The recent release of “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" reminded me of one of my favorite ape vs. man films – this 1932 video that shows a baby chimpanzee and a baby human undergoing the same basic psychological tests.

Its gets weirder – the human baby (Donald) and the chimpanzee baby (Gua) were both raised as humans by their biological/adopted father Winthrop Niles Kellogg.  Kellogg was a comparative psychologist fascinated by the interplay between nature and nurture, and he devised a fascinating (and questionably ethical) experiment to study it:

Suppose an anthropoid were taken into a typical human family at the day of birth and reared as a child. Suppose he were fed upon a bottle, clothed, washed, bathed, fondled, and given a characteristically human environment; that he were spoken to like the human infant from the moment of parturition; that he had an adopted human mother and an adopted human father.

First, Kellogg had to convince his pregnant wife he wasn’t crazy:

 …the enthusiasm of one of us met with so much resistance from the other that it appeared likely we could never come to an agreement upon whether or not we should even attempt such an undertaking.

She apparently gave in, because Donald and Gua were raised, for nine months, as brother and sister. Much like Caesar in the “Planet of the Apes” movies, Gua developed faster than her “brother,” and often outperformed him in tasks. But she soon hit a cognitive wall, and the experiment came to an end. (Probably for the best, as Donald had begun to speak chimpanzee.)

You can read more about Kellogg’s experiment, its legacy, and public reaction to it here.

NASA engineers use origami as inspiration when they fold up solar panels for their trip to space. Shown here: the Miura fold. Once a piece of paper (or solar array) is all folded up, it can be completely unfolded in one smooth motion. You can read more about origami in space here, and learn how to do the Miura fold in this video:

Image: Astronaut Scott Parazynski repairs a damaged ISS solar panel (NASA)


Casa Tomada Rafael Gómez Barros

"The urban interventions are meant to represent displacement of peasants in his native Columbia [sic] due to war and violence, themes that resonate in one form or another in any country his work is displayed in. Crafted from tree branches, fiberglass, and fabric, the 2 foot ants are particularly striking when seen clustered aggressively on facades of buildings.”

I will always reblog giant ants.

The Eighth International Conference on Mars kicks off today - a perfect opportunity to share the USGS’s beautiful geologic map of Mars. The last map like this was made in 1986, and we’ve learned a whole lot since then. 

The different colors represent different types of rock. Viewed through a geological lens the red planet looks more like a rainbow planet.

The Mapmakers: Kenneth L. Tanaka, James A. Skinner, Jr., James M. Dohm, Rossman P. Irwin, III, Eric J. Kolb, Corey M. Fortezzo, Thomas Platz, Gregory G. Michael, and Trent M. Hare

It’s been a busy week in wolverine news!

Wolverine spotted in Utah for the first time in 35 years

Utah Division of Wildlife Resources announced the sighting last Wednesday. UDWR biologist Adam Brewerton had set up a camera trap (that same technique used to catch those pics of the adorable Pallas’s cat) baited with a roadkill deer. When he collected the camera he found images of a curious wolverine snuffling around the (by that time empty) trap.

Should wolverines be listed as a threatened species?

Back in February of 2013, the Fish and Wildlife Service proposed that wolverines be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Here’s their logic:

  • Wolverines build their dens in deep snow to protect their young.
  • Climate change tends to melt snow.
  • Wolverines have a small but stable population now (~300 individuals) but in the future they will be in trouble.

But now a regional FWS director, biologist Noreen Walsh, has raised questions about the proposal. She says there’s not enough scientific evidence to accurately predict climate change’s effect on wolverines. She even mentioned the Utah sighting as anecdotal evidence that wolverines are expanding further into their historic range. Critics say she was swayed by political pressure from state agencies.  A final ruling from the FWS will be made by August 4th, so I’ll keep you posted.

"In Wolverine News" Issues: #1 #2 #3

What makes fireworks colorful?

It’s all thanks to the luminescence of metals. When certain metals are heated (over a flame or in a hot explosion) their electrons jump up to a higher energy state. When those electrons fall back down, they emit specific frequencies of light - and each chemical has a unique emission spectrum.

You can see that the most prominent bands in the spectra above match the firework colors. The colors often burn brighter with the addition of an electron donor like Chlorine (Cl). 

But the metals alone wouldn’t look like much. They need to be excited. Black powder (mostly nitrates like KNO3) provides oxygen for the rapid reduction of charcoal (C) to create a lot hot expanding gas - the BOOM. That, in turn, provides the energy for luminescence - the AWWWW.

Aluminium has a special role — it emits a bright white light … and makes sparks!

Images: Charles D. Winters, Andrew Lambert Photography / Science Source, iStockphoto, Epic Fireworks, Softyx, Mark Schellhase, Walkerma, Firetwister, Rob Lavinsky,, Søren Wedel Nielsen