Nav / links


Broome Coastline, Western Australia 1 3 by Zak Sherwood


Top 5 physicists > Galileo Galilei

Philosophy is written in this grand book — I mean the universe — which stands continually open to our gaze, but it cannot be understood unless one first learns to comprehend the language in which it is written. It is written in the language of mathematics, and its characters are triangles, circles, and other geometric figures, without which it is humanly impossible to understand a single word of it; without these, one is wandering about in a dark labyrinth.

La philosophie est écrite dans cet immense livre qui se tient toujours ouvert devant nos yeux, je veux dire l’univers, mais on ne peut le comprendre si l’on ne s’applique d’abord à en comprendre la langue et et à connaître les caractères avec lesquels il est écrit. Il est écrit dans la langue mathématique et ses caractères sont des triangles, des cercles et autres figures géométriques, sans le moyen desquels il est humainement impossible d’en comprendre un mot. Sans eux, c’est une errance vaine dans un labyrinthe obscur.


Ig Nobel Prizes: Cats May Make You Sad, Pork Stops Nose Bleeds

There’s some truth to the effectiveness of folk remedies and old wives’ tales when it comes to serious medical issues, according to findings by a team from Detroit Medical Center.

Sonal Saraiya and her colleagues in Michigan found that packing strips of cured pork in the nose of a child who suffers from uncontrollable, life-threatening nosebleeds can stop the hemorrhaging, a discovery that won them a 2014 Ig Nobel prize, the annual award for sometimes inane, yet often surprisingly practical, scientific discoveries.

This year’s winners honored at Harvard Univ. by the Annals of Improbable Research magazine included a team of researchers who wondered if owning a cat was bad for your mental health; Japanese scientists who tested whether banana peels are really as slippery as cartoons would have us believe; and Norwegian biologists who tested whether reindeer on the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard were frightened by humans dressed to resemble polar bears.

Read more:



The best and most important blog we discovered this week places octopuses on the heads of United States vice-presidents. All of them.

This is for all of the marine biologists/history buffs out there. -Emily


Ikrandraco avatar: look upon my chin, ye mighty, and despair!




(whiskered treeswift, long-tailed tit, blue nuthatch, & brassy-breasted tanager on generic sphingidae-shaped bodies if you were curious!!)

Some STYLISTICALLY BOSS mothbirdbeasts!!! You would not believe the noises I made when this turned up in the tag.

how most academic research goes




Akohekohe, in marker. Using my old-school tools to keep this relaxing!

(Suggested by aviandiffidence)


8-foot giant squid pillow.

You’ll need:

  • 2 yards of felt
  • 1 yard of patterned fabric (I suggest a polka dot-type pattern so it looks like suction cups)
  • 1 medium piece of black felt, 1 medium piece of white felt (for the eyes)
  • white thread, black thread and thread of the same color as the felt you’re using
  • pins
  • about 5 lbs. of stuffing
  • a couple big sheets of paper to draw your pattern

You can find many of these things down at the many places on Fabric Row, on 4th Street between Bainbridge and Catherine. Pearl, at 417 South Street, sometimes has stuffing if you can’t find any.

First, you need to draw out your patterns. Here’s a basic template to get you started, although most of the measurements are reasonably fudgeable. If in the likely event you don’t have any four-foot-long pieces of paper lying around, just tape a few pieces together.

giant squid plushie pattern

These aren't to scale.

