Evolution & Climate Change


(Originally posted 3/9/17 on Read With The Gringa)

Climate change, now, more than ever, is quite a hot topic, pardon the pun, if you will. Some people think we shouldn’t be so grave and serious about the contributions mankind’s industrialization makes to the Earth’s carbon budget. Climate change naysayers say concerned scientists are simply trying to rally support to fund their research with fear-mongering tactics. They claim that well-meaning citizens are responding with emotions rather than really examining the facts. They claim that the Earth goes through climate change cycles on a regular basis. They say this is just the normal way of nature. They also claim that pollution is really not that big of a deal because the Earth, like any living organism, is capable of adaptation as a survival instinct. This would mean that the Earth would simply “clean herself up”. 


Is such a perspective true? To find out let’s take a look at one of the all-time worst environmental disasters, the Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster. It’s been 30 years since a Ukrainian nuclear plant melted down and contaminated a 1,000 square mile area in Eastern Europe with high levels of deadly radiation. Medical experts and scientists expect it will be close to 20,000 years before humans can safely inhabit the area. Journalists and researchers can only visit for very brief periods or else risk exposure to a lethal dose of radiation. Yet, still, hundreds of people, mostly old folks who are unable or unwilling to relocate, survive in nearby villages, although there are very high rates of deadly forms of cancer. 


But what about the local flora and fauna? How well has the Earth done at surviving and cleaning itself up? How is nature faring in that neck of the polluted woods? Is it a wasteland of scorched earth and fried animal remains? Are there glowing rabbits and three-headed wolverines? Have talking plants begun to grow?


Well, within the most immediate radius of the nuclear plant’s site, about 10-15 miles out, it is considered by scientists to be a “clean zone”. No, that doesn’t mean it’s clean of pollution or ill effects. It means clean of practically all life as we know it. But go a bit further and you find a radioactive region teeming with wildlife who is enjoying life unmolested in an area uninhabited by man. 


You may have always wondered if the joke about cockroaches being the only thing to survive a nuclear holocaust is true. It is. In fact, insects seem to have superpowers when it comes to radioactive disasters. And because the bugs survive and thrive, the birds do as well! And so on, and so on down the wildlife food chain. Mankind may one day disappear, leaving behind the bugs and birds and mammals to rule the world.


However, judging from the spider-webs, it seems that bugs may suffer cognitively. Webs of affected spiders show erratic patterns that deviate significantly from their uncontaminated counterparts. So, a post-climate change world bereft of man, may be overrun by insane insects, mutant birds and an abundance of fat mammals.


Wolves have always been synonymous with Eastern Europe. That is probably why they were selected to be studied by biologists to see what their radioactive survival story is. What has been discovered is that wolves are thriving. That can only mean there are plenty of other large and medium sized mammals for them to prey upon. Wild Przewalski’s horses are recovering even though they are considered a rare and endangered species. Beavers are happily gnawing away at the wild forest growth. Bears forage happily and wolves are always looking on for an opportunity at a good meal.


Researchers are recording things like high rates of cataracts, higher occurrences of albinism, and curious physical mutations. However, despite these ill effects, the overall report from scientists and researchers is that, considering the devastation of a nuclear disaster, the wildlife actually seems to be rebounding and doing well. So well, in fact, that around Chernobyl a greater concentration of wolves can be found as compared to Yellowstone National Park!


What does that mean? Should we stop fussing about climate change? The gringa supposes we could if we don’t mind the humans of tomorrow looking very different than the humans of today. Here are some of the theorized adaptations that might happen to humans who evolve in order to survive the rising temperatures of climate change and effects of more solar radiation trapped within our atmosphere:

  • We get shorter and skinnier. Decreasing mass while maximizing surface area makes us more efficient at venting heat.
  • Our eyes grow larger because we become nocturnal, active during the cooler period when the sun is down.
  • Babies have lower birth weight because we engage in less exercise thus require fewer calories.

