Skip to content

Loggers vs. monarchs

August 28, 2015

MonarchsAfter a few years of successful protection, illegal logging has tripled in the wintering grounds of the monarch.

What makes the cat?

August 25, 2015

cheshirecatA large international research effort has analyzed the genetic difference between the domestic cat and its wild cousin. Though cat domestication was relatively recent, and the two species interbreed, some interesting differences were found in genes that help mediate aggressive behavior, that form memories, that are related to learning, and that relate to digestion, enabling some benefit from plant-based foods. Your house cat is an obligatory carnivore, and will die if fed no meat. But his wild cousin is hyper-carnivorous, and gets zero value from plant-based food. As with dogs, domestication made their brains smaller. Though I don’t see how that directly relates to the genetic changes identified. (Cite.)

Hummingbird tongues and science

August 24, 2015

The amazing thing about the recent research showing that hummingbird tongues have tubes that act as pumps is this one piece of observation:

In the hundreds of licks studied, the researchers observed capillarity only once, acting on a single tongue groove. This occurred when, during initial tongue protrusion, one of the groove tips adhered to the feeder wall before the tip reached the surface of the nectar pool and the groove tip bent as the tongue continued to move forward. Thanks to this unusual incident, high-speed video captured one of the two grooves being filled by expansive filling, as usual, while the other was being filled by capillarity. This offered an opportunity to directly compare the two mechanism and measurements clearly demonstrated that the capillary filling rate was significantly slower than expansive filling.

There is nothing that substitutes for being in the right place with the right instruments and having the luck to get the right observation!

Eleanor Roosevelt packed heat

August 23, 2015

EleanorRooseveltShootingEleanor Roosevelt didn’t want a secret service detail hampering her travels. So after an assassination attempt on her husband, she learned how to shoot and started carrying a pistol.

Ashley Madison

August 21, 2015

Though Amanda Marcotte mostly frames this hack in the right fashion, it’s hard not to anticipate the entertainment as all sorts of public figures are made uncomfortable.

The lamest excuse — so far — from someone in the data dump comes from the Louisiana GOP Executive Director: it was opposition research.

Update: The Ashley Madison leaks put gays, lesbians, and women in Muslim nations at real risk.


August 20, 2015

The sargassum is plentiful in the Caribbean and gulf. Everyone likes it when it is clinging to zombie pirates in a Johnny Depp movie. Tourists are less fond of it on the beaches.

First women get Ranger tab

August 18, 2015

A big hoo-rah to the first two women to pass the US Army ranger course. The West Point graduates are not identified. A third woman soldier is repeating the mountain phase of the training. They passed the same physical tests as the men:

To earn the Ranger tab, applicants must be able to complete 49 push-ups, 59 sit-ups, a five-mile run in 40 minutes, six chin-ups, a swimming test, a land navigation test, a 12-mile foot march in three hours…


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 181 other followers