Lies the Medical Establishment Tells About Trans Kids

I just got done reading a jaw-dropping, rage-inducing article on the lies some people in medicine tell about trans kids. This is one to keep around in case you run in to some jackass claiming that the majority of trans kids change their minds. Newsflash: they don’t.

The studies that say overwhelming numbers of trans kids change their minds about being trans? Horribly flawed. I mean, super mega flawed. Such as: [Read more…]

A Hint for the Challenge!

I posed you a bit of a challenge yesterday: identify a birb blob. Alas, the challenge was too challenging! So I shall have to give you a further hint or few.

Now, keep in mind that our perching bird is quite common to the PNW wetlands. It’s sometimes seen in trees, but quite often is on the ground. And when you zoom in on its back, it looks like this:

Image shows a bird sitting in a bare tree. We can't determine color, as it's a silhouette. It is large, kind of blobby, with some fringy feathers popping out at odd angles. Its head is barely visible, but has a high dome and a long bill.


All right, I’m pretty sure at least a few of you will be able to identify it now. Good luck!

First Mountains of 2016, Plus a Challenge!

Welcome to 2016! Some of you are dealing with extreme weather and the fruits thereof. I hope that’s the worst you have to deal with, and that the rest of it goes rather more smoothly after this.

Seattle’s weather has decided to be magnificent. If you overlook the cold, it’s quite nice, really: abundant sunshine and super-crisp views of the mountains. Funny Diva turfed me from the house on New Year’s Day after we’d had a pizza and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries party. We headed down to Magnuson Park for some views near sunset, and folks, the mountains were out. In force. [Read more…]

Your Mount St. Helens Honeysuckle. Plus: Bodacious Botany

See, my darlings, you always come through! Kilian Hekhuis and Lithified Detritus were able to identify our orange clarinets as Orange Honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa). Can you believe that for once we have a beautiful flower that is a native? Awesomesauce!

I found some down by the shores of Silver Lake this summer. B and I had just arrived as the sun was lowering in the sky, and it shone upon this lovely flowering plant, which was just short of bursting into full bloom.

Image shows an Orange Honeysuckle cluster. The orange blooms are still closed, but on the verge of opening. Sad to say, they look a bit like a bunch of dildoes. Behind them is an oblong leaf or bract that's pointed at the ends. The sun is shining through it, making it semi-transparent and highlighting the veins.

Orange Honeysuckle at Silver Lake.

This is one of my favorite photos of a flower I have ever taken. The sun was absolutely perfect.

The honeysuckle was climbing a bank with some rose bushes, and everything was budding, and it probably would have been spectacular if B and I had just come a few days later. Oh, well. It’s still quite pretty, as you can see here: [Read more…]

Mystery Flora: Orange Clarinets

I’ll have a special treat for you once you identify this one.

Anyway, I was at a bit of a loss as to what to do for this week’s mystery, so I put out a poll on Facebook and G+. It came back Mystery Flora. This is why you should follow me on social media, my loves. You get to vote on things!

This one is from mid-May, when B and I went up to Lord Hill. That’s a really great time to be up on Lord Hill, incidentally – many flowers bursting out all over the place, and everything’s lush and green and splendid. You’ll get to see a few of these singing out around the summit.

Image shows three orange flowers. They're long, narrow, and flare out at the ends like a clarinet.

Mystery Flora I

These aren’t abundant, or at least they weren’t when we were there. I only saw a couple of clusters, and I’m not even sure if some of them are the same flower. This is why I am not in botany today. Okay, I could probably learn how to tell similar flowers apart, but I’m too busy nosing around the rocks. Alas, the rocks at the summit of Lord Hill are mostly covered in vegetation, so I really had no choice but to photograph botany for you. [Read more…]

Cryptopod: Streamlined

Let’s take a break from books and other holiday booty, and have a cryptopod then, shall we? I’ve got a streamlined little lovely from back at the old place for ye.

Image shows the profile of a small, narrow moth with dark wings and an off-white cowl. It's very pointy in front. Three little feet are visible beneath it.

Cryptopod I

It visited us in early spring, although it looked a bit like it was dressed for winter. Doesn’t it look like it’s wearing a parka? [Read more…]

Adventures in Christianist Earth Science Education XXI: Wherein Seismology is Annoyed, and Extinction is In

After all ES4’s introductory nonsense about operational vs. historical geology, it’s nearly a relief to get into a discussion of the earth’s structure. However, seeing all seismic waves defined as sound waves rather curbs any enthusiasm: they’re their own things, people, even if p waves share sound wave characteristics.

It’s also not pleasant when we discover they think seismic waves slow down at the Moho. They, in actual fact, speed up, from about 6 kilometers per second to about 8 kilometers per second. These aren’t negative numbers, BJU people. Larger is faster, just like on your speedometer. Sheesh. I’m beginning to think you know nothing of seismic waves. (Also, you’ve made the average crustal thickness too thick by about 20 kilometers, FYI.)

