I've always thought of the ocean as the last frontier of pristine territory on earth. Boy, was I wrong.
There is a strange place in it, North of Hawaii, a place that living things of the seas avoid. It's a "10-million-square-mile oval known as the North Pacific subtropical
gyre.... The gyre was more like a desert—a slow, deep, clockwise-swirling
vortex of air and water caused by a mountain of high-pressure air that
lingered above it."
One man decided to explore this lost part of the ocean, and what he found there is truly horrifying. Please read the article: It's upsetting, but we all need to know.
NOVI SAD, Serbia
— The emaciated horses standing forlornly in a dusty field in northern
Serbia are all that is left of a magnificent herd of white Lipizzaners.
There were nearly 90 of the famous breed when they became war
refugees in 1991, losing their stables in the town of Lipik to shelling
as Croatia fought for independence from Yugoslavia and Croatian Serbs
Recent pictures of eight remaining horses at a farm near the city of Novi Sad have alarmed officials and animal lovers.
While a bunch of bickering jackasses argue politics over their skeletal bodies, and a greedy farmer tries to extort a fortune for the care of animals he has clearly neglected, these magnificent creatures are dying.
While we're on the subject of "plant intelligence", here is a great story.
Mark Moffett is an award-winning biologist and photographer who has spent a lot time at the tops of trees studying ecosystems in forest canopies. He talks about his work in a "Best of National Geographic" podcast, and relates a wonderful story about his favourite jungle beast. Surprisingly, it's not a cute furry animal, but a plant. Not even an exotic plant, but the common monsteras and philodendrons that we've seen time and time again in dentist offices, the ones we grow in our own living rooms. These seemingly innocuous houseplants have amazing lives.
Once in a while I come across an article and it makes me think, "Damn! I should be blogging that."
Well, this is a good one. A serious article on plant intelligence, one that doesn't involve 60's flower power and fairies in the garden:
"...extraordinary new findings on how plants investigate and respond to
their environments are part of a sprouting debate over the nature of
"...the late Nobel Prize-winning plant geneticist Barbara McClintock called
plant cells "thoughtful." Darwin wrote about root-tip "brains." Not
only can plants communicate with each other and with insects by coded
gas exhalations, scientists say now, they can perform Euclidean
geometry calculations through cellular computations and, like a peeved
boss, remember the tiniest transgression for months."
Anyone who is an orchid enthusiast will nod along with the article and say, "yes, I knew that. I'm aware that those clever little buggers have me wrapped around their inflorescence." Kind of like a dog owner who knows, just knows, that their pooches have emotions. It doesn't require a scientist to state the obvious, but it's nice to have it validated anyway.
I'm sad that Steve Irwin is gone. Of course I haven't watched the Crocodile Hunter since I left Toronto, but from the beginning I was a hooked. In fact, with digital cable and 80+ channels, the only thing I ever watched was nature programs. And Steve Irwin's was the best - he was a such a goof, but a loveable goof, and his passion and enthusiasm was simply irresistable. He made me laugh, and whenever his show was on everything else stopped. For that 1/2 hour I was no longer sitting in front of a TV in a stuffy inner city apartment, I was transported to wherever he was, getting to know the animals along with him.
Well, the bird flu has arrived here in Germany, but as a survivor of Toronto's SARS "epidemic" and the "West Nile Virus", I've developed a resistance to the excesses of the news media. The "Toronto - Plague City" headlines of 2003 were truly ridiculous, and the media hysteria that infected even those who really should have known better - ie. the World Health Organization - was exponentially more devastating to the city than the actual disease.
So while everyone else frets about the prospect of a viral genetic leap from avian sufferer to hominid, I'm more concerned about the birds. I've missed their chatter, the lovely noise of birds staking out territory and attracting mates that pierces closed windows and reminds me that there is a world outside my four walls at the strangest times of day. How many birds are going to die? Will this become a "Silent Spring"?
The flocks are just starting to arrive from their migration, and I wonder how much longer people are going to welcome them. Lately, I replenish the bird feeder and imagine a dozen pairs of eyes boring into my back from the apartment windows around me. No, we're not there yet, for Germans are a direct people and my neighbours would not hesitate to tell me that they resent the presence of the feeder. But it will come, I think. Media hype is an insidious thing, and I dread outbreaks of melodramatic headlines far more than I do the virus.
One of my favourite sites -- and places -- is the UBC (University of British Columbia) Botanical Garden and Centre for Plant research. Now I can visit every day and see what's blooming thanks to Daniel Mosquin's beautiful macro photography at the site's Botany Photo of the Day.
This one's neat: A tulip species, as it would have been found in the wild way back before the Dutch discovered and went crazy over them. Their enthusiasm triggered an economic boom/bust cycle that made the "dot com" and gold rush days seem sedate by comparison.
Gold rush miners might have been better off using plants to find gold
rather than panning streams for the precious metal. Early prospectors
in Europe used certain weeds as indicator plants that signaled the
presence of metal ore.
Apparently, a mule and pick-ax are no longer required tools. Modern day mining techniques include the use of bacteria to extract valuable metals from low-grade ore.