Showing posts with label animals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label animals. Show all posts

4 Aug 2017

A Mixed Bag

I picked a mix from 'science news' this week: tardigrade genes, fertility fears, and what is probably the world's oldest living culture.

Folks in Western civilization have known about our neighbors in Australia for about four centuries.

Understanding their beliefs became easier, I think, when some of us realized that respecting them makes sense.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

23 Jun 2017

Old Truths, New Aspects

The biggest critters with backbones are living today: baleen whales.

Finding the largest of them started getting harder about a century back.

We didn't quite drive the blue and fin whales to extinction, happily.

We're learning when they got so big, and maybe why.

We're also learning more about origins of dinosaurs and the domestic cat. It's not the same origin.

One happened around the time we started storing grain, the other 200,000,000 years ago. Give or take a bit.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

23 Dec 2016

SETI: What If?

Contacting extraterrestrial intelligence, meeting people whose ancestors developed on another world, has been a staple of pulp fiction for generations.

Lately, it's become a matter for serious discussion. I'll be looking at an op-ed's take on how learning that we're not alone might affect folks with various religious beliefs. I'll also share what I expect: and what I don't....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

18 Nov 2016

Brain Implants and Rewired Monkeys

Someone from the Netherlands gained a small measure of freedom after learning to use a prototype computer-brain interface.

I see that, and experiments with rhesus monkeys, as a good thing....

...As usual, I'll also talk about why I don't think God is offended when we help folks....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

28 Oct 2016

Right-Handedness and Evolving Jaws

At least one Homo habilis was right-handed, about 1,800,000 years ago. It's the earliest evidence of handedness in humanity's history. So far.

Our jaws may have started out as armor plate, not gill arches. Paleontologists found a second Silurian placoderm species with surprisingly familiar jaws....

...Before talking about Homo habilis, and new evidence showing how jaws evolved, I'll do my usual explanation for why science doesn't upset me....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

12 Aug 2016

Earth Overshoot Day and Pollinators

Australia's Earth Overshoot Day happened earlier this week. It used to be called Ecological Debt Day, involves a lot of math, and assumes that Earth's glaciers, deserts, and oceans, are pretty much all the same thing. The basic idea, that we shouldn’t waste resources, isn't silly, and I'll get back to that.

Some other scientists say that we should pay attention to pollinators. I think they're right.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

5 Aug 2016

Bulldogs, Transgenics, and a Robot

English Bulldogs aren’t what they used to be: which is a problem for folks who want the breed to survive. A team of scientists says that the British mascot’s bloodline is more than a bit too pure.

Other scientists developed MouSensor, mutant mice with open slots for plug and play genetic code.

Finally, a tiny robot with rat muscles that swims like a fish.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

15 Jul 2016

Sandra and Tommy: Apes and Ethics

A court in Argentina said that Sandra the orangutan is "una persona no humana (non-human person)" in 2014.1 Or maybe 2015. I'll get back to that.

Instead of going ape over that news, I learned a little about Sandra, the Buenos Aires Zoo, and the curious case of Tommy the chimp

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

22 Apr 2016

Chameleons, Crystals: and Curiosity

Chameleons may be more famous for changing color than for their rapid-fire tongues: but today I'll be talking about both....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

12 Feb 2016

Tiny Eyeballs and Purple Socks

Some cyanobacteria — pond scum — swim toward brighter areas. Scientists didn't know how the microorganisms could tell where the light is, until now.

Other scientists discovered four new species of an odd-looking sort of critter: including one that looks like a purple sock.

I'm fascinated by this sort of thing, your experience may vary....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

29 Jan 2016

Sleep and Being Human

Humans sleep, which shouldn't be surprising. Just about all critters with brains sleep: mammals, birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish — even insects and nematodes experience something like sleep.

Poets and playwrights have written of sleep....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

17 Aug 2015

Lessons from Socks


Here is an excerpt from my journal dated 7 August 15:
"Today i cried when someone was sick. My beloved pet dog, Socks, is suddenly sick and its just too much for my heart and mind. I had to sob. Now m trying to figure out why am sobbing so much. What is it about her that makes me feel i just can't live without her. Like she is irreplaceable. Like she is the one who taught me many important lessons. Like i v not yet matched her when it comes to giving love. Like i don't care what this ache sounds like."
And i lost her in this life on 8 August 2015.
Read the full post at J.A.M.

28 Jun 2015

Saint Francis of Assisi and Brother Wolf

"...'Brother Wolf, you have killed and pillaged like a wanton criminal, and for that you deserve punishment! But accept instead the forgiveness of all the men you have wronged. Come now, here is my hand. In the name of the Holy One, come to me, and pledge that from this day on you will live at peace with men. Come!'...

