Saturday, May 31, 2008
It was the most vivid rainbow I've ever seen. It was so bright, it seemed flourescent. I grabbed my camera and stood out on the stoop of my office building taking pictures of the sky. It was really amazing and I wish that my camera could do it justice.
Also, J bought me this yesterday, at a yard sale:
Emily LOVES it. She likes to eat the little tassels and rough it up. I think the people J bought it from must have owned a cat. I love it, too. It reminds me of the bed sheets I had as a kid with all the old-school style dinosaurs in primary colors.
Wednesday, May 28, 2008
I envisioned that my summer would be full of reading and writing and blogging about really interesting things, such as paleontology, geology and such. But, it turns out that I've been just as busy as ever. So, a few things to keep you up to speed:
-My cat, Echo, had a weird episode the other day where her back legs just sorta gave out on her. She seemed really out of it and J said she "looked like animals do in the movies when the get shot with a tranquilizer dart." I brought her to the vet and they said there's nothing wrong. So, we're watching just to make sure.
-There's a new blog out there by Darren Naish and Mark Witton, Azhdarchid Paleobiology, and it's all about pterosaurs. Mark's illustrations grace the posts. Be sure to check it out. I've included a link under the "Paleo/Sciency Blogs" category. Also, be sure to read Mark and Darren's new paper!
-I've had three appointments with the dentist in the last few weeks. I hadn't seen a dentist for almost four years prior to that. I didn't have insurance and I was afraid to go. I had a filling this morning and I can't feel my face. But my teeth look nice. And that big cavity is gone.
-I got some photos back from that photo shoot I did in March. The pictures look really nice and I would love to share them, but something tells me that I can't (I signed over the rights to those photos when I signed the model release and I'm sure they wouldn't be happy with me posting their photos in the public domain).
-I've done another 3 hours of work on that Triceratops painting. Unfortunately, that three hours of work only yielded the completion of two toe bones. I hope to have it finished in the next couple of weeks so I can put it in the local art show.
Friday, May 23, 2008
I recently bought a bumper sticker that said "Keep your mythology out of my science class." I thought it was so perfect and fitting. And then the other day I realized what was really saying. I don't know how I missed it, but originally, I didn't think it was all that offensive. I mean...religion shouldn't be in a science class and I firmly stand by that. What's offensive about that? Somehow, I didn't catch the part where it equated religion with mythology.
Do I really believe this?
Yes, in most respects I do. The stories told, for example, in the Christian religion, are just as real to me as myths are: not real at all. They're stories. And they function, for many, as stories do - reflecting our humanity and carrying in them meaning that can be used to explain things and create a model for our behavior.
Do I feel the need to let every religious person in the car behind me know that I think they're stories are myths?
No. First of all, the word "myth" carries all sorts of connotation. And if people took it for what it means without that connotation, then I wouldn't mind declaring that religious stories are myths. But people don't work that way.
I don't think religion should be a special exception. I don't think that I should have to tip-toe around my beliefs in hopes of not stepping on any toes. I don't think that churches should be tax-exempt. I don't think we should let babies die because their parents don't want them to have blood transfusions because god might not like it.
But I don't want to tell the guy in the car behind me that I think his beliefs are stupid. Even if they are. Because I have to live on this planet with hordes of people whose beliefs are different than mine. And I don't think the way to go about solving this science in America problem is to let people know how stupid they're being. I think it's a ground-up thing...
But again...damned if I'm going to let mythology into my science class.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Friday, May 16, 2008
I did do something exciting today, though. I followed Brian's link to Columbia University Press's White Sale and bought the following books:
The Heretic in Darwin's Court
Memories are Made of This (this is for J)
The Earth Machine
Genes and DNA
George Gaylord Simpson: Paleontologist and Evolutionist
In the Beginning Was the Worm
I got all six books for only forty bucks, plus ten bucks for shipping.
Thursday, May 15, 2008
The woodpecker is beautifully adapted for pecking wood. From the skull to the tail feathers to the feet, woodpeckers have amazing adaptations that allow them to make holes in trees for nesting, feeding and even mating purposes.
The skull of the woodpecker is built to withstand multiple, rapid, high-impact collisions. The brain is encased tightly by the skull, with little cerebrospinal fluid, which keeps the brain from slamming into the skull interior with much force. The beak of the woodpecker is separated from the skull by a spongy matrix of bone, which absorbs shock. Additionally, the hyoid apparatus of the woodpecker has been shown to reduce shock to the brain.
The hyoid apparatus consists of bone and cartilage and controls the movement of the woodpecker's tongue. Muscles anchor the apparatus to the base of the skull and the apparatus extends behind the skull base up around the skull, sometimes as far as the nasal cavity. When the muscles anchoring the apparatus are engaged, the tongue can be extended as far as 1.5 times the length of the woodpeckers beak. This allows the woodpecker to reach far into holes in trees to grab insects and their larvae. The tongue of the woodpecker is also adapted for grubbing (hah!) in that it is rigid and barbed...perfect for spearing!
The 4th digit on the woodpecker's foot has a large range of motion, able to sit at a near-90 degree angle to the other digits. Combined with long stiff, tail feathers, the grasping capability of the woodpecker's feet allow the woodpecker to remain stable.
The anatomy of the woodpecker skull has been a source for the denial of evolution, but I can't imagine a more perfect example of evolution!
Ryan, Rusty. Anatomy and Evolution of the Woodpecker's Tongue. http://omega.med.yale.edu/~rjr38/Woodpecker.htm
L. J. Gibson (2006) Woodpecker pecking: how woodpeckers avoid brain injury Journal of Zoology 270 (3) , 462–465 doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.2006.00166.x
Juhachi, ODA. (2006) Mechanical Evaluation of the Skeletal Structure and Tissue of the Woodpecker and Its Shock Absorbing System. JSME International Journal. Series A. Solid Mechanics and Material Engineering (Japan Society of Mechanical Engineers). 49; 3. 390-396