Gleanings of the Week Ending May 18, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Beautiful Photos by Manuelo Bececco Captures the Essence of the Forest – Awesome views of the forest…mostly looking upward.

IYPT 2019 Elements 023: Vanadium: Hardened steel and yellow blood | Compound Interest – Vanabins are vanadium-binding proteins that make sea cucumber blood yellow!

Titanium: Sunscreens and space stations | Compound Interest – Lots of makeup and other cosmetics have titanium (for its sunscreen properties) and fighter jets do too!

Marine Viruses Detailed from Pole to Pole | Technology Networks – There are a lot more viruses than previous cataloged in the ocean. The are in roughly 5 groups based on location and depth. The Arctic Ocean has high viral diversity…higher than at the equator.

NASA's Cassini reveals surprises with Titan's lakes -- ScienceDaily – The data from Cassini’s final flyby of Titan in 2017 has revealed that the lakes in its northern hemisphere are more then 300 feet deep and are methane. Lots more science still to come as more analysis of the Cassini data is done.

Could high-flying drones power your home one day? - BBC News – How could this not cause problems with aircraft if it was widespread? Both the drone and the tether could cause problems.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: Passerines – Always room on the gleanings list for bird photographs!

Four ways to attract birds and butterflies – Native plants, bird bath, brush pile in my yard….3 of 4 is not bad!

Black, Hot Ice May Be Nature’s Most Common Form of Water – Superionic ice – a new kind of ice crystal with the oxygen atoms forming a cubic lattice and the hydrogen atoms flowing like liquid through the rigid cage of oxygens.

We’ll soon know the exact air pollution from every power plant in the world. That’s huge. –It won’t just be regulators and politicians that can see the data…it will be accessible by the public too. It will become a lot clearer to everyone which power plants are negatively impacting air quality.

Gleanings of the Week Ending April 13, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

Coconut Spice Cake Recipe | Magnolia Days – The cake I made for my husband’s birthday. It tasted great even without icing!

Photographer Captures Stunning Images of Ice Shards Along Lake Michigan | Smart News | Smithsonian – Spectacular ice forms – made during the breaking up on Lake Michigan a few weeks ago.

Ancient Caribbean children helped with grocery shopping in AD 400 -- ScienceDaily – Snail and clam shells (small ones) might be from child, rather than adult, foragers!

Thousands of Invasive Cane Toads Overtake Florida Community | Smart News | Smithsonian – Ugh! Not something people want in their yards and pools and driveways. These toads have a toxin strong enough to kill cats and dogs that munch on toads and can cause burning eyes or skin irritation in humans.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: March – National Geographic Society – Beautiful birds….changing environments and habitats.

Where Have All the House Sparrows Gone? – Cool Green Science – House sparrow numbers have been declining since 1966 – all around the world!

66-million-year-old deathbed linked to dinosaur-killing meteor -- ScienceDaily – Fossils of animals killed and buried within an hour of the meteor impact!

Pairing Geothermal Plus Rooftop Solar For A Truly Renewable Home | CleanTechnica – At what point will the idea of geothermal heating and cooling catch up with rooftop solar for our homes? Will Dandelion – or comparable companies - become nationwide?

Five new frog species from Madagascar -- ScienceDaily – Some tiny new frogs. The smallest is only a little larger than a grain of rice.

These pictures of seed bank samples turn biology into art – The beauty of seeds. The first photograph (of Australian windflower flower heads is my favorite. The x-ray of a red yucca seed head is also interesting….showing the 3D of the pod in the image.

Ice Bubbles

Last week there were plenty low temperature nights. I started a project to collect frost flowers on a red glass plate to photograph. The conditions were not right for frost a single night! But – it did rain a little and the water that collected froze around the red plate that I had slanted in a container.


When I pulled out the plate and the ice, I noticed that there were a lot of bubbles in the ice and modified my plan to photograph them.

I started with the lower magnification (15x) macro clip-on lens for my phone. The bubbles that were near the surface of the ice look fractured – not quite round.

