Thursday, July 31, 2008

Science Tattoo Emporium moves

Carl Zimmer's science blog "The Loom: Science Tattoo Emporium" has moved to Discover Magazine. Check out the wide variety of very cool science related tattoo pictures he has accumulated from readers. ;)

Monday, July 28, 2008

A good idea, in theory....

....but I have been wondering how long it was going to be before something like this happened.....


'Extreme Makeover' house faces foreclosure

..."More than 1,800 people showed up to help ABC's "Extreme Makeover" team demolish a family's decrepit home and replace it with a sparkling, four-bedroom mini-mansion in 2005.

Three years later, the reality TV show's most ambitious project at the time has become the latest victim of the foreclosure crisis.

After the Harper family used the two-story home as collateral for a $450,000 loan, it's set to go to auction on the steps of the Clayton County Courthouse Aug. 5. ....

Materials and labor were donated for the home, which would have cost about $450,000 to build. Beazer Homes' employees and company partners also raised $250,000 in contributions for the family, including scholarships for the couple's three children and a home maintenance fund.

ABC said in a statement that it advises each family to consult a financial planner after they get their new home. "Ultimately, financial matters are personal, and we work to respect the privacy of the families," the network said....."

Primeval Predators: Animals of the Burgess Shale

What exactly are they? Burgess Shale action figures!! These give some of your run-of-the-mill plastic dinosaurs a little competition! I forget exactly how John and I heard about these, but from the moment he saw them we have been wanting to get some. They finally arrived in the mail this past week and they are cool! Check them out (or buy your own here at the Royal Ontario Museum!)

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Jurassic Fight Club

Jurassic Fight Club starts this week (Tuesday) on the History Channel. This weeks episode will be about Majungatholus: "CANNIBAL DINOSAUR (Tuesday, July 29 at 9pm ET/PT) –Majungatholus versus Majungatholus. Scientists uncover the first authentic case of dinosaur cannibalism. Paleontologists look deep into the brain cavity to give science new insight into their behavior, then by studying the behaviors of modern animals, experts recreate a scenario of what occurred when a male Majungatholus went in search of a mate, but found a non-receptive female who was more interested in protecting her young, than mating."

The graphics look pretty good, and I hope many of you have the chance to watch the program. I will post my thoughts on the episode ~Tuesday night, and I would really enjoy hearing what some of you think about it as well. Till then, here's a taste:

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Surviving the Piceance Basin

I have been out several days this month with a local environmental consulting firm walking seismic lines in the Piceance Basin, which is north of Rifle and southwest of Meeker, Colorado. We are walking these lines in search of any fossils that may be present before the official seismic work begins, in which (I assume) they are looking for gas. I have never seen so many bright orange and pink flags in my entire life! Basically imagine the map below with lines going all the way across it from the northeast to southwest, about 1/4 of a mile apart from one another. My job is to follow orange flags planted along those lines, and look for fossils while I walk those lines. We do this (as far as I can tell and have been told) to try and show where significant sites are that should be avoided and to help protect any fossils that are already present on the surface. A story about the area in the Denver Post states "The Piceance could end up being the biggest natural gas field in North America," said Fred Julander, owner of Denver-based Julander Energy and a long-time observer of Colorado's natural-gas sector. Julander estimates the basin's total gas accumulation could be as much as 100 tcf -- enough to supply Colorado's needs for 280 years at current consumption rates."

The terrain is quite interesting. It is mostly covered in pinion, juniper and sage, but every now and then there are open spots. You sometimes get relatively flatter sections, but often it is up and down, and up and down, and up and get the idea. Below is a picture of the terrain. Yes, I realize, it could be worse. But the last thing I love to do first thing in the morning is scale the side of a steep cliff ;)

View Larger Map

So far the only fossils I have found have been fossil plants, mostly from the Green River Formation, although I did find a awesome leaf today that looks like it is from the Uinta Formation.

