Field of Science
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Happy Earth Day!20 hours ago in The Phytophactor
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And with that I'll take both good and bad questions...2 weeks ago in Pleiotropy
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Slideshow of NASA's Stardust-NExT Mission Comet Tempel 1 Flyby6 years ago in The Large Picture Blog
in The Biology Files
while those of Phlox News slid lower and got older.
"Every night Stewart is teaching Americans how to not watch Fox News. The Daily Show host has become the media critic with the biggest platform and loudest voice in our country, and most often that voice is targeting Fox News for their brand of “journalism.” Jon Stewart has thrown a wrench in the Fox News cycle of life by educating his millions of younger viewers about Fox News. Stewart spends segments debunking the propaganda, exposing facts, and uncovering the edited video that is the bread and butter of America’s top cable news network." "As we head into 2012, the news that Stewart’s entertainment program based in large part on debunking the misinformation in the mainstream media is doing so well should provide hope that maybe someday sanity will return to our national discourse." Atta boy, Jon, keep up the good work. But unfortunately it looks like you'll have plenty of material to work with for some time to come.
This is the Phytophactor's office and the person you are interrupting at work is the Phytophactor.
There aren't any classes to teach and the university is shut down.
Ah, you are operating under the inaccurate presumption that we are just teachers, but we do so much more. These are manuscripts being written; science being communicated. Do you wish to assist me in moving this library, a 40 year accumulation, or the specimens to which reference is being made, to my home? No, of course not, so this is where my work gets done. Did I in fact notify anyone that I would be working over the shut down?
No. You must be new here. You see faculty do not need any one's permission to be in their office or laboratory. Did you notice that the university entrusts us with keys.
I'll just make note of your name and continue on my rounds.
Please do, and notify my department chair and dean. They're both new and need to know who's dedicated among their faculty.
The basic problem here is that by common standards no one in their right mind goes to work when they don't have to, and technically, the Phactor could be at home letting day-time TV dissolve his brain. Now if it were gardening season, well, then there might be some temptation to stay home and putter about the estate. But here's the thing, and this goes to the oft asked question "when are you going to retire?" as well, the Phactor really likes what he does. It's quite gratifying to see your name in print, to get scholarly recognition, and to have figured something out, something new, something unique, on your own. This is quite hard for other people to understand. It's easier to assume that we're up to no good scuttling around a nearly, eerily empty campus. And do understand that even blogging is but a brief respite from the tedium of working on a book's appendix, a vestigial organ, that should be able to be excised without any harm to the main body of work.
Not so fast now, grasshopper. When analyzing data you need to think about how the data being reported might be biased. Some other countries have some pretty big bubbles of publication too. To figure out how well a country is doing in science let’s compare scientific output on a per capita basis, that is, on the basis of population. This will give a better idea of the importance of science in that particular country. So who’s number one when you do that? Australia! Down under published 169 papers for every 100,000 of population. United Kingdom is 2nd with 144.5 publications per 100,000 people and Canada 3d with 144 publications per 100,000 people. See the importance of getting that other half paper published? Germany comes in 4th with 101 publications per 100,000 people, and then the USA is fifth with 99 publications per 100,000 people. It’s probably all those illegal aliens pulling the average down, or maybe the anti-science attitude prevailing in politics. And look where the largest growth occurred in scientific publication – Iran. Clearly the Phactor did not have a big impact on the results, but a factor he was. Oh people better watch out in 2012 because the Phactor just got page proofs asking for a 2 day turn around (they got hopes). Image from Nature News.
"I certainly underestimated botany before your class (economic botany), and in fact I had mostly avoided it. Now I have an increased desire to continue learning about botany." "Everyone said that senior seminar was a drag, a waste of time, but I learned way more than in most classes, and thought about more issues, seriously, than any other class. Oh, and thanks for the help improving my writing." "Economic botany was the best class I ever took. I was always talking about it to friends, my roommate, my parents. I've never done that before."
How nice, but do they write to the chair or the dean?
Well, the Phactor doesn't have to go out on a limb (?) to answer this. A fig is a real fruit, but a very strange one. Rachel found the Phactor's 3-yr-old blog about whether an artichoke was a fruit or a vegetable, a blog read by over 5,500 people since the software began keeping track of traffic.
A fig is a multiple fruit, and an accessory fruit, one composed of a whole inflorescence of flowers that develop enmass into a single fruit. A fig is a synconia, a bulb-shaped receptacle, a modified stem bearing many flowers on its inner surface, so you never see fig flower unless you cut the whole synconia open. So how do it get pollinated? Tiny wasps live and reproduce inside the synconia. Male figs don't produce fruit but they provide a brood substrate for wasp larvae and pollen, which is carried upon female wasps seeking new synconia in which to lay eggs. The pollinated female flowers produce the edible fruits, each flower resulting in a single seed. Each species of fig has a specific and different species of wasp, an interesting evolutionary dance where each species needs the other for its reproduction. Fig flowers are very small, so the actual flower-fruit would be just one of the sort of stringy units within a fig, but the receptacle also develops into fleshy tissue. As pointed out in the artichoke blog, accessory fruits include fleshy tissues associated with the flower or flowers. But Rachael was pretty perceptive in thinking that a fig was a pretty strange fruit. Well, what about that! Try not to think about what happens to the wasps after pollination, but you know those little crunchy bits? They're seeds.
There was a time when the Phactors did not decorate the usual evergreen tree, and while it probably warped the F1, it was easy to hang ornaments.
