Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What Am I Not Talking About?

Ahhh, finals. The urge to waste valuable study time on random websites is almost irresistible... so I'm not resisting it. Instead, I give you a list of mondegreens from England Dan and John Ford Coley's song "I'd Really Love to See You Tonight".

Original lyrics:
I'm not talkin' 'bout movin' in
and I don't want to change your life.

Misheard as:
I'm not talkin' 'bout:
  • forgivin'
  • the linen / the linens / my linens (How romantic!)
  • aluminum (chemical element #1)
  • a live in
  • bulimia
  • Lavinia
  • Malydian (huh?)
  • Bolivia
  • committing (At least that makes some kind of sense)
  • millennia / millennium /millenniums
  • museum
  • religion
  • the limit
  • 'ma lady' (Is that medieval or ghetto?)
  • John Lennon
  • Meridian
  • molybdenum (chemical element #2)
  • Mullet Inn (Come for the haircuts, stay for the fish?)
  • a wedding / no wedding
  • believin'
  • iridium (chemical element #3. We're into some really obscure ones now!)
  • my Lydia
  • my layin' ya (A little too bold for the mood of this song, wouldn't you say?)
  • my winnings
  • my livin' / the livin'
  • the women / my women (Again, not really a soft sell, is it?)
  • relating
  • relentin'
  • that idiot (The speaker or somebody else?)
  • that idiom
  • the lily liver (That doesn't even scan!)
  • the weather (Yes, Virginia, we can get more prosaic than "the linen".)
  • Aborigine
  • blamin'
  • oblivion
  • bellinin (Try googling it.)
  • merlinin (Is that a little Merlin?)
  • mood rhythm
  • the Lady in Green (Continuing the "mythology of the British Isles" theme.)
  • the Leonids
  • the lenient
  • the weekend
  • more than friends (Sensible but doesn't scan.)
  • no Indian (Next line: "And I don't want to join your tribe". Really!)
  • Marillion
  • but booty is
  • relivin'
  • melanin (More science!)
  • the lady

Monday, March 26, 2007

Silly Article About Mushroom Foraging

A promising-looking article about mushroom hunters in northern California focuses mostly on the "dark side" of the activity -- fines and possible poisonings. While these, particularly the latter, are real threats, people go overboard over them. One spectacularly silly quote, from the director of the Sacramento division of the California poison control system: "If you're going to eat mushrooms, buy them from the store." (Such a kicker sentiment!) Um, how about, "Don't eat anything you haven't positively identified and have an experienced forager accompany you if you're a beginner".

Another paragraph in the article is flat-out dangerous. "Serious hunters eat only what they can identify. Keller said once he learned to identify the distinctive color and sheen of death caps, he noticed them everywhere."

First, it's not just "serious hunters" who eat only the mushrooms they can identify, it's anyone who would rather not be poisoned. Many poisonings occur among immigrants who eat mushrooms that look like edible species from the old country. If you eat wild mushrooms, identify them. To species. And save a sample in case you do get sick.

The second sentence of the above pernicious paragraph is almost as bad as the first. The death caps are members of the genus Amanita and are actually quite easy to identify. In addition to having a fairly distinctive shape and a white spore print, Amanitas have a volva (an underground cup surrounding the stem) and, very often, scales on the cap and a ring around the stem. Maybe some species do have a distinctive sheen, but I wouldn't rely on that for ID.

If you're interested in getting out into the field to study (and eat!) mushrooms, check out the North American Mycological Association.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

This Made My Evening

Human solidarity and the power of international connections, both at their best.
LA Koreans Angry at Anti-Jewish Cartoon - "Korean-American community leaders said they plan to launch a protest against the publisher of a popular South Korean comic book that contains anti-Semitic images."...

Yohngsohk Choe, co-chairman of the Korean American Patriotic Action Movement in the USA, said, "I don't have words to describe the outrage I feel."

The group met Friday with Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a Jewish advocacy group. Cooper said he would travel to Seoul on March 15 to raise concerns about the book.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Oekologie Carnival

Hello and welcome to the (slightly delayed) February 15, 2007 edition of oekologie, the carnival of ecology and environmental science. Let's start off by clarifying what ecology actually is. Jeremy Bruno of The Voltage Gate starts off a series of basic ecological concepts by asking "What Is Ecology? ". My favorite definition is one of the oldest -- the study of how organisms interact with each other and with their environment. It is distinct from environmental science, which focuses on humans and, as Jeremy makes clear, it is a very broad field of study.