I have had many furry animal encounters, as I seem to have a gift for stirring up Elk out of the brush. Chipmunks, squirrels, deer, lizards, horny toads, more flies and gnats than I can count and one random horse have been the majority of my sightings.

Today I had the luck to be caught out in a thunder storm with lightning and to get to chance a truck tire. Always fun. The truck got a flat as I was being dropped off to start my line, so we had to get that changed really fast. Then, after walking for 45 min or so, the rain started to move in. It would not have been such a big deal if it had not had quite a bit of lightening in it. And since I have that important thing coming up in a few weeks (just a little over 2 weeks!), I found a nice ledge to hunker down under, which was what everyone else on the job was doing. I waited there for about an hour for it to clear out, then continued on my way, only to have another storm come up behind me and force me out of the field for the day. In true field fashion, as soon as I reached the vehicle, the weather cleared.

(above) My "cave" I hid in during the storm. (below) Hiding from the rain, rocking out my orange vest.

It has been nice to get out and walk some, and getting to look for fossils is a plus. Unfortunatly I have so many irons in the fire and other projects that need attention that I am home bound Friday. This is also a good thing though, since I just spent the last 6 months away from John and the cats and do not want to make this a regular occurrence.

More pictures...

So that is the update from here. I know I need to return multiple emails and get back to some of you on may different things. Sorry for the delay! And a quick tip of the hat to Bryan for the title idea.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Wedding Dance Music??

Hello again! I know I have been totally MIA, things are still pretty crazy. But now I need some help. We decided to do the music ourselves for the wedding (after having seen the parade of bad DJs at SVP over the past several years!). So, if you were going to a wedding and planned to dance the night away, what songs would you want to hear? So far we only have 2.7 hours and we need 4. HELP!!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Read these

I encourage you to go read Mike Taylor's response and statements surrounding Aetogate on SV-POW!

Janet D. Stemwedel over at Adventures in Ethics and Science has a great post on "Aetogate aftermath: paleontologists discuss the norms of their discipline."

Also, SVP posted an addendum to the Executive Committee's Final Statement Concerning Allegations From Martz, Parker, Wedel and Taylor and can be read in full here.

They note that the they made the decision to review Parker and Martz's case before the issue was even made more public in the Nature article and through internet conversation. I particularly like this idea that they mention:

"If students or others continue to have concerns over our statements and their intent, we recommend that that they organize a faculty-student discussion seminar that focuses on our posted statements and the National Academy document (On Being a Scientist). "

I think it would be a great idea to have a face-to-face faculty-student discussion seminar. This could really be a good thing if it were handled correctly. I wonder if there is time to still work in into the upcoming Cleveland SVP annual meeting, while it is still a hot topic and fresh in everyone's heads.



Free food at Chick-fil-a

Free Food alert!! Free food tomorrow at Chick-fil-a.

"Dress like a cow from head to hoof for our 4th annual Cow Appreciation Day® (July 11, 2008) and get a complimentary combo meal (breakfast, lunch or dinner) from Chick-fil-A.

Not up for sporting the full cow look? Partial cow attire will still get you a complimentary entrée. Request a tall, cool Dr Pepper with your Chick-fil-A and complete your meal.

Send this email to your friends and come dressed as an entire herd - Chick-fil-A for everyone! Cow up and get free Chick-fil-A on July 11th at your nearest Chick-fil-A."

Free cow dressing tips here.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

MIA Update

Hello to everyone out there! I know I have been pretty MIA as of recently. Things are pretty crazy right now. The wedding is a month and a day away, so we have been trying to get things ready for that. I am also trying to get a NPS paleo network report I have been working on a bit closer to finished. My computer that crashed in May is now recovered (!), I will definitly have to write more about that later since it cost a tenth of what Dell wanted to charge me!! Traveling has also been a big piece of life. John and I went down to Grand Canyon for the 4th (more on that below) and I am working out of town right now on a paleo survey. This weekend we are heading to Denver to do more wedding things! So, life it pretty nuts right now!

