Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Pink Meanie in Repose

Photograph courtesy Don Demaria

Off the Florida Keys (map), hundreds of stinging tentacles dangle from a "pink meanie"—a new species of jellyfish with a taste for other jellies.

When pink meanies were first observed in large numbers in the Gulf of Mexico (map) in 2000, they were though to be Drymonema dalmatinum, a species known since the late 1800s and usually found in the Mediterranean Sea, the Caribbean Sea, and off the Atlantic coast of South America.

Recently, though, scientists using genetic techniques and visual examinations have revealed that this pink meanie is an entirely new species—Drymonema larsoni, named after scientist Ron Larson, who did some of the first work on the species in the Caribbean. (Related: "'City of Gonads' Jellyfish Discovered.")

Moreover, the pink meanie appears to be so different from other known scyphozoans, or "true jellyfish," that it forced the scientists to create a whole new animal family, a biological designation two levels above species. The new scyphozoan family—the first since 1921—is called Drymonematidae and includes all Drymonema species.

"They're just off by themselves," said Keith Bayha, a marine biologist at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab in Alabama.

"As we started to really examine Drymonema both genetically and morphologically, it quickly became clear that they're not like other jellyfish and are in their own family."

Bayha and Michael Dawson, an expert on the evolutionary history of marine creatures at the University of California, Merced, detail the new Drymonema jellyfish species and family in the current issue of the journal the Biological Bulletin.

—Ker Than


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mother Pterosaurs Laid Soft Eggs, New Fossil Hints

Find also first to show difference between pterosaur sexes.

Fossil of a female Darwinopterus pterosaur preserved together with her egg.
Photograph courtesy Lü Junchang, Institute of Geology, Beijing

Pterosaur parents reproduced more like turtles than birds, according to a new study of a fossilized mother and her egg. The discovery is also the first to allow researchers to conclusively tell the sex of a pterosaur.
The fossils were found next to each other in China's Liaoning Province, once the site of an ancient lake. They appear to belong to a species of pterosaur called Darwinopterus (picture), which lived about 160 million years ago.
Scientists think the adult was an expectant pterosaur mother that somehow broke her left wing, causing her to fall into the lake and drown. The body sank to the bottom and eventually expelled the egg.
"During the decay process, you get a buildup of gases and pressure inside the carcass, and that tends to expel things out," said study co-author David Unwin, a paleontologist at the University of Leicester in the U.K. The egg "didn't go very far. It just came out of the body and sat there."
In addition to the associated egg, the fossil has a larger pelvis than other known Darwinopterus fossils, which is consistent with the animal being a female.
Chemical analysis of the egg suggests that, instead of laying hard-shell eggs and watching over the chicks, as most birds do, pterosaur mothers laid soft-shell eggs, which they buried in moist ground and abandoned.
"It's a very reptilian style of reproduction," Unwin said. "Fertilize the egg, lay the egg, and then go and do whatever you want, without having to worry about what's happening with your offspring."
Based on other fossils of juvenile pterosaurs, scientists think that, unlike birds, pterosaur hatchlings were capable of fending for themselves.
"They looked like tiny adults," Unwin said. "They were highly precocious and could almost certainly fly very soon after hatching."

Pterosaur Eggs Were Soft and Porous?

According to the study, published in this week's issue of the journal Science, the newfound egg contains no traces of calcium carbonate, the mineral responsible for making bird shells hard. By contrast, bird eggs show signs of this mineral throughout their development.
Using magnification, the team could also discern folds in the egg and pore-like holes that might have allowed water to pass through the shell. Taken together, these features suggest the pterosaur egg was relatively soft and had a "parchment like" texture that could expand.
By laying soft eggs that could grow in size, pterosaurs could "make a much smaller investment in terms of material effort," Unwin said.
"As an analogy, imagine you're going on holiday and have to take everything with you, including your food and water. Birds, with their hard-shell eggs, have to pack everything into their eggs, including water.
"Pterosaurs could lay smaller eggs that could absorb water later. That means the environment is contributing to the egg rather than the parent."
Three other fossilized pterosaur eggs are known, and they all showed little or no evidence of calcium carbonate. (See "Fossil Egg Finds Yield Clues to How Pterosaurs Lived.")
What makes this find different is that the other eggs were discovered in isolation, said Mark Witton, a pterosaur researcher and illustrator at the University of Portsmouth in the U.K.
"We could identify in some cases what species the eggs belonged to, but we've never had a pterosaur egg in association with its mother before," said Witton, who was not involved in the new study.
In addition to showing the condition of a pterosaur egg shortly before being laid, the new discovery gives scientists an idea what the size ratio was between pterosaurs and their eggs, said Chatham University paleontologist Michael Habib.
"They seem to be relatively smallish eggs," said Habib, who was not involved in the study. "That's consistent with most egg-laying animals, but they don't all do that. So that's good to know."

