Monday, January 31, 2011

Ouch, Cut That One Just a Little Close

The Egyptian Question

Whether or not to walk like one:

OK, that was a cheap excuse to post a video of cute chicks.  You can turn down the sound if you need to.

Really, what to do about Egypt?  Beats me.  Mubarak was bad, but it's likely his replacements may not be any better, and could conceivably be a lot worse.

EPA Rams E15 Through

EPA Approves E15 Fuel for more vehicles
WASHINGTON -- Nearly two-thirds of cars on the road could have more corn-based ethanol in their fuel tanks under an Environmental Protection Agency decision Friday. The agency said that 15 percent ethanol blended with gasoline is safe for cars and light-duty trucks manufactured between 2001 and 2006, expanding an October decision that the higher blend is safe for cars built since 2007. The maximum gasoline blend has been 10 percent ethanol.
 Gasahol, particularly with corn-based ethanol is just such a lousy idea from so many perspectives, as I've already outlined.  So why did they do it?

The fuel is popular in farm country because most ethanol comes from corn and other grains..."It seems like corn growers and the ethanol industry are the only real winners here," said Craig Cox of the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy group that opposes use of the fuel.
Yep, it's a political sop to the corn industry, soaking up corn, raising prices for food, causing more land to go to crop instead of being left fallow for wildlife, and producing lousy fuel to boot.
"Any new fuel's success depends on how it's accepted by consumers, and automakers still have concerns on behalf of our customers," said a statement from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, which represents General Motors, Toyota, Ford, Chrysler and other automakers. "We believe more research is needed to determine how increased ethanol levels could affect vehicles that were designed and warranted for (10 percent ethanol)."
But maybe, if we just won't buy it, it won't happen.We have that power.

PCBs to be Studied in the James River

Virginia plans study of PCBs in the James River
Virginia is launching a study of toxic chemicals in the James River. Scientists believe the chemicals, called PCBs, can cause cancer. People can be exposed by eating tainted fish.

"We want to let the public know what we know about PCBs in the James River," said Bill Hayden, a spokesman Department of Environmental Quality. "We are now at the point where we are ready to begin the extended process for identifying the problem and cleaning it up."

The study will concentrate on the tidal James from the Mayo Bridge in downtown Richmond to the Charles City County/Surry County area. It will begin with two public meetings Tuesday in Richmond. Biologists have found PCBs in James River fish from just below the Blue Ridge Parkway to Hampton Roads...
PCBs are the classic legacy pollutant.  No longer manufactured, nor put into new products in the US, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls)  are the classic legacy toxic pollutant.  PCBs are extremely persistent in the environment, degrading only very slowly with the passage of time.  They are strongly bound to sediment, and often accumulate there in high concentrations near sources of pollution, and remain in those sites indefinitely.  Organisms exposed to PCB accumulate them to very high levels.  Many fish advisories around the country are based on high levels of PCBs in fish.

PCBs were used extensively in high powered electrical transformers, and exploding transformers were a common source of much of the PCB found near cities.  In the Hudson River, a major PCB producer contaminated the river so badly that 40 miles of river bottom is to be dredged.  Some of that work is done, and some is ongoing.

PCBs have been studied in most Chesapeake tributaries including the James before; I've been involved in one of them.  It sounds like this will be a more extensive study, but I do wonder what the ultimate goal will be?  Will the James be subjected to a Hudson-like clean up?  I would hope it's not that bad.

Wolf Pack Enlarged

DNA analysis has shown that the Egyptian jackal, previously categorized as a subspecies of the golden jackal, is a relative of the grey wolf. 

DNA analysis shows that a large jackal like animal living in Africa is more closely related to the gray wolf, the "common", European, Asian and American wolf.
Genetic information shows that the species, Canis aureus lupaster, is more closely related to Indian and Himalayan wolves than golden jackals. Writing in Plos One, researchers said the renamed "African wolf" was the only grey wolf species found in Africa. They also called for an urgent assessment of its conservation status.

There has been a long-running debate over whether the animal was a jackal or wolf. In the late 19th Century, the renowned evolutionary biologist Thomas Huxley said that it looked suspiciously like grey wolves (Canis lupus). In the 20th Century, other biologists made similar comments after examining skulls from specimens of the species. However, the taxonomical classification remained unchanged.
 It's interesting that something this large is so relatively unknown.  Kind of like the recent proposal to reclassify of African elephants into two species.

Are You Ready for "Cultured Meat?"

South Carolina scientist works to grow meat in lab.
CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) – In a small laboratory on an upper floor of the basic science building at the Medical University of South Carolina, Vladimir Mironov, M.D., Ph.D., has been working for a decade to grow meat. A developmental biologist and tissue engineer, Dr. Mironov, 56, is one of only a few scientists worldwide involved in bioengineering "cultured" meat.
It's a product he believes could help solve future global food crises resulting from shrinking amounts of land available for growing meat the old-fashioned way ... on the hoof.
 Could it be worse than spam?
"It will be functional, natural, designed food," Mironov said. "How do you want it to taste? You want a little bit of fat, you want pork, you want lamb? We design exactly what you want. We can design texture. I believe we can do it without genes. But there is no evidence that if you add genes the quality of food will somehow suffer. Genetically modified food is already normal practice and nobody dies."

Dr. Mironov has taken myoblasts -- embryonic cells that develop into muscle tissue -- from turkey and bathed them in a nutrient bath of bovine serum on a scaffold made of chitosan (a common polymer found in nature) to grow animal skeletal muscle tissue. But how do you get that juicy, meaty quality?

Genovese said scientists want to add fat. And adding a vascular system so that interior cells can receive oxygen will enable the growth of steak, say, instead of just thin strips of muscle tissue.
 I can wait until they get it right.   In the meantime, I'll enjoy steaks from cows and bacon from pigs.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Dallas Develops Acute Stripper Shortage

Just in time for the Super Bowl.

Today Was a Bad Day Fishing,,,

... and it was still better than staying at home.  I went out with Pete again, with a friend, Tom, and a couple guys I hadn't met before.  We did not catch one fish.  However, Tom did catch one scale, proving that there was at least one fish in the vicinity.  It was, however, a great day to be out, no wind, a blue sky, and a gorgeous sunset:

The last light on the corner of the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant.

Calvert Cliffs still have snow on them,

One Fish (in yellow), and his son.  Caught as many fish as we did.

Sun setting through the trees at Flag Ponds Nature Park.

A view of "Long Beach on the Bay". 

The entrance to Flag Harbor.

Two Day Beach Report

I'm combining two days because I didn't get around to yesterdays what with the impromptu fishing trip.

Yesterday was somewhat cloudy, not too windy.  There was nothing really remarkable, but a pleasant walk.  On the detour around the narrow spot, we came upon a pair of Pileated Woodpeckers working on a tree..

 Even though the light wasn't very good, I managed to salvage a couple of half-decent shots from my Nikon using GIMP.
And since I haven't done it in a while, some silly Husky tongue, for Janie...

