On Peru

Posted by tigerhawkvok on April 13, 2012 21:21 in General , biology

Snippet of the review from the Amazon ....

Originally submitted at REI.com/adventures

See Peru's Amazon Basin and the diverse wildlife of South America's magnificent lowland rainforests from comfortable lodges. Let REI get you there!

Fantastic trip!

By tigerhawkvok from Berkeley, CA on 4/13/2012


5out of 5

Pros: Once in a Lifetime Experience, Guides, Exceeded Expectations, Flexible itinerary, Activity Level

Describe Yourself: First-Time Adventurer

Why Did You Choose to Travel with REI Adventures?: I Liked the Itinerary, Active Adventures, Destination, Commitment to Sustainability

I can't think of a single bad thing about this trip. Despite the high floodwaters (12m higher than normal), the folks at A&E Expeditions were fantastic and kept up the food and the high trip quality. Our guide, Jonathan, knew huge numbers of species in the area and simply made the whole trip a fantastic experience.


Tags: Trip Scenery

Olive whipsnake


Tags: Animal


Six Months Later

Posted by tigerhawkvok on March 02, 2012 00:44 in General

Oh, my. I update so rarely nowadays. I don't even think it's because I don't have anything to say — it's because I don't have time. I work five days a week at the East Bay Vivarium, then on Fridays I volunteer at the MVZ Prep lab as a "UGSI" for the prep class there. Which leaves Saturday. To get everything done. Oy.

So, I've been doing my updates in the short-form. I've been pretty active on Google+, which gives me the distributability and long-form nature of Facebook (minus the privacy problems), the one-way following of Twitter, and, well, the way posts are shared I give a damn about what I read.

What else is new? Sadly, Feynman died around Thanksgiving due to a prolapse, but I got Watson (after James Watson), a Moroccan Uromastyx:


He'll get brighter as he gets older

I was playing lots of Skyrim, but I've not had time recently. A fair amount of my off-work time goes into Pharaoh, then, you know, feeding myself.


He turned 16 on November 1, 2011

While it's a tune I've sung before, I hope to start regular updates again. Maybe some longer thoughts here. Though don't disregard what I throw on Google+ - I have some fairly serious things there of variable length. Though it's definitely not as free-form as this. Though this weekend looks to be full again — ranging form merely "very good" to "excellent", but we will see where things fall there.


Posted by tigerhawkvok on September 11, 2011 23:03 in General

Blog. Bloggy blog blog blog. Hi there, poor neglected website.

Oh, don't get me wrong. I have plenty of things I think about, that I think would be worth sharing, and things I even want to post, but I've just not had the time to do it as of late. Or, perhaps more accurately, when I have the time I don't think of it and I think of it when I don't.

I suppose life continues much as it has been. I went on a great trip to Yosemite National Park last month with Sara and had a total blast, and Ben came up north for a bit which was similarly awesome.

I've also been working at the MVZ Prep Lab in my spare time, and may end up redoing their website.

I should resume posting more frequently, especially about science that interests me. Maybe it'll help get my creative juices flowing.

Goodbye, Shuttle

Posted by tigerhawkvok on July 24, 2011 20:40 in General

Ah, my poor, neglected, blog. I really should be updating more often, but ... well, life is full. Busy. I should try to take up the Tuesday Tetrapod again.

But, this post is not for that. This post is to bid farewell to the US space program the space shuttle.

Sadly, I'm only somewhat joking about the death of the US space program. With congress considering cutting the JWST, it may be true. No men, no science, no space program.

Tuesday Tetrapod: Chlamydosaurus kingii

Posted by tigerhawkvok on January 21, 2011 23:50 in General , tuesday tetrapod

OK, so it's not tuesday. And I've been grossly negligent in blog upkeep. But I am posting mostly because *drum roll* I have a new pet! Enter "Feynman", a frilled dragon.

