Ah, the wonders and surprises of Mother Nature. The 2010 floods in Pakistan caused an unexpected evolution in arachnoid behavior — to escape the rising waters, millions of spiders took to living in trees. The UK’s Department for International Development has an eye-popping Flickr gallery of what is now typical across Pakistan. The sticky, web-cocooned trees have proven extremely effective at catching pests and curbed the mosquito population. (The trees in the below picture are festooned with dead bugs.)
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The world has gotten stormier over the past two decades — and the reason is a mystery, a new study says. In the past 20 years, winds have picked up around 5 percent on average. Extremely strong winds caused by storms have increased even faster, jumping 10 percent over 20 years, according to the new analysis of global satellite data. The study, the first to look at wind speeds across such a large swath of the planet, bolsters some earlier findings, according to study leader Ian Young, of the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia. "Some regional studies had found similar results, so we suspected there may be an increasing trend," Young said.
It's not nice to fool Mother Nature. Or is it? If you're not getting enough air, you might want to spend time sitting under a newly designed artificial tree that converts carbon dioxide into breathable oxygen. In the modern world of urban pollution, we can't seem to grow enough trees to naturally convert carbon dioxide into life-sustaining air -- the process of photosynthesis -- until now. Researchers at New York's Columbia University, working with Influx Studio in Paris, France, have designed a faux or artificial tree. It's basically a machine fashioned to resemble a dragon blood tree, complete with wide branches and umbrellalike tops that are used as support for the large solar panels...
NPR 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:
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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?
Should 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.
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“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.
Just 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:
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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.
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.
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.
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:
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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.