Wednesday, January 30, 2008
I don’t know much about Ceratopsids. It seems they’re lost in a sea of Theropods…overshadowed by the gigantic Sauropods. In movies, T-rex, Velociraptor and other carnivorous dinosaurs are given the spotlight. Jurassic Park featured a Triceratops, but it was sick, on its side and hardly depicted as exciting.
Most of what I do know about Ceratopsids comes from my visit to AMNH. In fact, during that visit, Brian taught me one of the most basic of facts: the difference between Chasmosaurines and Centrosaurines.
Chasmosaurinae includes Anchiceratops, Arrhinoceratops, Chasmosaurus, Eotriceratops Pentaceratops, Torosaurus and Triceratops. Chasmosaurines are characterized by huge triangular frills with large fenestrae to minimize the weight, large eye horns, long skulls and short-to-absent nasal horns.
Pentaceratops (top) and Chasmosaurus (middle) images from weatherenthusiast.com and skulls-skeletons.com, respectively. Triceratops (bottom) image from mnh.si.edu.
Centrosaurinae includes Achelosaurus, Avaceratops, Brachyceratops, Centrosaurus,, Einiosaurus, Pachyrhinosaurus and Styracosaurus. Centrosaurines are characterized by highly ornamented, small frills, short skulls, absent eye horns and large nose horns.
Centrosaurus (top) and Pachyrhinosaurus (middle) images from uoregon.edu and tyrrellmuseum.com, respectively. Styracosaurus (bottom)image from biology-blog.com.
You can see, particularly well, the general differences in the skulls by comparing the Triceratops and Centrosaurus images.
Also, you'll notice, in the photo of Chasmosaurus, a round opening in the skull slightly above and between the orbital sockets. From what I know, this opening is called the pineal foramen, frontoparietal foramen or postfrontal foramen, though I believe the latter is an out-of-date term. I haven't been able to find much information on this particular part of the skull, nor do I know if it is specific to certain families of Ceratopsians, though I do remember Brian telling me something about it at AMNH.
Anyone know more about this?
Zach Miller, When Pigs Fly, Evolution of Ceratopsia Part 2.
Dodson, P., Forster, C., and Sampson, S. 2004. Ceratopsidae, p. 494-513. In Weishampel, D., Dodson, P., and Osmólska, H. (eds.), The Dinosauria (second edition), University of California Press, Los Angeles.
Tuesday, January 29, 2008
Me: "Hi. I brought my own bagel, but I used some of your butter. And I have a coffee and some bacon." Nod toward my plate and travel mug.
Cashier: "Okay. So, just the bacon and a refill?"
Me: "Yes. Well, it's not a refill. I didn't get any coffee yet today. "
Cashier: "Okay." Rings up the bacon.
Me: Noticing that the total is only $1.13. "Don't forget the coffee."
Cashier: "Ugh." Rolls her eyes and does some weird thing with her shoulders. "I just asked you if you got a refill and you said no."
Me: Mumble incoherently, pay and walk away.
Woman in other cashier's line: "I have a coffee and a donut."
Other cashier: "A refill and a donut?"
Woman in other cashier's line: "Huh?"
Other cashier: "A refill means you brought your own cup."
I'm pretty sure that the word "refill" implies that you've already filled the cup once. Perhaps something like "hey-you-brought-your-own-mug fill" might clear up the confusion.
P.S. I'm really slacking on the posts here...I've decided to blog about Stephen Jay Gould essays for a while to keep me reading and writing about paleo/evolution. I promise a post on that note soon.
Friday, January 25, 2008
The species of Cordyceps I find most fascinating is Cordyceps unilateralis which not only invades the bodies of ants, but also influences the behavior of the ants, causing them to climb to high perches from where, once the Cordyceps erupts, spores can be spread over a wide area.
Each species of Cordyceps invades only one or a very small number of species of arthropods. While Cordyceps unilateralis targets ants, Cordyceps sinensis attacks the larva of Thitarodes, a genus of Asian moth.
