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Wednesday February 20, the Mars Curiosity Rover team held a news conference to explain the techniques, challenges, and highlights of the recent success at drilling several centimeters into rocks. Curiosity drilled a test hole, then a sample hole on February 8. The shallow hole on the right was made two days earlier. This is the first use of the drill for rock sample collection. Imaged by Curiosity's Mars Hand Lens Imager (MAHLI) on Sol 182. The sample hole is 1.6 cm in diameter and 6.4 cm deep.

The news conference on February 20th showed the sample of powdered rock extracted by the rover's drill after the sample was placed in the rover's scoop. The raw image has not been adjusted. The sample will be passed through a 150 microns sieve and placed in the Chemistry and Mineralogy instrument and the Sample Analysis at Mars (SAM) instrument. The scoop is 4.5 cm wide. Imaged by Curiosity's Mast Camera on Feb. 20, or Sol 193.

The full news conference was recorded and is linked. There are brief presentation by five scientists and engineers with visuals. They take about 30 minutes. A question and answer session follows which is also very informative.

Explore the site on your own with an interactive below the squiggle.

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Wed Feb 20, 2013 at 08:10 AM PST

Best Online Science Sites

by jim in IA

Physics teaching was my career. When I see someone who is adept at explaining physics topics, I take notice. If that person does so with a style that is unique, I am even more interested. Henry Reich, creator of Minute Physics, is such a person. According to Henry...


Simply put: cool physics and other sweet science.

"If you can't explain it simply, you don't understand it well enough."
~Rutherford via Einstein? (wikiquote)

Minute Physics provides an energetic and entertaining view of old and new problems in physics -- all in a minute!

All in a minute? Well, not quite. But, the attempt is to do so in a minute. The Higgs Boson physics needed three separate parts. Browse his YouTube channel linked above to see his episodes. You can subscribe to his channel to receive email notices of new episodes.

The Minute Physics episode for February 7 was Henry's list of his choices for the BEST Science Online sites. That video is provided below. It is a rapid fire compilation of nearly 15 web sites and 12 YouTube channels. You can't take notes fast enough to keep up even if you drink 10 cups of strong coffee first. Fortunately, he proved the links to all of the mentioned sites on the YouTube page. I took the liberty to place the list below the squiggle exactly as he listed them. Either bookmark or Hotlist this diary so you can refer back to look up your favorites.

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How many of these listed sites do you already follow?

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Tue Feb 19, 2013 at 09:26 AM PST

Daily Bucket - Tuesday 2-19-2013

by jim in IA

The Daily Bucket is a place where we post and exchange our observations about what is happening in the natural world in our neighborhood. Each note about the bugs, buds, and birds around us is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns of nature that are quietly unwinding around us.
My brother-in-law put this together last week. He said they washed the window and invited the birds to come to the bowl. After many birds and some editing, he ended up with this pleasant video.





Not much is going on here. The winds are howling about 30 mph with a temp of 13˚. I am staying indoors. Getting hungry for lunch. I think I will have some of my birthday cake. I'm 66 today.


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Wed Feb 13, 2013 at 08:10 AM PST

Daily Bucket - Wednesday 2/13/13

by jim in IA

The Daily Bucket is a place where we post and exchange our observations about what is happening in the natural world in our neighborhood. Each note about the bugs, buds, and birds around us is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns of nature that are quietly unwinding around us.
The New York Times highlighted a new book by Katrina van Grouw called The Unfeathered Bird. It came out in November last year. It is a collection of drawings of more than 300 birds from 200 species such as this Brown Fish Owl. The drawings show lifelike positions and behavior.  Many are active skeletons. Many show the musculature of specimens. Some involve two birds such as a sparrowhawk plucking its prey. It is advertised as an easy read with interesting text about all kinds of bird behavior and anatomy. It is noted that no birds were harmed in making this book.

Here is the web page to a sampling of the images. Click on this image to be taken there.






What is going on in your backyard today? Do you have some interesting things to share? Where are you and what do you see?



