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Michael Habib
Works at University of Southern California
Attended Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Lives in Los Angeles
14,882 followers|1,297,651 views


Michael Habib

• Astronomy/Astrophysics ☄  - 
A bit about Kepler-186f for you #sciencesunday  

Caveat: keep in mind that the information below is not confirmed, but merely likely parameters given the first round of measurements. The first author on the description paper, Elisa Quintana says that "This star is too dim for follow-up surveys, even with large next-generation telescopes. But it does show you can form Earth-size planets in the habitable zone."
5 Things to Know About Planet Kepler-186f, 'Earth's Cousin'.
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Great question, +Ron Thompson. I'm not sure the precise temperature is known. Given the error rates on estimation, I expect that the full range you described (in amazing terms, I might add) is possible.
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Ice Age Bees

A new paper is out in PLOS ONE detailing an extraordinary find: 40,000 year old leaf-cutter bee pupae preserved in their nests in such excellent shape that the species and sex of the two specimens can be determined. 

The specimens are from the famous La Brea Tar Pits here in Los Angeles, and while the pupation chambers were collected some time ago, they could not be safely opened without destroying the specimens inside. Fortunately, the calvary arrived: Paleontologist and CT reconstruction guru Justin Hall was able to build 3D images of the specimens from micro-CT scans. The pupae are in excellent condition, and the image below (from the original paper) shows a modern specimen at the top compared to the Tar Pits specimen image on the bottom, scaled to the same length. (Note the scale bars are slightly different, so the ancient specimen is, in fact, a bit smaller - not surprising given the modern specimen is a female and the Tar Pits specimen is a male).

The specimens seem to be individuals of Megachile gentilis, which is still represented today. This particular species has done well with warming climates, which have allowed M. gentilis to expand the range of elevations at which its populations are stable.

The Rancho La Brea Tar Pits is the world’s richest and most important Late Pleistocene fossil locality and best renowned for numerous fossil mammals and birds excavated over the past century. Less researched are insects, even though these specimens frequently serve as the most valuable paleoenvironemental indicators due to their narrow climate restrictions and life cycles. Our goal was to examine fossil material that included insect-plant associations, and thus an even higher potential for significant paleoenviromental data. Micro-CT scans of two exceptionally preserved leafcutter bee nest cells from the Rancho La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California reveal intact pupae dated between ~23,000–40,000 radiocarbon years BP. Here identified as best matched to Megachile (Litomegachile) gentilis Cresson (Hymenoptera: Megachilidae) based on environmental niche models as well as morphometrics, the nest cells (LACMRLP 388E) document rare preservation and life-stage. The result of complex plant-insect interactions, they offer new insights into the environment of the Late Pleistocene in southern California. The remarkable preservation of the nest cells suggests they were assembled and nested in the ground where they were excavated. The four different types of dicotyledonous leaves used to construct the cells were likely collected in close proximity to the nest and infer a wooded or riparian habitat with sufficient pollen sources for larval provisions. LACMRLP 388E is the first record of fossil Megachile Latreille cells with pupae. Consequently, it provides a pre-modern age location for a Nearctic group, whose phylogenetic relationships and biogeographic history remain poorly understood. Megachile gentilis appears to respond to climate change as it has expanded its distribution across elevation gradients over time as estimated by habitat suitability comparisons between low and high elevations; it currently inhabits mesic habitats which occurred at a lower elevation during the Last Glacial Maximum ~21,000 years ago. Nevertheless, the broad ecological niche of M. gentilis appears to have remained stable

Original Paper ( #openaccess )

Press Release
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Michael Habib

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Giant flyers in the Washington Post

This is an article by Brian Palmer based on interviews with myself and Mark Norrell at the AMNH earlier this month. The article discusses the requirements for gigantism in flying vertebrates, and briefly addresses the lack of living giant flyers. One thing we didn't get a chance to discuss in the interview is that the world had giant flyers (6+ meter wingspan birds) up until comparatively recently - the last giant pseudodontorns made it to about 1.8 million years ago, at least. They might have survived longer than that, in fact (they are relatively rare fossils, so it is plausible that there are younger ones as yet unknown).

