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Archive for 'Arts and Science'

“Try Hard to Be a Baby” [Animal]—a nifty biology book for kids

Friday, May 29th, 2020

“Hard, hard to be a baby—Baby animals like you’ve never seen them” is more or less the English translation of the French title of Brooke Barker’s book Dur, dur d’être un bébé—Les bébés animaux comme vous ne les avez jamais vus. The book is full of facts and drawings about many kinds and sizes of baby animals. On a technical level, one could accurately say that the book is full of paper and ink, though not in its ebook version.

Barker also draws and writes the blog Sad Animal Facts, in which the words are mostly in English, though with a generous helping of words presumably from a variety of animal languages.

Barker also drew and wrote the book La tortue qui respirait par les fesses [“The turtle that breathes through its butt”].



Insect (names) in Fireworks [study]

Monday, May 25th, 2020


Dr. Joe Coelho, who is Professor of Biology at Quincy University, Illinois, US, is the author of ‘Insects In Fireworks’ a paper published in Ethnoentomology: an Open Journal of Ethnoentomology and Cultural Entomology, 2: 20–29.

To clarify, the paper is not about the use of insects as ingredients in firework mixtures, but rather the use of their names in firework branding.

“Fireworks with entomological names were observed in order to examine how arthropods were represented. Hymenoptera were the most commonly occurring group, followed by Lepidoptera and Arachnida. Fountains were the most common type of entomological firework, followed by aerial spinners. The most frequent noise associated with insect fireworks was the crackle, followed by the hummer.”

The paper can be read in full here :

The professor maintains a YouTube channel showing a collection of videos of entomological fireworks for a study in cultural entomology.

Note: The paper (and the videos) also feature some spiders which, it may be remembered, are not insects, but non-insect arthropods.

Research research by Martin Gardiner

How to write a hard-to-resist science headline: Quantum, Coffee

Friday, May 22nd, 2020

Trinity College Dublin produced a press release, on January 31, 2020, with this headline: Supercomputers help link quantum entanglement to cold coffee“.

The press release is meant to draw attention to a research paper by Marlon Brenes, Silvia Pappalardi [pictured here], John Goold, and Alessandro Silva.

The paper is titled “Multipartite Entanglement Structure in the Eigenstate Thermalization Hypothesis,” and published in the journal Physical Review Letters (2020; 124, 4).

The paper itself does not mention coffee.

UPDATE (May 22): Investigator Mason Porter writes: We’ve got the coffee (well, at least the caffeine) covered: “Spatial Applications of Topological Data Analysis: Cities, Snowflakes, Random Structures, and Spiders Spinning Under the Influence

Another incident with lead in ducks

Thursday, May 14th, 2020

Heavy-leaded ducks were seized by the US Customs and Border Protection agency, an action the agency announced in a May 12, 2020 press release:

U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officers at the Savannah Seaport seized 5,000 stuffed toy ducks after it was determined that they contained excessive amounts of lead.

The press release includes this photo:

Noted New York City customs attorney William J. Maloney commented on this, to us: “Inspectors will pull toy samples to check for lead and other CPSC issues. Lead paint on toys from China used to be pretty common. They could also have had a tip or prior problem. It was the lead that led to the seizure. A good catch.”

Lead in Ducks, Uranium in Ducks

There has in the past been concern about lead in non-toy ducks. Uranium was proposed as a less-harmful alternative. We wrote about this some years ago:

Depleted uranium should, perhaps, be the ammunition of choice for duck hunters. That’s the conclusion of a study called Response of American Black Ducks to Dietary Uranium: A Proposed Substitute for Lead Shot.

The recommendation, published in 1983 in the Journal of Wildlife Management, has not been much disputed. The study’s authors, biologists Susan Haseltine and Louis Sileo, were based at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Centre in Laurel, Maryland.

Lead shot is dangerous for ducks, especially if it hits them. When it doesn’t hit a duck (or another hunter, as sometimes happens), the shot falls into the wetlands. The lead leaches into the muck, slowly poisoning any ducks that have managed to avoid being shot….

We then prepared a video version of that report about the duck-lead-uranium report (the short video also includes, for variety, Jill Lepore‘s 24/7 Lecture on the topic “History”):

A Bulgarian Museum Savoring of the Ig Nobel Prize

Monday, May 11th, 2020

The Bulgarian National Museum of Natural History podcast takes a long, loving look at many of the past Ig Nobel Prize winners.

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