How steelhead trout build their nests

This January 2020 video from Oregon in the USA says about itself:

The Guardian Who Stands Watch For North Umpqua Steelhead

There was a time not long ago when poachers came to Steamboat Creek along the North Umpqua River and dropped sticks of dynamite into pools filled with hundreds of steelhead. Then, a man named Lee Spencer started spending every day there — to watch the fish and keep poachers at bay.

From the GFZ GeoForschungsZentrum Potsdam, Helmholtz Centre in Germany:

Eavesdropping on trout building their nests

Seismic sensors can record signals produced by fish building spawning pits

July 28, 2020

Steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) stir up the sediment of the river bed when building their spawning pits, thus influencing the composition of the river bed and the transport of sediment. Until now, this process could only be studied visually, irregularly and with great effort in the natural environment of the fish. Now, researchers led by Michael Dietze of the GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences in Potsdam have used seismic sensors (geophones) to analyze the trout’s nest-building process in detail. The study was published in the journal Earth Surface Processes and Landforms.

To lay their eggs, trout use their caudal fins to dig pits up to three metres long on each side and ten centimetres deep into the river bed. The aim of the researchers was to locate these spawning pits and to analyze the chronological sequence of the construction process. To this end, the researchers set up a network of seismic stations on a 150-meter section of the Mashel River in the US state of Washington. The geophones embedded in the earth are highly sensitive and detect the slightest vibrations in the ground. Small stones moved by the fish caused short frequency pulses in the range of 20 to 100 hertz and could be distinguished from background frequencies of flowing water, raindrops and even the pulses of passing airplanes. “The same signal arrives at each of the stations slightly delayed. This enabled us to determine where the seismic wave was generated,” says Dietze, first author of the study.

The researchers listened to the construction of four spawning pits for almost four weeks from the end of April to the end of May. The geophones revealed that the trout were mostly busy building their nests within eleven days of the measurement period. The fish preferably started at sunrise and were active until early noon, followed by another period in the early evening. The trout dug in the sediment for between one and twenty minutes, typically at two- to three-minute intervals with 50 to 100 tail strokes. This was followed by a break of about the same length.

“Normally, the nest-building behaviour of the trout was recorded only very irregularly, at most weekly. We can now resolve this to the millisecond. In the future, we want to extend the method to the behaviour of other species, for example animals that dig along the banks and destabilize them,” explains Dietze. The new measurement method might support fish and behavioural biology and provide a more accurate picture of the biotic and abiotic contribution of sediment transport in rivers. “Fish can move as much sediment as a normal spring flood. The biological component can therefore play a very important role,” said Dietze.

Cepheid Big Pharma COVID-19 profiteering

This 1 April 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

4,000 price-gouging complaints have been filed in Texas during COVID-19 emergency

Price-gouging complaints continue to pour into the Texas Attorney General’s Office during the worldwide coronavirus emergency.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

MSF (Doctors Without Borders) finds the price of a new coronavirus test developed by a US American corporation unacceptable. Cepheid charges $ 20 per test in developing countries. There are countries where people live on less than $ 2 a day, the aid organization emphasizes.

MSF has calculated that the test can be marketed for $ 5.

“While countries are struggling with the coronavirus crisis, it is essential to have tests that can make quick diagnoses,” said a spokesperson. “So many lives could be saved if companies like Cepheid would make their tests available quickly and affordably in all countries.”

Prehistoric amphibians, four or five fingers?

This 2016 video says about itself:


By Kamil Gruntmejer

Recorded at XIV Annual Meeting of the European Association of Vertebrate Palaeontologists, Teylers Museum, Haarlem, Netherlands.

From the University of Bonn in Germany:

Fossil tracks: Wrong number of fingers leads down wrong track

July 24, 2020

Have you ever wondered why our hands have five fingers? And what about amphibians? They usually only have four. Until now it was assumed that this was already the case with the early ancestors of today’s frogs and salamanders, the Temnospondyli. However, a new find of the crocodile-like Temnospondyl Metoposaurus krasiejowensis from the late Triassic (about 225 million years old) in Poland shows five metacarpal bones and thus five fingers. As the researchers from the Universities of Bonn and Opole (Poland) note, this finding is very important, because until now, fossil animal tracks may have been wrongly assigned. The results have now been published in the Journal of Anatomy.

Modern amphibians usually have four fingers on the forelimb (and never more), which is called a “four-rayed hand,” as opposed to our five-rayed hand. Of all groups of terrestrial vertebrates, amphibians show the greatest variation in the number of frontfingers. Reptiles are the most conservative and usually have five. In birds, the finger bones in the wing have been lost completely. In mammals, the number of toes in the forelimb also varies greatly: Primates and raccoons have five, in horses only the third has survived, while in cattle and other even-toed ungulates fingers three and four remain. What they all have in common, however, is that this loss of toes or fingers originates from a five-ray pattern, which is why amphibians cannot be the ancestors of all these terrestrial vertebrate groups.

