Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Just How Big Was Brachiosaurus?

How Big Was Brachiosaurus?

A question frequently asked by young dinosaur fans is just how big were some dinosaurs. Brachiosaurus represents a genus of large, long-necked dinosaur that was a member of the Sauropoda. Many young children ask "just how big was Brachiosaurus?"
Limited Evidence from the Fossil Bones
Scientists have only the fossil bones of Brachiosaurus to study, since no one has ever seen a living Brachiosaur the size ranges given for this huge Sauropod do vary. Indeed, there is considerable variation in the fossil bones of those Brachiosaurs found in Africa to those found in North America. So much so, that some palaeontologists have stated that the fossils from Africa may represent a completely different animal they have named Giraffatitan.
Named and Described in 1903
Brachiosaurus was named and described from two partial skeletons from the famous Morrison Formation in the western United States. It was formerly named by the American palaeontologist Elmer Riggs in 1903. Although, it is one of the best known of all the Sauropods, its fossils are actually very rare, much rarer than its relative (another Macronarian Sauropod), Camarasaurus. The Macronarian Sauropods are those long-necked dinosaurs with box-like skulls. The holes in the skull representing the nasal passages are much bigger than the hole in the skull where the eye was located.
Say Hello to "Arm Lizard"
Brachiosaurus means "arm lizard" as the forelimbs were longer than the back limbs, giving this dinosaur a giraffe-like appearance. About half the height of Brachiosaurus is due to the neck, although there is debate whether the specimen displayed in the Humboldt museum (Berlin) is actually a Brachiosaurus the head height of this mounted skeleton is around 13 metres, making this museum exhibit the largest mounted dinosaur exhibit in a European museum.
Books can Cause Confusion with Dinosaur Sizes
The reason for the different sizes given in books could be because one book was published earlier than the other. This would mean that the editor and writers would not have known about latest size estimates given for this dinosaur. Different sizes could also be due to the fact that the researchers compiling the book chose to use different cited authors and palaeontologists so they published findings from different sets of data.
The statistics for weight, length and height for this creature are open to interpretation. However, most scientists estimate that Brachiosaurus (Brachiosaurus altithorax) as an adult animal would have ranged in size from 17 - 22 metres in length, would have stood approximately 13 metres tall and weighed perhaps as much as 70 tonnes.
Ultrasauros - Bigger Still!
Fossil bones of an even bigger animal called Ultrasauros may actually turn out to be just a very big specimen of a Brachiosaurus so the dimensions and measurements given here will most likely end up being reviewed as more fossils are discovered and more research carried out.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Indian Scientist Gets Dinosaur Named After Him

