A glornififoov asks about planetary extinction.

“It’s called the Mars Rule.”


“Yes, Mars. After the planet. Earthlings. Earth is a planet orbiting Sol A2234-332N. Dead planet now but that is where Earthlings are from. Mars is next to Earth.”

“A moon?”

“No, a planet, next orbit over. Can’t remember if it is closer or farther from its Sol. Anyway, doesn’t matter. Earthlings visited Mars and after about 20 years of poking around discovered that full blown life had evolved there and gone extinct. Aeons earlier.”

“So the Mars Rule is planetary extinction? It thought that was called the Koch Effect.”

“Ha. Funny you should say that, because Koch Syndrome, not ‘effect,’ you had that wrong. Koch syndrome was also named by Earthlings. And it is related.”

“Ah, right, I remember that now. Koch Effect.”

“Right. But the Mars Rule is different. Mars is smaller that Earth. According to the Mars Rule the total time frame from the origin of a planet to the appearance of life to the eventual extinction of life and the destruction of a life supporting planetary surface is faster on small planets than on large planets.”

“Really? Didn’t Sydour 7 snuff out before Skydour 9, and it’s bigger?”

“Right, it did. But this a rule, not a law. Lots of exceptions. But it tends to work all else being equal, which as you know, is not all the time.”

“Let me think. Smaller planet cools first, then has smaller surface area, so chemical evolution is faster.”

“A little, but only a little. It’s more the biochemical evolution. Right about the cooling, though. Turns out, most lifestarts kill each other off. It’s counterintuitive. More lifestarts — more primordial puddles if you will — you would think that would hasten the development of life, but most of the time some of the life forms ruin the biochemistry for the others, and eventually themselves.”

“Ah, right, but if there is only one primordial puddle, it gets to cycle from lifestart to extinction fast.”

“Yes, within a few klakons, a tiny fraction of the total lifespan of a planet, on a small planet like Mars.”

“Right, then the experiment starts again right away, less residual biochemical suppression.”

“Yes, that’s the start of the cycle, why a small planet — all else being equal of course — will go from no life to life, and go through the first few typical stages…”

“I remember! Colonial forms, multicellular, specialized, motile, informational, predator-prey, behavioral web, quasi-intelligent, Koch Effect.”

“Mostly right. You’re pretty smart for an Eetweeb. Informational comes after predator-prey…”

“Ah, right, mixed that up…”

And the small size only speeds up the start of the process. The middle part goes fast on any size planet once multicellular happens. Depends on extinction events.”

“Right, extinction events, that would slow it down…”

“OK, may be not so smart for an Eetweeb. Extinction events speed it up once there’s multicellular, as long as their magnitude is below the cube root of planetary mass rule. But that’s getting into esoteric details.”

“I guess that makes sense.”

“Yes. Yes it does. But then the last part of the cycle runs faster simply because the planet is smaller. Quasi intelligence builds technology webs sooner on smaller planets, and when the Koch Effect swings into play, smaller plants are simply more vulnerable. Less water, less atmosphere, less buffering.”

“Cool. I always wanted to study Solsystemology, but I didn’t have the math skills.”

“Tectonics, too Larger planets have long lived tectonic moving system. That slows down the process.”

“How does that work?”

“Another time, next time we get together for a blopwut. I’ve got to go now. Time for my exnorphilation.”

“OK, professor, thanks for your time. See you in class tomorrow.”

“Sure thing. Stop by for office hours whenever you want. Nobody ever does, always a refreshing change to whatchawhacha with a glornififoov.”



For a few lucky teachers, an adventure of a lifetime

From the NCSE:

The National Center for Science Education is pleased to accept applications for its inaugural class of Grand Canyon Teacher Scholars. Lucky teachers will be given an all-expenses-paid seat on NCSE’s annual Grand Canyon expedition, an eight-day voyage through some of the world’s most greatest geological wonders. It’s an opportunity of a lifetime, giving deserving teachers a hard-earned vacation and an incomparable learning experience.

For over a dozen years, NCSE has chartered a raft trip through Grand Canyon, with staffers Steve Newton and Josh Rosenau currently taking the lead in the unique and tongue-in-cheek “two model” tour of the canyon’s geological history. Rafters descend through the strata, considering the hundreds of millions of years revealed on the canyon’s walls, and examine how creationists try to explain that same evidence, and why such efforts are doomed to fail.

