Drifting

In which the author has started a blog with no direction for no apparent reason.
pterosauria:

[Image: A flock of Hatzegopteryx. One paces along on all fours, another rockets into flight by pushing off with its strong forelimbs, and the rest soar above them.]
Pterosaur Myths Busted (V3)
Pterosaurs are a staple of movies featuring prehistoric animals—yet most media depictions of the poor beasts remain woefully stuck in the 19th century. Real pterosaurs were just about nothing like the sluggish, flimsy-winged gliders that populated our childhood picture books and movies. Here we take a look at how some common misconceptions about them stack up against the facts. 
Misconception: “Pterodactyl” and “pterosaur” mean the same thing.
Fact: “Pterosaur” applies to the entire group, but “pterodactyl” is only correct when you’re referring to, well, pterodactyloids.
In general, pterodactyls had proportionally shorter tails, longer necks, bigger heads, and longer hand bones than non-pterodactyls. Compare these skeletal drawings of Rhamphorhynchus (a non-pterodactyl) and Pteranodon (the ’dactyl of Jurassic Park fame).


M: Pterosaurs were dinosaurs.
F: Dinosaurs fall under the orders Ornithischia and Saurischia. Pterosaurs do not belong to either group, though current evidence places them as close relatives of the dinosaurs within Ornithodira. 
M: Pterosaurs were the ancestors of birds.
F: Like their cousins Velociraptor and T. rex, birds are a type of theropod dinosaur. Pterosaurs left no living descendants.
M: Pterosaurs had scaly / leathery / bald skin.
F: Though the pads of their feet were scaly, most of a pterosaur’s body was covered in hairlike filaments called pycnofibers. Pterosaurs of the primitive family Anurognathidae, such as the one shown below, seem to have been fluffed up from snout to tail with pycnofibers.

M: Pterosaurs were “cold-blooded.”
F: Nope. With no body heat to insulate there wouldn’t be much point to pycnofibers.   
M: Pterosaurs could pick things up with their feet.
F: Their feet were much better suited to walking than grasping. Like humans, they had plantigrade feet—in other words, the entire sole of the foot contacted the ground as they walked.
M: Grounded pterosaurs walked on their hind legs / could only crawl around on their bellies.
F: Pterosaurs usually walked on all fours, and many were quite adept at ground locomotion to boot, especially the pterodactyls. Some, such as the dsungaripteroids, may even have been capable of galloping. The three in the illustration below are shown badgering an azhdarchid for its kill.

M: All pterosaurs had teeth / were toothless.
F: Pterosaurs had all kinds of dental arrangements, from completely toothless to jaws positively bristling with the things—just look at Pterodaustro below. (Pteranodon was toothless, by the way; its name even means “toothless wing.”)
 
M: Females of crested species had large head crests like the males.
F: Head crests were probably sexually dimorphic, with males usually having much larger, more elaborate head decoration, as demonstrated by these two Darwinopterus. 

