Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

Know Your Bones: March 2016

he_who_is_nobody
he_who_is_nobody
Tue Mar 08, 2016 6:05 pm by he_who_is_nobody

Last month’s challenge went unguessed, meaning the final bragging rights for Know Your Bones belongs to me.

 

So, what is the name of the critter in last month’s challenge? It is Coelophysis bauri.

 

 photo Dayatthemuseum082_zps3be8952d.jpg
(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Coelophysis bauri lived during the late Triassic 208 to 228 million years ago. Most specimens are found in New Mexico, however, several specimens of related species (specimens that would be classified as Coelophysis) have been found worldwide, dating to as late as the early Jurassic. Coelophysis is one of the earliest dinosaurs known to science and the earliest known from complete specimens. Coelophysis was ~3 meters in length and would have stood ~1 meter at the hip. Coelophysis is a theropod with sharp curved teeth. It possessed four fingers on its forelimbs, which is the basal trait for theropods. It is believed that Coelophysis was a fast and agile predator.

 

 photo 2013-03-03091919_zpsaa913bc8.jpg
(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Coelophysis is one of the earliest dinosaurs discovered, being named by Edward Drinker Cope in 1889. Coelophysis means “hollow form,” because Cope noticed that it possessed hollow bones, something shared with all later theropods. Coelophysis also possessed a furcula (i.e. a wishbone) and a sclerodic ring seen in the orbit of the skull. The sclerodic ring allowed for muscle attachments which would have given Coelophysis amazing vision, much like modern birds of prey. As pointed out above, Coelophysis is one of the earliest dinosaurs and it already had all these traits that are found in modern birds. It would not be surprising to find out that Coelophysis also possessed feathers.

 

 photo 2013-07-26113514_zpsc84222fd.jpg
(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Thank you for everyone that ever participated in this. I did enjoy it, but I feel my time is better spent blogging about a different subject.

Know Your Bones: February 2016

he_who_is_nobody
he_who_is_nobody
Mon Feb 08, 2016 1:29 pm by he_who_is_nobody

Last month’s challenge must not have been as challenging as I thought. The correct answer was given by WarK within an hour of the blog going up.

 

Deinonychus antirrhopus

 

This critter is indeed Deinonychus antirrhopus.

 

 photo 2015-12-11 12.19.12_zpssnatmoko.jpg
(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Deinonychus lived during the early Cretaceous 115 to 108 million years ago. Deinonychus stood ~87 cm at the hip, reached ~3.4 meters in length, and weight ~73 kilograms. Deinonychus lived in what is now the modern western U.S. with possible fossils of it found in eastern states. Deinonychus belongs to the dromaeosaurid clade. Deinonychus (meaning terrible claw) is named for the claw found on the second toe of each foot. This claw was retractable, meaning that it kept it off the ground so it would remain sharp for the animal’s entire life. It also had three sharp claws found on each hand.

 

Bite marks from Deinonychus have been found on herbivorous dinosaurs. Measuring the amount of force needed to puncture the bone reveals that Deinonychus had a bite strength roughly the same as an American alligator. It is believed that Deinonychus lived and hunted in packs. Working together, they would have been able to take down much larger animals. The first Deinonychus specimen discovered is what reignited the idea that birds were closely related to dinosaurs in the 1960s. Since than, it is now believed (based on specimens of closely related animals) that Deinonychus also possessed feathers; in fact, the whole dromaeosaurid clade could have possessed feathers.

 

Moving on to next month’s challenge:

 

 photo 2013-10-04112707_zpse725be22.jpg
(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Above is the last Know Your Bones challenge I will be doing for a while. I am going to focus this blog in a different direction. I just wanted to finish off with this specimen, because it is one of my favorites.

Know Your Bones: January 2016

he_who_is_nobody
he_who_is_nobody
Mon Jan 04, 2016 9:35 pm by he_who_is_nobody

Well, last month no one took a guess at the challenge. I am chocking that up to the up-tick in activity the blog has had recently and the holidays. Because of that and the fact that I am feeling very lazy, I am just going to repost the same challenge for this month.

