Darwin’s Frog, Probably Extinct


Sad really. A fungal skin disease apparently did them in. A case of a disease being so successful it killed off its means of survival? This frog was named after its discoverer, and the father of modern biology, Charles Darwin.

This case isn’t yet set in stone but the outlook is dire, there is a northern species believed already gone and a southern species with a plummeting population. Between habitat loss and this disease, if this species isn’t already wiped out, in all likelihood it soon will be. It weighs upon my heart, to know that many species are doomed to go extinct in my childrens lifetimes. If the fossil record is any indication, this is the way of things. We live, we evolve, we die out. New species move in to take our place at the table. I get it, but I hate to see it happen in front of my eyes. Know that the elephant is nearing an extinction possibility. The rhino and the tiger already there. The polar bear could be next on the list, of many yet to be identified. We need to identify, and understand our role as an (invasive) species whose sole goal seems to be raping this planet for every resource that has a dollar sign attributed to it, and find other ways, of doing things that aren’t quite as destructive. After all, we could be the next species on the short list.

Help Wanted: Maid, Must Be Willing To Travel

Every once in a while a story comes along that makes me not feel so bad about misplacing my keys, or becoming distracted on a trip to town and forgetting to pick up the main item I went there for…

Back during the Apollo moon missions, there were dust detectors deployed on the moon. They gathered data on the buildup of dust, then the braniacs at NASA “lost” the data. The article says, and I quote: “, NASA did not preserve the archival tapes of the data they collected.” Which I think is code for: “some dumb ass deleted it.” Anyway upon learning that they lost the data, Professor Brian O’Brien, who developed the experiment, heard about NASA’s screw up (30 years later), and said “Hey I have backup copies!” This was in 2006, They have spent time since analyzing the data and have discovered that the dust builds up much quicker than they thought. Which is an important discovery, as solar panels lose their effectiveness quickly when dust settles on them. Which in turn means they need to figure out a way to lessen this buildup if they ever want to use the moon as any kind of waystation for exploring our solar system. 

Now you may be wondering, “there shouldn’t be any wind on the moon to scatter the dust”? Well, here is a known theory posited by Mr. O’Brian that: a popular idea of a “dust atmosphere” on the Moon could explain the difference. The concept goes that, during each lunar day, solar radiation is strong enough to knock a few electrons out of atoms in dust particles, building up a slight positive charge. On the nighttime side of the Moon, electrons from the flow of energetic particles, called the solar wind, which comes off the Sun strike dust particles and give them a small negative charge. Where the illuminated and dark regions of the moon meet, electric forces could levitate this charged dust, potentially lofting grains high into the lunar sky.

 Prof O’brien’s outlook on the situation…” “It’s been a long haul,” said O’Brien. “I invented [the detector] in 1966, long before Monique was even born. At the age of 79, I’m working with a 23-year old working on 46-year-old data and we discovered something exciting — it’s delightful.” ( I assume Monique is someone he works with) Anyway, it is kinda neat that this all has a happy ending. I hope this information leads to a new tech that will help keep solar panels clean, so we can move forward with our journey.


Methodist Pastor Officiates His Gay Son’s Marriage, Gets Suspension

First off congratulations sir. My hat is off to you. It takes balls to stand up and do the right thing, and maintain your convictions.

I gather there was some sort of church trial. Which I could imagine a bunch of pasty white smug pricks, all hot under the collar, fuming and all indignant over the issue, looking for someone to burn at the stake. Especially since our pastor Frank Schafer refused to back down, or show any remorse for his actions. 

Obviously this man so loved his son, that he sacrificed his profession, by showing the ultimate support for his child’s happiness. I am not real keen on religion, for many reasons, but in this case I say give this man a medal for standing up for what he believes in, despite the pressure from his old crony fellowship, and threats of defrocking. 


Oldest Known Big Cat Fossil Found



Caption: At left is: Life reconstruction of Panthera blytheae based on skull CT data; illustrated by Mauricio Antón. At Right are images of the holotype specimen and reconstructed facial bones based on CT data; Figure 1 from the paper.

Full story here: http://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2013-11/uosc-fo111313.php

Short version, this is a copy and paste job today:

The oldest big cat fossil ever found – which fills in a significant gap in the fossil record – was discovered on a paleontological dig in Tibet, scientists announced today.

A skull from the new species, named Panthera blytheae, was excavated and described by a team led by Jack Tseng – a PhD student at the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences at the time of the discovery, and now a postdoctoral fellow at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York.

“This find suggests that big cats have a deeper evolutionary origin than previously suspected,” Tseng said.

DNA evidence suggests that the so-called “big cats” – the Pantherinae subfamily, including lions, jaguars, tigers, leopards, snow leopards, and clouded leopards – diverged from their nearest evolutionary cousins, Felinae (which includes cougars, lynxes, and domestic cats), about 6.37 million years ago. However, the oldest fossils of big cats previously found are tooth fragments uncovered at Laetoli in Tanzania (the famed hominin site excavated by Mary Leakey in the 1970s), dating to just 3.6 million years ago.

Using magnetostratigraphy – dating fossils based on the distinctive patterns of reversals in the Earth’s magnetic field, which are recorded in layers of rock – Tseng and his team were able to estimate the age of the skull at between 4.10 and 5.95 million years old.

Incredible between 4 and 6 million years old. So was that before…or after it got off the ark? (Ha!) This magnetostratigraphy dating method must be an amazing tool for paleobiology. What I am reading here is this big cat discovery, puts big cats at or very near the estimated DNA based evidence split, between the two groups of cats, and…this new cat fossil out dates the previously oldest known big cat fossil by .5 to 2.5 million years. 

