the moon sets the scene

Image via

the moon sets the scene
By Annette Marie Hyder

gilds the lily of your face
with special-effects-contact-lenses blue
I string an antler’s worth
(tines in velvet moonlit too)
of kisses ’round your neck
no one can see them
but you feel them
I know that you do
you feel my aubergine kisses
when the moon is blue

Happy Blue Moon!

You can read all about the technical aspects of tonight’s blue moon, here, at the website.

If you would like more poetry to go with your science, here are a few links to some of my other poèmes de la lune:

the moonlight
dear moon,
the harvest moon sang to me
Cold Shoulder
Golem Moon
The moon hung around

Call me Cheetah

Sketch by Afke van Herpt

When I was little I went through a phase where I wanted everyone to call me “Cheetah” and refused to answer to anything else. “Nettie, time to get ready for bed.” my mom said. “Call me Cheetah.” I bargained. “Nets! I hear the ice-cream truck — let’s go get some!” my big brother said. “Call me Cheetah.” I negotiated. In any given circumstance where my claim to this new name was not being respected, all involved were treated to my offended disdain. Sheesh! What’s a girl-child have to do to get everyone on board with her new name?

And why did I want this new name? I found out that cheetahs are the fastest animal on the planet and so of course I wanted to (in addition to wanting to be a princess-ballerina-acrobat) be a cheetah.

My daughter also went through a cat identification stage but hers lasted
much longer than mine and included an uncanny mimicry of the way a cat
moves on all fours and actually licking people. Don’t worry, She’s
outgrown that part of it.

What has me thinking of that foray into feline wanna-be-ness is this new study, reported on in an article over at io9, in which the principles behind why cheetahs often overheat when they have hunted successfully is explained: The science of hot cheetahs by Joseph Bennington-Castro

Droplets and oceans

Photo credit Vadim Trunov / Barcroft Media

Photo credit Vadim Trunov / Barcroft Media

I am thinking about the smallest of creatures tonight and how we look at our resources as just that — ours. The global water supply is looked at in terms of human consumption but we are not the only ones drinking the water on this planet. When I think of other animals drinking water I might think of large animals at a watering hole, located in Mkhuze Park, South Africa, lapping with the stuttering heartbeat anxiety of drinking under the eyes of predators. I don’t usually think of ants and snails. It amazes me to see tiny creatures stopping for a refreshing sip of water.  I can’t help but reflect on the many ways, invisible to our computer-screen trained eyes, that we are connected with the other creatures, large and small, on our planet. The smallest ones are going about their lives and partaking of pinhead sized beverages just out of sight.

And water itself — it too is an entity of sorts –is alive/full of life and is deserving of far more respect than it is given, this thing that makes our very lives possible. It is easy to be struck with wonder at huge storms and torrential rains but there is glory also in the smallest droplet and miracles to be seen in daily walks that other living creatures take upon the surface of lakes the size of teacups, sojourns on their oceanis ignotum.

Links of interest

Environmental Graffiti: Beautiful photo gallery of insects drinking from raindrops
The Sun: Tiny creatures with the ability to walk on water
Scientific American: How is it possible for insects and spiders to walk on water and walls?

Tilt your head up

Image via I fucking love science

Tilt Your Head Up
By Annette Marie Hyder

“The cosmos is also within us,
We’re made of star stuff.
We are a way for the cosmos to know itself.”
— Carl Sagan

Tilt your head up.
Let the starlight touch your face.
let the planetary luminaries kiss
the eyes you reach for them with.
Put your hands behind your head
on the ground that is as much a part of you
and me as them and everything.

NASA shuttle program’s last flight

Atlantis lifts off Friday in Florida for the International Space Station on the NASA shuttle program’s last flight, STS-135.
Photo courtesy of The Houston Chronicle

Friday’s final countdown

The Houston Chronicle reports:

“CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Less than 24 hours after space shuttle Atlantis’ thrilling final ascent through a hazy Florida sky, Americans awoke today to a sobering truth: No one has any idea of when they might again see such a sight or where it will be going if they do.

For the first time in two generations, there is no schedule for a resumption of human spaceflight in an American spacecraft after Atlantis completes its massive restocking mission to the International Space Station. The uncertainty leading up to Friday’s launch, threatened for days by stormy weather, mirrored a greater uncertainty over the nation’s future in space and its commitment to space superiority.”
Read the entire article here.

In the yard, in a car, on a rooftop

Growing up in Florida, all I had to do to see the space shuttle launches flaming across the sky was step out into my back yard. On the road in a car when a launch was happening? We’d just pull over onto the side of the road to watch. Needing to feel closer to the excitement? A rooftop is a launchpad to feeling closer to the stars.

Watching the launches, it felt like our collective hand was pushing the shuttle across the sky — writing a space adventure with a big silver pen.

I’m sad to see the end of this NASA shuttle program but I also can’t help thinking about the  invasive nature of space flight.

