Science, to a Student

Biology student and natural history museum paleontology laboratory volunteer. Career goal is dinosaur paleontology. Blog comprised of any and all things science.

Science Movie Night: Godzilla | Natural History Museum of Utah

scifitoastudent:

Tuesday, August 12, 2014 - 7:00pm
The City Library - 210 East 400 South, Salt Lake City, Utah

Japan is thrown into a panic after several ships explode and are sunk. At first, the authorities think its either underwater mines or underwater volcanic activity. The authorities soon head to Odo Island, close to where several of the ships were sunk. One night, something comes onshore and destroys several houses and kills several people. A later expedition to the island led by paleontologist Professor Kyôhei Yamane, his daughter Emiko, and young navy frogman Hideto Ogata soon discover something more devastating than imagined in the form of a 164-foot-tall monster whom the natives call Gojira. Now, the monster begins a rampage that threatens to destroy not only Japan but the rest of the world as well. Can the monster be destroyed before it is too late, and what role will the mysterious Serizawa play in the battle?

After the film, join Nicola Barber, a postdoctoral scholar at the University of Utah’s Genetic Science Learning Center. Dr. Barber will discuss mutation and the genetic implications of radiation exposure. She’ll also highlight some interesting organisms that, like Godzilla, are remarkably resistant to radiation or have adapted to use radiation as a source of energy.

Winner - Special Effects - Japan Movie Association Awards (1954)

Nominated - Best Picture - Japan Movie Association Awards (1954)

Directed by Ishiro Honda
Not rated | 96 min.  | 1954 | Japan


Science Movie Night is presented by the Natural History Museum of Utah in partnership with the Utah Film Center.
We thank the Salt Lake City Public Library, our presenting sponsor.
This event is free and open to the public.

Save the date!

For those of you (like me) here in Salt Lake City, Utah, this should be an epic blast of an event.  I will almost certainly be going to this.  One of my favorite sci-fi movies of all time, and it looks like they are doing the Japanese version, too (in my mind the ONLY version of the original film).  Hope to see you there!

From my science fiction blog.

Godzilla (2014): A Review, by Science Fiction, to a Student

scifitoastudent:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/1/10/Godzilla_(2014)_poster.jpg

Greetings, my readers!

It is finally time to sit down and write my Godzilla review.  I am sorry it has taken me so long to get to this, but it’s been an incredibly busy summer (filled with fossils, laboratories, paleontologists, and Allosaurus research), and as I have now seen the film a second time, and because I had wanted to make this post coincide with the date of release in Japan (I’m excited to hear what Japanese moviegoers think about this new American version of their beloved kaiju!) it is now time to post this review. 

That said, let’s dig into my review, shall we?  Warning: SPOILERS!  If you haven’t seen the film already (which I highly recommend you do), it is up to you if you choose to read or not.  Be ye forewarned.

I am a huge fan of the original 1954 film.  That’s right, I’m talking about the true version (the only version, in my humble opinion), not the 1956 American re-edit featuring Raymond Burr.  Known as Gojira and only available to western audiences in recent years, if you haven’t yet seen this version, you owe it to yourself to watch it.  Seriously, it’s amazing.  Beyond that, I have seen all thirty Godzilla films (28 Japanese and now two American films, counting the 1998 Devlin/Emmerich film almost unanimously considered to be an atrocity).

Devoted fan of the original as I am, I loved this new movie.  I was pleasantly surprised with it, and rather than being another misstep, it goes a long way towards wiping away the national shame that came from the 1998 American remake.  (It’s okay, I’m teasing, folks!  Mostly….)

Director Gareth Edwards did a fine job honoring the original film.  He took an interesting approach to a first installment (or a stand-alone film, but we hope not).  Whereas the original 1954 film as well as the 1998 American remake took the plot approach of Godzilla vs. humanity, most of Toho’s films as well as this new film takes on Godzilla vs. another monster (or in this case, two monsters) with humanity caught in between.  While I might’ve liked to see a little more Godzilla-centricity (for the first half of the film at least I felt Godzilla was taking a bit of the backstage to the MUTOs), I can understand and appreciate Edwards’ approach.

Gareth Edwards proved he could create viable characters and tell a human story even with the backdrop being monsters smashing things with his only other film, Monsters (which, by the way, is worth a watch just for how unique it is).  While perhaps not enough to wow the Academy, the acting was at worst decent and usually better, with Bryan Cranston shining most prominently.  Ken Watanabe’s excellent skills may not have been utilized to the fullest, as I felt his character (the original film’s namesake, Dr. Serizawa) wasn’t fully developed.  However, as we don’t go to a Godzilla movie for the drama, what we had was more than sufficient in satisfying the film’s own internal storytelling requirements.

