Posts about Asia

Backyard Wildlife: Large Lizards

large thin lizard

Close up of the large, thin, lizard

These photos were taken across the street from my condo in downtown Johor Bahru, Malaysia. From my window I could see Singapore.

It is at least a meter long from head to tail (probably longer, the tail is really long). Still it isn’t huge since it is very narrow (more like a very thick snake with legs than anything else).

A few months before seeing the lizard in the photos I saw a really big lizard 1 block from the Johor Bahru Customs Immigration and Quarantine complex. It was easily 2 meters long (head to end of the tail) and quite large (stout). It was a different species I am pretty sure.

I was standing for awhile looking at a cool patch of wild greenery. All of a sudden I heard a noise and looked down; this large lizard probably got tired of me standing so and moved quickly into the brush. I hadn’t seen it. I would guess it was sunning itself, before I wandered over. Too bad I didn’t have my camera ready.

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Dinosaur Bird Wing and Feather in Amber

Rare Dinosaur-Era Bird Wings Found Trapped in Amber

Two tiny wings entombed in amber reveal that plumage (the layering, patterning, coloring, and arrangement of feathers) seen in birds today already existed in at least some of their predecessors nearly a hundred million years ago.

Skin, muscle, claws, and feather shafts are visible, along with the remains of rows of feathers similar in arrangement and microstructure to modern birds.

photo of dinosaur wing in amber with feathers visible

The nearly 100 million year old wing shows a structure that is very similar to modern birds.

The piece in this photo, and others samples, were bought at an amber market in Myitkyina, the capital of Kachin state in northern Myanmar. The region is politically unstable and most of the amber is sold to Chinese consumers for jewelry and decorative carvings.

Read the related posts for more on the wonderful discoveries saved in amber of hundreds of millions of years. We get to read about these amazing discoveries so often it is easy to lose appreciation for how amazing each one is. This photo shows a wind that was used by a dinosaur almost 100 million years ago.

Related: Marine Plankton From 100 Million Years Ago Found in Amber 2008)Learning About Life over 200 Million Years Ago From Samples Trapped In Amber (2012)The evolution of birds from small predatory dinosaursDino-Era Feathers Found Encased in Amber (2008)Amber Pieces Containing Remains from Dinosaurs and Birds Show Feather Evolution (2011)Ancient Whale Uncovered in Egyptian Desert

Deinocheirus is a Totally Bizarre Dinosaur

A very strange dinosaur has been uncovered, studied and explained by scientists. The dinosaur is from Mongolia about 70 million years ago.

“Deinocheirus is a totally bizarre dinosaur,” explains Phil Currie, professor and Canada Research Chair in Dinosaur Paleobiology at the University of Alberta. At 11 meters long and with an estimated weight of 6.4 tons, Deinocheirus was a behemoth to be sure—but hardly the giant tyrannosaur its massive arms may have suggested. Rather, the apparently disproportionately large forearms were more likely used for digging and gathering plants in freshwater habitats, or for fishing. Among its other unusual attributes are tall dorsal spines, truncated hoof-like claws on the feet to prevent sinking into muddy ground, and bulky hind legs that indicate it was a slow mover.

“Although the arms have been known since 1965 and have always aroused speculation because of their enormous size and sharp, recurving claws, we were completely unprepared for how strange this dinosaur looks,” says Currie. “It almost appears to be a chimera, with its ornithomimid-like arms, its tyrannosaurid-like legs, its Spinosaurus-like vertebral spines, its sauropod-like hips, and its hadrosaur-like duckbill and foot-hooves.”

Currie notes that Deinocheirus is a descendant of ostrich-like dinosaurs that were only slightly larger than humans, so its evolution into a giant, multi-tonne creature is almost certainly responsible for most of its unusual characteristics. “Its great size probably gave it some protection from the tyrannosaurid Tarbosaurus, which appears to have been relatively common in that part of Mongolia some 70 million years ago,” says Currie. To feed its great bulk, Deinocheirus was apparently an omnivore that ingested both plants and fish, as evident from fish remains found in its stomach contents.

“The study of this specimen has shown that even in dinosaurs like Deinocheirus, an animal that has been known for almost half a century, we can still learn surprising things about their anatomy,” says Currie. “Furthermore, it underlines the fact that even today, dinosaurs are still relatively poorly known. The fact that Deinocheirus is from the Nemegt Formation of Mongolia, one of the richest and most diverse dinosaur faunas known, hints that there are probably thousands of dinosaurs that we still do not know about from the majority of dinosaur localities in the world.”

Including poached dinosaur bones (stealing bones has long been a problem to the advancement of science) with the existing bones available to scientists allowed the new understanding of this amazing dinosaur. The now near-complete Deinocheirus specimen has been returned to its home for further study in the Mongolia Centre for Paleontology.

