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Archive for November, 2012

Winners: Driver & Rosebud, Margaret the Red & Pluto, TedDeBear & JohnnyG

Almost everyone was a winner tonight. In fact, every team that played scored points, a new first. No “Falling Leaves” award tonight. The lead changed hands a couple of times and then an epic collapse by the Driver & Rosebud let a couple of teams back into it.

It was a boisterous crowd, some very argumentative, probably because everyone, but especially BobbyBarcelona, wanted to win the poinsettia plant awarded to the winners. Sorry Bobby, maybe next year.

Good Question!: The earliest human use of fire for cooking has been dated at how many years ago?

Choices: 50,000; 500,000; 1,000,000; 5,000,000

Answer: 1,000,000 years ago.

Wow! That’s a long time for humans to be around – you think we would be smarter by now.

Hot Find! Humans Used Fire 1 Million Years Ago.

Scientists say they have new evidence that our ancestors were using fire as early as a million years ago. It takes the form of ash and bone fragments recovered from Wonderwerk Cave in South Africa. The sediments suggest frequent, controlled fires were lit on the site.

The ability to use fire is regarded as a key step and major turning point in human evolution, because it gave us access to cooked foods and new technologies

Stone tools found at Wonderwerk Cave indicate the ancestor in question may have been Homo erectus, a species whose existence has been documented as far back as 1.8 million years ago.

In case you missed the movie, here is the trailer for “Homo Erectus”

Establishing precisely when humans first acquired the ability to control fire has been very difficult. There have been several claims that the skill was in existence even earlier than at Wonderwerk.

But they have all been challenged, with sceptics arguing the fire remains from open sites could have been the result of natural blazes ignited by lightning.

If correct, the Wonderwerk discovery would push the earliest indisputable controlled use of fire back by about 300,000 years. In their paper, the researchers describe burnt remains of grasses, brushes, leaves and even bones in the cave’s sediments some 30m back from the entrance.

This makes it far less likely that what they are viewing is material from wildfires that was simply blown into the cave by wind, they argue. The depth of the sediments also suggests fires were lit on the same spot over and over again.

Harvard anthropologist Richard Wrangham has speculated that controlled fires and cooked meat even influenced human brain evolution. He suggests that humans were cooking their prey as far back as the first appearance of Homo erectus 1.9 million years ago, just when humans were experiencing major brain expansion, and proposes that cooking allowed our ancestors to evolve larger, more calorie-hungry brains and bodies, and smaller guts suited for more easily digested cooked food. However, as I look around the pub these days, it seems we may be reversing the evolution to smaller guts.erectus_JC_Recon_Head_CC_f_sq

Who is this Homo Erectus?

Although modern humans are the only human species alive today, originating about 200,000 years ago, other human species once roamed the Earth, such as Homo erectus, which arose about 1.9 million years ago.

Homo erectus is an extinct species of hominid that lived from the end of the Pliocene epoch to the later Pleistocene, with the earliest first fossil evidence dating to around 1.8 million years ago and the most recent to around 150,000 years ago.

Members of this group were the first to expand beyond Africa and lived in Northern, Eastern, and Southern Africa; Western Asia (Dmanisi, Republic of Georgia); and East Asia (China and Indonesia).

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Winners: Driver Shea and Wild Bill

In recognition of SuperStormSandy, tonight’s theme was hurricanes and all things meteorological. We learned the difference between cyclones and hurricanes, that raindrops fall at about 18MPH, and that if your navajo rain dance fails, you can try seeding clouds with silver iodide.

On a very long day which he started in Dubai some 42 hours earlier, intrepid traveller and ever alert Driver Shea carried Wild Bill across the finish line for the win. Quite embarrassing for the rest of us playing on a good night’s sleep. In case you can’t quite tell from the photo, the “proud winners” of the Falling Leaves award this evening were Rosebud and Margaret the Red.

Mistress Daphne deserves special credit for acting as moderator tonight. Having also just returned from Dubai and a long day’s journey into night, she was totally sleep deprived and slowly turned into a zombie as the night progressed.

Good Question!: Which hurricane caused the most deaths in the U.S. ?