“The Grand Canyon is the best geology classroom in the world,” explains Steve Newton, a programs and policy director at NCSE and a geology professor at the College of Marin. “There’s no better way to see deep time and explore the processes that shape our Earth than to raft down the Colorado River as it cuts down through the eons, past the Great Unconformity, to rocks almost half the age of the Earth.”

“Any teacher would be lucky to be chosen for this scholarship,” added Rosenau. “Aside from the wonders of the canyon and the inspired presentations Steve and I prepare, the great joy of the NCSE expedition is the mix of scientists, scholars, and brilliant polymaths who join us. The winning teachers will have a chance to learn from a lot of brilliant people, and bringing more teachers into the campfire conversations will enrich all of our experiences.”

“We all want to find ways to honor the amazing work science teachers do, and I’m glad NCSE has this opportunity,” explained NCSE executive director Ann Reid. “It’ll be exciting to see all the applicants, and to give everyone a chance to help give teachers this spectacular reward.” Teachers are encouraged to apply now (the deadline is January 5, 2015), and anyone interesting in helping teachers have this experience can contribute to the scholarship fund..

How to turn Apple Spotlight on and off

I hardly ever use spotlight. It is a search tool that is “well designed” meaning it looks pretty. Pretty search tools aren’t worth much. I need to be able to go from simple dumb search to complex detailed search, drill down, change parameters. If all I needed was a list of files or directories with a string in them, I’d probably already know where the damn thing is. I want to find a file that didn’t show up that way, that I don’t remember the name of, but that I know I made last weekend and it had the word “meteor” in it but it could have been spelled wrong and I cant remember if it was a spreadsheet or a text file but it was probably on a certain external hard drive. Chances are Spotlight is not going to handle that.

But, spotlight is great at doing something else. Using system resources. Did you ever have your computer slow down and act like the processor was brain dead and it had no memory over the period of an hour or two while you were using very few apps and doing nothing complicated? Chances are that was Spotlight indexing everything on your computer. Which you will never use. Because who uses Spotlight?

Well, OK, sometimes you want Spotlight, so maybe having that index is a good thing. But when you are trying to get some work done and Spotlight is interfering and shows no sign of letting up, then the sane thing to do is to kill it. You can unkill it later.

I found this here. To kill Spotlight in Mavericks or large cat versions of OSX, you go to the command line (terminal) and type in this (or copy and paste it!), for Mavericks and Mountain Lion:

sudo launchctl unload -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.metadata.mds.plist

To make it come back to life again, you command your computer thusly:

sudo launchctl load -w /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/com.apple.metadata.mds.plist

For Snow Leopard use this method.

IF Spotlight has been annoying you, one strategy is to turn it off while you don’t need it, then later, when you are planning to go do something else for a few hours, turn it back on so it does its job while you are not around.

There should be a way to give Spotlight lower level access to the CPU so it stays more in the background. And, at the same time, to give the apps you want to be always responsive a higher priority. I’ve not explored that for this operating system. There are reasons to think, though, that this would not work well for certain important tasks. Any suggestions?

Adding a third party keyboard in iOS 8

One of the great things about Apple is that they maintain tight control over the hardware/system/software triad that bad design can’t creep into your digital life and ruin your day. One of the bad things about Apple is that they maintain tight control over the hardware/system/software triad so you can’t always have what you want. If you’ve been wanting one of those great keyboard replacements that, maybe, your spouse has been using all along on her android, you can have it now on your iPad or iPhone after you upgrade to iOS 8

Go buy Swiftkey or Swype or whatever from the App store. Then go to settings, general, keyboard. There, you can select a new keyboard. You may have an option to “allow full access” … do that.

There you go.

Pterosaurs by Mark Witton

Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy by Mark P. Witton is a coffee-table size book rich in detail and lavishly illustrated. Witton is a pterosaur expert at the School of Earh and Environmental Sciences at the University of Portsmouth. He is famous for his illustrations and his work in popular media such as the film “Walking With Dinosaurs 3D.”

The first pterosaur fossil was found in the late 18th century in the Jurassic Solnhofen Limestones, in Germany, the same excellent preservational environment that would later yield Archaeopteryx. They person who first studied it thought the elongated finger bones that we now know supported a wing served as a flipper in an amphibious creature. Not long after, the famous paleontologist George Cuvier recognized the winged nature of the beast. Witton notes that at the time, and through a good part of the 19th century, it was possible to believe that many of the odd fossils being unearthed were of species that still existed but were unknown to science. This is because most of the fossils were aquatic, and who knew what mysterious forms lurked beneath the sea? But a very large flying thing like this first pterosaur was very unlikely to still exist, unseen by European and American investigators. It had to be something major that was truly extinct. So in a way the history of extinction (the study of it, that is) was significantly shaped by this find. By the early 20th century there had been enough publication and study of pterosaurs to give them a place in paleontology, but not a lot else happened until the 1970s, when a combination of factors, including advanced technology that allowed more detailed and sophisticated study of fossils, led to much more intensive study of pterosaur anatomy and behavior.

