Watchful eyes, thoughtful mind

Earth and us ….. past, present and future ….. connected?

Big brother … REAL BIG!!! December 17, 2009

Filed under: animals,evolution,oceanography — Radiance @ 10:00 AM

Yeah, I know … try and close your mouth now. That picture above would have given you a pretty good idea of what’s coming. Science reporter Rebecca Morell of BBC News reports about the colossal sea monster, Pliosaur, whose fossilised skull has been unearthed along the UK‘s Jurassic Coast by a local collector. In the video on the webpage (which I could not embed here) Palaeontologist Richard Forrest explains why the T. rex was a kitten compared with this monster.

Richard Forrest, a plesiosaur expert, said: “Pliosaur skulls are very big, but not that robust, in general, and you tend to find them crushed flat – completely ‘pancaked’. “What is fantastic about this new skull, not only is it absolutely enormous, but it is pretty much in 3D and not much distorted.”

Pliosaur means ‘more like lizard’ and are characterised by having a short neck and an elongated head, in contrast to the long-necked plesiosaurs. Pliosaur fossils have been found before around Norway, Mexico etc. But this find in the UK is by far the largest specimen yet found. If the pictures above and the description has still not convinced you to click on the link in the first paragraph and go watch the video, may be this will.

“It could have taken a human in one gulp; in fact, something like a T. Rex would have been breakfast for a beast like this.”

 

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Pushing it back December 10, 2009

Filed under: archaeology,evolution,oceanography — Radiance @ 10:00 AM

17644_webThis is a short post sharing two stories of latest archaeological discoveries that are once again pushing back the dates of the advent of “civilised” humans.

National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK) reports on EurekaAlert of Pavlopetri — the world’s oldest known submerged town.

The world’s oldest known submerged town has been revealed through the discovery of late Neolithic pottery. The finds were made during an archaeological survey of Pavlopetri, off the southern Laconia coast of Greece. Marine geo-archaeologist Dr Nic Flemming of the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton said: “The discovery of Neolithic pottery is incredible! It means that we are looking at a port city which may be 5000-6000 years old, with trade goods and wrecks nearby showing some of the very earliest days of seafaring trade in the Mediterranean.” […]”What we’ve got here is something which is two or even three thousand years older than most of the submerged cities which have been studied,” said Flemming: “And it is uniquely complete. We have almost the complete town plan, the main streets and all of the domestic buildings. “

William G. Gilroy writes in ScienceDaily, based on materials provided by University of Notre Dame, about how World’s Oldest Known Granaries Predate Agriculture.

A new study co-authored by Ian Kuijt, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Notre Dame, describes recent excavations in Jordan that reveal evidence of the world’s oldest know granaries. […]However, in a paper appearing in the June 23 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences, Kuijt and Bill Finlayson, director, Council for British Research in the Levant, describe recent excavations at Dhra’ near the Dead Sea in Jordan that provide evidence of granaries that precede the emergence of fully domesticated plants and large-scale sedentary communities by at least 1,000 years.

These kinds of discoveries keep scientists on their toes, rethinking the flow of history and pre-history. Some day perhaps the concept of Yuga cycles and that of advanced knowledge that ancients possessed will be vindicated through such discoveries.

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Here we go again … December 3, 2009

Filed under: biology,chemistry,geology,oceanography,unconventional — Radiance @ 10:00 AM

03_32_ATP_and_ADP_cycleTechnological advances have a peculiar way about them. They always seem to progress in steps of exponential growth followed by a period of lull. This trend is closely followed by our ability to learn new things about the world around us. And so human beings, particularly scientists, go through alternating periods of “discovery frenzy” and complacency that there’s nothing more left to explain. We had hit such a complacent period a few decades ago as regards origin and evolution of life on our planet. But now we’re in the “discovery frenzy” stage for the same and hence getting disillusioned about many theories and principles that we thought were invincible. Many new discoveries using newest and (so far) most accurate techniques are making it more than clear that the question of “how life originated on Earth?” is far from settled.

