Friday, September 20, 2013

'Cascade of events' caused sudden explosion of animal life

'Cascade of events' caused sudden explosion of animal life:

The explosion of animal life on Earth around 520 million years ago was the result of a combination of interlinked factors rather than a single underlying cause, according to a new study.

Monday, August 19, 2013

100 great photos from 2012 « Why Evolution Is True

Courtesy from: 100 great photos from 2012 « Why Evolution Is True:


The waterfall island at Igazu Falls:




Thursday, August 15, 2013

BBC News - Olinguito: 'Overlooked' mammal carnivore is major discovery

Straight from BBC news report: 
It has been named olinguito and is the first new species of carnivore to be identified in the Western hemisphere in 35 years.

It has taken more than a decade to identify the mammal, a discovery that scientists say is incredibly rare in the 21st Century. 

The olinguito (Bassaricyon neblina)

  • Smallest member of the animal family that includes racoons
  • Measures 14 inches in length (35cm), has a tail of 13-17 inches and weighs 2lb (900g)
  • Males and females of the Bassaricyon neblina species are similar in size
  • Eats fruit mainly, but also consumes insects and nectar
  • Solitary and nocturnal animals that spend their time in trees
  • Female olinguitos raise a single baby at a time
  • Found only in cloud forests of northern Andes in Ecuador and Colombia, at high elevations
Source: Smithsonian Institution.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Why the Rich Don't Give to Charity - Ken Stern - The Atlantic

When Mort Zuckerman, the New York City real-estate and media mogul, lavished $200 million on Columbia University in December to endow the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, he did so with fanfare suitable to the occasion: the press conference was attended by two Nobel laureates, the president of the university, the mayor, and journalists from some of New York’s major media outlets. Many of the 12 other individual charitable gifts that topped $100 million in the U.S. last year were showered with similar attention: $150 million from Carl Icahn to the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, $125 million from Phil Knight to the Oregon Health & Science University, and $300 million from Paul Allen to the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, among them. If you scanned the press releases, or drove past the many university buildings, symphony halls, institutes, and stadiums named for their benefactors, or for that matter read the histories of grand giving by the Rockefellers, Carnegies, Stanfords, and Dukes, you would be forgiven for thinking that the story of charity in this country is a story of epic generosity on the part of the American rich.
It is not. One of the most surprising, and perhaps confounding, facts of charity in America is that the people who can least afford to give are the ones who donate the greatest percentage of their income. In 2011, the wealthiest Americans—those with earnings in the top 20 percent—contributed on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity. By comparison, Americans at the base of the income pyramid—those in the bottom 20 percent—donated 3.2 percent of their income. The relative generosity of lower-income Americans is accentuated by the fact that, unlike middle-class and wealthy donors, most of them cannot take advantage of the charitable tax deduction, because they do not itemize deductions on their income-tax returns.
But why? Lower-income Americans are presumably no more intrinsically generous (or “prosocial,” as the sociologists say) than anyone else. However, some experts have speculated that the wealthy may be less generous—that the personal drive to accumulate wealth may be inconsistent with the idea of communal support. Last year, Paul Piff, a psychologist at UC Berkeley, published research that correlated wealth with an increase in unethical behavior: “While having money doesn’t necessarily make anybody anything,” Piff later told New Yorkmagazine, “the rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests above the interests of other people.” They are, he continued, “more likely to exhibit characteristics that we would stereotypically associate with, say, assholes.” Colorful statements aside, Piff’s research on the giving habits of different social classes—while not directly refuting the asshole theory—suggests that other, more complex factors are at work. In a series of controlled experiments, lower-income people and people who identified themselves as being on a relatively low social rung were consistently more generous with limited goods than upper-class participants were. Notably, though, when both groups were exposed to a sympathy-eliciting video on child poverty, the compassion of the wealthier group began to rise, and the groups’ willingness to help others became almost identical.Read More

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Monday, February 4, 2013

Grand tour of Iguasu Falls, Argentina-Brazil | 360 Degree Aerial Panorama | 3D Virtual Tours Around the World | Photos of the Most Interesting Places on the Earth |

Grand tour of Iguasu Falls, Argentina-Brazil | 360 Degree Aerial Panorama | 3D Virtual Tours Around the World | Photos of the Most Interesting Places on the Earth |

The Iguazu National Parks located on both sides of the waterfall were designated UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1984 - 1986. In 2011, Iguazu Falls was announced as one of the winners of the "New Seven Wonders of Nature". 
Iguazu Falls in South America crowns the final stretch of the river bearing the same name. Fifteen kilometers downstream from the waterfalls, the Iguazu River (also known as Iguassu or Iguaçu) empties into another waterway of the continent - the Paraná River. Both create a sort of T-shaped crossroads where the three Latin American states come together: Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. Huge frontier markers on the three riverbanks are painted in the national colors of the respective nations. 
Photography by Stanislav Sedov and Dmitriy Moiseenko

The narration by Stanislav Sedov is given throughout the article. I have just given some to create interest. It is stunning to read as well as to go through a highly visually entertaining 360 degree panoramic video of the waterfalls. At the above site you can see many more wonders of the Earth in panoramic videos. It is amazing! Take a look! 

