Category Archives: A Picture Is Worth A Thousand Words

Cicadas, Brood XIX, northern Chatham Co, NC [Videos]

Look Up! The Billion-Bug Highway You Can’t See (video)

Hummingbirds at the feeder

Drunk History – Nikola Tesla (video)

I wonder how much more (and more accurate) detail this guy would get when sober. And how much less most other people would be able to say when sober….

Ant tea-party protest (video)

Hat-tip: Annalee Newitz:

Crazy Brazilian pranksters managed to get a colony of real ants to carry tiny protest signs in a demonstration against the insecticide Baygon. Need I say that I welcome our new insect overlords?

Would a Lava Lamp work on Jupiter? Let’s see….

Neil Fraser was curious about this question, so he built a centrifuge at home and recorded a lava lamp at 3G (which is higher than Jupiter, actually). He explains the details here.

Four things everyone needs to know about sharks (video)

A shark conservation documentary and lesson plan, made by David Shiffman of Southern Fried Science.

Snake-mimicking Moth

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[copyright Miroslav Midanovic]


This one is big:
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[Copyright Miroslav Midanovic]


…mimicking a snake:
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[Copyright Miroslav Midanovic]

Friday Balkan Food Blogging: Krempita

The Bride Of Coturnix fixed a Krempita yesterday:


Give A Squirrel A Helping Hand (video)

Interesting how the parent is steering the youngster towards the bag, trying to get it to use it as a prop!

Cat says NOM NOM NOM while eating sour cream (video)

This kid’s art is great

owl drawing.jpgCheck out this etsy shop – wolves, lions, horses, owls. Great stuff, especially for someone that young.

Spider and Fly

The same friend in Equatorial Guinea whose picture of a lightning I posted yesterday also took this picture. This spider lives on his desk. He waited several days for the spider to catch a fly and then took this picture:
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Anyone venture to ID the species of the spider and/or the fly?


My friend (I was the Best Man at his wedding, back in the 80s) is in Equatorial Guinea and the other day he took this dramatic photograph of a lightning:

Visualization of maritime empires’ decline

Explained here. Critiques in the comments are (mostly) valid, but for a first effort at using this kind of visualization technique, I’d say it’s pretty impressive.

The craziest fish jaws ever (video)

(via Deep Sea News)

What bug is this?

A reader sent me this picture, asking for an ID – it was taken in upstate New York:
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Halloween in Southern Village

The neighbors in Southern Village (here in Chapel Hill) are wild about Halloween, many making elaborate decorations of their houses for it (often more elaborate than for Christmas). The business on The Green also get into the spirit and put fun and scary dolls or scarecrows or other objects in front of their stores. These are often quite well designed as well. This year, we really liked this sign-post, showing the way to other businesses (e.g., Lumina Theater, Weaver Street Market, Harrington Bank, etc.) – click on buttons to see large:


Why does plastic accumulate in the North Pacific Gyre? (video)

Teslapunk Antique Toilet of the Future (video)

via, from

500,000 Brazilian free-tailed bats fly out of a cave (video)

Using infra-red cameras:

From Wired

Video of Anne Frank Surfaces on YouTube

Anne Frank: the only existing film images (0:09-0:14):

July 22 1941. The girl next door is getting married. Anne Frank is leaning out of the window of her house in Amsterdam to get a good look at the bride and groom. It is the only time Anne Frank has ever been captured on film. At the time of her wedding, the bride lived on the second floor at Merwedeplein 39. The Frank family lived at number 37, also on the second floor. The Anne Frank House can offer you this film footage thanks to the cooperation of the couple.

More at Mashable.


