Australian Extinction

Zygomaturus trilobus -- an extinct Australian Pleistocene marsupial

Much akin to the debate about large scale extinctions in North America – preceding, coincident with, or ensuing and caused by the arrival of humans – for more than a hundred fifty years much the same question has been debated concerning the great late Pleistocene extinctions of huge numbers of native marsupial species in Australia. The latest entry weighs in on the scales and tilts the evidence toward a human role in the demise of Australia’s megafauna.

Fossil Diprotodon (Queensland Museum)

Published in: on January 22, 2010 at 5:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

Cat’s Paw Nebula

Cat's Paw Nebula -- NGC 6334 (ESO)

The European Southern Observatory (ESO) has released this stunning new image of the Cat’s Paw Nebula (NGC 6334), a complex region of gas and dust near the heart of the Milky Way, 5500 light-years away. The vast cloud of gas, more than 50 light-years across, is a nursery where numerous enormous stars are being born.

As the ESO explains, “few objects in the sky have been as well named as the Cat’s Paw Nebula, a glowing gas cloud resembling the gigantic pawprint of a celestial cat out on an errand across the Universe. British astronomer John Herschel first recorded NGC 6334 in 1837 during his stay in South Africa. Despite using one of the largest telescopes in the world at the time, Herschel seems to have only noted the brightest part of the cloud, seen here towards the lower left . . . .

“NGC 6334 is one of the most active nurseries of massive stars in our galaxy and has been extensively studied by astronomers. The nebula conceals freshly minted brilliant blue stars — each nearly ten times the mass of our Sun and born in the last few million years. The region is also home to many baby stars that are buried deep in the dust, making them difficult to study. In total, the Cat’s Paw Nebula could contain several tens of thousands of stars.”

A broader view of the area surrounding the Cat's Paw Nebula (ESO)

A nebulous cat's paw.

Published in: on January 22, 2010 at 4:33 pm  Leave a Comment  

America’s Best High Schools

In December, US New & World Report published a ranking (for the third year in a row) of America’s Best 100 High Schools. To create their rankings, they analyzed 21,786 public high schools in 48 states and the District of Columbia. (You’ll find the methodology of the study here.)

There was just one gold medal winner in the state of Kansas (placing 62nd among the top 100), Sumner Academy of Arts and Science in Wyandotte County. However, more than three dozen others did well enough to earn a bronze medal. For a listing of their Best High Schools in Kansas (bronze medal winners), including two in Sedgwick County, check here.

You’ll also find a listing of the state-by-state statistics here.

Published in: on January 22, 2010 at 3:54 pm  Comments (1)  

Mount Rushmore: Library Fundraising Tour

Published in: on January 22, 2010 at 2:31 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Great Recession

Yesterday’s Wall Street Journal included an opinion editorial entitled The Great Recession Continues, by Mortimer Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of US New & World Report. Whatever your political persuasion, it’s an interesting read. See what you think.

Published in: on January 22, 2010 at 2:28 pm  Leave a Comment  

Humankind Once An Endangered Species

The total population of human beings or their immediate predecessors living approximately 1 million years ago was, at a maximum, roughly 5 times the population of Haysville. So concludes a recently completed study using a new approach to genetic analysis to measure human diversity.

According to the primary author of the study, the conclusion would suggest that humankind had been brought perilously close to the edge of extinction by an event of catastrophic proportions at that time. (See the article cited from Scientific American for more details).

Published in: on January 22, 2010 at 2:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Land of Enchantment: Library Fundraising Tour

Published in: on January 22, 2010 at 11:41 am  Leave a Comment  

Titan & Tethys

Tethys Occluded by Titan (NASA, Cassini)

NASA’s Cassini orbiter captured this stunning set of photographs: Saturn’s largest moon Titan, in the foreground, occludes the much smaller moon Tethys while Cassini orbits the planet.

Published in: on January 22, 2010 at 10:24 am  Comments (1)