20 February 2017
This video presents a very interesting proposition: that Donald Trump has difficulty reading. He has admitted - publicly and unabashedly - that he "doesn't" read (books, reports, briefings) and prefers to get his information from television. Examples are presented of him appearing to have problems reading when presented with documents during court testimony and public signings.
I think it's unfortunate that the video title questions whether Trump "knows how" to read. The problem, presuming it exists, would be a reading disability rather than a lack of knowledge of how to read. It would also explain his famously low-reading-level speech as being easier to memorize or to read off a teleprompter.
Dyslexia does not preclude advancement or competence in professions. Wikipedia's List of people diagnosed with dyslexia is long and impressive, including Alexander Graham Bell, Richard Branson, Lewis Carroll, Thomas Edison, David Rockefeller and many others.
If he is dyslexic, he really ought to come out and say so, and tell his staff that that is why he has avoided the morning briefings, and make arrangements for information to be presented to him in other ways. A public announcement would probably garner a measure of sympathy and perhaps some improved tolerance for his shenanigans.
19 February 2017
Snopes confirms that Mencken did make such a pronouncement in 1920 (using the term "downright moron").
In this case the attribution to Henry Louis Mencken, a prominent newspaperman and political commentator during the first half of theMencken biography.
20th century, is accurate. Writing for the Baltimore Evening Sun on 26 July1920, in an article entitled “Bayard vs. Lionheart” (and reprinted in the book On Politics: A Carnival of Buncombe), Mencken cynically opined on the difficulties of good men reaching national office when the scale of their campaigns precluded them from directly reaching out to large segments of the voting public:
The larger the mob, the harder the test. In small areas, before small electorates, a first-rate man occasionally fights his way through, carrying even the mob with him by force of his personality. But when the field is nationwide, and the fight must be waged chiefly at second and third hand, and the force of personality cannot so readily make itself felt, then all the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre — the man who can most easily adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum.
The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
Some geologists argue that this area should be acknowledged as our world's eighth continent. It has not previously been recognized because most of it is under water.
Geophysical data suggest that a region spanning 5 million square kilometres, which includes New Zealand and New Caledonia, is a single, intact piece of continental crust and is geologically separate from Australia...
However, there is no international body in charge of designating official continents, and so the researchers must hope that enough of their colleagues agree to recognize the landmass. Otherwise, their proposal could remain more of a theoretical wish than a radical reshaping of what every child has to learn in geography class...
...Zealandia began to peel away from the supercontinent of Gondwana starting about 100 million years ago. The rift gave Zealandia its independence, but it also pulled and thinned the crust, causing the area to sink, and dooming most of it to a watery existence. Today, only about 6% of it remains above water, as New Zealand and New Caledonia...
There is no widely accepted definition of a continent, and geographers and geologists differ on the question. (Geographically, Europe and Asia are considered separate continents, whereas geologists consider them the single landmass of Eurasia.)
Many more pix here. This is part of SLAB culture in Houston:
Like most automotive hobbies, the Houston SLAB scene starts with the belief that the factory’s work needs improvement... Depreciated American luxury cars are the norm: Cadillacs, Buicks and certain Oldsmobiles are preferred. Lincolns/Panthers and Chryslers are cool too, even Jaguars and Quattroportes pull it off vis-à-vis distinctly luxurious proportions. But don’t break your budget on the ride, GM’s W-body is one of the most common platforms for good reason, as costly modifications are necessary to pay homage to the Pimp Riders while advancing the game...Discussion at the WTF subreddit, including whether such hubcaps are "street-legal."
- Massive stereos....
- Kitted out power popping trunks, slathered in custom vinyl and personalized phrases in neon/mirrors.
- Wire wheels much like the Cragar units supplied as OEM for Cadillac in 1983 and 1984, except replacing the fragile tin content with 100% steel. Texan Wire Wheels sells them as “83s” and “84s”, seemingly cornering this niche market...
Most well-informed people understand that the Americas were populated by early humans who crossed from Asia via the glacial-age land-bridge at Beringia. But too many people have the misconception that once the land bridge formed (when sea levels dropped because oceanic water was tied up in glaciers), humans just marched across to the new world. The process of crossing probably extended over thousands of years - and a new paper reports that this may have been long enough for the human genome to have evolved during the process.
