Never tolerate evil

“One must never tolerate evil. For first evil is tolerated; then embraced, then hailed as being good – then it becomes unlawful to do what is actually good.”

From a video game, of all places.  The Elder Scrolls vs Skyrim

I have never played it, and I don’t know anything about it. I just liked the quote.

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Giant Shipworm Discovery

Giant shipworms, which don’t burrow in ships, have been eluding scientists. Scientists have known of it for a long time, but only recently were able to study a live specimen.  Which is funny, because Pilipinos on Palawan Island  have been eating them for quite some time.

“”I’ve been studying shipworms since 1989 and in all that time I had never seen a living specimen of Kuphus polythalamia,” Daniel Distel, a co-author of the new study and the director of Northeastern University’s Ocean Genome Legacy Center told The Sydney Morning Herald. “It was pretty spectacular to lift that tube out of its container for the first time.””
The scientists ‘discovered’ how to obtain the elusive live specimens from a television show in the Philippines, where these shipworms are eaten as aphrodasiacs.

Here’s the video. It’s called tamilok in the Philippines, and there are different kinds- most don’t have shells and do burrow in wood (shipworms). The giant tamilok, or Kuphus polythalamia, has a shell which can be 5 feet long. It hides in the mud, and doesn’t eat wood.

Here’s a video of scientists pulling out the giant, tusk-like shell from the canister used for transporting it. They cut open the shell and shake out the worm. I think it’s cool, fascinating, and intriguing – the worm in the shell is glossy black and huge. But you might feel differently.

There’s a photograph of Pinoys with a giant shipworm pulled from its shell and being prepared for cooking and eating in one of the links above. Yet in spite of that, CBS News in this articleby Mindy Weisberge, breathlessly speaks of it being seen alive for the ‘first time’ by the late to the party scientists:
“An enormous, worm-like mollusk called a shipworm that inhabits a shell resembling an elephant’s tusk was recently seen for the first time ever.

The animal’s long, tubular shells — which measure 3 to 5 feet in length — were discovered centuries ago, but no one had ever glimpsed the creature that made the shells.”

This part is interesting:
Instead of living in a piece of wood that they consume, the enormous worms bury themselves in marine mud, and they survive through the activity of special bacteria that live in their gills. As the worms filter the water — which is chock-full of rotting wood — the bacteria process hydrogen sulfide produced by the decaying wood and plant material, using it as the fuel for a chemical reaction that results in nourishing organic carbon, the scientists wrote in the study.

Most shipworms measure just a few inches in length, because they can’t grow larger than the piece of wood they inhabit — they can’t move to a new piece of wood if they outgrow the first, so if they grow too big, they would starve to death, Distel told Live Science.

But K. polythalamia, which lives in mud, has no such restrictions, he said.

“There is not much to limit their growth, and they have a pretty unlimited source of energy from diffusing sulfide. It is also possible that their sulfur symbiosis provides them with plenty of nutrients and energy, allowing them to grow faster and larger than their relatives,” Distel said.

It may have taken several centuries to track down these unusual shipworms, but now scientists can finally begin to unravel the mysteries of their unusual biology, life cycle, and their symbiotic relationship with the still-undescribed bacteria that live in their gills and make their food.”


There’s more about them here, along with an excellent diagram.

And this article, minus the error on it not being seen ever until now, also has more detail than others if you want to put together a chapter of biology study of these bizarre members of the mollusca family.


How it lives:

Hydrogen sulfide is not a gas that is usually described as life sustaining. Even at low concentrations it smells like rotten egg and exposure to high levels can cause all kinds of health problems, such as nausea, loss of smell and even death in extreme situations. However while its toxic fumes might knock most of us out, there is a creature that thrives on this toxic gas – the giant shipworm, a mysterious mud-dwelling creature that has eluded scientists till now.

Found in a lagoon laden with rotting wood in the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, the giant shipworm (Kuphus polythalamia) has been playing a game of catch-me-if-you-can with scientists since the 18th century. While its empty shells, which can measure up to five-foot long, are fairly common, the creature itself – and a live specimen at that – is not, says lead investigator Daniel Distel, a research professor and director of the Ocean Genome Legacy Center at Northeastern University.”

More on eating Giant Tamilok.

