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Earth As Art February 20, 2013

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Click on the link to earth_art-ebook to download a pdf file of an amazing collection of earth views  from 16 NASA satellites

Some of the instruments aboard the satellites collect data in different ranges of wavelengths of light. These “spectral bands” break up all the visible and invisible light into chunks: the reds, the blues, the greens and even infrared, a wavelength of light that humans can’t see.

When researchers piece the image data back together, they can be selective about which “bands” of light are displayed in the final image. “The selection depends on the intent of the analysis,” Friedl wrote in an email. “An analysis of vegetation would probably select the red, green and infrared bands — vegetation is ‘bright’ in those bands and the analyst could differentiate between the types or health of vegetation.”

Phytoplankton Bloom, Baltic Sea, 2005 Massive congregations of greenish phytoplankton swirl in the dark water around Gotland, a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea. Phytoplankton are microscopic marine plants that form the first link in nearly all ocean food chains. Blooms of phytoplankton, occur when deep currents bring nutrients up to sunlit surface waters.

Phytoplankton Bloom, Baltic Sea, 2005 Massive congregations of greenish phytoplankton swirl in the dark water around Gotland, a Swedish island in the Baltic Sea. Phytoplankton are microscopic marine plants that form the first link in nearly all ocean food chains. Blooms of phytoplankton, occur when deep currents bring nutrients up to sunlit surface waters.

Friedl says analysts generally don’t go out of their way to make images look surreal, but this kind of spectral analysis can be used to great effect. “There are whole books written on what band combinations to use to bring out certain features,” he told me. Like rocks: When studying the retreat of the glaciers of the Himalayas, Friedl says, you can train software to recognize the light signature of exposed rock. And instead of directly measuring the glaciers themselves, you can see where new rock is getting exposed year over year.

via Earth As Art: ‘How Did Nature Do That?’ : The Picture Show : NPR.

Video -Humongous Greenland Glacier Collapse February 2, 2013

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On May 28, 2008, Adam LeWinter and Director Jeff Orlowski filmed a historic breakup at the Ilulissat Glacier in Western Greenland. The calving event lasted for 75 minutes and the glacier retreated a full mile across a calving face three miles wide. The height of the ice is about 3,000 feet, 300-400 feet above water and the rest below water.

Chasing Ice won the award for Excellence in Cinematography at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, and has won 24 awards so far this year. Playing in theaters now. Thanks to Valerie Sanders. Click on the YouTube logo, choose the HD option and go Full Screen for the full effect.

Cute Kitty the Killer January 30, 2013

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A new study by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that domestic cats in the United States kill a median of 2.4 billion birds and 12.3 billion mammals a year, most of them native mammals like shrews, chipmunks and voles rather than introduced pests like the Norway rat.

The estimated kill rates are two to four times higher than mortality figures previously bandied about, and position the domestic cat as one of the single greatest human-linked threats to wildlife in the nation. More birds and mammals die at the mouths of cats, the report said, than from automobile strikes, pesticides and poisons, collisions with skyscrapers and windmills and other so-called anthropogenic causes.

KittyThe KillerYet the new study estimates that free-roaming pets account for only about 29 percent of the birds and 11 percent of the mammals killed by domestic cats each year, and the real problem arises over how to manage the 80 million or so stray or feral cats that commit the bulk of the wildlife slaughter.

via That Cuddly Kitty Is Deadlier Than You Think – NYTimes.com.

Nasty, Short and Brutish January 28, 2013

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Conventional cultural anthropology’s thinking was that tribal people were peaceful, that Darwinism had nothing to say about human behavior and culture, and that material resources were the cause of conflict.

Current Science is refuting all 3 assumptions. Mortality from violence is very common in small-scale societies today and in the past. Almost one-third of such people die in raids and fights, and the death rate is twice as high among men as among women. This is a far higher death rate than experienced even in countries worst hit by World War II. Thomas Hobbes’s “war of each against all” looks more accurate for humanity in a state of nature than Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s “noble savage,” though anthropologists today prefer to see a continuum between these extremes.

A Darwinian explanation of warfare would imply that similar kinds of violence might have evolved in other group-living animals. In recent years, Richard Wrangham of Harvard University has described chronic intergroup violence among chimpanzees.

