Archive for March, 2022

Pigloos

March 30, 2022

Wild boars (Sus scrofa) are an amazing adaptable Pleistocene survivor. Their fierce disposition and large litter sizes enabled them to survive predation from wolves, lions, and humans during the Pleistocene, and even today modern human hunters, sometimes armed with machine guns, have trouble putting a dent in their populations. They eat just about anything, and they can live in most climates. Wild boar remains, dating to the Pleistocene, have been found in at least 109 fossil sites located in Israel, Morocco, Libya, Greece, Monaco, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Austria, the United Kingdom, Slovakia, the Czeck Republic, Russia, China, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Some populations of wild boar were domesticated 5,000 years ago, and their descendants are modern day pigs–source of the pork chops, ribs, and bacon stocked by supermarkets. European settlers brought pigs to the Americas 500 years ago and let them forage in the woods where many escaped and went wild. 100 years ago, hunters introduced wild boars to the Appalachians, and they promptly interbred with existing wild pig populations, creating a kind of super hog that game managers have difficulty controlling. Pure bred wild boars wouldn’t be unmanageable, but domesticated pigs have been bred to produce exceptionally large litters, and the combination of tough wild boar with pigs that produce super-sized litters has overwhelmed many areas.

Wild boars have been abundant for over a million years.

Hunters recently introduced wild boars to Canada, resulting in the same situation found in parts of the U.S. and South America. Their ability to adapt to frigid Canadian climates surprised researchers. During winter these intelligent animals build houses constructed of cattail reeds near marshes. Snow and ice cover the houses, giving them the appearance of an igloo, and accordingly they are called pigloos. The pigs burrow into their pigloos, and the reeds covered in snow insulate the pigs and help keep their body heat inside the structures. Canadians need to increase the wolf population, so they can huff and puff and blow the pig houses down. Unfortunately, this would face too much opposition from hunters and ranchers.

Wild boars are spreading throughout Canada. They can live in colder climates because they build nests out of cattail plants known as pigloos. The well insulated nests are kept warm by the beast’s own body heat.

Cretaceous Age Fossil Feathers Found in Alabama

March 23, 2022

More fossil feathers of Cretaceous Age have been found in the state of Alabama than in any other state. 14 fossil feathers, encased in shale, were found in a lens located in the Eutaw Formation, the site of an ancient shoreline. Shale is basically fossilized mud, and ocean currents rapidly buried the feathers in mud which eventually turned to shale. The fossilized feathers are impressions of the original objects. The Cretaceous Age lasted from 145 million years BP to 66 million years BP, and these feathers probably date to about 80 million years ago. Fossilized feathers have also been found in Kansas, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Alberta; but none of these states or provinces have yielded as many as Alabama.

Fossil feathers found in Alabama. The impressions were made in mud and later fossilized when the mud turned to shale. Photo from the below reference.

The feathers include 2 different sizes. Scientists believe the smaller ones come from extinct species of shorebirds. The larger feathers may be from the tails of either a species of hesperornthid or a dromaeosaur. Hesperornthids were an aquatic fish-eating dinosaur that occupied a niche similar to modern day penguins. They were related to the ancestors of birds, and they lived in lakes, rivers, and oceans. Dromaeosaurs include dozens of families of carnivorous dinosaurs ranging in size from 2 feet long to 20 feet long. Some species hunted in packs, though paleontologists are unsure whether they were organized hunters or disorganized mobs like modern Komodo dragons and crocodilians. Some species had a large retractable claw on their 2nd toe that could inflict devastating damage on their prey or each other. Carnivorous dinosaurs were cannibalistic, and the number of carnivorous predators in ratio to herbivorous prey was higher than in modern day ecosystems. For example today in a pristine environment there may be 1 large predator per 40 deer, but during the Cretaceous there may have been 1 predator per 5 large herbivores. Dromaeosaurids were related to the ancestors of birds, and some species may be directly ancestral to birds. Paleontologists don’t agree with each other about the exact evolutionary relationship between birds and dromaeosaurs. Nevertheless, I catalogued this blog entry under ornithology.

The larger feathers found in the Eutaw Formation may be from an extinct species of hesperornthid, an aquatic dinosaur. Image from Dinopedia.
Alternately, the larger feathers may be from a species of dromaeosaur. There were dozens of families of dromaeosaurs alive during the Cretaceous. Image from UCMP Berkeley.