My favorite at the 15x magnification was near the edge of the ice – where it met the plate. There were some long narrow bubbles as if the air was climbing the slope of the plate.


I switched to my 60x macro lens with its own light source. The bubbles look jewel-like and the color of the red glass plate come through the ice.

My favorite was one that did not have the red color. It looks like a grayish pearl.

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I am still hoping for some frost flowers and there is a possibility since it’s only March. There should be a few more frosty days for us here in Maryland.

Gleanings of the Week Ending February 23, 2019

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

BBC - Future - A high-carb diet may explain why Okinawans live so long – I was surprised that sweet potatoes played a significant role in their diet.

Photo of the Week – January 18, 2019 | The Prairie Ecologist – Ice crystals on plants and barbed wire….winter photography.

Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: Birds Using Rivers and Lakes  and Top 25 Wild Bird Photographs of the Week: Parrots (both from the National Geographic Society Newsroom) – I’m doing a bit of catching up on the Top 25 bird posts. I always enjoy these photographic series.

A Mysterious Disease Is Killing Beech Trees | The Scientist Magazine® - Beech Leaf Disease…first spotted in Ohio in 2012 and expanding since then. It appears to be an infectious disease but the causal agent hasn’t been determined and there is no treatment yet. We have a lot of beech trees in Maryland’s forests. We lost the hemlocks and ashes….and years before the chestnuts. Each loss changes the forest.

The microbes that help make you and me and  BBC - What we do and don’t know about gut health and  Is it worth taking probiotics after antibiotics?  and How dirty air could be affecting our gut health and How to eat your way to a healthy gut – A series from BBC- Future. It seems like a lot of people could feel better if we knew more about how to keep (or regain) a healthy gut.

See the microscopic wonders of herbs – Scanning Electron Microscope images of herbs – the beauty of  plants with such distinct smells and flavors.

New wisdom about high cholesterol treatment for adults aged 80 and older -- ScienceDaily – So many of the medical guidelines were developed with trials including younger people…and the assumption was made that it would be the same for older people. But now more people are living past 80 and it’s becoming clearer that it is not always the case.

See what your ZIP code says about you using Esri's ZIP lookup tool - Business Insider – The link is at the bottom of the article. I looked at places I am familiar with and it seemed about right. This would be an interesting tool to use if you were moving to a new area…provide a different perspective to your home search.

The Hidden Environmental Toll of Mining the World’s Sand - Yale E360 – Sand is needed for concrete…and a lot of building going on in the world. The problem of extreme mining in rivers and estuaries is increasing.

BBC - Future - The natural products that could replace plastic – Can any of these happen fast enough to stop – or even reduce - the flow of plastics into our rivers and oceans and landfills?

Gleanings of the Week Ending July 7, 2018

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

BBC - Future - How we could survive on an asteroid – Harder than colonizing a planet…but mining asteroids from a colony on the moon or mars might be more feasible. Interesting to think about; it’s not full out science fiction at this point.

Stunning Data From The Bottom of the World: Antarctic Ice Loss Triples - Dan's Wild Wild Science Journal - AGU Blogosphere – The melting is mostly from warmer ocean waters melting submerged glaciers that have moved into the ocean.

Take a 3D Tour Through Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West | Smart News | Smithsonian – I always like to see an article a place that I have visited…savor the memory. This post includes the link to the 3dlab site…lots of room to explore in a way that is the next best think to being there.

Illnesses from Mosquitoes and Ticks on the Rise | Berkeley Wellness – In our area Lyme disease (from ticks) is the one we worry about the most but there might be others that are going to become more problematic. Maryland has more mosquitos that usual right now…unpleasant and maybe unhealthy.

Red Meat Allergies Caused by Tick Bites are on the Rise – Aargh! I hadn’t heard of this one before.

Feeding the gods: Hundreds of skulls reveal massive scale of human sacrifice in Aztec capital | Science | AAAS – A short video and article about structures recently excavated that include skulls of human sacrifice victims as described by Spanish conquistadors.