But what is the motive for such killing? Robert Walker of the University of Missouri, Columbia, and Drew Bailey of Carnegie Mellon University last year published a survey of “Body Counts in Lowland South American Violence” and concluded that motives include revenge for previous killings, jealousy over women, capture of women and children and, less often, theft of material goods. Come to think of it, sounds just like the Trojan War

via Mind & Matter: Noble Savages Points to Resolution in Study of War – WSJ.com.

Is Great White Following Kayak Picture Real? January 20, 2013

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Great White and Kayak

I’ve always wondered if the well-circulated image was rea. The Photographer’s notes sound quite convincing.
©Thomas P. Peschak
When this photograph was first published in Africa Geographic, BBC Wildlife and later in Paris Match and the Daily Mail (London) it resulted in a flurry of e-mails, phone calls and letters from around the world asking if the image was a fake. The image became the most talked about of shark photograph ever.

The photograph is real, no photoshop, no digital manipulation, no nothing, in fact it was shot on slide film Fuji Provia 100 using a Nikon F5 Camera and 17-35 mm lens. For those conspiracy fans who still doubt its authenticity please read how I took the photograph.

To capture this image I tied myself to the tower of the research boat Lamnidae and leaned into the void, precariously hanging over the ocean while waiting patiently for a white shark to come along. I wanted to shot a photograph that would tell the story of our research efforts to track white sharks using kayaks. When the first shark of the day came across our sea kayak it dove to the seabed and inspected it from below. I quickly trained my camera on the dark shadow which slowly transformed from diffuse shape into the sleek outline of a large great white. When the shark’s dorsal fin broke the surface I thought I had the shot, but hesitated a fraction of a second and was rewarded with marine biologist Trey Snow in the kayak turning around to look behind him. I pressed the shutter and the rest was history. Throughout the day I shot many more images, most showing the kayak following the shark, but all lacked the power of that first image of the great white tracking the kayak.

55′ Snake January 15, 2013

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Snake 55footThis picture is claimed to be from Malaysia, where workers cutting a road through the jungle inadvertently killed this estimated to be 120 year-old snake with the pictured excavator. The driver supposedly felt so bad that he cried at what he had done.

17′ Florida Python – The hunt is on for a new record January 13, 2013

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FlaPythonSome estimate that nearly 150,000 pythons are living in the Florida Everglades. Officials say the Burmese pythons are eating wildlife and with no natural predator, the population is overwhelming. The Everglades have become crowded with the snakes and the pythons have started to move into nearby neighborhoods. Last year, a Burmese python was caught and registered more than 17 feet long and 160 pounds. The catch set a new Everglades National Park record.

via Florida Python Hunt Launched to Curb Slithering Population – ABC News.

Vanishing Act: Camouflage in Nature January 10, 2013

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animal-camouflage-photography-art-wolfe-1In this astonishing new book, legendary wildlife photographer Art Wolfe turns to one of nature’s most fundamental survival techniques: the vanishing act. His portraits show animals and insects disappearing into their surroundings, using deceptions, disguises, lures, and decoys to confuse the eye of both predator and prey. Click on this link and hit the “Slideshow” option and see how many you can find.

Vanishing Act: Camouflage in Nature | Art Wolfe Stock Photography 888-973-0011.

animal-camouflage-photography-art-wolfe-2

How Leaded Gasoline Caused Our Violent Crime Wave. January 5, 2013

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Starting in the 1960s, America saw a huge increase in levels of violent crime that peaked in the early 1990s, then steadily declined, and continues to decline today. All kinds of theories have been promulgated to explain this peak and decline in crime, and plenty of politicians in the 1990s took credit for it. Lead emissions from automobiles explain 90 percent of the variation in violent crime in America. Toddlers who ingested high levels of lead in the ’40s and ’50s really were more likely to become violent criminals in the ’60s, ’70s, and ’80s.

And with that we have our molecule: tetraethyl lead, the gasoline additive invented by General Motors in the 1920s to prevent knocking and pinging in high-performance engines. As auto sales boomed after World War II, and drivers in powerful new cars increasingly asked service station attendants to “fill ‘er up with ethyl,” they were unwittingly creating a crime wave two decades later.