 

 photo 2013-12-27110604_zps44be6f46.jpg
(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Good luck again to everyone that plays and have a happy 2016 everyone!

Know Your Bones: December 2015

he_who_is_nobody
he_who_is_nobody
Wed Dec 09, 2015 3:47 pm by he_who_is_nobody

Last month’s challenge brought out a few good guesses and two that were correct. However, like so many other times, only one person was the most correct. Last month that happened to be our resident paleontologist Isotelus with the more correct answer.

 

A phytosaur; I know there’s some reassigning going on, so Pseudopalatus/Machaeroprosopus? I don’t know species names, at least not for this genus.

 

This critter is indeed Machaeroprosopus buceros formally known as Pseudopalatus buceros. Red identified the wrong species name and I was unaware when I picked the critter that its genus had changed. Thus, Isotelus should get extra kudos. Honestly, I picked this obscure critter mainly so WarK would not get a third victory in a row.

 

 photo 2015-11-13 10.17.46_zpssyixbclr.jpg

(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

M. buceros lived during the late Triassic 205 million years ago and is found only in New Mexico. However, Machaeroprosopus species are found through out the southwest of the U.S. M. buceros grew to 3-4 meters as adults. M. buceros was an aquatic predator that would have lived its life much like a modern crocodilian, which is catching fish or ambushing prey at the shoreline. During the late Triassic, a giant swamp covered most of what is now the modern southwest of the U.S. Several different species of aquatic predator are found throughout this area and time range.

 

 photo 2014-01-10095114_zps1f2ad95b.jpg

(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Even though it looked very similar to modern crocodilians, M. buceros was a phytosaur, which are only distantly related to crocodiles, making this a classic case of convergent evolution. One of the easiest ways to tell the difference between a crocodilian and a phytosaur is where the nasal aperture is located. On a phytosaur, the nasal aperture is located on the back of the head near the eyes, while a crocodilian’s nasal aperture is located on the tip of their snouts. The specimens of M. buceros show sexual dimorphism in the skulls. There is a robust morph believed to be male and a gracile morph believed to be female. This is mainly based on our observations of crocodilians and their sexual dimorphism in which the males are the larger of the two.

 

Moving on to next month’s challenge:

 

 photo 2013-12-27110604_zps44be6f46.jpg

(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Good luck to everyone that plays.

Why Atheism Should Be Taught In Religious Studies

Laurens
Laurens
Wed Dec 02, 2015 7:44 am by Laurens

This week we had news that secular views being left out of GSCE Religious Studies was a mistake. Of course this has got some conservative commentators backs up. Why should we teach non-religion in classes about religion? To answer that first we should ask why we are teaching children about religions in the first place. Clearly, or at least hopefully we don’t teach Religious Studies in order that children can decide which is the right one, or be told what to believe. We do it to encourage harmony and understanding. So we don’t remain ignorant and all become massive Islamophobes (although I’m not sure that is working out so well).

In light of this, it is very important to educate people about those who have no religion at all. To complete our set of understanding. No one is advocating that Religious Studies classes teach kids that God is imaginary, just that people are made aware of what atheists are all about and why. To neglect this is to leave people open to all sorts of nonsense that gets said about atheists by the religious. That atheists have no morals for example, or that atheists believe in nothing. The only way to counter such misinformation is to educate people. If Religious Studies has a purpose at all, it is to nurture understanding between faiths and beyond to the irreligious. Otherwise there is really no use in teaching it.

I also think that it should not be called Religious Studies, but rather Philosophy and Ethics or some more inclusive title. Again not to marginalize religion, but to encourage an understanding of world views that extend beyond religion and the broader context in which religions and philosophies interplay and relate to each other. Just teaching kids what each different religion believes is not truly insightful. It would serve us all well to learn about the cultural context in which these beliefs evolved. It doesn’t undermine belief in Christianity to learn about Jewish Messianism and the Roman occupation of Judea (and subsequent corruption or perceived corruption of the Jewish temple authorities), but it surely teaches us something about humanity, our history and how we cope with change. We would all do better if we were educated on all different kinds of Philosophies and their cultural and historical heritage, a vital part of that is those who have rejected religious belief in favour of a rational and empirical world view.

