News & Events to Inspire STEAM Education

Did Batman Evolve From a Bat Dinosaur?

Did Batman Evolve From a Bat Dinosaur?

Jun 1, 2015

No, he didn’t.  Batman is a human as far as the iconic 1930s comic book series says.

However, more evidence that the non-fictional winged creatures known as birds evolved from dinosaurs has been uncovered recently in China.  Yi qi, which is Mandarin for “strange wing” is a small pigeon-sized dinosaur with bat-like wings and feathers.  Its fossils were discovered by a farmer in the Tiaojishan Formation of Hebei Province, China.  The fossils date to 160 million years ago, known as the Middle Upper-Jurassic Period.  Even though researchers speculate that the unique dinosaur may not have been an agile flyer, it provides a serious evolutionary clue as to how birds and bats came into existence.

 

The Yi Qi fossil that was discovered by the Chinese farmer.

The Yi qi fossil that was discovered by the Chinese farmer.

 

The researchers say that the findings show one of the evolutionary experiments in flight that lead to the existence of our current feathered friends.  Because of the dinosaur’s membraned wings, the paleontologists speculate that the creatured glided like a flying squirrel rather than like an agile bird.  Yi qi (pronounced “ee chee”) is especially unusual because of the rodlike structures that extended from the dinosaur’s wrists that were connected by soft tissue, features that were never before seen in any dinosaur fossil.

 

Yi qi's fossil shows bat-like wing structures potentially used for flying.

Yi qi’s fossil shows bat-like wing structures potentially used for flying and/or gliding.

 

The preserved specimen also showed the existence of feathers over the creature’s neck, humerus, and ulna.  Feathers and soft tissue were found along Yi qi’s forelimb and hindlimb.  The bat/bird-like dinosaur had a short snout and has been placed in the Scansoriopterygidae theropoda dinosaur group which means that it was essentially carnivorous but might have had some herbivore and insectivore qualities and was closely related to birds.

 

The three known members of the Scansoriopterygidae family.  (Photo credit: Nature)

The three known members of the Scansoriopterygidae family. (Photo credit: Nature)

 

While Yi qi may not have been Batman’s ancestor, “Holy bat logic!” it is still a rare, beautiful example of one of evolution’s many historical edits that gives us a more detailed look into our Jurassic past.

 

An artist's illustration of what the pigeon-sized dinosaur may have looked like.

An artist’s illustration of what the pigeon-sized dinosaur may have looked like.

 

For more information on this unique creature, check out:

Nature

Science News

 

Andrea Kuipers - I am a well versed, interdisciplinary scientist with a background in marketing, media, & journalism. I am currently finishing up degree number five at Cal State University Fullerton & working in a biochemical/biotechnology lab engineering proteins. Linkedin

Recent Loss of Ice in Antarctica Disturbs Earth’s Gravity Field

Recent Loss of Ice in Antarctica Disturbs Earth’s Gravity Field

May 26, 2015

Whenever I think of Antarctica melting, I can’t help but picture those awful end-of-the-world “movies” (notice the quotation marks) where one large piece of ice melts, a politician gets blamed, and suddenly a 400-foot tidal wave takes out California.  On May 21st, 2015 a paper was published by a team of scientists at the University of Bristol stating that there was a recent increase of ice loss from a formerly stable region in Antarctica.  While this may not have caused California to go underwater as films like 2012 would suggest, it was shown to disturb earth’s gravitational field, as recorded by a pair of satellites.

The Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) is a join mission of NASA and the German Aerospace Center.  The main purpose of the twin satellite operation is to measure changes in the earth’s gravitational field based on the fact that gravity is determined by mass.  Thus, a large sudden loss of ice in Antarctica would definitely be detectable by GRACE and it certainly was.  While GRACE can detect ice mass loss, it cannot detect ice mass movement.  Starting in 2010, changes in the Southern Antarctic Peninsula, the previous stable region of Antarctica, have been recorded using another satellite system, Cryo-Sat 2.

Cryo-Sat 2 is a mission of the European Space Agency that is dedicated to detecting ice.  The satellite was able to capture the dramatic events happening at Antarctica’s Southern Peninsula.  “There was nothing happening, and then, all of a sudden in the last five years, all of these glaciers started to send ice into the ocean,” says Bert Wouters, a glaciologist at the University of Bristol, UK, and an author of the study.

The scientists analyzed 5 years of data by the Cryo-Sat 2 and found that multiple glaciers along this peninsula have started to shed approximately 55 trillion liters of water into the ocean and an average of 4 meters of ice surface loss each year.  The scientists were able to rule out temperature and weather patterns as the source of the change which lead them to the culprit: warming oceans.

Ice shelves in the region have lost roughly 1/5 of their thickness in the last twenty years which has attributed to reducing the resistance force of the glaciers.  Unfortunately, most of the ice of the Antarctica Peninsula is in bedrock below sea level, which gets deeper inland.  This is a chief concern as even if the glaciers retreat, the warm water will just follow and lead to more ice melting.

To date, the glaciers have added approximately 300 cubic km of water to the ocean which is roughly 350,000 Empire State Buildings combined.  It may not have taken out California or New York City, but its effect and message is not to be taken lightly.  Dr. Wouters and his team will continue to collect data to see if they can determine just how much longer the thinning will continue.

