Unexpected Science: Sixth Grade Edition

Lionfish live in the ocean
Little Lauren gets a notion:
Might they live in rivers, too?
Would they thrive in brackish water?
Lauren, ichthyologist’s daughter,
Knows just what to do

Slowly starts desalination
Learns some brand-new information
Of which we’re now aware
New understanding’s always great
So, never underestimate
The sixth-grade science fair! [Read more…]

“Noah” As A Stealth Climate Change Movie?

Could “Noah” be a metaphor
For global climate change?
At first, the claim is ludicrous–
At second, merely strange
The people didn’t listen,
And the global waters rose:

Replacing “God” with “Scientists”,
The story likewise goes.
Our sins will lead to flooding,
That plot, too, remains the same–
A global warming metaphor
That dare not speak its name!

It seems odd, given that more than one US congressman has cited the Noah story as proof that anthropogenic global climate change cannot possibly be happening, but the cinematographer for Noah reveals in a Daily Beast interview that the new Noah movie is actually a Global Warming Epic, a movie with a strong environmentalist, pro-science message:

That was the largest theme of the film: environmentalism. In the marketing of the film they shy away from it. I don’t know why it’s a taboo thing to say “environmentalism” cause you’re going to scare off half the population because they’ve been told “environmentalism” is a bad thing? The idea that we have to stay away from the issue because we’re going to polarize half the audience speaks to how fucking dysfunctional we are.

We also find out that Superstorm Sandy caused serious damage to the ark set, on Long Island–of course, a true global flood in the time scale of of the Noachian story would dwarf Sandy, so I guess they just don’t build arks like they used to. Or never did, or whatever.

I have not been paying attention to the reviews of Noah–indeed, this interview is the first I have heard the environmental angle spoken of.


Almost Heaven?

My goodness, what they put in the water in West Virginia! But that’s the price of Freedom. Freedom Industries, that is.
From the first link:

The Freedom Industries president downplayed the chemical’s health effects, saying it has “very, very low toxicity” and poses no danger to the public.

Strange… I originally posted the following as a metaphor. Never really thought I’d repost it so literally.

There was poison in the water
And it wasn’t fit to drink;
So we got ourselves together
And we had a little think… [Read more…]

This Time, The Apocalypse Is For The Birds

Predictions of apocalypse
Are found in some religions
This week, for something different, it’s
The end of days… of pigeons

In Moscow, birds are dying—
Ah, but that is not the worst—
The pigeons don’t just die; they’ve been
Becoming zombies first!

They fall to earth as if possessed,
Their muscles strangely weak
They’re listless, twisted, twitching,
And they’re foaming at the beak

It’s probably a virus,
Or so the signs portend,
But others see a different sign:
The world’s about to end

So for the birds afflicted
With a tortured torticollis
Consider your predicament
And maybe take some solace:

Rasputin said the world would end
This August twenty-third…
You’ve only missed a little time,
You poor, infected bird

And if it is apocalypse,
And if it is the worst…
We’ll all be dead by Friday, but
The pigeons got there first

The video is in Russian, but the footage is very creepy indeed. Pigeons are falling from the skies in Moscow, twisting their necks around, seizing, foaming at the beak, and dying. It’s probably Newcastle Disease, according to researchers (viral, and contagious to humans), but it also turns out that the Mad Monk, Rasputin, predicted the end of the world… this Friday. So, clearly, it could be that.

Sure, we’ve seen end time predictions before–I think we’ve lived through 3 or 4 since the inception of this blog–but if you can’t believe Rasputin, who can you believe?

We’re Number One! (Wait, That’s A Bad Thing…)

Shockingly, rockingly,
Scientist monitors
Looked at the bullet we’d
Hoped we had ducked

Argue no longer for
Carbon’s new record means
Humans are fucked.

Yup. Carbon Dioxide levels in the atmosphere are higher they have been in the history of humankind. The highest in over six thousand three million years. The New York Times reports:

The best available evidence suggests the amount of the gas in the air has not been this high for at least three million years, before humans evolved, and scientists believe the rise portends large changes in the climate and the level of the sea.

“It symbolizes that so far we have failed miserably in tackling this problem,” said Pieter P. Tans, who runs the monitoring program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that reported the new reading.

While some groups have short-term economic reasons for denying reality, the truth is…

Carbon dioxide rises and falls on a seasonal cycle and the level will dip below 400 this summer, as leaf growth in the Northern Hemisphere pulls about 10 billion tons of carbon out of the air. But experts say that will be a brief reprieve — the moment is approaching when no measurement of the ambient air anywhere on earth, in any season, will produce a reading below 400.

“It feels like the inevitable march toward disaster,” said Maureen E. Raymo, a Columbia University earth scientist.

Or as I put it above… humans are fucked. Read the article… and not for nothing, this month is bike-to-work month.

Where The Hell Are The Bees?

The forsythia bloomed at the edge of the yard
An explosion of yellow and gold;
An abundance of nectar—but where were the bees?
Disappearing… or so I’ve been told.

So, yeah, the first few lawn-mowings of spring used to be a harrowing affair. My yard has a border of forsythia on one side, which used to be inundated with bees when it bloomed. The past few years, I can mow with impunity; I stop and scan the flowers, knowing there should be bees there! But they aren’t there. My redbuds used to attract a variety of bees and wasps; we’ll find out in a few days, maybe a week, when the buds open.

Today was the first day I saw any substantial numbers of Hymenoptera at all–some wasps, some hornets, and an astonishing number of bumblebees (or maybe carpenter bees, or probably both), far more interested in one another than in me as I made my way through them with gardening gear.

My apple trees are getting ready to blossom–they are young, so this is only the third year of flowers, and last year’s late frost meant that I had a total of one apple make it to maturity. It was then partially eaten by a worm, which was then thoroughly eaten by a bird. I found the half-apple on the ground. And yes, dammit, I ate it. It was superb.

But I digress. My apple trees are getting ready to blossom, and I have never hoped for bees so much as right now. Mind you, I’ve never had to–my heirloom tomatoes had plenty of bees in past years. So… Where the hell are the bees?

What we have lost in bees, we appear to be making up in reasons why we have fewer bees. I have always wanted to keep a hive (Cuttlefamily does not agree, and currently outvote me). I hope they last long enough that I will be able to.

For both our sakes. And so much more.