Art by Skyecrystal Teacher, Writer, and all-round geek when it comes to all things museum-y.

I work as a teacher, facilitator, instructor, and educator at the ROM. I am also the main tweeter/blogger for the @ROMHandsOn Galleries

You can find me on twitter @MuseumGirlSarah

(Art by Skyecrystal)

science-junkie:

Audio: The sounds of ringing rocks at Preseli Hills in West Wales, the source area of some of the Stonehenge bluestones.

Researchers from the Royal College of Art in London have found that some of the monument’s rocks possess unusual acoustic properties; when struck, they make a loud, clanging noise. Perhaps, they say, this explains why these particular rocks were chosen and hauled from nearly 200 miles away — a significant technical feat some 4,000 years ago.

Could it be that Stonehenge was actually a prehistoric glockenspiel?

Read more via nytimes.com

thebrainscoop:

There is absolutely no way to determine a species’ identification without collecting a specimen. Our technology is just not that sophisticated; there is a major misconception there that we’ve all got portable, fully-efficient laboratories and equipment that can be hauled into the field, readily available and accessible. We don’t. Nobody does. And there’s absolutely no way to ensure an area will be conserved if it is not determined beforehand and established firmly that there are species in that area which warrant conservation. In order to do that, legislation requires that biologists prove the inherent value of biodiversity in said area. And they aren’t going to set aside acres and hectares of land for conservation on the basis of someone’s field photograph and a vague assumption that there might be a species of concern in that area. That just isn’t how it works.

This is the importance of communicating science so we don’t have a majority that look at stories like this and jump to the conclusion that curators and researchers are maniacally out in the field, blood-thirsty and without regard towards conservation. That’s just not what museums do. In fact, it’s completely against our mission. 

This is also why I felt the need to make our latest video: Where’d you get all those dead animals?

socimages:

Role models and gender stereotyping.

By Gwen Sharp, PhD

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Fermilab conducted an interesting project where 7th graders were asked to draw and describe a “scientist” before and after visiting the lab on a class trip. When students visit, they first read about the Fermilab, then come to the lab and meet with some of the scientists and talk about their work. From the Fermilab website:

What we changed for this field trip was the before and after descriptions and small group sessions for each student to meet with two of three physicists rather than one large group session. We deliberately chose a typical white male, a young female and an African American physicist. We let the students and physicist take their discussion where they wanted.

Above are some of the before-and-after pictures and descriptions (all 31 are available here).

In general, the students seemed to come away with an idea of scientists as being more like “normal” people, not just stereotypical geeks in lab coats. But some of the other changes are interesting, too. The author of the post at Restructure! analyzed the before-and-after images (as best as she could identify the sex of the drawings):

  • Among girls (14 in total), 36% portrayed a female scientist in the “before” drawing, and 57% portrayed a female scientist in the “after” drawing.
  • Among boys (17 in total), 100% portrayed a male scientist in the “before” drawing, and 100% portrayed a male scientist in the “after” drawing.

I looked through all of them and only saw one instance (posted above) where the child changed the scientists to be clearly non-White.

Of course this is a small sample, but the results seem to reproduce what other studies I’ve read about have found regarding the importance of role models and gender stereotyping, in particular, that girls are more likely to imagine themselves  in careers when they see women doing them. For instance, the relative lack of female professors in male-dominated departments such as engineering may play a role in discouraging women from choosing to major in such fields (as well as other factors such as steering, concerns about family/work conflicts, etc.).

I was surprised to see that none of the boys changed the sex of the scientist they drew, though, and only one child changed the race (there’s no info on the race/ethnicity of the students who drew them). 

Gwen Sharp is an associate professor of sociology at Nevada State College. You can follow her on Twitter at @gwensharpnv.

jtotheizzoe:

It’s been said that we know less about our own oceans than we do some other planets. So perhaps it’s not surprising that we only need to go for a dive to come face to face with “alien” biology.
Of course, no terrestrial life form, no matter how frightful or exotic it may be, is truly “alien”. But evolution, in its many trials and transformations, has molded some very strange forms from the clay of Earth’s long history. Many of these creature features, via their novelty, spark feelings of shock and discomfort in our terrestrial brains.
Moray eels are one of those forms. Morays are a group of more than 200 species of bony fishes that inhabit all of the world’s oceans. Along their evolutionary journey, the many families of eels (of which morays are but one) have gradually slendered and lost their fins, some to a degree that they look more like snakes than fish. It’s a wonderful example of convergent evolution, two only distantly-related organisms meeting the same end result (long and slithery body shapes) independently.  
It’s natural to feel a bit unsettled when you first lay eyes upon such pelagic poltergeists and benthic beasts, whether it’s the relatively familiar eel or the spiral of dental terror that is a lamprey’s mouth:

