Monthly Archives: April 2015

New Dinosaur Discovered

Illustration by Gabriel Lio

Illustration by Gabriel Lio

A new dinosaur has been discovered and it has paleontologists excited because it belongs to a lineage of herbivores that no one knew existed. It’s called Chilesaurus diegosuareziIts name comes from the country where it was found, combined with the name of the seven year old boy who discovered it.

Chilesaurus was a theropod but, unlike most other theropods, it was a plant eater. It’s also unusual because it had characteristics of other dinosaurs but it belonged to a separate group of dinos. Martin Ezcurra is one of the scientists who worked on the project. He describes Chilesaurus like this, “Its skull and neck look like those of primitive long-necked dinosaurs like Plateosaurus; the vertebrae resemble those of primitive meat-eating theropods such as Dilophosaurus; the pelvis is very similar to that of ornithischian dinosaurs such as Iguanodon; and the hand has only two well-developed fingers as in Tyranosaurus Rex, but with a longer arm.” 

Click here to read more of Ezcurra’s description of the ID process. This article has a great picture of the Chilesaurus’ fossilized teeth.

Brian Switek has a fantastic article on the discovery here.

And here’s a writeup from National Geographic.

Snakes and turtles and stuff

A student researcher examines a turtle.

A student researcher examines a turtle.

I had the privilege of spending an afternoon with researchers from OU studying snakes and turtles and stuff. Jessa Watters is the Collection Manager for Herpetology at the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History. Herpetology is the study of amphibians and reptiles.

Watters is part of the Cameron Siler lab at the museum. She was joined by two students this weekend at the James Collins Wildlife Management Area in Latimer County, it’s near Robbers Cave State Park. I’ll be producing a story of my visit soon and show why they say studying these creatures is important.

Researchers from the University of Oklahoma study wildlife in Latimer County.

Researchers from the University of Oklahoma study wildlife in Latimer County.

Earthquakes and Oklahoma

Oklahoma, we need to talk. We have an earthquake problem and here’s the thing, we think we know why. More and more reports are coming out showing it’s connected to the disposal of waste water from oil and gas wells.

Oil and gas are deeply tied to this state and I’m not in favor damaging the industry but we simply have to do something. Instead, our state leaders think laws prohibiting local officials from doing what they think is best for their own community is the way to go. Besides just being short-sighted it’s a slap in the face to Oklahomans. Now The Daily Show has taken notice with Jon Stewart appropriately saying, “What the f#&k Oklahoma?”

Have Fun with Aquilops

It’s been a while since we’ve checked in with Aquilops americanus. That’s the small horned dinosaur found in Montana by a team that included Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History paleontologist Dr. Richard Cifelli.

The tiny fossil is now on display at the museum, but what better way to celebrate this historic find than to have your own version…sort of.

Sauropod Vertebra Picture of the Week is the place to go for the latest news on this awesome little creature. They’ve also passed on some most outstanding ways you can make Aquilops your own. Click here to see how you can make hand puppets, 3D models, even a baby Aquilops for the kiddos. It’s all very cool and a great way to teach kids about dinosaurs.

What the OKC Bombing Means to Me

(I’m taking a little detour with this post for some Dan time. This weekend marks 20 years since the federal building in Oklahoma City was attacked. My father was in the building at the time and lived through it. Below is his story…some of it is familiar, but there are also personal thoughts that I’ve never shared. I hope there’s something in here for anyone who reads it. Dan)
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I love my dad. It’s easy for me to say that now, but 20 years ago that may not have been an easy thing to do. I was 25 years old going on 15…maturity wasn’t there yet (still may not be to be honest) and I was a proud (some say bull-headed) dude who had a hard time expressing emotions. Then a militant maniac blew up the building where my dad worked. Don Bewley was on the 7th floor of the Alfred P. Murrah building on the morning of April 19, 1995. He was working for the Department of Housing and Urban Development. It was just before 9am, he had been helping a friend at her desk before going into another co-worker’s office. An ear-popping blast, the room goes dark, and the world…his world, my world, the world of thousands of Oklahomans…was changed forever.