If the world is over-radiated, humans will need to avoid contamination. They have to avoid more than just exposure to invisible radiation in the air. Radiation is also passed through the food chain. That means more than just avoiding eating vegetables that have grown in over-radiated soil. It also means not eating any meat from an animal that may have fed upon animals or plants that were contaminated somewhere along their own natural food chain. This limitation on the human diet would contract our dietary options which would also result in a “skinnification” of mankind.

Funny thing is the gringa is already pretty skinny and does have rather large eyes. Maybe it’s already happening and the gringa is well on her way to transforming into a new human species! Our generation could be what scientists call, thousands of years from now, the “missing link” or a “bridge species” between the humans of yesterday and the humans of tomorrow!


Sources & Video Credit: 


National Geographic


New York Times


The Atlantic


Mental Floss

Documentary/Documentaries HD


Image Credit: NBC News

Does Bacteria Fart?


(Originally posted 2/28/16 on Read With The Gringa)

Lately the gringa has been captivated by a variety of aromas. Her dear little puppy, Abby-pup, has her own unique fragrances that identify her dog breath, dirty dogginess, wet dogginess and upset tummy gas. Every morning, while the gringa drinks her coffee, her middle-aged armpit sweat glands produce copious amounts of pungent odor. When the caveman arrives home from work he smells like caliche dust after a long day of delivering gravel. The gringa finds this smell kind of sexy, actually. However, there is one caveman smell that the gringa finds terribly offensive. Caveman farts are the things gringa nightmares are made of.

What the heck is a fart? Well, it’s gas. Actually, it’s a combination of gases: nitrogen, hydrogen, hydrogen sulfide, ammonia, carbon dioxide and methane. The oxygen is usually in the air we take in as we swallow food and even snore, which the caveman does on earsplitting levels. The other gases are by-products created by the food as it breaks down in the large intestine. And, eventually, they simply have to escape lest we all blow up like a helium balloon.

You may not realize it but the average person is simply filled with loads of gas. We pass gas about 10-20 times daily, depending on what you eat. In fact, if you could bottle up all of your daily farts, they would probably fill up a quart jar. Now, bits of undigested food don’t just magically change into gas. The gas is actually the creation of bacteria. Inside the large intestine more than 500 varieties of bacteria reside, happily gnawing away at all the undigested bits and bobs that make their way to that netherworld.

But is it the type of bacteria or the type of food that produces the smell? Well, it’s both. The smelliest gas released in a fart is hydrogen sulfide. Beef, poultry, eggs, broccoli, and other foods high in sulfur compounds are the ingredients for really rotten smelling farts. That means that even a vegetarian’s fart smells bad.

Now, bacteria don’t have intestines to actually fart. Basically, they just smell themselves. They simply emanate the appropriate odor for what they’ve been eating. So, in essence, a fart is an explosion of bacterial aromas. Seeing as how there are trillions upon trillions of bacteria throughout your digestive system, it is understandable, then, how such a concentration of smelly creatures can really pack a punch by the time a fart makes it to the outside world.

But don’t be sad or embarrassed that you are farting bacteria produced gas. It helps keep you healthy. Those smelly bacteria are your friend.

Sources: Love Your Gut

Kid’s Health

Unity Point

Image Credit: Style Vitae

Video Credit: TED-Ed

Drones, UFOs, and Saving The Planet… They Are ALL Connected


UFO enthusiasts got a thrill recently when news agencies all over the United States were sounding the alarm of a strange light seen hovering, then moving about, near the famous St. Louis Arch. The YouTube video posted below, sourced from streetview citycams, begins by speeding up the video 1000 times so as not to bore the viewer with several minutes of nothingness. Throughout the hi-speed progression lightning can be observed. As viewers watch, they can see the light dim and sometimes disappear because of cloud cover. The video records a strange light approach the Arch from the left side of the screen and do some interesting acrobatics. The gringa has provided a play by play script to refer to as the dear reader views the video.

Video begins 2:19:49 streetcam time (SCT)/0:00 YouTube Time (YTT).