China’s Plastic Ban Will Flood Us with Trash | Smart News | Smithsonian – Now that China isn’t accepting the plastic we throw in recycling – where is it going? Are our landfills going to be even more massive? Ideally recycling would get better (and done closer to where the material entered the system) rather than worse.

Petrified Forest National Park Becomes World’s Newest International Dark Sky Park – I’ve visited this park several times…and now it’s a dark sky site. It’s a long way from Maryland but maybe we’ll eventually get there for a star party!

Why Europe’s astronauts are learning Chinese – China is taking the steps to be the third big player in space….and Europe is planning to cooperate with them just as it does with the US and Russia.

Gleanings of the Week Ending March 3, 2018

The items below were ‘the cream’ of the articles and websites I found this past week. Click on the light green text to look at the article.

BBC - Future - Spice: Why some of us like it hot – A little interesting history…not sure it really gets to the question about why some of us like it hot though.

Life-Size Camel Carvings Found in the Saudi Desert | Smart News | Smithsonian – I saw this story in several of my feeds…this one had the best pictures.

As Ice Sheets Melt Faster, Sea Level Rise Is Accelerating Every Year - Yale E360 – It’s hard to translate stories like this into what will happen to specific areas and it seems like that is what is critical for coastal areas that need to plan for rising sea level. Planners in Annapolis MD are using the flood they had from Hurricane Isabel in 2003 to help people realize what the situation will be like in 2050 (the projection is that the flooding will be about like that 2003 flood very frequently because of sea level rise, enough that the city will be forever changed).

BBC - Future - Five myths about loneliness – Some ideas about loneliness. If you time and interest…do the survey (link is toward the bottom of the page) to participate in the BBC Loneliness experiment.

Photography in the National Parks: Don't Forget About Those Little Things -  I like the closer up shots of little things --- and there are good ones in almost every natural area, not just National Parks.

This Map Shows What Climate Change Could Mean for Your Region – There is an article around the map…but the map is the graphic to look at. There are more areas with economic costs than benefits in the US.

Transforming patient health care and well-being through lighting -- ScienceDaily – I’ve always wondered about the fluorescent lights often used in hospital settings…wondering how the sleep cycles of patients could be normal at all. I’m glad lighting is finally getting more attention.

Wild Birds with a Splash of Colour – National Geographic Blog – Eye candy for this week. Somehow bird pictures are always a favorite for me.

Thousands of Photographs Created These Hyper-Real Portraits of Historic Buildings | Smart News | Smithsonian – If you are in New York City before April 7 you can see the gallery show…if not – get a glimpse of Brunetti’s work looking at the 4 images with this blog post from the Smithsonian.

New Study Shows Flood Risks Across the U.S. are Underestimated (in a Big Way) – Cool Green Science – I wonder how long it will be before the FEMA maps are updated. It seems like people purchasing houses would like to be aware of the flood risk before they made their purchase.

HoLLIE – week 3

The Week 3 of  HoLLIE (Howard County Legacy Leadership for the Environment) class day was last week and it was held at NASA Goddard like the second week. The theme for the day was continued from last week: “what informed citizens need to know about earth systems science.”

The first talk of the day as about ice sheets and included a discussion of the speakers trek to the South Pole last year. Check out her ICESat-2 Antarctic Traverse Blog (The first post is from December 4, 2017. If you want to start with that one and read in chronological order, scroll down to the bottom of this page until you get to ‘Heading South, to New Zealand and Beyond.’ Then after reading the ‘South Pole Station: The Last Stop Before the Traverse’ beginning at the top of the page, click on ‘newer entries’ to read the rest of the of the posts – and again start with the post at the bottom of the page and work up). She spent Christmas at the South Pole!

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She recommended a book that I found could be checked out from Internet Archive when I got home: The two-mile time machine by Richard B. Alley. The book is about the annual rings of ice from cores drilled in Greenland and what they tell us about Earth’s climate over time.

