Tag Archives | Nature

Do You Suffer From Nature-Deficit Disorder?

BachalpseeflowersTell me you don’t, I dare you… Timothy Egan explains why in the New York Times:

Your day breaks, your mind aches for something stimulating to match the stirrings of the season. The gate at the urban edge is open, here to the Santa Catalina Mountains, and yet you turn inward, to pixels and particle-board vistas.

Something’s amiss. A third of all American adults — check, it just went up to 35.7 percent — are obese. The French don’t even have a word for fat, Paul Rudnick mused in a mock-Parisian tone in The New Yorker last week. “If a woman is obese,” he wrote, “we simply call her American.”

And, of course, our national branding comes with a host of deadly side effects: heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, certain kinds of cancer. Medical costs associated with obesity and inactivity are nearly $150 billion a year.

This grim toll is well known.

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Archaeologists Reveal Neanderthals to Have Been Even More Badass Than Previously Thought

mezhirichIt turns out they built ornate homes out of bone. This from Richard Gray of The Telegraph:

Archaeologists have discovered the remains of a 44,000 year old Neanderthal building that was constructed using the bones from mammoths. The circular building, which was up to 26 feet across at its widest point, is believed to be earliest example of domestic dwelling built from bone. Neanderthals, which died out around 30,000 years ago, were initially thought to have been relatively primitive nomads that lived in natural caves for shelter.

The new findings, however, suggest these ancient human ancestors had settled in areas to the degree that they built structures where they lived for extended periods of time. Analysis by researchers from the Muséum National d’Histories Naturelle in Paris also found that many of the bones had been decorated with carvings and ochre pigments…

[Continues at The Telegraph]

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The Beauty Of Minefield Landscapes

3flowersWill the landmines that were sprinkled across vast swaths of the globe during brutal twentieth-century wars ironically end up saving nature? In Bosnia, “nowhere [in the countryside] is safe” from mines — meaning that animals and plants can flourish where people fear to tread. BLDG BLOG has a gallery of gorgeous mine-infested landscapes and the horrifying devices buried beneath the surfaces:

The Minescape project by Los Angeles-based photographer Brett Van Ort looks at the ironic effects of landmines on the preservation of natural landscapes, placing woods, meadows, and even remote country roads off-limits, fatally tainted terrains given back to animals and vegetation.

“Left over munitions and landmines from the wars in the early 1990s still litter the countryside in Bosnia,” Van Ort explains. Many deminers in the field believe roughly 10% of the country can still be deemed a landmine area. They also feel that nowhere in the countryside is safe, as they may clear one area but a torrential downpour may unearth landmines upstream or upriver.

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Christian Faith Requires Accepting Evolution

Darwin FishJonathan Dudley writes on Huffington Post:

As someone raised evangelical, I realize anti-evolutionists believe they are defending the Christian tradition. But as a seminary graduate now training to be a medical scientist, I can say that, in reality, they’ve abandoned it.

In theory, if not always in practice, past Christian theologians valued science out of the belief that God created the world scientists study. Augustine castigated those who made the Bible teach bad science, John Calvin argued that Genesis reflects a commoner’s view of the physical world, and the Belgic confession likened scripture and nature to two books written by the same author.

These beliefs encouraged past Christians to accept the best science of their day, and these beliefs persisted even into the evangelical tradition. As Princeton Seminary’s Charles Hodge, widely considered the father of modern evangelical theology, put it in 1859: “Nature is as truly a revelation of God as the Bible; and we only interpret the Word of God by the Word of God when we interpret the Bible by science.”

In this analysis, Christians must accept sound science, not because they don’t believe God created the world, but precisely because they do …

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Longest-Living Two-Headed Janus Cat Turns Twelve

bildeA household pet that deserves to be worshiped as a god. Via the Worcester Telegram & Gazette:

He has earned a spot as the longest lived Janus cat in the new edition of the Guinness World Records. The cat’s owner is a Worcester woman named Marty Stevens who has owned Frank and Louie since a local breeder brought him into Tufts Veterinary Clinic to be euthanized when he was a day old.

