Rachel Carson’s 108th birth anniversary

May 27, 2015

Rachel Carson, the great biologist and author, was born on May 27, 1907.

Last year, Google’s Doodle featured Ms. Carson, and the crazy, ill-informed, hoaxing and hoaxed right wing, came unglued.

Less flap this year, but I suspect it’s only because there’s been no great public recognition of the date.  Hoaxsters who insist DDT was always safe, or that banning DDT on cotton crops in Arkansas and Texas somehow caused malaria in Africa, or that Idi Amin became a great fan of Rachel Carson and stopped spraying DDT in Uganda to save American eagles, or other similarly silly-but-vicious things, or who just hate anything to do with protecting the environment, usually erupt on Earth Day, World Malaria Day, and Rachel Carson’s birthday.

Not much on her birthday this year (but stay tuned).

Meanwhile, our country’s sober liberal conscience, The Nation, looks back at their review of Silent Spring, and does a little cringing. Probably not necessary:

Rachel Carson, date unknown. (US Department of Agriculture) - via The Nation

Rachel Carson, date unknown. (US Department of Agriculture) – via The Nation

It is difficult not to cringe at the sight of the headline to the following review of Rachel Carson’s groundbreaking book, Silent Spring—“Man and Other Pests”—given that it was a review of what was then probably the most influential intellectual contribution by an American woman to date.

Miss Carson is indignant about the unexpected effects of our thoughtless broadcasting of pesticides. She writes persuasively, for she has taken great pains to gather and check her facts. Parts of the book were published in The New Yorker magazine last summer, and immediately provoked wide interest, discussion and controversy. This reaction will undoubtedly intensify with the publication of the book. No one is in a better position than Miss Carson to arouse the indignation of the public and the conscience of the chemical industry, and it may well be that she has made a real contribution to our salvation.

[At The Nation, you can read the entire review quoted from above.]

Happy birthday, Ms. Carson.  You have become a hero to thinking people, conservationists, scientists and women everywhere.

You’ll be pleased to know the American symbol, the bald eagle, is back from extinction’s verge, along with the brown pelican, peregrine falcons and osprey.  You’d be surprised to know that, despite gross abuse of DDT in the 1950s and 1960s that caused mosquitoes all over the world to carry alleles resistance and immunity, DDT was saved from complete worthlessness by a reduction in use, and is still used in a few places today, indoors to protect wildlife, to fight malaria.  You were right about DDT.

You were right about fighting malaria, too.  You said in Silent Spring we should use integrated pest management to battle the mosquitoes that provide a site for part of the life cycle of the malaria parasites, and who then spread the disease.  When DDT failed the malaria eradication campaign in the 1960s, malaria fighters were left with little else. Malaria deaths have plunged, from the 4 million to 5 million per year you knew, to fewer than 500,000 per year now.  Worldwide, we’ve cut malaria deaths 45% just since 1999, when a group of non-governmental organizations and the World Health Organization formally adopted integrated pest management as the best way to fight the disease, and began distributing mosquito nets in a big way.

You were right, Rachel Carson. Humanity is a part of nature, and if we fight nature we end up fighting and killing ourselves.

More:

One of my favorites from Gus Arriola (also appearing at the DDT Chronicles):


It’s World Turtle Day!

May 23, 2015

World Turtle Day, Share the Roads!

Nice reminder, featuring an Eastern Box Tortoise (I think). Image from Conscious Companion.

A poster from 2013.  Still accurate for World Turtle Day 2015.

We’re off in the rain to look for turtles and tortoises and other adventures. Saw a lot of turtles last week at the flooded White Rock Lake. This week?

Have a great World Turtle Day!  Go do something nice for your neighborhood turtles and tortoises.

Other views:

From there, it’s turtles all the way down!

 

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Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience.

Yes, this is mostly an encore post. Fighting ignorance requires patience, stamina, repetition, and love for turtles.