The use of lead pipes to carry water to wealthy neighLeadedCrimeWaveborhoods is claimed to be one major factor that contributed to the weakening and eventual destruction of the Roman Empire. At least we had the Science to discover our lead folly and correct it, even though much is to still be remediated. But the huge penal/judicial/police industrial complex budget justifications are threatened by such a simple crime source. Turns out criminologists were blaming the wrong Lead, when some accused the music of Led Zeppelin, among others.

via America’s Real Criminal Element: Lead | Mother Jones.

Extreme Firewood Stacking December 29, 2012

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Firewood keeps you warm, when you’re cutting, hauling, splitting and stacking it, in addition to when you actually burn it. Now that the Winter weather is really here, it is time to reflect on how some other folks have gone beyond just stacking up wood to keep warm. .

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How To Properly Stack Firewood – Yellow Bullet Forums. Click for more examples of Extreme Firewood Stacking

More Deaths Caused by Obesity than Hunger December 29, 2012

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Obesity has become a bigger threat to global health than child hunger, according to a major study.

More than three million deaths in 2010 were attributable to excess body weight, three times the death toll due to malnutrition.

The largest investigation of disease ever undertaken, published yesterday, also found that high blood pressure, smoking and drinking alcohol have become the world’s biggest health risks.

So-called diseases of the western industrialised nations have become more prevalent as developing nations become more affluent. Fewer infants are dying of starvation in the poorest countries while a fast expanding middle-class in the emerging economies. ibeatanorexia

Obesity kills more than hunger in march of ‘progress’ | The Times.

Apocalypse Later December 22, 2012

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ApocalypseNext

via http://allthingsd.com/20121221/apocalypse-later-comic/

 

Mt. Everest – In Incredible Composite Detail December 18, 2012

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This gigapixel image of the Khumbu glacier was captured by David Breashears during the spring of 2012, from the Pumori viewpoint near Mount Everest. The Khumbu Icefall is clearly visible here, and one can easily see the hustle and bustle of Everest Base Camp below.

EverestClick the image to enter gigapixel navigation, then use the controls at the bottom of the screen to zoom and pan and find climbers on the glacier and around the base camp tents, which will give you perspective on the scale of what you are viewing.

via Khumbu Glacier – Mt. Everest – The Glaciers of the Himalayas.

Arctic Ocean Flowers December 15, 2012

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ArcticOcean Flowers These spiky little bunches of ice form on thin and new ice in the Arctic Ocean. But these badboys can only form under very special conditions:

1) Calm winds. We can’t have these beauties blown away can we?

2) Cold, cold air. It has to be about 20C less than the water and since seawater freezes around -2C, that means the air must be about -22C or -7.6F. BRRR.

Frost flowers form when newly formed ice sublimates, that is ice changes directly from a solid to a gas totally bypassing the liquid stage. Initially, the water vapor formed by sublimation is the same temperature as the sea ice, but gets quickly cooled by the cold air. The air is then becomes supersaturated with water vapor, which means the air has too water much in it. Air really doesn’t want to hold all that excess water vapor, so when the supersaturated air touches another ice crystal the water vapor quickly turns back into ice. (Click the image to enlarge)

via The icy plumage of the Arctic | Deep Sea News. (more…)

Watch “NASA | Earth at Night” on YouTube December 5, 2012

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Lenticular Clouds Over Mt. Rainier November 7, 2012

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Credit & Copyright: Tim Thompson

Moist air forced to flow upward around mountain tops can create lenticular clouds. Water droplets condense from moist air cooled below the dew point, and clouds are opaque groups of water droplets. Waves in the air that would normally be seen horizontally can then be seen vertically, by the different levels where clouds form. On some days the city of Seattle, Washington, USA, is treated to an unusual sky show when lenticular clouds form near Mt. Rainier, a large mountain that looms just under 100 kilometers southeast of the city. This image of a spectacular cluster of lenticular clouds was taken in 2008 December. Click picture to enlarge. Credit & Copyright: Tim Thompson

via APOD: 2012 November 4 – Lenticular Clouds Over Washington.

Trying To Prove We Live In A Virtual Reality October 30, 2012

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One of modern physics’ most cherished ideas is quantum chromodynamics, the theory that describes the strong nuclear force, how it binds quarks and gluons into protons and neutrons, how these form nuclei that themselves interact. This is the universe at its most fundamental.

