JCCC folks might be interested in, and maybe amused by, my first Camtasia video shot from my home machine. This is totally unscripted and except for trying to eliminate some microphone popping issues, unedited. The video is about protein structure and has a few simplifications of what in reality is a pretty complex topic.
Of course just as the semester is beginning I decide to start using the College’s Stumail domain on Google for all my Biology 122 courses. Fortunately I am somewhat familiar with Google apps and services…there are somethings that Angel just isn’t good at like discussion groups, creating and editing web pages, collaborative activities etc…
So Angel is being used for those things it is best at (OK better than Google). Formal assessments and practice material, the grade book. Much of my content is being ported and reworked from the staff.jccc.edu server to the JCCC WordPress server. Look under my Entangled Bank menu to see the materials as I rework them and go here to see my Biology 122 Google Site which I call Plexus.
Given all the talk about how hot it has been and the severity of this years drought, I put together a historical look at Kansas climate in terms of temperature and a drought severity index. Rather than repeat it here hop on over to my science blog at the Lawrence Journal World.
But you might find my conclusions interesting so I will repost those here:
2012 does not even come close in severity to the earlier droughts, including some relatively recent droughts of the 1980′s. What is interesting is that the Palmer index suggests that the drought of the mid 1950′s was in some respects more intense than the drought of the 1930′s.
So the data suggest that yes it has been really abnormally warm so far in 2012. On the other hand the Palmer data suggest that the current drought is not (At least through June) as severe as a number of other droughts we have had.
One problem we have of course looking at historical data is that agricultural practices have changed since the 1930′s. Much of the marginal land that was farmed then is not farmed now or is farmed using large scale irrigation. Farmers today tend to use tillage and other conservation practices that that probably are moderating local temperature and precipitation to some degree compared to earlier years. This might explain the greater number of extreme highs during the 1930′s when conservation practices were not as widespread.
Rick Santorum not only doesn’t accept evolution but he is a well known global warming sceptic. Recently he has attempted to give a science lesson on photosynthesis, noting quite correctly that plants require carbon dioxide-carbon dioxide being a raw material for photosynthesis. Therefore carbon dioxide can’t be bad. So he has bought into the same sort of reasoning promulgated by the site CO2 Science which collects data on how much better plants grow when carbon dioxide levels increase. This video, Seeing is Believing, is pretty representative of what’s on CO2 Science and is pretty effective and quite correct as far as it goes. Under controlled conditions and with plenty of other nutrients carbon dioxide does make plants grow better.
But there are some big questions as to whether or not this increased plant growth will be sufficient to overcome the increase of carbon dioxide due to human activity. Some studies such as this one suggest that soils in forests can take up extra carbon in response to increased carbon dioxide levels. Sounds fine- but as noted by this Primer on carbon dioxide, human activity such as deforestation has caused a net release of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Plus, as oceans warm they also become less able to absorb carbon dioxide.
One can argue about what will happen long term-but if the plants and other photosynthetic organisms are able to take up sufficient carbon dioxide why are atmospheric carbon dioxide levels still increasing with no sign of slowing? See this diagram from NOAA. Somehow the global warming skeptics who argue that plants can soak up the carbon dioxide are missing the big point- they may be right in theory , but globally something is awry with this thinking. Either on a global scale, plants and other photosynthetic organisms are not responding as “common sense” says they should or human activity is reducing the ability of natural systems to respond, as they other wise might, to increasing carbon dioxide concentrations.
Came back from vacation to find over 100 comments to moderate. Wow! Of course on close inspection they were all spam. Really do spammers really expect me to post something such as this as a legitimate comment?
“I discovered your blog web site on google and examine a few of your early posts. Proceed to maintain up the very good operate. I simply further up your RSS feed to my MSN News Reader. Seeking ahead to studying more from you in a while!?…”
Granted some students write this way at 3am but these spammer’s computers don’t come close to passing the Turing test.
These are leaves from a Ginkgo tree (Ginkgo biloba) on my campus. This plant is sometimes thought of as a living fossil since they belong to a very ancient group of plants, the phylum(divsion) Ginkgophytes. These plants go back to about 270 million years ago in the fossil record.
Ginkgo makes a great landscape tree especially in urban areas. But one thing I don’t like about this tree is that it doesn’t seem to get visited by many insects-makes sense since it is not native to this part of the world.
These Ginkgos-notice the distinctive fan shaped leaves- are outside the Commons and the Student Center.
I am an entomologist so I am always a bit disappointed when a plant doesn’t have at least some insect visitors. Something is missing, sterile.
Why Ginkgo doesn’t seem to get visited by insects isn’t clear to me. Maybe the insects that had co-evolved with Ginkgo were wiped out when the species almost went extinct, or maybe it really does have some adaptation that deters insects. There are a few insects recorded in the United States as visitors, but the list is very short even when compared with other introduced species. See for example this list of tree pests from New York City where Ginkgos are commonly used: http://www.grownyc.org/files/citylot/Diseases_and_Insects.pdf.
Curiously insect resistance or maybe insect non interest seems to be characteristic of a related group of plants-the cycads which are also considered to be living fossils, though I have not looked at this issue closely.
Google has been trying to freshen up its Blogger software with some new dynamic templates. Since my biology and poetry blog is on blogger I thought I would freshen up that blog by choosing a new template. So hop on over there and have a look. Follow this link for the mosaic view but you can select any of the other views shown along the top.
Got these Sphecid wasps (Eremnophila aureonotata) on golden rod this weekend. I have seen these around but this is the first clear shot them mating that I have been able to get. They will stay coupled for quite some time and fly from flower to flower while mating.
This is one of a series of insect shots I took last week at Campus. It was a windy so I had to take lots of shots to get anything. I took this shot just in passing and might have deleted it on the spot except for the fact that I had a large SD card so was not worried about space. Click on through to see other sized images on my Flickr site.