Scientists looked at these fossil feathers under a microscope and found structures that look similar to the bacteria involved in feather decay. However, these structures also look like melanosomes responsible for the color in feathers. The feathers from the shorebirds were likely gray, brown, or black. Whether these structures are feather-consuming bacteria or melanosomes is yet another point of contention between paleontologists. Fossils are a vague clue compared to a live organism.

Reference:

Knight, T.; S. Bingham, R. Lewis, C. Saurda

“Feathers of the Ingersoll Shale, Eutaw Formation (Upper Cretaceous) Eastern Alabama: The Largest Collection of Feathers from the North American Mesozoic”

Palaios V. 28 N. 51 May/June 2011

Refrigeration is Wonderful Technology

March 15, 2022

I bought a Kenmore refrigerator 18 years ago, and it is still working, but I decided to take pre-emptive action and replace it before it breaks down. It often shakes when it quits cycling, and I’m afraid it will cease functioning when the weather warms. Online sources suggest replacing refrigerators after 15 years, and I’ve been putting this off for a while. I’ve noticed house temperature makes a difference in how much the refrigerator labors. During the cooler months when our house is 67 degrees F, the refrigerator doesn’t cycle much, but during summer when the house is 77 degrees F, it seems to constantly cycle. I chose an energy efficient LG refrigerator to replace the Kenmore. It costs $830 to have it delivered from Lowes including hauling off the old one. 18 years ago, my Kenmore was priced at $800, showing inflation is minimal for refrigerators.

Refrigeration is an amazing invention, but I can track down no single person who invented electrical refrigeration. Instead, it seems to have been a collective advance in technology, and the concept was understood well before the widespread availability of electricity. As early as 1740 William Cullen, a Scottish scientist, demonstrated the principle of mechanical refrigeration, but he never made a usable refrigerator. Jacob Perkins invented a working refrigerator in 1838, but it failed commercially because nobody had electricity. John Gorrie invented an ice machine in 1842 to cool patients with yellow fever, but it was never used commercially to cool food. Breweries and meat-packing plants started using refrigeration in 1870 just when electrical power became more widely available. Albert Marshall patented the first mechanical refrigerator for home use in 1899, and this was followed by many other patented refrigerators at the turn of the century. At first refrigerators had to compete with iceboxes. Workers would cut big slabs of lake ice during winter and store the slabs in warehouses where they were insulated with sawdust. The ice was distributed to homes in urban areas. The ice slab was placed in the top of the icebox. The cool air sank and melting water would also cool the inside of the box. The ice had to be replaced every few days, and the melt water was a mess to clean up. Mechanical refrigerators began to replace iceboxes during the 1920s after William Durant introduced the Frigidaire model in 1918, and General Electric introduced their model in 1927. Nevertheless, many still referred to their refrigerators as iceboxes until well into the 1960s.

Before mechanical refrigerators people used iceboxes. Big slabs of ice were stored in massive warehouses where they were insulated with sawdust.
Old-fashioned icebox. Cool air sinks and melted water from the ice also cooled the inside of the box.
Early patented mechanical refrigerator.

The process of mechanical refrigeration is based on the principle of evaporation. When a gas cools it condenses to form a liquid. The evaporation of this liquid removes heat. Refrigerators have coils that hold refrigerant gases. Gas is forced into the coils inside the refrigerator where it cools to a liquid which removes heat from inside the refrigerator. The removed heat from this cooled liquid is turned into a gas that takes the heat into the coils outside the refrigerator. It is a self-contained system that cycles over and over.

Diagram from Science ABC showing the principle of mechanical refrigeration.

No Blog Entries until At&T Fixes my Internet

March 12, 2022

I have no internet at my house for the first time in 24 years. I am typing this from a library computer terminal. The internet at my house became unusable 4 days ago, but AT&T couldn’t send a technician until yesterday. Then, the shithead couldn’t fix it. If anything, he made it worse. All I know is he failed. He made all kinds of excuses–he even blamed Covid. If they don’t have it fixed by the middle of next week, I’m going to have to switch internet providers. I asked AT&T to send a different technician, but they said I’d have to wait another 7 days. The stupid shmuck who failed to fix my internet told me there were only 8 customers on the road where I live, and AT&T was going to drop us all at the end of the year anyway. He then backtracked on that statement. He told me to keep checking to see if might start working with all the “improvements” he made. It’s not and without internet at home I’ve got nothing. I don’t know when this will ever get resolved. I haven’t been able to find anybody who knows how to fix my stove for 8 years. I’ve been cooking on Bunsen burners and an electric skillet. Incompetent doctors put my wife in a wheelchair 27 years ago, and nobody helps me take care of her. I’m tired of having to do everything all the time for everybody without support from anybody. Nobody helps me, and now they can’t fix my stuff. My mom used to help me, but she went senile and passed away years ago. Fuck it!