In fact, the word ‘bridge’ definitely conjures up the wrong image. It was a geographic region, often called Beringia, and people lived there for so long that it probably would have been ludicrous to them that we could think of their home as transient. Current estimates suggest that people lived there for between 5,000 and 8,000 years, starting about 23,000 years ago.I don't mean to oversimplify the process. The crossing may also have involved watercraft, and some subpopulations may have traversed the region more quickly. And the Beringia crossing may have been supplemented by trans-Pacific voyages and/or by trans-Atlantic migrants from Solutrean regions. But the PNAS paper does suggest that the time spent in the subarctic crossing may have influenced the Native American genome.
That is a long enough time for natural selection to have had an effect on the genome of people who lived there, according to a paper in PNAS this week. The Beringians would have faced distinct diseases, food constraints, and climate conditions, and natural selection would have helped those with the right genetic adaptations to thrive in that environment. According to the new paper, we can see evidence of that natural selection in modern Native American populations...
Specifically, there’s evidence to suggest that three genes involved in metabolizing fatty acids (called the fatty acid desaturases, or FADS, genes) show changes that might be the result of adaptation to a diet high in protein and fats. That sort of diet tends to be one of the side-effects of living in the Arctic.
A backyard that was covered with snow during the winter appeared frozen and lifeless on the surface. Underneath that snowpack, protected from frigid airtemps, local rodents were busy scavenging. An early mid-February warm spell has revealed their foraging paths, from the woods and the neighbor's yard to the area under the birdfeeder on our deck, and out toward occasional tossed bread crusts. Raptors and foxes are able to ambush these rodents.
Related old post: A fox dives into DEEP snow - update #2. Worth revisiting, if only for the second video showing a domestic dog pouncing a baby's shadow.
15 February 2017
Football field sized patterns of deep ditches dot the landscape of northwestern Brazil. The discovery of these huge earthworks, which date back almost 2,000 years, has triggered intense debate regarding their origins among archaeologists and ecologists...Much more discussion at the Christian Science Monitor. See also the Wikipedia page on terra preta and my 2012 post 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus.
It wasn't until the late 1970's that deforestation first revealed the geoglyphs hiding under upland rainforest. Covering more than 5,000 sq. miles in the Brazilian state of Acre, more than 450 large-scale earthworks...
A relatively heavy charcoal layer suggests that the new residents cleared the bamboo forest with fire, letting the fast-growing palm trees spring up to fill the space left behind. Over the long term, one would expect the palms to be overtaken by slower-growing plants, but that’s not what the team found.
Instead palms flourished for three thousand years, likely encouraged by the human newcomers, who could use them for food and building material. Dr. Watling suspects they engaged in practices including planting seeds, transplanting saplings, and weeding out undesirable plant species, as well as light burning and farming. She calls these techniques agroforestry: “[maintaining] the forest but [changing] its species composition to make it a more livable place.”
Photo credit: Jenny Watling/Caption.
13 February 2017
Excerpts from an article in the Travel section of The Telegraph:
“Up front, the pilots will don their own masks and commence a rapid descent to an altitude no higher than 10,000 feet,” he continues. “If the emergency descent feels perilously fast, this isn’t because the plane is crashing: it’s because the crew is doing what’s it’s supposed to do.”..This is important:
According to Airbus, if a plane loses pressure at 40,000 feet, those on board have as little as 18 seconds of “useful consciousness” without supplemental oxygen...
...what you’re supplied isn’t exactly oxygen – nor is it not compressed air in the scuba diving sense. Oxygen tanks are heavy and bulky so aircraft use a more complicated system. The panel above each seat actually contains a cocktail of chemicals that, when burned, release oxygen. They might include barium peroxide, a fine white powder used in fireworks, sodium chlorate, more commonly used as a weedkiller, and potassium chlorate, a staple of school science lab experiments (it reacts violently with sugar).
Tug the mask, like you’re told in the demonstration, and the chemical process starts. Once it starts, it cannot be stopped until everything’s burned up (around 12-15 minutes...).
Do not expect the bag to inflate. Passengers have reportedly suffered hypoxia after believing their mask was broken because the bag wasn’t inflating, prompting them to remove it. Hence the warning given during every safety briefing.I don't know if the standard passenger mask is a "partial rebreather," capturing exhaled air, which even if "once-used" still has usable oxygen available, or a "non-rebreather."
“Oxygen is supplied in a constant flow,” explained a BA spokesman. “The bag does not inflate like a respirator bag used in a medical theatre. How full it gets depends on an individual's rate of breathing. If the rate of breathing is very quick, air is inhaled at a faster rate and so the bag will inflate less. If all the air isn't inhaled, some will remain in the bag, partially inflating it.”
