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for July, 2011.
Welcome to our traditionally rainy August skies! Public Planetarium shows are scheduled for next weekend Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 11, 12 and
13 August. That’s also the traditional time for the Perseid meteor shower. Usually the Perseids and the Leonids in November provide the best meteor shower viewing of the year. I’ll send out another e-mail next week with more information, but this year, we’ll have a better seat for the Perseids than they will in the mainland.
Hope to see you next week!
Public Planetarium shows
11, 12 and 13 August
Summer Skies 6:30 p.m.
Quality Time with the Starlady 7:00 p.m.
Summer Skies is the show that tells you all about what’s up there. I didn’t present Summer Skies in August for several years because I figured that since the skies are almost always cloud-covered it didn’t make much sense. Then someone said "But we’d really like to know what we *could* see if it wasn’t cloudy all the time!" So join us at 6:30 p.m. to find out what’s up there!
Planetarium shows are family entertainment and I love "Quality Time with the Star Lady" because the kids ask the questions for their parents! And of course, if we’re lucky, the sky will be clear enough that we can go outside and find the stuff we learned about in the real sky!
I do need to warn you that air conditioning problems are once again rearing their ugly heads. The new Planetarium AC is doing OK, but the air conditioning has died in the main Science Building. Unfortunately, they tend to try to use the Planetarium AC to cool the whole building and that’s not good for it. Here’s hoping the Planetarium AC stays on-line.
And I hope to see all of you next week. Remember Planetarium shows are always free!
Welcome to The Deep science and technology column where we cover topics from the deep sea to deep space and beyond.
It’s always interesting when you run across new scientific discoveries that have been made in your own back yard. And of course, what’s in our ‘back yard’ are volcanoes. Lots of them. Every island north of Saipan (with the exception of Fallaron de Medinilla) is an active volcano and there’s interesting news about some research done on newly erupted rocks from Agrihan.
Our volcanoes here are the result of something called ‘back-arc spreading’. What this means in terms most of us can understand, is that the bottom of the Pacific Ocean is very slowly plunging into a deep crack to the south and east of us. In case you haven’t heard of it, it’s called the Marianas Trench and it’s the deepest place on the surface of the Earth.
Interestingly, the sea floor bottom is a lot lighter than the rocks above it and it slowly rises back through them and creates big mounds on the seafloor bottom. BIG mounds, like mountains that are 15,000 feet tall. If you live in the Marianas, you live on one of them and the ones to the north (and the west and the south) are still erupting that light sea floor material out the tops. Yup, they’re volcanoes and we don’t call the edge of the Pacific plate “The Ring of Fire” for nothing!
What lies below the sea floor is Earth’s mantle and there’s been some debate about the presence of oxygen in the mantle. Katherine Kelly, a professor at the University of Rhode Island, examined a recently erupted rock from Agrihan and found that it was highly oxidized.
Scientist had thought that the amount of oxygen in the mantle was essentially stable and unchanging, but it now appears that oxidized seafloor rocks are transporting oxygen into the mantle.
"The cycling of oxygen at the Earth’s surface is central to the life and activity that takes place at the surface, but it is equally essential in the Earth’s mantle," said Professor Kelley. "The availability of oxygen to the mantle is in part controlled by the oxygen at the surface."
Kelley said that this discovery is important because the availability of oxygen to the mantle controls what minerals are found there, how certain elements behave, and what kind of gasses might be expelled from volcanoes.
This work follows a related study by Kelley that found that materials from subduction zones are more oxidized than materials from mid-ocean ridges where the plates are pulling apart. That study was published in the journal Science in 2009.
"These are important processes to understand, but they are hard to get a clear picture of because they take place over such long periods of time," Kelley said. "It’s one piece of the big puzzle of Earth’s evolution and how it continues to change."
Just another piece of the puzzle that came from not too far away.
Welcome to The Deep science and technology column where we cover topics from the deep sea to deep space and beyond.
It’s been a while since we dipped into the animal file and it’s time for another adventure with the marvelous creatures that share our home with us. One of my favorite sea creatures is the octopus. I remember swimming after a small one and having it drop out of sight below a small ‘cliff’ on the ocean floor. I stopped swimming, and soon its eyes appeared above the ‘cliff’ edge. Not the octopus, mind, just the eyes. Since they have no bones they’re astoundingly malleable and their ability to change patterns and color make them the original ‘shape-shifters’.
Apparently they not only camouflage themselves like the ocean floor, they also mimic other creatures. In the journal The Biological Bulletin, cephalopod expert Roger Hanlon and his colleagues report that the Atlantic longarm octopus avoids predators by expertly disguising itself as a flounder. While it’s been reported that two other species of octopuses were imitating flounders in Indonesian waters, this is the first report of flounder mimicry by an Atlantic octopus, and only the fourth convincing case of mimicry for cephalopods.
The researchers compared photographs and video footage from five Caribbean locations and observed uncanny similarities between the small and delicate octopus and the peacock flounder, one of the most common sand dwellers in the Caribbean. Both animals were similar in color because they both looked like the sandy seafloor, but they were also alike in swimming speed and form.
Just like the flounders, the octopuses contour their bodies to hug the wavy seafloor, tapering their arms behind them. They also swam with the same fits and starts as the flounders do at the same speeds. Interestingly, the octopuses mimicked the fish only when swimming, when movement would compromise their camouflage. How well the animals blended in with their background differed. The octopus showed more highly controlled and rapid skin patterning than the flounder, whose camouflage was slower and less precise.
"We were equally impressed with the remarkable camouflage of this small octopus species even when it was stationary yet entirely exposed on top of the open sand," says Hanlon. "The apparent match in pattern, color, brightness, and even 3-dimensional skin texture was noteworthy even when compared to other changeable cephalopods. They also demonstrated an unusual form of disruptive camouflage."
