Category: consciousness

That relationship!

Dogs and humans go back a long, long way!

We like to think of our relationship with dogs as a moderately recent affair. Not the time since dogs and humans have mixed together, that was a very long time ago, but having a dog as a pet.

But even that view needs to be updated.

Try 4,000 years ago!

ooOOoo

New Study Looks at Why Neolithic Humans Buried Their Dogs With Them 4,000 Years Ago

Analysis of the remains of 26 dogs found near Barcelona suggest the dogs had a close relationship with ancient humans

Specimen of a dog skull ( Wagner Souza e Silva / Museum of Veterinary Anatomy FMVZ USP via Wikicommons under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International )

By Marissa Fessenden

SMITHSONIAN.COM
FEBRUARY 14, 2019

Humans have enjoyed a long history of canine companions. Even if it’s unclear exactly when dogs were first domesticated (and it may have happened more than once), archaeology offers some clues as to the nature of their relationship with humans.

The latest clue suggests that humans living in Southern Europe between 3,600 to 4,200 years ago cared for dogs enough to regularly share their gravesites with them. Barcelona-based researchers studied the remains of 26 dogs from four different archaeological sites on the northeastern Iberian Peninsula.

The dogs ranged in age from one month to six years old. Nearly all were buried in graves with or nearby humans. “The fact that these were buried near humans suggests there was an intention and a direct relation with death and the funerary ritual”, says lead author Silvia Albizuri, a zooarchaeologist with the University of Barcelona, in a press release.

To better understand the dogs’ relationship with the humans they joined in the grave, Albizuri and her colleagues analyzed isotopes in the bones. Studying isotopes—variants of the same chemical element with different numbers of neutrons, one of the building blocks of atoms—can reveal clues about diet because molecules from plants and animals come with different ratios of various isotopes. The analysis showed that very few of the dogs ate primarily meat-based diets. Most enjoyed a diet similar to humans, consuming grains like wheat as well as animal protein. Only in two puppies and two adult dogs did the samples suggest the diet was mainly vegetarian.

This indicates that the dogs lived on food fed to them by humans, the team reports in the Journal of Archaeological Science. “These data show a close coexistence between dogs and humans, and probably, a specific preparation of their nutrition, which is clear in the cases of a diet based on vegetables,” says study co-author Eulàlia Subirà, a biological anthropologist at the Autonomous University of Barcelona.

Top: remains of a dog found at the archeological site called La Serreta. Bottom: drawing of dog skeleton found between human skeletons in the necropolis Bòbila Madurell. (UB-UAB)

 

The archaeological sites all belong to people of the Yamnaya Culture, or Pit Grave Culture. These nomadic people swept into Europe from the steppes north of the Black and Caspian Seas. They kept cattle for milk production and sheep and spoke a language that linguists suspect gave rise to most of the languages spoken today in Europe and Asia as far as northern India.

The buried dogs aren’t the oldest found in a human grave. That distinction belongs to a puppy found in a 14,000-year-old grave in modern-day Germany. The care given to that puppy to nurse it through illness was particularly intriguing to the researchers who discovered it. “At least some Paleolithic humans regarded some of their dogs not merely materialistically, in terms of their utilitarian value, but already had a strong emotional bond with these animals,” Liane Giemsch, co-author on a paper about the discovery and curator at the Archäologisches Museum Frankfurt, told Mary Bates at National Geographic in 2018.

The fact that the researchers in the new study found so many dogs in the region they studied indicates that the practice of burying dogs with humans was common at the time, the late Copper Age through the early Bronze Age. Perhaps the canine companions helped herd or guard livestock. What is certain is that ancient humans found the animals to be important enough to stay close to even in death.

ooOOoo

That last sentence is precious. “What is certain is that ancient humans found the animals to be important enough to stay close to even in death.

As far back as 14,000 years!

It’s time to change our habits.

Funny how things evolve!

A week ago I was casually reading a copy of our local newspaper, the Grants Pass Daily Courier, and inside was a piece by Kathleen Parker, a syndicated columnist, entitled It’s the end of everything – or not.

I found it particularly interesting especially a quotation in her piece by Robert Watson, a British chemist who served as the chair of the panel of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES). The IPBES had recently published the results of the three-year study by 145 authors from 50 countries.

So I wrote to Kathleen Parker asking if I might have permission to quote that excerpt and, in turn, received her permission to so do.

Here it is:

Robert Watson wrote in a statement that:

“the health of ecosystems on which we and all species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundation of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”

But, Watson also said, it’s not too late to repair and sustain nature – if we act now in transformative ways.

It is time to change our habits both at an individual level and the level of countries working together.

Moreover we haven’t got decades. We have got to do it now!

How close are you to your dog?

A reflection on our dogs.

I was sorting out some stuff the other day and came across the following. It is the record of a talk I gave some time ago in connection with the publication of my book Learning from Dogs.

As much as I would have expected to have previously published this on the blog I cannot find an entry. So here you are!

ooOOoo

The concept of attributing dogs with human traits is nothing new. In fact the ancient Greeks came up with a fancy word for it around two thousand years ago: anthropomorphism.

As ever, the truth of the matter is not a case of black and white but subtle shades of grey. No doubt in another two thousand years as science advances and we discover more about DNA and the mysteries of the human and canine brains the picture will develop into sharper focus. In the meantime, we must satisfy ourselves with some basic observations.