 


Powers of Ten – Charles and Ray Eames’ brilliant, before-its-time film

May 23, 2015

Images from

Images from “Powers of Ten,” 1977 edition. From IconEye

AMNH’s “The Known Universe” is a cool film. Putting up that last post on the film, I looked back and noted that when I had previously written about the brilliant predecessor films from Charles and Ray Eames, “Powers of Ten,” the Eames films were not freely available on line.

That’s been fixed.

I like to use films like this as warmups to a year of history, and as a reminder once we get into studying the history of space exploration, of just how far we’ve come in understanding the universe, and how big this place is.

Of course, that means wer are just small parts.

The Eames’s genius showed the scale of things, from a couple picnicking in a park, to the outer reaches of the universe, and then back, zooming into the innermost reaches of a human down to the sub-atomic level.

There’s a series of these films; this one, published on YouTube by the Eames Office, was done in 1977, one of the later versions.

How can you use this in class, teachers? (I recommend buying it on DVD, as I did; better sound and pictures, generally.)

Film information:

Uploaded on Aug 26, 2010

Powers of Ten takes us on an adventure in magnitudes. Starting at a picnic by the lakeside in Chicago, this famous film transports us to the outer edges of the universe. Every ten seconds we view the starting point from ten times farther out until our own galaxy is visible only a s a speck of light among many others. Returning to Earth with breathtaking speed, we move inward- into the hand of the sleeping picnicker- with ten times more magnification every ten seconds. Our journey ends inside a proton of a carbon atom within a DNA molecule in a white blood cell. POWERS OF TEN © 1977 EAMES OFFICE LLC (Available at http://www.eamesoffice.com)

At the Eames Office Youtube site, you may find the film in with Mandarin Chinese, German, and Japanese translations (no Spanish?).  If you’re unfamiliar with the work of this couple — you would recognize much of the stuff they designed, I’m sure — check out a short film on an exhibit on Ray Eames (which has concluded, sadly):

More:

The very recognizable, famous Eames Chair, from Herman Miller. Ideally, you can sit in your Eames Chair while watching

The very recognizable, famous Eames Chair and Ottoman, from Herman Miller. Ideally, you can sit in your Eames Chair while watching “Powers of Ten.” Herman Miller image.


The Known Universe – a film from the American Museum of Natural History

May 23, 2015

Where many journeys to the stars, start:

Where many journeys to the stars, start: “Hayden planetarium at night” by Alfred Gracombe – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 2.5 via Wikimedia Commons. The Hayden Planetarium is part of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

I’ve been known to answer a snarky question from a student, “where are we, really, in the universe, and how do we know the Sun doesn’t orbit the Earth?” with a showing of the Eames’s “Powers of Ten.”

But those films, great as they are, show some age.

Among other things, we know a lot more about the cosmos now, than we did then.

In 2009 the American Museum of Natural History showed this film, “The Known Universe,” for several months.

For visions of what happens when we leave Earth at faster-than-light speeds, it’s very good!

Information on “The Known Universe”:

Uploaded on Dec 15, 2009

The Known Universe takes viewers from the Himalayas through our atmosphere and the inky black of space to the afterglow of the Big Bang. Every star, planet, and quasar seen in the film is possible because of the world’s most complete four-dimensional map of the universe, the Digital Universe Atlas that is maintained and updated by astrophysicists at the American Museum of Natural History. The new film, created by the Museum, is part of an exhibition, Visions of the Cosmos: From the Milky Ocean to an Evolving Universe, at the Rubin Museum of Art in Manhattan through May 2010.

Data: Digital Universe, American Museum of Natural History
http://www.haydenplanetarium.org/univ…

Visualization Software: Uniview by SCISS

Director: Carter Emmart
Curator: Ben R. Oppenheimer
Producer: Michael Hoffman
Executive Producer: Ro Kinzler
Co-Executive Producer: Martin Brauen
Manager, Digital Universe Atlas: Brian Abbott

Music: Suke Cerulo

For more information visit http://www.amnh.org

Tip of the old scrub brush to Jack Mitcham at the Neil de Grasse Tyson group on Facebook.


