Waco Mammoths want to be a National Monument

Researchers believe at least 19 Columbian mammoths were drowned by a flash flood about 65,000 years ago. Now, a petition has been started to have the site declared a National Monument. Here’s the text of the petition:

Add the Waco Mammoth Site to the National Park Service as a national monument by executive order.

Located in Waco, Texas, the Waco Mammoth Site provides a rare glimpse into the natural history of the southwest United States. It is one of the few sites where visitors can view the fossil remains of Ice Age animals lying where they died up to 70,000 years ago. Including the site as a national monument would further enhance the value of this experience.

The site already has a state-of-the-art shelter and welcome center furnished by the community of Waco and Baylor University. National monument status would allow it to add classrooms, labs, and exhibit spaces, as well as resume excavation.

The National Park Service supports adding the Waco Mammoth Site as a national monument, but Congress has twice failed to act on the matter. Therefore, an executive order is needed.

They’ve got a long way to go, but If you’re interested, sign the petition at the White House site. See the Waco Mammoth site here.


Analog Lives, too

Having just posted on the 8-track digital recorder in Voyager 1, I would be remiss in not pointing out that the Voyager spacecraft are also conveying the finest analog technology to the stars: The Golden Record, a gold-plated copper phonograph record that contains both pictures and sounds.

The cover of the Golden Record, with instructions on how to play it:

Photo courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech


Some of the music on the record, is, of course, available on Youtube.

The 8-Track Lives….in Space!

Artist Concept courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech

NASA  has just announced that the Voyager 1 spacecraft has officially left our solar system. Voyager actually passed into interstellar space about a year ago, but NASA scientists were only able to confirm that recently, using data sent back to earth by the spacecraft. Voyager records that data onto an 8-track tape recorder. In 1977, when Voyager 1 was launched, the 8-track was nearing the end of its commercial success here on earth, but at least one 8-track, barring, say, an unanticipated collision with a star in the Camelopardalis constellation 40,000 years from now, can be expected to live forever…in Space.

Voyager 2, which is identical to v’ger 1, is taking a different route out of the solar system, so that makes two 8-track tapes destined for potential immortality. As the New York Times shows, the rather archaic technology of the spacecraft poses challenges for the ground crew. It also shows that NASA scientists can also be relied upon for good quotes. Re: reprogramming that 8-track recorder:

“These younger engineers can write a lot of sloppy code, and it doesn’t matter, but here, with very limited capacity, you have to be extremely precise and have a real strategy”


The 12-person Voyager staff was long ago moved from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory campus to cramped quarters down the street, next to a McDonald’s. … Suzanne R. Dodd, the Voyager project manager, said that when she attended meetings in Building 264, she kept a low profile in deference to the Mars team.

“I try to stay out of the elevator and take the stairs,” Ms. Dodd said. “They’re doing important work there, and I’ll only slow them down.”

but there’s no point in false modesty:

the team discovered that the edge of the solar system was roughly where Gurnett predicted it would be back in 1993 by using different solar storm calculations.

“Am I bragging here? No,” he said. “All right. I admit it. It’s bragging a little.”

Which is understandable, since

“This is the moment we’ve all been waiting for,” Jia-Rui Cook, the media liaison at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, said in an email. “I can’t even sleep it’s so exciting!”

And finally,

“This is historic stuff, a bit like the first exploration of Earth, and we had to look at the data very, very carefully,” said Edward C. Stone, 77, NASA’s top Voyager expert, who has been working on the project since 1972. … “It’s now the start of a whole new mission,”

(quotes from Exiting the Solar System and Fulfilling a Dream at the New York Times, which now seems to have an abridged version of the original article on their site)

Does it Matter which College is Best?

File:Princeton University halls2.jpg

A photo of Princeton University, because, hey, it’s the best college in America. Source: wikimedia commons.

With U.S. News and World Reports publishing its annual list of the “best” colleges recently, the Atlantic Magazine responds with Your Annual Reminder to Ignore the U.S. News & World Report College Rankings. One reason?

U.S. News is always tinkering with the metrics they use, so meaningful comparisons from one year to the next are hard to make. Critics also allege that this is as much a marketing move as an attempt to improve the quality of the rankings: changes in the metrics yield slight changes in the rank orders, which induces people to buy the latest rankings to see what’s changed.

On the other hand,

For parents and prospective students who know almost nothing about America’s colleges and universities, the ranking provides a rough guide to the institutional landscape of American higher education. Using the U.S. News rankings for any more exacting purpose is about as good for you as eating potato chips and Gummy Bears for dinner. With maple syrup.

Following some of the links in the Atlantic article eventually leads to a review of this book by Jeffery J. Selingo, who, according to the reviewer,

Continue reading

Rediscovering Lost Movie Sites

Filming sites of early silent movies survive in New York and New Jersey and many dedicated researchers are rediscovering them and documenting their existence.

Surveying Silent Film Sites


Photo source: New York Times, Fort Lee Film Commission. “Theda Bara, left, filmed in “Carmen” in about 1915 in Fort Lee, N.J., vamping on a rock still visible at an apartment complex on Main Street.”