Dad says when the light started to filter through he could see debris everywhere and the room was full of dust. He could also see black smoke and blue sky…which was weird, you’re not supposed to see the sky through a wall. Thing is, the wall was gone. You’ve seen that picture thousands of times showing the torn apart building, dad was standing right there, three feet from the edge, overlooking NW 5th St. He says chunks of concrete covered the floor, broken glass was at every turn, the pipes had burst forcing water to slowly leak across the floor, and electrical wires were dangling from the mangled walls and ceiling. He didn’t know what happened, he didn’t know how many people were dead. All he knew was the friend he was talking with a few minutes ago was gone. She was working where the floors fell like pancakes…like 167 others, Diane Althouse lost her life that day.

Dad and his surviving co-workers jumped on the desks to get out of the water and avoid electric shock. But they had to do something. Do they wait for rescue workers or do they make a break for it? Easy answer, says dad. Make a break for it. But what about the water and the electrical cords? Oh well, got to take the chance. So he and a few others jumped down, into the water expecting a shock. Nothing happened. Phew. Now run! To the stairwell. Nothing like a group of dressed up businessmen and women rushing down seven flights of stairs. They didn’t know what was waiting when they got to the bottom but it had to be safer than what was happening on the seventh floor.

Daylight, smoke, and a mass of confused Oklahomans is what they found. Thank goodness the paramedics and first responders were already there…dad was quickly taken to the hospital. His hands were swollen from where concrete fell on him and he had a gash on top of his head. This is where his sense of humor made itself known. Dad needed stitches and the doctor wanted to shave his head but my wedding date was a month-and-a-half away. I’m the oldest of three sons and the first to get married. He took the doctor’s hand and gently moved it away, saying he did not want to be bald for the wedding. The doc ended up attaching the stitches through dad’s hair. I’ve always wondered how many others would have thought of their son’s wedding in a situation like that. That’s my dad.

It’s strange to think that your father almost died. I learned of the bombing after dad was already safe and at the hospital. But my mind was constantly playing the “what if” game. What if he died? What if he was missing? What if was suffering? Thankfully, for us, dad didn’t have any major physical injuries…just the swollen hands and stitched up scalp. Dad jokes that he made it through because everything fell on his head and he’s always been known for being hard-headed. His wounds were more emotional. The next few weeks would be some of the toughest of his life. HUD had the most people killed of all the departments in the building. Dad knew a lot of them. He went to funeral after funeral, including several in the same day. It got to the point where he just couldn’t go to anymore. Couldn’t take it. Couldn’t deal with the emotional ups and downs (mostly downs).

I saw a different side of my dad that summer. That’s when I realized he’s a person, a human being with feelings and stuff. I know everyone, at some point in their life, begins to see their parents as people…for me, it took this tragedy. Ever since, I’ve made it a point to tell him that I love him and we hug every time we see each other. It’s also brought me closer to my own son who was born ten years after the bombing. He’s the most important thing in my life (right up there next to the missus of course) and takes priority over everything. I said goodbye to my career as a television journalist because it was causing me to spend too much time from him. I wanted to be his coach, I wanted to help him with his homework (except the math, I’m not good at the math). Maybe I want to spend too much time with him, but I want him to see me as human. I share my feelings with my son, I tell him when I mess up, and I tell him when I’m afraid. I’ve recently decided to pursue a lifelong dream of owning a business. I’m hoping it’s an example to my son that you only have one chance on this earth so you better make it count.

The bombing in Oklahoma City was horrific and unforgivable. I’d like to think it could never happen again, but I’m worried we’ll see a repeat because of the fractured nature of our society. When your fellow countrymen fail to see each other as Americans because of different political views, religious beliefs, or social concerns and instead treat them like some lower form of life, the possibility rises of another attack by Americans on Americans. That makes me sad.

One can dream though. Here’s hoping we learn that hate, violence, and the forcing of our ideals on to others is the worst way to solve problems. Until then, I’ll hug my dad (mom too) as much as I can, tell him I love him, and do everything I can to teach my son that everyone’s different and that’s what makes us special.