New Type of Ankylosaur Named After Indian Scientist

Having a species named after you is a real honour for any scientist. Such an accolade is usually bestowed upon you by your peers and fellow researchers. Having a dinosaur species named after you is a particular honour, this is just what has happened to Indian scientist V. S. Ramachandran who permitted a fossil skull in his possession be studied.
A previously unknown species of Ankylosaur (an armoured dinosaur), discovered in early Cretaceous strata in the Gobi desert has been studied and named in Ramachandran's honour by two American palaeontologists Clifford and Clark Miles. The skull is perhaps the most important element of the skeleton to examine, it often permits scientists to identify a new species based on the skull morphology alone.
The Ankylosaur skull had been purchased by V. S. Ramachandran from a Japanese fossil collector and put on display at the Victor Valley Museum in California. The American team (based at the Western Palaeontological Laboratories in Utah), were granted permission to study the skull and from the skulls triangular appearance and distinctive nasal (a bone at the front of the skull), they determined that this specimen represented a new genus of Ankylosaur.
Minotaurasaurus - "Man-Bull Reptile"
This new dinosaur has been named Minotaurasaurus ramachandrani. The name means in Latin "Ramachandrans Man-Bull Reptile" a reference to the skull with its extended nasal and flared naris that reminded the researchers of the skull of a bull. Borrowing from Greek legend it seemed apt to name this particular armoured dinosaur after the Minotaur of Greek mythology.
The American team's research paper has been published in the Indian research periodical "Current Science", a popular academic journal on the Indian sub-continent.
Ankylosaurs - Armoured Members of the Dinosauria
The Ankylosaurs were armoured plated, herbivorous quadrupeds, often referred to as "living tanks". The fossils of these animals are most closely associated with the Cretaceous and this group can be split into two distinctive sub-orders, the true Ankylosaurs characterised by their broad bodies and club-like tails and the Nodosaurids, which are regarded by some scientists as being more primitive, and lacking (in most cases), a tail-club.
Models of a number of Ankylosaurs have been produced, animals such as Edmontonia (Nodosaur) and Saichania (Ankylosaur) have been created. By far the best known dinosaur of this type, commonly referred to as shield-bearers, is the Ankylosaurus. Ankylosaurus was one of the largest and one of the last to evolve, living right at the end of the Cretaceous (Maastrichtian faunal stage). It is often depicted defending itself against a Tyrannosaurus rex, with which this dinosaur shared its North American habitat.
New Species of Dinosaur Described
In this new species, the skull is approximately 30 cms long and using comparisons from more complete fossil skeletons the scientists have estimated that this particular example of Minotaurasaurus was probably not fully grown. It is estimated that this particular animal was over 4 metres in length. There may be larger specimens out in the Gobi desert awaiting discovery.
The teeth of Minotaurasaurus are typically robust for an Ankylosaur. They are leaf-shaped with a highly developed coronate surface to maximise chewing and the grinding of plant matter. Each tooth has a series of vertical striations or ridges that divide the grinding surface into 8 separate cusps.
Once this research has been validated by subject to peer review V. S. Ramachandran can join an elite band of Indian citizens who have had a prehistoric animal named after them. He is unlikely to be the last Indian scientist recognised in this way, India is slowly but surely giving up its ancient secrets and many new species of dinosaur will come to light in the future.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Maastricht Mosasaur - Preparation of Fossil Material

Giant Marine Reptile from the Netherlands

Palaeontologists have now recovered parts of the skull, the upper jaw and vertebrae from a thirteen metre long Mosasaur discovered on the 20th September by cement factory workers. An extinct part of the Order Squamata (lizards and snakes), these large sea lizards were apex predators in the shallow Late Cretaceous seas that covered much of Europe and North America towards the end of the Mesozoic Era. Some of these marine reptiles evolved into huge, fifteen metre long giants which fed upon fish, turtles, cephalopods and other marine reptiles such as Plesiosaurs. The partial skeleton uncovered in chalk strata at the cement works is the fourth such discovery to be found in the Maastricht area.
The skeleton is believed to represent a Mosasaurus hoffmani, the first type of Mosasaur to be named and scientifically described. At least twenty different Mosasaur genera and something like seventy species are recognised today.
At Least Four Mosasaur Specimens Found In and Around Maastricht
The chalk deposits in and around the historic Dutch city of Masstricht have been quarried for centuries. At first the chalk was ignored and flints were mined from the strata, but with the advent of the chemical industry the chalk itself has been excavated for use in lime making and other chemical processes. Whilst working on a new part of the chalk seam, an excavator uncovered part of a fossilised jawbone. Work was stopped and experts from the Masstricht Natural History Museum were called in. Carefully the scientists uncovered parts of the skull, the upper jaws and some back bones, including vertebrae from the animal's long tail.
Once the specimen has been prepared and cleaned at the museum's laboratory the palaeontologists hope to be able to put the Mosasaur remains on display.
The First Mosasaur Discovery
In the 1770s quarry workers uncovered the disarticulated jawbones of a huge animal in Maastricht. At the time this discovery caused a sensation as the extinction of species and the concept of deep, geological time was not understood. The Dutch naturalist Pieter Camper was given the task of identifying the creature and he concluded that it was a whale. The French scholar Faujas de Saint-Fond disagreed and stated that the fossil bones represented a reptile and he named the animal as an unknown species of crocodile. In 1800, Pieter Camper's son (Adriaan), studied the fossils once again and he concluded that this was a sort of giant lizard. Georges Cuvier, the eminent French palaeontologist was contacted, Cuvier was regarded as the world's leading expert on such finds and it was Cuvier who named the specimen as a Mosasaurus. He agreed with Adriaan Camper, the animal was indeed a form of giant lizard. Cuvier had the opportunity to study the fossils in person as the fossil had been removed to Paris by French troops in 1795. The tableau of fossil material was nicknamed the "Beast of Maastricht" and Mosasaurus means "Lizard of the River Meuse".
For many years afterwards, a number of prominent 19th Century scientists remained convinced that a living specimen of a Mosasaur would soon be caught and brought to the attention of the scientific community.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