Pterosaur Crests Likely a Guy Thing

The new pterosaur fossil is also important because it could finally allow scientists to determine the sex of certain pterosaur species.
Darwinopterus fossils, for example, have been found with and without head crests. Until now, it was unclear whether crested individuals were male or female.

The new fossil, which is obviously a female, lacks a head crest.

Based on this, the team thinks only Darwinopterus males sported head crests, which they may have used to communicate with other members of their species.
A crest could have been used to signal to other males "that 'I'm bigger than you,' or it could be used to tell females 'Here I am, carrying this enormous crest, and I'm a better pterosaur to mate with than the chap next door who's got a smaller crest,'" study co-author Unwin said.
The University of Portsmouth's Witton thinks this interpretation of the head crest's function is "right on the money"—not just for Darwinopterus, but perhaps for most, or even all, pterosaurs.
"That's not to say that they're not going to have other effects," Witton said of the crests. For example, one theory is that the features allowed pterosaurs to expell excess heat during flight.
"If you have a very thin bone sticking out of your head ... you're going to lose some heat out of it," Witton said. "But that's not its main goal. It's just a side effect of the structure."


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Calliandra surinamensis - Suriname Powder Puff

Common name
Surinam powder puff, pink powder puff, Surinamese stickpea, officiers-kwast.
Family Mimosaceae (Leguminoceae).

A very common, low branching shrub or small tree with multiple trunks, it is native to Suriname it grows up to a height of 15 feet; has evergreen bipinnate, oblong leaves and axillary, compound, showy pink flowers, like a powder puff.
Surinam powder puff has dense foliage and is a fast grower.
A flat pod, first green later brown, contains 5 - 6 seeds; it curls open to release the brown seeds.
This plant is cultivated for its ornamental purposes; it can also be used for bonsai.

photo from flickr.com/photos/jomatt/


Passiflora edulis / P. edulis flavicarpa


Common Names: Passion Fruit, Granadilla, Purple Granadilla, Yellow Passion Fruit

Related Species: Fragrant Granadilla (Passiflora alata), Red Granadilla (P. coccinea), Maypop (P. incarnata), Yellow Granadilla (P. Laurifolia), Sweet Granadilla (P. ligularis), Sweet Calabash (P. maliformis), Banana Passion Fruit (P. mollissima), Giant Granadilla (P. quadrangularis).

Origin: The purple passion fruit is native from southern Brazil through Paraguay to northern Argentina. It has been stated that the yellow form is of unknown origin, or perhaps native to the Amazon region of Brazil, or is a hybrid between P. edulis and P. ligularis. Cytological studies have not borne out the hybrid theory. In Australia the purple passion fruit was flourishing and partially naturalized in coastal areas of Queensland before 1900. In Hawaii, seeds of the purple passion fruit, brought from Australia, were first planted in 1880 and the vine came to be popular in home gardens.

Adaptation: The purple passion fruit is subtropical and prefers a frost-free climate. However, there are cultivars that can take temperatures into the upper 20's (°F) without serious damage. The plant is widely grown in California as far north as San Jose, the Monterey Bay Area and the San Franciso Bay Area. The vines may lose some of their leaves in cool winters. The roots often resprout even if the top is killed. The plant does not grow well in intense summer heat. The yellow passion fruit is tropical or near-tropical and is much more intolerant of frost. Both forms need protection from the wind. Generally, annual rainfall should be at least 35 inches. Passion fruit vines make good container specimens but require maintenance. They perform well indoors.


photo from flickr.com/photos/jomatt/

Cotton Grass, Iceland

Photograph by Jennifer Jesse

This photograph was taken in July of 2010 while hiking in a region of Iceland called Landmannalaugar. People come to this area in order to see the colorful rhyolite mountains. During our trip we had come across small amounts of cotton grass along the roads, but I never expected to see such a huge field of it. This image represents what Iceland is all about. Just when you think the landscape can't surprise you anymore, something else even more amazing comes along.


