Daily Archives: June 15, 2011

Michele Bachmann for President I

Michele Bachmann is my home-girl. has lived in a nearby town for years, represented a nearby community in the Minnesota State Senate. I had one of her kids in my class at the U. And she’s the US Congressperson for the district that is just a few short blocks from where I live now .

In many ways, therefore, she has been a part of my life for a long time. And, now that Michele is officially running for President of the United States of America, I thought I’d repost some of the material on this blog written about her or her activities.

Instead of producing a new copy of each post, I’ll group them into a smaller number of posts for your convenience. This is the first one.
Continue reading Michele Bachmann for President I

Japan Nuclear Disaster Update 28: Mostly about contamination, of the sea, and around the world

There is an increase in reports of activity of scientists studying the extent and impacts of radiation spilled or otherwise transferred into the ocean from Fukushima. TEPCO, in the meantime, seems to have a need to put a lot more water, possibly decontaminated to some degree, into the sea. Similarly, there is a plan afoot to release previously sequestered air from Reactor 2, with filtering to lower contamination applied to the air before the building’s doors are opened. Venting began about four days ago.

Another report has been released confirming that not only did Reactors 1, 2 and 3 melt down, they also “melted through” (a.k.a. China Syndrome) to some extent, having breached their containment vessels. But TEPCO was quick to apologize. Earlier, we reported evidence that in the case of at least one of the reactors, nuclear material may have gone beyond the safety vessels designed to capture melt-through from the reactor vessels. This has not been confirmed. Or denied.

There is a lot more news on contamination, evacuation plans, mutant bunny rabbits, and the increasing cross talk between agencies regarding various issues in Ana’s Feed (below).

The IAEA has not released an update on reactor status for almost two weeks, so we can’t report that. We have little evidence, however, that any significant additional controls on the current situation other than releasing more radiation have occurred. Generally, when you read news reports over the last few days that say “things are improving but still bad” you should edit that in your head: “Things are … still bad” because there is not much changing on the ground.

Here is an interesting video with a simultaneous translation (right speaker English, left speaker Japanese) for those of you wishing to bone up on your foreign language, whichever that may be:
Continue reading Japan Nuclear Disaster Update 28: Mostly about contamination, of the sea, and around the world

Birdish adaptations in dinosaurs: Aerosteon riocoloradensis

In the process of writing a post on bird evolution, it occurred to me that it might be helpful to re-post something I wrote a couple of years ago covering research reported by Paul Sereno about new fossil material from a theropod known as em>Aerosteon riocoloradensis. When I went to look at my original post, I was reminded that there was quite a bit of other writing on the blogosphere (and elsewhere on the Intertubes) about this find. Here, I’d like to give you the bottom line (insofar as what I wanted people to know when referring back to my repost) and then, in the interest of both full scientific disclosure and prurient fanning of the flames of professional flamosity (though I quickly add that this second outcome is incidental, not my intent) I’ll provide a summary of the blogospheric discussion along with my repost, and links for you to follow.

First, the bottom line: em>Aerosteon riocoloradensis is a dinosaur that had a respiratory system like that found today in birds, in the sense that it seems to have been adapted to maximize the flow of air across gas-exchange surfaces (like what we have in the lungs) in order to be super-good at aerobics. It seems that the various experts (to whom I refer below) have various … ahem … bones to pick with each other but all agree on the basic fact that this dinosaur breathed somewhat like a bird. Remarkably, this dinosaur is NOT a bird ancestor. It is on another branch of the dinosaurs that were related to birds, but not ancestral to birds. And that is the point I planned to make in my post on bird evolution. (See: Are Birds Really Dinosaurs? at 10,000 Birds.)

And now, on with the show:
Continue reading Birdish adaptations in dinosaurs: Aerosteon riocoloradensis

Living Dinosaurs: The Evolutionary History of Modern Birds

Living Dinosaurs: The Evolutionary History of Modern Birds is an academic anthology of key writing about bird evolution. There are two main things that distinguish this book: 1) It includes quite a bit on fossils and their bearing on bird evolution, a refreshing change from DNA-based phylogenies which can by and large only address later questions of bird evolution; and 2) It includes a lot more about the early evolutionary context of birds (such as in the context of theropods) than one usually sees, rather than the diversification of birds per se, though it does address the latter as well.

The book offers an excellent summary of our the current state of knowledge of the origin and evolution of birds. Avian palaeontology had developed in fits and starts, with some of the most important work being done at the very same time as the beginnings of modern evolutionary biology (TH Huxley wrote the key monograph on the first recognized bird fossils), with long periods of relative quiet, then sudden re-evaluations of avian evolution recurring with new discoveries. A modern perspective of bird evolution is quiet different from what dominated even a couple of decades ago. Living birds are a single stem of a diverse radiation of forms within the dinosaurs, with our feathered friends of the present being a very limited representative of that ancient diversity. This, of course, is why the book focuses so much more on fossils than DNA; Direct genetic data is simply unavailable to address these questions.

This edited volume (Gareth Dyke and Gary Kaiser editors) is divided into three main parts. Part one deals with deep evolutionary time, addressing Therapod diversity and Mesozoic avian divergences; The second part addresses the early diversification of modern birds and the Avian tree of life; Part 3 looks at key Avian adaptations such as flight, the interesting and the unique bird brain. Then there is fourth part that serves to tie it all together, addressing the state of living birds and the future of Avian diversity.

This is an academic book and the price reflects this. It’s about $130 list, though the link I provide above will get you a copy of this baby at far less ($90 bucks or so). This may require a trip to the library if you find this interesting!

If you are interested in birds and dinosaurs, have a look at “Are Birds Really Dinosaurs?” at 10,000 Birds.