Thursday, February 26, 2009

There's a lot more than just stomata!

Check out this scanning electron micrograph of the surface of a sunflower leaf! Be sure to read the box in the lower left corner!!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Two Videos: Sucking up Invasive Species, and Darwin Songs

This video shows conservationists literally vacuuming up invasive algae from coral reefs in Hawaii. The SuperSucker and SuperSucker Junior are modified versions of machines originally designed to dredge for gold, and they combine human power (SCUBA divers) with powerful vacuums to clean up 2,000-3,000 pounds (!!!) of alien algae per day.

Alternatively, want to watch really hip music video? Richard Milner, an academic with a musical bent, dresses up in period costume and sings about Darwin.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Mirrors in the Mojave

This article was posted on the APES blog recently and is interesting for several reasons. In our discussions surrounding The Inconvenient Truth and climate change, we focused on the problem, but not the solution. The article discusses one part of the solution - more reliance on alternative energies, in this case, solar thermal (as opposed to photovoltaic solar panels) power. The particular installation discussed here was designed by an Oakland company called Brightsource Energy. Here is a very cool little video explaining solar thermal technology. Essentially, solar thermal involves using many mirrors to collect sunlight and focus the rays all towards a large container of fluid (water, for example) - in the simplest case, the water turns to steam, which is then used to turn turbines and thus generate electricity.

The other interesting point that comes up in this article is the role of governmental policies in implementing alternative energy technologies once they are developed. To quote the article, "there’s a debate out there about the merits of mandates in driving expansion of non-polluting energy options. Advocates for such standards say that the expanded market will drive down the production costs of panels, turbines and other clean power sources. Some say that pursuing efficiency is far cheaper. Others say that any state or federal requirements for non-polluting power should include nuclear reactors, which also produce no greenhouse gases when generating electricity. What do you think"?

Happy Birthday Darwin!

In case you hadn't heard, 200 years ago today, Charles Darwin (and Abraham Lincoln too!) was born. In what we might think of as a birthday present, the Vatican has finally decided that Darwin is probably not burning in Hell after all. Here's an article from the New York Times (thanks to Henry Walton for the link!) discussing the changing attitude of the Catholic Church towards Darwin's ideas.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Darwin and evolution - too much credit?

More thoughts: “Darwinian evolution” raises a question: What’s the other evolution?

Into the breach: intelligent design. I am not quite saying Darwinism gave rise to creationism, though the “isms” imply equivalence. But the term “Darwinian” built a stage upon which “intelligent” could share the spotlight.

Read the article then respond- should ID be given credit as "the other evolution?"

Friday, February 6, 2009

Wolves love dogs, Dogs love wolves

Here's an article (New World Wolves and Coyotes owe debt to Dogs) that relates to our understanding of the species concept. “This is an important paper that among other things should make us revisit and likely revise what we mean by a ‘pure’ species.”
Geez, how much biology can you learn! Speciation, genetics, mutations, adaptive advantage, interbreeding, hybridization. Wow!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

What are you doing to solve Global Warming?

After viewing an "Inconvenient Truth" you should understand that we do have solutions to the problem of global warming. This article (Trashing the Fridge)might sound a little radical but what are you doing to reduce your carbon footprint? Can you do more?? If so, what will you do???

Monday, February 2, 2009

Dumping crop waste in the ocean

As we begin our Ecology Case Studies, here's an interesting article about one method of potentially reducing global CO2 levels - A Carbon Keeper - "crop waste sunk to the deep ocean" - Do you think this is actually feasible? Do you foresee any potential problems? How might this dumping effect organisms in the deep sea? Should we proceed with crop waste dumping?