10 Secrets to Master Your Organic Chemistry Course

Organic chemistry is probably the most challenging of science courses that you are going to experience in your college career. The sheer volume of information which you have to study is overwhelming, and the failure rate is unusually high. Yet there is no way around this path if you are pursuing a career in the profession of health or science.
Although there are no miraculous solutions to acing this course without the required hard work and dedication, there are a number steps you can take, and methods you can implement to insure that you don't fall behind in organic chemistry. This will make it easier for you to stay on top of the material and ultimately on top of the academic curve.
1- Reading Your Textbook Prior to Lecture 
Read your textbook right before lecture. You simply can't afford to arrive to class unprepared. If you hear the principles and mechanisms for the first time during class, you can be overcome as you frantically attempt to break down the material and grasp the basic key points.

Reading through the chapter ahead of time, regardless of whether you don't fully grasp everything, It ensures that you'll be able to have some knowledge of the material mentioned in lecture. After you are exposed to the information for the second time in lecture, your primary focus is shifted to comprehending the concepts which you found originally challenging in your readings.
2- Take Notes During Lecture 
No matter if you are recording the lecture, or have a set of printed PowerPoint slides, you still ought to take notes during the session. This can help you stay focused, stop you from tuning out the professor, and may help you identify the little stresses placed on individual ideas or mechanisms. These will likely wind up being the very points tested in your approaching examination

3- Read Your Textbook Once More After Lecture 
Now that you have a much better comprehension of the material, it is best to read the book again to make sure that you are comfortable with each topic discussed and mechanism tackled

4- Practice, Practice, Practice 
Organic chemistry is not a course that can be soaked up through simple memorization. You should practice the principles, check your understanding of the ideas, and consistently go through each one of the mechanisms. The more familiar you are with each factor, the less the chance that you may be caught off-guard on the exam

5- Do More Than the Assigned Homework Problems 
If you stick with just the 5 or 10 given homework problems, you are cutting yourself short. The additional problems located in your book are intended to test the same concepts, with a somewhat unique twist every time. When you practice these added problems you'll be better equipped to resolve unforeseen challenges on your upcoming dxam. These kinds of additional questions may even be the very questions that may turn up in your test

6- Do Not Memorize 
The worst thing you can do to mess up your organic chemistry capabilities is to just memorize reactions. When you memorize an exact reaction, you are only equipped to answer questions presented in the form memorized, consequently you will be caught off guard when the starting compounds or reagents are somewhat, or completely different from your flashcards. However, if you review the concepts, focusing on how the molecules behave, and the reason why the electrons attack, you will be capable of completing any related mechanism, regardless of how the reacting substances are presented

7- Study Groups 
Any time you study by yourself you are restricted by your individual sources of know-how, notes, and study material. Whenever you study with a group you will be capable of assisting the other person with difficult ideas, and process mechanism challenges as partners. If you are weak in a particular matter, your study group will be able to address your concerns. And if you are secure with a subject matter, you will probably still learn it far better whenever you are required to apply it in easy terms to describe to a member of your study group who has trouble understanding this concept