Ultimately, the modern day is the fluke, not the past: we are living in one of only two relatively brief periods of time since 125 million years ago that there has not been at least one type of flyer with a 5 meter wingspan or greater.
A look at a past giant — the flying reptile pterosaurs
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+Boris Borcic The largest wingspan on an aircraft in active service is the 88.4 meter span of the Antonov An-225 Mriya, so far as I am aware.
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Had a great time at #yurisnight2014  in Los Angeles on Friday. +Scott Lewis and I met +Ron Garan and a host of interesting (and interested) fans of space exploration. Here's the video for SpaceFan News that Scott put together of the interviews.
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Was great having you join me, +Michael Habib! Had an absolute blast. 
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Michael Habib

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A press release from the new paper in Science on fruit fly maneuverability. 
Watch How Fruit Flies Avoid Attack by Banking Like Fighter Jets

"Researchers have recorded a remarkable flight behavior in the fruit fly species Drosophila hydei, they report today in Science. When threatened by a predator, the spry critters can change course in just one one-hundredth of a second, rolling on their sides and banking hard. Normally flapping their wings 200 times a second, the flies accomplish this in almost a single wing beat.

“In addition,” write the researchers, “after changing their flight course, the animals quickly rotate back to attain a horizontal attitude and accelerate away from the looming threat.”

Learn more from +WIRED
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Have him in circles
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Michael Habib

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Some very clever mobility modes in this robot. There are more designs shown in the enclosed link.
This Norwegian Engineer Is Creating Some Creepy Transformer-Like Robots…

Click below to see these crazy robots in action...
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This reminds me of that lizard (I think it was a lizard) that likes to climb on rocks at the top of mountains. If they get startled by a predator, they curl up like a potato bug and just tumble down the mountain. 
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Michael Habib

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A public service announcement from XKCD.
Oh, yes. Absolutely!

Original link:
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Buddhini, I have found that when laws like that initially go into place, they're done for good reasons. But eventually, zero-tolerance laws (which are similar to anti hate-speech laws) become perverted, and do not protect against the thing that they are meant to protect. 

What if I publish a scientific discovery that directly contradicts something in someone's religion? I can be accused of hate-speech for defending my position too strongly. What if I believe that gender wage-gap has less to do with sexism these days, and more to do with the priorities of women (flexibility over pay) and their hesitance to haggle their salary during the interview process? I can be accused of sexism by anyone who chooses not to interpret me correctly. 

It is my opinion that any issue or problem that is illegal or taboo to discuss will inevitably grow larger with time. That is why it is often better to allow a few sexists and racists to say their piece than to outlaw them, which will make them look like brave rebels to some people. Occasionally, their stupidity will get some traction (anti-vaccine movement for example), but nothing is perfect. 
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Another great example of genomes that have stolen pieces in them.
"During the age of the dinosaurs, the arrival of flowering plants as competitors could have spelled doom for primitive ferns. Instead, ferns diversified and flourished under the new canopy -- using a mysterious gene that helped them adapt to low-light environments. Scientists have now pinpointed the curious origins of this gene and determined that it was transferred to ferns from a group of unassuming, mossy plants called hornworts".
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I'm quite excited for this - I played the original Alpha Centauri game extensively. Very pleased to see that an updated game of the same concept will release soon.
Take my money! #civilizationbeyondearth  via +John Fillers and many more!
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All this and it's going to run natively on Linux too. :)
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Michael Habib

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The linked article has some good images and video of Ophiocordyceps in action.
Zombie apocalypse ... not exactly but close.

