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Archive for January, 2013

You’ve got to hand it to the geeks and nerdlings over at ScienceDaily.com!

Yesterday’s headline really caught my eye.

Survival of the Prettiest: Sexual Selection Can Be Inferred from the Fossil Record

The article begins, “Detecting sexual selection in the fossil record is not impossible, according to scientists writing in Trends in Ecology and Evolutionthis month, co-authored by Dr Darren Naish of the University of Southampton.”

The term “sexual selection” refers to the evolutionary pressures that relate to a species’ ability to repel rivals, meet mates and pass on genes. We can observe these processes happening in living animals but how do paleontologists know that sexual selection operated in fossil ones?

pretty-dinosaurs(Sexual dimorphism in the pterosaur Darwinopterus [Image by Mark Witton])

Historically, palaeontologists have thought it challenging, even impossible, to recognise sexual selection in extinct animals. Many fossil animals have elaborate crests, horns, frills and other structures that look like they were used in sexual display but it can be difficult to distinguish these structures from those that might play a role in feeding behaviour, escaping predators, controlling body temperature and so on.

However in their review, the scientists argue that clues in the fossil record can indeed be used to infer sexual selection.

“We see much evidence from the fossil record suggesting that sexual selection played a major role in the evolution of many extinct groups,” says Dr Naish, of the University’s Vertebrate Palaeontology Research Group.

“Using observations of modern animal behaviour we can draw analogies with extinct animals and infer how certain features improve success during courtship and breeding.”

dino-couple(Above image of sexual selection in dinosaurs may not be 100% accurate)

Modern examples of sexual selection, where species have evolved certain behaviours or ornamentation that repel rivals and attract members of the opposite sex, include the male peacock’s display of feathers, and the male moose’s antlers for use in clashes during mating season.

Whilst these features might have had multiple uses, the authors conclude that sexual selection should not be ruled out.

“Some scientists argue that many of the elaborate features on dinosaurs were not sexually selected at all,” adds Dr Naish, who is based at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton.

“But as observations show that sexual selection is the most common process shaping evolutionary traits in modern animals, there is every reason to assume that things were exactly the same in the distant geological past.”

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Journal Reference:

  • Robert J. Knell, Darren Naish, Joseph L. Tomkins, David W.E. Hone. Sexual selection in prehistoric animals: detection and implicationsTrends in Ecology & Evolution, 2013; 28 (1): 38 DOI: 10.1016/j.tree.2012.07.015

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If any of you out there are involved with or interested in the wild, wacky world of Cosplay

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then you may be familiar with a young lady by the name of Linda Le.

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You may probably know this tiny terror by her nickname Vampy.

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She is short, sweet, a bundle of energy, GORGEOUS…

Punisher

…and has a wonderfully charming playfulness about her.

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Whether she is dressed as a superhero, super villain, or a character from Japanese manga or anime…

Psylocke-1

She always gives it her all.

This video clip from The Nerdist Channel shows Linda Le (among others) interviewing Cosplayers at Just Cos – New York Comic Con 2012! [1]

le-and-lee(Le and Lee – Linda with Marvel Comics’ Stan Lee)

No matter what she does, she always impresses me with her energy and enthusiasm.

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Well done, Linda. Please keep going!

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[1] The clip is hysterical because they are interviewing people who have the cheapest costumes knocked off with the least amount of effort. I particularly enjoy the Duct Tape Tie guy (at 3:35) who keeps going on about how it was his Mom’s fault that he had a duct tape tie.

Look for Linda/Vampy at:

Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/user/VampyBitMeChannel

Weblog: http://www.vampybit.me/

Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/vampybitme

ACP: http://www.acparadise.com/loves/vampybitme

You can also find her on Facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/VAMPY-BIT-ME/370120112710?fref=ts

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Ever have one of those mornings?

morphine

Happy Hump Day!

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Thanks to Steven Burke for bringing this to my attention!

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Mathlete

Wake n' BaconVersion 1 by Matty Sallin, Daniel Bartolini, Hsiao-huh Hsu
Version 2 by Matty Sallin with engineering by Josh Myer

WHAT: An alarm clock that wakes you up with the smell of cooking bacon instead of a buzzer.  The aroma wakes you up, then you can open the oven component and eat the bacon itself.

View original post 298 more words

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Are spring flowers and blossoms in on The Big Lie… The Global Warming Hoax?

Could very well be, according to a ScienceDaily.com article entitled…

In the Eastern U.S., Spring Flowers Keep Pace With Warming Climate, Blooming Up to a Month Earlier

The article begins, “Using the meticulous phenological records of two iconic American naturalists, Henry David Thoreau and Aldo Leopold, scientists have demonstrated that native plants in the eastern United States are flowering as much as a month earlier in response to a warming climate.

