Photo of the Week: Christmas Day Hike at Kensington Metro Park

first_imgOur family has a tradition of hiking the trails at Kensington Metro Park, near Milford, Michigan, on New Year’s Day.We spend our time birdwatching, looking for tracks in the snow, and taking in the beauty of the winter woods.This year, since we couldn’t all be together on New Year’s Day 2017, we moved our hike to Christmas Day.With gray, cloudy skies, few people were on the trails today. We enjoyed the serenity and quiet of the woods on our hike.Happy holidays!Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)Like this:Like Loading…RelatedPhoto of the Week: Sandhill Cranes for the New YearI may not have found Sandhill Cranes when I took a road trip to mid-Michigan the weekend before Christmas. But I was thrilled to see these two birds New Year’s Day on the Nature Center trails at Kensington Metro Park near Milford, Michigan. If you’re from Michigan, you know it’s…In “Michigan”Photo of the Week: Autumn Grasses and WeedsFor the day after Thanksgiving, our family took a walk in the woods at Kensington Metro Park near Milford, Michigan. It was the perfect way to enjoy the afternoon: relatively warm autumn weather, bright sunshine, and an escape from the constant Black Friday sales promotions. Not many birds to be…In “Nature”Photo of the Week: Tufted TitmouseHiking and bird watching in Kensington Metro Park in Milford, Michigan is one of my favorite things to do in the winter. With no leaves on the trees and few birds overwintering in Michigan, it’s a lot easier to spot and identify the birds. This Tufted Titmouse (and his friend…In “Nature”last_img read more

