Map butterfly in winter because of Christmas tree


This video shows a map butterfly – Araschnia levana (summer morph).

Translated from the Butterfly Foundation in the Netherlands:

January 4, 2014

Extremely early map butterfly

On Friday, January 3, Marcel Kok in Heiloo found a map butterfly. This is a very early discovery, because normally map butterflies appear only in the course of April.

It is tempting to ascribe this to the very mild winter but this is different. The butterfly was found indoors and did not emerged in “natural” conditions . Most likely, the pupa was stuck to the Christmas tree which Marcel had in his living room. A few weeks of high temperatures confused the butterfly, making it metamorphose indoors. [Marcel] recorded this on Waarneming.nl accompanied by a photo of the new-born butterfly.

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Internet founder supports Edward Snowden’s Christmas message


This video says about itself:

Tim Berners-Lee: The next Web of open, linked data

13 March 2009

http://www.ted.com 20 years ago, Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web. For his next project, he’s building a web for open, linked data that could do for numbers what the Web did for words, pictures, video: unlock our data and reframe the way we use it together.

From daily News Line in Britain:

Friday, 27 December 2013

Snowden’s Christmas message supported by Internet inventor!

THE founder of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, has backed ex-National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden, saying the world needs whistleblowers and that they should be protected.

Berners-Lee said Snowden and others like him play an essential role in exposing abuses of power, and should not be punished.

The computer scientist also claimed that checks and balances in the US and around the world had failed, and that even with reforms, the system was unlikely to get better.

Following Channel Four’s alternative Christmas message by Snowden, the internet founder stressed that some leaks ‘really help and not hurt humanity.’

He said: ‘When checks and balances break down, all society can rely on are the whistleblowers. We must assume that those systems in the future will break down too.’

He added: ‘And because they have been performing this important function of saving society when it is in its most desperate state, therefore we need, I think, to have a form of international recognition for whistleblowers.

‘I don’t think an automatic Nobel prize is necessarily part of that, but some way of generating an amnesty.’

In his Christmas video message recorded in Moscow, Snowden, who revealed details of electronic surveillance by US and UK spy services, warned of the dangers posed by a loss of privacy.

He said: ‘Hi and Merry Christmas. I’m honoured to have a chance to speak with you and your family this year.

‘Recently we learned that our governments, working in concert, have created a system of worldwide system of mass surveillance watching everything we do.

‘Great Britain’s George Orwell warned us of the danger of this kind of information.

‘The types of collection in the book – microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us – are nothing compared to what we have available today.

‘We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person.

‘A child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all.

‘They’ll never know what it means to have a private moment to themselves an unrecorded, unanalysed thought.

‘And that’s a problem because privacy matters; privacy is what allows us to determine who we are and who we want to be.

‘The conversation occurring today will determine the amount of trust we can place both in the technology that surrounds us and the government that regulates it.

‘Together we can find a better balance, end mass surveillance, and remind the government that if it really wants to know how we feel, asking is always cheaper than spying.

‘For everyone out there listening, thank you and Merry Christmas.’

Northern hawk-owl’s Christmas dinner, video


This video from the Netherlands says about itself:

Northern Hawk-Owl (Surnia ulula, Sperweruil), Zwolle, Christmas 2013

25 Dec 2013

National celebrity bird hunting for mice in the outskirts of the city of Zwolle, late Christmas afternoon 2013. Sounds in the background include shutter bursts from other people (one of them attempting to imitate the sound of a very loud mouse (1:46) when the bird turn his back on him); the bird attracts quite a crowd. Also audible is a ball being kicked around on the training pitch in the background.

Pentax k-3 w/ Sigma 150-500mm. First attempt at filming with the K-3. Everything manual focus; I’m ever so slightly off most of the time, since focusing on LCDs give me hives. I’m quite happy with how the K-3 handled the difficult light (bright backlight, and at the final segment it well-into dusk); sound from the internal mic also seems much better than on a K-5.

Double pearl found in Christmas Eve oyster


This video says about itself:

Video on how pearls are formed naturally

Built from hexagonal aragonite crystals of calcium carbonate, pearls are formed in clams, oysters and mussels, and are found in many parts of the world. They are usually white, sometimes with a creamy or pinkish tinge, but may be tinted with yellow, green, blue, brown, or black. Black pearls are often highly valued because of their rarity.

Translated from Dutch regional TV Omroep Zeeland today:

Woman finds pearl in oyster

YERSEKE – Eating a meal of oysters was a special treat for Hannah in Yerseke on Christmas Eve. Because Hannah found a gem in one of the oysters.

