Beetle byte (30 August 2013 edition)

During the week, I often run across interesting stories and links that I’d like to share. If I can maintain any discipline at this at all, I’ll try to post a small number (targeting about a half dozen a week, give or take) of these each Friday for your weekend reading.

Open Access Inaction

I’ve published this paper in a journal called Science and Public Policy – a conventional way of being read by other academics. Except that whatever baroque negotiations have taken place between the journal’s new publisher and the UCL library mean that, despite being a member staff at one of Europe’s largest universities, I don’t seem to have access to that journal. This piece of research, funded by British taxpayers, can’t even be read by me.


The Last Ride of Legendary Storm Chaser Tim Samaras

These were the mysteries Samaras was working to solve. The data he gathered were fed into the collaborative engine of scientific inquiry, where weather models attempt to quantify and weight the forces known to spawn tornadoes, so better predictions might be made and earlier warnings issued. Yet the brightest minds in the field were quickly learning that not everything in the natural world can be accounted for. They know that minuscule perturbations of the atmosphere can alter the course of events dramatically over time.

And perhaps that’s what is so maddening about what happened to Carl Young and Tim and Paul Samaras, for those who knew them and for those who survived. There is no simple explanation, no single factor. As unknowable as the chain of random events that give rise to tornadoes is, so too was the series of decisions that ended three lives.


Bumblebees of the Western United States (PDF)

Some of the best things in life are, indeed, free. (via @bslindgren)


Fossil resin (amber) shows evidence of past insect infestations (PDF)

We show that infestation results in a rapid (approx. 1 year) 13C enrichment of fresh lodgepole pine resins, in a pattern directly comparable with that observed in resins collected from uninfested trees subjected to water stress. Furthermore, resin isotopic values are shown to track both the progression of infestation and instances of recovery. These findings can be extended to fossil resins, including Miocene amber from the Dominican Republic and Late Cretaceous New Jersey amber, revealing similar carbon-isotopic patterns between visually clean ambers and those associated with the attack of wood-boring insects.


R.I.P. Seamus Heaney