Tag Archives: College of Charleston

Going Out and Getting Busy – Part II

Stonehenge: New Discoveries

Thursday, February 16, 2012 – 7:00pm     College of Charleston, Simons Center for the Arts, Room 309   Dr. Parker Pearson

Stonehenge is one of the great mysteries of the prehistoric world. After seven years of new excavations and research, archaeologists now have a completely new understanding of the date and purpose of this enigmatic monument. One of the key break-through has been to understand how Stonehenge formed part of a wider complex of monuments and landscape features within Salisbury Plain. Professor Parker Pearson will present the results of the Stonehenge Riverside Project, and discuss the current theories about Stonehenge – an astronomical observatory, a centre of healing or a place of the ancestors – and the identity of its Neolithic builders.

We now know much more about the people who built Stonehenge – where they came from, how they lived, and how they were organized. Not only has the project discovered a large settlement of many houses, thought to be for Stonehenge’s builders, at the nearby henge enclosure of Durrington Walls but it has also re-dated Stonehenge and investigated its surrounding monuments and sites, many of which were hitherto undated and unknown. This presentation will provide a brief overview of some of the project’s highlights, including the recent discovery of Bluestonehenge. One of the greatest mysteries – why some of Stonehenge’s stones were brought from 180 miles away – is currently being investigated and its brand new results will be presented at the lecture.

Kolb Site

March 10, 2012 – 9:00am until 4:00pm

Last year we took an overnight trip to Darlington to visit the Kolb Site.  This year we are planning on going and joining the dig for a few days.

However, they have an amazing Public Day on March 10th which is worth the rutted entrance road.



Filed under "Coming of Man", American History, Camping/Basic Survival Skills, European History, Geography and World Studies, Going outs (Field Trips), Practical Life - Elementary

Goings Out and Getting Busy – Part I

We are so blessed to live in a college town.  In the next month and a bit, there are a lot of lectures that we are going to go absorb.  Darwin Week is one of our favorite series of lectures.  Last year it brought us the  Blood Sucking Flies lecture and the year before an amazing talk about Neanderthals.  Since we are located in “The Holy City,” it is appropriate that the Darwin Week include a discussion of faiths and the coming of the universe.  This year the them is “Does Evolution Lead to Evil.”

The Evolution of Complex Animals: New insights into some very old problems in evolution.  

Monday, February 6 at 4:00 p.m.   CofC School of Sciences and Math Auditorium          Dr. Athula Wikramanayake

Over 500 million years ago, the Cambrian “explosion” yielded a remarkable diversity of animals with bilateral symmetry — animals which have evolved to constitute 95% of the world’s fauna today. Did such complex “bilaterian” animals evolve from simple, non-bilaterian organisms?

Need for Speed:  The Evolution of Decision-Making in a Rapidly Changing World

Tuesday, February 7 at 4:00 p.m.    CofC School of Sciences and Math Auditorium          Dr. Catalin V. Buhusi

Despite our sophisticated cognitive abilities, humans are notoriously bad at making rational decisions. Similar biases, aversions, and reference-dependent choices have been reported in other species, suggesting that evolution has shaped our ancestors’ brain to make decisions in a different kind of environment. How can we reconcile the apparent necessity of rapid decision-making with the need for building a long-term sustainable society for future generations?

THE 2012 TALKS ON TAP DARWIN WEEK EVENT:  Does Evolution Lead to Evil?  Two Christian Perspectives

Tuesday, February 7 at 7:30 p.m.      Second Presbyterian Church    Dr. Brad Harrub and Rev. James B. Miller

Critics have claimed that regardless of whether evolution is true or not, to believe that humanity had its origins in earlier non-human species leads to racism, eugenics, euthanasia, abortion, and youth violence. Join Rev. Jim Miller and Dr. Brad Harrub for a fascinating conversation on the potential ethical implications of evolutionary theory, with a robust question and answer time to follow.