Ophiocordyceps unilateralis is an entomopathogenic fungus predominantly found in tropical forest ecosystems. In order to increase its own fitness O. unilateralis utilizes the evolutionary trait of an extended phenotype to manipulate the behavioral patterns of an infected formicidae, specifically Camponotus leonardi of the tribe of campotini. The infected ants leave their canopy nest and foraging trails, heading for the forest floor in search of an area with a temperature and humidity level that is suitable for fungal growth. The infected ant will then use its mandible to affix themselves to a major vein on the underside of a leaf and eventually die. From Wikipedia

The zombie is a simple creature with simple tastes, enjoying leisurely walks on the beach, dining out with hordes of its friends, and every now and then having a good tumble down a flight of stairs. It behaves this way because the pathogen that has infected it doesn’t require complex behaviors in order to replicate — it commands a hungry, nearly indestructible vessel that can walk it right up to its next potential host.

But on our planet there exist zombified ants that undergo a decidedly more complex, and more disturbing, transformation at the hands of highly sophisticated parasitic fungi that assume control of the insects’ minds. What ensues between a host and a parasite with no brain of its own is a battle that is far stranger and far more methodical than anything ever dreamed up by Hollywood. (The zombifying fungus that attacks humans in the videogame The Last of Us comes close, but its real-life counterpart is much, much weirder. And you don’t have to pay 60 bucks to see it, which is nice.) | continue reading at wired

#zombies   #science  
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The Planet Earth series showed something like this where the any was forced by the infection to climb high to maximize spore distribution.
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Have him in circles
14,882 people
Assistant Professor of Neurobiology
Anatomy, Biomechanics, Paleontology
  • University of Southern California
    Assistant Professor of Neurobiology, 2012 - present
    I teach Clinical Human Anatomy (Cadaveric). I research biomechanics, paleontology, robotics and comparative anatomy. Growing interest in astrobiology.
  • Chatham University
    Assistant Professor of Biology, 2009 - 2012
    I taught Clinical Human Anatomy (Cadaveric), Evolution, and Biostatistics. I had a fruitful research program in biomechanics, paleontology, and comparative anatomy.
  • National Aquarium
    Animal Husbandry: Rainforest, 2001 - 2001
    I provided animal care at the National Aquarium for reptiles, birds, and invertebrates. (
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Los Angeles
Baltimore - Ellicott City - Charlottesville - Pittsburgh
Other profiles
Paleontologist. Gets to play with flying reptiles, dinosaurs, and swarms for a living. Enjoys tea and Kung Fu off the job.
I spend my time teaching human gross anatomy and studying strange creatures from the deep past of Earth's history. I am particularly fond of publishing works on giant flying reptiles. When not contemplating the fossil record I can be found studying Kung Fu and growing orchids.

My Curriculum Vitae (PDF Download)

Some of my recent papers:

Chiappe LM, Zhao B, O’Connor JK, Chunling G, Wang X, Habib M, Marugan-Lobon J, Meng Q, Cheng X. 2014. A new specimen of the Early Cretaceous bird Hongshanornis longicresta: insights into the aerodynamics and diet of a basal ornithuromorph. PeerJ 2:e234 

Hone DWE, Habib MB, Lamanna MC. 2013. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of Solnhofen (Upper Jurassic, Germany) pterosaur specimens at Carnegie Museum of Natural History. Annals of Carnegie Musuem 82(2): 149-175.

Habib M. 2013. Constraining the Air Giants: Limits on size in flying animals as an example of constraint-based biomechanical theories of form. Biological Theory: Special Volume doi: 10.1007/s13752-013-0118-y

Habib M. 2010. The structural mechanics and evolution of aquaflying birds. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society. 99(4): 687-698

Habib M.  2008. Comparative evidence for quadrupedal launch in pterosaurs. Pp 161-168 in Buffetaut E, and DWE Hone, eds.  Wellnhofer Pterosaur Meeting: Zitteliana B28

Bragging rights
Published the first paper describing quadrupedal launch in pterosaurs. Research was featured as one of the top 100 stories of 2009 by Discover Magazine.
  • Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
    Anatomy (Ph.D.), 2004 - 2011
  • University of Virginia
    Biology (M.S.), 2001 - 2004
  • University of Virginia
    Biology (B.A.), 1998 - 2001
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