Once you’ve drawn out your eight patterns, it’s time to cut the fabric. Pin the pattern to the fabric, laid flat, and cut out the following, leaving a half an inch or so of extra fabric around the edge of the pattern:

FOR THE ARMS: 8 felt and 8 fabric cutouts of piece 1

FOR THE, UH, LONGER ARMS: 2 felt and 2 fabric cutouts of piece 2

FOR THE BODY: 2 felt cutouts of piece 3

FOR THE FIN: 4 felt cutouts of piece 4

FOR THE HEAD: 1 felt cutouts of piece 6

FOR THE EYES: 2 white felt cutouts of piece 7 and 2 black felt cutouts of piece 8

So now you’ve got all your pieces ready, it’s time to start sewing them together. I did mine by hand because my sewing machine is busted and I get a kind of Zen buzz from sewing by hand, but if you have a non-busted one I recommend that you use it as it will be MUCH EASIER. You’re going to be sewing everything with the nice side of the fabric facing in, then turning it inside out to stuff it.

THE ARMS: (To make a quilted pattern that looks like suckers, see this other post). Pin together one patterned fabric piece 1 and one felt piece 1 (with the nice sides facing the inside). Sew down around the U-shape and back up, leaving the top open. Then turn the arm inside out, stuff it (it’s easiest to do both of these things if you sort of scrunch it up like you’re trying to put on a pair of tights, excuse the non-dude-friendly reference) and sew the top closed. Do the same for the other seven arms and rejoice in the fact that this is the most tedious part. Same deal with the two long arms, they’re just harder to stuff.

THE FINS: Pin together two of your piece 4s and sew together the curvy outer edge. Turn the piece inside out, so the seam you just sewed is on the inside, and start sewing up the other side, stuffing gradually as you go along. You should end up with a triangle-ish puffy thing. Repeat for the other two piece 4s.

THE BODY: Put down one piece 3, then place the two fins you have down with the point up and the curvy side pointing in, then make a sandwich by putting the other piece 3 down on top. Pin it all together and sew around the edges with the two fins still inside, as shown. Turn it inside out and move on to…

THE HEAD: So take piece 6 and the ten arms you’ve already done. Lay the arms, fabric side facing you, out with the arms’ top seams in a line half an inch from the top of piece 6. The order should be arm arm arm arm BIG ARM arm arm arm arm BIG ARM. The legs should be almost entirely covering piece 6. Pin them in place and sew a straight line through the individual legs seams to attach the legs to piece 6.

When you pick up the other side of piece 6, you now have something resembling a really weird untied hula skirt. Sew together the two 9-inch ends of piece 6 with the fabric side of the arms on the outside, and keep it inside out for the moment.

PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER: Fit the open end of the body through the arms (still fabric side facing out) and pull the edge all the way through the felt cylinder so it’s even with the edge that DOESN’T have arms attached to it. Sew around the diameters of the head cylinder and the body cylinder to attach them, then pull the legs down over the head and you’re almost done!

Stuff the body, then seal it off by sewing piece 5 over the open end (even if you do have a functional sewing machine, you’ll probably have to do this part by hand).

THE EYES: Sew the black circles on the white circles and whipstitch the eyes onto the head. You do this last because you can’t tell where they’re going to end up on the end product if you put them on before stuffing the body.


Monarch butterfly prior to emerging from its chrysalis.



Egyptian mythology is best mythology



(Source: lunacswitchyblog)



Amber Inclusions by Anders Damgaard

With all this discussion recently surrounding the ethics of manipulating DNA in an effort to resurrect lost species, it seems appropriate that we take a look back in time at the vessels for our future T-Rexes and (fingers crossed~!) Giant Ground Sloths. Until that glorious day when we will ride atop the backs of huge beavers (it was a thing! Science up), admire the beauty of these amber-encased insects, forever looking out at us through a layer of several million years.

Photog: Flickr / Website / Blog

Friendly reminder that amber is one hypercool plant material; it is the fossilized resin of ancient trees. And it’s not just animals and insects that prehistoric amber has trapped for modern scientists to study, it has also trapped pollen, plant parts, and other goodies that help in reconstructing ancient landscapes. ~AR


A giant, spiky springtail!

Most springtails are only a few millimetres long, but this one is more than 1 cm.

It’s like a big, cuddly bear! With spikes and bristles.

