Archive for the ‘nature’ Category

The circulation of oceans is very much like the atmosphere, which is freer and faster. There is greater total flow of ocean water towards the equator than towards the poles. The reason for this seems to be the excess of evaporation over precipitation in the doldrum* belt of greatest heat. The resulting rains stir the sea. The wind influences the water below it creating little ripples that are far more efficient than the bigger waves in absorbing energy from the sky. These ripples can be compared to atoms making up in coordination and numbers what power they lack as individuals.

In any mass movements people are like atoms whose ability to reason or give shape or direct is restricted. Instead their brute force is freer.

*Due to intense solar heating near the equator, the warm, moist air is forced up into the atmosphere like a hot air balloon. As the air rises, it cools, causing persistent bands of showers and storms around the Earth’s midsection.


Known to sailors around the world as the doldrums, the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone, (ITCZ, pronounced and sometimes referred to as the “itch”), is a belt around the Earth extending approximately five degrees north and south of the equator. Here, the prevailing trade winds of the northern hemisphere blow to the southwest and collide with the southern hemisphere’s driving northeast trade winds.

Due to intense solar heating near the equator, the warm, moist air is forced up into the atmosphere like a hot air balloon. As the air rises, it cools, causing persistent bands of showers and storms around the Earth’s midsection. The rising air mass finally subsides in what is known as the horse latitudes, where the air moves downward toward Earth’s surface.

Because the air circulates in an upward direction, there is often little surface wind in the ITCZ. That is why sailors well know that the area can becalm sailing ships for weeks. And that’s why they call it the doldrums.(Source: ocean service. noaa.gov)



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Warmer water temperatures can result in coral bleaching. When water is too warm, corals will expel the algae (zooxanthellae) living in their tissues causing the coral to turn completely white. This is called coral bleaching. When a coral bleaches, it is not dead. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but they are under more stress and are subject to mortality.

In 2005, the U.S. lost half of its coral reefs in the Caribbean in one year due to a massive bleaching event. The warm waters centred around the northern Antilles near the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico expanded southward. Comparison of satellite data from the previous 20 years confirmed that thermal stress from the 2005 event was greater than the previous 20 years combined.

Not all bleaching events are due to warm water.

In January 2010, cold water temperatures in the Florida Keys caused a coral bleaching event that resulted in some coral death. Water temperatures dropped 12.06 degrees Fahrenheit lower than the typical temperatures observed at this time of year. Researchers will evaluate if this cold-stress event will make corals more susceptible to disease in the same way that warmer waters impact corals.(Ack: oceanservice.noaa.gov)

The Great Barrier Reef, which stretches for more than 1,400 miles off Australia’s NE coast, has been called the largest living structure on earth.  A survey led by biologist Terry Hughes, the director of the Arc Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies at James Cook University in Queensland Australia, found that two-thirds of the northern sector of the reef has been badly damaged by a massive bleaching event that occurred in 2016.

The catastrophic damage to Australia’s reefs is part of a global phenomenon that is threatening the survival of coral worldwide, Hughes says, and is a clear warning that we need to rein in greenhouse gas emissions. How much of it is as a result of human activities?

All life forms are subject to larger forces that operate and must learn to survive. Would it help by blaming the north, south or the third world countries? Or make a concerted effect to ease stresses by a joint action plan?


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Coral reefs are like islands in a vast ocean looking for their meal to come in. It sure comes from far and wide; and what variety! Each is looking for opportunity. Does it destroy reefs, no. A coral reef is an example of predators and prey coexisting.

Schools of parrotfishes gather there for their procreative act. They send clouds of eggs and sperm simultaneously. Sometimes these fishes eat part of corals themselves; and their presence brings in manta rays that time their arrival to make a meal of their eggs and sperm. Thus indirectly they curb the damage the fishes could inflict on the reef. Tiger sharks also drop in for their feed. Green turtle hatches there while octopuses, mandarin fishes and many other species use it for furthering their own biological programs.

While man does it all for himself what does he call his dust bowl?  “Making my hell great again”. He does not want to learn what advantages coexisting could mean. He is too clever for his own good. If he has religion he wants his idiocy over the dead bodies of others.

A mutualistic relationship is when two organisms of different species “work together,” each benefiting from the relationship. One example is that of the ox-pecker and the rhinoceros or zebra. Ox-peckers land on rhinos or zebras and eat ticks and other parasites that live on their skin. The ox-peckers get food and the beasts get pest control. Also, when there is danger, the ox-peckers fly upward and scream a warning, which helps the symbiont (a name for the other partner in a relationship).



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Small marine animals called polyps create coral reefs. Related to anemones and jellyfish. These can live individually (like many mushroom corals do) or in large colonies that comprise an entire reef structure. The polyp uses calcium and carbonate ions from seawater to build itself a hard, cup-shaped skeleton made of calcium carbonate (limestone). This limestone skeleton protects the soft, delicate body of the polyp. Coral polyps are usually nocturnal, meaning that they stay inside their skeletons.

