Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Dolphin Speak

bottlenose dolphin
Bottlenose Dolphin by US Fish and Wildlife Service (Public domain), via Wikimedia Commons
Anyone who's kept up with dolphin research probably won't be surprised to hear that they actually have names for each other. Of course, their names don't sound anything like "Flipper" since dolphins use whistles as part of their communication. You can hear examples of these dolphin calls on the Voices in the Sea website, which also has a collection of calls by other cetaceans. News reports recently have revealed the new research that has come to light about dolphin communication.
Almost anyone growing up in the 60's and 70's likely was entranced by dolphins since they figured so prominently in TV shows and movies, as well as literature. As a child, I recall reading Dolphin Island by Arthur C. Clarke, about an orphan boy who is rescued by dolphins, or the "People of the Sea."  And who doesn't remember back in the 70's, the rather oddly compelling movie, "Day of the Dolphin" which depicted dolphins mimicking human speech. Much of the literature and media was influenced by John C. Lilly, whose research on dolphins revealed the depth of their intelligence and socialization. Humans throughout history have connected with dolphins and admired their beauty and ability to form relationships with humans.
dolphin sculpture ancient greece
Dolphin sculpture - Greece, 300 B.C. - A.D. 100,  Los Angeles County Museum of Art, public domain

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Economic Thought

Thorstein Veblen - public domain via Wikimedia Commons
Thorstein Veblen - via Wikimedia Commons
Henry Ford - Library of Congress, public domain
Henry Ford - Library of Congress

Interesting that Thorstein Veblen and Henry Ford shared a birthday, July 30, though born in different  years, six years apart. One wrote about the differences between the labor and leisure classes and the other personified this in his accumulation of industry and wealth. Henry Ford established and promoted one of the greatest symbols of, "conspicuous consumption", the automobile. Even though cars eventually came within everyone's capacity to own, early on it was only the wealthy who had them. Just a small Economic Thought for the day.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Happy 55th NASA!

Roadmap to the Milky Way - NASA/JPL-Caltech
Roadmap to the Milky Way (artist's rendition) - NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA gives our Milky Way Galaxy a makeover with a new view of the structure of our home galaxy (artist's rendition). We really are such a small blip in the vast realm of stars! Below, the NASA insignia - Motto: For the Benefit of All.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Texas Reflections

Texas Reflection 1 - photo by theLibraryLander's Family

Texas Reflection 2 - photo by theLibraryLander's Family

Texas Reflection 3 - photo by theLibraryLander's Family

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saturnian Seasons

The Seasons of Saturn
Image Credit: R. G. French (Wellesley College) et al., NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)
From APOD:

"Explanation: Since Saturn's axis is tilted as it orbits the Sun, Saturn has seasons, like those of planet Earth ... but Saturn's seasons last for over seven years. So what season is it on Saturn now? Orbiting the equator, the tilt of the rings of Saturn provides quite a graphic seasonal display. Each year until 2016, Saturn's rings will be increasingly apparent after appearing nearly edge-on in 2009. The ringed planet is also well placed in evening skies providing a grand view as summer comes to Saturn's northern hemisphere and winter to the south. The Hubble Space Telescope took the above sequence of images about a year apart, starting on the left in 1996 and ending on the right in 2000. Although they look solid, Saturn's Rings are likely less than 50 meters thick and consist of individually orbiting bits of ice and rock ranging in size from grains of sand to barn-sized boulders."

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Literacy Bridge

PBS News hour did a nice story on the Literacy Bridge program, which brings talking books to people who cannot read, especially those in Africa.  This is a great example of a very small, simple device which can have a big impact on people's lives.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Another Gorgeous Galaxy - the Sombrero

sombrero galaxy
The Sombrero Galaxy from Hale
Image Credit & Copyright: Caltech/Palomar Observatory/Paul Gardner, Salvatore Grasso, and Ryan Hannahoe
From APOD:

"Explanation: What's going on in the center of this spiral galaxy? Named the Sombrero Galaxy for its hat-like resemblance, M104 features a prominent dust lane and a bright halo of stars and globular clusters. Reasons for the Sombrero's hat-like appearance include an unusually large and extended central bulge of stars, and dark prominent dust lanes that appear in a disk that we see nearly edge-on. Billions of old stars cause the diffuse glow of the extended central bulge visible in the above image from the 200-inch Hale Telescope. Close inspection of the central bulge shows many points of light that are actually globular clusters. M104's spectacular dust rings harbor many younger and brighter stars, and show intricate details astronomers don't yet fully understand. The very center of the Sombrero glows across the electromagnetic spectrum, and is thought to house a large black hole. Fifty million-year-old light from the Sombrero Galaxy can be seen with a small telescope towards the constellation of Virgo."
A nice close-up below taken earlier by the Hubble Telescope:
sombrero galaxy
The Sombrero Galaxy from Hubble
Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI / AURA)