Why South Africa’s Karoo is a palaeontological wonderland

first_imgSouth Africa’s Karoo region provides not only a historical record of biological change over a period of Earth’s history but also a means to test theories of evolutionary processes over long stretches of time.A typical landscape in the Karoo semi-desert region of South Africa. (Image: Media Club South Africa)• Newly found ape-man lived alongside Lucy, 3 million years ago• South African scientists track the sun’s storms• Cape bones add new chapter to human history • Bloggers take a trip back to humanity’s origins • South African research funding fourth-highest in the worldBruce Rubidge and Mike Day, University of the WitwatersrandSouth Africa’s Karoo region has been in the headlines in recent years because of the prospect of a controversial fracking programme to exploit its potential shale gas resources. But, to palaeontologists, the Karoo Supergroup’s rocks hold the key to understanding the early evolutionary history of the major groups of land vertebrates – including tortoises, mammals and dinosaurs.More than 200-million years ago, South Africa formed part of the southern hinterland of Pangaea, the great single supercontinent, which was inhabited by a diverse flora and fauna.In only a few places, where conditions were conducive to their fossilisation, can palaeontologists catch a glimpse of these ancient ecosystems. The Karoo is one such place.A representation of the ancient supercontinent of Pangaea, showing modern country borders. Some 200-million years ago, South Africa formed part of of the southern hinterland of this great continent. Click image for a larger view. (Image: Massimo Pietrobon) Why it’s such a special placeAbout 265-million years ago, the Beaufort Group of rocks within the Karoo sequence was beginning to be deposited by rivers draining into the shrinking inland Ecca Sea. As these rivers filled the basin with sediment they entombed the remains of land animals that lived around them. The youngest Beaufort rocks are around 240-million years old.Today, more than 30 000 fossils of vertebrate animals from the Beaufort are to be found in museum collections across the world. The Beaufort was followed by the Molteno and Elliot formations. The Elliot formation is made up of a succession of red rocks that records some of the earliest dinosaur communities.The area plays a crucial role in revealing the distant origin of mammals, tortoises and dinosaurs. It also covers two great extinction events, the end-Permian (252-million years ago) and the end-Triassic (200-million years ago).Because of its continuity of deposition, the Karoo provides not only a historical record of biological change over this period of Earth’s history, but also a means to test theories of evolutionary processes over long periods of time.Map showing the formations of the Karoo Supergroup. Click image for a larger view.The 400 000-square-kilometre area is internationally noted for its record of fossil therapsid “mammal-like” reptiles. These chart anatomical changes on the path to mammals from their early tetrapod forebears.The Beaufort Group has also yielded the oldest recorded fossil ancestor of living turtles and tortoises – the small, lizard-like Eunotosaurus. The younger Elliot Formation preserves a record of early dinosaurs that could help palaeontologists understand the rise of the giant sauropod dinosaurs of the Jurassic Period.Physiology and behaviourMany studies are still being done on the identification of new species from the Karoo. But a lot of current research is also focused on the relationship between the extinct animals and their environments.The story of the therapsid’s burrow is a good example of how insights are being gained on the behaviour of prehistoric animals. Roger Smith was the first palaeontologist to recognise therapsid vertebrate burrows in the Karoo. He described helical burrows, which he attributed to a small species of dicynodont (two-dog tooth) therapsid called Diictodon. In the fossil record, burrows are preserved not as hollows, but as the plug of sediment that filled them.X-ray tomography at a facility in France was recently used to scan one of these burrows. This showed that it was home not only to its maker – the meerkat-sized therapsid Thrinaxodon – but also to the early amphibian Broomistega. Further research revealed that the Thrinaxodon was probably hibernating, which was why it tolerated the intruding amphibian which was using the burrow to convalesce while suffering from broken ribs.Partners forever, the amphibian Broomistega and mammal fore-runner Thrinaxodon preserved in a fossil burrow. Click image for a larger view.Studying how fossil bones are preserved – a discipline known as taphonomy – can provide similarly rich insights. For example, it has been suggested that changes in preservation style between skeletons in the latest Permian Period (about 253-million years ago) to those in the earliest Triassic Period (about 252-million years ago) can be attributed to changes in climate. The region developed from being seasonally dry floodplains with high water tables to predominantly dry floodplains.Because of the abundance of fossil tetrapods in the rocks of the Karoo Supergroup, they have been used to divide the rock succession into fossil zones, called biozones. This has enabled the biozones to be correlated with equivalent sequences elsewhere in the world and forms the basis of reconstructing global patterns of diversity.Understanding the sequence of events is crucial for testing hypotheses of evolutionary processes. It is an area of research being pursued for both the Permian and Triassic periods.The big wipe-outsThe end-Permian mass extinction, the greatest, was responsible for the elimination of 90% of species living in the sea and 70% of species living on land. Roger Smith’s work on Karoo fossil vertebrates shows this extinction to have lasted some 300 000 years, terminating at the Permian-Triassic boundary 252-million years ago. It was followed by a lesser extinction pulse approximately 160 000 years later in the Early Triassic.Our current work is focusing on the more obscure Guadalupian extinction which occurred 8-million to 10-million years before the end-Permian. This is recognised from marine sequences. For the first, time empirical evidence for this event on land is being discovered from the Karoo fossil record.What’s next?These are exciting times for palaeontologists. Technological and scientific developments have opened up new vistas for their work.A comprehensive database of all the Karoo fossil vertebrate collections in South Africa has been built. This is the first database of Permian-Jurassic continental vertebrates. It is available to scientists globally, an invaluable tool for biogeographic and biostratigraphic studies.Better dating techniques are opening up the possibility of working out rates of evolution in fossil tetrapod lineages. High-resolution scanning techniques are also enabling palaeoscientists to explore areas which were previously inaccessible, or at least not without damaging the fossils.There are a myriad questions that remain unanswered. Were the early mammal ancestors of the Karoo warm-blooded? What can the Karoo tell us about the reaction of terrestrial ecosystems to mass extinction events? How can the Karoo’s shifting ecological make-up shine a light on evolutionary tempo? These are questions we can now attempt to answer.Bruce Rubidge is Director, Centre of Excellence in Palaeosciences at University of the Witwatersrand.Mike Day is Postdoctoral Fellow at Organisational Unit:Evolutionary Studies Institute at University of the Witwatersrand.This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.last_img read more