Exact number of toes is controversial

It has been known for some time that the earliest quadrupeds had significantly more fingers than five, such as Acanthostega, which had eight in the forelimb, or Ichthyostega with seven in the hind foot. As early as 300 million years ago, all but the five-fingered forms became extinct. The five-ray pattern was then retained in the real land animals, but was reduced again and again (see horses). The ancestors of today’s amphibians, the Temnospondyli, presented contradictory evidence of skeletons with four fingers, but also tracks that had five.

Temnospondyli is an important group of the early, very diverse quadrupeds. Some temnospondyls became as big as crocodiles, others were rather small. However, like all amphibians, they were dependent on water during their larval stage. Their most famous representatives include Eryops or Mastodonsaurus. “It’s also important to understand the evolution of modern amphibians, as this group probably evolved from the Temnospondyli,” says Dr. Dorota Konietzko-Meier from the Institute for Geosciences at the University of Bonn, who discovered and prepared the left forelimb of a Metoposaurus krasiejowensis in Krasiejów (southwest Poland).

However, despite the long history of research, the exact number of fingers in Metoposaurus and other temnospondyls is still controversial. “It’s remarkable that even in the case of the very well-researched Eryops, the skeletal reconstruction exhibited at the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle in Paris has five fingers, while only four fingers can be seen at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington,” says Ella Teschner, a doctoral student from Bonn and Opole. Lately, science has assumed that, similar to most modern amphibians, all Temnospondyli have only four toes in their forelimbs. This resulted in the five-toed footprints common in the Permian and Triassic periods being almost automatically assumed to not belong to Temnospondyli.

“The find from the famous Upper Triassic site Krasiejów in Poland therefore offers a new opportunity to study the architecture and development of the hand of the early quadrupeds,” says paleontologist Prof. Dr. Martin Sander from the University of Bonn. A considerably broader view of the entire group of Temnospondyli did not show a clear trend with regard to the five-ray pattern and suggested that the number of digits was not as limited in the phylogenetic context as was assumed. “Evidently, the temnospondyls were already experimenting with the four-ray pattern, and the five-ray pattern died out before the emergence of modern amphibians,” adds Sander.

Five fingers on each hand?

“Even if the ossification of five metacarpal bones described here was only a pathology, it still shows that a five-ray pattern was possible in Temnospondyli,” says Konietzko-Meier. However, it could not be assumed with certainty that the reduction in the number of fingers/digits from five to four always affected the fifth place on the hand in these fossil taxa. The possibility that some of the four-fingered taxa were caused by the loss of the first ray cannot be excluded. Sander: “The new finding of a five-fingered hand is particularly important for the interpretation of tracks, as it shows that a five-fingered forefoot print could also belong to the Temnospondyli and thus indicate a considerably wider distribution area of these animals.”

These results are also of general importance, since limb development plays an important role in evolutionary biology and medicine, and fossils may therefore provide important information for the evaluation of theories of hand development.

COVID-19 in Trump’s USA

This 29 July 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

Trump and U.S. COVID-19 Cases: A Timeline | NowThis

TRUMP-COVID TIMELINE: Here’s Trump’s perception of the COVID-19 crisis vs the reality.

6 STATES BREAK RECORDS FOR CORONAVIRUS DEATHS A half-dozen U.S. states in the South and West reported new one-day records for coronavirus deaths and cases in Texas passed the 400,000 mark as California health officials said Latinos made up more than half its cases. Arkansas, California, Florida, Montana, Oregon and Texas each reported record spikes in fatalities. In the United States more than 1,300 lives were lost on Tuesday, the biggest one-day increase since May. [Reuters]

REPUBLICANS REALLY WANT TO BLOCK YOU FROM SUING OVER COVID-19 The latest stimulus package proposed by Senate Republicans to address the coronavirus pandemic would dramatically limit the ability of consumers and workers to sue corporations that fail to protect them from the disease. The GOP effort to grant businesses, schools and hospitals special liability protections is so extreme that consumer and worker advocates say it would do more than just hinder access to the courts ― it would undercut one of the main incentives companies have for trying to limit the spread of the virus. [HuffPost]

TRUMP CLINGS TO UNPROVEN TREATMENTS Trump’s press conference quickly unraveled on Tuesday as he struggled to defend a video he’d retweeted that is full of false claims about the coronavirus and complained about his low approval rating. Reporters asked Trump repeated questions about his continued support for hydroxychloroquine as a COVID-19 treatment a day after he retweeted several conspiracy theories about the drug. Multiple clinical trials have found hydroxychloroquine ineffective and dangerous. Trump abruptly ended the briefing after questions about a doctor in his retweeted video, who has a history of claiming a uterine disorder is caused by “demon sperm.”[HuffPost]

Stop trying to live like we aren’t in a pandemic.

