A Science for Everyone, Community

Electronic Visit to the Snow Course

It still amazes me that I can turn on the computer and, in 15 minutes, get the data that used to take a week’s work to obtain.  Of course it also amazes me that my work is so far in the past that it no longer shows up in the 30-year averages.  Still, some of that data – starting with my first run in the mid-seventies are still available:

As I look at the little squares on the left, I do see that Jay and I did measure the lowest year on this chart, back in 1977.

My closest snow courses are Stahl Peak and Grave Creek. Stahl is listed at 27.7 inches and 75% of average – but still significantly better than the 20-inches of water back in my youth.

Grave Creek is listed at 3.8 inches and 60% of average. 

Banfield Mountain shows 9.9 inches – 66% of average.  The chart shows that this is fairly close to the record low measurements.

Hawkins Lake, in the northwest corner of the county, shows 20.9 inches and 81% of the 30 year average.  The historic peaks chart shows that I measured the record low in 1977, and the snowpack is still above that.


Usually I don’t see Salamanders

We seem to have made a good location great for salamanders – ours are long-toed salamanders.  Despite being in a near-perfect location for salamanders, most of the time we don’t see them.  The information is online– and the field guide does a pretty good job explaining why we see them rarely.  They’re classified as “mole” salamanders, which kind of suggests they spend their time in the dirt rather than walking around on top of it.  I am pretty much just excerpting from the field guide – and I strongly suggest that if you ever notice one of these little guys around your house, you really want to read it. 

It explains how we built a great salamander environment by accident.  Stretching out a few logs in a stack gives a cool, shaded spot on top of moist soil – kind of a great place for a foraging mole salamander.  The pond, with its still water, provides a great place for laying eggs and hatching the little amphibians.

 Finally, leaving a thick piece of plywood alongside the dripline from the garage roof built a near-perfect mating location – covered by the plywood, and with wet, uncompacted soil, less than 100 yards from the pond.  The females will wander down to the pond, lay eggs, and along will come the next generation.


Montana Gun Control

I note that the governor has signed a bill that “forbids state and local law enforcement from enforcing federal bans on guns, ammunition and magazines.“   Detractors – folks who want the gun control efforts to grow in Montana are quoted as saying that this “would make it difficult for local law enforcement to collaborate with federal authorities on issues beyond gun access when such collaboration is essential to protect public safety.”

There are times it is good to be old, and have a long memory.  Back when the first Assault Weapons Ban was law, Ravalli County Sheriff Jay Printz challenged it as unconstitutional.  Sheriff Printz thought it was wrong for congress to compel state employees and elected officials to enforce Federal law.

District court agreed with Printz, then the 9th Circuit reversed the decision, and it went to the Supreme Court.  On June 27, 1997, the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, reversed the 9th Circuit, finding that the ban’s attempt to commandeer county sheriffs to perform background checks was in violation of the tenth amendment. 

Remember, I’m a scientist, not a lawyer – but it looks to me like a Hamilton Sheriff, nearly a quarter century ago, has already completed the legal defense for  “Montana Federal Firearm, Magazine, and Ammunition Ban Enforcement Prohibition Act”.   The complete bill is available.  It does reference the Printz case, and it looks like state and local employees will not be allowed to assist Federal officers in enforcing this law.


Mobile Bookstore Donated Books to Trego School

Trego Elementary school recently received a donation of books from Saint Rita’s Textual Apothecary. Trego School is continuing to expand its library- and its filing system.

The school has been working to expand the library and replace the card catalog with a more modern system, in conjunction with the school’s reading program. They are still hoping to acquire more books for students of all ages.

This week marks midterm of the fourth quarter- the last day of school (and end of the year picnic) will be on June 3rd.

Our thanks to the mobile bookstore for helping to foster a love of reading in our community.

A Science for Everyone, Demography

IQ Testing Government Officials

Donald Trump described himself as a “stable genius.”  Joe Biden challenged another old man to an IQ test competition.  These are things that never happened with George Bush, and I scoured the internet for reliable IQ numbers on politicians.  I learned that a US government official IQ tested a group of German military and political leaders.  So near as I can tell, the only data available on the intelligence of government officials came from the Nuremberg trials after World War II.  An American psychologist, Gustave Gilbert tested the 21 former Nazi officials with an early Wechsler IQ test, with the following results:

Position HeldIQ
Schacht, HjalmarMinister of Economics143
Seyss-Inquart, Arthur Reichkommisar of Netherlands141
Dönitz, KarlAdmiral138
Göring, HermannChancellor138
Papen, Franz vonChancellor134
Raeder, ErichGrand Admiral134
Frank, HansGovernor of Poland130
Fritzsche, HansDirector of Propaganda130
Schirach, Baldur vonHitler Youth Leader130
Keitel, WilhelmField Marshall129
Ribbentrop, Joachim vonMinister of Foreign Affairs129
Speer, AlbertMinister of Armaments128
Rosenberg, AlfredMinister of Occupied Territories 127
Jodl, AlfredColonel General127
Neurath, Konstantin vonMinister Foreign Affairs125
Frick, WilhelmMinister of Interior124
Funk, WaltherEconomics Minister124
Hess, RudolfDeputy Fuhrer (until 1941)120
Sauckel, FritzHead Labor Deployment118
Kaltenbrunner, ErnstSS, Head of Security113
Streicher, JuliusNewspaper Publisher106