So an interesting pursuit is to simulate quantum chromodynamics on a computer to see what kind of complexity arises. The promise is that simulating physics on such a fundamental level is more or less equivalent to simulating the universe itself.

There are one or two challenges of course. The physics is mind-bogglingly complex and operates on a vanishingly small scale. So even using the world’s most powerful supercomputers, physicists have only managed to simulate tiny corners of the cosmos just a few femtometers across. (A femtometer is 10^-15 metres.)

That may not sound like much but the significant point is that the simulation is essentially indistinguishable from the real thing (at least as far as we understand it).

It’s not hard to imagine that Moore’s Law-type progress will allow physicists to simulate significantly larger regions of space. A region just a few micrometres across could encapsulate the entire workings of a human cell.

Again, the behaviour of this human cell would be indistinguishable from the real thing.

It’s this kind of thinking that forces physicists to consider the possibility that our entire cosmos could be running on a vastly powerful computer. If so, is there any way we could ever know?

Today, we get an answer of sorts from Silas Beane, at the University of Bonn in Germany, and a few pals. They say there is a way to see evidence that we are being simulated, at least in certain scenarios.

via The Measurement That Would Reveal The Universe As A Computer Simulation | MIT Technology Review. (more…)

Most Powerful Storm Ever Recorded October 13, 2012

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On Oct. 12, 1979, Super Typhoon Tip’s central pressure dropped to 870 mb (25.69 inches Hg), the lowest sea-level pressure ever observed on Earth, according to NOAA. Peak wind gusts reached 190 mph (306 kph) while the storm churned over the western Pacific.

Besides having unsurpassed intensity, Super Typhoon Tip is also remembered for its massive size. Tip’s diameter of circulation spanned approximately 1,380 miles (2,220 km), setting a record for the largest storm on Earth. The storm’s huge diameter was exactly the same as the distance from New York City to Dallas.

Accuweather’s Mark Mancuso has the details: Super Typhoon

Earth’s Strongest, Most Massive Storm Ever.

Oldest Evidence of Regular Meat Consumption by Human Ancestors Found October 7, 2012

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Meat-eating was an important factor affecting early hominin brain expansion, social organization and geographic movement. Stone tool butchery marks on ungulate fossils in several African archaeological assemblages demonstrate a significant level of carnivory by Pleistocene hominins, but the discovery at Olduvai Gorge of a child’s pathological cranial fragments indicates that some hominins probably experienced scarcity of animal foods during various stages of their life histories. The child’s parietal fragments, excavated from 1.5-million-year-old sediments, show porotic hyperostosis, a pathology associated with anemia. Nutritional deficiencies, including anemia, are most common at weaning, when children lose passive immunity received through their mothers’ milk. Our results suggest, alternatively, that (1) the developmentally disruptive potential of weaning reached far beyond sedentary Holocene food-producing societies and into the early Pleistocene, or that (2) a hominin mother’s meat-deficient diet negatively altered the nutritional content of her breast milk to the extent that her nursing child ultimately died from malnourishment. Either way, this discovery highlights that by at least 1.5 million years ago early human physiology was already adapted to a diet that included the regular consumption of meat.

via PLOS ONE: Earliest Porotic Hyperostosis on a 1.5-Million-Year-Old Hominin, Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania.

Civilization’s Tools, Just Add People – Open Source Ecology September 22, 2012

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If you escaped to a Utopia and wanted to bring the discoveries that feed, build and power our civilizations along, these are the machines you would want to bring with you. The only thing that I see missing is the means to defend your colony from others who may want your technology, rather than build it themselves. Some of these have come to fruition, such as an inexpensive machine that can create 16 earth rammed bricks a minute. This creation should have great 3rd world applications today –  in the best Stewart Brand “Whole Earth Catalog” tradition from the 60’s.

The Global Village Construction Set (GVCS) is a modular, DIY, low-cost, high-performance platform that allows for the easy fabrication of the 50 different Industrial Machines that it takes to build a small, sustainable civilization with modern comfortset these.

 via Open Source Ecology – GVCS.

2012 winners : Astronomy Photographer of the Year September 21, 2012

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A repeat win by Martin Pugh. Click on the link to see the rest.

