The character Doc in John Steinbeck’s novel Cannery Row is based on marine biologist Ed Ricketts, who had a small lab in Monterey.
This fact was one of the first things I learned when I took a behind the scenes tour at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, located on Cannery Row. The aquarium is housed in former Hovden Cannery, which was an active cannery until the early 1970s. Now, the entire neighbourhood of Cannery Row has been converted to a tourist destination, and the former canneries are shops and restaurants. And an aquarium.
There is a more direct connection between Ed Ricketts and the aquarium: The layout of the aquarium, grouping species in exhibits based on their natural ecosystem, was informed by Ricketts’ work Between Pacific Coasts.
In the headlines this week: 16th century rocket cats. That’s right, experts recently revealed that a military manual dating from around 1530 imagined the use of cats and birds as weapons of war, with gunpowder-filled “jet packs” strapped to their backs to set fire to enemy castles or cities.
According to this article in The Guardian, the academics studying the manuscript believe that cats would be poor weapons. Given their preference for staying close to home and doing pretty much as they please, a gunpowder-toting kitty would be more likely to set fire to his master’s camp than to go near a strange castle.
However, the photo above, obtained from a top-sekrit source, indicates that some testing of rocket cats may have been carried on long after castle walls fell, and may indeed be going on to this day.
Image via cheezburger.com
In the Canopy with Water Bears and Wheelchairs
We’ve already met tardigrades (or water bears) virtually. If you are an undergraduate with an ambulatory disability, you also have an opportunity to meet tardigrades in the tops of trees.
At ScienceOnline 2014 I learned from Meg Lowman & Rebecca Tripp during a very impressive keynote presentation about a research program to study tardigrades in forest canopies that was specifically focused on making field research accessible to individuals with ambulatory disabilities. Not only was the research fascinating (water bears are EVERYWHERE), but it also represents an important effort to help the social practice of knowledge building that we call science actually include the diversity of our society.
The project is organized through the lab of William Miller at Baker University in Kansas. If you or someone you know might be interested, contact check-out the announcement flyer below, the information sheet below that, and contact the Miller lab. The application deadline is 14 March 2014. Act quickly while supplies last.
Posted in Items of Interest
Tagged accessibility, ambulatory disability, Baker University, disability, field research, meet the, Meg Lowman, NSF, Rebecca Tripp, reu, Tardigrade, Water Bear, William Miller
John Grade, Capacitor, 2013
John Grade’s sculpture Capacitor is an immense, immersive piece designed to, as he puts it, “encapsulate the viewer.” As visitors walk inside the 40- x 20- x 40-foot sculpture, made of fabric stretched over metal frames, it moves, lightens and darkens.
Capacitor was conceived and built in a mere two months and was exhibited at the Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin in 2013.
The sculpture responds to information from weather sensors outside the Arts Center, slowly twisting and shifting to changes in wind direction and temperature. The live weather data are correlated to historic data, so the greater the divergence from historical norms, the more the sculpture moves, and the more dramatic the shifts in light.
Grade says he hopes people come away from the installation “having experienced something about the outside environment in a new way, having experienced it with their bodies.”
You can see more photos and other projects by John Grade on his website.
NEW LINKONOMICON ENTRY: “Where Do Baby Sea Turtles Go During Their Lost Years?” by Ed Yong in Not Exactly Rocket Science at National Geographic Phenomena
Hatchling sea turtle heads toward the North Hartsville Gyre (Photo Credit: Josh Witten; CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)
Ever wonder where baby sea turtles go to grow up – those awkward middle years between hatchlings racing through a seagull flock of attrition and being nearly impervious adults?
My kids have. Until now, I had to tell them “I don’t know.” Not just because I didn’t know, but because no one really knew. There were guesses, but there wasn’t evidence.
Read Ed Yong’s great piece at National Geographic Phenomena to hear the clever way researchers from the University of Central Florida collected data to back up (mostly) some well-reasoned hypotheses.
White coat. Image courtesy of Samir via Wikimedia Commons.
For physicians, the white coat that comes with their profession is a badge of honor. At the beginning of medical school, new students receive their first white coat, albeit a short one, in a special ceremony. It’s a momentous occasion when at the end of medical school they receive their full length white coats. The coats represent their status and position at a glance to anyone in the hospital. They should also ring an alarm bell in anyone about to see a physician because those coats are often TEEMING with all sorts of gross things.
Yesterday at the ScienceOnline conference, we had a great conversation led by Tara Haelle about the importance of images in science communication. Alas, the subject of lolcats did not arise, so I will address it here. Lolcats are, in fact, the key to all successful science communication. The effective deployment of lolcats is a secret scicomm weapon of mass destruction, by means of cuteness-induced head explosions (See Fig. 1 above. Boom.)
Science communicators should exercise caution when using lolcats to illustrate scientific concepts, however, because it turns out that cats are exempt from certain laws of science.
Fig. 2. Effective use of lolcat to illustrate gravity
Fig. 3. Oops.