Feynman the Frilled Dragon, 1 Feynman the Frilled Dragon, 2

Feynman the Frilled Dragon

Chlamydosaurus kingii is an acrodontid agamid, a semi-arboreal lizard found in Australia. They are primarily insectivorous, though they will supplement it with other forms of protein. The frill, for which they are well known, is supported by cartilaginous spines connected to the jawbones, with bright flash colors. Additionally, Chlamydosaurus kingii is facultatively bipedal.

As far as care, Chlamydosaurus kingii cares for very similarly to a bearded dragon. You should aim for 27o C on the cool side of the cage, and 38o C on the hottest part of the basking area. Unlike a bearded dragon, the humidity should be kept somewhat high, spraying the cage occasionally. Moss and substrates like orchid bark or peat moss will help keep the humidity up.

Chlamydosaurus kingii is rated IUCN least concern as of 2009. I'm looking forward to a good long time with my new pet!


Posted by tigerhawkvok on November 13, 2010 15:53 in General

Consider electric water heaters. You do something fancy, possibly even split an atom — to boil water, to turn a turbine, to rotate a magnet, to induce a voltage, to turn on and heat up a glorified water in your house to boil some water.

A "billion miles" isn't that far. That's about 10.75 AU, or just a hair longer than the distance from the sun to Saturn. It doesn't even get CLOSE to leaving the solar system. (I tweeted earlier an incorrect value. m vs. km). Wolfram Alpha gives some nice comparisons.

Strictly speaking, you cannot be a Christian who believes that the Christian god set evolution in motion to beget humanity. Consider the core tenent of Christianity — that Jesus Christ died for your sins. This directly relates to the fact that you are born a sinner, courtesy propogated sin from the whole Adam-Eve incident. Which requires that Adam and Eve were the direct ancestors of all people alive, and lived simultaneously. Mitochondrial Eve and Chromosomal Adam are separated by about 40,000 years. Whoops.

If the backscatter scanners starting to show up at airports are NOT an unreasonable search under the fourth amendment, what is?

I always get somewhat musing-ish as winter approaches. Just a few random thoughts, as I realized yesterday I hadn't updated this in months.

I have a new paper on archosaur phylogeny I need to get through and update the phylogeny site, but that'll be a long project indeed.

And, an amusing comic for ya'll, courtesy Ben:

Hotlinked due to unknown copyright

I'm Baaaack

Posted by tigerhawkvok on September 11, 2010 14:42 in General

After nearly three months without a desktop (first intermittently, then entirely), I'm back. Let me start by saying avoid Koolance products like the plague. This was the second O-Ring that's busted in the three years since I got the watercooling, and this one destroyed every component in my computer except my CPU.

Time has been described by geocaching, Joshua Tree National Park, moving (back to the Bay), couchsurfing, etc. I have a bright idea to write a Python-based graphing calculator, and got several housemates in on a D&D campaign.

I'll try to get back on a regular posting schedule, soon, but for now — just wanted to get back on the horse.

Tuesday Tetrapod: Chinchilla lanigera

Posted by tigerhawkvok on June 15, 2010 20:28 in tuesday tetrapod

Today's Tuesday Tetrapod returns to the land of the fuzzy with Chinchilla lanigera, or the Chilean chinchilla.

C. lanigera

C. lanigera. Photo released into the public domain in the Wikimedia commons

Chinchillas belong to their own family, Chinchillidae, which include chinchillas and viscachas, rabbit-like rodents that also live in South America.

Chichilla coats are notable in a couple of ways. Their fur is so dense that you cannot wash them; when their fur gets wet it does not dry, encouraging fungal growth or fur rot. Instead, they naturally take dust baths, which dislodge particulates and absorb oils in their coat. In fact, their incredibly soft and dense coat makes them very sought after in the fur industry, meaning that both variants of the chinchilla are in fact critically endangered, estimated to be losing about 90% of its population every three generations (15 years) due largely to hunting. Chinchillas themselves can release some hair to facilitate in escape from a predator. Due to the density of their coats, chinchillas do not sweat.

Chinchillas are available as pets in the US, partially mitigating their rare status in the wild.

