Sandhill crane with babies, video


This January 2019 video, recorded in Wyoming, USA of a sandhill crane with its babies, says about itself:

Thank you for supporting the Cornell Lab [of Ornithology] in 2018, and for caring about birds all year long. Together, we will continue to achieve so much more!

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How hagfishes defend themselves


This video says about itself:

Attacking Shark Gagged by Slime | National Geographic

January 12, 2012 — For the first time, scientists have recorded the defense abilities of the hagfish, which secretes slime from hundreds of pores across its body when attacked. In this video you can see sharks and other predators gagged by the slime as they try to eat the hagfish.

From the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the USA:

Unraveling threads of bizarre hagfish’s explosive slime

January 15, 2019

Summary: Biologists have modeled the hagfish’s gag-inducing defense mechanism mathematically.

Hundreds of meters deep in the dark of the ocean, a shark glides toward what seems like a meal. It’s kind of ugly, eel-like and not particularly meaty, but still probably food. So the shark strikes.

This is where the interaction of biology and physics gets mysterious — just as the shark finds its dinner interrupted by a cloud of protective slime that appeared out of nowhere around an otherwise placid hagfish.

Jean-Luc Thiffeault, a University of Wisconsin-Madison math professor, and collaborators Randy Ewoldt and Gaurav Chaudhary of the University of Illinois have modeled the hagfish‘s gag-inducing defense mechanism mathematically, publishing their work today in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

The ocean-dwelling hagfish is unique for all the strangest reasons. It has a skull, but no spine or jaw. Its skin hangs loose on its body, attached only along the back. Its teeth and fins are primitive, underdeveloped structures best described with qualifiers — “tooth-like” and “fin-like.”

But it has an amazing trick up that creepy, loose sleeve of skin: In the blink of an eye (or flash of attacking tail and teeth) the hagfish can produce many times its own body’s volume in slime. The goop is so thick and fibrous, predators have little choice but to spit out the hagfish and try to clear their mouths. “The mouth of the shark is immediately chock full of this gel,” Thiffeault says. “In fact, it often kills them, because it clogs their gills.”

The gel is a tangled network of microscopic, seawater-trapping threads unspooled from balls of the stuff ejected from glands along the hagfish’s skin. These “skeins” are just 100 millionths of a meter in diameter (twice the width of a human hair), but so densely coiled that they can contain as much as 15 centimeters of thread. Curious scientists have looked at the unraveling before, putting the skeins in salt water to see how long it took them to come apart.

“The hagfish does it in less than half a second, but it took hours of soaking for the threads to loosen up in experiments,” says Thiffeault, whose research is focused on fluid dynamics and mixing. “Until they stirred the water, and it happened faster. The stirring was the thing.”

The slime modelers set out to see if math could tell them whether the forces of the turbulent water of a bite-and-shake attack were enough to unspool the skeins and make the slime, or if another mechanism — like a chemical reaction providing some pop to the skein — was required.

Ewoldt, a mechanical engineering professor, and his graduate student Chaudhary began unraveling skeins under microscopes, watching the process as loose ends of thread stuck to the tip of a moving syringe and trailing lengths spun out from the ball.

“Our model hinges on an idea of a small piece that’s initially dangling out, and then a piece that’s being pulled away,” says Thiffeault. “Think of it as a roll of tape. To start pulling tape from a new roll, you may have to hunt for the end and pick it loose with your fingernail. But if there’s already a free end, it’s easy to catch it with something and get going.”

Unrolling requires a big enough difference between the drag on the free end and an opposing push on the skein — a ratio larger than a tipping point the researchers refer to informally as the “peeling number” — to free more thread.

“That’s unlikely to happen if the whole thing is moving freely in water,” says Thiffeault. “The main conclusion of our model is we think the mechanism relies on the threads getting caught on something else — other threads, all the surfaces on the inside of a predator’s mouth, pretty much anything — and it’s from there it can really be explosive.”

It doesn’t even have to be a single snag.

“Biology being the way it is, it doesn’t have to be exact. Things get to be messy,” says Thiffeault. “That leading bit of thread can get caught a little bit, then slip, then get caught again. As long as it’s happening to enough skeins, it’s pretty fast that you’re in the slime.”

The skeins may get a boost from mucins, proteins found in mucus that could speed the breakup of packed thread, “but those kinds of things would just help the hydrodynamics,” says Thiffeault, who once calculated the extent to which swimming marine life mix entire oceans with their fins and flippers.

