"The mind knows not what the tongue wants." We all take variability and niche markets for granted these days, but back in the 70's and 80's, the American food industry was obsessed with the so-called platonic dish - a perfect and universal way to serve a food. Howard Moskowitz, of prego fame, helped explode the idea in the food industry and beyond. In this TED talk, Malcom Gladwell, tells you all about it and why variability matters a lot. [more inside]
Control of Robert Smithson's earthwork masterpiece Spiral Jetty (360° panorama - QuickTime required) is now in dispute. Last week, a spokesperson for the Utah Division of Forestry, Fire and State Lands announced that the New York-based Dia Foundation, which was given stewardship over the work by the artist's estate, had been tardy in making its annual $250 payment on the 10 acres of land and had also failed to respond to an automatically generated notice that the 20 year lease had expired. (The Dia Foundation disagrees.) Consequently, it will now be "managed like any other sovereign land" - which may be of interest to the energy companies that have sought to explore the area. (previously)
William Temple Hornaday was an early--and probably a founding--member of the American conservation movement, and was also director of the National Zoological Park. He wrote a tremendously bitter and accurate report for the U.S. National Museum in 1894 on the extermination of the American bison, an absolute head-shaker, detailing the history of the bison in North America and its destruction at the hands of sportsmen, hunters, mindless dolts and many others who massacred tens of millions of the animal ("murdered" is the word Hornaday uses constantly). To put the whole issue in perspective, Hornaday issued a famous map showing the shrinkage of the North American bison herd, setting out the enormity of the issue instantly on one piece of paper, a summary of hundreds of pages of bad stories and big numbers.
The BBC Springwatch webcams are four live webcams showing herons, nesting pied flycatchers, a buzzard, and a barn owl.
Leafsnap is a free field guide for iPhone (Android coming soon) that uses the phone's camera and some biometric processing to identify trees by the shape of their leaves. Development was financed by the National Science Foundation (NYT article), and includes research by Columbia University, University of Maryland, and the Smithsonian Institution.
The red-crested tree rat (Santamartamys rufodorsalis), not seen in over a hundred years, made an unexpected, nonchalant appearance at the El Dorado Bird Reserve in Colombia a couple of weeks ago. Witnesses are unavailable for comment, being too busy with squeals of "Awwwwwww" to respond to questions. Press release here; high-res photos heEEEEEEEEEEEEEE
Over 100 full episodes of the Marlin Perkins-hosted television show Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom (previously) are now available on YouTube. That is all.
In a recent paper published in Nature Hansen et al. show the efficacy of their unusual vaccine strategy against SIVMAC239 in rhesus macaques. While the goal is not necessarily to produce a human vaccine against HIV using this exact strategy, this paper is now reigniting the debate over the progression of HIV infections and the mechanism(s) by which the virus skirts the human immune system.
Alone In The Wilderness "Documentary tells the story of Dick Proenneke who, in the late 1960s, built his own cabin in the wilderness at the base of the Aleutian Peninsula, in what is now Lake Clark National Park. Using color footage he shot himself, Proenneke traces how he came to this remote area, selected a homestead site and built his log cabin completely by himself. The documentary covers his first year in-country, showing his day-to-day activities and the passing of the seasons as he sought to scratch out a living alone in the wilderness." (Color, 57mins)
"You've seen ants. Thousands of them. And most of the time, you've seen them in colonies, living as a group. But have you seen them float as a group? Apparently a single fire ant will struggle in water, but a cluster of them can bob happily for months. A new study has used time lapse photography to figure out why — and how — that is."
Excellent footage of the stunningly beautiful yet bizarre courtship and mating behavior of the Peacock Spider.This is quite possibly the first footage of this quality that shows this behavior. Many jumping spiders have elaborate courtship dances. More Previously.
Ah wilderness! What better place to escape the stifling trappings of urban existence - overflowing inboxes, two-hour commutes, social-media addiction. And, of course, indoor plumbing. "Take off your shoes for a while, unzip your fly, piss hearty, dig your toes in the hot sand, feel that raw and rugged earth," the great Western author and curmudgeon Edward Abbey once exhorted car-bound city slickers. Contemplating the reasons for taking a trek down the Appalachian Trail (and aping Abbey-ish machismo), travel writer Bill Bryson mused, "I wanted a little of that swagger that comes with being able to gaze at a far horizon through eyes of chipped granite and say with a slow, manly sniff, 'Yeah, I've shit in the woods.'"
An unexpected side-effect of the flooding in parts of Pakistan has been that millions of spiders have climbed up into trees to escape the rising flood waters, cocooning them.
