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Demise of dinosurs some 66 million years ago by a cosmic impact* ought to tell us some sobering facts. Like the stone that was hewn without hands in the Book of Daniel a meteorite wiped out the Giants that walked on the earth. Mammals at that time were precariously trying to get a toehold and on the slow stream of life man was holding on. Now we are the dominat species at least on the basis of wholescale impact we have on everything else. Plastics? Why we invented it and made it on a commercial basis so it made profit for industries that took up production all across the globe. It was so pervasive no household could do without it. It had of course its practical appliciation but the oceans are now chokeful of it so much we are fated to ingest it from marinelife that we catch. The simple organisms like sponge that played a large part in cleaning up the ocean beds are dying and corals are bleached due to the climatic changes. Welcome to the age of anthropocene.

We have been pretty careless with our environment. As homo sapiens man exploits his ‘wisdom’ but for what? He carried beads and baubles, which were trinkets in the Old World but novelty for natives in the New World. What wisdom is in extending scorched earth policy all across the world? Now we are told to expect some pretty fundamental changes when we are no longer the planet’s dominant animal species.

So if we were given the chance to peek forward in time at the Earth some 50m years after our disappearance, what would we find? Which animal or group of animals would “take over” as the dominant species? Would we have a Planet of the Apes, as imagined in popular fiction? Or would the Earth come to be dominated by dolphins, or rats,- or cockroaches or ants?

The question has inspired a lot of popular speculation and many writers have offered lists of candidate species. Before offering any guesses, however, we need to carefully explain what we mean by a dominant species.

Of all the species that were arguably dominant animals at some stage in the history of the Earth, humans are alone in their remarkable intelligence and manual dexterity. It follows that such traits are neither requirements for being dominant among animals, nor particularly likely traits to evolve. Evolution does not favour intelligence for its own sake, but only if it leads to higher survival and reproductive success. We exhausted our opportunities in ideologies capitalism or socialism. Even in matters of belief-system our stupidity is so egregious that we preach what we do not understand. We kill but do not cure stupidity of others by it. Why kill another for an idea? It shall never stay true but change with time.

Even if humans succumb to a global pandemic that affects relatively few other mammals, the great apes are precisely the species that are most at risk of contracting any new diseases that drive us from the Earth.

Consequently when we speak of dominant species this article of intelligence need be qualified as that raises the level every other species. Of nature putting balances and checks so no species may free ride at expense of others we need accept as good.

It is a profound mistake to imagine that our successors are likely to be especially intelligent or social creatures, or that they will be capable of speech, or adept with human technology.

So what can we safely speculate about the dominant species, some 50m years after humanity? (Ack: the Conversation-Jan. 26/luc bussiere-univ.of Stirling)

* The Cretaceous–Paleogene (K–Pg) extinction event, also known as the Cretaceous–Tertiary (K–T) extinction, was a mass extinction of some three-quarters of the plant and animal species on Earth—including all non-avian dinosaurs—that occurred over a geologically short period of time approximately 66 million years( wikipedia)

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For 20 years Anjem Choudary stood on street corners, in shopping precincts, outside mosques, embassies and police stations and used his megaphone to drive a wedge between Muslims and the rest of Britain. Now he has been convicted of inviting others to support the Islamic State militant group.

Being trained as a lawyer he knew how to turn people gullible evough around to his ideas. But in his simplicity of neutrality that he presented at first  lurked the lethal blow from the tail of a crocodile. Many had fallen to his appeal that they were Muslim and that they should represent those ideas that ‘fitted with his handlers (IS)’. Many such were sent to their untimely death. He lived in London fully exploiting the free handout. Such was his belief that as a Muslim it was his right to exploit the ‘godless’ Britain whatever way he can. Once he quipped: “Not that I am not on jobseeker’s allowance. I’m on jihad seeker’s allowance.”

Jihad? I have heard this spoken in one way and in another by the terrorists who in most cases graduated from criminality to far worse things. The Prophet’s  words have been debased by clerics who themselves do not agree with one another. It was the task of ‘criminals’ who without ever sullying their hands in cold blood murder destroyed, in most cases those who never did any harm to them. Anjem Chouhary was one such. Too cowardly to stand up and fight, indifferent to the lives of those who were led to deaths and servile to those rascals who claim themselves as Caliph or Commander of Allah etc.,

Police arrested and later bailed him as they began months of trawling social media for precise evidence that could meet the prosecution test.

And so as his trial approached, he began to look nervous. Not quite broken – but not the Anjem of old,-cool propagandist.

He tried in vain to get the Supreme Court to stop the prosecution. He asked some journalists if they would act as character witnesses.

(His ploy was no different from old Bolsheviks who cajoled and wheedled to achieve their end since ‘end justifies the means’ was their mantra. In what ways  are these religious nuts like Anjem Choudary different from the Reds?. They must be serving some Caliph from Hell.)

Instead, when the guilty verdict came, he said nothing.

Anjem Choudary’s mouth had finally shut.

