Eloy Oliveira's back - with just a dream

After a debilitating injury, Eloy’s back with a new, original song: Simplemente un Sueño - Just a Dream (https://youtu.be/cwHek-wzQ6E).   “For a musician 2 weeks without playing it's like an eternity.  But I used that time to finish this song that I was writing,” explained Oliveira.
The song seems to express some of the frustration of being unable to perform.  Each chord is exposed and exploded, and the open sound develops through key into pure melody before concluding into a more conventional sound.  Elements of blues are observed in what remains a clearly Argentine sound, and anyone who has been debilitated or prevented from doing what they love to do, what their work requires them to do, will understand.

“You feel like there's something missing, playing it's part of my life and one of the thoughts is if this would be forever the life would be horrible but lucky, if you keep your brain entertained 2 weeks pass quickly,” said Oliveira.

Castle Rock Train Depot 140th Anniversary Party

The Castle Rock Museum and Historical Society celebrated the 140th birthday of the Castle Rock Train Depot on September 26, 2015 with both chocolate and vanilla cake, a model train, a free walking tour of Castle Rock, and other festivities. The day-long celebration was attended by approximately 100 people, with about half of them attending after having taken the tour. Visitors learned about the Depot, railroading, and the history of the City.

Castle Rock is a quiet town today, but anyone who takes the Castle Rock Museum Tour will be surprised to learn an unexpected past just beneath the surface. The free walking tours are a delightful way to learn about Castle Rock. And they’re something you can take several times without getting bored: each tour guide offers a different set of stories – and the stories even change from tour to tour. The tours, however, are structured around an identical path through the older parts of Castle Rock.

Beside the walking tours, special holiday tours are also offered – the Halloween and Christmas tours are especially popular. Best of all, the Tour Guides teach those attending not only about the history, but how to find the history for yourself.

The tours can also be taken without guidance – thanks to the installation of easy to use QR codes on “memory medallions” affixed directly to the historical plaque. These connect the user’s cellphone to a wealth of information on the Museum’s website, which can be directly accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByBq_m60p1muaDdvWTR1M095eXc/view.... Museum Tour Guide Maria Lunn‎ explained that there is also quite a lot of additional information at the Museum, as well as at the Library, which houses the Douglas County historical records.

Longs Peak - a Tale of Two Peaks

Longs Peak and Pikes Peak present two very different hiking experiences – but both are similar in that they are really a tale of two peaks. Pikes Peak is defined by an initial ascent of Mount Manitou, and Longs Peak becomes a radically different mountain at Chasm Lake.
The iconic mountains frame the Denver skyline north and south. Both initially were developed for recreation long before the Government began to reserve such beautiful places for public uses – and consequently, both are now free to access. The towns that lie at their bases – Estes Park and Manitou Springs – each survive largely upon the tourism value of these public recreation resources, and whereas before only a handful of people benefitted from the mountains, now entire communities thrive.
Interestingly, the pioneering private companies which originally developed the mountains survive (albeit, after so many hundreds of years, in somewhat different form and nature). These companies encouraged the deprivatization of the mountains from both genuinely benevolent motivations, but also because of economic reasons: demonopolizing the mountains resulted in greater potential total profits for them.
In this phototour series, we will look at both mountains from the perspective of a hiker.


The peak of Longs Peak is formidable by any standard. While the ascent to Chasm Lake is easy to moderately challenging, the Peak presents one of the greater challenges of Colorado mountaineering. While novices have indeed ascended to the top, the quickly changing conditions and violent weather there in some years has dramatically claimed the lives of climbers whose bloodied bodies stain the front wall as they fall into to the chasm below. Most hikers will climb to Chasm Lake, and leave the summit for professional mountaineers.

The area around the base of the summit of Longs Peak is an alpine playground of easy or moderately challenging trails of extraordinary beauty. Indeed, there is much argument made by the pleasure of these trails against summiting the mountain.

The trail wanders extensively at timberline, allowing not only an easier access to the Peak, but also plenty of opportunities for breathtaking views. These trees are not much taller than 4 to 5 feet tall, but in them lies a complex and thriving ecosystem with delightful birds and small mammals. Far, far below the cities of Longmont and Fort Collins are engulfed by the haze of the extensive oil and gas development of Weld County. These mountains by and large keep the heavy and highly toxic (and utterly unregulated) air pollution from entering the park and the City of Estes Park.