"...He was only in time to see the berserker-wolf take the last hesitant step of its advance. To see it raise one metal paw — and with its steel claw-fingers gently touch the kneeling friar's extended hand...."

That's from Fred Saberhagen's "Brother Berserker." The "berserker-wolf" part of Saberhagen's tale is based on a legend in "Fioretti di San Francesco," written a century and a half after Francis of Assisi died.

"Firoetti" is probably the most popular collection of stories about Saint Francis: but "Scripta Leonis, Rufini et Angeli Sociorum S. Francisci," compiled by Brother Leo and other companions, comes from folks who actually knew him.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

26 Jun 2015

Beavers, Floods, and Yet Another Dire Prediction

Beavers are back in England, which is good news or bad news: opinions differ on that point.

Quite a few folks died when drains blocked up in Nigeria's capital. Then a gas station exploded. There's more rain in the forecast, so their troubles are far from over.

Finally, there's a new doomsday prediction in a brand-new publication. Madagascan lemurs are imperiled: but not, I think, cockroaches, rats — or humans.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

15 May 2015

Fire Ant Engineering and Bungee Nerves

The last I heard, Rubenstein's robot swarm was pretty good at forming different shapes: but not much else. (August 22, 2014)

What we're learning about how fire ants build their nests may change that. Scientists discovered that the pests use different excavating techniques, depending on what sort of soil they're in.

Other scientists found stretchy nerves in rorqual whales. The nerves are made from the same stuff found in other animals — what makes them stretchy is how the nerve fibers fold up....

...Looking up rorqual whales and baleen encouraged a (very brief) tangent on evolution. I figure I'd better review why I don't argue with the Almighty about this world's development: and don't fear a robot revolution....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

24 Apr 2015

Mass Extinctions Revisited, Moving Octopuses

We've known about the Capitanian crisis for some time: some scientists have, anyway. What's new is the idea that it may have been a major mass extinction in its own right: a sort of prequel to the Great Dying.

Other scientists solved part of the puzzle of how octopuses coordinate their arms when moving. Their research may help folks design soft robots: useful in medicine and rescue work....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

27 Feb 2015

From Trilobites to Whales: Getting Bigger

Those trilobites were huge: in the Cambrian. These days, foot-long critters are common, and not particularly big.

Scientists thought related species of animals generally got bigger as they evolved: now a team has evidence to back up that assumption. We still don't know why critters usually get bigger, though.

That, and seven "croc" species sharing the same turf in the Amazon Basin — before the Amazon was there — is what I picked for this week's post....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

30 Jan 2015

Precision-Grip Thumbs and an A 'New' Archosaur

Humans have hands. So do apes, monkeys, lemurs, and koalas. For that matter, a chameleon's feet look and act a lot like hands. But they don't have precision-grip thumbs that can line up with any finger.

We do: and apparently have had a firm grip on tools for over two million years.

Scientists had a pretty good idea about how the common ancestor of dinosaurs, crocodiles and alligators, and birds, developed. A quarter-billion-year-old fossil shows that the situation is more complicated than scientists thought....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

26 Dec 2014

Found: Genes for Fins, Paws, and Hands

Scientists found the genetic code mice use for growing paws — in spotted gar, after they thought about what happened to fish 300,000,000 years back.

An amateur fossil hunter found a complete ichthyosaur skeleton in Wales, professional fossil hunters found parts of a critter that isn't quite an ichthyosaur in China, and other paleontologists described a cat-size dinosaur that lived in what's now Montana.

Still other scientists named a Cambrian — thing — after an esteemed colleague. Quite a few Cambrian critters are just like nothing that lives on today's Earth.

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

11 Jul 2014

Coping With Change for Millions of Years; Chatty Chimps

We've been learning a great deal about human origins in the last century: and discovering that there's much more to learn.

Scientists studying bones from a cave used by both Neanderthals and the current human model found DNA from a girl who was 'none of the above.' She's from a previously-unknown species, or sub-species, of human

Other scientists discovered that chimpanzees communicate in an unexpectedly 'human' way.

We live in an exciting era: or a disturbing one, depending on a person's assumptions and preferences....

...Denisovans lived in or near the Altai mountains about 41,000 years before we started playing baseball. Some scientists call them a different species, others say they're a subspecies of homo sapiens sapiens. Either way, they're part of the human family.

We don't know much about the Denisovans yet, apart from a bit of finger bone, two teeth, and a toe bone. That's not much to work with: but scientists found intact DNA in the bones: enough to trace Denisovan descendants among Melanesians and Aboriginal Australians. The odds are pretty good that many or most folks in southern and southeast Asia are related to Denisovans....

More at A Catholic Citizen in America.

Day 1 Quitting Smoking

So as of 3pm it will have been 24 hours without a cigarette! Everyone has been so encouraging and because of that I want to document my ex...