Saturday, July 22, 2017

Critters On The Porch!

first we have an ant with a heart shaped butt: genus Cramatogaster
shiny little ant.  you can see the porch railing reflecting on her.

next a dusky Lasius ant.  this ant was VERY fast.  very hard to get a shot.
these ants are about a quater of an inch long..  Lasius you will find making a bunch of tiny volcano entrances to their nest along sidewalks and in other open places

next we have zebra jumping spider.  I should have tried to gt infront of it and get a good mug shot.
ok thats enough for today.

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Towards 100 Nonfiction Books Everyone Should Read

Maybe I'll expand these tweet sized reviews...

*Gregory Bateson, "Mind and Nature"

what processes does a mechanical system need to have to act like a mind? to evolve? are they the same?  concrete vocabulary to ask and answer.

*M. Mitchel Waldrop, "Complexity: the emerging science at the edge of order and chaos"

how do the behaviors of economies, ecosystems, and living organisms come from interactions between their parts?  narratives of this new field

*Alberts et. el. "Molecular Biology of the Cell"

You are a confederation of a TRILLION living amoeba, each amoeba is a dance of more nanotransformer robots than there are bricks in all of NYC

*Charles A. Sorrel and George F. Sandstrom, "Minerals of the World"

how does the chemistry of merely 2 dozen elements create the 1000s of wildly different minerals?  this is one book i learned chemistry from

*Kernighan and Plauger, "Software Tools in Pascal"

how to break down the solution to a complex problem into a toolbag of simple generically usefull tools that you can then use for the next problem

*Robert M. Hazen, "genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life's Origin"

can life have formed only from chemicals?  finally chemists are looking outside of their water filled testtubes for the chemistry at the origins of life.

*Douglas Hofstadter, "Goedel, Escher, Bach",

can a system complex enough to understand itself be too complex to understand?  Goedel's math proof says, YES! a playful romp explaning that

*Barry Goldman, "Complexity Lab Manual (in progress)"

can we understand the origins of this rich fragrant creative living world from first principles of heat flow, chemistry and mathematics?

where does the complexity and creativity life come from?  a michaelangelo like creator or from the chemistry of mud? 100 lab experiments

*greenwood and earnshaw: chemistry of the elements

these are the players: carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, phosphorus, sulfur, silicon, aluminum, iron... and oh boy, the game that they play

*Morrison and Boyd: Organic chemistry

chemistry is not simply colored fluids in beakers... but molecules, each responsive to temperature, pH, solvent, each other. and the responses...

*Dennis Bray: wetware: a computer in every cell

we are a conversation of a trillion living amoeba.  each is a massively parallel computating device that makes your computer look like a toy

*Julian Jaynes, "The Origins of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind"

were the characters in Homer's Illiad conscious? what are kings graves gods and hallucinations?  why do humans organize around leaders?

*James Howard Kunstler, "Geography of Nowhere"

insights in psychological reaction to lived spaces and history and analysis of how we have created the american automobile clusterfuck

*Vicki Hearne, "Adam's Task: Calling Animals by Name"

Can dogs and horses learn to become responsible citizens? yes. do they enjoy excelling at these tasks? yes. good advice on raising kids too.

*John Janovy, "Yellowlegs"

one biologist's journey to follow and enter the life of of a single wild bird, or maybe it's a journey into his own mind as a biologist

*Kaufmann, Walter, "Critique of Religion and Philosophy"

wild journey through philosophy, religion and poetry, "what was once poetry when done spontenaously, becomes religion when routine". also a trip to hell

*Bill Moyers, "A World of Ideas"

amazing insights about human civil and poetic life in interviews with dozens of public figures. should be standard highschool text book.

*David Rindos, "Symbiosis and instability in Agriculture"

we were nomadic hunter gatherers for 100,000s of  years and then in a flash, agriculture took us by surprise and spread like wildfire, how?

*Erick Hawkins, "The Body is a Clear Space"

to Hawkins, dance is not the placements of joints in various positions like marionett puppets, but shared feeling of existence. collected essays.

*"Baghavad Gita"

life eats life to live. biology's messier than that.  then humans evolve to get cought up on petty egos. the HORRIFIC reality and a way back.

*Sidney Mintz, "Sweetness and Power: the Place of Sugar in Modern History"

only read a taste of this.  something about women healers, the church and slavery for sure...

*Jonathan Sacks, "The Dignity of Difference"

christian, islamic, brittish, american... vision for humanity is the soul crushing world swallowing monolith, but there is a another way...