“It’s just hard to imagine there’s another process other than hydrodynamic flow that can lead to these timescales, that burst of slime,” he says. “When the shark bites down, that does create turbulence. That creates faster flows, the sorts of things that provide the seed for these things to happen. Nothing is going to happen as nicely as in our model — which is more of a good start for anyone who wants to take more measurements — but our model shows the physical forces play the biggest role.”

The hydrodynamics of hagfish slime is not just a curiosity. Understanding the formation and behavior of gels is a standing issue in many biological processes and similar industrial and medical applications.”

One of the things we’d love to work on in the future is the network of threads. I love thinking about modeling materials as big random collections of threads,” Thiffeault says. “A simple model of entangled threads may help us see how that network determines the macroscopic properties of a lot of different, interesting materials.”

A grant from the National Science Foundation (CBET-1342408) helped support this research.

This 15 January 2019 video says about itself:

Unraveling hagfish slime

Researchers unravel a tiny ball (called a “skein”) of microscopic thread produced by glands along the side of the eel-like hagfish. In less than half a second, tens of thousands of the threads can tangle, trapping seawater in a slimy gel that chokes attacking predators.

These skeins are just 100 millionths of a meter in diameter (twice the width of a human hair), but so densely coiled that they can contain as much as 15 centimeters of thread.

UW-Madison mathematician Jean-Luc Thiffeault and University of Illinois materials scientists Gaurav Chaudhary and Randy Ewoldt modeled the unraveling of skeins to show that sticking threads pulled by moving water and thrashing fish could indeed produce clouds of slime in less than a second.

Grenfell disaster lethal cladding corporation Arconic sued


This 24 June 2017 video is called Arconic knowingly supplied flammable panels for use in Grenfell Tower London.

By Paul Bond in Britain:

Grenfell Tower: Class action lawsuit in US against flammable cladding manufacturer

16 January 2019

A class action lawsuit in the United States against Grenfell Tower cladding manufacturer Arconic underscores how culpability for the fire that killed 72 is an open secret. It also reveals the extent to which the institutions of the British ruling class are going in order to prevent any pursuit of the guilty.

The case starkly reveals capitalism’s priority of profits over lives.

The suit, first filed one month after the fire of June 14, 2017 by shareholder Michael Brave, accuses Arconic of defrauding shareholders over its supply of cladding panels at Grenfell Tower. Brave is seeking to recoup “significant” shareholder losses stemming from the company’s failure to disclose its use of “highly flammable” Reynobond PE cladding panels prior to the fire.

Between June 14 and June 27, 2017—when the company finally announced it would stop selling the panels for use in high-rise blocks—Arconic’s share price fell 21 percent, reducing its market value by more than $2.5 billion. Prices rallied after the company’s announcement.

US shareholders commonly sue companies over unexpected stock price falls they believe could have been avoided. The suit alleges that the “precipitous decline” in share price after the fire cost them money.

Arconic was created in 2016 through a division of Alcoa Inc. into two independent companies. It makes vast profits manufacturing cladding panels, including ones that are highly combustible—showing revenues of $13 billion (£10.3 billion) in 2017, the year of the fire. The suit encompasses the decisions and actions of parent and offspring companies—one of the claims is that an inaccurate prospectus was provided for a $1.3 billion share issue in 2014—and alleges that there is some continuity in their boards.

Brave argued that shareholders had been deceived by inadequate disclosures over the panels. The suit’s starting point was that use of the panels significantly increased the risk of property damage, injury or death in buildings containing them. Brave described Arconic’s public statements as “materially false and misleading at all relevant times.”

Brave named as defendants Arconic’s former Chief Executive Klaus Kleinfeld and its current Chief Financial Officer, Kenneth Giacobbe, insisting they should be held liable for the content of public statements.

The suit’s scope has since expanded considerably and now includes banks alleged to have misled investors in underwriting the share issue, including the US arm of the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS), Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and others.

More board members have been named, including Alcoa director Ratan Tata, head of trusts holding a 66 percent stake in the multinational Tata group’s holding company; Ernesto Zedillo, who as Mexican president presided over privatisations and austerity measures and has since served on the boards of multinationals like Citigroup; Stanley O’Neal, former chairman of investment bank Merrill Lynch; and Sir Martin Sorrell, former head of WPP, one of advertising’s global “big four” companies.

