Friday, December 24, 2010

Deathbed conversations: tell me about the plants

Photo of Solorsano, by J. P. Harrington.
Dramatic deathbed scenes are all too rare in news stories. So I'm happy that my story in today's Santa Cruz Sentinel and the San Jose Mercury News has one.

Ascencion Solorsano de Cervantes was the last member of the Amah Mutsun tribe versed in the traditional ways of medicine. People from hundreds of miles away sought her care.

In the summer of 1929 at age 83, Solorsano, the last fluent speaker of the tribal language, and a longtime resident of Gilroy, felt death approaching. To prepare, she moved to her daughter's Monterey home, bought a new black silk dress for burial and called her family close to say goodbye. But life had more in store. John Peabody Harrington, a Smithsonian linguist who spent his life recording native languages and customs, heard of Solorsano's illness and rushed to her.
Read the rest.

In the UCSC Arboretum

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Greetings from the depths of December

Hello sundry folk! To put an end to the near-criminal level of neglect I've shown this blog, let me give an update. The most important news is that I survived the fall quarter of the SciComs program (along with my nine SciComrades). There was some gnashing of teeth and wailing. But overall I think my molars are in good shape. I haven't made an appointment to see a dentist yet at least. 

We start again January 4, and will work on features and profile writing. But we've not been idle during the break. As proof let me share what I've been writing during the last few weeks.

Most of us were at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco last week. This was an astronomically-sized meeting of ground-shaking, world-exploring, climate-modeling, fossil-uncovering research. We were paid bloggers and, while fun, this was a little rough. We needed to turn the posts around quickly and we were covering subjects that were far removed from our academic fields. We had little time to speak to the researchers (if we had any). But what doesn't kill you will either give you indigestion or make you stronger. 

A little collection of my posts for you, starting with the most recent first: 

Between sessions last Friday, I hope you visited the exhibition hall one last time. Past the jewelery stands selling fossils and geodes and booths selling maps and drilling equipment, you may have spotted a minor celebrity–a little machine famous for great science.

Spurred by climate change, plant die-offs could wreak havoc on Tibetian lifestyle
For thousands of years the traditional herders of Tibet have lived among mountains, lakes and grasslands. Their livelihood– raising yak, sheep, and goats on the largest and highest plateau on the planet–is a precarious one.

Selling the science of geoengineering
It is a shocking idea, a terrifying idea, yet a mesmerizing idea–and it could just save the planet.
No sooner did I wish for a 3D movie at AGU, than I got one. 

What do you want to see on Mars? Tell HiRISE!
The most powerful camera ever sent to another planet wants to know what you’d like to see.
New eyes on the ocean
A global flotilla of diving robots have their eyes trained on the seas. 
In February, NASA launched the Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), an Earth-orbiting spacecraft, dedicated to investigating the Sun and it’s effect on Earth and space weather.

I also wrote a story for the newspaper based on a NASA press release at AGU. 
Growers in the Salinas and San Joaquin valleys are about to get help from above.

More excitng news-paper related updates coming tomorrow!