The oxygen generator can also get extremely hot – so don’t touch it – and passengers may even notice a burning smell (so don’t be alarmed).
More information at the FAA.
Those who wish to see the skies as their grandparents did and appreciate the magnificience of the Milky Way would do best to find a "dark sky" away from the contaminatin of urban lighting. I made the screencap above from a world map at DarkSiteFinder.
It's zoomable to tell you which way to drive from Salt Lake or Park City for stargazing -
- and it covers the entire world -
?why the hot spot in subSiberian Russia? Perhaps burning natural gas from oil fields?
Found via an article at FiveThirtyEight about The Darkest Town in America, which discusses the environmental and health effects of nocturnal light pollution.
And this is related: an aerial view of a community in the process of switching from conventional sodium lights to LEDs:
Discussed at the Mildly Interesting subreddit.
12 February 2017
"A study out today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society: B that features IU paleobotanist David Dilcher as a co-author identifies a Jurassic-age insect whose behavior and appearance closely mimic a butterfly — but whose emergence on Earth predates the butterfly by about 40 million years.
Dilcher — who made international headlines last year for his role in discovering the mythical “first flower” — said these proverbial “first butterflies” survived in a similar manner as their modern sister insects by visiting plants with “flower-like” reproductive organs producing nectar and pollen."
"The butterfly-like insects, which went on to evolve into a different form of insect from the modern butterfly, is an extinct “lacewing” of the genus kalligrammatid called Oregramma illecebrosa. Another genus of this insect — of the order Neuroptera — survives into our modern era, and are commonly known as fishflies, owlflies or snakeflies...Text and images from Indiana University, via Vice's Motherboard.
... another evolutionary innovation found in the ancient lacewing fossils’ wings remained remarkably unchanged over the course of millennia: so-called “eye spots.”
This unique pattern on the wings, arising over 200 million years ago, is nearly identical to markings on the modern owl butterfly. To this day, owl butterflies use these circular marks as a defense mechanism against predators, which mistake the spots as the eyes of a larger, more threatening animal."
Reposted from 2016 in recognition of Darwin Day.
Some butterfly wing patterns incorporate "eyespots" such as those seen in my photo of an Eyed Brown above. It has been well understood that one of the purposes these spots serve is to confuse a predator, as shown by the wings of this Common Buckeye I found with multiple beak-shaped defects in the area of the eyespots:
The process is demonstrated in this video by researchers at Oregon State University. Mantids are shown attacking the head/thorax of butterflies without prominent eyespots, but the wing margins of those with eyespots:
What is most interesting is that the butterflies are the same genus and species, differing only in seasonal appearance. (data and discussion published here). The implications are explained at The Scientist:
Prudic and her collaborator found that the dramatic eyespots on the wings of Bicyclus anynana individuals in the wet season were more effective at fooling mantid insects, the butterflies’ main predators during rainy times, than the more diffuse wing spots of the dry season forms, which are preyed upon mostly by birds. The researchers even found that pasting wet-season spots onto dry-season butterflies had the same effect. Conversly, dry-season patterns [less-prominent eyespots] served to conceal the butterflies better from birds in its eastern African woodland habitats. “Having the right type of eyespot in the right season allowed the butterflies to live long enough to lay eggs and have more offspring in the next generation,” Prudic said. “With the wrong eyespot at the wrong time, they were quickly annihilated by the mantids.”Fascinating.
Reposted from 2015 in recognition of Darwin Day.
Darwin’s point is found in the majority of mammals, and humans are no exception. It is most likely used to help focus sounds in animals, but it no longer has a function in humans. Only 10.4% of the human population still has this visible left-over mark of our past, but it is possible that a much larger number of people carry the gene that produces it as it does not always cause the ear tubercle to appear. The point is a small thick nodule at the junction of the upper and middle sections of the ear.Since the "plica semilunaris" is vestigial structure and therefore a sign of evolution, I'm delighted to display it. Darwin described it as a "surviving symbol of the stirring times and dangerous days of man's animal youth."
As a child I wasn't aware that I had it until I first went to school and some children began to tease me about my pointy ear. My mom advised me to tell them it was my "extra brain power" (which I'm sure failed to impress first-graders). For children nowadays such a rationale would not be necessary; indeed an "elfin ear" would be a mark of prestige - one which some body-modifying teens (?Goths) try to attain by plastic surgery.
Link found at The Presurfer; thanks Gerard.
