Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Smithsonian looking for transcription (and review) volunteers

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Now here's a volunteer project that may be right down my alley.  No meetings, no commute -- something I can do in my jammies, in the comfort and privacy of my own home!

The Smithsonian is looking for people to do transcription (and/or review of same).

Today I reviewed some entry of bumblebee labels (others had already done the entry).  It's pretty easy to see whether what someone else has transcribed looks right.........

They also offer the opportunity to transcribe/review-transcription-of diaries and other books.

Bumblebee labels are quick -- not very many words/numbers.......

And maybe I'm contributing to knowledge that will help make the world a better place?

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chitin vs. keratin

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I knew keratin was protein, but as I listened to a lecture about single-celled organisms that changed the planet during the Cretaceous (some of which -- diatoms -- had silica shells, and some of which -- dinoflagelates -- had chitinous shells), I began to wonder what chitin is.

According to Wikipedia: "Chitin (C8H13O5N)n (/ˈktɨn/ KY-tin) is a long-chain polymer of a N-acetylglucosamine, a derivative of glucose, and is found in many places throughout the natural world. It is the main component of the cell walls of fungi, the exoskeletons of arthropods such as crustaceans (e.g., crabs, lobsters and shrimps) and insects, the radulae of molluscs, and the beaks and internal shells of cephalopods, including squid and octopuses. The structure of chitin is comparable to the polysaccharide cellulose, forming crystalline nanofibrils or whiskers. In terms of function, it may be compared to the protein keratin."

Sugar.  Chitin is a derivative of sugar...................

Interesting.


Just for grins, here's what Wikipedia says about keratin:  "Keratin (/ˈkɛrətən/[1][2]) is a family of fibrous structural proteins. Keratin is the key structural material making up the outer layer of human skin. It is also the key structural component of hair and nails. Keratin monomers assemble into bundles to form intermediate filaments, which are tough and insoluble and form strong unmineralized tissues found in reptiles, birds, amphibians, and mammals. The only other biological matter known to approximate the toughness of keratinized tissue is chitin.[3][4][5]"


Now we know! 

That last sentence is interesting, don't you think?


Now I'm thinking about bones and teeth, and am wondering what "toughness" means.  Thank goodness for Wikipedia:  "In materials science and metallurgy, toughness is the ability of a material to absorb energy and plastically deform without fracturing.[1] One definition of material toughness is the amount of energy per volume that a material can absorb before rupturing. It is also defined as the resistance to fracture of a material when stressed.  Toughness requires a balance of strength and ductility.[1]"

That's interesting, too.  I do not know what "ductility" is (and, as I think about it, I probably don't know what they mean by "strength," either, in this context), but I think I'm going back to my lecture now, rather than wandering further afield.

So grateful to be able to look all of this stuff up so easily!!!!!!

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Monday, September 01, 2014

rhinoceros, over time..........

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Yesterday in Emergence of Life, we heard about the impact of the meteor or comet which struck the earth on the edge of Mexico's Yucatan peninsula about 65,000,000 years ago.  I knew it was big, and knew it was bad, but don't remember hearing, before, that if you took all of the current nuclear arsenal on earth, and exploded it all at once, the KT impact was 100,000,000 (one hundred million) times stronger.

My.  Unimaginable.............

We heard about the "jetting" compressed-air wave that was as hot as the surface of the sun and moved at supersonic speed.  We heard about the amount of the planet's surface that was vaporized and/or blown high into the atmosphere (some of it blown into space).  We heard about the tsunami that was over a kilometer high.......  Many of the effects from this impact were still affecting life on Earth decades after the impact..........

85% of species went extinct as a result of this cataclysm......

Before the impact, diapsids (including dinos) ruled the earth.  Most of them died out.  This left many ecological niches open -- ripe for exploitation by other sorts of animals.  Including mammals.

We are now learning about the rise of the mammals.

There were lots of really big mammals back then.  Look at the rhinoceros, then and now.....