Let’s start off on common ground. One thing that we all seem to agree on is that humans are at the top of the pile in terms of evolutionary sophistication. For obvious reasons we view ourselves as the being the highest life form (although there is increasing alarm that we have totally lost touch with our basic instincts, if not totally lost the plot, by endangering the very planet that sustains life as we know it).

But I digress – back to common ground. We agree that as children our mental capacity is not fully developed. We survive by our instincts and the basic needs to be fed, watered, sheltered and bonded in a family group where we defer to a natural hierarchy. When you think about it this is precisely how dogs survive.

Like children, dogs display the most basic instincts to rough and tumble, compete for toys and establish a natural pecking order. Inherent in this is the need for a parent or pack leader to set down boundaries and create order and stability out of chaos. Without this both child and dog feel insecure and may well grow to display anti-social behaviour.

You would responsibly bring a child up with love and discipline, have consistent boundaries, teach them what is safe and what is dangerous, what is sociable and what is unsociable.

Dogs too need love and discipline, consistent boundaries, and to learn what is safe and what is dangerous, what is sociable and what is unsociable.

Communicating with a child is not so very different from communicating with a dog. Young children, like dogs, do not have the power of speech so you have to work out alternative strategies to speech in order to get through to them. You will find that if you approach a dog in much the same way as you approach a child, life will be a whole lot easier for you. And the dog! Hopefully you will have realised that praise is a far stronger motivator that punishment.

A positive approach.

Take the example of the puppy that makes a puddle on the floor and the child that wets its bed. Each one of them have not learnt control of their bladder and are simply responding to the call of nature. Neither are being naughty nor are in the wrong.

Yelling at the child will only make it more stressed and, therefore, more likely to continue wetting the bed. In exactly the same way if a puppy has an accident on the carpet being harsh will make matters worse.

How many human ‘sports’ involve chasing a moving object? How many of these games also involve people working as a team to ‘catch’ these objects? Football, rugby, basketball, tennis, badminton, etc. I could go on but you get the idea.

Why do we enjoy these games? Is it not because we too are instinctively striving for a pecking order within the pack and following our predatory instincts.

“No, no no!’ I hear you say. ‘We are a civilised, sophisticated race who have created these games for our enjoyment. They are so different to the throw and fetch games our canine friends mindlessly enjoy.’

Don’t kid yourself. Look also how football supporters revert to uninhibited childlike behaviour. At worst becoming hooligans and behaving, almost literally, like savage animals when they find themselves challenged or threatened by an opposing pack.

Or on a much more positive note how hundreds of fans, unrehearsed, suddenly find one voice and break into a prefect, heart-stopping rendition of “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. Now that’s a perfect example of the ‘pack call’.

We all enjoy the close relationship we have with our dogs. Maybe sometimes we don’t realise quite how close we are.

ooOOoo

I can’t imagine life without our dogs.

They mean everything to Jeannie and me.

A photo of Pharaoh when he was quite an old fella!

How much time do we have left?

A post from Patrice Ayme.

I have subscribed to Patrice Ayme for some time now. I don’t know who he is because he writes under a pseudonym, or a nom-de-plume. (And, indeed, I may have the gender incorrect but I’m pretty sure it’s a male.)

Patrice writes frequently and doesn’t mince his words.

But then he writes about really serious matters and often has criticism for the ‘ruling classes’.

Such as he has in the post that was published on the 6th May. I left a comment:

It’s extremely worrying and not something that can be put off. The clock is at 5 minutes to midnight. In Britain Extreme Resistance are pursuing a campaign that may just produce a political outcome. And, indeed, the English Government have come up with goals to combat climate change.

So keep banging your drum, Patrice, and hope that urgent action across the world isn’t too far away.

To which Patrice replied:

Dear Paul:
thanks! Here I am fighting with my daughter’s school, which has decided to install artificial, plastic grass. It’s horrendous for the environment, and it endangers the lives of children (in many ways, including a disease called “SUBEROSIS” caused by organic cork.) Here real ecologist take it hard, and have started to burn artificial plastic flame retardant fields: 13,000 were recently installed in the USA, a proof of mass corruption…
Feel free to use my essay on your site, BTW, of course…
And thanks again…
P

Now I hadn’t heard of Suberosis before, but no problem, a quick web search brought up Wikipedia and this:

Suberosis is a type of hypersensitivity pneumonitis usually caused by the fungus Penicillium glabrum (formerly called Penicillum frequentans) from exposure to moldy cork dust.[1][2] Chrysonilia sitophilia, Aspergillus fumigatus, uncontaminated cork dust, and Mucor macedo may also have significant roles in the pathogenesis of the disease.[1]

Cause

Cork is often harvested from the cork oak (Quercus suber) and stored in slabs in a hot and humid environment until covered in mold.[1] Cork workers may be exposed to organic dusts in this process, leading to this disease.[1]

I don’t fully understand how the laying of artificial grass leads to possible Suberosis.

But I have decided to republish even though it has nothing to do with dogs! (Well, not directly.)

ooOOoo

Nature Collapsing, Plutocracy Thriving

Both phenomena are related. The more nature collapses, the more plutocracy thrives (see the multi-centennial fall of Rome, for reference). Small people and other losers have no interest to see nature collapse. However, plutocracy does. Because Pluto-Kratia, Evil-Power, is best expressed and justified during war-like states, and civilizational collapse sure qualifies.

