Category Archives: Science

Day Off

As a State employee I have the perk of getting tomorrow off without pay (part of the Furlough Day program to cut budget deficits). I decided to take today off as well, using a vacation day, to make a 4 day weekend.


Anyway, I have lots of stuff to do over the weekend- more than I could do in 2 days. We have a guest arriving from out of town- a long-term guest- and we’re turning part of the garage into a bedroom. There is still much to do and she arrives in a week.

Today I’ll just share some pictures, maybe another thing or two.

The pictures below are from National Geographic, they are free desktop images. You can find these and more at this place. Click for full size then right click to save.

This one makes me think the little guy is saying, “What in the heck has happened to my neighborhood?!”

For my next trick- courtesy of Goopymart

Nature is amazing, eh? This is from the Guardian:

The oldest evidence of a fungus that turns ants into zombies and makes them stagger to their death has been uncovered by scientists.

The gruesome hallmark of the fungus’s handiwork was found on the leaves of plants that grew in Messel, near Darmstadt in Germany, 48m years ago.

The finding shows that parasitic fungi evolved the ability to control the creatures they infect in the distant past, even before the rise of the Himalayas.

The fungus, which is alive and well in forests today, latches on to carpenter ants as they cross the forest floor before returning to their nests high in the canopy.

The fungus grows inside the ants and releases chemicals that affect their behaviour. Some ants leave the colony and wander off to find fresh leaves on their own, while others fall from their tree-top havens on to leaves nearer the ground.

The final stage of the parasitic death sentence is the most macabre. In their last hours, infected ants move towards the underside of the leaf they are on and lock their mandibles in a “death grip” around the central vein, immobilising themselves and locking the fungus in position.

“This can happen en masse. You can find whole graveyards with 20 or 30 ants in a square metre. Each time, they are on leaves that are a particular height off the ground and they have bitten into the main vein before dying,” said David Hughes at Harvard University.

The fungus cannot grow high up in the canopy or on the forest floor, but infected ants often die on leaves midway between the two, where the humidity and temperature suit the fungus. Once an ant has died, the fungus sprouts from its head and produces a pod of spores, which are fired at night on to the forest floor, where they can infect other ants.

Scientists led by Hughes noticed that ants infected with the fungus,Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, bit into leaves with so much force they left a lasting mark. The holes created by their mandibles either side of the leaf vein are bordered by scar tissue, producing an unmistakable dumb-bell shape.

Writing in the journal, Biology Letters, the team describes how they trawled a database of images that document leaf damage by insects, fungi and other organisms. They found one image of a 48m-year-old leaf from the Messel pit that showed the distinctive “death grip” markings of an infected ant. At the time, the Messel area was thick with subtropical forests.

“We now present it as the first example of behavioural manipulation and probably the only one which can be found. In most cases, this kind of control is spectacular but ephemeral and doesn’t leave any permanent trace,” Hughes said.

“The question now is, what are the triggers that push a parasite not just to kill its host, but to take over its brain and muscles and then kill it.”

He added: “Of all the parasitic organisms, only a few have evolved this trick of manipulating their host’s behaviour.

Why go to the bother? Why are there not more of them?”

Scientists are not clear how the fungus controls the ants it infects, but know that the parasite releases alkaloid chemicals into the insect as it consumes it from the inside.

On the subject of Zombies, Zombie nuts!

Saddest photo ever-

Unrelated nonsense-

At the place I work they are hiring a new Superintendent. I know some people who having worked in this place for many years are on the verge of quitting. I just hope this guy lives up to the hype.  I can hardly stand to lose more people who support the good things. So far, all the news is good. We meet him next week.

Bye for now,


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Filed under animated gif, animation, macaques, Nature, Oregon State Hospital, pictures, Science

Charm and Strange Beauty

At the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) you may have heard they are looking for the particle called the Higgs-Boson. This particle is predicted by the Standard Model in particle physics. It is the only particle predicted in the Standard Model which has not been observed in experiments up to the present day. The LHC is not alone. The particle accelerator, Tevatron, at Fermilab, has also been looking for the Higgs-Boson but at lower energy levels than those at LHC. The Higgs-Boson, if found, will help explain the reason particles have mass.

What you may not have heard about is the experiment at LHCb. This massive experiment-

is not about mass– it sets out to investigate what happened prior to 1 second after the big bang.

