Friday, July 30, 2010

Dessert and the Formation of Deserts (Loosely Speaking)

I have been thinking that most of the basic concepts of geology can be explained in terms of cake:

If you take a crumb from the cake and look at it under a microscope, that's petrology.

If you investigate the icing, that's surficial geology.

If you examine the layers of the cake, that's stratigraphy.

If you slice the cake, that's tectonics.

If you put the cake on a plate and slide it around, that's plate tectonics.

I suppose that I could extend the analogy further by saying that if you study the dead animals that you find in the cake, that's paleontology, but no one wants to find dead animals in a cake.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Mister Mojoceratops

Mister Mojoceratops

Mister Mojoceratops

Got to keep on ceratops

. . . or words to that effect.

Mojoceratops perifania is a new ceratopsian dinosaur discovered by Yale postdoctoral associate Nicholas Longrich in the basement of the America History Museum in New York. The fossil had been excavated decades earlier, but was incorrectly identified as a different kind of dinosaur.

Most museums have large specimen collections, only about 5% of which are publicly displayed. There have been many cases in which new species were discovered among old material in such collections. My favorite such incident involves another Yale researcher, John Ostrom, whose revolutionary theory that birds are descended from dinosaurs was inspired when he found a skeleton of Archaeopteryx that had been misidentified as a pterodactyl in a Dutch museum in 1970.

If Longrich is poking around in the basement of the American Museum of Natural History, maybe he can find Amphicoelias fragillimus.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

I Saw a Goose Die

A few weeks ago I was walking in a park. In the large pond in the park I saw a Canada Goose (Branta canadensis) floating motionless with its neck bent against its back. I wondered if the goose was dead, and if it were dead, if it could still continue to float.

After about half an hour I came back to the same spot. The goose had drifted in toward shore. Suddenly it started thrashing around. In a few seconds it went belly-up, and soon became totally motionless.

I felt oddly honored that the goose had died in my presence.

I suppose that if I had had a child with me, I would have had to say that it was alright and the goose was only doing the backstroke.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Live in Eighty-Five

Today is the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Live Aid concert. I remember listening to it when I was a kid on the headphones of my portable radio/cassette player.

After researching the matter, I conclude that the line-up at Live Aid was much better than the line-up at Woodstock. Part of this is probably that there were simply more acts at Live Aid. And another part is that Live Aid had a lot of Eighties bands, and I like Eighties music. But even in terms of pre-1980 classic rock alone, Live Aid was better; it had Led Zeppelin, the Who, Bob Dylan, most of the Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, and Queen, among others. (Not all the performers were legends, though, particularly on the British side—who or what were The Style Council?)

I've spent my entire life hearing about Woodstock and how wonderful it was. But I've heard virtually nothing about Live Aid in the quarter century since the concert ended. As always, the Eighties get no respect in the eyes of the Baby Boomers who run our world.

Monday, July 12, 2010

On Boredom

It occurs to me that there are two kinds of boredom.

Type A Boredom is being bored because one has nothing to do.

Type B Boredom is being bored because one has a lot to do, but no interest in doing it.

I find that childhood contains abundant Type A Boredom, but as one grows up it is replaced by Type B Boredom. And I miss Type A Boredom. I can't remember the last time that I had nothing to do. (I can remember many recent times that I have done nothing, but there were always quite a few things that I should have been doing.)

I view Type A Boredom as primarily beneficial. I suppose that for some people it led them to do things like drive around breaking mail boxes with a baseball bat. But for me it put me in a position to try various non-destructive things that I had long wanted to do. And, if nothing else, it would have been a lot harder to go back to school in the fall if I hadn't been bored in the summer.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Words of Wisdom II

Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day.

Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.

Slap a man with a fish, and you define British comedy for a generation.