The wildlife on Longs Peak is much friendlier than the animals on Pikes Peak – it was not unusual for rabbits and even chipmonks to approach within a foot or so during the hike. An easy grade, numerous waterfalls and a well-maintained trail made the hike much more enjoyable than the rigorous and Spartan athletic challenges of Pikes Peak.
This is not the original trail to the top of Longs Peak. Enos Mills took travelers up a very different path. However, when the park was founded, not all the lands could be acquired – and the original trail still lies largely on private lands and inaccessible to the public. We are fortunate, indeed, that the summit and mountain is accessible to the public at all.

Water is crossed frequently along the trail – and defines the journey to Chasm lake. The water is glacial, and with rising global temperatures, the glaciers of Rocky Mountain National Park have not been unaffected. While there is doubt whether these little creeks will flow in the future (and whether the cities of the front range that depend on such waters will be thirsty), they remain for the moment a place of profound quietude.

Unlike Pikes Peak, Longs Peak has several public facilities – and hence no accumulation of fecal wastes. Rangers will service the stations with pack llamas – who are quite friendly (the rangers are friendly too, but obviously wish to complete their duties).

Approaching Chasm Lake, the glaciers (which used to be large, even in the summer) are seen to challenge their continued definition as such. The naked rock above the glacial lakes makes the mountain appear larger than ever. An easy trail follows the stream to where it emerges from Chasm Lake.

Visitors are told not to feed the wildlife – especially the marmots. However, as evidenced by the continued friendliness of the animals, many visitors cannot resist the opportunity. A family of marmots did not even fear for its babies, which played among the rocks at the base of Longs Peak just beneath Chasm Lake. Picas, too, took time from their haymaking (picas cut hay and make haystacks to store food for the winter) to investigate each hiker and squeak at them.

The trail technically ends here, at the foot of Chasm Lake, which is suspended above. A sign whistfully suggests a path to see the lake. These rocks get very slippery if there is the slightest precipitation – even with a small drizzle, they were slippery enough to require crawling up or down.

Chasm Lake is quite often as far as most visitors will go. The peak looms high above, though the naked rock appears easier than it does, this is not for beginner or novice hikers. Around the lake numerous picas are seen, and can be enjoyed at leisure. However, with weather conditions shifting quickly, and the slippery nature of the rocks, it is not a place to linger. Yet it cannot be helped: reflection is made on the way down that the easy trail combined with such dramatic scenery makes Longs Peak a worthwhile adventure – to take again and again.

Pikes Peak - A Tale of Two Peaks

Longs Peak and Pikes Peak present two very different hiking experiences – but both are similar in that they are really a tale of two peaks. Pikes Peak is defined by an initial ascent of Mount Manitou, and Longs Peak becomes a radically different mountain at Chasm Lake. The iconic mountains frame the Denver skyline north and south. Both initially were developed for recreation long before the Government began to reserve such beautiful places for public uses – and consequently, both are now free to access. The towns that lie at their bases – Estes Park and Manitou Springs – each survive largely upon the tourism value of these public recreation resources, and whereas before only a handful of people benefitted from the mountains, now entire communities thrive.

Interestingly, the pioneering private companies which originally developed the mountains survive (albeit, after so many hundreds of years, in somewhat different form and nature). These companies encouraged the deprivatization of the mountains from both genuinely benevolent motivations, but also because of economic reasons: demonopolizing the mountains resulted in greater potential total profits for them.

In this phototour series, we will look at both mountains from the perspective of a hiker.


The hike to Pikes Peak begins in Manitou Springs near the Train Station, and the hiker is presented with two routes to begin their initial ascent: the punishing Manitou Incline and a easier side-trail that shadows the Mantiou Incline (the “Barr Trail”). Look for (or ask a helpful local) the sign indicating the beginning of the Barr Trail a hundred yards or so from the trailhead of the Incline. The Manitou Incline is not advised if the traveler is going all the way to the top: not every hiker taking the incline even makes it to the top of Mount Manitou, and even experienced athletes find the trail exhausting. It is intended to be taken as a form of exercise recreation, not as a path to Pikes Peak.