Reposted from 2009 to add this rather impressive example of a vestigial structure:
A teenager with a 20cm "tail" growing at the bottom of his spine has undergone surgery to have it removed. It started to appear on the 18-year-old's back just after his 14th birthday...Via Nothing to do with Arbroath.
"It was cosmetically and psychologically disturbing for him." Although surgically removing a tail isn't a very complicated procedure, it must be carried out by a neurosurgeon as the growth of tail involves a part of the spinal cord.
Reposted from 2016 in recognition of Darwin Day.
"The Battle of the Fruit and Vegetable Soldiers," shown above, is a little-known illustration on one of the 28 surviving pages of the original manuscript of Darwin's On the Origin of Species.
...remember that Darwin and his wife Emma... had a huge family of ten children. Scholars believe that a young Francis Darwin, the naturalist's third oldest son, drew this on the back of Darwin's manuscript for On the Origin of Species.Personally, I prefer this one, with its fanciful butterfly:
Additional examples, including the scrawling of a toddler, are shown at the article at The Appendix. A big tip of the hat to reader Andrew for alerting me to the existence of this "quarterly journal of experimental and narrative history."
Image: Cambridge University Library
Reposted from 2014 in recognition of Darwin Day.
On the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Origin of Species, the Vatican is sponsoring a conference of scientists and theologians to discuss the interface of religion and science.
Cardinal William Levada, head of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, said the Catholic Church doesn't stand in the way of scientific realities like evolution, saying there was a "wide spectrum of room" for belief in both the scientific basis for evolution and faith in God the creator.
"We believe that however creation has come about and evolved, ultimately God is the creator of all things..."
"The false contraposition between Darwinism and the Church," is how the Vatican's newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, headlined its story on the conference...
Pope John Paul II articulated the church's position most clearly in a 1996 address to the Pontifical Academy for Sciences, in which he said the theory of evolution was "more than a hypothesis."
But the Vatican's position became somewhat confused in recent years, in part because of a 2005 New York Times op-ed piece signed by a close Benedict collaborator, Austrian Cardinal Christoph Schoenborn [who] seemed to reject traditional church teaching and backed instead intelligent design...
Vatican officials later made clear they did not believe intelligent design was science and that teaching it alongside evolutionary theory in school science classes only created confusion.
Francisco Ayala, a former priest and professor of biological sciences and philosophy at the University of California, Irvine, called intelligent design and creationism "blasphemous" not only to science but to the Christian faith.Reposted from 2009 in recognition of Darwin Day.
An endangered bird, of which only about 2,000 are known to exist in the wild (in Australia).
It was discovered by the Ornithologist John Gould who named the finch after his wife rather than himself. First called the Lady Gouldian Finch, the lady part of the name has been largely dropped, possibly because it was something of a mouthful, but most likely because Mrs Gould was no Lady (this is a reflection on her lack of title rather than her personal behavior).
Gould himself is largely forgotten outside of ornithology circles and
, where he discovered the Finch in 1840. This is a shame as without him we would not have had the concept of ‘ Australia ’s Finches’ from the Galapagos. Darwin himself thought that the specimens he collected were variants of other species (albeit including the finch). It was Gould who classified the twelve distinct new species that formed a new finch group. Darwin
Reposted from 2009 in recognition of Darwin Day.
Everyone who is well educated in science understands that adults don't pass on acquired characteristics to their children - a child can't have a scar that resembles daddy's war wound (at least not on a genetic basis).
It turns out that that's not exactly true. Organisms can inherit an acquired trait because not all inheritance is dependent upon DNA. Welcome to "epigenetics:"
It turns out that that's not exactly true. Organisms can inherit an acquired trait because not all inheritance is dependent upon DNA. Welcome to "epigenetics:"
A certain laboratory strain of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster has white eyes. If the surrounding temperature of the embryos, which are normally nurtured at 25 degrees Celsius, is briefly raised to 37 degrees Celsius, the flies later hatch with red eyes. If these flies are again crossed, the following generations are partly red-eyed – without further temperature treatment – even though only white-eyed flies are expected according to the rules of genetics...Reposted from 2009 in recognition of Darwin Day.
Environmental factors, which change the characteristics of an individual and are then passed on to its offspring, do not really fit into Darwin’s theory of evolution. According to his theory, evolution is the result of the population and not the single individual. “Passing on the gained characteristics fits more to Lamarck’s theory of evolution”, says Paro.
