Archive for: April, 2006

Uninvited nest update.

Apr 30 2006 Published by under Mailbag, Personal, Research with animals

Yesterday I asked for advice about how to deal with a nest of eggs that presents itself in an inopportune place (a tree slated to meet a gruesome end in a whisper-chipper) at an inopportune time (mere days ahead of when we finally launch our backyard overhaul). The consensus among commenters who professed knowledge of or experience with birds in the wild seems to be that there is no promising way to relocate the nest without scaring the mama bird away and leaving the eggs cold and orphaned. Given that the whole point of moving the nest would be not to throw out the baby birds with the despised tree, this outcome would be sub-optimal.

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A call for advice: nest relocation?

Apr 29 2006 Published by under Personal, Research with animals

I need to call on the collective wisdom of the internets to address an issue in my back yard.
We have this tree in our back yard. It's a pretty awful tree. It was probably a living Christmas tree that the people who lived here before us planted, but it's in a really bad location (from the point of view of being able to use the rest of the yard sensibly), and it's ugly, and it's also sharp and pointy.
We want it gone. Indeed, finally, after about a year of planning, we are ready to have it removed (replaced with a Fuyu persimmon tree, in a slightly different location) as part of a major back yard improvement project. Work is scheduled to start Monday.
But this week, a complication presented itself:

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Cue the theme song.

Apr 29 2006 Published by under Passing thoughts

Via GrrlScientist, the precisely calibrated quiz for determining theme songs yields the following for me:

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Friday Sprog Blogging: the world in a fig tree.

Apr 28 2006 Published by under Kids and science

Last weekend, the Free-Ride family sat down to watch a nature program together: Nature: The Queen of Trees. The program looked at the variety of life around a giant fig tree. The central "relationship" in the program was between the tree and a wasp. From the program description:

The wasp and the fig depend on each other for survival. Without the wasp, the tree could not pollinate its flowers and produce seeds. Without the fig, the wasp would have nowhere to lay its eggs.

The younger Free-Riders were more captivated, however, by some of the secondary characters in the drama.

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A meme between stacks of papers needing grading.

Apr 27 2006 Published by under Passing thoughts, Personal

The grading is unrelenting. The crud is not entirely cleared from my system. I still owe you the promised post on plagiarism.
Must be time for a meme (specifically, the ABC meme, which I saw at jo(e)'s)!

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The obligatory poem from Emily Dickinson.

Apr 27 2006 Published by under Passing thoughts

Although certain bloggers of my acquaintance are suspicious of Emily Dickinson, I think she's the bee's knees. It wouldn't be National Poetry Month without a selection from Emily.
In case you're hesitating about clicking "Read on", I will entertain, in the comments, a discussion of whether the position Miss Dickinson advocates in the poem is an ethical one. And, a bonus fun fact: nearly every Emily Dickinson poem can be sung to the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas".

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Authorship and plagiarism: an object lesson.

Apr 27 2006 Published by under Ethics 101

Even though it's outside the realm of science, given its relevance to recent discussions here, I just can't leave this story alone:
Via Nanopolitan, the latest on the sad case of Harvard sophomore and author(?) Kaavya Viswanathan, whose situation keeps unravelling. Viswanathan got herself a book contract while still a high school student, and then wrote (maybe) the young adult novel How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life. Recently, it has come to light that dozens of passages in that novel bear an uncanny resemblance to passages in two novels by Megan McCafferty. Some seem to have been lifted word for word, while others seem to have modified just enough not to be immediately detectable with Google.
In the business, we're accustomed to calling this plagiarism. The only complication here is whether Viswanathan is the one who committed the plagiarism here.

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33rd Skeptics' Circle

Apr 27 2006 Published by under Carnival barking

Would Coturnix really present the latest Skeptics' Circle as a research report -- with a title with a colon in it?
You'll have to pop over to Science and Politics to find out.

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Commenter calls for better terminology.

A couple posts ago I posed these questions:

What do you want lay people to have as part of their store of scientific knowledge? What piece of scientific knowledge have you found especially useful, or would you like to have if you don't already?

Among other things, my query prompted this response from commenter tbell1:

I'm usually just a lurker here on science blogs, but I have a pet peeve about the use of the terms 'lay' or 'lay people' in reference to nonprofessionals in science. Doesn't it just stink of religion? Am I the only one who hates the term? Can we generate an alternative? 'non-professional' is a mouthful, but can't we just say 'people' or 'the public' or educated citizens or something?

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A poetry-writing chemist for National Poetry Month

Apr 26 2006 Published by under Chemistry, Passing thoughts

Chemists can be quite a literary bunch. Consider Primo Levi. Carl Djerassi. And, of course, Nobel Prize - winning chemist Roald Hoffman. Below the fold, Hoffman's poem "An unusual state of matter":

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