Sorrell was Britain’s highest paid FTSE 100 CEO in 2016, when he earned £48 million from WPP, and he was a non-executive director of Alcoa/Arconic from 2012 until March 2017. He told the press he was “greatly saddened by the horrific events at Grenfell. However, I left the board of the company in March 2017 and I cannot comment on the legal actions.”

The lawsuit’s implications are that the company’s actions before the fire did make it culpable.

The suit claims the Alcoa Inc./Arconic board “made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose” and that “Arconic knowingly or recklessly supplied its highly flammable Reynobond polyethylene (PE) cladding panels for use in high-rise buildings.”

The suit cites a Reuters report, published in June 2017, which revealed emails between Arconic and Harley Facades and Rydon, the contractors responsible for the refurbishment of Grenfell Tower. Between May and July 2014 Deborah French, Arconic’s UK sales manager, handled inquiries on the availability of samples of different types of Reynobond aluminium-covered (ACM) panels.

Arconic manufactures Reynobond panels in three types: one with a non-combustible core (A2), one with a fire-retardant core (FR), and one with a polyethylene core (PE). In their brochures Arconic described PE panels as suitable for buildings up to 10 metres high, and FR panels as suitable for buildings up to 30 metres. Above that height A2 panels should be used.

All five types of panel discussed in the emails were only available in combustible PE and FR versions. Grenfell Tower was over 60 metres high.

Arconic told Reuters it had known the panels were for Grenfell Tower, but said it was not the company’s role to decide on whether they were compliant with local building regulations or not.

Rydon and Harley had claimed their work complied with regulations.

Arconic’s own brochure warned of flammability. “[I]t is crucial to choose the adapted products in order to avoid the fire to spread to the whole building. Especially when it comes to facades and roofs, the fire can spread extremely rapidly.”

In a statement that should damn all those responsible, it noted, “As soon as the building is higher than the fire fighters’ ladders, it has to be conceived with an incombustible material.”

Arconic declined to tell Reuters if they knew how tall the tower was. The emails do not discuss the building’s height, but do refer to “Grenfell Tower” and mention other high-rise projects. Reuters pointed out that Arconic knew how many panels were being supplied, so were aware of the total coverage of the building.

A source from one company told Reuters that Arconic had “full involvement” throughout the contract bidding. Omnis Exteriors, which cut the tiles to shape for the cladding contractor, said it had “fulfilled the order as directed by the design and build team.”

German and US regulators have banned some forms of plastic-filled cladding, like the Reynobond PE, on high buildings because of the fire risks.

The US “rules-based” approach to regulation requires specific legislation for each example. Advocates of the UK’s “principles-based” approach argue that by placing responsibility on companies to operate safely, based on common understanding of risks, it avoids the emergence of loopholes by requiring companies to take account of new information immediately.

What Grenfell demonstrates is that both systems are implemented on behalf of corporations. When challenged on the emails, Arconic issued its “sympathies” and pledged to “fully support the authorities as they investigate.”

The official inquiry has repaid their confidence. It was deliberately not intended to bring the guilty to justice. The 2005 Inquiries Act, under which it was called, states categorically, “An inquiry panel is not to rule on, and has no power to determine, any person’s civil or criminal liability.” It separated discussion of the events of that night from broader national or political issues.

Having limited the list of issues to be covered, the inquiry then deferred the bulk of the substantial material relating to the actions of companies involved in Grenfell’s refurbishment to its second phase. It has now been announced that this phase will not begin until late 2019 at the earliest.

The corporations have run rings around the inquiry to the extent that Arconic felt able to make a bullishly hostile closing statement. Their counsel told the final day of Phase One of the inquiry that the spread of the fire was not due to the flammable cladding, but to the combination of materials used in the refurbishment, including the window frames and insulation.

He further claimed it was “impossible to argue that ACM PE was non-compliant” with building regulations. Arconic asserted at the beginning of the inquiry that the panels were “at most, a contributing factor.”

As we noted at the closure of Phase One, “The fact that Arconic felt emboldened enough to deliver such a self-serving and unremorseful denial of responsibility for the spread of the fire, indicates that it feels safe in the knowledge that the inquiry will do nothing to bring those who are guilty to justice.”