However, he still does not believe Darwin’s theory of evolution is put into question by the evidence of epigenetics research. “Darwin was 100 percent right”, Paro emphasises. For him, epigenetics complement Darwin’s theory. In his view, new characteristics are generated and passed on via epigenetics, subject to the same mechanisms of evolution as those with a purely genetic origin.
Selected passages from the Wikipedia entry on the subject.
Here's a relevant prior post.
Reposted from 2009 in recognition of Darwin Day.
Islamic views on evolution are diverse, ranging from theistic evolution to creationism. Muslims believe in a God as the Creator, as explained in the Qur'an. Throughout history some Muslim thinkers have proposed and accepted elements of the theory of evolution, while believing in the supremacy of God in the process. In modern times, some Muslims have rejected evolution, and teaching it is banned in some countries. The main schism between Islam and evolution is in the Adamic descent of human beings, a concept which modern biological anthropology rejects as mythology...I find it interesting to see "Darwinian" theories expressed a millennium before Darwin. This post is of necessity a rather perfunctory summary of a complex subject, so feel free to add comments. And see also "The Qur’an & Space Science" at The Turbid Blog.
The Qur'an does not contain a complete chronology of creation. It declares variously that it took "six ayums" to create the "seven heavens [or firmaments] and earth" An 'ayum' is defined as a stage, or a relative quantity of time rather than a 24 hour period...
Certain verses in the Qur'an are claimed by Muslims to be compatible with the expansion of the universe, Big Bang and Big Crunch theories...
The Mu'tazili scientist and philosopher al-Jahiz (c. 776-869) was the first of the Muslim biologists and philosophers to develop an early theory of evolution. He speculated on the influence of the environment on animals, considered the effects of the environment on the likelihood of an animal to survive, and first described the struggle for existence, a precursor to natural selection. Al-Jahiz's ideas on the struggle for existence in the Book of Animals have been summarized as follows:
"Animals engage in a struggle for existence; for resources, to avoid being eaten and to breed. Environmental factors influence organisms to develop new characteristics to ensure survival, thus transforming into new species. Animals that survive to breed can pass on their successful characteristics to offspring."...In the 13th century, Nasir al-Din al-Tusi explains how the elements evolved into minerals, then plants, then animals, and then humans. Tusi then goes on to explain how hereditary variability was an important factor for biological evolution of living things:
"The organisms that can gain the new features faster are more variable. As a result, they gain advantages over other creatures. [...] The bodies are changing as a result of the internal and external interactions." ...Evolutionary biology is included in the high-school curricula of most Muslim countries. Science foundations of 14 Muslim countries, including Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Indonesia, and Egypt, recently signed a statement by the Interacademy Panel (IAP, a global network of science academies), in support of the teaching of evolution, including human evolution. Little is known about general societal views of evolution in Muslim countries.
A 2007 study of religious patterns found that only 8% of Egyptians, 11% of Malaysians, 14% of Pakistanis, 16% of Indonesians, and 22% of Turks agree that Darwin's theory is probably or most certainly true, and a 2006 survey reported that about 25% of Turkish adults agreed that human beings evolved from earlier animal species. In contrast, the 2007 study found that only 28% of Kazakhs thought that evolution is false. According to Salman Hameed, writing in the journal Science, there exists a contradictory attitude towards evolution in the Muslim world. While Muslims accept science as fully compatible with Islam, and most accept microevolution, very few Muslims accept the macroevolution as held by scientists, especially human evolution.
Here's a relevant prior post.
Reposted from 2009 in recognition of Darwin Day.
Mug shot via the Washington Post.
Title quote from Hamlet, Act III, Scene I.
Labels: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
"In the photo, Harriet Tubman is still relatively young, perhaps in her early or mid-forties. She would live into her 90s, and many of the photos of her show her as an older woman."More at Atlas Obscura, via Neatorama. Photo: Swann Auction Galleries.
The number of monarch butterflies wintering in Mexico dropped by 27% this year, reversing last year’s recovery from historically low numbers...More at The Guardian.
The experts say the decline could be due to late winter storms last year that blew down more than 100 acres (40 hectares) of forests where migrating monarch butterflies spend the winter in central Mexico...
Last week, authorities detained a man trying to truck about a dozen huge tree trunks out of the butterfly reserve, using false papers asserting the trees were diseased and were being removed to reduce risk. In fact, investigators found the trees had been healthy...
The loss of forests in Mexico and milkweed north of the border has proved devastating. This year the butterflies covered only 7.19 acres (2.91 hectares). Last year, the butterflies covered 10 acres (about 4 hectares), compared with 2.8 acres (1.13 hectares) in 2014 and a record low of 1.66 acres (0.67 hectares) in 2013. That is still well below the 44 acres (18 hectares) they covered 20 years ago.
