Posts

July 28, 2014

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4:57 PM | Blog update
FYI.  No domestic internet access for the past 3-4 days, and no time to sit around on hold waiting for the techies, and now the Phactors will be traveling at the end of the week, so expect another blogging hiatus of a couple of days then.
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4:52 PM | Summer flowering woodland perennial - ramp
While woodlands are alive with spring flowers, there isn't much flowering going on in the forest understory during the summer.  The reason for this is simple: there isn't much light and making fruit and seeds requires energy. However in the spring before the canopy closes off the light, lots of plants must compete for the limited number of pollinators.  A few plants have a different solution. Geophytes, plants with underground perennial structures (bulbs or corms), store energy during […]
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4:13 PM | Birdbooker Report 330-1
SUMMARY: Books, books, beautiful books! This is a list of biology, ecology, environment, natural history and animal books that are (or will soon be) available to occupy your bookshelves and your thoughts. “Words in leather and wood”. Bookshelves in the “Long Room” at the old Trinity College Library in Dublin. Image: Nic McPhee from Morris, MN, USA. 2007. (Creative Commons.) Books to the ceiling, Books to the sky, My pile of books is a mile high. How I love them!... Read […]
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2:37 PM | Simbirskiasaurus, Pervushovisaurus and their very, very strange nostrils: the Cretaceous Ichthyosaur Revolution (part III)
The event you’ve all been waiting for is here: Simbirskiasaurus and Pervushovisaurus have been resurrected, and we’re all wondering what the hell’s going on with their absurd, complex nostrils. Yes,... -- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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1:04 PM | SpecGram Essential Guide to Linguistics: electronic version
The Speculative Grammarian Essential Guide to Linguistics is now available in electronic format.  In the highest tradition of satire, this book gives a unique insight into the world of linguistics.  It is crucial reading for any linguist who is trying to maintain a sense of perspective (or for those seeking the comfort of realising their […]
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10:53 AM | The Language of DNA
One of the striking things about the genetic code is the remarkable way it twi...
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10:00 AM | Random Natural History: Salvin’s Albatross
On Saturday, a Salvin’s Albatross was sighted by birdwatchers on a tour just off the coast of Northern California. This is an extremely rare occurrence. How rare? A bird-blogger who was on the tour writes: Salvin’s Albatross are well-known for their habit of avoiding the northern hemisphere. It is so rare that I can’t really wrap my mind […]

July 27, 2014

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10:24 PM | Sunday Chess Problem
Today I have a charming little bagatelle for your consideration. It was composed by Alfreds Dombrovskis in 1958. In the diagram position, white is to play mate in two. Keep in mind that white is always moving up the board and black is always moving down. Vertical files are labeled a–h from left to right,…
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4:56 PM | Common Genetic Variants & Autism Risk
A letter was published this month in Nature Genetics by Gaugier et al. which has received notable attention. While many of us may be familiar with rare variants of genes […]
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1:44 PM | Can we use anthropomorphic language in animal behaviour research?
A few months ago during the coffee break at an animal behaviour conference I was talking to a colleague about her research when she told me that to suggest that […]

July 26, 2014

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10:07 PM | Bat tour at Yolo Basin Wetlands
Did our second evening bat tour at the local Yolo Basin Wetlands last night.  It was very nice.  They start off with a lecture and bat introduction at the Visitor Center and then a convoy heading out to the wetlands and drove way way into the back (the side near Sacramento) to just next to the causeway.  Then we waited until sunset and out came the bats.  Thousands and thousands of them.  It was cool.  Here are some videos and pics.  And also some responses to […]
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6:09 PM | Let’s go holiday
PEGE is going on holiday for a few weeks, but we’ll be back in full force on the 17th of August. We’re unusually busy at the moment, and haven’t had a proper break since starting PEGE. If missing your fortnightly-fix of PEGE leaves you pulling you hair out, don’t despair! Will will be writing up things he […]

