Overlooking The Little Brown Birds.

A Mallee emuwren: it has the advantage of being objectively adorable. Photograph: Dean Ingwersen/BirdLife Australia.

A Mallee emuwren: it has the advantage of being objectively adorable. Photograph: Dean Ingwersen/BirdLife Australia.

People who get into dinosaur watching are always happy to see all birds, even all the hosts of the little brown ones. The Guardian has an interesting article up about endangered birds, and unfortunately, the little brown birds get overlooked in the race to preserve the more colourful ones.

In January 2016, a keen birdwatcher named Dion Hobcroft walked into the Pegarah state forest on Tasmania’s King Island with a recorded birdcall and took the first blurry photographs of the King Island brown thornbill.

The brown thornbill, Acanthiza pusilla archibaldi, is a subspecies of the Tasmanian thornbill, distinguished from its cousins on the big island by a slightly longer beak.

It is about 10cm long, coloured various shades of brown, and thoroughly unexciting to the untrained eye. Hobcroft’s was only the fourth confirmed sighting since 1974.

According to a forthcoming review of Australia’s avian threatened species programs, the King Island brown thornbill is most likely to be the next bird to be declared extinct.

It shares the podium with the King Island scrubtit, Acanthornis magnus greenianus, which, with a population of fewer than 50 adults spread across three isolated areas of ever-shrinking melaleuca swamp, is No 3 on the list.

The orange-bellied parrot, which stops off on King Island on its precarious annual flight from south-western Tasmania to the Victorian coast, and has a wild adult population of fewer than 20 individuals, is the second.

The difference is, you have probably heard of the orange-bellied parrot. As of Wednesday, it had garnered more than 1,700 votes in the Guardian’s bird of the year poll, and last year a crowdfunding campaign raised $140,000 to fund fieldwork during its breeding season. The thornbill didn’t make the list.

You can see and read more here.

Earthworm Pavilion.

Nature Concert Hall is an interactive, educational multi-media event on nature and sustainable development held each year in a different location in Latvia. Every year is curated with a particular species as its “mascot” and Didzis Jaunzems Architecture was asked to base this year’s pavilion on the earthworm.

The architects responded with a structure designed to tell the story of the earthworm and its underground world. Three openings cut into the pavilion imitate worm-holes, while the sinuous patterning on the dark background reflects the creatures in their subterranean habitat.

[…]

“After the event there are absolutely no marks of the event that happened at the site day before – a completely empty and clean floodplain is left, contrary to the garbage-covered fields that are left after any other traditional festival,” added the architect.

The various elements of science, visual art, music, and dramaturgy included in the festival work holistically to tell the story of the earthworm in nature, ultimately aiming to not only give visitors new knowledge about nature, but to also motivate them to take action for environmental protection.

You can read all about this fascinating project here, and there’s video! Have a wonder filled wander.

Bible Logick.

Bryan Fischer has come up with a novel case for being pro-death penalty: hey, good for the environment!

While making what he claimed was a biblical case for the death penalty on his radio program yesterday, Bryan Fischer said that executing criminals is something that environmentalists should support because that is the only process through which the land can be cleansed of “pollution.”

Citing Numbers 35, Fischer declared that “the land is polluted and defiled by murder; when innocent blood is shed, the land is polluted.”

As per usual with christians, one verse is selected while ignoring the larger context. Numbers 35 is all about building cities, and how murderers can flee to said cities and find refuge, until they are properly judged for their act and the revenger (nearest kin to the murdered person) is allowed to kill them. There’s a whole lot about how only the revenger can be the one to administer capital punishment. Basically, this is a chapter detailing the rules and manners of being bloodthirsty, and where you are allowed to spill blood, and where you aren’t. Miss Manners for killers.

Also, Mr. Fischer doesn’t seem to be overly concerned by the difference between literal and figurative. One particular definition of pollution does not automatically apply to the other definitions. I’d urge you to look at a dictionary, could be right helpful.

“If you’re an environmentalist and you care about the pollution of the land of the United States of America, then you want to see murder stopped and you want to see murder avenged,” Fischer said. “You want to see justice done in the case of murder because Moses says in verse 33, ‘No atonement can be made for the land for the blood that is shed in it except by the blood of the one who shed it.’ So if we want to see our land cleansed from the pollution of the shedding of innocent blood, it’s not just enough to lock people up for the rest of their lives.”