*Joseph Campbell, and Bill Moyers, "the Power of Myth"

life eats life to live. on every level.  our clinging egos are latecomers to the scene and have been reacting in creative horror ever since

*Mary Daly, "Gyn/Ecology: the Metaethics of Radical Feminism"

wild poetic real trip from mother Earth to Athena, to witch burnings, to Nazis to Medical industry to the mother....

*Annie Dillard, "The Writing Life"

writing is brutal.  this is a beautiful book

*Mary Catherine Bateson, "In a Daughters Eye: A memoir of Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson"

growing up with two fascinating anthropologist/biologist parents

*M. Scott Peck, "The Road Less Traveled"

the art of learning to listen to another, is very hard. is necessary

*Richard Eliot Friedman, "Torah and commentary",

old testament is an interlocking poetry puzzle that each generation must solve for themselves. hebrew text, translation and commentary shows how

*Robert Alter, "The Art of Biblical Narrative"

essays describing the mechanics portrayed in Friedman's book

*Bloom and Rosenberg, "the Book of J"

was the core of the old testement a finely crafted ironic critique of religion written by a woman writing in solomon's court?

*Vernon Amadjian and Surindar Paracer?, "Symbiosis: An Introduction to Biological Associations"

lush detailed examples of range of biological associations from deadly parasitic to mutually beneficial symbioses. do organisms have boundaries?

all the different stories of creatures living inside each other

worms that travel between snail and raccoon, fungi that

*Lynn Margulis and Karlene Schwartz, "Five Kingdoms: An Illustrated Guide to the Phyla of Life on Earth"

100 phyla of critters out there that are more different from each other than plants are from animals, by lifecycle and molecular mechanics

*E. C. Pielou, "After the Ice Age: the return of life to glaciated north america"

lush details of how our landscape and ecosystem grew back together as the Glaciers retreated over 10,000 years. today's stability is not the norm

*Mark Winston, "Biology of the Honeybee"

learn the intimate life of a space alien, the over 270 different skills they have. how they create a complex superorganism without no leaders

*Borror and White, "Peterson's Field Guide to Insects",

there may be a dozen kinds of mammals lurking 'round your back yard, but you can find at least 500 kinds of insects living there.

*Jack Harlan, "Crops and Man"

the complex ecology and evolution of weeds, humans and crops. how it all got started in multiple places in multiple ways.

*Holling Clancy Holling, "Pagoo"

follow the story of a young hermit crab growing up in the sea. jam packed with lush illustrations of all kinds of sea critters and biology

*John C. Kricher and Gordon Morrison, "Field Guide to Eastern Forests",

go out and see how your landscape is knit together by the myriad creatures, get to know some of them.  great details of ecological processes

*"Golden Guide to Pond Life",
stick it in your back pocket and get to know what's happening at a pond near you.  from microscopic anamalcules to turtles and raccoons

*Buchsbaum, "Animals Without Backbones"

detailed biology of ALL the squishy critters.  fun.

detailed biology of amoeba, jellyfish, parasitic worms, starfish, lobsters, octopi,

*George W. Barlow, "The Cichlid Fishes: Nature's Grand Experiment in Evolution"

A lake in africa where a 1000 species of fish evolved quickly. they explore every niche, have elaborate mating rituals, raise their young...

*L. David Mech and Luigi Boitani, "Wolves: Behavior, Ecology, and Conservation"

wolves r the most geographically and ecologically widespread mammals besides us.  they are also more civilized. we've hated them throughout history

*Donald Kroodsma, "The Singing Life of Birds"

only 50 years ago we start LISTENING to birds.  they are singing elaborate creative patterns with rules.  we don't yet know what they are saying

*Menno Schilthuizen, "Frogs, Flies, and Dandelions: Speciation -- the evolution of new species"

it's not just astroturf, humans and hotdogs out there.  a 1000 creative species out your window.  how does it happen?  here are some fun examples

*David Arora, "Mushrooms Demystified"

it was fungi, taught the green plants to live on dry land, and fungi learned to digest their wooden skeletons.  (and everything else) a field guide, learn them!

*William Morton Wheeler, "The Fungus Growing Ants of North America"

how one ant sized mother eventually raises up a city of a million children the size of your living room. in south america, they are in charge.

*Paul Colinvaux, "Why Big Fierce Animals Are Rare",

2 dozen tales of how our world is knit together at the biological and chemical scale

*Lewis Thomas, "The Lives of a Cell",

these little biology essays got me started in highschool on lifelong expeditions of the biological world. 

*Paul Colinvaux, "Ecology"

textbook.  the beef.  all the parts.  plants animal mineral.  how they weave together.

