Sunday, 31 July 2011

Links of the week-Migrating Salmon, Poison Algae and Alaska's Flowers

Pacific Salmon Species (copyright free image- for details, click [here]. Original source, click [here])

Hi. Welcome (back) to Weirdbeautiful.

First link of the day today is this somewhat more sinister tale of wild boars in Brittany being killed by toxic fumes from rotting seaweed. The toxic fumes are - allegedly- the result of effluent from local intensive pig farms reacting with natural algae in the Morieux river estuary in the Cote d’Armor region of Brittany to produce hydrogen sulphide- a gas as deadly as hydrogen cyanide, but with a significantly more powerful (and obnoxious)smell.The full story is online here-

Secondly, according to that most reliable of news sources the British tabloid media (or should that be, "The Onion"?), Alaska is currently enjoying something of a heatwave with temperatures of around 16 degrees C; consequently the regions flowers are in full and abundant bloom, as these pictures show-
Beautiful though the landscapes shown are, as the article explains, all is not well in Alaska's meadows, since higher temperatures are believed to be causing the retreat of the state's glaciers. Glaciers in Montana, too are retreating, according to this article-
by Stephen Nash in the travel section of The New York Times this week

Olympic National Park, Washington, (copyright free image- for details, click [here])

Finally, the last link-of-the-day today is to this article-
also in the New York Times, about the removal of two dams in the Elwha River in Olympic National Park, Washington State. Hailed as "one of the most promising and pure acts of environmental restoration the region and the nation have ever seen", the project is "the largest dam removal project in American history". As the article explains, the removal of the dams will allow the river's salmon to migrate upstream to spawn- something which they have been prevented from doing for almost 100 years by the dams- and is expected to allow the migrating salmon population to increase from its current size- of around 3,000 individuals to its original size of around 392,000 fish. For the full article, click [here].

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Quote of the Week- Thomas Huxley on Peace and Happiness

"The great thing in the world is not so much to seek happiness as to earn peace and self-respect."
-Thomas Huxley,
English Biologist,
(4 May 1825 – 29 June 1895)

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Sweet Peas, Endangered Butterflies and The Emperor Water Penguin,

Having posted earlier this week about Gregor Mendel and his peas, today I have a picture of another of the historic "work horses" for curious geneticists: the Sweet Pea, Lathyrus odoratus, which I am posting purely for aesthetic reasons.

The Sweet Pea, Lathyrus odoratus.

First of this week's "Pick-of-the week" science stories is "Bright and Beautiful"- an article by Jonny Beardsall in last Sunday's Telegraph on the decline of Britain's Butterflies. For some reason, the online version of this article goes by a different title from the print version, which is sitting on my desk in front of me now.
In any case, you can find "Bright and Beautiful" (aka "The CLA Game Fair: Butterflies Need your help") online here-

Elsewhere in the same issue of the Telegraph is/was an article on the perils of reintroducing locally extinct species, such as beavers, wolves and bears, to their former habitats. The paper version of this article has the title "Back from the brink and causing mayhem", you can find the online version (retitled "The extinct species back from the brink and causing mayhem") here-

Finally, one animal that is in no danger of being introduced anywhere anytime soon is the "Emperor Water penguin" Inkayacu paracasensis: an enormous red-feathered creature that lived in Southern coastal Peru around 36million years ago. Fossils of the Eocene-period penguin species were discovered a little while back in Peru's "Reserva Nacional de Paracus" and more details- notably evidence of the shape and colour of the creature's feathers- were published in the journal "Science" last September. You can read the abstract of the original "Science" article, by Julia A. Clarke and colleagues, online [here]: an illustrated popular science account of the finding are available on The New York Times website here-

Thanks to Barbara W. for the Sunday Telegraph articles.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Link of the day- Adorable Baby Slender Loris

There are some adorable pictures of a baby slender loris in The Sun newspaper today- they're in an article about an eight-month old baby - a new addition to London Zoo- being taken to the vet for a check up. You can find the full article online here-

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Gregor Mendel, The End of the Space Shuttle and The "Google Doodles"

Welcome (back) to Weirdbeautiful.
Image-of-the-day today is the "Google Doodle" above, posted on the google homepage yesterday, in honour of the birth of Gregor Mendel, the "Father" of Genetics, who was born 189 years ago, on 20th July 1822. Posthumously famed for his ground-breaking experiments on the common pea, Pisum sativum, Mendel also conducted later experiments on bees.You can read an English translation of his famous pea paper "Versuche über Pflanzenhybriden" ("Experiments on Plant Hybridization") here -
the original German version is online here-

According to the archives of the "Google style logo museum", Gregor Mendel is just one of a string of scientists and scientific events to be commemorated with a "google doodle", something which, I think needs a commemoration, or at least, recognition, of its own. Albert Einstein, Leonardo da Vinci, Sir Isaac Newton and Nikola Tesla have all been the subject of “google doodles” but so have many more obscure scientists- the Serbian geophysicist Milutin Milankovich, for example, the Chinese Rocket scientist Qian Xuesen and the Danish physicist Hans Christian Ørsted, as well as the botanists Josif Pančić and Tomitaro Makino and the Spanish naturalist and broadcaster Félix Rodríguez de la Fuente. The beautiful doodle in honour of Josif Pančić (below) references his discovery of the Serbian Spruce, Picea omorika.

Several scientific events have also been celebrated- the discovery of Buckminsterfullerene, (google doodle above) for example, Pi day and various astronomical events, such as the Perseid Meteor Shower, the anniversary of the first Moon Landing and the Hubble Telescope (below).

One subject not to have been commemorated in doodle-form is the final voyage of the Space Shuttle, which landed today for the "final" time, although it's hard to see how any diagram could surpass the picture below, taken by Bill Inglis for NASA (for image source, click [here])

There is a brief article about the end of the Space Shuttle's final voyage on the NASA website here-
the article title is "Crew Returns Home After Final Shuttle Mission".

Finally, cute story-of-the-week, meanwhile, is this article about a 12-year old African tortoise who was fitted with a wheel at Washington State University, after one of his legs had to be amputated for medical reasons. Click [here] for the full story.

You can find more details about Google doodles [here]and [here] and about Dennis Hwang (the designer of many of them) [here]

Friday, 15 July 2011

Quote of the Week- Desmond Morris on Apes & Mankind

Quote of the week-

"There are one hundred and ninety-three living species of monkeys and apes. One hundred and ninety-two of them are covered with hair. The exception is a naked ape self-named Homo sapiens. This unusual and highly successful species spends a great deal of time examining his higher motives and an equal amount of time studiously ignoring his fundamental ones. He is proud that he has the biggest brain of all the primates, but attempts to conceal the fact that he also has the biggest penis, preferring to accord this honour falsely to the mighty gorilla. He is an intensely vocal, acutely exploratory, over-crowded ape and it is high time we examined his basic behaviour"

- Desmond Morris, Zoologist,
- from the Introduction to "The Naked Ape" (1967)

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Links of the day- Hermit Crabs & Rainbow Toads

Welcome (back) to Weirdbeautiful
Today, I have 2 links-of-the-day for you- both from the tabloids- the first is about a hermit crab that has set-up-home in a bent piece of piping-

and the second is about The Sambas stream toad, or Bornean rainbow toad, which has now been photographed for the first time, after not having been spotted at all since 1924-

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Link of the day- Britain in Photographs

Part urban, part rural, today's link-of-the-day is to the winning photographs from the British "Landscape Photographer of the Year" competition-

from the cliffs of Beachy Head -
to Snowflowers in scotland-
, it's a timely reminder of some of the amazing sites we, in Britain have on our doorstep.