Category: Government

A lost, and found, dog in Utah

A story that was widely reported.

I was short on time yesterday so no pre-amble.

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Search and rescue team save dog near frozen waterfall in Utah 

The dog separated from its owner on Christmas Eve.

By Teddy Grant, December 27, 2022.

A dog that was stranded near a frozen waterfall in Utah on Christmas Eve was saved by search and rescue officials and reunited with her owner.

According to the Weber County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue, a local man was hiking near Waterfall Canyon on Saturday when he became separated from his dog Nala.

The unidentified hiker couldn’t find Nala by nightfall and resumed his search the morning of Christmas Day, the sheriff’s office wrote on its Facebook page.

The hiker’s family members contacted authorities around 1:00 p.m., local time, saying he wasn’t responding to their calls or text messages, officials said.

Nala’s owner answered one of the phone calls once he regained cellphone service and was able to let people know that Nala was around the waterfall, but couldn’t reach her because of the steepness and the icy condition of the terrain, according to Weber County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue.

A grab from video posted by Weber County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue shows the dog Nala at Waterfall Canyon in Ogden, Utah, Dec. 25, 2022.

Weber County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue

The search and rescue team responded to the call and were able to save a skittish Nala after a little coaxing, officials said.

“Nala was cold with a few minor injuries, but was able to hike down with the rescuers,” officials wrote. “She is one tough puppy! Once reaching the trailhead parking lot, both human and canine couldn’t have been happier to be reunited.”

According to Waterfall Canyon it is a “moderately challenging,” 2.4-mile trail near Ogden, Utah, according to AllTrails. Ogden is around 38 miles north of Salt Lake City.

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I’m sure you read that the human and the dog were very grateful to be reunited.

Naming the States of America

A fascinating article read recently!

Being born in London and therefore British by birth I have no idea where the American States get their names from. That is why I read with great interest a recent article on the Word Genius blog that explained it all. I wanted to share it with you.

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Every state in America has its own unique culture, flavor, and quirks – including their names. State pride is alive and well from Alabama to Wyoming, but do you know the story of how your state got its name?

While the name etymology for some states is a bit muddled, in general, a good number are derived from Native American tribes and languages, such as Algonquin, Sioux, and Iroquois. Others are nods to the origins of the European settlers who claimed patches of America for their own.

Here’s a guide to where all 50 state names came from – and what they mean!

Origins of State Names

Alabama comes from the Choctaw word albah amo meaning thicket-clearers or plant cutters.

Alaska has ties to the Aleuts and the Russians, with the words alaxsxaq and Аляска, respectively, essentially meaning mainland.

Arizona has ancient roots as the Uto-Aztecan word ali sona-g, which was adopted by the Spaniards as Arizonac, meaning good oaks.

Arkansas is the French pronunciation of an Algonquin name for the Quapaw people, akansa.

California is truly a magical place. So magical in fact, it’s named after a fictional world invented by the author Garci Ordóñez de Montalvo, which Spanish explorers adopted when setting foot on the gold coast.

Colorado is another Spanish-influenced name that essentially means ruddy or ruddish. The name was first applied to the Colorado River for its distinctive color.

Connecticut, much like Colorado, was named for the river running through it. The word possibly stems from the Native American term quinnitukqut, meaning beside or at the long tidal river.

Delaware is also named for a body of water, but that body of water was named for Baron De la Warr, the first English governor of Virginia. The baron’s name is old French for of the war.

Florida taps into its Spanish roots by referencing Pascua florida, meaning flowering Easter, as Spanish explorers found the lush area during the holiday season. There’s also a tie to the Latin word floridus, meaning strikingly beautiful.

Georgia may be known for its southern hospitality, but it’s actually named for King George II from Great Britain.

Hawaii comes from the Polynesian word hawaiki, meaning place of the Gods. It was, however, originally named the Sandwich Islands by James Cook in the late 1700s.

Idaho has notorious roots in the Athabaskan word idaahe, meaning enemy. It was originally applied to part of Colorado before being given to the Gem State.

Illinois has a silent “s” at the end, because it’s of French origin. “Illinois” means “Land of Illini,” giving a nod to the Native American population. “Illini” is the Algonquin word for “man” or “warrior.”

Indiana, as you might expect, stems from the English word Indian. The Latin suffix tacked on the end roughly means “land of the.”

Iowa comes from the Dakota word yuxba, meaning sleepy ones.

Kansas references the Kansa tribe, meaning people of the south wind. Makes sense for tornado alley.

Kentucky is yet another state named for the river running through it, inspired by the Shawnee word for on the meadow.

Louisiana, like Georgia, was named for a regent of the times, specifically, Louis XIV of France.

Maine has uncertain origins. Though it’s worth noting that Maine was also the name of a traditional province in France.

Maryland is a tip of the hat from King Charles I to his wife Henrietta Maria. Some husbands give jewelry; King Charles gave naming rights to an entire state.

Massachusetts comes directly from the Algonquian word Massachusett that references the people living in the area, and means at the large hill.

Michigan is based on the Algonquin word meshi-gami, meaning big lake.

Minnesota, like many other Midwest states, comes from a Native American language. In this case, the Dakota word mnisota means cloudy, milky water.