So why do Atlantic longarm octopuses imitate flounders as a way to avoid predators? More study of cephalopod mimicry is needed, but a possible explanation, according to Hanlon and his team, could be that predators who could easily take a bite out of the small, soft octopus might find a rigid flatfish like the flounder too much of a mouthful and avoid them.
So how about it? Has anyone ever seen an octopus mimicking a flounder on Guam?
Left: An Atlantic longarm octopus in the aquarium; note the long thin arms characteristic of the species. Right: The octopus swimming forward and mimicking the shape, speed, and behavior of a swimming flounder. (Credit: Left: Photo by John Forsythe; Right: Photo by R. Hanlon)
Just wanted to let you know that tomorrow morning before sunrise may be your last chance to see a shuttle in orbit. Of course, you won’t see it separately, it will be docked with the International Space Station, but it will definitely be one of your last chances to see even the location of an American shuttle in space.
The ISS will also be visible over Guam every morning before dawn until Saturday. Several of these passes will be very low and not very bright and tomorrow morning’s pass is the best of the lot. If you’d like details on any of the other passes, just e-mail me.
To see the ISS and the shuttle Atlantis tomorrow, just get a time hack for your watch at time.gov, get up at 5:30 a.m. and go outside and face west.
Measure 6 fist-widths along the horizon to your left from due west. You can also measure 3 fist-widths to the right of due south if you know where that is from your location.
The ISS will appear above that point at 5:35 a.m. and by 5:37 a.m. it will be 10 degrees above the southern horizon. At 5:40 a.m. it will be almost due south and 5 fist-widths above the horizon. By that time it will be fairly close to us and moving quite rapidly toward the east from our point of view.
At 5:40:45 a.m. it will be due east and pass 10 degrees below Jupiter. At
5:41:43 a.m. it will be 15 degrees to the left of Mars. At 5:43 a.m. it will be 10 degrees above the northeastern horizon. If the clouds let us see the sky at all, it will be easy to spot the ISS since it will be shining at -3.1 and will be considerably brighter than Jupiter. Good luck!
The shuttle Atlantis is scheduled to undock from the ISS at 4:00 tomorrow afternoon our time and will land 20 July at 7:00 a.m. EDT. You might be able to see them flying in tandem on Tuesday morning the 19th, but that pass is much dimmer, much lower and much earlier for us.
To make the attempt, go out at 4:35 a.m. on Tuesday and face due south.
The ISS will appear slightly to the left of due south and by 4:40 a.m. it will be 10 degrees above the horizon. It will only be 18 degrees above the horizon at its highest point and it will travel toward the east and disappear below Mars at 4:46 a.m. It will only shine at -1.0, but that’s still brighter than Mars! If the shuttle has undocked, you could see two bright ‘stars’ traveling in tandem!
Sorry I’m so late in getting this out. I hope you’ve had a great weekend and we all get to see the ISS and shuttle Atlantis this week!
Welcome to The Deep science and technology column where we cover topics from the deep sea to deep space and beyond. Several interesting stories from the medical file today. Make sure you read the column title!
A group of scientists have recently published a paper based on their study of participants in the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), which is tracking the long term health and well-being of around 14,000 children born in 1991 and 1992.
They’ve found that a diet high in fats, sugars, and processed foods in early childhood may lower IQ, while a diet packed full of vitamins and nutrients may do the opposite. Parents completed questionnaires, detailing the types and frequency of the food and drink their children consumed when they were 3, 4, 7 and 8.5 years old.
Three dietary patterns were identified: "processed" high in fats and sugar intake; "traditional" high in meat and vegetable intake; and "health conscious" high in salad, fruit and vegetables, rice and pasta. Scores were calculated for each pattern for each child.
The children’s IQ was measured using the Wechsler Intelligence Scale for Children when they were 8.5 years old. In all, complete data were available for just under 4,000 children.
The results showed that eating a diet of predominantly processed food at the age of 3 was associated with a lower IQ at the age of 8.5, even if the diet improved after that age. Every 1 point increase in dietary pattern score was associated with a 1.67 point fall in IQ.
On the other hand, a healthy diet was associated with a higher IQ at the age of 8.5, with every 1 point increase in dietary pattern linked to a 1.2 point increase in IQ. Dietary patterns between the ages of 4 and 7 had no impact on IQ.
Well, that certainly makes me worry about all the toddlers I see holding the bags of chips and sugared sodas. And the sugared sodas bring up another interesting point.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has very quietly removed saccharin, a common artificial sweetener, and its salts from the agency’s list of hazardous substances. Saccharin is no longer considered a potential hazard to human health.
Saccharin is a white crystalline powder found in diet soft drinks, chewing gum and juice. Saccharin was labeled a potentially cancer-causing substance in the 1980s. In the late 1990s, the National Toxicology Program and the International Agency for Research on Cancer re-evaluated the available scientific information on saccharin and its salts and concluded that it is not a potential human carcinogen. Because the scientific basis for remaining on EPA’s lists no longer applies, the agency has removed saccharin and its salts from its lists.
So, instead of buying your toddler that bag of cookies she’s whining for, why don’t you buy her an apple instead? Or a diet soft drink? She might be smart enough to thank you for it later!
Jim is, above all, a passionate eco-humanitarian who has developed his own science talk-radio show to inform The DEEP’s listeners about such newsy topics as global warming, shark-finning and reef protection as well as to explore earth’s many underwater and space mysteries.
sailing 12,000 miles and visiting five countries Jim is back here, ready to explore the depths of the ocean to the deepest frontier, space MORE>>
Lady Pam Eastlick is an expert in both the stars
and seas as a graduate of the University of Guam Marine
Lab and the Director of the UOG Planetarium.