When whales die: Yesterday, a 20-30 foot whale washed up a shore in New Jersey. Officials are going to deal with it by cutting it up into small parts and burying it. In previous incidents, officials tried to explode it into bits that were meant to fall in the ocean and get eaten by seagulls, but that didn't work out [YT] so well, especially for nearby spectators. Even if you want to let it decompose naturally, you have to be careful for spontaneous explosions due to gassy buildup. Especially when transporting it in busy city streets. Oops. When whales die in the ocean, on the other hand, their bodies eventually fall to the sea floor and can start mini ecosystems, where female pink glowstick-like sea worms that harbor the male pink glowstick sea worms inside their bodies live, eat whale bones, and propagate. (Previously on Metafilter: Taiwan explosion)
"Natural communities and ecosystems possess inalienable and fundamental rights to exist, flourish and naturally evolve..."
Australian scientists have found the world's oldest penis. Published Monday in the online version of Nature, the discovery of the 400 million-year-old clasper in an ancient fish specimen shows that animals were gettin' it on earlier than previously thought. Says one study author, "We were surprised because it's so big. We were expecting something smaller." SFW
Recently, John Michael Greer has been exploring a little known idea of the deceased economist E.F. Schumacher (a student of the oft-discussed Keynes). "Schumacher drew a hard distinction between primary goods and secondary goods. The latter of these includes everything dealt with by conventional economics: the goods and services produced by human labor and exchanged among human beings. The former includes all those things necessary for human life and economic activity that are produced not by human beings, but by nature. Schumacher pointed out that primary goods, as the phrase implies, need to come first in any economic analysis because they supply the preconditions for the production of secondary goods. Renewable resources, he proposed, form the equivalent of income in the primary economy, while nonrenewable resources are the equivalent of capital; to insist that an economic system is sound when it is burning through nonrenewable resources at a rate that will lead to rapid depletion is thus as silly as claiming that a business is breaking even if it’s covering up huge losses by drawing down its bank accounts." [more inside]
Framed by a circle of clouds, this is a stunning illustration of Nature's powerful force. A plume of smoke, ash and steam soars five miles into the sky from an erupting volcano. The extraordinary image was captured by the crew of the International Space Station 220 miles above a remote Russian island in the North Pacific.
"We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creature through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. " - Henry Beston, naturalist and writer. [more inside]
Imagine nature's most elegant ideas organized by design and engineering function, so you can enter "filter salt from water" and see how mangroves, penguins, and shorebirds desalinate without fossil fuels. That's the idea behind AskNature, the online inspiration source for the biomimicry community. The featured pages are a good starting point. Cross-pollinating biology with design. [more inside]
Have you ever wondered what New York was like before it was a city? Find out at The Mannahatta Project, by navigating through the map to discover Manhattan Island and its native wildlife in 1609. [more inside]
Microworld by Licht. More of Paul's macro droplet shots can be seen at his Flickr gallery and others' macro droplet shots in the Refractions in Liquid Drops group pool.
The Dzrtgrls explore mines, ghost towns, rockhounding spots, petroglyphs, geocaching and metal detecting sites, and take lots of great pictures in the process.
Slime Molds Show Surprising Degree of Intelligence - A creature with no brain can learn from and even anticipate events. (via)
Next Nature is the nature caused by human culture. The technological world has become so intricate and uncontrollable that it has become a nature of its own. Scientific research into nanotechnology, genetic manipulation, ambient intelligence, tissue engineering... all of these young research fields radically interfere with our sense of what is ‘natural’. Here's a visual introduction into next nature. [more inside]
Wild Wonders of Europe "wants to show that Europe really is not about just highways and cities. But today, many seem to know more about nature in Africa or in America, than in Europe, because that is what’s on TV. The European natural wonders are still very little known to the World. We want to change that." 58 nature photographers are working on the project, and there are 29 galleries representing 16 countries thus far, with more to come. [via]
What can jump 4 feet straight up, births identical quadruplet pups nearly every time, can curl itself into an armor-plated ball, walk underwater for up to six minutes and can swallow air until it bloats to double its size to float? [more inside]
SpaceTimeTV collects and lets you watch all the best educational videos online from full length documentaries (such as the 50 minute long Is There Life on Mars) to short video clips such as this one on glaciers and global warming. There are hundreds of videos on topics including history, space, technology, and nature.
Recent research has found that living in a city may be bad for your brain. Compared with natural settings, cities over-stimulate us and impair our memory and cognitive functions.