Full press release

Related: Ancient Whale Uncovered in Egyptian DesertNigersaurus, the Mesozoic CowDinosaur Remains Found with Intact Skin and TissueLobopodians from China (“the walking cactus” – an animal)Korea-Mongolia International Dinosaur Project

Rubber Trees

I think rubber trees are pretty cool, dripping out nice latex is just neat.

photo of rubber trees

Photo of rubber trees in Khao Lak, Thailand

Latex is collected from trees which is then treated to make rubber. Hevea brasiliensis (originally found the Amazon basin in Brazil), the Pará rubber tree, sharinga tree, or, most commonly, the rubber tree, is a tree belonging to the family Euphorbiaceae. Gutta-percha (Palaquium) is a genus of tropical trees native to Southeast Asia. The milky latex extracted from the trees is the primary source of natural rubber. Now refining petroleum is an alternative way for creating products that required rubber previously, but rubber is still economically important.

In 1876, Henry Wickham gathered thousands of para rubber tree seeds from Brazil, and these were germinated in Kew Gardens, England. The seedlings were then sent to India, Ceylon (Sri Lanka), Indonesia, Singapore and British Malaya (now Malaysia). Malaya was later to become the biggest producer of rubber. In the early 1900s, the Congo, Liberia and Nigeria also became significant producers of natural rubber latex.

photo of a rubber tree seed

Rubber tree seed from near Fraser’s Hill, Malaysia, by John Hunter.

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Circumhorizontal Arcs – Fire Rainbows – Cloud Rainbows

photo of rainbow in a cloud

Fire Rainbow, Johor Bahru by John Hunter

Yesterday afternoon I spotted this odd, colorful, spectrum seemingly in a cloud in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. The colors are similar to a rainbow but the prism effect takes on a bit different form than a rainbow as I learned with a bit of searching online. I added a short post to this blog, about the phenomenon a few years ago.

photo of a large cloud over Johor Bahru

Johor Bahru under a large cloud which is topped with a fire rainbow.

A circumhorizontal arc is an optical phenomenon – an ice-halo formed by plate-shaped ice crystals in high level cirrus clouds. They are also known as “fire rainbows,” if the cloud is at the right angle to the sun, the crystals will refract the sunlight just as when rainbow is created.

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Eliminating NSF Program to Aid K-12 Science Education

Changing American science and engineering education

In exchange for funding for their graduate studies, Kahler and other fellows contribute to the science curriculum in local primary and secondary schools from kindergarten through grade 12. Kahler taught science at Rogers-Herr Middle School in Durham.

He also taught for two summers in India, and in Texas, as part of Duke TIP, the Talent Identification Program, which identifies academically gifted students and provides them with intellectually stimulating opportunities.

Through these teaching experiences in different locations and cultures, Kahler observed several factors that affect the quality of education in American schools. One important factor is the training of teachers. Unfortunately, teachers are sometimes expected to teach science without having received an adequate background in the subject.

STEM fellows helped to address this problem by contributing their expertise and by helping to increase the scientific literacy of students and their teachers.

Kahler says that NSF GK-12 has a strong, positive impact to change this because it simultaneously improves the educational experience of students in primary and secondary school and trains graduate students to communicate and teach effectively.

Unfortunately, the NSF GK-12 program is no longer in the NSF budget for 2012.

Sadly the USA is choosing to speed money on things that are likely much less worthwhile to our future economic well being. This has been a continuing trend for the last few decades so it is not a surprise that the USA is investing less and less in science and engineering education while other countries are adding substantially to their investments (China, Singapore, Korea, India…).

As I have stated before I think the USA is making a big mistake reducing the investment in science and engineering, especially when so many other countries have figured how how smart such investments are. The USA has enjoyed huge advantages economically from science and engineering leadership and will continue to. But the potential full economic advantages are being reduced by our decisions to turn away from science investment (in education and other ways).

Related: The Importance of Science EducationTop Countries for Science and Math Education: Finland, Hong Kong and KoreaEconomic Strength Through Technology Leadership

Backyard Wildlife: Walking Leaf

photo of insect that looks like a leaf

See some more great photos of the hike on Penang Island in Malaysia, from the Capturing Penang blog.

Related: Backyard Wildlife: FoxBackyard Wildlife: Great Spreadwing DamselflyBackyard Wildlife: Turtle










Sumatran Tiger and Cubs Filmed by Remote Wildlife Monitoring Cameras

Video cameras installed in the Sumatran jungle in Indonesia have captured close-up footage of a tiger and two cubs. This is the first time that the World Wildlife Fund has recorded evidence of tiger breeding in central Sumatra in what should be prime tiger habitat.

The Sumatran Tiger is the smallest of all surviving tiger subspecies. Male Sumatran tigers average 204 cm (6 feet, 8 inches) in length from head to tail and weigh about 136 kg (300 lb).