Manitou Mountain presents numerous views – and numerous travelers because of the Manitou Incline: many athletes will take the shadow trail down, having challenged themselves getting up on the Incline. “No one hears you scream at the false summit,” is a T-shirt that is sold for those wishing to commemorate their trip up the Manitou Incline. And indeed, at the false summit of the Incline, there is “wailing and gnashing of teeth” in a very biblical sense. Biblical is the word for describing the Incline. Which is why we will emphasize AGAIN you should definitely not take it if you are going to the summit of Pikes Peak. There is no false summit for the shadowing “Barr Trail”: just a rigorous (but not impossible) ascent up Mt. Manitou.

The Manitou Incline and the Barr Trail do not actually intersect. However, there is a cut-off for those hikers not brave enough to go down the Incline to take the Barr Trail down. If you take these stairs, you will end up on the Incline, and disappointed that you have added both distance and difficulty to your hike. It is not well-marked, but a helpful hiker at some unknown time wrote “UP BARR TRAIL” on the stairs to hopefully prevent this disaster from happening to someone else. Even expert hikers have been fooled, or even lulled to unattention by the Barr Trail – keep aware. If in doubt, ask one of the helpful natives hiking the trail.

Continuing up the Barr Trail, eventually you reach this interesting natural bridge – and go under it. The site is suitable for rest and quietude, as is much of the trail from here onward. Once you pass Mount Manitou, the trail becomes moderately easy or even easy. Not being at extreme altitude, you can make excellent time as you progress up to Barr Camp at the base of Pikes Peak.

You will also pass interesting relics of the Mountain’s past: irrigation ditches, power production facilities, and numerous other attempts to industrialize the mountain were made. Pyrite lured prospectors to seek all over it for gold, but only when recreational industry was developed was the fools gold into true gold. It is unfortunate that in the quietest places, the trail is littered with filth: unlike Longs Peak, there has been no investment in public toilets, and with such a long hike, it is natural that hikers should require to urinate and defecate. One can hardly blame the hikers, but funding is unavailable from the Forest Service for these necessary facilities.

Barr Trail is strikingly beautiful; the sifted sunbeams and thousand years of silence you’d expect from a deep woods wilderness hike are found here – just a little ways out of one of Colorado’s largest cities. The trail is quite level in places between Mount Manitou and Barr Camp.

Barr Camp presents a welcome rest. And some hikers will spend the night at this base camp to tackle Pikes Peak the next morning. The trail occasionally crosses streams which may be used to replenish water supplies (PURIFY THE WATER FIRST). At Barr Camp, a purifier is available for rental – and if you do not have sufficient water, you should definitely fill up here. At higher altitudes you become thirsty quickly, and the trail becomes unforgiving from this point forward.

The peak of Pikes Peak becomes clearly visible near timberline. The air becomes thin just as the trail becomes quite as steep as the Manitou Incline. Keep an eye on the weather, as you do not want to become stranded on the rocky terrain during a lightning storm or violent winds. Rangers frequently rescue hapless climbers, and even if you are not injured, it is an expensive ride ($500+) to the bottom.

There is a shelter for weather danger at the foot of the final ascent. It is a welcome place to rest – and a convenient place to turn around. If you at all doubt your strength, this is the last place to turn around: from here, the trail becomes extremely challenging, and coming down you risk as much challenge and injury as proceeding forward.
The trail also becomes difficult to find. If you become lost (and enough hikers do), the best advice is to simply pick your way among the rocks and aim for the summit: at the summit, there is a train station and ranger assistance, together with a well-developed rest stop for motorists, complete with restaurant and gift shop.
But down here, such civilization could not seem further. The shelter frequently is buried with snow in the winter – the mountain is best ascended in the summer.

Words of encouragement (and sometimes a bottle of water) from local boy scouts, beautiful wildlife and breathtaking views encourage the hiker onward.