All were above average – most, excepting the publisher of the party newspaper and the head of security (Streicher and Kaltenbrunner) above the “normal range” of intelligence.  The only thing I can generalize from the sample is that you don’t have to be dumb to be a nazi, and that isn’t a conclusion I like.

There’s a chart at IQ Comparison that shows the probability of each score.  For example, Julius Streicher, with an IQ of 106, almost made it into the top third of the population.  Kaltenbrunner, at 113, scored in the top fifth.  Hermann Goring, at 138, was statistically the sharpest knife in a drawer with 177 others.  Hjalmar Schacht, with an IQ of 143 was one out of 278 . . . and he was acquitted of all charges at Nuremberg. 

There is a clickbait series on US presidential IQ scores – complete to two decimal points, and it looks unreliable to me – so this seems to be the best available data.  I suspect we could develop some pretty good estimates on recent presidents, if we had their ASVAB or college placement scores – but most of our presidents preceded IQ tests.  In 1916, Terman set the minimum standard for genius at 140 . . . so Trump may well have scored above that – basically, the probability in the general population is 1 in 261.  Biden probably did have a better than 50-50 chance of beating a random 83-year-old in an IQ test.  I’ve seen Einstein listed at 160 – a one in 31,560 probability.

In a nation of 330 million, we have about as many smart people as dumb ones – and, if we extrapolate from the Nurenberg IQ tests, we have some equally bright people in politics, and bright politicians can do some really dumb things.

Community, Patches' Pieces

Annual Quilt Show a Winner

Over 100 quilts were on display for Scraps & Threads annual quilt show.  In addition there were several special displays including Quilts for Cops, PIGS, Veteran Quilts, and the Star Baby Quilt Class. Quilts for Cops is a project spearheaded by Melody Casey. The guild is providing “small quilts for cops to keep in their cars.  The quilts could be used to provide some comfort for someone in need.”

Eureka Patrolmen accepting quilts from Melody Casey for the Quilts for Cops program
PIGS, Projects in Grocery Sacks

Veteran Quilts are quilts “made for veterans in VA facilities here in Montana. This is a project started by Bunny Franklin to provide quilts to the veterans at the Fort Harrison VA Hospital in Helena.”

Quilts for Veterans
Quilts for Cops

PIGS are “Project in a Grocery Sack.”  Guild members select 4 fat quarts that are placed in a “sack along with their names secreted inside the bag. Guild members randomly choose a bag not knowing whose they choose and in a given amount of time create a quilty item of some kind for the person whose name is found inside the bag.  At the end of the specified time all the PIGS are gathered together at a regular guild meeting and the sacks are returned to the rightful owners with a finished project inside.”

Ribbons were awarded in 5 categories. Winners in the large quilt category were: 1st. Sandy Mason with Mineral Matrix, 2nd. Melody Casey, and 3rd  Melody Casey. Winners in the medium category were: 1st. Lucy Ravitch with Teach me, 2nd. Annie Dueker, and 3rd  Melody Casey. Winners in the small quilt category were: 1st. Annie Dueker with Spiral Galaxy, 2nd. Renata Schroeppel, and 3rd  Kathie Elenberger. 

Winners in the Mini’s quilt category were: 1st. Annie Dueker with Great Ball of Fire, 2nd  Annie Dueker, and 3rd  Susan Crandall.  Winner in the other quilt category was Terrie Philips with Compass Rose Table Runner. The Best Theme quilt went to Annie Dueker with While Momma’s Away. And the People’s Choice Award went to Annie Dueker with Spiral Galaxy. -Patches


Frog Eggs and Toad Eggs

Spring seems to have finally arrived, and soon the pond will be full of little frogs. As it turns out, frog eggs and toad eggs are different, and far easier to tell apart than the tadpoles.

Toad eggs (left) and Frog Eggs (right), both from the pond, though the toad eggs are from a previous year.

Frog eggs typically form nice clumps. -this years batch are particularly muddy. Toad eggs, however, will generally be in strands. While the eggs will typically hatch within two weeks or so, it’s still possible to tell the difference in the next stage.

Tadpoles: The frog version will typically school. Eating eggs (or smaller tadpoles) is less common in frogs, and so there’s less reason to avoid the relatives. And, safety in numbers! After all, tadpoles are definitely small enough to be on the menu for dragonfly larvae.

