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

Science: mimicry and Maxwell’s Equations

If you have spent time on a campus that has a physics department, you might have seen t-shirts that have this on them:


These equations are called Maxwell’s equations and they describe electromagnetism. Ok, ok, here is integral form:


Here is a brief history of how they came to be; as you may have guessed, the early version was messy and considered incomplete. You are seeing the result of a lot of work and polishing.

Not for a different kind of science: Jerry Coyne’s website has an interesting article about what appears to be mimicry in bird nestlings: they resemble a toxic caterpillar while they are still nestlings. Of course, the science jury is still out as scientists usually require a high standard of proof before they declare something to be “true”.

December 11, 2014 Posted by | biology, mathematics, nature, physics, science | , | Leave a comment

Animal Camouflage (part ???)

Can you spot the snow leopards? (via Matthew Cobb at Jerry Coyne’s website)

This isn’t impossible, but it isn’t easy either.

I remember seeing a cottontail rabbit yesterday; it was sitting on some leaves and you could look right at it and not see it. I wish that I had a high resolution camera at the time.

October 31, 2014 Posted by | evolution, nature | | Leave a comment

Misconceptions: chimps, kids and assault weapons

This New York Times Sunday Review article states what was long well known: one is far more likely to get killed by small handguns than by assault rifles. Assault rifles make big news in the spectacular but relatively rare events. But: this does not mean that there is no such thing as assault weapons. This means that banning them won’t make much of a dent in gun death statistics.

Speaking of violence: It sure appears as if chimps are naturally violent toward one another. Some argue that “effect by human intervention” has not been controlled for, but seriously, this “noble savage” stuff is nonsense.

Spanking Data seems to indicate that “spare the rod, spoil the child” is nonsense.

September 18, 2014 Posted by | evolution, nature, science, social/political | , | Leave a comment

Illusions, drought images, space images, GMO’s on the organic aisle…

This is an interesting optical illusion: the lines are actually straight and parallel.


This is what is going on.

California drought: get a load of these “active” before/after photos. Use the slider to change the “normal” to “drought conditions” photos.

Enjoy these incredible astronomy photos, many from our solar system.

GMO: yes, stuff that is now labeled “organic” really is GMO.

September 11, 2014 Posted by | astronomy, nature, science | , , , | Leave a comment

Tawny Frogmouth, charter schools and race in America



Do you see the birds in the above photo? See the larger photo at Jerry Coyne’s website; this is an example of evolution leading to excellent animal camouflage.

Education Though current conservatives tend to be a fan of charter schools (which are often “top-down” managed), originally charter schools were a liberal idea to give teachers more say in schools; they were supposed to be an educational laboratory to try out new ideas.

Race This is a very balanced editorial about race relations and the Ferguson shooting aftermath by Nicholas Kristoff. This is a nice companion piece to Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s Time Magazine editorial. Neither editorial is a shallow “whitey sucks” screed but rather an honest, balanced look at the situation.

September 2, 2014 Posted by | nature, racism, science, social/political | , , | Leave a comment

Via Vox: why Dr. Tyson speaking up about GMOs matters…(and it isn’t because he is a GMO expert; he isn’t)

I think that Vox is right on here:

What you see here is that the conditions exist for GMOs to become a liberal equivalent of climate denial. But one thing is missing: the key validators from the liberal establishment.

GMOs are actually an example of liberalism resisting the biases of its base. Though there’s a lot of mistrust towards GMOs and fury towards Monsanto among liberals, the Democratic Party establishment is dismissive of this particular campaign. You don’t see President Obama or Democratic congressional leaders pushing anti-GMO legislation.


There are, of course, party actors who’ve been more helpful to the anti-GMO movement. In California, the Democratic Party endorsed a proposition to label GMO foods. But that’s a modest step — and even that step hasn’t yet made it to the national party’s agenda.

Part of the reason comes down to people like Tyson. Political scientists will tell you that parties, and the ideological movements that power them, are composed of much more than officeholders and electoral strategists. They’re driven by interest groups and intellectuals and pundits and other “validators” that partisans and politicians look to for cues when forming their belief.

Discover reminded us that this is important:

What this tells us is that elite opinions matter a lot in public discourse. The gap between liberals and non-liberals is not really there on this issue at the grassroots. That could change, as people of various ideologies tend to follow elite cues. This is why the strong counter-attack from within the Left elite is probably going to be effective, as it signals that being against GMO is not the “liberal position.”

Yes, Tyson is not a GMO expert; no one says that he is. But he is a famous public scientist and he understands what scientific consensus means.