Mississippi literally means big river in Algonquin Ojibwa, although it’s based on the French variation of the word.

Missouri relates to the Algonquin word wimihsoorita, which translates to people of the big canoes.

Montana has some Spanish flair that links back to the Latin mons, for mountains.

Nebraska stems from the Sioux name for the Platte River, omaha ni braska, meaning flat water.

Nevada comes from the Spanish name for the surrounding Sierra Nevada mountain range, which essentially means snowy mountains, or snowcapped.

New Hampshire is the first of many states and cities named as new outposts of other parts of the world. In this case, Hampshire was a county in Southern England.

New Jersey was coined by Sir George Carteret of the Channel Island of Jersey.

New Mexico is self-explanatory and based on the Spanish Nuevo Mexico. Although, did you know the Aztecs coined the word Mexihco for their ancient capital?

New York was named for the Duke of York and the future King James II.

North and South Carolina are named after a monarch, King Charles II, as Carolus is the proper Latin version of Charles. 

North and South Dakota: The word Dakota, of course, describes the Dakota people, but it also means friendly or allies.

Ohio once again comes from a body of water, this time, the Ohio River. The Seneca Native Americans billed it as a good river.

Oklahoma comes from the Choctaw word meaning red people.

Oregon’s origin is less clear, although some scholars point to Algonquin as the source.

Pennsylvania was named after Admiral William Penn, under Charles II. It literally means Penn’s Woods.

Rhode Island has multiple name theories, including the idea that Dutch explorer Adrian Block applied the name Roodt Eylandt, meaning red island, to reflect the red cliffs of the region. Alternatively, it may come from the Greek island of Rhodes.

Tennessee comes from the Cherokee village name ta’nasi, but the meaning is unclear.

Texas is another old Spanish name from the word tejas, meaning friends or allies.

Utah has a short, spunky sound from the Spanish yuta, the name given to indigenous Uto-Aztecan people of the mountains.

Vermont has an elegant French sound and meaning – mont vert means green mountain in French.

Virginia and West Virginia are a Latin nod to sovereign Elizabeth I, the Virgin Queen.

Washington is named for President George Washington. His surname means estate of a man named Wassa in Old English.

Wisconsin may come from the Miami word meskonsing, which was spelled by the French as mescousingand then shifted to ouisconsin.

Wyoming has origins from the Algonquian chwewamink, meaning at the big river flat. There is another theory, however, that states Wyoming comes from a word for mountains and valleys alternating.

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Fascinating!

I wonder how many Americans, i.e. those that were born in this country, know the origins of the names of the States?

New Years’ Resolutions

Finding one that really works.

Whatever age we are and in many different cultures the New Year holds out so much hope. It seems an opportunity to start anew, to put the habits of last year behind us, to embrace a new start. Yet all the evidence is that a New Year’s Resolution will not make it through to February.

That is why I picked up on a recent article in The Conversation, that they kindly allow to be republished.

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Why you should give the gift of mindfulness this New Year

By Jeremy David Engels

Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences, Penn State. Published: January 3, 2023.

The late Zen master Thich Nhat Hanh leading a meditation walk. Steve Cray/South China Morning Post via Getty Images

The start of another year can feel magical to many of us. Even though the days remain short and dark, the flip of the calendar can make it seem new beginnings with new resolutions are possible. 

Mindfulness scholars and teachers like me call resolutions “habit breakers,” as they can overcome patterns that no longer serve individuals. However, research suggests that many resolutions fail by the end of January. 

But a key to ensuring that resolutions stick is to choose one that will make a meaningful difference in your life. Seeing a real, tangible benefit can provide inspiration to keep going when all of life is telling us to let things go back to how they were before. 

Living more mindfully is a common New Year’s resolution. This year, try gifting it to others.

The meaning of mindfulness

Mindfulness has been shown to have a number of meaningful health benefits – it can help reduce anxiety and promote healing in those suffering from long-term chronic illness. 

The practice is based on an insight first described by ancient Buddhist texts that human beings have the capacity to observe experience without being caught up in it. This means, simply and wonderfully, that it is possible to observe ourselves having a craving, or a happy thought, or even a scary emotion, without reacting in the moment in a way that amplifies the feeling or sends the mind spiraling off into thinking about old memories or anticipating events.

This practice can help calm the mind and the body as we learn not to react to experience with likes and dislikes or judgments of good and bad. It does not make us cold or apathetic but more fully present

Mindfulness in a distracted world

One of the challenges of practicing mindfulness in our contemporary world is that there has been a profound transformation in human attention. The artist Jenny Odell argues that in our “attention economy” human attention has been transformed into a commodity that big corporations buy and sell. This economy rests on a technological revolution of mobile phones and social media that makes it possible for corporations to reach us with content that can capture and monetize our focus, at every moment, every day, and no matter where we may be.

The constant need to be checking our phones keeps us from being fully present. Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The needy little devices most people carry in their pockets and wear on their wrists, incessantly beeping and buzzing and chirping, are a perpetual diversion from the present moment. The result is that it can feel as though our ability to focus, and be fully present, has been stolen

But mindfulness can help us resist the attention economy and savor the things that make life special, like being together with those we love. 