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Wed Feb 06, 2013 at 08:10 AM PST

Watching Earth as it Breathes

by jim in IA

Earth's climate is changing. It affects our weather, the oceans, ice, ecosystems, and society. Some of it is natural. But, humans are contributing to climate change in profound ways. Billions of tons of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other gases that trap heat are released into the atmosphere each year. These greenhouse gases are measured and monitored by several agencies. The level of CO2 is currently at about 390 ppm (parts per million) and rising.



The goals of this diary are to present some of the history of CO2 measurements done since the 1950s, what those early measurements revealed about CO2 levels in the atmosphere, what the long-term record indicates, and two interesting animations of the data.

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Sat Feb 02, 2013 at 06:49 AM PST

Backyard Science - Open Bucket

by jim in IA


What? Are you talking to me?

There's not been any Backyard Science diary posts for a while. But, I know you are still out there. Until the next one, here's a place to toss in your two cents worth.

Member janislav wrote me this week about seeing 'unusual looking' sparrows at his feeders in eastern IA. Turns out they were Eurasian Tree Sparrows.
  http://www.allaboutbirds.org/...

Your turn...

By the way, if someone has a diary to post, go ahead as you had planned.

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Thu Jan 31, 2013 at 08:10 AM PST

Daily Bucket - Dung Beetles @Night

by jim in IA

The Daily Bucket is a place where we post and exchange our observations about what is happening in the natural world in our neighborhood. Each note about the bugs, buds, and birds around us is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns of nature that are quietly unwinding around us.
Remember the recent Daily Bucket about the dung beetle? It showed that African dung beetles (Scarabaeus satyrus) use strong light cues from the sun and moon to navigate. There is more to the story.
“Even on clear, moonless nights, many dung beetles still manage to orientate along straight paths,” Marie Dacke, of Lund University in Sweden, said in a prepared statement.

“We were sitting out in Vryburg [in South Africa] and the Milky Way was this massive light source,” said Marcus Byrne, of Wits University and co-author on the new study, in a prepared statement. “We thought, they have to be able to use this—they just have to!”

Their findings were published online January 24 in Current Biology.

To see if the starry sky was their guide, researchers set up some ingenious tests for the industrious creatures. Join me below the orange dung ball trail. Clearly, this fellow had no idea where it was going.

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Tue Jan 29, 2013 at 08:10 AM PST

Staring at the Sun

by jim in IA

NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) observes and images the sun at ten different wavelengths. On January 22, this image was released in an article describing those wavelengths and what they tell us about the sun. You can access the article here. Previous diaries have been written about SDO. Links to some are provided at the end. This diary is about the information provided by each of the specific wavelengths used to observe the sun and how you can easily access it yourself.

When you view the sun with your eyes or a normal camera, you are seeing a spectrum of colors from red to violet. You may remember roygbiv from school. The sun's output in this visible spectrum peaks around yellow. Our eyes are also most sensitive to that. However, this visible spectrum is but a small part of the very wide ranging electro-magnetic spectrum. The sun radiates in an extremely broad range of wavelengths. Each comes from a different set of dynamics taking place on the surface and in the atmosphere of the sun.

More about the electro-magnetic spectrum and what those wavelengths reveal about the sun.

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Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 06:55 AM PST

Our Inauguration Trip

by jim in IA

We were fortunate this past year with many blessings. The re-election of Barack Obama was one of those. We worked hard locally to get our neighborhoods to vote for him. As a reward, we decided to make the trip to DC and attend the Inauguration. Our daughter and her family live nearby in Maryland. We got to see them and this event both in one trip.

Last Monday morning about 5:00 AM, our son-in-law dropped us and our son and daughter at the nearby Metro station. Son and daughter had attended the Inauguration in 2009. Son said we had to get there early, because last time they waited an hour just to get on the train. This time there was no wait at all. We were delivered to our stop quickly.
Soon, we were queued in line with hundreds of other people with yellow tickets. After a wait of less than an hour, the gates opened. We passed through showing we had the right color tickets. Next was a long row of tents with metal detectors and security people. That went quickly and we were soon standing at our chosen spot.