Well, if all it takes to clean up the environment is to condemn all those who have spilled blood, that’s an outright condemnation of every human on the planet, given our constant wars and all; not one society has ever stood up and said “nope, we refuse. no war.” Going by biblical standards, just being unhappy with wars isn’t enough, so we all need to die. Granted, that would do wonders for the environment. Let’s agree that’s not a great solution though, especially as you wouldn’t be able to get everyone on board with that idea.

If you’re going to stick with Numbers, then only the closest kin of those murdered can carry out executions, and those executions must be done in specific cities, at specific times. Good luck with that one, Mr. Fischer. If you want to insist on this spilt blood is the worst pollution ever, and you believe in Jehovah, then your target is clear: kill that fucking god of yours, because as killers go, it would be one of the worst.

I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve recommended Drunk With Blood by Steve Wells, but if you haven’t read it, please do. If you’re a christian, don’t be afraid of it, nothing but bible in it (KJV too), with a bit of clarifying commentary. What it will do is drive home the sheer awfulness of this god, the absolute lack of consistency anywhere in the bible, and the sheer delight this fiendish creation of a god takes in being a bloodthirsty psychopath with all the restraint of sugar-loaded toddler.

Via RWW.

Repeating: 6 Banal Defenses of Columbus Day, And How You Should Respond to the Moron.

Photo courtesy starpulse.com

Photo courtesy starpulse.com

We’re going to go back in time a bit, to an article Simon Moya-Smith wrote in January this year. He’ll help you out with Columbus apologists. Happy Indigenous Peoples Day!

Glaring contradictions. Stupid fucking lies, and good ol’ American bullshit.

Yes, folks today we are talking U.S. history, and there’s nothing more politically correct than American History. It’s RIFE with soft language to spare the feelings of fuckers who desperately want to believe their homesteading great-grand-pappy wasn’t a murdering, raping, thief.

OK. So today let’s hit on the numbskullery surrounding Columbus Day. “Why in January?” you ask. Well because Colorado State House Representative Joseph Salazar, a democrat, is currently working to repeal the foul thing from the state’s list of recognized holidays. And lately he has received an onslaught of hate mail from dipshits who don’t seem to understand the seemingly elusive concept of logic and facts.

Recently, Rep. Salazar has been forwarding me these messages, and they range from fucking hilarious to seriously fucking delusional. They’re more on the seriously fucking delusional side, though.

So, I thought I’d share with you some responses you can use against the common, hackneyed pro-Columbus Day arguments you will surely continue to encounter for as long as you engage the willfully blind. Feel free to share the following with your friends or family, or maybe just that fucker who sits at the end of the bar incessantly defending the bullshit American narrative as written. (Remember: The American narrative HATES to be fact-checked. So fact-check that goddamn thing any time you can.)

Okey dokey, here’s what you can say to those dullards spewing trite claims and arguments about Columbus and Columbus Day, and let us start with the most common and least accurate:

[Read more…]

Repeating: The Lie That Is Columbus Day.

ict_editoon_100716-2

© Marty Two Bulls

Other posts from last year:

The why of the “holiday”.

A Rapist, A Murderer, Deserves No Holiday.

Columbus Didn’t Kill Us All: Taino Daca.

For Indigenous Peoples Day, Write to Columbus.

Moron Bingo!

Medieval Shipwrecks in the Black Sea.

A shipwreck from the medieval period, of a type known from literature but never previously seen, was discovered during an underwater survey of the Black Sea this past summer. UConn researcher Kroum Batchvarov says seeing it for the first time was ‘a truly thrilling moment.’ (Courtesy of Kroum Batchvarov).

While conducting their mapping in late summer using the most advanced underwater survey equipment in the world, Batchvarov and his colleagues discovered a total of 43 shipwrecks. The team had expected to see sunken ships, but were surprised at just what they found.

An Ottoman period shipwreck with well preserved wood carvings. The images, which show the shipwrecks in three dimensions, were produced by a process known as photogrammetry. It combines photographs and videos taken by cameras mounted on remotely operated vehicles with distance measurements produced by sonars. (Courtesy of Kroum Batchvarov).