Pterosaurs are part of the large taxonomic group that includes the lizards, dinosaurs, and birds, but they branched off within that group prior to the rise of the latter two. So, they are not dinosaurs, but cousins of dinosaurs. You can call them flying lizards, but not flying dinosaurs.

Witton explores this interesting history in some detail, and then proceeds to explore various aspects of pterosaur biology, starting with the skeleton, the soft parts (of which there is some direct but mostly indirect evidence), their flight, how they got around on the ground, and their reproductive biology. These explorations into pterosaurs in general is followed by several chapters devoted to the various groups, with a treatment of the evidence for each group, reconstructions of anatomy, locomotion in the air and on the ground, and ecology.

The resemblance of this layout to a detailed field guide for birds (or some other group) is enhanced by the use of color-coded bleeds at the top of each page, separating the book’s major sections or groups of chapters. The book ends with a consideration of the origins and endings of the “Pterosaur Empire.” It turns out that we don’t actually know why they went extinct. They lasted to the end of the Cretaceous, so going extinct along with their dinosaur cousins is a reasonable hypothesis, but they had already become somewhat rare by that time.

Pterosaurs are cool. Pterosaurs: Natural History, Evolution, Anatomy is a cool book.

Of related interest:

  • LOL Pterosaurs ….
  • Reconsidering the Reconstruction of the Pterosaur
  • Flying Dinosaurs: A New Book on the Dinosaur Bird Link
  • Giant Semiaquatic Predatory Dinosaur
  • Titanic Fearless Dinosaur Unearthed
  • Honey, I Shrunk The Dinosaurs …
  • Tanganyika v. Tanzania

    Tanzania is the name of a country in Africa. Tanganyika is, among other things, the older name of that country, more or less. It is a formerly used term that should no longer be used to refer to that country.

    Wikipedia has this wrong on the indicated page on August 16th, 2014. Any wiki authors out there, please feel free to fix. I recommend changing the term “Tanganyika” to “Tanzania” and deleting the rest of the sentence.

    Why not change this myself? Here’s why.

    Midori’s Floating World Cafe

    Midori’s Floating World Cafe
    Lizzie, got a job. It’s a pretty nice job, with benefits and a salary and everything. Not in her field (biology), but it is a job she likes. So I took her out for a congratulatory dinner, which ultimately gave me a chance to try a new restaurant. Also, we had been in a routine for a few months of meeting almost every week to work on a project, and those meetings had stopped due to scheduling issues (like, that she went and got a job …). It was time for another dose.

    My plan was to trick Lizzie into determining where we were going to eat. This was going to be difficult. Lizzie is a quiet, unassuming and thoughtful person whose first inclination would be to accommodate my (or anyone else’s) preferences in matters such as this. It would be totally out of character for her to start out by telling me where we should go for dinner. But I wanted her to pick, partly because it was her celebration and partly because of a quirk I have. Sometimes I like to experience the preferences and choices of someone that I care for. I wanted Lizzie to suggest where to eat, and I wanted to try her favorite selections off the menu and probably drink what she was drinking and so on.

    I’m still grinning at the conversation.

    “So, where do you want to go?”

    “Oh, anywhere, I don’t care.”

    (And so on and so on…via email, in person, for three or four days. Then, finally, we’re in the car about to drive off to…somewhere.)

    “So, have you eaten anyplace good lately?”

    “Yeah, I like this new Japanese restaurant off Lake Street.”

    “Oh. So when was the last time you ate there?”

    “Two days ago.”

    “Oh. So you probably don’t want to eat there again right away.”

    “Yeah, I guess so.”

    “Well, there’s Greek.”

    “I could do Greek.”

    “We could just go over to Eat Street and see what happens.”

    “We could.”

    “Maybe Azia or some place.”

    “We could.”

    “You want to eat in your Japanese restaurant, right?”

    “It’s my favorite place. I want to show it to you.”

    “What will we order?”

    “Eel. It’s my favorite.”

    “And what will we–”

    “Sake. Of course.”

    “Okay, lead the way.”