Plutocracy survived the collapse of the Roman and Carolingian empires with flying colors. In the Roman case, most noble families had a bishop in their midst. The collapse of the Renovated Empire of the Romans (Renovatio Imperii Romanorum) and its renewal by the Ottos and Capets brought the feudal order, another plutocratic success.

Now is no different: we have a terminal CO2 crisis bringing in extreme, sudden temperature, acidification and ocean rises: 1% of US CO2 is from state subsidized private jets. Nobody notices, because media have made sure to create entire generations just preoccupied by celebrities, not by what is going on, which is really most significant.

Nor has the media been keen to notice the likes of Biden annihilated the Banking Act of 1933, in the 1990s, bringing in the age of the financial plutocracy… itself a heavy financier of fossil fuels. So all what some schools are thinking of is installing “Apps”, and plastic grass, instead of teaching sustainable global citizenship. We are cruising towards an apocalypse, at an increasing pace: the Sixth Mass Extinction. The United Nations just came up (May 6, 2019) with an analysis made by 132 countries and 455 scientists: one million species are disappearing. For example, nearly all amphibians.

https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/06/world/one-million-species-threatened-extinction-humans-scn-intl/index.html

One problem with burning forests in the tropics is that what is left are often extremely poor soils (differently from northern European soils, which are very forgiving, explaining in great part why north west Europe replaced the Greco-Roman world…) Cattle grazing on a tract of illegally cleared Amazon forest in Pará State, Brazil. In most major land habitats, the average abundance of native plant and animal life has fallen by 20 percent or more, mainly over the past century,,, [Credit Lalo de Almeida for The New York Times]

In Africa, burned forest is often replaced by lateritis, a soil which is red, baked, hard… for the good reason that it is full of Aluminum.

It is the Sixth Mass Extinction, but this time the dinosaurs have thermonuclear weapons.

What to do? Get involved, get aware, protest. Protests can become unbearable to the powers that be.

This is the way the fascist government of Brunei on the island of Borneo was just dealt with. It drew powerful international condemnation when it rolled out its interpretation of sharia laws on April 3. Now, the Sultan of Brunei, Hassanal Bolkiah, reverted his decision: after all, the country won’t enforce Islamic laws that include stoning to death for rape, adultery and gay sex.

Killing all the people who got killed in World War Two was atrocious. However, what is now unfolding has the potential to be way way worse. Einstein said he didn’t know which weapons will be used to fight World War Three, but next it would be sticks and stones. That was naively optimistic. If we acidify further the ocean with acid from CO2, we may kill the Earth’s oxygen making mechanism. Not really news, as this was clear five years ago already:

https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/2014/05/30/global-hypoxia/ 

Many behave as if there will be no tomorrow, because they feel that way! It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, it has to be resisted.

What’s needed, beyond recording what’s going on, is interpreting it, going beyond, building ideas, and moods meant to last. Only deeper thinking can do this, and ensure a planet capable of lasting. Because we are not at the regional level anymore. When climate change, plus nefarious human impact, forced the Harappan civilization to abandon its homeland, the Indus valley, it was dealing with forces it had no idea existed. Maybe there are such forces out there. But there are also plenty of forces we can see, and which are plenty lethal enough, at civilizational scale, and the scale of the entire biosphere. Stop. And think. One million species are marching towards extinction, among the plants and animals we know.

Patrice Ayme

***

***

From NYT:

WASHINGTON — Humans are transforming Earth’s natural landscapes so dramatically that as many as one million plant and animal species are now at risk of extinction, posing a dire threat to ecosystems that people all over the world depend on for their survival, a sweeping new United Nations assessment has concluded.

The 1,500-page report, compiled by hundreds of international experts and based on thousands of scientific studies, is the most exhaustive look yet at the decline in biodiversity across the globe and the dangers that creates for human civilization. A summary of its findings, which was approved by representatives from the United States and 131 other countries, was released Monday [May 6, 2019] in Paris. The full report is set to be published this year.

Its conclusions are stark. In most major land habitats, from the savannas of Africa to the rain forests of South America, the average abundance of native plant and animal life has fallen by 20 percent or more, mainly over the past century. With the human population passing 7 billion, activities like farming, logging, poaching, fishing and mining are altering the natural world at a rate “unprecedented in human history.”

At the same time, a new threat has emerged: Global warming has become a major driver of wildlife decline, the assessment found, by shifting or shrinking the local climates that many mammals, birds, insects, fish and plants evolved to survive in. When combined with the other ways humans are damaging the environment, climate change is now pushing a growing number of species, such as the Bengal tiger, closer to extinction.

As a result, biodiversity loss is projected to accelerate through 2050, particularly in the tropics, unless countries drastically step up their conservation efforts.

ooOOoo

I’m in the autumn of my life and may not live to see the consequences of what we are doing to Nature and to the Planet.

Then again, if some of the predictions bear true, I won’t have to live an awful lot longer to experience real change.

It’s time for a complete re-analysis of our relationship with the natural world.

And another dog saved!

Another example of that man-dog relationship.

So many people put their dog before anything else.

Take Randy Etter and his dog Gemini.

Or rather take The Dodo‘s description of Randy and Gemini.

ooOOoo

Man Immediately Puts His Car Up For Sale To Save His Dog’s Life

“I would be devastated if I lost my best friend.”