The gift of mindfulness

While most mindfulness research focuses on the individual benefits of the practice, scholars like me argue that we not only practice mindfulness for ourselves but that we can also practice it for others. It can help us build stronger, healthier relationships. 

The sad truth is that living in the attention economy, most of us have become bad listeners. However, just as it is possible to watch ourselves having an experience without reacting, it’s possible to watch another person have an experience without getting tied up in reactivity and judgment. It’s possible simply to be present. 

The gift of mindfulness is a practice of listening with compassion to another person describe their experiences. To give this gift means putting away your phone, turning off social media, and setting aside other common distractions. It means practicing being fully present in another person’s presence and listening to them with complete attention, without reacting with judgment, while resisting the urge to make the interaction about you. 

If we judge the value of gifts based on how much they cost, this gift may seem worthless. But in a distracted world, I argue, it is a precious one

It is not a gift that you will wrap, or put inside a card; it’s not one you will have to name as a gift or draw attention to. It’s something you can do right now.

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Professor David Engels is spot on. The number of people who are wedded to their cell phone, especially the younger ones of us, is frightening. Many years ago I was fortunate to have a counsellor who was into mindfulness and some of the good practices have stayed with me.

So, please, if you are thinking that your use of a cell phone is intrusive, even slightly, then let this New Year present a new you!

P.S.

Belinda sent in the following attached to one of her comments. It’s perfect! Thank you, Belinda!

And while we are on the subject of New Year’s Resolutions try this one. It is not a long video but it is extremely important; it concerns our diet and our health!

The James Webb Space Telescope

Talk about looking up at the starry night!

I am sure that many of you have seen the latest images but still for those that have not…

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First the BBC presented a report on the 25th December, 2022. This is part of what they described:

James Webb telescope: Amazing images show the Universe as never before

The Tarantula Nebula: Only 161,000 light years from Earth, this is a place where thousands of stars were born

By Jonathan Amos, BBC Science Correspondent

It was the $10bn gift to the world. A machine that would show us our place in the Universe.

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) was launched exactly a year ago, on Christmas Day. It had taken three decades to plan, design and build.

Many wondered whether this successor to the famed Hubble Space Telescope could actually live up to expectations. 

We had to wait a few months while its epic 6.5m primary mirror was unpacked and focused, and its other systems tested and calibrated.

The first thing you have to remember about James Webb is that it is an infrared telescope. It sees the sky at wavelengths of light that are beyond what our eyes are able to discern. 

Astronomers use its different cameras to explore regions of the cosmos, such as these great towers of gas and dust. The Pillars were a favourite target of Hubble. It would take you several years travelling at the speed of light to traverse this entire scene.

Now we go to the NASA site for more of the JWST:

First Images from the James Webb Space Telescope

The dawn of a new era in astronomy has begun as the world gets its first look at the full capabilities of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope, a partnership with ESA (European Space Agency) and CSA (Canadian Space Agency). The telescope’s first full-color images and spectroscopic data were released during a televised broadcast at 10:30 a.m. EDT (14:30 UTC) on Tuesday, July 12, 2022, from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. These listed targets below represent the first wave of full-color scientific images and spectra the observatory has gathered, and the official beginning of Webb’s general science operations. They were selected by an international committee of representatives from NASA, ESA, CSA, and the Space Telescope Science Institute.

Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has produced the deepest and sharpest infrared image of the distant universe to date. Known as Webb’s First Deep Field, this image of galaxy cluster SMACS 0723 is overflowing with detail.

Thousands of galaxies – including the faintest objects ever observed in the infrared – have appeared in Webb’s view for the first time. This slice of the vast universe covers a patch of sky approximately the size of a grain of sand held at arm’s length by someone on the ground.

Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

This landscape of “mountains” and “valleys” speckled with glittering stars is actually the edge of a nearby, young, star-forming region called NGC 3324 in the Carina Nebula. Captured in infrared light by NASA’s new James Webb Space Telescope, this image reveals for the first time previously invisible areas of star birth.

Called the Cosmic Cliffs, Webb’s seemingly three-dimensional picture looks like craggy mountains on a moonlit evening. In reality, it is the edge of the giant, gaseous cavity within NGC 3324, and the tallest “peaks” in this image are about 7 light-years high. The cavernous area has been carved from the nebula by the intense ultraviolet radiation and stellar winds from extremely massive, hot, young stars located in the center of the bubble, above the area shown in this image.

Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

Stephan’s Quintet, a visual grouping of five galaxies, is best known for being prominently featured in the holiday classic film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Today, NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope reveals Stephan’s Quintet in a new light. This enormous mosaic is Webb’s largest image to date, covering about one-fifth of the Moon’s diameter. It contains over 150 million pixels and is constructed from almost 1,000 separate image files. The information from Webb provides new insights into how galactic interactions may have driven galaxy evolution in the early universe.

With its powerful, infrared vision and extremely high spatial resolution, Webb shows never-before-seen details in this galaxy group. Sparkling clusters of millions of young stars and starburst regions of fresh star birth grace the image. Sweeping tails of gas, dust and stars are being pulled from several of the galaxies due to gravitational interactions. Most dramatically, Webb captures huge shock waves as one of the galaxies, NGC 7318B, smashes through the cluster.

Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

Some stars save the best for last.

