Monday, 30 December 2013
Sunday, 29 December 2013
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03nh66t ) to see, in a section on the re-introduction of the Large blue butterfly to the Cotswolds to see a Large skipper (Ochlodes venatus) dismissed as a 'moth'.
Saturday, 28 December 2013
Thursday, 19 December 2013
Monday, 16 December 2013
Sunday, 15 December 2013
Friday, 6 December 2013
Thursday, 5 December 2013
Wednesday, 4 December 2013
http://www.theguardian.com/world/shortcuts/2013/dec/03/chimpanzees-human-rights-us-lawyer) that a 'human rights lawyer', Steven M. Wise is petitioning for chimpanzees to be granted protection from 'unlawful detention' and be freed. I have much sympathy with the plight of (genetically) our closest relatives on the planet and there is little doubt that some animals are kept in inappropriate conditions but there are a few problems with this move. Giving 'human rights' on the basis of genetic commonality is a bit arbitrary (we share 30% of genes with yeast) and, as many people have pointed out, rights generally imply responsibilities (difficult to enforce in non-humans). Where would the captive 'chimps' be released to? Chimpanzees are powerful animals and beasts that have been in captivity for periods of time would find it extraordinarily difficult to survive in 'wild' locations, even if appropriate locations can be found (even then substantial and expensive pre-release training is needed). A blanket ban on captivity might also make a range of conservation attempts directed to this species very difficult. It seems to me that what we need is enlightened and humane treatment of animals rather than lawyer's devices.
Tuesday, 3 December 2013
http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2013/nov/28/boris-johnson-iq-intelligence-gordon-gekko ) but I find myself compelled to comment (in spite of it striking me as self-serving). I 'failed' (actually I was classed as 'borderline') my 11+ twice (once at 11 and once at 13). In mitigation, I was on strong medication (phenobarbitone) at the time. To continue with the fishing analogy, I remember being confused by a particular question in the General Intelligence section circa 1956. "Which one of the following is the odd one out? Whale, kipper, salmon, cod or plaice?" Even Molesworth 'knos' it could be any. A mammal, a smoked food, a fish with myoglobin migrating between fresh and salt water, a pelagic fish with white flesh captured by trawlling and a bottom dwelling fish with both eyes on one side of the body! What is a biology-mad kid to make of this? Relegated to a Secondary Modern, I luckily received unpaid coaching from a teacher (Mr Cooper in his spare time) with 2 English 'O-levels' and managed another 3 in addition, enabling me to do 'A' levels at a Technical College (granddad paid for my text books). This mean't I was the first member of my family to go to University (again, luckily, Hull didn't require a Modern Language- I hadn't done one). Obtaining a first class honours degree, mean't I was given the only available studentship to do a PhD. I then became a University academic, generating more than 200 peer-reviewed papers, helped write the 1st 2 QAA benchmarks for Biosciences, became President of an International Society and helped edit an International journal for more than 30 years etc. It seems to me, that early allocation to the 'select' and 'reject' groups is not always 100% accurate.
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-25090033 ). In fairness, even the people who run the tests point out some of the problems (e.g. some languages are more phonetic than others, some countries show big geographical diversities in attainment, different levels of extra-curricular coaching is evident in some groups, happiness doesn't always equate with success in the tests, many subjects are not tested, the tests don't attempt to measure creativity etc, etc). Yet everytime these tables are published, the media and politicians of all stripes go bananas. The power of a table!
Sunday, 24 November 2013
http://thepigidea.org/ ) that, rather than putting food waste into land fill, it should be heat-treated (to remove potential pathogens) before being used to feed pigs. Food waste, in the UK, used to be used in this fashion but people became resistant to the idea in Europe as a result of the 'mad cow' debacle. Pigs are fattened on human food waste in several states of the USA and in a number of non-European countries. It is argued that using food waste here would reduce the amount of soya etc that has to be grown to feed pigs in areas like ex-rainforest zones of Brazil. I personally think that this is a reasonable idea but it might be difficult to ensure that all pig rearers effectively and efficiently heat-treated the material before feeding it to their animals.
Sunday, 17 November 2013
Saturday, 16 November 2013
http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/24957335 ). The major real objection in the earlier debate really concerned people being misled about the origins of the 'beef' in their ready meals. In essence, it seems very wasteful to destroy this pampered protein because it has been a 'pet' (essentially, the animal would be buried or burned). The only doubt I have about whether making the carcass more valuable by making it saleable to UK consumers, is that some drugs used in veterinary treatment would be contra-indicated for the human food chain (so needed treatment might not be given).
