Archive for the 'Animals' category

Kitty fostering: Mango and Mandarin!

Oct 04 2010 Published by under Animals, Personal

We've had a new pair of foster kitties in our house for over a week, but I haven't been able to get pictures of them because they've been hiding under the bed! On Sunday, Terry of F.U.R.R. (whose rescue kitties we're fostering) came to our rescue and helped us move them to another room with fewer hiding spots.

Tonight we had our first real one-on-one (without Terry) interaction with the cats. These two -- sister and brother Mango and Mandarin -- are much less acclimated to people than our previous fosters and take much more effort to work with at this stage. They were hiding under a dresser when we came in and we had to gently pull them out -- with much hissing -- and make them interact. In short, as trained by Terry, you calmly follow them around until they get bored and allow you to pet them.

And don't you know it, it worked! We got both kitties out and purring and being generally okay with us petting them. They were calm enough for us to get some pictures. Here's Mandarin:

And here's Mango:

They're beautiful kitties, and actually quite docile once they've calmed down! If you know anyone in the vicinity of Charlotte interested in adopting these two, please point them towards Terry at F.U.R.R.! You can also donate to F.U.R.R. here.

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Vote for kitty Sasha!

Sep 14 2010 Published by under Animals, Personal

I can't resist doing a mini-bleg: vote for our kitty Sasha as cutest pet in the American Express Cutest Pet Photo Contest! The pic you're looking for is:

Voting runs to 10/1/2010, and you can vote every day for Sasha! We're way behind (I'm pretty sure folks are gaming the system), but the benefits of winning aren't trivial -- we could win a $2000 gift card.

The only catch is that they ask for an email on first voting. They aren't verifying emails, however, so you can put pretty much anything in to thwart future correspondence. You will lose out on a chance for a $375 gift card if you don't use your own email, though.

At this point, it's partly about pride for me -- Sasha is way cuter than some of those other animals, and deserves more votes!

(Okay, I'm done begging -- back to science blogging!)

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Kitty fostering success!

Sep 12 2010 Published by under Animals, Personal

Almost two weeks ago, I noted the arrival of two foster kitties in our home: Brewster and Breyer!  Well, I'm happy to say that we dropped them off at their new hopefully "forever home" this evening!

This was all done with the help of (and helping) Terry who runs F.U.R.R. — Feline Urgent Rescue and Rehabilitation.  We'll almost certainly be fostering some more cats in the near future, and I'll keep folks posted on events as they progress.

In the meantime, here are some final shots of Brewster and Breyer, so I can remember how sweet they are!

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Kitty fostering: Brewster and Breyer!

Aug 31 2010 Published by under Animals, Personal, [Etc]

I'll be doing more physics blogging in the near future -- I promise!  Work is keeping me quite busy at the moment and I haven't had much spare time or energy to investigate topics in depth.  Hopefully that will change in the future, but for now I thought I'd share some other news -- we're fostering two sweet kitties!

Last week, the wife and I were at the local PetSmart, where we met Terry who runs F.U.R.R. -- Feline Urgent Rescue and Rehabilitation--  a rescue shelter that specializes in so-called feral cats and socializing them for homes.  We went and visited Terry's "kitty lodge" and learned about the daily operations of the shelter, and are still contemplating volunteering!

In the meantime, we couldn't help but agree to foster a couple of cats! Every cat that can be fostered makes more room for the shelter to rescue another animal, which made it hard for us to resist. Our new houseguests are handsome brothers named Brewster and Breyer!

Breyer is a big boy, though not all of that size is due to long fur (he's a little round right now):

His brother is Brewster is a smaller, short-haired cat, and clearly takes his cues from big bro:

Both boys were a little scared when we first got them home, but within half a day they turned into the most lovable kitties you could imagine:

(I actually had a hard time getting pics of them, because they spent most of their time rolling around on their backs right in front of me or rubbing up against me.)

For those who are already doubting that we're actually "fostering" and not "adopting", as in some previous attempts, let me state that the wife and I are allergic to short-haired cats, and therefore can't keep these two.  They are adorable, however, so if you know anybody in the vicinity of Charlotte that would be interested in adopting these two lovely boys, please point them towards Terry at F.U.R.R.!  You can also donate to F.U.R.R. here.

Incidentally, if you're wondering how the other cats are handling things, let's just say they're curious and a little nervous right now.  Here's a picture from outside the guest room we're keeping the boys in:

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Attack of the giant squid! (1874)

Aug 04 2010 Published by under Animals, History of science, [Biology&Environment]

Last week, I ventured outside of my usual areas of expertise to discuss a paper I had stumbled across in a volume of the Transactions of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, dated 1790, "letter relative to the kraken". This prompted Sarah of The Language of Bad Physics to ask,

I love the articles you find for these. It got me looking, can you find the actual sources for NfL sightings? The 1873 "attack"?