Janus cats, named after the Roman god with two faces, are extremely rare and seldom live more than a few days after being born. Often they die within hours. But under Marty’s dedicated care Frank and Louie flourished. He turned 12 years old on Sept. 8.

Frank and Louie has two mouths, two noses and two normal eyes with one larger non-functioning eye in the center. The cat has two faces, but only one head and brain, so the faces react in unison and not as separate entities.

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Wild & Crazy Sci-Fi Abilities of Real-Life Plants

LSOHVia Blastr:

Plants don’t get enough respect as sci-fi monsters. Sure, Triffids will always rule, but sci-fi baddies tend to be mutants, zombies, vampires and other altered mammals. This is in ignorance of plants’ amazingly creepy special abilities. To prove it, we’ve dug up six plant skills that freak us out more than Godzilla.

Eating Rats: Okay, here’s the horrifying plot: You’re a missionary near the Philippine Archipelago. While doing your daily missioning or whatever, you wander up to the top of a mountain. Thirsty, you stumble upon what looks like an ornate birdbath filled with nectar. Leaning over to take a sip, you see a dead rat inside … and it’s slowly being digested by the plant.

This is Nepenthes attenboroughii, one of the most badass scary plants on Earth. See, while most pitcher plants stick to eating bugs, Nepenthes attenboroughii prefers to lure in birds and rats by looking as tasty as possible.

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China’s Economic Boom Fueling Poaching In Africa

ElephantGreg Neale and James Burton writes in the Guardian:

Elephant poaching in Africa and Asia is being fuelled by China’s economic boom, according to a study of the ivory trade.

Authors of the new report found that the number of ivory items on sale in key centres in southern China has more than doubled since 2004, with most traded illegally. The survey comes amid reports of a dramatic rise in rhino poaching across Africa, and a spate of thefts of rhino horns from European museums and auction houses.

Based on the results of their survey, the ivory researchers are calling for China to tighten its enforcement of ivory trading regulations, saying that such a move is vital to reduce the number of elephants that are killed illegally. The report is published on the eve of a meeting in Geneva of the Cites organisation, which is responsible for controlling trade in endangered wildlife species.

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Cryptozoology Meeting In London

ZSL-crypto-composite-June-2011-490-pxCan the search for monsters and mystery creatures please become a reputable branch of science? Scientific American has a report on a meeting of experts who take the matter very seriously. Maybe they can investigate my mother-in-law (*slide whistle*):

The meeting was chaired by Henry Gee. Henry explained how the discovery of Homo floresiensis led him to take seriously the idea that “perhaps stories of other human-like creatures might be founded on grains of truth” (Gee 2004).

Dr. Michael Woodley showed how species discovery curves for large marine animals generally seem to match the numbers of undiscovered species purported to exist on the basis of circumstantial accounts. In discussing several key ‘Cadborosaurus’ and long-necked seal accounts, Michael also explained how – since most cryptozoological claims are published in the ‘grey literature’ – they escape evaluation, even when this is deserved or even required.

If cryptozoology is imagined as the investigation of ‘target’ animals whose existence is supported by circumstantial and/or anecdotal evidence (eyewitness accounts forming the bulk of such evidence), then one might argue (as I have) that cryptozoology is practised far and wide by ‘ordinary’, technically qualified biologists.

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Our Brain’s Neurons Look Exactly Like The Structure Of The Universe

neuron2At top is a microscopic photo of a few neurons. Below it is a simulated rendering of what astrophysicists believe to be the universe’s structure, with clusters of galaxies and dark matter. Marvel at the remarkable symmetry and wonder, do we exist inside a gigantic brain? Via Convozine:

One is only micrometers wide. The other is billions of light-years across. One shows neurons in a mouse brain. The other is a simulated image of the universe. Together they suggest the surprisingly similar patterns found in vastly different natural phenomena.

Mark Miller, a doctoral student at Brandeis University, is researching how particular types of neurons in the brain are connected to one another. The image [on the left] shows three neuron cells on the left (two red and one yellow) and their connections.

An international group of astrophysicists used a computer simulation last year to recreate how the universe grew and evolved.

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