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Monday, February 22, 2010

Of pandas and people ... and porn!

Animals in the zoo don't necessarily have it so good. Sure, they get food, water, shelter, candy and attention, but they're usually crowded, don't feel quite at home, and people stare at them most of the time.

And one activity that gets especially closely monitored is mating. Not nice.

For a lot of animals though, it's actually very important that they are closely followed when it comes to mating. Many animals in zoos are endangered in the wild, and zoo populations can actually be used to restore wild populations, or introduce som much needed genetic variance to small populations that might otherwise die out. Naturally, this is no replacement for healthy, stable populations in the wild, but it is a form of conservation.

So, back to mating. In captivity, many animals are reluctant to mate. This especially goes for pandas. But now, some researchers have managed to solve this panda-problem in a manner I don't think I would have thought of.

They show the pandas panda-porn. NSFW.

Also, I can tell you that pandas are a species in the order Carnivora, which generally consists of meat-eaters. Pandas eat mostly bamboo. It's strange. And since bamboo is harder to digest, pandas have to eat pretty much all their waking time. About 16 hours a day. It's a panda's life.

And while we're talking about getting inspired by dirty thoughts;

New research suggests that thinking about sex may sharpen your analytical skills.

So. Good luck to the pandas, with their newfound amour. And good luck with your critical thinking skills to all our non-panda readers.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Hugs and Science Hero: Neil DeGrasse Tyson

Some people are just cool. Like Neil DeGrasse Tyson! Not only is he the director of the Hayden Planetarium at the Natural History Museum in NYC, but he is also the author of books like: Death By Black Hole and The Sky is Not the Limit: Adventures of an Urban Astrophysicist.

He's been interested in astronomy since he was a kid, and was actually attempted solicited by Carl Sagan to attend Cornell instead of his later decided Harvard. Also, he was selected as the sexiest astrophysicist by People Magazine in 2000. Nice. He's got charisma.

He makes for a great evening of watching on YouTube. And, he said this:

"Of course I let my toddler play with spilled milk. It's obvious she is studying fluid dynamics."

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

In print!

I had the good fortune of meeting the wonderful paleontologist and popularizer Richard Fortey when he was in Oslo this fall. I interviewed him together with a fellow student for a student-based magazine from Oslo, called "argument:" . The article can be found here as a pdf, and our article is on page 50-51. It's in Norwegian. And it's quite cozy.

Fortey is just the kind of guy I want to be when I grow up to become and old guy (gal), extremely engaging, extremely interested, and very sweet and friendly.

Also, he writes wonderful books, bubbling with enthusiasm and anecdotes from a life in science. He is also probably the only person in the world who could have titled his book on trilobites " TRILOBITE! " Oh, man I love that exclamation point. He sometimes gets accused of being a fossil himself, but I think he's quite fine with it given his regard for fossils.

His books are among others: Dry Store Room nr. 1 - the secret life of the natural history museum, Trilobite!, Life: an unauthorized biography.

I'm a fan for life.