List of Wars Russia Lost over the Past 150 Years

March 2, 2022

I know more than the so-called “experts” who get paid the big bucks to spout their “wisdom” on news talk shows. Retired military generals and ex-Defense Department leaders told political news pundits Kiev, Ukraine would fall to the Russian Army in 24-48 hours. A few weeks ago, I was curious and spent 30 minutes researching the Ukranian and Russian militaries on Google. I learned Ukraine has a decent military. On paper Russia has far more firepower than the Ukraine, but the Russian military is notorious for having soldiers with low morale and weapon systems that often malfunction. The experts’ claim that Kiev would fall fast made no sense to me. Furthermore, these experts questioned whether Ukrainians would have the will to fight. I wondered why they assumed Russians would have the will to fight. 7 days into this war, it seems as if my 30 minutes of research makes me smarter than the wrinkled-up generals who talk to Wolf Blitzer on CNN. CNN should fire them and hire me.

Russia’s military is performing terribly. It appears as if their generals don’t know what they are doing, their soldiers don’t even know why they are there, and their equipment stinks. Russian missiles often miss their targets, then don’t even explode. Troops ran out of gas and food after just 2 days. Their tactics are disastrous. They are feeding troops piecemeal into Kiev, and they are getting slaughtered. Much of their army is stuck in a traffic jam on 1 highway, and the element of surprise has been lost. Russia hasn’t even yet achieved air superiority over the tiny Ukranian Air Force, a phase that should have taken 2 hours. I don’t think Russia will ever take Kiev, but if they do, they will face an insurgency they will never be able to quell. Putin is a stupid bully who made a stupid blunder that may eventually bring down his regime. I’m puzzled why the world community and military experts thought the Russian military was invincible. Russia has a long history of losing wars.

Russia fought the Ottoman Empire, England, France, and Sardinia during the Crimean War from 1853-1856. Russia lost 500,000 men and was forced to give up Romania, Moldavia, and Serbia. The Crimean Peninsula was demilitarized, and Russian warships were banned from the Black Sea. It was a disastrous loss.

500,000 Russian soldiers were killed during the Crimean War of the mid-19th century. Russia lost this war.

Japan humiliated Russia during the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. Japanese soldiers drove the Russian Army out of Manchuria. During the Battle of Tsushima the Japanese Navy sank 4 Russian battleships, 7 cruisers, and 3 destroyers; and they captured 3 battleships and 3 destroyers. Japanese losses were minimal–3 damaged battleships and 3 little patrol torpedo boats sunk. Teddy Roosevelt brokered a peace deal where Russia simply agreed to give up Manchuria.

The Japanese sunk most of the Russian Navy during the Battle of Tsushima during 1905, leading to another Russian military disaster.

Though Russia was on the allied side with England and France (the U.S. entered about the time Russia dropped out), Russia still managed to lose WWI to Germany. The Battle of Tannenberg was the main reason why Russia lost that war. Retreating Russian army groups ran right into fortified German trenches. Russia lost tens of thousands of men killed (the exact number is unknown) and 92,000 were captured. This disastrous loss sparked the Russian Revolution, and Russia sued for peace with Germany.

Russian armies retreated and ran into German fortified trenches during WWI. Over 30,000 men were killed and 92,000 were captured. Russia sued for peace.

After the Russian Revolution, Russia tried to spread communism by force to neighboring countries including Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, and Romania. All of these military efforts failed by 1921. Russia was more successful following WWII.

Russia spent 10 years fighting a war in Afghanistan from 1979-1989. The primitive Mujahadeen defeated them. Russia also failed to subdue the tiny province of Chechnya from 1994-1996 and were forced to withdraw. They returned in 1999, but it took them 10 years to defeat the Chechen insurgency. The Ukraine is much larger, and the people are fighting for freedom and democracy. Ukraine did fight a guerilla war against the Soviet Union from 1944-1953. The Soviet Union was much stronger then, and people were war weary. I see no way for Russia to win this time, and in this war there are clear cut good guys and bad guys. Putin is a brutal dictator who poisons his political rivals. Zelensky is a democratically elected Jewish comedian who refuses to flee for his own personal safety. It’s a modern-day David vs Goliath story. I am rooting for freedom and that means the Ukrainian Army needs to kill as many Russian soldiers as possible. Twitter temporarily locked my account for tweeting this wish, but I can express this opinion on my blog. Winning a war means killing.