It was an awesome question, and I knew immediately what she was talking about!  For those who don't know, in 1873 a fisherman had a genuine battle with a giant squid off the coast of Newfoundland.  This battle, the only one of its kind I am aware of, was also momentous in that it resulted in the first giant squid specimen studied scientifically on land!

I was immediately intrigued, and went searching.  With my uber-internet search skills, I managed to find the paper within an hour!  The article is a letter by M. Murray, "Capture of a gigantic squid at Newfoundland," The American Naturalist 8 (1874), 120-124.¹

Though if I keep writing posts about ocean life, I'm going to bring down the wrath of the Southern Friend Science Network or Deep Sea News upon me, I can't resist discussing this paper.  Giant squid have been a topic of fascination for me for years, and this letter is too much fun!

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Hummingbirds are back!

Jul 03 2010 Published by under Animals

The hummingbirds are back around, and drinking from our window-based feeder!  I managed to get a really clear shot of one of them:

The image is so clear, in fact, that if you zoom in on the full, hi-res version, you can actually seen the side of the house reflected in the hummingbird's eye!

This shot was a bit of quirky luck: I had seen the birds buzzing in and out of the feeder several times during the day, but they usually take off when they see me moving in the house.  On a random whim, I suddenly decided to grab the camera and stand, motionless, pointing at the feeder, just in case one went by.  This was really a long shot, since they come by perhaps several times a day at most, but within a minute of me standing there, the fellow pictured above stopped in for a drink!

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Swimming (well, kneeling) with stingrays!

Jun 27 2010 Published by under Animals, Travel

This past week I've been rather quiet about blogging and tweeting because I've been on vacation with the Wife and some of her family in Myrtle Beach, SC. We just returned yesterday and had a quite nice time, though like many vacations I feel perhaps even more exhausted than before we left!

There were many nice aspects to the trip, but for me the highlight was a stop at Ripley's Aquarium.  The aquarium itself it relatively small, and most of the exhibits can be passed through within an hour, even at a leisurely pace.  Nevertheless, they have a few really neat opportunities there, including an extra behind-the-scenes tour one can take that culminates with a hands-on encounter with their resident stingrays!  The Wife and I did the Swim With Stingrays Tour, and included with the event was a nice CD of pictures of our experience.

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A visit to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo

Jun 16 2010 Published by under Animals, Travel

Over the weekend, the Wife and I visited some of her relatives in Cleveland.  Though it was a very short trip, we managed to take a trip to the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo, which has a nice collection of exhibits.  We didn't have that much time at the zoo -- we got a late start and had to head right to the airport afterward -- but I nevertheless managed to get some nice pictures of the animals!  Let's take a look...

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You could learn a lot from a ducky: the van Cittert-Zernike theorem

Jun 12 2010 Published by under Animals, Optics

(Alternate titles considered for this post: Ducktoral degree, Send in the ducks, Proof by in-duck-tion, Duck Tales, Duck-ing the issue.)

One of my specializations in optics is the theory of optical coherence, which is the theory that characterizes the random fluctuations of light, and the consequences of said fluctuations.  It is typically one of the most difficult optics topics to teach beginning optics students, probably because it combines two challenging bodies of mathematics: wave theory and probability theory.  Any teaching tool that can be used to help students visualize and understand the basics is welcome, though such tools are few and far between in coherence.

Enter the ducks!  Early this year, some colleagues of mine published a short note pointing out that one can visualize a fundamental result from optical coherence theory, the van Cittert-Zernike theorem, by watching the waves a group of ducks generate when they splash into a pond!

The letter is by W.H. Knox, M. Alonso and E. Wolf, "Spatial coherence from ducks," Physics Today, March 2010, p. 11; it can be freely read here.  Though the letter describes the connection between coherence and ducks, it doesn't explain what the van Cittert-Zernike theorem is, so I thought I'd fill in a bit of detail with this post!

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Into the doggie Abyss...

Jun 03 2010 Published by under Animals

Update: Alas, it was not meant to be.  My wife is very allergic to the dog, and I'm pretty allergic myself (quite unusual for a Shih Tzu); also, the cats are not adapting well and are very traumatized (which is the cat's problem; the dog is very good around them for the most part).  We're going to send Winston back to get him a home without complications.  We'll miss him terribly.

Well, The Wife and I have taken the plunge and adopted a dog:

This is Dillon, a Shih Tzu that we've adopted from a rescue shelter.   The Wife decided she'd like a little animal to baby (our cats aren't too fond of babying), and I agreed.  He's a sweet little dog:

Shih Tzus are supposed to be, in general, relatively docile, quiet dogs.  Right now, though, he's incredibly excited and running all over the place, and the cats don't know what to make of him.  I have a feeling my blogging will be a little infrequent for a couple of weeks...

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