Citizen Scientists Study Hummingbirds in SW New Mexico #bird #birdwatching #citizenscience #ornithology

I visited the Mimbres Culture Heritage Center when they hosted a hummingbird banding weekend. Hummingbirds are fierce little warriors and fascinating to watch. I have three feeders out for them at my house now, and my windy ridgetop is not the best birding location in the county.

On your vacation through southwest New Mexico, be sure to visit the Mimbres ruins and, if you time it right, see the hummers.

Citizen Scientists! Tackle this hundred year old question – can you fry an egg on a summer sidewalk? #citizenscience #summertime

frying eggs in a pan

A pan and a cooktop definitely will be easier

Since at least 1899, Americans have speculated about frying an egg on a summer sidewalk. Can it be done?

Short answer – no. Long answer – it depends. Ah! The joy of “it depends.”

You can’t believe YouTube! You didn’t really think you could, did you? You’ll have to try for yourself.

Do this at home, if you don’t mind making a mess. First – set the parameters of your experiment. How cooked must your egg become?

When you cook an egg, the heat transfers energy to the molecules, causing the proteins to unravel. After a few minutes, the strings of proteins weave and bind together, and most of the water evaporates.

Yolk proteins begin to condense near 150 degrees Fahrenheit, while the albumen proteins ovotransferrin and ovalbumin thicken near 142 and 184 degrees, respectively. smithsonianmag.com

Let’s say you like runny yolks. Maybe softly-set egg whites too. So aim for… oh, let’s round it off and say, 140 degrees F.

I know from my wildland fire fighter training that dry grass baking in the sun can routinely reach 100 degrees F. A record for the highest official temperature on Earth comes from Death Valley USA:  134.1 degrees F (56.7 °C) That’s the temperature of the air, not a solid soaking up photons.

People quibble over that record, and you may not want to take your egg to Death Valley, but this seems promising.

It’s not just temperature that matters, it’s heat transfer. Ever bake a cake? Did you tap the cake’s top to judge if it’s done? Would you tap the pan? The difference is heat transfer rates.

So how about the sidewalk? Concrete isn’t the best material to transfer heat to a food item, which is why we don’t have a lot of concrete fry pans.

Asphalt would be better, “smoother and tighter, and also going to be hotter and hold its heat better… If you’ve got a road that’s at 150 or 155 degrees and you crack an egg onto it, it’s going to lower the temperature [at that spot], and that temperature’s not going to heat back up anytime soon.”

My home town in upstate New York, USA, has sidewalks made of slabs of black slate. Better than concrete for sure, but I don’t know how it compares to asphalt.

There are lots of ways to cook with solar ovens, and mirrors, aluminum foil, and magnifying glasses can help too. Is any such equipment allowed for your experiment?

Two cold drinks

I made one for you too

I tell you what. I’m going to sit in the shade with a cold drink. Let me know how your experiment turns out.

Thanks to smithsonianmag.com for their article.

Ladybugs Show up on Weather Radar – don’t see wildlife numbers like this often enough #nature #biology #radar

ladybugs on a tree trunk in ColoradoVolunteer weather spotters – citizen scientists – solve a mystery for the pros.

National Weather Service meteorologists noticed something puzzling on their radar screens in Southern California… weather spotter told them the mysterious cloud was actually a giant swarm of ladybugs npr.org

Ladybugs are common in California, people even breed and sell them to home gardeners for aphid control, so swarms aren’t unusual. A swarm ten miles wide might be a good sign for the environment or not. There isn’t enough data to say.

Huge displays of wildlife were once a mark of North America. From bison to ladybugs to passenger pigeons (which we of European extraction destroyed – my elegy is here.)

While hiking in Colorado I once came across a swarm of ladybugs that had landed, covering a rocky slope as far as I chose to explore. On a ridge in New Mexico, I found another group blanketing short trees on a sunny ridge between huge Ponderosa pines. It’s good to share the land with wildlife, and it’s not a choice of people or bugs. We can have, and we need, both.

My Own Science Challenge, how to run a genuine dowsing experiment you can do at home #research #math #citizenscience

18th century dowser

!8th century dowser, but the concept is older

I recently ran into this post on the Ideomotor Response, a real and captivating effect. You experience unconscious, unintentional physical movements that seem to contain knowledge beyond your own. It’s sort of neuromotor crosstalk that feels magical and has given us Ouija boards, automatic writing, and dowsing.

If you’ve never tried dowsing, give it a shot. It’s one of those remarkably compelling experiences that only science can sort out.

As I had a chance to see for myself.

Out here in rural New Mexico a lot of well drillers use, or at least offer, dowsing. I live on thick layers of ancient limestone and dolomite, crisscrossed with volcanic intrusions and alluvial deposits. Water is usually deep and not found in the lovely, predictable aquifer layers that favor much of North America. We see a lot of expensive dry holes.

Superstitions thrive when you seek an outcome that is very important but heavily influenced by chance. Whether winning a ball game or drilling a well, it’s hard to avoid developing a belief in lucky socks or dowsing. The ideomotor sensations are compelling – dowsers are honest people.

One of my neighbors was convinced he could detect water with dowsing rods. He was as curious as I was to find out if dowsing could be proven. We worked out a test protocol, and agreed that 5 or more “Hits” would be good evidence.

I added my procedure under the More Tag below – feel free to use it if you’d like.

Here are our results:

My neighbor got 2 hits, well within chance and below his expectation. He’s a bit mystified (indeed, one experiment needs to be replicated) but it was fun to be able to run an experiment ourselves.

Continue reading

Lunar Eclipse on a Perfect Winter Morning #lunar #moon #eclipse #sky

Total lunar eclipse - Kate Rauner

Lunar eclipse from New Mexico 31JAN2018 – moon looks much more orange in picture than it did to my eye

Perfect morning for the lunar eclipse. I could stand at my kitchen sink and watch the moon through a window, then step out on my deck for a view of the whole sky. The morning was clear and calm. As moonlight dimmed, the stars grew brilliant. Then, just at totality, the rising dawn began washing them out again.

I live in the mountains of New Mexico, so once the usual morning breeze kicked up, I hopped back and forth – outside for a better view of the moon’s coppery blush, inside to warm up. Lunar eclipses last long enough for leisurely viewing. There’s time to make coffee and take pictures, even with a simple amateur camera.

The rising dawn won out, and the darkened moon, in the last minutes of totality, faded faster than it set.

Glorious.

Fading bright to dim
Now engulfed in Earth’s shadow
Blushing as you set

Another Successful Science Olympiad – We Play Nerdy #science #citizenscientist #nerdgirl #nerdboy #STEM #education

Science Olympiad at WNMU

Crush-testing a tower

Science Olympiad regional at Western New Mexico University is complete and the awards will be handed out shortly at the closing ceremony. I coordinated a middle school event this year, and there was also a high school division. We had great participation from area schools and fine weather.

Science Olympiad at WNMU

Roller coaster marbles

Congratulations to all the teachers who’ve been coaching their teams for months, to everyone who had to catch a school bus at 5 am to arrive on time, and especially to the competitors. Whether these kids pusue a career in science and technology or not, they’ll be better informed citzens for their interest and knowledge of science and, I think, more interesting people.

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

zebra_equus_quagga

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.