Photography Contest X


Dust your tripods, dig out your cameras, clean your lenses (but please not with a dry cloth), enhance your best pictures (and, if you have entered before, remember that you are not limited to 3 good pictures per lifetime). The tenth (!) Panda’s Thumb photography contest, begins – now!

Soviet-era twin-lens reflex camera. Camera courtesy of Angie Spiegel.

We will accept entries from 12:00 MDT (11:00 MST), June 18, through 12:00 MDT (11:00 MST), July 2. Mountain Daylight Time is 6 h earlier than UTC(GMT).

We encourage entries in a single, general category, which includes pictures of just about anything of scientific interest: any object of experimentation or observation, from single-celled organisms, through nematodes, fruit flies, rats, chimpanzees, and college sophomores to volcanoes, stars, and galaxies. In order not to omit theoreticians, we will consider computer-generated pictures and also photographs of equipment. Photomicrographs and electron micrographs are likewise welcomed.

Prizes will include a signed copy of Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails), by Matt Young and Paul Strode, which has been donated by one of the authors; and Eternal Ephemera by Niles Eldredge, which has been generously donated by the National Center for Science Education.

If we get enough entries, consistently with Rules 11 and 12, we may add categories and award additional prizes, presuming, of course, that we can find more prizes.

The rules of the contest are simple:

We will consider any photograph that displays scientific interest – biological, paleontological, geological, or astronomical, for example.

Submit photographs in JPEG format.

Reduce photographs to an information content of 600 pixels horizontally. If creationists require a definition of information, they may apply in writing to the management.

Photographs may be enhanced but may not be montages. High dynamic range photographs are, however, accepted. Submit a maximum of 3 photographs (or 5 photographs per family) between 12:00 MDT, June 18, through 12:00 MDT, July 2. to MDT = UTC(GMT) – 6 h.

Submit the photographs as attachments to an e-mail (not embedded in the body of the e-mail). The subject line to the e-mail must have the form YourLastName_PhotographyContest. The filenames for the photographs must have the form YourLastName.Descriptor as, for example, Young.Oxytropis_sericea or Young.Table_Mountain, as appropriate.

In your e-mail, identify the subject of the photograph: common and biological name, mineral type, or geological formation, for example. Provide a link that will allow a reader to learn more about the subject.

Depending on the number of photographs submitted, we may post the best submissions and ask our readers to vote for the best photograph. Likewise, we may establish several categories with separate entries and separate ballots. In particular, students 16 and under should so identify themselves; if we receive enough entries, we will establish a student category.

By submitting a photograph, you stipulate that you are the owner of the copyright and grant The Panda’s Thumb a nonexclusive license to publish the photograph on its blog. The photograph will be subject to a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives license.

Regular contributors to The Panda’s Thumb are not eligible to enter the contest.

The decision of the judges is irrevocable. The judges remain irrepressibly and irreducibly irascible, irreverent, and irredeemable, irregardless and irrespective.

Even though we are getting fairly good at running contests, we reserve the right to change any of the rules, or add or subtract rules at any time at our discretion.

Reed Cartwright contributed to this post.

Photography contest in one week ...


… June 18 – July 2. That is, we will accept entries from noon, June 18, to noon, July 2, where noon is defined by the Panda’s Thumb server, which thinks it is in Mountain Standard Time, or UTC(GMT) – 7 h. The rules will be essentially the same as previous years’ and will be posted next week.

If we receive enough entries, we may choose 2 or 3 categories. In the past, we have used such categories as animal, mineral, and vegetable; small, medium, and large; land, sea, and sky; and general, threatened, and invasive. Unfortunately, we are fresh out of ideas for new categories (fish, flesh, fowl, and good red herring does not seem inclusive enough), but we will gratefully accept suggestions. Jokes, of course, will also be entertained. Please use the comment box for either purpose.

So get out your camera, scan your slides, comb your archives, or do all of the above – the contest will begin in 6 days (yeah, we know the head said 1 week), and you will have 2 weeks within which to submit up to 3 entries per person.

Smerinthus ocellatus


Photograph by Marilyn Susek.

Photography contest, Honorable Mention.

Smerinthus ocellatus – caterpillar of eyed hawk moth. The photographer writes, "Photographed in my garden underneath a Kilmarnock willow (Salix caprea). At first I mistook it for a leaf. I had a problem identifying this as it is similar to the caterpillar found in America."

Who gets to define "theory"?


Our colleague, Mike Klymkowsky of the University of Colorado, the other day posted an interesting article, Ideas are cheap, theories are hard, in the Plos blog Sci-Ed. In the article, Professor Klymkowsky inveighed against the public’s supposed misuse of the term theory.

Merriam-Webster (according to my antique, 1993 Collegiate Dictionary, 10th edition) lists senses (meanings) of the word in approximately chronological order. It gives the earliest sense of theory as “a plausible or scientifically acceptable general principle or body of principles offered to explain phenomena.” This definition dates from the 1600’s. The word later came to mean “a hypothesis assumed for the sake of argument or investigation,” or “an unproven assumption,” or a conjecture. There are other senses which we need not go into. The online version of Merriam-Webster, incidentally, includes 2 short articles, “The difference between hypothesis and theory” and “Two related, yet distinct, meanings of theory.” They note, in particular, that in nonscientific use, hypothesis and theory may be used interchangeably with “idea, speculation, or hunch.”

Tenodera sinensis


Photograph by Al Denelsbeck.

Photography contest, Honorable Mention.

Tenodera_sinensis_sinensis – Chinese praying mantis. Mr. Denelsbeck writes that the mantis is "consuming an unidentified katydid, family Tettigoniidae, on a butterfly bush. The flash batteries had pegged out, so I shot wide open at F/4 under light overcast skies for this image, producing a focus effect I rather liked. Determining whether it's art or not is up to the viewer."