Monthly Archives: February 2015

This is not OK- Sen. Jim Inhofe and his Magical Snowball

This is the chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. This is sad. But also funny because it’s so sad.

Our illustrious Senator Jim Inhofe tossing a snowball to disprove climate change. Your tax dollars pay his salary. Why didn’t anyone think of this before?

In case you don’t know why snowfall does not disprove climate change read this link.

 

A Geologic Tour

Dr. Jim Derby is a geologist who has taught at the University of Tulsa and worked in the petroleum industry. He knows a thing or two about rocks.

He gave me a tour of the geology around his house. The cool thing is you can find similar features in the rocks at your home…fossils, traces of long dead organisms, maybe even some dino droppings.

Calling Future Paleontologists

Do you know a high schooler who loves fossils or wants to be a paleontologist? The Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History has a fantastic program aimed just for them. It’s called Paleo Expedition and the museum is looking for twelve kids to take part.

They’ll get hands on training at geological and paleontological sites in Oklahoma, including the famed Black Mesa site. Best of all, it’s free. As in $0 to attend! The deadline to apply is March 27th.

But wait, there’s more. The Sam Noble Museum has another program called Oklahoma Science Adventure for students in 6-8th grade. The goal is to show the kids what science is like out in the field. They’ll research fossils as well as live animals. It’s also free! 

I really could go on an on about the programs offered through the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum, they also have one just for teachers. But your best bet is to visit the museum’s explorology website. It’s chalk full on information for parents and teachers.

This Scientist is OK- Dr. Richard Cifelli

Dr. Richard Cifelli is a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Oklahoma and the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. He’s had a very successful and interesting career. He was on the team that discovered the oldest horned dinosaur in North America, Aquilops americanus.

His love of science began like most scientists, as a child when his parents fostered an environment of discovery.

He fits the bill as an OK scientist.

This is why your child needs braces

Ever wonder what’s up with crooked teeth? I mean, why don’t our teeth fit in our mouth? A recent report in the journal PLOS ONE says you can blame the switch to farming by our ancestors.

This article sums it up nicely. It includes some pictures that really show the difference.

The first humans were hunter-gatherers. They just fought it and killed it and ate it. They didn’t grow it and they didn’t cook it. The report says their teeth and jaws fit together perfectly. That’s how they evolved, big jaws were needed to chew their tough, uncooked food. As farming was developed and the food became more processed and not near as tough, humans didn’t need those big jaws so the jaws became smaller but the teeth stayed the same.

This is just one more example of how evolution works. Nature makes do with what it has. It’s not perfect, it’s not ideal. It just is what it is. Our teeth evolved to fit a different sized jaw and now we have to fork out thousands of dollars for braces to get it fixed.

Megadroughts are Megabad

Oklahoma could be ground zero to some one of the worst droughts in a millennium. A new report in the journal Science Advances says the Great Plains and Southwest portion of the U.S. are in line for megadroughts over the next 100 years. Those are droughts that last more than 20 years. Researchers say we could see droughts that last as long as 35 years or more. This part of the world hasn’t seen droughts like that since the 1100s.

You guessed it, the drier conditions are mostly a result of rising greenhouse gases, according to the report.

My grandfather was a wheat farmer in north central Oklahoma all of his life. I remember visiting his farm as a child. The TV was never on except to watch the weather report and then no one could move or say a word. That weather report was his lifeline. You could sense his anguish if he needed rain and it wasn’t coming. I can’t imagine what a megadrought will do to our Oklahoma farmers.

I wonder when our state and national leaders will take this seriously? If reports like this don’t change some minds, I’m not sure what will.

 

 

Climate Change Made Easy to Understand

Here’s one of the better produced videos you’ll see on climate change, not so much because of the flashy b-roll but because the scientist cuts right to the chase. It’s part of a series called Climate Change Elevator Pitch and comes courtesy of Climate Denial Crock of the Week. The host of the series is John Cook. He’s the Climate Communication Fellow for the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland in Australia. He’s one of many people behind Skeptical Science, a fantastic resource to learn about climate change. You can spend hours there and barely touch the surface.

Anti-Science Bill Update

We’ve been following an anti-science bill proposed in the state legislature. Sen. Josh Brecheen (R-District 6) is author of the bill. It’s his latest attempt to flush out climate change and evolution among other topics.

Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education does a great job staying on top of these bills. They say the best way to stop it is to contact the committee members where the bill starts. Here’s what OESE has on their website about SB 665:

Senate Bill 665, Oklahoma Science Education Act by Brecheen is the only legislation that directly attacks the teaching of sound science introduced in the legislature this year. Deadline for filing bills was January 22. The bill is virturally identical to a bill filed by Brecheen last year that died in the Senate Education Committee. Analysis of the bill by Rich Brougton is here. A description of the bill and its history is on the NCSE site. Additional information at the Sensuous Curmudgeon and Science is OK. We will let you know if and when it is assigned to a committee. Instructions for tracking bills can be found at Bill tracking in the Oklahoma legislature. There are several bills concerning science standards that we will keep an eye on as well. 
Action Alert: SB 665 has been assigned to the Senate Education Committee. Please contact the committee members and let them know you oppose the bill. Here is contact info for that committee: 
John Ford, Chair, 521-5634, fordj@oksenate.gov 
Ron Sharp, Vice Chair, 521-5539, sharp@oksenate.gov
Earl Garrison, 521-5533, whitep@oksenate.gov
Jim Halligan, 521-5572, halligan@oksenate.gov
Clark Jolley, 521-5622,jolley@oksenate.gov 
Susan Paddack, 521-5541, paddack@oksenate.gov
Marty Quinn, 521-5555, quinn@oksenate.gov
Wayne Shaw, 521-5574, shaw@oksenate.gov
Jason Smalley, 521-5547, smalley@oksenate.gov
John Sparks, 521-5553, sparks@oksenate.gov
Gary Stanislawski, 521-5624, stanislawski@oksenate.gov
Roger Thompson, 521-5588, thompson@oksenate.gov

Bedbugs, Bats, and Cavemen

News On 6 in Tulsa had an interesting story about research being done on the evolution of bedbugs. It says Dr. Warren Booth, a University of Tulsa biology professor, has evidence that bedbugs first evolved to feed off bats in caves. Eventually, early humans lived in the caves and some bedbugs branched off to feed on the humans. The story refers to the early humans as cavemen and says bedbug evolution took place about 250,000 years ago. That would mean the “cavemen” could be Homo erectus, Homo heidelbergensis, or even Neanderthals.

What I think is cool is how this story punctuates why it’s important to study evolution. Here’s a quote from the story, “We need to understand the evolutionary history of the organisms before we can bring it right down to what’s happening here,” said Booth. I’ve heard too many people question why we should study evolution. Dr. Booth says it right there, basically you have to know where you’ve been before you know where to go.

Thank you News On 6 for highlighting an Oklahoma scientist and the important research being done right here.