John and I headed down to Grand Canyon last Friday. It was nice to go on a road trip together (even though my iPod is now trying to die - not sure why all my electronics are freaking out on me). I went down some roads in southeastern Utah/northeastern Arizona I had never been down and got to see Mexican Hat, Utah and Monument Valley!

Once we got to Grand Canyon we were not surprised to see it flooded with vacationers - RVs and people everywhere. We found our campsite (thank goodness you can make reservations now!) and got all set up and our dinner cooked. For the number of people in the campground it was not too noisy.

We woke up bright(!) and eary to start getting our packs ready for the hike down the Bright Angel trail. John had applied for a backcounty permit so we could stay at the Indian Garden campground about 4.6 miles down the Bright Angle trail. When we woke up to rain we were not to sure about the hike down. That, plus my recent battle with allergies, which has left me a huffy-puffy mess when it comes to hiking, made us decided to can our plans to stay at the campground. It was to bad, but we did not give ourselves enough time to get down, back up and drive home in a 2 day period. Instead, John and I hiked together down to the mile and a half mark (which is still 1140 feet of elevation change). From there John continued down to the campground and then came back up and we hiked out together. It was a tough hike, with lots of switchbacks. I could not believe the number of people on the trail - and people who were not dressed for it or prepared, water wise. It was rather disturbing.

We spent the rest of the trip being tourist (but not 'torons') and enjoying the overlooks. We even got to see two condors! It was rather annoying to see the number of people that just cold not read the signs telling them to stay on the path and not go near the edge - I guess many park visitors can't or just don't, read. Highly annoying. But over all the trip was really great. We had quite a bit of rain, but it was still nice and not as hot as it could have been. Gas was also really expensive, as one might have guessed, although I guess it is just as much there as it is in California. (more trip pictures here)

Back to the real world now.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Helminthic therapy?? - The Worms Crawl In....

My allergies have been so bad recently that I think I might actually consider something like this...

From the New York Times:

While carrying out field work in Papua New Guinea in the late 1980s, he [David Pritchard] noticed that Papuans infected with the Necator americanus hookworm, a parasite that lives in the human gut, did not suffer much from an assortment of autoimmune-related illnesses, including hay fever and asthma. Over the years, Dr. Pritchard has developed a theory to explain the phenomenon.

“The allergic response evolved to help expel parasites, and we think the worms have found a way of switching off the immune system in order to survive,” he said. “That’s why infected people have fewer allergic symptoms.”...

...Nearly 20 years later, his musing began to come to fruition. After Dr. Pritchard’s self-infection experiment, the National Health Services ethics committee let him conduct a study in 2006 with 30 participants, 15 of whom received 10 hookworms each. Tests showed that after six weeks, the T-cells of the 15 worm recipients began to produce lower levels of chemicals associated with inflammatory response, indicating that their immune systems were more suppressed than those of the 15 placebo recipients. Despite playing host to small numbers of parasites, worm recipients reported little discomfort.

Trial participants raved about their allergy symptoms disappearing. Word about the study soon appeared online among chronic allergy sufferers, and a Yahoo group on “helminthic therapy” sprung up.

“Many of the people who were given a placebo have requested worms, and many of the people with worms have elected to keep them,” Dr. Pritchard said.

Now he is recruiting patients for a larger-scale trial of the therapy, and he said he hoped to publish his results within the next year.

Some allergy sufferers cannot wait. The moderator of the Yahoo group, Jasper Lawrence, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur, has started a clinic in Mexico, to offer the unproven therapy (a basic worm “inoculation” costs $3,900). ...

...“I [Pritchard ] gave myself 50 worms, and I felt it,” he recounted. “I had stomach pains and diarrhea. But with 10 worms, we’ve ascertained a dose that does not cause symptoms. The patients are happy. They’ve kept their worms, and I get an e-mail a day from people all over the world who want to be infected.

Thanks to Heather for pointing this one out