So many gave so much that day. The 168 lost lives should always be remembered and stand as a sign of what hate can deliver. The rescue workers who rushed into that building to treat, save, and recover the victims stand as a sign of what humanity is capable.

My dad’s name is on the Survivor Wall but I don’t like to think of him as a survivor. That’s who he was on that day but it doesn’t define him. His legacy is as the man who always supported me, taught me how to play baseball, passed on his passion for Sooner football, and even in the most difficult of times showed there’s still good in this world. Sometimes it’s a sense of humor that’s needed most.

I love you, dad.

Grandpa and grandma with the wee one

Grandpa and grandma with the wee one

(Click here for another story on my father.)

OU Researchers Create New Molecule

Scientists at the University of Oklahoma have created a new molecule that may lead the way to quantum computing. Dr. James Shaffer and his team created the molecule by manipulating the electron inside an atom causing it leave the atom, this caused another atom to reach out to it creating what’s called a Dipole Moment(Obviously, this is a way watered-down version of this process.)

The Dipole Moment created by the OU researchers is the largest on record.

Quantum computers are much faster than conventional computers and are based on a large Dipole Moment. Dr. Shaffer explains in this video how his breakthrough could help develop quantum computing and why that’s important.

Below is a news release from the University of Oklahoma that has some details.

OU Physicists First to Create New Molecule with Record-Setting Dipole Moment

Norman, Okla.—A proposed pathway to construct quantum computers may be the outcome of research by a University of Oklahoma physics team that has created a new molecule based on the interaction between a highly-excited type of atom known as a Rydberg atom and a ground-state atom.  A unique property of the molecule is the large permanent dipole moment, which reacts with an electric field much like a bar magnet reacts with a magnetic field.

“This is the largest electric dipole moment ever observed in a molecule,” says James Shaffer, professor in the Homer L. Dodge Department of Physics and Astronomy, OU College of Arts and Sciences.  Shaffer and his team want to produce enough of these molecules to carry out future experiments on dipole interactions.  Dipole interactions between particles may provide a pathway for constructing scalable quantum computers.

Donald Booth, the lead graduate student on this project, says the molecule is formed when an electron from the Rydberg atom grabs onto the ground-state atom. OU researchers excite the Rydberg atom using lasers in a cloud of ground-state atoms, so the Rydberg electron can collide with a ground-state atom and form the molecule.

A paper by OU physicist James Shaffer on this research has been published in Science magazine at news.sciencemag.org.

Sperm Whale Caught on Film

I have a thing for whales so imagine my joy when I saw this video of a Sperm Whale (similar to the one pictured above) deep in the Gulf of Mexico. It was filmed by the crew of the E/V Nautilus, a research vessel, on April 14th.

Click the link and watch the video. At one point its head is right in front of the camera and you get a good look at one of its eyes!!

This Scientist Is OK- Dr. Stanley Rice

Dr. Stanley Rice is a botanist and professor at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant. He’s one of the more active scientists in Oklahoma in terms of public outreach. He works with Oklahomans for Excellence in Science Education and he’s well known for channeling his inner Charles Darwin (check it out at the 1:50 mark) and click here to go to his YouTube channel.

Dr. Rice loves science and has made it his life mission to share his passion. He says, “What’s most important to me is that people can understand why science is important and how that fits in with their lives and their responsibility to all of humankind and to all the world. All the little things we do matter and science helps us understand how those little things matter.”

 

 

What is Scientific Evidence?

The amazing folks at Compound Interest are at it again. This time they’ve created an easy to follow guide explaining what makes up scientific evidence. The chart is below but you can click here to read their entire article.

Here’s why they made it,  “You might think science is science, but some evidence is ranked higher in the scientific community than others, and having an awareness of this can help you sort the science from the pseudoscience when it comes to various internet claims.” They go on to say, “The idea that sources of internet misinformation like the Food Babe might cease to exist with a better public understanding of scientific evidence is a bit of an idealistic one, but perhaps it might give those following cause to stop and question evidence provided, rather than merely accepting it at face value.”

Courtesy: Compound Interest

Courtesy: Compound Interest

Compound Interest has all kinds of wonderful information and they encourage teachers to use it in their classrooms.