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Nature holds great many secrets, which we make use of and it can lead us for greater understanding of our place in the scheme of things. Growth rings of trees help us reconstruct climate conditions of a bygone age; marine animals like nautilus are marked similarly and shall we say we are custodians of time?  So much so we can say with the Preacher emphatically: Yes He has set eternity in our hearts! (Eccl.3:11). Our heatbeats are one way of counting it in terms of eternity. Who but a fool shall assume such a service that Nature does is to enable some fill their coffers with silver by exploiting the natural resources, and in the process make the world far less fortunate for future?

In our uniqueness we carry our condemnation that we neglected while we have had time to improve the lot of those who merited our support. Conservation is one way we point our kinship with our Maker.

ii

 

Researchers used radiocarbon dating to determine the ages of 28 of the sharks, and estimated that one female was about 400 years old. The results are published in the journal Science (science.sciencemag.org).

Lead author Julius Nielsen, a marine biologist from the University of Copenhagen, said: “We had our expectations that we were dealing with an unusual animal, but I think everyone doing this research was very surprised to learn the sharks were as old as they were.”

The team found that the sharks grow at just 1cm a year, and reach sexual maturity at about the age of 150. Greenland sharks are huge beasts, that can grow up to 5m in length.

For some fish, scientists are able to examine ear bones called otoliths, which when sectioned, show a pattern of concentric rings that scientists can count as they would the rings in a tree.

Sharks are harder, but some species, such as the Great White, have calcified tissue that grows in layers on their back bones, that can also be used to age the animals.

“But the Greenland shark is a very, very soft shark – it has no hard body parts where growth layers are deposited. So it was believed that the age could not be investigated,” Mr Nielsen told the BBC

However the team found a clever way of working out the age.

“The Greenland shark’s eye lens is composed of a specialised material – and it contains proteins that are metabolically inert,” explained Mr Neilson.

“Which means after the proteins have been synthesised in the body, they are not renewed any more. So we can isolate the tissue that formed when the shark was a pup, and do radiocarbon dating.”

The team looked at 28 sharks, most of which had died after being caught in fishing nets as by-catch.

Using this technique, they established that the largest shark – a 5m-long female – was extremely ancient.

Because radiocarbon dating does not produce exact dates, they believe that she could have been as “young” as 272 or as old as 512. But she was most likely somewhere in the middle, so about 400 years old.

It means she was born between the years of 1501 and 1744, but her most likely date of birth was in the 17th century.

“Even with the lowest part of this uncertainty, 272 years, even if that is the maximum age, it should still be considered the longest-living vertebrate,” said Mr Nielsen.

Trivia:

The former vertebrate record-holder was a bowhead whale estimated to be 211 years old.

But if invertebrates are brought into the longevity competition, a 507-year-old clam called Ming holds the title of most aged animal.( ack: By Rebecca Morelle

Science Correspondent, BBC News/Aug.11, 2016)

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Uncertainty of Our Existence

 

Barclays, the UK bank, is to replace the password system on its phone banking service with personal voice recognition. “Unlike a password,” avers Steven Cooper, Barclays’ head of personal banking, “each person’s voice is as unique as a fingerprint.” Yet the reality is we have no idea whether either fingerprints or voices are unique at all.

If you buy a ticket for the lottery, the chances of winning the big prize are about 14m to 1. You might therefore be justified in regarding that as evidence that you are unlikely to win, and not buy a ticket as a result. Yet after the draw is made and Ms X of Glasgow is announced in the newspapers as the winner, the known unlikelihood of winning is obviously not evidence that she did not win. She did win. Unlikely things do happen.

Notorious case of Sally Clark, an English solicitor, for the alleged murder of her two babies illustrates well the problem. The case against her turned on the evidence of an expert witness, Sir Roy Meadow, who argued that it was highly improbable that two of her babies could have been the victim of natural cot deaths. Sally was exonerated by an appeals court after serving three years in prison, but died four years later. Her family said in a statement that she had never recovered from the miscarriage of justice. Expert opinion of Meadow was proved wrong in relying on the statistical improbability. It is like a meteor when it sets going we may, by assessing the available data and past history predict a doomsday scenario. But suppose along the way the larger mass of Jupiter which is at that precise moment throwing up -Aurora flares up on Jupiter is caused by volcanic moon Io*, and its path veers off one millionth of a hair width? Over the wide expanse between the earth and Jupiter the meteor would have strayed so farther off from the earth. In short statistical probabilities are never 100% correct.

The way forward

What do these insights mean in practical terms? People might well argue that even with our limited sampling of human voices, we have good reason to suspect we are very unlikely to come across two different people who have identical voices, even if we could never discount the possibility. Fine. Let us say that.

Human voice patterns or iris recognition need not be assumed to be unique to be useful tools for protecting private access to our bank accounts. In the same way, fingerprints need not be assumed to be unique to be useful in courts.

 

*Starting in January 2014, a telescope aboard the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s Hisaki satellite focused on Jupiter for two months. At the same time, NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope also focused on Jupiter for an hour each day for two weeks. Both observatories recorded random brightenings of the giant planet’s polar auroras.