…Images: Andy Murray


I’ve seen this chart floating around on my dash, and it occurred to me that I never posted the original version. So here is my and Jon's Dinosaur Classification Chart, in a hopefully Tumblr-palatable format.

Click here to see the moderately large version at DA.

This is a much simpler examination of dinosaur relationships than most of my watchers would probably find useful. Most of you will know that theropods are broken up into tetanurans and ceratosaurs, and that birds are nested within coelurosaurs, and that there are many internal divisions within sauropods and ornithiscians as well. But this chart is intended to be more of a quick, concise reference for laypeople, teachers, children, or whoever might have a passing interest in dinosaurs. My hope is that anyone who wants to quickly figure out what major group any given dinosaur falls into can glance at this chart and know immediately. 

This was a collaboration between myself and Jon - I did the illustrations, and he did all of the layout and text. To see this chart in full resolution, please consider buying a poster in my Zazzle shop.


A Triassic Cuddle Set In Stone

In 1975, near the base of South Africa’s Oliviershoek Pass, paleontologist James Kitching discovered the final resting place of a small, shuffling mammal that had perished some 250 million years before. Little more than a piece of skull was poking out of the stone, but the shape and composition of the surrounding rock suggested that the poor creature had died in a burrow – and that there might be more inside. Sure enough, when Kitching cracked open the rock the little lair was pocked by even more bones, so off it went to the collection of Johannesburg’s Evolutionary Studies Institute of the University of Witwatersrand. Kitching had no idea that he had found a pair of unusual Triassic bedfellows.

The part of the fossil Kitching first spotted was a piece of Thrinaxodon. Multiple specimens of this small, squat protomammal have been found curled up inside burrows. Whether or not Thrinaxodon made their own dens is a mystery, but their remains, fossilized in repose, hint that they escaped the blistering heat of the dry season by snoozing underground.

Thrinaxodon is not alone in the Triassic tomb. Lying belly-up atop the protomammal is a rare, salamander-like amphibian named Broomistega. No one had any idea that the bonus fossil was there until University of the Witwatersrand paleontologist Vincent Fernandez and colleagues had the contents of the burrow scanned at the European Synchrotron Radiation Facility in Grenoble, France. Presented in the scan’s digital detail, published last year, the pair of fossils rest against each other in stunning articulation.

How did this Triassic mash-up come together? The fossil doesn’t offer a definite answer, but Fernandez and colleagues narrowed down the list of possibilities.

Regardless of whether the Thrinaxodon created the hollow, previous fossil finds and the anatomical improbability of a burrowing Broomistega suggest that the protomammal was the den’s primary occupant. And even though both animals were buried by a mix of water and sediment that sluiced into the burrow, it would be a hell of a coincidence if the sloshing mud carried an intact amphibian right into the burrow.

With such an accidental burial unlikely, Broomistega was either dragged in by Thrinaxodon or the amphibian purposely hauled itself into the burrow. The latter seems more likely. Even though the Broomistega bones show two possible tooth puncture marks, the size and spacing did not match the dental particulars of the Thrinaxodon. Instead, Fernandez and colleagues hypothesized, the Broomistega simply wandered into the burrow where theThrinaxodon was sound asleep in a brief torpor, and there the amphibian lay until a mucky slurry buried them both.

Such close cohabitation is rare, even among modern animals, but theBroomistega may have had good reasons to seek shelter. For one thing, this particular animal had a series of broken, partly-healed ribs that probably hindered the amphibian’s ability to move and breathe. That’s a major problem for a creature that will quickly die if stranded in dry season sun, so perhaps the burrow was the closest place of refuge for the injured Broomistega. So long as the Thrinaxodon lay undisturbed in a multi-day slumber, as Fernandez and coauthors suspect, then the amphibian could have rested in the cool without risk of being run out by the burrow-owner’s snapping jaws. In the cool and the dark, the Triassic neighbors dozed together, died together, and became fossilized together.