The score was decent and perhaps fitting.  I enjoyed Alexandre Desplat’s new theme (even if it is a bit reminiscent of David Arnold’s 1998 theme), but admittedly was left wanting when we had no musical salute to Akira Ifukube’s brilliant original score.  I had wanted at least an end credits nod to the true Gojira theme, but anything would have been better than nothing (see here, here, and here). 

One of my favorite things about any creature sci-fi flick is to ponder the biology of said creature(s), and here was no exception.  Putting aside the utter impossibility of an animal so very large (stay tuned for other blog articles on Godzilla’s biology), we had some fun things to think about as we watched this new movie.  The MUTOs are so bizarre I cannot classify them as anything other than an entirely new class of organism, if not an entirely new phylum, but they do appear to be arthropod-like (something perhaps alluded to with the secret organization codename MONARCH, the butterfly metamorphosis poster in the Japanese classroom, and the Madagascar hissing cockroaches and the millipede in Cranston and son’s house). But do they have an endoskeleton, or an exoskeleton?  Who knows!  And therein lies some of the fun of it.

After our group saw the film, my friend pwndepug pointed out that Godzilla must breathe via cloacal respiration while under water, such as some turtles do today.  I had long ago merely decided it was “movie magic” and there was no real explanation to how our big scaly hero breathed (no other Godzilla movie had ever tackled the problem).  And of course, Godzilla does appear to be appropriately reptilian (if not dinosaurian this time around), so this fits.  Great point, pwndepug

I know many have called this new Legendary Godzilla fat, but I don’t find this to be an appropriate accusation.  Stocky, yes, but not fat.  The straight fact of the matter is that Godzilla has never been lean (no, Zilla does not count!), and in this new film I didn’t see any wobbling legs or bellies as we can in many of the older films.  Perhaps this perception stems from the fact that the head and arms do seem a little scaled down in regards to the rest of the body compared to what we might expect from prior Toho films.  Although I am not at all convinced at my own though, we might want to at least consider the possibility that Godzilla has a layer of fat or blubber to keep himself warm in the ocean’s depths.  I know, I know, reptiles don’t possess blubber, you say—but neither do they breathe atomic fire, either.

A few other issues I had are as follows:

The persistent question of “When did the MUTOs do it?” stayed with me.  We can neither expect nor ask to actually see them copulate on screen (I don’t think anyone wanted to see that!), but we do need at least a reference to it.  They meet, the male offers his nuclear gift, he flies away, and the female goes off to lay her eggs.  When did he actually put his genes into the mix?  Who knows.

Another small but perhaps glaring issue was the question as to how the military missed a hole in the side of a mountain, and why the soldier needed binoculars to find a monster bigger than most skyscrapers in the middle of the Nevada desert.  Oh well.

The director’s promise of having a different theme than the anti-atomic weapon/America-as-monster theme of the original film was not entirely realized in the sense that I personally was not fully satisfied with mere mentions of nature’s so-called order (what, with Edwards’ statements I had been expecting somewhat misanthropic themes).  However, this wasn’t too big of an issue for me, and I only mention it here because of the expectation I had due to Edwards’ statements prior to the film’s release.

One final, perhaps petty thing was largely due to suspense.  In the beginning of the film when they find the cave in the Philippines, the pacing is too quick, and we have too many obvious verbal statements giving away facts that otherwise would be far more frightening if we left the audience to realize for themselves just what had been found in the cave.  I’m thinking of something akin to when the crew of the Nostromo find and then investigate the derelict alien spacecraft in Ridley Scott’s Alien (1979).  But perhaps I’m just being nitpicky here.

All in all, this was a good film, I enjoyed it, and it was a valuable addition to the Godzilla franchise.  I now must request two things:

First: I want sequels!  I know we hear that we will get one or two when Edwards is done with his Star Wars installment, and to this end he has said he is interested in doing a monster island plotline.  Before this movie came out (I saw it opening day), I was desirous of sequels even then.  I wanted to see more monsters, the classic kaiju Mothra, Rodan, and Godzilla’s arch-nemesis, King Ghidorah.  In the days following the release, I realized many people saw the MUTOs as revamps of either Mothra or Rodan, and while I would still love to see both these kaiju in a following Godzilla film, I can understand why this will not happen if merely due to similarities.  However, I can and still do demand King Ghidorah.  There is simply no other kaiju who can challenge Godzilla so completely.

