27 August 2014

The surprising effect of road salt on butterflies

Salting roads in winter can tweak the physiques of butterflies the next summer.

Milkweeds and oaks, plants that caterpillars graze on, collected from alongside a country road carried higher sodium concentrations than the same species growing at least 100 meters from the splash and drift of deicing salt, says Emilie Snell-Rood of the University of Minnesota in St. Paul.

Monarch (Danaus plexippus) caterpillars raised on the sodium-boosted plants turned into males with extra thoracic muscles and females with bigger eyes and probably bigger brains than butterflies reared on the more distant foliage, Snell-Rood and her colleagues found.

A different butterfly, the cabbage white, echoed these his-and-hers effects when reared on a sodium-boosted lab diet, researchers report June 9 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

So is road salt good for butterflies? “I do not want that to be the take-home message,” Snell-Rood says. Instead, she says, the study demonstrates for the first time that road salt can alter how animals develop physically.
Text from Science News, with a tip of the hat to reader Bradley Ruben for bringing it to my attention.  Photo from our yard.

Related: The double-edged sword of salting roads in winter, and Cheese brine for icy roads.

"FreeD video"


The technology is explained in this video featuring tennis coverage.

Online versions are not saving newspapers

The blue line in the chart displays total annual print newspaper advertising revenue (for the categories national, retail and classified) based on actual annual data from 1950 to 2011, and estimated annual revenue for 2012 using quarterly data through the second quarter of this year, from the Newspaper Association of America (NAA). The advertising revenues have been adjusted for inflation using the CPI, and appear in the chart as
millions of constant 2012 dollars. Estimated print advertising revenues of $19.0 billion in 2012 will be the lowest annual amount spent on print newspaper advertising since the NAA started tracking ad revenue in 1950...
Further details and analysis at Carpe Diem, via The Dish.

Bathing suit, 1916 - updated


In the photography category of this blog,  I've occasionally posted photos of beach scenes from the turn of the last century, and I suspect a modern person's responses are "what uncomfortable clothing to wear" and "what unattractive clothing to wear."

With regard to the latter (?mis)perception, I offer the above photo, from the camera of Alfred Stieglitz (‘Ellen Koeniger’, 1916, gelatin silver photograph, 11.1 x 9.1, J Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles), as a reminder that when wet, those staid bathing costumes must have shocked some Edwardian-era sensibilities.

Found at Consciousness is a Congenital Hallucination.

Reposted from 2010 to add a link to another of Stieglitz' photos.  The two images have different dates and names, but it appears to be the same suit.

The world's most famous iceberg

Because Titanic.
The iceberg lay at latitude 41-46N, longitude 50-14W, off the coast of Newfoundland. Newspaper reports of the time said that the visible part of the iceberg – that above the waterline – was anywhere between 50 to 100 feet high and 200 to 400 feet long.

The chief steward on board the Prinze Adelbert liner took the photo of the iceberg on the morning of the Titanic sinking.

Reports say he spotted a line of red paint along the bottom of the iceberg which experts believe show where it had made contact with Titanic.

Journal.ie reports that the steward was not aware at the time that it had been the iceberg that sunk the Titanic but the location, the marks on the iceberg and Titanic survivors’ descriptions of the iceberg triangulated to confirm that it was.
A tip of the blogging hat to the elves at QI, who made mention of this iceberg on their always-excellent podcast.

Calcified ectopic fetus


As reported by The Telegraph:
Doctors in India have removed the skeleton of a foetus that had been inside a woman for 36 years in what is believed to be the world's longest ectopic pregnancy...

A team of doctors in Nagpur successfully performed surgery to remove the mass that was lodged between the woman's uterus, intestines and bladder.

Skeletal remains that were removed are seen in video footage laid out on a hospital bed, and include numerous parts of a rib cage, leg and arm bones and sections of a skull, spine and pelvis.

25 August 2014

And the award for "Best Antennae" goes to...


"The beetle family Phengodidae, known also as glowworm beetles."

From Project Noah, via A London Salmagundi.

"Sand-activated' puppets


You pour the sand in at the top.  And it comes out... well, at the bottom.

Via A London Salmagundi.

Just follow the directions on the signs

For a brief time Thursday and Friday the parking regulation signs outside Linwood E. Howe Elementary School topped 15 feet.

The signs were meant to clarify a new drop-off and pick-up procedure for when classes resume at the school, but as CBS2’s Juan Fernandez reported, neighbors just found them confusing.

Mayor Meghan Sahli-Wells said the plan was for the signs to only be displayed temporarily. “They just didn’t look temporary,” she said. “So they were going to be taken down. And it looked like … whoa. It was pretty impressive.”
Via Nothing to do with Arbroath.