*Michael Procter, Peter Yeo and Andrew Lack, "The Natural History of Pollination"

the elaborate mating dances between flowers bees and wasps.  yes, wasps and orchids are having sex with each other! humans aint so weird.

*Frank Shu, "The Physical Universe: an Introduction to Astronomy"

read about, do the physics of the grand drama between gravity and the 2nd law of thermodynamics which creates all the structures of our universe

calculate how much energy the pulsar looses to glow of the crab nebula, then how far back in time it began in an explosion. yes one was recorded there 1000 years ago!

*John Janovy, "On Becoming a Biologist"

biology is a unique science half way between chemistry and geology, @ the human scale, ready to teach us if we listen to the critters.

*Gerald Holton and Stephen Brush, "Introduction to the Concepts and Theories in Phyiscs"

why trust science?  each theory takes a 100 years of exacting observation, brutally honest constructive criticism, back and forth before being woven into a stable edifice

learn how hard, how long, with what back and forth confusion to wrest basic facts of science: heat is energy of motion of atoms that make up matter

*Philip Davis and Reuben Hersh, "The Mathematical Experience"

history and exercizes of the mathematician's art. details. what IS mathematics? whimsical creation of the human mind or bedrock of reality?

*Guy Alexander, "Silica and Me"

thin. easy read. how does a scientist make sense of puzzling experiments? beautiful details. learn some chemistry. geology is silica.  read it.

*"Statistics the Easy Way"

statistics is some subtle complex shit. properties of distributions of multiple samples of distributions... first book that helped me understand

if you take a 100 different random samples of a bag of 40 red and 60 blue marbles, how does the average # of red in all samples relate to 40/100?

how many random samples of 30 people in a city does it take so that the total average of the average height of each sample is close to the average height in the whole city?  statistics is subtle complex shit. this book taught me.

n different random samples of people in a city, each of size m. what must n and m be so that the total average of the average height of each sample is close to the average height in the whole city?  statistics is subtle complex shit. this book taught me.

*Duncan C. Blanchard, "From Raindrops to Volcanoes"

a delightful romp through observation and experiment.  how to collect microscopic water drops in sea spray? have a baby spider build you a net...

one scientists experimental journey to understand rain. how to collect microscopic water drops in sea spray? have a baby spider build you a net...

*Richard Feynman, "The Meaning of it All",
*Richard Feynman, "The Pleasure of Finding Things Out",

science as a way of life of exploration, being able to live without certainty, striving for brutal honesty, is it valuble for human society?

*Richard feynman: six easy pieces

master physicist introduces you to his craft.  whats the most profound sentence of science knowlege? what is energy? gravity?  whats batshit insane about the quantum world?

*Wilson: 4 colors suffice: how the map problem was solved

math is weird: 5 color theorm takes only 9 pages to go over 5 cases, you can do it! but 4 color theorem takes a computer to go over 1400 cases!

*Einstein and Infeld: the evolution of physics

from the masters.  first time i understood what soundwaves were, how light works

*rebecca stott: darwin and the barnacle

get inside the very human world of Charles Darwin as he spends 20 years to hone his craft before daring to explain his world shattering theory

Monday, June 26, 2017

fire flies, central park, nyc

come summer in New York City,
the fireflies would apear in central park
and then at dusk the bats would come flitting out.
bats and fireflies,
bats chasing fireflies,
bats devouring the firefly crop.
lighness and dark.

one night there was a dance performance at summerstage and these woman were behind these tubs dancing as if they were washing their hair and then all of a sudden they all dip their hair in the tubs and swirl their heads up and...

there was REAL WATER in the tubs and these arcs of water went up into the air lit by the lighting and down...

all over the stage


'cause the women were still dancing

and even on the slippery wet stage they kept dancing

and all through it fireflies flitting between them

and the bats

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Math Puzzle Time: surround three

So that's the puzzle.  I think this was mixed up in my mind with something called frustrated systems and maybe generally, can crystal growth come up with something arbitrarily complexity.  At first I found plenty of boring solutions:

Even radially symmetric ones

Even spirals!

but were there TRULY CREATIVE solutions possible?  Two weeks later, it came to me:

Now... can I write an algorithm to do that?  Better yet, a set of local cellular automata rules that force it?  Better yet... is there a mineral out there that does this?

Can anyone find other kinds of solutions?

