Monthly Archives: April 2011

Tennessee’s Monkey Bill On Hold

Tennessee’s Senate Bill 893 — nicknamed, along with its counterpart House Bill 368, the “monkey bill” — is on hold, “almost certainly postponing any action until next year,” according to the Knoxville News Sentinel’s Humphrey on the Hill blog (April 21, 2011). Its sponsor, Bo Watson (R-District 11), assigned the bill to the general subcommittee of the Senate Education Committee on April 20, 2011, which was the last scheduled meeting of the committee; he told the blog, “Practically speaking, I probably am not going to be able to run the bill this year,” although it is still possible that the committee might have a further meeting.

Read the rest here.

There is way more CO2 in Martian Polar Cap than previously thought


A newly found, buried deposit of frozen carbon dioxide — dry ice — near the south pole of Mars contains about 30 times more carbon dioxide than previously estimated to be frozen near the pole. This map color-codes thickness estimates of the deposit derived and extrapolated from observations by the Shallow Subsurface Radar (SHARAD) instrument on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. The orbiter does not pass directly over the pole, and the thickness estimates for that area (with smoother transitions from color to color) are extrapolations.

Red corresponds to about 600 meters or yards thick; yellow to about 400; dark blue to less than 100, tapering to zero. The scale bar at lower right is 100 kilometers (62 miles). The background map, in muted colors, represents different geological materials near the south pole.

The estimated total volume of this buried carbon-dioxide deposit is 9,500 to 12,500 cubic kilometers (2,300 to 3,000 cubic miles).

Known variations in the tilt of Mars’ rotation axis can significantly reduce or increase the proportion of the planet’s carbon dioxide that is sequestered into this newly discovered deposit, climate models indicate. The Martian atmosphere is about 95 percent carbon dioxide, and this deposit currently holds up to about 80 percent as much carbon dioxide as the atmosphere does. Several-fold swings in the total mass of the Martian atmosphere can result from growing and shrinking of dry ice deposits on time scales of 100,000 years or less, the models indicate.

(Click the photo to see a larger image)

Story here

Nobel laureates push repeal of La. education law

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — More than 40 Nobel Prize-winning scientists are urging Gov. Bobby Jindal and Louisiana lawmakers to repeal a law that allows public school science teachers to use supplemental materials in their classrooms beyond state-approved textbooks.

In a letter released Thursday, the Nobel laureates say the “Louisiana Science Education Act” of 2008 creates a pathway for creationism and other non-scientific instruction to be taught in science classes.

“Louisiana’s students deserve to be taught proper science rather than religion presented as science,” says the letter representing a list of prominent scientists who over the last four decades have won the Nobel for physics, chemistry, physiology and medicine.

Read more:

Read the rest here

Do you live in or near Baton Rouge?

Rally at the Capitol to Repeal Louisiana’s Creationism Law

Mark April 28th on your calendars!

We will be holding a rally at the Louisiana State Capitol in support of repealing the misnamed and misguided Louisiana Science Education Act.

The rally will take place at 11 am and the repeal will hold a table in the atrium of the capitol from 9 am to 4 pm.

Please contact if you’re interested in meeting with legislators or in volunteering.

I hope to see you there, and please bring friends. We will show the legislature that Louisiana wants this law repealed!

Facebook group is here.

Japan nuke news 20: Tokyo Electric: “fuel may have melted”

Tokyo Electric officials have noted that they can not rule out the possibility that fuel rods in the Fukushima reactors have melted, at least to some extent. No one else, as far as I can tell, thinks that fuel rods have not melted. A Question that is more important than that of Tokyo Electric’s sudden revelation is, of course, are the fuel rods still melting? The answer is that they may well be.

As of a few hours ago, there is a 20 km offset no-entry zone around the Fukushima Power Plant. The evacuation zone has been reduced from 10 to 8 km. Coagulant continues to be injected into trenches to keep water from entering the sea, and water is being drawn from Unit 2 turbine building to be treated fof site. Water from the turbine building of Unit 6 was previously removed.

Electrical systems are being slow restored or replaced. Fresh wter is still being injeted inot the reactors in unites 1,2 and 3, and spent fuel rods are stll being sprayed in unit 4.

Nitrogen cas continues to be injected inot Unit 1’s containment vessel over concerns about hydrogen gas buildup. Pressure in that unit’s reactor vessel has been increasing, and temperatures are high there. Unit 1 remains “above cold shutdown conditions” and it is a reasonable guess that some fission is happening there. Something similar is probably happening in Units 2 and 3.