Friday, 15 November 2013
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2013/nov/14/top-10-irreplaceable-nature-reserves-in-pictures ) along with succinct reasons why they are unlikely to survive in the long term. I am somewhat reminded that I am probably watching Sikkim (voted the number one location in the world to visit by 'The Lonely Planet Guide' series and an acknowledged biodiversity hotspot) probably in the throws of permanent and dramatic change. An airport is being built making access to a country one third the size of Wales much easier and an array of hydroelectric schemes are being developed on its rivers (said to be capable of generating 200 Gigawatts of electricity- but most of it to be used elsewhere in India).
Sunday, 10 November 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/27/opinion/sunday/the-grand-animal-costume-party.html?_r=0) about a moth (Macrocilix maia ) that appears scarier than it is. We had one come to the moth trap at the Hidden Forest Retreat in Sikkim!
Saturday, 9 November 2013
Tuesday, 29 October 2013
Friday, 25 October 2013
A bit of an absence in the Indian Himalayas (Sikkim). The students were excited by the mountains. The mountains, themselves were spectacular. We ran the moth trap, as usual, and caught some impressive moths. We also caught a stray dog. A Praying mantis came to examine our Kestrel recording equipment. We spotted a monster, hairy caterpillar and a green one that generated horns and a smell when threatened. Butterflies were spectacular with a Red lacewing, a Stripped blue crow, a Dark ceruleon, a Red-base jezebel and a brown with blue spots on its tail. We were visited in our accommodation by a Himalayan squirrel and the students enjoyed dressing up as Tibetans.
Sunday, 6 October 2013
Saturday, 5 October 2013
Friday, 4 October 2013
Monday, 30 September 2013
http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/29/us-saudi-driving-idUSBRE98S04B20130929). It used to be claimed that they couldn't have a driving licence as checking their photographic profile would involve removing the veil. Now, a cleric suggests there is 'medical' evidence (sources unrevealed and how would they know as there are no samples of women to compare?) that driving damages the ovaries, distorts the pelvis and can result in children with abnormalities! There is nothing on the dangers of driving to the testis (perhaps by over stimulating the organ?) or on the actual difference in risk for women between simply sitting in a car and driving it! This seems to be yet another attempt to distort 'science' to support the unsupportable.
Saturday, 28 September 2013
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/25/zimbabwe-poachers-kill-80-elephants-cyanide). It is claimed that up to 80 animals had died from an important herd of beasts and that several tusks were 'recovered' from investigated people's homes. Conservation is especially difficult when the workers have to deal with this kind of action.
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/26/beaver-bison-european-species-comeback) on 37 European species that have been helped by conservationists to come back from the brink of extinction. The European bison, European beaver and the Wolf are included as success stories. Less successful has been attempts to 'save' the Iberian lynx. One thing that strikes me, however, is that all the species refered to are vertebrate 'mega stars', so it would have been nice to see some less obvious (but perhaps more environmentally crucial) animals and plants in the list.
Monday, 23 September 2013
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/21/climate-change-ipcc-global-warming) but it seems that more and more of the general public are thinking the the scientists have got this thing wrong. Of course, you can't absolutely prove anything with science but you can determine probabilities. How many of us you argue against the protection offered by vaccinations (I know that small cohorts do) or that antibiotics can be useful in treating bacterial disease? There are areas where the general public trusts the collective view of scientists and others where they don't. Strangely enough, the latter examples often appear to involve situations where the contras have well-funded campaigns by vested interests.
Saturday, 21 September 2013
Friday, 20 September 2013
I find it a bit strange but I suppose that being called 'an Eco freak' by UKIP ( http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/sep/20/ukip-shale-gas) must be seen as a sign that my reservations about tracking are not 'off the wall'.
Sunday, 15 September 2013
http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/12/hawaii-honolulu-molasses-spill-fish-dying). This is another illustration of how a relatively 'simple' error can have enormous impacts on natural environments (although 1,400 tonnes is an awful lot).
Continuing the tale of early bloomers. Hazel ( Corylus avellana ) displayed both male (yellow catkins) and female (red) flowers at Pencl...
A combination of night rain and day-time sun has resulted in more Bynea blooms. The Southern marsh orchid ( Dactylorhiza praetermissa...
A study ( https://www.theguardian.com/science/2017/feb/01/special-spit-is-the-secret-of-uniquely-sticky-frog-tongues-study-reveals ) has...
A report has detailed how climate change is altering life in the warming seas around UK shores ( https://www.theguardian.com/environment...