The dimmer star at the center of this scene has been sending out rings of gas and dust for thousands of years in all directions, and NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has revealed for the first time that this star is cloaked in dust.

Two cameras aboard Webb captured the latest image of this planetary nebula, cataloged as NGC 3132, and known informally as the Southern Ring Nebula. It is approximately 2,500 light-years away.

Webb will allow astronomers to dig into many more specifics about planetary nebulae like this one – clouds of gas and dust expelled by dying stars. Understanding which molecules are present, and where they lie throughout the shells of gas and dust will help researchers refine their knowledge of these objects.

Credits: NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope has captured the distinct signature of water, along with evidence for clouds and haze, in the atmosphere surrounding a hot, puffy gas giant planet orbiting a distant Sun-like star.

The observation, which reveals the presence of specific gas molecules based on tiny decreases in the brightness of precise colors of light, is the most detailed of its kind to date, demonstrating Webb’s unprecedented ability to analyze atmospheres hundreds of light-years away.

While the Hubble Space Telescope has analyzed numerous exoplanet atmospheres over the past two decades, as in capturing the first clear detection of water in 2013, Webb’s immediate and more detailed observation marks a giant leap forward in the quest to characterize potentially habitable planets beyond Earth.

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Just a few of the very special photographs. They are remarkable!

December’s issue of the Science magazine had an article in which there was a paragraph that described:

The first data and images beamed back to Earth by JWST suggest it was all worthwhile. They are “beautiful” and ‘mind-blowing,” according to astronomers who have spoken with Science. It was like putting on infrared glasses, one said, and seeing the universe anew.

The GOLDEN EYE, by Daniel Clery

Imagine that just, say, 25 years ago these images and this mission would have been science fiction and now it is a reality.

I will leave you with a quotation from that SCIENCE magazine (16th December): “Politicians and pundits often make up whatever suits their political goals about science, but scientists recognize how little we understand about the Universe. As Kennedy said, “The greater our knowledge increases, the greater our ignorance unfolds.“”

Just another sweet example of the relationship between dogs and us!

A post from The Dodo.

People who have never had dogs in their lives don’t understand the closeness and intensity of the relationship between dogs and humans. Just recently I posted an article that mentioned how dogs can understand our speech in many ways.

Now comes an article in The Dodo that reinforces the amazing bond between dog and human. Here it is:

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Dog Can’t Believe Her Eyes When She Sees Who’s Standing Outside The Door

“Oh, I definitely cried!”

By Stephen Messenger, Published on the 17th November, 2022.

Since the time when this sweet German shepherd named Sofie was just a puppy, her and her dad, Austin, have been inseparable.

“She loves him so much,” Ally Ross, Sofie’s mom, told The Dodo.

This year, however, due to life circumstances, Sofie and Austin were forced to spend more than a little time apart.

Ally Ross took all the photographs.

Austin is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and, earlier in the year, was called up for a six-month deployment. Sadly, that meant his daily routine of love and fun with Sofie had to be put on hold.

It was something Sofie couldn’t quite comprehend.

“After he left, she would still go into our bedroom and look for him,” Ross said.

Fortunately, Austin wouldn’t be gone forever.

Last month, having completed his deployment, Austin could finally return home. Ross decided to record the moment he arrived at the door to surprise Sofie.

The dog’s heart was about to be whole once again.

When the door opened, Sofie could hardly believe her eyes.

https://cdn.jwplayer.com/previews/Xm1bXFnF

(Unfortunately, this link does not play automatically in WordPress but I will leave it there in case anyone else can play it.)

Sofie’s disbelief quickly turned into an explosion of love and excitement. It was an outward expression of what Sofie’s spirit longed to feel each and every day Austin was away.

“Oh, I definitely cried!” Ross said.

Her dad is back. Their family is complete anew.

With Austin’s return, it’s been business as usual again for him and Sofie — and how sweet it is.

“Now that he’s home, they go on runs and adventures together,” Ross said. “Best buds for sure.”

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This is a beautiful article at all levels.

And a furry step!

Dogs continue to amaze.

Almost a month ago there was an article on The Dodo website about an English dog that was most amazing.

Here is the story:

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Lost Dog Strolls Into Police Station To Report Herself Missing.

She solved her own case.

By Stephen Messenger

Published on the 17th November, 2022.

Recently, after this sweet dog named Rosie somehow ended up getting lost near her home in England, she picked the perfect place to go for help.

She simply strolled into a local police station to report (in her own way) her own disappearance.

“[You] can see her approaching the doors before walking in and taking a seat in the corner,” the Leicestershire Police wrote. “Good dog!”

Here’s footage of Rosie in action:

It’s unclear how long Rosie had been lost, but after making her presence known to authorities, it was only a matter of time before things were set right.

“Our staff fetched some water for Rosie, and made fast friends with plenty of fuss,” police wrote. “Thankfully she was wearing a collar, so a lead was available to contact Rosie’s owner, who was delighted she had been found safe and well.”

Rosie’s own cleverness had made their job easy — though she was pretty tuckered out after the little drama finished unfolding.

Rosie’s problem-solving skills have earned her plenty of praise from people online — all well deserved, of course. But the police themselves perhaps put it best.

“What a lovely, clever dog,” they wrote.