The trail levels out half-way up the final ascent. Do not be fooled, however: the trail becomes a series of stairs and climbs that, in the extreme altitude, can only be described as deleterious or unfortunate. Even strong athletes are severely challenged by the ascent: and though professionals will clock their time to the top, and compete for the fastest time, it is smarter to recognize simply ascending the summit is an accomplishment. Pushing too hard during the final ascent may doom your hopes of completing your hike. Take it slow and easy.
Unless you are catching the train back down.
As those defeated by the Manitou Incline seek the Barr Trail to descend Mount Manitou, many, many hikers will seek an alternative way down from Pikes Peak. Hitchhiking (there is a toll road to the top for motor tourists) is popular, and some even have the foresight to park a car at the top. But there is also a delightful train to take down – the Pikes Peak Cog Railway presents a guided tour of the mountain and numerous scenic wildlife opportunities.
The railway is itself a tourist destination, and well-worth the exorbitant ticket price. Especially since by buying the ticket you may purchase not only the last ounce of your strength, but a measure of your pride. The mountain may have conquered you: but you were going to take the cog railway anyway!

Why do hummingbirds taste sugar when chickens don’t?

     Not all animals taste sweetness – or much of anything.  But some animals carry a family of genes called T1R’s.  When an animal inherits T1R1 and T1R3 from its parents, it allows the animal to taste amino acids – what sophisticated human gourmands describe as “savory” or “umami” tastes.  And when an animal inherits T1R2 and T1R3 from its parents, it can taste sugar – and ultimately gives rise to the addictive properties of sugar.
     Animals who can taste sugar will do almost anything to keep tasting sugar.  A chicken cannot taste sugar, and given a choice between sugary sweets and seeds, will always pick the seeds – every time.  A chicken has not inherited the ability to taste sugar from its parents. 
     If look at the parents of that chicken – the rooster and the hen – they could not taste sugar either.  Neither could the roosters and hens that were their parents.  Looking back hundreds, thousands, hundreds of thousands – millions and millions of generations of chickens, you would eventually arrive at a kind of animal that is not a chicken.  In fact, it would be classified as a dinosaur.
     When two animals mate sexually to combine their genetic material, sometimes an error occurs.  This “mutation” results in some slight advantage (sometimes).  Sometimes the mutation results in a disadvantage.  When an animal has an advantage, it will be more fit – it will produce more children, it will be stronger and smarter. 
For example, some male hummingbirds have sharper or longer daggers than others, and this gives them an advantage in fighting for females – and allows their children to possess their same sharper or longer daggers.  And if one of their children has an even sharper or longer dagger, they would have an advantage over their father – and their brothers!
But genetic material can also change in another way.  When genes are not used, they go to “sleep” or become “dormant.”  Chickens descended from dinosaurs which subsided on grains and meat – just like they do.  But they also descended (even further back in time) from dinosaurs which ate a more varied diet.  Specialization in grains and meat resulted in their T1R2 gene becoming dormant, giving an advantage to descendant birds which required a diet rich in amino acids.
But the gene was not lost.  Or was it?
Maude Baldwin, of the University of Cambridge, sought to find out whether the carnivorous theropod dinosaurs from which bids descended was still present.  And for this, she undertook tests on hummingbirds because hummingbirds are one of the few birds which can taste sugar. 
With the help of Yasuka Toda, to answer her question, the scientists cloned taste receptors from chickens, hummingbirds and the hummingbird’s closest relative, the chimney swift (which eats insects).  They found that the T1R1 and T1R3 taste receptors in swifts and chickens responded only to amino acids – but that the same T1R1 and T1R3 receptors in hummingbird responded only to sugar!
     Now, remember that in other animals, a combination of T1R2 and T1R3 is required to taste sugar.  This showed that the ancient genes were not awakened, but rather that a mutation had occurred that permitted the animo acid receptors to perceive sugars.
     Baldwin hypothesizes that “perhaps ancestral hummingbirds that lacked the sweet receptor frequented flowers to catch insects. On occasion they accidentally consumed some nectar. Small mutations in T1R1 and T1R3 would have allowed them to taste this sugary liquid, giving them access to a vital source of energy. This could have given nectar-sipping individuals the evolutionary upper hand compared to insect-eaters.”
     Her hypothesis is based upon the theory of Charles Darwin, who, scribbling in the rough notebooks to which he would later refer when writing his famous book on evolutionary science, the Origin of Species, pondered how animals in new environments learn which foods are worth eating and which should be avoided. He concluded that this problem drove the evolution of a sense of taste: “Real taste [in] the mouth, according to my theory must be acquired by certain foods being habitual – hence become hereditary.”
Baldwin’s results show that Darwin was spot-on. She published her discovery in the August 2014 issue of the journal, Science.  She titled it, “Evolution of sweet taste perception in hummingbirds by transformation of the ancestral umami receptor.”  She summarized her work in an “abstract” by writing “Sensory systems define an animal's capacity for perception and can evolve to promote survival in new environmental niches. We have uncovered a noncanonical mechanism for sweet taste perception that evolved in hummingbirds since their divergence from insectivorous swifts, their closest relatives. We observed the widespread absence in birds of an essential subunit (T1R2) of the only known vertebrate sweet receptor, raising questions about how specialized nectar feeders such as hummingbirds sense sugars. Receptor expression studies revealed that the ancestral umami receptor (the T1R1-T1R3 heterodimer) was repurposed in hummingbirds to function as a carbohydrate receptor. Furthermore, the molecular recognition properties of T1R1-T1R3 guided taste behavior in captive and wild hummingbirds. We propose that changing taste receptor function enabled hummingbirds to perceive and use nectar, facilitating the massive radiation of hummingbird species.”