Today was much the same, except the Bay was as flat as a pond.  A few fossils for both days, but nothing worthy of a picture.

I was over dressed and sweating by the end.  Well, time to go fishing again.

Uncle Bill and Auntie Mabel

Fainted at the breakfast table
Children may you heed this warning
Never do it in the morning!

Of course, who ever wrote this ditty did it without knowledge of of this new study:
...Research suggests that adults who begin their day this way are healthier and happier than those who simply opt for a cup of tea and some toast before heading out of the door.

Dr Debby Herbenick, an American research scientist and sex advice columnist, said: ‘Having sex in the morning releases the feel-good chemical oxytocin, which makes couples feel loving and bonded all day long.’

Dr Herbenick, author of the book Because It Feels Good, added: ‘It makes you stronger and more beautiful too: Morning sex can strengthen your immune system for the day by enhancing your levels of IgA, an antibody that protects against infection.
‘And it releases chemicals that boost levels of oestrogen, which improves the tone and texture of your skin and hair.’

Other research suggests that the benefits do not end there. A study at Queens University in Belfast found that having sex three times a week could halve the risk of heart attack or stroke.
Dear, I don't want to do it either, but it's for our health!

Bacon Makes Converts Out of Vegans

Is there anything it can't do?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Bad Day Fishing...

Is still better than a good day blogging... And it wasn't a bad day fishing.

 At the end of our walk on the beach this AM, we saw one of my fishing guide friends, Walleye Pete Dahlberg, proprietor of Four Seasons Guide Service  bringing his boat back into the harbor.  We stopped to talk with his passengers, who reported that they had an incredible morning, catching many stripers, several over 40 inches long.  I called Pete, and soon wrangled my way into a seat on his afternoon trip. Click pics to embiggen.
We left the dock about 1 PM, headed for the CCNPP  discharge,  where the big fish often congregate in cold water.  It's only 3 miles by water from the dock.  Fishermen included a friend from Virginia, and two from Pennsylvania.  A look at the beach as we left.

As Pete warned us it might be, fishing was slow at first, because we were there at slack tide.  However, we caught a few.  Here, Bill from PA holds shows off the first big one, that measured 38 inches.  We were jigging using large rubber jigs, using up to 1.5 oz of lead to reach the bottom, which is where the fish are at this time of the year.

A little after 3 PM the fishing turned on, and we all caught fish pretty steadily for about 2 hrs.  Here is my best, a 39 inch, not a personal best (that would need to be 45 inches) but a great fish none the less.  All fish were released.

There were a few other die-hard fisherman types fishing close by, and they appeared to be catching as well.

The bite died as the sun went behind the cliffs, leaving us with this sunset.

Thanks Pete!

Welcome visiting TidalFishers and  Pacemakers.  It's pretty clear one way to get blog hits is to post the link on fishing forums.  Some of you may be old friend that I've lost touch with as I stopped following TF quite so closely.  If you have the time, poke around a little and see if you see anything you like.  I try to keep a running commentary on Chesapeake Bay policy and science, science in general in the news, and the random oddities that crop up.

And in Related News...

Staring at women's boobs makes them worse at math.
...Gervais and her colleagues trained research assistants to do a quick up-and-down look at a person's body and to train their gaze at the other person's chest for a consistent period of a few seconds during conversations. It was harder than it sounds, Gervais said.

"For people that are doing this — even the men who are presumably doing this pretty frequently — actually having to slow down and do it is pretty hard," Gervais said. It was also somewhat awkward, she added ...The volunteers were told the study was about teamwork. After this briefing, each volunteer was assigned to an opposite-sex partner — actually a trained research assistant posing as another volunteer.

The research assistants then gave the real volunteers a five-question interview, ostensibly as part of the teamwork exercise. In some cases, the assistant started the interview by gazing from the volunteer's head to waist and back again, and then stared at the volunteer's chest for a few seconds between some questions. (Although the chest is a more sensitive area for women, men are becoming increasingly self-conscious about chest muscularity, the researchers explained.) In other cases, the assistant simply made eye contact. The volunteers then had 10 minutes to complete 12 math problems.
 Tough work, but somebody has to do it.  I never got a cushy job like that in college.
The results revealed that men’s scores were not affected whether or not they got an objectifying glance from a woman before the math test. But women whose male partners objectified them scored lower than those whose partners didn't gaze at their bodies. The non-objectified women scored an average of 6 out of 12 questions correct, while objectified women scored an average of just under 5.
John Kerry objectifying women
"Objectified" vs. "Non-Objectified."  I think we see this authors lack of objectivity shining through.  Anyway, this must be because the women were flustered by the unwanted attention, right?
Bad math scores notwithstanding, the ogled women were more likely than the non-ogled women to say they wanted to interact with their partners more.
Nope, they were being distracted by a possible opportunity...

Important follow up research needed: As women's breasts expand, are their math scores dropping?  Are math scores and breast sizes inversely correlated?
John Kerry picture found at this tribute to ogling...

Now Don't Go Messing With a Good Thing...

Why ARE women's breasts getting bigger? The answers may disturb you...

The British are noticing that their women are getting bigger busted with time, shifting from a B to C or D cup since the 1950s. The same is happening in America, at least to my uncalibrated eyes.  But why should people change change shape so dramatically over a couple of generations.  Evolution doesn't work that fast.  Could it just be that people are fatter (sadly true) and that's showing up in the breasts as well?
Terri Smith, 21, L-cup
Fat is the first answer most experts will give. Professor Michael Baum, an expert in breast cancer, says: ‘Fat is laid down on breasts as much as thighs or bottoms. We are experiencing an obesity ­epidemic, so the increase in women’s measurements isn’t that surprising.’

But this is only part of the story. After all, women such as Terri do not appear to be ­carrying much excess fat ­elsewhere on their bodies. As Terri says: ‘The rest of my body is quite slim. Yet throughout my teens my boobs went up a couple of cup sizes every year.’

Anna Prince, from Bravissimo, agrees: ‘There is a total misconception that it’s ­unusual to be big-boobed and small-bodied. We’ve been ­contacted by more than two million women since we started in 1995, the vast majority of whom are small in the body and big in the bust.’
So, just plain fat is likely part of the story, but not all of it.
Dr Marilyn Glenville, a nutritionist ­specialising in women’s health and hormones, says: ‘It’s clear that we’re not just talking about fat, but increased levels of breast ­tissue, too.

‘So we have to look at what stimulates breast tissue growth — and that’s oestrogen, the female sex hormone. ­Oestrogen is what changes our body shape during puberty.’

The link between increased oestrogen levels and bigger breasts is so clear that there are even ‘breast-enhancing’ ­supplements on the market — such as Perfect C Breast Enhancer capsules — containing ingredients such as fennel seed and fenugreek, which are said to have oestrogenic properties.
 So even though  they're growing, women still want them bigger?  Good, I encourage that...
‘Girls today reach puberty earlier than ever before, and are going on to have fewer ­children and breastfeeding for less time. As a result, we have far more periods than our ancestors would have had and we are exposed to more monthly surges of oestrogen, which stimulates ovulation.’