Five years ago this week, the BBC started broadcasting one of the most extraordinary documentaries ever to grace television: Planet Earth. The culmination of five years of field work, it employed the most cutting-edge of techniques in order to capture life in all its forms, from sweeping spaceborne vistas to shockingly intimate close-ups -- including many sights rarely glimpsed by human eyes. Visually spectacular, it showcased footage shot in 204 locations in 62 countries, thoroughly documenting every biome from the snowy peaks of the Himalayas to the lifegiving waters of the Okavango Delta, a rich narrative tapestry backed by a stirring orchestral score from the BBC Concert Orchestra. Unfortunately, the series underwent some editorial changes for rebroadcast overseas. But now fans outside the UK can rejoice -- all eleven chapters of this epic story are available on YouTube in their original form: uncut, in glorious 1080p HD, and with the original narration by renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough. Click inside for the full listing (and kiss the rest of your week goodbye). [more inside]
The BBC nature series, Human Planet, has been mentioned here before. Photographer Timothy Allen traveled with the film crew and has created this audio slideshow. [more inside]
"This is the Honey Badger. Watch it run in slow motion. It's pretty badass--look! It runs all over the place. 'Whoa, watch out,' says that bird. Eeew, it's got a snake?! ... Oh, the Honey Badgers are just crayzee." (SLYT - 3:21 - via jessamyn)
Sasquatch Birth Journal 2, "an unprecedented peek at the mysteries of nature." Perhaps NSFW.
National Geographic's "infinite photograph" series is an endless, fractal mosaic of beautiful images from around the world, each based on a different theme : US National Parks, the natural world, weather, or one day's contribution to the source for all the photographs used, the National Geographic My Shot site. (requires Flash). [more inside]
Human Planet the new nature series from the BBC: Thousands of fishermen empty lake in minutes :: Girls Judge Boys in Desert Sex Factor :: 3,000 Arctic Reindeer Face a Mighty River Crossing :: Sea Bed Hunting On One Breath :: Pa-aling divers :: Ken Bradshaw's Big Wave Hold Down :: Paddle Surfer Rides Monster Wave
The Royal Society's lost women scientists. Women published in the Royal Society, 1890-1930. Most influential British women in the history of science. Women at the Royal Observatory Greenwich. Heroines of Science. Women Biochemists, 1906-1939. Women in Science. Previously: The Women of ENIAC.
Katja's Aurora Page. Katja Gottschewski, German expat somewhere in Norway, posts an immense amount of awesome aurora pictures on her blog-homepage. [more inside]
SEED Magazine: Wealth of Nations: "Shared natural resources underpin the global economy, but our current economic system does not acknowledge their worth. Can a major new effort to assess the costs of biodiversity loss force a paradigm shift in what we value?" [more inside]
The Rufous Hummingbird measures only 4-inches, but it can pack a lot of beauty into that small package. Often described as "feisty," it weighs just a little more than a penny. With a migratory range of 1500 km, the Rufous has the longest known avian migration proportional to its size.
"From the deck of a cruise ship along the coast of Brazil, a retiree named Bob Hulse snapped some high-resolution photographs of something unusual leaping from the sea: what appears to be dozens of squid propelling themselves through the air -- quite possibly the first time the impressive display has been caught on film."
Amateur Photographer Captures a Grizzly Bear Chasing a Bison Down a Highway in Yellowstone [more inside]
In the search to find this year's European Wildlife Photographer of the Year, the German Society of Wildlife Photographers has compiled a collection of the most spellbinding moments caught on camera in the natural world.
The dhole, the maned wolf, and the Tibetan sand fox are just three of the creatures featured at The Featured Creature, a neat (and not overly serious) wildlife blog. There are even some that aren't canids, I think. [more inside]
An image of leafcutter ants at work in the Costa Rican rainforest has scooped top prize in the 2010 Veolia Environment Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition (via The Guardian). The winners are on display now at London’s Natural History Museum. Online gallery. Previously on MeFi.
My friend, the dead tree. For five years, Kevin Day has been photographing a single dead tree at Langley Country Park in Berkshire. He talks a little about the process at theMET.