Astrobiology:     The Search for Life in the Universe

Wednesday, February 8 at 4:00 p.m.     CofC School of Sciences and Math Auditorium       Dr. Luke S. Sollitt

Are we alone in the Universe? Until recently, this fundamental question about humanity’s place in the cosmos was the province of philosophy or science fiction. The nascent science of Astrobiology seeks to turn science fiction into science research, and answer it once and for all. Dr. Sollitt will discuss three main research areas in this new field: the search for habitable planets elsewhere in the universe, the study of so-called “extremophiles” on Earth, and the search for habitable zones and life elsewhere in the Solar System.

The Ice-Age Dispersal of Humans to the Americas: Do Stones, Bones, and Genes Tell the Same Story?

Thursday, February 9 at 4:00 p.m.          CofC School of Sciences and Math Auditorium        Dr. Ted Goebel

When did modern humans colonize the Americas? From where did they come and what routes did they take? These questions have puzzled scientists for decades, but until recently answers have proven difficult to find. New techniques of molecular genetic analysis, and a reinvigorated search for early archaeological sites across the western hemisphere, recently have led to some astounding results.



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Filed under "Coming of Man", Astronomy, Biology, Geography and World Studies, Geology, Going outs (Field Trips), Physics, Science

Lectures and more lectures

Every once and a while I am overwhelmed by the advanced nature of the thoughts that the boys have.  Partly because they have always been in a Montessori environment and now a home-based Montessori environment and partly because I was an only child and have a poor understanding of what knowledge is “age appropriate” and what is not, I don’t realize how amazingly intelligent, articulate, and mature the boys are.

Anywho, just had to say that.

Off we went to the College of Charleston for their weekly Biology Seminar. The last one we attended was on Blood Sucking Flies. Not only did we get to see Dr. Wiseman but we got to be thoroughly informed on the history and questions surrounding food webs.

UNC-Wilimgton faculty member, Dr. Long, spoke on the sufficiently vague title of  the Relationships between biodiversity, trophic complexity, and food web stability. He showed the traditional models of food webs do not take into account things like cannibalism or parasites.  Where do you put parasites? They are more closely related to the top predators in the variety of what they feed on, but often they are smaller than the base organisms.  Incidentally, they can account for huge amounts of biomass in ecosystems.

He went on to discuss his own questions regarding omnivore roles in ecosystems and frankly,  I became rather confused by the mathematical formulas and what the various initials meant.  The bottom line for me fell into two questions: 1. since the predator prey population relationship in aquatic systems is vastly different than in terrestrial systems, how was that worked into the model; and 2. 38 day cycle does not allow for reproduction and natural life-death patterns, how accurate can these results be?

Since we are beginning discussions on the various levels of Fundamental Needs of Man, any form of interdependency and webbing is helpful.


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Filed under AV, Biology, BR, DW, Going outs (Field Trips), JV, Montessori, Science

Goings Out Season

We are in the midst of Goings Out Season.  The best College of Charleston lectures are in February and March.  I’ve not been able to post as much as I would like.

What have we been doing?  Ahhhh.

1.  Darwin Week’s Lecture series – posted here and here.

2. Blood Sucking Flies – posted here.

3.  5 Gyres Project – website here.  I would like to see more science on the hydrophilic nature of many pesticides and their relationship with plastics in the ocean.

4. Far Horizons: Scale, Society, and Complexity in First Millennium BCE South India – India went basically from the Stone Age to the Iron Age without the transition through bronze age.  Dr. Carla Sinopoli presented an excellent lecture. Information here.

5.  Freedom’s Teacher:  Septima Clark – Dr. Charron spoke about this Charleston-based amazing educator and her civil rights contributions. A most excellent carrot cake was served, too.

In the midst of this, there have been trips to the library, ceramics painting, music lessons for DW, and class-work to boot.

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Filed under Classroom, Going outs (Field Trips), Montessori

And we went into the rabbit hole . . .

The focus of Darwin Week at the College of Charleston is the intersection of faith and science.

Last night we went to the First Baptist Church for a discussion on the history of Evolution and Creation thought by Dr. Karl Giberson of the BioLogos Forum.  It was very thorough.

Today we went to lunch at the Cathedral of St. Luke and St. Paul, Episcopal. Dr. Giberson discussed the difficulties those who are attempting to have meaningful discussions among the various “camps” in the Evolution/Creation debate. The children were able to follow the discussion somewhat and asked questions.