In addition, today’s young women were born to the first ­generation of women on the contraceptive Pill. Early versions of the Pill contained far higher dosages of synthetic ­oestrogen than they do today, and little is known about the long-term impact of this increased hormone exposure on future generations.
Gosh, I hope that doesn't mean it will wear off...
Dr Glenville says: ‘Pregnancy and breastfeeding have a ­protective effect against breast cancer because they control the hormones which stimulate the growth of new cells in breasts. But with more women today putting off pregnancy until later in life and having fewer children, they experience many more monthly cycles than previous generations did, and are exposed to more oestrogen.’
So lifestyle changes likely contributed to the trend. That's not surprising.  But wait, there's more?
In 2002, research published by the Environment Agency showed that an ‘exquisitely potent’ form of oestrogen — which is believed to have entered the rivers through the urine of Pill and HRT-users — was responsible for changing the sex of half of all the male fish in British lowland rivers, and could be contaminating the water supply.
 It's the water...
Now, it has been suggested that the influence of these xenoestrogens (literally ‘foreign ­oestrogens’) could be responsible for the rapid decline in male sperm count and fertility.
 So, that's not good, right, although we don't seem to be running out of people yet.
... says Dr Glenville. ‘There are many questions still to be answered, but if xenoestrogens are potentially responsible for declining male fertility, they are potentially affecting women, too — and the proof could be in our bras.’ 
Now, there's an upside to it, maybe?
So how do we avoid these surplus hormones? The answer is, we can’t. And it may come as a surprise to know that they are found in everyday items.

‘Pesticides, plastics and ­cosmetics are my main concerns,’ warns Dr Glenville.

For instance, a xenoestrogen called Bisphenol A (or BPA) is widely used in the ­manufacture of tinned food, drinks cans, plastic bottles, glass jars, ­electronic equipment and till receipts — to name but a few items.
The introduction of intensive dairy farming methods to ­maximise production means that about two-thirds of the milk we consume comes from pregnant cows. To ensure that a dairy cow has a steady ­supply of milk, she is almost constantly pregnant.

But taking milk from a pregnant cow, especially d­uring the last few weeks of her pregnancy, raises questions about the high levels of oestrogen and other hormones in milk — and how they might affect those who consume milk every day.
Drink up, ladies! And to remind us of the benefits, and just because TPWBWWP...

Girls: Too Clean for Their Own Good?

Could cleanliness be hurting girls?
The link between increased hygiene and sanitation and higher rates of asthma, allergies and autoimmune disorders is known as the "hygiene hypothesis" and the link is well-documented. Yet the role of gender is rarely explored as part of this phenomenon.

Oregon State University philosopher Sharyn Clough thinks researchers need to dig deeper. In her new study, published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, she points out that women have higher rates of allergies and asthma, and many autoimmune disorders. However, there is no agreed-upon explanation for these patterns. Clough offers a new explanation.

Clough documents a variety of sociological and anthropological research showing that our society socializes young girls differently from young boys. In particular, she notes, girls are generally kept from getting dirty compared to boys.

"Girls tend to be dressed more in clothing that is not supposed to get dirty, girls tend to play indoors more than boys, and girl's playtime is more often supervised by parents," said Clough, adding that this is likely to result in girls staying cleaner. "There is a significant difference in the types and amounts of germs that girls and boys are exposed to, and this might explain some of the health differences we find between women and men."
You were thinking I meant something else?  You have a dirty mind.  I like that.

When the Truth is Found to be Lies, Part Duex

Standard kilogram shrinking, cleaning blamed.
In a vault beneath a 17th-century pavilion on the outskirts of Paris sits a platinum cylinder known as Le Grand K. Since 1889 it has been the international prototype for the kilogram, the standard against which all other kilos are measured.

But over the years, scientists have noticed a problem: Le Grand K has been losing weight. Weigh-ins at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures show that the bar has shed approximately 50 micrograms—roughly equal to a grain of sand...."It's a scandal that we've got this kilogram hanging around changing its mass and therefore changing the mass of everything else in the universe!" Bill Phillips, a Nobel Prize winning physicist, exclaimed at a scientific summit in London this week. No one knows for sure what went wrong with Le Grand K, but some theorize it lost weight from being cleaned.
So it has changed mass by about 50 parts per billion.  That's appreciable in the world I live in, where we routinely measure quantities in parts per trillion and sometimes even parts per quadrillion.  Not only that, but the kilogram is used to define a number of other units, the joule, watt, volt, farad, weber and ohm a few of the units derived in part from the kilo.  It also changes the estimated mass of the universe by about 10 to the 45th power kilograms.  Quite a weight loss program.

How to fix it?
The aim is to tie each to a widely accepted property of nature, rather than to a lump of metal or some other imprecise benchmark. The meter, for instance, was once measured as the distance between two notches on a metal bar. It is now defined as the distance light travels in a vacuum in 1/299,792,458 of a second.
The logical choice is Planck's constant which ties mass, time and distance together, and has been measured to eight decimal places (about a tenth of the accumulated error of the kilo).

Friday, January 28, 2011

Look Out for that Girl in the Green Dress

Wii Woops

Harry Homeowner Hates the Bay, Too!

According to this article, lawn fertilizers are a significant source of nutrient polution.  A bill in the Virginia legislature proposes to put controls on fertilizers applied to lawns.
....Senate Bill 1055, introduced by state Sen. Richard Stuart with Sens. Ralph Northam and Jeffrey McWaters as co-patrons, would ban the use of phosphorus in routine lawn maintenance; would ban lawn-service companies from applying fertilizer to streets, driveways or sidewalks, and require them to report annually how many acres they treated; change the labeling and directions on fertilizer sold directly to customers; and bar the sale of de-icers containing nutrients.

The bill has some exemptions for organic soil amendments and for the use of fertilizer on trees and gardens. It would also allow the use of phosphorus on lawns where a soil test shows it is needed.

Foxy Anchors Distract from the News

Sexy News Anchors Distract Male Viewers
...Two Indiana University scholars report that, for male viewers, “emphasis on the sexual attractiveness of female news anchors distracts from memory formation for news content.” They found that “men’s cognitive mechanisms favored visual over verbal processing,” which is a delicate way of saying their focus — and subsequent memory — are more on the broadcaster’s appearance than on the material she was delivering...
It's striking that I remember everything Katie Couric ever said.
“The anchorwoman was framed in a medium-long shot to reveal her upper body, including her upper thighs, waist and hips,” the researchers note. “The news stories were about local matters, including United Way fundraising, interest rate changes for federal loan programs” and the like.

