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Posts Tagged ‘Nature

“Extreme remedies are very appropriate for extreme diseases”*…

 

frog

The Toad Mountain harlequin frog is endangered and at risk from the Bd fungus

 

A century ago, a strain of pandemic flu killed up to 100 million people—5 percent of the world’s population. In 2013, a new mystery illness swept the western coast of North America, causing starfish to disintegrate. In 2015, a big-nosed Asian antelope known as the saiga lost two-thirds of its population—some 200,000 individuals—to what now looks to be a bacterial infection. But none of these devastating infections comes close to the destructive power of Bd—a singularly apocalyptic fungus that’s unrivaled in its ability not only to kill animals, but to delete entire species from existence.

Bd—Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis in full—kills frogs and other amphibians by eating away at their skin and triggering fatal heart attacks. It’s often said that the fungus has caused the decline or extinction of 200 amphibian species, but that figure is almost two decades out-of-date. New figures, compiled by a team led by Ben Scheele from the Australian National University, are much worse.

Scheele’s team estimates that the fungus has caused the decline of 501 amphibian species—about 6.5 percent of the known total. Of these, 90 have been wiped out entirely. Another 124 have fallen by more than 90 percent, and their odds of recovery are slim. Never in recorded history has a single disease burned down so much of the tree of life. “It rewrote our understanding of what disease could do to wildlife,” Scheele says…

The story of an unprecedented pathogen: “The Worst Disease Ever Recorded.” (Lest one rest too easily because this threat seems to target not humans but animals at some distance on the tree of life, see here.)

* Hippocrates

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As we do our best to stave off extinctions, we might recall that on this date in 1981, Nature set the world’s record for “Longest Scientific Name” when it published the systematic name for the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) of the human mitochondria; it contains 16,569 nucleotide residues and is thus about 207,000 letters long.

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The 16,569 bp long human mitochondrial genome with the protein-coding, ribosomal RNA, and transfer RNA genes

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Written by LW

April 9, 2019 at 1:01 am

“The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”*…

 

tree

The Treeographer [is] a collection of the true histories of significant or symbolic trees from around the world. The stories cover a wide variety of topics, including culture, history, science, religion, and more… All of the stories to date are organized geographically in the Archive. If you aren’t sure where to start, try Ogawa’s Sacred Cedar – A 780 Million Yen Rescue Mission

Nick Rowan shares his passion: The Treeographer.

* Chinese proverb

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As we take the shade, we might spare a thought for Gerald “Gerry” Malcolm Durrell; he died on this date in 1995.  A British naturalist, zookeeper, conservationist, author, and television presenter, most of his work was rooted in his life as an animal collector and enthusiast… though he is probably most widely known for his autobiographical book My Family and Other Animals and its successors, Birds, Beasts, and Relatives and The Garden of the Gods... which have been made into television and radio mini-series many times, most recently as ITV’s/PBS’s The Durrells.

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“A fox knows many things, but a hedgehog one important thing”*…

 

Hedgehogs rolling on the ground to collect grapes for their young, as illustrated in the Rochester Bestiary (England, c. 1230): London, British Library, Royal MS 12 F XIII, f. 45r. Hedgehogs were said to creep into vineyards when the grapes were ripe, to climb the vines and shake the fruit down to the ground. Then, rather than eating this bounty on the spot, they would turn onto their backs and roll around, impaling the grapes with their sharp quills. They could then trundle off back to their burrows, carrying the grapes on their spines, as a meal for their young. The bestiary writers allegorized this as a warning of the clever stratagems of the devil in stealing man’s spiritual fruits.

Longstanding readers of our Medieval Manuscripts Blog may know that we have a penchant for hedgehogs. In 2012, we published a post entitled The Distinguished Pedigree of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle,based on the accounts of their behaviour in medieval bestiaries. In 2014, we brought you a hedgehog beauty contest, no less, featuring images of five of our favourites. And most recently we focused on the heraldic hedgehog in the 13th-century Dering Roll.

We’ve now discovered this fantastic animation, based on the drawings of hedgehogs in one of the British Library’s medieval bestiaries (Royal MS 12 F XIII, f. 45r). De Herinacio: On the Hedgehog was made by the amazing Obrazki nunu and Discarding Images. We hope that you love it as much as we do! Maybe it will inspire more people to explore and reinvent our wonderful collections…

 

More at the British Library’s “How To Be A Hedgehog.”

