Circular illusions and camouflaged frogs

Can you spot the frogs? Clicking the link will take you Mathew Cobb’s post at Why Evolution is True (photo by Nash Turley)


I’m sure that you can, but this photo shows what evolutionary adaptation can do.

Also, WEIT provided a link to this little gem: these “rotating dots” are, individually, moving along a straight line path. Seriously…all of them are.

I am going to try to write some equations that describe this motion.

January 6, 2015 Posted by | evolution, frogs, mathematics, nature, science | , | Leave a comment

Frogs, GMOs and Mother Jones becoming Salon?

Frogs: some new species were discovered in Peru. And these frogs have transparent skin! (yes, you can see the organs) I wonder: is there a purpose to this, or is it just the effects of genetic drift?

GMOs: this is a every even handed, level headed post via “I F****ng love science. And, surprisingly, The Nation also had a decent article as well. I share the pleasant shock and surprise of doomvox at Daily Kos:

I feel like the millennium is at hand: The Nation is taking on the anti-GMO activists, with an article by Madeline Ostrander that asks the question Can GMOs Help Feed a Hot and Hungry World?, with the answer provided in the subtitle: “Not if activists succeed in making the genetic modification of food politically unsustainable”. This is a blow for rationality I would not at all have expected from The Nation (their idea of balanced coverage of the nuclear issue, for example, is a debate between an anti-nuclear person and a fanatically anti-nuclear one). Maybe the left really is on it’s way to being “the reality based community”…

You know it is a sad day when I am pleasantly surprised by a competent article coming from The Nation.

Of course, Mother Jones did this: it hammered Scott Brown for posting….triathlon photos?

The Massachusetts transplant is gearing up for his campaign against Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) this fall by literally running for office. He’s also biking. And swimming. And hiking. And taking jump shots. If it’s a weekend, you can expect to find the Republican candidate tweeting a photo of his latest feat of strength. Things might not work out for Brown in November, but Brown will almost certainly work out.

Uh, workout/sports photos are bad because….???? Seriously: are photos for some politician holding yet another baby, hunting, or eating another hotdog at a county fair supposed to be better?

At least this article didn’t accuse him of “fat shaming”, but hey, I haven’t read the comments. :-)

PS: politically speaking, I am not a fan of his and I hope that his opponent wins this election. But really???

August 27, 2014 Posted by | frogs, politics, science, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

A humid longish walk, plus some reptiles and amphibians

Today: more marathon walk training. It was damp, sort of warm and humid; it started off at 68 F, 90 percent humidity and ended at 75 F, 79 percent humidity:

I wasn’t sure as to what course I wanted to do, so I found myself heading down the bluff toward the river trail. But my initial pace was painfully slow! It took me 16 minutes to do the first 1.03 miles (along Moss Avenue). So I knew that somewhere I’d need to put in some “pick ups” to get within shouting distance of a marathon race pace.

So I walked down the trail and up to the old Woodruff track (5.17 miles), did 32 laps on the track (mostly right on the outside line of lane 1 as it is a 400 meter track) and then walked back.

Times: 1:17:35 for the first 5.17 miles
1:50:07 for 8 track miles (3:07:42)
1:16:58 back
4:24:40 for 18.35

2 mile segment times: 27:48, 27:37, 27:23, 27:16 track

This walk: I had to stretch my back (McKenzie exercises) prior to getting out there. Also this weird weather has been playing havoc with my left knee. But I had no problems while out there.

It was drizzling (lightly) at the start. The out and back were the easiest parts; the stuff on the track was the toughest stretch. I kept telling myself “I goat this”. The final stretch was easier than I had feared it would be; note the “back” stretch is net uphill so it is good that it was a tiny bit faster than the outstretch.

This is my 5’th walk of over 17 miles in my build up. The marathon is 6 weeks away; that gives me 4 training weeks left. One week will feature a parent’s weekend trip to see my daughter, and one will feature a hilly half marathon; I might have to get in an easy 4 miles prior to that.

So my plan:
24 August: 20 or bust.
31 August: lift/swim (4 mile race on Monday), 2 September (Tuesday): 4 hours in the morning.
7 September: half marathon with extra (17 total)
14 September: Parent’s weekend. 16 September (Tuesday) : 4 hours on the morning.