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Filed under AR, AV, BR, BW, DW, God With No Hands, Going outs (Field Trips), JV, LR

Going out! Blood Sucking flies!

We are all in the “compfy” chairs at the College of Charleston’s New Science Center getting ready to listen to a lecture about Blood Sucking Flies.  This is the first lecture in the Darwin Week series.

We are all here.  It is the first time AR and BW have attended a lecture. We are large and in charge.

The Wildlife of a Fly: Evolutionary Interactions Between Blood-feeding Flies and Their Vertebrate Hosts.

Dr. Peter Adler, Clemson University Biology Department


Blood feeding flies are ubiquitous.  13,000 species  (perhaps 2x that to yet be discovered) in the world.

Four Main Categories of Blood Sucking Flies

  1. Horse Fly,
  2. Biting Midge,
  3. Black Fly,
  4. Mosquito

The northern, northern hemisphere is the most difficult area for these creatures.

(mosquitoes) standing water – 30,000,000 per hectare per day
(black flies) running water – 1 billion per km of river per day

Profound changes in roosting sites of the Great-horned Owls
Nesting abandonment in Common Loons
Nestling deaths in Eastern Bluebird  (toxic shock in the baby’s blood stream from repeated biting)

The great question is what blood sucking flies feed on what creature.  So the creation of a Mesh Net attached to a car roof.  A soda bottle is attached at the vertex of the bottle.  Driving around catching flies.

67,000 female black flies and 200 contained vertebrate blood.
DNA extracted from vertebrate blood in flies  – cytochrome b gene amplified  there by vertebrate hosts were identified
17 species of black flies
25 vertebrate-host species identified:  12 mamal 13 bird
moose and grouse are the most common hosts
Host specificity is greatest for mammal-feeding black fles.
Host type bird vs. mammal observation: corresponds 100% with claw structure.
Rodent specialists are active later in the evening – more than likely that the rodents are more active in the afternoon.
Large, abundant hosts are used most frequently.

What did we learn:

Grouse is a large bird and has the most bites. Yet the smaller the bird the fewer the bites.


Zoos – blood-feeding flies are at the interface of captive and native animals, including humans.  What species of animals are serving as hosts for what species of mosquitoes?

We collected at Riverbank Zoo, Columbia, SC.

Five species of Mosquitoes

1. Aedes albopictus (asian tiger mosquito) (3)

2. Culex quinquefasciatus (transmits causal agents for elephantiasis) (46)
Charleston SC was the only place in the US that has shown any elephantiasis.  The last case was 1944.
Chipping sparrow
Northern cardinal
Eurasian eagle owl
King vulture
Thick-billed parrot

3. Culex erraticus (17)
Northern cardinal
Turkey vulture
Toco toucan
Thick-billed parrot
African Fire salamander


Looking Northward to Canada

The bloodsucking flies can be so bad some years it alters migration routes.  It caused me to wonder about flies driving species to extinction.

Research moments:

Case 1:  Attwater’s Prairie Chicken is a critically endangered birds  – there are only 40 birds left now. Its habitat is prairies in Texas.

I looked at the samples of black flies.  I tested them to see if they had specific avian toxins – Leucocytozoon (protozoan).  It had them.  It infects birds and when the birds are stressed,  the birds suffer and might cause them to go over to extinction.

Case 2:  Whooping Crane – critically endangered 1941 – 15 birds , 2010 266 birds

10 years attempt to reintroduce the species into eastern North America: failure
Nest failure: 10 years: 59 attempts, 3 young fledged
You can hear the flies as you approach the next.
400 flies withdraw 1.2 mili-liters of blood in 5 minutes from a whooping crane
black flies entrapping in broken eggs whooping crane 2,272 black flies – the birds accidentally break their eggs as they try to remove the flies from their bodies.

What is the Role in the Black Flies in Nest Failure?

1. Monitor Black Fly Populations – make a black fly trap so 7 carbon-dioxide traps run every day for three months

2.  Determine Relation of Crane Behaviors at Nests to Black Fly Numbers in Carbon Dioxide Traps – infrared cameras at nests did not work as birds would abandon the nests immediately.  Bird blinds work.