18 June 2012 (narration by Sadov)
I arrived to Iguazu Falls. It rains practically non-stop. There were few gaps in the clouds today, but no sun.
I have never seen so much water in the waterfall basin, even though I have been traveling for 10 years. It pours at 3 million liters per second, and the norm is 1,5 million liters per second...
The waterfall is unbelievably cool! A true endless flow of water!

Narration by Sedov: At night, while processing images, I noticed a peculiar effect - upside-down rainbows! They looked normal from the ground level, but from a higher angle (from a helicopter) a rainbow arches not up, but down. Amazing!
It is raining again outside, so we are going home tomorrow...

Most of the waterfalls are located on the Argentinean side of Iguazu (2 100 meters long). Being much lower, Brazilian side, however, is considered most spectacular, as one can enjoy a better view of the waterfalls. You have an opportunity to look at the famous landmark of South America from above and see that Iguazu Falls are stunning from every angle. Read More

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Why Parents Need to Let Their Children Fail - Jessica Lahey - The Atlantic

A new study explores what happens to students who aren't allowed to suffer through setbacks.

 writes this interesting article, from which I have just given a few chunks. You can find the entire text here

Thirteen years ago, when I was a relatively new teacher, stumbling around my classroom on wobbly legs, I had to call a students' mother to inform her that I would be initiating disciplinary proceedings against her daughter for plagiarism, and that furthermore, her daughter would receive a zero for the plagiarized paper.

"You can't do that. She didn't do anything wrong," the mother informed me, enraged.

"But she did. I was able to find entire paragraphs lifted off of web sites," I stammered.

"No, I mean she didn't do it. I did. I wrote her paper".

I don't remember what I said in response, but I'm fairly confident I had to take a moment to digest what I had just heard. And what would I do, anyway? Suspend the mother? Keep her in for lunch detention and make her write "I will not write my daughter's papers using articles plagiarized from the Internet" one hundred times on the board? In all fairness, the mother submitted a defense: her daughter had been stressed out, and she did not want her to get sick or overwhelmed.
In the end, my student received a zero and I made sure she re-wrote the paper. Herself. Sure, I didn't have the authority to discipline the student's mother, but I have done so many times in my dreams.
I believed my accumulated compendium of teacher war stories were pretty good -- until I read a study out of Queensland University of Technology, by Judith Locke, et. al., a self-described "examination by parenting professionals of the concept of overparenting."
Overparenting is characterized in the study as parents' "misguided attempt to improve their child's current and future personal and academic success." In an attempt to understand such behaviors, the authors surveyed psychologists, guidance counselors, and teachers. The authors asked these professionals if they had witnessed examples of overparenting, and left space for descriptions of said examples. While the relatively small sample size and questionable method of subjective self-reporting cast a shadow on the study's statistical significance, the examples cited in the report provide enough ammunition for a year of dinner parties.

One participant from a study said this:
I have worked with quite a number of parents who are so overprotective of their children that the children do not learn to take responsibility (and the natural consequences) of their actions. The children may develop a sense of entitlement and the parents then find it difficult to work with the school in a trusting, cooperative and solution focused manner, which would benefit both child and school. 

Look how well she concludes herself on this matter, precise and crisp in putting her views straight to the point:

I have learned to enjoy and find satisfaction in these day-to-day lessons, and in the time I get to spend with children in need of an education. But I fantasize about the day I will be trusted to teach my students how to roll with the punches, find their way through the gauntlet of adolescence, and stand firm in the face of the challenges -- challenges that have the power to transform today's children into resourceful, competent, and confident adults.
Read the entire article  here

Bacteria Are Blowing in the Wind | The Scientist Magazine®

Ten kilometers (more than 6 miles) into the atmosphere, a plethora of microbes is thriving, possibly affecting cloud chemistry and playing a role in atmospheric conditions, according to new research published today (January 28) inProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Previous research on snow and rainwater collected at high elevations had already established that bacteria in the air initiate moisture condensation that leads to precipitation. Some of these microbes secrete special proteins that allow them to initiate ice crystallization, which may affect weather by changing the temperature at which ice crystals form in the sky. But most microbe-rich precipitation was collected from the Earth, and may represent different bacterial communities than those in the atmosphere, which may have different properties for ice nucleation and cloud formation than those found in rain water, explained senior author Konstantinos Konstantinidis, a microbial genomicist at Georgia Tech. Read More
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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.