BY

PUBLISHED ON 04/24/2019

Randy Etter and his dog Gemini have been together since Gemini was just a little puppy. It’s been around two years now, and the pair are the absolute best of friends. They love each other so much and brighten each other’s lives every single day — so when Etter found out he might lose Gemini, he vowed to do absolutely everything he could to save his life.

Randy Etter.

Gemini was playing with Etter’s girlfriend’s daughter one day four weeks ago, and the baby thought it was hilarious to continuously throw her bottle out of her playpen at Gemini. Gemini would pick it up every time and his dad would quickly grab it from him, wash it off, and give it back to the baby — but at some point, Gemini got ahold of the bottle without his dad realizing and ended up eating the top off of it.

No one had any idea that Gemini had swallowed something he wasn’t supposed to — until he started getting very, very sick.

“He just started to slow down and I didn’t think that was normal, just laying beside me and following me everywhere,” Etter told The Dodo. “I just felt like he was saying, ‘Help me.’”

Randy Etter.

When Gemini started vomiting uncontrollably, his dad knew something was very, very wrong, and immediately rushed him to the vet. Unfortunately, at first, no one could tell him for sure what was wrong with Gemini.

“I lost my job driving vet to vet to vet and it just seemed like I wasn’t gonna get anywhere or get him the help he needed in time,” Etter said. “It was truly one of the scariest things I had to deal with.”

Randy Etter.

Finally, a vet was able to confirm that Gemini had a blockage inside of him and would need surgery — which would cost $4,500, money that Etter definitely did not have. Losing Gemini was not an option, though, and so he decided to put his car up for sale to try and raise at least part of the money to save his best friend’s life.

“I was gonna spend every dollar made from the car sale on his surgery,” Etter said. “I would be devastated if I lost my best friend.”

Gemini is now recovering well, safe in the arms of his dad and best friend. Etter is so grateful to everyone who helped him keep Gemini alive, and can’t imagine what he would have done without everyone’s support.

Randy Etter.

“It means the world to me,” Etter said. “He’s my best friend. He’s always there for me, I just wanted to be able to return the favor and be there for him.”

ooOOoo

Randy puts it perfectly; “He’s my best friend. He’s always there for me, I just wanted to be able to return the favor and be there for him.

Thousands upon thousands of people feel exactly the same way.

Thank goodness for dogs!

Being in charge.

“Dogs have masters, cats have staff.”

That’s a well-known saying that, nonetheless, has a certain element of truth about it.

So what is the truth?

Well read the following and see for yourself.

ooOOoo

Pet owners want to be masters, not servants – which is why we value dogs more than cats

By

Assistant Professor of Marketing, New York Institute of Technology

Cat videos may rule the internet, but dogs possess mastery of their owners’ hearts – at least if spending is any guide.

Dog owners spend US$240 a month caring for their pets, compared with $193 for cats, according to the 2017-2018 National Pet Owners Survey from the American Pet Products Association. The extra money goes primarily toward vet visits and kennel boarding, but dog owners also spend more lavishly on treats, grooming and toys.

My new paper, “Dogs Have Masters, Cats Have Staff,” shines some light on why.

A cat would never let its owner do this. Reuters/Andrew Wong

A growing market

Americans are spending more on pet care as an increasing share of U.S. households own an animal.

A little over two-thirds of all U.S. households own at least one pet, up from 56 percent in 1988, the first year of the National Pet Owners Survey.

And almost half of households own a dog, while just 38 percent have a cat. Generational trends suggest this divergence is likely to grow, as millennials are more likely to adopt a canine, while baby boomers tend to be cat lovers.

This is resulting in a growing market for pet-related products and services, which hit an estimated $72 billion in 2018, up from $46 billion a decade earlier.

A willingness to pay

My study builds on earlier research showing that dog owners are willing to spend more on their pets than cat owners – including to save their lives.

One reason suggested was that dog owners had stronger bonds to their pets, which prompted them to spend more on things like veterinary care.

My research uncovered a key factor indicating why dog owners feel more attached to their pets: Dogs are famously more compliant than cats. When owners feel in control of their pets, strong feelings of psychological ownership and emotional attachment develop. And pet owners want to be masters – not servants.

Like other marketing researchers, my work uses “willingness to pay” as an indicator of the economic, rather than emotional, value owners place on their pets. It shows – and compares – how much pet owners would pay to save their animal’s life.

Dog owners are willing to pay twice as much as cat owners for a life-saving surgery. AP Photo/Angie Wang

Who’s in control?

So I carried out three online experiments to explore the role of psychological ownership in these valuations.

In the first experiment, I asked dog or cat owners to write about their pet’s behavior so I could measure their feelings of control and psychological ownership. Participants then imagined their pet became ill and indicated the most they would be willing to pay for a life-saving surgery.

Dog owners, on average, said they would pay $10,689 to save the life of their pet, whereas cat owners offered less than half that. At the same time, dog owners tended to perceive more control and psychological ownership over their pets, suggesting this might be the reason for the difference in spending.

Of course, correlation is not causation. So in a second experiment, I asked participants how much they would be willing to pay to save their animal’s life after I had disturbed their sense of ownership. I did this by asking participants to imagine their pet’s behavior was a result of training it received from a previous owner.

As expected, disrupting their feelings of ownership eliminated the difference in valuation between dogs and cats.

Since pet owners like to control their animals, and since cats are less controllable than dogs, the third experiment went straight to the point: Does the owner value the dog or cat for its own sake or for its compliant behavior?

