From Untamed Science, a tour with Dr. Lindsay Zanno, Director of the Paleontology & Geology Research Laboratory at the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences.
The key things she emphasized were that a) it’s a lot of work b) it’s not glamorous c) rarely to they find complete skeletons d) they don’t excavate it with little brushes out in the field and e) they spend close to 50 times the effort on a skeleton, in the lab, once it’s been pulled out of the earth.
There’s also a field trip to Crystal Geyser Quarry, “the largest feathered dinosaur graveyard” in the world… so far, at least! From the team’s site:
We are living through the most exciting period in the history of dinosaur paleontology. More than half of all known dinosaur species were discovered within the past 25 years, including nearly all of the remarkable feathered dinosaur specimens. One of the hottest areas for dinosaur discovery in North America is the Cedar Mountain Formation of eastern Utah, where new dinosaurs are being discovered and described at a phenomenal rate. These fossil beds span the last 25-30 million years of the Early Cretaceous, a time when North America was undergoing a period of climate change that resulted in localized extinction events and invasive dinosaur species.
Our team returns to Utah every year to hunt for new dinosaurs. This year we began excavations at an unprecedented dinosaur burial ground in the Cedar Mountain Formation known as the Crystal Geyser Quarry (CGQ). The CGQ is a mass mortality site entombing a rare and remarkable dinosaur dubbed Falcarius utahensis. One hundred and twenty-five million years ago an estimated 300 Falcarius individuals ranging in age from hatchlings to 4-meter long adults died and were buried here under mysterious conditions.
Powered by wind turbines, solar panels, and a biodiesel generator, the NY Sunworks Science Barge (now in Yonkers, New York) is a model for energy-efficient, sustainable urban farming. Using a hydroponic system that requires no dirt, the floating greenhouse uses less water and space than traditional farming in fields. And their state-of-the-art computer technology creates an optimized environment for nourishing tomatoes, cucumbers, strawberries, basil, lettuce and more, “with zero net carbon emissions, zero chemical pesticides, and zero runoff.”
It’s not only a great educational field trip for school kids from all over the region, but continues to be an example of how growing local food in cities can be fresh, healthy, and sustainable, all while cutting down on transportation costs and fuel needs. From NYTimes.com:
“It’s a living science lab that on its first level is a demonstration of how we can grow food with fewer resources and that we can produce what we need without damaging the world around us.”
If you want to make your own hydroponic plant-growing experiments, there are kits for kids here and here. Or Instructables has written out steps for making your own hydroponic system using stuff around the house.
If you’re in the New York area, visit the Science Barge!
From Argonne Labs comes this intriguing video demonstrating the acoustic levitation of liquids on a piece of equipment developed for NASA to simulate microgravity conditions.
“The acoustic levitator uses two small speakers to generate sound waves at frequencies slightly above the audible range – roughly 22 kilohertz. When the top and bottom speakers are precisely aligned, they create two sets of sound waves that perfectly interfere with each other, setting up a phenomenon known as a standing wave.
At certain points along a standing wave, known as nodes, there is no net transfer of energy at all. Because the acoustic pressure from the sound waves is sufficient to cancel the effect of gravity, light objects are able to levitate when placed at the nodes.”
From Scientific American, via It’s Okay to Be Smart.
Meteorites are the chunks of meteors that have hurtled through Earth’s atmosphere and landed/crashed on the ground. There are three types of meteorites: stone, iron and stony-iron, and once they’re in science labs to be studied, they need to be handled super-carefully. The Smithsonian’s meteorite lab shows us exactly how carefully!
This is a big issue. We study meteorites to learn things about what has happened and is happening outside our own planetary system. If, in the process of that, we end up covering the samples with the detritus of Earth, then the message gets muddled. If you’re studying a meteorite, you want to be reasonably sure that you’re not accidentally studying dust or bacteria from this planet. Clean rooms like the one in this video make it easier to examine these samples in a way that is less destructive.