Friday, 29 May 2009

Thursday, 28 May 2009

A`LA CARTE: ICY COLD SCIENCE

Summer is coming. The time of camping and icy cold drinks. I've been working on developing a freeze dried beer that comes in a small pack and rehydrates fully carbonated with all its alcohol intact. Once it goes to market you can say you knew me when. In the meantime, I can help with getting that warm six pack or vodka cooler cold in minutes. Geeky, yes, and yet you'll be so much more popular at summer parties.

Understanding how salt and ice interact will save you from many a warm bevvie this summer. Water freezes at 32 degrees F. (0 degrees C ) When the compound salt is added to water and ice, a new solution with a lower freezing temperature is formed. As the salt and ice molecules mix, the melting ice takes up heat energy from its surroundings and the surrounding water cools down fast.

Why should you care? Well, this little scientific nugget can keep you from ever having to drink warm drinks again. Instead of dropping your warm beverages into a cooler with ice, try adding water and a healthy dose of salt. And, there's no need to worry if some of that salt spills over into your drink. A little salt is good for you. Balances the electrolytes and makes tequila go down easier.

If you are in North America, you will likey be using iodized salt, which is table salt mixed with a minute amount of potassium iodide, sodium iodide, or sodium iodate. Iodized salt is used to bump up the amount of iodine in our systems and protect us from endemic goiter, a thyroid condition that arises from lack of iodine. In Europe, sodium fluoride or potassium fluoride is the more common additive, especially if they do not add fluoride to their drinking water. You may notice this in France. You'll also notice a slight yellowish tinge to the salt. Don't panic. Different culprit than yellow snow. They add a wee bit of Vitamin B9, hence the discoloration.

No matter which salt you choose, bada bing... icy cold bevvies in minutes.

Monday, 25 May 2009

ROMANIA: 35,000 YEAR-OLD HUMAN REMAINS















If Van Helsing were poking around Transylvania these days, chances are he'd be more likely to be looking for the decaying remains of 35,000 year old humans than blood drinking vampires. Romania's dark history extends back way past the days of Vlad.

It seems vampires and ghouls aside, something darker and much more interesting lurks in that eastern belly. I travelled to Transylvania last year and spent some time in Cluj, the newly minted anthro-capital of Romania. I was lucky enough to brush shoulders and prep tools with paleoanthropologists working on a new find that changes what we know about early human activity in Eastern Europe.

The remains of a man, woman and teenage boy -- the first Romanian family if you will... tell the most complete picture of what our ancestors were like some 35,000 years ago, shedding a bit of light on a black box in history. International scientists have been carrying out further analysis to get a clearer picture on the find, said anthropologist Erik Trinkaus, of Washington University in St. Louis.

It is clear that, "this is the most complete collection of modern humans in Europe older than 28,000 years," he told The Associated Press. "We are very excited about it," And they have reason to be. The find is changing perceptions about modern humans. Romanian recreational cavers unearthed the remains of three facial bones last year, and gave them to Romanian scientists. Romanian scientists asked Trinkaus to analyze the fossils, and he traveled to the Romanian city of Cluj this week with Portuguese scientist Joao Zilhao , a fossil specialist.

They also found a jawbone that belonged to a man who could have been around 35. Silhao also found part of a skull and teeth belonging to a teenage male, and female temporal bone.

"This was 25,000 years before agriculture. Certainly they were hunters," said Trinkaus . He said the bones were discovered in the foothills of the Carpathian Mountains . Trinkaus said the humans would have had religious beliefs, used stone tools, and a well-defined social system and lived in a period in during which early modern humans overlapped with late surviving Neanderthals in Europe.

Humans survived because the area was ecologically variable being close the Banat plain and close to the mountains. A team of international scientists from the United States , Norway , Portugal and Britain will return to the cave to continue their field work next year. Look out Van Helsing, there are new kids in town and they look to be very, very interesting.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

DINOSAUR DISCOVERY IN TUMBLER RIDGE

Today is the First Annual Peace Region Palaeontology Symposium in Tumbler Ridge, an an important milestone for Tumbler Ridge and the Peace Region. Daniel Helm's find of dinosaur tracks along a river near the town of Tumbler Ridge sparked a new paleo craze in the town. I met with Daniel and Charles Helm back in 2005 at the British Columbia Paleontological Symposium. The photo above is from their original workshop that has now blossomed into a fully operation paleontological centre.

Congrats to the Peace Region Palaeontological Society! I'm sure this symposium marks the first of many great educational events.

Friday, 22 May 2009

GODS & CEPHALOPODS

A great temple to the god Amon was built at Karnak in Upper Egypt around c. 1785. It is from Amon that we get his cephalopod namesake, the ammonites and also the name origin for the compound ammonia or NH3.

Ammonites were a group of hugely successful complex molluscs that looked like the still extant Nautilus, a coiled shellfish that lives off the southern coast of Asia. While the Nautilus lived on, ammonites graced our waters from around 400 million years ago until the end of the Cretaceous, 65 million years ago.

Varying in size from millimeters to meters across, ammonites are prized as both works of art and index fossils, geological time markers, helping us date rock. They have proven especially useful for proving time markers for the strata of the Cretaceous System along the west coast of North America.

The ammonites with their hard exoskeleton, chambers and soft interior, were kissing cousins in the Class Cephalopoda, meaning "head-footed," closely related to modern squid, cuttlefish and octopus. Cephalopods have a complex eye structure and were excellent swimmers. Ammonites used these evolutionary benefits to their advantage, making them one of the most successful marine predators of ancient Cretaceous seas.

MUSEO DI STORIA NATURALE DI FIRENZE

MISTY EVENING: BOWRON LAKES

TASEKO LAKE FOSSILS

PADDLING WIDGEON ESTUARY


Interested in getting out on the water? Head out for a relaxing day paddle or overnight to Widgeon Estuary. The paddling is easy. You can do the trip via kayak or canoe and can stay for the night or do it as a day trip. I like to to camp near the base of the trail to the falls.

There is nothing better than to cruise flat water with rippling reflections of big snowy mountains cascading off your bow. The estuary of Widgeon Creek at the south end of Pitt Lake at Grant Narrows is the perfect place to enjoy this sensation.

If you like quiet peaceful waterways teaming with bird life this is the place to go for the whole estuary is a protected bird sanctuary. After making the 300m crossing of Grant Narrows, expect to see tons of waterfowl and other species from herons to harlequins that make this area their habitat. You might even see a fleeting glimpse of muskrat or beaver if you are lucky.

If Widgeon Creek is high in the spring or early summer you can paddle quite a distance up under lazy overhanging branches draped in moss and lichen. Huge lush ferns and skunk cabbage line the shoreline in the marshy areas and neat little gravel bars are gathered in the bends of the creek. When you are there you will be amazed that you can be so close to the city yet so far away.

A campsite is located near the west end of the estuary if you want to stay longer. This is probably best to do in the shoulder season when it isn't so busy. If the water is high more secluded sites are located up the river.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Monday, 11 May 2009

Saturday, 9 May 2009

Friday, 8 May 2009

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Saturday, 2 May 2009