Here's a photo of an ant infected with Cordyceps fungus:
Kinda reminds me of this scene:
Thursday, January 24, 2008
First, some cat pictures. I firmly believe that most bloggers, even the most sciency bloggers, regularly post pictures of their cats. And why not? My cats are like my children, except I don't have children, and my cats aren't as demanding and didn't emerge from my uterus. Anyway...
I caught Echo the other night trying to steal The God Delusion, which I'm struggling to find time to finish right now. Notice the pom-pom tail...she got shaved about a month ago and still looks like a puny lion. Oh god, the cute, it burns.
For the most part, the cats don't get along...but sometimes, they just need company. That's Zeus on the left, Echo on the pillow and Emily in front. Emily is curled up with Dinosaur, my favorite stuffed animal that I got when I was five. He's had major surgery several times, but is still kickin'.
Here's a close-up of Emily. I just love her...she's so little and sweet.
J has been sick for about a week now and on the first night he felt ill, Echo decided to do a little healing. She's not as sweet as Emily...any territory is her territory and she'll OWN it.
I just think this is a testament to how sweet and timid Emily is. And how flat her face is.
And of course, some non-cat photos:
On the way to my car after work, I passed this car. In case you can't read it, the bumper sticker on the right says "My dog is smarter than the President." I felt an immediate kinship with this person...
J's sister, C, went to Florida and brought us back this wooden Triceratops puzzle. After reading th back of the puzzle, which stated "Even T-rex gave Triceratops some respect," J came up with a new hand sign for ghetto Triceratops. Don't go flashing the hand sign around museums, though, as you might upset the real Triceratops gang.
I've been reading in 5-minute blocks: before class, in the waiting room, while the rice cooks, on the bus. Eventually, I'll read all the books I bought, but probably not before I buy dozens more (all of the sudden I feel the need to read every book ever written).
Anyway, here's what I own but haven't started reading:
Stephen Jay Gould's Dinosaur in a Haystack
Michael Shermer's Why Darwin Matters
Mark Isaak's The Counter-Creationism Handbook
Michael Pollan's Omnivore's Dilemma
Neil Shubin's Your Inner Fish
I'll probably start Carl Sagan's book as soon as I finish the two I'm reading now:
Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion
Stephen Jay Gould's Ever Since Darwin
And by the way, if you're thinking of buying any books, check out Brian's website. When you link to Amazon via his web page, he gets some $$$.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
- "The theory of evolution is a major unifying concept in science, supported by abundant and consistent evidence from numerous scientific fields. This evidence is found in broadly divergent areas, from DNA analysis to the geologic fossil record."
- "He would have made a good Nazi with statements like, "Why allow people with no scientific knowledge to question the teaching of things of which they have no knowledge." Who better to ask those questions? Certainly not the already closed-minded scientists."
- "Until the evolutionists can dig up a lot more bones and link them through DNA to show the generations/species are connected, and until the intelligent design folks can find and introduce us all to the intelligent designers, and until the creationists can induce God to make his presence known in a way that no one can dispute, there is no ironclad proof."
- "Suppose intelligent design could disprove evolution. That would not automatically verify the creationist viewpoint. For example, if we could prove conclusively that babies do not come from the womb, it would not automatically prove they are brought by the stork.
They might indeed be found under cabbage leaves."
I'm no science expert. I certainly haven't had a lot of formal education when it comes to evolution and biology...but it didn't take much to pick up a few textbooks and get the gist of it...or read a few articles. In fact, the most tired argument for denying evolution, that it hasn't been proven, can be squelched by understanding a few simple ideas: that science does not claim to ultimately prove anything and that evolution is supported by mountains of evidence and has withstood rigorous testing. So, arguing that it's not proven is...well, ignorant. Nothing has been ultimately proven.
The rest of the letters are equally as frustrating and spot-on as the excerpts. Check them out and leave some comments...they're sorely lacking intelligent input.