Answer: the 1900 Hurricane.

In Galveston they call it the “Great Hurricane” (Sept. 8, 1900). This was way before hurricanes were named, which didn’t start until 1953 (see below). In 1900 Galveston was only about 9 feet above sea level. When the hurricane made landfall on September 8th it had estimated winds of 145 miles per hour at landfall, making it a Category 4 storm on the Saffir–Simpson Hurricane Scale. The hurricane brought a 15 foot tall storm surge along with these winds. The surge was so powerful it washed over the entire island, knocking buildings off their foundations and then pounding them into scraps of wood. In total over 3600 houses were destroyed.

Many of us thought that Hurricane Katrina caused the most U.S. deaths (1,800, with an additional 700 still missing), but it was dwarfed by the Galveston Hurricane, which was the deadliest natural disaster to ever hit the US, claiming over 6,000 lives. U.S. deaths from SuperStormSandy are at least 110.

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SuperStormSandy Stats:

SuperStormSandy’s statistical accomplishments are impressive. Record power outages (3.7 million customers in the region); record-low air pressure over Philadelphia, evidence of the storm’s intensity; and new standards for storm surges.

But it was Sandy’s behavior that has the meteorological community buzzing. Sandy defied the traditional rules of weather by moving from east to west. And its peculiar nature – an explosive combination of hurricane and nor’easter-like cyclone – had everything to do with the flood tides at the Shore and the inundation and shutdown of the New York subway system.

Sandy was so strange that meteorologists are unsure what to call it. The National Hurricane Center has determined that even though its peak winds were strong enough to qualify as a hurricane when it made landfall, it was behaving too much like a winter-type storm by then to be called tropical.

Hurricanes are not snowmakers, but on Tuesday a Sandy-related blizzard was raging in the mountains of West Virginia. “I don’t believe there’s anyone alive who’s seen this,” said Gary Szatkowski, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service.

EXTRA TIME

If you are a hurricane junkie here is some info on Hurricane Names:

but first, a bit of Glen Campbell singing “Galveston”:

For as long as people have been tracking and reporting hurricanes, also known as tropical cyclones, they’ve been struggling to find ways to identify them. Until well into the 20th century, newspapers and forecasters in the United States devised names for storms that referenced their time period, geographic location or intensity; hence, the Great Hurricane of 1722, or the Galveston Storm of 1900. Meanwhile, hurricanes in the tempestuous West Indies were named for the Catholic saint’s days on which they made landfall.

The pioneering Australian weatherman Clement Wragge began assigning names to tropical cyclones in the late 19th century, and later turned to the names of local politicians he particularly disliked; as a result, he was able to state in public forecasts that the officials were “causing great distress” or “wandering aimlessly about the Pacific.” Needless to say, Wragge’s subtly hostile approach didn’t take the meteorology profession by storm.

During World War II, U.S. Air Force and Navy meteorologists plotting storms over the Pacific needed a better way to denote hurricanes while analyzing weather maps. Many began paying tribute to their wives and girlfriends back home by naming tropical cyclones after them. In 1945 the newly formed National Weather Bureau—later the National Weather Service—introduced a system based on the military phonetic alphabet, but by 1952 the options had been exhausted. The next year, the bureau embraced forecasters’ informal practice of giving hurricanes women’s names.

By the 1960s, some feminists began taking issue with the gendered naming convention. In the early 1970s a member of the National Organization for Women chided the National Weather Service for their hurricane naming system, declaring, “Women are not disasters, destroying life and communities and leaving a lasting and devastating effect.” Perhaps taking a cue from Clement Wragge, she recommended senators—who, she said, “delight in having things named after them”—as more appropriate namesakes for storms.

In 1979, the National Weather Service and the World Meteorological Association finally switched to an alternating inventory of both men’s and women’s names. In recent years, the lists of names, which are predetermined and rotate every six years, have been further diversified to reflect the many regions where tropical cyclones strike. Names of devastating storms with major loss of life and economic impact, such as Celia in 1970, Andrew in 1992, and Katrina in 2005, are permanently retired.

sources: 1900storm.com, nhc.noaa.gov, huffingtonpost.com, articles.philly.com

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