The past week’s selection of science-related blog carnivals for you:
Carnival of Space #380
Friday Ark #497
Morsels for the Mind — 14/11/2014
On display at Kansas’ Sternberg Museum of Natural History, it’s a Short-Necked Plesiosaur (a.k.a., Dolichorhynchops):
Dolichorhynchops was a genus of plesiosaur in the Late Cretaceous (93 – 70 million years ago), back when modern-day Kansas was a bit of sea bottom. This is a reconstruction of a Dolichorhynchops osborni, one of the three species in the genus, and pair to a fossilized skeleton of the same creature on display at the museum. In their day, they grew to about 3 meters / 10 feet in length.
D. osborni is an appropriate match for the museum, particularly since the holotype specimen of the species was discovered in Logan County, Kansas by George Sternberg as a teenager, circa 1900.
On display at the Kansas Cosmosphere in Hutchinson, Kansas — it’s a snapshot of a breather in the cold war (on the left, a mockup Apollo spacecraft; on the right, a Soyuz mockup):
Conducted in 1975, the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project (ASTP) was an opportunity for the Soviet and American human space programs to experiment with working together. In retrospect, it makes sense that the respective technical communities (despite fairly divergent philosophies w.r.t. engineering) worked together more easily than did the two countries’ politicians.
Still, the joint mission wasn’t possible until U.S./U.S.S.R. tensions started to ease in the early 1970s as the Vietnam War began to wind down. The two nations committed to the mission in 1972, with the two spacecraft launching 7-1/2 hours apart on 15 July, 1975. They docked on 17 July, spent 44 hours together, then the two spacecraft spent several days conducting separate investigations in low Earth orbit.
The ASTP mission was considered a great success by both sides, and set a number of milestones. Along with being the first joint mission for the U.S. and U.S.S.R., ASTP was the last flight of an Apollo spacecraft. It would also be the last time American and Russian craft would dock in space until the STS-71 mission saw the space shuttle Atlantis dock with the Mir space station in 1995.
Another excellent piece from the Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed traveling exhibit, it’s a replica of Lintel 24 from Yaxchilan in Chiapas, Mexico:
The original piece is now in the British Museum in London, but this particular example is considered a masterpiece of Maya sculpture, so it has spawned replicas in a number of museums. Continue reading
Posted in Astronomy, Biology, Carnivalia, Critical thinking, History, Humanity, Math, Space
Tagged Astronomy, Biology, health, History, Math, Space
Seen at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, near Austin, Texas — but found nearly worldwide — it’s a living fossil:
Equisetum (a genus containing 15 species) is the only living genus of the once-diverse family Equisetopsida. These now-odd plants first appeared in the late Devonian (some 100 million years after the first land plants made their appearance), and for more than 100 million years dominated the understory of Earth’s forests. Members of the family even grew as large trees, some 30 meters tall.
But today, the horsetails play a more humble role, typically growing no more than 1.5 meters tall, but native to nearly the entire planet’s surface — essentially all but Antarctica, Australia, and New Zealand. Unlike most plants, they reproduce via spores (rather than by seeds), and so are closely related to ferns.
Another find brought to you via the “Maya: Hidden Worlds Revealed” traveling exhibit, it’s (a very good casting of) Stela A from Copan, Honduras:
Dating from 731 AD, this front face of Stela A depicts Waxaklajuun U’baah K’awiil equipped to perform a personal blood sacrifice, in the process transforming himself from the king of Copan into its patron god. Two bags hanging from his belt hold bloodletting tools. Behind him, vision serpents bring forth the spirit of his grandfather, also a deified king.
Stela A commemorates a series of rituals that ended when the monument was placed in a plaza in Copan. According to the inscriptions, nobles from the most powerful Maya kingdoms witnessed these ceremonies, placing King Waxaklajuun U’baah K’awiil at the center of both politics and the cosmos.
(note: much of this text comes from placards surrounding the base of the stela)