Rhino sizes




I honor Bruce Fouke, who is teaching Emergence of Life, for making sure this class doesn't violate copyright.  This image is used by the class, and it, like the bird bones/muscles image I showed you earlier, is from Wikimedia Commons.  This one is by DagdaMor.

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wing muscles -- who knew?

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I mentioned that I'm learning about the three different groups of vertebrates that evolved powered flight (pterosaurs, birds, bats).

Here is info about how birds do flight, including something I did not know -- look how the muscle that I think must pull the wings UP (supracoracoideus) goes around the front!  I suppose this isn't a total shock, when you think about how little muscle there is across a chicken's back, but I am pretty sure I would never have guessed this design, if you'd asked me to guess before I saw this image!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bird_anatomy#mediaviewer/File:Wing_Muscles,_color.svg


This image was contributed to Wikimedia Commons by L. Shayamal.  Thank you, L. Shayamal!

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Sunday, August 31, 2014

August 17, Toledo zoo, part 4

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Meercats!

A scout, with a ex-tree that looks a lot like a sculpture of a meercat scout.



When you are little, and you normally live where there are lions and eagles and snakes (oh my!), you have to be vigilant.





The Toledo Zoo has lots of meercats, including two litters born this year.  The smaller ones are the young ones.



Meercats are relatives of mongooses, and mongooses can take on cobras.  These guys are very fast.  Catching them still is the only way to avoid blur, with a normal camera....

Most of my pics of the young meercats are blurry......



Practicing vigilance....



Watching for eagles.



It's best to have someone looking in every direction....



Two lions at the zoo.  "White" ones, donated by Siegfried and Roy.  I'm pretty sure we heard one roaring, when we were watching the meercats.



Model pterosaurs.  I looked at these teeth, and remembering what I learned in Dino 101, I thought -- piscivore! ("fish-eater"). 



Teeth like this help hold onto a fish when one is trying to fly as well as catch fish.

Another member of our party saw the information placard for this critter and suggested I might want that info.  Well, yes.  Yes, I did.

It says that this is Anhanguera, and it hailed from Brazil.  It was full of air sacs (which is a different way to process air from mammalian lungs, which enabled it to get enough oxygen to keep up powered flight (which is how it could fish from the air).  It had 9-13' wingspan.  I am not sorry we don't share the planet with these..........



Speaking of things that it's ok with me are extinct -- look at this!  I had no idea that pterosaurs got this big!  Adult men were about at the level of this model's shoulder!  I did not, alas, see or record the info about this one.  Assuming the model is life size, this was a really big critter!  It's cool to see how it may have walked on land.......

I wonder why it needed that enormous beak.........

And I wonder who left the bucket in the exhibit...........

(Digression:  I'm behind on listening to Emergence of Life (on Earth).  I'm listening to week 6, which was last week's material.  Right now, on Aug. 31, I'm listening to lectures about the development of flight, which occurred three separate times in vertebrates:  pterosaurs, birds, and bats.  I'm kind of wishing I paid more attention to the other pterosaur models in Toledo!  Maybe next time we visit the zoo.........  End of Digression.)



The pterosaur models are in the reptile house at the Toledo Zoo.

Here's a reptile of today. 

If I recorded the right info, this cool-looking turtle is a black-breasted leaf turtle, and may be found in the wild in Vietnam, Okinawa, Borneo, south China, and Sumatra, though it is being hunted to extinction.  It seriously looks like a green and turtle-y E.T., I think.

I don't suppose I'll ever see another turtle without thinking that they are the sole remnants of one of the classes of prehistoric Reptilia -- anapsids (no holes in the skull behind the eye sockets.