Can I just say NOPE?
Our disquiet makes biological sense. Human neural circuitry evolved in the presence of (and has adapted to recognize) the body forms of terrestrial fauna, so when faced with the incomprehensible biological distortions resulting from eons spent evolving in a wet, dark world quite unlike our own, a little unease is to be expected. We recognize that these aquatic animals are alive, that their bodies have directions we can understand and parts that we can name, but there’s something that’s just… off about ‘em. I came across a Latin term that fits these oddities quite well: ”xenomorph” meaning ”strange shape.” 
Xenomorph is also the name given to the deadly parasitoid extraterrestrials from the Alien movies. They, too, reside in that uncanny valley between familiar forms (head/mouth/arms/hands/legs) and extraordinary strangeness, creepy chimeras with skulls but no eyes, familiar bipedal anatomy sheathed in insect-like armor stretched over quasi-mechanic skeletons oozing with acidic blood. Oh, and we can’t forget their second set of jaws, ready to snap through your skull like a toothy bolt pistol.

Yet that second set of jaws is not alien at all. We find it in our friends the moray eels.

Morays possess a second set of retractable chompers called pharyngeal jaws (seen in the GIF up top), which are crucial to how they feed. Many fish have realted crushing structures in their throats, but none are able to extend them to grab prey like the moray. So why do eels have them? We think it’s because they had to make an evolutionary tradeoff.
Most fish gulp down their prey using suction. By very quickly extending their jaws open wide, they create a flow of negative water pressure that they use to slurp prey down their throat:

But to do that, gulping fish need wide, flexible jaws that they can expand blazingly fast. The moray eel family has adapted such a narrow head and body shape that they lost the ability to create that suction motion. So instead, it grew a second mouth!
In 2007, scientists from UC Davis used high-speed cameras to capture moray eels using their second jaws to snag prey. To hunt, the eel waits in its dark coral crevice or murky hollow, eyes unblinking and mouth agape, doing its best impression of scenery while it waits for something edible to float near its mouth. Then, in the blink of an eye, it snaps its forward jaws shut around the prey, extending its second pharyngeal set to pull the food down the throat. What a way to go.
Alien monster designer H.R. Giger, who passed away May 12, maintained his movie monster wasn’t inspired by the moray eel, or any other animal. He said his only goal with the Alien xenomorph was to make something “frightening and horrible.”
He certainly succeeded, and in doing so accomplished some convergent evolution of his own. Two sets of pharyngeal jaws, each unsettling in their own way, blending the familiar with the unfamiliar, keeping one terrifying foot rooted in reality and by resting the other just outside the bounds of what we know. Whether a creature is from outer space or just the shadowy parts of the sea, sometimes they’re just too close for comfort. 

jtotheizzoe:

It’s been said that we know less about our own oceans than we do some other planets. So perhaps it’s not surprising that we only need to go for a dive to come face to face with “alien” biology.

Of course, no terrestrial life form, no matter how frightful or exotic it may be, is truly “alien”. But evolution, in its many trials and transformations, has molded some very strange forms from the clay of Earth’s long history. Many of these creature features, via their novelty, spark feelings of shock and discomfort in our terrestrial brains.

Moray eels are one of those forms. Morays are a group of more than 200 species of bony fishes that inhabit all of the world’s oceans. Along their evolutionary journey, the many families of eels (of which morays are but one) have gradually slendered and lost their fins, some to a degree that they look more like snakes than fish. It’s a wonderful example of convergent evolution, two only distantly-related organisms meeting the same end result (long and slithery body shapes) independently.  

It’s natural to feel a bit unsettled when you first lay eyes upon such pelagic poltergeists and benthic beasts, whether it’s the relatively familiar eel or the spiral of dental terror that is a lamprey’s mouth:

Can I just say NOPE?

Our disquiet makes biological sense. Human neural circuitry evolved in the presence of (and has adapted to recognize) the body forms of terrestrial fauna, so when faced with the incomprehensible biological distortions resulting from eons spent evolving in a wet, dark world quite unlike our own, a little unease is to be expected. We recognize that these aquatic animals are alive, that their bodies have directions we can understand and parts that we can name, but there’s something that’s just… off about ‘em. I came across a Latin term that fits these oddities quite well: ”xenomorph meaning ”strange shape.” 

Xenomorph is also the name given to the deadly parasitoid extraterrestrials from the Alien movies. They, too, reside in that uncanny valley between familiar forms (head/mouth/arms/hands/legs) and extraordinary strangeness, creepy chimeras with skulls but no eyes, familiar bipedal anatomy sheathed in insect-like armor stretched over quasi-mechanic skeletons oozing with acidic blood. Oh, and we can’t forget their second set of jaws, ready to snap through your skull like a toothy bolt pistol.

Yet that second set of jaws is not alien at all. We find it in our friends the moray eels.

Morays possess a second set of retractable chompers called pharyngeal jaws (seen in the GIF up top), which are crucial to how they feed. Many fish have realted crushing structures in their throats, but none are able to extend them to grab prey like the moray. So why do eels have them? We think it’s because they had to make an evolutionary tradeoff.