There is more:  In addition, recent estimates suggested that species within the genus Panthera (lions, tigers, leopards, jaguars, and snow leopards) did not diversify until 3.72 million years ago – which the new find disproves. I’d say this discovery sets that estimate back a few years.

All in all really cool discovery, and it’s stuff like this that keeps me glued to the internet as much as I can get away with. 



Catholic Bishop Removed (Wait For It…) For Sexual Abuse Of Children

This was back in Sept, so maybe you have heard about it. I’ve had this in my draft file for some time. I have no idea why I haven’t pulled the trigger on it yet. Perhaps I would really like to cling to some sort of hope that humanity isn’t doomed, I don’t know. My original link has gone dead, but I found the same story here:


Here we go again, another Catholic Priest, excuse me…a Bishop was caught diddling the children. Not a lot of details in the story yet, I don’t know if I want to know how many kids were abused at the hands of this criminal. I just want it to stop.

I am beginning to believe that to become a Catholic priest you must meet a prerequisite of being some kind of pervert. There must be some kind of secret pervert handshake, or wink or something, that gets you an automatic position as a priest.  At least this time the guy was identified, and released from his duties. Reversing the historic trend to sweep it all under the rug and relocate the PoS to some other location to do it all over again. I suppose this is progress, but I fear that for every one of these situations that comes to light, a dozen more go unreported.

A few questions if I may. Where is this supposed high ground that religion holds? I would really like to know. When will people stop making excuses for these lowlife criminals, wake up, and give them razing over the coals and time behind bars they deserve? When will it become not okay to be a child raper? When will people stop pointing fingers at the abused and put the blame where it belongs? When does respect for the perceived authority of religion give way to the reality that so many of their appointed officials are pedophiles?  I say this a lot unfortunately: How many cases will it take? I want the number. How many fucking cases like this must be exposed, for the Catholics, or any religion, it isn’t just the Catholics…when does it get to the point where the people in the pews say..”you know, I think this is where I say enough is enough?”…and walk out to never return. What will it take? What keeps them willfully returning to the trough of abuse, and offering up their children as a sacrifice?

Somebody tell me. Because I honestly can’t figure it out. Wilfull ignorance? A belief that “it could never happen to my children?” The notion that the devil made them do it? Those nasty little kids were asking for it? Is there a plan in place to start the rumor that “it’s just another case of someone wanting to sue the church?”  That way people can just file it away as insignificant, and “it won’t happen to them?”  Is it viewed as some sort of “test of faith?” Is it perhaps possible that people are so dense that it is a combination of all of these things? Of all the things that I just do not understand about how the mind of a creationist works, this is probably the biggest question, with all of the evidence at hand, with a high number of frequency, priests are raping your children. Why do YOU continue to allow it to happen? Is the supposed saving of ones soul and eternal happiness jive, more important than your child being bent over in the back room? Also, in what scenario does your child get to be in a (no pun intended) one on one relationship with the priest?

Too many questions, not enough answers. 

Quote of the Month

Lets go with George Washington this month. Here is a quote that echoes my sentiments of the state of religion today. Anyone with an ounce of sense, who is paying attention to the goings on in the world today, will see that things really haven’t changed much since 1792.

“Religious controversies are always productive of more acrimony and irreconcilable hatreds than those which spring from any other cause. Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by the difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be depreciated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.”

George Washington – letter to Edward Newenham, 1792

If anything, things appear worse now than they were then. People blowing each other up over what? Religious views. Palestines killing Jews. Jews killing Palestines. Muslims killing just about anyone they see as a threat or symbol against their tyranny. In Africa we have Muslims killing x-ians and vice versa, and x-ians going on good old fashioned witch hunts, where their children and neighbors are being killed (for being witches? really? I thought we had moved past that). You have all kinds of religiously motivated atrocities going on all over the place, why then is this religion thing heralded as something good again? Someone remind me.

I honestly feel like religion is the single largest threat to society… ever. Unless those that practice religion of all stripes can learn to be tolerant of other peoples beliefs, and reconcile old differences of opinion, what we see today will continue to fill 20 second slots on the nightly news, Infinitely. I see nothing to indicate otherwise. An ideal world, in my opinion, would be one free of religion, and the prejudice that comes with it. Can we move out from under this darkness, this machine of evil, this unrelenting opression already? Religion is not the sweet goodness its adherents think it is, they are just blinded, or indifferent, to its true nature.


New Supernova



Hubble has a new supernova discovery to its credit. This one is dubbed SN 2013ek. Another supernova was discovered in this same galaxy last year, and very close to the same spot as this new one. Which is raising a few eyebrows. Indeed they believe these two events could be linked.

The nova is the bright starlike object just above and to the right of the bright galactic nucleus. The other objects in that galaxy that look similar are likely knots of young stars, or large globular clusters, that are fairly commonly found in galaxies, even our own. My only regret is this object is so far south from my location I won’t be able to turn a telescope in its direction to see if I can spot it. 

This is indeed the age of discovery. I am happy to be alive in this era. I have personally seen our species move from earth bound species, with rotary phones and black and white television to putting man on the moon, in space, and having a host of space bound observatories, Mars rovers, planetary probes, cell phones, high speed internet, etc etc. It is in some strange way, a sense of pride seeing and experiencing the advances we have made along the way. Besides family, I think the biggest thing I will miss when I no longer exist, will be the ever advancing rate of our technology, and not knowing where it may lead…