2012 winners : Astronomy Photographer of the Year : Exhibitions : Visit : RMG.

Tornado Of Fire Caught On Tape In Australia Fire Twister September 19, 2012

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THERE’S something mean and magical about Australia’s Outback. An Alice Springs filmmaker captured both when a whirlwind of fire erupted before his eyes.

Chris Tangey of Alice Springs Film and Television was scouting locations near Curtin Springs station, about 80km from Ularu, last week when confronted by a fiery phenomenon. He had just finished his tour of the station when workers encountered difficulties with a grader. So he went to help them. A small fire was burning in nearby bushland, so Mr Tangey decided to start filming. He caught the sight of his life. A twister touched down on the spot fire, fanning it into a furious tower of flame.

“It sounded like a jet fighter going by, yet there wasn’t a breath of wind where we were,” he told the Northern Territory News. “You would have paid $1000 a head if you knew it was about to happen.”  The column of fire danced about the landscape for about 40 minutes, he said, as he and the station workers stood transfixed. There was talk of making a quick getaway, Mr Tangey said. But everyone was too hypnotised to feel scared – and he continued furiously filming. “The bizarre thing was that it rarely moved,” he said. “These things just stood there because there was no wind to move them … but it was flickering incredibly fast.”

Darwin weather forecaster David Matthews said small twisters were common in isolated areas. But the fiery vortex was highly unusual. “The flames would have assisted by trying to suck in air and that could have helped generate those circular winds,” Mr Matthews said.

via Tornado Of Fire Caught On Tape In Australia Fire Twister – YouTube.

Is This Why Both My Kids Moved to the USA’s Pacific Northwest? September 15, 2012

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via Purely Pacific Northwest on Vimeo. thanx to Bob Bopp from the Northeast

The End of Cheap Food September 15, 2012

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Ever since the days of Thomas Malthus, who famously predicted in the 18th century that population increases would far outstrip gains in food production, those who have foreseen global famine have been proved relentlessly wrong.

Twice before, our species has been saved from starvation by science. But as we move towards a planet of eight billion people, we are in uncharted territory. Let’s hope a new Norman Borlaug is waiting in the wings.

Shortly after Malthus made his grim prediction, we saw the first Agricultural Revolution – the systematic application of science and technology to farming. New varieties of crops, an understanding of crop rotation and the development of mechanisation saw yields soar. Hunger was also averted by the development of a global trade in food, spurred by the advent of steam ships and refrigeration.

Still, the population kept rising – but along came a saviour in the form of Norman Borlaug, one of the most important human beings ever to have lived. Hitler will always be famous for killing millions; yet Dr Borlaug, an American food scientist, saved billions, and yet relatively few of us have heard of him. In the 1960s, he bred new varieties of wheat and rice and other crops, a breakthrough now called the Green Revolution. If it hadn’t been for him, then Asia and perhaps South America would have seen serious famine in the 1970s.

Now we are reaching the limits of the Green Revolution.

 

via Can science prevent the great global food crisis? – Telegraph.

Galactic Camouflage –“Advanced ET Civilizations May be Undetectable” September 15, 2012

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“Intelligent species might reasonably worry about the possible dangers of self-advertisement and hence incline towards discretion” — the “Undetectability Conjecture,” put forth by Beatriz Gato-Rivera, a theoretical physicist at the Instituto de Fisica Fundamental (previously Instituto de Matematicas y Fisica Fundamental) of the CSIC (Spanish Scientific Research Council) in Madrid.

According to Gato-Rivera, we may find ourselves in a universe in which there exist intelligent technological civilizations but they have chosen to be undetectable, camouflaging themselves mainly for security reasons (because advanced civilizations could also be aggressive).

Stephen Hawking says “there ought to be many other stars, whose planets have life on them. Some of these stellar systems could have formed 5 billion years before the Earth. So why is the galaxy not crawling with self-designing mechanical or biological life forms?”

Why hasn’t the Earth been visited, and even colonized? Hawking asks. “I discount suggestions that UFO’s contain beings from outer space. I think any visits by aliens, would be much more obvious, and probably also, much more unpleasant.”

via Galactic Camouflage –“Advanced ET Civilizations May be Undetectable” (Today’s Most Popular).

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