2:25:13 SCT/0:15 YTT First arrow indicates the appearance of the light in the top middle portion of the screen with light becoming visible at 2:25:19 SCT/0:17 YTT and approaches the Arch.

2:26:20 SCT/0:39 YTT Light appears to hover over the Arch, “wink out” a couple of times only to reappear in relatively the same place, indicating it was hovering the entire time.

2:26:41 SCT/0:46 YTT Light winks out.

2:28:06 SCT/0:52 YTT Light reappears as indicated by arrow and seems to be in same position above the Arch which would make it seem that it was hovering the entire time it was not visible.

2:28:54 SCT/0:56 YTT Light appears to be hovering above the Arch.

2:29:36 SCT/1:00 YTT Light winks out.

2:30:01 SCT/1:02 YTT Arrow directs attention to higher point above the Arch, indicating that the light has climbed higher. However, it is not visible.

2:31:00 SCT/1:08 YTT Another arrow indicates the light to be in the upper left corner of the screen but the gringa does not see it appear.

2:31:18 SCT/1:14 YTT The gringa begins to click through each second at the rate of 2 clicks per second so I get to see half of a second in each frame. I see a flash of the light at a higher point above the arch as I begin my second click of 1:15 YTT, going into my first click of 1:16 YTT. There is no arrow used in the video here to direct you to the flash of light. If you are not prepared you will miss it.

2:32:08 SCT/1:22 YTT Arrow again indicates that the light is seemingly flashing in the top left corner of the screen. Then there is a clear winking on and off of a light in the far left top corner of the screen as the light begins a rapid descent, disappearing behind cloud cover, but can clearly be seen descending.

2:32:25 SCT/1:28 YTT The arrow draws the viewer’s attention to the light whose rapid descent has been abruptly arrested and it once again begins to hover.

2:32:39 SCT/1:33 YTT Light brightly blinks out after a short rapid descent. If you begin once again to click through frames, 2 clicks per second/frame, the light can be seen faintly descending, angling off to the left, then hooking sharply right and descending quickly and can be viewed practically all the way to its landing on the ground in the lower left portion of the screen, its final landing at about 2:32:47 SCT/1:36 YTT.

Summary of the mystery light’s activity:

  • About 45 seconds of hovering above the Arch.
  • For about 1 minute the light continues to climb and hover above the Arch.
  • Within about 50 seconds the light manages to travel the distance in the view screen from seeming to hover above the Arch to the upper left corner of the view screen.
  • Within 30 seconds light makes a rapid descent that includes a brief hover before two radical left/right maneuvers, like a zig-zag, and appears to land on the ground.

So what was it? The gringa believes it was a drone, not an extra-terrestrial vehicle. It is pretty obvious by the final descent and apparent landing on the ground that it is a very small vehicle and very much Earthling technology. The gringa doesn’t know all the details on speed and distance relative to the camera and the Arch, but that doesn’t change my mind that it is a drone. And the gringa warns her dear readers to be on the lookout for many more videos and hoaxes to come with drone technology becoming more and more affordable for technology enthusiasts.

Other than making interesting UFO hoax videos, what are some actual practical uses for drones? Well, for one thing, drones may very well help save the world, and the gringa’s not talking about how military personnel are already putting them to use in battle. Using them to target and kill fellow human beings is not the gringa’s idea of saving the world.

Using them as a research tool to monitor dolphin and whale populations is more what the gringa considers saving the world. And that is just what marine biologists are doing in Hawai’i. Ocean Alliance is taking advantage of how drones can monitor wildlife without intrusion by humans. With drones capable of being equipped with high resolution cameras, researchers can get close up views and real time video of what dolphin pods and whale families are doing. Even if weather is bad and ocean conditions rough, the drones can still go out and do their job when a human outing would otherwise get postponed.

Drone technology has allowed researchers to compile a more accurate catalog of whale groups and monitor their health conditions with more detailed analysis. Results from boat-based surveys simply do not compare and marine biologists are excited to go even further with drones.

Now, while some people may be excited at the thought of drones delivering pizza or their mail order of retail goods, the gringa is more excited about drone delivery of medicine to hard to reach vulnerable people around the world.