Their skeletons are white, like human bones. Generally, their brilliant colour comes from the zooxanthellae (tiny algae) living inside their tissues. Humans have skeletons within while polyps like beetles chose to reverse the order.

A polyp has a sac-like body and an opening, or mouth, encircled by stinging tentacles called nematocysts. At night, polyps extend their tentacles to feed.

Most coral polyps have clear bodies. Several million zooxanthellae live and produce pigments in just one square inch of coral. These pigments are visible through the clear body of the polyp and are what gives coral its beautiful color.   Drawing calcium from the sea the polyps produce reef even as our architecture would indicate: there is nothing that we have brought special which isn’t part of nature.
What makes us then differentiate one another? (Ack:coral.org)

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Out In A Flash

“Rain was a story God telling but the man in umbrella kept interrupting.

The Lake did not take to traveling but the Hydro-electric Company made it to work

I love River Seine but it is n’t saying much.

A river comes with two banks. You can take either if you are clue less. River has been asking the age old question: Is the sea coming to me or am I returning a favor?”

By one who isn’t particular about doing anything today

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Scientists tell us that the way things work at quantum level are unlike what we experience in our visible world. In macroscopic world “classical” physics of Newton et al rules the roost.

Fundamental particles of the quantum realm behave in seemingly impossible ways: they can exist in two places at once, or disappear and reappear somewhere else instantly. It is so weird that ‘spooky science’ fits the label under which they operate.

Quantum processes may occur not quite so far from our ordinary world as we once thought. Quite the opposite: they might be at work behind some very familiar processes, from the photosynthesis that powers plants – and ultimately feeds us all – to the familiar sight of birds on their seasonal migrations. Quantum physics might even play a role in our sense of smell.

A well-trained human nose can distinguish between thousands of different smells. But how this information is carried in the shape of the smelly molecule is a puzzle. Many molecules that are almost identical in shape, but jigger with one by swapping around an atom or two shall have very different smells. Vanillin smells of vanilla, but eugenol, which is very similar in shape, smells of cloves. Some molecules that are a mirror image of each other – just like your right and left hand – also have different smells. But equally, some very differently shaped molecules can smell almost exactly the same. Luca Turin, a chemist at the BSRC Alexander Fleming institute in Greece observes that there are inconsistencies.

He argues that the molecule’s shape alone isn’t enough to determine its smell. He says that it’s the quantum properties of the chemical bonds in the molecule that provides the crucial information.

According to Turin’s quantum theory of olfaction, when a smelly molecule enters the nose and binds to a receptor, it allows a process called quantum tunnelling to happen in the receptor.

In quantum tunnelling, an electron can pass through a material to jump from point A to point B in a way that seems to bypass the intervening space. For the same reason in photosynthesis of plants how electrons achieve efficiency in photosynthesis owes to the same tunneling. As with the bird’s quantum compass, the crucial factor is resonance. A particular bond in the smelly molecule, Turin says, can resonate with the right energy to help an electron on one side of the receptor molecule leap to the other side. The electron can only make this leap through the so-called quantum tunnel if the bond is vibrating with just the right energy.

When the electron leaps to the other site on the receptor, it could trigger a chain reaction that ends up sending signals to the brain that the receptor has come into contact with that particular molecule. This, Turin says, is an essential part of what gives a molecule its smell, and the process is fundamentally quantum.

The strongest evidence for the theory is Turin’s discovery that two molecules with extremely different shapes can smell the same if they contain bonds with similar energies.

Turin predicted that boranes – relatively rare compounds that are hard to come by – smelled very like sulphur, or rotten eggs. He’d never smelt a borane before, so the prediction was quite a gamble.

He was right. Turin says, “Borane chemistry is vastly different – in fact there’s zero relation – to sulphur chemistry. So the only thing those two have in common is a vibrational frequency. They are the only two things out there in nature that smell of sulphur.”

While that prediction was a great success for the theory, it’s not ultimate proof.


Whether or not nature has evolved to make use of quantum phenomena to help organisms make fuel from light, tell north from south, or distinguish vanilla from clove, the strange properties of the atomic world can still tell us a lot about the finer workings of living cells.

(To be concluded)

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What is in a name?

Faeces, excrement, dung or shit is what it is. It makes our world and there is no point in naming or shaming it but accept it as fundamentally important to life. Scientists have created a museum of poop at the Isle of Wight Zoo in the UK. It allows zoo-goers to get up close and personal with 20 individually encapsulated stools. The poos come from various animals: there are samples from the zoo’s lions, as well as from meerkats, skunks – there’s even human baby poo.

The museum’s curator Nigel George says even a layperson can tell a lot about an animal by examining a sample of its faeces.

Crow poo, for instance, generally contains quite a lot of bones or beetle wing cases in it. “The carnivore poos tend to be a lot smellier than the herbivore ones,” he adds. Cow poo is 80% water and comes out in large, sloppy dollops, whereas kangaroo poo is generally more like little, firm pellets.

One herring gull bird sample had remnants of plastic in it, showing how there is now a human impact on animal poo.

With an average poo containing about 75% water, the team have learnt by trial and error how to encapsulate the turds to “make them less smelly and safe for the public to look at”.