Second: We have not had a Japanese Toho Godzilla film since Godzilla: Final Wars in 2004, when they temporarily retired Gojira.  I want to see a whole new series.  I loved even the Millennium series, and am perfectly happy with more suitmation—it’s what Toho Godzilla is to me, and for those who can never have enough Gojira, it’s perfectly satisfactory.

That said, I’ll be watching for news about the second film, and I’ll continue to enjoy this new film as well as the other twenty-eight movies (yes, I said twenty-eight, again Zilla does not count!).  Stay tuned for more Godzilla themed posts (especially about his biology, as mentioned above), upcoming in the next day or so and perhaps more in future.

This has been a review by Science Fiction, to a Student.  Thanks for reading!

From my science fiction blog.  Enjoy!

Bony body tube for a bizarre marine reptile - The Integrative Paleontologists by Andrew Farke

lythronax-argestes-the-gore-king:

sciencetoastudent:

As I left my local library today….

In my experience, when pressed ants are more interested in self-preservation than food when it comes down to it.  This is perfectly understandable.  So, like I did so many thousands of times as a boy, I blew on the ants, expecting them to scatter and reveal whatever food source they were on and go running.  Nope.  I also noticed there were no trails of ants going off to or from a nest.

Anyone seen this before?

Weird…

Fire ants by any chance?

Or are they all gone from the US?

Nope, not fire ants, but I’m afraid my myrmecological skills end just about there without hitting a good research library to grab some formicid books for ident purposes.

sr-ricos said: when I’ve seen something similar, they were transporting their larvae to a new location. At least I saw some of them carrying larvae, but I’m no entomologist

I’ve seen that before, too, but they weren’t traveling from one location to another, and I found no objects in any of their mandibles whatsoever.  Interesting.

gryffinthesnake said: THAT IS TERRIFYING WHY WOULD YOU GET THAT CLOSE TO IT

If you get to know them a little bit ants are really fun, charming little creatures.  At least fascinating, if you don’t look at them the same way I do.  I personally am biased and have quite the affinity for them.  They’re old childhood friends of mine, really.  I can’t even begin to calculate how many blissful hours were spent just watching ants.

Where have all the mammoths gone? And why do we care?

What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of Africa? Probably a lot of big animals, right? Elephants and lions, zebras and cheetahs, hippos and rhinos, giraffes, and enormous herds of wildebeest moving across the savannah.

African animals

A selection of modern African animals, including megafauna. Image in the public domain.

Well, what a lot of people don’t realize is that for most of the past 50 million years, most of the world looked a lot like Africa! Not that long ago, Europe, Asia, and North and South America all hosted relatives of elephants, zebras, and lions inhabiting ecosystems that looked a lot like today’s African savannah. There were rhinos roaming the Riviera, wooly mammoths wandering Wyoming, and Glyptodons (a kind of giant armadillo) gallivanting in Guyana. Here in California we had mammoths and mastodons (another elephant relative), horses and tapirs, oxen and antelopes, jaguars and lions, saber-toothed cats (our state fossil!), giant wolves, giant bears, giant bison, and (my favorite) giant sloths. South America had rodents the size of cows. Australia had wombats the size of hippos. Even relatively small islands had giant mammals, although not quite as giant as on the continents, because big animals tend to get smaller (and small animals bigger) on islands. There were giant lemurs on Madagascar, pygmy hippos in the Mediterranean, dwarf giant sloths in the Caribbean, and pygmy mammoths on California’s Channel Islands.

South American megafauna

South American megafauna 15,000 years ago during the Pleistocene. Photo jqjacobs.net.

Scientists call these giant animals “megafauna” (mega = big, and fauna = animals). We still have megafauna in the world, but there used to be a whole lot more of it. In fact, it appears that having a large number of large-bodied animals in an ecosystem is actually the normal state for our planet, at least for the geologic era we are living in today, the Cenozoic (or “Age of Mammals”) . But sometime in the past 50,000 years (very recent geologically), everywhere except for Africa, most of those large animals became extinct. And we still aren’t sure why!

People often ask me, “Why was everything bigger in the past?” But I think the question should really be the other way around — “Why is everything so small now?” As a paleontologist studying the extinction of the megafauna, this is a question I ask on a daily basis.

Basically, there are two main ideas about why these large animals went extinct. One hypothesis is that the extinctions were actually due to us — to humans. The scientists who peg people as the culprits point to several lines of evidence: For one thing, in most of the places where the extinctions happened, large animals tend to disappear from ecosystems right about the same time that humans arrive for the first time (we know this from radioisotopic dating, scientific techniques that allow us to determine the exact age of fossils and the sediments they are found in). Also, in a few places, we actually have evidence of humans hunting extinct megafauna, such as mammoths. Finally, we know from modern situations that humans can have a major impact on animals, both directly (like hunting) and indirectly (like burning forests, fragmenting habitats, and causing erosion) .

