Houston decided to shut down for an Ice Day a couple of weeks back. It was kinda like a Snow Day, but without the snow and not even really any ice, just a lot of end-times shopping at the supermarket, some frozen bridges and overpasses, and southerners in parkas. Naturally, the Wisconsin WonderTwins here took the practically-a-ghost-town opportunity to finally visit the Houston Museum of Natural Science.
Now to answer the question burning in your minds (other than “It took you guys this long to get to HMNS? What sort of science nerds are you?” That’s two questions. And, look, they close at 5pm everyday and we like to have more than 4 hours and 4000 less kids after that last Saturday brunch mimosa wears off to look around a museum. What about Sunday? You ask too many questions.): What you see above is the fossil skull of Quetzalcoatlus northropi, a late Mesozoic pterosaur. In English, a horned carnivorous crane with bat wings that was as big as a two-storey house, lived at the same time as terrestrial dinosaurs and swooped them up and carried them off like they were an adorable bunny you once left on the front lawn to run off and watch cartoons. That is, if Quetzalcoatlus flew. *shudder*
So I stood right under this beak and wondered what it would be like to live in the Late Cretaceous and look up one day to see it coming at me. (Not a completely unreasonable scenario in space, if not in time, given that the first Quetzal remains were discovered in Big Bend National Park.) Then I realized the metal wire holding the whole fossil up could snap and the beak could come at and gore me, resulting in a 65-million-year-old irony. Shuffling away from Calculated Point Of Impact, I noticed that eyeless crane-bat-unicorn had a friend. Swell.
This is exactly what-how I think of the “debate” between evolution and creationism. That (even our tiny patch of) the universe is simultaneously mind-blowing and pregnant and hilarious and not amazing at all and pointless and wholly unfunny (I mean, gigantic birds of prey that were rendered extinct and humans that then evolved to dig up their bones and hang them up like chandeliers that can fall and kill you), but no matter how many facts and myths you know, memorize or are told, you have to think about them by yourself, for yourself. Forget punctuated equilibrium and intelligent design and who said what. Wonder.
While on the topic of irreducible chaos, Carnival is here and parades are coming! I have five dances, two costume pieces and one mask under my belt. Also, if you had wagered that I’d once again wait until the week of Krewe du Vieux to work on my costume, you’d be rich, rich, rich. In doubloons.
This mask was so easy to make, I now cast aspersions on its integrity in Mardi Gras Day battle. Meh, that’s what superglue is for. Go ahead and note the first use of purple in a House Of Maitri mask since, um, never?
Phil Plait’s Answers for Creationists. A thoughtful and respectful read. “There is more room for a god in science than there is for no god in religious faith.”
Inaugural open-access column in the Society of Exploration Geophysicists (SEG) journal (by who else but Matt Hall?): Smoothing surfaces and attributes (a tutorial)
From Erik Klemetti: “Did you just read an internet rumor of a Yellowstone eruption? Four easy steps so you don’t fall for it.”