Revealed – Truth Is, Zebras Don’t Have Stripes on Skin – is that Weird or Not? #nature #biology #animals #genetics


Taken by Muhammad Mahdi Karim

This may not be the most important piece of news, but zebras are solid black under their striped coat.

 Skin color and hair color are controlled by different genes, hormones, and other factors, says Barsh, who studies the genetics of animal color patterns… citing domestic cats, domestic dogs, horses, zebras, and cheetahs as examples. nationalgeographic

I know that’s true with my llamas. Now, tell the truth. You’re about to go brush the hair backwards on your dog or cat to check, aren’t you? Go ahead! Be a citizen scientist.

Announcing Ebook Week starting March 5 Awesome Discounts and Free books #free #bookday #ebook #giveaway

Look close - if your screen's big enough you'll see THAT'S ME inside the walkabout suit on Mars :)

Look close – if your screen’s big enough you’ll see THAT’S ME inside the walkabout suit on Mars 🙂

Put March 5th in your calendar! It’s the start of ebook week and you’ll find loads of discounts and promotions all week – look for some of mine, too. Bookmark the page now:

Snow Brings a Forgotten Calm #haiku #poem #poetry #nature

Can the past return?snow-2017-400x300
Storm cuts power, buries roads
Modern world must pause

by Kate Rauner


rr-3-coversAll my books, including collections of my science-inspired poetry, are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and other major online retailers. You’ll also find paperbacks at Create Space and all major digital formats at Smashwords. Read one today.

Innovative Farming Deserve Your Faith in a Post-Work Future? #nature #farmlife #unemployed


Hover fly, a natural pollinator

Are we entering the post-work world, at least in terms of traditional jobs in western countries?

Society is leaving 20th Century jobs behind and no amount of political promises will bring back the past. Rust belt cities are contracting and communities are being disrupted. Parents don’t know how to advise their children as they move into an uncertain future.

Money is only one concern. What will bring us satisfaction, freedom, and a sense of community as automation replaces human beings in manufacturing and services?

What future will we build?

Perhaps we’ll leave consumerism behind and follow our interests, talents, and inclinations – how about farming? It seems an ironic tribute to the past, since only a hundred years ago mechanization drove most Americans off their family farms, but boutique farms offer a 21st Century alternative. People are learning how to make small farms work with biointensive techniques.

Biointensive’s key components [include] transplanting and double-digging, on-site composting, close plant spacing, use of seeds from plants that have been naturally pollinated and specific food-to-compost crop ratios. These methods are rarely practiced on large farms, where mechanization is more profitable, but they can be life-changing for the 90 percent of the world’s farmers who work 4 acres (2 hectares) or less by helping them to make the most of a given plot of land.

Biointensive farms use 50 to 75 percent less land and 94 to 99 percent less energy to produce a given amount of food than does conventional farming… less fertilizer… less water… Perhaps most intriguingly, biointensive methods “grow” farmable soil.

Envisioned as “a potential way out for malnourished people worldwide,” perhaps such farms will be the answer for some of the displaced people in America. While these techniques were developed to feed human bodies, perhaps they can also feed human souls.

Thanks to and for the story on mini-farms.

Happy Solstice – Winter in North, Summer in South, #holiday on Earth #solstice #Merrychristmas


Walking the labyrinth at Chartres Cathedral

Thanks to the tilt of Earth’s axis, we’re about to mark the Perihelion Solstice, the shortest day and the longest night of the year in the northern hemisphere, or longest day and shortest night in the southern.

Earth will be closest to the Sun, at its orbital perihelion, about two weeks after the December Solstice. The close timing is a coincidence, an artifact of our eccentric orbit.

In 1246, the December Solstice was on the same day as the Earth reached its Perihelion. Since then, the Perihelion and Aphelion dates have drifted by a day every 58 years. In the short-term, the dates can vary up to 2 days from one year to another.