Scientists Make Dozens of Storms in the Abu Dhabi Desert?

Claims of Manmade Rain Clouds Spark Skepticism

Camels and trucks travel on a main desert road in Abu Dhabi while rain descends in the background.
Photograph by James Davis Photography, Alamy

Brian Handwerk

In arid lands, the ability to create freshwater out of thin air would be priceless.

Now a Swiss company, Meteo Systems, is poised to earn a pretty penny in Abu Dhabi with a controversial weather modification system said to be responsible for dozens of rain showers in the desert last summer.

The claim is difficult to verify but certainly has raised a storm of skepticism among many leading weather modification experts.

“As far as I’m concerned I don’t believe these claims,” said Roelof Bruintjes, who heads the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s international weather modification programs. “There’s no scientific basis for this; the physics doesn’t support it.”

(Related: “Planes Create Weird Clouds—And Snow, Rain Fall Out.”)

While typical weather modification efforts—which began in the mid-20th century and continue in nations from the United States to China—make use of natural clouds and attempt to “seed” them to produce precipitation, Meteo Systems purports to create the clouds themselves.

Their system uses arrays of 33-foot (10-meter) electric towers that produce negatively charged ions, according to the company. These ions bind with tiny solid and liquid particles, supercharging the particles’ ability to form clouds and precipitation.

Joseph Golden, a weather modification expert who once chaired the now-defunct Atmospheric Modification Program at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), also has serious doubts that the technique could work.

“This method is inherently incapable of producing clouds out of thin air,” Golden said.

(Related: “China’s Rain-Free Olympics Plan Met With Skepticism.”)

A Long History of Ionization

The Technical University of Munich’s Peter Wilderer, winner of the 2003 Stockholm Water Prize, said people have been attempting ionization techniques for decades.

"The ionization technology was first mentioned in 1890 by [Nikola] Tesla. In 1946 General Electric executed some field trials under the leadership of [Bernard] Vonnegut [brother of novelist Kurt Vonnegut]. Later the technology was used for military purposes in the former Soviet Union."

Wilder added that reviews of radar images suggested to him that ionization could possibly have some effect, under proper meteorological conditions. Despite press reports to the contrary, he has never personally witnessed any rainfall events produced by Meteo Systems.

Show Me the Data

NOAA’s Golden is interested in hearing much more from the scientists trying to make it rain in the desert.

“I put out a challenge to any of those that are involved in this project and making these claims. Show me the data,” he said.

There may be little chance of such transparency in the near-term, however, as Meteo Systems is closely guarding the secrets of the potentially valuable technology the company has dubbed “WEATHERTEC.”

Meteo Systems did not respond to calls and emails from National Geographic News.

The directors of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology, who have been erroneously linked to the project via media reports, released a statement expressing “distress” that the scientific organization had been associated in any way with the work of Meteo Systems. They added that rainstorms were part of unusual weather patterns in the Middle East last summer.

“Our institute has no connection whatsoever to this work, nor have we been privy to the underlying evidence that the company is using to support its claims,” the statement said.

“We also note that many people have a financial stake in seeing these claims being credibly reported by the media, and that to the extent rain showers in the region were unusual this summer, they accompanied rather unusual weather patterns over the broader region, which certainly had nothing to do with the very localized experiments in Abu Dhabi. One only needs to be reminded of the terrible flooding over neighboring Pakistan.”

Playing God

NCAR’s Bruintjes noted that the UN-based World Meteorological Organization’s expert team on weather modification research met in Abu Dhabi in March 2010, and issued a report on the state of the science that cautioned against just this type of technology.

