Here are some pictures from our visit last weekend to the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower center. I think some turned out pretty well:
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It’s an incredible place, always sporting newly flowering denizens this time of year. From turtles to insects to flowers of all varieties there are plenty of photographic opportunities as well. They are opening a new arboretum next week, so take the chance to visit if you’re in range!
Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was a groundbreaking work resulting from decades of scientific observation and careful thought. Exactly 150 years after its publication on November 24, 2009 a paper was presented on a new species of spider named in his honor: the Darwin’s bark spider (Caerostris darwini). Have a look at this fascinating creature:
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A few amazing tidbits:
In a stimulating and spell-binding lecture on a number of papers by Michael Faraday Friday, Ryan Tweney, emeritus professor of psychology at Bowling Green State University, led the audience in an exciting journey covering acoustic surprises, optical illusions, excruciating experiments and thrilling conjecture. It was difficult to gather until the end of the talk, except during rare occasions of lucidity, what the connection was between the seemingly disparate phenomena being related. I’ll relate these parts in summary, before exploring the conclusions suggested.
Today the first particle beam was successfully sent around the Large Hadron Collider! This utterly amazing piece of equipment, the largest, most powerful, and most expensive scientific experiment ever undertaken by humanity, will undoubtedly result in many profound revelations about the structure of matter and the universe.
Some breathtaking statistics:
- 27km circumference, located underneath France and Switzerland
- Over 1200 magnets (each 15m long!), and hundreds of smaller magnets, keep the beam of protons (smaller than a human hair) tight and focused
- The magnets are cooled to just a few K. Colder than space.
- According to the LHC site, the accuracy needed to get the beams to collide “akin to firing needles from two positions 10 km apart with such precision that they meet halfway!” And at nearly the speed of light no less!
- Total cost: €3.2 – €6.4 billion ($4.5 – $9 billion)
- Over 10,000 scientists are working on the project
Check out the live webcam feed for a view of the control room.
It has been many years since I have been to the National Zoo. Much has changed, not just in the exhibits, but also how I think and feel about things such as zoos. There are several aspects I find undividedly positive. One is that the placement of such amazing creatures within the reach of so many people gives them a chance they would otherwise almost definitely never have to appreciate more of the wonders of the natural world. Such visibility also provides a way to raise funds and gain support for important projects such as studying, breeding, and re-introducing endangered species.
This aside, it was still quite painful to see creatures, especially the more intelligent ones, confined in such a small, unnatural area. They will live out their lives behind fences and walls, unable to fully live according to their abilities. And this saddens me deeply. It was difficult to think through and explain what about it bothered me at the time, but it was an undeniable sensation. Before long, I simply wasn’t able to stand it any longer, and we had to leave.