Over the course of three years, designer Christien Meindertsma tracked the products that had been made from the remains of a single pig. In doing so, she discovered that the skin, bones, meat, organs, blood, fat, brains, hoofs, hair and tail of a single pig might be used in more than 180 very diverse products, from shampoo, medicine, tattoo ink, munitions, cardiac valves, matches, desserts and bubblegum, beer and lemonade, car paint and brake discs to pills and bread. TED Talk. TED Bio. Vimeo video: Reading through the pages of Pig 05049. Exhibition (in Dutch). Design Observer: Pig 05049. Amazon: Pig 05049 [more inside]
The Squirrel in our Window. A website documenting a squirrel lady raising her squirrel babies. BONUS FEATURE: BRITISH MAN IS FRIENDS WITH A SQUIRREL
Spiegel has an interesting article on the ol' Nature Vs. Nuture battle. They focus on 2 recent studies. One, looks at socioeconmic status and IQ, and concludes: "A person's intelligence can only truly blossom if the environment gives the brain what it desires." That is, IQ of the poorest in the study appeared to be almost exclusively determined by their socioeconomic status. In the meantime psychologists, neuroscientists, and geneticists have developed a very different perspective. They now believe that the skill we term "intelligence" is not in the least fixed, but is actually remarkably variable. "The low IQs expected for children born to lower-class parents can be greatly increased if their environment is sufficiently rich cognitively,"
Nathalie Miebach translates scientific data related to meteorology and ecology into woven sculptures and musical scores. She discusses her work in an interview with the Peabody Essex Museum. (via Mira y Calla)
The Stone Forest of Madagascar: Huge, spectacular pictures of another world by National Geographic photographer Stephen Alvarez. A non-Flash version of the site is also available.
You know what's great about Hawaii? Its isolation can produce interesting forms of life, such as Eupethecia staurophragma i.e. carnivorous caterpillars! Don't believe it? Watch the video or view the photos (via boingboing).
Aww, are you giant carnivorous centipede lovers feeling neglected? No, problem Mefi has covered that.
Aww, are you giant carnivorous centipede lovers feeling neglected? No, problem Mefi has covered that.
Scientists go off the grid to see what happens to their brains. A group of experienced brain scientists come together and take a rafting and hiking trip in wild Utah. Their experience is enlightening (though perhaps not transformative).
Today's issue of Nature contains a paper with a rather unusual author list. Read past the standard collection of academics, and the final author credited is... the FoldIt multiplayer online gaming community. Even though most of them had no biochemistry experience, the human players of FoldIt turned out to be better at identifying three-dimensional protein structure patterns than the algorithms of Rosetta@Home. (Previously on MeFi)
The Nature Sounds Player allows you to create your own soothing mix using .wav files found at The FreeSound Project. [more inside]
40 Things You Need to Know About the Next 40 Years For it's 40th anniversary issue, Smithsonian magazine asks experts in various fields for insights into our future and compiles a list of 40 predictions about the future of science, nature, the arts and technology. The feature essay is by President Obama, in which he explains why he's optimistic about America's future. (VIA) [more inside]
The International Conservation Photography Awards is the creation of Seattle, Washington-based photographer Art Wolfe: "We wanted to provide a platform from which photographers both amateur and professional alike could showcase their work in a very prestigious way. We love the idea of championing the cause of preservation and nature through the medium of photography." Winning imagery from the 2010 awards can be viewed in person at the Burke Museum in Seattle, or online here, which includes excellent slideshows of wildlife, underwater life and distinguished photographs (requires Flash support).
Mark "Dr. Bugs" Moffett is a Harvard educated entomologist, author and ecologist. He's also one hell of a nature photographer, mainly studying Frogs and Ants (slideshow with audio). Galleries from Frank Pictures, The Smithsonian, and a slideshow and recent interview from NPR's Fresh Air.
Vanessa Mae Nicholson is one of Britain’s most successful young musicians. A classical violinist and former child prodigy who self-describes her crossover style as "violin techno-acoustic fusion," her fans praise her modern creativity and frenetic, lightning-fast riffs. But is her talent learned or genetic? Documentary from BBC1 in 2008: Vanessa Mae - The Making of Me: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. [more inside]
Libraries and commercial publishers have struggled with each other over the skyrocketing costs of academic journals for years. As costs have increased more rapidly than library budgets, the libraries have had to cut journal subscriptions and other acquisitions. The recent recession has necessitated further cuts. Against this backdrop, Nature Publishing Group told the University of California that next year subscription prices would increase 400 percent, with the average annual cost of a journal increasing to $17,479. UC Libraries fought back with a combative letter to UC faculty suggesting that faculty should consider boycotting the journals, and cease submitting or reviewing articles for these journals. NPG responds, saying that UC currently pays unfairly low rates, and that "individual scientists, both within and outside of California are already suffering as a result of [UC]'s unwarranted actions."
Our amazing planet. I could study this all day.
Amazing photos of unusual cloud formations, as seen from space—along with some of the science behind them. Click on the images for full-size, wallpaperable versions.