The sun was rising at about 7:30 when we were treated to this view of the Capitol dome.

Melanie and I wrote this diary together, as we sometimes do. Join us below for more pictures and observations about our trip to the Inauguration.

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We were talking about a book Melanie is reading about the World's Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of the Americas by Columbus. A centerpiece of the exposition was the huge Chicago Wheel 264 feet high. I love science and technology. The idea of this giant wheel being the first Ferris wheel fascinated me.

Rotating wheel rides have been around since the 17th century. They were known as 'pleasure wheels'. George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr.  secured the patents for the larger metal concept which came to be known as Ferris wheels. Ferris was born in Galesburg, IL, in 1859. That is not far from where I grew up. The family moved to Nevada when he was six. He attended college at California Military Academy in Oakland, CA where he graduated in 1876. He graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY in 1881 with a degree in Civil Engineering. He started work in the railroad and bridge industry. Upon moving to Pittsburgh, he started a company to test metals used in the rail and bridge industries.

Join me below to read more about this engineering marvel and the exposition of 1893.

Poll

Are you a rider of Ferris Wheels?

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Sun Jan 13, 2013 at 07:00 AM PST

Our Moral Foundations

by jim in IA

During the past year, I was very involved in the Obama campaign as a local volunteer. As such, issues constantly came up that forced me to question why I supported or opposed them. Is it right? Is it wrong? Doesn't it depend on a lot of other things? I needed to feel I understood them internally. Only then, could I use them as talking points to potential voters in my neighborhoods. I constantly asked myself how the conservative right could be so diametrically opposed to what I believed. I don't consider myself to be unusually liberal. In fact, I'm very conservative is some things. But, how could they feel so absolute and certain that they held the high ground morally? It was frustrating. I can't think that way. That's the title of my very first diary almost two years ago.

I pondered the possible reasons. Some insight came after listening to a Bill Moyers program with Jonathan Haidt. In it...

Bill and social psychologist Jonathan Haidt talk about the psychological underpinnings of our contentious culture, why we can’t trust our own opinions, and the demonizing of our adversaries. Compromise becomes a dirty word.

At last some insight. Social psychology is not my area of expertise. I am a teacher and scientist. Logic and clear thinking are a big deal for me. I saw none in the way our political system was behaving. Haidt pointed out how people are basically very similar when it comes to the guideposts they use as foundations for moral judgement and behavior. But, they differ significantly on which of those foundations are held in highest importance to them. It is testable and measurable.

Granted, this information is not new. Haidt has spoken about it on TED, among other places, since 2008. Diaries about it are here on Kos. Do a search with Haidt and you find several. I would like to show you what I found in looking into this issue of moral foundations. More below the squiggle.

Poll

What is your most important moral foundation?

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Thu Jan 10, 2013 at 08:10 AM PST

Daily Bucket - Rolling Your Own

by jim in IA

The Daily Bucket is a place where we post and exchange our observations about what is happening in the natural world in our neighborhood. Each note about the bugs, buds, and birds around us is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the patterns of nature that are quietly unwinding around us.

I grew up on a farm in the midwest. Dung beetles were common in the summer in the animal lots. My uncle took great pleasure telling me a detailed story when I was about ten about how he spent several hours one day watching the progress of a certain beetle. He told of how it burrowed into a cow pile, formed a ball, and rolled it to a prepared spot in the dusty lot to bury it. He had such fun telling that story.

The dung beetle is an interesting species. There are 2000 species in Africa and 7000 worldwide. About 90% of the species live entirely in and under the dung pile, never going anywhere else. The remaining 10% roll a ball of dung to a new location. Dung beetles have an interesting niche in the ecosystem where they live. I'd like to share more of the information about them I found recently.

Burrow with me through the orange pile of dung. It's warm, cozy, and smelly below.

Poll

Dung Beetle Trivia ... Pick a Favorite.

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