The shareholders’ lawsuit demonstrates that capitalism takes more seriously the threat to investors’ finance than the lives of the working class. All those responsible for the decisions that cost 72 lives must be arrested and charged, not allowed to hide behind who bears the lion’s share of responsibility for social murder at Grenfell Tower.

The author also recommends:

Second phase of Grenfell inquiry delayed for a year
[14 December 2018]

UK: Investigation into Grenfell fire will “take years, not months,” police say
[29 December 2018]

Alaska wolf, bear killing unscientific


This 2014 video says by itself:

Grizzly Bears Catching Salmon | Nature’s Great Events | BBC

It’s the time of year when the salmon make their annual pilgrimage upstream to spawn, but leaping past the waiting hungry bears is no easy task.

From Oregon State University in the USA:

‘Outdated’ management plan increases risks to Alaska’s large carnivores

January 15, 2019

Alaskan wildlife management that prioritizes reducing bear and wolf populations so hunters can kill more moose, caribou and deer is both backward and lacks scientific monitoring, ecologists say in a paper published today in PLOS Biology.

Paring populations of large carnivores not only fails to meet the goal of creating a “hunting paradise” but may also interfere with important ecosystem services that predators atop the food chain provide, the scientists assert.

“Gray wolves, brown bears and black bears are managed in most of Alaska in ways designed to significantly lower their numbers,” said study co-author William Ripple, distinguished professor of ecology in the Oregon State University College of Forestry. “Alaska is unique in the world because these management priorities are both widespread and legally mandated.”

The paper notes that favoritism toward moose, caribou and deer over large carnivores acquired legal backing in Alaska with the 1994 passage of the state’s Intensive Management Law. The legislation effectively calls for cutbacks in big carnivores to increase how many hoofed game animals are taken by humans.

“The law does also identify habitat management as a form of intensive management, but habitat management hasn’t been used effectively as a tool to increase abundance of these ungulates,” said corresponding author Sterling Miller, a retired research biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “Therefore, the default tool is predator control, the most widespread form of which is liberalizing state hunting and trapping regulations for large carnivores. This liberalization has been most extreme for brown bears, as this species used to be managed very conservatively.”

The paper points out that reported kills of brown bears by hunters have more than doubled over the past three decades and that since 1980 regulations intended to reduce predators have been in effect even in Alaska’s 11 national preserves, which are managed by the National Park Service.

“Since 2000, state wildlife managers have done no studies to determine trends in brown bear populations anywhere in Alaska where intensive management for moose and caribou is ongoing and harvests of brown bears have, correspondingly, increased,” Miller said. “Basically, managers have liberalized regulations for large carnivores in a strategy of ‘kill as many as possible and hope that it is OK in the end.’ This is not science-based management.”

The authors stress that brown bears have the lowest reproductive rates of any large mammal in North America and are particularly susceptible to overharvest, and that the Alaskan government is the only wildlife-managing entity in the world whose goal is to reduce bear abundance.

“There are some places in Alberta, Canada, where wolves are being managed to reduce their abundance in the hope of keeping very small populations of woodland caribou from going extinct,” Miller said. “This is different because the objective of that management is a conservation objective and not an objective of middle-class people putting more wrapped packages of moose meat in their freezers.”

State and federal priorities for “subsistence hunting” are also somewhat problematic but only where they allow for harvests that aren’t really of a subsistence nature, the authors say.

“It is also worth noting that subsistence hunting occurs in most Alaska national parks and monuments as mandated by the 1980 Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, known as ANILCA,” Miller said. “The act also mandates that Alaska national preserves are open to hunting and doesn’t have a restriction on it being limited to subsistence hunting.”

Many of the preserves are adjacent to national parks and both the parks and preserves were created by ANILCA. But with the loosening of hunting regulations for large carnivores in Alaska, the same more-lax regulations largely apply to the preserves as well, meaning predator control is occurring there too.

“Science-based management of large carnivores in most of Alaska will require the political will and wisdom to repeal Alaska’s Intensive Management Law,” the paper states. “Alternatively or additionally, it will require professional wildlife managers to resist adoption of predator reduction regulations that are not conducted as experiments and/or do not include adequate monitoring programs of both carnivores and ungulates.”

Co-authoring the paper with Ripple and Miller were John Schoen, who is retired from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and Sanford Rabinowitch, who is retired from the National Park Service.