8- Peer Tutoring 
A lot of universities have a learning center with peer tutors to assist you with your organic chemistry course. Even though they are students on their own, these tutors have taken, and effectively completed organic chemistry, and will therefore be able to help you with the basic concepts and mechanisms

9- Office Hours 
If your professor or TA has office hours, consider this a very skilled, very free tutoring session. Your teacher and TA are quite familiarized, not merely with organic chemistry, but also with the concepts and problem forms that will show up on your examination. They'll be able to assist you to fully grasp the facts by using problems similar to what you will later be tested on

10- Private tutoring 
Though the above mentioned tips are extremely effective guidelines not to be dismissed, many students still find themselves having so many doubts with insufficient resources. Study groups are tied to the experience of the students concerned, and peer tutoring or office hour sessions are typically rather crowded.

A private tutor in contrast is somebody who's going to be proficient with the information, and able to illustrate it for you on your level and at your own pace. Private tutors may help you understand ideas and content covered, and can help you deal with mechanisms, homework problems and practice exams.
Of all the science classes you may encounter, organic chemistry is THE course to hire a professional tutor to ensure that you don't get behind. Considering the fact that to fall behind in organic chemistry, even for just one day, can inevitably be the distinction between a pass or fail

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Subject Specific Challenges to Making Science Labs Work

Most students do not go on to become scientists and for these students the main goal of science education should be to teach rigorous, evidence-based thinking and to convey a sense of wonder about the natural world. These goals can be met by any branch of science; there is no obvious reason why biology would be better than physics or Earth science would be more important than chemistry. Indeed, it is undoubtedly possible to point to curriculums and classes in all areas of science that do a wonderful job of teaching scientific thought. However, that doesn't mean that it is equally easy for teachers to meet these goals in every domain.
It is clearly important for students to have real, meaningful laboratory experiences in science classes. It is possible to have great labs in all branches of science but the challenges can be quite different. One of the big challenges in biology is that experiments often take an extended period of time. Frequently, getting results is simply not possible in a single, 45 minute class period. Even with 1.5 hour double periods, designing biology experiments that fit can be difficult. On the other hand, working with animals (and even plants, fungus, and protists) is inherently motivating and exciting for most students. Furthermore, many of the most important ideas in biology are less abstract and mathematical than the big ideas in physics and chemistry, and are therefore easier for many students to absorb.
In contrast, physics labs often get much quicker results than biology labs and can have the advantage of being visually dramatic. The difficulty for physics teachers is bridging the gap between the labs and the principles which they demonstrate. It's no secret that physics involves quite a bit of math and many students get so caught up in their struggles with the math that they are unable to see the ideas behind the formulas. One of the most successful solutions to this difficulty is conceptual physics classes, which are often successful in helping students understand the big ideas of physics.
Chemistry labs also tend to be quick enough to fit into class periods and they are often very exciting. Indeed, the most common request I get as a science teacher is for "explosions" which are almost entirely the domain of chemistry. With chemistry labs, the duel challenges are safety and connecting the macroscopic results with the microscopic reasons behind the results. Safety in chemistry labs is often best addressed by having well-designed, dedicated lab rooms in schools. When that is not possible, work-arounds using household chemicals instead of their more exciting and dangerous counterparts are sometimes possible. Connecting lab results with the actions of molecules is becoming easier for teachers as better and better computer simulations for chemistry education are developed.
Earth science is the fourth major branch of science and it is the most forgotten one. In some ways it is the broadest of the subjects; any study of earth science will inevitably touch on aspects of chemistry, physics, and biology. Designing earth science labs is quite challenging because it is impossible to actually manipulate landforms or weather in the classroom. For this reason, earth science labs rely strongly on models. Reliance on models can be a strength if it is used as an opportunity to really explore the place of models in science or it can be a weakness if simple models are used as stand-ins for complex systems without discussion.
Each branch of science has its own advantages and disadvantages from the point of view of a teacher designing a curriculum with a strong, relevant, and exciting laboratory component. For most students, it is not especially important which branch (or branches) that they study; rather it is important that they learn scientific thinking and evidence-based reasoning.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Drilling and Producing Crude Oil and Natural Gas