This is not a case of sneering liberals wanting to turn your children into God-hating communists. Its about giving the next generation the best possible understanding of what it is to be human, our struggles, and cultural heritage in the hope that it will iron out any prejudice and tribalism. Really, including atheism in Religious Studies should be the first in a step towards teaching a broader humanities subject. Not because we want to remove religion from your children’s lives, but because religion doesn’t have the monopoly on things humans believe and should therefore only comprise a part of their education on the subject.

UPDATE 04/12/2015 – It has been pointed out to me that I was perhaps unclear about my usage of the term atheism. To be clear I do refer to the wider definition that is probably better defined as Secular Humanism that simply atheism—which could apply to religions such as Buddhism. So whenever I use the term atheism in the context of it being taught as part of a Religious Studies syllabus, I mean Secular Humanist views, not just lack of belief in God.

Chemostratigraphy shows the geologic column is no flood deposit

itsdemtitans
itsdemtitans
Tue Dec 01, 2015 9:18 pm by itsdemtitans

The one thing that bugs me about creationism is they rarely put forth any real research (and what they do make is usually revealed to be crap based on shoddy data). They love to point out anomalies such as soft tissue remnants in fossils and claim that it’s flat out impossible for it to be there if the fossils are ancient. There’s no good reason to think this, as the processes which form the rock are far better established than long term tissue decay rates in dinosaur fossils.

But what I consistently notice is they’ll use things like soft tissue to try and advocate their position must be right by default. I mean, how else would you explain these discoveries???

I don’t know. Scientists are only just beginning to find out what mechanisms may play a role in preserving tissue remnants over long periods of time. But what needs to be made absolutely clear, and that creationists just can’t seem to get, is that even if we don’t know how these anomalies came to be, that does not prove their global flood at all. The simple fact is their global flood idea has been falsified over and over, and over, and over again. A falsified model, which I will show as conclusively falsified below, is not the answer.

Now then, how do we know, conclusively, that a global flood as advocated by YECs never happened? It’s all due to this lovely branch of geology known as Chemostratigraphy.

Chemostratigraphy is the study of the chemical variations within sedimentary sequences to determine stratigraphic relationships.(1.) This obscure subdiscipline in geology completely undermined every young-Earth interpretation of the geologic column. Before reading any further, I’d highly advise reading the crash course on chemostratigraphy at AgeofRocks.

To sum it up, Chemostratigraphers can use the ratios of certain stable isotopes, such as Carbon 12 or 13, to determine the chemical make ups of rocks and graph them stratigraphically. Often this is because the isotope ratios will record certain events from the time periods when the rocks were laid down, such as the carbon levels in the ocean.

Here’s the analogy from AgeofRocks:

Perhaps the best way to illustrate isotopes of carbon in the ocean is with a bowl of red and green M&M’s, where each color corresponds to a different stable isotope of carbon. For the sake of discussion, this bowl contains precisely 50% green M&M’s (light carbon) and 50% red M&M’s (heavy carbon), for a ratio of 1:1. Now, imagine you leave the room and return later to find that the ratio has shifted to 0.9:1.1, meaning the bowl has been enriched in red M&M’s. There are two possibilities that could explain the shift: either someone added a sample containing more than 50% red M&M’s, or someone removed a sample containing less than 50% red M&M’s. Perhaps you have a child, therefore, who prefers one color to the other, so every handful he takes is biased to that color. This process will leave the bowl preferentially enriched in the other color. If every handful contained precisely half green and half red M&M’s, then the ratio of green to red in the bowl would never change. Likewise, any process that removes carbon from the ocean will change the δ13C value of oceanic carbon, so long as the isotopic ratio of the sample differs from that in the bulk ocean.

Typically, we can use index fossils and radiometric dating alongside stratigraphy to determine that, for example, a rock layer in Nevada is the same age as a rock layer in southern China (perhaps they both contain a unique assemblage of Cambrian-aged trilobites). According to a flood geologist, these layers were deposited in a single year around 5000 years ago. However, they were not necessarily deposited simultaneously. So, if the fossils are in the same order, it has to be due to hydrological sorting or ecological zonation. Regardless of how the order arose, one thing is certain: if these marine organisms were all buried in a global flood, then all of them made their shells from the same ocean and the same reservoir of carbon with approximately the same isotopic ratio. So when fossilized shells of trilobites, brachiopods, mollusks, etc. are analyzed across the Phanerozoic (542 Ma – Present) for carbon isotopes, flood geology would predict that the levels of carbon found in all of these animals, regardless of where in the column, should have an equal amount of the same isotopes.