Ana’s Feed, Monday PM through last night:

Continue reading Japan nuke news 20: Tokyo Electric: “fuel may have melted”

Bird Song and Parallel Evolution: learning from our feathered friends

“They charm the females by instrumental music of the most varied kinds”

And thus, Charles Darwin adapted the phrase “Instrumental Music,” previously used to mean humans with instruments making music, to name one of the most important “secondary sexual characters … diversified and conspicuous in birds” which, added to “all sorts of combs, wattles, protuberances, horns, air-distended sacs, topknots, naked shafts, plumes and lengthened feathers gracefully springing from all parts of the body” mediate avian sexual selection..

Read my first post at 10,000 Birds …

For reviews of bird guides and other bird related books, click here.

For Nature Blogging on this site click here.

Notes from Up North are here.

Bring your birding to the next level

Description and identification of birds, or anything else, can be done in a rote manner with straightforward reference to details. If information about enough details is available, the identification will be accurate. But as humans we hardly ever do that sort of thing. If you ask someone to describe a car they saw recently, they will not refer to the angle of the back end or the overall dimensions or the specific layout of the headlights and tail lights. A person who does not know the make and model may say something like “It’s a hatch back” or “It’s an SUV” and in so doing provide instant reference to dozens of details of size and shape. These phrases are not short cuts: They are references to a meaningful schema of vehicles. There are SUV’s and they are functionally and structurally different from Hatchbacks.
Continue reading Bring your birding to the next level

There is a change in the blogosphere …

… well, at least for me.

i-1d99b33e747bc83dea3a2284c0d24936-greg_in_paris.jpgStarting this week, I will become a “Beat Blogger” at 10,000 Birds. I am not sure what a Beat Blogger is, but I think it’s a real happening with bongo drums and highly esoteric poetry. I’ll be scribing one bird-related post every four weeks, on a Thursday. Go have a look at 10,000 Birds. It’s, like, totally loaded with blog posts written by the other hip Beat Bloggers, and they all seem to be about … really hip birds.

10,000 Birds is run by Mike Bergin (who started it all) and Corey Finger. They operate their groovy birdwatching syndicate from New York, with Mike out in Rochester and Corey down low in The City, but originally from Saugerties, not far from my first crib (and, by the way, where I dug some archaeology back in the day). Mike also started and helps run Nature Blog Network. Totally cool.

I’m like out of sight that my fellow HIPs asked me to blog at 10,000 Birds. I’ll let you know when my first post is strobing.

And now, for a little bird jazzzzzz….
Continue reading There is a change in the blogosphere …

Does Titan Have a Subsurface Ocean?

The abstract for a recent paper on Titan says:

…We propose a new Cassini state model for Titan in which we assume the presence of a liquid water ocean beneath an ice shell and consider the gravitational and pressure torques arising between the different layers of the satellite….

Titan’s orbit, recently measured to a high degree of accuracy, looks more like an object with an ocean sloshing around than like a solid object. The story is expanded on in this blog post.

Reports of the National Center for Science Education …

… is now on line.

Plus Mike Klymkowsky reviews Matt Young and Paul K. Strode’s Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails); Joel W. Martin reviews Francisco Ayala’s Am I a Monkey?; David A. Reid reviews Randy Moore, Mark Decker, and Sehoya Cotner’s Chronology of the Evolution-Creationism Controversy; Robert H. Rothman reviews Allene S. Phy-Olsen’s Evolution, Creationism, and Intelligent Design; Stephen P. Weldon reviews Mano Singham’s God vs. Darwin; and Matt Young reviews Joel W. Martin’s The Prism and the Rainbow.

Check it out.

Bill filed to repeal Louisiana’s antievolution law

Senate Bill 70 (PDF), prefiled in the Louisiana Senate on April 15, 2011, and provisionally referred to the Senate Committee on Education, would, if enacted, repeal Louisiana Revised Statutes 17:285.1, which implemented the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act, passed and enacted in 2008. SB 70 was introduced by Karen Carter Peterson (D-District 5), but the driving force behind the repeal effort is Baton Rouge high school senior Zack Kopplin, working with the Louisiana Coalition for Science. The repeal effort is endorsed by the National Association of Biology Teachers and the Louisiana Association of Biology Educators.

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Albert Einstein: March 14, 1879 – April 18, 1955


When I was a fairly precocious young man I became thoroughly impressed with the futility of the hopes and strivings that chase most men restlessly through life. Moreover, I soon discovered the cruelty of that chase, which in those years was much more carefully covered up by hypocrisy and glittering words than is the case today. By the mere existence of his stomach everyone was condemned to participate in that chase. The stomach might well be satisfied by such participation, but not man insofar as he is a thinking and feeling being.

