Tag Archives | Nature

Frozen Flamingos Fall From The Sky In Siberia

_mg_1510NPR provides more wildlife-plummeting-from-the-heavens oddness to cap off a packed season. Going back at least a hundred years, solitary flamingos occasionally fall from the sky in the brutal Siberian winter, thousands of miles from the birds’ habitat:

The two boys ran over, called their father, Vasily, who picked up the bird and took it home. It was still alive. “[This is the ] first time I see a bird like this,” he told a TV reporter.

They fed the flamingo fish and buckwheat saturated in water (not normally flamingo food) and pretty soon it was up, active and knocking around the Muravyev’s apartment. Here it is, head in a feeding bucket.

That should be the end of the story. Except that one year later, also in November and also in Siberia, it happened again. Another flamingo flew out of the sky, landed by another Siberian river, was also brought to the greenhouse, then sent to the zoo and the locals began to wonder, “Where are these birds coming from?

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Is Earth Due For Its Sixth Mass Extinction?

FishShould we all be on the endangered species list? Science Daily reports:

With the steep decline in populations of many animal species, from frogs and fish to tigers, some scientists have warned that Earth is on the brink of a mass extinction like those that occurred only five times before during the past 540 million years.

Each of these ‘Big Five’ saw three-quarters or more of all animal species go extinct.

In a study to be published in the March 3 issue of the journal Nature, University of California, Berkeley, paleobiologists assess where mammals and other species stand today in terms of possible extinction, compared with the past 540 million years, and they find cause for hope as well as alarm.

“If you look only at the critically endangered mammals — those where the risk of extinction is at least 50 percent within three of their generations — and assume that their time will run out, and they will be extinct in 1,000 years, that puts us clearly outside any range of normal, and tells us that we are moving into the mass extinction realm,” said principal author Anthony D.

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Hidden Messages Woven Into Birds’ Nests

kitenestJust more evidence that non-human animal species have deeper intelligence than we give them credit for, and communicate in ways to which we are oblivious. Wired Science discusses a secret form of bird-language, which we should probably learn if we hope to foil the coming avian takeover:

The discovery of messages in raptors’ nests has raised the possibility that many bird species encode signals into these structures, with seemingly decorative flourishes actually full of meaning.

Among black kites, scraps of white plastic are used to signal territorial dominance. To other kites, the scraps are a warning sign. To humans, they hint at an unappreciated world of animal communication.

“It’s probably very common that other bird species decorate their nests in ways compatible with what we found,” said Fabrizio Sergio, a biologist at the Doñana Biological Station in Spain. “And not only birds, but fish and mammals.”

A few species, such black wheateaters and bowerbirds, are already known to use nest design in courtship displays.

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Lightning Burns Up Six-Story Jesus Statue in Ohio (Video)

Lightning Strikes Jesus StatueAct of God? Can you believe this statue was nicknamed "Touchdown Jesus"? Man, God is a tough quarterback ... Reports the AP:
A six-story statue of Jesus Christ was struck by lightning and burned to the ground, leaving only a blackened steel skeleton and pieces of foam that were scooped up by curious onlookers Tuesday. The "King of Kings" statue, one of southwest Ohio's most familiar landmarks, had stood since 2004 at the evangelical Solid Rock Church along Interstate 75 in Monroe, just north of Cincinnati. The sculpture, about 62 feet tall and 40 feet wide at the base, showed Jesus from the torso up and was nicknamed "Touchdown Jesus" because of the way the arms were raised, similar to a referee signaling a touchdown. It was made of plastic foam and fiberglass over a steel frame, which is all that remained Tuesday. The nickname is the same used for a famous mural of the resurrected Jesus that overlooks the Notre Dame football stadium.
The fire spread from the statue to an adjacent amphitheater but was confined to the attic area, and no one was injured, police Chief Mark Neu said.
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NASA Animation Shows Arctic Sea Ice Approaching Normal Levels

This video seems looks like good news to me. However, it's far from conclusive evidence of a "climate change myth." From the Examiner:
A curious thing has happened over the 2009 - 2010 winter season – Arctic sea ice has rebounded to near normal levels. Long pointed to as a sign of the impact of global warming, the extent of sea ice had been shrinking in recent years. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), the maximum extent for Arctic sea ice was reached on March 31st. This is the latest date maximum extent has been reached since 1979 when satellites began measuring the Arctic Ice.
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For One Tiny Instant, Physicists May Have Broken a Law of Nature

So does this now mean the evil, “mirror” universe exists? Beware your doppelganger, especially if he (or she?!) has a goatee … Suzanne Taylor Muzzin reports on PhysOrg:
Mirror Spock

For a brief instant, it appears, scientists at Brook haven National Laboratory on Long Island recently discovered a law of nature had been broken.

Action still resulted in an equal and opposite reaction, gravity kept the Earth circling the Sun, and conservation of energy remained intact. But for the tiniest fraction of a second at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC), physicists created a symmetry-breaking bubble of space where parity no longer existed.

Parity was long thought to be a fundamental law of nature. It essentially states that the universe is neither right- nor left-handed — that the laws of physics remain unchanged when expressed in inverted coordinates. In the early 1950s it was found that the so-called weak force, which is responsible for nuclear radioactivity, breaks the parity law.

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Rare Buddhist Flower Found Under Nun’s Washing Machine

From the Telegraph:

A rarely seen Buddhist flower, which blossoms every 3,000 years, has been discovered under a nun’s washing machine.

The Udumbara flower was found in the home of a Chinese nun in Lushan Mountain, Jiangxi province, China.

The rare Youtan Poluo or Udumbara flower, which, according to Buddhist legend, only blooms every 3,000 years, measures just 1mm in diametre.

[Read more at the Telegraph]

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Moscow’s Stray Dogs Evolving Greater Intelligence, Including a Mastery of the Subway

From PopSci:

For every 300 Muscovites, there’s a stray dog wandering the streets of Russia’s capital. And according to Andrei Poyarkov, a researcher at the A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution, the fierce pressure of urban living has driven the dogs to evolve wolf-like traits, increased intelligence, and even the ability to navigate the subway.

Poyarkov has studied the dogs, which number about 35,000, for the last 30 years. Over that time, he observed the stray dog population lose the spotted coats, wagging tails, and friendliness that separate dogs from wolves, while at the same time evolving social structures and behaviors optimized to four ecological niches occupied by what Poyarkov calls guard dogs, scavengers, wild dogs, and beggars.

The guard dogs follow around, and receive food from, the security personnel at Moscow’s many fenced in sites. They think the guards are their masters, and serve as semi-feral assistants. The scavengers roam the city eating garbage.

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A Drop of Water Can Start A Forest Fire

DropWaterLeafSounds like a joke, but it’s for real. Truly bizarre. Reports LiveScience:

Many gardeners swear you should not water in the midday because water droplets on plants can magnify the sun’s rays and burn leaves. But the idea has never been rigorously tested, until now.

“This is far from a trivial question,” said biophysicist Gabor Horvath at Eotvos University in Budapest, Hungary. “The prevailing opinion is that forest fires can be sparked by intense sunlight focused by water drops on dried-out vegetation.”

Horvath and colleagues used both experiments and computer modeling to figure out the physics that goes on. The results varied depending on the type of leaf.

On smooth surfaces, such as a healthy maple leaf, no leaf burn occurred.

But on leaves with small wax hairs, such as those of the floating fern, the hairs were able to hold water droplets above the leaf surface, creating a magnifying-glass effect that gave the leaves a noticeable sunburn — though no open flames resulted.

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