Scientia Pro Publica 32: Biology Overload

Posted by tigerhawkvok on June 07, 2010 03:01 in General , evolution , physics , biology , astronomy , news , anti-science , medicine , paleontology , sci-fi , public science , climate , scientia pro publica

Welcome to Scientia Pro Publica, 32th edition!

Scientia Pro Publica logo

Scientia Pro Publica logo (C) by Flickr user jmarcx via loryresearchgroup. (Hotlinked by my usual policy)

This round, it seems that the name of the game is biology. Submissions really ran the gamut in biology, including some delightfully from-left-field posts. Bryan Perkins having some fun with embryological development, and Amanda Morti shows us why we have actinomycete bacteria to thank for that fresh rain smell (and for throwing off Latinate intuition - anyone else read "actinomycete" and think muscley whale?). Speaking of whales, David "WhySharksMatter" Shiffman does a great bit of ResearchBlogging and reminds us why not all fish (fine, non-sarcopterygian gnathostome) stock are created equal - sandbar sharks (Carcharhinus plumbeus) are closer in population dymanics to bowhead whales and other balaenids than cod.

That wasn't the only bit of ResearchBlogging this time around (Hey! ResearchBlogging! Stop hating my feeds!). Kelsey has a great post about the intraspecific male competition among red-eyed treefrogs. Sure, they amplex for dear life, but what about before that? Turns out that ... they shake their butt (Does that mean that the frog Sir Mix-a-Lot is a lady?). Madhu R-Blogs over at Reconciliation Ecology takes the opportunity to do a great smackdown on a pet peeve of mine — evolution is not a "ladder" or any such silliness. It is blind and targetless. It was a statement from a Stanfurd professor, though, so what can you expect (Go Bears!)? But before we get ranty, Luigi diverts our attention from critterland and the rivalries of my alma mater to teach us about why Kibale's Wild Coffee Project didn't get off the ground, concluding that scientists, once again, just can't do "messaging".

Illustration: Peter Trusler for Wildlife of Gondwana/NOVA (PBS). From Grrlscientist's post.

Thonoir continues to take us down our diversion away from Critterland, showcasing two sets of endangered non-metazoans, and my total ignorance of plant/photosynthizing phylogenies. We don't stray from Critterland for long, though, as John at Kind of Curious details a very interesting ponderous borer. Emily talks about sensationalism, mountain lions, and that Fox, even as they get extirpated from areas densely populated by a certain primate. Which, as Amanda points out, is no good thing, and there are difficulties restoring predators to ecosystems that they have been extirpated from (trust me, a one sentence synposis does not do that entry justice). The great Grrlscientist brings us some aborignal rock art possibly depicting Genyornis newtoni (Dromornithidae, incomplete phylogeny link (Anseriformes)). This is both the oldest paintings in Australia at 40,000 years (predating the earliest European cave paintings) and is of something that can be loosely imagined as an ostrich-sized duck, which simply can't be awesome.

Now, we don't end here. Oh no. That was just organismal biology and evolution. How about a dose of medicine? Michelle Dawson is better than Mary Poppins, because her post about circadian rythyms certainly doesn't need any sugar for you to take it down (and introduces you to an interesting side effect of autism-spectrum disorder). Scientific Chick writes about cell phones improving mental performance in Alzheimered mice. Meanwhile, Wendy at Bioloser gives us the physiological background of shock, and a shocking description of shock in a man nearly severed in half.

The larger constructs of medicine were not neglected, either. Bradley Kreit discusses the fact that we need to accept our intellectual limits, while Luke examines the crazy in large groups, looking at HIV denialism and Ryan looks at child mortality.

Bisected men and child mortality? Lets get a bit more lighthearted. Jessica Drake at Soilduck ponders what makes a scientist a scientist, and Romeo Vitelli tells us how subliminal messaging was an advertising gimmick (how many levels of fake-out is that?). Adam Park redeems some sci-fi stories with various predictions made therein that have come true today. Of course, Asimov gets a mention for the mention of pocket calculators in Foundation, but Asimov also nailed our reliance on them as time went on in The Feeling of Power (psh, arithmetic).