After three months on total trapped – 293,235 black flies

25 to 30 species of flies but only 3 attack cranes.  6 year time frame.

Findings:  Any nesting before the third week of April abandoned their nest.  Black flies don’t appear until after the 3rd week in April.

Whooping Crane rearing versus reintroduction.  The cranes are raised in MD at a different – latitude from where the reintroduction site is located.

Multidimensional scaling indicates strong association of black flies with 3 “comfort behaviors” (head-shaking, bill flick, and head-rub) of whooping cranes on nests. 75% fewer comfort behaviors when not on the nest.

The reintroduction area is the only traditional nesting area that is in a dense black fly area.  The nesting areas traditionally are below the black fly area.

Where do the black flies breed?

Breeding distribution of Black Flies in Wisconsin reintroduction area:  130 larvae per square inch on debris submerged in flowing water.

Next Phase: Possible black fly suppression by biological control agent (bacterium) to evaluate role of black flies in nest failures.

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Filed under AR, AV, Biology, BR, BW, DW, Science

LR’s – Queen Gertrude and Hamlet Analysed

Two notes from me.

1.  The older guys have been focused on rhetoric  and the methods of rhetoric for the past weeks.  They were supposed to find a topic in the realm of rhetorical history or theory to cover.  Being Montessori the rabbit trails abounded and at least one led far from the original topic.  However, it has proved very insightful.  Presentations for Project Week began at 9:30 yesterday.  This is the first time I’ve designated that the written paper is not the speech and the speech is to delivered from or nearby a podium.  It was evaluated – as was their written piece.

2. LR is 12.  Upon landing on this topic, LR found the seemingly easy topic to be quite a challenge.  The adult matter of the relationship was tricky.  Discussions of adult motivations (whether emotional or biological) were necessary and LR waded through them and came out on the other side with his own ideas and theories which withstood the buffets of intellectual challenge.

The Conflict Between Hamlet and His Mother Analyzed with a Focus on Cultural Roles and Emotional Motivation.

HAMLET: Now, mother, what’s the matter?
QUEEN GERTRUDE: Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.
HAMLET: Mother, you have my father much offended.
QUEEN GERTRUDE: Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue.
HAMLET: Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue.
QUEEN GERTRUDE: Why, how now, Hamlet?
HAMLET: What’s the matter now?
QUEEN GERTRUDE: Have you forgot me?
HAMLET: No, by the rood, not so:
You are the Queen, your husband’s brother’s wife,
And would it were not so, you are my mother.
QUEEN GERTRUDE: Nay, then I’ll set those to you that can speak.
HAMLET: Come, come, and sit you down, you shall not boudge;
You go not till I set you up a glass
Where you may see the inmost part of you.
QUEEN GERTRUDE: What wilt thou do? Thou wilt not murder me?

This is a segment from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. Hamlet is the son of Queen Gertrude, these kinds of parent and child conflicts are common in some of Shakespeare’s plays. The events surrounding these characters must be taken into account as we watch the attitude of Gertrude and Hamlet change. They have their own unique places in society. I will discuss the cultural ramifications and mental state of these characters. To understand the relationship of these characters I will summarize the play. Then I will individually look at Queen Gertrude then at Hamlet.

From celebrating-humanity.wikispaces.com

In the tragedy of Hamlet, the main character is the Prince of Denmark, Hamlet. Throughout the play he struggles to keep his sanity. This is especially apparent after his father’s ghost visits him. The ghost tells him the frighting idea that his father was murdered by his uncle Claudius, who is the current king and now married to Hamlet’s mother. Now Hamlet is determined to kill Claudius. Hamlet, convinced that his mother, Queen Gertrude has knowledge of his father’s murder, is extremely angry. When he confronts, her she denies that Claudius is the killer.

To make sure Claudius is the murder of his father, Hamlet writes a play about his father’s death and has it performed by traveling players. When it is performed, the king’s reaction is proof enough. Claudius storms off shocked. Hamlet now knows his uncle is the killer of his father. Hamlet has the chance to kill his Uncle while he is praying, but Hamlet decides not to. While Hamlet is having an argument with his mother, he sees movement behind the curtains. Reacting without thinking Hamlet stabs Lord Polonius the father of Hamlet’s love, Ophelia.