But this is not what we see. (3.) Instead, what we see are patterns of fluctuating isotopes. This is best illustrated by the graph from Veizer et al.,

https://ageofrocks.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/eac8d-veizer1999.jpg?w=500&h=307

The graph shows that the carbon-isotope ratio in carbonate fossils—and therefore the ocean itself—varied substantially over the past 500 million years. This is in direct conflict with what one would expect had these fossils all been laid down by a single flood. Because the carbon reservoir in the ocean is so large (today, about 39,000 billion tons of carbon), the color of this bowl of M&M’s does not change appreciably on a whim—certainly not in the space of a 370 days. It takes time. Thus, chemostratigraphy leaves the creationist idea of a global flood dead in the water.

To be through, I’ll use the possible immediate objections to chemostratigraphy here, with refutations:

The flood caused wild variation in carbon isotopes!

Variations in the carbon-isotope ratios of fossils are far too great to be explained by shifting ocean chemistry within a single year, meaning these organisms could not have lived in the same ocean at the same time. See the attached graphic above. There would also need to be a mechanism for the addition and removal of massive amounts of carbon isotopes (2.), making the idea even less likely.

What’s more, the pattern of carbon-isotope variations from Cambrian to Quaternary is the same across the entire globe. Whether you’re sampling rocks from Texas or Tanzania, layers of limestone determined to be the same age according to their fossil content also exhibit the same pattern of δ13C values over time. These values are invariably high for Permian-aged carbonates and invariably low for Ordovician-aged carbonates.Consider the fact that in order to increase the oceanic δ13C value by only 5‰ requires a sustained doubling in the rate of organic carbon burial for about 1 million years. There is no reason for any proposed fluctuations in the flood to have been spread out evenly across these deposits all over the globe, especially not if all the sediment (and any carbon by extension) was getting mixed up prior to deposition. The values should be highly variable, not identical across the globe.

The animals in these areas prior to the flood lived in unique basins with different carbon ratios. Therefore, seeing their values varied like this should be expected.

If variations between one part of the ocean and another could account for trends in carbon isotopes, then we shouldn’t find the same temporal trends in different parts of the world (e.g. China vs. North America vs. Australia). Also, we find carbon isotope values changing significantly within the lifetime of single species (e.g. of Cambrian trilobites (4.) ), so one couldn’t claim that all those trilobites just lived in a unique basin prior to the flood. In every environment, the relative change in carbon isotopes correlates well from one site to the next. Finally, we can examine both carbon and strontium isotope trends to ensure that carbon variations weren’t limited to a unique environment (strontium isotopes don’t vary from one basin to the next). (2.)

Chemostratigraphy provides the final falsification of a global flood depositing all of the geologic column. It instead provided a wonderful opportunity to examine the chemical environment of Earth’s past and is a testament to an ancient world.

References:

1.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chemostratigraphy

2.http://ageofrocks.org/2014/08/23/chemostratigraphy-silent-objector-to-flood-geology/

3.http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0009254199000819

4.http://ageofrocks.org/2014/08/27/the-spice-event-global-disruption-in-the-late-cambrian-carbon-cycle/

Know Your Bones: November 2015

he_who_is_nobody
he_who_is_nobody
Sat Oct 31, 2015 9:31 pm by he_who_is_nobody

I have to say, I am surprised it took so long for anyone to take a stab at guessing this iconic fossil. By the trepidation of our winner and the following guesser, perhaps the readership of this blog finds me to be a trickster. With that said what critter once owned the skull from last month’s challenge?

 

Something tells me this is too easy to be correct.

 

Nope WarK, I was not trying to trick anyone. This critter is indeed the tyrant king of the dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus rex.