Three excerpts from Robert Macfarlane's The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot:
"...once you begin to notice them, you see that the landscape is still webbed with paths and footways... pilgrim paths, green roads, drove roads, corpse roads, trods, leys, dykes, drongs, sarns, snickets - say the names of the paths out loud and at speed and they become a poem or rite - holloways, bostles, shutes, driftways, lichways, ridings, halterpaths, cartways, carneys, causeways, herepaths."I can't rate the entire book because I only had time to browse a couple chapters, but I do enjoy a book that challenges me with new words.
"Americans have long envied the British system of footpaths and the freedoms it offers, as I in turn envy the Scandinavian customary right of Allemansratten ('Everyman's right'). This convention - born of a region that did not pass through centuries of feudalism, and therefore has no inherited deference to a landowning class - allows a citizen to walk anywhere on uncultivated land provided that he or she cause no harm; to light fires; to sleep anywhere beyond the curtilage of a dwellilng; to gather flowers, nuts and berries; and to swim in any watercourse..."
"Soren Kirkegaard speculated that the mind might function optimally at the pedestrian pace of three miles per hour, and in a journal entry describes going out for a wander and finding himself 'so overwhelmed with ideas' that he 'could scarcely walk'. Christopher Morley wrote of Wordsworth as 'employ[ing] his legs as an instrument of philosophy'... Nietzsche was typically absolute on the subject - 'Only those thoughts which come from walking have any value' - and Wallace Stevens typically tentative: 'Perhaps/The truth depends on a walk around a lake.'' In all of these accounts, walking is not the action by which one arrives at knowledge; it is itself the means of knowing."
drove road/droveway - road or track along which livestock are (or historically were) regularly driven
sarn - (Welsh) a causeway
snicket - A narrow passage or alley (Northern England). Synonyms: ginnel, twitchel.
lichway - path by which the dead are carried to the grave
Labels: English language
08 February 2017
Several days ago I started reading The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, in which the author "sets off from his Cambridge home to follow the ancient tracks, holloways, drove roads and sea paths that form part of a vast network of routes that crisscross the British landscape..."
I added "holloway" to my list of words to look up. Then by coincidence I encountered a recent post by Miss Cellania on The Sunken Lanes of Europe, citing Amusing Planet, which has a gallery of photos (whence the embed).
Details at Wikipedia:
A sunken lane (also hollow way or holloway) is a road or track that is significantly lower than the land on either side, not formed by the (recent) engineering of a road cutting but possibly of much greater age.Fascinating, both visually and conceptually.
Various mechanisms have been proposed for how holloways may have been formed, including erosion by water or traffic; the digging of embankments to assist with the herding of livestock; and the digging of double banks to mark the boundaries of estates. These mechanisms are all possible and could apply in different cases.
As reported by The Guardian:
Sweden’s deputy prime minister, Isabella Lövin, has published a photograph of herself signing a climate bill surrounded by her closest female colleagues, apparently mocking a photo of US president Donald Trump.More at the link.
Lövin, who also serves as environment and development aid minister, is seated in the photo at a desk as she signs the bill under the watchful eye of seven female colleagues, including one who is visibly pregnant.
Related: ‘What happens to us?’ Why Sweden is so worried about the Trump administration.
Archaeologists have uncovered a 500-year-old ostrich egg covered in Arabic poetry. The verses mourn the death of a loved one.Photo and text from Nature, via Erik Kwakkel.
The egg was found in the Red Sea port of Quseir, Egypt. In the fifteenth century, Quseir was a hub for trade between the Middle East and India, and a stop on the pilgrim route between North Africa and Mecca...
The shell is covered with quotations from the Koran and poetry: "It describes the soul's journey from death to life," says historian Dionisius Agius, of the University of Leeds, who is analysing the text.
Eggs bearing Arabic writing are rare, although another was found in Quseir 20 years ago. The ancient Egyptians used ostrich eggs for perfume containers and drinking cups, and the country's Coptic Christians hung them as lanterns in their churches.
Addendum: Reposted from 2010 to note that ostrich eggs were also used as a form to create some of the world's first globes, as reported at National Geographic:
A recently discovered globe from the early 1500s, carved onto ostrich eggs, may be the oldest globe of the New World ever identified...I learned about this from the podcast of No Such Thing as a Fish.