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Science Links for Homeschoolers- Emphasis on Shrimp Dissection

Science Demonstrations, density with flax seed and water;   Bernoulli’s Principle with a leaf blower and a beach ball.  Fun stuff showing real principles at work.

Huge collection of science websites of interest to learners and homeschoolers.

Gray’s Anatomy is online, free!

Observation based study of plants

Flower labeling

How to write a lab report

Anatomy comes from the word anatomae, which means dissection. Dissection is a good way to examine the structures, both internal and external, of an organism and discover how they work.

Dissecting a shrimp or a crawdad (we purchased our shrimp from the market): There are helpful youtube videos, but they are of limited use to me with my limited wifi, and I don’t want to use it hunting for the best of the videos.

Have the student write down or tell you everything he can think of that he knows about shrimp.

Observe some living shrimp.  Go to the pet store or a walmart and look in the aquariums. Visit an aquarium. Ask around among your friends, people at church, co-workers, and see if anybody has any aquarium shrimp.  Go tide-pooling. Go snorkeling. If your student is unable to observe a living shrimp or a crawdad, then don’t do this lesson. Do something he can see living in real life- an earthworm, a grasshopper, a fish.

Once you’ve observed a shrimp doing shrimpy stuff, write down everything you have observed and try to draw one.

The worksheets below come from this site.

Get your shrimp (or a crawdad) for dissecting.  You’ll need some kind of tray to put it on, gloves, a sharp pair of scissors, tweezers, and maybe lemon juice (you rub or splash it on the shrimp if the smell is too strong), and a magnifying glass or a microscope if you have one. An apron isn’t a bad idea. You can always just safety pin a beach towel- either bib-like, pinned in back, behind your neck, or safety pin each of the top two corners to the shoulders of your shirt.   Bleach the tray when you’re done.

Cut along the underside of the shrimp (use very sharp, small scissors), and make your incisision between the left


This simple worksheet has a drawing of a shrimp to label, a list of questions on observations- how many legs, how many this, etc, and instructions to find certain organs and draw them, and if possible examine with a microscope and draw what you see that way.


And answer key to the drawing- here it is with the proper labels.

This worksheet has a drawing of the internal organs and the parts are labeled.  It says it’s a diagram of cephalopods at the top of the page, but this is definitely a mistake. It’s unmistakably a shrimp, and shrimp are arthropods.

Marine ecosystems, shorelines

Marine ecosystems, coral reef

(both of the above links contain extremely simplified, dumbed down text. But you could use them as a basis for choosing what topics to explore further)

Coral Reef Life– fabulous pictures. Very helpful as a field guide, except not so much use ‘on the field,’ unless you bring a smart phone and a pocket wi-fi with you to the beach or on the boat.

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April the Giraffe is Having That Baby

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Observation is Foundational for Science

.“Children should be encouraged to Watch.––Children should be encouraged to watch, patiently and quietly, until they learn something of the habits and history of bee, ant, wasp, spider, hairy caterpillar, dragon-fly, and whatever of larger growth comes in their way. ‘The creatures never have any habits while I am looking!’ a little girl in some story-book is made to complain; but that was her fault; the bright keen eyes with which children are blest were made to see, and see into, the doings of creatures too small for the unaided observation of older people.” CM volume 1
She goes on to talk of the value of an ant farm at home for personal observations. I was reminded anew of the value of first hand observation all over again when I collected my little shield bug last week and shared a photo here. I ended up keeping the bug over night, and from time to time I would go back and watch it a bit more. I thought I had seen all there was to notice the first fifteen minutes, but everytime I returned and watched it moving, I would notice something new- a patch of colour or a pattern I’d missed, a joint in the legs, a opening, the way the head moved, the fact that the legs were so jointed the bug could do what looked like pushups….
Books are great for filling things out, preferably later, for reference, for help in seeing what to notice, for instructing your observations. But nature study is about learning to see and think and wonder about what’s real and right in front of you in full rather than pictures on a screen or a page (which pictures can be helpful references later, but should not replace or outweigh personal observation).
Above is picture of a pair of sea urchin shells my son brought me after a snorkeling trip (he never brings me flowers, he brings me cool things like these)- I looked them over and felt them, and attempted a crude sketch (no, you cannot see it), and examined them with a magnifying glass and a pocket microscope, and looked again, just because I admire them so, for a few minutes every day. On the 3rd day I noticed the inside protuberance something like a tooth- which I am sure it is not, but I don’t know yet what it is.
I think when we first look at something it’s like walking into a crowded booksale- we are overwhelmed, there is so much to see the details blur and we look everywhere. The more times we come back and focus on just one area, the more we notice. This simple, round empty shell of a sea urchin looks deceptively devoid of detail- one feels one could observe all there is to see about it in five minutes. And perhaps, with much practice, one can. But most of us and our children are just starting out. So take time to observe, and then come back and observe again, and again. Make these observations first and firsthand, in real life, with real things, not books, youtube videos, and other flat, one dimensional resources.

