Blogger helps military rescue effort in Wenchuan, China

A blogger in China helped rescuers to locate a suitable landing field for their operations in Wenchuan.

A college girl successfully helped the Chinese air force to send relief effort, by posting on the Internet, Chinese news reported on May15th, 3 days after the magnitude 7.9 earthquake in Wenchuan County.
The girl, a student at Culinary Institute of Sichuan, is originally from Wenchuan. After knowing all roads to Wenchuan had been cut off by the earthquake and landslide that followed, and rescuing effort had major trouble to reach the epicenter by air due to the mountainous landscape of this valley county, she realized that a construction field near her village was probably a good location for helicopter landing….

Rain slows forest fire in Manitoba

A forest fire in Manitoba has been slightly dampened by rain. The fire started Saturday afternoon during a rally of all-terrain vehicles in a provincial park. The ATV rally was called off four hours early after the fire started. The organizers have shut down access to their Web site and are not answering calls.

aerial view of fire at Sandlands Provincial Park, Manitoba

This news story suggest that several thousand hectares are burning. But I wonder if the reporter has mixed up hectares with acres.

MacLean’s Magazine says that 28 square kilometers have burned, but rain has reduced the fire to a smoulder

The fire, which has been burned about 28-square kilometres, was reduced to a smouldering blaze after 4.5 millimetres of rain fell overnight.

Tom Mirus, manager of the province’s conservation fire program, says the fire does not pose a direct threat to any community in the area and there have been no evacuations.

Two water bombers, two helicopters and ground crews are working to keep the fire contained, but Mirus says it could be days before it’s considered under control.

The fire was caused by humans and Mirus says investigators are trying to determine if an all-terrain vehicle derby being held in the forest may have sparked the blaze.

I don’t know what the hyphen in “28 square” means; probably nothing but it could mean that the fire is 28 km on a side.

Common ancestor of frogs & salamanders

amphibian, 280 million years ago, Gerobatrachus hottoniResearchers have examined a well-preserved amphibian fossil and found that it fills the gap between frogs and salamanders. Gerobatrachus hottoni, “Hotton’s old frog,” has a mosaic of features such as a salamander’s walk and a tail but a wide, froggy head. It comes from a time, 280 million years ago, before frogs and salamanders became separate branches on the tree of life.

their research, published in Thursday’s issue of the journal Nature, settles a long and hot debate in scientific circles as to just how these species evolved.

“This fossil is the most like the modern amphibian that you find and it’s from incredibly ancient times,” said principal investigator Jason Anderson, an assistant professor of veterinary anatomy at the University of Calgary who specializes in vertebrate paleontology.

“So what this does is provide conclusive evidence that frogs and salamanders have an origin among one particular group of extinct fossil amphibians,” he said Wednesday from Calgary. “This fossil falls right into a gap in the fossil record between one archaic group of amphibians and the earliest examples of the modern amphibians, frogs and salamanders.”

The fossilized remains were discovered in 1995 in the scrub land of north-central Texas by the late Nicholas Hotton of the Smithsonian Institution, the man for whom the long-extinct creature is named.

Hotton, who died two years later, knew he had made a significant find, said Anderson.

“With a slip of paper found with the specimen and in his handwriting is the nickname ‘Froggie.’ So he recognized the specimen for what it was immediately after he found it.”

The slab of silt stone bearing the 12-centimetre-long creature’s imprint had languished in the Smithsonian’s collection for some time before a U.S. colleague brought it to Anderson’s attention; he jumped at the chance to create a team to partially raise it from its rocky grave.

Co-author Robert Reisz, a professor of biology who heads a vertebrate paleontology research lab at the University of Toronto, came on board to lay bare the creature’s skeleton, delicately chipping away at the chalk-like rock in which it was embedded.

It has small teeth, a reduced number of vertebrae, salamander ankle bones, a frog’s ear, and a lightly built skeleton.

The first frog fossils date from about fifty million years later.


Complete specimen in ventral view, photograph (left) and interpretive outline drawing (right). Abbreviations: bc, basale commune; cl, cleithrum; cv, clavicle; dm, digital elements of the manus; dt3, distal tarsal 3; fe, femur; h, humerus; ic, intercentrum; il, ilium; is, ischium; op, olecranon process of ulna; pc, pleurocentrum; r, radius; sr, sacral rib. [Diagram from Pharyngula]

Eagle cam

This web camera is focussed on an eagle’s nest. Currently, there’s at least one nestling. But turn down the sound a little: there’s traffic noise.

The Brackendale Eagle Sanctuary in British Columbia has a link to this webcam, stating that it is on Hornby Island. The island is close to Vancouver Island, in Georgia Strait between Vancouver Island and the mainland.

aerial view of Hornby Island, B.C.

Apartment therapy: the amazing staircase

A friend sent me this link to the amazing bookshelf staircase. It seems like a neat idea but a bit hard to navigate while one is half asleep.

Staircase with built-in book shelves

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