To find out, I again asked survey respondents to describe how much they’d be willing to pay to save their pet’s life, but this time I randomly assigned one of four scenarios: Participants were told they either own a dog, a cat, a dog that behaves like a cat, or a cat that behaves like a dog.

Participants reported they would pay $4,270 to save the life of their dog, but only $2,462 for their cat. However, this pattern was reversed when the pet’s behavior changed, with dog-behaving cats valued at $3,636, but cat-behaving dogs only $2,372.

These results clearly show that the animal’s behavior is what makes people willing to pay.

When cats act more like dogs, people say they’d spend more money on them. pixfix/shutterstock.com

Master or servant

These findings establish that psychological ownership is a driving factor in dog owners’ higher valuations.

People feel ownership because they perceive that they can control their pets’ behavior. This research even distinguishes the type of control that probably most stimulates ownership feelings: It’s not just physical control, such as being able to pick up an animal or drag it by a leash. Rather, it’s the animal’s voluntary compliance with its owner’s wishes.

No matter how cute and cuddly your kitties may be, they can’t compete with dogs when it comes to giving pet owners the sense of mastery they seek.

ooOOoo

Taken from here.

What I find amazing are the figures for the US in terms of dog ownership. As in over half of households own a dog.

I suspect it will continue to grow.

Because the bond between a human and a dog is unique as well as being very beautiful!

It stretches the mind beyond imagination!

The most incredible story of all!

I first read the story early yesterday morning in The Guardian Newspaper.

But then I saw another version of the same story on the BBC News site, from which I republish it in its entirety.

ooOOoo

First ever black hole image released

By Pallab Ghosh
Science correspondent, BBC News

The first ever picture of a black hole: It’s surrounded by a halo of bright gas.

Astronomers have taken the first ever image of a black hole, which is located in a distant galaxy.

It measures 40 billion km across – three million times the size of the Earth – and has been described by scientists as “a monster”.

The black hole is 500 million trillion km away and was photographed by a network of eight telescopes across the world.

Details have been published today in Astrophysical Journal Letters.

Prof Heino Falcke, of Radboud University in the Netherlands, who proposed the experiment, told BBC News that the black hole was found in a galaxy called M87.

“What we see is larger than the size of our entire Solar System,” he said.

“It has a mass 6.5 billion times that of the Sun. And it is one of the heaviest black holes that we think exists. It is an absolute monster, the heavyweight champion of black holes in the Universe.”

The image shows an intensely bright “ring of fire”, as Prof Falcke describes it, surrounding a perfectly circular dark hole. The bright halo is caused by superheated gas falling into the hole. The light is brighter than all the billions of other stars in the galaxy combined – which is why it can be seen at such distance from Earth.

The edge of the dark circle at the centre is the point at which the gas enters the black hole, which is an object that has such a large gravitational pull, not even light can escape.

Taking the temperature of black holes

Hawking: Black holes store information

Dozen black holes at galactic centre

DR JEAN LORRE/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY I have suspected that the M87 galaxy has a supermassive black hole at its heart from false colour images such as this one. The dark centre is not a black hole but indicates that stars are densely packed and fast moving.

The image matches what theoretical physicists and indeed, Hollywood directors, imagined black holes would look like, according to Dr Ziri Younsi, of University College London – who is part of the collaboration.

“Although they are relatively simple objects, black holes raise some of the most complex questions about the nature of space and time, and ultimately of our existence,” he said.

“It is remarkable that the image we observe is so similar to that which we obtain from our theoretical calculations. So far, it looks like Einstein is correct once again.”

But having the first image will enable researchers to learn more about these mysterious objects. They will be keen to look out for ways in which the black hole departs from what’s expected in physics. No-one really knows how the bright ring around the hole is created. Even more intriguing is the question of what happens when an object falls into a black hole.

What is a black hole?

  • A black hole is a region of space from which nothing, not even light, can escape
  • Despite the name, they are not empty but instead consist of a huge amount of matter packed densely into a small area, giving it an immense gravitational pull
  • There is a region of space beyond the black hole called the event horizon. This is a “point of no return”, beyond which it is impossible to escape the gravitational effects of the black hole
Presentational white space

Prof Falcke had the idea for the project when he was a PhD student in 1993. At the time, no-one thought it was possible. But he was the first to realise that a certain type of radio emission would be generated close to and all around the black hole, which would be powerful enough to be detected by telescopes on Earth.

He also recalled reading a scientific paper from 1973 that suggested that because of their enormous gravity, black holes appear 2.5 times larger than they actually are.

These two previously unknown factors suddenly made the seemingly impossible, possible. After arguing his case for 20 years, Prof Falcke persuaded the European Research Council to fund the project. The National Science Foundation and agencies in East Asia then joined in to bankroll the project to the tune of more than £40m.

The eventual EHT array will have 12 widely spaced participating radio facilities

It is an investment that has been vindicated with the publication of the image. Prof Falcke told me that he felt that “it’s mission accomplished”.

He said: “It has been a long journey, but this is what I wanted to see with my own eyes. I wanted to know is this real?”

No single telescope is powerful enough to image the black hole. So, in the biggest experiment of its kind, Prof Sheperd Doeleman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, led a project to set up a network of eight linked telescopes. Together, they form the Event Horizon Telescope and can be thought of as a planet-sized array of dishes.