M: Pterosaur wing membranes were leathery, flimsy and prone to tearing.
F: Pterosaur wings were supple, complex, multilayered structures. They were reinforced with closely-packed fibers called aktinofibrils. 
M: Each wing was supported by several fingers like a bat’s.
F: Only the hugely elongated fourth finger supported the wing; the other three fingers were much smaller. See here for a diagram of the pterosaur wing. 
M: Pterosaurs had sharply-pointed wing tips.
F: Such a wing shape would have made flight difficult. Here’s our anurognathid friend again, showing off its nice rounded wing tips for you.
 M: Some pterosaurs were too big / heavy to fly.
F: Even the largest pterosaurs were probably capable of powered flight. 
M: Pterosaurs could only take off by falling from a cliff / tree / [insert high starting point here].
F: They could launch into flight under their own power using all four limbs, a strategy also known in some modern bats. This is called “quadrupedal launch” (or just “quad launch”). See this video for a pterosaur quad launch demonstration.
M: All pterosaurs were ocean-going fish hunters.
F: They occupied a variety of niches, and many lived inland.
M: Pterosaurs cared for their hatchlings in much the same way as modern birds.
F: Other than protecting them during the hatching process, pterosaur parents might not have had much to do with their offspring (called “flaplings”) since they could probably fly almost immediately after birth.
Recent findings reveal that at least some pterosaurs, such as Hamipterus, were social and may have built their nests together in huge colonies.
M: Pterosaurs went extinct because they were outcompeted by birds.
F: The evidence for this idea is weak at best.
M: Live pterosaur sightings prove that pterosaurs never really went extinct. 
F: This idea relies on scant evidence as well. 
—————
If you have anything more than a passing interest in pterosaurs, you really should pick up a copy of paleontologist Mark Witton’s book on them. Pterosaur.net is another useful resource of information about these fascinating, ridiculous creatures.
Sources to avoid include David Peters’ Pterosaur Heresies and ReptileEvolution.com. While these sites seem professional on the surface and feature loads of attractive artwork, scientists have been unable to replicate the results of Peters’ research, and repeatable results are a hallmark of good science. Read more about Peters here (PDF), here and here. 
(Credit: Skeletal drawings by Scott Hartman; all other illustrations by Mark Witton.) ( #long post )

pterosauria:

[Image: A flock of Hatzegopteryx. One paces along on all fours, another rockets into flight by pushing off with its strong forelimbs, and the rest soar above them.]

Pterosaur Myths Busted (V3)

Pterosaurs are a staple of movies featuring prehistoric animals—yet most media depictions of the poor beasts remain woefully stuck in the 19th century. Real pterosaurs were just about nothing like the sluggish, flimsy-winged gliders that populated our childhood picture books and movies. Here we take a look at how some common misconceptions about them stack up against the facts. 

Misconception: “Pterodactyl” and “pterosaur” mean the same thing.

Fact: “Pterosaur” applies to the entire group, but “pterodactyl” is only correct when you’re referring to, well, pterodactyloids.

In general, pterodactyls had proportionally shorter tails, longer necks, bigger heads, and longer hand bones than non-pterodactyls. Compare these skeletal drawings of Rhamphorhynchus (a non-pterodactyl) and Pteranodon (the dactyl of Jurassic Park fame).

M: Pterosaurs were dinosaurs.

F: Dinosaurs fall under the orders Ornithischia and Saurischia. Pterosaurs do not belong to either group, though current evidence places them as close relatives of the dinosaurs within Ornithodira

M: Pterosaurs were the ancestors of birds.

F: Like their cousins Velociraptor and T. rex, birds are a type of theropod dinosaur. Pterosaurs left no living descendants.

M: Pterosaurs had scaly / leathery / bald skin.

F: Though the pads of their feet were scaly, most of a pterosaur’s body was covered in hairlike filaments called pycnofibers. Pterosaurs of the primitive family Anurognathidae, such as the one shown below, seem to have been fluffed up from snout to tail with pycnofibers.

M: Pterosaurs were “cold-blooded.”

F: Nope. With no body heat to insulate there wouldn’t be much point to pycnofibers.   

M: Pterosaurs could pick things up with their feet.

F: Their feet were much better suited to walking than grasping. Like humans, they had plantigrade feet—in other words, the entire sole of the foot contacted the ground as they walked.

M: Grounded pterosaurs walked on their hind legs / could only crawl around on their bellies.

F: Pterosaurs usually walked on all fours, and many were quite adept at ground locomotion to boot, especially the pterodactyls. Some, such as the dsungaripteroids, may even have been capable of galloping. The three in the illustration below are shown badgering an azhdarchid for its kill.

M: All pterosaurs had teeth / were toothless.

F: Pterosaurs had all kinds of dental arrangements, from completely toothless to jaws positively bristling with the things—just look at Pterodaustro below. (Pteranodon was toothless, by the way; its name even means “toothless wing.”)

 

M: Females of crested species had large head crests like the males.

F: Head crests were probably sexually dimorphic, with males usually having much larger, more elaborate head decoration, as demonstrated by these two Darwinopterus

M: Pterosaur wing membranes were leathery, flimsy and prone to tearing.

F: Pterosaur wings were supple, complex, multilayered structures. They were reinforced with closely-packed fibers called aktinofibrils. 

M: Each wing was supported by several fingers like a bat’s.

F: Only the hugely elongated fourth finger supported the wing; the other three fingers were much smaller. See here for a diagram of the pterosaur wing. 

M: Pterosaurs had sharply-pointed wing tips.

F: Such a wing shape would have made flight difficult. Here’s our anurognathid friend again, showing off its nice rounded wing tips for you.

 M: Some pterosaurs were too big / heavy to fly.

F: Even the largest pterosaurs were probably capable of powered flight. 

M: Pterosaurs could only take off by falling from a cliff / tree / [insert high starting point here].

F: They could launch into flight under their own power using all four limbs, a strategy also known in some modern bats. This is called “quadrupedal launch” (or just “quad launch”). See this video for a pterosaur quad launch demonstration.

M: All pterosaurs were ocean-going fish hunters.

F: They occupied a variety of niches, and many lived inland.

M: Pterosaurs cared for their hatchlings in much the same way as modern birds.

F: Other than protecting them during the hatching process, pterosaur parents might not have had much to do with their offspring (called “flaplings”) since they could probably fly almost immediately after birth.

Recent findings reveal that at least some pterosaurs, such as Hamipterus, were social and may have built their nests together in huge colonies.

M: Pterosaurs went extinct because they were outcompeted by birds.

F: The evidence for this idea is weak at best.

M: Live pterosaur sightings prove that pterosaurs never really went extinct. 

F: This idea relies on scant evidence as well. 

—————

If you have anything more than a passing interest in pterosaurs, you really should pick up a copy of paleontologist Mark Witton’s book on themPterosaur.net is another useful resource of information about these fascinating, ridiculous creatures.

Sources to avoid include David Peters’ Pterosaur Heresies and ReptileEvolution.com. While these sites seem professional on the surface and feature loads of attractive artwork, scientists have been unable to replicate the results of Peters’ research, and repeatable results are a hallmark of good science. Read more about Peters here (PDF), here and here

(Credit: Skeletal drawings by Scott Hartman; all other illustrations by Mark Witton.) ( #long post )

(via xen0phile)

putthison:

Kimono Exhibits
A bittersweet story in The New York Times recently. Textile historian Terry Satsuki Milhaupt was almost finished with her book on kimonos when she committed suicide in 2012. Her work was recently completed by her widower, Curtis Milhaupt. The book is titled Kimonos: A Modern History and an accompanying exhibit by the same name is happening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The New York Times has the story:

Ms. Milhaupt studied how kimonos over the last three centuries have revealed the wearers’ political leanings and cravings for westernization. The Met is filling galleries with clothing for firefighters, courtesans, actors and children in patterns including lobsters, demons, clouds and dewdrops. Paintings, photos and prints depict people manufacturing the textiles and sometimes opting instead for Western-style flounced gowns, tailored suits and bowler hats.
By the 1920s, Japanese men and women had started wrapping themselves in images of nightclub singers, cameras, train tickets and athletes. During World War II, warplanes, tanks, soldiers, machine guns, bombs and swastikas were added to the pattern options, even on toddlers’ outfits.
“The kimono has long served as a tableau on which to inscribe, describe and absorb the effects of modernization,” Ms. Milhaupt wrote.
The Japanese government battled against the more extravagant outfits, “prohibiting gold and silver leaf appliqué on the clothing of prostitutes,” she wrote. A women’s association proselytized for simple pantsuits. Dogmatic association members, Ms. Milhaupt wrote, “cut the flowing kimono sleeves of noncomplying women.”

For those who can’t get to The Met, there are several other kimono events happening around the country (and one in Japan). Again, from the NYT:

Three current kimono exhibitions run through Oct. 19: “Kimono for a Modern Age,” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, contains robes patterned with Sputniks, ice floes and penguins. The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, in British Columbia, is offering a survey of kimono history, as well as a show featuring some of the possessions of the geisha singer Ichimaru. She changed fabric patterns seasonally, depending upon which flowers were in bloom, and her clothes also depicted her Tokyo neighborhood, known for its geisha trade. Next year, Mr. Weber will lend kimonos to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe and the Miho Museum near Kyoto, Japan.