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
The film follows three young children through their stay at Becky Fischer's "Kids on Fire" camp. The camp's purpose is to train young children to become warriors in the fight to "take back the nation for Christ." If this sounds familiar, it's because those words came from Mike Huckabee's mouth.
Jesus Camp was a horror movie...splashed with comedy (y'know...when you laugh because it's easier to do than cry). It's an 84-minute child abuse extravaganza. Throughout, children are crying with joy as they feel the love of Jesus. And they're also crying because...well...they're being emotionally abused. They're told that when they swear or watch Harry Potter that they're doing the work of the devil and that they're going to hell.
My favorite quotes from the movie were those of Becky Fischer:
And they recruit children because they can be brainwashed so easily:
It's no wonder, with that kind of intense training and discipling, that those young people are ready to kill themselves for the cause of Islam. I wanna see young people who are as committed to the cause of Jesus Christ as the young people are to the cause of Islam. I wanna see them as radically laying down their lives for the Gospel as they are over in Pakistan and Israel and Palestine and all those different places, you know, because we have... excuse me, but we have the truth!
I can go into a playground of kids that don't know anything about Christianity, lead them to the Lord in a matter of, just no time at all, and just moments later they can be seeing visions and hearing the voice of God, because they're so open. They are so usable in Christianity.I believe people should be free to practice religion...but we let FAR too much happen in the name of religion because we tiptoe around it, trying not to offend anyone.
Anyway, I found some great news on the IMDb website:
Since the making of the film, Becky Fischer, children's pastor for Kids on Fire, announced that due to negative reactions to the camp after the film, including telephone calls and vandalism, the camp, which was held once a year for three weeks, has been discontinued indefinitely and will be replaced by other events.I wonder what the "other events" are...
Friday, January 18, 2008
- I'll Teach My Own Stuff, Thank You: This guy really knows his stuff. He's involved heavily in research and loves teaching his material. He doesn't really have much interest in the textbook and his lectures cover very little from the book. He loves doing proofs and really digging into the material, especially the more complicated concepts not included in the curriculum. He's sarcastic, but not overly-so, and is available to his students. Pros: If you can keep up, you'll come out of the course with more knowledge than was expected of you. Cons: Lectures can be confusing and discouraging.
- Snowflakes Are My Friend: This guy really knows his stuff, too, but even more than he loves his area of expertise, he loves his students. He makes sure his voice projects to the back of the room, smiles and makes eye contact with as many students in the lecture hall as possible and speaks with enthusiasm about everything. His lectures follow the structure of the textbook and he gives examples for every type of problem encountered. Pros: His enthusiasm is contagious and it's hard to get lost. Cons: It's easier to rationalize not reading the textbook.
- No Bullsh!t: This man is intimidating. He's been teaching forever and encourages class participation...with a tone of condescension. He doesn't guild anything. He talks in technical terms and allows very little time for response when he asks questions. He seems disappointed for most of the class, but every once in a while smiles and cracks a joke. He doesn't dumb down material. Pros: You're forced to answer questions that you don't know the answer to, so you learn some humility. Cons: If you get lost at all, you end up frustrated and taking the brunt of his disappointment.
- Oh! Let Me Explain...: This woman is so nice. She's just so damn sweet. And she's a pro at making the material easy to understand. She's well-prepared for lectures and encourages class participation. Pros: You can't not understand the material. Cons: When you get to the next level, you'll be a bit under-prepared. Also, students take advantage of her nice-ness.
I'm amazed at how much I have enjoyed/am enjoying these professors, despite their differences. In the end, each of them has something that I want and has worked his/her ass off to get where they are...and you have to admire that.