July 25, 2014

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9:18 PM | How Can You Recognize Language?
Coach signals a play. Is that language or something else? This is a blog about the origins of speech, but what began? How can we tell it when we see it? Parents usually say their children have started talking when...
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4:35 PM | The Bear Post
One of the wonderful benefits of working in the wilderness is the potential for interaction with wildlife. Sometimes, we’re entertained by energetic jackrabbits. Sometimes, camels eat our lunch. Always, we keep safety at the forefront. The British Columbia team was fortunate to see majestic bald eagles, curious stone sheep, and many (many) marmots in their […]
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4:06 PM | Artificial Australians
Wikipedia has quite an extensive piece on cranial deformation, which is a form of body modification practiced throughout history and prehistory in many cultures from all over the world, from the Pacific Islands, to South America to Europe. From a very early age, a baby’s head is bound, often between planks of wood to force […]
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4:03 PM | Fossil hunting with the Brain Scoop
We’re big fans of Emily Graslie’s natural history video series The Brain Scoop. The latest episode goes right to the source of the museum specimens that usually take center stage—a fossil hunting expedition. Watch the whole thing, and you’ll learn some nifty paleontology jargon, like: “It’s called the 18-inch layer.” “Is it because it’s 18 […]
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2:55 PM | Cargo bikes in service
Why it was just 3 weeks ago that TPP did a blog about cargo bikes in Germany, and now here's an article about Whole Foods in Brooklyn NY delivering groceries by cargo bike. Where do they get those bikes?   
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2:48 PM | Parking spaces - bikes vs. cars
Our local municipality did a pretty neat thing.  It constructed a big bicycle rack, one big enough for a dozen or so bikes and placed it in a parking space right in front of our favorite coffee shoppe.  How cool is that?  Does TPP have to tell you that car drivers, most of whom now lack the skill to parallel park anyways, complained.  That's right, take away one car parking space and the complaints came rolling in even though in the process a dozen or more people get to park […]
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1:49 PM | A week of links
Links this week: Detecting irrational exuberance in the brain – neuroeconomists confirm Warren Buffett’s wisdom (original article here). Spouses are more genetically similar than people chosen at random, but they are far more similar in education (ungated pdf). A well established fact, but further evidence that impatient adolescents do worse later in life. Homo Oeconomicus Versus […]
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1:46 PM | New Books Party: books received this week | @GrrlScientist
Lots of fabulous books to tell you about this week! These fascinating new titles will certainly keep me busy reading for the next few weeks!Below the jump, I mention the books that I received recently. They are gifts, review copies that arrived in the mail, or books that I purchased during my recent visit to London. These are the books that I may review in more depth later, either here or in print somewhere in the world. Continue reading...
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1:00 PM | What we’re reading: The creosote-eating gut microbes of wood rats, the molecular taxonomy of bats’ diets, and drift in experimental evolution
In the journals Kohl, K. D., Weiss, R. B., Cox, J., Dale, C., Denise Dearing, M. (2014), Gut microbes of mammalian herbivores facilitate intake of plant toxins. Ecology Letters. doi: 10.1111/ele.12329. Creosote toxins altered the population structure of the gut … Continue reading →
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1:00 PM | Stuff online, untrammeled woodrat guts edition
Uncharted territory. How medical research tackles a never-before-seen disorder. Muir lives! Evaluating the value of wilderness, ahead of the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Wilderness Act. Take note, Science. The Lancet’s infographic on sex work and HIV risk. Worst indigestion … Continue reading →
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11:09 AM | The Kingdom of Rarities by Eric Dinerstein – review
Why are some species naturally rare whilst others are common? Do rare species make any difference in the larger scheme? These questions have puzzled biologists for centuries. Truth be told, even today, scientists have uncovered just a few pieces within this complex puzzle as we discover in Eric Dinerstein's The Kingdom of Rarities [Island Press, 2014; Amazon UK; Amazon US/kindle US]. In this engaging and informative narrative, the reader accompanies the World Wildlife Fund's chief scientist on […]
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10:11 AM | Americans and Math
From the current issue of The New York Times Magazine: One of the most vivid arithmetic failings displayed by Americans occurred in the early 1980s, when the A&W restaurant chain released a new hamburger to rival the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder. With a third-pound of beef, the A&W burger had more meat than the Quarter Pounder;…
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5:23 AM | Wooster’s Fossil of the Week: A faulted oyster ball from the Middle Jurassic of Utah
I’m returning this week to one of my favorite fossil types: the ostreolith, popularly known as the “oyster ball”. These were lovingly described in a previous blog entry, so please click there to see how they were formed and some additional images. They are found almost exclusively in the Carmel Formation (Middle Jurassic) of southwestern […]
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2:49 AM | A Face Only the Pliocene Could Love
The unique facial features of Semirostrum ceruttii tell scientists that this Pliocene porpoise had an interesting hunting technique.
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2:26 AM | Sloths Once Swam For Food
As land leaves grew scarce, sloths headed into open waters to search for nutrition.
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1:56 AM | Cambrian Predator Helps Scientists Decipher Ancient Family Trees
Discovered in southwest China, the three specimens of L. unguispinus were almost completely preserved – muscles, brain, and digestive tract traces were all found in incredibly good shape.

July 24, 2014

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10:39 PM | Here Be Giants
If you follow this blog,  you’ve probably already heard about the OMG LARGEST AQUATIC INSECT FOUND IN CHINA!!!1! that’s been making the rounds this week. If not, take your pick of news outlets covering this random and bizarre press release. As is the case whenever insects break into the mainstream news cycle, I’ve had various [...]
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9:16 PM | Fluffy Dinosaur Raises Questions About the Origin of Dinofuzz
Almost twenty years after fluffy little Sinosauropteryx hopped onto the scene, the existence of feathery dinosaurs is no …
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