When the topic of animal intelligence comes up, we might argue whether a crow or a parrot is the cleverer, or if dolphins are smarter than manatees. Seldom do we ascribe smarts to life-forms such as insects, plants or fungi. And it is rare indeed that we question our intellectual primacy among animals. It is true that no other species can point to monumental achievements such as the Coliseum, acid rain, nerve gas and atomic weapons. But that does not mean other species are bird-brained. Metaphorically speaking.
Posts Tagged ‘science’
The Smell of Rain
It’s going to rain. Can you smell it?
Being able to smell rain as it approaches isn’t something imagined. There really can be a distinctly heady aroma in the air before it rains. And it’s a smell that I’ve always found calming. In fact, there are several clean, earthy, strikingly pleasing, yet distinctly different smells that many of us associate with rainfall. They occur before, during, and after showers and storms. And all of them are scientifically identifiable.
Before it rains; as the wind begins to pick up and the clouds thicken or roll in, you may become aware of a noticeably fresh scent in the air. That sharp, clear aroma is ozone; a molecule made up of three oxygen atoms bonded together (O3) whose name comes from the Greek verb for smell; ozein. It’s the same gas we associate with the layer of our atmosphere that protects us from too much sunlight.
Snow Jobs: The white stuff makes for good growing
Where agriculture is concerned, dairy is king (or is dairy queen?) in northern NY State. Looking out the window now in late February, though, it looks like we should be growing snow peas or iceberg lettuce. Actually, for farmers, maple producers, foresters and gardeners, there is an up-side to having plenty of winter white stuff.
Snow has been called “the poor person’s fertilizer” because it’s a source of trace elements and more importantly, of plant-available forms of nitrogen, a nutrient often in short supply. When snowmelt releases a whole winter’s worth (i.e., almost six months) of nutrients in a short time, the nitrogen value can add up.
Since air is 78% nitrogen, you’d think plants would have all they needed. But atmospheric nitrogen, N2, is a very stable, inert molecule that plants are unable to use – you might say that for plants, nitrogen gas is broken. Fortunately, some soil bacteria can “fix” gaseous nitrogen, converting it to water-soluble forms that plants can slurp up. Lightning also turns nitrogen gas into plant “food.” But this only accounts for a small percentage of the nitrogen found in snow.
History Matters: Three Doctors in One Act
Seeking some historical perspective on the current pandemic, Historic Saranac Lake recently hosted an imaginary panel discussion at St. John’s in the Wilderness Cemetery. Three generations of Doctors Trudeau shared their thoughts on change and continuity in science and public health.
CAST OF CHARACTERS
DOCTOR 1: Dr. Edward Livingston Trudeau (1848-1915) Leader of the sanatorium movement in the U.S., founder of the Adirondack Cottage Sanitarium and the Saranac Laboratory. (Pictured, left, in the Saranac Laboratory. HSL Collection.)
DOCTOR 2: Dr. Francis Berger Trudeau (1887-1956) Saranac Lake physician and leader of the sanatorium after his father’s death. (Pictured, center. Courtesy of the Saranac Free Library)
DOCTOR 3: Dr. Frank B. Trudeau (1919-1995) Prominent local physician and founder of the Trudeau Institute. (Pictured, right, opening the doors of the Trudeau Institute for the first time. HSL Collection.)
“Forests Adrift” – A virtual book talk
Dr. Charlie Canham, a forest ecologist with the Cary Institute of Ecosystems Studies will be discussing his new book: “Forests Adrift: Currents Shaping the Future of Northeastern Trees” in a conversation with Cary President Dr. Joshua Ginsberg.
The event, taking place at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 21, will be a virtual conversation with time allotted for an audience Q&A.
The book covers the history of northeastern forests, their resilience to change and looming threats that will determine their future and goes into how the forests have changed over time with the arrival of European settlers.
Current conditions and science-based forecasting on how the forests will adapt to logging, fire suppression, disease, pollution, invasive species, and climate change will also be covered.
Gauging the psychological impacts of COVID-19
A professor at SUNY Potsdam is studying the pyschological impacts of social distancing throughout the pandemic.
Dr. Claire J. Starrs, Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology at State University of New York – Potsdam is looking for participants to take an online survey.
The survey asks questions regarding work changes and support received, as well as the coping mechanisms and reactions we have used or encountered during the quarantine.