Mushrooms Save the World (long form) -- Paul Stamets on mycelia. Previously: 1 2 3 [bonus: slime molds]
Rethinking Earthrise. On the 40th anniversary of the NASA's Apollo 8 mission [caution: weird JFK animation], which answered Stewart Brand's epochal, LSD-inspired question "Why haven't we seen a photograph of the whole Earth yet?" with an unforgettable image of a seemingly fragile and isolated blue planet, Nature editor Oliver Morton -- author of a new book on photosynthesis called Eating the Sun -- disputes the notion that the Earth is fragile and isolated. "The fragility is an illusion," he writes. "The planet Earth is a remarkably robust thing, and this strength flows from its ancient and intimate connection to the cosmos beyond. To see the photo this way does not undermine its environmental relevance -- but it does recast it."
"...we see on the ground a number of spots of light, scattered irregularly, some large, some small..."
The Nature of Light and Color in the Open Air "Moreover, this book is written for all those who love Nature; for the young people going out into the wide world and gathering together round the camp-fire; for the painter who admires but does not understand the light and colour of the landscape; for those living in the country; for all who delight in travelling; and also for town-dwellers, for whom, even in the noise and clamour of our dark streets, the manifestations of Nature remain." - Marcel Minnaert [more inside]
Ice:A Victorian Romance, is an exhibition of fifty-five rare books and journals, with lovely illustrations. [more inside]
The GDT's* European Wildlife Photographer of the Year; winning image is NSFW. (2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001) *Gesellschaft Deutscher Tierfotografen [more inside]
On Growth and Form (1917) was D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson's pioneering effort to explore the mathematical principles that underlie biological form. He studied the similarity between the shapes of a jellyfish and a drop of ink, a splash and a hydroid, between dragonfly wings and bubble froth, the growth of radiolaria and snowflakes, the spirals of nautilus and mollusk shells and sheep horns. More recently, Adrian Bejan's Constructal Theory aims to explain all biological shape from one thermodynamic principle. This month there is an interview with Bejan for the layman. [more inside]
Silence Like Scouring Sand. "One of America's quietest places, and the valiant effort to keep it that way." (Previously.)
Hunting the Hidden Dimension. You may be familiar with fractals, but in this PBS Nova episode, divided online into 5 parts, fractals go beyond the impossible zoom of the Mandelbrot set. Scientists are using fractals to describe complex natural occurrences, like lava, capillaries, and rain forests. In part 5, scientists measure one tree in the rain forests, and the distribution of small and large branches mirror the distribution of small and large trees. Fractals, it seems, are nature.
Beyond the Reach of God. Thought experiments involving the God-universe and the Nature-universe, the Turing-complete Game of Life, and a lot of insightful back-and-forth in the comment section, to boot. One of the most interesting and thought-provoking essays I've read on the Internet in a very long time, by Eliezer Yudkowsky on his blog, Overcoming Bias (via).
Brutal or Amazing? - this is just one of many fine posts on the Photo Africa Blog, an excellent source of in-the-wild animal and nature photos and reports from bush field guides. Also see: Madikwe Lions.
Violent death in the insect world - grisly yet compelling macro photographs of bug-against-bug carnage.
Graffiti for Butterflies [via mefi projects] Making signposts and rest areas to help monarch butterflies on their journey.
Can you identify these common plants and animals? A study shows that increasingly, 9- to 11-year-old children can't. Quoth David Attenborough: "The wild world is becoming so remote to children that they miss out, and an interest in the natural world doesn't grow as it should. Nobody is going protect the natural world unless they understand it."
Full of contemplative creatures and sleepers, Bruno Torf's Australian sculpture garden began with just fifteen life sized terracotta sculptures. Today there are over one hundred and fifteen pieces on display and Bruno is still making regular additions. Dive on in. Via
"With most animals, males duke it out and the winner gets the girls," says Holekamp. "But with hyenas, females have 100 percent say." They decide when and under what conditions they will tolerate deferential sperm donors. At age 2 or 3 a male leaves his natal clan and wanders off to beg acceptance into another clan. After vicious rejections, he eventually succeeds and reaps his reward: brutal harassment as the clan's nadir, one of the last in line for food and sex. This probation, which biologists call "endurance rivalry," is a test, Holekamp explains: "The guy who can stick it out the longest wins." The trial lasts about two years, after which some females may grant him access. "You do not want to be a male hyena," Holekamp says.-From an article in Smithsonian Magazine, Who's Laughing Now? Professor Holekamp's hyena site. Also, hyena pictures and The Hyena Pages, a fine site about this fascinating animal.