KATIE BOUMAN Information gathered is too much to be sent across the internet. Instead the data was stored on hundreds of hard drives which were flown to a central processing centre.
JASON GALLICCHIO

Each is located high up at a variety of exotic sites, including on volcanoes in Hawaii and Mexico, mountains in Arizona and the Spanish Sierra Nevada, in the Atacama Desert of Chile, and in Antarctica.

A team of 200 scientists pointed the networked telescopes towards M87 and scanned its heart over a period of 10 days.

The information they gathered was too much to be sent across the internet. Instead, the data was stored on hundreds of hard drives that were flown to a central processing centres in Boston, US, and Bonn, Germany, to assemble the information. Prof Doeleman described the achievement as “an extraordinary scientific feat”.

“We have achieved something presumed to be impossible just a generation ago,” he said.

“Breakthroughs in technology, connections between the world’s best radio observatories, and innovative algorithms all came together to open an entirely new window on black holes.”

The team is also imaging the supermassive black hole at the centre of our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

Odd though it may sound, that is harder than getting an image from a distant galaxy 55 million light-years away. This is because, for some unknown reason, the “ring of fire” around the black hole at the heart of the Milky Way is smaller and dimmer.

Follow Pallab on Twitter

ooOOoo

One of the most remarkable things about this story is that it continues to validate the theories of Albert Einstein (1879-1955). That is doubly impressive.

The film, How to see a Black Hole: The Universe’s Greatest Mystery,    is a most interesting account of the skills that were utilised by the team, and the luck of that same group in pulling it all together.

This is clearly the start of a new journey in astronomy.

I will leave you by repeating the image of the black hole.

The first ever picture of a black hole: It’s surrounded by a halo of bright gas.

Dr. Dog!

The truth of having a dog in your life.

I really should have written having a pet in your life because the following story is about cats and dogs. Plus, it’s been copied from The Guardian Newspaper so I fully expect that it will be taken down fairly soon.

But here goes!

ooOOoo

Sometimes a dog can be better for a patient than hospital

Suffering patients may need to just be asked ‘tell me about your pet’

Photograph: IJdema/Getty Images/iStockphoto

‘I wonder how often doctors are cognisant of the silent distress of patients who are separated from their pets?’

An elderly patient is admitted to hospital after a fall at home. He is stunned after the fall but, thankfully, uninjured. It takes him a few days to recover but as soon as he is able, he wants to go home. The physiotherapist wants to work with him, the social worker wants to examine his support system, but all he wants to do is go home. We feel he is not yet safe. He acknowledges that a worse event could happen but still, he wants to go home. Theories are posited as to why.

Maybe the concussion is worse than we first thought. Maybe he is cognitively impaired and unable to make decisions about his safety, in which case a state-appointed guardian may be needed. Maybe he doesn’t like the other patients, in which case he could be placated by moving him to another room. It is the beginning of a month of medical rounds for me and he is the handover without a plan.

He is sitting out of bed, dressed and sipping his tea. He looks up at a new face with interest.

“I am the specialist taking over your care,” I say.

“Look, love, please just let me go home. I’m begging you.”

Something about his desperation moves me and I am struck by the imbalance of power between me and my patient twice my age.

“I really want to, but help me understand why you’re so eager.”

I expect to hear about the incessant noise in the hospital, the bad food or the lack of clear communication but instead, to my complete surprise, tears start rolling down his face.

“It’s my cat. I want to see my cat.”

The cat is a link to the years he shared with his late wife. Now it snoozes in his wife’s chair and responds to his reminiscences, as if to say it knows he is hurting. In the twilight of his life, when his children are too busy to visit and the residents in his retirement village keep falling sick, his cat is the constant in his life.

“You can’t fix an old man,” he pleads. “But send me back to my cat.”

“I am going to do just that,” I say.

Outside, his story touches a nerve. People band together, set up community services and get him home quickly. In the end, he turns out to be a simple discharge. Reuniting an old man with his cat turns out to be the best medicine, which leaves me wondering how often doctors are cognisant of the silent distress of patients who are separated from their pets. Not often, I suspect.

The very next week, the distress of another patient announces itself loudly and heartbreakingly. She is 50, her dog was 18. She was divorced and lonely. He was old and slow. When her work turned her out and her friends moved on, the dog proved her anchor.

Amid all the shifting circumstances of her life, he never stopped loving her and greeting her with delight every morning. He needed nothing more than a walk and a few biscuits to send him into raptures of delight. Suddenly he fell very ill and the vet suggested the kindest thing to do was to let him go. So she did. Then she came home and took an overdose. How could she face life without her dog?

The postman spotted her through the window and called an ambulance. She was successfully resuscitated and now she is on the medical ward, awaiting psychiatric intervention. When I meet her she is pleasant and remorseful, particularly for being a burden on the overstretched mental-healthcare system.

A psych consult won’t help her, she pleads, another dog will. In fact, she has found just the right one and even thought of a name. She just hopes it won’t be gone before she is cleared. I tell her that all my sympathies still won’t add up to a hasty discharge because she really does need to see the psychiatrist. She begins to sob.

I have an insightful resident with me.

“Tell me about your dog,” she asks brightly. “I love dogs.”

The patient pulls out a photo from under her pillow.

“He is so happy,” I remark as I start jotting some notes.

“He was all I had. I went months without talking to people.”

Her loneliness will need attention but that’s a topic for another day, easy to identify but difficult to fix.

