Archive for February, 2010

27
Feb
10

How I Made Up My Mind About the Memorial Hall/JMC Controversy

I was torn about the Joplin Museum Complex proposal. I could see both sides of the issue, which is mighty inconvenient and unbecoming in polite society.

This, however, helped me finally pick a side.

You could have least made the font smaller. Maybe put it on the bottom.

Tip for the future: If your existence as a convention center is in jeopardy, it might be wise to reschedule the questionable sounding* “Daddy Daughter Date Night” after you’ve secured the hearts of the Joplin public. You could have at least regulated it to the bottom of the sign in smaller type.

* I suspect that this is an event that isn’t as squicky as incest proms, but only just.

08
Feb
10

My Thoughts on the Superbowl Commercials

Hide the kids!

have all already been expressed by people smarter and funnier than me. It’s sad when the GoDaddy and FotF ads are the least annoying ones.

I will say this: How come Janet Jackson’s pasty single-handedly destroys America, but Pete Townsend gets to show his old man pooch? Button your shirt man!

07
Feb
10

Benevolent Harpies

Me and my Calvinist friend like to rag on each other. The other day she stated that a naturalistic, atheistic worldview is simply illogical.

“Especially when compared to talking snakes and benevolent harpies”, I retorted. Oh! Your beloved blogger was in top form that day! If only I didn’t talk like George W. Bush immediately post-op, I could have taken that snap on the road. As it was I had to repeat it three times, which kind of ruined the delivery.

“Benevolent harpies”, for the record, is Snarkinese for “angels.” Essentially, that’s what they are, right? We humans love our flying people! Unfortunately the real world has a noted lack of Ornithian-Americans and other six-limbed tetrapods. (I believe they became extinct in the Late Outofmyassic period.) Anyway, civilizations the world over tried to rectify nature’s mistake by inventing magic bird people, each unique to the culture that spawned it. Alas, it’s only in our fevered minds that these beings can exist.

Or is it? I researched the topic further, and wouldn’t ya know it? Angels make sense.

Here’s a graph to prove it.

Damn you, Calvinist friend! You got me pegged this time!

Of course, I would be remiss if I didn’t offer a rebuttal. Dr. Carlin, if you would…?

(Video NSFW!)

05
Feb
10

Kaje Reads Dinosaur Blogs, Squeals Like Little Girl

Bones and outlined integument? How quaint.

Go find one of your old dinosaur books from your childhood. Take your time, I’ll wait.

Flip through it, and see if you can find the disclaimer regarding the appearance of dinosaurs. Every book with dinosaur illustrations has one. It says something like “we will never know exactly what color the dinosaurs were” and states that the reconstructions in the book, and in all books, are and will always be purely artistic conjecture.

You are now justified in hawking that book at a garage sale, because it is WRONGITY WRONG WRONG WRONG!

Like more than half of every other earth shattering dinosaur discovery in the past decade or so, this all comes courtesy of those delightful feathered dinosaurs of China. Their feathers are so well preserved that they include melanosomes, the cellular organelles that contain melanin. Using a scanning electron microscope, scientists can determine what kind of melanosomes  are present in the feathers, and infer color from them.

Several dinosaur feathers have given tantalizing clues about color, but a complete color reconstruction of a dinosaur has only now been offered. In this week’s Science, for the first time ever, we can finally see what a dinosaur looked like (well, with 90% certainty, anyway). The subject was Anchiornis huxleyi, a troodontid* from 155 MYA. They took 29 small samples from all over its body, and examined the melanosome combination to determine coloring.

Ready? Here it is!

Behold! Anchiornis! (By Michael DiGiorgio/Courtesy Yale)

Pretty sweet, huh? Looks like a woodpecker and a Hamburg chicken got really drunk one night, and kept on drinking, resulting in birth defects such as teeth.

I have some questions, though. According to the first link:

As described in last week’s study there are two major varieties of melanosomes: eumelanosomes (associated with black-grey shades) and phaemelanosomes (indicative of reddish to yellow tints).

What causes cool colors like blue and green? Is that something that can still be assumed in these dinos, or can the researchers rule them out somehow? I switched my major from biology to graphic design, and while my biology is at hobbyist level, my graphics side asks how you get cool colors from warm colors+shades of gray.

Ah well. It’s still pretty cool.

EDIT: Jared provided a link in the comments that helps answer this question. There are other structures that lend to coloring bird feathers, some of which could conceivably be fossilized. Thanks!

*Troodontids, for the uninitiated, are kind of like dainty “raptor”** dinosaurs. The namesake species, Troodon, is well known as the “brainiest” dinosaur, with the largest brain in comparison to its size.

** By the way, the technical term for “raptor” dinosaurs are Dromaeosaurs. You’re welcome.




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