092216: Goodbye Summer

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Thanks to the world of moss and lichen some otherwise bland looking fossils take on a whole new appearance. Today’s opening image shows a shard of coarse sandstone filled with broken pieces of brachiopods, coral, and other denizens of that inland sea that covered this area 387 million ears ago. Moss has grown thick on parts of the rocks while some strange little (I believe) lichen appear like some bright blue pinheads.

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This extreme close-up gives a better sense of them. If anyone can confirm just what they are I would be grateful to hear back.

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Here are several more images of the moss creeping up on some soon to be covered marine invertebrates.

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Those images got me back into my routine. I haven’t had much time for fresh shooting lately, being sidetracked with other matters. So I continued aiming the camera at other fossils nearby and found my groove again. Here is what was near at hand.

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Goodbye to Summer and all that goes with it, including butterflies.

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I’ll close with these two variations on circles! Above is a nest within a nest. The large one came from a visit last Autumn to Paradox Lake in the Adirondacks. The small one, found by Cindy this Summer, we believe to have come from a ruby-throated hummingbird.

And below – the  second piece of my Galileo series. The first one, which was posted a month ago, is currently on view through this weekend at the Woodstock Artist Assn. and Museum (WAAM).

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Thanks for the visit.

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090116: On the Shore

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Almost everyone I know who vacations at a beach has a bag or box full of sea shells as souvenirs of the visit. There is something special about them. Perhaps it’s their seeming delicacy despite surviving the battering of the waves. Or maybe they are just kind of cool!

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I feel all that as I walk along the shore – captured by the seashells that wash up. The images I have for you today alternate between some of the shells that I found in Maine a couple of weeks ago and other fossil shells from my last visit shooting at the Museum of Natural History in Florence, Italy. These ancestors of today’s seashells, if I recall correctly, range on age from six to twenty million years old!

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And, aside from the quality of the individual specimens, it seems on the surface that not much has changed for them.

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As a point of reference, the earliest manifestation of humans, the first hominins,began to appear approximately 2.8 million years ago.

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Personally, I love these references to time. It helps to see with a bit of perspective.

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When I walk along the shore I simply cannot ignore the rocks.

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Thanks for the visit.

051216: Spring Cleaning

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The recent great weather has inspired me to deal with a long standing personal issue – tackling the many large piles of fossil laden rocks that surround my studio. It’s a problem of my own creation and it is way out of hand!

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The upside of such an issue is that I have a seemingly endless supply of material to re-explore and discover favorites both old and new.

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The down aide is that each new trip to the quarry or creek has me returning with bags full of fresh new prospects and the piles of rocks grow larger and larger.

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So, before paring things down, I chose to crack open those rocks headed for disposal – one last chance for them to show me something new.

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And these are some of the last minute finds.

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All of the fossils shown are locally found brachiopods (with the exception of the partial gastropod that appeared in the lead image).

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These two are positive and negative from the same fossils – both well delineated and as crisp as could be.

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A new (and permanent) exhibition opens this week at the Florence Museum of Natural History. Tales of a Whale is the product of nine years of effort which began with the discovery of a ten meter long, three million year old whale skeleton in the hills of Tuscany.

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The beautifully designed exhibit, seemingly set in a deep blue sea, centers around the whale skeleton which is surrounded by fossils of other marine life that were found in the same field. All this makes for a fascinating and informative look at that local ecology with a strong nod to contemporary ecological issues. (The image above comes from Museum files. The following image comes from a slide show on the website of La Repubblica Firenze where more images of the exhibit can be found).

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My congratulations and best wishes go out to Dr. Stefano Domenici and Dr. Elisabetta Cioppi for their brilliant work and long time efforts – efforts that have resulted in a brilliant exhibition and a greater understanding of our world. Should you find yourself in Florence, put this destination on your list!

Thanks as always for your visit here today.

050516: May Begins

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It’s a rainy start for May this year here in the Catskill region. I’ve had a couple of opportunities to get outside with my camera in between raindrops.

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My first stop was the garden – I know, flower shots – what a cliche! But when the world around you looks so good you can’t ignore it.

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And this delicacy is a very brief treat.

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Stop number two was my favorite neighborhood quarry.

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Interesting rocks with a few fossils (all brachiopods) mixed in.

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This last image is something of a group shot – a handful of local fossils sitting on my shooting table.

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These last two images, both of which have been seen here recently, will appear in two shows opening on Saturday at WAAM, the Woodstock Artist Association and Museum.The “mushroom” cabinet image, taken on my recent trip to the Florence Museum of Natural History, was chosen to appear in Far and Wide, the 8th Annual Woodstock Regional.

And in the downstairs gallery, the image below received an Honorable Mention in the Small Works Show. If you are in the area please drop by. The opening reception for both shows is 4 – 6 pm.

