Considering that the Field Trip Explainers are about to embark on a journey into the wilds of Point Reyes I would like everyone to know that WOLVERINES ARE BACK IN CALIFORNIA.
According to an article on SierraSun.com (don’t read it online though because you will be putting the print version out of business!!) a researcher’s motion activated camera captured the first evidence of a wolverine in California in a longish time.
You might be asking yourself “So what?”
Well let me tell you a little bit about the mighty wolverine. They have been known to face down bears, cougars, unicorns, and wolves. Scared yet? You should be. They also have a molar tooth that is rotated 90 degrees from the normal position so they can more easily tear frozen flesh and crunch bones to get at the marrow! (see wikipedia.com)
In an article posted on patagucci.com Douglas H. Chadwick discusses his field research with wolverines in Montana’s Glacier National park. Chadwick describes wolverines tearing their way out of wood traps with 8 inch thick walls in a matter of hours and ascending 4,900 vertical feet in 90 minutes. Not bad for an animal that averages 30 pounds.
At this point you might be asking yourself if this is one native animal you are happy to see making a come back in California. Some scientists are investigating the possibility that the wolverine photographed is actually a captive animal that was either released or escaped. Using DNA samples collected from recovered fur and scat they will determine to which population the individual is more closely related. If the sample is similar to the wolverine population found in Idaho there is a strong possibility that the animal wandered into the Sierras on its own. However, if the DNA more closely resembles the wolverines in Alaska or the Yukon it would seem more likely that it was introduced back into the Sierras by humans.
This is the most current information I have found on the topic. I’ll be sure to update you all if anything exciting pops up! Oh yeah, I first caught wind of this story on supertopo.com which has an amusing rock climbing forum full of accurate and intelligent postings (not).
Thanks for reading and keep your head up on the retreat!
In preparation for the upcoming nano days event, Paul D. came by last week to give us some insight on how very very very small nano particles are and what they are doing in our pants. And although that surely is amazing to think about, for me, the most interesting part of the training was a diversion about how our standards of measurements came to be. Have you ever wondered why a meter isn’t a little bit longer or a foot a little bit shorter. Plus it begs the question how could you tell someone else about a unit of measurement precisely without using another (i.e. a yard is three feet).
Paul told us that the original measurement systems came about from human dimensions (palm, foot, digit, distance from arm to elbow). And while this was convenient, it wasn’t always consistent. Imagine if ancient Yao Ming and ancient Verne Troyer had to do some business with eachother.
Later on, other common objects were used. According to Paul D. (and wikipedia), in old english times an inch was the equivalent of 3 barleycorns.
It seems that in the eighteenth century, with the enlightenment in full effect, scientists began to work on better definitions of units of measurement. The yard was based on the the length of a pendulum that traveled back and forth in one second. But since gravity varies slightly across the earth, that could not be standardized completely. In 1791 the French proposed a meter as a standard that equals 1/10,000 of the distance from the equator to the north pole through Paris. There was a seven year expedition to get the number right from 1792-1799. And pretty amazingly, although I don’t know how they did it, the measurement was only a fifth of a millimeter off. Pretty soon after they made a standard bar that could be copied and distributed.
After our good friend Albert Einstein proved that everything was relative, the meter had to be related in terms of the speed of light. So as of 1983 the meter is defined as the length of the path travelled by light in vacuum during a time interval of 1/299 792 458 of a second. While that’s surely not as easily figured out as the distance between the fingertips and the elbow, it is much more precise.
Due to my current fascination with trying to make halfway decent sounds come out of a guitar, Johannes and I chose to engage the Explainers in further study of Oscylinderscope last week. One thing led to another and we found ourselves in a dark Cloffice, armed with a only a strobe light, violin, ukelele, guitar, string ray, the advice of Richard Brown, a few concerned staff members, and sheer abandon. It was there we discovered- as we so often do in science- that our original idea was not only pretty boring, but it was not going to work (mostly due to the wagon-wheel effect and constraints of space-time in only 4 dimensions). It made intuitive sense that the strobe would illuminate a string’s longitudinal wave when that string was bowed or plucked. But why was the strobe light showing us vibrations on different strings that we weren’t even playing? It was at this point, that we became interested in/confused by resonance.
We started discussing sympathetic resonance, harmonics, 5ths, overtones, etc. during study group, so I will cut straight to the good stuff: Resonance in our bodies.
In infrasound there are frequencies (below 20Hz) that resonate with human body functions. They can cause changes in respiratory rhythm, sensations of gagging, and blurred vision. These frequencies have been explored by military scientists in an attempt to find a non-lethal weapon (i.e.- use it for crowd control to make your crowds feel hung-over instead of dead). They also have been explored by television programming, including but not limited to Mythbusters and South Park.
I would like to discuss one frequency in particular; that which is alleged to resonate with human bowels, and is heretofore referred to as The Brown Note. The Brown Note can be found right beside discotheque and helicopter heart attacks on the list of resonance urban legends. And although they are legendary, according to Richard Brown (Richard BROWN… BROWN Note…suspicious?), they are not entirely out of the question. Someone should start drafting up an NSF grant to get funding for the research this will require. Or, if you’re not convinced about The Brown Note yet, this South Park video proves it:
On the other hand, maybe we don’t even need infrasound to make us sick to our stomachs…Ryan J. singing the 1,2,3,4,5,6 Pokeman already seems to have that effect on people.
Guess which exhibit this signage appeared on today
I got a museum news email today about an Exploratorium website that I’ve never heard of getting recognized as a site-of-the-week by Communication Arts. The site is called…
Evidence : How Do We Know What We Know. It’s really cool because users can input their own evidence for or against human caused global warming, the earth being flat, and the existence of ghosts(?). Its nice because the three options are a definite scientific fact, a superstition, and a debatable theory. You can sort the evidence submitted in a variety of categories. Overall, it’s a really pretty interface that visualizes these ideas.
It’s funny because some of us were just talking about the symposium recently held in the mcbean about global warming and other conversations we’ve had with people. It’s good to think about the role of a science museum in these discussions. It was really nice that Dennis said that it’s not our role as an institution to tell the visitors what to think but to give them the evidence and let them figure stuff out for themselves.
This website presents that concept quite nicely. Kudos!
This past week we have had a group of bubble enthusiasts from around the world, came to the Exploratorium to talk about, demonstrate, and play with that magical combination of water, soap, glycerin, and other secret ingredients. On Tuesday, Sterling Johnson, a bubble master, gave us a training all about the scientific properties of bubbles. Early in the morning on Wednesday, the participants gathered in the parking lot to see if they could break the Guinness world record for biggest bubble. I’m not sure if they got a confirmed record but some of the bubbling was simply stunning.
Sebastian took some more pictures and uploaded them on to flickr here…
Then after the fun outside, three Explainers from the Experimentarium in Denmark came and led a training for us. They did some amazing tricks and gave us great advice on what tools to use with our bubble exhibits. We looked up their video on YouTube and it is nothing short of amazing. Enjoy!