I’ll have MP walks (10 miles) at pace on Wednesdays when I don’t have a long walk on Tuesday.

Reptiles and Amphibians: Barbara and I usually eat Indian lunch on Sundays. Afterward, we went to a Reptile/Amphibian exhibition. I think that the African Bullfrog stole the show. It is one of those frogs that sure looks like a toad. There were some geckos and other iguanas, turtles, and yes, snakes.


August 17, 2014 Posted by | family, frogs, marathons, walking | , | Leave a comment

Scientists figure out a bit about a toad’s brain (observation, hypothesis, experiment, model, predction)

First a bonus: Jerry Coyne’s website has a post about mayfly emergence showing up on radar!

Toad Brain Activity
A friend alerted me to this post, which is about how a toad reacts to stimuli which mimics prey in the wild. There was a bit of a “ha, ha, watch the stupid toad get “owned”” but the videos are quite interesting and illuminate how science works.

First, there is the observation (toad hunting a worm).


(photo: Heidi Carpenter)

Then some conjectures are made: “what type of stimuli elicits a “hunt” response”?
Then there is an series of “experiment followed by a refined conjecture”; here we see what “looks like” prey to the toad and what doesn’t, and what sort of response does the toad make? Then we look at the signals in the toad’s brain.

It turns out that there are a couple of receptors involved: one if the “predator” sensor is activated, it sends a signal which cancels the “hunt maneuver” response. How is this verified: one can disconnect the “canceling signal” pathway.

Then the whole lot is modeled by a neural network which elicits the predicted response. Yes, there is some mathematics that underlies this, which includes signal theory, neural networks, probability and possibly fuzzy set theory as the “predator/prey” sets appear to be fuzzy.

The videos total 30 minutes but are worth watching.

July 22, 2014 Posted by | frogs, mathematics, science, technology | , , , | Leave a comment

THAT was humbling…

“Ok, let’s do my 4.2 mile course all free and easy and quick” I said.

So I waited until 8:30 (mistake) and mile 1.02 was too fast for the conditions and my not being warmed up (9:34). I was at 3.2 in 30:12 and then I said “bleep it” and walked the last mile.
It was 76 F with 76 percent humidity by then (74 at the start) and I was dying.

At least the mile is short and the heat shouldn’t be much of a factor.


Heidi Carpenter got this cool shot of a toad hunting a worm.


Yeah, I watched this video. And no, Ms. Kelly did NOT “own” VP Cheney. In fact, she gave him a platform to spread his views, such as they are.

Why anyone listens to him remains a mystery to me.


LOL!!! Hey, when haven’t there been terrorist groups in the world?

If anything, these people scare me less than our own homegrown “open carry activist” nutbags. At least these people aren’t going into the places that I frequent.

June 19, 2014 Posted by | frogs, nature, political/social, republicans | | Leave a comment

Nature Friday: GMOs, Chernobyl animals, energy, frogs, exercises and fisheries….

Exercise There is some evidence that exercise can clear unnecessary stuff in the short term memory. Tests on mice have shown that treadmill running helps them forget electric shocks. But there is more in this article:

Adult mice that exercised on a running wheel after experiencing an event were more likely than their inactive mates to forget the experience, according to a paper from researchers at the University of Toronto, published in Science today (May 8). The results suggest that the production of new neurons—neurogenesis—prompted by the exercise wiped out the mice’s memories. They might also explain why human infants, whose brains exhibit abundant neurogenesis, do not have long-term memories.

“In general, hippocampal neurogenesis has been thought to be the basis for memory and they’re suggesting that it’s the basis for amnesia,” said Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health. “That’s a very controversial and provocative concept.”

Infantile amnesia is common to all humans. Children typically do not develop long-term memories until age three or four. But why is that? Sheena Josselyn and her husband Paul Frankland, who are both neuroscientists at the University of Toronto, pondered precisely that question after noticing that their two-year-old daughter could easily remember things that happened within a day or two, but not several months in the past.

More specifically, they wondered whether it might have something to do with neurogenesis in the hippocampus—a brain region involved in learning and memory. Hippocampal neurons are produced rapidly during infancy, but neuronal generation in the region slows to a trickle in adulthood. “This inverse relationship between the levels of neurogenesis and the ability to form a long-term memory got us thinking that maybe one is due to the other,” said Josselyn.

