I wonder if any Major League Baseball scouts have seen this robotic wonder developed by researchers at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland?

And does this thing have an agent?

Minnehaha Falls pours it on

by Anonymous on May. 21st, 2014

Last Monday (May 19, 2014), after a full day of very heavy rain (2.25 inches at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport), I went out to see how Minnehaha Falls, one of Minnesota's well-known landmarks and geological features, was handling all that water. Minnehaha creek (a tributary to the Mississippi) was very swollen and overflowing its banks, and the waterfall did not disappoint as you can see in this video.

Happy birthday Mary Anning!

by Anonymous on May. 21st, 2014

Mary Anning (1799-1847): Portrait of the acclaimed amateur paleontologist with her companion dog, Tray, c. 1833.
Mary Anning (1799-1847): Portrait of the acclaimed amateur paleontologist with her companion dog, Tray, c. 1833.Courtesy Public domain via Wikipedia
Today marks the 215 anniversary of self-taught British paleontologist Mary Anning, born this day in 1799. As a young girl, Mary helped supplement her family's meager income selling shells and fossils collected along the Lyme Regis coastline in southwestern England. Her discoveries of ichthyosaur, plesiosaur, and other Jurassic fossils added greatly to the fledgling science of paleontology bringing her praise from, and in contact with many of the established scientists of her time, including Georges Cuvier and William Buckland.

You can learn more about this remarkable woman here and here.

Don't do it: A spike in salmonella cases is linked to people kissing their pet chickens.
Don't do it: A spike in salmonella cases is linked to people kissing their pet chickens.Courtesy Crossville News
Health departments this spring have been reported outbreaks of dozens of salmonella cases. But they're not tied to tainted food. The cases are occurring in people who kiss or cuddle with their backyard chickens. So keep your lips off the chickens, okay?

May
19
2014

Early dinosaur hyperbole: New York newspaper from December, 1898
Early dinosaur hyperbole: New York newspaper from December, 1898Courtesy Public domain
The Internet has been all a-buzz lately about the largest dinosaur - EVER - being discovered in Argentina. The beast is massive - equal to 14 elephants and as long as two tractor trailers! The story's accompanying photo (several, in fact) often shows an adult man laid out next to a gigantic titanosaur femur. Pretty impressive, at least at first. But the problem I had was finding out some idea of how long the bone was or how tall the man was. It's all relative, of course. It reminds of one of my favorite W. C. Fields scenes is in the movie YOU CAN'T CHEAT AN HONEST MAN where he plays a carnival barker at a sideshow touting the World's Largest Midget and the World's Smallest Giant, and featuring two guys of average height.

Giant dinosaur bone = giant guy: Evidently, Bill Reed was a big, big man
Giant dinosaur bone = giant guy: Evidently, Bill Reed was a big, big manCourtesy Public domain
This kind of hyperbole has been around ever since dinosaurs were first discovered. If the bone pictured in the 1898 New York Advertiser article is as large as the caption claims, then the man standing next to it, William Harlow Reed, is eight feet tall as well(!) - an equally if not more impressive story that the newspaper obviously overlooked.

It should be noted that the sensational discovery was the catalyst for steel magnate Andrew Carnegie to spend lots of money to get himself his own dinosaur (Diplodocus carnegiei) in 1899. It wasn't quite as large as the one that inspired his quest but casts of Carnegie's dinosaur were given to various foreign heads of states, helping spread dinosaur fever to the world.

SOURCES and LINKS
BBC story
Geo Scienze blog (in Spanish)
CNN story
Everything Dinosaur blog
Sauropod Vertebrate Picture of the Week

Like most of you out there, I've often wondered: "What exactly would happen if I fell into a volcano?' You have to admit you've probably spent way too much time pondering this nagging question. Well, wonder no more, my friends. This instructive video by Photovolcanica.com finally puts to rest the question we've all been asking.

Not to worry, that's not a human body being thrown into the lava lake in Erta Ale volcano in northeastern Ethiopia. It's actually a just bag of garbage - mostly food scraps - collected from a local campsite. The 66 pound bag of waste was dropped from a height of about 250 feet, easily breaking through the crust that made up the lava lake's surface. The violent reaction from the organic waste is startling.