This article demonstrates how crude oil and natural gas wells are drilled.
One of the main questions is how do we find the traps where these natural resources are found? Years ago it was based on the ancient strategy called "luck". Producers would simply drill one well right at the side of another; there were no scientific methods, just simple guess work. By doing this the landscapes really suffered.
Today the good luck and guess work have been replaced with science and technology, the same technology and principles that are used for drilling in Alaska, Texas, and Oceans and even in the Middle East.
Suppose a geoscientist finds a possible trap, meaning that potentially there is either crude oil or natural gas in that location. This presents us with some common questions.
First, are there giant pools of crude oil and gas under the ground or do we get it from certain rock formations?
Secondly, how do we extract that natural resource from the earth and create energy out of it?
Once the geologist find a trap that could contain crude oil and gas a drilling rig is brought in.
What is a drilling rig and how does it work?
The drilling rig is a piece of equipment that is brought onto the rig for five or six or seven days which drill a hold about the size of a football and is capable of drilling down several thousand feet down into the earth's surface. Once the hole is drilled a variety of sensitive instruments called logging tools send electronic messages that provide a detailed record of the rock and fluid properties of the geologic formations.
A typical rotary drill rig goes about 5,000 feet down. Imagine taking 16 football fields and placing them end to end and turning them upright, that's about 5,000 feet. 
The rigs process is very similar to drilling through a piece of wood, only the drill bit is about the size of the football we mentioned earlier. The drilling is performed by highly trained members of a drilling crew.

Once the rig has drilled through various rock formations, steel piping is placed in the ground, then a cement shield is placed around the pipe to protect any water table or aqua furs, the piper is then perforated a and fractured only at the crude oil and natural gas rock formation to allow the flow of these vapours and liquids to move up the well to the surface. If the rock formation contains enough crude oil and or natural gas the rotary drill rig will be replaced with a pumping unit. Now the purpose of this is to keep the crude oil and natural gas flowing. Crude oil is sent into storage tanks and natural vapours are sent into vapour pipelines.
Often times today we need a drill in areas that won't allow us to drill down straight vertically, but with some of the latest technologies we are now able to drill directionally, this is an excellent way, for example to drill under a park or a school's property, many pre-developed areas tend to be a great place for crude oils r natural gas so the directional drilling technology is a great way to retrieve the source.
So what is the cost?
The costs usually ranges from 350,000.00 to 1, 000, 00.00 and an offshore well can cost up to a billion dollars per well and there's still no guarantee it will even produce.
I'll now use Ohio, USA as a case study
In Ohio there is over 64, 00 crude oil and gas wells producing in 49 of Ohio's 88 counties, with more than 273, 00 well drilled.
Do all Ohio counties produce crude oil and natural vapours?
The answer is no! The potential geological formations that contain crude oil and gas simply do not exist throughout the state which is why technology plays such a key role in retrieving this vluable rescource.
Now back to a question asked at the beginning of this article -
Once we have drilled to our targeted rock formations, how do we get the crude oil and natural gas out?
Utilising scientific principles of movement the fluids, crude oil and vapours are lifted out of the ground to the surface using a variety of different pumping units. How do these units work? Well first of all kepp in midn that if a pump jack is not moving then it doesn't mean that a well is not producing. The pump is just turned on long enough to create a syphoning effect. Petroleum engineers, production supervisors or well tenders will typically determine how long each individual well should be turned off and on. Also, keep in mind that the motor on this pumping unit also need energy to work. This energy is either the well's own gas source or electricity or solar panels. If electric is used the pumping units may be switched on overnight during off-peak electric times.
Where does it go when it's out of the ground? The first place it will go into will be a separator, the separator separate the crude oil liquids from the gas vapours. the crude oil when then move onto a storage unit called a Tank Battery and the vapours will be transported through a number of Natural Gas Pipelines for distributions.
Why can't you always see these crude oil and gas wells? New technology allows us to have a very small environmental footprint. These wells are hidden by plants and other landscaping like and can be found in car parks or in back yards if schools, churches, cemeteries, parks, cornfields or even your own back yards and these wells can produce energy for decades.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Newly Discovered Diprotodon Fossil Gives Hint at Extinction of Ancient Marsupials