    And thusly, we proceeded to Midori’s Floating World Cafe on 27th Ave in South Minneapolis. At the time we ate there, it was right across the street from the old Resources Center for the America’s building, and next to The Real CMF’s favorite restaurant (to which I had not yet been). Subsequently, Midori’s has moved a couple of hundred feet away.

    We had one of the noodle dishes, a biggish bottle of hot sake, and some sushi.

    As we were ordering, I remembered that neither of us had brought along our List of Endangered Fish: Do Not Eat wallet insert, but we tried to do our best by staying away from sea mammals and anything that was really expensive.

    It turns out that Lizzie and I have pretty much exactly the same taste in sushi: It’s all good, but there must be eel. We figured eel would be safe from an environmental point of view, but we later learned that we had that totally backwards. Eel is one of the worst things you can order from the menu if you care about the planet. Oh, well. We learn.

    I liked the fact that we were drinking hot sake. I had not had that since being in Japan a few years ago. In fact, I regaled Lizzie with a story about a fairly intensive foray into the world of hot sake at a bar in Kyoto. Apparently, the custom in Kyoto is for young men to hook up with a particular small neighborhood bar. These bars are all owned and run by women, who develop bonds with these young men and have a sort of motherly relationship with them. So I went to such a bar where two Japanese colleagues, both of whom work in Central Africa, had “grown up.”

    Now, you have to understand that my Japanese is nonexistent, and my colleagues have hardly ever spent time in the English-speaking world, so their English sucked. My host in Japan, a woman who had lived for years in the U.S., was with us, and her English was perfect. But the main point of this gathering was for us Africanists to spend some time together. So, as it developed, Mother Bar Owner and my host (Hitomi) had a nice conversation about who knows what, in Japanese, while my two colleagues and I spend the evening reminiscing in KiSwahili. Much to the amusement of the occasional customer who wandered briefly into this tiny little establishment.

    What was really funny was also too subtle for almost anyone to have noticed: We learned our KiSwahili in very different contexts. So, I was speaking with a Pygmy accent, one of my colleagues was speaking with a Chinese accent, and another was speaking with an Italian accent. That was funny.

    I have three things to say about Midori’s Floating World Cafe. 1) It has a very nice atmosphere, a small establishment with a simple lineup of unpretentious tables and a sushi bar, family run, staffed with excellent servers. 2) The food is quite good. And 3) the prices are very reasonable.

    Lizzie is living in what we used to call a “crash house”…the sort of place I misspent a fair amount of time in my youth. Her stories of life at home reminded me of my own stories, which made good comparisons, so I think we ended up making each other laugh a lot. Maybe we were a little boisterous, because when we got around to leaving, we were the only customers and the proprietor seemed really happy (to see us go?).

    I highly recommend dinner with Lizzie. But since most of you can’t have that, I recommend that you try Midori’s Floating World Cafe in South Minneapolis with someone who makes you smile.

    Midori’s Floating World Cafe is located on 2629 Lake Street, Minneapolis, which is a new location.

    And speaking of sushi, this is the video of the famous Japanese Frilled Shark.

    Climate Change Science Search Engine

    This search engine will scan a large number of sites known to have good climate change related information on them.

    Below is a list of sites scanned. If you know of a site that is not included here but that should be, please put a link in the comments. Don’t bother with climate science denialist sites, they will not be added.

    Also note that many sites are parts of larger domains. So if the site you suggest is already part of, for example, Scienceblogs, The Guardian, etc. then it is already on the list by default. This, of course, means that some of the hits from this search engine will be not “certified” as part of this excellent list of sources because a large domain could have science denialism lurking around on it. But for the most part, the results of this search should be pretty useful. Also, since some very large domains are searched you may want to use some climate change related keywords. For example, searching for the term “hiatus” by itself will get you links for broadway shows taking a hiatus. But searching for “global warming hiatus” will get you (mostly) links about the so-called “pause” in global warming.

    There are also aggregating or linky sites on this list so there may be some redundancy in your search results, but there is not much one can do about that.


    Federal court rules that most NSA phone record collections likely violates constitution

    A federal judge has ruled that the “wholesale collection of the phone record metadata” of all U.S. citizens — a program exposed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden — likely violates the 4th Amendment and is unconstitutional.

    In the decision, Judge Leon rules that the plaintiff challenging the bulk collection of U.S. phone records, legal activist and Judicial Watch founder Larry Klayman, have “demonstrated a substantial likelihood of succession the merits of their Fourth Amendment claims, and that they will suffer irreparable harm absent preliminary injunctive relief.”