Whale poop makes the world’s nutrients go round.

While most marine animals eat close to the water’s surface and poo in the deeper waters, whales do the opposite. It’s this, Joe Roman says, that makes all the difference.

“When whales come up to the surface, right before their last dive, they do a big dump,” says Roman, a biologist at the University of Vermont, US.

This faecal plume, as it’s known, is rich in nutrients, depositing vast quantities of nitrogen, iron and phosphorus at the water’s surface.

“So they can fertilise the ocean,” says Roman. “[They] bring the nutrients back to the surface.”

The effect is known as the whale pump – and it’s something that Roman has spent the past 10 years studying.

Once the nutrients are at the water’s surface, fish such as salmon can consume them. These fish are then in turn eaten by seabirds who transport the nutrients from the sea to their breeding colonies onshore, where they are subsequently eaten by land animals such as bears. In this sense, Roman says “whales play a part in bringing [the world’s nutrients] from the bottom of the ecosystem to land”.

Until about 60 million years ago, there were no whales. It was around that time that one group of land mammals began dipping their toes into rivers, eventually becoming fully aquatic and colonising the ocean as whales and dolphins. The whales started feeding on fish and crustaceans and so evolved the ability to break down chitin – a component of the hard shell or exoskeleton that surrounds some shellfish.

“Most mammals can’t break this down. It’s meant that the microbial community of whales is completely different from what we realised,” he says.

The makeup of whale faeces depends a lot on the individual whale responsible, and its diet, says Roman. If the whale feeds on krill, its poo tends to be in the form of red or pink logs about the size of a fist. But if they’re feeding on fish, it’s diffuse and a dark green, about the size of a research vessel, he says.

“It’s an immediate injection of nutrients. Both have the same impact but in different ways.”

Let us look at dung beetles. “… (They) are living on the last bit of nutrients that the original eater couldn’t get out of the food,” says Marcus Byrne of Witwatersrand University in Johannesburg, South Africa. “It’s really the knife edge.”

Despite having a brain the size of a grain of rice, dung beetles have some pretty impressive talents, says Byrne, They mould the poo they harvest into spherical balls and then roll it away from the competition.

He says the way they procreate and fight over mates is remarkably developed given their small size. Males advertise their fitness through massive horns on their heads, he says. “They’re tiny animals but they fight for females like they’re antelope, deer or caribou.”

The small males of the species have also evolved to have larger testes than the bigger beetles.

Apart from being sexual stallions and impressive poo-ball rollers, what really sets them apart is their navigation skills. “They look at the sky and use signals to orientate and navigate themselves,” says Byrne. While we humans are map navigators, the beetles can perceive things we can’t see such as polarised light, colour gradient and intensity gradient.

Byrne showed that one species even uses the Milky Way as a celestial compass to orientate itself, allowing the beetles to shift their poo balls by night.

“It’s romantic and impressive. There’s this stupid little animal that’s basically looking at the edge of our galaxy,” he says.

Poo has now come into the field of archaeology as well.

Hannibal is generally considered one of the greatest military commanders in history. He was the leader of the North African Carthaginian army during a war with Rome, which lasted from 218 to 201BC. Where Hannibal crossed the Alps with his army and 15,000 horses (and several war elephants) – has remained an enigma. Some have suggested this crossing from modern-day France into Italy was at a pass called the Col de Traversette, 3000m above sea level. “There was a lot of circumstantial evidence that this was the route but no one has ever come up with something that’s scientific evidence in that it can be tested,” says Chris Allen, an environmental microbiologist at Queen’s University, Belfast, UK.

The mystery has been debated for the past two millennia by historians, statesmen, academics and even by Napoleon. It might soon be solved thanks to a whole heap of ancient horse droppings.

“If you’ve got 15,000 to 20,000 horses in the one place for two days, you know you’re going to have some sort of residue,” says Allen.

Partnering with archaeologists, Allen and his team found a hole the size of a football pitch not far from the Col de Traversette. Using genetic analysis and environmental chemistry, the team managed to unearth a mass deposition of animal faeces.

They took soil samples at 5cm intervals to a depth of 70cm, which took them through soil horizons that would have formed 2,200 years ago during Hannibal’s life.

“This churned up layer shows something very physical and distinct happened about 2,180 years ago,” he says. “It suddenly becomes very physically disturbed.” The disturbed layer was rich in ancient horse dung, which the team could carbon date to about 200BC – very close to 218BC, which is when Hannibal is thought to have crossed the Alps. The soil sample was also really high in Clostridia bacteria, a microbe commonly found in the stools of horses.

“Twelve percent of soil samples had this Clostridia and its bang on the dates that it’s expected. There is a six-fold increase at the correct date,” says Allen, equating the findings to a ‘genetic time capsule’. These observations, along with a number of others, create a “fairly convincing story that 2,200 years ago a very large number of mammals went through this place and they left something behind”.

All things must come to an end. Pass the toilet roll, please.

(Ack: BBC/earth-Katie Silver of July 12, 2016)


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