Pandas are bad mamas

Life is cruel and brutal, I guess.

Ya Ya, a seven-year-old panda and new mother of twins, “appeared tired” when nursing the younger cub in a patch of grass, the paper said.

Her head sagged, her paws separated and her baby fell to the ground next to her. The panda then rolled on to her side and crushed her baby beneath her.

I remember that chronic exhaustion when our kids were piping hot and fresh from the uterus, too.

Nerd music

The Scienceblogs Nerdoff contest should have this for a new theme song: Weird Al’s “White and Nerdy”.

First in my class here at MIT
Drop skills, I’m a champion at D&D
M.C. Escher, that’s my favorite MC
Keep your 40, I’ll just have an Earl Grey tea
My rims never spin, to the contrary
You’ll find that they’re quite stationary
All of my action figures are cherry
Stephen Hawking’s in my library
My MySpace page is all totally pimped out
Got people bangin’ for my top eight spaces
Yo, I know pi to a thousand places
Ain’t got grills but I still wear braces
I order all of my sandwiches with mayonnaise
I’m a whiz at Minesweeper, I could play for days
Once you see my sweet moves you’re gonna stay amazed
My fingers movin’ so fast they’ll set the place ablaze
There’s no killer app I haven’t run
At Pasqual, well, I’m number one
Do vector calculus just for fun
I ain’t got a gat but I got a soldering gun
“Happy Days” is my favorite theme song
I could sure kick your butt in a game of ping-pong
I’ll ace any trivia quiz you bring on
I’m fluent in Javascript as well as Klingon

(Here are the complete lyrics—it’ll make you weep, dawg.)

Alien planets and cephalopodoids

The latest issue of Science has a fascinating article on Exotic Earths—it contains the results of simulations of planet formation in systems like those that have been observed with giant planets close to their stars. The nifty observation is that such simulations spawn lots of planets that are in a habitable zone and that are very water-rich.

(click for larger image)

Final configuration of our four simulations, with the solar system shown for scale. Each simulation is plotted on a horizontal line, and the size of each body represents its relative physical size (except for the giant planets, shown in black). The eccentricity of each body is shown beneath it, represented by its radial excursion over an orbit. The color of each body corresponds to its water content, and the inner dark region to the relative size of its iron core. Orbital values are 1-million-year averages; solar system values are 3-million-year averages. Note that some giant planets underwent additional inward migration after the end of the forced migration, caused by an articial drag force. This caused many hot Earths to be numerically ejected, but had little effect outside the inner giant planet.

Dynamics of Cats has a better summary than I could give, and it leads in with this lovely illustration of an hypothetical alien organism on one of these hot water worlds.


The only thing cooler than a cephalopod has to be a tentacled alien cephalopodoid. There’s a high-res version of that image at Dynamics of Cats—and I’ve got a new desktop picture.

Getting ready for Halloween (already?)

Since I saw this meme at Dr Crazy’s place, I thought I’d toss it up here for the commenters to make suggestions.

” If I were designing a Pharyngula Halloween costume, it would consist of…”

It’s actually relevant. I just put out a call at my university for volunteers for Cafe Scientifique, which we will be holding on the last Tuesday of each month…and the October calendar puts that on Halloween. I’m going to be trying to organize a panel session on “Mad Scientists and Monsters” as the topic that day, and ask the panelists to show up in costume. So let’s see what suggestions you might come up with!

Carnivalia, and an open thread

Perusable blogaliciousness for your Friday morning:

The Tangled Bank

The Hairy Museum of Natural History has put out a call for submissions to the Tangled Bank, with an early deadline. If you want a shot at maybe seeing your link with a custom illustration, send it in by Sunday evening. He’ll try to accept stuff up through Tuesday, but make life easy on the guy, OK?

Look who’s coming to town

Minnesotans are going to be a little less above average in October, when a gaggle of evil morons hit the state: James Dobson, Tony Perkins, and Gary Bauer are having a rally in St Paul to “motivate pro-family conservative Christians.” It may also help motivate us pro-family liberal atheists.

Andy wonders which Minnesota politicians will show up for these hucksters for fascism: would Michele Bachmann be a safe bet? Mike Hatch better not; I’ve seen a few of his ads, and his gun-totin’ bird-killin’ pseudo-populism is almostas annoying as Mark Kennedy’s badly acted family dramas that play up his ‘credentials’ as a CPA—if Hatch sucks up to Dobson, he’ll lose my vote. I will rip his sign out of my yard.

Friday Cephalopod: Septopus!

Go ahead, count ’em. Since there were some comments about octopuses with an odd number of arms, here’s an example. Males of this species have a highly modified arm (the one they use for sex) that is tucked away in a pouch, so they have the appearance of a seven-armed octopus.

Haliphron antlanticus, the seven-arm octopus

Figure from Cephalopods: A World Guide (amzn/b&n/abe/pwll), by Mark Norman.