"My subject is a barren one – the world of nature, or in other words life; and that subject in its least elevated department, and employing either rustic terms or foreign, nay barbarian words that actually have to be introduced with an apology. Moreover, the path is not a beaten highway of authorship, nor one in which the mind is eager to range: there is not one of us who has made the same venture, nor yet one Roman who has tackled single-handed all departments of the subject."Naturalis Historia
was written by Pliny the Elder
between 77 and 79 CE and was meant to serve as a kind of proto-encyclopedia discussing all of the ancient knowledge available to him, covered in enough depth and breadth to make it by a reasonable margin the largest work to survive to the modern day from the Roman era. The work includes discussions on astronomy, meteorology, geography, mineralogy, zoology and botany organized along Aristotelian divisions of nature but also includes essays on human inventions and institutions. It is dedicated to the Emperor Titus in its epistle to the Emperor Vespasian
, a close friend of Pliny who relied on his extensive knowledge, and its unusually careful citations of sources as well as its index makes it a precursor to modern scholarly works. It was Pliny's last work, as well as sadly his sole surviving one, and was published not long before his death attempting to save a friend from the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius that destroyed Pompeii and Herculaneum
, famously recounted by Pliny's eponymous nephew Pliny the Younger
Here is a reasonable translation that is freely available to download from archive.org for your edification. [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb
on Dec 16, 2013 -
Why are owls so wise? Perhaps it's because they're utter badasses.
Ferocity is essential for a bird whose frigid, spotty range extends across northeastern China, the Russian Far East and up toward the Arctic Circle, one that breeds and nests in the dead of winter, perched atop a giant cottonwood or elm tree, out in the open, in temperatures 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Dr. Slaght’s colleague Sergei Surmach videotaped a female sitting on her nest during a blizzard. “All you could see at the end was her tail jutting out,” Dr. Slaght said.
The New York Times Science section
gives an update on some current owl research. [more inside]
posted by medusa
on Feb 28, 2013 -
Photographs of flocking birds by Richard Barnes.Boids.
A program by Craig Reynolds modeling emergent behavior. Swarm.
A platform and wiki for agent-based modelers.
posted by OmieWise
on Sep 17, 2009 -
Dinosaur coloration has always been a source of wild speculation. Artistic renders have ranged from the conservative (battleship grey, lizard green) to the flamboyant
, but all guesses appeared equally valid
. While there are some wonderfully preserved examples of dinosaur skin
texture, fossils have remained stubbornly monochromatic… until now. [more inside]
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul
on Aug 11, 2009 -
Bird flu update: "At this moment, birds that travel flyways in Asia, where most bird flu cases have been found, are mingling with birds that fly through North America." Officials in Kansas
warn it will arrive this fall, as those birds fly south for the winter on North American migration pathways
. The Onion jokingly predicts the government's response
posted by salvia
on Apr 9, 2006 -
Electronic Biologia Centrali-Americana
is a collaboration between the Smithsonian, Missouri Botanical and Kew Gardens, the British Natural History Museum and various other institutions which has enabled the digitizing of 58 volumes of natural history about central America produced between 1880 and 1920. It includes descriptions of more than 50,000 species with images of more than 18,000 birds
, more birds
, more spiders
, more plants
, orthoptera insects
, more butterflies
and their family
and even some historic maps of the region
. There is a parallel project attempting to provide access to much more scientific data and specimens between these institutions.
Note: 'next' button at top +/- bottom of these large thumb pages; large high resolution jpegs work (in most cases) but zoom and .pdfiles are not yet enabled. I've only just scratched the surface.
posted by peacay
on Sep 26, 2005 -
) are small, colorful sparrow-sized birds found all over Central and South America. Manakin males engage in elaborate courtship dances
, including rhythmic sounds they produce with their wings. No one really knew how the birds made this sounds, until Kimberly Bostwick
, Curator of Birds and Mammals at the Cornell University
Museum of Vertebrates
, went into the jungles of Ecuador to film the birds at 1000 frames per second. As it turns out, different species of manakin use entirely different motion to produce the sounds. The Journal of Experimental Biology has published the results
, complete with videos
. Mark Barres
, who studies avian genetic population structures at the Univ. of Wisconsin, has also filmed the mating dance of the Manakins [.mov]
posted by monju_bosatsu
on Apr 29, 2005 -
First Birds with teeth in 70 million years
. Vicious toothed, flying microraptors once darkened the Jurassic skies. Now, scientists
have learned to activate the dormant, vestigal avian "tooth gene" and so coaxed chicken embryos into growing teeth. From the grave, Alfred Hitchcock enviously quips - "a messy thing indeed when toothed birds kill a man". Meanwhile the French are appalled: “quand les poules auront des dents”, which translates to “when hens have teeth”, is analogous to the English “pigs might fly”. Coming soon: flying pigs.
But there might be a baldness cure in this new research. I'll remember that as the flocks of mutant raptor-fowl move in for the kill.
posted by troutfishing
on Jun 4, 2003 -