The just under 400 participants were randomly assigned to watch one version or the other. All then filled out questionnaires summarizing their impressions of the reporter. They were also asked four multiple-choice questions about her physical appearance, and 10 multiple-choice questions about the content of the five stories she presented.

The researchers found the men recalled “significantly more information watching the unsexualized anchor deliver news than her sexualized version.” For women, the opposite was true, but the effect was far less pronounced...
So lets try this:

Now, what was I talking about?

Bonus Berlusconi!

Another under-aged girl?  You go guy!  Together you have a good average age.

Berardi (L). Nicole Minetti (R)
 However, not all is sweetness and light at Berusconi's pad:
Nicole Minetti, 25, an Anglo-Italian showgirl whom he helped to propel into a politics as a regional councillor in Lombardy, was recorded two weeks ago as calling the prime minister "a piece of ----" and "an old man" who had ruined her life and "is trying to save his own flabby ----."

In another intercepted phone call, Miss Minetti, who is under investigation for on suspicion of procuring prostitutes for the prime minister, a charge she denies, told Barbara Faggioli, 24, an ex Playboy model, that Italian politics was "a mess" but warned that "if he (Berlusconi) goes down, we all go down."

Lightning and Ash in Japan

Biggest Eruption for this volcano in 50 years.

Lightning strikes as Shinmoedake erupts
Ash Cloud  from the volcano
Great photos.  It really looks like an active region, look at all the craters on top of that mountain.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Lookin' out my Back Door

Georgia worked on the kitchen table, and kept one eye on the feeder while she manipulated data files. She counted 8 species of birds. Besides the Tufted Titmouse to the right and the White Breasted Nuthatch below she also saw a Red-Bellied Woodpecker, a Blue Jay, a Carolina Wren, a Black Capped Chickadee, a Slate-Colored Junco, and a Purple Finch. 
And of course, the ubiquitous Eastern Gray Squirrel.

Click pics to embiggen.

Bonus Beach Walk

 As I mentioned, we worked from home today, so we had a chance to walk the beach at lunch.

The storm that battered Washington D.C. yesterday just glanced by us.  We had a pretty good wind and more snow accumulated on the side of trees than on the beach:

However, it had calmed down pretty well by the time we got there. This male buffy was hanging around close in the surf:

I've Seen Academic Pissing Contests Before

But this takes the cake.
A Cal State Northridge math professor has been charged with urinating on a colleague's office door during a dispute between the two men.

Tihomir Petrov, 43, is facing two misdemeanor counts of urinating in a public place, according to a copy of a complaint filed in Superior Court.

Petrov is expected to be arraigned Thursday in San Fernando, authorities said. The case stems from a dispute that Petrov allegedly had with another professor in the school's math department, authorities said...

Bay News Today

Seems to be mostly about how Maryland purchased about 10,000 acres of land.
January 2011 -- Maryland has surpassed its goal to preserve 9,700 acres in 2010. The state permanently protected 12,812 acres last year, according to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

The land was conserved through state Program Open Space acquisitions and conservation easements purchased through the Rural Legacy Program and the Conservation Reserve Enhancement Program.

Land conserved in 2010 includes:
  • A site at Patuxent River Park that provides fishing access for people with disabilities
  • More than 17 miles of streamside buffers along the Chesapeake Bay and its streams, creeks and rivers
  • 773 acres of ecologically valuable and severely threatened land near Mattawoman Creek
Maryland tracks its environmental goals using BayStat, an online tool that assesses, coordinates and targets restoration and conservation programs.
 Also in the news, Maryland budget news, the state is facing a $2.4 Billion (with a B)  dollar shortfall.  Coincidence?  Ask a state worker facing facing furloughs next year.

Speaking of Snow...

Himalayan glaciers not melting because of climate change.  Himalayan glaciers are actually advancing rather than retreating, claims the first major study since a controversial UN report said they would be melted within quarter of a century.
The new study by scientists at the Universities of California and Potsdam has found that half of the glaciers in the Karakoram range, in the northwestern Himlaya, are in fact advancing and that global warming is not the deciding factor in whether a glacier survives or melts.
According to the 2007 IPCC report, Himalayan glaciers were doomed to melt by 2035, a claim that had to be retracted when it was determined to have been cribbed from an advocacy group without any underlying research justification.
Their report, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, found the key factor affecting their advance or retreat is the amount of debris – rocks and mud – strewn on their surface, not the general nature of climate change. Glaciers surrounded by high mountains and covered with more than two centimetres of debris are protected from melting. Debris-covered glaciers are common in the rugged central Himalaya, but they are almost absent in subdued landscapes on the Tibetan Plateau, where retreat rates are higher.

In contrast, more than 50 per cent of observed glaciers in the Karakoram region in the northwestern Himalaya are advancing or stable. "Our study shows that there is no uniform response of Himalayan glaciers to climate change and highlights the importance of debris cover for understanding glacier retreat, an effect that has so far been neglected in predictions of future water availability or global sea level," the authors concluded.
Predictions are so much better when you actually have facts to back them up.

Today's Weather Report

Dudley - One Winter's Afternoon
We got a little snow here last night, about 1 inch of thick, crusty stuff, with sleet at the bottom.  Not bad compared to places farther up the road. Work has a 1 hr delay to clear the roads, so we're going to stay home and work up data instead.  Maybe take a break sometime and go out with the dog and a camera, or at least spy on birds at the feeder.

Book Review -Surrender to the Will of the Night

OK, I have a confession.  Although I'm a devout believer in science, I'm a sucker for Fantasy and Science Fiction.  I can live in the real world just fine, but when I read for entertainment I like wizards, and magic and the occasional stupid warrior type chopping up the bad guys (and sometimes the good guys).

One of my favorite living authors in this genre is Glen Cook, who has several series of both F&SF and "straight" science fiction, including the "Black Company" series, The Star Fishers (which I'm still in the midst of), the "Dread Empire" series, the Garrett PI collection, and some stand alone novels and short stories which may (or may not) tie to a series. He apparently is not a sufferer of writer's block.

"Surrender to the Will of the Night" is the third, and clearly not the final, or even a pause, in the "Instrumentalities of the Night" group.  Like many of Cook's books, this group has a number of plot lines which weave and intersect, but the main thread follows the career of the slave-soldier Else Tage, later to become Piper Hecht, from when, in a moment of desperation, he kills a minor god using a primitive cannon charged with silver shot.  This earns him the eternal hatred from the creatures of the night, who reach into the past to initiate plots to destroy him before this knowledge can spread.  This volume finds him the "Captain General" of a decadent empire with a vague resemblance to early Renaissance Italy, in conflict with other states that have vague resemblances to the Holy Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the Caliphates, etc etc.  A fine old tradition dating back at least to R.E. Howard's Conan books.  He also finds himself in the god-killing business along with an ancient, and rather mysterious wizard/prankster who turns out to be his great-great grandfather (well, maybe).