Our local toad tadpoles seem to be far less inclined to form large schools. While not typically seen alone, they are generally doing their own thing and not associated with other tadpoles. Since toad tadpoles are willing to consume pretty much anything smaller than them (including younger tadpoles), this makes some sense.

Other than using behavioral clues, toad tadpoles are somewhat stockier than the frog tadpoles. It is, all things being equal, far easier to make the identification from the eggs.


The Power Elites

About the time I was learning to read, C. Wright Mills was writing the sociological classic The Power Elite.  Like his The Sociological Imagination, it is a text that remains insightful 60 years after his death.

Mills was a conflict theorist, strongly influenced by Weber and Marx . . . and I suppose it would be fair to say my own approach is strongly influenced by Weber, and Marx, and Mills.  He described the power elite of the mid-fifties as dominating the industrial, the military, and the political segments of our nation.  It seems like stating the obvious now – but it wasn’t so obvious in 1955.  Eisenhower was President – a West Point graduate, a five-star general in the European theatre of WWII, but before his appointment to West Point, his father worked as a railroad mechanic and in a creamery.  Ike looked more like a middle-class success story than any sort of elite. (and let’s remember, his outgoing speech, warning of a military-industrial complex)

By the late sixties, we were beginning to see recognizable figures in the Power Elite – John Kennedy, whose father had worked politics and industry wasn’t nearly so good an example of the power elite as his younger brother, Ted.  Ted Kennedy epitomized the ability of the Power Elite to screw up, to “sin” if you will, and get away with it.  Other politicians, less well connected (Wilbur Mills comes to mind) crashed careers with their conduct – but Ted continued on to become “the Lion of the Senate.”

John McCain returned from the Hanoi Hilton to be elected to the Senate, eventually even running for president.  One way of looking at him was as a popular war hero from an unpopular war.  Still, both his father and grandfather were Academy graduates and Admirals.  It’s easier for me to see John McCain as an example of the power elite.  If we glance at Mitch Romney – his father, George Romney was chairman of American Motors through the fifties, then governor of Michigan, the Secretary of HUD.  Like John McCain, Mitch could be used as an illustration in an updated version of The Power Elite. 

Nancy Pelosi’s father was a US Representative and Mayor of Baltimore.  The aunt of Gavin Newsom (governor of California) is married to Pelosi’s brother-in-law.  Examples abound of the interconnected elites.  Mills’ 1956 book is probably more relevant, and evidence supporting his hypothesis more prevalent now than when it was written. It’s not a conspiracy theory – just an outgrowth of Weber’s work on bureaucracy and Marx’ social conflict paradigm.

If I haven’t convinced you to get his book and read it, perhaps you would read  Scott Bonn’s 2017 article in Psychology Today at 

Ask The Entomologist

Thatch Ants

A question we received last month – our apologies for the delay in answering.

Thank you to Sandra Elster for prompting this piece.

Our mound-building ants in this part of the country are Western Thatching Ants, Formica obscuripes. 5′ by 5′ is quite an impressive mound! I suspect it had quite a few active queens in it at one time… These ants are rather special because they generally have multiple active queens in a single colony – the young queens often help out and reproduce at home, instead of founding their own new colonies.

While Thatching Ant queens can live about a decade, they will eventually die. And when they do so, if there aren’t other queens waiting in the wings, the whole colony will go down with them. I’m guessing this is what happened at your daughter’s place.

Workers at the entrance of a Western Thatching Ant nest near my home.
Busy despite the overcast day.

This species is most interesting to me when it sets about starting new colonies… You see, Western Thatching Ants often start out as social parasites! Queens of the red-colored wood ants, including our species of Thatch Ant, don’t start from scratch… They use others ants’ labor to get started.

The Queen is dead, long live the queen!”

A young queen of the Western Thatch Ant, instead of going to the backbreaking work of digging and founding a new colony all by herself, will tend to infiltrate nests of related ant species. Once inside, the young queen kills the old queen, acquires her smell, and steps into her role.

Over time, the new queen’s offspring will far outnumber those of the old queen, and the nest will eventually be a single species again. Fancy folks call this “temporary social parasitism“.

If the colony is very successful, it may divide into smaller colonies – a way new colonies sometimes form without using social parasitism. If a colony gets sufficiently large, daughter queens may take control of certain sections of it, forming a “satellite colony” instead of leaving to form an entirely separate one. Many linked colonies form a “supercolony”. The largest I’ve heard for this species is 210 linked colonies in eastern Oregon.

I wrote about wasp control not too long ago… Well, ants are your number one natural means of keeping wasps, and most other pest insects, in check. If a wasp colony is under stress, ants will often invade and carry away the baby wasps to be food for the colony. Controlling your Thatch Ants may lead to you having more wasp problems.

That said, if you want to exterminate your Western Thatch Ant colony, Washington State University Extension has some advice.

When they emerge, I’ll address Carpenter Ants & how to control them.