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Posts Tagged ‘science

[CAT] “Did Ancient Native Americans Try to Domesticate Bobcats?”

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George Dvorsky’s io9 post amused me.

The 2,000-year-old remains of a carefully decorated and deliberately buried juvenile bobcat has scientists wondering if it’s the first example of feline domestication in the prehistoric Americas.

The remains of the bobcat were originally discovered in the 1980s at the Illinois Hopewell Burial Mounds just north of St. Louis. Archaeologists had mistakenly identified the bones as belonging to a young dog and placed it in the archives of the Illinois State Museum in Springfield. Now, a new analysis by Ph.D. student Angela Perri and her team from the University of Durham in the UK, has correctly identified the bones as belonging to a bobcat (Lynx rufus) that was likely between four and seven months old when it perished. The results of their work can now be found at Midcontinental Journal of Archaeology.

Incredibly, the bobcat kitten was buried by a group of Middle Woodland Native Americans in a very human-like way, among the remains of humans and dogs. The bobcat was adorned with a necklace made from seashells, along with a bone carved to look like bear teeth (seen above). What’s more, the complete skeleton showed no signs of trauma, which suggests it wasn’t sacrificed.

Written by Randy McDonald

July 18, 2015 at 10:31 pm

[BLOG] Some Friday links

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  • blogTO notes that Toronto might be getting its own Arts Biennale like Venice.
  • Centauri Dreams notes the detection of pebbles in the circumstellar disk of DG Tauri.
  • Crooked Timber notes Nietzche’s identification of the origins of trolling.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper suggesting that inflated hot Jupiters are sufficiently hot and massive to have self-sustaining nuclear fusion.
  • The Dragon’s Tales looks at ways of improving photosynthesis by genetic engineering.
  • Lawyers, Guns and Money suggests that a successful Donald Trump run would be as unlikely as a Ronald Reagan run.
  • Marginal Revolution considers the beneficial economic effects of competition between monotheisms.
  • The Planetary Society Blog notes the advent of interplanetary cubesats.
  • Peter Rukavina remixes a speech on Prince Edward Island to a techno beat.
  • The Search reports from a conference on archiving E-mail.
  • Torontoist tours the Pan-Am Athletes Village and wonders why we can’t plan better.
  • Towleroad notes massive support in Northern Ireland for marriage equality.
  • Window on Eurasia notes ethnic conflict in a binational republic of the North Caucasus and observes political unrest in Yakutia.

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

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  • blogTO notes a house on downtown Toronto’s Jersey Avenue, a near-laneway, that is on the market at nearly eight hundred thousand dollars.
  • Centauri Dreams warns that with the passage of Dawn and New Horizons and Cassini, an era of unmanned space exploration will come to an end.
  • Crooked Timber’s Belle Waring considers Western/Asian cultural differences on gender.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to one paper seeking to detect exoplanet rotation rates and other data via eclipses, and links to another noting the discovery of N2H in a ring around TW Hydrae.
  • The Dragon’s Tales reports on the results of a genetic analysis of the dwarf mammoths of Wrangel Island.
  • A Fistful of Euros looks at how the Second World War started Ireland’s break from the Sterling zone.
  • The Frailest Thing considers the good of tech criticism.
  • Joe. My. God. celebrates a decade of same-sex marriage in Spain.
  • Language Hat looks at how promoters of a literature or a work can get things they champion translate.
  • The Planetary Society Blog has two posts celebrating its role in the New Horizons probe.
  • Towleroad notes that YouTube star Shane Dawson has just come out as bisexual.
  • Window on Eurasia looks at an incipient Cossack separatism.

[LINK] “Space Particles Are Helping Map the Inside of Fukushima”

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Wired‘s Nick Stockton notes how muons from space are being used to map Fukushima’s pipes.

In just about every industrial factory you’ll see them: huge lead pipes. These move fluid—often super hot, or even steamed water. Over time, the fluids wear the pipes down. Or maybe they get dinged by a passing forklift. Or maybe changes in temperature cause tiny cracks to appear. Then the pipe bursts, and people get hurt.

Inspecting pipes is a pain in the tochus. Usually these pipes are covered in insulation and pumping hot, high pressure steam. To inspect them, you have to shut down the pipe, take it out of service, remove the insulation, then apply X-rays or ultrasound—both of which require special certification to use because of the radiation involved.

But the days of butt-achey industrial inspection could be numbered, because a group of scientists at Los Alamos National Lab (you know, the atomic bomb place?) have figured out how to see through just about anything—including the radioactive disaster zone inside the Fukushima reactor core—using subatomic particles from outer space.

“Any industrial process is subject to flow-accelerated corrosion,” says Matt Durham, lead author of a new paper detailing the process, called muon tomography. Inside a pipe, whichever side that’s in contact with a fluid tends to get eaten up. The difficulty of disassembling a pipe for inspection means that comprehensive checks rarely happen. But using muons, “you don’t have to tear it apart,” says Durham. “You just have to zap it from the outside.”

Written by Randy McDonald

July 6, 2015 at 7:06 pm

Posted in Science

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[LINK] “Keeping Farm Fish Locked Up Keeps Ecosystem Calamity at Bay”

Brendan I. Koerner in Wired looks at how aquaculture specialists are trying to limit the potential environmental danger of aquaculture.