“The energy involved in weather systems is so large that it is impossible to create cloud systems that rain,” the WMO report read. “Weather modification technologies that claim to achieve such large-scale or dramatic effects do not have sound scientific basis (e.g. hail cannons, ionization methods) and should be treated with suspicion.”

Golden said people who are simply desperate to fool Mother Nature often pay for modification techniques that are unproven at best, including the hail cannons mentioned in the WMO report. “Farmers invest thousands of dollars in those cannons to suppress hail even though the scientific evidence is that they don’t work,” he said.

Bruintjes put his point bluntly: “The rotation of the Earth, the energy of the sun, and moisture from the oceans cause these things. None of us can change that, and it’s actually good that none of us can change that because we’d likely make a mess of it.”


Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


Photograph by Mihai Iacob

I happened to be in the right place at the right time when I took this picture. The place was Nichols Bridgeway leading to the modern wing of the Art Institute of Chicago, with beautiful views of downtown Chicago, and the time was sunset. I love the architecture, the vibrant city life and the light, all captured in the same frame.


Monday, January 17, 2011

Standar Kompetensi Guru (Standar Kompetensi guru Pemula)

Standar Kompetensi Guru

Guru adalah salah satu jenis jabatan profesional di dalam bidang kependidikan. Sebagai jabatan, guru harus dipersiapkan melalui pendidikan dalam jangka waktu tertentu dengan seperangkat mata kuliah serta beban SKS tertentu sesuai dengan jenjangnya. Pendidikan yang dimaksud adalah untuk mendidik calon guru yang kelak mampu melaksanakan tugas secara profesional. Tugas profesional guru dapat dipilah menjadi empat fungsi sekalipun di dalam praktik merupakan satu kesatuan terpadu saling terkait, mendukung dan memperkuat satu terhadap aspek yang lain. Empat fungsi yang dimaksud adalah: 1) guru sebagai pendidik, 2) guru sebagai pengajar, 3) guru sebagai pelatih, dan 4) guru sebagai pembimbing.

Hasil studi dari pakar pendidikan (Jalal & Mustafa, 2001), menyimpulkan bahwa guru merupakan faktor kunci yang paling menentukan dalam keberhasilan pendidikan dinilai dari prestasi belajar siswa. Reformasi apapun yang dilakukan dalam pendidikan seperti pembaruan kurikulum, penyediaan sarana-prasarana dan penerapan metode mengajak baru, tanpa guru yang bermutu, peningkatan mutu pendidikan tidak akan mencapai hasil yang maksimal.

Kenyataan menunjukkan bahwa masih sebagian besar guru underqualified, tingkat penguasaan bahan ajar dan keterampilan dalam menggunakan metode pembelajaran yang inovatif masih kurang. Untuk itu perlu upaya peningkatan kualitas guru melalui berbagai cara antara lain : penentuan standar kompetensi, uji kompetensi dan sertifikasi guru, penilaian kinerja guru, penataran /pelatihan guru, peningkatan kesejahteraan dan profesionalisme guru, studi lanjut, peningkatan kualitas LPTK penghasil guru, dan lain-lain.

Khusus dalam perumusan standar komptensi guru terlebih dahulu perlu dikaji, dianalisis dan dibahas secara mendalam semua aspek yang berkaitan dengan tugas dan fungsi guru. Tim Penyusun Standar Kompetensi Guru Pemula (SKGP) merumuskan kompetensi guru dalam 4 (empat) rumpun yaitu: (1) Penguasaan Bidang Studi; (2) Pemahaman tentang Peserta Didik; (3) Penguasaan Pembelajaran yang mendidik; dan (4) Pengembangan Kepribadian dan Keprofesionalan. Keempat rumpun tersebut mencerminkan empat standar kompetensi guru yang dijabarkan lagi masing-masing dalam butir-butir kompetensi ( 28 butir kompetensi) selanjutnya diuraikan menjadi indikator yang berfungsi untuk memperjelas butir-butir kompetensi sehingga dapat dirujuk untuk mengembangkan instrumen uji kompetensi guru.