SOME OTHER COOL VOLCANIC ACTION
Impressive nighttime eruption
Mt. Etna erupts - January 2013
Eruptions A-Go-Go - lots of eruption footage
Hot Lava vs Wooden Shelter

May
12
2014

Pterodactylus ancestor discovered
Pterodactylus ancestor discoveredCourtesy Mark Ryan
Over in China, out of one of the richest hunting grounds for new and unusual dinosaur-era fossils, the earliest known member in the family of flying reptiles known as pterosaurs has been described in a paper published in Current Biology.

Named Kryptodrakon progenitor, the ancestral pterodactyloid was discovered in mudstones in the highly fossiliferous Shishugou Formation of northwest China by a team of international paleontologists.

The flying reptile's name essentially means "first-born hidden serpent", the genus name Kryptodrakon referring to the popular martial arts film, "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" which was filmed near the location where the fossil was discovered in the Chinese autonomous region known as Xinjiang.

Sporting a wingspan of some 4.5 feet, Kryptodrakon lived in a floodplain environment during the Middle-Upper Jurassic period, about 163 million years ago. Descendents of the newly-discovered pterodactyloid would evolve into much larger flying reptiles such as the giant, Cessna-sized Quetzacoatlus found in Late Cretaceous sediments in Texas. Pterosaurs were not dinosaurs but share a common ancestor with them.

The research increases our knowledge of pterosaur development and was led by Brian Andres from the University of South Florida (USF), James Clark of George Washington Columbia College of Arts and Sciences, and Xu Xing of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

SOURCES and LINKS
Science Daily story
Pterosaur page
Paper in Current Biology

Got a light?

by Anonymous on May. 09th, 2014

Check out this mesmerizing, ultra-slow video of a match firing up and recorded at 4000 frame per second by the guys over at UltraSlo.com. I've seen something like this before but never one drawn out this long (over 3 minutes!).

With the sun making some very brief appearances over the past couple weeks this spring, it's probably a good time to remind everyone (especially here in the northern climes) about the importance of wearing sunscreen. This animated TedTalk video gives you all the reasons why it's a good idea to guard yourself against the harmful rays Old Sol sends our way.

(*DISCLAIMER: Science Buzz can make no guarantee the sun will ever appear again in Minnesota)

May
06
2014

Charles Darwin's Thinking Path: The naturalist spent much time here formulating his revolutionary ideas.
Charles Darwin's Thinking Path: The naturalist spent much time here formulating his revolutionary ideas.Courtesy Public domain via Wikipedia
Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche claimed that all "truly great thoughts" were conceived while taking them. Paleontologist Robert Bakker admitted that scientists needed them. Which is why Charles Darwin took them in the privacy of his own backyard. And scientists weren't the only ones who took them. Vincent van Gogh loved to take them when he wasn't painting wildly frenetic scenes on canvas, and composer Ludwig von Beethoven took them all the time - sometimes in his underwear!

What, you may ask, were they taking? Drugs? Magic elixirs? Naps?

Nope. None of these. They were all taking walks.

Through the centuries some of the world's greatest ideas came about during the physical act of taking a walk. Charles Darwin even had a special path called Sandwalk constructed adjacent to his Down House property and lined it with stones. It's where he mulled over his hypotheses about natural selection and evolution as he formulated his landmark book, On the Origin of Species. Many of Beethoven's symphonies (e.g The Pastoral Symphony) were inspired by a hike through the woods. Author Henry David Thoreau wrote an entire essay on the subject, particularly walking in the wild.

And now a new study done at Stanford University confirms the anecdotal notion that walking increases your chances of having... well, a notion - an idea or epiphany or some sort of creative breakthrough. According to the Stanford researchers, It didn't matter whether the participants were walking outdoors or inside on a treadmill - it seems the act of waking itself elevated levels of creativity. The effect lasted several minutes after participants stopped walking.

Nearly 180 participants were tested using different combinations of sitting and walking. Subjects were moved around in wheelchairs during the outside sitting segments.

These sessions were followed by four experiments used to test levels creativity, each lasting 5 to 16 minutes depending on the task. Across all tests, the majority of subjects did surprisingly better after walking than sitting. On average, participants who had walked showed a 60 percent improvement over those sitting.

Whether it's specifically the act of walking that raises creativity or if any kind of exercise would produce the same results is the subject for future studies, and could even diminish one of my favorite quotes from humorist Mark Twain: "Golf is a good walk spoiled."

The current study was co-authored by Marily Oppezzo, a doctoral graduate in educational psychology, and professor Daniel Schwartz, of Stanford Graduate School of Education, and appears in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory and Cognition.

SOURCES and LINKS
Stanford news story
APA press release