Aquaculture is fast becoming the main way that humans get their seafood fix. But fish aren’t cattle; they don’t turn passive when cooped up. Every year, hundreds of thousands of salmon, cod, and rainbow trout wriggle through damaged or defective cages and flee into the open seas, never to be recaptured. In addition to costing farmers millions in lost revenue, these escapees can wreak havoc on their wild brethren by polluting gene pools and spreading pathogens.

To prevent that sort of environmental calamity, Trine Thorvaldsen is studying how best to keep farmed fish from going on the lam. A labor health and safety expert at a Norwegian research institute, Thorvaldsen recently set out to determine why her country loses around 200,000 captive salmon per year. In addition to analyzing reams of incident reports and industry statistics, she also convinced numerous farmers to speak to her anonymously—no small feat in Norway, where allowing fish to escape is a criminal offense with stiff penalties. Her research has led her to conclude that avoidable human errors play a key role in Norway’s’ salmon escapes.

“There was one instance in which fish were being pumped from one cage to another, but the workers didn’t realize there was no net to keep them,” says Thorvaldsen, who is a cultural anthropologist by training; by the time anyone noticed the silly mistake, 13,000 salmon had swum away. Most of the fateful miscues that lead to mass “fishbreaks,” however, are less spectacular in nature. Workers sometimes have difficulty operating equipment, for example, and brush the vessels’ destructive propellers against the containment nets. Or they inadvertently tear those nets while using cranes to adjust the weighted tubes that maingtain the shape of underwater cages. Farmers are often unaware of these small fissures until hours later, at which point it’s often too late to dispatch recovery teams to the site. They must instead keep their fingers crossed that nearby fishermen will catch the piscine escapees before they start to interbreed with wild fish. (To encourage the recapture of escaped salmon, Norwegian cultivators have been known to offer 60-euro-per-fish bounties.)

For many years, fish farmers have pined for a technological solution to their escape problem: an alarm that can be wired into the nylon nets, to alert workers when tears are beginning to develop. But such a system has proven tough to invent and implement, largely because saltwater doesn’t play well with electrical wires. With no reliable alarm on hand, Thorvaldsen instead urges farmers to curtail errors by adhering to some common-sense workplace policies. These include making sure that laborers don’t work past the point of mental exhaustion, suspending operations when harsh weather or darkness approach, and insisting that all critical maintenance instructions be put down in writing rather than squawked over fuzzy radio channels. Thorvaldsen also wants managers to understand that certain delicate fish-farming procedures, such as using cranes, should never be rushed.

“We’ve had a lot of workers say, ‘We are under a lot of pressure, we have to do things fast, we have to deliver the fish when the boat’s there,’” Thorvaldsen says. The net tears that can result from such haste are what farmed fish dream of when they sleep.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 26, 2015 at 10:27 pm

[LINK] “Wolves are better hunters when monkeys are around”

Science Daily reports on an interesting research finding from Ethiopia.

Through extensive data collection from all-day follows on the Guassa Plateau in north central Ethiopia from 2006 to 2011, researchers studied a band of approximately 200 gelada monkeys, who regularly associate with the wolves living in the area.

According to the study’s findings, gelada monkeys would not typically move upon encountering Ethiopian wolves, even when they were in the middle of the herd — 68 percent of encounters resulted in no movement and only 11 percent resulted in a movement of greater than 10 meters. In stark contrast, the geladas always fled great distances to the cliffs for safety whenever they encountered aggressive domestic dogs.

The Ethiopian wolves experienced a foraging advantage on subterranean rodents when among the gelada monkeys — Ethiopian wolves foraged successfully in 66.7 percent of attempts among the gelada monkeys v. a success rate of only 25 percent when wolves foraged by themselves. The success rate may be attributed to the rodents being flushed out by the monkey herd, which disturb the vegetation as they graze or to what may be a diminished ability for the rodents to detect predators due to a visual or auditory interference posed by the grazing monkeys.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 23, 2015 at 10:55 pm

Posted in Science

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[LINK] “There are goldfish the size of dinner plates turning up in Alberta, biologists say”

Postmedia News’ Alexandra Zabjek writes in the National Post about invasive life in the waterways of Alberta.

The discovery of dinner plate-sized goldfish and the ongoing threat of a zebra mussel infestation has the Alberta government ramping up awareness of invasive aquatic species in provincial water bodies.

The zebra mussel, which multiplies prodigiously and can clog water pipes, has been the “poster child” for invasive aquatic species. But seemingly mundane creatures can cause problems, too.

“The mussels really scare the crap out of everyone — biologists because of the environmental impacts. And the irrigation industry, the hydropower industry, the waste water treatment industry all potentially have a lot to lose,” said Kate Wilson, an aquatic invasive species specialist with Alberta Environment and Parks.

“It’s a big, scary thing to really engage the public. I’m hoping to use that to get people to think about how … people are dumping their goldfish, which is pretty serious for a whole lot of other reasons.”

Wilson recounted the story of a fisheries biologist who last year saw two children fishing in a Fort McMurray stormwater pond. The biologist discovered they had caught two goldfish, and the municipality then hired a consultant to study the pond.

More, including photos, at the site.

Written by Randy McDonald

June 23, 2015 at 10:53 pm

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