As a follow-up to my recent post on the Maine State Science Fair, I have to note the astonishing project done by 17-year-old Jessica Richeri of Corona, Calif., to win a total of five awards and $20,000 in scholarship money at last week's Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Los Angeles. Her project was entitled, "Autonomous Robotic Vehicle: Saving Lives, Preventing Accidents, One at a Time." To quote the website of the California newspaper the Press-Enterprise, Jessica "built an autonomous robotic vehicle with the capacity to detect and avoid obstacles while moving in traffic through an urban environment. The vehicle also is equipped with GPS navigation."
And get this: Though her project won four special awards, it finished only third in the electrical engineering category. That speaks awfully well of the future of science at the highest end (in contrast to the poor state of science knowledge among students overall). Jessica was up against 1,500 other science students from 65 countries. I'm guessing a future Nobel Prize winner is among them. Here's a link to the Press-Enterprise story. http://www.pe.com/localnews/corona/stories/PE_News_Local_D_science17.38d2a88.html
Monitoring a Monarch
A Naturalist's Notebook friend mentioned in an e-mail this week that she had monitored monarch butterflies and learned how to tag them. I was curious how that tagging was done without injuring such delicate creatures. The video above shows a conservation group in Cape May, N.J., monitoring and tagging monarchs with press-on number tags. The butterflies were on their way to Mexico for the winter—a journey of a mere 2,000 miles.
Have you seen any monarchs yet where you live?
Adder's Tongue or Trout Lily?
Pretty sure I saw a magnolia warbler in the trees behind The Naturalist's Notebook. The spring warbler migration has reached Mount Desert Island, which is always a great place for birdwatching. The Acadia Birding Festival is coming up June 2 to 5.
What Came First, the Chicken or the Egg Machine?
Factory farming crowds animals into tiny pens and sun-deprived cages. To raise awareness of the conditions in which poultry is raised, an animal-rights group in Germany created this fake egg-vending machine containing live chickens. The machine, located in the center of Frankfurt, didn't dispense eggs; it gave out informational coins that explained how to buy eggs that come from chickens that are either free-range or otherwise humanely raised.
Researchers at the California Academy of Sciences have embarked on a project to shoot 3-D, up-close images of all 12,000 of the world's known ant species. Click on the link below to see a BBC slide show that is both fascinating and a little creepy. http://www.bbc.co.uk/nature/12880498
Invasion of the Japanese Knotweed
Last night Pamelia and I sat in on the first-ever session of a multi-organizational group that includes Acadia National Park and the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and is focusing on the invasive-plant threat to Acadia and Mount Desert Island. I'll tell you more about that whole subject in a future post, but in the meantime, if it's a subject you'd like to know more about, just send us an e-mail.
Answers to the Last Puzzlers:
1) Which of these statements is NOT true:
a): The word magnet comes from the Greek town Magnesia, near which magnetic ore was first found.
b) The name lima beans comes from Lima, Peru, where they have been cultivated for 8,000 years.
c) The color magenta was named for the 1859 Battle of Magenta, which was fought in what is now Magenta, Italy.
d) The name maple comes from the Latin term for sweet tear drops.
Answer: d). Pinning down the origin of maple is a little tricky, but it may have come from a Germanic word roughly translated as "nourishing mother tree." On the other hand, I did find out with amazing statistical certainty from a baby-name website—I'm not making this up—that Maple is used as a name for boys 5.363 times more often than it is as for girls.
2) Why is a type of owl called a saw-whet?
a) Because it likes to nest in trees freshly felled by the saws of loggers
b) Because the skieu! call it makes when alarmed sounds like a saw being sharpened
c) Because it was raining heavily when a naturalist first discovered the species in 1683; he literally saw the bird when he was wet
1) You have a four-minute hourglass and a seven-minute hourglass. You need to time something that lasts exactly nine minutes. How can you use your hourglasses to do that?
2) Unscramble these to find words related to nature:
Dorothy Hodgkin, the Nobel-winning British chemist who discovered the structure of insulin, cholesterol and vitamin B-12, would have turned 101 this week. Born in Egypt to an archaeologist/scholar, she developed a love of science as a child. She eventually made breakthroughs in X-ray crystallography, which provides a 3-D look at how atoms are assembled in a crystal. By the way, until the early 1900s people didn't know that vitamins existed. For more than 99 percent of human history people had no concept of nutrition, and essentially looked at all food as having the same nutritional value.
Ronald Ross, the Nobel-winning British bacteriologist who discovered that malaria is transmitted by the Anopheles mosquito, would have been 154 on Friday. Ross, who had contracted malaria while researching the disease in India, had recovered and was working in West Africa when he found the malaria parasite in the Anopheles mosquito. That was a crucial step in determining how to control the disease, which even today kills a million people a year and is responsible for one of every five childhood deaths in Africa.