Certainly sounds worth checking out. 

putthison:

Kimono Exhibits

A bittersweet story in The New York Times recently. Textile historian Terry Satsuki Milhaupt was almost finished with her book on kimonos when she committed suicide in 2012. Her work was recently completed by her widower, Curtis Milhaupt. The book is titled Kimonos: A Modern History and an accompanying exhibit by the same name is happening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The New York Times has the story:

Ms. Milhaupt studied how kimonos over the last three centuries have revealed the wearers’ political leanings and cravings for westernization. The Met is filling galleries with clothing for firefighters, courtesans, actors and children in patterns including lobsters, demons, clouds and dewdrops. Paintings, photos and prints depict people manufacturing the textiles and sometimes opting instead for Western-style flounced gowns, tailored suits and bowler hats.

By the 1920s, Japanese men and women had started wrapping themselves in images of nightclub singers, cameras, train tickets and athletes. During World War II, warplanes, tanks, soldiers, machine guns, bombs and swastikas were added to the pattern options, even on toddlers’ outfits.

“The kimono has long served as a tableau on which to inscribe, describe and absorb the effects of modernization,” Ms. Milhaupt wrote.

The Japanese government battled against the more extravagant outfits, “prohibiting gold and silver leaf appliqué on the clothing of prostitutes,” she wrote. A women’s association proselytized for simple pantsuits. Dogmatic association members, Ms. Milhaupt wrote, “cut the flowing kimono sleeves of noncomplying women.”

For those who can’t get to The Met, there are several other kimono events happening around the country (and one in Japan). Again, from the NYT:

Three current kimono exhibitions run through Oct. 19: “Kimono for a Modern Age,” at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, contains robes patterned with Sputniks, ice floes and penguins. The Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, in British Columbia, is offering a survey of kimono history, as well as a show featuring some of the possessions of the geisha singer Ichimaru. She changed fabric patterns seasonally, depending upon which flowers were in bloom, and her clothes also depicted her Tokyo neighborhood, known for its geisha trade. Next year, Mr. Weber will lend kimonos to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, the Museum of International Folk Art in Santa Fe and the Miho Museum near Kyoto, Japan.

Certainly sounds worth checking out. 

oldhollywood:

Katharine Hepburn on the set of Sylvia Scarlett (1935, dir. George Cukor) (via)

oldhollywood:

Katharine Hepburn on the set of Sylvia Scarlett (1935, dir. George Cukor) (via)

(via my1930s)

I am an atheist myself so I suppose I should be sympathetic to Maher and Harris here, but I’m not because because it’s an irrational intellectually nonsensical point of view. There are 1.6 billion Muslims in this world. And a few thousand of them —- hell it could be a few hundred thousand of them —- are members of the extremist fringe that wreaking havoc in the middle east and causing everyone else to pee their pants. Nobody disputes that these particular Muslims are assholes. But you can’t blame the religion itself when there are more than a billion adherents who aren’t killing anybody and don’t want to kill anybody. As Affleck says, they’re just going about their lives, trying to do their best for their kids, working, praying, screwing —- everything everyone does. If Islam is an inherently violent religion, then more than a billion of its believers don’t seem to be getting the word.
 
It’s infuriating. Do we condemn all of Christianity because of Operation Rescue? Is it ok to condemn all of Judaism because of the violent right wing settlers? Is Buddhism inherently violent because some Buddhist monks in Myanmar and killing people left and right? It’s not as if we haven’t seen exactly the same behavior among humans forever for entirely secular, avaricious, tribal, egomaniacal, nationalistic reasons. This is what we do! That this particular group of human assholes has seized upon religion for their justification for it is meaningless. It’s always something.

Digby: They Don’t Even Know They’re Bigots.

I, too, am an atheist, and I agree with everything Digby says, here.

(via wilwheaton)

(via xatrax)