The Eye of The Beholder

“Since we cannot change reality,
let us change the eyes which see reality.”
Nikos Kazantzakis

When you look into someone’s eyes or an animals eyes, what do you see? We are now able to know if the eyes are from a flight or fight species.

A scientific study recently analyzed the eyes of 214 species of land animals. What they discovered is that pupil shapes are directly linked to an animal’s ecological niche.

For instance, animals with pupils that are vertically elongated, like domestic cats and gators, are more likely to be ambush predators – hunters active day and night who use stealth, not strength or speed, to overcome their prey.

Animals with horizontally elongated pupils, such as goats and sheep are herbivore prey animals, the researchers found. Circular pupils, found in humans and birds, provide good all-around vision and are linked to animals that chase down their prey.

Species that are active both night and day with slit pupils provide the range they need to help them see in dim light yet not get blinded by the midday sun.

In fact the sideways orientation which the horse has, is very important for his survival when he is grazing. When he drops his head to graze, its pupils rotate (in opposite directions) by up to 70 degrees to stay horizontal, the researchers found.

While prey animals need to be able to see all around them, predators need binocular vision to see how far away their prey is. Vertical-slit pupils maximize binocular disparity, and blur, in which objects at different distances are out of focus, the scientists found.

But not all predators have vertical pupils.

What is surprising is that the researches noticed from their study that the slit pupils were linked to predators that were close to the ground. Domestic cats have vertical slits, but bigger cats, like tigers and lions, don’t. Their pupils are round, like humans and dogs.

This amazing research teaches us how remarkable the eye and vision can be for us as well as all of nature. Who knows, maybe in the not too distant future we will be able to simulate and see through the eye of the beholder.

Shine On

A Full Blue Moon

“Blue moon
You saw me standing alone
Without a dream in my heart
Without a love of my own.”
Lyrics from Blue Moon

Once in a Blue Moon

Friday night the world will experience something that happens about every 30 months. Despite the popular expression, a blue moon isn’t as astoundingly rare as one might expect.

Tonights moon is being called a blue moon because it is the second full moon occurring in one month — the first was on July 2.

A truly blue-colored moon is actually a rarity and is usually the product of a volcano or wildfire sending particles into the air. According to NASA, the particles only allow blue light to filter through. If you live in California near the wildfires, you might get a chance to just see a blue moon this evening.

When and if you see the moon this evening remember that others all over the world will be watching and most likely be looking up at the stars and the moon at the same time. Hoping to get a glimpse of a full blue moon,

Shine On

The Search For Our Past

“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known.”
Carl Sagan

The Search For Our Past

Artist’s drawing of close cousin of Earth.

NASA announced that they have discovered a close cousin to the Earth. The discovery of this planet and its star closely resemble the Earth and our Sun.

“This discovery brings us one step closer to finding an Earth 2.0” said John Grunsfeld, head of NASA’s Science Mission Directorate. “The sun that orbits this tiny planet is the same temperature as our own sun. The planet’s orbit takes 385 days. Essentially, it’s as close to an Earth twin as astronomers have ever discovered.”

But what does the discovery of this tiny planet mean? Will the discovery help us to learn more about the Earths beginning?

For thousands of years humans possess an innate need to explore. Whether through exploring and discovering new continents, or finding cures for diseases, humans will continue to explore. This is how we’ve built our civilization.

Science, curiosity, the need to think and study and explore our surroundings – these are quests that drive us to be who we are. We believe in these endeavors and we feel enriched and fulfilled by answers to our questions. Like ancient civilizations that took off to search for other worlds, we too are looking over the next hill. That next hill is space exploration and other galaxies.

Humans have always been a thinking, wondering entity. To establish understanding of our origins is a part of our evolution. Part of human and scientific progress has been the ability to evolve our thinking to include not just simple trains of thought, but larger concepts. Scientists are modifying their roles as astronomers, physicists, planetary geologists, and space engineers to incorporate the visions of historians, anthropologists, paleontologists, biologists and genealogists to help analyze the details, clues and evidence of basic questions such as:

  • Where did we, as humans, come from?
  • What is the fate of life as we know it?
  • Are we alone in the Universe?