Sure, on matter the issue: if it is an issue that the public (or even a sizable minority of the public) can presume to have an opinion on, one can ALWAYS find an outlier scientists here or there to disagree with the group consensus. This is true in evolution, global warming, and yes, GMO research. So, if one wants to know what is actually known in an area, one should turn to scientific consensus rather than isolated opinion, and it is nice to see public intellectuals speaking out.

So, if you are one of those who is trying to make up your mind, remember that there is big hazard in looking at an isolated study or at the opinion of a solitary scientist, or even a handful of scientists, no matter how brilliant.

Here are some “consensus” type sites and talks

A summary speech at the International Programs – College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (50th Anniversary Celebration) , and the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, Cornell University

Biology Fortified

Discover Magazine

Scientific American

Nature Magazine

United States National Academy of Science

French Academy of Science (English executive summary)

August 1, 2014 Posted by | nature, science, social/political | , , , | Leave a comment

A Goat Joke teaches me about science (and on having very smart friends)

I’ve had some good friends in my life; one if them is Mary. I met her early in my career at my university; she was serving as a sabbatical replacement. We walked and did various things (e. g. sometimes have lunch). We met at science conference; her Ph. D. is in physical chemistry; yes, that is the branch of chemistry that directly uses quantum mechanics. She has published in that area.

Though she moved away and lives on the west coast with her family, we sometimes have contact via the social media.

On Facebook, I have a joke persona: I play the part of a dumb, grumpy, smelly old goat. (it has a political origin) Ok, perhaps ALL of the adjectives apply to me, but I’ve been told that I am not “really” a goat. :-) But as part of my goat persona, I joke about getting kicked out of places for eating tablecloths, books, upholstery and the like.

Mary couldn’t resist informing me that my goat behavior was more in line with “myth” than reality and provided an interesting article. The common myth is expressed by this meme:


Now real life goats DO explore things with their mouths (e. g., tug at clothing) and they will “sample” things by nibbling and chewing; here we see examples of books, paper and kites. No one denies that they ARE chewers.

But when it comes to actual eating (via Modern Farmer):

In fact, goats are actually extremely picky eaters who go after only the most nutritious options available to them.

“They are the survivors because they are very good at finding the most nutritious stuff,” Solaiman says, “They don’t eat tin cans but they will look inside a container and find something and get something out of it.” In other words, goats are resourceful when it comes to finding something to eat. “You’ll see cattle skeletons on the ground in the desert, but [goats] are running around.”

Solaiman says that goats are browsers who go after whatever in their environment will benefit them most. She’s seen them eat the bark off trees, because bark is a good source of tannin which supplies the goats with antioxidants to help ward off parasites and fungi.

One thing goats aren’t crazy about? Hay. While livestock like cattle can get by on the feed, goats need a more varied, nutrient-rich diet.

“If you feed goats low-quality forage, they will play with it,” she says. “They’ll be like, ‘Are you kidding me? I’m not going to eat this. I can lay on it, I can pee on it. But I’m not going to eat it.’ In truth they are pickers and choosers.”

But what about when you wade into a goat pen and every mischievous little mouth is tugging at your shirt? Solaiman says this is just the curious nature of the goat. They do not want to eat your new Brooks Brothers, they’re just checking it out.

And their “checking it out” or sampling can be destructive.

July 31, 2014 Posted by | Friends, nature, science | | Leave a comment

Evolution in my own back yard

Workout notes: NOTHING.

Main street mile tonight; my heat leaves at 7:20. I hope to do better than I did last week. It will be hot, but to improve, all I need to do is to hold back for the first 1/4 and not go crazy in the second 1/4.

I was in the back cutting and dealing with some of the weeds and weed trees. What I’ve noticed: since I started to pull more and more weeds by the roots, a type of weed with a prickly stem has become more prominent. It has a very shallow root; I saw one growing in an old pile of dirt near the garage. Clearly, these prickles act as a defense against being eaten or being otherwise destroyed. Reproductive success is what matters.

Then I had quite a few rabbits in the back yard as I worked. Formerly, rabbits were very, very shy, running away before I could get near them. Now their comfort distance is much, much shorter than it used to be. In fact, I asked one to move so I could pass the power cord to my mower beneath it. I am not saying that they are completely comfortable with me; they aren’t. But they are comfortable getting much, much closer to me than they ever did before.

June 27, 2014 Posted by | biology, nature, Peoria, Peoria/local, science | , , | 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


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