Ancient Marsupial Fossil Suggests Climate Change A Cause of the demise of Megafauna
Scientists at the South Australian museum (Adelaide, Australia) are hoping the discovery of the fossilised remains of a giant marsupial might be able to provide them with further insights as to what led to the demise of Australia's megafauna, animals as diverse as hippo-sized Wombats, predatory Thylacines, giant Koala bears and Monitor Lizards twice as big as Komodo Dragons.
Giant Marsupials - Diprotodontids
The giant marsupial in question is a Diprotodon, a strange and diverse group of mammals unique to Australia. Diprotodontids are an extinct family of marsupials, the majority of which were plant-eaters and some evolved into giant forms becoming the largest mammalian herbivores the continent has ever seen. The first Diprotodontid fossils are known from Eocene deposits and they may have persisted until around 45,000 years ago.
Palaeontologists have puzzled over why the Australian megafauna died out. It has been proposed that hunting and the burning of forests by the first human settlers on the continent hastened the demise of these large animals, however, rapid climate change may also have played a prominent role.
Giant Prehistoric Animal From Australia
The fossils of the three metre long Diprotodon were found at the remote Collinsville Merino Stud, a substantial sheep and cropping station approximately eighty miles north of Adelaide. The fossils were discovered in mid 2010 when Paul Cousins, a sheep station worker, came across the fossils eroding out of a riverbank whilst on a camping trip with his family. He took some of the exposed fossilised bones to a local museum knowing that they represented the remains of a prehistoric animal but he was unsure whether or not they had discovered a dinosaur. Museum staff identified the specimens as Diprotodontid fossils and a team from the South Australian museum was dispatched to excavate the rest of the fossil material still embedded in the ground.
Associate Professor Rod Wells of the South Australia museum commented that over 500 man hours had already been spent excavating and preparing this specimen and he asked for more field volunteers to help with the excavation. The fossils have been dated to around 120,000 years ago, a time when people had yet to reach Australia, according to most palaeoanthropologists. The fossil matrix, the sediment in which the material was found, may provide clues to the extinction of Australia's unique megafauna.
Sediment Suggests Extinction due to Climate Change
The sediment in which the bones of this large, plant-eater were deposited are very finely grained. The fossils were discovered by the Cousins family in a creek bed that was eroded by seasonal flooding and exposed. The strata in the immediate vicinity of the fossil material, as it is so fine suggests a hot, dry and windy environment. The Australian scientists have speculated that this large animal may have died in a prolonged drought or fallen into a dried up river channel, the carcase would have been washed down to its final resting place in later, seasonal flooding.
This suggests that the climate may have been more extreme 120,000 years ago with very dry periods followed by intense, seasonal rains which may have caused extensive flooding. The location of this fossil material adds to the debate as to whether climate change played a significant role in the extinction of a lot of Australia's unique, native fauna.
Harsh environments and rapidly changing climatic conditions would have affected large animals at the top of the food chain to a greater degree than smaller animals. The larger species of Diprotodontids may have been struggling to survive and then with the advent of the first human settlers, they were finally driven to extinction.
Palaeontologists Hoping to Find More Fossil Remains
Rod Wells has suggested that the more fossil sites such as the Collinsville location that the scientists explore so they will be able to build up a more complete picture regarding the climate of Australia during the Pleistocene Epoch. Such data will help them to understand why these huge animals perished along with the other amazing megafauna that once roamed the outback.