means that when the jaw and the maxilla are brought together by the major muscles that operate this system, the force of the bite is less in the sabercats. Another thing that has been suggested for some time is that among living (modern) cats, there is a fundamental difference in bite mechanics between the smaller cats (who have round heads) and the larger cats such as lions, who have squarer heads with more snouty faces.


Lion skull
However, these assertions have not been as well tested because of a) a lack of live examples of sabercats to test the hypotheses on and b) lack of application of three dimensional morophometric modeling, which is the new thing in functional analysis of animal anatomical systems.

A recent paper, “Evolution of Skull and Mandible Shape in Cats (Carnivora: Felidae),” by Per Christiansen published in PLoS One gives us a new perspective on this. He has applied the morphometrics and come to some interesting conclusions regarding the evolution of bite force mechanics in cats.

This is pretty straight forward, so I’m going to bullet point it for you:

Continue reading The Evolution of Cats: Sabertooth vs. Regular

Primitive beings walking on the moon

This week we celebrate the anniversary of the first time human beings walked around on the moon, and as part of that celebration we find NASA releasing improved versions of the original scratchy black and white low resolution images of the first steps taken on the moon by Neil Armstrong. I’m worried that the youngsters out there do not understand the momentous nature of this event. So stand still for a minute while I force some wisdom on you.

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