The second hypothesis for why the megafauna went extinct is that the climate changed too much (or too fast), and the animals could not adapt to their new environments. We know that climate was changing at the time that the megafauna disappeared in many parts of the world, and in some places (including Ireland and northern Europe and Asia) the extinctions seem to be correlated with changes in vegetation and stress that can be directly linked to climate. Scientists who favor this hypothesis also point out that given all the fossils we have of extinct megafauna, only a handful show any evidence of hunting by humans.

Finally, there are some scientists — including myself and many of my colleagues — who think that most of the global megafauna extinctions probably resulted from a combination of both climate and human impacts. While there appear to be some places where extinctions may have been caused by climate change alone, and others where humans were the sole culprit, it seems that more species went extinct faster in regions where both of these factors came into play simultaneously. Whatever the answer, scientists all over the world are working to learn more about why our world looks so different today than it did in the past.

Why do we care about what caused the megafauna extinctions? Aside from the “wow” factor of reimagining these past ecosystems, large mammals constitute many of the world’s most currently endangered species, and so understanding how these animals are affected by climate changes and human activities might help us prevent the megafauna that are still alive today from disappearing too. This is important not only because it would be sad to have a world with no elephants, tigers, or polar bears, but also because losing these big animals could spell trouble for a lot of other species, including humans. Megafauna have major impacts on Earth’s ecosystems: they affect what plants grow where, how often and long forest fires burn, and how rich the soil is. They are important transporters of nutrients and seeds, and they can create and destroy habitat for smaller species. Megafauna are so important, in fact, that some scientists have proposed reintroducing them to habitats where they once lived — either by actually cloning extinct species, or by bringing in their closest living relatives from (where else?) Africa.

While these measures may help restore some natural areas, they are no substitute for maintaining healthy ecosystems in the first place. Hopefully, the research being done by scientists like me and my colleagues today can be used in conservation efforts, to help prevent the next big megafauna extinction.

• South American megafauna image from jqjacobs.net.

There are two great mysteries that overshadow all other mysteries in science. One is the origin of the universe. That’s my day job. However, there is also the other great mystery of inner space. And that is what sits on your shoulders, which believe it or not, is the most complex object in the known universe. But the brain only uses 20 watts of power. It would require a nuclear power plant to energise a computer the size of a city block to mimic your brain, and your brain does it with just 20 watts. So if someone calls you a dim bulb, that’s a compliment.

Really Bad Science Jokes | Coma Niddy University

goodstuffhappenedtoday:

Sixth-Grader’s Science Fair Finding Shocks Ecologists

When 12-year-old Lauren Arrington heard about her sixth-grade science project, she knew she wanted to study lionfish. Growing up in Jupiter, Fla., she saw them in the ocean while snorkeling and fishing with her dad.
Her project showed that the lionfish can survive in nearly fresh water. The results blew away professional ecologists. The invasive species has no predators on the Florida coast, so if they were to migrate upstream in rivers, they could pose a threat to the ecosystem.
"Scientists were doing plenty of tests on them, but they just always assumed they were in the ocean," Lauren, now 13, tells NPR’s Kelly McEvers. "So I was like, ‘Well, hey guys, what about the river?’ "In the beginning, she wanted to conduct her test by placing the lionfish in cages at different points in the river, but she had to simplify the project.
"It was just a small, sixth-grade project, and I really didn’t have all the tools necessary," she says. Her dad, who has a Ph.D. in fish ecology, suggested that she put the fish in tanks instead.
Lauren then put six different lionfish in six different tanks where she could watch her subjects closely. Lauren was given a strict set of rules by the science fair organizers. The most important one: Her fish could not die.
Lionfish had been found to live in water with salt levels of 20 parts per thousand. But no one knew that they could live in water salinity below that.
One of the six lionfish was her control fish, and the rest were the experimental fish. Every night for eight days, she would lower the salinity 5 parts per thousand in the experimental tanks. On the eighth day of her experiment, she found her experimental fish were living at 6 parts per thousand. She was amazed.
Her research did not stop there. Craig Layman, an ecology professor at North Carolina State University, confirmed Lauren’s results. “He credited a sixth-grader for coming up with his idea,” Lauren says ecstatically. Layman’s findings were published this year in the science journal Environmental Biology of Fishes. Lauren is mentioned in the acknowledgments.
Lauren’s father says he talks about science with her a lot. “We’re a science bunch of dorks in our family,” he tells McEvers.

goodstuffhappenedtoday:

Sixth-Grader’s Science Fair Finding Shocks Ecologists

When 12-year-old Lauren Arrington heard about her sixth-grade science project, she knew she wanted to study lionfish. Growing up in Jupiter, Fla., she saw them in the ocean while snorkeling and fishing with her dad.