FAUCI RESPONDS TO TRUMP TWEET CLAIMING HE’D MISLED PUBLIC Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases, denied misleading the public “under any circumstances” after Trump retweeted a claim that he had done so. Fauci, appearing on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” was confronted with Trump’s apparent endorsement of criticism of his failure to endorse the anti-malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a coronavirus treatment. Trump has repeatedly touted the drug ― and claimed to be taking it himself ― although studies suggest it is ineffective and has potentially serious side effects. [HuffPost]

Locally extinct fish back in the Netherlands

This 28 July 2020 Dutch video is about a rare fish species, the allis shad.

It had been considered extinct in the Netherlands, because of pollution, overfishing, and human-made obstacles in rivers had stopped its migration from the North Sea up the river Rhine.

Recently, a small opening was made in the Haringvliet dam, to enable fish to travel up the Rhine.

This week, researchers discovered two adult allis shad fish in the Haringvliet.

Coronavirus denialist billionaire Elon Musk attacks Marx

This 20 May 2020 video from the USA says about itself:

The Matrix‘ Co-Creator Slams Elon Musk and Ivanka Trump | NowThis

‘The Matrix’ co-creator Lilly Wachowski shut down Elon Musk and Ivanka Trump for referencing the movie’s iconic ‘red pill’ sequence with a simple four-word tweet: ‘F*ck both of you.’

In US news and current events today, Musk cryptically tweeted ‘Take the red pill’ on May 17, and Trump responded, saying ‘Taken!’ In response to Musk and Trump’s interaction, filmmaker Lilly Wachowski said, ‘F*ck both of you.’ In ‘The Matrix,’ which was co-directed by Wachowski and her sister Lana, Keanu Reeves’ character Neo is given the choice to take either a blue or red pill. In recent years, the term ‘red pilling’ has become a meme among right-wingers, like men’s rights activists. Broadly, the term signifies convincing someone to see the world in a new way, which, in reality, usually means adopting fringe beliefs that are often fascist, misogynistic, or anti-Semitic. It’s unclear what Musk meant when he tweeted about taking the red pill. …

Wachowski followed up her tweet with a link to the Brave Space Alliance, an LGBTQ+ social service based in Chicago, and asked her followers to support it if they can. Musk has recently been steeped in controversies related to his thoughts on the coronavirus pandemic. From early tweets saying that ‘panic’ about the coronavirus ‘is dumb’ to reopening Tesla’s factory early, Musk has frequently dismissed the severity of COVID-19. As of May 18, neither Musk nor Trump had responded to Wachowski’s dig at them.

By Joseph Kishore in the USA, 29 July 2020:

Elon Musk discovers Das Kapital

It may come as a surprise to followers of American politics that Elon Musk, the world’s seventh-richest individual, is a great student of Marxism. In between his time running Tesla, SpaceX and his other endeavors, Musk has apparently devoted himself to a significant examination of Marx’s great three-volume work, Das Kapital (Capital).

In a tweet Monday afternoon, Musk provided the conclusion of his study. “Das Kapital in a nutshell,” he wrote, is “Gib me dat for free.”

Indeed, a brilliant insight! We can forgive Musk for the use of an informal vernacular, for he has summed up an important fact of capitalism—that the profits accumulated by the capitalist class come from the fact that the value produced by workers is excess of what they are paid in wages—that is, it is “unpaid labor.”

The process deserves a more detailed explanation.

Marx’s Das Kapital is devoted to an analysis of the basic laws of capitalism, the social and economic system that now prevails throughout the world. He begins his work with a study of the fundamental unit of this economic system, the commodity.

Society has at its disposal a reserve of living labor power, the capacity to produce all the requirements of human life, from food and shelter to transportation and communication technology. As a consequence of the division of labor among different producers, the products of this labor assume the form of commodities. Automobiles and cellphones, food and houses, each is produced by different individuals and industries and are bought and sold on the market.

The many complex workings of modern capitalism are all based on a single law, first fully elaborated by Marx: the law of labor value, that is, that the value of commodities is determined by the quantity of socially necessary human labor expended upon them. Thus, for example, a Tesla automobile has a greater value than a gallon of milk, because more human labor goes into the former than the latter. On the market, commodities are exchanged for other commodities of equivalent value (or, with the development of money, for the same amount of money).

However, if commodities are exchanged with each other based on the labor that is required for their production, where does inequality come from? Why are such vast sums of wealth monopolized by a tiny layer, while those who are engaged in actual labor, the working class, are impoverished?