BP, the Gulf, and the utter dismaying farce of the spill have been in the news, and oil makes its showing in Scientia this time around. Scienceguy238 gives us a history leading up to the spill, and Grrlscientist looks at the ethics involved with oiled seabirds. Jeremy at The Voltage Gate writes about how the Saudi coast has recovered, 20 years later, from the 11-million-barrel (1.2 GL, or 1.2e6 m3) spill. A decade afterwards, 1 million cubic meters still persisted. Every spill is different, though, so hopefully ours won't be as bad.

You know you love it.

Finally, we round out with the physical sciences, which didn't get much love this time around. Lab Rat talks about bacteria and climate change, while Matt Wills talks about the more metaphorical breathing Earth, Charles Lyell, and mollusk damage in Greek columns. Finally, Sarah Kavassalis gives a great article on one of my favorite subjects: special relativity, astronomical distances, and the meaning of "now". After all, if a star (super)nova's in the distance, but you don't see (E&M) or feel (gravity) it, has it gone? She even does it without the inevitable jargoning I'd go into!

That does it for this round of Scientia Pro Publica! This was my first blog carnival, so I more than welcome suggestions. Hope you all enjoyed it!

If you want to learn more about this carnival, head over to the carnival's website. Be sure to check out the next round hosted by Andrew over at Southern Fried Science, on June 21st. And remember — this is a blog carnival! Submissions and hosts are wanted! If you're interested in hosting, check out the current schedule on the official schedule thread and drop Grrlscientist a line (or leave a note in the comments). If you find a cool article, submit it! Send a link via this submission form. Thanks again all!

Scientia Pro Publica coming here!

Posted by tigerhawkvok on June 02, 2010 20:40 in General , public science

This coming Monday, this blog will be the host of Scientia Pro Publica, a blog carnival following in the footsteps of Tangled Bank. To quote Grrlscientist,

[...]That blog carnival was Tangled Bank, the "parent" of Scientia, which this blog carnival seeks to emulate by (1) communicating about science, medicine, the environment and nature to the public and (2) encouraging those who write about these topics by providing them with an audience who provides feedback and criticism on their writing.

Scientia Pro Publica logo

Scientia Pro Publica logo (C) by Flickr user jmarcx via loryresearchgroup. Hotlinked by my usual policy of hotlinking (rather than self-serving) copyrighted images

This is going to be my first blog carnival, and I hope I am a good host. This should be fun!

Tuesday Tetrapod: Gypaetus barbatus

Posted by tigerhawkvok on June 02, 2010 15:18 in tuesday tetrapod

Today's Tuesday Tetrapod is the Lammergeier, or Bearded Vulture, Gypaetus barbatus.

G. barbatus

G. barbatus. Photo CC-BY-NC-ND by Flickr user A. Davey.

G. barbatus is a type of Old World vulture (Depending on the phylogeny, this makes them either a Falconiforme or Accipitriforme) with the unusual dietary preference of bone marrow. In part because of this, they lack the customary "bald head" of most vultures. They also have a different flight profile, with narrower wings and a wedge-shaped tail.

G. barbatus eats by reaching a carcass after it has been largely cleaned, then taking bones and dropping them from a height onto rock formations, smashing the bones into pieces small enough to ingest. They occasionally do this with turtles, possibly being the source of the apocryphal tale about the death of Greek playwright Aeschylus.

G. barbatus, profile

Image CC-NC-SA by Flickr user fveronesi1

Despite being threatened in its European range, G. barbatus is relatively stable over its very large range in Africa. There is also evidence for minor population decline, but it is not rapid or extreme enough to qualify for a threatened status. It is thus ranked by the IUCN as Least concern as of 2009.