Convincing Geologists That The Continents Move (part of history of science in 100 tweets)


science works by exploring every possible thing with wildly different tools and approaches and find that it all interlocks

Columbus' first voyage into the unknown most certainly doomed to take more months than he had supplies, lucks out and discovers new continent

using the stars on a spherical sky as guide, we begin to map coastlines onto a globe, the coasts of Europe/Africa fit north/south America!

we find rock formations and fossils on both sides of the Atlantic that match each other.

we sound the entire floor of the Atlantic ocean and map its valleys and mountains, we find a ridge in the middle that matches both coastlines

this ridge is hot with fresh magma rising and cooling to basalt, forming new ocean floor

core samples all along the ocean floor, the bedrock is all basalt

the continental crust however is mostly granite with basalt inclusions and folded metamorphosed sediments it has a much more complex history

core samples along ocean floor have deeper and deeper layers of sediment on top as you get closer to the coasts, closer to the coasts is older?

when we discovered radioactive decay, we learned how to tell the age of REALLY OLD rocks. yup, the ocean bedrock is older towards the coasts.

but ocean bedrock is, over all, young, only a few hundred million years old, continents much older, some rock billions years old.


why not measure the magnetic orientation of rocks? it orients to the magnetic field of the earth when the rocks form from molten magma

in young bedrock, the magnetic field is oriented towards the poles, in older bedrock, not so, either the poles move or the bedrock moved!

map the magnetic fields across the ocean floor! on either side of the ridge, parallel matching stripes, flipping north, south, north, south...

the north and south poles were reversing orientation every few million years?

look at the magnetic orientations of older and older bedrock on continents, they all point to stationary poles if we MOVE the continents!

well? lets go and WATCH the continents, ARE they moving apart?  HELLS YEAH, umm... by half an inch per year.  this takes radio, or radar or satellites

but 1/2 inch a year is enough if you multiply it by the radio-dates of the oldest ocean crust, BINGO, you get the distance between the coasts!

can entire continents REALLY move? how many MORE INTERLOCKING measurements do you want before you are convinced?  this is how science works

half inch out of 3000 miles is like 1 part in 100 million.  to get these measurements to match we are measuring THAT accurately.  SCIENCE!

so, like soup in a pot, the entire earth is gyrating round and round in a series of interlinked convection cells, continents floating on top

theory of plate tectonics interweaves all the disparate phenomena of geology: continents, oceans, volcanoes, earthquakes, mountain building...

Friday, June 9, 2017

The CONTINENTS Move? How We SLOWLY Came To Be Certain Of This


what was the discovery?  science isn't like that!  not A discovery! many accumulating!

0) apes learn to sail, by starlight, leaving view of the shore!  this is the wild prehistoric early threads supporting our eventual science way.  we are explorers.  CRAZY ASSED explorers!  It's so important to us we risk death for it!

1) before sailing totally around the earth, before flying over the earth, before seeing earthball from the moon... Eratosthenes imagining earth is a sphere and figuring the sun is REALLY far away, uses geometry and shadows in cities 1000 miles apart to measure the circumference of the earth.  Anyway, greek astronomers reasoning from data on which stars are visible where on the earth and watching the shadows the earth makes on the moon from different longitudes... reason that the earth is probably a sphere.

2) columbus imagines, what the hell, instead of traveling months overland west to the opposite coast of the eurasian continent, i'll sail east and get to it the other way.  now, the greeks already taught us how to measure the size of the globe by the sun's shadows, columbus... it is too bloody far to sail!  but he convinced the monarchs of Spain to fund such a foolhardy adventure, what were all the motives?  desire for wealth?  adventure? cruelty?  i mean, probly it would be dismal failure, sure send 3 huge vessels with 100s of people in them to their deaths!

exploration is not cheaply won!  is it safe to come out of the womb?  no, not really!  but then again... we can't stay there either!

columbus LUCKED OUT and discovered a new continent half way there, unknown to europe!  well.. columbus screwed up, but his insanity opened the door...  even insanity can do this sometimes!  we eventually did learn to sail clear round the globe and routinely sail back and forth across wide oceans months at a time.

1) we map the coastlines and place them on spherical earth using the stars at night for coordinates, the shapes begin to become clear: old and new world coastlines match!

2) we collect fossils and map strata, placing them in a timeline, and see that they match directly accross the ocean.

3) The Atlantic ocean is an unfathomable huge devouring beast.  It swallows whole ships full of people.  just what IS an ocean?  WHAT IS DOWN THERE?  how deep is it? you can't swim more than a couple hundred feet down.  you can lower weighted ropes...  who, when, was the first to try it and find out just HOW DEEP does the ocean get?  how deep can you get with ropes, cables?