Pushing the envelope

Annette Marie Hyder

Pushing the white envelope of the clouds
the space shuttle is a big silver pen
we use to write our name LARGE
not just a flourishing signature in the chalk of exhaust
but an autograph painted in hubris.
We graffiti the walls of space
and love the way we say
“humans were here” in flags and sundry equipment left behind
carve our initials on everything — even the heavens
and steal souvenirs because we can
and no one in charge appears to be looking.

Links of interest:
Space Shuttle
How many Moon rocks were brought back to Earth?

Thomas Edison’s 164th Birthday

Invention’s ‘Baby Daddy’

They say that  ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ and I say that curiosity is the father.

Today is what would be the 164th birthday of Thomas Edison, inventor of the incandescent light bulb, among many other things (Rutger’s University states that Thomas Edison had 1,093 successful U.S. patent applications), including the motion picture, the disc phonograph, telephone transmitter and cement.

Did you know that one of Edison’s greatest regrets was not respecting Nikola Tesla’s work enough? Source

Tesla is a figure who has long fascinated me. According to his own writings, Tesla visualized scenes, people and things so vividly that he was sometimes unsure what was real and what was imaginary.  He smelled odors that no one else could detect and had a strange personal physiological interaction with electricity which started with his youthful experiences with lightning.

Here is to celebrating both of these men:

Annette Marie Hyder

They sent their thoughts, like mice,
through mazes of synapses
to get to the cheese —
the “Eureka!” moment —
at the puzzle’s end.

Links of interest:

10 Thomas Edison inventions you’ve probably never heard of
Audio recording of Edison reciting “Mary Had a Little Lamb”
The mind of Tesla
Tesla: Man Out of Time, by Margaret Cheney

Information about legislation to ban incandescent light bulbs:
USA Today

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. –Thomas A. Edison 

Standing Tall is Key for Success

There’s a great article in Science Daily on how standing tall is key for success and ‘powerful postures’ may trump title and rank. A study has ‘consistently found
across three studies that posture mattered more than hierarchical role.’

Excerpt from the article below, and here’s a poem about…

Standing Tall
Annette Marie Hyder

Your glances walk tingles
right up the ladder of my spine.
My posture wears high heels
(hips tilted and shoulders thrust back)
even in my bare feet
when I run into the hydraulic lift
of your eyes.

Article excerpt from Science Daily :

Science Daily (Jan. 7, 2011)
Show enthusiasm, ask questions and bring copies of a resume. These are
just a handful of the most common interview tips for job seekers, but a
person’s posture may also be a deciding factor for whether they land a
coveted position — even when the person on the other side of the desk
is in a more powerful role.

According to new research from the Kellogg School of Management at
Northwestern University, posture plays an important role in determining
whether people act as though they are really in charge. The research
finds that “posture expansiveness,” or positioning oneself in a way that
opens up the body and takes up space, activates a sense of power that
produces behavioral changes in a person independent of their actual rank
or hierarchical role in an organization.

More importantly, these new findings demonstrate that posture may be
more significant to a person’s psychological manifestations of power
than their title or rank alone. Led by Kellogg School of Management
professor Adam Galinsky and Kellogg PhD candidate Li Huang, along with
Stanford Graduate School of Business professor Deborah Gruenfeld and
Stanford PhD candidate Lucia Guillory, this research is the first to
directly compare the effect on behavior of having a high-power role
versus being in a high-power posture. The paper is titled “Powerful
Postures Versus Powerful Roles: Which Is the Proximate Correlate of
Thought and Behavior?” and appears in the January 2011 issue of Psychological Science.

Although not anticipated by the researchers, they consistently found
across three studies that posture mattered more than hierarchical role
— it had a strong effect in making a person think and act in a more
powerful way. In an interview situation, for example, an interviewee’s
posture will not only convey confidence and leadership but the person
will actually think and act more powerfully. “Going into the research we
figured role would make a big difference, but shockingly the effect of
posture dominated the effect of role in each and every study,” Huang

Read the entire article here.

Coffee and (Carl Sagan) Apple Pie

Coffee, good for some, bad for others

I had a friend who was anti-coffee and would sneer at my ‘essence of death’, as he put it. Well, I have known all along that coffee is good for me. Scientists have waffled back and forth about the benefits and I do what most people do. I listen to the complimentary things researchers say about coffee as well as the negatives and then decide what to do based on how the research results apply to me. In my case (no high blood pressure, not pregnant, non-smoker), rejoice.

Here is an excerpt from the Wall Street Journal, Good News in the Daily Grind, that discusses the latest pros and the cons:

To judge by recent headlines, coffee could be the latest health-food craze, right up there with broccoli and whole-wheat bread.

This month alone, an analysis in the Archives of Internal Medicine found that people who drink three to four cups of java a day are 25% less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes than those who drink fewer than two cups. And a study presented at an American Association for Cancer Research meeting found that men who drink at least six cups a day have a 60% lower risk of developing advanced prostate cancer than those who didn’t drink any.

But don’t think you’ll be healthier graduating from a tall to a venti just yet. While there has been a splash of positive news about coffee lately, there may still be grounds for concern.