(Digression:  The other two classes which have living members today are synapsids, and diapsids.  Synapsids, with one opening in our skulls behind the eye (on each side), survive as today's mammals [including us].  Diapsids, according to Wikipedia, "are a group of tetrapods that developed two holes (temporal fenestra) in each side of their skulls about 300 million years ago during the late Carboniferous period.[1] Living diapsids are extremely diverse, and include all crocodiles, lizards, snakes, tuataras, and birds. Although some diapsids have lost either one hole (lizards), or both holes (snakes), or have a heavily restructured skull (modern birds), they are still classified as diapsids based on their ancestry."  End of Digression)



This turtle is a native of Ohio.  It's in the zoo, but might be found in the wild in this part of the world.  It's about the same size as it's Asian cousin above -- shell about six inches long.  I think it is a painted turtle.



Colobus monkey.  All of this hair has to be for courting.  I can't imagine it would be good for survival, otherwise.....  It's interesting that the hair on his(?) back is totally straight, while the hair on his tail is a bit wavy.





There actually was plexi between us and the monkey above, but it wasn't intrusive.  The fencing between us an the vulture was very intrusive, alas.

This is a seriously big bird.  I bet it's a yard tall if it stands up and stretches. I love the feathers on the back/top of its skull, and the ruff around its neck.  I wish the feathers were sharper in the image -- the texture of the overlap is cool...........




I don't know what vulture enrichment is, but I don't think I want to watch..........


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Saturday, August 30, 2014

August 17, Toledo Zoo, part 3

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Generous donations to the zoo have made possible some very nice (for a zoo in the middle of a city!) space for elephants.  The zoo has four elephants.  Renée, her two sons Louie and Lucas, and Twiggy, another adult female.

Lucas is no longer a baby -- he's three now.  A kid elephant.  He positioned himself in this frame........



Closer crop.



Here comes mama Renée.  I wonder if she's checking on Lucas, or if she's particularly interested in his pile of hay....



Given that he has picked up the whole pile and is leaving the vicinity, I suspect maybe she is interested in helping him share the hay.



These two were pretty close to each other the whole time we watched.



There was elephant enrichment while we were near the elephant space.  We didn't know just where (or what) the enrichment would be -- the space is big, and divided.  Louie (who is several years older than Lucas) and Twiggy were in one space, and Renée and Lucas were in another space.  We could (sort of, over some shrubs) see someone getting a bath from where we were, and I expect that was the advertised enrichment.

There are all sorts of places from which enrichment items can be hung, and lowered at various times.  Here is some enrichment which was not lowered when we watched.  Corn stalks.



This is the indoor space where the elephants spend a good deal of time in the winter (though there is video on youtube showing Lucas playing in the snow!).

I'm betting there were objects hung from the wall, which marked the wall as they were swung and/or bashed.  We saw tires of various sorts, and large plastic barrels hung in different places.  I'm guessing that sort of tool was used to make these marks.




I was struck by the similarity to modern art -- I bet anything you could sell this......

I like it.




Looking back outside at Renée and Lucas.  Synchronized drinking.



Note tails.........






There is a little hay on the sand.  The both Renée and Lucas gathered up bits of hay from the sand, and then opened their trunks a bit, to let go of sand while holding onto hay, before eating the hay.  Elephant trunks are remarkable tools!


Ok, walking away from the elephants, as they walk away from us.......  Renée's interesting tail.........




Watusi cattle are new to the zoo.  Doesn't this guy look healthy and shiny?  With his fancy tail-tip hair and all?  Not to mention his black-tipped hornage....

Cattle hair is much less coarse than elephant hair.............

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Learning How to Learn

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Learning How to Learn ends this week.  I have taken the final, so I'm done.  (I declined to do the "peer-reviewed" exercises.)

This is an easy and short (4 weeks) class, but it is packed with useful info. 

I recommend Learning How to Learn to anyone.  Especially anyone who has struggled with schoolwork.  The tips and tricks that are taught in the class are good to know -- and why not take advantage of the knowledge others have gained about what works and what does not work, when we are trying to learn new material?  (Especially abstract material.....)

Why reinvent every wheel for yourself, when other people are eager to teach you all about wheels?

