Monday, June 30, 2008

The Musical Illusionist

On a whim, I picked up The Musical Illusionist and Other Tales by Alex Rose while in a local public library the other day. I had never heard of it or Alex Rose, but the title and the slim volume grabbed my attention as I perused the New Fiction section.

I just started it and am only a handful of pages in. Already it is clear that the various short tales are a mish-mash of fiction and non-fiction - or perhaps, a better description would be that they are fiction wrapped up to look like non-fiction. The first part of the book is about time and quantification. I don't know where it is going, but I already like what it is saying. Here's an excerpt from the small piece on cause-and-effect:

Even now, many of us are content to relinquish our curiosity by invoking a primordial agent, the particular breed of which is arbitrarily determined by our religious heritage. But unlike the ancient teachings, these traditions are rooted in sacred scripture rather than observation, undeterred by modern methods and reasoning. In yet another strange loop, history would seem to have folded in one itself, cycling back to an era of willful ignorance.

Well, back to the book.

Boom De Yada

Ever since P.Z. Meyers brought this video/commercial to my attention I can't seem to stop watching it or humming/singing the tune. The kids love it too. Jack particularly likes the lines, "I love real dirty things" and "I love the giant squids". Em is partial to "I love Egyptian kings" and the tribal "Boom De Yada" chorus. We must have watched it a 100 times over the weekend. Other than the Future Weapons guy blowing up a building, the message is just awesome.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Photo challenge

Anyone game for a little contest?

Below are a couple of photos I took today down in the wet lab at RWU - the second one is a close-up of the first. Any guesses as to what they are? The first person to answer correctly will be held in awe and respect for their vast and varied knowledge...perhaps I'll throw in a RWU rum-drinking vessel as well.

(note: family and current or recent RWU faculty/staff/students are ineligible)

To help with the scale, each black thing is approximately 1 inch (2.5cm) long. Good luck! Click on each image for a larger view.

HINT #1 (7/1/08): Check the comments. Kevin Z has part of the answer.

HINT #2 (7/2/08): The critter's common name and taxonomic class start with the same letter.

HINT #2 (7/6/08): Phylum Mollusca, but not Class Gastropoda

UPDATE (7/8.08): Congrats to Kevin Z for his correct identification. See the comments for the answer.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Oh ye! who have your eye-balls vexed and tired, Feast them upon the wideness of the Sea;

Sea Education Association's SEA Semester is a program that I fully support and am happy to promote. Beyond a top-notch, hands-on education in marine science, I learned more about leadership, teamwork and self-confidence while working and living on one of their sailing vessels than with any other experience I've had. I suggest all undergraduates with even a remote interest in the ocean look into SEA and strongly encourage any that are able to participate in SEA Semester to sign on tout de suite. As it so happens, there is still room on board their Fall "Oceans & Climates" cruise. So all you undergraduates, go check it out. And all the rest of you, spread the word.

Sea Education Association is pleased to announce our

Fall 2008 SEA Semester: Oceans & Climate Distinguished visiting lecturers & student-research advisors

Joining us for this year's semester program will be:

Dr. Cynthia Pilskaln, University of Massachusetts, SMAST
Dr. Christopher Sabine, NOAA/Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory
Dr. Jorge Sarmiento, Princeton University

SEA Semester: Oceans & Climate is a specialized program for advanced science majors that focuses on the marine carbon cycle and global climate change and takes advantage of a repeated equatorial Pacific transect (Mexico - Tahiti) to observe regional and temporal phenomena. For detailed information (pdf)

NOTE: Some spaces are still available for undergraduates to enroll in this special fall program. We encourage you to talk to interested students as soon as possible, as admission is on a rolling basis.

(PS: the title of this post is from On the Sea by John Keats)

Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Would it be too arrogant to leave the question "What skills do you believe you could improve?" blank?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Garden Inverts

(click on images for larger view)

Wolf Spider with egg case (family Lycosidae; female)

Aphids (Uroleucon sp?) on Heliopsis