“What was his favourite thing to do?” the resident smiles, leaning forward.

“He loved to walk, even as an old thing.”

We go back and forth, the standard questions about headache, pain and immobility replaced by an interest in a departed dog that was the life of his owner.

It feels intuitively right but somehow misplaced, as if we are breaking some established protocol that says we should be asking about the number of pills she took and whether there was alcohol involved and what she would do if her new dog got sick. We should be checking her vitals, ensuring her bloods are fine, that the drug screen is clear. And watching our every word in case something inopportune brings her grief crashing back and we are to blame.

Except, in that moment, it is clear that while the medical questions have merit, the most important thing for this patient at this time is to cast them all aside and create a common understanding to make her feel less lonely in her experience. I count 10 minutes spent at her bedside. In those 10 minutes, we watch her mood lift and fresh hope enter her tone. There are people who love dogs, she thinks. There are people who understand my grief. Why, they are even interested in my old dog.

Our time is limited, and we must move on apologetically. With dry eyes and genuine gratitude, she says, “Thank you for asking about my dog. It’s the nicest thing anyone has done.”

Really? Could it be this simple?

Amid the trappings of modern medicine, it’s hard to believe that the inexpensive 10 minutes spent at her bedside might have proved to be the most useful and cathartic treatment of all. All her tests turned out fine. A day later, she is deemed safe for discharge and is overjoyed at the reprieve.

The next time we meet an upset patient, I suspect we will be tempted to ask the same question as always, “What’s the problem?”

But with a better history and a little luck, these experiences will shape a more nuanced approach to the suffering of patients. For many of them, the best question may be a request. “Tell me about your pet.”

ooOOoo

It’s both a beautiful story and a powerful one. It explains how for many people having a pet in their lives is more than a nice thing, it’s the reason for living.

Wonderful.

Thank you Margaret for sending me the link to this news item.

Dogs also provide the eyes to those that need them.

A recent inspiring item from the BBC.

This news item was featured on the BBC the other day and I made a note to share it with you.

ooOOoo

Blind man runs New York half marathon with three guide dogs

18th March, 2019

Thomas Panek and his guide dog Gus running the New York City Half Marathon

Thomas Panek has completed 20 marathons, however, he made history on Sunday at the New York City Half Marathon.

While visually impaired runners usually use human guides, Mr Panek became the first person to complete the race supported by guide dogs.

A trio of Labradors – Westley, Waffle and Gus – each accompanied him for a third of the race.

The team finished in two hours and 21 minutes.

Mr Panek, who lost his sight in his early 20s, told CNN that while he appreciated the support of human volunteers, he missed the feeling of independence.

“It never made sense to me to walk out the door and leave my guide dog behind when I love to run and they love to run,” he said. “It was just a matter of bucking conventional wisdom and saying why not.

In 2015, Mr Panek established the Running Guides programme which trains dogs to support runners.

When selecting his canine companions for the New York race, Mr Panek chose siblings Waffle and Westley to join Gus, who is his full-time guide dog.

(L-R) Thomas Panek, Waffle, Westley and Gus show off their medals after the race

“The bond is really important. You can’t just pick up the harness and go for a run with these dogs,” Mr Panek told CNN. “You’re training with a team no matter what kind of athlete you are, and you want to spend time together in that training camp.”

Each dogs sets its own pace – Westley runs an eight minute mile, while his sister Waffle can cover the same distance in six minutes – and helps Mr Panek avoid obstacles such as kerbs and cones.

Each dog wears a special harness and set of running boots, to protect their paws.

Gus was chosen to run the final leg of the race and cross the finish line with Mr Panek. He retired from his duties as a guide dog at the end of the race.

“It’s a little emotional for me because he’s been there with me the whole time,” Mr Panek said.

Gus, Mr Panek’s personal guide dog, entered retirement after the race

Before the race, Mr Panek told Time magazine that guide dogs give visually impaired people the freedom to “do whatever it is a sighted person does, and sometimes, even run a little faster than them”.

ooOOoo

“It’s a little emotional for me because he’s been there with me the whole time,”

It’s not just Mr. Panek who finds the report a little emotional!

As I have said many times before and undoubtedly will continue to say: Dogs are truly amazing animals.

The equinox!

Have you seen the moon?

It’s a particularly beautiful moon and more so because it coincides with the equinox.

Taken from here.

ooOOoo

Full supermoon at March 2019 equinox

By in

Photo above: Bruce Tennant captured the March 2014 full moon rising over Santiago Peak, Alamitos Bay, Long Beach, California.

The March 20-21, 2019, full moon ushers in the first full moon of spring for the Northern Hemisphere, and the first full moon of autumn for the Southern Hemisphere. This full moon is also a supermoon, particularly close to Earth. It comes less than four hours after the arrival of the March 20 equinox.

This is the closest coincidence of a full moon with the March equinox since March 2000 – 19 years ago. The full moon and March equinox won’t happen less than one day apart again for another 11 years, or until March 2030.

March 2000 full Moon: March 20 at 4:44 UTC
March 2000 equinox: March 20 at 7:35 UTC

March 2030 full moon: March 19 at 17:56 UTC
March 2030 equinox: March 20 at 13:51 UTC

This month’s full moon also presents the third and final supermoon of 2019. Will it appear bigger in your sky? No, not unless you happen to catch the moon just after it has risen in the east, around sunset. Then its larger-than-usual size has less to do with the supermoon, but more from a psychological effect known as the moon illusion.