Surf to the link to read more.

Energy: this photo was captioned: “How windfarms RUIN landscapes – shocking illustration of the destruction wrought by wind industry fanatics” (via @Jonathan_Leake on Twitter)


Government intervention and fisheries: Via Paul Krugman:

Brad Plumer tells an important, little-known tale. It begins with things going badly:

Back in the 1980s and ’90s, many fisheries in the US were in serious trouble. Fish populations were dropping sharply. Some of New England’s best-known groundfish stocks — including flounder, cod, and haddock — had collapsed, costing the region’s coastal communities hundreds of millions of dollars.

So the government got involved. But we know that government is always the problem, never the solution; so you know what came next.

Or maybe you don’t. In fact, government intervention has been a big success. Many fisheries have rebounded, to the benefit of the fishermen as well as consumers.

Fighting climate change isn’t really all that different from saving fisheries; if we ever get around to doing the obvious, it will be easier and more successful than anyone now expects.

There are types of frogs whose males dance to attract mates (surf to the page to see the video) but, unfortunately, these frogs are endangered. These are small, walnut size frogs.


Animals of Chernobyl
Since background radiation is too high for humans to live there, the exclusion zone around Chernobyl is like a wild habitat. So, scientists are seeing some interesting developments in the animals of the region.

GMO issues Here is a guide to looking at some of the anti-GMO stuff that is out there.

May 9, 2014 Posted by | biology, energy, environment, frogs, nature, science | , , , , | Leave a comment

Workout: I stayed up too late

I watched our university women’s team lose at home, then watched our men’s team lose in the “play in” round in the Missouri Valley Conference tournament.

So, I slept in an extra hour and went to morning swim: I did that “fresh” (without lifting first):

2 x 250 warm up 500’s (on the 5)
10 x 100 on the 2:05 (1:45-1:48 each; couldn’t go faster)
100 in 1:45 (oh well)
4 x 25 fist, 25 free on 1:05
3 x 50 fly (fins)
25 fly, 25 free.

Then after my 9-10 class, I got in about a 1 hour weight workout. Full weights; my bench suffered:

rotator cuff, Achilles, hip hikes
pull ups: 5 sets of 10 (ok)
bench (weak) 10 x 135, 1 x 180, 7 x 160, 7 x 160
super set: 3 sets of (12 x 50 dumbbell military), 10 x 25 dumbbell upright row, 10 x 30 dumbbell curl.
super set: 3 sets of 10 (pull downs: 160, Hammer Machine Row: 210, 210, 200).

That was it.

Today: busy with candidate stuff and a couple of quizzes.


Someone said this was about me:

And this is funny (and fun)

March 8, 2014 Posted by | big butts, frogs, swimming, weight training | | Leave a comment

Froggy: that isn’t very nice.

Hat tip: Jerry Coyne.


January 4, 2014 Posted by | frogs, nature | Leave a comment

There ARE snow frogs….


The upshot: these frogs only have a brief window in which to mate; hence they are out, even when it is cold. And they can stay in amplexus for months (the fertilization takes place outside of the body; the female releases the eggs and the male fertilizes them):

Though egg laying takes place in spring, frog pairs in mountain ponds can begin hibernation in amplexus—a months-long embrace that may provide a breeding advantage by allowing mating as quickly as possible once warm weather arrives. Eggs of high-elevation frogs may be 30 percent larger than those of lowland females, giving tadpoles a head start. Eggs and tadpoles of mountain frogs have developed resistance to genetic damage from ultraviolet radiation, a component of sunlight that is more intense in the thinner air of high altitude.

And yes, frogs (at least many of them) have a type of antifreeze to protect against frostbite and to keep the vital organs alive.

December 19, 2013 Posted by | biology, frogs, science | Leave a comment

Facebook 11 facts about me: the “TL; DR” version

Note: “TL;DR” means “too long; didn’t read”.

11. I was born in Fukuoka, Japan (Island of Kyushu) on Itazuke Air Force Base.

My father was in the Air Force and I lived all over the place. As far as my birthplace: Itazuke AFB stuff can be found here.