Evolution of Communication: From Email to Twitter and Beyond

first_imgIn a recent post, Fred Wilson asked what is going to trump email? (implying that even email is getting old). Certainly email is still the most broadly used form of digital communication, particularly in businesses, but is it beginning to be displaced? And more importantly why?To answer these questions, we need to understand the patterns behind all forms of digital communication. How they came about and why; and what are the differences between them. Perhaps going back and looking at regular mail, phone and newspapers can give us insights into the reasons and potential life-span of email, chat and Twitter.Email vs. MailIt is always useful to start at the beginning and understand the basics. How is email different from the regular mail? The obvious differences are that email is faster and virtual (i.e. not physical). And it has different economics, since you do not have to pay per email message (at least we do not perceive it this way). Now, because email is delivered faster, we send more of it. Because we send more of it, each message is much smaller than a typical letter. So thinking about it this way, we realize that email not only redefined mail, it created a completely different way of communicating. Instead of sending more information less often, we send less information more often. The speed and quantity of communication created a qualitatively different communication medium.Phone vs. ChatWay before we had the Internet, we already had a way to communicate faster then via mail – the telephone. Phones allowed us to instantly get in touch. Then when the world went online, Instant Messaging was invented – which, unlike email, allowed people to reach each other immediately. But there are big differences between phone and chat. Firstly, most of us, at least initially, were not as good at typing as talking. Even today, conversations via chat do not have the same flow as a phone call, because people have learned to multi task during chat. That is not something that you would typically do on a phone call (unless you are on a really boring corporate call!). Despite the differences, the key common attribute between a phone call and an instant message is essentially immediate reach-ability.Extreme multi-tasking; pic by defining momentNewspaper vs. BlogsRegular mail and phone are typically used for one-on-one communication. Newspapers and radio are older forms of one-to-many communication. These methods are examples of broadcast or push technologies. Over the past decade, blogs arrived on the scene and they’ve had tremendous success as a form of one-to-many communication. The reason for this is that blogs leveraged something that was done very poorly in newspapers and somewhat better in radio – our need for feedback. Blogs made feedback frictionless. Anyone can comment on a post.The ability for people to get involved and to express their opinions, created a completely different dynamic. In a way, blog posts are like mass mailings with massive CC lists – but executed in a much more organized way. This form of non-instant communication has won our hearts, but overwhelmed our RSS readers. And that, in turn, created an opportunity for the micro version. Here comes Twitter.Electrodes vs. TwitterTwitter is a new form of communication that is both a natural step from blogging and a weird experiment normally found in neuroscience labs. Because blog posts are typically lengthy, there was an opportunity to break them down into smaller chunks. Twitter arrived on the scene and in a way it asked us to break down all of our thoughts and actions into succinct chunks. As the result, they can be delivered faster, processed faster and there can be more of them. And once again, the interplay between speed and quantity created a qualitatively different experience. People are collaborating on Twitter in real time. They are discovering news, watching each other and getting advice. Twitter pushed us all to the edge of real communication. Any more real would probably be telepathy!Squaring it all outSo now we come to our diagram: Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hosting Why Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… We barely have time to pause and reflect these days on how far communications technology has progressed. Without even taking a deep breath, we’ve transitioned from email to chat to blogs to social networks and more recently to Twitter. Here is my representation of the current ecosystem, which we will explore in this post: Tags:#Analysis#web We see that all the squares in our diagram are filled out. Twitter jumped in and gave us a new form of communication – instant broadcast with feedback. Each of its digital predecessors was an improvement over the physical equivalent. So the question is, what else can be improved?The mobile twistThe axis not reflected in the diagram above is reach-ability. With the recent explosion of mobile devices, the communication game has changed once again. While with traditional computers instant reach-ability was not always possible, mobile devices eliminate this gap. There has been an explosion of chatting and twittering on cell phones, proving that real-time communication is what people crave.The outcasts, or the way to the future?Just about when we cannot imagine anything that can beat the real-time broadcast nature of Twitter, things get even more strange. The popular Justin.tv show has a guy walking around with the camera attached to his head, recording everything that is happening around him. While we may question the sanity and usefulness of this, we cannot deny that we are curious about this phenomenon. Is this an aberration or a way to the future? The answer is not a simple no!. There is more to the story, which we are only finding out as we go along.And along the lines of strange, what do you think when Amazon Evangelist Jeff Barr invites you to a AWS meeting in Second Life? Maybe this is not odd, because people are using AWS to build services in Second Life – so in that sense it is quite natural. As Second Life gains mindshare, we can expect the emergence of a new communication medium. This medium is going to have new rules and new possibilities that, undoubtedly, people will rush to explore.Amazon Web Services Chat in Second Life; pic by labsjiConclusionWe are witnessing a breathtaking evolution of new forms of digital communication. More than witnessing, we are facilitating it. All of this is unfolding so quickly that we do not have time to pause and reflect on what is happening. But if email is becoming an endangered species, then we need to pay attention. So the question still stands: what really different and new forms of communication are we going to see next? We leave this as an open question and invite our readers to comment.center_img A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… alex iskold 1 Related Posts 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Marketlast_img read more

