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Avia S-199 in Israeli Air Force Service

Archive for February 2014

Today’s paleontology lesson

A new paper reports on an incredible collection of aquatic fossils from Cerro Ballena, Chile. Spanish speakers who can translate Cerro Ballena to Whale Hill might hazard a guess at what fossils were found.

The paper, available to all in “Proceedings B of the Royal Society“, describes a series of whale strandings that occurred 9-6.5 million years ago. Science has a lay summary of the work.

Such a fine collection of fossils is called a lagerst├Ątte and can reveal a lot about the environment at the time.

Under a deadline due to the impending highway construction that revealed the lagerst├Ątte, the research team relied more on 3-D virtualization than on old-fashioned digging.

Because these fossils are relatively recent, they don’t reveal much about whale evolution, but research did teach me one thing I never knew before: the phrase “aquatic sloths”.

I went to the fantastic Web site the team put together. Not only can you download the 3-D models of some of the specimens, but you can cruise a list of all of them. Near the bottom, you can find Thalassocnus natans, the aquatic sloth.

I knew sloths could swim – there are a few videos of that – but that’s not the same as being aquatic. Carl Zimmer wrote about these things ten years ago so perhaps I need to pay better attention.

Aquatic sloths were not small animals. I could not find a published estimate of their size, but I did find an unofficial estimate: six feet long and up to 500 pounds. Here’s a photo of the skeleton (click to enlarge):

And a couple of artists’ depictions:

The beasts probably weren’t this hairy.

This is more like it, but the face needs some of that fine coat, too.

Note the snout elongation from the first depiction of an older species to the second, more derived species.

The driving force that led to sloths’ adopting an aquatic lifestyle (although they almost certainly came back to land after feeding, sort of the opposite of hippopotamuses) was the terrestrial environment. This area has been arid for a long time, which makes it tough for a dedicated herbivore to find enough to eat on land. Tooth wear tells us that the early aquatic sloths fed on or near shore where sand would abrade their tooth enamel. The later species show no evidence of sand abrasion and probably fed in deep water, where the sea bed is calm.

Canada’s dominant gold-medal hockey game

Don’t listen to the columnists and sportswriters who say the US women dominated the gold-medal game for 57 or whatever minutes. It’s simply not true. Canada dominated that game but didn’t have the same puck luck until the end.

Corsi is an advanced stat that counts shot attempts, shots, missed shots, and blocked shots are all Corsi events. Corsi has proven to be the best predictor of hockey success, probably because it smooths out the luck factor.

Now, power plays obviously give any team an advantage in shots and Corsi, so using only even-strength Corsi numbers is the best analysis. Mainstream reporters and organizations like the NHL or the IOC don’t supply those numbers. You either have to calculate them yourself or take advantage of someone else who does, like Darryl Metcalf at Extra Skater.

Darryl isn’t closely following Olympic hockey games, so I am indebted to Jen LC, who posted her calculations on Twitter.

Here’s the money shot:

corsi

Canada out-Corsied the US at even strength by 53-28.

Traditionally – a weird word for how new the stat is – Corsi is measured as a percentage of a game’s events. Canada’s 65% is phenomenally dominating.

Canada deserved that game. As Jen put it, “Not that I loved the penalties or anything but at 5v5 Canada owned the puck.”

Update:

And here are Jen’s numbers for the men’s US vs. Canada game.

MenCorsi

Graduation ’88

We’re still sorting through my dad’s stuff and I got my hands on a photo album that contains photos of older family, my younger brother modelling in a fashion show, and my university graduation.

Here I am in my youth and long-haired glory.

Grad_0002

Grad_0001

Grad

My dad in that photo is two months away from turning 48. Right now, I am one month past 48. Is it just his grey hair that makes him look so much older in the photo than I do now?

Gradhair

Nope – not according me, anyway. His hairline receded more than mine has. I’m not sure about the face.

Speaking of which, this may be the most recent photo I have of my dad clean-shaven.

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