They do a ho-hum job explaining matters from the asthenosphere to the core, skimming details or omitting them altogether in a way that makes me suspect they have little idea what they’re talking about. Then, when we reach the core, it just gets weird. Despite the fairly firm grasp we’ve got on the properties of it, they act as if geologists just throw up their hands and exclaim, “Can’t nobody know what that’s like!” Sure, it’s hard to imagine the immense temperatures and pressures down there, but that’s what science is for. Do a search on Google Scholar, and you’ll find plenty of papers talking about it. There are lots of lines of evidence that have led to our current knowledge of what the core is like, and although there are many blanks to fill in, the outline is pretty solid. So all this “Many geologists don’t even try to guess what the core material is like” and “We cannot imagine” and “geologists believe” the outer core is liquid and the inner is solid – all that’s just the creationist way of throwing out massive chaff in hopes of confusing their students. What the students will find, if they look beyond their appalling education, is that we do try and can imagine and are, actually, pretty damned sure we know a thing or two about the earth’s core.

Wondering why creationists are so desperate to deny what we know? Me, too! The clue is in the following paragraph: [Read more…]

Smilin’ Stone and a Super-Sweet Rip-Up Clast

As I am neck-deep in book reviews and excerpts, we’ll have to have a bit of a rerun from ye olde SciAm blogge. You’ll enjoy it, though. I mean, who can resist such a happy rock? Yeah! Let’s talk geology!

Image shows a dark gray, rounded rock within a lighter gray ledge. Lichen on the rock looks like two eyes, and there's a line along the bottom that looks like a crooked smile.

A happy rock within an outcrop of the Tyee Formation.

If you look closely at the photo, you’ll see layers. The layer our happy rock is in is a slightly coarse sandstone. The layers above and below are mudstone, much weaker, flakier, and very fine-grained. This is a classic section of a turbidite. These are basically the result of undersea landslides, called turbidity currents, which can be caused by a variety of things. This may be recording an ancient sequence of earthquakes, a series of storms, or even just gravity working. Something triggers a slurry of sand, mud, and water which flows down a steep slope, coming to rest in a particular sequence. First, the coarse particles settle out, creating a layer of sand. Then the silt-sized particles settle, forming a layer of mudstone.

This turbedite sequence is part of the Tyee Formation up on Marys Peak in Oregon. You can see it from several places along the road. This outcrop is a particularly fun one to explore, as it’s still nearly horizontal, and quite tall.

Image shows a road cut with alternating layers of light-gray sandstone and dark-gray mudstone.

The awesome outcrop.

You can get an excellent view of the discrete layers. It’s really rather neat, being able to get your hands on ancient underwater chaos.

A closer view of the same outcrop, showing the layers with better resolution.

Look at all the lovely layers!

You can tell the cliff’s quite crumbly. This isn’t strong stuff – definitely not the type of stone you’d want to build a house out of. There’s a considerable amount of loose rock that’s eroded off, and that’s where you can have some super-awesome fun. Check this out: wee little plant fossil fragments all up in the sandstone!

Image shows a chunk of pale gray sandstone, with dark gray, mostly-rectangular fragments of plants.

Yay plant fragment fossils! I get inordinately excited about this stuff.

Alas for fossil enthusiasts, turbidity currents aren’t the calm, quiet depositional environments you need for preserving whole leaves and things. This stuff always looks like it’s been through a blender. But I still enjoy finding it.

What’s even more awesome, though, is when you find a rip-up clast. Like this beauty I discovered at the base of the cliff.

Image shows a chunk of sandstone with an oval-shaped bit of mudstone embedded in it.

My lovely little rip-up clast.

How gorgeous is that? What’s happened here is all kind of exciting and dramatic. Remember when I said the silty particles settle out last, and create a nice mud? That becomes the top layer. Then, along comes another turbidity current. It’ll rip up bits of mud as it roars across, and incorporate them into the sandy material that’s settling out. Voila – rip-up clasts!

This is the first I’ve found in a hand-sample sized piece of sandstone, so I’m totally stoked. Next time you pass by a cliff that’s got alternating sandy and muddy layers that turns out to be a turbidite sequence, and you get a chance to (safely!) stop, see what you can find in the rubble at the base. And just consider, you’re holding a pretty dramatic geologic event in your hand!

To give you an idea what a turbidity current’s like, here’s a video from Western Washington University demonstrating them in a lab setting:

And if you want to see the real thing, here’s an ROV getting hit by a turbidity current in a submarine canyon. It’s the last half that’s the really exciting part, in case you want to skip forward a bit:

Just think: millions of years from now, that turbidity current may be part of a formation being studied by future geologists. Neat!


Originally published at Scientific American/Rosetta Stones.