Baldwin’s curiosity is perked, and she is filled with new questions.  “Future research may focus on other nectar-eating birds such as sunbirds and lorikeets, and frugivores like tanagers, and whether they have undergone the same mutations as hummingbirds, or if a different mechanism explains their penchant for sugary foods.”

America’s Muslim Heritage

Hajj "Hi Jolly" Ali
From Espresso to tonal music, from concepts of democracy to business contracts, muslims helped shape modern European culture – often for the better.  What affect have the Muslims had here in America?
Their impact on American culture has been significant, with early American architecture admiring Islamic themes, and Ramadan being celebrated by US Presidents since 1805.  America has not only a long history with muslims, but the longest history with muslims: it was a muslim nation that became the first to recognize our independence by a “treaty of friendship.”  The Sultanate of Morocco, under its ruler Mohammed ben Abdallah, didn’t even wait for the British to be gone before offering assistance and encouragement in the year 1777 to George Washington.
A muslim Immam, Ben Ali Muhammad, led 80 other muslims to the defense of our nation against the British.  Captain Moses Osman, a muslim serving the Union in the Civil War, was a former slave and presently a teacher in Detroit when he enlisted in the 55th Massachusetts Colored Regiment. 
Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington and even John Adams praised Mohammed.  Adams said Mohammed was a sober inquirer after truth, similar to Socrates. 
Most American muslims, like most muslims world-wide, are east-asian in descent – not arab.  Illinois, Virginia, and New York are where most of the muslims in America live.  It is the fourth largest religion in America, behind Buddhism, Judaism, Atheism and Christianity.  From classic jazz to rap music, modeling and sports, the invention of YouTube to Emergent BioSolutions, the impact of muslims on America seems to have been for the better.
Here in the West, muslims have also had a colorful history.  Muslims first came to Colorado in 1538 with the Spanish explorers and Mustafa Zemmouri became the first muslim (and one of the first people) to raft the Colorado River.  He developed friendly relations with Native American tribes in New Mexico, teaching them basic medicine (as muslims taught early Europeans about medicine long, long ago).  By 1914, Colorado had its first Immam, Kamiss Mahmoud Shelby, who arrived to serve at a mosque in Denver.  His sermons and touching wedding services attracted muslims from as far away as Utah.
But he was hardly alone.  By that time the Immam Hadji Cheriff was famous in Montana and sought after for his wedding ceremonies – even by non-muslims!  Montana was home to a significant Sufi muslim community (there are numerous kinds of Muslims).  The muslims used abandoned mine shafts for their meditation and fasting.  But one elderly resident of Anaconda went too far with his fasting, and the residents became concerned for his health.  Police ended up force feeding 60 year old Ishmael Abraham.

