Ask and Ye Shall Receive….

Rexroth’s Daughter asked me to provide a link to the Delay column, so here it is Delay Non-apologizes . On rereading the post I noticed it also mentioned John Thune. The google search that got Sargent at Arms here was “john thune remarks tom delay”. Could be a coincidence but just in case:

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Is Tom Delay Spying On afarensis?

Hi ho, hi ho it’s off to gitmo I go!

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Apparently, my post on Tom Delay has been visited by the US Senate Sergent at Arms office! Although Delay is in the House… Hmm. Maybe I’ll continue to live in St. Louis for a little while longer. Hope they found what they were looking for – wonder if they are going to go all Patriot Act on my sad, sorry, hominid behind? They wouldn’t throw a 3.5-2.8 my old hominid in the slammer would they (no, but since A. afarensis comes from Ethiopia we are going to render you for -er – questioning!)

In case they come back:

The first ten amendments comprise the Bill of Rights. The first amendment protects religious freedom by prohibiting the establishment of an official or exclusive church or sect. Free speech and free press are protected, although they can be limited for reasons of defamation, obscenity, and certain forms of state censorship, especially during wartime. The freedom of assembly and petition also covers marching, picketing and pamphleteering.

Amendment I (1791)

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

From The US Sergeant at Arms website.

Friday Baby Prehensile-Tailed Porcupine Blogging

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From the “Isn’t it just sooo darned cute!!” catagory of blogging .

It’s a … well, we don’t know the sex yet. A female prehensile-tailed porcupine gave birth to this baby at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., earlier this month. (The zoo released the photo Tuesday.) Staff say they wouldn’t normally know if the newborn is a boy or a girl for another six months, but this time they’ll use DNA tests to solve the mystery sooner.
Native to South America, prehensile-tailed porcupines (Coendou prehensilis) are mostly nocturnal. The plant-eaters use their nimble tails to climb and hang from trees and are known to stamp their hind feet when excited. As for their big noses, the rodents’ keen sense of smell helps compensate for their nearsightness.

In case you’re wondering, the recent birth at the zoo wasn’t as painful as the animal’s porcupine name might imply. C. prehensilis infants are born with fur, not quills.

Friday Horshoe Crab Blogging

My mother is from Cape Cod, MA. Periodically (when I was younger) we would go visit her parents in Provincetown. Which, of course, also meant a swim in the ocean. One of my mother’s sisters was a slightly mischievious individual who used to delight in telling us horror stories about horsehoe crabs. How they hid in the sand and stung unwary childre, how if you got stung you would bleed for months. Needless to say when we went to the ocean we tiptoed very cautiously around the beach. Everytime we saw a rock buried in the sand, evertime we saw anything slightly unusual we would start screaming for all we were worth “Horseshoe crabs! Help, they are going to get us!” We thought they were far meaner than sharks! Turns out they are related to spiders (and possibly trilobites).

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Below is some horseshoe crab porn for all the Pharyngulans!
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Rated M for mature.

Finally, there is, apparently, a museum devoted to horseshoe crabs! This is an intersting paper on horseshoe crab phlogeny. This site contains a lot of interesting info on horshoe crabs.

Friday Seal Blogging

I am in the process of reading “New Directions in Ecological Physiology” and I came across something I had to write a post about. It falls in the catagory of “My god, that is so obvious, why didn’t I think of it?”

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The northern fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus) is adapted for heat retention while in the water. However, this causes problems when the seal is on land, for example some seals have died of heat shock in 10 c temps.

Artocephalus galapagoensis (galapagoes southern fur seal) has the same problem. It is adapted to cold water – radiates heat (in the water) through highly vascular flippers.
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Zalophus californiansus (California sea lion) also faces this problem. Interestingly enough the California sea lion also occurs in the Galapagoes. So the we can compare how it solves the heat problem with A. galapagoensis. A. galapagoensis
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Both the California sea lion and the Galapagos fur seal are highly polygamous. Males compete for large territories and try to acquire large harems of female seals. So, the question is how do you compete and avoid heat stress? The Galapagos fur seal competes for territory and mates on land, however, its land habitat of choice are wave cut caves and talus slopes containg large boulders (to hide in the shade of). The California sea lion competes for territory in the ocean and comes ashore primarily at night for mating purposes.

Two points need to be made. The first is that, as the above example shows, behavior can be used to expand niches. The second is that adaptations have unintended consequences. Adaptation to cold oceans can lead to problems when it is time to come ashore. The interaction between being adapted to a cold environment and needing to inhabit a warm environment (for however short a time) has yielded a complex answer.

Intelligent Design and Kansas On NPR

NPR’s Science Friday is doing a segment on the Kansas ID issue. Tune in it should be interesting.

Holy Crap!!

Holy crap this may be kind of old but it is the first I’ve heard about it.

The US military is funding development of a weapon that delivers a bout of excruciating pain from up to 2 kilometres away. Intended for use against rioters, it is meant to leave victims unharmed. But pain researchers are furious that work aimed at controlling pain has been used to develop a weapon. And they fear that the technology will be used for torture.