Responses to the survey are anonymous, and you may only answer what you feel comfortable answering. It takes about 30 minutes to complete and includes optional follow up questions. To take the survey and participate in the study, please follow this link: https://sunypotsdam.co1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_6nkzlXUyU6hqeSp
Jargon: Watch Your Language
At one time or other we all have puzzled over a document which was allegedly written in English, yet turned out to be in a foreign language such as legal-ese, medical-ese, or scientific-ese. Such language sneak-attacks can leave us feeling by turns bored, confused, frustrated and intimidated.
Well, science has now proven that bad things happen when we use big words instead of diminutive ones. » Continue Reading.
27th Adirondacks Conference in May, Papers Sought
The 27th Annual Conference on the Adirondacks, “Celebrating Community, Culture, and the Natural Environment,” will take place on May 13th and 14th, 2020 at Paul Smith’s College.
Conference organizers, the Adirondack Research Consortium, are accepting paper and poster abstracts for presentations. The deadline for abstract submission is April 21, 2020. » Continue Reading.
Adirondack Social Science Research Workshop
Adirondack Research Consortium will host an Adirondack Social Science Research Workshop, set for Friday, October 4th, from 10 am to 3 pm, at the Joan Weill Student Center, Pine Room, at Paul Smith’s College.
The purpose of the workshop is to continue the dialogue on past and current social science research in the region, to identify gaps that warrant future inquiry, and to begin coordinating social science research to better address social issues within the Adirondacks. » Continue Reading.
The Science of Amphibian Regeneration
A few times a year, I bring groups of people into the woods to search for red-backed salamanders in the damp netherworld that is the forest floor. Last spring, it was 8th graders.
They did their best to follow the cardinal rule of middle school social interaction – thou shalt not appear “uncool” by expressing interest in anything whatsoever that an adult is asking of you – but the salamanders exposed the chinks in their armor. Crouched low over small wooden boards we’d set out to mimic the rotting logs that red-backeds prefer, the students murmured with excitement. » Continue Reading.
Plastic Bakelite Documentary Highlights Adirondack Connection
The Indian Lake Theater is set to show the documentary All Things Bakelite: The Age of Plastic by John Maher, a provocative story about the “father of modern plastics.”
Belgian-born chemist and inventor Leo Hendrik Baekeland invented Velox photographic paper as well as what is considered the world’s first synthetic plastic which has been used for everything from jewelry to communications equipment. » Continue Reading.
The Science of Rainbows
After a passing shower, when the sun comes out again, I often see a rainbow in the east behind my house, arching over the trees on the hilltop. Ancient peoples were awed by these multi-colored arcs in the sky and came up with a variety of explanations.
To the Norse, a rainbow was a bridge connecting Earth with the home of the gods that could only be used by warriors killed in battle. In Japan, rainbows were the paths upon which the dead could return to earth. In Hindu mythology, Indra, the god of thunder and war, uses a rainbow as an archer’s bow to shoot arrows of lightning. » Continue Reading.
Saranac Lake, Science, and Space Exploration
Historic Saranac Lake is set to host a presentation, “Saranac Lake, Science, and Space Exploration,” by Barry Ressler on Saturday, July 20th, from 7 to 8 pm, in the John Black Room at the Saranac Laboratory Museum.
Ressler will share about his family’s roots in Saranac Lake and his own fascinating career in science, medical technology, alternative energy, artificial intelligence, and space exploration. » Continue Reading.
William C. Geer Invented Plane-Wing Deicing Device
Based on his remarkable career as an inventor and the immeasurable but tremendous value of three creations of his to businesses and millions of individuals — a better golf ball, gas masks, and the industrial adhesive Vulcalock — it seems there should be a historical marker at William Geer’s birthplace and perhaps a museum wing up north, or at least an exhibit featuring his story. And that’s without even considering his greatest invention of all: the airplane-wing deicer.
That’s right, a North Country man, born and raised, did that. Unlike many inventions that are completely replaced by better alternatives in the future, Geer’s device originating nearly 90 years ago remains a standard, as noted in modern B. F. Goodrich Technical Bulletin 101: “Then, as today, the ice removal process is much the same…. the basic operating principle of the pneumatic de-icing boot hasn’t changed.” » Continue Reading.
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Happy as a clam? Science is mixed on that one
Happiness may be elusive, but it has sure spawned a lot of aphorisms and similes. Folk-wisdom indicates one can be happy as a pig in poop – or in mud, which makes me wonder if those two hogs are equally content, and if they had other options. It also suggests you can have a whale of a time, and be pleased as a pig in a peach orchard, which would make sense unless harvest season was over. Additionally, one might feel happy as a pup with two tails, a monkey with a peanut machine, or a clam at high tide.
» Continue Reading.