I wish I had taken a class like this between high school (which I found to be laughably easy, and where I did not learn anything about how to learn), and college (which was NOT easy, and where I spent a good deal of time learning -- the hard way -- how to learn).

Learning How to Learn is being offered again, starting on October 3.  I think it is well worth anyone's time.  Unless you have been studying the research on learning, I am confident you will learn some things you did not know.  Things which might well enhance your learning and your creativity, especially when you tackle learning the next thing that is new to you.

Remember that Coursera classes are free, and that there's no obligation to do any part of the class that you do not wish to do.  It's perfectly fine to just listen to the lectures (though you will learn in class that your learning will be deeper and more complete if you do take the quizzes...).

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August 17, Toledo Zoo, part 2

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The Toledo Zoo has excellent gardens and plantings, as well as excellent housing for its critters.

This grass is as close as I got to taking pics of the plantings or gardens on the 17th.  Tall (3-4 feet?), with red seeds.....




As we came into the zoo, our daughter read the sign which told when "enrichment" was for various animals.  We went to see hippo enrichment.

Many years ago the zoo built a terrific space for its hippos.  It has a big pool.  Part of one side of the pool is plexiglass, and it's possible for people to watch the hippos under water.  Did you know they trot along the bottom?  With the water supporting their weight, they are very graceful....



The otters are right next to the hippos, and we were a bit early for hippo enrichment.

How I wish there had been no plexiglas between me and this shot.........



Awwwww......



As hippo enrichment time got closer, we realized it was so crowded in the underwater viewing area that we weren't going to be able to see anything.  Ah well.  We moseyed on, and our sharp-eyed daughter realized there was another area from which we could spy on the hippos through much-smaller pieces of plexiglas.

This was perfect -- we could see, without being packed into a mass of noisy wiggly children.

I'm still using the new-to-me camera.  It was in burst mode.  This is a good thing, if your subject is in motion (but leaves you with even more pictures to winnow through than you expected).

Note smear of treat, falling from upper left.



I'm pretty sure hippos did not evolve to catch treats out of the air......  They're not good at it.  And the people throwing fruit to them weren't very good at that, either.  Note two red things in the water behind the hippo, which I believe are apples, or parts of apples.




In this shot, you can see the plexiglas behind which a multitude are watching the hippos hope for fruit.



Hippos have lots of whiskers on their noses.  This is a closer crop of the above.



Another piece of fruit hits the water (note splash in foreground).



There are two hippos.  Once upon a time, the pair of hippos at the zoo had a baby.  I'm not sure if these are the same two adults or not.




Looking at this, we note how much the artist who made the sculptures near the top of this post simplified the dentition.......



This has to be an excellent way to check on the oral health of a hippo........  In a way that's safe for everyone......

I see the left upper tusk is missing, and the right one looks like it's missing a big piece on the inside-the-mouth surface.  It seems to me that both of those anomalies would be painful....

We amateur naturalists can do a lot of speculating, when we have the opportunity to study this sort of image.  We know hippos eat plants, and we don't think they eat large plants like trees.  We look at how wide their mouths open, and may wonder why their mouths can open in this way.  Not just for eating, I bet.  For "I am fierce; keep your distance!" displays?  Probably -- I know I have heard they are dangerous to crocodiles, and to people in small boats....  For dominance within their own species, for survival of the fittest?  I bet so.

Look at the ridgey roof of the mouth.  The better to help food go down the throat, rather than back out, I bet.  I wonder about those bottom front teeth that go straight forward.  For digging on the bottom of the riverbed, maybe?  It's interesting how much wider the mouth is at the front than it is closer to the skull..... 

I suspect all those whiskers help with finding food in murky water.



Another look at the plexiglas.  Someone is right inside that window, just inches from an adult hippo.  What a cool thing to be able to do!



Here's a closer crop of the above -- I've never noticed that ridge down the middle of their noses before......  I would have said it was flat across there, had I been asked.


So glad we were able to see all of this, especially as we observed from a quiet and peaceful location!

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