As in all of his books number of characters introduced is quite large; but he is not so sentimental he minds killing a few off when the list gets too messy.  The book ends with Piper, the wizard, a lost sister sorceress, a few adopted kids, his (second) wife, a rogue demigod and a half-god (yes, there's a difference), about the enter the abode of the gods across the rainbow bridge, well armed with new fancy cannons loaded with specialized "god shot".  I'll have to wait to find out what happens, but whatever it is, I expect not to be able to anticipate it. 

One aspect of all Glen's works is that the characters, despite often living in places which appear to be analogues of familiar historical places and eras, speak and act much as you would expect people of our ilk to.  I contrast that to "True Grit" in which the characters speak in a formal style, which I ascribe to a method to lend "authenticity" to the characters in the movies.  It doesn't bother me much here, as I assume that where ever people are, they are speaking in the way they feel comfortable, and that's how this feels.

Well done, Glen.  It seems like I've been awaiting one or another of your books since about 1980.

This was the first "new" book I read on my new Kindle 3G, mostly in my 45 minute daily commute.  I'm also quite satisfied with the Kindle, which is easier, and smaller to drag around than most books, visible without illumination until well after sunset, and able to surf the web, and possibly even blog if necessary.  It's quite likely to help me develop an expensive reading habit, however, where until recently, most of my books were purchased used cheap, or Ted's discards.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

I Think I'll Stick with the Old Organic One

Virtual girlfriends that will creep you out.

Thomas A. Edison - Great Inventor, Mediocre Prophet.

The year 2011 according to Thomas A. Edison.

In 1911, Thomas Edison, who should have known better, made a number predictions about the technology of the future.  Among the things he got close:
The steam engine is emitting its last gasps. A century hence it will be as remote as antiquity as the lumbering coach of Tudor days, which took a week to travel from Yorkshire to London. In the year 2011 such railway trains as survive will be driven at incredible speed by electricity (which will also be the motive force of all the world's machinery), generated by "hydraulic" wheels.
Most of our trains are diesel, or diesel electric powered (a technology which was already in use in 1911), but many are powered by electricity.  I think the hydraulic wheels is hydropower, which is a minor, but still important source of electricity.  I think we'll give him this one.
But the traveler of the future, says a writer in Answers, will largely scorn such earth crawling. He will fly through the air, swifter than any swallow, at a speed of two hundred miles an hour, in colossal machines, which will enable him to breakfast in London, transact business in Paris and eat his luncheon in Cheapside.
He pretty much nailed, or even underestimated that one. But a few missed by a mile:
The house of the next century will be furnished from basement to attic with steel, at a sixth of the present cost — of steel so light that it will be as easy to move a sideboard as it is today to lift a drawing room chair.
Nope, houses are still mostly wood, with drywall instead of plaster (ask me how I know).
Books of the coming century will all be printed leaves of nickel, so light to hold that the reader can enjoy a small library in a single volume. A book two inches thick will contain forty thousand pages, the equivalent of a hundred volumes; six inches in aggregate thickness, it would suffice for all the contents of the Encyclopedia Britannica. And each volume would weigh less than a pound.
Nope, but I'm sure a Kindle would impress the hell out him.  No need to carry the print on pages, just print it out on a flat surface when you want to read it.  All connected to a world circling library, able, at least in theory to bring all the written knowledge in the world to your finger tips, if you can find your way to it.
"Gold," he says, "has even now but a few years to live. The day is near when bars of it will be as common and as cheap as bars of iron or blocks of steel. "We are already on the verge of discovering the secret of transmuting metals, which are all substantially the same in matter, though combined in different proportions." Before long it will be an easy matter to convert a truck load of iron bars into as many bars of virgin gold.
Now, that one's almost funny. The value of gold has, if anything, increased relative to inflation.  While a nuclear reactor can and does  transmute elements, making iron into gold in bulk is still not even a glimmer on the horizon. He did understand that the value of gold is related to it's rareness; if it were as common as iron, it would still be used for costume jewelry, electronics and chemistry.

Really, though 3 out of 5 ain't that bad.  A hundred years is a long time, and a lot happened in between.

I Guess They Ain't Got the Last One, Yet

VMRC extends oyster dredging in lower James
NEWPORT NEWS — — The Virginia Marine Resources Commission on Tuesday agreed to extend oyster dredging in the lower James River through February after hearing from watermen who wanted more time.

Last month, watermen had asked the commission to allow dredging in the James until March 31, presenting a petition with about 100 signatures. Dredging is the practice of gathering oysters by dragging a steel basket across the bottom of the river or bay.

The waterman said they deserved more time because cold, gusty weather in December kept them sidelined. An extension would help keep a few hundred people in their jobs, they said.
So, because Dec was cold and gusty, they wanted TWO more months to make up for it?  Nothing the Bay could throw up would equal a tenth the trouble the guys on the "Deadliest Catch" go through to catch crabs.  Don't have the equipment?    Not VMRCs fault.
The commission didn't act on the request immediately, opting to do a stock assessment to determine if an extension was advisable. The survey took place earlier this month.

"There are market-sized oysters out there," said John Bull, commission spokesman. "So it would not be biologically damaging to let them harvest some more. That's the scientific assessment."

The commission's vote was unanimous. It set a bushel limit of 6 per day, down from 10.
Yes, really, their rationalization is that there's at least one more market sized oyster out there, and "Them boys are owed them Ersters".  

Oyster harvests in the Bay are down to 1% of what they were at the height of oystering in the 1800s.  We don't have to imagine how plentiful they were then, there were plenty of accounts of oyster bars that broke the surface of the water and were hazards to shipping.  Old maps show extensive oyster bars lining the shallow waters of the Bay from ocean to as far up the bay as salt concentrations would allow them to grow.  Now, a few pitiful bars with a sparse collection of oysters are hounded mercilessly by the few remaining oyster-men. 

Oyster management is a joke.  If any fin fishery were at that fraction of it's known maximum abundance, fishing would be halted until the population rebounded to healthy levels.  The fact that that hasn't been done is proof that the managers just don't care about oysters.

At Least We're Not North Dakotans...

Found here...

You Might be a Science Geek If...

  • You can focus a microscope in 20 seconds or less
  • You tell people your major and they ask why you would do that to yourself
  • You know what anthracene is
  • Your girlfriend/boyfriend knows what anthracene is
  • You think that Political “science” or Decision “sciences” majors are wannabe
So far I'm 5 for 5. Read the rest here.

It's Not Overfishing, It's the Weather

Says a new model that predicts decreased striped bass recruitment for the next 30 or so years...

So, according to the Bay Foundation, the Health of the  Bay is improving (slightly).  And reportedly the favorable weather this year is the reason.  But striped bass recruitment this year was less than half of the long term average. What's going on?
While Martino crunched numbers in his office, a team of biologists from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources waded into the water at 22 locations once a month from July through September. At each site, they did two sweeps through the water with a 100-foot seine net, then counted everything they caught.