Almost every year someone asks about whether it's ecologically sound to have a real tree and how to tell a "pine" tree from a "fur" (Yes, that's what they actually asked.)
Let's see the Phactor has also covered holly (or maybe uncovered would be more accurate) and mistletoe, and how these symbols of the season are pagan in origin.
Lastly you'll be glad to know that our non-hardy azalea is blooming right on schedule and now has its seasonal decorations too.
Now back to the pile of student papers on my desk.
10 dried ancho** chili peppers
5 Tbsp almonds
2 cloves garlic
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 Tbsp sesame seeds (OK mixing some metaphors here*.)
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
2 cups chicken broth (save from cooking some chicken)
2 cups boiling water
2 onions chopped
1/2 cup raisins
2 Tbsp masa harina (maize flour)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground coriander
4 Tbsp cooking oil
2 oz Mexican chocolate (or use semisweet chocolate plus 4 tsp sugar, 1/8 tsp cinnamon, 2-3 drops of vanilla extract)
Soak peppers in boiling water until soft. Discard stems and seeds; save water. Put peppers, almonds onions, garlic, tomatoes, raisins, masa harina, sesame seeds, spices, into a blender with a few Tbsp of the pepper water. Blend at medium speed until a paste is formed. Add more water as necessary. Heat oil in a saucepan. Add chili paste and cook stirring 2-3 mins. Add chicken broth gradually, stirring. Add chocolate & stir until melted. Sauce should be the consistency of heavy cream. This can be frozen or refrigerated until later. Serve on tamales or chicken and cheese filled tortillas.
Poblano peppers are not scary hot, so this isn't as spicy hot as you might think. As as an even easier alternative, you can go to a Mexican grocery and buy a jar of Dona Maria or some other mole sauce, and then like everyone else, use the empty jar as a juice glass. Enjoy.
*Sesame, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, almonds, garlic, onions, and raisins were not part of moles prior to 1492 as all are of Old World origin, so traditional recipes would have used other ingredients, e.g., allspice instead of cloves.
**Poblano and ancho chili peppers are the same thing, but called the former when green and the latter when ripe, red, and dried. So why isn't it Mole Ancho? No idea.
Rachel's gives some advice, "Don't waste time fiddling with the planet's thermostat." Ah, Rachel, if only it were that easy, but even you realize that if a gym can't control the temperature, the Earth is harder, but part of the idea of a gym is to sweat. She seems confused about how heat works, but the problem is not the ceiling height because heat rises, so it's coolest near the floor of the gym, but the Earth works rather differently. It's warmest at the surface because of the atmosphere's insulation. Rachel thinks "nuclear energy is the future." But the reason many of us oppose its expansion is not because we're "worried about a nuclear energy facility going all Chernobyl on [us]", but because no one wants to talk about the camel in the tent which is what do you do with all terribly toxic nuclear waste for the next 25 million years? Rachel say "imposing green alternatives almost always results in dirtier ones", and as an example she says that if she wasn't given plastic bags at the grocery store she'd have her purchases delivered, thus wasting even more energy. Oh, and Rachel sending non-decomposing plastic bags to the dump as garbage bags is not a form of recycling, and little needs to be said about your little snippy remark about "faith-based" pollution except that a George Carlin you ain't.
Rachel thinks "excessive tree-hugging is suffocating the foliage". "Plants need carbon dioxide to live and produce oxygen. Humans need oxygen and need to eat plants." First blame environmentalists for saving forests. Second, sounds like Rachel avoided all that hard sciency stuff because her simplistic views lead her to a huge misunderstanding. OK Rachel, you see the rates of both respiration and photosynthesis increase as temperature increases, but respiration increases fastest and then photosynthesis actually begins to slow down, so plants respire, sort of like "eat" but more sciency, more of their own energy resources leaving less for consumers. At higher temperatures more tropical trees die and all that carbon dioxide stored in their wood gets released by decomposition increasing the amount in the atmosphere and you have a positive feedback system where temperature increased the CO2 and CO2 increases the warming, leading to run away global warming. Data exist that demonstrate this could happen (see link), so it's not just an "abstraction". Lastly, Rachel thinks there is an "ongoing epidemic of ensconcing kids in liberal arts programs to educate them far beyond their intelligence." Wow! It's a terrible thing to be educated beyond you intelligence, but it looks like a career as a conservative columnist and political strategist is possible. But then Rachel says science and technology along with critical thinking should be encouraged and innovation will arise without using any gummit money. Hmm, the Phactor always thought that the key aim of liberal arts programs was to teach kids to think critically, and maybe that's the problem because then they are able to see easily through these comments to their dumb, silly cores. And then one wonders how we are to interest kids in science and technology when the entirety of the conservative movement is waging war on science and higher education. Are we to encourage innovation to solve problems that you deny exist? Hard to know exactly what this woman wants except to criticize and belittle any and all efforts to deal with environmental problems. But as we all know, such changes begin small and locally, so get a shopping bag Rachel to carry your cabbage head home from the grocery.
Here's how you tell these three genera apart. One pines needles are in clusters or bundles of 2, 3, or 5. The other genera have needles borne singly upon the twigs. The common pine species sold as cut trees have two (Scotch) or 5 needles (white pine). Firs and Douglas-firs have different buds at the end of twigs. Firs have resinous buds, that is coated in resin, and rounded in shape. Douglas-firs are smooth, dry, and conical. Distinguishing among the various species of firs is too tricky for verbal descriptions.