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It is not just Rosie that is a “lovely, clever dog” but all dogs. But, of course, we are biased!

Parkinson’s Disease

It affects so many but it is also a cruel disease.

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is unique to each individual as it is a disease of the brain. Yet there are aspects of the disease that affect most and especially the people who are close to the PD sufferer.

From the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke comes a small extract:

Following Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease (PD) is the second-most common neurodegenerative disorder in the United States. Most people diagnosed with PD are age 60 years or older, however, an estimated 5 to 10 percent of people with PD are diagnosed before the age of 50. Approximately 500,000 Americans are diagnosed with PD, but given that many individuals go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed the actual number is likely much higher. Some experts estimate that as many as 1 million Americans have PD. Of course, given the progressive nature of the disabilities associated with PD, the disease affects thousands more wives, husbands, children, and other caregivers.

NINDS website

Jean was diagnosed in December, 2015 at the same time as my best friend in England, Richard Maugham.

More than 10 million people worldwide are living with PD!

Here is a video put out by Parkinson’s UK that is introduced as follows:

In this honest and often funny live talk Colin describes his experience with Parkinson’s and his hopes for the future.

So a wish on behalf of those countless other people: May there be a cure soon!

Why is intelligent life so rare?

Maybe it is because of a ‘Great Filter‘.

Like so many others I read many items online. One of the websites that I follow is the EarthSky site because for a long time I have been interested in space.

So when I saw an article on why intelligent life is so rare in our Milky Way I read it fully. And hoped it would be of interest to others.

Here it is:

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What is the Great Filter, and can we survive it?

Posted by

Kelly Kizer Whitt and Deborah Byrd

November 17, 2022

This graphic depicts intelligent civilizations as stars. The vertical lines represent Great Filters that civilizations do or don’t survive. This graphic depicts Earth’s human population (the yellow “star”) approaching its own Great Filter. How would we surpass it, and keep going? Image via NASA/ arXiv.

What is the Great Filter?

Is intelligent life common, or rare in our Milky Way galaxy? If it’s common, why haven’t we encountered it? While discussing UFOs on a walk to lunch in the year 1950, the physicist Enrico Fermi is famously said to have asked, “But where is everybody?” Scientists today call that riddle Fermi’s Paradox. Now a new paper by NASA scientists explores one possible answer to the paradox. The answer may be what’s called the Great Filter.

Economist Robin Hanson first proposed the Great Filter, in the late 1990s. It’s the idea of that – even if life forms abundantly in our Milky Way galaxy – each extraterrestrial civilization ultimately faces some barrier to its own survival. The barrier might come from without (for example, an asteroid striking a planet, and wiping out all life forms). Or it might come from within (for example, all-out nuclear war).

Hanson proposed that a Great Filter might be at work within our Milky Way galaxy. He argued – from what we can see here on Earth – life expands to fill every niche. And so, he argued, we should see signs of intelligent life beyond Earth in nearby star systems, perhaps even in our solar system. But we don’t see this.

Is humanity facing a Great Filter?

The authors of the new paper take Hanson’s idea further. They explore the idea that humanity may now be facing a Great Filter. The authors wrote:

We postulate that an existential disaster may lay in wait as our society advances exponentially towards space exploration, acting as the Great Filter: a phenomenon that wipes out civilizations before they can encounter each other … In this article, we propose several possible scenarios, including anthropogenic and natural hazards, both of which can be prevented with reforms in individual, institutional and intrinsic behaviors. We also take into account multiple calamity candidates: nuclear warfare, pathogens and pandemics, artificial intelligence, meteorite impacts, and climate change. 

And they offer solutions, beginning with, as they say:

… a necessary period of introspection, followed by appropriate refinements to properly approach our predicament, and addressing the challenges and methods in which we may be able to mitigate risk to mankind and the nearly 9 million other species on Earth.

In a sense, the authors of the new paper – including lead author Jonathan H. Jiang of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California – are engaging in a “necessary period of introspection” by the act of writing their paper.

And, with their paper, they’re laying out the challenges we’re facing and methods of addressing them.

We’ve already survived some ‘filters’

The scientists point to life’s resilience. Life on Earth has already survived a number of filters in the form of mass extinction events. The Permian-Triassic extinction – aka the Great Dying – occurred 250 million years ago and nearly ended all life on the planet. This extinction event wiped out about 96% of marine life and 70% of land species. The exact cause of the Great Dying is still a matter of study, but some scientists have said it was a combination of warming temperatures and decreasing oxygen.

But these previous filters, or extinction events, have been natural, arising from the evolution of our planet and solar system, including volcanic eruptions and asteroid impacts

A Great Filter of our own making

But now, clearly, humanity may be facing a Great Filter of our own making, and one that other intelligent civilizations in the galaxy have faced … and failed to withstand. Perhaps it’s no surprise that the technological advancements humans have achieved might ultimately lead to our undoing. Perhaps that’s nature’s way. As the new paper said:

It seems as though nearly every great discovery or invention, while pushing back the borders of our technological ignorance, is all too quickly and easily turned to destructive ends. Examples such as splitting the atom, biomedical innovations and resource extraction and consumption come to mind with disconcerting swiftness. Still, some have suggested artificial intelligence (AI) as yet another factor, which, pending substantial technical hurdles, may yet have its chance to prove friend or foe.