After the death of Polonius, Ophelia goes mad and drowns herself. Ophelia’s brother, Laertes, comes to her funeral. Blaming Hamlet for Ophelia’ madness, Laertes and the king plot to kill Hamlet by use of more poison. Laertes challenges Hamlet to a duel. Claudius poisons Hamlet’s chalice of wine and Laertes poisons the tip of his sword. At the duel Hamlet is winning, and Claudius gives a toast offering the poisoned wine to Hamlet. He declines the offering. Queen Gertrude drinks to Hamlet and unknowingly consuming the poisoned wine. Laertes cheats and stabs Hamlet; Hamlet with anger picked up the same poisoned sword and stabs Laertes. Hamlet sees that his mother is poisoned. Enraged he stabs Claudius then forced the wine down his throat. In the end Laertes, Claudius, Queen Gertrude, and Hamlet are all dead.

Queen Gertrude is one of the most confusing and mysterious characters in Hamlet. There are several reasons for her confusion. One of the primary reasons is that, Hamlet is angry with her. He tries to tell her that that Claudius is the killer of her former husband. If this is true, she has no one to turn to. So she doesn’t want to believe Hamlet. She is also afraid of Hamlet because he stabbed Polonius. Hamlet is extremely angry at her because he thinks she has forgotten Hamlet’s father too soon. As the play progresses, she questions if Claudius is the murderer. If he is the killer she will not be married to a king, and in the eyes of her culture she would be nothing. In the end Gertrude drinks from Hamlet’s chalice even after Claudius says not to. I believe that is her way of saying that if Claudius is the killer and he poisoned the wine she does not want to live.

Queen Gertrude, as other queens of this time period, was very dependent on her husband. It was very uncommon for a queen after the death of her king to marry his brother. There is a chart written in 1559 by William Clerke about prohibited marriages. It is called The Trial of Bastardies and there are 16 prohibited marriages and the probation not to marry your brother’s wife is one of them. A queen like Gertrude was more of a public figure than an authoritative ruler. Queen Gertrude managed her children but she didn’t care for them. She would manage the castle’s staff like the maids or cooks. She would attend royal and religious ceremonies. She had a slew of managerial and stately events and duties to keep her day full.

In the climax of the conflict between mother and son, Hamlet is trying to keep the memory of his father alive by arguing with his mother. His internal conflict is whether or not to avenge his father by killing Claudius. His anger has blinded his conscience and decisions. Hamlet is furious at his mother because he thinks she has forgotten his father and because he thinks she knows Claudius is the killer. He has the chance to kill Claudius while he is praying, but Hamlet doesn’t because wants Claudius to go to Hell. In Hamlet’s time they believed if you were praying and you died you would go to heaven. Claudius plots to murder him. Hamlet discovers this and makes his urge to kill Claudius stronger.

Behind all the drama of Hamlet, Hamlet knows he will one day have to take the thrown of Denmark. He would need to marry someone. He would need to be well educated. Hamlet was very focussed on his education. He would also have to collect rents from fiefs. Hamlet would have done sports like sword fighting and hunting. He would have known everyone in the castle. He would learn the duties of the king. He would need be preparing himself to one day be king.

In the end, the insanity of Hamlet and his indecision caused more deaths than he anticipated. Queen Gertrude’s mysterious character makes us question what she knew. Claudius’ hunger for power motivated him to kill his brother. All in all, the emotions of these characters made for a disastrous downward cycle, and ultimately led to their deaths.


Brown, F. And McBride, K. (2005). Women’s Role In The Renaissance. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press.

Adelman, A. (1992) Suffocating Mothers Fantasies Of Maternal Origin In Shakespeare’s Plays, Hamlet To The Tempest. New York: Routlegde.

Jokinen, A. (1996). Renaissance. Luminarium. February 1, 2010 from the World Wide Web: http://www.luminarium.org/

Thomas, Dr. C. E. (interview, January 27, 2010) College of Charleston, Department of English.

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Filed under European History, Geography and World Studies, LR