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at the NC Zoo (photo taken by iPhone)

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at the NC Zoo (photo taken by iPhone)


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at the NC Zoo (photo taken by iPhone)

Red Ibis

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at the NC Zoo (photo taken by iPhone)

Lions in the shade

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at the NC Zoo (photo taken by iPhone)

Laser (video)

A new video by Clifford V. Johnson:

Friday Cephalopod – Giant Squid (video)

I heard someone else in the blogosphere does this on Fridays, but I could not resist stomping into his territory as this video is Teh Awesome, from the Seaplex expedition – a dead Giant Squid, torn apart by hungry marine biologists:

Check your calendars – the Annual Rock Flipping Day is coming

The third Annual Rock Flipping Day will be on September 20th this year. So start scouting for good places to go and be ready to participate.
And if you find cool critters under the rock, you can always submit your posts to the Friday Ark, of which the issue #259 is now live on Modulator.

Any Photographers Out There?

Sheril is asking for pictures to serve as illustrations for her upcoming Kissing Book:

Have you ever taken a picture of bears nuzzling in the field or kissing fish? How about a provocative pair of human subjects? (With their permission!) Are you interested in having an image credited to you in a science book debuting next Fall? If you’re a photographer with interesting pictures of kissing and cuddling [no higher than PG-13 content please], email me before September 14 at

In vitro veritas

My new t-shirt arrived:
From Zazzle.

A deer, completely unafraid of me, strolling through my backyard

At one point I came as close as 5 yards to it – click on little thumbnails to see bigger pictures:

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Behold the Mammoth

As you may remember, a beautiful mammoth fossil was discovered in Serbia a couple of months ago. I promised I’d try to go and see it myself on my recent trip to Belgrade. And I did get to see it. But the story is more fun than just that…. 😉
First, I tried to get in touch with Dr.Miomir Korać, the Director of the Archaeological park Viminacium to ask for permission to photograph the fossil as well as to interview him. After a couple of e-mail addresses bounced, I got what I think is the correct address…but got no response.
Once I got to Belgrade, I asked my contacts there about this and, as is usually the process there, a friend of a friend of a friend was willing to take me to the site. They also tried to contact Korać, as well as their own bosses, but nobody returned their calls. It is vacation time in Serbia right now, and people are not easily reachable (even by cell phones, not to mention the Web – Serbia has a distressingly low rate of Internet use for Europe). So, what to do? They decided to take me there anyway, and deal with the bosses later. Thus, I will not use their names or photos here (in case they get in trouble) and I told them that I am still interested in talking to and interviewing both Korać and their bosses if they want to contact me.
Why all this worry about bypassing the protocol? Because the fossil is in the middle of a huge open-pit coal mine Drmno (you see, there are maps and satellite images all over the Web), near Kostolac, a mine that provides something like 1/8th of electrical power of Serbia and is thus of strategic importance. For all they knew, I could have been an American spy! But fortunately they trusted the friends of friends of friends that I was not.
So, last Thursday, I got up early and went to the bus station. I took a bus to Pozarevac, a trip I took a million times as a kid. But this time, it was different. The bus was new and modern and clean and comfortable and smelled good. The music was discrete and not the worst of the worst of the newly-composed “folk”. The bus also started the trip exactly on time (to the second!) and arrived exactly on time. Not whenever the bus driver felt inspired to drive as it used to be once upon a time. Capitalism, baby!
It took a couple of hours in Pozarevac until our car that was to take us to Drmno arrived. So we sat in a cafe and got to know each other….over four huge shots of home-made slivovitz! I did not even have breakfast yet! I tried to dilute it by having a couple of big Turkish coffees, a couple of Cokes, some mineral water and a couple of handfuls of peanuts, but still, it was a tough and heroic deed.
Instead of going to Viminacium or even the town of Kostolac, we went straight to the mine (where we had yet another shot of brandy). The office building is nice, large and clean – and powered (yes, right next to all that coal) by a large battery of solar panels. The titles on all the office doors we passed indicated to me that quite a lot of science (mainly geology, but also stuff like vibrations, etc.) is going on there.
Then we got in a jeep and went into the mine itself. I took a lot of pictures of the mine – it is huge and it looks very tidy (I’ve seen a bigger one, Kolubara, when I was a kid, and remember it being, in my childish eyes, quite a mess). As such pictures may compromise (at least in some eyes) the national security and since they are not too related to the fossil, I will not post them here. But here is one, taken from a considerable distance (as much as my little camera could zoom in), showing just a small segment of one side of the open pit – the arrow points to the enclosure where the mammoth is:

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As you can see, there are at least 50 meters of the mine ‘wall’ hanging right above it – something that mine engineers are now trying to figure out how to secure against sliding, as the mammoth will stay in the spot and be seen by tourists.
The fossil was discovered in a part of the mine that is not in use any more – the coal extracted now is deeper down in the pit. It was found in a layer of yellow sand by a bulldozer driver for a local road-paving company that has a contract with the mine to come in and take away, for free, the sand and gravel they need for road construction. He was happily bulldozing the gravel when he heard a ‘clang’ noise at the blade. He immediatelly stopped the machine, went down to see and, upon seeing a small tip of something that looked like a bone, decided to call the mine bosses who, in turn, called the people from the Archaeological park Viminacium. The archaeological treasure of the area is a source of everyone’s pride there, of course.
It turned out that this is an amazingly well-preserved and almost completely articulated fossil of Mammuthus meridionalis, the Southern Mammoth that is thought to have migrated from North Africa to Southern Europe around 2 million years ago and is probably the ancestral species of all the other, younger species of mammoths found in the Northern hemisphere. The Southern Mammoth had much shorter and finer hair than the later Woolly Mammoth and probably went extinct when the next Ice Age appeared in Europe.
Being a much older species, the Southern Mammoth has not left as many or as complete fossils as the Woolly Mammoth either. Several have been found around Europe (Spain, Bulgaria, Sweden) and one has been mounted and is on display at the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle in Paris. Thus the Serbian fossil, with its exquisite level of preservation, will be carefully studied by Serbian and international teams of scientists for years to come.


This fossil, found at the depth of 27 meters, was about 4m high, 6m long and weighed about 10 tons. It is a female and was named ‘Vicky’. There has been probably no big tectonic activity in the area for about 1 million years – how old this one is estimated to be (the more precise measures of age will be performed soon) – as earthquakes would, over time, have disassembled a fossil embedded in sand.
The fact that the fossil is in sand is on one hand a great gift – cleaning up is easy and fast – but on the other hand it is a big headache as well – how do you move it!? If it was embedded in rock, they could cut the entire slab out and move it to a museum for cleaning and restoration. This is a major mine, close to major roads – there is plenty of heavy machinery, people who can competently use it, and engineers who can figure out how to do it. This is not like finding a dinosaur in the middle of nowhere – technology is at hand and can be used on the spot. But this fossil is not embedded in rock – it is in sand. So what can one do?


First, they could disarticulate the skeleton, take each separate bone to a museum and rearticulate it there. That would take a lot of people, a lot of effort and a lot of time – and something would be lost in the process: the exact position and location of the fossil in the place where it was buried. Another way would be to freeze the sand around it, lift the whole slab and take it to a museum where the sand would thaw. This they think is too risky – the freezing and thawing may damage the fossil.

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So, the mine and the museum struck a compromise. The fossil will stay in place. The mine will secure the 50 meters of overhanging soil above the fossil and build two roads: one for the tourists who come to see Vicky, the other for the mine to use for driving around its heavy machinery into the pit. The museum will finish the cleaning and the analysis of the fossil and build an enclosure that will protect the fossil and accommodate the visitors (I am assuming that a museum shop will be built to bring in some revenue).
If any of my palaeontologist readers have better ideas for either preservation or moving, leave them in the comments or contact me. They are all ears.