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Here's the abstract:
This paper reports on a unique preservation of soft tissues in the ventrolateral region of the plant-eating dinosaur Psittacosaurus from the Jehol biota of China. The reservation is of a deep cross section through the dermis, which includes multiple layers of collagenous fibres in excess of 25, among the highest recorded in vertebrates, with a further 15 more layers (poorly preserved) estimated for the entire height of the section. Also, for the first time in a dinosaur two fibre layers parallel to the skin surface are preserved deep within the dermis at the base of the cross section. These fibre layers comprise regularly disposed fibres arranged in left- and right-handed geodesic helices, matching the pattern at the surface and reasonably inferred for the entire section. As noted from the studies on modern-day animals, this fibre structure plays a critical part in the stresses and strains the skin may be subjected to and is ideally suited to providing support and protection. Psittacosaurus gives a remarkable, unprecedented understanding of the dinosaur skin.
I can't get to the rest of the article because I'm not a subscriber, but I'm interested in what National Geographic had to say about Psittacosaurus's protofeathers (Brian wrote about this on his pre-Sb blog) and whether or not the research article tackles the subject.. The NG article said "The research also suggests that some dinosaurs had thick, scaly skin like that of modern-day reptiles, refuting the theory that dinos had primitive feathers." Interesting...
J calls this dinosaur "Pistachiosaurus."
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
I sit in the middle of the room.
Eventually, fear overtakes my ego and I whisper to the boy next to me, "hey...is this Math 95?"
He nods yes and returns to his novel...something smart and wordy. I notice that he's already bought the textbook. He's also got out a pencil and paper. He's ready for class.
The professor is an older man and he looks like a cross between a cowboy and a sage. His face is wise and mysteriously cloaked behind a heavy, dark beard. His Lee jeans and brown leather belt fit loosely over his lower half. He looks at his watch...at the clock...at the class...back at his watch.
I understand what he says for the first few minutes of class. I'm familiar with the syllabus; I've already printed myself a copy. I can navigate the ins and outs of introductions and expectations like a champ. I'm a good student.
When the lesson starts, I lose any shred confidence. All I hear is "the delta delta epsilon in delta epsilon delta. Delta delta delta epsilon." What the hell is delta? What the hell is epsilon? What if this is how I feel all semester?
Sometimes we get the urge to eat healthy at the SDS household. It usually happens after long bouts of pizza-eating when we realize that our digestive systems are on strike because of our diets. We recently tried to do a raw diet, which we are no longer doing (because it's horribly torturous and, I believe, pointless). Anyway, some good came out of the raw diet: we learned how to make really tasty salads. Okay, J learned how to make really tasty salads while I lounged about the house. Anyway, J made salad dressing last night and it was freakin' delicious. I don't know the exact amounts, but he mixed the following:
1 clove organic garlic
one nub of organic ginger, peeled
organic olive oil
organic lemon juice
organic brown rice vinegar
organic vine tomato
We poured the dressing over a salad containing the following:
organic mesculin mix
organic red pepper
organic red quinoa
We also bought a mango to put in the salad, but it wasn't ripe enough. I thought the salad was delicious but Emily, who turns her nose up at anything with vegetables in it, wasn't so impressed. While she gives the meal a 3 out of 10, I give it a 9.
Friday, January 11, 2008
As I was washing my hands, a woman came out of the stall next to the one I'd just emerged from. She didn't say anything, but I bet she lost it when I was out of sight.
Thursday, January 10, 2008
But I can't do it. I can't design a major at this point in my academic career. It's ridiculous, really. I've about 25 courses left to take before I can get a degree in ANY science at OPU, but because I've got about 100 transfer credits, I'm considered a senior and seniors can't design their own majors; it must be done before the second semester of the junior year.
I'm seriously contemplating switching my major from geology to biology. Reason? Well, I can still study paleontology with a bio degree and if I decide I want to study something else, I believe a degree in bio offers more flexibility. Also, I'm really starting to get interested in evolutionary biology. I should probably wait to decide until I've taken a course in both areas...but for some reason this feels urgent.