Posted by tigerhawkvok on May 30, 2010 11:19 in General

On this trip, I tried to play with HDR photography and exposure fusion, so I thought I'd put up a quick blog post with some of the pictures I liked best (that I've processed thus far)

Coloseum at Rome

Coloseum at Rome. 1920x1080 (1080p, desktop sized)

River in Amsterdam

River in Amsterdam

Grand Canal in Venice

Grand Canal in Venice

Pantheon at Rome

Pantheon at Rome. Taken without a tripod, no less.


Dinosaurs and Extinct Feather Morphotypes

Posted by tigerhawkvok on May 28, 2010 00:19 in evolution , paleontology

Dinosaurs and feathers. The story has gone from scaly lizards to that of animals strikingly similar to birds. Now, a recent paper in Nature (doi:10.1038/nature08965) further muddies the picture with dinosaurs demonstratedly showing development of feathers as the animal aged.

The paper in question is one describing the find of a Similicaudipteryx in the limestone of the Yixian formation in the Liaoning province in China. It describes how in addition to a marked developmental sequence in the feathers (implying moulting), it also indicates a currently extinct line of feather morphologies and developmental pathways. The authors introduce the term "proximally ribbon-like feathers", best typified by the tail feathers in male Confusciousornithes. These are feathers that are long ribbons until the distal end, where they become pennaceous (like modern feathers).

In Similicaudipteryx, two specimens are compared; a early and late juvenile form (STM4-1 and STM22-6). STM4-1 has pennaceous feathers attached to the hands and rear of the skeleton (tail and rear back vertebrae), but the rest of the feathers are "plumaceous" (think down feathers, like chicks). STM22-6, on the other hand, has had anterior feathers on the head replaced with non-plumaceous varieties and (if it is not a preservation artifact) has gained secondary remiges. Futher, the plumaceous feathers are different from true down, indicating that feather types changed several times during the ontogenetic development of these animals, unlike modern birds.

A nice touch is a passing mention in the paper to feathered-dinosaur-haters; many dissafected with the idea of feathered dinosaurs claim they are remnants of dermal collagen, it is true (and it is brought up) that dermal collagen would lack the melanosomes present in the feathers of fossilized animals.

Return from Italy

Posted by tigerhawkvok on May 28, 2010 00:14 in General

After a week in Italy, I'm back!

Rather abruptly, all things considered, my dad decided he wanted to go to Europe before he retired, so Tasha few down from Marin, I caught a ride up from SD, and our dad treated us all to a trip to Italy. I daresay I couldn't afford any fraction of that trip myself. Well, there will be a few backlogged entries if this battery holds out -- good times.

Now, I'm not looking forward to the vast backlog of messages I probably have. I was suspecting access to internet at least a few times, which would have let me at least textually respond (by SMS and email) to some people, but instead I'm going to probably have several hundred to deal with. Hopefully unpleasant ones are minimized.

Back to SD tomorrow ...

Tuesday Tetrapod: Python molurus bivittatus

Posted by tigerhawkvok on May 11, 2010 20:20 in tuesday tetrapod

This week's (long overdue) Tuesday Tetrapod is Python molurus bivittatus or the Burmese Python.

P. m. bivitattus

P. molurus bivitattus. Photo CC-BY by Flickr user wildxplorer

P. m. bivitattus is one of the six largest species of snake in the world, reaching nearly 6m in length at their maximum. They are standard constrictor snakes (pythonidae), and due to their nice patterning are popular household pets, which are later often released due to their large size.

P. m. bivitattus is actually becoming an increasing problem in the Florida Everglades, as the household escapees are well-adapted to the environment of the Everglades, and compete for the position of top predator along with the American Alligator. They pose overall ecosystem danger, as they eat many of the endangered birds living in the Everglades currently. This led to the famous "exploding snake" incident.

P. m. bivitattus also demonstrates facultative endothermy. During the brooding season, the female python will often wrap around her eggs and increase her metabolic rates (in conjunction with fast muscle twitches similar to shivering) to regulate the temperature of the eggs. This leads the female during this period to approach avian/mammalian levels of food requirements, and overal metabolism.

P. molurus is rated IUCN near threatened, with an update needed/pending.

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