Analysis of DNA is consistent with the hypothesis that the Sumatran Tigers have been isolated after a rise in sea level at the Pleistocene to Holocene border (about 12,000-6,000 years ago) from other tiger populations. The Sumatran Tiger is genetically isolated from all living mainland tigers.

Wouldn’t it be nice to see the photos those tigers could take with the awesome cat cam?

Related: Bukit Tiga Puluh National ParkUsing Cameras Monitoring To Aid Conservation EffortsRare Saharan Cheetahs PhotographedJaguars Back in the Southwest USA

Global Installed Wind Power Now Over 1.5% of Global Electricity Demand

graph of global installed wind power capacityChart showing global installed wind energy capacity by Curious Cat Science and Engineering Blog, Creative Commons Attribution. Data from World Wind Energy Association, for installed Mega Watts of global wind power capacity.

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Globally 27,339 MW of capacity were added in 2008, bringing the total to 121,188 MW, a 29% increase. The graph shows the top 10 producers (with the exceptions of Denmark and Portugal) and includes Japan (which is 13th).

In 2007, Europe had for 61% of installed capacity and the USA 18%. At the end of 2008 Europe had 55% of installed capacity, North America 23%, Asia 20%, Australia 1.5%, Latin America .6% and Africa .5%. Country shares of global capacity at the end of 2008: USA 21%, Germany 20%, Spain 14%, China 10%, India 8% (those 5 countries account for 73% of global capacity).

USA capacity grew 50% in 2008, moving it into the global lead for the first time in a decade. China grew 107%, the 3rd year in a row it more than doubled capacity.

Related: Wind Power Provided Over 1% of Global Electricity in 2007USA Wind Power Installed Capacity 1981 to 2005Wind Power has the Potential to Produce 20% of Electricity by 2030Top 12 Manufacturing Countries in 2007

New Largest Known Cave

photo of world's largest known cave,  in Vietnam

The world’s largest cave

A British caving team believe they have discovered the world’s largest cave passage in the heart of the Vietnamese jungle. The rocky passage is 150metres long and measures a towering 200metres in height – seven times as high as the vaulted ceiling of York Cathedral.

Called Hang Son Doong (Mountain River Cave) it is believed to be almost twice the size of the current record holder

The cave was originally discovered in 1991 by a Vietnamese Jungle man called Ho Khanh. However Mr Spillane said no-one had entered if before because ‘it emitted a frightful wind and noise which was due to a large underground river’.

Related: 1,000 Species Discovered in Greater Mekong in Last DecadeBats Are Dying in North-East USAHimalayas GeologyTimpanogos Cave National Monument, UtahCurious Cat Science Searchposts on geology


Providing Computer to Remote Students in Nepal

photo of students using computers in Nepal

Pupils conquer fear of computers

“I was really scared when I saw the computer,” he says. “I didn’t go near it. I was worried it might explode and kill me. “It was only when the teacher called me saying it was harmless that I went into the room, but I still hesitated.” Things have changed now, he adds.

“I’m feeling much better. The E-library has helped with my studies. “We can see the periodic table of science, and also maps and other geography things in a pictorial way that is easy to understand. It’s not only that – we can also play games and have fun.”

Kamal says his parents were very excited when he told them about the computer and came to watch the very next day. It was not only Kamal. His computer teacher, Shankar Prajapati, says all the pupils were afraid. “They all worried they would catch some virus and fall ill or even die. But now they are familiar with computers,” he says.

“Even we teachers are gaining knowledge from the E-library. It’s really helpful for us, too. “The students can see science experiments carried out on screen and search for whatever they want in the encyclopaedia.

This is a free and open-source (accessible to everyone) package which connects one powerful central server in the school, using the Linux operating system, to a number of diskless low-end computers. When linked to the server, each computer receives a full Linux desktop.

Read more about the Help Nepal Network’s eLibrary program. Photos from this web site shows students in Nepal using computers.

In the face of rapidly changing technological advancement and the exorbitant cost of proprietary hardware and software solutions, which had stymied Nepal in attempting to participate in ICT for development, the use for Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) is emerging as a solution.

Linux Terminal Server Project (LTSP) can be a low cost solution for deprived communities who cannot afford a bigger volume financial expense.

LTSP, a system that works with only one central high end server and other diskless low-end thin client computers, allows to run Linux on a server, and then use thin clients (almost any computer will do) to connect to the server and receive a full-blown Linux desktop.

I believe strongly in the ability of kids to learn if they are just provided some tools that help them do so. See a great post on Hole in the Wall computers.

Related: A Child’s View of the OLPC LaptopFixing the World on $2 a DayOpen Source: The Scientific Model Applied to ProgrammingWhat Business Can Learn from Open Source

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