Archive for the ‘Nature’ Category

Standing out

August 13, 2007 2 comments

Spotted this little guy on the way to work last week.  It was hot but the grass was still a little bit green.  Now, the grass is all brown (even trees are dropping leaves though fall is a ways off) – and all the grasshoppers I see now are brown.  It could be camouflage though landing on a nice white concrete post wasn’t exactly inconspicuous. 

Categories: Nature, observations

Really big spirituality

June 18, 2007 1 comment

Spotted this in a Discovery Channel ad…

Sure, it was only a typo but a funny one.  Would a giant mantra have a lot of syllables, or be really loud, or be repeating the names of large astronomical bodies?  Or perhaps be the meditative bellows of elephants? (that one really isn’t so farfetched)  Or the winner of a meditation contest?

I’m pretty sure they meant Giant Manta born in captivity.

Categories: Nature, observations

Geology of Eastern Washington

May 20, 2007 2 comments

As a kid living in the very area described by the article, I climbed cliffs all over the place and generally grooved on the complex geology of the area.  Turns out it’s a lot more complex than I realized at the time, and Archy describes why in Looking for drowned mammoths.  (the glacial flood would have been really cool to watch… from a safe vantage point, which would not include the present location of Vantage, Washington where I did a lot of my climbing)

From Blog around the clock

Categories: Nature, observations

The logic of play (ravens)

April 13, 2007 5 comments

In the April ‘07 Scientific American, Bernd Heinrich and Thomas Bugnyar (great name, Thomas) describe how young ravens snatch food from large predators…

“Food bonanzas are not only provided by carnivores, they are often quickly consumed by them.  It pays the attending ravens to get an early start in the feeding cycle, preferably next to the carnivores while they are still eating.  To do that, the birds need to be able to predict the predator’s behavior, such as whether or when the animal might attack, how far it can jump, and how it may be distracted.  Some of that knowledge needs to be in place before the raven is distracted by feeding, because in that context practice could be deadly.

Check: “Watch out for that wolf while you’re stuffing your beak with his kill!”

Indeed, the birds acquire practice more safely early in their lives.  Juvenile birds, when undistracted by feeding, routinely “test” the reactions of large animals such as wolves nd other carnivores by interacting with them, usually by landing nearby and then nipping them from the rear…

OK, that just sounds freaking hilarious.

It is unlikely that such behavior is tactically deliberate.  More likely it is a form of “play”, defined… as a behavior that has no immediately discernable function but that commonly has an ultimate function, one that is not consciously intended but that proves useful anyway.

Remember playing “kick the can”?  “Keep-away”?  and of course “Hide and go seek”?  Neurologically speaking, there’s probably a lot going on there.

Even youngsters recognize that nipping carnivores is dangerous (they display fear when they do it), and thus they must be wired to engage in such activity because the risky play ultimately aids survival – presumably by giving them experience in gauging how much they can get away with around their carnivore companions.  By such provocation, they soon learn which animals to trust and the distances required for safety.  Conversely, their nearly constant presence around the carnivores accustomes the larger animals to the birds, and they gradually learn to ignore them.  But getting along with dangerous carnivores is only a means to the end of getting access to a rich supply of food. 
Scientific American, April 2007 pg. 64-71, “Just how smart are ravens” by Bernd Heinrich and Thomas Bugnyar

Wonder how well video games stack up against kids’ play in the non-cyber world, and if some kids naturally learn better in an artificial environment than others.  (Wish I had a cartoon here of crows playing video games)


Categories: Nature, observations

Slow decay

March 22, 2007 6 comments

Imagine the bright hope and energy that went into making this sturdy and attractive building.  Businesses thrived, people came to work there every day, customers came in and accounts receivable were generated.  But there’s a last time for everything.  It puts me in mind of that scene from The Time Machine when HG Wells saw buildings rising and decaying in a few moments.  By the way, if you liked either movie adaptation, you really might enjoy the book.

Categories: Nature, observations

Shark vs. octopus - who wins?

March 3, 2007 1 comment

A shark and an octopus in a death-struggle.  It turns out to be a rather one-sided fight.  But whose side? (video, about one minute)

Categories: Nature, observations

Prairie Nightfall

February 14, 2007 4 comments

(See comments for explanation)

Categories: Nature, observations

Surfin’, USA

December 10, 2006 2 comments

Even though I am an excecrable swimmer, I must say surfing looks like a lot of fun.  But I would never, ever want to go surfing this bad:

CLEVELAND, Dec. 9—They surf in Cleveland because they must. They surf with two-inch icicles clinging to their wet suits, through stinging hail and overpowering wind. They work nights to spend their winter days scouting surf. They are watermen on an inland sea…

There’s more – ice chunks the size of bowling balls, polluted beaches, ear infections…  read it and marvel at the power of the human need for sport.  Of course there are some who feel that I am not careful enough in my choice of bicycling weather.

Categories: Nature, observations

Dreams of a sunny window

December 3, 2006 5 comments

Categories: Nature, observations

Mud volcano

October 5, 2006 1 comment

This is a new one on me – a mud volcano: Java villages drown in mud lake.  Picture 130,000 m3/day of hot mud spewing out of a crack in the Earth, with “no sign of stopping”.

One enterprising villager has begun making bricks from the mud. 

It is not much of a living; no-one has bought many of his bricks yet, he says, but the mud is there, it is free and he has got to do something.

Of course, the Indonesian government plans to route the mud into the sea, thus causing a marine life catastrophe and ruining the livelihood of countless fishermen, but it’s the only thing they could think of.  I wonder about the mineral composition of the mud.  There’s enough there to consider large-scale commercial application if it contains anything valuable. 

Categories: Nature, observations