A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

Posts Tagged ‘science

[BLOG] Some Sunday links

  • The Broadside Blog’s Caitlin Kelly talks about intermittent fasting as a weight loss method.
  • Joe. My. God. notes the Ukrainian victory in Eurovision.
  • Language Hat notes one Persian monarch’s problems with getting good translators.
  • Language Log looks at Singlish, the Singaporean variant of English.
  • Marginal Revolution compares tax fraud in Sweden and Italy.
  • Neuroskeptic reports on interesting brain scans conducted of someone having a mystic religious experience.
  • Window on Eurasia notes one brutal economic prediction for Russia, projecting sustained decline with only major cities resisting.
  • Arnold Zwicky looks at homoerotic photos of men dressed as unicorns.

[URBAN NOTE] “Toronto Botanical Gardens is a metropolis of plants, animals and insects”

Why did I not know of the Toronto Botanical Gardens before now? Thanks to Shawn Micallef in the Toronto Star for alerting me to the existence of the place.

Trinity Bellwoods Park has its famous white squirrel, making rare appearances shared delightedly on social media, a kind of urban badge one achieves in downtown Toronto. However, the Toronto Botanical Gardens (TBG) in North York may have the city’s friendliest squirrel, who stands on his hind legs with his hands clasped together, plaintively looking you in the eye.

“Go away, Freddie,” says Paul Zammit, sighing. “People have been feeding him.”

Zammit is the director of horticulture at the TBG, and as he surveys the site he points out squirrels, hawks, ground hogs and mouselike voles that make their home among the 3,600 different kinds of plants he cares for.

“Gardens are opportunity,” says Zammit, wandering between planting beds, naming off dozens of different kinds. “A garden isn’t just esthetic, there’s an opportunity to educate.”

Bees are one way to educate. On site there is both a “bee hotel” and collection of hives they call a pollinator garden. Zammit explains many bees don’t sting, nor do many produce honey, but they are integral to the garden’s biodiversity. Apart from Zammit, there is only one full time and one seasonal gardener to take care of all of this, but 40 volunteer gardeners also pitch in.

Written by Randy McDonald

May 14, 2016 at 8:30 pm

[NEWS] Some Thursday links

  • Bloomberg notes the collapse of a Petrobras boomtown in Brazil, notes that Serbian bonds are resistant to Brexit fears because of Serbia’s non-membership in the European Union, and wonders about the future of the smartphone market.
  • CBC notes soaring real estate prices in the suburbs of Toronto and Vancouver.
  • The Inter Press Service notes efforts to boost research and development in Africa.
  • MacLean’s notes, polemically, the importance of Canadian history in relation to current issues, like interprovincial limits on beer.
  • The National Post notes a Russian initiative to try to promote Siberian settlement by offering its citizens free land, and looks at the decline of tea at the expense of coffee in the United Kingdom.
  • Wired looks at the student art of Siberian indigenous students at a boarding school.

[NEWS] Some Saturday links

  • The BBC suggests bird-like dinosaurs survived the Cretaceous catastrophe because they could eat seeds.
  • Bloomberg wonders what lessons Poland has for China’s economy.
  • Bloomberg View examines immigration controversies in Malaysia.
  • CBC notes that Manulife is now providing life insurance for HIV-positive people.
  • Gizmodo reports from the Pyongyang subway.
  • The Guardian notes the sequencing of Ozzy Osbourne’s DNA.
  • The National Post reports that Québec NDP MP Ruth Ellen Brosseau might well be considering a run for the NDP leadership.
  • Newsweek reports on the decision of the Wall Street Journal to run an ad denying the Armenian genocide.
  • Finally, there has been much written after the death of Prince. Some highlights: The Atlantic looks at how he was a gay icon, Vox shares 14 of his most important songs, the Toronto Star notes his connection to Toronto, Dangerous Minds shares videos of early performances, The Daily Beast explains Prince’s stringent control of his content on the Internet, and In Media Res mourns the man and some of his songs.

[NEWS] Some Wednesday links

  • Bloomberg reports on how the weakening yen is hurting some Hong Kong retailers, notes how Chinese are visiting Hong Kong in the search for approved vaccines, and observes Brexit may not change British immigration much.
  • MacLean’s notes a court ruling which states the Confederate flag is inherently anti-American, and reports on the Swedish Tourist Association’s new campaign which offers people around the world the chance to talk to a random Swede.
  • Juan Cole at The Nation reports the exceptional unpopularity of Egypt’s transfer of two islands in the Gulf of Aqaba to Saudi Arabia.
  • National Geographic considers the concept of dam removal in parts of the United States.
  • Open Democracy examines the awkward position of Russian culture in the Ukrainian city of L’viv.
  • Science Daily notes findings suggesting that the genes which influence homosexuality are found in most people in the world, explaining why homosexuality is common.
  • The Toronto Star reports on a thankfully foiled, but still horrifying, suicide pact involving 13 young people in Attawapiskat, and notes Denmark’s turn against even people who help refugees.
  • Wired describes Yuri Milner’s proposal to use powerful lasers to launch very small probes to Alpha Centauri.

[OBSCURA] The Milky Way’s 19 black holes

Eric Betz’s D-Brief blog post “Prepare for an Explosion of Gravitational Wave Detections”, examining the exciting possibility of imminent gravitational wave observations giving us unprecedented insight into black holes, included this map of the Milky Way Galaxy’s known 19 black holes. This graphic, by Astronomy‘s Roen Kelly, originally featured in Richard Talcott’s February 2016 article “A guide to the black holes in our backyard”. There are surely many more than 19, but these are all we know for now. Perhaps LIGO will let us track down some more?

Written by Randy McDonald

April 13, 2016 at 10:00 am

[LINK] “Ancient Pluto May Have Had Lakes And Rivers Of Nitrogen”

Universe Today’s Evan Gough notes that ancient Pluto seems to have had a much warmer climate, allowing for flowing nitrogen lakes and rivers.

The New Horizons probe revealed the surface features of Pluto in rich detail when it reached the dwarf planet in July 2015. Some of the features look like snapshots of rivers and lakes that are locked firmly in place by Pluto’s frigid temperatures. But now scientists studying the data coming back from New Horizons think that those frozen lakes and rivers could once have been liquid nitrogen.

Pluto has turned out be a surprisingly active place. New Horizons has shown us what might be clouds in Pluto’s atmosphere, mountains that might be ice volcanoes, and cliffs made of methane ice that melt away into the plains. If there were oceans and rivers of liquid nitrogen on the surface of Pluto, that would fit in with our evolving understanding of Pluto as a much more active planet than we thought.

Richard Binzel, a New Horizons team member from MIT, thinks that lakes of liquid nitrogen could have existed some 800 or 900 million years ago. It all stems from Pluto’s axial tilt, which at 120 degrees is much more pronounced than Earth’s relatively mild 23 degree tilt. And computer modelling suggests that this tilt could have even been more extreme many millions of years ago.

The result of this extreme tilt is that much more of Pluto’s surface would have been exposed to sunlight. That may have warmed Pluto enough to allow liquid nitrogen to flow over the planet’s surface. These kinds of changes to a planet’s axial tilt, (and precession and eccentricity) affect a planet’s climate in what are called Milankovitch cycles. The same cycles are thought to have a similar effect on Earth’s climate, though not as extreme as on Pluto.

According to Binzel, Pluto could be somewhere in between its temperature extremes, meaning that if Pluto will ever be warm enough for liquid nitrogen again, it could be hundreds of millions of years from now. “Right now, Pluto is between two extreme climate states,” Binzel says.

Written by Randy McDonald

March 23, 2016 at 1:04 pm


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