Batchvarov first spotted the well preserved medieval shipwreck on a screen in the control room of the expedition ship after nearly 48 hours of monitoring images from the high remote survey vehicle moving along the floor of the Black Sea.

“That was a truly thrilling moment. We spent the next six hours looking at the wreck. No one had ever seen anything like it,” he says. “We had known of it. There have been descriptions in Venetian manuscripts that survived from the 15th century describing earlier vessels. But this was the first time that we were seeing it.”

The ship was complete, according to Batchvarov: “The masts were still standing. You could see the spars [wooden poles], the yards on deck. Everything was there.”

[…]

The vessels the Black Sea MAP team discovered date over the course of a millennium, from the 9th to the 19th centuries. Many were merchant ships from the Ottoman Empire between the 15th and 19th centuries, mostly from the 18th century. But the medieval ship – dating from the 13th to the mid-14th century and probably of Mediterranean origin – provides the first view of a ship type known from historical sources but never before seen.

[…]

While analysis of the shipwrecks is ongoing, the team continues with its intended purpose, investigating the area for evidence of how humans reacted to changes in the environment in previous eras.

“We are answering an archaeological question: At what stage did the level of the Black Sea change and what once would have been marshy coastal land become inhabitable and then become inundated?” Batchvarov says, noting that the team’s findings could add to previous studies on catastrophic flooding in the Black Sea region.

You can read and see more here.

Coal Comforts.

A “Coal Comforts” cupcake by Spencer Merolla (courtesy the artist).

Spencer Merolla is doing some great work, this time around, having a pop up bakery which has decidedly non-edible goodies, as they are made from ash. Just a bit here, the article is in-depth, with many links well worth following.

As the banks of Brooklyn’s Gowanus Canal continue to be developed, the legacy of pollution in its waters can be an uncomfortable narrative alongside gentrification. In conjunction with Gowanus Open Studios on October 21 and 22, artist Spencer Merolla is creating a pop-up bakery offering cupcakes, cookies, and other treats, all molded from coal ash. The inedible delicacies served from a mobile cart are meant to encourage conversation about the environment and climate change, especially on a weekend when many non-locals will be roaming the neighborhood.

“Gowanus is kind of a cautionary tale in terms of environmental degradation,” Merolla told Hyperallergic. “I love the work that is being done to clean up the canal and green the watershed, and it’s very exciting to think we can repair some of the damage we’ve inherited and be better stewards of this place in the future. But there is no putting the toothpaste back in the tube, here or anywhere. We have to do a better job of preventing these kinds of catastrophes in the first place. Because they are happening right now, all over.”

…Merolla’s work with molding ash emerged around that time, with a piece called “Ashes in Our Mouth (Baloney Sandwich Series)” that suggested the bad taste many were left with after Trump’s election, as well as his support for the coal industry over cleaner energy.

“I’d wanted to work with ash for some time, given its association with grief, but it was the presidential election of last year that turned me toward coal ash specifically,” she stated. “Trump’s campaign relied so heavily on nostalgia in general and for the coal industry in particular, and it got me thinking about the many ways in which that nostalgia is toxic. It persuades people that because something is old-fashioned and familiar, it’s also benign.”

[…]

It’s worth noting that among the developers of Gowanus is the Jared Kushner-led Kushner Companies. The Gowanus Canal was designated an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Superfund Site in 2010, thanks to its toxic cocktail of arsenic, radioactive material, and other pollutants. Lining the canal’s bottom is “black mayonnaise,” a concoction of coal tar, heavy metals, and other sludge from decades of industrial run-off. With rising tides of climate change, it remains vulnerable to flooding, even now pouring raw sewage into the streets in heavy rains.

During Gowanus Open Studios, Merolla plans to set up the “Coal Comforts” bakery cart outside the Gowanus Souvenir Shop at 567 Union Street. The tagline of the bakery is: “Can’t have your cake and eat it too.” By shaping the coal ash into food-like forms, Merolla references how much of the world’s population consumes poisonous air due to coal pollution, and the impossible balance between continuing the industry as it is and improving human life.

As she said, “The connection between food justice and environmental justice is only going to become clearer in the future — you can’t have one without the other.”