Supermoons don’t look bigger to the eye to most people, but they do look significantly brighter. If you’re in the suburbs or a rural area, notice the bright moonlight cast on the landscape at this full moon.

Also, supermoons have a stronger-than-usual effect on Earth’s oceans. Watch for higher-than-usual tides to follow the supermoon by a day or so, especially if a coastal storm is happening in your part of the world.

This March supermoon isn’t 2019’s closest supermoon, by the way. That happened last month. See photos of last month’s supermoon.

The Virtual Telescope Project will show the March 20 supermoon live, as it rises above the skyline of Rome. Click here for more info.

At U.S. time zones, the equinox arrives on March 20, at 5:58 p.m. EDT, 4:58 p.m. CDT, 3:58 p.m. MDT, 2:58 p.m. PDT, 1:58 p.m. AKDT and 11:58 a.m. HST.

At U.S. time zones, the full moon falls on March 20, at 9:43 p.m. EDT, 8:43 p.m. CDT, 7:43 p.m. MDT, 6:43 p.m. PDT, 5:43 p.m. AKDT and 3:43 p.m. HST.

In Universal Time, the equinox arrives on March 20, at 21:58 UTC, and the full moon comes on March 21, at 1:43 UTC. Here’s how to convert Universal Time to your local time.

At the equinox, the sun is at zenith (straight overhead) at the Earth’s equator. Because the Earth’s atmosphere refracts (bends) sunlight, a tiny bit more than half of the globe is covered over in daylight.Generally, the first full moon of a Northern Hemisphere spring heralds the imminent coming of the Christian celebration of Easter. Since Easter Sunday – by proclamation – occurs on the first Sunday after the first full moon in spring, some of us might expect the upcoming Sunday on March 24 to be Easter Sunday. However, by ecclesiastical rules, the equinox is fixed on March 21, so that places this year’s Easter Sunday (for Western Christendom) on April 21, 2019.

By the Gregorian calendar, the last time that an ecclesiastical Easter and an astronomical Easter didn’t occur on the same date was 38 years ago, in 1981. The next time won’t be until 19 years from now, in 2038.

(Easter Sunday for Eastern or Orthodox Christendom actually falls on April 28, 2019. That’s because the Eastern Church bases Easter on the old style Julian calendar, instead of the revised Gregorian calendar used by Western Christianity and most of the world.)

For our friends in the Southern Hemisphere, this March full moon counts as your Harvest Moon. The Harvest Moon is the full moon occurring closest to the autumnal equinox. On the average, the moon rises about 50 minutes later with each passing day. But for several days around the time of the Harvest Moon, the lag time between successive moonrises is reduced to a yearly minimum. For instance, at 40 degrees south latitude, the moon now rises some 30 to 35 minutes later (instead of the average 50 minutes later) each day for the next several days.

Like Earth, Saturn has equinoxes too! The ringed planet last had an equinox in 2009, and will have its next equinox in 2025. From Earth, Saturn’s rings disappear from view at a Saturn equinox, because these rings are then edge-on from our vantage point. But this near-equinox view of Saturn’s rings is readily visible from the Cassini spacecraft, because it’s 20 degrees above the ring plane. Image via NASA.

Here in the Northern Hemisphere, where it’s the closest full moon to the spring equinox, the lag time between successive moonrises is at a yearly maximum. At 40 degrees north latitude, the moon now rises around 70 to 75 minutes later daily. In the Northern Hemisphere, we ‘ll have to wait for the September full moon to bring forth our procession of early evening moonrises.

Last but hardly least, this March 2019 full moon gives us the first of four full moons in one season (between the March equinox and June solstice). Most of the time, a season – the time period between an equinox and a solstice, or vice versa – only harbors three full moons. But since this March full moon comes very early in the season, that allows for a fourth full moon to take place before the season’s end.

March 2019 equinox: March 20 at 21:58 UTC

March 2019 full moon: March 21 at 1:43 UTC
April 2019 full moon: April 19 at 11:12 UTC
May 2019 full moon: May 18 at 21:11 UTC
June 2019 full moon: June 17 at 8:31 UTC

June 2019 solstice: June 21 at 15:54 UTC

Some people call the third of four full moons in one season a Blue Moon. So our next Blue Moon (by the seasonal definition of the term) will fall on May 18, 2019.

The next Blue Moon by the monthly definition – second of two full moons in one calendar month – will come on October 31, 2020.

Resources:

Astronomical and Gregorian Easter Sunday
Phases of the moon: 1901 to 2000
Phases of the moon: 2001 to 2100
Solstices and equinoxes: 2001 to 2100
Equinox and solstice calculator

Bottom line: Enjoy the equinox full moon on March 20-21, 2019. It’s the third and final full supermoon of 2019, and the first of four full moons in the upcoming season (spring for the Northern Hemisphere, autumn for the Southern Hemisphere).

Bruce McClure has served as lead writer for EarthSky’s popular Tonight pages since 2004. He’s a sundial aficionado, whose love for the heavens has taken him to Lake Titicaca in Bolivia and sailing in the North Atlantic, where he earned his celestial navigation certificate through the School of Ocean Sailing and Navigation. He also writes and hosts public astronomy programs and planetarium programs in and around his home in upstate New York.

ooOOoo

It’s not about dogs. But then again maybe it is. For I’m thinking of dogs howling at the moon.