The new study is important because it gives scientists a peek inside the black box of ecological change. The work may also help predict effects on important agricultural crops, which depend on flowering to produce fruit.

In 2012, the warmest spring on record for Wisconsin, plants bloomed on average nearly a month earlier than they did just 67 years earlier when Leopold made his last entry.

blossoms

The sun sets behind a bouquet of blooms on a crabapple tree at the University of Wisconsin Arboretum in spring, 2010. In a new study, scientists have demonstrated that native plants in the eastern United States are flowering as much as a month earlier in response to a warming climate. (Image: Jeff Miller)

Well, there you have it, kids. It seems like the local flora has jumped on the global warming bandwagon!

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Journal Reference:

  • Elizabeth R. Ellwood, Stanley A. Temple, Richard B. Primack, Nina L. Bradley, Charles C. Davis. Record-Breaking Early Flowering in the Eastern United States.PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (1): e53788 DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0053788

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Just When I Thought I Was Out…

love-bacon

They Pull Me Back In…

Corgi-bacon

With Bacon!!

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It’s quite remarkable really…

darth-breakfast(Darth Bacon!)

This seemingly endless supply of bacon-related artifacts.

damn-fine-sandwich

Thanks yet again to all the friends and readers who provide me with this outstanding bacon-related photographs!

early-years

From the cute…

email-bacon

To the somewhat nerdy.

1732

From the historical…

BACON-BARTER-OSCAR-MAYER-JOSH-SANKEY

To the hysterical!

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From the political…

everything-is-better-with-bacon

to the Existential!

exercise-tshirt

From casual fashion…

kid-costume

to the goofy…

lord-bacon

To the Newfie!

baconnaise

And of course….

Kevin-Bacon-made-from-bacon

a portrait of Kevin Bacon… made from bacon!

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Let us keep bacon in its proper place…

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In a frying pan. Waiting to kill you.

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Our galaxy is chock-full of rocky worlds, new research suggests!

Alright, just relax, ok?

First off, never get carried away by sensational headlines, especially when it comes to science and double-especially when it comes to any article suggestion, however subtle, that our galaxy is crammed shoulder-to-shoulder with space aliens and interstellar vacation spots.

milkyway-edge

A National Geographic News article says, that tens of billions of Earthlike worlds are strewn across the Milky Way, many of them circling stars very much like our own sun.

So what’s new? Well, what’s new is that recent studies have shown that in addition to Earthlike worlds circling sunlike stars, they have now been ‘seen’ circling larger stars. This increases the estimated number.

Or to put it in geek-speak…

“A fresh analysis of data from NASA’s Kepler mission, which launched in 2009, suggests this is not the case, according to new research presented at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, California.

“We found that the occurrence of small planets around large stars was underestimated,” said astronomer Francois Fressin, of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Earthlike-Planets(Estimated fraction of stars having close orbiting planets of various sizes [1])

To find planets, Kepler stares at a patch of sky in the constellation Cygnus, made up of about 150,000 stars. The space telescope detects potential alien worlds by watching for telltale dips in starlight created when planets pass in front of, or “transit,” their parent stars.

Using their own independent software for analyzing Kepler’s potential planet detections, Fressin and his colleagues estimate that about 17 percent, or one in six, of all the sunlike stars in the Milky Way host a rocky planet that orbits closer than the distance at which Mercury orbits our own sun.

Since the Milky Way is home to about a hundred billion stars, that means there are at least 17 billion rocky worlds out there. (See Milky Way pictures.)

When the team expanded their search to Earth-size orbits or larger, they found that half of all sunlike stars may host rocky planets.

“Every time you look up on a starry night, [nearly] each star you’re looking at has a planetary system,” Fressin said.

OMG!!! Our galaxy is crammed shoulder-to-shoulder with space aliens and interstellar vacation spots!!!

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OK, let’s have some plain talking here….

How common are Earth-sized planets? Quite common, according to extrapolations from new data taken by NASA’s orbiting Kepler spacecraft. Current computer models are indicating that at least one in ten stars are orbited by an Earth-sized planet, making our Milky Way Galaxy the home to over ten billion Earths. Unfortunately, this estimate applies only to planets effectively inside the orbit of Mercury, making these hot-Earths poor vacation opportunities for humans. This histogram depicts the estimated fraction of stars that have close orbiting planets of various sizes. The number of Sun-like stars with Earth-like planets in Earth-like orbits is surely much less, but even so, Kepler has also just announced the discovery of four more of those.

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