Continue reading here for the rest of the article and to check out the nifty ‘cup o’ joe’ graph that illustrates the pros and cons.

With that in mind

Remember when butter was bad and margarine was touted as the healthy choice? Now, years after I ignored the advice that sullied my ears, to eat margarine instead of butter, I am rewarded for my prescient consumption of the real thing as opposed to the artificial substitute by the acknowledgment by scientists that, why yes, butter is better than margarine.

Harvard Health Publications reports, in Butter vs. Margarine:

Today the butter-versus-margarine issue is really a false one. From the standpoint of heart disease, butter is on the list of foods to use sparingly mostly because it is high in saturated fat, which aggressively increases levels of LDL. Margarines, though, aren’t so easy to classify. The older stick margarines that are still widely sold are high in trans fats, and are worse for you than butter. Some of the newer margarines that are low in saturated fat, high in unsaturated fat, and free of trans fats are fine as long as you don’t use too much (they are still rich in calories).

Read the entire article here.

Now if incontrovertible proof were presented that coffee was bad for one’s health, the way that smoking has been proven to undeniably be detrimental to health, well that would be a different story. Until that happens, coffee is my friend.

To go with my coffee, in happy accompaniment, apple pie. Here is, via Neatorama, Carl Sagan’s Apple Pie Recipe:


A beverage as black as ink, useful against numerous illnesses,particularly those of the stomach. Its consumers take it in the morning, quite frankly, in a porcelain cup that is passed around and from which each one drinks a cupful. It is composed of water and the fruit from a bush called bunnu. — German physician and traveler,Leonhard Rauwolf, in 1583

No one can understand the truth until he drinks of coffee’s frothy goodness.  — Sheik Abd-al-Kadir

A morning without coffee is like sleep. — Author Unknown

The morning cup of coffee has an exhilaration about it which the cheering influence of the afternoon or evening cup of tea cannot be expected to reproduce. — Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Related Links:

We Are All Connected, featuring Carl Sagan, Richard Feynman, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Bill Nye
Is Margarine one molecule away from being plastic? Read The butter truth
Drinking Coffee, Decaf and Tea Regularly Associated With A Reduced Risk Of Diabetes
Coffee Consumption Associated With Reduced Risk of Prostate Cancer
Midlife Coffee And Tea Drinking May Protect Against Late-Life Dementia

Fake fingerprints: plastic surgery for fingerprints?

The BBC is reporting that a Chinese woman managed to enter Japan illegally by having plastic surgery to alter her fingerprints, thus fooling immigration controls.

BBC reports:

Lin Rong, 27, had previously been deported from Japan for overstaying her visa. She was only discovered when she was arrested on separate charges.

Tokyo police said she had paid $15,000 (£9,000) to have the surgery in China.

It is Japan’s first case of alleged biometric fraud, but police believe the practice may be widespread.

Japanese police suspect Chinese brokers of taking huge sums to modify fingerprints surgically.

Skin patches on her thumbs and index fingers were removed and then re-grafted on to the matching digits of the opposite hand.

Japanese newspapers said police had noticed that Ms Lin’s fingers had unnatural scars when she was arrested last month for allegedly faking a marriage to a Japanese man.

The apparent ability of illegal migration networks to break through hi-tech controls suggests that other countries who fingerprint visitors could be equally vulnerable – not least the United States, according to BBC Asia analyst Andre Vornic.

Blank pages
/ nonexistent fingerprints

Stories about fingerprints fascinate me. This is probably because when I was growing up my maternal grandmother’s fingerprints were nonexistent. The tips of her fingers were blank and unmarked; she had smooth whorl-free skin where her fingerprints should have been.

where most of us have reams
of DNA information written —
the paper of her fingertips
was script free

Tabula rasa comes from Latin for a smoothed or erased tablet (a tablet being a surface to be written upon) and has come to stand for a blank slate, a new beginning or something in its original pristine state.

My grandmother passed away and took the secret of her tabulae rasae, her blank slates, with her leaving me with the memory of a mystery and an abiding fascination with fingerprints.

Links of interest:
Can fingerprints wear away?
Discussion: Fingerprint scans
I have no fingerprints

One pill for straight hair and another for curly

Pharmaceutical styling?

According to the Daily Mail, scientists have discovered a “curly gene” and are working on a pill that can make hair straighter from the inside out.

It goes the other way too — straight-haired women (or men!) who have fantasized about cascading waves would take a curly pill.

The author of the research, Professor Nick Martin, told the Daily Mail that he “will be discussing this with a major cosmetics company in Paris in January.” Source

Professor Martin and colleague Dr Sarah Medland sought to find genetic variations responsible for curly hair in those of European descent.

Research showed that 45 percent of European people have straight hair, 40 percent wavy and 15 percent curly hair. The chance of inheriting curly hair is around 90 percent.

Researchers analyzed data collected from a study of 5,000 twins in Australia over a 30-year period.

The straight hair pill
Feel like straighter hair? Just pop a pill
Study Finds Hope to Restore Hair Color