 

 photo IMAG0555_zpsa92a2380.jpg
(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

T. rex lived during the late Cretaceous 68 to 65 million years ago; it also happened to be one of the last non-avian dinosaurs that we know about. It ranged across western North America, with its fossils (mostly teeth) found from Alaska down to Mexico. T. rex could grow as large as ~4 meters at the hip, 43 meters long and weigh between 5.5 to 6.8 tons. This makes T. rex one of the largest predatory dinosaurs and one of the largest predators to ever walk the earth. Full-grown animals had a skull ~1.5 meters in length. The teeth of T. rex ranged from 30 cm long (including the root) to 13 cm long (including the root) in adults. The teeth would have been continuously replaced during life and were re-curved with ridges on the surface. T. rex famously has small arms (about the length of an adult human’s arm) with only two fingers. However, the arms appear very muscular, leading paleontologists to speculate that the arm could have been used for something (e.g. assisting in lifting the animal up when it sat down) instead of just a vestigial structure.

 

 photo 2013-10-04111227_zps27b761c7.jpg
(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Over 30 specimens of T. rex have been discovered to date, making T. rex a very well studied dinosaur. T. rex is a theropod, but within that clade, it is closer in relation to dromaeosaurs than it is to other giant carnivores, such as Allosaurus. Because of this, and fossil finds of earlier relatives, it is possible that T. rex could have had feathers. However, a few skin impressions has only shown scales, which leads some to speculate that  T. rex could have had full body feathering as a hatchling, but later sparse to no feathering as an adult due to its large size.

 

 photo 2015-10-30 09.59.06_zpsabkivlad.jpg
(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Two possible footprints have been found of T. rex, one of which was found in New Mexico. It measures 83 cm by 71 cm and possesses a “heel” print plus the print of the dewclaw-like forth digit found on the feet of T. rex. T. rex is also famous for being the first dinosaur found with soft tissue associated with it. In 2005, Dr. Mary Schweitzer published her discovery of it, since than several more finds have been made of soft tissue. Dr. Schweitzer and others have found trace soft tissues, and when they are analyzed and compared to living organisms, it shows that T. rex’s closest living relatives are birds. These findings align with the conclusions paleontologists were making for decades based on morphology.

 

Moving on to next month’s challenge:

 

 photo Dayatthemuseum015_zps0c57051f.jpg
(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Good luck to all that play.

Know Your Bones: October 2015

he_who_is_nobody
he_who_is_nobody
Tue Oct 06, 2015 12:26 am by he_who_is_nobody

There were only two guesses for last month’s challenge, both correct, but one being more correct. I have a feeling that the reason only two people guessed is because this one was such an easy specimen. So, who won, who was the more correct of the two?

 

Camarasaurus

 

It turned out to be WarK, because the other guesser gave the wrong species name. The critter from last month is Camarasaurus supremus.

 

 photo 2014-01-10111738_zps5a90e232.jpg
(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Camarasaurus lived during the late Jurassic 155 to 145 million years ago. It ranged across most of North America and is an extremely common dinosaur in the Morrison Formation. Camarasaurus had an average length of 18 meters and weighed up to 18 tons. Remarkably, several complete skeletons of Camarasaurus have been discovered in Wyoming, Colorado, Utah, and New Mexico. Based on their fossil abundance it is assumed that they roamed around North America in large numbers during the late Jurassic and may have had one of the largest populations of sauropods, if not dinosaurs, known thus far.

 

Camarasaurus means “chambered lizard;” it most likely got this name from the hollow bones that make up much of the vertebra or the many fenestrae found on the skull. Camarasaurus had chisels shaped teeth that were 19 cm long. The shape of the teeth and strength of the skull suggest that Camarasaurus specialized in eating coarser plant matter. This is different from other sauropods, thus Camarasaurus most likely inhabited a different environment then its cousins that also lived during this time. Camarasaurus remains are found together in a lot of sites, suggesting that they lived and died in herds.

 

Moving on to this month’s challenge:

 

 photo 2013-10-18105402_zps59c3c2eb.jpg
(Taken at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science)

 

Here we have a terrifying critter, which is appropriate for this month. Thanks for playing and good luck.

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