In 1856, Hajji Ali served the US Military in Arizona to establish a supply line from Fort Defiance, New Mexico and Fort Mohave in Western Arizona to California.  As an immigrant from Syria, he recognized the terrain called for camels.  Earning the nickname “Hi Jolly” he subsequently served as a scout, and upon discharge became a prospector, eventually marrying and settling in Quartzite.  By 1923, numerous muslims were living in Arizona – and Mir Alam became famous for his honesty when he returned lost travelers checks to a local bank, explaining that his muslim faith required he “be square with every sunofagun in the world.”

Hummingbirds pumped up!

“Wild hummingbirds got used to the bright lights and big cameras – ready to be our movie stars” - Kristiina Hurme,

                Alejandro Rico-Guevara managed to provide further evidence that the shape of the beak of hummingbirds matters less to their ability to obtain food and more to their ability to defend leks by teaming up with Kristiina Hurme and Tai-Hsi Fan, also of the University of Connecticut. 
                “Hummingbirds live life at incomprehensible speeds. Their flight acrobatics are amazing, maneuvering more like insects than birds as they flit around, flying upside down and even backwards. They’re a blur as they race between flowers. When they do pause to visit a flower momentarily, they’re licking 15 to 20 times a second to extract their nectar fuel,” explained Hurme.
                It was this speed that first suggested to Hurme and Rico-Guevara that the existing hypothesis on how hummingbirds eat could not be correct.  Hurme explained: “for over 180 years, scientists believed that to drink nectar, hummingbirds relied on capillary action. The idea was that their tongues would fill with nectar in the same way a small glass tube fills passively with water.  The capillary action theory made sense since a hummingbird’s tongue has two tube-like grooves. It would be a simple, passive way for nectar to travel up the tongue.  But from watching hummingbirds in my (Rico-Guevara’s) native Colombia, we felt that capillarity just wasn’t fast enough to keep up with how hummingbirds feed. We predicted that capillarity was too slow to account for the fast licking rates observed in free-living hummingbirds. Remember, they can drain a flower’s nectar with around 15 licks in under a second!  In our new study, we were able to slow them down on video to see how they really drink nectar. And what we found was quite different from the conventional wisdom since the 1800s.”
                Excitingly, their discovery resulted in a new understanding of fluid dynamics, and has promising applications for numerous disciplines of science.  Their findings were published in August of 2015 by The Conversation, an online science journal purposed not only toward helping scientists learn about the work of other scientists, but helping the public access their exciting work, as well.
                Here’s an excerpt from their article, “Hummingbird tongues are tiny pumps that spring open to draw in nectar.”

Four years ago, one of us (Rico-Guevara) and colleague Margaret Rubega challenged the conventional beliefs about capillary action for the first time. We showed that the forked tongue tips are not static, but dramatically spread inside the nectar, with fringed edges that open up like tiny hands. When the hummingbird retracts its tongue from the nectar, these fringes close due to the physical forces of surface tension and Laplace pressure, trapping nectar drops in their grips. Due to this transformation of the tongue shape, the tongue tips don’t remain in the tube-shape necessary for capillary action.
We set out to study a medley of hummingbird species to see what these birds were really doing at the flowers. We needed a way to measure a tongue’s thickness during the drinking process – straightforward, but not an easy task.
We designed see-through artificial flowers that we filmed with slow-motion cameras. From these videos, we could then track the shape of the tongue throughout the whole licking cycle. The difficult part was convincing wild hummingbirds to drink on command. Over time, we trained them by habituating them to the phony flower feeders and our whole filming setup.
When a hummingbird inserts its bill into a flower, it still needs to stick its long tongue deeper inside to get at the nectar within. After the tongue fills with nectar, the bird retracts the tongue back inside the bill. Researchers already knew that to keep the nectar inside the beak, the hummingbird squeezes the tongue with the bill tips as it is extended for the next lick. That compresses and flattens the tongue on its way out, leaving the nectar inside the bill. The way in which the nectar is moved from the bill tip to where it can be swallowed remains unknown.
To study the tongue-filling mechanism, we focused on the flattened shape of the tongue that each lick starts with. If the hummingbirds were using capillarity, once the nectar had made it into the bird’s mouth, the tongue would immediately need to recover its tube-like shape before touching the nectar again.
By closely studying our slow motion videos of the birds drinking at the transparent flowers, we saw that the tongue remained flattened after the squeezing even as it traveled through the air to reach the nectar for another sip. It didn’t snap back to its original pre-drink tube-like shape.
We studied 18 hummingbird species, and in hundreds of licks, we found that the tongue remained flattened until it touches the nectar. This was a key finding because it showed that the tongue didn’t have the empty space inside needed for capillary action to work. Finally, we can confidently rule out capillarity as important for hummingbird drinking.
What we found goes beyond simply debunking capillarity. Hummingbirds have hit on an unexpected way to move liquid very quickly at this micro-scale: their tongues are elastic micropumps.
The grooves in the hummingbird tongue don’t reach the throat, so the bird cannot use them as tiny straws. For this reason, instead of using vacuum to generate suction – imagine drinking lemonade out of a straw – the system works like a tiny pump, powered by the springiness of the tongue. The bird squashes the tongue flat, and when it springs open, this expansion rapidly pulls the nectar into the grooves in its tongue. It turns out it’s elastic energy – potential mechanical energy stored by the flattening of the tongue – that lets hummingbirds collect nectar much faster than if they relied on capillarity.
While the tongue moves through the air, the elastic energy loaded into the groove walls during the flattening is conserved by a remaining layer of liquid inside the grooves acting as an adhesive. When the tongue touches the nectar, the supply of fluid allows the release of the elastic energy which expands the grooves and pulls the nectar to fill the tongue.
As biologists, we were excited by this new discovery, but needed the help of an expert in fluid dynamics, Tai-Hsi Fan, to accurately explain the physics of this hummingbird micro-pump, and to make new predictions.
Our research shows how hummingbirds really drink, and provides the first mathematical tools to accurately model their energy intake. These discoveries will influence our understanding of their foraging decisions, ecology and coevolution with the plants they pollinate.
Our ongoing research compares our new model with how much nectar hummingbirds drink at wildflowers, and looks at the trade-offs between drinking efficiently and fighting for dominance over territories either to attract females, to feed, or both.

Hummingbird Fight by Daggers and Debate

In a female long-billed hermit hummingbird (top), the upper and lower parts of the bill tip aren’t very different. But in a male (bottom), the upper part grows longer and pointier in adulthood. The white scale bars represent 0.5 millimeters.