You can see and read much more at Hyperallergic, and you can watch a video by Ms. Merolla at the Kickstarter page for this show.

Perfectly Preserved: 400 Year Old Sac of Fluke Eggs.

Jing Lee, a 17th-century Korean mummy. D. H. Shin, Y.-S. Kim, D. S. Yoo.

Jing Lee was born in 1580, during Korea’s long-lasting Joseon dynasty, and died in 1642, at the age of 63. At some point in his long life, he ate a raw, freshwater crustacean, in one form or another. Most likely, he was indulging in a fresh, seasonal treat—raw crabs with soy sauces—or was trying to rid himself of disease, with a dose of crayfish juice, thought to help treat the measles. (Joseon food culture was not to be trifled with.) However, as it happened, his crustacean meal left a lasting legacy in his body: a sac of liver fluke eggs growing happily in his liver, as Haaretz reports.

Four hundred years later, as part of a parasitology study of pre-modern Korean societies, a team of scientists found that egg sac mummified on Jing Lee’s liver. They report their findings in a new study in the Journal of Parasitology.

You can read all about this fascinating find at Atlas Obscura.

The Intertwining of Trees and Crime.

Screencapture.

There’s been some very interesting research happening in Chicago, and it turns out that trees reduce crime. I don’t find this surprising at all, but I’m a “must be attached to the land” person. When your environment is bleak and desolate, you end up with bleak, desolate, desperate people. We need to be aware of our earth, we need to be connected to our planet. In urban environments, the best way to restore that connection is with trees. Yes, they are a long-term investment, but that’s good, because it means people are thinking the right way, generations ahead of themselves.

In June, the Chicago Regional Tree Initiative and Morton Arboretum released what they say is the most comprehensive tree canopy data set of any region in the U.S., covering 284 municipalities in the Chicago area. Now, that data is helping neighborhoods improve their environments and assist their communities.

“When we go to talk to communities,” says Lydia Scott, director of the CRTI, “We say ‘trees reduce crime.’ And then they go, ‘Explain to me how that could possibly be, because that’s the most bizarre thing I’ve ever heard.’”

In Chicago, where more than 2,000 people have been shot this year, scientists are looking at physical features of neighborhoods for solutions. “We started to look at where we have heavy crime, and whether there was a correlation with tree canopy, and often, there is,” says Scott. “Communities that have higher tree population have lower crime. Areas where trees are prevalent, people tend to be outside, mingling, enjoying their community.”

The map revealed that poorer neighborhoods are often “tree deserts,” areas with little or no tree canopy. Trees reduce flooding, improve property values, prevent heat islands, promote feelings of safety, reduce mortality, and provide other significant social and health benefits. This means that when you live in, for example, the South Side, where trees are scarcer, you lose more than just green leaves overhead.

Never before have researchers been able to look so widely and deeply at this sort of data. The map is huge—it covers seven counties—and extremely detailed. That has allowed Scott and her colleagues to notice some startling patterns. For example, in the North Shore community—an affluent, lakeside, suburban area—canopy cover tends to be 40 percent or higher. On the economically depressed South Side, canopy can be as low as 7 percent.

That last is no surprise, either. As it goes with people, the poorer you are, the less of everything you get, including trees. There’s much more to the article, all the research, how it was conducted, and information about Blacks in Green, who are doing stellar work. Click on over to Atlas Obscura for the full story. Then see if you could help plant a tree. Or just hug one.

Bees Understand The Concept of Zero.

Aiming for a bee plus in maths. DonaldJusa/Getty.

In line with Marcus’s Monday Meslier.

Bees seem to understand the idea of zero – the first invertebrate shown to do so. When the insects were encouraged to fly towards a platform carrying fewer shapes than another one, they apparently recognised “no shapes” as a smaller value than “some shapes”.

Zero is not an easy concept to comprehend, even for us. Young children learn the number zero later than other numbers, and often have trouble identifying whether it is less than or more than 1.

Apart from ourselves, some other animals grasp the concept of zero, though. Chimpanzees and monkeys, for instance, have been able to consider zero as a quantity when taught.

With their tiny brains, bees may seem an unlikely candidate to join the zero club. But they have surprisingly well-developed number skills: a previous study found that they can count to 4.