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Right now the fossil is protected from immediate weather and light by a small canvas tent, which also means that I was not able to take pictures from a distance greater than a couple of feet. I had to crouch to get inside and could only take close-shot photos. I also could not find a good object to include in some shots as a size reference. But I took a lot of pictures from many angles and I hope you can see how wonderfully intact and well-articulated the fossil is. The rest of the pictures are under the fold, followed by a YouTube video (not shot by me) where you can see the fossil as it looked when it was first shown to the media:

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The Butterfly House on the island of Mainau

A couple of German bloggers and I went to see the Butterfly House on the Island of Mainau. They had good cameras with lenses that allowed them to take extreme close-ups. I had to do with a little pocket camera, but a few pictures turned out decent enough to show:

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Animals on the island of Mainau are so tame, part 2

Here are some more pictures from the domestic and wild animal life on the island:

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Animals on the island of Mainau are so tame

The island of Mainau has been designed, decades ago, as a gigantic garden, natural preserve, and a model of sustainability. Thus, animals roaming the island are exceptionally fearless of humans. For this picture, taken during lunch on the island, all I needed to do was extend my camera-hand, while sitting, until it was about two feet away from the bird:
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All sorts of birds, from crows to peacocks roam freely among the throngs of tourists there.

Name this Bug!

I am pretty sure it’s a true bug (i.e., I am not being sloppy by calling just any ole’ insect a bug). I got as close as I could with my iPhone, but the lighting was bad. This is on my porch and the bug is really large – about 1 inch in length of the body.
So, what is it?

Made me laugh…

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I guess that is it’s purpose. The very first pic I took with the new iPhone. Around the corner here in Chapel Hill.

Turtle in front of my house

This one is much bigger than the one I saw last week. At least 12 inches long carapace (more pictures under the fold). What’s the species?
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Identify Mystery Mammal


‘Special for Bora’

Earlier today I went up the street to Town Hall Grill and saw their white-board where they write the descriptions of Dinner Specials….and there is a new one today with the name “Special for Bora”! Wow! The perks of being a regular customer!
Well, of course I got one, brought it home, re-arranged it on one of my plates and took a picture:
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Deliciously tender fried chicken, corn on the cob and fresh (probably locally grown) vegetables: carrots, squash. onions and broccoli. A very summery, light and delicious meal! Yum!

Turtle in front of my door

Rainy day, so yummy earthworms are out and about:
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Mating slugs

I know PZ has recently posted a picture and a video of slugs mating. But these pictures were taken here in North Carolina, by blog reader Kris Barstow, who says:

The year was 1999 plus or minus a year, the site was a few miles from Asheboro, NC. I don’t recall the season, but it was warm, and there is definitely a chill there in the cold seasons, so I assume spring or summer. It was about half an hour after sunrise; I was walking my dog. I would occasionally carry my camera “just because …”
I saw these two acting strangely on the surface of the wooden shed. They actually attached themselves, then went into freefall. They twined around each other, and then a moist pouch was extruded below them. White froth was present but in moderation.
I don’t recall what exactly happened after that. They remained suspended for some time, and the likeliest thing is that I left them to their passion.

So, can someone identify the species?

X-ray images on blogs are cool…

Well, I don’t have pretty pictures of my brain, but those who follow me on Twitter/FriendFeed/Facebook know that my older dog, Millie, had a surgery over New Year’s – a very enlarged uterus full of pus had to go out.
She is doing fine now, completely recovered.
What I really liked was that I got to keep a CD with her X-rays. When I put a CD in my laptop, I get images that are somewhat interactive, i.e., if I click on a detail, that detail gets enlarged. But I could not figure out how to save that format on my computer – all I get are static images that I cannot manipulate in any way. But anyway, here they are:
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I wish I paid attention in my Radiology class back in vet school 20 years ago….


Last year, the only snow day in the Triangle was January 20th. I remember, because a number of locals could not drive to the 2nd Science Blogging Conference. This year we were wiser so we organized it a few days early. And, lo and behold, on January 20th this year, we had snow again:
This was also the first time Juno saw snow. It took her three walks to lose the fear of this strange, white substance:
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Biscuit and Juno, sleeping in the hamper


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