From here, let's move to posts on the science of ecology. James Millington at Direction not Destination presents a description of Characterizing wildfire regimes in the United States. Johan A. Stenberg of Insect-Plant Ecology presents a post on the open journal PLoS one and a call for less explanatory factors in experimental ecology. If you read ecology papers, you'll probably get behind that second one!

Yours truly has a post on feedbacks between climate and volcanic activity. You might say this is more Earth science than ecology, but I think anything on global self-regulation is ecologically relevant.

Greg Laden presents two evolutionary biology posts, The Evolution of Human Diet and Models of Sexual Selection. I learned quite a bit from these.

Finally, Marcia Bonta presents Grasslands of Central Pennsylvania. This excellent description of Pennsylvania grasslands and the forces that maintain them leads to our next subject area, natural history.

We start off with two posts from GrrlScientist at Living the Scientific Life. Gyroscopes Tell Moths How to Fly Straight explains, well, how gyroscopes at the base of moth antennae tell them how to fly straight and C'mon Baby, Light my Fire gives us a fascinating look at courtship among fluorescent spiders. Did you know fluorescent spiders existed? Cool! Reigh Belisama at Save The Ribble! has a nice post about a riverside nature walk, Locals Enjoy The Ribble's Winter Wildlife. Finally, Dave at Via Negativa gives us two posts, Bluestem and Forester-think: a brief primer. Both are thought provoking discussions on the relationships between humans and nature, which segues nicely to our third subject area, the environment.

Here, we start off with the ever-controversial subject of exotic species. Mike Bergin at 10,000 Birds, presents What is Wild?, which distinguishes between individual "fugitives" and established populations. On the other hand, Nuthatch at bootstrap analysis gives us shooting mute swans versus mute swans shooting blanks. What has more ethical standing, individuals or ecosystems?

Let's continue the water theme for a while. Don Bosch, The Evangelical Ecologist, presents The Desert Blooms, a piece about the recovery of marshes in Iraq and the establishment of Iraq's Ministry of Environment. Garry Peterson at Resilience Science discusses the role of an obscure fish in coral reef recovery from an algal-dominated state in Hidden Ecological Functions and Ecological Hysteresis. Jennifer Pinkley at The Infinite Sphere gives us Karst geology and water pollution and Sewage treatment plant on karst floodplain??? .

What can we do to protect the environment? Wenchypoo at Wisdom From Wenchypoo's Mental Wastebasket presents an appropriately contrarian post titled Green is Making Me See Red. Meanwhile, Vihar Sheth at green | rising discusses the environmental benefits of vegetarianism in You Are What You Eat.

On the political level, Justin Lowery at presents America: Pro-Immigration? Then Pro-Oil Dependence!. Vihar Sheth at green | rising presents Wasted Gas, on the use of landfill methane. John Feeney at Growth is Madness! points out that the problem isn't population or consumption, it's both, in An unholy matrimony. And Marcelino Fuentes at Biopolitical brings up the issue of scientific uncertainty at Crichton, Laurance, Lomborg, and their agendas.

We finish up on a light note. Avant News presents Ostrich Charged With Multiple Ostricides posted at Avant News, saying,

That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of oekologie using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Climate Affects Volcanoes, Volcanoes Affect Climate...

We know that volcanic eruptions can change the climate. The ash they throw up into the atmosphere blocks sunlight, cooling Earth. (The 1815 eruption of Mount Tambora in Indonesia caused the "Year Without a Summer" in Europe and North America -- and led to the writing of Frankenstein.) But can climate affect volcanic activity? Several discoveries reported in 2006 say yes.

The first discovery concerns isostatic rebound after glaciation. The rock continents are made of is less dense than the molten rock of the mantle, so continents float on the mantle like a rubber duck floats in your bathtub. Push down on the rubber duckie, or put an ice sheet on top of the continent, and they sink a little bit. When the ice sheet melts, the continent slowly rebounds to its former height. Patrick Wu of the University of Calgary have found links between isostatic rebound and seismic activity. Wu's research indicates that melting ice makes earthquakes, and maybe even volcanic eruptions, more likely as the crust rises to its new equilibrium height.

The work of Allen Glazner, of the University of North Carolina, is even more dramatic, finding a possible link between the dry climate of interglacial periods and supervolcanoes. Essentially, rainfall and groundwater can cool a volcano's magma chamber, making it less likely to build up the amounts of magma needed for a supereruption.

Let's look at this a bit more closely. Interglacial periods are warm and dry, which, according to this new work, makes volcano eruptions more likely. Volcanoes produce both suspended particles, which cool the Earth, and carbon dioxide, which warms it. Depending on which effect is more important in the long run, we may have a climate-stabilizing or destabilizing feedback loop. Either way, the connections are intricate and interesting. I look forward to learning more about this topic.