Finally! Google to Offer RSS Feeds for Web Search Results

first_imgWhy Tech Companies Need Simpler Terms of Servic… A Web Developer’s New Best Friend is the AI Wai… marshall kirkpatrick Related Posts Top Reasons to Go With Managed WordPress Hostingcenter_img Tags:#Features#news#NYT#web A rumor that’s been floating around the web lately is that Google will offer RSS feeds for new results in basic web search. Today Search Engine Land confirmed that Google will “soon” offer this functionality. Why is this big news? Because there’s no better way to keep track of new mentions of a company, person or concept online than through RSS.As Search Engine Land’s Matt McGee points out in his post, Google is the only major web search engine to not offer feeds for basic web search, as they do in blog search and news. We’d previously recommended Live.com for web search feeds, but who really cares about Live.com search results? They’re terrible. Google feeds are good news.Google says that the new feeds will be part of the Google Alerts product, which currently delivers e-mail alerts for new search results in web, blog and other result types. Google Alerts are widely used but are, we’d argue, like training wheels for people not yet comfortable with RSS feeds. There’s nothing wrong with that, but many of us want our feeds.Though blogs and news sites are of growing importance, there’s still nothing quite like good old Web Search for getting a broad picture of who is linking where and what kind of online mentions are occurring. Google says it cannot confirm when the web search feeds will be available.We hope that Google web search feeds will include “site:” searches for new mentions of keywords inside particular domains (Live and Yahoo do), and that they will deliver nice clean direct URLs – which Live.com feeds do but Yahoo search feeds do not.There’s still no alerts or feeds available for Google Image Search, probably because the index is so woefully behind the web at large. 8 Best WordPress Hosting Solutions on the Marketlast_img read more

SaaS: On-Demand Continuity Planning — Due Diligence Required

first_imgOne of the beauties and benefits of adopting SaaS is that it shifts operations to an outside vendor. And doing that can significantly free up internal IT support responsibilities. Generally that’s a good thing, but if you haven’t done your homework, it can lead to a false sense of security.What would happen in the event of a disaster hitting your SaaS provider? And how soon would they be able to get your application up and running again after a major event? For any large company, a continuity plan is vital for any type of mission-critical application. The same should be equally true for a SaaS vendor. When selecting a SaaS vendor, it is important to drill down and fully understand the infrastructure and skills your vendor has.Often, especially for smaller companies, vendor infrastructure, knowledge and experience can easily trump whatever IT resources the company itself could pull together on its own, and in these cases, if a disaster struck, the vendor would be better able to deal with the emergency. It is important to choose your SaaS vendor wisely.Consider the case two well known collo companies in the San Francisco Bay area. In November a truck driver hit a transformer that powered the Rackspace datacenter that was home to many well-known Web 2.0 web sites like GigaOm and 37 Signals. After the power came back on, the cooling system then failed to start up, delaying the center from going back online, causing them to be offline for more than 5 hours. A second example occurred earlier in the year when a power surge on an in-coming PG&E line to San Franciso’s 365 Main datacenter causing a shutdown that lasted a few hours, pulling offline sites like craigslist, technorati, and livejournal.A few hours offline may not seem like that long. But these two datacenters are considered to be best in class, and the incidents show how even when companies have disaster plans, problems in real life can cascade in directions not imagined during planning.last_img read more