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Anniversary of the Founding of Detroit

detroit skyline by shawn wilson
Detroit skyline, seen from Windsor Ontario, by Shawn Wilson, via Wikimedia Commons
Just learned recently that today is the 312th anniversary of the founding of Detroit, by French explorer  Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac. The city has a rich and long history, made all the more poignant considering the economic and social travails it is currently enduring. It is difficult to know if Detroit can solve its problems and once again become at least a bit of the vibrant hub it once was. Let us hope and pray so - Detroit's residents deserve no less.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The View from Saturn: Our Own Pale Blue Dot and Dusty Moon

earth and moon from saturn
Earth and Moon from Saturn
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
From APOD:

"Explanation: You are here. Everyone you've ever known is here. Every human who has ever lived -- is here. Pictured above is the Earth-Moon system as captured by the Cassini mission orbiting Saturn in the outer Solar System. Earth is the brighter and bluer of the two spots near the center, while the Moon is visible to its lower right. Images of Earth from Saturn were taken on Friday. Quickly released unprocessed images were released Saturday showing several streaks that are not stars but rather cosmic rays that struck the digital camera while it was taking the image. The above processed image was released earlier today. At nearly the same time, many humans on Earth were snapping their own pictures of Saturn."

Monday, July 22, 2013

Sunday, July 21, 2013

30th Anniversary of the Lowest Recorded Temperature in the World

Vostok Station Antartica
Location of Lake Vostok in Antarctica. Original a composite satellite photo by NASA (public domain via Wikipedia)
This was recorded at the Vostok Station in the  Antarctic on July 21, 1983 when it was winter in the southern hemisphere. According to NOAA's National Climate Data Center, this is the most reliably documented occurrence of the lowest temperature in the world. Kind of refreshing to think about during the current summer heat wave in the northern hemisphere!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

NMAAHC Building Fly-through


This is a great animated video fly-through for the new National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC), part of the Smithsonian Institution, which is scheduled to open on the National Mall in the Fall of 2015.

Friday, July 19, 2013

For Fans of Fonts

A charming and clever little history of typography done with paper cutouts - worth watching!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

David Christian: The history of our world in 18 minutes

From TED Talks: "Backed by stunning illustrations, David Christian narrates a complete history of the universe, from the Big Bang to the Internet, in a riveting 18 minutes. This is "Big History": an enlightening, wide-angle look at complexity, life and humanity, set against our slim share of the cosmic timeline. About David Christian."

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

BuzzFeed has compiled a bunch of vintage library posters that encouraged (or repelled) school library users. I can't see how anyone would have been enticed by any of these posters to go visit the library, except possibly the last one, as a matter of curiosity! But, I guess in the olden days, these efforts might have seemed innovative.

Monday, July 15, 2013

3-D Printers at Chicago Public Library

3-D octopus
Octopus created from one of the 3-D printers at the Maker Lab. (Michael Tercha, Chicago Tribune)
It'll be interesting to see exactly how this technology will be used in public libraries, and according to the Chicago Tribune, there  will be restrictions on what can be printed at the library. CPL Librarian Mark Andersen says, "We don't want people printing weapons or anything offensive, of course." Even though use of the MakerBot Replicator 2 is free, the librarians must first approve whatever is designed. A few libraries throughout the country provide 3-D printing, though on a limited basis, usually as part of their makerspace areas. I have to admit, I find it puzzling that libraries should want to enter this minefield at all. It's expensive, possibly dangerous, and do the majority of people really have use for it? We'll just have to wait and see...

Sunday, July 14, 2013

2013 Gale/LJ Library of the Year: Howard County Library System, MD

Library Journal article about Howard County Library
Kudos to one of our own Maryland libraries! Their website happily greets you with its Hi logo, which is packed with intent - Howard County Library - inform + inspire + interact = educate. Read Library Journal's article to find out why HCL is the 2013 Gale/LJ Library of the Year - it's well-deserved!

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Our Sister Galaxy, Andromeda, the Fairest One of All

M31: The Andromeda Galaxy
Image Credit & Copyright: Lorenzo Comolli
From APOD:

"Explanation: Andromeda is the nearest major galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy. Our Galaxy is thought to look much like Andromeda. Together these two galaxies dominate the Local Group of galaxies. The diffuse light from Andromeda is caused by the hundreds of billions of stars that compose it. The several distinct stars that surround Andromeda's image are actually stars in our Galaxy that are well in front of the background object. Andromeda is frequently referred to as M31 since it is the 31st object on Messier's list of diffuse sky objects. M31 is so distant it takes about two million years for light to reach us from there. Although visible without aid, the above image of M31 was taken with a small telescope. Much about M31 remains unknown, including how it acquired its unusual double-peaked center."

