A Grand Idea

This is a photograph of the Grand Canyon that was taken on May 7, 2014 by Flickr user Airwolfhound.

On January 11, 1908, our 26th U.S. President, Theodore Roosevelt declared the Grand Canyon a national monument. President Roosevelt was remarkable in his foresight. He knew the historical, ecological, and recreational value of the site. Find out for yourself. Take the U.S. National Park Service’s Virtual Tour of the Grand Canyon and discover the wonders that archeologists, naturalists, and hikers experience when they move through the park.

Good Day Sunshine

Sunshine is a welcome sight on wintery days. Even when it’s chilly outside, the cheery presence of our solar system‘s very own resident star makes a blustery breeze and low temperatures bearable. Want to accurately calculate sunrise and sunset? Want to keep up with the sun’s movement? Take a look at SunCalc.

This is a screenshot of SunCalc.

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Out of This World Ideas, Warped Space, and a Planet That Never Was

An attendee at the 2012 Montreal Comiccon displays the Vulcan salute, a hand gesture consisting of a raised hand, palm forward with the fingers parted between the middle and ring finger, and the thumb extended.

Vulcan salute

Something important happens every day of the year. For example, imagine celebrating the New Year one day and getting an opportunity to celebrate a new celestial body on the next. Well, it almost happened.

How?

On January 2nd in 1860 attendees at a meeting of the French Academy of Sciences in Paris, France were told of the discovery of a (hypothetical) planet dubbed Vulcan. The noted French mathematician Urbain Le Verrier, attempting to explain peculiarities of the planet Mercury’s orbit, suggested that another (unseen) planet, purportedly located in an orbit between Mercury and the Sun, was the cause of the astronomical aberrations.

Verrier, though intellectually brave for sharing his hypothesis, was incorrect. How do we know? Although there was an extensive search for Vulcan that planet was never found. The strangeness of Mercury’s orbit, the most eccentric orbit of all the planets in our solar system, have been explained by Albert Einstein‘s fascinating theory of general relativity. The short explanation is the Sun’s mass warps space-time around our resident star which, in turn, affects the orbit of the body closest to it, the small but speedy Hermean planet.

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Paleontology: Everything Old is New Again

Morphology is the study of an organism’s unique form. In the case of paleontology, morphology focuses on bone anatomy and function as well as muscle reconstruction. How do scientists go about reconstructing where muscles were, what they might have looked like, and what they were capable of doing? Scientists look for and at evidence of muscle attachments on bone. Bones, especially old bones, tell an engaging–if not, cryptic–story. The trick (especially for paleontologists) is to pay careful attention to the story. As with most tales, there are explicit details (i.e., the bones are composed of known substances) and implicit details (i.e., the bones seem to be structured for a particular purpose, one researchers may be able to hypothesize).

How does technology help paleontologists make sense of stories that have been untold for thousands or millions of years? Among some of the most fascinating tools that help scientists demystify the stories locked with bones are tools that provide three-dimensional imaging and CAT scans.

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Same Old Same Old

Okay, campers, rise and shine, and don’t forget your booties ’cause it’s cooooold out there today!

Happy Groundhog Day!

It’s time to consult that super Sciuridae prognosticator, the world’s most famous groundhog, Mr. Punxsutawney Phil.

 

Don't drive angry!
Don’t drive angry!

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