What Could Wal-Mart Do With Square Mobile Credit Card Readers? [Updated]

first_imgWhy IoT Apps are Eating Device Interfaces What it Takes to Build a Highly Secure FinTech … dan rowinski Role of Mobile App Analytics In-App Engagement Mobile credit card transaction platform Square is coming to the nation’s largest retailer. Square has struck a deal with Wal-Mart that will bring the dongle into retail stores across the country. The move is huge for Square but seems antithetical to align to its core business model, which is to bring mobile credit card readers to the masses.Bloomberg Business Week first reported the story. Outside of saying that Square will now be located in 9,000 retail stores nationwide, Bloomberg does not say exactly what the use case inside of Wal-Mart stores will be. There are a variety of possibilities. Update 1:55 EST Oct. 24 —The general premise of this post took the original information from Bloomberg out of context. It appears that Wal-Mart will be selling Square readers, not necessarily using them. In terms of Square’s aim to bring mobile card readers to the masses, getting prominent shelf space at Wal-Mart could be one of the best things to happen for the company. What follows now in more or less a theoretical practice in how Wal-Mart or any other large retail store could use dongle-based payments, which was really the point of the post in the first place. How Could Large Retail Stores Use Dongle Credit Card Readers?Ever been in an Apple store and made a purchase directly with the sales rep that you were working with, as opposed to going to pay at a register? Imagine that in the middle of a Wal-Mart store. Say you are shopping for clothes, or shoes or … Wal-Mart sells everything. You just want to make a quick purchase and head out of the store. In theory, Wal-Mart could arm all of the floor representatives with Square dongles and have customers in and out. It may even help alleviate long lines at the checkout. It is also imaginable that Wal-Mart could set up in-store payment kiosks away from the registers with the Square Register. It could just be a little booth in every department of a Wal-Mart that would be designed to handle payments for a couple of items. It would be doubtful that Wal-Mart would go to 100% Square, especially at its existing register system. One would think that it would be cost prohibitive to rip out its entire point-of-sale system and replace it with iPads and Square Registers.Square Card Case Deal?One of the biggest benefits for Square could be to get Wal-Mart to leverage its existing Card Case program that allows for simple payments and transaction information between the customer, the retailer and the payments platform. The Square Card Case was unveiled in May and initially only rolled out to five cities and 50 retail partners. Square posits the Card Case as an Amazon-style “one-click buying” method, except in the real-world as opposed to digital payments. Users that download the app can set up a “card” from a retailer and see what is happening with the retailer, from new deals to changes in the menu. Wal-Mart could institute the Card Case in a variety of ways, from the national level for what is happening with all Wal-Mart retail stores, to dedicating local managers to updating the card case for each individual store. The best use case for Square has always been the notion of bringing credit card readers to small and medium business. We often think farmers markets or taxis when we think of Square’s growth potential. Square’s COO Keith Rabois said in the Bloomberg article that will continue to be the case. In terms of that goal, the Wal-Mart adoption may have the affect of a giant marketing campaign. The greatest benefit to Square from Wal-Mart may not be actual transaction revenue, but helping to speed up the awareness and adoption of the platform. Related Posts Tags:#Finance#mobile#web The Rise and Rise of Mobile Payment Technologylast_img read more

Google’s Matt Cutts: Good Content Trumps SEO

first_imgIT + Project Management: A Love Affair Cognitive Automation is the Immediate Future of… joe brockmeier 1 Massive Non-Desk Workforce is an Opportunity fo… Related Posts 3 Areas of Your Business that Need Tech Now This is a message that can’t possibly be repeated often enough: Good content trumps SEO. Don’t believe me? Fair enough, but how about the head of Google’s webspam team? In a short video today on Google’s Webmaster Central Channel, Cutts answers a question about SEO practices and whether “poor” sites with bad SEO are penalized by Google.Reassuringly, no. Cutts dispels the idea that sites that don’t validate well will be dinged by Google despite good content. “Just because somebody dots every i and crosses every t and gets all their HTML structure right, doesn’t mean that it’s good content.” Tags:#enterprise#news “Even if you do brain-dead stupid things and shoot yourself in the foot, but have good content, we still want to return it,” says Cutts. In fact, Cutts says that Google tries to make it so that sites “don’t have to do SEO.” First and foremost is content, and there’s no bonus for having good SEO. So if you’re planning that 2012 site budget, you might want to think twice about hiring that SEO expert and find a content expert instead.last_img read more