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Thanks for the visit.

042816 – Simple Design, Simple Minds

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Many of the objects seen here today look like they just got scooped up on a recent trip to the beach. Rather, they are marine invertebrate fossils that, if memory serves me correctly, range in age from six to twenty million years old.

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It seemed like a good idea to present this group (all from the collection of the Museum of Natural History in Florence, Italy) in black and white.

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These wonderful designs of Nature display well in a most simple fashion.

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Last week’s topic on the sophistication of non-human minds drew an interesting variety of response. And with it still fresh in my mind I now keep running into similar types of articles. So let me share a couple of new ones with you.

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“Brain scans of insects appear to indicate that they have the capacity to be conscious and show egocentrico, apparently indicating that they have such a thing as subjective experience.” That’s the finding of study written by Andrew B Barron and Colin Klein, and published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences.

http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/19/science/honeybees-insects-consciousness-brains.html?_r=0

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And here’s one on slime mold:

“…But that view has been changing in recent years as scientists have been confronted with the astounding abilities of brainless creatures. Take the slime mold, for example. It’s an amoeba-like, single-celled organism filled with multiple nuclei, part of a primitive lineage that’s been munching on bacteria, fungi and other forest detritus for hundreds of millions of years. And yet, this very simple living thing manages all kinds of intellectual feats.”

http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-slime-mold-brain-learning-20160426-story.html

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It’s amazing what we continue to learn on the subject.

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And one last note on the general subject of intelligence, the brainiacs over at NASA are celebrating twenty five years of Hubble images with this video. Take a moment to view these astonishing images.

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Thanks as always for the visit.

0421: Anecdotes and Anthropomorphism

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Today’s title comes from a fascinating article in the latest issue of Atlantic Magazine. Entitled “How Animals Think,” the article refers to the work of primatologist Frans de Waal who makes “… a passionate and convincing case for the sophistication of nonhuman minds.” Like many of you, I grew up being taught that the non-human version of thinking was “instinct” and nothing more. And, despite the various anecdotes of animal behavior suggesting otherwise, and despite being told that it was our need sometimes to imagine human traits in animals, there was no truth to any of it.

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Rather, thanks to advances in technology and scientific research, we are beginning to see that “As de Waal recognizes, a better way to think about other creatures would be to ask ourselves how different species have developed different kinds of minds to solve different adaptive problems.”

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In fact, in many cases those particular kinds of minds can be quite astounding. Last Sunday’s NY Times ran an article entitled “A Conversation With Whales,” in which the following statement is made:

Sperm whales’ brains are the largest ever known, around six times the size of humans’. They have an oversize neocortex and a profusion of highly developed neurons called spindle cells that, in humans, govern things like emotional suffering, compassion and speech.

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Times have changed. Most phones these days have video capability, Youtube and Facebook now exist and abound with examples of animal behavior that previously had rarely been seen (those anecdotes that that had been so easily dismissed in the past).

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Whether it be a chimp hugging Jane Goodall goodbye or the mourning rituals of elephants, these and many other examples are helping us to evolve to a greater understanding of the world around us and, perhaps, our own place within it.

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So I had  a mix of emotions when I took these images recently in the back rooms of La Specola, the noted natural history museum in Florence, Italy. It was simultaneously compelling and repelling. While this taxidermy in the pursuit of science and research served its purpose in the past I assume that more enlightened minds now see that such practices are no longer appropriate.

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And, after having spent many Sunday afternoons visiting the Bronx Zoo as a kid, I can hardly approve of the caged displays of animals anymore.

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Despite this long history of misunderstanding, attitudes are changing. Animal sentience has been codified into law in New Zealand and France recently. In August of 2012 an international group of prominent scientists (including Dr. Stephen Hawking) signed “The Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness” declaring animal sentience as real.

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It is certainly something worth considering.

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Let me make a switch now to perhaps the other end of the “consciousness” spectrum – lichen! Not a lot of brain activity around here.  But an interesting organism nonetheless.

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Thanks for the visit.

0414: Birds

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Shortly after returning from our recent trip both Cindy and I each found these two interesting objects – bird skulls. Not an everyday occurrence for sure but it seemed appropriate after having just spent so much time in the Ornithology Department of La Specola in Florence.

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What immediately came to mind as I was setting up this last one was the pterodactyl (below) that I photographed in the Fossil Department. Certainly birdlike but apparently there is much discussion as to just how “birdlike” or how “reptile-like” it actually is. From what I was able to discern, the pterodactyl was a “flying reptile.” Its all a bit confusing to me. All I know for sure is that the images all work well with each other.

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And so this week’s selection is quite literally for the birds!

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One final note – Today I’d like to take a moment to wish a most warm and happy birthday to Cindy, the love of my life.

Happy Birthday my dear Cindy!!!