Hannah van den Boomgaard: “When I ate the oysters I felt something hard in my mouth. I thought ait was a small crab, until I put it in my hand, and then it proved to be a real pearl.”

Ms van den Boomgaard had received the oysters from her neighbour who works in the oyster industry. … She wants to put the pearl into a ring. How much the pearl is worth is still unclear.

This Yerserke pearl was not just any pearl, but a double pearl; two pearls joined in a conjoined twins-like way.

Biologists say the chance of finding a pearl inside an oyster is one in 10,000.

Pearl discovery in American jackknife clam: here.

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Edward Snowden’s Christmas message


This video says about itself:

Snowden‘s Christmas message: Privacy first

24 Dec 2013

National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden released an alternative Christmas message on Britain’s Channel 4. It is the network’s annual response to Queen Elizabeth’s royal Christmas message. Snowden focused on why he values privacy so greatly.

Merry Christmas, and happy 2014, for all readers of this blog!

This video from the USA says about itself:

Edward Snowden Declares Mission Accomplished

24 Dec 2013

“Fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden, who had been keeping a low profile in Moscow since being granted asylum there in August, has broken out of his seclusion with a lengthy interview with the Washington Post and a recorded television address to be aired in Britain on Christmas Day.

Snowden used his first significant direct media contacts since arriving in Russia in June to portray his disclosure of secret intelligence gathering programs as a public service alerting Americans and people around the world to the risks those operations pose to individual privacy.

Since he fled his National Security Agency job in Hawaii and began leaking highly classified information, Snowden has been charged in the U.S. with felony espionage and theft of government property. But he is hailed as a hero by those who share his concerns that the massive NSA data sweeps in the name of counterterrorism unjustly intrude on the communications of innocent people.”* Cenk Uygur, Ben Mankiewicz, John Iadarola, and Jimmy Dore break it down on The Young Turks.

*Read more here from Carol J. Williams / LA Times.

This video says about itself:

24 Dec 2013

National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden sat down recently for a 14-hour interview with Barton Gellman of the Washington Post in Moscow. Gellman is the first journalist to speak in person with Snowden since he fled to Russia over the summer. RT’s Ameera David speaks with Gellman about the interview and his thoughts on what Snowden had to say.

Reindeer eyes turn from gold to blue in winter


This video is called Facts You Didn’t Know About Reindeer.

From Popular Science:

The Science Behind Reindeer‘s Color-Changing Eyes

It’s not the magic of Christmas that turns their eyes from gold to blue.

By Lindsey Kratochwill

Posted 12.24.2013 at 10:00 am

Winter in the Arctic is grim—day and night blur together for 24 hour stints without sunlight. Reindeer manage to survive these gloomy weeks thanks to a peculiar adaptation. As the days grow darker, reindeer‘s eyes turn from gold to blue.

A study published earlier this year in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B journal explained the science behind reindeers‘ changing eyes. The color change happens in the tepetum lucid, which is the layer of tissue in the eye that reflects visible light back through the retina. This is the same component of the eye that makes cats’ and dogs’ eyes seem to glow in the dark.

In the summer when days and nights are marked by nearly constant brightness, the eye tissue is tinged gold, which is common for ungulates such as reindeers. But once the darkness of winter hits, reindeer eyes change their hue to blue. The change of color is also associated with a reduction in light reflected, and an increase in captured light. The increased retinal sensitivity comes at a cost, though—the acuity of the reindeers sight is reduced, meaning the sharpness or clearness of what is seen is lower. But, just having the ability to see—no matter how blurry—could help the reindeer spot predators, or lead the way for Santa and his sleigh.

The surprising origins of Santa Claus: here.

Coelacanth, the ‘Christmas fish’


This video says about itself:

Finding the Coelacanth

A team of divers off the coast of South Africa comes face to face with a Coelacanth.

By Penny Haworth in South Africa:

Introducing the elusive ‘Christmas fish’- living fossil

Tuesday 24th December 2013

Few animal discoveries of the 20th century created as much of a stir as the coelacanth – a creature which sheds light on how fish made the transition onto land, says PENNY HAWORTH

Much like the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park, the coelacanth captured the imagination of people across the world.

It has been given all manner of nicknames – “living fossil,” “fossil fish,” “dinofish,” “the fish that time forgot,” “the Christmas fish,” “the £100-reward fish” and “Old Fourlegs.”

Seventy-five years ago, on December 22 1938, Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer, the curator of the East London Museum in Eastern Cape, South Africa, was at the harbour to see if there were any specimens of interest in the trawl nets.

Her friend Hendrik Goosen, skipper of the fishing boat Nerine, had set aside some fish from his catch for her.