Hire a car and go on a thousand kilometre journey from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth.

first_imgSouth Africa makes sense to the Indian traveller and India makes sense to him. That’s what legendary South African crickter Jonathan Neil “Jonty” Rhodes has told me once. Author of the book My Travel Escapades in South Africa, he drives home his point by citing surveys that reveal how the number of Indian tourists in his country has shot up. “Indians are increasingly putting the Rainbow Nation in their holiday itinerary,” he justifies. And why not? After all, as the brand ambassador of South Africa Tourism Board, he is doing a thorough job of telling the world how good his country is. “From the country’s magnificent wildlife, iconic beaches, adrenaline pumping adventure activities, to its world-class cities, shopping, nightlife, food and wine, my country has it all. Be it Cape Town or vibrant Johannesburg, there’s something for everybody,” he says, adding that the greatest thing is the ease of travel. “In Mumbai, if I am driving for three hours, I am still in the city. In South Africa, I can go from coast to mountains in three hours. It is a country with first world infrastructure,” says the fielding coach of Mumbai Indians. Adventure anyone? South Africa has ample. Rhodes admits that he is not a big city guy – he is from Pietermaritzburg, a laid back small town, where his parents still live. Yes, it’s the same town where Gandhi was thrown off from a train for boarding a first class compartment. So, big cities like Johannesburg do not fascinate him at all. “Rather I like Cape Town where I live for its nice and relaxed atmosphere. One of my favourite ways to enjoy my country is to stay in a luxury tent in a game reserve. The lovely Table Mountain region and the Kruger Park area are also my favourites,” he says. advertisementSouth Africa is best seen by road. But Rhodes tells you to skip the bus. “Hire a car and enjoy the great scenery at your own pace. I highly recommend the route from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth that entails a drive of a thousand kilometre,” he says. Also in South Africa, unlike in Europe, people don’t mind talking loudly. “I say this because Indians come in large groups and are a chatty lot. Shout out and make noise and nobody will mind. It’s a tradition to talk aloud in South Africa. If  you speak too softly, people might think you are bad-mouthing them,” he explains. However, he warns that there is crime in some parts of South Africa. So “don’t wander into areas that your hotel concierge warns you about”. South Africa by Segway is cool too. Over the years, Rhodes has realised that it’s very important to travel with a sensitive companion. In all his travels, he has been accompanied by his wife Melanie. “I always get a new perspective when I travel with her. She is a passionate traveller with a good eye for spotting things. She makes me see things that I often fail to see,” he says. He has another word of advice: “Never be a slave to the camera. If you are going click, click, click, the moment you arrive at a place, you lose out on the essence of the place. Be aware of the surroundings first.”  When Rhodes was playing active cricket (between 1992 and 2003), he never had a chance to ‘do’ the place he visited. It was always the airport-hotel-stadium routine. But now he has the time and has been to several countries. “New Zealand is one of the countries I really loved for its beautiful landscapes and many adventure sports  –  I have done sky diving and bungee jumping there. But the one country I would really like to visit is China. I am very keen to know its people and culture.” Rhodes hopes to see you in SA As for India, he has been here a hundred times. With Melanie, he has ‘house-boated’ in Kerala and snowboarded in Gulmarg. And he has even named his daughter India. Sure he is the right person to provide some advice to first timers in India. “Well, don’t get scared by its food. Try the sweet and syrupy gulab jamuns particularly. And yes, don’t be perturbed by the fact that it has a billion people. And if you are adventurous, ride a Royal Enfield to Ladakh,” he signs off.last_img read more