When the work was done, the biologists had averaged 5.6 juvenile striped bass per net haul. That was less than half the long-term average of 11.6. After all of their field work, they had reached the same conclusion as Martino.
Well, maybe "good weather" for the bay is not "good weather" for striped bass.
...His model, which was developed with data from the Maryland DNR, confirms what biologists have thought for years: The weather during any given spring plays a huge role in determining how many larval striped bass survive to be "recruited" into the overall population. But his model puts an exclamation point to just how important weather is: In looking back to 1985, he can account for more than 80 percent of the annual variability in striped bass recruitment in Maryland, where the majority of the East Coast population is spawned. ...."The Bay is full of spawners, but we are seeing a real reduction in recent years in reproduction," Martino said. "So I think it's pretty obvious that something else is going on in the environment." ..
A good year here, a bad year there, it all averages out in the long run, right?  I guess that depends on what you mean by long term.  But it looks like the current trend in low recruitment could go on a while:
...The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation is an alternating pattern of warming and cooling over large areas of the Atlantic Ocean, similar to the El Nino, La Nina patterns in the Pacific. The shifts, in turn, affect climate over large regions of North America. Various AMO phases, during which different parts of the Atlantic are warmed or cooled, persist for decades.

During certain AMO phases, which promote wetter winters, cool springs and more frequent nor'easters, the prevailing climate pattern seems to promote improved reproductive success for anadromous fish, such as striped bass, which live most of their lives at sea but return to freshwater to spawn.
  But it's OK, because our fisheries management are on top of the problem.
Striped bass crashed because of overfishing in the 1980s, which was also a time when the AMO was in a phase unfavorable for their recruitment, so fish being caught were not being replaced. The ensuing rebound of striped bass stocks is often touted as a major fishery management success as managers took dramatic actions, including a coastwide moratorium, to protect the spawning stock. And it was. But Wood's work strongly suggests that managers also got lucky - their fishing moratorium coincided with an AMO shift that greatly improved striped bass spawning conditions. "Had the weather not turned, we would have been waiting longer for that recovery," he said.
 Well, it's OK to be lucky, but it's better to be right.
Because of concerns about the population, the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission, a multi-state agency that regulates catches of fish that migrate along the coast, recently decided to assess the striped bass stock next year, rather than 2012 as previously scheduled.
A lot of this is a reinforcement of a hypothesis that fisheries people have discussed for years, with new jargon like AMO thrown in to make it sound more official.  But it does suggest that the Bay is likely to change in the next few years to a new mode, which may be friendlier to some facets of the bay, but are unfriendlier to on of the the great fisheries targets.  We can only hope the ASMFC get this one right.  It would be stupid to keep hammering stripers at the current rates if we expect a long term decrease in their success due to climate shifts.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Genghis Khan - A Green God

The Mongol invasion that started with Genghis Khan and continued by his sons and relatives removed nearly 700 million tons of carbon from the atmosphere, according to surprising new research. They did this by causing forests to grow where once thriving communities were devoted to growing crops. They did not do this by planting trees. They did it the old fashioned way - by killing people. The Mongol invasion of most of the the rest of the world is estimated to have killed 40 million people, and depopulating large swaths of land, which nature reforested. According to these authors theories, the forests sucked CO2 from the air, and cooled the climate,  and contributed to start of  the Little Ice Age, a long period of colder than average climate world wide lasting form ~1300 to 1870 AD.

I don't really believe this story, as there are no good records for contemporaneous  CO2 decreases in ice core data from that period,  which show a more or less steady value of 280 ppm in the pre-industrial era. Why would the climate respond so strongly to such a non-significant nudge?

Interestingly, Genghis Khan is also thought to be an ancestor of 30 or so million living people, which sort of tends to counteract his work in the environmental field...

You Just Have to Wonder About Teenagers, Sometimes

EMBED-Triple Nut Shot Success - Watch more free videos

Watermen, Allies Attack Oyster Farming in Virginia

New shellfish farming law under attack by oyster industry

A new Virginia law designating 1,000 acres off the shores of the Northern Neck, the Middle Peninsula and Tangier Island for commercial shellfish farming is being challenged by members of the oyster farming industry and a state senator.

Sponsored by Del. Albert C. Pollard Jr., D-Lancaster, the law authorizes the creation of Aquaculture Opportunity Zones to promote the transition of watermen from the wild harvest of shellfish, whose populations in and around the Chesapeake Bay have suffered from pollution and disease...
 Wow, giving people the right to use a whole thousand acres (less than half a square mile) of their own Bay (we citizens technically own the Bay, in common, right?) That sure is, uh, progressive, for lack of a better word.
...Several owners of large oyster-farming operations along the Chesapeake Bay expressed their concerns to Northam and to the VMRC.

"The AOZ potentially creates an unfair advantage for any company/individual operating out of these areas," wrote Doug McMinn and Irv Spurlock, owners of the Chesapeake Oyster Company in Wake. "The AOZ allows someone to bypass all of the laws that the state has in place for properly obtaining bottom for shellfish culture."
So, creating a new mechanisms is "improper"; I don't understand, if legislators (or their administrative designates) establish procedure, why it would be improper for legislators to change, or add to those procedures.  You think maybe their trying to kill competition before it gets started?  I do.
Strickler said there are also concerns that by designating aquaculture zones, other users who might put out crab pots, fish or use a gill net might be prevented from doing so.

"One of the challenges is to try to make sure we're minimizing those kinds of conflicts … and not be at each other's throats," he said.
 "At each other's throats":  Sounds like a threat of violence to me.   I guess they can't share the bay.
Under the new law, 15 zones, mostly in bay tributaries, would be established to provide areas for aquaculture such as oyster-cage farming for Virginia residents who do not have ready access to leased oyster grounds. A one-time $100 application and use fee is charged, and applicants would be limited to 5 acres per zone.

It would also exempt users of the zones from the requirement to post notice of an application for leasing ground, the costs and requirements to have the ground surveyed, the costs of preparation and recording of the plat, and the annual payment of the $1.50 per acre in rent. Leases would not have a time limit as with regular state bottom leases that expire after 10 years.
1000 acres spread over 15 different tributaries is a going to be a serious impediment to current crabbing and oyster?  Give me a break.  It's just rent seeking...

Lucky Weather Gave the Bay a Break in 2010

Most summer conditions better than average:

  • Below average fish kills
  • Less abundant sea nettles
  • Smaller volume of low dissolved oxygen
  • Above average winter flow, below average late spring and summer flow into the Bay
  • Above average air temperatures
  • Average to above average frequency of westerly winds in early summer and southeasterly winds in late summer
Summer conditions for 2010 were influenced by above average winter flow and below average late spring and summer flow into the Bay. The timing of flow was important this year, in comparison to 2009, when the spatial pattern of flow into the Bay was important. Additionally, summer air temperatures in 2010 were above average, and combined with flow, can affect phytoplankton and fish in the Bay.