Gary Snyder, sublime and seminal poet of ecological awareness and activism [YouTube link], Zen appreciation of "ordinary mind" and American speech, shamanistic intimacy with the natural world, and surviving member of the Beat Generation (West Coast posse) at age 78, has won the $100,000 Ruth Lilly poetry prize. "Gary Snyder is in essence a contemporary devotional poet, though he is not devoted to any one god or way of being so much as to Being itself," said Poetry magazine editor Christian Wiman. "His poetry is a testament to the sacredness of the natural world and our relation to it, and a prophecy of what we stand to lose if we forget that relation.” Previous recipients of the Lilly prize include Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery, and W.S. Merwin. [Previously mentioned here.]
This is a list of frogs. Look at pictures the frogs. Most importantly, listen (sounds like a fart) to (sounds like a baseball card in your bike tire) the (sounds like a sheep) frogs (classic frog sound). [more inside]
Kennan Ward Nature-Wildlife Photography -- “Being a nature-wildlife photographer is a demanding job … but all the hardship is forgotten when I make eye-to-eye contact with a wild animal, or experience the moment when a window in the clouds opens up, highlighting a landscape … I feel honored to be able to bring the inspiring beauty of nature to others.” [more inside]
Dramatic footage of golden eagles hunting mountain goats. (alerts: rather gruesome; voiceover in Spanish)
Ferocious-looking mystery creature in Tahoe National Forest confirmed to be a California wolverine, thought to be extinct since 1922. A motion-detecting camera snapped a compelling photo behind the beast last month, and the California Department of Fish and Game just confirmed the discovery with a clear profile shot. Notably, both photos appear to show the same animal.
E.J. Peiker, Nature Photgrapher There are a lot of nature photographers out there -- some better than Peiker and some worse -- but what fascinates me about Peiker's site is the number of photos available. A birdwatcher's dream, it features pages of photos of over 500 different species of birds, including an index devoted solely to wild waterfowl. Maybe animals are more your speed? How about nearly 150 pages of photos of wild animals (including my favorite - a quite handsome, flower-eating porcupine.) There's also a section for scenic photography featuring 23 states and 20 countries (or you can search by national park.) The photos are, unfortunately, not that big but there a ton of them, many of them quite pretty.
Over The River Project for the Arkansas River, State of Colorado. The Mastaba of Adu Dhabi Project for the United Arab Emirates [more inside]
While the dream of immortality might be as old as mankind, the jellyfish Turritopsis nutricula (image) seems to be living it:
The hydrozoan Turritopsis nutricula has evolved a remarkable variation on this theme, and in so doing appears to have achieved immortality. The solitary medusa of this species can revert to its polyp stage after becoming sexually mature (Bavestrello et al., 1992; Piraino et al., 1996). In the laboratory, 100% of these medusae regularly undergo this change. Thus, it is possible that organismic death does not occur in this species!An in-depth research paper.
Fuck Planet Earth. The extreme beauty of the popular Planet Earth series comes alive with this comedic bit that simply repeats the F-bomb to great effect. [more inside]
'Race' graphically illustrated - "most Europeans" vs. Ashkenazim (previously; see also IQ & Gladwell, viz. ;) [more inside]
The dangers of living in a zero-sum world economy - naked capitalism reprints (with added commentary) an FT article by Martin Wolf on why it's vital for (civilised) society to sustain a 'positive-sum' world, otherwise: "A zero-sum economy leads, inevitably, to repression at home and plunder abroad." Wolf's solution? "The condition for success is successful investment in human ingenuity." Of course! Some are calling for more socialism, while others would press on to build more megaprojects. For me, at least part of the solution lies in environmental accounting and natural capitalism :P
Form and Pheromone - truly lovely beetle mosaics and insect art. (via recogedor) Previously: Living Jewels.
The Young Gallery has an exceptional collection of photographs by both renowned and recently discovered photographers. The feast of visuals includes elegantly haunting images of African wildlife by Nick Brandt, Night Views of cities by Floriane de Lassée, salad vegetables by Viktor Polson, nudes and portraits by Patrick Demarchelier and images of Tibet, Mongolians and Tibetans by Richard Gere.
An interview with Lebbeus Woods -- designer and illustrator of speculative futuristic landscapes and buildings. Woods just set up his own website, which has an amazing quantity of drawings, photographs, and text focusing on his lesser known projects [for those willing to deal with a frustrating flash interface and sound. It's better in IE than Firefox.] [more inside]