The Dino-calypse: Mexican, Ukrainian, or the Hindu God Destroyer?

The traumatized pachycephalosaurus! Photo from cdn.mos.

If you think I’m nuts about the Olympics, you should hear me talk about dinosaurs. All anyone needs to say is “antorbital fenestra,” and I swoon. Or “Chicxulub crater,” which is the impact site for the theoretical asteroid that hit 65 million years ago and wiped out most of life on earth, except for the tree shrews, from which all of us are descended. (We’ll have to save the tree shrews for another time.)

So you can imagine my excitement upon learning of the controversy between the Boltysh crater and the Chicxulub crater. Which came first? Apparently, there’s big money in being first because scientists from India are also claiming precedence.

Also, I learned the word “palynological,” which satisfies my Weird-Word-of-the-Month fetish.  It means “the study of live and fossil spores, pollen grains, and similar plant structures,” from the Greek palunein, which means “to scatter” as in dust or “pollen.”  Fern spores are very much in play here. And, for those of you with allergies, you now know that they are palynological.

Ok, so these dudes back in 2010 noticed this crater in the Ukraine called the Boltysh crater. The crater was “roughly” the same age as Chicxulub, and when we’re talking 65 million years, roughly can be mean +/- a million years, right? They were trying to be a bit more precise—in the 10,000 year range maybe—to see whether Boltysh came before or after Chicxulub.

There’s fame and fortune in the Dinosaur Demise!

Continue reading “The Dino-calypse: Mexican, Ukrainian, or the Hindu God Destroyer?”

Opening Up

We are tip-toeing into the future. Conditions are a little spartan, a little unfamiliar. This is good; this is scary. Caution, patience, and gratitude are the watchwords.

Beware: Lots of People Ahead

I took my first flight in a year last week, just a hop up north to see family. Y’all… there are a LOT of people in airports!

Pre-pandemic Hong Kong, photo Wall St Journal

It was like when you are away from home for a long time, like a summer or when you first go to college, then you are back. It is both strange and familiar. Your primitive brain remembers. Crowds of people are back. Can’t say I really liked that. But we have 8 billion people in the world, so we must share it with each other.

If you haven’t done this in a while, never fear (as long as you are vaxxed A.F, as the kids say today). The airplane wasn’t actually that bad although that was the longest wearing a mask nonstop that I have done in a while. And airplane are always late aren’t they? A little late coming in? Early to the arrival gate, which means you sit on the tarmac. Mechanical something or other, flight crew’s not there. That is all oh-so familiar, too. If we have learned nothing from this experience, it ought to be patience.

But that six feet of space thing? People in airports seem to have thrown that out the window already. Be vaxxed or stay masked.

Masks aren’t strange any more. Photo by Vladimir Vladimirov.
Continue reading “Opening Up”

Z is for Zero

The Hindu concept of zero, the void, the circle. Graphic from pparihar.com.

A circle is an infinite number of points all equally distant from a single center. That definition came from Euclid, a Greek, although the Greek’s didn’t use zero. Aristotle was afraid to divide by the void because it wasn’t descriptive of the real world.

The Chinese and the Sumerians used placeholders in their counting, adopting different marks for the tens and the 60s digit, since Babylonians used base 60. But they didn’t have a zero.

The Mayans had a zero–they used base 20–which allowed them to produce large astronomical calculations that generated accurate solar and lunar calendars using only sticks. But their isolation prevented trade, which limited their civilization.

The Romans had zero, of course! Nulla. The Romans had sophisticated plumbing and developed roads that lasted for millenia. But Romans disdained to use nulla in their numbering systems, so even though their business records were hierarchical and detailed, they were limited. Growth is limited if a number like 397,654 is CCCXCVMMDCLIV.

The Arabs developed zero; they developed algebra. But the Arabs learned it from the Hindus.

https://i0.wp.com/1.bp.blogspot.com/-Rn5ziNDI1kk/UN4HBQcfF8I/AAAAAAAAAII/j746CCLUC6E/s1600/indian_zero.gif?w=525
Graphic from Pparihar.com.
Continue reading “Z is for Zero”