Elon Musk has a net worth of $70 billion. This is more than two million times the median individual income in the United States ($31,000). Does this mean that Musk, in his 49 short years on Earth, labored the equivalent of two million people working for an entire year? Even if we were to accept that Musk is a particularly hard worker, the figures do not add up.

The source of inequality, Marx explained, lies in the peculiar nature of one of the commodities bought and sold on the market: labor power. In common language, it is said that the worker sells his or her labor to the capitalist. This is not correct. What the worker sells to the capitalist is not labor but the commodity labor power, the capacity to work, which goes into the production and value of all other commodities.

The owner of the means of production (the Tesla factory in Fremont, California, owned by Musk, for example) buys the labor power of workers. That is, he buys the capacity of these workers to work in exchange for a certain wage or salary.

Like every other commodity, the value of this particular commodity, labor power, is determined by the amount of labor required to produce it. This is equivalent to the quantity of goods that are necessary for the survival and reproduction of the worker. The less that is required for this survival and the reproduction of the next generation of wage workers, the poorer is the worker and the cheaper is his or her labor power.

Once the capitalist has purchased this commodity, labor power, he or she has the right to consume it. He does so by putting the worker to work. However, and this is the critical issue, the quantity of labor of the worker on the line, in the store or in the fields exceeds the value of his own labor power expressed in his or her wage. To put it another way, a worker labors more than the value of the commodities required to sustain himself or herself.

There is an excess, or surplus, value, the difference between the value produced by the laborer and what is required to keep him alive. The greater the exploitation (the more the capitalist can sweat out of the worker) and the lower the cost of labor power (the less he or she pays the worker to live), the greater the surplus value that is extracted.

The product of the workers’ labor belongs not to the worker but to the capitalist. In selling commodities on the market, the capitalist realizes surplus value that has been extracted in the form of the profit.

In this way, the capitalist class as a whole extracts a mass of surplus value from the working class as a whole. This surplus value is then divided up among the different sections of the capitalist class in the struggle on the market via the price mechanism, competition, manipulation, trade restrictions etc. Marx analyses these complexities in Das Kapital. But what is being divided up in the struggle on the market has already been created by the expenditure of the labor power of the working class.

All of this boils down to the fact that the profit and wealth of the capitalist is not the result of his own labor, but the labor of others, the workers. “The surplus value,” Marx explained in his earlier work, Value, Price and Profit, “or that part of the total value of a commodity in which the surplus labor or unpaid labor is realized, I call Profit.”

Or, in the somewhat oversimplified version laid out by Musk: “Gib me dat for free.”

One elaboration, however, is required to understand the present situation, and that is the way in which the ruling class has utilized its control over the apparatus of the state, particularly over the past four decades, to funnel wealth directly into the financial markets and therefore the bank accounts of the super-rich.

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, the American ruling class, through the US Federal Reserve, has turned over trillions of dollars to Wall Street, driving up share values to an extraordinary degree.

This massive bailout of the corporations and banks—another version of Musk’s “Gib me dat for free”—was endorsed, on a nearly unanimous bipartisan basis, in the passage of the CARES Act in late March. Indeed, Musk’s own wealth derives in large measure from such financial operations. As a result of the soaring stock market, amidst growing death and social misery, Musk has tripled his net worth in the first seven months of this year.

While apparently involving the production of money out of thin air, via the printing press of the Federal Reserve, everything turned over to the rich must be paid for through the exploitation of workers, the source of all value.

This is what is driving the demand by the ruling class for a return to work even as the pandemic rages out of control. Musk himself has played a leading role in insisting that all restraints on the spread of the pandemic must be ended and that supplemental unemployment benefits for workers be cut off. Workers must be forced back to producing surplus value and profit.

In words that take on immense relevance today, Marx brilliantly summed up the dynamic of capitalist development and its revolutionary consequences toward the end of the first volume of Das Kapital:

Along with the constantly diminishing number of the magnates of capital, who usurp and monopolize all advantages of this process of transformation, grows the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, exploitation; but with this too grows the revolt of the working class, a class always increasing in numbers, and disciplined, united, organized by the very mechanism of the process of capitalist production itself. The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production, which has sprung up and flourished along with, and under, it. Centralization of the means of production and socialization of labor at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. The integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.

Some might argue that in his tweet on Marx’s Das Kapital, Musk did not intend to summarize the process of capitalist exploitation of the working class. Perhaps he was suggesting that in protesting their exploitation it is somehow the workers who want something for free?

Such a reading would make Musk look like an ignoramus and a blowhard. If workers were to interpret his tweet in this way, however, they will reply that they merely seek to establish a society in which the process of production is controlled democratically, and in which the product of human labor is distributed on the basis of equality and human need, not the accumulation of vast wealth by the few. It is the expropriators, they will say, who must be expropriated, with Musk among the first in line.