Overall, the Chesapeake Bay experienced relatively minor (total number of dead fish was small) fish kills in 2010. Seven fish kills were associated with low dissolved oxygen alone, three kills were associated with low dissolved oxygen due to algal blooms, and one kill was associated with a harmful algal bloom (HAB) that produced fish-killing toxins. The largest fish kill occurred in the Severn River and was approximately 30,000 fish. The algal blooms species were Karlodinium veneificum (HAB), Gyrodinium uncatenum, and Prorocentrum minimum.

In spring 2010 scientists forecasted below average anoxia (dissolved oxygen <0.2 mg l-1) and hypoxia (DO <2.0 mg l-1) would occur in the mainstem during the summer. For a comparison of summer conditions to the forecasts made this past spring visit the Forecast Accuracy page.
 They say it's better to be lucky, than to be good, but in this case I would prefer good...

To Throw is Human

To throw well can keep you alive or make you a lot of money

Human readiness to throw: the size–weight illusion is not an illusion when picking the best objects to throw
Long-distance throwing is uniquely human and enabled Homo sapiens to survive and even thrive during the ice ages. The precise motoric timing required relates throwing and speech abilities as dependent on the same uniquely human brain structures. Evidence from studies of brain evolution is consistent with this understanding of the evolution and success of H. sapiens. Recent theories of language development find readiness to develop language capabilities in perceptual biases that help generate ability to detect relevant higher order acoustic units that underlie speech. Might human throwing capabilities exhibit similar forms of readiness? Recently, human perception of optimal objects for long-distance throwing was found to exhibit a size–weight relation similar to the size–weight illusion; greater weights were picked for larger objects and were thrown the farthest. The size–weight illusion is: lift two objects of equal mass but different size, the larger is misperceived to be less heavy than the smaller. The illusion is reliable and robust. It persists when people know the masses are equal and handle objects properly. Children less than 2 years of age exhibit it. These findings suggest the illusion is intrinsic to humans. Here we show that perception of heaviness (including the illusion) and perception of optimal objects for throwing are equivalent. Thus, the illusion is functional, not a misperception: optimal objects for throwing are picked as having a particular heaviness. The best heaviness is learned while acquiring throwing skill. We suggest that the illusion is a perceptual bias that reflects readiness to acquire fully functional throwing ability. This unites human throwing and speaking abilities in development in a manner that is consistent with the evolutionary history.
So take the kids out and skip stones, or throw snowballs. It's good for 'em.

Al Gore Didn't Invent the Internet, Isaac Asimov Did

Of course, Robert Heinlein invented the waterbed, and I may have spent more time there than on the internet.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Jack LaLanne Dies at 96

Proving you can't die while exercising.  Maybe shortly thereafter though.  I was never a follower, but his recommended diet sure sounds a lot like Atkins:  meat, vegetables, little starch, no sugar. Here's a video of him with his dog...

I stole the dog video from Ann Althouse.

A Good Idea, Badly Executed

Dentist uses sexy dresses to distract patients 

Dr Marie-Catherine Klarkowski poses with staff at her Alpine-style dental practice in Munich

She calls those sexy dresses?  And what about women patients?  Does she have guys throwing $20 bills?

Virus Found to Cause Soft Crab Deaths

A virus has been found in soft crab shedding operation that spreads rapidly between crabs, and kills them rapidly, likely the major cause for high mortality in crab shedding operations around the bay.

Seeing as it's even less likely that crabs in the bay can be vaccinated against this virus, than the plague of deer on land can be given contraceptives, this strongly suggests that crab shed operations should focus on means of isolating the crabs from one another and providing virus free water for shedding.

mmmm, soft crab sandwich.....

Menhaden Fishing Bills Fail in Virginia

Of the six bill that were introduced in Virgina to put additional restrictions on commercial menhaden fishing, only one has not been killed, (yet).

Just as I thought they would.

Solving Global Warming with Nukes

The calculations

An engineer for Google costs out how much it would be to replace the US reliance on coal and other fossil fuels with nuclear power, and comes up with a pretty doable numbers:
Result: In this future, we need 7.7 kW per person, provided by $3/watt capitalized sources with 8% cost of capital and 35% surcharge for O&M. The cost of this infrastructure: $2,550/person/year or 5% of GDP.

Alternate assumptions:
Chinese nuclear plant costs of $1.70/watt
Higher efficiency in an electric future were most processes take about 1/2 as much energy from electricity as they used to take from combustion. 1.3 kW from old electricity demands (unchanged) + 3.2 kW from new electricity demands (half of 6.4 kW). And fuels (where still needed) are produced using nuclear heat-driven synthesis approaches.

Alternative result: $844/person/year or 2% of GDP.
Now, I am a limited skeptic of "Global Climate Change".  While I believe that anthropogenic CO2 emissions and land use changes have contributed to natural cyclical warming trends, I think the doomsday scenarios being being widely espoused are highly overwrought, as I think that a warmer earth is probably a friendlier earth; far more people die annually of cold than heat, and food is easier to grow at higher temperatures and higher CO2 concentrations.

Even without the impetus of Global whatever, I think we would be far better of with a nuclear future than a coal powered future.  I've lived within 3 miles of a nuke for years, and I've visited the insides of relatively well run coal fired power plants.  I'd much rather have a nuke as a neighbor.

Not Aslan!

Arizona restaurant catching flak over plan to serve lion tacos

That's right, l-i-o-n not l-o-i-n.
According to the Arizona Daily Star, a Tucson eatery will be serving up the kingly dish for one of its weekly exotic taco nights. Past efforts have included python, elk, kangaroo and turtle, the paper reported.

Give credit to owner Bryan Mazon, who was more than frank when asked the reasoning behind his decision to put the majestic animal on a tortilla. “I'm doing the African lion to get my name out,” he said. “I've never tried it myself, but this one really caught my eye.”
Doesn't sound especially appetizing to me, but then I've never had cat, unless maybe some snuck into the Kung Pao sauce at some cheap restaurant.
The lion tacos will be available February 16, wedged between Tequila Tuesday and Dollar Beer Thursday.
However, enough beer and margaritas and almost anything would be appealing.  So how much are lion tacos?
They will cost $8.75 apiece, Mazon told the Daily Star, explaining that a pound of ground lion will run you about $100. The meat comes from a farm in Perris, California, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles.
Our pals over at CNNMoney covered that one and reached out at the time to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, whose spokesman said that African lion is not a federally protected endangered species and that it qualifies as game meat.
I remember reading that lions in captivity are at a premium; they breed like cats, and circuses, zoos and animal parks have a hard time getting rid of the excess.  Maybe they should just give them to Chinese restaurants.

Don't Just Take the Biggest Fish

Lay off the big fish, scientists say

...Published this week in the British journal Nature, the study suggests that the strategy of taking the bigger, older fish out of a population - commonly cited as a sustainable fishing practice - in fact makes the population more unstable, and more likely to go extinct...
The history of fisheries management is rife with stories of fisheries that became commercially extinct after heavy fishing, often heavily regulated.
...When a fish population fluctuates greatly in size, it has a greater risk of extinction and is harder to manage successfully, according to co-author George Sugihara of the University of California in San Diego. "If fishing results in both higher variability and declining populations, fisheries are in double jeopardy."