To see whether honeybees are able to understand zero, Scarlett Howard at RMIT University in Melbourne and her colleagues first trained bees to differentiate between two numbers. They set up two platforms, each with between one and four shapes on it.

On one platform, bees were given a sweet sucrose solution, and on the other a nasty-tasting quinine solution. Previous research has found that bees learn more quickly if they are not merely rewarded for correct choices, but also punished for wrong ones.

The researchers trained the bees to associate a platform that had fewer shapes on it with the sweet reward, until they made the right choice 80 per cent of the time. The bees were put through further tests with differently shaped objects to confirm that they were responding to the number of shapes and not their appearance.

Next, when given a choice between two or three shapes and “zero” shapes, bees picked zero most of the time.

Sam Wong at New Scientist has the full story.

Doug Wheeler: PSAD Synthetic Desert III.

Doug Wheeler, “PSAD Synthetic Desert III” (1971) (detail), ink on paper, 61.1 x 91.4 cm.

Wheeler’s groundbreaking experiments with perception make him one of the best-known artists of the Light and Space movement that originated in Southern California in the 1960s. He grew up in the mountains of Arizona and, following in the footsteps of his parents, earned his pilot’s license.

The inspiration for Synthetic Desert came in the early 1970s, when he landed a plane on a dry lake bed in the Mojave Desert. Once the sounds of the engine were extinguished, an all-encompassing auditory experience began. “I began to hear sounds that came very disembodied,” he said, “so that there was no kind of definitive way to say what that was and how it got to you, because it came in such an unusual way. For me it was really profound, because it was like I’m hearing distance. I’m seeing distance.”

Wheeler created a series of drawings at that time, sketching out his vision for Synthetic Desert, but the Guggenheim installation marks the first time the piece has been realized. Created with support from a curator at the museum, a conservator from the Panza Collection, and sound engineers from Arup, Synthetic Desert is a monument to Wheeler’s ambitious undertakings and exacting standards.

Doug Wheeler, PSAD Synthetic Desert III (1971, realized in 2017), reinforced fiberglass, anechoic absorbers, neon, sound equipment, room: 5.8 x 17.2 x 8.1 m, installation view, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (photo by David Heald; all images © Doug Wheeler).

Visiting Synthetic Desert requires an timed ticket, and only five people are allowed in the installation at once for 10- or 20-minute periods. A guide joins each group and provides strict instructions: no talking, no phones, no bags, no touching the art. After passing through a set of doors into one chamber, visitors then pass through another, ascending a ramp and emerging onto a platform surrounded by rows and rows of foam pyramids bathed in a purplish-gray light.

The traffic of New York City, the din of the museum, the chaotic noise of everyday life — it all evaporates. The enclosed environment absorbs every one of those sounds, making you acutely aware of their absence. Synthetic Desert is a semi-anechoic chamber, meaning it is echo-free. To avoid the feeling of claustrophobia, Wheeler installed a subtle sound element, so the room hums at the frequency of pink noise, which is lower than its white counterpart. Meanwhile, every small noise within the space is magnified, from the rustle of clothing to the gurgle of a belly. Within the quasi sci-fi setting of Synthetic Desert, it is the humans who feel like aliens.

The pyramids, with their rigorous pattern and distinct gradient hues, evoked the feeling of being inside a semi-abstract landscape painting of a mountain range. In an interview with the New York Times, Wheeler spoke of such desert mountains, saying, “When you’re that far out, the mountains are just hazy shapes — they could be 60 miles away or hundreds.”

[…]

Doug Wheeler: PSAD Synthetic Desert III continues at the Guggenheim Museum (1071 Fifth Avenue, Upper East Side) through August 2.

You can see and read much more at Hyperallergic. I think this would be absolutely fascinating to experience, and I wish I could. If you are, or are going to be in the area, consider grabbing a ticket and having one interesting experience!

The Importance of Water.

The temperatures here have been near or over 100 F for months, and there’s been considerably under an inch of rain. It’s like living in a tinderbox. I’ve put a sprinkler on low, and have just been moving it about, day by day. Yesterday, tiny baby Sparrows which can’t yet fly were launching themselves from the trees, landing with thumps, to be able to get a drink of water. There’s no life without water.

© C. Ford.