Most of them were sharks that she was already familiar with – but a strange shape lying beneath the other fish attracted her attention.

It was an unusual blue colour, but all the more strange was the shape of its fins – they didn’t resemble anything she had seen before.

Wrapping the fish in a sack, Courtenay-Latimer needed to get it back to the museum and from there into storage.

The best way to preserve the fish until an expert could look at it would be to freeze it, but this was not possible – neither the hospital nor a nearby butchery, the only places in East London with fridges large enough to hold it, were prepared to store the large, smelly creature.

Not having sufficient formalin to preserve the specimen intact, Courtenay-Latimer had no choice but to have the organs removed and the animal stuffed.

She made a sketch and, together with a short description, sent it to Professor JLB Smith, a fish specialist at Rhodes University in Grahamstown.

On holiday in Knysna in the Western Cape province, Smith found the letter among his Christmas mail.

He described his reaction when he saw the sketch – “a bomb seemed to burst in my brain.”

Smith immediately recognised the fish in the sketch. But at the same time could hardly believe that this could be true.

However, the strange, fleshy fins were indeed typical of coelacanths, a group of fish that – according to scientific knowledge at the time – had died out millions of years previously.

It was a full two months before Smith finally got to East London to see the specimen.

“The first sight hit like a white hot blast!”

After having seen the stuffed fish for himself, he could confirm that it was indeed a coelacanth.

In naming the fish for science, he called it Latimeria chalumnae to pay tribute to Courtenay-Latimer for pursuing her hunch and to note that the fish had been found off the Chalumna river near East London.

Scientists had been studying coelacanths since 1839, but only through the fossil remains.

The first person to describe a fossil fish was a Swiss naturalist called Louis Agassiz.

He had named a fossil fish found in Durham, northern England, Coelacanthus granulatus.

The genus name “Coelacanthus” comes from two Greek words meaning “hollow” and “spine,” referring to the hollow spines of the vertebrae that connect to the bones which support the tail fin rays. “Granulatus” describes the rough texture of the fish’s spiny scales.

During the century that followed scientists found fossils of many species of coelacanth.

The earliest coelacanth species first appeared about 400 million years ago – the most recent appeared to have lived about 70m years ago and that was where, to all intents and purposes, it seemed that the record ended – coelacanths seemed to have completely disappeared.

Smith wrote an article for the well-known science journal Nature in which he described Latimeria chalumnae.

Popular and scientific interest in the find was fuelled by intense media coverage of the discovery.

For Smith, however, the more he studied the specimen, the more questions cropped up – he knew he needed another specimen to find the answers.

However, it was to take another 14 years before a second coelacanth was found.

In his determination to find more evidence of the existence of coelacanths, Smith posted a reward of £100 in three languages – English, Portuguese and French – for the first two specimens found.

A trader called Captain Eric Hunt distributed leaflets throughout the Comores archipelago in the Indian Ocean on Smith’s behalf.

Fishermen in the Comores had seen coelacanths in their catches from time to time and called it “gombessa,” but the flesh was oily and no good to eat, so they didn’t value it and usually threw the remains back into the ocean.

On December 20 Hunt was notified that a local fisherman had captured a coelacanth in the Comores.

On December 23 1952 Smith received a telegram from Hunt – HAVE FIVE FEET SPECIMEN COELACANTH TREATED FORMALIN HERE KILLED TWENTIETH ADVISE OR SEND PLANE REPLY HUNT DZAOUDZI COMORES.

Smith realised that he had no way to bring the fish to South Africa and made a desperate plea to the then prime minister Dr DF Malan, who agreed that an air force Dakota aeroplane be made available.

Smith later told the story of the rediscovery of the coelacanth in his famous book, Old Fourlegs.

What did the fossil record tell scientists?

Although fossils of Latimeria chalumnae have not been found, the species has not evolved far from the coelacanths that existed millions of years ago. In many ways this makes it a “living fossil” able to shed light on the much earlier stages in the evolutionary record.

Before the discovery of live coelacanths, no-one knew how they swam, whether they lived in groups, how they hunted or, as Smith had theorised, whether they used their lobed fins to “walk” on the seabed?

Scientists needed to see the animals, alive in their natural habitat. No fossil could provide this kind of evidence.

Now, with new technology available, for the first time scientists have been able to study these remarkable creatures close up.

We’ve come a long way since Marjorie Courtenay-Latimer’s first sighting of a strange blue fish.

This article is reproduced with kind permission of Penny Haworth. She is the manager of communications and governance at the South African Institute for Aquatic Biodiversity in Grahamstown.