These flare-ups occurred on days when the sun’s usual flow of charged particles was relatively weak. So the researchers conclude that they must be the result of the complex interactions between Jupiter and Io, and perhaps the other three Galilean moons of Jupiter — Callisto, Ganymede and Europa. (These four satellites were discovered by Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei in 1610.)

Io, Jupiter’s closest moon, gets “caught in this gravitational tug of war between Jupiter and the two other large moons, Europa and Ganymede,” study co-author Andrew Steffl, from the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, told Space.com. “It gets squished and squashed,” which drives internal heat just like if you bend a paper clip back and forth in your hands.

This process, in turn, drives a series of active volcanoes on Io. And when those volcanoes erupt, they blast large amounts of electrons and electrically charged atoms into space.

Jupiter’s magnetic field catches these charged particles as it sweeps past Io and “forms a donut-shaped region of relatively high-density plasma around Jupiter,” said co-author John Clarke from Boston University. This so-called magnetosphere is so large that it encapsulates all of Jupiter’s 60-plus known moons and extends nearly as far as Saturn.

(ack: The Conversation-Is every human voice and fingerprint really unique?/Aug.11- Hugh McLachlan

Professor of Applied Philosophy, Glasgow Caledonian University

benny

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As a child, the 19th-century the English poet, John Clare, desired to walk to the edge of the horizon to find new worlds beyond. He wanted, he said, to walk all the way out of his knowledge.

But in the last two decades, neuroscience has begun to catch up with the idea of our ancients : a sound mind flourishes in a healthy body. Thales and Juvenal are not something consigned to the shelves for dust to gather but are relevant to us even this day. Their ideas are not gathered from musty halls of an ivory tower but in the midst of a jostling crowd now it could be a Marathon Run. That reminds me the mathematical genius Alan Turing was the Marathon man who could run in 2.4 hours. There is a strong link between exercise and intelligence. While the studies unite in telling us that running will makes us smarter, it is only partly true. The process is more complicated and reveals more about the wonderful complexities of both the human body and its evolution. Although the science might be helping us to understand how the mechanisms work, an important question remains: why does running make us smarter?

Two studies, one published in Cell Metabolism by Finnish researchers in Feb. and June, have expanded our understanding of the mechanisms involved in running and the ways that it enhances memory and cognition. Before these, it was understood that exercise induced a process called neurogenesis (where new brain cells are created) in a part of the brain involved in memory formation and spatial navigation, known as the hippocampus.

While intense exercise will create brain cells, they are basically stem cells waiting to be put to use. Exercise doesn’t create new knowledge; rather, it gives you the mental equivalent of a sharpened pencil and clean sheet of paper. It prepares you for learning, but you have to actively do some learning yourself, too. Integrating exercise into your working or studying day would seem like a sensible option, if this particular benefit is of interest to you.

I think that what these discoveries about running and improving cognitive abilities tell us is that the hunter-gatherers of prehistory had to have the ability to outrun theirs.

We are slow in a sprint compared to that of a cheetah but we can chase down almost any animal on the planet to the point of exhaustion over longer distances. It is due to persistence hunting as persistent as Captain Ahab in Melville classic Moby Dick. Hunting was a risky activity because it required hunters to leave behind the places they knew in the determined pursuit of prey. With no map-making technologies, the navigational skills of the brain had to step up and do all the work. So those people who adapted this brain cell growth response to distance running were more likely to find their way back to their tribe, and consequently, to survive.

The growth of new brain cells in the hippocampus and the enhancement of spatial memory that is brought on by endurance running is basically an evolutionary safety net for when you have outrun your knowledge, when you have run so far that you no longer know where you are and you need to learn, fast. It is a mechanism that makes information uptake easiest when historically you might have been tired, lost, and at your most vulnerable.

I know what I have written with some hardship what with convalescing from a bout of pneumonia and other assorted evils of old age, is sound but I do not intend to practice what I preach. Out running and expanding your limits of knowledge works well to young bucks but not for me.

(ack: the Conversation-28 Feb.,2016/

Author of ‘Footnotes: How Running Makes us Human’)

benny

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Europe  stands for press freedom. Where does Turkey stand: only recently Erdogan government seized Zaman that has the biggest circulation and noted for anti-government stance. Under the high handed treatment the hapless newspaper has become pro-government  overnight!

Corruption charges against Erdogan and his family likewise was dealt with that one might suspect here we have the pre-war Sickman of Europe in relapse. The anodyne of Secularism will not do for him and lately he was accused of colluding with IS and despite the fighting mettle of Kurds saving thousands of Yazidi minorities, the Turkish government was accused of firing on their positions in Syria. I suppose EU in their wisdom know what they are doing. For me this dalliance with Turks reminds me of the expression Between the devil and the deep blue sea.

The cartoon here shows EU negotiating between Syrian migrant crisis and one whose credentials are dubious and promises of little worth.  EU-TurkeyThe EU and Turkey say they have agreed the broad principles of a plan to ease the migration crisis at a summit in Brussels. Turkey wants to be inducted into the EU.

benny

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