Scientists seek to observe the birth of the earliest galaxies in the universe, to detect all planetary systems in the solar neighborhood and to find those planets that are capable of supporting life, and to learn whether life began elsewhere in the solar system. They do this in order to understand and explain the origin of galaxies, stars and planetary systems, and life itself.

Wanting answers to these questions is just part of human nature. Part of the never-ending search for our past.

Shine On

An Apple A Day

“An apple a day will keep anyone away,
if thrown hard enough.”
Author Unknown

Apple A Day

The old proverb an apple a day helps keep the doctor away, just got a boost from science. A large Dutch study has found that eating apples and pears is associated with a lower risk of stroke.

The findings counter the widespread belief that the most healthful fruits and vegetables are those that come in deep, rich colors inside and out.

The dark green of spinach and deep red of raspberries are produced by phytochemicals that are associated with better heart health and lower rates of cancer, prompting the common advice to “eat your colors”. Apples and pears, although red, light green or yellow on the outside, are typically considered “white” fruits because the inside of the fruit, which represents the largest edible portion, is white.

Researchers in the Netherlands decided to track fruit and vegetable intake based on the color of the largest edible portion of the food. The categories were green (broccoli, kale, spinach and lettuce), orange/yellow (oranges, carrots and peaches), red/purple (cherries, grapes, beets and tomatoes) and white (apples, pears, bananas and cauliflower).

The investigators analyzed data collected from 20,069 men and women who took part in the Dutch Morgen study, which stands for Monitoring Project on Risk Factors and Chronic Diseases. All the participants, ages 20 to 65, were healthy and free of cardiovascular disease at the start. The study subjects filled out food questionnaires detailing their eating habits.

During the next 10 years, the investigators documented 233 strokes among the study participants. There was no relationship between stroke risk and consumption of any of the brightly colored fruits and vegetables. However, people who consumed at least 171 grams of white produce daily — equal to about one medium to large apple — had a 52 percent lower risk of stroke than those who ate less than 78 grams of white fruit a day. On average, every 25 grams of white fruit eaten daily was associated with a 9 percent lower risk for stroke.

Why apples and pears might reduce stroke risk isn’t known, though both fruits are rich sources of dietary fiber, which is associated with lowering blood pressure. Both fruits also contain a number of nutrients and phytochemicals, including the flavonol quercetin, which may have anti-inflammatory properties.

Whatever the reasons, it can’t hurt to have just one apple a day.

Shine On

The Bumblebee Decline

“The bee collects honey from flowers
in such a way as to do the least damage or
destruction to them, and he leaves them whole,
undamaged and fresh, just as he found them.”
Saint Francis de Sales

bumblebee

This year, according to a new study in the Journal of Science it appears climate change has now effected the population of bumblebees.

Due to climate change the pollination levels of some plants have dropped by up to 50 percent in the last two decades. The experts believe that the problem is connected to the declining populations of bumblebees and other pollinators.

This trend could have serious implications for agriculture and the overall food output of the planet. As the planet warms, most animals expand their range northward including species of bees. But not the bumblebee, they’re failing to migrate, and their territories in the southern range have been shrinking at an alarming rate.

“The result is dramatic losses of bumblebee species from the hottest areas across two continents,” Professor Kerr has added. “The bumblebee had evolved under cool conditions, and unlike other species, colonies didn’t expand into more northern ranges.”

The good news is that Professor Kerr believes that they can help bumblebees by establishing new colonies up north, and spread them into more areas in other continents.

Something needs to be done soon. The increasingly frequent weather extremes is affecting every living thing on Earth. The threats linked to climate change are already being felt by the bumblebee decline.

Shine On