Thursday, July 21, 2011

Quote for the day

Costica Bradatan:
There is a point beyond which philosophy, if it is not to lose face, must turn into something else: performance. It has to pass a test in a foreign land, a territory that's not its own. For the ultimate testing of our philosophy takes place not in the sphere of strictly rational procedures... but elsewhere: in the fierce confrontation with death of the animal that we are. The worthiness of one's philosophy reveals itself, if anywhere, in the live performance of one's encounter with one's own death; that's how we find out whether it is of some substance or it is all futility. Tell me how you deal with your fear of annihilation, and I will tell you about your philosophy.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Adrian Gray, stone balancer

The weird art of stone balancing
The Independent: Adrian Gray is a professional stone balancer. He started placing different shaped rocks precariously on top of each other one day because he wanted 'to make a beautiful family group of stones.' That was more than eight years ago, and he has since constructed all manner of impossible looking sculptures on the Dorset shoreline near his home.

'I realised that stones would balance in a really strange way,' he explained. 'People come up to me and ask if I've stuck the stones down with blue tack or glue. Then I simply lift off the top stone and they look astonished.'

To see examples of Gray's sculptures, go here.
Image source here.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Plants breathing

Global Garden

Earth Observatory: Plants breathe. They take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and turn it into the sugars that become leaves, stems, roots, and woody trunks. What carbon dioxide they don't use, they exhale, releasing the leftover gas with oxygen. And after plants die, they decay, releasing the carbon to the atmosphere. The difference between the amount of carbon plants absorb and what they release is called net primary productivity. It is a direct measurement of how much plant matter -- from crops to forests or ocean phytoplankton -- Earth produces.
Image source here.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Pacific sea life moving east via NW Passage

Pacific species migrating through warmer Northwest Passage

National Post: Set loose by an ice-free Northwest Passage, an invasion force of Pacific sea creatures are moving east to Atlantic waters... Last summer, European scientists were baffled when a grey whale appeared off Israel...

Killer whales have been capitalizing on the melting Arctic... Wary of the ferocious newcomers, bowhead whales, narwhal and beluga have all been spotted staying near shore and swimming in unnaturally tight formations. The Humboldt squid, a creature once seen only off the South American coast, has gradually worked its way north into ice-filled waters off Alaska...

The invasion is already bad news for Newfoundland's ravaged Atlantic cod. While the decimated cod stock may no longer be threatened by fishing nets, they are 'facing a potentially mutating ecosystem.. Arctic char are already facing tough competition for food by schools of east-moving capelin, a small forage fish...

An Arctic shipping traffic ramps up, the migration of sea life will only increase as crustaceans and plankton hitch rides east on Europe-bound freighters. Following the construction of the Suez Canal... the Mediterranean Sea became overcome with invasive species swimming over from the Red Sea... Species used to move freely between the Atlantic and Pacific, but they were isolated by the introduction of polar ice. Pacific and Atlantic counterparts are now poised for their first meeting in several million years.
Image source here.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Warmer water causing migration of species

Scientists say warming waters reshuffling location of marine species

The Canadian Press: Some marine species are migrating to oceans where they were once extinct because of warming temperatures and polar melt, according to scientists who say the shakeup poses risks to entire ecosystems...

Chris Reid, a professor of oceanography at the University of Plymouth in England, said they discovered the presence of a microscopic plankton in the North Atlantic 800,000 years after it had disappeared from that area. It would be the first evidence of a trans-Arctic migration for plankton in modern times and one of the first times in tens of thousands of years that water has flown freely between the two oceans after ice retreated from the Alaska coastline... 'They are a marker of a major transition because the last time we had an opening between the Pacific and the Atlantic was about two to three million years ago,' Reid said. 'This could have big impacts on living marine resources as well as fisheries and aquaculture.'...

He said the species shuffle could shake up the marine food web and transform the biodiversity of the Arctic and North Atlantic ecosystems... Some changes in plankton life have been linked to the collapse of some fish stocks, as well as declines in fish-eating North Sea birds, the researchers report. Changes in tiny animals called copepods are threatening the food supply for fish such as cod, herring and mackerel... Some of the tiny creatures, which are rich in oil, are being replaced by smaller and less nutritious varieties because of warming waters...

Reid said species will extend their ranges if water continues to warm and could flourish, increasing the risk of algal blooms that involve harmful phytoplankton or species like jellyfish overtaking other marine life. 'Most of the impacts are so clearly negative and the scope of change so potentially huge that, taken together, they constitute brightly flashing warning signals,' said Carlo Help, director general of the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research...

Researchers predict that by 2060, as the Mediterranean warms, one-third of its 75 fish species will be threatened and six will be extinct. The findings also raise alarms about chemical cycling in the Atlantic, one of the most crucial oceans in the world for climate change and the absorption of carbon dioxide.
Image source here.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Quote for the day

Reihold Niebuhr:
Nothing that is worth doing can be achieved in our lifetime; therefore, we must be saved by hope... Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone; therefore we must be saved by love. No virtuous act is quite as virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or foe as it is from our standpoint. Therefore, we must be saved by the final form of love, which is forgiveness.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Flying lanterns over Poznań

Citizens of Poznań, Poland, celebrated the Summer Solstice by releasing more than 11,000 paper lanterns into the twilight. They were carried away by the wind. Watch the video here.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Petermann ice island now off Labrador

Ice Island off Labrador

Earth Observatory: Nearly 11 months after calving off of the northwest coast of Greenland, a massive ice island is now caught up in ocean currents off the coast of Labrador. The ice island was formed when a 251-square-kilometre chunk of ice broke off the Petermann Glacier on August 5, 2010. The Canadian Ice Service has since been tracking the ice island, dubbed PII-A, via satellite and radio beacon...

The island has been slowly breaking up and melting... but it could eventually post a hazard to offshore oil platforms and shipping lanes off Newfoundland. Canadian fishermen captured this close-up video of the ice island. Environment Canada dropped a beacon on PII-A, which can be tracked by going here. Satellite images of the area around Newfoundland are available twice daily from the MODIS Rapid Response System.
Image source here.