New Scientist contacted two researchers working on the project. Martin Richardson, a laser expert at the University of Central Florida, US, refused to comment. Brian Cooper, an expert in dental pain at the University of Florida, distanced himself from the work, saying “I don’t have anything interesting to convey. I was just providing some background for the group.” His name appears on a public list of the university’s research projects next to the $500,000-plus grant.

John Wood of University College London, UK, an expert in how the brain perceives pain, says the researchers involved in the project should face censure. “It could be used for torture,” he says, “the [researchers] must be aware of this.”

Amanda Williams, a clinical psychologist at University College London, fears that victims risk long-term harm. “Persistent pain can result from a range of supposedly non-destructive stimuli which nevertheless change the functioning of the nervous system,” she says. She is concerned that studies of cultured cells will fall short of demonstrating a safe level for a plasma burst. “They cannot tell us about the pain and psychological consequences of such a painful experience.”

Well, This is Freaking Wonderful

From the New Scientist apparently the network of satellites that monitor environmental health is detiorating badly.

The US network of satellites monitoring the environmental health of the Earth is on the verge of collapse, according to a highly critical report released on Wednesday by the country’s National Research Council.

Six recent NASA Earth-observing missions have been delayed, scaled back or completely cut. Several of the cancelled missions were follow-ups to successful satellite projects.

The US is probably responsible for about half of the Earth-science satellites currently in orbit, says Richard Anthes, president of the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and co-chair of the committee that produced the report.

Most of the document focuses on research satellites, and Anthes warns that, for example, these map bulges in the Earth that may signal impending volcanic eruptions, track the depleted ozone layer, and analyse changes in soil moisture that may precede a famine. Furthermore, if observational satellites are not replaced weather and hurricane forecasting would suffer.

When current satellites retire, scientists fear there may be a serious data gap. “The planning for new missions should probably have been started five to 10 years ago,” says Anthes. “But the community is now waking up.”

As always, our president is on top of the situation:

President George W Bush’s proposed budget for Fiscal Year 2006 lists Earth studies as one of NASA’s five national objectives. But in that budget, NASA’s Earth science programmes would get $1.37 billion, about 8% less than they received the year before.

Apparently, he’s going to fix the problem by underfunding it – I guess if there is no data all those hard questions about global warming will go away. On the hand, he might be replacing the current program with faith based satellites!

I really don’t get it. One of the main reasons why we enjoy the standard of living that we do is because of the strength of our science and technology and it is vital that we continue to have a strong and vibrant research base. Yet in the last few months we have seen several key areas of research go by the wayside (see here for example). Now I don’t know about y’all but I really don’t want to live in a third world country. Nor do I want my children to live in a third world country. So could we PLEASE go back to doing science. I should also mention Santorum’s attempts to destroy the National Weather Service .

Do you want a seven-day weather forecast for your ZIP code? Or hour-by-hour predictions of the temperature, wind speed, humidity and chance of rain? Or weather data beamed to your cellphone?

That information is available for free from the National Weather Service.

But under a bill pending in the U.S. Senate, it might all disappear.

The bill, introduced last week by Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., would prohibit federal meteorologists from competing with companies such as AccuWeather and The Weather Channel, which offer their own forecasts through paid services and free ad-supported Web sites.
“I believe I’ve paid for that data once. … I don’t want to have to pay for it again,” said Scott Bradner, a technical consultant at Harvard University.

He says that as he reads the bill, a vast amount of federal weather data would be forced offline.

“The National Weather Service Web site would have to go away,” Bradner said. “What would be permitted under this bill is not clear — it doesn’t say. Even including hurricanes.”

And in a bit of hypocrisy:

“It is not an easy prospect for a business to attract advertisers, subscribers or investors when the government is providing similar products and services for free,” Santorum said.

AccuWeather has been an especially vocal critic of the weather service and its parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The company has accused the federal agencies of withholding data on hurricanes and other hazards, and failing to ensure that employees don’t feed upcoming forecasts to favored investors in farming and energy markets.

Which is ironic considering these comapnies get the dat for their forcasts from the National Weather Service.

A Challenge to ID

An intrepid archaeologist has been out exploring. He stumbles across some interesting structures/formations. The question is are they designed or caused by nature? Using the principles of intelligent design analyze the picture below and tell me what our archaeologist is standing in the middle of.
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Is this caused by intelligent or stochastic mechanisms?

Just for Fun!

In honor of my 3,000th visitor to this site, I hereby present two fun and interesting links: go here to be insulted in shakespherean prose it’s great!

Then go here to kill some Simpsonian zombies. Hint: shoot Krusty (repeatedly). Great for hours of entertainment!

Speaking of clowns – does anybody remember the name of the tv show staring Queen Latifah? The one that had the guy who was afraid of clowns, but who’s girlfriend was a clown? Queen Latifah played a magazine editor? Ringing any bells?