The second talk was about the Land-Based Hydrology Cycle. This talk included what we can learn from satellites but also what measurements are taken on land too (and how much effort that takes…to get even sporadic data). With fresh water being so key to life – the very highs (floods) and very lows (droughts) are major impact all around the world.

The third talk was about the Black Marble project…about what we can learn from looking at the earth at night. Back in April there was good summation of the project – to create the images more frequently so that they could be used more even more applications (like short-term weather forecasting and disaster response): New Night Lights Maps Open Up Possible Real-Time Applications -; take a look at the map of India midway through the article and slide the vertical bar to the see how the northern part of the country was electrified between 2012 and 2016. There is more at

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The fourth talk was about how the Montreal Protocol saved the earth’s ozone layer. I knew the protocol concerned Ozone and CFCs….but didn’t realize any more history than that. The timing of a report that linked CFCs to ozone depletion just before the ‘hole’ was discovered in the ozone layer (a major change from measures of ozone for many years beforehand) over Antarctica made for a dramatic beginning to the conversation. It has been effective because governments engaged industry that provided substitutes (some transitional) that made it possible to move away from compounds that were ozone damaging in the stratosphere.

Next we visited NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio – seeing some of their recent work on a wall sized screen. Here are some web versions of what we saw in the studio:

NASA's Near-Earth Science Mission Fleet: March 2017

Global Temperature Anomalies from 1880 to 2017

Weekly Animation of Arctic Sea Ice Age with Two Graphs: 1984 - 2016

Previous HoLLIE posts: Week 1, Week 2

Icy Crystals on Grass

Last week when I took my walk at Howard County Conservancy’s Mt. Pleasant Farm, there were ice crystals all over the grass on the paths. It was early enough in the day that the sun had not been out long enough for the ice to melt completely. The ice was in feathery crystals along the stems.

When I got to the bridge over the little stream near Hodge Podge Lodge, the moving water looked on the verge of freezing; the places that were shallow and slow over rocks has crystallized overnight.

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The largest crystals were on some straw near the skunk cabbage. They make the straw ‘fuzzy’ although there are some that look like nodules too.

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In one place the ice had melted but there were lots of tracks – deer and human! It must have been wetter when they came through since I did not leave any tracks at all!

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HoLLIE – week 2

The second HoLLIE (Howard County Legacy Leadership for the Environment) class day was last week and it was held at NASA Goddard. I was worried about hitting rush hour traffic so left very early since we were to meet in the Goddard Visitor Center parking lot to catch the bus into the facility. The day was sunny and clear…but very cold and breezy. I managed to take this picture of the visitor center (not yet open) without getting out of my car!


The theme for the day was “what informed citizens need to know about earth systems science.” It was the first of two days that our classes will be at Goddard; last week we started with lectures on “understanding the tools and the state of the art in earth science” from the Project Scientist for the AQUA satellite and then got a tour of mission control for several earth science satellites from the Aqua Mission Director. They did a good job of demonstrating the types of data that can be collected, the methods used to collect it, and the ways it has been analyzed. I was surprised to see the LRO (Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter) mission control in the same building. That brought back the memory of my daughter being on the team to do image calibration shortly after it launched during her undergraduate days!


On the way back to our classroom, we stopped by the replica of the big rock found at Goddard that has mammal and dinosaur and mammal tracks. This was not on our agenda originally but was a wonderful serendipity aspect to the day even if it took part of our lunch time. I’d read about it in one of my news feeds and followed the link to the paper…but it was such a thrill to see the exhibit and hear the short lecture. I managed to take a few pictures.

We started the lectures on ‘understanding the science of earth’s cycles’ that will continue in this week’s class. We talked about the oceans and the carbon system in this second class. One of the interesting videos in the lectures is available online: twenty years of global biosphere data mapped on a slowly spinning globe; it easy to see the annual cycles. With the massive amounts of data, visualization becomes an important component.


When I got home an article in one of my newsfeeds talked about climate models that are developing that explain why there might be a linkage between melting of Arctic sea ice (one of the topics for the HoLLIE lectures this week) and droughts in California (How nuclear weapons research revealed new climate threats). It was easier to understand since I had the background of the lectures!