People wilil still climb over this sign


Discussed at a Reddit thread.  (Image cropped from original)

"A poetic remake of the strategic achievement of Hannibal"


Gimme a break.  Dragging a replica elephant on wheels along the Cavalla Pass in Italy is hardly a remake of Hannibal's achievement.

Via the Washington Post, with an additional photo here.  Credit: Marco Bertorello/AFP/Getty Images.

World record price for a Navajo blanket


 Only about 100 of these original "first-phase" chief's blankets are thought to exist.

Details at The Telegraph.  At the risk of throwing a wet blanket on a feel-good story, one has to wonder whether his ancestor in the 1860s spent four years' salary to purchase the blanket, as is postulated in the video.

Birds catching fire in mid-air

IVANPAH DRY LAKE, Calif. — Workers at a state-of-the-art solar plant in the Mojave Desert have a name for birds that fly through the plant’s concentrated sun rays — “streamers,” for the smoke plume that comes from birds that ignite in midair.

Federal wildlife investigators who visited the BrightSource Energy plant last year and watched as birds burned and fell, reporting an average of one “streamer” every two minutes, are urging California officials to halt the operator’s application to build a still-bigger version.

The investigators want the halt until the full extent of the deaths can be assessed. Estimates per year now range from a low of about a thousand by BrightSource to 28,000 by an expert for the Center for Biological Diversity environmental group...
More than 300,000 mirrors, each the size of a garage door, reflect solar rays onto three boiler towers each looming up to 40 stories high
Federal wildlife officials said Ivanpah might act as a “mega-trap” for wildlife, with the bright light of the plant attracting insects, which in turn attract insect-eating birds that fly to their death in the intensely focused light rays...

BrightSource also is offering $1.8 million in compensation for anticipated bird deaths at Palen, Desmond said.
It's not clear to whom the company would pay the compensation.  Presumably to the families of the dead birds.

Further details at the Calgary Herald, via the QI elves.

Addendum:  A hat tip to reader Wales Larrison for providing a link to a detailed study of avian mortality at the facility.  I'm dismayed to note that the researchers also noted significant insect mortality, including many Monarch butterflies.

"Music" heard on the back side of the moon

During a podcast of No Such Thing as a Fish, the elves mentioned in passing a "symphony" heard by astronauts on the far side of the moon.  Today I found the following at Above Top Secret:
Most of us Conspiracy Researchers will recall the case of Apollo 10 Astronauts : Tom Stafford, Gene Cernan and John Young discussing the “outer-spacey” music they head while on the far side of the moon. This music happened during the LOS (loss of signal) period that occurred while the communications between themselves and mission control were temporarily unavailable due to their position behind the moon. Gene Cernan is the first to hear the music (in the LM) and the transcripts shows that he radios John Young in the CSM to confirm he is hearing the same thing. John young then replies “Yea, I got it too…….and see who was outside?” Not only does JY confirm he hears it, but look at his following statement, “and see who is outside” ! Now who could be “outside” the space vessels?! More importantly John Young is inferring that there may be a connection between the “music” and “who is outside” of their crafts. After a few minutes of dialogue regarding the mission Gene Cernan brings up the topic again, “boy, that sure is strange music” in which John Young replies “ Were going to have to find out about that. Nobody will Believe us.”

During their next orbit of the dark side the “music” RETURNS. Addressing Tom Stafford this time Gene Cernan asks “You hear music Tom? That crazy whistling?” In which Tom Stafford replies “I can hear it.” Gene replies “that’s really weird” and Tom replies “it is.” Further on Gene AGAIN brings up the subject by stating “Listen to eerie music”. They even continue random dialogue regarding the music and how eerie and weird it was, and that nobody is going to believe them. 
More at the link, where you can access Apollo 10 transcripts and experiences by other astronauts.  Here is one possible explanation:
There hasn't ever really been an "official" explanation of these sounds (described as whistling and buzz-saw sounds). But most scientists offer that it could be attributed to either radio interference in the lander or perhaps an artifact of the Sun's solar wind.
Since the most prominent example of this sound was when the Apollo 15 astronauts were on the far side of the Moon, it could be suggested that the Moon's gravity was gravitationally focusing the Sun's wind (a mix of high energy charged particles) onto the capsule. That interaction would created electromagnetic distortions, which could produce sounds inside the capsule.

"Some quality family bonding time right here..."



An instagram tweeted by a member of my cousin's family, who was in the process of packing to head off to college and taking some last pix of family she would leave behind.

It's sort of meta for me to now post it in the blog for them to see.  And now I'll email it to my wife.  My 95-year-old mother is forever amazed by "this modern world."
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