Friday, January 14, 2011


Cannabis (Cán-na-bis) is a genus of flowering plants that includes three putative species, Cannabis sativa, Cannabis indica, and Cannabis ruderalis. These three taxa are indigenous to Central Asia, and South Asia. Cannabis has long been used for fibre (hemp), for seed and seed oils, for medicinal purposes, and as a recreational drug. Industrial hemp products are made from Cannabis plants selected to produce an abundance of fiber. To satisfy the UN Narcotics Convention, some hemp strains have been developed which contain minimal levels of THC (Δ9- tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive molecule that produces the "high" associated with marijuana. The psychoactive product consists of dried flowers and leaves of plants selected to produce high levels of THC. Various extracts including hashish and hash oil are also produced from the plant.


Aquilegia canadensis

Common Name: Eastern Red Columbine
Scientific Name: Aquilegia canadensis
Plant Family: Ranunculaceae

Identifying Characteristics:
Size: Eastern red columbine is a perennial forb which grows to about 30 to 76 cm (12 to 30 in) in height.
Leaves: Leaves are compound, divided into rounded leaflets which give them the distinctive buttercup appearance.
Flowers: Flowers face downward, with petals which extend backward into long spurs.
Habitat: Eastern red columbine is found in well- lit areas on the edges of woodland areas, on open hillsides and bluffs, and even peat bogs.
Bloom time: May-July

Information source:
USDA Plants Database (plants.usda.gov)

Pacific Bleeding Hearts (Dicentra formosa)

Flowers have two tiny sepals and four petals. The petals are bisymmetric: the two outer ones are spurred or pouched at the base and curved outwards or backwards at the tip, and the two inner ones are straight and connected at the tip.
The genus Dicentra is distinct from other genera with bisymmetric heart-shaped flowers (Lamprocapnos, Dactylicapnos, Ichtyoselmis, Ehrendorferia) in that the flower stem lacks leaves and all leaves are in a basal rosette.
Each of the two compound stamens is composed of four stamens fused together. The stamens and pistil are held between the inner petals.
Seeds with elaiosomes are borne in long pods.
All parts are poisonous if ingested.

photo from flickr.com

Cactus (Cactaceae)

A cactus (plural: cacti, cactuses or cactus) is a member of the plant family Cactaceae. Their distinctive appearance is a result of adaptions to conserve water in dry and/or hot environments. In most species, the stem has evolved to become photosynthetic and succulent, while the leaves have evolved into spines. Many species are used for ornamental plants, and some are also grown for fodder, forage, fruits, cochineal, and other uses.

Cacti come in a wide range of shapes and sizes. The tallest is Pachycereus pringlei, with a maximum recorded height of 19.2 m,[4] and the smallest is Blossfeldia liliputiana, only about 1 cm in diameter at maturity.[5] Cactus flowers are large, and like the spines arise from distinctive features called areoles.


Lilium columbianum

Lilium columbianum is a lily native to western North America. It is also known as the Columbia Lily or Tiger Lily (sharing the latter common name with several other species in its genus). It occurs in open woods and forest openings from southern British Columbia in Canada south to northern California and east to Idaho and Nevada in the USA.

It grows up to 1.2 m tall, and bears from few to many orange flowers with darker spots. The tepals are 3 to 6 cm long and the flowers are lightly scented. Like many true lilies, the leaves are arranged in whorls around the stem of the plant.

Several Native American tribes in its range used its bitter or peppery-tasting bulbs as a food source. Dried Lilium columbianum is also eaten all around the world but it is not well known for it. Dried whole L. columbianum has a sweet and a sour taste. Unlike many native lilies, it is not particularly rare, but picking the flowers is discouraged as it impairs the ability of the plant to reproduce.


Sanur Beach, Bali

Photograph by Tan Kiki Rustandar
Beautiful sunrise over Sanur Beach, Bali


Sunday, January 09, 2011


Excess-3 binary-coded decimal (XS-3), also called biased representation or Excess-N, is a numeral system used on some older computers that uses a pre-specified number N as a biasing value. It is a way to represent values with a balanced number of positive and negative numbers. In XS-3, numbers are represented as decimal digits, and each digit is represented by four bits as the BCD value plus 3 (the "excess" amount):
The smallest binary number represents the smallest value. (i.e. 0 − Excess Value)
The greatest binary number represents the largest value. (i.e. 2^ N+1 − Excess Value -1)
To encode a number such as 127, then, one simply encodes each of the decimal digits as above, giving (0100, 0101, 1010).