Nick Lane, the first Provost’s Venture Research Fellow at University College London and author of Life Ascending: The ten great inventions of evolution, has written a detailed article in the New Scientist on 19th October, 2009 about an alternative theory for origin of life. This is only the latest one in the long line of many such that came before it but didn’t survive the scientific scrutiny. It is based on not-so-conventional ideas of Peter Mitchell who was initially dismissed by his contemporaries but won a Nobel in 1978. Geochemist Mike Russell of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California is rethinking the origin of life and finds Mitchell’s ‘Chemiosmosis’ a valid candidate. The following text from Lane’s article explains the idea,

Before Mitchell, everyone assumed that cells got their energy using straightforward chemistry. The universal energy currency of life is a molecule called ATP […] generated from food by a series of standard chemical reactions. Mitchell thought otherwise. Life, he argued, is powered not by the kind of chemistry that goes on in a test tube but by a kind of electricity. The energy from food, […] is used to pump […] protons, through a membrane. As protons accumulate on one side, an electrochemical gradient builds up across the membrane. Given the chance, the protons will flow back across, releasing energy that can be harnessed to assemble ATP molecules. In energy terms, the process is analogous to filling a raised tank with buckets of water, then using the water to drive a waterwheel.

lst cityEven though this seems a counterintuitive and roundabout way to produce energy to power life, there is a growing body of evidence of this process occurring everywhere in nature. Aided with the latest knowledge of fellow biologists and using a logical process of elimination, author Lane reaches a baffling conclusion. The common ancestor of all life on Earth was something with components of a modern cell but no walls or boundaries. Now that’s a stunner! But nature has never failed to provide us evidence for the most unexpected and hence broaden the horizons of our knowledge. So along came the surprise discovery of alkaline hyrdrothermal vents just off the mid-Atlantic ridge in 2000. It turns out that the combination of their peculiar structure and the chemical conditions of atmosphere and ocean the on the early Earth provide a perfect toolkit for the production of DNA, RNA, an ATP prototype, all without the requirement for a wall or boundary. I have only given an outline of what Nick Lane’s article describes in a great detail. So if my summary makes you curious, go read the full article.

I’ll end this post with the apt ending Nick Lane provides to his article,

Many details have yet to be filled in, and it may never be possible to prove beyond any doubt that life evolved by this mechanism. The evidence, however, is growing. This scenario matches the known properties of all life on Earth, is energetically plausible – and returns Mitchell’s great theory to its rightful place at the very centre of biology.

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Diving into history November 12, 2009

Filed under: ancient knowledge,archaeology,oceanography — Radiance @ 10:00 AM

Archaeology is kind of a non-glamorous branch of science. It is a convergence of many different physical and social sciences which are used as tools to construct the jigsaw puzzle of our past. But sadly humans are not as interested in the past as they are in the future. General public thinks of archaeologists as khaki-wearing folk who love meticulously dusting off the tiny little pieces of shards made by unknown people from thousands of years ago. So most of the archaeological discoveries manage to excite only the members of this close community and go unappreciated by the general populous. Only a few discoveries like that of Tutankhamen’s (lovingly dubbed King Tut) gold-laden tomb makes it to the front pages of newspapers and magazines.

Even more obscure branch of archaeology is underwater archaeology. Although a lot of our history lies submerged underwater not many of us think there is anything valuable to look there. Only when something astonishing like the Bimini wall or the Antikythera device comes out of the depths of the ocean, does our attention get focused on it briefly. However there has been increasing interest among the archaeologists of today to go diving to peer into the past. Archaeology, a publication of the Archaeological Institute of America, highlights just a few of these ongoing underwater archaeology projects, from the recovery of a sixth-century B.C. Phoenician shipwreck, where excavators found a cargo that included elephant tusks and amber, to work on a 19th-century vessel in Oklahoma’s Red River that has given archaeologists their first look at early steamship design.

One great work of research based on a worldwide exploration diving for the underwater ruins of a lost civilization is the book Underworld by investigative journalist and author, Graham Hancock. This book follows clues in ancient scriptures and mythology and in the scientific evidence of the flood that swept the Earth at the end of the last Ice Age. I believe such works are rare because of our belief that we are the most advanced humans this planet has ever seen and so there’s nothing to look for in the past except exploits of primitive cavemen. However if you do believe the cyclic model of life in ancient Hindu philosophy, the Yuga cycle, then you should definitely be curious as to what is hidden away in the blue depths that cover 3/4th of our planet today.

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Almost gone … Sharks October 31, 2009

Filed under: endangered species,nature,oceanography — Radiance @ 10:00 AM

Guest post series ‘Almost gone …’ by Scott Bright (@Speciesguy)

About five months ago I learned about shark fin soup. Over one hundred million sharks are being removed out of the ocean every year to this soup and long lining. The kids of the world have a right to know what’s going on with the shark, they are, after all, are going to be the next stewards of this blue sphere. Parents, please share this with your kids so they can take action.

