News Briefs 3-12-2004

“Where’s Bill? Isn’t today Friday?” I hear you ask. No, today is Monday. Things have been getting a bit weird around here since Bill took to the air for Philadelphia-Experiment-like tests on top-secret aircraft. Weird is normal — when things are normal, that’s when things are weird.

Don’t thank me for today’s news … thank Kat, truly an angel.

Quote of the Day:

We can always imagine a better detail than the one we can remember.

John Irving, from Trying To Save Piggy Sneed

    1. Er … I’m not stoned. Nor am
      Er … I’m not stoned. Nor am I drunk. I haven’t even been sniffing glue. This how I normally am! 😉

      TDG is like the One Ring … it changes you. My preciousssssss….


  1. angel stuff
    >>thank Kat, truly an angel

    Okay, that’s two days in a row for this angel stuff – which is all very nice and everything; thanks guys, nice of you to say so, etc. – but it’s also high time I posted a disclaimer:



      1. YMMV
        Literally, Your Mileage May Vary

        But it’s also internet shorthand for any general disclaimer,
        such as…
        Like Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates; you never know what you’re gonna get
        You pays yer money, and you takes yer chances
        Opinions on this topic (my angelic nature) vary widely, so your mileage may vary. 😉


  2. TimesOnline
    Does anyone know how to contat authors on the TimesOnline site? I’ve looked all around the site and can’t figure out how to contact the author of the Martian microbe article. He could have chosen his wording better in the article when he stated it was more important that the earth wasn’t contaminated over Mars being contaminated. I’m sure he didn’t mean to place more value on the life of one planet than another planet.

    1. I guess the author assumes th
      I guess the author assumes that Mars doesn’t have life, never has, and if it did, it’s not intelligent like us and is only at the microbe level, therefore it’s preferable for Mars to be contaminated rather than Earth. If it were proven that Mars harbours life larger than microbes, then I’m sure the author wouldn’t want Mars to be contaminated either. Like you said, I’m sure the author isn’t being insensitive. According to the experts, Mars is a dead rock that at best may only harbour life at the microbe level; if this is the case, then I’d say it’s better Mars has the harmful stuff and Earth doesn’t! 😉

  3. More on Bill
    Today’s news was like reading cat litter deposits compared to the bomb shell you dropped in your lead-in: Is Bill truly participating in Philadelphia-like experiments? If so, please tell us as much as you possibly can — don’t concern yourself with the men in black suits.

  4. 12 Chinese dinosaurs
    >>At the Melbourne Museum, Australia, all we can get are 12 Chinese dinosaurs.

    I wonder if one of those 12 is the newly discovered protorosaur Dinocephalosaurus orientalis (terrible-headed lizard from the Orient) which had fangs, 25 neck vertebrae, and elongated cervical ribs that extended along it’s vertebrae, giving it a 1.7 meter long neck on a body less than 1 meter long.

    When the first protorosaur, Tanystropheus longobardicus, was discovered in the 1850s, it was dubbed a ‘biomechanical nightmare’ because of it’s 12 neck vertebrae, and it continued to generate fiery debate into the 1980s because scientists couldn’t figure out the purpose of that long neck. But in studying this new one with an even longer neck, they now think they’ve figured it out.

    Prey in water is slippery, and any movement toward it not only alerts the prey of an attack but also creates a pressure wave that could push the prey away. Fish and some turtles combat these factors with suction feeding, i.e. rapidly expanding the mouth cavity by dropping the floors of their mouths .

    Crocodiles and alligators use a different approach. In water, they strike laterally, cutting through the water while minimizing the force that pushes the prey away.

    Dinocephalosaurus apparently took a third, unique, approach. When it thrust its head forward to capture prey, the ribs along its neck would splay outward. This would increase the diameter of the esophagus, creating a suction force that allowed it to swallow the pressure wave created by the lunge along with it’s prey. So rather than expand the volume of its mouth to create suction, Dinocephalosaurus expanded the volume of its throat — in many ways a more effective approach.

    A long neck also allowed Dinocephalosaurus to stealthily approach prey. To a fish in murky water, Dinocephalosaurus’ head would have initially looked like another animal its own size. By the time the fish was able to see the body, it would already have been lunch.

    But take another look at this artist’s rendition. Curiously, the scientists studying Dinocephalosaurus failed to mention what seems to me another obvious advantage of a long neck — it could feed in the shallows while keeping it’s big, juicy body more securely hidden from on-shore predators.


    1. >>I wonder if one of those 12
      >>I wonder if one of those 12 is the newly discovered protorosaur Dinocephalosaurus orientalis (terrible-headed lizard from the Orient)>>

      Unfortunately not. The dinosaurs on display are cool, and there’s even a little section askinf if small dinosaurs turned into birds. It’s just a shame that the Melbourne Museum is kind of …. empty. It’s big, but has very little in it. The rainforest is good, but the whole place is kinda underwhelming. Lack of funding and politics (indigenous).

      Oh well, I’ll still be there this arvo, slowly picking away at 45 million year old dirt uncovering fossilised crocodiles from Gladstone Queensland …

      1. That’s wonderful
        Hi Rico,
        I was so pleased to hear that you are working on fossils from Queensland.I have great admiration for anyone who does that, it is incredibly tedious work.
        When I was last in Canada I went to Drum Heller in Alberta where they have the largest dinosaur museum in the world and in fact the surrounding area is full of fossils.My daughter kicked up a fossilised piece of toe as she walked around and handed it to the museum who were trying to fit it to something.
        My granddaughter and her husband used to own a huge cattle property outside Winton.There were whole dinosaur fossils there. I was looking forward to one day going up to have a look for some and they sold the property.I believe the Qld Uni do a lot of their work there.
        Sometimes here on the beach I pick up a little fossilised shell, and I am greatly excited.
        I don’t know what it is about fossils that arouses such emotive feelings in people; maybe it is the recognition in our brains that at one time we knew these animals in the flesh.


        1. I didn’t discover anything to
          I didn’t discover anything today, I spent all afternoon cleaning up a big mess other volunteers had made (you’re meant to clean up the dirt you chip away, but they didn’t, and there were bits of bones everywhere) and answering questions from visitors.

          It is quite a rush though when you unearth a fossilised bone and realise that this is the first time in 45-million-years this fossil has been in contact with air. Quite an amazing concept, and I’m only digging up ancient crocodiles; imagine what it’s like digging up a dinosaur!

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