Throughout history mapmakers have turned to creative materials: There have been maps made of sticks or drawn on sealskin, vellum (calfskin parchment), or blocks of wood... But globes created from ostrich eggshells are not common, and for this reason—regardless of its age—the artifact is rare.
In the 1988 Columbia University yearbook, the quote accompanying Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch's photo comes from Henry Kissinger -
"The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer."However, Snopes notes that "determining Gorsuch's intention in offering this quote back then is a matter of speculation. It should be noted that Gorsuch founded a school newspaper called The Fed at Columbia University, which frequently published satirical content."
06 February 2017
There are 1750 species of cacti. 1749/1750 are native only to the Americas.
The natural distribution of cactus species occurs exclusively in the New World with a single exception. This range includes North and South America, Central America, and the adjacent Islands such as the Caribbean and Galapagos islands. Rhipsalis baccifera, an epiphytic species, is the sole exception that can be found in Madagascar, tropical Africa, the Seychelles, Mauritius, Reunion, and Sri Lanka as well as tropical America.Think of all the great deserts of the world that don't have cacti: the Gobi, Sahara, Australia's Victoria. But it's worth adding this point from the Reddit discussion:
While there are not cacti in those deserts it should be noted there are cactus-like plants. Cactus belong to the family Cactaceae. These are "New World" plants that are only (except 1) endemic to the Americas. Meanwhile the Eastern continents got "Old World" plants to fill those ecological niches, many of which belong to the family Euphorbiaceae. This is not a cactus. This is also not a cactus. And another "not" cactus (image below)
The difference between cacti and cactiform succulents is explained here. You learn something every day.
Top photo credit, via the TIL subreddit.
Military leaders have always told their cannonfodder that God is on their side.
Gott mit uns ("God with us") is a phrase commonly used in heraldry in Prussia (from 1701) and later by the German military from the period spanning the German Empire (1871 to 1918) to the end of the Third Reich in 1945.Blogged in order to mention a lighter aspect I heard on a podcast of No Such Thing As A Fish. During the Christmas Truce of WWI, German soldiers erected a sign displaying the motto. Their English counterparts put up another, which said "We've got mittens too."
The Imperial Russian motto, "Съ нами Богъ!" ("S nami Bog!"), also translates the same.
Nobiscum Deus in Latin, Μεθ ημων ο Θεος (Meth imon o Theos) in Greek, С Hами Бог (S Nami Bog) in Church Slavonic, or God with us in English, was a battle cry of the late Roman Empire and of the Eastern Roman Empire. It is also a popular hymn of the Eastern Orthodox Church, sung during the service of Great Compline (Μεγα Αποδειπνον).
It was used for the first time in German by the Teutonic Order. In the 17th century, the phrase Gott mit uns was used as a 'field word', a means of recognition akin to a password, by the army of Gustavus Adolphus... In 1701, Frederick I of Prussia changed his coat of arms as Prince-Elector of Brandenburg. The electoral scepter had its own shield under the electoral cap. Below, the motto Gott mit uns appeared on the pedestal.
From The Atlantic:
Cow’s milk gets a bad rap. Over the past few decades, it’s been maligned for everything from fat and sugar levels to synthetic-hormone and antibiotic content. It has faced fierce competition from alternatives like almond milk and soy milk. But what if the most dangerous thing in a glass of milk all this time has been something much more elemental?Much more at the link.
This was the question puzzling the New Zealand scientists Bob Elliott and Corran McLachlan in 1993, when their studies of Type 1 diabetes and heart disease pointed to milk as an unlikely culprit—specifically, a variety of milk known to scientists as A1, the ubiquitous variety stocked in most of the world’s grocery stores. A1, the research suggested, produces inflammatory compounds in the human digestive system that can cause mild symptoms like stomach pain, or much worse.
The research also showed, however, that a second type of milk—a variation known as A2—did not have these effects. McLachlan posited that A2 could be better for overall health, and maybe even digestible by those who consider themselves lactose intolerant...
Now, A2 milk stands poised to take these niche markets by storm—but first American consumers will have to be convinced that it’s actually good for them...
American dairy lobbies remain skeptical, though. Both the Dairy Farmers of America and the National Milk Producers Federation are aware of the trend—and dismissive of it...
Since A2 milk hit shelves in California in 2015, worries within the American dairy industry have mirrored those of commodity farmers Down Under, where A2 has already outstripped organic milk sales. Mainstream American dairies have expressed concern about how the introduction of these products will affect their existing product sales...