109 years ago, May 22, 1906: Patent to Wright Bros. for “flying machine”

May 22, 2015

In a drawer in a file box in the U.S. Patent Office in Washington, D.C., is a study in black ink on white paper, lines that resemble those images most of us have of the first Wright Bros. flyer, usually dubbed “Kittyhawk” after the place it first took to the air.

Drawing 1 from patent granted to Orville Wright for a flying machine

Drawing 1 from patent granted to Orville Wright for a flying machine

The patent was issued on May 22, 1906, to Orville Wright, Patent No. 821393, for a “flying machine.”

It makes more sense if you turn the drawing on its side.

Wright Bros. flying machine, from patent drawing

Wright Bros. flying machine, from patent drawing

With the patent, the Wrights had legal means to protect their idea so they could commercially develop it.  Turns out, however, that the fight to get the patent, and subsequent fights to protect it, may have prevented them from fully realizing the commercial success they could have had.  Lawrence Goldstone, the author of that article, details the history at much greater length in his 2014 book, Birdmen: The Wright Brothers, Glenn Curtiss, and the Battle to Control the Skies. 

Why did it take three years to get the patent issued?

Below the fold, the rest of the patent.

Read the rest of this entry »


New Appalachian Wildlife Refuge protects very rare species: Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge

May 15, 2015

A 39-acre donation from The Nature Conservancy and a lot of work by the Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy joined to birth a new National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina.

Welcome the Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge.

Jack-in-the-pulpit, one of the less rare of the rare plants protected by the creation of the Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina. USFWS photo

Jack-in-the-pulpit, one of the less rare of the rare plants protected by the creation of the Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina. USFWS photo

The April 22, 2015, press release from USFWS:

New National Wildlife Refuge Established to Protect Some of Appalachia’s Rarest Places

April 22, 2015

Trout lily blooming at Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Gary Peeples, USFWS.

Trout lily blooming at Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Gary Peeples, USFWS.

Asheville, N.C. – The Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge became America’s 563rd refuge today.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Deputy Director Jim Kurth visited Western North Carolina to announce the establishment of a new national wildlife refuge devoted to the conservation of southern Appalachian mountain bogs, one of the rarest and most imperiled habitats in the United States.  North Carolina is home to 11 refuges; Mountain Bogs Refuge is the first one west of Charlotte.

“The establishment of Mountain Bogs National Wildlife Refuge marks a turning point in the efforts of a number of dedicated partners in preserving this unique and threatened habitat,” said Kurth. “It will provide a focal point for mountain bog conservation in the area, and highlights the importance of our National Wildlife Refuge System in preserving our nation’s spectacular biodiversity for future generations of Americans.”

“While western North Carolina has beautiful swaths of conserved public lands, mountain bogs, which are home to several endangered species, are largely unprotected,” said Mike Oetker, Deputy Regional Director for the Service’s Southeast Region.  “People have worked for decades to conserve these bogs, and creating this refuge was an opportunity to build on that effort in a significant way.”

The Nature Conservancy donated an easement on a 39-acre parcel in Ashe County, the site of Kurth’s visit, which formally establishes the refuge.

“Today’s announcement is the culmination of years of work by conservation partners at the local, state and national level,” said The Nature Conservancy’s Fred Annand, who coordinates the Conservancy’s acquisition work. “Many people have worked together for years to make today a reality. Successful conservation depends on partnership, and that’s certainly the case today.”