The primary advantage of XS-3 coding over BCD coding is that a decimal number can be nines' complemented (for subtraction) as easily as a binary number can be ones' complemented; just invert all bits. In addition, when the sum of two XS-3 digits is greater than 9, the carry bit of a four bit adder will be set high. This works because, when adding two numbers that are greater or equal to zero, an "excess" value of six results in the sum. Since a four bit integer can only hold values 0 to 15, an excess of six means that any sum over nine will overflow.

Adding Excess-3 works on a different algorithm than BCD coding or regular binary numbers. When you add two XS-3 numbers together, the result is not an XS-3 number. For instance, when you add 1 and 0 in XS-3 the answer seems to be 4 instead of 1. In order to correct this problem, when you are finished adding each digit, you have to subtract 3 (binary 11) if the digit is less than decimal 10 and add three if the number is greater than or equal to decimal 10 (thus causing the number to wrap).


Friday, January 07, 2011

Ypthima huebneri

The Common Fourring Ypthima huebneri is a species of Satyrinae butterfly found in Asia.


Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Giant Pacific Octopus (Enteroctopus dofleini)

Chameleon-like, giant Pacific octopuses can change their appearance to mimic rocks and highly patterned coral.
Photograph by Bob Cranston—Animals Animals - Earth Scenes

The giant Pacific octopus grows bigger and lives longer than any other octopus species. The size record is held by a specimen that was 30 feet (9.1 meters) across and weighed more than 600 pounds (272 kilograms). Averages are more like 16 feet (5 meters) and 110 lbs (50 kilograms).

They live to be about four years old, with both males and females dying soon after breeding. Females live long enough to tend fastidiously to their eggs, but they do not eat during this months-long brooding period, and usually die soon afterwards.

Giant Pacific octopuses have huge, bulbous heads and are generally reddish-brown in color. Like the other members of the octopus family, though, they use special pigment cells in their skin to change colors and textures, and can blend in with even the most intricately patterned corals, plants, and rocks.

They hunt at night, surviving primarily on shrimp, clams, lobsters, and fish, but have been known to attack and eat sharks as well as birds, using their sharp, beaklike mouths to puncture and tear flesh. They range throughout the temperate waters of the Pacific, from southern California to Alaska, west to the Aleutian Islands and Japan.

Highly intelligent creatures, giant Pacific octopuses have learned to open jars, mimic other octopuses, and solve mazes in lab tests. Their population numbers are unknown, and they do not currently appear on any lists of endangered or vulnerable animals. However, they are sensitive to environmental conditions and may be suffering from high pollution levels in their range.


Average life span in the wild:3 to 5 years
Size:9.75 to 16 ft (3 to 5 m)
Weight:22 to 110 lbs (10 to 50 kg)
Did you know? The appendages of octopuses are called arms, not tentacles.
Size relative to a 6-ft (2-m) man:


Halo (Optical Phenomenon)

Sun Halo Phenomenon in Yogyakarta January 4th 2010

A halo (ἅλως; also known as a nimbus, icebow or Gloriole) is an optical phenomenon produced by ice crystals creating colored or white arcs and spots in the sky. Many are near the sun or moon but others are elsewhere and even in the opposite part of the sky. They can also form around artificial lights in very cold weather when ice crystals called diamond dust are floating in the nearby air.

There are many types of ice halos. They are produced by the ice crystals in cirrus clouds high (5–10 km, or 3–6 miles) in the upper troposphere. The particular shape and orientation of the crystals is responsible for the type of halo observed. Light is reflected and refracted by the ice crystals and may split up into colors because of dispersion. The crystals behave like prisms and mirrors, refracting and reflecting sunlight between their faces, sending shafts of light in particular directions.

Atmospheric phenomena such as halos were used as part of weather lore as an empirical means of weather forecasting before meteorology was developed.

Other common optical phenomena involving water droplets rather than ice crystals include the glory and the rainbow.

photo from 2.bp.blogspot.com