For now, this mixed attitude toward A2 genetics prevails in the U.S. A2MC could be on its way to changing the world, or cresting toward a quiet end. With the company shooting for a full presence in the U.S. market by next year, consumers have reason to hope that more research will be conducted before the onus is on them to make the call.
03 February 2017
From The Telegraph:
"Computer hackers seized control of the electronic keycard system of a luxury Austrian hotel, releasing it only after a £1,300 ransom was paid... It was the fourth time the 111-year hotel, where suites cost as much as £233 a night, had been targeted by hackers...Keep this in mind as you install smart appliances and home features. And this via BoingBoing:
“We are planning at the next room refurbishment for old-fashioned door locks with real keys,” said Brandstaetter. “Just like 111 years ago at the time of our great grandfathers.”
The libraries of St Louis, Missouri have been crippled by a ransomware attack that has shut down the public terminals the library provides to the poor and vulnerable of St Louis, as well as the systems used to process book and material lending (the catalog is on a separate, uninfected system)... According to the library, the criminals managed to infect a centralized computer server, destroying the staff's email system as well.Scum.
Just a quick shout-out to a movie that I rewatched the other night. Pretty in Pink is a movie that didn't receive prominent rewards when it was released, but it has an enduring quality because of top-notch performances by young actors and a spot-on portrayal of teen angst and high-school social stresses. Best of all it presents a strong young girl having a positive and meaningful relationship with her father - something not often addressed in modern movies.
Hard to believe this was released 30 years ago. I've embedded the computer scene because I thought some of you might be impressed/amused by the technology. The lower embed is the standard trailer.
Labels: Video - movies
Researchers in the Netherlands placed a running wheel in wild settings and monitored its use.
"If wheel running is indeed caused by captive housing, wild mice are not expected to use a running wheel in nature. This however, to our knowledge, has never been tested. Here, we show that when running wheels are placed in nature, they are frequently used by wild mice, also when no extrinsic reward is provided. Bout lengths of running wheel behaviour in the wild match those for captive mice...Further details at Proc Roy Soc B.
Over a period of over 3 years, we have analysed more than 12 000 video fragments in which wheel movement was detected, out of more than 200 000 recordings made when animals visited the recording site...
Some animals seem to use the wheel unintentionally, but mice and some shrews, rats and frogs were seen to leave the wheel and then enter it again within minutes in order to continue wheel running...
Puer aeternus..., Latin for "eternal boy", in mythology, is a child-god who is forever young. In psychology, it is an older person whose emotional life has remained at an adolescent level. The puer typically leads a provisional life, due to the fear of being caught in a situation from which it might not be possible to escape. He covets independence and freedom, opposes boundaries and limits, and tends to find any restriction intolerable...I thought it worthwhile to briefly define "man-child" since the term is becoming more commonly used in reports about current events.
Like all archetypes, the puer is bi-polar, exhibiting both a "positive" and a "negative" aspect. The "positive" side of the puer appears as... newness, potential for growth, hope for the future... The "negative" side is the child-man who refuses to grow up and meet the challenges of life face on, waiting instead for his ship to come in and solve all his problems.
Or a fruit perhaps. On the "animal/vegetable/mineral" scale he was designated a "vegetable."
"E.T. and his extra-terrestrial brethren are not animal or mineral but vegetable. This idea of E.T. being a plant of some kind led the team designing him – headed up by the Oscar-winning Carlo Rambaldi – to create “plant-like” glowing hearts, first seen here, en masse."Lots of other tidbits about the movie here, but I heard this fact on No Such Thing As A Fish.
"First attested in the 17th century, noun use of 5th century Latin oxymōrum (adj), neut. nom. form of oxymōrus (adj), from Ancient Greek ὀξύμωρος (oksúmōros), compound of ὀξύς (oksús, “sharp, keen, pointed”) (English oxy-, as in oxygen) + μωρός (mōrós, “dull, stupid, folly”) (English moron (“stupid person”)). Literally “sharp-dull”, "keen-stupid" or "pointed folly" – itself an oxymoron, hence autological.More at Wikipedia. Heard on a podcast of No Such Thing As A Fish.
Compare sophomore (literally “wise fool”).
Historically, an oxymoron was "a paradox with a point", where the contradiction seems absurd at first glance, and yet is deliberate, its purpose being to underscore a point or to draw attention to a concealed point. The modern usage of oxymoron as a synonym for the simpler contradiction in terms is considered incorrect by some speakers and writers, and is perhaps best avoided in certain contexts."