Here’s a look at some of the issues that might compose Earth’s Great Filter.

Unchecked population growth

One of the factors Earth faces, according to the paper, is unchecked population growth. Earth just passed a milestone on November 15, 2022, when it reached 8 billion human inhabitants. The paper said with our current population figures, Earth has experienced:

… an exponential rise from about 1.6 billion [people] at the start of the 20th century.

Technological advancements in farming, energy production and distribution have made such a large population possible on Earth. But, as the paper said, these advancements cannot:

… indefinitely offset the multifaceted stresses imposed by an ever-escalating population.

When will Earth’s human population reach its peak size? Some projections report that education in developing nations might allow Earth’s population to peak at 10 billion in the 2060s. But, of course, no one really knows.

Nuclear war

While warfare has long been a factor of life on Earth, only in the past century has humanity had a weapon that could destroy all nations, not just those participating in a nuclear war. The scientists said the greater the number of democracies in the world, the better our chances for avoiding nuclear war. The scientist also saw other encouraging signs, including:

Peace agreements in the historically troubled Middle East, a vast reduction in nuclear warheads since the height of the Cold War and a wide coalition of nations rallying their support for the besieged in Eastern Europe.

Pathogens and pandemics

The threat of illness and pandemics continues to grow simply because our world is so interconnected. Spreading diseases have a much easier time in our global society. But on the positive side, advancements in medicine have also given us an edge. The scientists said that having current and reliable data is crucial:

… in predicting how future pandemics will spread, how deadly they will be and how quickly and effectively we will be able to leverage our knowledge of the life sciences to counter this manifestation of the Great Filter.

Artificial intelligence

While true artificial intelligence as a separate sentient being is not yet reality, the authors of the paper urge a proactive plan to peacefully share Earth. They project that computer sophistication will one day rival that of the human mind. The scientists said:

As for whether AI would be benign or otherwise, self-imposing a Great Filter of our own invention, that will depend on the evolving nature and disposition of Earth’s first high-tech species.

Asteroid and comet impacts

Here’s an extinction event from the past that could still spell our doom in the future. While large impacts are exceedingly rare, there is, as the scientists said:

… a non-zero percentage [of asteroids or comets] which are large enough to survive passage through the atmosphere and, impacting the surface, cause catastrophic destruction to our sensitive biosphere.

The odds of a mass extinction level event in the coming years is vanishingly small. But, over time periods extending into the very distant future, the odds increase toward 100%. Meanwhile, with projects such as the DART mission, and given enough lead time, humanity has a way of defending itself.

Climate change

Climate change has become one of the most studied threats to life on Earth. Because the threats from climate change happen on a slower time scale than, say, the time it takes to launch a nuclear weapon, the efforts to curb these effects have not been as rapid as they could have been. The scientists said:

The major impediment to taking more decisive actions, however, are the challenges imposed by transitioning to non-carbon-based energy sources such as solar, wind, nuclear power. Here again, rapidly advancing technologies in areas such as modularized nuclear power plants and carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) are among the best hopes for avoiding slow-motion ensnarement by this lulling but lethal Great Filter.

Avoiding the Great Filter

So you see there’s not just one possible Great Filter for Earth, but many. Any one of them could be our downfall. These scientists are suggesting something that sounds simple on its face, but is (apparently) hard to do. That is, in order to avoid the Great Filter, humans must work together and recognize the big picture. As the paper said:

History has shown that intraspecies competition and, more importantly, collaboration, has led us toward the highest peaks of invention. And yet, we prolong notions that seem to be the antithesis of long-term sustainable growth. Racism, genocide, inequity, sabotage … the list sprawls.

Meanwhile, we continue to look outward, peering at the dark depths between the stars, hoping for a sign that we aren’t alone in the universe. Ultimately, our quest to find life beyond Earth is part of trying to understand life on our planet and where we fit in. As Carl Sagan said:

In the deepest sense, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence is a search for ourselves.

Bottom line: Scientists say the reason we haven’t found intelligent civilizations in the galaxy is that they may not have survived the Great Filter. And they say we may be facing down our own Great Filter.

Source: https://arxiv.org/ftp/arxiv/papers/2210/2210.10582.pdf

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We are a funny bunch! As was said just a couple of paragraphs ago we humans must work together and recognise the big picture. But we do not!

Why do we not do that?

I wish I knew the answer to that conundrum! Nevertheless, I hope you enjoyed the article.

Herman Daly.

A recent article in The Conversation

I was short of time yesterday when I turned my mind to Tuesday’s post. So I hope you won’t mind if I leave you with this very interesting article.

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The inconvenient truth of Herman Daly: There is no economy without environment

The economy depends on the environment. Economics can seem to forget that point. Ines Lee Photos/Moment via Getty Images

Jon D. Erickson, University of Vermont

Herman Daly had a flair for stating the obvious. When an economy creates more costs than benefits, he called it “uneconomic growth.” But you won’t find that conclusion in economics textbooks. Even suggesting that economic growth could cost more than it’s worth can be seen as economic heresy.

The renegade economist, known as the father of ecological economics and a leading architect of sustainable development, died on Oct. 28, 2022, at the age of 84. He spent his career questioning an economics disconnected from an environmental footing and moral compass.