4) so we eventually bloody well decide, lets sound the whole frikkin ocean floor and see what it's shaped like! well eventually we learn to use... what did we use at first? sonar or radar?  clever clever apes!  either way it requires electricity!  and we map the shape of the sunless ocean floor, deep under MILES of water.  And eventually a sinous shape forms... we find the Mid Atlantic Ridge, curiously matches the shape of the coastlines on either side of it!  almost as if they were pulled apart from the center!

3.5) and perpendicular to it various subtrenches, stretchmarks?

4) how did we discover fresh magma was coming up from this ridge?

5) we LOOK AT EVERYTHING! Was George the ONLY curious monkey? NO. look at magnetization of rocks.  why did we look at the magnetization of rocks?  because that's what scientists do. they try EVERYTHING! look at magnetic orientation of bedrocks!  minerals in freshly cooled igneous rock have magnetic fields aligned with the Earth's magnetic poles.  but older rocks... the poles either were in different places in the past (not likely?) or the rocks have moved far since they were formed.  MYSTERIOUS.

6) so what the hell, lets map the magnetic fields recorded over the whole ocean floor.  WHY?  WHO EVEN THOUGHT OF THAT?  And we are rewarded with a beautiful pattern of stripes of alternating magnetic fields parallel to the mid atlantic ridge and the coastlines, and they match on either side of the mid atlantic ridge  too!  symmetrical!

6.5 Now, we've measured that the magnetic poles actually do wander around over the years a tiny bit...  Look FURTHER back in the bedrock and note that the north and south poles actually shift places every now and then.  WHAT?  (we are working on models that explain that.  i mean... how does the earth produce a magnetic field in the first place?  another story! vibrations from earthquakes hint there is electrically conducting molten iron in the core...)

6.6) are the stripes on the ocean floor recording these flips like a magnetic tape recorder?

7) we brought up samples from the ocean floor?  Sure we did, we drilled out cores and hauled them overboard!  the bedrock is ALL BASALT, quickly cooled magma, unlike the continents, which are much more complex, mostly granite.

7.5) Near the center ridge there is very little sediment over the basalt ocean floor, it hasn't been collecting sediment very long, but as you go further towards the coasts, the sediment layers over the basalt are thicker and thicker.  the ocean floor is older and older closer to the continents?

9) meanwhile, we were discovering radioactivity and half lives and how to radiodate rocks, millions of years old rocks, 100s of millions of years old rocks, BILLIONS of years old rocks.  Darwin and his geologist friends were right about the age of the geological strata all along even though the 19th century physicists couldn't imagine how it could be. SCIENCE ROCKS!

10) so we radiodate the samples of ocean crust, its ALL young, none older than a few 100 million years (while there is bedrock on the continents billions of years old), and gets progressively younger towards the mid atlantic ridge (birthplace of ocean crust?).  the clues are building up!

11) well, lets WATCH the continents! DO they move? YES! They are moving apart! what technology allowed us to do this? it's VERY SLOW. 2cm per year.  1 cm/3000miles is 1 out of 3000x5280x12x2 = 1 part in 100 million.  did we use radio?  satellites? and to get good match with radiodate of basalts should get measurement to 1 part in a billion!  but these are the kinds of measurements physicists have learned to make. 

yes, the numbers match.  the radiodating says the oldest ocean crust near the coasts is 250million years old.  2cm/yr *250million years is pretty close to the distance from the mid atlantic ridge to the coasts!  YAY SCIENCE!

SLOOOWLY the story dawns on us.. the magma coming out in the center, the basalt laid down on the floor younger at the center older as you go out, sediments deeper as you go out also agreeing with the older age of the ocean floor as you go further to the coasts, the magnetization marks matching on each side, the continents ARE moving apart at 2cm/yr and if you extrapolate that to their current distance apart you agree pretty well with the radiodating of the oldest ocean floor at the coasts, not to mention some plates are moving lateral to each other, some approaching each other and a trench where they meet, with volcanos spewing hydrated minerals that gets subducted..

A WILD NEW IMAGE of the earth, a mantle heated by radioactive decay is warm below and cool above so it's gyrating in convection cells JUST LIKE the ones in the atmosphere above it and over these gyrations the plates are being born and colliding into each other, and the continental plates are lighter than the ocean plates so they keep floating and accumulating riffraf.  where plates pull apart its fresh ocean trenches, where they GRIND past each other it's earthquakes and where they ram into each other, one sinks below and melts and makes mountains and volcanos.

if earth could move ENTIRE CONTINENTS, then surely it could move people's minds to change from viewing earth as a giant static rock to one where continents could move!

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

todays shrooms

todays catch: the stinky squid fungus.  it does stink  and the eggs r gooey.

more fungus Clavicorona pyxidata

anda pezizale