Category Archives: Uncategorized

La Brea Tar Pits

La Brea Tar Pits

So it’s not Oklahoma but this is still cool. See that pic above? That’s the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles. I had the chance to visit there a few years back and I would highly recommend you stop by the next time you’re in L.A.

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Below is a handy guide to how the tar pits were formed courtesy of Corkboard of Curiosities. It does a great job explaining where the tar (not tar) comes from and what kinds of animals have been found.

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One animal is the Ground Sloth, that’s the bones in the pic above. At the museum next to the tar pits you can watch volunteers and researchers clean the bones that are found in the tar pits. Check this out, it’s a fun read!!

http://corkboardofcuriosities.tumblr.com/post/132612639959/tar-pits

 

Booster Seats Saves Lives

Booster seats save lives. I know that first hand. I’ve seen it. I’m thankful that my wife and I continue to put our 9-year old son in a booster seat.

Climate change is important to me. Helping promote a better understanding of evolution is important to me. But this is the most important story I have ever written. See that picture below? My wife and son were in that car when it was struck last week.

Two people inside this car survived because of a seatbelt and a booster seat.

Two people inside this car survived because of a seatbelt and a booster seat.

My wife was wearing her seatbelt and my 9-year old son was in a booster seat (CARS theme, you know Lightning McQueen and friends). The firefighters at the scene, the paramedics, and his doctor all said it would have been a very different story had he not been in a booster seat. The point of the booster seat is to raise the child up so the seatbelt does not go across their neck or face and that it rests in the lap, not on their stomach. I’ve known some parents of similar aged kids who do not use a booster seat. I can’t say why. Maybe they think their child is too cool for it, maybe they think their child is too old for it, maybe they just don’t know better.

Well, this should help. Go to this link. It’s from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and has all kinds of advice for using a booster seat or car seat for the younger kids. My son is nine, this is what they say about his age:

8 – 12 Years

Keep your child in a booster seat until he or she is big enough to fit in a seat belt properly. For a seat belt to fit properly, the lap belt must lie snugly across the upper thighs, not the stomach. The shoulder belt should lie snugly across the shoulder and chest and not cross the neck or face. Remember: your child should still ride in the back seat because it’s safer there.

Here’s more. These come courtesy of the CDC.

Restraint use among young children often depends upon the driver’s seat belt use. Almost 40% of children riding with unbelted drivers were themselves unrestrained.

More of the older children (45% of 8-12 year olds) were not buckled up compared with younger children (one-third of 1-7 year olds; one-fourth of infants under 1) in 2011.

Booster seat use reduces the risk for serious injury by 45% for children aged 4–8 years when compared with seat belt use alone.

In the United States during 2011, more than 650 children ages 12 years and younger died as occupants in motor vehicle crashes.

Of the children who died in a crash in 2011, 33% were not buckled up.

Look at these pictures, imagine what happened inside this car during the wreck. I can’t even think about what could have happened had my son not been in a booster seat or worse, been sitting in the front seat.

Put your child in a booster seat. Put your child in the back seat. Don’t think, ‘It won’t happen to me.’ Don’t pretend your child is too good for a booster seat. Don’t fool yourself. 

Your child’s life depends on it.

 

Rush in Tulsa

It’s a great week here in Tulsa, America…at least for fans of the rock band Rush. I’ve been a lifelong fan of this amazing trio. Their lyrics, their musicality, and their ability to stay together for more than 40 years is inspirational.

They have a number of songs with a science themes…Cygnus X 1, Countdown, and 2112 (okay, so that’s more science-fiction).

But my favorite is Natural Science. It’s a doozy at more than nine minutes. It’s about not forgetting the natural world despite all of our modern technology. The song shows off Alex, Geddy, and Neil’s musical ability with three different movements and several odd time signatures. Enjoy.

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.)

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!!

How People Are Made

No, this isn’t that kind of post but an amazing look at how humans are formed in the womb. Eleanor Lutz is a designer in Seattle but has a degree in Molecular Biology.

She created a fantastic GIF showing the development of an embryo to a human. It’s packed with info. and some cool graphics.

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courtesy; TabletopWhale.com; Eleanor Lutz 2014

You can follow Lutz and her science illustration blog here.

 

Medieval Dental Plaque Gets OU Researcher Top Honors

Research conducted by a University of Oklahoma anthropology professor has been named one of the top 100 stories of the year by Discover Magazine.

Christina Warinner directed a study of dental plaque from four Medieval skeletons. She published her research in Nature this past February. Discover Magazine was so impressed it’s ranked it the 69th best science story of the year and will feature it in an article in its January/February issue of the top 100 stories of of 2014.

According to OU, Warinner’s study found evidence of ancient DNA from wheat, pork, mutton, and a plant belonging to the mustard family. She also found ancient protein from cattle, sheep, and goat milk.

 

courtesy: University of Oklahoma

Photo credit: Malin Holst, courtesy: University of Oklahoma

The picture above shows a human jawbone that dates to the 1st-4th century from York, UK. Dr. Warinner doesn’t know the sex but says the person was in their 20s or 30s when they died. You can clearly see the build-up of dental plaque on the teeth. Dr. Warinner says this particular example tested positive of milk proteins.

Warinner wrote an article for CNN in 2012 explaining what she does and why it’s so important. “By extracting DNA from ancient human bones, we can reconstruct the human genome at different times in the past and look for differences that might be related to adaptations, risk factors, or inherited diseases,” she wrote. Adding, “The aim is to better understand the evolutionary vulnerabilities of the human body so that we can better manage and improve our health in the future.”

Want more with some cool illustrations? Here she is giving a presentation at TED in 2012.

Up Close with Radar (not the M*A*S*H guy)

Here’s a cool chance to see science research up close. The University of Oklahoma is hosting a dedication ceremony on Oct. 22nd for its Radar Innovations Laboratory.

The RIL is a 35,000 square foot facility where 60 students and 20 faculty members are currently working. They’re building what OU calls, “…the most advanced radar in the industry.”

The project began thanks to all of the weather research done at OU. One of the professors at the RIL is studying how radar can be used to track tornado debris and see how that debris interacts with a tornado. According to an OU news release, the students “have access to an expansive microwave laboratory that features a full suite of state-of-the-art test equipment, a high-bay garage for mobile radar trucks, prototype fabrication facilities, a machine shop, two precision echoless chambers, and an experimental observation deck.“

The public dedication is Wednesday Oct. 22 at 1:30. It’s on OU’s Research Campus at 3190 Monitor Ave.