So I'm not a self-designed student...at least not in the way I originally meant, but my tag line (fossil of the undergraduate world) still works:
Today, I was getting coffee at the hospital cafe (I work in a building attached to a hospital) and the barista commented on my shirt, which says "Jog your mind...run to your library." I got the shirt in high school and told her that it'd been washed and worn so often that it's almost falling apart. She laughed and said, "High school? Couldn't have been that long ago." I replied, "oh, I guess not...it was only ten years ago." She was stunned. I guess she thought I was a typical undergrad, fresh out of high school.
And then there was the time my chemistry lab mates asked my age and then decided they could not longer speak to me, lest I ruin their teenage fun.
Wednesday, January 9, 2008
What other theories? I assume they mean Creationism or Intelligent Design, both of which ARE NOT scientific theories.
The board's meeting minutes included the following: "we are requesting that the State Board of Education direct the Florida Department of Education to revise/edit the new Sunshine State Standards for Science so that evolution is presented as one of several theories as to how the universe was formed."
Since when does evolution seek to explain the formation of the universe? Last I checked it had to do with genetic changes in populations of organisms on EARTH. These people have absolutely no idea what science is, how it is carried out or what it explains. They don't even appear to understand what evolution is.
I'm so irked that this is happening. Sure, question evolution. Sure, go out there and do research and learn and try to refute evolution. But do it scientifically, not politically. Stop making decisions without the correct information. Stop taking a stand on something while blatantly demonstrating that you've put no effort into understanding it. Stop making our country look stupid, lazy, ignorant and irrational.
(Hat-tip to Pharyngula)
It's the 2008 Presidential Candidate Matching Quiz:
92% Mike Gravel
91% Dennis Kucinich
79% John Edwards
76% Barack Obama
74% Hillary Clinton
73% Joe Biden
73% Chris Dodd
72% Bill Richardson
34% Rudy Giuliani
30% Ron Paul
23% John McCain
21% Mitt Romney
21% Tom Tancredo
17% Mike Huckabee
9% Fred Thompson
It's about right on. At this point, Kucinich is one of my favorites, but he doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell. I honestly don't know a lot about Gravel, so I'm going to go look him up. Seems, according to this quiz, that Obama is the closest match, though I really have my doubts.
Of course, I'm not going to use this as a deciding factor, but it is interesting.
Monday, January 7, 2008
- 1 large piece of organic ginger root
- 1 bottle of organic lemon juice
- organic honey
Begin by grating the ginger. Grate the entire root. While you're grating, let about 1.5 gallons of water boil. Add the grated ginger to the just boiled water, along with about a cup of honey. Mix well and let cool (this may take about an hour). Once cooled, strain the mixture, catching the liquid in a pitcher or large jar. You can keep the grated ginger for making seitan or broth...or just toss it. Add about one cup of lemon juice. Add more honey/water/lemon juice to taste.
This stuff is delicious, easy to make and pretty cheap. One batch makes a LOT of drink. It's very very gingery, so if you don't like the hot taste of ginger, then this isn't for you!
Miss Emily didn't want to be a part of this post. She's busy keeping J company, as he appears to be down for the count with an impending flu. However, she asked that I post some eye candy. For your viewing pleasure:
Here's what can be done about it, or specifically what I'll be doing:
1. Research. Read the proposed resolution in entirety. Do a little fact checking. If you find the bill is full of lies, then proceed with step 2.
2. Find out how your representative voted on House Resolution 847: Recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith. You can check here.
3. Write a letter to your representative asking that he vote "nay" on House Resolution 888 . There's a form letter here, though I highly recommend you write your own.
Hopefully, with some effort, this will not pass.
(Hat-tip to Pharyngula)
Saturday, January 5, 2008
Friday, January 4, 2008
What's even more impressive is the amount of involvement Megaloceros has had in evolutionary debate.
Picture from http://www.arcticwebsite.com/
Megaloceros, or the "Irish Elk," was first described in 1697 by Thomas Molyneux, who,
being a man of his time, believed that it was extant. Eventually, the Irish Elk was used by Georges Cuvier to demonstrate that extinction did in fact occur.