Additional information on trends in brown bear hunting regulations and harvests in Alaska is available in a 2017 paper by some of the same authors as the PLOS Biology article.

Snowdrops early this winter


This 2015 video says about itself:

Snowdrops are perennial herbaceous flowering plants which grow from bulbs native to large parts of Europe. Found in many woodlands, churchyards, parks and gardens, snowdrops are some of the first bulbs of the year to bloom.

This early flowering plant, which carpets the ground between January and April, is aided by hardened leaf tips that can push through frozen soil. The downside to flowering in winter is that pollinating insects are scarce, so these little drops of snow spread mainly through bulb division.

The common snowdrop contains an alkaloid, which has been approved for use in the management of Alzheimer’s disease in a number of countries. It is also used in the treatment of traumatic injuries to the nervous system.

Snowdrop bulbs are poisonous if eaten, and contain their own anti-freeze. They were harvested during the First World War to make anti-freeze for tanks.

The Snowdrop is native to Europe and the Middle East, from Spain, France and Germany in the west through to Iran in the east. It has become naturalized in other parts of Europe including Norway, Sweden, Great Britain, Belgium and the Netherlands – as well as in eastern Canada and the United States.

Some snowdrop species are threatened in their wild habitats, and in most countries it is now illegal to collect bulbs from the wild.

The Snowdrop is a small plant that can reach 2.7 to 12 inches in height and develops two to three narrow, dark green leaves from each bulb. On a sunny day, snowdrops are highly scented and give off a honey smell. If you have enough plants the perfume will fill the garden.

This morning, early snowdrop flowers near Rembrandt’s windmill.

Sunshine Blogger Award, thank you Yaasotaa!


Sunshine Blogger Award

My dear blogging friend Yaasotaa has been so kind to nominate Dear Kitty. Some blog for the Sunshine Blogger Award.

Thank you so much for this kind gesture!

The rules of the Sunshine Blogger Award are:

Thank and mention the blogger who has nominated you by linking to their blog.
Insert the logo of the Sunshine Blogger Award in the post.
Answer the eleven questions that are posed to you.
Nominate eleven bloggers [and link to their blogs].
Formulate eleven questions to be answered.
Indicate the rules of the nominations.

Yaasotaa’s (seven) questions, and my answers, are:

1. What is your aim in your life?

To get more peace and less injustice in the world. See here.

2. Why do you love blogging?

For many reasons, eg, it prevents me from forgetting important things in my surroundings, or in cyberspace.

3. Do you have any winning blog post? Tell me your experiences of your family and you. Where you post it (WordPress/in other ways) EXPLAIN?

I never had an individual blog post winning an award. However, my blog as a whole was nominated for quite some awards. See here.

4. Do you have faith at god?

As for religions, I will limit myself to a quote on one of them, Christianity.

I disagree with most ideas of German philosopher Nietzsche. Yet, he sometimes wrote interesting aphorisms. Like:

‘I would really like to be a Christian and released; however, if only the Christians would look more like released people …’ (while too many Christians look like this).

5. How will you get rid of your Ego?

Realizing how big the world of plants, animals, etc. on earth is; and how much bigger still the solar system beyond Earth is; and how still bigger space beyond it is.

6. What is the most unique thing in your life?

I have seen orcas swimming near the Antarctic peninsula.

7. Does your country have any WordPress Anniversary? Do you have take part? Or do you have been called to the celebration?explain

As far as I know, no WordPress Anniversary here.

My 11 questions are:

1. Who is your favourite artist?

2. Who are your three least favourite prominent people in politics?

3. Who are your three least favourite prominent people in business?

4. Which is your favourite bird species?

5. Which is your favourite mammal species?

6. 2019 has only just started. What is the best thing which happened to you in this new year?

7. Which film did you see, but wish in retrospect you had not bothered to see?

8. Which book haven’t you read yet, but would like to read?

9. If you would be invited to make a space journey, then to which solar system planet would you like to go?

10. To which country where you have not been yet would you like to go?

11. If WordPress would stop, would you continue to blog elsewhere?

My 11 nominees are:

1. travellersguide

2. Richard’s Nature Blog

3. uanoop

4. GangPitz

5. mythinkingcloud

6. Katevents

7. samanthaNjeri

8. Radiant Pessimist Press

9. Sarah and The City

10. ESL Ventures

11. S O M E K I N D O F 5 0