Continue reading Albert Einstein: March 14, 1879 – April 18, 1955

Japan nuke news 19: Robots and reactors

Ana’s Feeed starting Sunday mid day through last night:

TEPCO press conf. (NHK): Since the accident, we have caused a huge amount of trouble and inconvenience to residents and anxiety to the greater population in general … Residents have been asked to evacuate and they would like to return home and we would like to assist the govt in planning for their return. Therefore, we release this plan:
To achieve cold shutdown in 6-9 months via 2 steps: 1) reducing radioactive material (3 months) and 2) controlling the release of radioactive elements (3-6 months)

  • 3 areas of focus will be: cooling, containment, and monitoring/decontamination
  • Breakdown, step 1): filling containment vessels of no.1 and 3 with water – sealing the leak in containment vessel at no.2 with “sticky cement” – injecting nitrogen to avoid explosions – restoring cooling systems for spent fuel pools – installing decontamination station to treat and reuse water. -kyodo
  • Kaieda: Gov’t to review evacuation areas after 6-9 months -kyodo
  • NHK commentator: “It is yet to be seen if things can progress as planned.”
  • An evacuated man: “TEPCO formed a six month temporary plan, but … there’s no solid foundation for this figure.” (NHK)

TEPCO chairman Katsumata mulling resignation to take blame -kyodo

  • Katsumata: TEPCO President Shimizu also mulling resignation -kyodo

Sec. of State Clinton visited Japan, met with Kan and govt, called Fukushima accident a ‘multi-dimensional crisis of unprecedented scope’ -kyodo

  • Kan tells Clinton Japan ‘will never forget U.S. support after quake’ -kyodo
  • Clinton: Japan can rebuild itself, have economic success for decades -kyodo
  • Kan thanks Clinton for U.S. ‘utmost’ help in disaster relief -kyodo

Opinion piece by PM Kan in the Washington Post: Japan’s road to recovery and rebirth

NISA news release detailing current efforts in: Zeolite sandbagging, anti-scatter resin spraying, remote rubble removal, and tsunami preparedness [LINK]

  • With this note: NISA directed General Electricity Utilities and other organizations concerned to consider the measures to ensure reliability on external power supply due to the temporary loss of external power supply at NPSs, etc. caused by ground faults in part of electric power system when the earthquake off the coast of Miyagi Prefecture occurred on April 7, 2011.

“His work is part of a young field called paleoseismology. Kerry Sieh, a pioneer in the specialty, says that the few dozen people who do this kind of work are usually doomed to be ignored.” [LINK]

Toshiba has released a plan for decommissioning its two reactors at Daiichi:

  • They estimate that it will take 5 years to remove the fuel rods from pools and reactors, and another 5 years to clear the land and remove the soil. They add that, depending on conditions inside the reactors (which are still uncertain), decommissioning could take more than 15 years. (NHK)
  • Hitachi says it will take 15 or more years to decommission its no.4 reactor. (NHK)

“The robot took photos inside the building [no.3] and measured radiation and oxygen levels as well as the temperature and humidity. The utility says it is analyzing the findings.”

  • Robot used to investigate reactor buildings
  • “If successful, the condition inside the No.3 reactor building will be known for the first time since a hydrogen explosion occurred there on March 14th.” (NHK)
  • Readings from the robot, inside reactor buildings, first floor:
  • no.1: 10-49mSv/hr.
  • no.3: 28-57mSv/hr.
  • oxygen densities were around 21% “high enough for workers to enter” (NHK)
  • In these conditions, workers will receive their emergency-adjusted annual limits in 5 hours.

U.S. Nuclear Regulator Lets Industry Help With the Fine Print – ProPublica

Officials Demand Diablo Canyon Relicensing Be Suspended

Near the proposed Yucca Mt. nuke storage site: Hundreds of small earthquakes hit California-Nevada border, including magnitude 4.6

The Jap. govt. is “alarmed” at how foreign press is reporting on the situation. Offending footage on NHK highlights Busby on Russian TV, Ann Coulter on FOXNEWS.

  • A theater arts student who is running a watchdog blog wants us all to know that people wear masks in Japan to avoid pollen, not radiation. (NHK)

“The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says levels
of radioactive substances in seawater have risen again near the water intake of its No.2 reactor.” -JAIF

  • TEPCO says it detected 260 becquerels of iodine-131 per cubic centimeter in samples taken on Friday. That is 6,500 times the legal limit. (JAIF)
  • The level of radioactive cesium-137 was also up in the same area. It detected 130 becquerels per cubic centimeter – 1,400 times the legal limit. (JAIF, April 16)

Tornado touchdown causes shutdown at Surry nuclear plant

The level of contaminated water in the tunnel of the No. 2 reactor continues to rise. (JAIF)

  • The level dropped 8 centimeters after about 660 tons of the highly radioactive water was moved into a turbine condenser. But as of 7 AM on Monday, the water had risen again, to a point 9 centimeters higher than before the transfer. (JAIF)

Nuke Agency: No. 4 reactor building flooded with water 5-meter-high -kyodo

Robots report high radiation at Japan nuclear plant as criticism grows over pace of response