November 2015
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Etsy Wednesday – Geothermal Tea Cozy

From Etsy user scientificculture, a geothermal tea cozy.

“This cozy is handmade and semi accurate displaying most of the land masses as well as the 5 layers of the earth (inner core, outer core, lower mantle, upper mantle, and crust!).”

These are two sides of the same product:



Duckies in research

A lot of scientific equipment is carefully designed to do exactly what is needed for the experiments in question. But sometimes regular objects work just as well, or even better. You’ll regularly find milk and nail polish in a cell biology lab, and fruit juice in a fly lab.
It seems oceanographers have embraced the rubber duckie as their tool of choice.

In 1992 a container ship traveling from China to Seattle lost a shipment of toys along the way. Among the toys were thousands of rubber duckies. The ducks, enjoying their newly found freedom, traveled along ocean currents. By 1995 they had reached the Bering Strait, and, trapped in the ice, it took them another 5 years to reach the Atlantic. In 2003, many of the ducks surfaced on beaches on the East coast of Canada and the Northern US. They were a bit faded, but still intact. Through the floating toys, researchers were able to learn a lot about ocean currents.

The lost shipment was an accident, but now NASA is purposely employing rubber ducks to track the flow of melted glacial ice. Initially, the team sent a probe with a sensor into the stream, but lost the signal. As a backup plan they sent 90 rubber ducks in the stream, in the hopes that people will find them and return them. The location of the found ducks will then show where the glacial water ended up.

Why do these ducks survive a trip through glacial ice? The manufacturer of the ducks that traveled the oceans between 1992 and 2003 says that the toys are made to withstand a two-year-old playing in the bath. I guess you can’t get a better quality test than eleven years on the ocean…

Images of Science – La Brea Tar Pits

The Pits

Originally uploaded by JesApe

I’m excited about the Images of Science Flickr group. There’s some neat stuff there already, and I’ll pick one or two every week to show here on the blog. This picture of the La Brea tar pits by Flickr user JesApe is one that I invited to the group, because it’s such a good picture of people working.

These girls seem to be doing fossil work, but there’s more research done at the pits: Recently several hundred species of bacteria were found at La Brea, snacking on the oil.

Add your science-related images to the group, and you might be next on the blog!

Algonquin Geology

algonquin road Two weeks ago my sister and I went camping about an hour’s drive away from Algonquin Provincial Park, so we went up there for a day of hiking and canoeing. The hiking trails in the park are really great, and I remembered liking the Lookout Trail the last time I was there, so we did that one. The trail is only 1.9 km but it goes to one of the highest cliffs in the park, with view of up to 25 km in the distance. At the start of the trail you can pick up a booklet explaining the different geological features that you come across during the hike.

The picture below shows a big rock that was dislodged about 11,000 years ago when the last glacier melted away form the park’s area. The rock was picked up and carried for possibly many kilometers.


Continue reading Algonquin Geology


teeth CalPhotos is a database of images of animals, fossils, plants, and landscapes, contributed by museums and universities. The site is searchable by keywords or type of pictures, and there are some pretty neat things to see amongst more than 100,000 photos, such as this lower jaw of Aelurodon taxoides, a prehistoric dog.

[submitted by Michael in the UK, thanks!]

Evolution time scale

This site shows hallmarks of evolution on a Flash-based time scale. Move the pointer along the scale to see what was going on at different points in time.

Evolution time scale

It shows how new humans are on this planet: they don’t appear until the very end of this long, long time scale.

The evolution time scale is made by John Kyrk, a biologist and artist who makes gorgeous cell biology animations. There are a lot, and they’re all fantastic! (I recommend the one about pH and the cell structure animation, from which you can click through to other animations.) Most animations have little arrows in the bottom left corner to proceed through the slides.

Birds and Dinosaurs

Piquing the curiosity of everyone’s inner 14-year old boy, dinosaurs were in the news several times this month. Particularly, their connection to modern day birds is being discussed by several groups around the world.

First, an October 5 news release from the University of North Carolina rebuts an earlier claim that fossilized dinosaur structures from China had feathers. They examined the “feathers” from the fossils of these Cretaceous dinosaurs, the Sinosauropteryx, more closely, and concluded that they were decomposing flesh. The theory of feathered dinosaurs had led people to believe that currently living birds are descendants of dinosaurs, but these findings show that the link between birds and dinosaurs is not as close as it would seem.

“We all agree that birds and dinosaurs had some reptilian ancestors in common,” said Feduccia, professor of biology in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences. “But to say dinosaurs were the ancestors of the modern birds we see flying around outside today because we would like them to be is a big mistake.”

Continue reading Birds and Dinosaurs