Mountain bogs are typically small and widely scattered across the landscape, often isolated from other wetlands. Important to wildlife and plants, mountain bogs are home to five endangered species – bog turtles, green pitcher plant, mountain sweet pitcher plant, swamp pink (a lily), and bunched arrowhead. They also provide habitat for migratory birds and game animals, including mink, woodcock, ruffed grouse, turkey, and wood duck. Bogs are breeding habitat for many species of amphibians, especially salamanders, of which the Southern Appalachians have the greatest diversity in the nation. Bogs also provide key benefits to humans. They have a natural capacity for regulating water flow, holding floodwaters like giant sponges and slowly releasing water to nearby streams decreasing the impacts of floods and droughts.

In addition to The Nature Conservancy, Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy has long been active in bog conservation and has been supportive of establishing the new refuge.

“Southern Appalachian bogs are biodiversity hotspots,” said Kieran Roe, Executive Director at Carolina Mountain Land Conservancy. “But they are disappearing from our region at a rapid rate. Less than 20 percent of the mountain bogs that once existed still remain, so their protection is critical.”

The refuge may eventually grow to 23,000 acres, depending on the willingness of landowners to sell and the availability of funds to purchase those lands. To guide acquisition, and bog conservation in general, the Service has identified 30 sites, or Conservation Partnership Areas, containing bogs and surrounding lands. These sites are scattered across Alleghany, Ashe, Avery, Clay, Graham, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Transylvania, Wilkes and Watauga counties in North Carolina, and Carter and Johnson counties in Tennessee. The Service will look primarily within these Conservation Partnership Areas to acquire land and/or easements. For those acres that won’t be acquired, the Service will work to support private landowners in their stewardship activities. Funding to acquire land and easements would likely come from the Land and Water Conservation Fund, funded by fees collected from the sale of publicly-owned offshore oil and gas drilling leases.

While some parts of the refuge would likely be too fragile for recreation, the Service anticipates other parts could be open for wildlife-based recreation, including hunting, fishing, wildlife observation and photography, education, and interpretation.

The Service manages national wildlife refuges for the conservation of fish, wildlife and plants. In 1903 President Theodore Roosevelt created the first national wildlife refuge to protect brown pelican breeding grounds on the east coast of Florida. The Refuge System now includes 563 refuges across the nation, protecting more than 150 million acres. It’s the only system of federally-managed lands dedicated to wildlife. For more information, visit www.fws.gov/mountainbogs.

The National Wildlife Refuge System protects wildlife and wildlife habitat on more than 150 million acres of land and water from the Caribbean to the Pacific, Maine to Alaska. Refuges also improve human health, provide outdoor recreation and support local economies. Visit our home page at http://www.fws.gov/refuges. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Our Dallas area trout lilies have all blossomed, weeks ago. Interesting that bog-bound trout lilies share so much in common with their drier land cousins a few thousand miles away.

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Feynman at the Nobel Awards Dinner

May 12, 2015

Photos tell a thousand stories.

Richard Feynman at the Nobel Awards dinner after receiving his prize in Physics.  Who is the woman to Feynman's right?

Richard Feynman at the Nobel Awards dinner after receiving his prize in Physics. Who is the woman to Feynman’s right? Found on Pinterest

Richard P. Feynman won his Nobel in Physics, in 1965, shared with Sin-Itiro Tomonaga and Julian Schwinger.

The Nobel Foundation said:

The Nobel Prize in Physics 1965 was awarded jointly to Sin-Itiro Tomonaga, Julian Schwinger and Richard P. Feynman “for their fundamental work in quantum electrodynamics, with deep-ploughing consequences for the physics of elementary particles”.

In its description of his award, the Foundation pointed to the now-famous Feynman Diagrams.

Introduced the Feynman Diagrams

Following the successes of the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics, a first relativistic theory was formulated for the interaction of charged particles with electromagnetic fields. However, in the work of reformulating the theory, Richard Feynman made contributions to a new quantum electrodynamics, in particular in 1948, he introduced so called Feynman diagrams, a graphical representation of interactions between different particles. These diagrams facilitate calculations of interaction probabilities.

Who is the woman next to Feynman?

More:

  • Yesterday, May 11, was Feynman Day; see why we need to mark our calendars for next year!

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