CERN describes the experiment for laymen saying-

Fourteen billion years ago, the Universe began with a bang. Crammed within an infinitely small space, energy coalesced to form equal quantities of matter and antimatter. But as the Universe cooled and expanded, its composition changed. Just one second after the Big Bang, antimatter had all but disappeared, leaving matter to form everything that we see around us — from the stars and galaxies, to the Earth and all life that it supports.

An important step along the way is finding the particle called “Strange Beauty”, composed of a quark and an anti-quark. This has been accomplished as of May 7th, 2010. The LHCb physicists have collected about 10 million proton-proton collisions in order to find this first Beauty Particle. The reconstruction of each event is not easy, there are about 100 particle tracks reconstructed in this event.

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firin’ the odd shot, here and there

Pictures, photographs, that is. Starting with family items, degenerating into random finds, ani-gifs. The family pictures are big big big, click for full size.

Erin and Me

Erin and Me

Erin is no longer with us- as in she died 2 & 1/2 years after this picture was taken. After we bought the flute, I tried to encourage her to practice. Detail follows with clear view of the glare she was giving me in this sweet father-daughter moment:


The last good family Halloween- also 1991. Top picture includes our babysitter and her boyfriend with Erin on the left side, middle is outside with a guest, me and Matt as a toddler, bottom is trick or treat-


One of our cats, Blizzard, a few years back (pre- foreclosure on the house the kids grew up in, pre- rented house burning down last year); Eyes on Fire-


Matt getting a sword for his birthday last year (he collects swords, doesn’t use them- he’s a Quaker kid, after all)-


Random, mostly from an un-named (un-nameable, unknowable etc.) source:

Good Morning, Filepile

just the kick



Dr. Brewers Guide to Science- 1880

Dr. Brewers Guide to Science- 1880

More Dr. Brewer

More Dr. Brewer


#D Hilbert Curve, generated with a custom MEL script in Maya

#D Hilbert Curve, generated with a custom MEL script in Maya

-) (-

Cat 'n melon

Cat 'n melon

[ani] ready for take-off


Bye for now-


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Some pictures

Message from the Department of Redundancy Department: Most pictures are bigger than they appear. Click for full size; also, some may need a similar prod to animate, should they be so inclined.

Below:  These long, crazy-looking clouds can grow to be 600 miles long and can move at up to 35 miles per hour, causing problems for aircraft even on windless days. Known as Morning Glory clouds, they appear every fall over Burketown, Queensland, Australia, a remote town with fewer than 200 residents.


Pictures fro my mom’s apartment, celebrating her 88th birthday on 8/8 (click for full size):


Bad scans of a couple pages of my older son’s “guest artwork” on a webcomic Accursed Dragons:


Pictures from a cemetary near my work (click it- it goes left to right):


Other pictures:


(Hibernating Doormice)

dormice hibernate

(Auto focus)

Payback is a bitch



Miscellaneous and animated:

[cute overload] surely a repost but please don't kill me if it is

[ani] cannonball fail


[ani] Double front flip on BMX





It's not the heat


(Juvenile Pacific Tree Frog- the kind I grow)


(Ion Trap- experiment in Quantum Processing)




last for today-

Whats this this thing do

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Filed under animated gif, animation, Family pictures, Frogs, pictures, Science

Dark Matter Lab dedicated at Sanford


This week, the Sanford Lab dedicated an underground science fortress to research dark matter. The lab is 5,000 feet underground in the mountains of South Dakota, shielded from cosmic radiation.

The lab is on a site that used to do physics research, and was a gold mine before that. The current Sanford Lab, in collaboration with the Deep Underground Science and Engineering Laboratory (DUSEL), is the deepest underground lab in the world. It’s divided into three levels: the shallow lab, the mid-level, and the deep campus. The deep campus is 6 and a half Empire State Buildings deep, or around 8,000 feet.

Experiments are already underway at the 5,000 foot level, but the lab intends to run its dark matter experiments as deep as possible in a lab called the Xenon detector experiment, or LUX. Doing the experiments deep inside the earth isn’t just a demonstration in mad science; it’s also a way to keep out interfering cosmic radiation.

The effects of dark matter in these experiments are so minuscule that any interfering radiation could throw off any experiments done at ground level. To get any real data, these experiments require a lot of shielding. Thousands of feet of earth should do the job just fine.

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