* Archilochus, as quoted in Isaiah Berlin’s wonderful The Hedgehog and the Fox.

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As we roll in it, we might recall that it was on this date in 1869 that the first issue of the journal Nature was published.  Taking it’s title from a line of Wordsworth’s (“To the solid ground of nature trusts the Mind that builds for aye”), its aim was to “provide cultivated readers with an accessible forum for reading about advances in scientific knowledge.”  It remains a weekly, international, interdisciplinary journal of science, one of the few remaining tat publish across a wide array of fields.  It is consistently ranked the world’s most cited scientific journal and is ascribed an impact factor of approximately 38.1, making it one of the world’s top academic journals.

Nature‘s first first page

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“All photographs are memento mori”*…

 

Tropical Street: tourists walking past shops and restaurants in a tropical setting, Hawaii, USA

Many, many more glances at yesteryear at “Vintage Stock Photos“– all free.

* Susan Sontag

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As we check those photos in our wallets, we might spare a thought for Eliot Porter; he died on this date in 1990.  An American photographer, he is best known for his color photographs of nature. With encouragement from Alfred Stieglitz and Ansel Adams, Porter turned an adolescent hobby into his profession.

Porter was the first established artist-photographer to commit to exploring the beauty and diversity of the natural world in color photographs.  Over much of his career, black-and-white photography set the artistic standard, and he had to fight his colleagues’ prejudices against the medium. But in 1962 the Sierra Club published “In Wildness Is the Preservation of the World.”  That immensely popular book, combining his evocative color photographs of New England woods with excerpts from the writings of Henry David Thoreau, revolutionized photographic book publishing, and legitimized color.  Its success set Porter on a lifelong path of creating similar photographic portraits of a wide variety of ecologically significant locations the world over.

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Written by LW

November 2, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Teaching is not a lost art, but the regard for it is a lost tradition”*…

 

 

school

One quibbles with Jacques Barzun, the author of this post’s title quote, at one’s peril.  Still, as Lapham’s Quarterly points out, disrespect, even disdain for formal education has a long history.  In this season of school’s end, LQ reaches back to the 17th Century for an example: an excerpt from Nicholas Breton’s The Court and Country, in which the then-popular author argues that on-the-job training, in the fields where husbands know their wives and farmers know their cattle, is all the learning anyone needs:

Now for learning, what your neede is thereof I know not, but with us, this is all we goe to schoole for: to read common Prayers at Church and set downe common prices at Markets; write a Letter and make a Bond; set downe the day of our Births, our Marriage Day, and make our Wills when we are sicke for the disposing of our goods when we are dead. These are the chiefe matters that wemeddle with, and we find enough to trouble our heads withal. For if the fathers knowe their owne children, wives their owne husbands from other men, maydens keep their by-your-leaves from subtle batchelors, Farmers know their cattle by the heads, and Sheepheards know their sheepe by the brand, what more learning have we need of but that experience will teach us without booke? We can learne to plough and harrow, sow and reape, plant and prune, thrash and fanne, winnow and grinde, brue and bake, and all without booke; and these are our chiefe businesses in the Country, except we be Jury men to hang a theefe, or speake truth in a man’s right, which conscience & experience will teach us with a little learning. Then what should we study for, except it were to talke with the man in the Moone about the course of the Starres?

* Jacques Barzun

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As we celebrate the onset of summer, we might send back-to-nature birthday greetings to Ralph Waldo Emerson; he was born on this date in 1803.  The essayist (“Nature,” “Self-Reliance,” et al.), lecturer, and poet who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century, he was one of the linchpins of the American romantic movement, and friend and mentor to Henry David Thoreau.

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Written by LW

May 25, 2016 at 1:01 am

“Gods do not limit men. Men limit men.”*…

 

Everything has a limit – or does it?…

Some maximums will never be surpassed, but as the author Arthur C Clarke once said, “the only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.”

See a larger version of the graphic above at “Ultimate limits of nature and humanity.”

* Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

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As we bump up against boundaries, we might send compressed birthday greetings to Aaron “Bunny” Lapin; he was born on this date in 1914.  In 1948, Lapin invented Reddi-Wip, the pioneering whipped cream dessert topping dispensed from a spray can.   First sold by milkmen in St. Louis, the product rode the post-World War Two convenience craze to national success; in 1998, it was named by Time one of the century’s “100 great consumer items”– along with the pop-top can and Spam.  Lapin became known as the Whipped Cream King; but his legacy is broader:  in 1955, he patented a special valve to control the flow of Reddi-Wip from the can, and formed The Clayton Corporation to manufacture it.  Reddi-Wip is now a Con-Agra brand; but Clayton goes strong, now making industrial valves, closures, caulk, adhesives and foamed plastic products (like insulation and cushioning materials).

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Written by LW

January 5, 2015 at 1:01 am

“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself”*…

 

The World (or World Islands) is an artificial archipelago of various small islands constructed of dredged sand in the rough shape of a world map, in the Persian Gulf, 2.5 miles off the coast of Dubai, United Arab Emirates.  Intended as a retreat for the uber-rich, it was begun in 2003, and was reported at one point to be 70% sold.  But the financial crisis of 2008 threw the project off track.  Frank Jacobs (Strange Maps) checks in…

In the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams dreams up the planet Magrathea, thriving on the ‘custom-made luxury planet building’ industry. The Magratheans design and manufacture entire planets for the wealthiest people in the universe. One of those planets was Earth, and one of its designers won an award for his work on the fjords of Norway.

There are no fjords (yet) on The World. That would make the resemblance to the HHGttG story even more eerie. For the collection of islands, 2.5 miles off the coast, also is a vanity project aimed at the astronomically rich. Only, it doesn’t look like they’re flocking to The World just yet. One obvious reason: much of it is still under construction…

By 2010 [after the 2008 crash], with local property prices recovering from the worst of the recession – and Dubai pockets being fairly deep – it seemed that work was about to resume. Dubai-based Kleindienst Group announced it would start work on The Heart of Europe, a collection of six islands (including Monaco, Germany, St. Petersburg and Sweden islands; Netherlands island seems to have been renamed Europe island). But financial disputes between Kleindienst and Nakheel kept the development on hold until an out of court settlement was reached. Work resumed in earnest in January 2014.

Despite announcements over the years of island sales and grandiose development schemes throughout the archipelago, by the end of 2013 only two islands had effectively been developed. One being Lebanon island, with a Royal Beach Club rented out for corporate events, private parties  and public functions. The other one is Upernavik island in the Greenland area, which has a show home on it.

So what’s the future going to bring for The World? Amazing, luxurious, captivating things, if you believe the corporate blurb on The Heart of Europe website [here]:

“Each island within The Heart of Europe will be modelled by different European countries, reflecting the very sights, sounds, aromas and tapestry that make these destinations so timeless and unique. The main Island Europe is designed with flavours from Vienna, Rome, Andalusia and Côte d’Azur, while the other islands bring the inspiration from Monaco, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland and St. Petersburg”.

And also a few genuinely bizarre things:

* “The first rain and snow-lined streets [in the Gulf Region], made possible through German engineering and technology”.

* [A] number of unique floating villas with underwater rooms offering magnificent views of the spectacular sea world”. Why not add a few U-boats – made possible through German engineering and technology.

* “Some of Europe’s most talented street performers, from playful acrobats and dancers to eclectic artists and musicians”. That explains the disappearance of the guy down my street who will play La Marseillaise on his armpit for a can of beer.

* “Outdoor climate-controlled streets […] A concept that truly will bring European weather to Dubai!” This might actually scare off most European tourists.

The website promises the imminent launch of Phase 2 of The Heart of Europe, on Sweden Island. But exact dates, also of the project’s overall completion, are impossible to find. We’re left wondering when The World will be finished. And whether they’ll find the time and the money to put in some prize-winning fjords.

More at “The World (Under Construction).”

* Leo Tolstoy

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As we wonder at how the other half means to live, we might send natural birthday greetings to Richard Jefferies; he was born on this date in 1848.  A writer noted for his depiction of English rural life in essays, books of natural history, and novels, he is probably best known for Bevis (1882), a classic children’s book (with an Animal Farm-like message that, of course, predates Orwell by decades), The Story of My Heart (an 1883 essay that located Jefferies as the leading nature writer of his time), and After London (1885), an early work of science fiction… to the extent that he is remembered at all.

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Written by LW

November 6, 2014 at 1:01 am

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