With successful deliveries to earthquake ravaged Haiti in 2012, Doctors Without Borders were inspired to test drone delivery of  a group of dummy TB test samples in remote villages in Papua New Guinea. The Mayo Clinic recently announced that drone medical delivery is poised to take off and revolutionize healthcare for people around the world where access has continued to be a problem.

So what might be the niche technology career of the future for our youth interested in STEM? Development of drone technology and drone piloting. So, don’t get left behind! Get on board to save the world with a joy-stick, a laptop and a map! That’s all you need today to be a superhero!

Sources:

www.whale.org

www.yahoo.com

www.mayoclinic.org

Image Credit: 1.bp.blogspot.com

A Eureka Moment


The gringa thinks one of the coolest places to be would be sitting next to a scientist when a new discovery is made. Despite cartoons and caricatures that use the word, “Eureka!” the gringa thinks it’s more likely that a scientist would exclaim, “What the heck is that?!” And that seems to be exactly the case with some marine biologists who were observing the mysterious depths of the Pacific Ocean.

Using a robotic camera to explore the sea surrounding the Channel Islands off California’s coastline an unusual purple orb came into view and one scientist proclaimed, “I’m stumped!” Watch below and experience what it’s like to be a scientist who has no idea what it is that you have just discovered:

After successfully retrieving the mystery blob with a robotic arm using a remote suction device, the researchers brought the blob on board their vessel for further research. However, they are still at a loss as to what it is. Here are a couple of ideas of what it could possibly be:

Giant Japanese Spider Crab Egg Sac

Giant Japanese spider crabs have eight extremely long legs that can span 10-12 feet from the tip of one leg to the tip of the opposing one. Although its legs are enormous, its body is barely over one foot in diameter. Its scientific name, Macrocheira kampfaeri, uses the Greek “makros” (big/long) and “cheir” (hands/arms). Seems completely appropriate. In Japanese, if the gringa saw one of these, she would scream, “AAARGH! TAKA-ASHI-GANI!!!!”. No, that’ not Japanese for “scariest sea monster ever”. It means “tall legs crab”. With all that body armor a giant Japanese spider crab can weigh almost 45 pounds. For seafood lovers, don’t get excited. There’s really not much there to make a meal off of, most of the weight being the exoskeleton.

To see one up close you can visit a few aquariums that house their own crabby celebrities:

As these crabs grow and mature they regularly shed their exoskeletons just like how a snake sheds its skin. The wriggle around until the shell splits then back out of it. Watch the video below to see a giant Japanese spider crab go through the molting process:

As my dear readers can see in the above video giant Japanese spider crabs like to eat smaller crabs as well as shrimp, dead fish and even plants and algae. They’ll eat just about anything. They can live about 50-100 years. During that time they can also have lots of giant Japanese spider crab babies.

When these crabs get frisky they go very deep, probably as a means to provide a safer place for their eggs. Now, since crab experts know that the mom carries her eggs around until they hatch, the gringa suspects the scientists that saw the purple blob and thought it could possibly be a spider crab egg sac were just so excited that they spoke before they thought. Especially since there were spider crabs skittering around all over the place and one seeming to be a bit protective when the camera got a bit too close.

Pleurobranch

So, ruling out the giant Japanese spider crab egg sac as a possibility, the scientists also wonder if it might be a member of the pleurobranch family, or, to put it simply, a sea slug or sea cucumber. Sea slugs come in all shapes, sizes, colors and crazy imitations of surrounding oceanic critters and “stuff”. Take a look at the images below:

sea_slug6

So, considering how crazy the above sea slugs look, it’s quite possible the purple blob is a cousin.

So, for now, the purple blob remains a mystery and most definitely not a spider crab egg sac but maybe a sea slug (or an extra terrestrial for all you science fiction fans!).

Source:

ipfactly.com

Image Sources:

canadajournal.net

a-z-animals.com

Jens Petersen, Dino Sassi, Marcel Fayon, Mehrdad