Friday, February 21, 2014

This Week's Sci-Light!

Let's have some fun.  After all, it's Friday!  Take a quiz testing your knowledge of science and technology sponsored by Pew Research Center.  The quiz was set up to measure the public's knowledge of current scientific topics and some fundamental science concepts. 

Here's the catch, if you score well, you don't get to gloat.  Your mission is to become a teacher.  After all, exploration is fun, but telling someone what you discovered doubles the satisfaction.  That's all part of being Sci-Curious!

Friday, February 7, 2014

This Week's Sci-Light!

Garden of Fugitives (plaster casts)
Pompeii!  The very word brings chills and soon 3D visuals to the big screen with the film Pompeii  directed by Paul W.S. Anderson releasing in just a couple of weeks. 

The history of this Roman city is well embedded in popular culture through tales of Lucius Caecilius Iucundus, the BBC dramas series Doctor Who, named "The Fires of Pompeii," Pink Floyd's live concert Pink Floyd:  Live at Pompeii and countless theatrical productions, an opera, films and a mini series. 

While we have been fascinated with our own species' violent demise, Baoyu Jiang of Nanjing University in China and his scientific research team from have proposed that humans weren't the only ones who were part of this kind of mass distinction event.  In fact, thousands of well-preserved fossils have been discovered in the northeast of China at the Yixian and Jiufotang formations.  They include plants, birds, dinosaurs and mammals.  Many of the fossils are so intact that researchers can determine what that dinosaur had for breakfast the day it died. 

Deborah Netburn writes for the Los Angeles Times that scientists have evidence that these "mass mortality events were pyrocalstic flows from nearby volcanoes--the same phenomenon that destroyed and preserved the ancient civilization of Pompeii." 
These photos show the typical entombing poses of the Jehol terrestrial vertebrate fossils (a., Psittacosaurus; b.-c., Confuciusornis). Their boxer-like poses are typical of victims of pyroclastic density currents, resulting from postmortem tendons and muscles shortening. (Photo: Baoyu Jiang)
Understanding the effects of blasts of volcanic ash and poisonous gases help us understand not only the dangers but how these events affected and changed large ecosystems.  Studying earth's geological history gives us clues to how the planet and subsequently life evolved.  

If you're curious, check out these tips on the paleontology career and do some investigating of your own!  After all, acting on your curiosity is what Sci-Curious is all about!