“…It would be well if we all persons in authority, parents and all who act for parents, could make up our minds that there is no sort of knowledge to be got in these early years so valuable to children as that which they get for themselves of the world they live in. Let them once get touch with Nature, and a habit is formed which will be a source of delight through life. We were all meant to be naturalists, each in his degree, and it is inexcusable to live in a world so full of the marvels of plant and animal life and to care for none of these things.” ”

“…the quickness of observation natural to a child should not be relied upon; in time, and especially as school studies press upon him, his early quickness deserts the boy, but the trained habit of seeing all that is to be seen, hearing all that is to be heard, remains through life. Volume 3, page 109

Science.––In Science, or rather, nature study, we attach great importance to recognition, believing that the power to recognise and name a plant or stone or constellation involves classification and includes a good deal of knowledge. To know a plant by its gesture and habitat, its time and its way of flowering and fruiting; a bird by its flight and song and its times of coming and going; to know when, year after year, you may come upon the redstart and the pied fly-catcher, means a good deal of interested observation, and of; at any rate, the material for science. The children keep a dated record of what they see in their nature note-books, which are left to their own management and are not corrected. These note-books are a source of pride and joy, and are freely illustrated by drawings (brushwork) of twig, flower, insect, etc. The knowledge necessary for these records is not given in the way of teaching. On one afternoon in the week, the children (of the Practising School) go for a ‘nature walk’ with their teachers. They notice for themselves, and the teacher gives a name or other information as it is asked for, and it is surprising what a range of knowledge a child of nine or ten acquires. The teachers are careful not to make these nature walks an opportunity for scientific instruction, as we wish the children’s attention to be given to observation with very little direction. In this way they lay up that store of ‘common information’ which Huxley considered should precede science teaching; and, what is much more important, they learn to know and delight in natural objects as in the familiar faces of friends. The nature-walk should not be made the occasion to impart a sort of Tit-Bits miscellany of scientific information. The study of science should be pursued in an ordered sequence, which is not possible or desirable in a walk. It seems to me a sine quâ non of a living education that all school children of whatever grade should have one half-day in the week, throughout the year, in the fields. There are few towns where country of some sort is not accessible, and every child should have the opportunity of watching from week to week, the procession of the seasons. Geography, geology, the course of the sun, the behaviour of the clouds, weather signs, all that the ‘open’ has to offer, are made use of in these walks; but all is incidental, easy, and things are noticed as they occur. It is probable that in most neighbourhoods there are naturalists who would be willing to give their help in the ‘nature walks’ of a given school.
We supplement this direct ‘nature walk’ by occasional object-lessons, as, on the hairs of plants, on diversity of wings, on the sorts of matters taken up in Professor Miall’s capital books; but our main dependence is on books as an adjunct to out-of-door work––Mrs. Fisher’s, Mrs. Brightwen’s, Professor Lloyd Morgan’s, Professor Geikie’s, Professors Geddes’ and Thomson’s (the two last for children over fourteen), etc., etc. In the books of these and some other authors the children are put in the position of the original observer of biological and other phenomena. They learn what to observe, and make discoveries for themselves, original so far as they are concerned. They are put in the right attitude of mind for scientific observations and deductions, and their keen interest is awakened. We are extremely careful not to burden the verbal memory with scientific nomenclature. Children learn of pollen, antennae, and what not, incidentally, when the thing is present and they require a name for it.”


First hand observation instills a sense of wonder, as well, and there’s nothing like wonder to season the appetite for science.

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