Her project showed that the lionfish can survive in nearly fresh water. The results blew away professional ecologists. The invasive species has no predators on the Florida coast, so if they were to migrate upstream in rivers, they could pose a threat to the ecosystem.

"Scientists were doing plenty of tests on them, but they just always assumed they were in the ocean," Lauren, now 13, tells NPR’s Kelly McEvers. "So I was like, ‘Well, hey guys, what about the river?’ "

In the beginning, she wanted to conduct her test by placing the lionfish in cages at different points in the river, but she had to simplify the project.

"It was just a small, sixth-grade project, and I really didn’t have all the tools necessary," she says. Her dad, who has a Ph.D. in fish ecology, suggested that she put the fish in tanks instead.

Lauren then put six different lionfish in six different tanks where she could watch her subjects closely. Lauren was given a strict set of rules by the science fair organizers. The most important one: Her fish could not die.

Lionfish had been found to live in water with salt levels of 20 parts per thousand. But no one knew that they could live in water salinity below that.

One of the six lionfish was her control fish, and the rest were the experimental fish. Every night for eight days, she would lower the salinity 5 parts per thousand in the experimental tanks. On the eighth day of her experiment, she found her experimental fish were living at 6 parts per thousand. She was amazed.

Her research did not stop there. Craig Layman, an ecology professor at North Carolina State University, confirmed Lauren’s results. “He credited a sixth-grader for coming up with his idea,” Lauren says ecstatically. Layman’s findings were published this year in the science journal Environmental Biology of Fishes. Lauren is mentioned in the acknowledgments.

Lauren’s father says he talks about science with her a lot. “We’re a science bunch of dorks in our family,” he tells McEvers.

(Source: NPR, via ajax-daughter-of-telamon)

grimogretricks asked: Superzoom is the name of a category of camera where having a big zoom is the main point. 28-400mm is a good start but many of those have up to 600mm or even 1000mm (getting telescope esque at that level). 600mm is pretty decent! For specific recommendations, other than searching for super zoom comparisons (can't link because this is an ask) my other suggestion would be to search dpreview, their buying guide has a 'big zoom compact cameras' link which will return results of the type you want.

Great advice, once again.  Thank you!  OK guys, maybe I need superzoom.  * researches more *

sixpenceee:

If only everything really complicated was explained this way. 

THE AUTHOR & MORE OF HIS BOOKS

This isn’t for babies, this is epic!  I could’ve had an hour of intense reading done away with in high school with this simple visual explanation.

I need to get my hands on these books!

(via jerisu09)

  • Baby: M-m
  • Mom: Mama?
  • Baby: The mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell

As I left my local library today….

In my experience, when pressed ants are more interested in self-preservation than food when it comes down to it.  This is perfectly understandable.  So, like I did so many thousands of times as a boy, I blew on the ants, expecting them to scatter and reveal whatever food source they were on and go running.  Nope.  I also noticed there were no trails of ants going off to or from a nest.

Anyone seen this before?

The Horse | Natural History Museum of Utah

The Horse

July 21, 2014 - January 4, 2015

Opens to members Saturday, July 19 and all guests on July 21. 

Explore the Enduring Bond between Humans and Horses

The Natural History Museum of Utah is excited to host The Horse.
 
Over time, humans have preyed upon horses, domesticated them, bred them for work and play, and forged deep emotional and spiritual connections with them. Come discover the fascinating story of how humans have shaped the horse, and how the horse, in turn has shaped us.
 
This special exhibition includes cultural objects from around the world, a hand-painted diorama depicting the evolution of the horse, and interactives that invite you to test your strength in horsepower, identify different breeds, and peek inside a life-size, moving horse. 
 
Explore one of Utah’s most important horse stories – the connection of the Ute people to horses. The Ute were among the first North American tribes to acquire horses from the Spanish in the 1600s. Discover how horses transformed Ute life in ways that continue to reverberate today.
 
Horses are integral to our history and touch us as individuals. Celebrate our bond with these magnificent creatures!
 

The Horse is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, New York, in collaboration with the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and heritage, United Arab Emirates; the Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau-Ottawa; The Field Museum, Chicago; and the San Diego Natural History Museum.

Presenting Sponsor: George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Foundation 

Major Sponsors: The ALSAM Foundation and R. Harold Burton Foundation

Opens tomorrow, in twelve hours!

(Source: sciencetoastudent)