I studied about a number of different sharks and discovered that each species has great purpose. Ironically, what’s being removed is what makes them so profoundly unique. I learned so much about the value of this species while writing the blog which is written for kids and all. So parents, please share this important information with your kids. I learned recently that sharks have been around for four hundred million years. They are such an evolved species, they can detect electrical signals under the sand, and lunch is served. But they will be gone in five if a billion of us don’t join together and say enough is enough. My heart goes out to the shark at this time. More than ever before in their history of being on our humble planet, they need people to speak for them.

Cool information about sharks

There is nothing quite like a kid that is passionate about something. When you and your kids learn why the sharks have immense value, they can share that with their friends, and maybe even a leader! And if a lot of kids get enthused, the sharks will be around for a long to come.

Check this out! This is amazing. Sharks have different kinds of tails because they are assigned different jobs in the ocean. This is the Tiger Shark. It needs to move slowly for cruising, and sudden burst of power and speed. This shark has to do a lot of twist and turns.

Why is that so important?

Well, lets look at what they eat: Fish, seals, birds, and smaller sharks. Oh, and don’t forget squids and turtles. Turtles! Yeah, I know I love the guys just as much as you. If the turtle is not eaten, then there will be too many of them. It is all part of the balance my friend.

The tail makes the difference

Kids, the design of the tail are why the tiger shark is great at catching these ocean critters. I also read that this shark will eat pretty much anything, like tires and car license plates. And this guy can grow to 11 to 17 feet and weigh as much as 1700 lbs. That is huge!

Share this one with your dentist

Some sharks replace their teeth, up to 30,000 in their life- time! They have a conveyor belt of them. If only we had that feature, because we would be able to say, look mom, no cavities!

Yes indeed, sharks eat things

They are what are referred to as a keystone species. If you’ve read my stuff, I mention this a lot. The sharks eat things, and they are the professionals. But each shark is assigned to eating specific things in the ocean. Can you see why ALL sharks are important?

Different tails for different jobs

This is the Short fin Mako Shark. It can swim at speeds of thirty plus miles an hour! That is fast underwater. Why do they swim so fast? Well, I’m sure they eat things that swim at that speed. Yep, they eat things that swim fast like tuna, mackerel, and the great swordfish. But they also eat porpoises, sea turtles and seabirds. Remember, it’s all about balance. Plus, they have a way of keeping they’re body warmer with the use of some red muscle that’s located near the centre of its body. And this generates heat. If they didn’t have this feature, they could not swim, catch and eat what it is made to do. 

Can you see the value of each shark in the ocean? To learn more, look at the books I have on my site, and buy the DVD called, “Shark Water.” This series says that sharks are not the monsters of the sea that we have all been taught to fear. I have a place on my humble site where kids and all can write to the President of the United States, and the Minister of Environmental Protection of China. Hey, if just one kid shares with passion why they are speaking for sharks, shark fin soup will be a thing of the past! I know fisherman make a hefty profit for the fins, but to have the entire species go extinct is unconscionable!

Bottom Line

Please sign this petition to write to the minister of environmental protection in China, Mr. Zhou Shengxian. This is one of the most important letters your kids or you could write. 100 million sharks leave the ocean for good every year to shark fin soup. And don’t forget to include long lining. Come to my site and write to President Obama. Just click the cute moving blue bird at RaceToSaveTheRaces.com. Think about it. The shark has been around for four hundred million years, and will be gone forever in five if we don’t act!

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TED Tuesday: Seas of plastic September 15, 2009

Filed under: environment,human interference,oceanography,recycling,TED — Radiance @ 10:00 AM
Capt. Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation first discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — an endless floating waste of plastic trash. Now he’s drawing attention to the growing, choking problem of plastic debris in our seas.

 

TED Tuesday: Uncharted oceans August 18, 2009

Filed under: biology,geology,mystery,oceanography,TED — Radiance @ 10:00 AM
Ocean explorer Robert Ballard takes us on a mindbending trip to hidden worlds underwater, where he and other researchers are finding unexpected life, resources, even new mountains. He makes a case for serious exploration and mapping. Google Ocean, anyone?