Livingstone Island in the Southern Peninsula of Antarctica.

Livingstone Island in the Southern Peninsula of Antarctica.

 

For more information on this story, check out:

The European Space Agency 

Science Magazine

Andrea Kuipers - I am a well versed, interdisciplinary scientist with a background in marketing, media, & journalism. I am currently finishing up degree number five at Cal State University Fullerton & working in a biochemical/biotechnology lab engineering proteins. Linkedin

Teaching for the 21st Century: Meet Dr. Philip Janowicz

Teaching for the 21st Century: Meet Dr. Philip Janowicz

May 2, 2015

Most people cringe and/or gag involuntarily when they hear the words “organic chemistry“.  For those of us who have been through the course, it brings back painful memories that probably manifested in stereochemical nightmares during those college years.   For those who have never taken the course, organic chemistry seems daunting and impossible, like trying to get from San Clemente to Santa Monica during rush hour without hitting any traffic.  These are just two groups of people.  The third belongs to a class (pun intended) entirely of their own and it is those who have taken Dr. Philip Janowicz’s organic chemistry class.  Those people do not have panic in their eyes when the term is brought to mind and it is not just because Dr. Janowicz is a fantastic teacher, but because he is an innovator for the 21st century.

 

 

Philip Janowicz has his B.S. in Chemistry, Brain, and Cognitive Science with a minor in Psychology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).  He has his PhD from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Organic Chemistry with a focus in Online Education.  He currently teaches at California State University Fullerton, where he also conducts research in online education.

 

 

Andrea Kuipers - I am a well versed, interdisciplinary scientist with a background in marketing, media, & journalism. I am currently finishing up degree number five at Cal State University Fullerton & working in a biochemical/biotechnology lab engineering proteins. Linkedin

New Study: Earthquakes Contributing to Global Climate Change

New Study: Earthquakes Contributing to Global Climate Change

Apr 11, 2015

Yes, it’s true.  Humans are destroying the planet and contributing to global climate change with our cars, aerosol cans, and our massive industries.  While we are the main reason for the latest change in our global climate, a new study suggests that the earth is also contributing to ozone loss via earthquakes.

A study done by the National Institute for Environmental Studies in Tsukuba, Japan examined the 9.0 magnitude 2011 Tohoku earthquake which not only took 18,000 lives and caused miles of total demolition, not to mention the worldwide effects the large quake created, but it also released 6, 600 metric tons (that’s 7, 275 US tons) of carbon gases into the atmosphere.  These gases are called halocarbons and are stored in insulation, appliances, and other various equipment.  This is the first study done to look at emissions caused by a natural disaster and as this study revealed critical information, there will be many more to follow.  

Some of the gases that were released during the 2011 Tohoku earthquake include gases that are no longer used due to their harmful effects on the atmosphere.  Some of these gases include CFC-11 which is a powerful ozone-depleting foam used until 1996 when it was banned.  Another halocarbon HCFC-22, a refrigerant that is another strong greenhouse gas and is being phased out although it is used in many refrigerators and air conditioners.  About 50 percent of the emissions caused by the earthquake were due to this common refrigerant.  Emissions of the gas were found to be 38 percent higher than the years before and after the earthquake, the study shows.  Emissions of CFC-11 were 72 percent higher following the massive earthquake.

Overall, the effects of the halocarbon releasing due to the earthquake increased ozone depletion by 38 percent.  It also increased the amount of heat trapped in Japan’s atmosphere by 36 percent.  However the overall impact of one such disaster is relatively small as Takuya Saito, senior researcher on the project, calculated with his team. The total impact the earthquake had on the overall greenhouse emissions for the year was just under 4%.  That may seem small, but it definitely was enough for the calculations to remain important and will be important for others to conduct similar studies of greenhouse gases released by earthquakes and other natural disasters, Saito feels.

What is also important to take away from this study is that we humans need to stop using atmosphere-damaging chemicals in our industries and home products.  I may have jokingly blamed the earth, but if it wasn’t for us storing these harmful chemicals, they would have never been released in the tremor and poisoned our already bruised atmosphere.  This study will help policymakers regulate the use and storage of these chemicals in the future.  For as we know bloody well in California, nothing on earth is safe during an earthquake.

For more reading, check out:

Science Daily

Andrea Kuipers - I am a well versed, interdisciplinary scientist with a background in marketing, media, & journalism. I am currently finishing up degree number five at Cal State University Fullerton & working in a biochemical/biotechnology lab engineering proteins. Linkedin

Randa Milliron: Launching Inspiration and Innovation Through Rocket Science

Randa Milliron: Launching Inspiration and Innovation Through Rocket Science

Jan 23, 2015

It’s not every day you stumble across a rocket lady, especially one that has a background in television, academia, and electronic music.

Randa Milliron, Chief Executive Officer of Interorbital Systems, is exactly that and so much more.  Lucky for us at QGITS and some very special STEM students at Cypress College here in Southern California, we got to hear this woman’s inspirational story as well as get some inside information about her innovative company, Interorbital, which engineers rockets and currently is part of an ambitious team working towards Google Lunar’s X Prize , of which Milliron was a founding member.

To read Randa Milliron’s full bio, click here.

Here is the video of Randa Milliron inspiring STEM students at Cypress College, shot by our very own QGITS founder, Ms. Candice Nunez: