Sunday, March 27, 2011

Stomach Stone - FOS 021

FOS 021
Location: Utah
Family: N/A (Trace Fossil)

As I continue to procrastinate here is an interesting specimen that looks like nothing until you realize what it is. Heralding from the Morrison Formation out in Utah (meaning this is from the Upper Jurassic: 161-145 million years ago) this is a type of trace fossil, called a gastrolith, from a dinosaur. The term gastrolith comes from Greek meaning 'stomach stone' and with good reason. Much to how many modern day birds and other animals will require swallowing stones or pebbles in order to 'chew' their food (due to lack of teeth), so did the giant sauropods of the Jurassic/Cretaceous. While they did have teeth, their function was purely to grab a hold of leaves and other vegetation and not to chew (like our front teeth) and they would swallow their meal whole, along with some rocks. These rocks would grind up the food in their stomach (or rather gizzard which is a specialized stomach of sorts) preparing it for digestion. Afterwards the stones would easily pass; as you can see they would round out in the grinding process. 

While this particular specimen was probably used by a giant sauropod (the long-necked dinosaurs) it could have been from any sort of dinosaur that lacked suitable teeth for chewing. Plesiosaurs and their kin have also been known to swallow stones, but to be used as ballast rather than grinding. This means that one would swallow a few to balance them in the water much to how modern day alligators and crocodiles do today. And as it turns out the Morrison Formation where this specimen was found has a long documentation of gastroliths mostly from sauropods of the old old west. And some have even been known to actually be petrified wood. So another interesting fossil from the collection, and you can check out more about gastroliths here. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

(Left) Eye of the Tiger - GEO 070

GEO 070
Tiger's Eye
Class: Mineral
Location: Africa

I'm trying something new here so if you haven't yet check out Part I of this Tiger's Eye post, a kind of before and after. In Part I we looked at a specimen of Tiger's Eye from Africa that was polished whereas here we're looking at the straight from the earth raw material. As it was briefly mentioned in the other post, this mineral is actually another form of quartz, however its still very different from most other specimens like the citrine posted earlier. This is because its formed by pseudomorphous replacement rather than by just growing crystals.

As you'll notice in just about all examples of Tiger's Eye there are a lot of stripes, not just the larger ones but if you look closely you will see lots of very thin strands up and down the piece. This is because the mineral starts off as Riebeckite, specifically Crocidolite which is a type of asbestos and is also blue. It forms naturally and has these very thin strands of mineral, hence being an asbestos. What happens is that the mineral silicon dioxide starts to replace the minerals in the crocidolite, basically turning the asbestos into quartz. Once the pseudomorphous replacement has been completed the mineral Tiger's Eye will be left.

Both specimens GEO 053 and GEO 070 are from Africa according to their labels but they are more than likely not from the same place. Generally Tiger's Eye is mined in South Africa but that doesn't mean that these two specimens were. I'm just putting it out there so people don't think that because I'm connecting these two specimens that they have some sort of link. They don't other than that they are the same species of mineral. One is polished the other is not.

Learn more about Tiger's Eye.


(Right) Eye of the Tiger - GEO 053

GEO 053
Tiger's Eye
Class: Mineral
Location: Africa

To try something a bit different than usual, this is Part I post of a two specimen post; check out Part II here. Tiger's Eye is a well known gemstone with its striped orange-yellow-brown-ish coloring and is apparently the 'planetary stone' for those born under Gemini and is apparently the gemstone for those celebrating their 9th anniversary. I'm generally not one to collect polished stones for the collection, the best pieces of geology are those found raw in their natural state. This is a very cool piece though, so I made an exception to get it.

Historically this gemstone has been believed to bring spiritual and physical health to the wearer along with providing clarity, psychic protection, and good business. However, this is all just superstition and shouldn't be bought into. There are also a few varieties of Tiger's Eye, specifically Tiger's Iron which is a rock rather than silicate mineral, and is made of jasper and hematite. As you'll see in Part II where I talk more about how Tiger's Eye is made, there is a type of the mineral that doesn't complete the process which can lead to Eagle's Eye which is much bluer than it's mammalian cousin.

Learn more about Tiger's Eye.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Penguin Money - CC 319

CC 319
Antarctican Bill
Origin: Canada
Unit: $1 USD

This is one of my favorite pieces in the museum, mostly because of its obscurity and that no one seems to ever think about it. You may notice some oddities in the little description above of the specimen, namely that it's an Antarctican dollar but it's from Canada and worth American, which I shall clear up in a bit. Today's piece from the museum is indeed an Antarctican dollar bill. The obverse has a picture of some mountains, because Antarctica is a continent which means there is rock and ground just like all the others even though there are miles of ice piled on top in some places; this is in comparison to the North Pole which is just ice over the ocean. The reverse features penguins diving into the water, along with the Antarctican flag in the upper right hand portion of the bill. 

I'm sure you all are asking yourself, why is there money in Antarctica, no one lives there? Well first off for half of the year there are scientists down there in a variety of different fields studying climate, astronomy, paleontology, ecology, etc. And there are places down there to spend money, though few and far between such as some research stations have bar facilities. Now how this money works is an independent company called the Antarctica Overseas Exchange Office, LTD. mints these commemorative bills every so often and sells them to collectors, and the vast majority of the profits go towards funding further research in Antarctica. The company is based in Canada, but in trying to keep with it being as close to a real currency as possible they will honor the bill for it's face value, i.e. 1 Antarctican dollar = 1 US dollar (though they do impose time limits on exchanges). However, it is fun to note that some of these bills have turned up in Antarctica so I'm sure a few have been used down there by some playful folks. 

It's a very interesting piece to be sure, and the company really puts a lot of effort into making their bills look great. The Antarctican series comes in $1, $2, $5, $10, and $20 denominations, and they print out new issues with different pictures every few years. You can order yourself one to help out research at the Antarctica Overseas Exchange Office's website and learn more about life in Antarctica at the British Antarctica Survey's website here. Also, you may want to note that this is the same place that made the Galapagos Islands bill that I posted last year. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Publications Publishing Error

Just a quick note that the last two Publications specimens had the wrong Sholesonian ID attached to them. The Air Raid kit and the Bill Black's Combo record have just been re-published to the blog with the correct identification number on them.

The museum apologizes for this error.

Hi! - PUB 052

PUB 052
Bill Black's Combo
Media: 45 RPM Vinyl Record
Year: 1960
Details: #2022

Continuing this stream of daily updates, today's post is a 45 RPM seven inch vinyl record. Unlike the much larger 33 1/3 RPM, these guys hold very few songs. Side A has the song Josephine (Written by Wayne King and Burke Bivens) which has a runtime of only 2 minutes and 22 seconds. Side B is just as short with the song Dry Bones (A traditional song arranged by Bill Black) and runs 2 minutes and 14 seconds. The label is from Hi Records and is distributed by London Records, Inc. The record's catalog number is 2022. 

Apparently Bill Black was one of the pioneers of 'rockabilly' music, the early stage of what would become rock and roll. Black also worked with Elvis Presley in a trio early on in Presley's career, where he played bass. Later on in 1959 he started Bill Black's Combo. The song Josephine on this record was actually one of their most popular, placing number 18 in the US's Top 40. As of 2009 Bill Black is now in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and ex-Beatle Paul McCartney now owns Black's bass. 

You can check out some more about the Bill Black's Combo record here, and more about Bill Black the man and legacy here. 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

White = Blue? - NH 084

NH 084
Sea Star
Category: Echinoderms 
Family: Ophidiasteridae

In contrast to most of the specimens that are posted where I generally know what it is but don't know the locality, this particular guy had a label as to where it originated but not a whisper as to its identification. First you should all understand that the scientific way to talk about these guys is to call them 'sea stars' and not 'starfish.' This is generally just because they are in no way related to fish other than that they are both animals, fish being (Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Chordata) and sea stars being (Kingdom: Animalia, Phylum: Echinodermata), i.e. humans are closer to fish than these guys (because we also have a backbone). 

So while I knew that this sea star came from the Philippines I had the hardest time trying to figure out what the classification of it was. Doing some internet searches wasn't leading me anywhere, other than it was called a White Finger Sea Star, but that's just the colloquially name and while they were sold under that name none of the retailers knew the actual name. Well with a little help, it turns out that this guy is actually a Blue Starfish (Linckia laevigata), and that's no misnomer. Turns out that these sea stars are a bit thicker in the 'arms' and actually blue but are dried out and bleached in the sun. 

They're a fairly common for collecting both dead and alive (for salt-water aquariums). I'll talk more about sea stars later with another asteroid post, but for now you can learn more about Blue Starfish here or if you're interested in raising Blue Sea Stars here. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Embroidery Crane - HS 031

HS 031
Embroidery Scissors
Era: 19th or 20th Century
Details: Crane

This next piece is a bit hard to determine the origin and era than most of the other historical/cultural specimens. Doing a little bit of research I've found a bunch of similar types of small scissors in the crane shape, however they all have identifying marks on the inside of the scissors, whereas this pair only has two horizontal marks. Many of these other scissors were made in Germany, although I've found at least one similar looking pair made in Russia. Although there seems to be an abundance of this style of scissors there doesn't seem to be any sort of date associated with them. This pair was donated by my grandmother so as of right now they could be from early-mid 20th century perhaps earlier due to the elegant design, but this is purely speculative.

You may be wondering what these scissors are if you're unfamiliar with home economics. This is a pair of embroidery scissors, so they were used in decorating fabrics, making small cuts and for cutting the thread etc. The color has begun to degrade in some spots and the screw (which makes the crane's eyeball) is a bit loose, but otherwise the scissors aren't in that bad of shape. If you're interested in embroidery check out this page to learn about its history and other useful information. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Polished and Permian - FOS 019

FOS 019
Location: Unknown
Family: Goniatitidae

This is a very nice specimen that I received a few years back, but unfortunately I've seemed to misplaced the label so I have no idea where this particular fossil is from. However, I do remember the name of the creature: it's a goniatite. These things were very similar to the popularly known ammonites. While I'm not positive on the exact identification of the specimen I do know that it is at least in the Goniatite order and I'm taking a guess as to the family (Goniatitidae). 

Now I hope a few of you are somewhat familiar with what these guys would have looked like alive. If not the basics are that this is a chambered shell and the actual animal lived in the newest chamber, which in this case is the one in the lower left hand corner of the photograph. The rest of the chambers were filled with gas that functioned similar to the swim bladders in fish were it would make the goniatite buoyant in the water. You can really see the chamber structure right were the white portion meets the darker section (as the goniatite grew it would build new chambers). The animal had a bunch of tentacles that would come out of the last chamber along with two eyes and a head. They lived during the Mid-Devonian up until the Late Permian in oceans and were evidently not the best swimmers in the sea. 

There's a lot more cool information you can find about these very nice specimens by doing a few quick Google searches, but you can find a little bit more information on goniatites here. 

Friday, March 18, 2011

Jamaican National Hero - CC 193

CC 193
Jamaican Coin
Origin: Jamaica
Unit: 25 cents

Just a quick post for today from the large Numismatics Collection. This coin comes from the Caribbean island of Jamaica which gained its independence from the United Kingdom in 1962 but remains a commonwealth realm much like Canada or Australia with the queen as the monarch. The coin itself is from 1996 and is worth 0.25 JMD (Jamaican Dollar), making it the quarter of Jamaica. The reverse features Marcus Garvey as part of a National Heroes series. This particular coin was minted between 1995 and 2003 and is made of copper plated steel. 

The obverse features the Jamaican coat of arms which features the English motto: "Out of Many, One People" which is strikingly similar to the United States's Latin motto: "E Pluribus Unum" which means "One Out of Many." This new English motto replaced a former Latin motto: "Indus Uterque Serviet Uni" which translates roughly to "Both Indies Will Serve Together," probably a reference to being under British rule. This coin was part of donation received from the Balling Family. 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Chessy Blue - GEO 005

GEO 005
Class: Mineral
Location: Arizona

So if you haven't already you should check out The Sholesonian over on Facebook to get the latest feed on new specimens and what's going on in the museum. Today's collection piece is a nice sample of azurite. This blue mineral is fairly common and is popular due to the rich blue hue it has. This popularity dates all the way back to the 4th dynasty of Egypt (this is the time when the Great Pyramids were being constructed), where the mineral was powdered and its pigment used for coloring. Now the mineral is used as an indicator of copper ore (the chemical composition of azurite is Cu3(CO3)2(OH)2) and it's used by a variety of crafters and jewelers.

Azurite has a hardness of about 3.75 on Moh's Scale and is roughly four times as dense as water. The mineral also will occasionally be referred to as Chessy or Chessylite after a French mine where many high-quality specimens where found. This particular piece, however heralds from Arizona, USA and is not most pristine specimen. Very nice pieces will show off azurite's conchodial fracture (think rounded crystals) whereas the crystals in this piece are substantially small, but it still has that great signature azure color. More specifics can be found at this very informative azurite page.

UPDATE: Found the label which has plenty of extra information on the locality of this piece. It was found at the 4,750 Feet Level at the Phelps Dodge Morenci Mine in Morenci, Arizona, USA. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Now on Facebook!

So months ago the Sholesonian joined Twitter and now is officially on Facebook! We've been doing a little bit of design changing over here so you should like the Sholesonian on Facebook by checking out the new Facebook badge to the left. Also, I've added a feature that streams the latest comments also on the left so if you enjoy a particular specimen leave a comment - and the best part is you don't even need to have a Gmail account or sign in to anything to leave one.

Also, as I generally don't like posting up small posts here on the main blog I may leave some cool behind the scenes look on the Facebook page every so often. So right now you can check out this cool photo of some specimens I captured back in November, two spiders and the Boxelder bugs which are Sholesonian ID NH 075.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Pocket Pics - HS 006

HS 006
Argus Carefree Pocket Camera
Era: Late 20th Century
Details: 110 film

Another of my old cameras for your enjoyment. This one however was quite difficult to find any supplementary information about. It's an Argus brand 110 Carefree 2 Pocket Camera. If you're unfamiliar with what 110 film looks like check out the link. Since there is hardly an identifying feature on the camera at all, and because there seems to be hardly any information available online I'm assuming that this was made in the late 20th century, probably late 1970's or 1980's. I managed to find this Popular Mechanics issue that shows the rise of cheap 110 film cameras booming during the 1970's which is why I'm inclined to go with this temporary date. 

As you can see from the picture there seems to be a small scratch on the front in the shape of the Greek letter lambda. You may also notice that there is no flash on the camera. This was because the camera was meant to be kept easily in your pocket and flashes would add weight/bulk/price to the camera. The lens on the far left of the picture is the viewfinder and the middle part is the actual lens. Right above this you can see input for a flash. Since I don't have much information on this I'm assuming this is for something like the flipflash, but I'm not positive as it could be some other sort of flash. Anyway, a very affordable and lightweight camera back in the day. 

Friday, March 11, 2011

Mantis Mayhem - NH 001

NH 001
Praying Mantis
Category: Mantids/Phasmids
Family: Mantidae

And after a week long break from posting, the Sholesonian is back up with one of the very first insect specimens collected. This praying mantis, formally known as the European Mantis (Mantis religiosa) is very common across North-Eastern United States. Originating from Europe and North Africa it was introduced to the United States back in 1899 on a shipment of plants and has since exploded in population, so much so that it is now the state insect of Connecticut. Also, I'm sure you're all familiar that these guys are known as praying mantids due to their 'praying' form with their forelegs. 

This particular guy was found trapped in a window at Cornell University, Ithaca, New York back in late August 2010 where he eventually perished due to natural causes. He (or she I'm not familiar with entomology enough to tell the difference) was subsequently vialed. You may note that in the vial the lower portion (on the left) is a bit indented which is where it was caught in the window and was bruised along with its left antenna being broken due to it drying out on the window before placing it into the alcohol. I apologize for the poor lighting but I was having difficulty with keep the glare off such a large vial and still being able to see all the distinctive features. All in all it is one of my favorite specimens in the Natural History Collection and you can read up on some more interesting facts at this Praying Mantis info site. 

UPDATE: I forgot to mention that these guys are also known for their 'sexual cannibalism' where the female will eat the male after or during mating. It turns out that this is controversial because as it happens frequently in a laboratory setting it is rarely seen in the field. Also, I do believe that this specimen is female as the males are usually more brown and smaller in size. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Polynesian Penny - CC 239

CC 239
Polynesian Coin
Origin: French Polynesia
Unit: 1 franc

Ok, the title is actually a misnomer as this is a franc rather than a centime (100 centimes = 1 franc), but I was going for the alliteration. For those that don't know French Polynesia is a collection of islands that form a Constituent Country (a 'country' that is part of a larger entity such as Greenland and Denmark). Over 150 islands that make it up are located in the South Pacific Ocean (East of Australia). The most well known and largest of the islands is Tahiti, which is also the most populated of the islands. The capital of French Polynesia is Papeete, and the largest city has an interesting name: Faaa. 

French Polynesia used normal French francs until 1914 when special bills were made for use on the islands. Then for a few years in the 1940's the island used a CFP franc (Think of it as Colonies of the French Pacific, New Caledonia and New Hebrides also used these bills). Then in 1949 coins that most resemble this one began to appear. CC 239 is a 1 franc coin made in 1965. To learn more about the history of the French Polynesian Franc check here and some general information can be found at this French Polynesian franc page. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Alert! Alert! - PUB 051

PUB 051
Air Raid Instructions
Media: Booklets
Year: 1959
Details: 3 booklets in an envelope

Today's Publications post is a very interesting historical piece coming from the heart of the Cold War era. This past summer I picked up this packet at a local yardsale and it now occupies a unique place in the Sholesonian. The packet was originally mailed to a man who lived in Endwell, New York (I have no idea who he was or how it ended up where I live, which isn't even close to Endwell). These packets seem to have been sent out by the State of New York, under governor Nelson A. Rockefeller.

In a time when nuclear disaster seemed an imminent threat, everyone was on edge and stocking up in case such an event did occur. As you can see from these booklets the government gave out, people felt a real danger and many people built their own fallout shelters, just in case. These pamphlets provide a description on a variety of different ways to built a fallout shelter depending on one's living condition. Two of the most common types were one outside (covered with earth) and one in a basement. The third booklet provides information on how to protect yourself from radiation fallout and how to best be prepared. According to dates on the materials they were printed back on July 6, 1959.

You can't see the obverse of the envelope in the photograph, but it essentially has the general postage details on. It also reads: "HOME EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS FILE" along with a list of the purposes of the envelope:
  1. File all emergency preparedness information in this envelope.
  2. Keep it handy for all emergencies.
  3. Stay Alert - Keep Posted - It could save your life.
At the bottom is says "FAMILY SURVIVAL depends on home preparedness," with home preparedness boxed in. As air raids drills were common practice in schools across the nation in this uncertain time it should come to no surprise that in addition to all of this information air raid instructions would also be included on the envelope itself to help families in the case of an actual emergency. In any event this is a very nice addition to the museum and provides insight into one of the major portions of the 20th century.

Citrine not Citrus - GEO 012

GEO 012
Class: Mineral
Location: Unknown (Eastern NY?)

Just as a heads up, I've been slowly converting older pictures to the new style with the scale and copyright on the sand. Also, let me know what you think of the new style and layout of the page. There is now a sidebar that displays the latest comments, which is up as a test for now. Anyway today's a specimen from the Geology Collection and while I'm not positive on what mineral species it is I've got it down to a few culprits. Due to the color and structure I'm going to go out on a limb and say this is citrine (a yellow/orange variety of common quartz). However I feel that this could also be fluorite, but for now I figure it to be citrine.

Quartz (SiO2) is a very common mineral and I'm fairly certain many of you all have seen quartz in one of its many forms. When it's purple it is known as Amethyst, pink is known as Rose Quartz, black forms a cool looking Smoky Quartz, and Milky Quartz is probably the most abundant (in Central New York at least) in its pure form (it is, surprisingly, white). As it turns out many citrines actually start out as amethyst but when heat is applied within the Earth the color will change into citrine. Because it is actually a quartz, citrine has the same hardness on Moh's Scale of Hardness: a 7. The location of this specimen is hazy, I received it as a gift and it was purchased at a shop on a mountain, but I'm not sure if it came from a site on the mountain or was imported from somewhere else. So it is temporarily from Eastern New York but that is very sketchy. If you want to learn some more about November's birthstone citrine.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

True to Their Name - NH 075

NH 075
Box Elder Bugs
Category: True Bugs
Family: Rhopaliae
Details: 3 specimens

Originally these three guys each had their own Sholesonian ID number, but seeing as they are all from the exact same location and of the same species it is of the best interest to place them all under the same ID. These guys are known as Box Elder (or rather Boxelder) Bugs and their species name is Boisea trivittata. They are also known as the Zug or Maple Bug. What is funny is that they all were found between two pieces of cardboard boxes along with a ton more of them. I grabbed these three (which weren't squished) on November 15, 2010. Their location is a bit more cryptic; they were collected at the Ithaca Hospital in Ithaca, NY however they came off of a U-Haul truck that was moving equipment from another locale on the other side of Ithaca.

As you can see from the photograph, the Boxelder bugs are most recognizable by the red striped patterns they have. They feed almost exclusively on maple trees (the state tree of NY). While sometimes referred to as stinkbugs they do not actually emit a foul smelling secretion. Instead they emit some foul-tasting secretions to keep predators away (which also makes a mess when they are squished as seen from the others that were clustered with these three). They do hibernate over the winter (hence the large aggregation in the cardboard boxes) and are not agricultural problems but they can be a nuisance when they form such congregations and may bother some people.

UPDATE: Added a cool closeup of one of the bugs below. And if you want to learn more about them check Wikipedia or this Boxelder Bug informational site.