In an age of climate chaos and economic crisis, his ideas that inspired a movement to live within our means are increasingly essential.

The seeds of an ecological economist

Herman Daly grew up in Beaumont, Texas, ground zero of the early 20th century oil boom. He witnessed the unprecedented growth and prosperity of the “gusher age” set against the poverty and deprivation that lingered after the Great Depression.

To Daly, as many young men then and since believed, economic growth was the solution to the world’s problems, especially in developing countries. To study economics in college and export the northern model to the global south was seen as a righteous path.

Headshot photo of Daly as an older man, with glasses and thinning hair,
Economist Herman Daly (1938-2022) Courtesy of Island Press

But Daly was a voracious reader, a side effect of having polio as a boy and missing out on the Texas football craze. Outside the confines of assigned textbooks, he found a history of economic thought steeped in rich philosophical debates on the function and purpose of the economy.

Unlike the precision of a market equilibrium sketched on the classroom blackboard, the real-world economy was messy and political, designed by those in power to choose winners and losers. He believed that economists should at least ask: Growth for whom, for what purpose and for how long?

Daly’s biggest realization came through reading marine biologist Rachel Carson’s 1962 book “Silent Spring,” and seeing her call to “come to terms with nature … to prove our maturity and our mastery, not of nature but of ourselves.” By then, he was working on a Ph.D. in Latin American development at Vanderbilt University and was already quite skeptical of the hyperindividualism baked into economic models. In Carson’s writing, the conflict between a growing economy and a fragile environment was blindingly clear.

After a fateful class with Nicholas Georgescu-Roegen, Daly’s conversion was complete. Georgescu-Roegen, a Romanian-born economist, dismissed the free market fairy tale of a pendulum swinging back and forth, effortlessly seeking a natural state of equilibrium. He argued that the economy was more like an hourglass, a one-way process converting valuable resources into useless waste.

Daly became convinced that economics should no longer prioritize the efficiency of this one-way process but instead focus on the “optimal” scale of an economy that the Earth can sustain. Just shy of his 30th birthday in 1968, while working as a visiting professor in the poverty-stricken Ceará region of northeastern Brazil, Daly published “On Economics as a Life Science.”

His sketches and tables of the economy as a metabolic process, entirely dependent on the biosphere as source for sustenance and sink for waste, were the road map for a revolution in economics.

Economics of a full world

Daly spent the rest of his career drawing boxes in circles. In what he called the “pre-analytical vision,” the economy – the box – was viewed as the “wholly owned subsidiary” of the environment, the circle.

When the economy is small relative to the containing environment, a focus on the efficiency of a growing system has merit. But Daly argued that in a “full world,” with an economy that outgrows its sustaining environment, the system is in danger of collapse.

Illustrations of a square (economy) inside a circle (ecosystem). Energy and matter go into and out of the economy square, and some is recycled. Meanwhile solar energy enters the ecosystem circle and some heat escapes. In one, the square is too large.
Herman Daly’s conception of the economy as a subsystem of the environment. In a ‘full world,’ more growth can become uneconomic. Adapted from ‘Beyond Growth.’ Used with permission from Beacon Press.

While a professor at Louisiana State University in the 1970s, at the height of the U.S. environmental movement, Daly brought the box-in-circle framing to its logical conclusion in “Steady-State Economics.” Daly reasoned that growth and exploitation are prioritized in the competitive, pioneer stage of a young ecosystem. But with age comes a new focus on durability and cooperation. His steady-state model shifted the goal away from blind expansion of the economy and toward purposeful improvement of the human condition.

The international development community took notice. Following the United Nations’ 1987 publication of “Our Common Future,” which framed the goals of a “sustainable” development, Daly saw a window for development policy reform. He left the safety of tenure at LSU to join a rogue group of environmental scientists at the World Bank.

For the better part of six years, they worked to upend the reigning economic logic that treated “the Earth as if it were a business in liquidation.” He often butted heads with senior leadership, most famously with Larry Summers, the bank’s chief economist at the time, who publicly waved off Daly’s question of whether the size of a growing economy relative to a fixed ecosystem was of any importance. The future U.S. treasury secretary’s reply was short and dismissive: “That’s not the right way to look at it.”

But by the end of his tenure there, Daly and colleagues had successfully incorporated new environmental impact standards into all development loans and projects. And the international sustainability agenda they helped shape is now baked into the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals of 193 countries, “a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity.” In 1994, Daly returned to academia at the University of Maryland, and his life’s work was recognized the world over in the years to follow, including by Sweden’s Right Livelihood Award, the Netherlands’ Heineken Prize for Environmental Science, Norway’s Sophie Prize, Italy’s Medal of the Presidency, Japan’s Blue Planet Prize and even Adbuster’s person of the year.

Today, the imprint of his career can be found far and wide, including measures of the Genuine Progress Indicator of an economy, new Doughnut Economics framing of social floors within environmental ceilings, worldwide degree programs in ecological economics and a vibrant degrowth movement focused on a just transition to a right-sized economy.

