MindCrowd, Check Your Head

Yesterday, my Aunt Coralie and I took a tour of the Evelyn F. McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Arizona. The tour was titled Mysteries of the Brain, it should have been called the Mystery of Memory, but no matter, it was still fascinating. Their goal is to better understand the processes by which the brain records memories and how that changes with age. The premise is that once researchers understand the whys and hows of normal memory and aging they can develop methods to fend off, treat, or possibly cure dementing diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Our 40 person group was split into 4 smaller units and we rotated through labs, receiving an overview of the research. Our first stop was a room full of desktop computers. We were each directed to a computer and asked to try a memory game. It was a sample of MindCrowd, an online memory test research project. For this project, the researchers are shooting for a million participants (an astronomical number, considered impossible pre-internet). The hope is that such a large sample size will help researchers identify trends and factors that aren’t apparent in smaller projects.

I did fairly well on the demo test and was excited to try the real thing. The process took about 10 minutes and it was kinda fun (but then again, I’m a nerd that way). Give it a try – c’mon be one of a million! Screen shot 2015-04-21 at 9.36.39 PM

Pottery Pieces from the Past

Growing up in the Sonoran Desert, with it’s long history of human habitation (extending back at least 9,000 years), I learned early on to look for clues. Whether hiking or horseback riding my eyes constantly scanned the desert floor for lithics or sherds. I scrambled over boulders looking for petroglyphs and metates. I studied the landscape looking for human alterations.

Seldom was I disappointed, this area is rich with hints of those who have gone before. My fascination with those distant lifeways had a profound influence on me, it ultimately led to my degree in Archaeology. While I don’t work in that field I am just as interested as ever.

So imagine how delighted I was to find these sherds in my own backyard! I had always hoped to find something on this property but after six years, I had given up.

Based on the undecorated and unrefined surfaces this was probably plain ware, meant for everyday use. Two slight ridges running parallel suggest the vessel was made using the coil method. My thumb fits perfectly in one of the depressions – did the potter’s thumb fit there, too? We’re separated by hundreds of years yet I can picture the capable hands; coiling and smoothing.

These aren’t the most beautiful fragments, they aren’t large or painted or stylized, but I think they’re wonderful!IMG_2762

All About Nests

A new show by Nature, Animal Homes, airs tonight on PBS focusing on Nests. While that is interesting enough, the best part is that they filmed hummingbirds at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum for the show!

I know I’ll be watching. Even better, I get to head over to the Desert Museum this weekend in person. I will not only see hummingbird nests, but eggs and fledglings, too. Not to mention the baby bighorn sheep that was born this week as well as the new black bear cub.

For those of you who can’t visit, watching the show will have to do!


The Future Begins…

I’m dating myself here but I just realized that the future is coming. And by that I mean, Back to the Future II. The date that Doc transports Marty and Jennifer to in the second part of the BTTF trilogy is October 21, 2015 (at 4:29pm to be precise). For you skeptics, check out the Countdown Clock: http://www.october212015.com/

And here’s a short clip to further confirm:

Those of us children of the 80s who have eagerly awaited our flying cars and hoverboards, the big question is where are they?

Since they don’t exist yet, I guess the next most important question is, who’s throwing the party?

Mark your calendars, because on Wednesday, October 21, 2015, the future begins!

Cat in Tree

Cruz is a two-year old male mountain lion, residing at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. When he was about four months old he was found in a backyard in southern California, scared and emaciated. After California Game & Fish rescued him they knew he wouldn’t be able to fend for himself in the wild (he hadn’t learned any of the needed skills) so they started looking for a permanent home. Thankfully, ASDM had space available and Cruz came to Tucson.

Cruz was very lively today, I wonder if it was the lovely weather or a case of spring fever that riled him up?