"All fish, including those that are not commercially harvested have ... ups and downs in response to natural changes in the environment. What we found is that these relative ups and downs are amplified in commercially fished populations," said Sugihara.

The authors think that the increased variability in exploited fish populations is due to the practice of fisheries selectively targeting bigger, older fish...
So the idea is that big fish do better some years, small fish do better others, and over the long haul, having both in population makes the population more stable:
...Sugihara explained that this is why it's important to maintain a good mix of big and little fish in the population. A population consisting of only little fish can "boom and bust," he said.

"Currently fisheries are managed in terms of specifying a 'total tonnage' for the catch," according to Sugihara. "Our results suggest that some attention should also be given to not just 'how much is harvested' but also to 'who is harvested.'"
Our striped bass are partially managed on this basis.  In Maryland during summer and autumn fishing on the larger fish, 28 inches and up is restricted to one a day, compared to 2 per day for fish between 18-28 inches. Commercial fisherman aren't supposed to take any larger than 36 inches.  However, we have a spring season where only the larger fish (usually 28 inches or greater) may be taken, the same larger fish that have an open season on them up and down the coast, wherever they visit in their migration.  And to all appearances, IMHO, stripers are headed for another population crash.

Released to swim again.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Whatever They're Against, I'm For

Keep the Protest Alive!

Topless feminist protesters show what they're made of
"Our God is woman, our mission is protest, our weapons are bare breasts." It's the kind of political slogan that's bound to catch attention, particularly when it's dozens of topless women clutching campaign posters who are chanting it.

These are the women of Femen, Ukraine's topless female protest movement. Young women who believe that the best way to make their voice heard is through sheer bare-chested brazenness.

Femen's leader, 26-year-old Anna Gutsol, explains: "Our goal is active Ukrainian women who want to be involved in society and politics.
Well, if that's all, please continue...  For some amusing, titillating, and sometimes downright NSFW pictures from FEMEN protests, go here. Unlike the occasional nude protests in San Francisco, most of these women are good looking.
"We thought we'd create an organization where young girls could come and help others like them and help society. And the format we picked was this extremely sexy, bright way of presenting ourselves."
Works for me.

Snakeheads, Scourge of the Potomac or the Next Great Gamefish?

Yesterday, Candy Thompson had an article in the Baltimore Sun about an upcoming Federal plan to deal with the invasive Northern Snakehead.  In fairly recent times, dating back to about 2002 with a in an incident in a pond in Crofton, snakeheads have been popping up in places around the mid-Atlantic.  They are thought to have descended from fish brought from China as food fish, released to grow and reproduce by well intentioned, but ill informed connoisseurs of authentic Chinese food.  Their flesh is reputedly quite tasty.

The snakehead is a voracious predator, with a mouth full of stout peg like teeth, a torpedo shaped body with a camouflage pattern, evolved for stealth attack from concealment, and a healthy, and nondiscriminating appetite.  It is feared that the snakehead will compete with and even consume the native gamefish, such as largemouth bass, with whom they share the same general habitat.

They are apparently pretty well established in the Potomac River, and by the speed at which the number of reports by fishermen, and government investigators from Maryland, Virginia and PRFC have increased, there is a general consensus that there is really no practical means of exterminating them, now. Thus, one would have to conclude that this is a successful, and likely undesirable invasive species. Maryland law mandates that any snakeheads caught while fishing should be destroyed.  A bit like trying to empty the river with a dixie cup.

There is, however a growing appreciation of the snakehead as a gamefish.  Growing up to 4 ft long, they can be caught using many of the same tactics as largemouth bass; top water plugs, live bait, flies etc.  A friend of mine, Mike Starrett, who guides out of the Potomac (Indian Head Charters) reports that his clients have caught a number of them, and they are tough fighting adversaries.  Others (non-orientals) report that they are tasty too.  So, is the snakehead a scourge, an opportunity, or both?  All I know is I want to catch one.  And I'll eat it when I do.

Capt. Mike and a happy client with a snakehead caught in Mattawoman Creek, off the Potomac River.

Hat tip to Bill Curry.

Cold at the Beach Again

Slightly warmer than yesterday, low 20s, but with more, and increasing wind.  Still ice by the edge, and much of it had been eroded by waves.

Here's one interesting result, a frozen mixture of ice and beach debris undercut and eroded to form a lacy network.  I put my foot under it to provide some contrast and show how much it was undercut.

Is Fish Growth Inherently Limited by Oxygen?

New theory suggests fish size limited by ability to take up oxygen:

Quite a long article, but worth reading for people interested in fish.
“One day, I went for a walk along the embankment after a fight with my girlfriend, and suddenly it hit me: fish need oxygen to grow, so the theoretical surface problem and the breathing problem that von Bertalanffy was talking about had to be the gills.”
I think I see his problem with his girlfriend.  He was thinking about fish.  I sympathize.
"As fish grow, he proposed, they accumulate tissues, which must be supplied with oxygen if they are to remain alive – so their oxygen requirements are proportional to volume, he realised. To be useful, oxygen must be inside the fish body, which it can only occur if it has penetrated through a surface – the gills. But gills don’t grow as quickly as the body volume.
OK, I see that, but is there any experimental evidence for this?  One consequence of this could be decreased oxygen saturation in tissue with size, all other factors being held constant.  Theories are nice; but data to support them are required.

Anyway, the theory does have some interesting outcomes; spawn size for a fish species could be determined by the size at which it starts having difficulty keeping itself adequately oxygenated:
"It also predicts how a fish knows when to spawn. How does a Beluga sturgeon know that it should start spawning at 18 years of age, an Atlantic cod at five and a Peruvian anchovy at one? Scientists, notably Beverton and Holt, knew that the ratio of length at first maturity to maximum length is somewhat constant in fish, ranging between 0.4 in species that get big to 0.6 in species that stay small.

But this only restated the problem: how do they know when to spawn? The answer provided by Pauly’s theory is simple: when they start running out of breath. As fish grow larger, their maintenance metabolism – the amount of oxygen they need just to survive – increases, leaving less and less for other activities. Thus, when their breathing rate declines to a set point of 1.4 times maintenance metabolism, all species of fish – whether they are guppies, cod or Beluga sturgeon – will spawn.
 Or why fish growth slows substantially above a certain size for most species:
The maximum tolerable gasping size is also the signal for the fish to change its metabolism and stop growing. This is why your guppy remains tiny, although you feed it nutritious food twice a day. “If you want bigger guppies,” Pauly says, “keep them in water as cold as they can tolerate and make sure your tank is well aerated.”
So, this seems like a reasonable theory, with some evidence, but nothing I see that would clinch the deal.  Remember, not all you read is true...