10. In grades 1-12 I went to 10 different schools (3 different states, 2 different countries) and have taken classes at 5 different universities.

Narimasu Elementary, Mather (AFB) Elementary (outside of Sacramento, CA), Becker elementary (Austin, TX), Zilker Elementary (Austin, TX), Douglas Elementary (Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota), Green Park Elementary, Kanto Mura Middle, Tachikawa Middle, Yokota High (Japan), Travis HS (Austin, TX). Colleges: US Naval Academy (BS Math), Texas-San Antonio (one class), University of New Haven (3 classes), University of Texas, Austin (Ph. D. Math), Bradley University (33 hours, Industrial Engineering).

9. First NFL game seen: 1962 49’ers vs. Browns (Jim Brown played). First college game: Texas vs. Rice in 1969 (UT won the national championship that year.

I remember very little about the 1962 NFL game. I remember some of the Rice vs. Texas game. I’ve seen several bowl games (8 Cotton Bowls), several seasons of Navy, Texas (9 home seasons), Illinois (3 so far), as well as Cowboys, Rams, Buccaneers, Patriots, Colts and Bears home games. NBA: I saw a few Spurs home games and a Rockets home game; I saw one NBA playoff game (NBA champion Lakers in 1988). Yes, I got to see Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Akeem Olajuwon, Kareem Abadul-Jabbar and Charles Barkley play.

8. I’ve played 10 different sports (or events) at some organized level. I sucked at ALL of them.

Football (little league through high school), baseball (little league, pony league), basketball (junior high), track and field (shot put), judo (college club sport), crew (rowing): Freshman scrub team in college, distance running (public meets and races), swimming (swim meet, open water swim), triathlon (one short one), race walking, distance walking. I had dreams of being a professional athlete, but I have zero athletic ability.

7. I backed Anita Bryant’s anti-gay rights crusade in the 1970’s and was anti-gay rights until 1982. Then in the late 1990’s, I was the President of the Peoria Chapter of the ACLU for a couple of years.

I lost most of my anti-gay prejudice when I met some gay men at a party. They kissed each other; I expected to be disgusted and grossed out. Instead it was “oh…that’s it?” I just didn’t care afterward; I saw my beliefs were irrational. It was the easiest “major” change of view I’ve ever had.

6. I was raised Roman Catholic and seriously considered becoming a priest in 1985. My issues with religions are mostly intellectual ones (I reject the supernatural stuff).

My beef: I accept naturalism (things happen for natural causes) and I see nothing “special” about the earth or our tiny place in the universe. I think that it is highly unlikely that a bunch of sheep herders got it right several thousand years ago and much more likely that they were just making stuff up. I am open to evidence of a non-human centered “creative force/whatever” but not so open to ancient human religions.

5. My favorite non-technical college class was Chinese Politics taught by Professor Rao.
(Naval Academy)

I enjoyed Professor Farley’s Spanish classes too, though I was a poor language student (no ear for the language; reading was ok)

4. I’ve actually had a poem accepted for publication (in some fly-by-night outfit called “Graffiti on the Asylum Walls”; it was about the consequences of seeing VPLs on a woman working out in the gym.

This poem was inspired by my seeing a woman in shiny pink spandex shorts with striped panties in the weight room.

3. Most of my published work appears in The College Mathematics Journal or in The Journal of Knot Theory and its Ramifications. Areas: knot theory (geometric toplogy) and real analysis.

My first was in the Proceedings of the American Mathematical Society. I’ve also had things in the American Mathematical Monthly , Journal of the Mexican Mathematical Society and the Houston Journal of Mathematics, Missouri Journal of the Mathematical Sciences and in refereed conference proceedings.

2. My love of frogs came from my dad; we used to play with a pair of stuffed frogs that my mom made from scratch. Dad’s frog was called “yellow eyes” (eyes were made from yellow buttons); my frog was called “silver eyes”.

Also, I’d capture large American toads and keep them in a box overnight and let them go the next morning.

1. My first car was a Datsun 210; my first house (owned) was in Ledyard, CT. (near Groton/New London).

November 15, 2013 Posted by | Friends, frogs, Personal Issues | | Leave a comment


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