Megaloceros was also used as an example in the theory of orthogenesis. Proponents of orthogenesis, according to Stephen Jay Gould, "claimed that evolution proceeded in straight lines that natural selection could not regulate. Certain trends, once started, could not be stopped even if they led to extinction." The antlers of the Irish Elk seemed to validate the theory. The animal evolved from smaller deer featuring small antlers and eventually, its antlers became so over sized that the deer could no longer function. Orthogenesis attributed the extinction of Megaloceros to the bulk of its head ornament. Unfortunately, modern creationists use the Irish Elk as an argument against natural selection.
The size of Megaloceros's antlers, according to Gould, can be attributed to allometry or proportional growth. He rejects the idea that the antlers outgrew their purpose. Gould says, "I believe that the supposed problem of "unwieldy" or "cumbersome" antlers is an illusion rooted in a notion now abandoned by students of animal behavior."
Gould proposed that the antlers were used for display. Their size was actually an advantage: larger antlers conveyed higher status and dominance. The increasing size of the antlers alternately caused an increase in the body size of the deer and, as Gould expresses below, also explains the morphology of the antlers.
As devices for display among males, the enormous antlers of the Irish Elk finally make sense as structures adaptive in themselves. Moreover, as R.Coope of Birmingham University pointed out to me, the detailed morphology of the antlers can be explained, for the first time, in this context. Deer with broad-palmed antlers tend to show the full width of their antlers in display. The modern fallow deer (considered by many as the Irish Elk's nearest living relative) must rotate its head from side to side in order to show its palm. This would have created great problems for the giant deer, since the torque produced by swinging the ninety-pound antlers would have been immense. But the antlers of the Irish Elk were arranged to display the palm fully when the animal looked straight ahead. Both the unusual configuration and the enormous size of the antlers can be explained by postulating that they were used for display rather than for combat.I, for one, am thoroughly impressed with Gould's writing and thinking. His essays are packed with information and easy to read, though not dumbed down at all. My immediate reaction to his writing is to think warmly of him and somewhat idolize him. I understand that some people disagree with much of Gould's thinking and that many actively oppose him. I'd love to know more about it. What do you think of Gould? Why?
Gould, Stephen Jay. 1977. Ever Since Darwin: Reflections on Natural History. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Ltd.
Thursday, January 3, 2008
Well, J has his reasons and they're good ones. I'm doing the raw diet for two reasons: to see if I have an allergy to wheat or soy and to see if I can actually live without fatty-fat-fat food for two weeks. Let me say this now, to avoid the possible onslaught of concerned comments: I don't think I'm fat and I don't want to lose weight. That being said, I do think that I could stand to have better eating habits. Instead of stuffing food down my throat in a panic in order to satisfy an immense craving for fullness, I'd like to eat slowly and actually taste my food. I'd also like to be okay with eating a meal that doesn't include cheese, sugar or chocolate.
Anyway, the raw food lifestyle is evil. I've gone from eating two or three meals a day to eating every three seconds. And that's not the only thing I'm doing more often...
I'm also always hungry.
Here's what I'm craving: peanut butter, cheese, warm bread and chocolate.
Here's what I can eat: raw veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, raw honey and unpasteurized dairy products.
Not even close. Not one damn iota.
J has all but begged me to just eat what I want. He's pretty tired of my complaining. Unfortunately, I find it ever so fun to ask "Can we eat _____?" (fill in the blank with something warm and unhealthy) repeatedly until I collapse in a fit of exhaustion.
At this point, I'd probably be willing to eat anything that was warm...recently killed animal, poop or plastic that's been baking in the sun.
But really, I think there's a benefit to this...and it'll be over soon. It hasn't been all bad...in fact, I felt so relaxed and healthy today that I was able to enjoy a great lunch with J and our friend, Danielle, in the "Area of Refuge" of the new student center. Seriously...it was called the "Area of Refuge."