Previous HoLLIE posts: Week 1

Icy Day

Earlier this week we had about 24 hours of icy coated trees (and streets were impacted enough that schools closed for the whole day). I was glad I had no reason I had to be out and about; I could enjoy the ice through the windows of the house – or open doors to get a clearer picture. I noticed how different the types of trees looked with the ice. The pines droop over very quickly from the added weight of ice coating their needles. The tulip poplars develop little icicles on their more horizontal branches, but the seed pods didn’t seem to accumulate any ice.

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When I first looked at the maple, I thought it hadn’t accumulated ice as much as the other trees. When I zoomed in with my camera I saw that it did have ice accumulation and the buds were already dark red. I don’t think the buds will be damaged by the ice since they are still closed.

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The sycamore had a thin coating of ice and longer icicles. I was surprised that the lone seed ball from last summer does not appear to have ice on it!

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I worried the most about the plum tree in our front yard. It has a lot of small branches that are almost horizontal and tends to be coated with ice rather than icicles forming. It glistened in the morning sun (that didn’t cause very much melting because it was so cold).  Fortunately, there was very little breeze so I don’t see any breakage.

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Zooming – January 2018

I’ve been at home observing birds a lot during January and my camera works as well as binoculars for me…so why not go ahead and take the picture too! My favorite is probably of the flicker – savoring the drink of water from our birdbath.

There were some other reasons to use the camera’s zoom – the full moon in early January (there will be another one the last day of the month),

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Ice crystals in a stream (better to use the zoom than making a mistake – taking a very cold step),

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A stump that was on a slope of boulders (to hard to get close), and

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In camera cropping of the morning light on the trees behind our house.

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It was a good month with my Canon Powershot SX730 HS with 40x Optical Zoom!

Conowingo in January – part 2

The day we went to Conowingo was part of a warming trend – but it was still cold enough that ice coated any wet surfaces. The fishing pier was gated off and there were signs saying there would be no fishing because of a toxic spill…so the ice forming from the spray on the railings was undisturbed.

Further out in the water – any rocks or small trees near or in the water because a framework for ice formation.

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The rocks along the back were coated. Very little of the ice was totally smooth. It hung in icicles and knotted into pebbly textures that looked a little like bubble wrap!

I was glad that the day was sunny and relatively calm; my winter gear did a good job of keeping me comfortably warm. We stopped for lunch on the way home. Next time we’ll go earlier to (hopefully) see more of the eagles while they are still hungry for breakfast! I wondered where the Great Blue Herons were since we usually see a few of them. Both the herons and eagles will start their nesting cycle soon.

Icy Stream

At mid-week, I hiked down to the stream restoration area at Mt. Pleasant. The day was a little warmer than many of our recent days and there was very little wind. I dressed for the weather and didn’t get chilled. There has been enough rain that the ox bow portion had water/ice in it. The trees that were extracted during the restoration and repositioned in the stream to upside to down as habitat were indicated how high the water has gotten since the restoration reconnected the stream with its flood plain. The stumps have not been completely covered but the water has gotten a few feet higher than it is now.

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Further along the stream a smaller stream – frozen – cascades over rocks.

Some ice had broken free with the melting and turned over – showing frost crystals…bubbles…smooth contours. It looked like a chunk of clear glass.

I liked the leaves held in place my ice on the flowing water; they added color.

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The water level had gone down since this ice froze. It was a shelf above the flowing water. Based on the sediment on top of the ice, it is older and may have had sediment laden water flowing over it briefly.

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The beach area that used to be mostly small pebbles and sand, has had large rocks since the Ellicott City flood before the restoration project and then additional rocks were added during the restoration. It makes it harder to walk in the middle of the stream…but better habitat.

One area had conditions just right for forming crystals…a favorite photography target for me.

As we started back up the hill, I noticed a battered lichen on some of the rocks.  After all the clear ice, the bit of color caught my attention!

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