Mathematicians and astronomers estimate that in the year 6430, over 4000 years from now, the timing of the Perihelion and the March Equinox will coincide.

Our ancestors have studied the annual cycle of the Sun since Neolithic times. Stonehenge may be the most famous instrument to monitor the seasons, but there are many others across the world. We still celebrate the solstice, whether by that name or subsumed into other holidays. Our tribe still gathers to feast, defying the darkness with promises of future prosperity.

From the traditions of northern Europe we get Christmas trees, wreathes, and Yule logs – and celebrate by exchanging gifts. These traditions were even carried to the southern hemisphere, where a snow-bound Xmas is just a story.

In Iran, families gather together to eat – with nuts, pomegranates and watermelons favored – and read poetry.

In China, expect to see pink and white rice-flour dumplings in sweet broth, symbolizing unity and prosperity.

I’ll be attending a friend’s party and walking her candle-lit labyrinth.

I’m no Persian poet, but here’s my ode to the shifting North Star.

mars-ad-solstice-400x304What holidays will travel with us to Mars? I speculate that the orbital points of equinoxes and solstices will be observed, and perhaps anniversaries of mission landings. Mark your holidays with gifts of books – science fiction and poetry.

All my books, including science fiction and science-rr-3-coversinspired poetry, are available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo, and other major online retailers. You’ll also find paperbacks at Create Space and all major digital formats at Smashwords. Read one today.

Scientific Discovery in Bathtub #science #beetle #bugs #nature

If you’d love to make a scientific discovery, it pays to keep your eyes open.

In 1984, a couple outside of Salem, Oregon, discovered tiny beetles floating in the [bathtub]


Great Diving Beetle, free-swimming and a giant by comparison

water… a species completely new to science.

It also pays to remember Isaac Asimov’s words that “the most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not, ‘Eureka! I’ve found it,’ but, ‘That’s funny!'”

After sending a sample to Oregon State University the couple cleaned the beetles out of their well with chlorine, and I can’t blame them. But Oregon State entomologist Richard Van Driesche read about the beetles and wanted to find more. His parents’ farm is near Salem and when he checked their well water filter, he found several deceased beetles that yielded usable DNA. Oddly enough, the closest relatives to Oregon’s beetles live in a Texas aquifer – a long way for a tiny diving beetle that spends its entire life underground. I’ve seen no word on what they eat down there.

Feathered Baby Dinosaur #nature #science #dinosaur

A baby dinosaur the size of a sparrow brushed up against a tree that was sticky with resin and left part

Ryan McKellar/Royal Saskatchewan Museum

Ryan McKellar/Royal Saskatchewan Museum

of itself behind. Today, ninety-nine million years later, that resin is a ball of amber preserving insects, bits of plants, and tail bones and feathers from that poor babe.

It sounds like science fiction: a 99-million-year-old, feathery dinosaur tail encased in amber. But the specimen is real, and it is helping scientists envision how feathers evolved… ‘It’s so unsurprising to find a dinosaur with feathers now,[see Wikipedia for more on that] it’s like predicting that a fossil mammal would have hair.’

While most fossils are distorted and flattened in sedimentary rock, amber preserves a three dimensional form, allowing scientists to see just how different dinosaur feathers were from modern birds’. The baby dinosaur’s feathers were not for flight – perhaps they insulated it for warmth. Perhaps feathers retained by adults were used for signaling or some other sort of display, or maybe feathers were molted several times during life and ended up looking more like the famous Archaeopteryx, which is even older.

Scientists continue to debate the relationships of feather barbs and barbules, but the baby’s tail provides evidence of more than feathers. From the bones, it seems to be a two-legged theropod.

One other tantalizing clue the team found in the amber was the chemical signature of ferrous iron in the thin carbon film where the animal’s soft tissues would have been. That form of iron comes from blood proteins.

Sadly, DNA doesn’t persist from the age of dinosaurs. So we can’t expect a clone of this baby that left its tail in amber to grow up today.