Friday, July 12, 2013

Wikipedia Picture of the Day May 2011

Big Sur McWay Falls
Beautiful image of Big Sur McWay Falls by King of Hearts (Own work)
via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Arthur Ashe 70th Birth Anniversary

Arthur Ashe winning Wimbledon
Arthur Ashe winning Wimbledon
"Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can." - Arthur Ashe

Remembering a remarkable man who achieved remarkable things in a sadly short span of time.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Beauty of the Dewey Decimals

I still believe in 398.2 Fairytales
I still believe in 398.2 (Fairytales) necklace via
Behind the cold, hard numbers of the Dewey Decimal System lies a beating heart. And now they're being worn as jewelry to proclaim one's feelings and philosophy. BookRiot's posting has some nice examples - charming idea!

Monday, July 8, 2013

BuzzFeed's List of 15 Banned Classic Children's Books

Where's Waldo
Where's Waldo by Martin Hanford via
The most hilarious example is Where's Waldo (see BuzzFeed article to see why). It appears that Dr. Seuss has been hit a couple of times by censors - he can be a bit irreverent! And who'd have thought Winnie the Pooh could have offended anyone?? Very interesting list.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Notable Government Documents of 2012

Library Journal's Notable Government Documents of 2012
Library Journal's Notable Government Documents of 2012
Library Journal has compiled an interesting list and summary of notable Government Documents of 2012, including federal, state, and local publications. There are even some international documents included. Nearly all of the publications are available online, many with no-cost print counterparts. The titles range from Bumble Bees of the Western U.S. to UNESCO's World Heritage Atlas. One of the docs by the CDC, Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic is presented in a graphic novel format, which should appeal to more youthful readers. It all makes for enlightening and sometimes entertaining reading!

Saturday, July 6, 2013

When Galaxies Collide

NASA illustration galaxy collision
NASA illustration
What a thought! In about four billion years, our Milky Way and our neighboring Andromeda Galaxy (M31) will collide and merge to form a strange new galaxy. At least according to measurements that the Hubble Space Telescope has gathered on the motion of the Andromeda Galaxy. I guess we shouldn't lose any sleep over this, but it is interesting to think what fate might await our area of the Universe.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Musty Old Books

Old book bindings at the Merton College library
Old book bindings at the Merton College library, 2005 - photo by Tom Murphy VII, Wikimedia Commons
The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) has an interesting little article about that "old book smell." Apparently, it's more than just mustiness or mildew - the components of old books produce odors that resemble grass and vanilla! It's even possible to determine the age of some books based on their VOC's (volatile organic compounds). It's a matter of personal preference if you like that smell or not - guess it depends on the book too.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth of July!

Lincoln Memorial Fireworks
Lincoln Memorial fireworks by dbking from Washington, DC (Flickr) [CC-BY-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Library Signs

Library Meeting Room sign
Library Meeting Room sign
An oft-stated library axiom is that people don't read signs. I guess libraries need to be more creative with their library wording to get patrons' attention. Herewith some interesting and often amusing library library signage:

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Check this (oddball thing) out!

Black Labrador Retriever
Black Lab by Michelle Buntin [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Libraries lend more than just books and media, but some libraries take material loans to interesting lengths. The following links list interesting things you can check out at some libraries, such as guide dogs, tools, fishing poles, and even people!

Monday, July 1, 2013

Purpoise or Penguin?

The Porpoise Galaxy from Hubble
Image Credit:
NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STSci/AURA)
From APOD:

"Explanation: What's happening to this spiral galaxy? Just a few hundred million years ago, NGC 2936, the upper of the two large galaxies shown, was likely a normal spiral galaxy -- spinning, creating stars -- and minding its own business. But then it got too close to the massive elliptical galaxy NGC 2937 below and took a dive. Dubbed the Porpoise Galaxy for its iconic shape, NGC 2936 is not only being deflected but also being distorted by the close gravitational interaction. A burst of young blue stars forms the nose of the porpoise toward the left of the upper galaxy, while the center of the spiral appears as an eye. Alternatively, the galaxy pair, together known as Arp 142, look to some like a penguin protecting an egg. Either way, intricate dark dust lanes and bright blue star streams trail the troubled galaxy to the lower right. The above recently-released image showing Arp 142 in unprecedented detail was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope last year. Arp 142 lies about 300 million light years away toward the constellation, coincidently, of the Water Snake (Hydra). In a billion years or so the two galaxies will likely merge into one larger galaxy."