Life Science

Rare Birds of North America

Rare Birds of North America is the only extensive treatment I’ve see of the so called “vagrant birds” in the US and Canada. Most, or at least many, traditional bird books have a section in the back for rare birds, occasionals or accidentals, which one might see now and then. But when you think about…

Prepare yourself. The Te Papa Museum of New Zealand has a new specimen locked in a vault: a colossal squid that will be thawed and dissected (they think!) on streaming video. Here is the necromantic chamber. Wait! No protective runes, no array of emergency thuribles, no pentagram, no mysterious idols of jade and obsidian? This…

Last known living rescue dog of 9/11

On this anniversary of 9/11 we remember not only the victims but also the heroes of that fateful day including countless first responders as well as their rescue animals that searched tirelessly for victims. The last known living rescue dog from 9/11 is Bretagne, a 15-year old golden retriever who returned to the memorial site…

Giant Semiaquatic Predatory Dinosaur

It is called Spinosaurus aegyptiacus but it sounds a bit more like Godzilla. Spinosaurus is a theropod dinosaur (that’s the groups birds evolved within) found in what is now NOrth Africa, between about 112 and 97 million years ago. It was first discovered about one century ago, though those bones were destroyed during WW II.…

Chatbots are boring. They aren’t AI.

You know I’m a bit sour on the whole artificial intelligence thing. It’s not that I think natural intelligences are anything more than natural constructions, or that I think building a machine that thinks is impossible — it’s that most of the stories from AI researchers sound like jokes. Jon Ronson takes a tour of…

Until now I thought I had come up with enough reasons to dislike mosquitoes, those tiny little blood sucking vectors of disease. With reports of the debilitating mosquito-borne virus chikungunya in the Americas (Carribean), I was ecstatic hear that researchers are working hard to find ways to control mosquito populations. As mentioned in a previous…

Penguins: The Ultimate Guide

There is a new book out on Penguins: Penguins: The Ultimate Guide written and edited by Tui De Roy, Mark Jones, and Julie Cornthwaite. It is a beautiful coffee table style book full of information. All of the world’s species are covered (amazingly there are only 18 of them) and there are more than 400…

Mary’s Monday Metazoan: Thrippy

You’ve just got to love the word “thrip”.

It turns out that coffee is special

But you knew that already. The Coffea canephora Genome has been sequenced. This is probably more important than the Human Genome project because humans are completely useless first thing in the morning, but coffee is very important first thing in the morning. Some important plant evolution involves wholesale duplication of large parts of the genome.…