Archive for January, 2009

How to snare the nimble marmoset

30 January 2009

My favorite monkey?  First I was thinking Hanuman Langur:

Thomas Schoch - GNU/CC

Thomas Schoch - GNU/CC

but I thought a little longer and decided, Emperor Tamarin.  I’m pretty happy with my decision.  So now this is a monkey meme or whatever.  What’s your favorite monkey?


15 January 2009

img_0830 I know, I know, huge methane plumes on Mars (!!!) it’s hard to keep one’s head on straight.  I feel a bit woozy myself.  But I really expect more from the New York Times than this:

Bacteria May Be Source of Methane on Mars — Kenneth Chang 1/15/2009

Normally when I see a headline like that, I assume the headline writer has been hitting the black label a little to hard again.  Unfortunately, that’s not the case this time here’s the second sentence in that article:

Subsurface Martian cows appear unlikely, but scientists are seriously considering the possibility that bacteria are generating the methane.

Well, first off, of course cow emissions are bacterially* generated, but whatever.  Even *if* the Martian methane is of biological origin (and don’t forget there is loads of abiotic methane elsewhere in the solar system) it’s a tremendous leap to attribute the methane production to bacteria.  “Bacteria” is not a generic term for microbes, it refers to a specific group of unicellular organisms that have been on Earth for billions of years.

The discovery of bacteria on Mars would have tremendous implications for the interplanetary dispersal of organisms and possibly even for the origin of life itself.  But the presence of methane alone does not yet confirm the presence of life on Mars and it certainly doesn’t indicate that any hypothetical Martian microbes had a common origin with life on Earth as the presence of bacteria would.  Lets wait for some more facts before we start making a interplanetary leaps to conclusions, please!

POSTSCRIPTO: *It occurred to me that actually methanogens (microbes that generate methane) aren’t even technically bacteria–they’re archaea! Any speculation that bacteria are responsible for the methane plumes on Mars is basically totally without merit. I’m sure we’ll see a retraction in the Times tomorrow.


Fun with Fake Tilt-Shift

15 January 2009

Tilt-shift is a relatively sophisticated photography technique that allows photographers to play with perspective creating dizzying, fantastic images that confound our expectations about scale.

Tilt-shift maker is a fun, and easy to use website that allows you to simulate the effect (albeit imperfectly) on your own photos or things you find on the web.  I knew there was a reason I was taking so many photos of rooftops while I was in China… (click for larger versions)





And they said Descriptive Biology was dead….

14 January 2009

Definitely my favorite paper title of the week:

The insect nephrocyte is a podocyte-like cell with a filtration slit diaphragm

(Weavers et al. 2009 Nature 457: 322-326).

It’s like I’ve always said…we’ve still got a lot to learn about arthropod excretion.

WW3: Hardcore Anemochore Action

14 January 2009



8 January 2009

This post by an anthropogenic warming skeptic over at HuffPost contains a number of yowlers but this perhaps is my favorite:

Major solar minima (and maxima, such as the one during the second half of the 20th century) have also been shown to correlate with significant volcanic eruptions. These are likely the result of solar magnetic flux affecting geomagnetic flux, which affects the distribution of magma in Earth’s molten iron core and under its thin mantle.


Thus, in these regions the electric fire breaks forth from the lowest depths of the waters.

5 January 2009

more on electric eels, though, this story is surely apocryphal isn’t it?

Text not available


Text not available

Text: Alexander von Humboldt (1850) Views of Nature Or, Contemplations of the Sublime Phenomena of Creation with Scientific Illustrations, translated by Elise C. Otté,  Henry George Bohn

Photos: Peter Stackpole, 1952 – Palisades Park, NJ. from LIFE/Google.


thanks Google!