Most fish gulp down their prey using suction. By very quickly extending their jaws open wide, they create a flow of negative water pressure that they use to slurp prey down their throat:

But to do that, gulping fish need wide, flexible jaws that they can expand blazingly fast. The moray eel family has adapted such a narrow head and body shape that they lost the ability to create that suction motion. So instead, it grew a second mouth!

In 2007, scientists from UC Davis used high-speed cameras to capture moray eels using their second jaws to snag prey. To hunt, the eel waits in its dark coral crevice or murky hollow, eyes unblinking and mouth agape, doing its best impression of scenery while it waits for something edible to float near its mouth. Then, in the blink of an eye, it snaps its forward jaws shut around the prey, extending its second pharyngeal set to pull the food down the throat. What a way to go.

Alien monster designer H.R. Giger, who passed away May 12, maintained his movie monster wasn’t inspired by the moray eel, or any other animal. He said his only goal with the Alien xenomorph was to make something “frightening and horrible.”

He certainly succeeded, and in doing so accomplished some convergent evolution of his own. Two sets of pharyngeal jaws, each unsettling in their own way, blending the familiar with the unfamiliar, keeping one terrifying foot rooted in reality and by resting the other just outside the bounds of what we know. Whether a creature is from outer space or just the shadowy parts of the sea, sometimes they’re just too close for comfort. 

proofmathisbeautiful:

15 Science Experiments You Can Do With Your Kids
by Therese Oneill
Time to get messy, light some stuff on fire, and use food products in ways they were never intended! Parents and teachers across the internet have found fun ways to teach kids science, and have documented the experiments for the rest of us. Here are 15 hands-on science lessons that will stick in a kid’s brain far longer than anything they get from a textbook.
1. Lemony Sudsy Eruptions @ Blog Me Mom
2. Alcohol soaked Money on Fire @ Barefoot in Suburbia
3. Homemade Rock Candy Skewers @ Home made simple
4. Make Your Own Electromagnet @ Science Bob
5. Invisible Ink From Lemons @ Show Tell Share
6. Walking on Eggs @ Steve Spangler Science
7. Tea Bag Rocket @ Ordinary Life Magic
8. Dancing Oobleck @ Housing a Forest
9. Ivory Soap Monster @ bebe ala mode designs
10.  Easy Marshmallow Catapult @ it’s always autumn
11. Magic Plastic Bag @ TinkerLab
12. Gummy Bear Torture @ Science for Kids
13. Making an Optical Illusion @ Science-Sparks
14. Chain Reaction Popsicle Sticks @ Frugal Fun for Boys
15. How to be a Polar Bear @ Discover and Learn

proofmathisbeautiful:

15 Science Experiments You Can Do With Your Kids

by Therese Oneill

Time to get messy, light some stuff on fire, and use food products in ways they were never intended! Parents and teachers across the internet have found fun ways to teach kids science, and have documented the experiments for the rest of us. Here are 15 hands-on science lessons that will stick in a kid’s brain far longer than anything they get from a textbook.

1. Lemony Sudsy Eruptions @ Blog Me Mom

2. Alcohol soaked Money on Fire @ Barefoot in Suburbia

3. Homemade Rock Candy Skewers @ Home made simple

4. Make Your Own Electromagnet @ Science Bob

5. Invisible Ink From Lemons @ Show Tell Share

6. Walking on Eggs @ Steve Spangler Science

7. Tea Bag Rocket @ Ordinary Life Magic

8. Dancing Oobleck @ Housing a Forest

9. Ivory Soap Monster @ bebe ala mode designs

10.  Easy Marshmallow Catapult @ it’s always autumn

11. Magic Plastic Bag @ TinkerLab

12. Gummy Bear Torture @ Science for Kids

13. Making an Optical Illusion @ Science-Sparks

14. Chain Reaction Popsicle Sticks @ Frugal Fun for Boys

15. How to be a Polar Bear @ Discover and Learn

thebrainscoop:

The rainbow scarab, (Phanaeus vindex). These dung beetles are found throughout the United States and are indicators of high-quality ecosystems because they are typically only found in those which are healthy.
All dung beetles play a significant role in their environments as natural sanitation crews; utilizing the refuse of others for subsistence not only cleans up the landscape but also reduces the number of pests and flies attracted to such. Rainbow scarabs apparently prefer swine and opossum dung heavily over that of raccoon and - yuck - horses…. but human dung is their favorite. Mmm. 
More~

thebrainscoop:

The rainbow scarab, (Phanaeus vindex). These dung beetles are found throughout the United States and are indicators of high-quality ecosystems because they are typically only found in those which are healthy.

All dung beetles play a significant role in their environments as natural sanitation crews; utilizing the refuse of others for subsistence not only cleans up the landscape but also reduces the number of pests and flies attracted to such. Rainbow scarabs apparently prefer swine and opossum dung heavily over that of raccoon and - yuck - horses…. but human dung is their favorite. Mmm. 

More~