Gravity | Silly Science Trick

Jim in IA:

In case you have nothing else to do today…

Originally posted on JAR Blog:

Put a nickel on top of a quarter. Or, use whatever coins you have with the top one smaller than the bottom one. Hold them above your other hand. Drop them. They will rotate and reverse places. Get the distance just right and they will land softly in your lower hand. Great party trick. :-)

I used my Samsung Galaxy s5 to film this at 1/8 speed. YouTube allowed me to trim out some dead time and shorten the video. It also did some minor enhancements to lighting and color.

After a year of using the phone, it was time to try some unused features. I am not an avid phone user.

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Greenland Ice | Mapped in 3-D

Originally posted on JAR Blog:

Operation IceBridge Mission Statement

NASA’s Operation IceBridge images Earth’s polar ice in unprecedented detail to better understand processes that connect the polar regions with the global climate system. IceBridge utilizes a highly specialized fleet of research aircraft and the most sophisticated suite of innovative science instruments ever assembled to characterize annual changes in thickness of sea ice, glaciers, and ice sheets.

Now in the seventh year, IceBridge is deep into the Arctic research campaign. Each year, the aircraft fly over the Arctic or the Antarctic to gather data on the ice and how it is responding to climate change. The data is related to that of other research efforts such as ice core drilling and satellite observations. One of the regions intensely studied is Greenland which is 85% covered by ice to up to an average depth of 2.3 km (1.6 miles). The great weight of the ice has pressed…

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Love Anyway

[I posted this about a year and a half ago. It’s a helpful read when I’m feeling sorry for myself and less generous. This is a good time to post it again.]

There is a quotation often attributed, incorrectly, to Mother Teresa. One segment of it reads, “People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway.” Certainly the generosity expressed here is reminiscent of the blessed sister. But they were not her words.

I quoted a portion of the same text about a year ago. At the time the attribution I saw, and used, was incorrect. Since then I’ve learned the truth, and want to share with you the whole, original version. It was written by Dr. Kent M. Keith.

The Paradoxical Commandments

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you will win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth.
Give the world the best you have anyway.

© Copyright Kent M. Keith 1968, renewed 2001

Strong Bricks

Jim in IA:

From the mouths of babes…

Originally posted on accidental life:

My daughter is, by design, a thinker. She is my daughter, after all. She experiences everything in life through an analytical filter, of sorts. She sees parallels, makes connections and understands underlying meaning at a level that is beyond her years. Even more surprising, however, is her ability to put her thoughts and analyses to words. She not only thinks deeply about her life experiences, but she then shares her thoughts in a way that moves me to tears sometimes. Last night was one of those nights.

Daughter had spent the day visiting an historic community (Nauvoo, IL) with her classmates on a field trip. She had learned how to make rope, visited a blacksmith’s shop, made and tasted homemade bread from a brick oven and heard about how the bricks themselves were made. It was this last experience that she described in greatest detail as we lay in her…

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A Visual Illustration of Plant Diversity’s Importance

Jim in IA:

Some views by our neighbor to the west.

Originally posted on The Prairie Ecologist:

Last week, I took some photos that powerfully demonstrate the importance of plant diversity.

DCIM100GOPROG0080136. Research plots at The Nature Conservancy’s Platte River Prairies.

Several years ago, we created some research plots to help us learn more about how plant diversity interacts with ecosystem function.  As you can see above, the plots include a grid of squares (3/4 acre in size), each planted with one of three seed mixtures: monoculture (big bluestem), low diversity (grasses and a few forbs harvested in the fall), and high diversity (100 species).  Working with academic partners, we have several research projects underway, including a couple that demonstrate the influence plant diversity has on the spread of invasive plant species.

Other researchers have found similar relationships between plant diversity and resistance to invasive species, but that is only one of many benefits from having a wide variety of plants in a prairie.  Both herbivores and pollinators benefit…

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Garlic Mustard — The Monster in the Woods

There’s a monster in the woods, a monster of threatening force, prodigiously reproducing, covering all in its path. Some monsters like Bigfoot are hidden, undercover, and hard enough to find that some don’t believe they exist. This monster is easy to find, so easy in fact, it may be right in front of you.

The monster is garlic mustard.

Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata) is an invasive species, brought to this continent in the 1860s (wiki). Native to Europe, parts of Asia, and Africa, it was used as an herb or green in Europe, where dozens of insect species and several fungi use the plant as food. Those species do not share habitat with it here. With no natural enemies, it outreproduces competitors, and within a few years can take over the underbrush.

According to EarthCaretaker, the plant has infested 29 states and southern Ontario. Experts are not sure how it spreads across broad ranges, as seeds fall close to the parent plant. However, without intervention, it easily spreads within limited areas, crowding out other low plants. Deer do not eat it, and when garlic mustard has taken hold, the remaining plants deer do eat are cleared even more.

Some butterfly species may become threatened because it resembles a plant on which they would lay eggs, but the garlic mustard has chemical compounds that don’t make a friendly environment for butterfly reproduction.

It grows for two years. The first year, it has green leaves close to the ground, and in the second year it grows up to 3 feet high. You can see what happens when the plants take the margins of the woods. This photo actually shows a pretty minor infestation. We’ve seen areas substantially more invaded than this.

One challenge is that when the plants are flowering, they may appear to be an attractive wildflower, leading property owners to hesitate to clear it. But cleared it must be. Over approximately a five year period, the plants should be cleared, optimally before flowering. To do so, clear early in the season before seeds develop. Pull out the whole plant including the root. If you do this early enough, you can leave the plants in the woods. If you are late, after seed formation, the plants must be bagged and tied, to go to the landfill, not composting. (My city has a separate disposal site for the plants, to ensure they don’t get mixed with yard waste.) Download a pdf on garlic mustard control. This is published by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, so your mileage may vary based on your own climate conditions.


One way to solve the problem of garlic mustard is to eat it. Garlic mustard IS edible, and apparently tastes like garlic. In addition, it’s high in vitamins A and C.

There are a variety of sources for recipes, none of which I will attest to. However, it apparently can be used as a salad green, in wilted greens, pesto recipes, cream sauce, or in many other ways I would never have considered! See this cook book with things for you to try.

Do you have monstrous garlic mustard weed in your yard or nearby public spaces? Does your community have an organized effort to eradicate it? Do you participate?