Alejandro Rico-Guevara of the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Connecticut and Marcelo Araya-Salasb of the Department of Biology, New Mexico State University were working together in studying hummingbirds when they discovered something new.  Male hummingbirds possess a dagger-like structure at the tip of their beaks! 
But this made them very curious – why would males and not females have this weapon?
To answer the question, they studied 5 leks (a “lek” is a place where animals demonstrate courtship behaviors) during 4 consecutive years using a combination of performance experiments, morphological analyses and behavioral observations.  By this, it was further discovered that juvenile males acquired their dagger tips during the transition to adulthood, and that adult males with larger and sharper bill tips were more successful at dominating the lek – and therefore more successful in mating with females.  The weapon was primarily used against other male hummingbirds!
The improved ability of the males with larger and sharper daggers to mate was resulting in new generations of males with even larger and sharper daggers – a case of sexual selection.
They quickly wrote up their observations in a story they titled, “Bills as daggers? A test for sexually dimorphic weapons in a lekking hummingbird.”  They submitted it to the Journal of Behavioral Ecology (a magazine published by Oxford University) in September of 2014 – and it was published the very next month!
Editors of scientific Journals will check to make sure that the observations are true, that the methods used to collect them were sound, and that the conclusions developed from them are reasonable – by submitting them to other scientists who know about the subject.  Then, by publishing the information, scientists (and the public) who are interested in the subject can learn about the interesting and consequential discoveries.  And, even many years later, a scientist (or member of the public) who is interested in learning about something can research the subject. 
By such research, effort is not duplicated: other scientists don’t need to re-learn that adult male hummingbirds have daggers, or that those daggers are used against other male hummingbirds to defend leks.  This allows scientists to more efficiently purpose themselves toward learning new things.
Articles are typically written in a way that scientists who are not familiar with the subject – or even the general public – might understand them.  This permits broader application of what is learned: if a scientist who is an expert in another field of biology can understand hummingbirds use weapons to defend leks, they might be able to look for how males (or females) of other species use weapons for similar (or even different) purposes.  Or if a scientist who is an expert in a non-biological field, say for example, a computer engineer interested in high speed photography, were to read the article, they might learn from the way that Rico-Guevara and Araya-Salasb used cameras to collect their data and contemplate an even better high-speed photographic system.
     But sometimes, there are scientists who disagree.  In such a case when there is disagreement, the disagreement is settled using debate methods.  There is no “winner” or “loser” in the debate: the debate is held not to convince or win over the opponent.  Rather, it is held for the benefit of the research: opponents will cite what they believe to be insufficiencies in the evidence provided so that the hypothesis might be strengthened, or a better understanding of the data developed.
After the research by Rico-Guevara and Araya-Salasb was published, Ethan Temeles of Amherst College in Massachusetts disagreed.  The discovery contradicted a hypothesis of Temeles: Temeles believed that male and female hummingbirds had different beaks because they ate from different flowers – the sharper and pointier beaks of the males were simply required because of the shape of the flowers they ate from – not for fighting other hummingbirds. 
Against this opposition, Rico-Guevara and Araya-Salasb presented their documented observations of the use of the bill as a weapon: numerous instances of bill-jabbing fights were seen. Rico-Guevara describes one intruder hovering over a male perched on a twig and darting in repeatedly to deliver eyeblink-quick stabs to the percher’s throat.
Yet even that’s not enough to convince evolutionary ecologist Ethan Temeles of Amherst College in Massachusetts.  Temeles said he would only be convinced if he saw evidence that males with the most elongated bill tips prevail in fights because of those tips – proof that winning fights with larger daggers earns males more females and offspring than males with smaller daggers.
Rico-Guevara then showed that males armed with larger and pointier bills were more likely than less equipped ones to win and hold a perch for courtship display - the proof required by Temeles.  Temeles has maintained his opposition, but has not specified what would convince him.  Temeles also did not provide any additional evidence to support his flower hypothesis, or contradict the dagger hypothesis.
Are you convinced by Rico-Guevara and Araya-Salasb?  Or by Temeles?  

September 2015

We've got DEEPAK MORRIS! And read about the life that couldn't be saved, the privately funded recycling in Castle Rock, Leon finds a pot of gold - and you can find out how to comment on planning and zoning in Castle Rock. Help for emerging artists getting "from bottom to top." Phototours of BRIDAL FALLS in ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATIONAL PARK and sunset for COLORADO NATIONAL MONUMENT. Learn about Saint Agatha (the patron Saint of breast cancer survivors) and Henry III (no, no that one! Henry Lee III) from GARY TWOHORSE GREEN! JOSH FRIEDNASH reports on how to fart sexy style. SHEILA SOBOL-BRACHFELD's beautiful photographs...and we see just how little Bill Thomas cares about parking regulations. We talk to Lemieux and Ray as they run for School Board, discuss why Castle Rock shouldn't raise the signature requirement for petitions. And review the ineffectiveness of medical marijuana as medicine as part of our ongoing coverage. We learn about progressive economics and also about the several philosophies of taxation. STEVE RICKETT's amazing adventures as a bail bondsman, an interview with YOGA JOES and BROGAMAT's inventor, SV Temple of Castle Rock gets a new Priest. Buddhism, Hinduism, and so very much more...
All in this month's issue of the Meadowlark Herald!

SV Temple of Castle Rock welcomes new Priest

The management team at Sri Venkateswara Swamy Temple of Colorado is very pleased to announce and introduce Priest Sri Krishna Mohan Karanam. He will be providing his services effective September 1st 2015.  He studied KRISHNA YAJURVEDAM SMARTHAM.
His credential highlights include his expertise in the ability to perform many and all of the puja services required and mandated in the temple as well as  at the homes of devotees. He is trained and coached in the area of providing the last rites and related religious services, such as Shradham and pinda pradhanam etc.
He is also well trained and much experienced in the area of preparation of prasadam.
He comes with excellent recommendations from many of the priests and the members of temple management including the chairpersons of the Board of trustees and the religious committee.  We are very confident that his arrival will improve and expand the horizon  of the services that our temple can offer to the community. His abilities as he communicates in multiple languages such as Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Hindi will be an asset and much needed.