I knew Herman Daly for two decades as a co-author, mentor and teacher. He always made time for me and my students, most recently writing the foreword to my upcoming book, “The Progress Illusion: Reclaiming Our Future from the Fairytale of Economics.” I will be forever grateful for his inspiration and courage to, as he put it, “ask the naive, honest questions” and then not be “satisfied until I get the answers.”

Jon D. Erickson, Professor of Sustainability Science and Policy, University of Vermont

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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I found this to be absolutely fascinating and I am sure many besides me agree.

A fascinating article about Pit Bulls

The breed has come full circle!

We have had a couple of pit bull mixes here at home and they have been nothing but fabulous dogs.

So just three weeks ago The Conversation published an extensive account of the recent history of the breed. It is republished for you all today.

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Pit bulls went from America’s best friend to public enemy – now they’re slowly coming full circle.

A pit bull is not an official breed – it’s an umbrella term for a type of dog. Barbara Rich via Getty Images

Colin Dayan, Vanderbilt University

As recently as 50 years ago, the pit bull was America’s favorite dog. Pit bulls were everywhere. They were popular in advertising and used to promote the joys of pet-and-human friendship. Nipper on the RCA Victor label, Pete the Pup in the “Our Gang” comedy short films, and the flag-wrapped dog on a classic World War I poster all were pit bulls.

With National Pit Bull Awareness Day celebrated on Oct. 26, it’s a fitting time to ask how these dogs came to be seen as a dangerous threat.

A black and white dog runs with a tennis ball in its mouth
Stella, a pit bull owned by author Colin Dayan. Colin Dayan, CC BY-ND

Starting around 1990, multiple features of American life converged to inspire widespread bans that made pit bulls outlaws, called “four-legged guns” or “lethal weapons.” The drivers included some dog attacks, excessive parental caution, fearful insurance companies and a tie to the sport of dog fighting.

As a professor of humanities and law, I have studied the legal history of slaves, vagrants, criminals, terror suspects and others deemed threats to civilized society. For my books “The Law is a White Dog” and “With Dogs at the Edge of Life,” I explored human-dog relationships and how laws and regulations can deny equal protection to entire classes of beings.

In my experience with these dogs – including nearly 12 years living with Stella, the daughter of champion fighting dogs – I have learned that pit bulls are not inherently dangerous. Like other dogs, they can become dangerous in certain situations, and at the hands of certain owners. But in my view, there is no defensible rationale for condemning not only all pit bulls, but any dog with a single pit bull gene, as some laws do.

I see such action as canine profiling, which recalls another legal fiction: the taint or stain of blood that ordained human degradation and race hatred in the United States.

Painting of a black and white dog looking into the horn of a Victorian record player
English artist Francis Barraud (1856-1924) painted his brother’s dog Nipper listening to the horn of an early phonograph in 1898. Victor Talking Machine Co. began using the symbol in its trademark, His Master’s Voice, in 1900. Wikipedia

Bred to fight

The pit bull is strong. Its jaw grip is almost impossible to break. Bred over centuries to bite and hold large animals like bears and bulls around the face and head, it’s known as a “game dog.” Its bravery and strength won’t allow it to give up, no matter how long the struggle. It loves with the same strength; its loyalty remains the stuff of legend.

For decades pit bulls’ tenacity encouraged the sport of dogfighting, with the dogs “pitted” against each other. Fights often went to the death, and winning animals earned huge sums for those who bet on them.

But betting on dogs is not a high-class sport. Dogs are not horses; they cost little to acquire and maintain. Pit bulls easily and quickly became associated with the poor, and especially with Black men, in a narrative that connected pit bulls with gang violence and crime.

That’s how prejudice works: The one-on-one lamination of the pit bull onto the African American male reduced people to their accessories.

A dog confined in an animal crate, with police in the background.
A pit bull-type dog seized during a 2007 raid on an illegal dogfighting operation in East Cleveland, Ohio. Owen Humphreys – PA Images via Getty Images

Dogfighting was outlawed in all 50 states by 1976, although illegal businesses persisted. Coverage of the practice spawned broad assertions about the dogs that did the fighting. As breed bans proliferated, legal rulings proclaimed these dogs “dangerous to the safety or health of the community” and judged that “public interests demand that the worthless shall be exterminated.”

In 1987 Sports Illustrated put a pit bull, teeth bared, on its cover, with the headline “Beware of this Dog,” which it characterized as born with “a will to kill.” Time magazine published “Time Bombs on Legs” featuring this “vicious hound of the Baskervilles” that “seized small children like rag dolls and mauled them to death in a frenzy of bloodletting.”

Presumed vicious

If a dog has “vicious propensities,” the owner is assumed to share in this projected violence, both legally and generally in public perception. And once deemed “contraband,” both property and people are at risk.

This was evident in the much-publicized 2007 indictment of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick for running a dogfighting business called Bad Newz Kennels in Virginia. Even the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – two of the nation’s leading animal welfare advocacy groups – argued that the 47 pit bulls recovered from the facility should be killed because they posed a threat to people and other animals.

If not for the intervention of Best Friends Animal Society, Vick’s dogs would have been euthanized. As the film “Champions” recounts, a court-appointed special master determined each dog’s fate. Ultimately, nearly all of the dogs were successfully placed in sanctuaries or adoptive homes.

This 2010 report describes the successful rehabilitation of dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s Bad Newz dogfighting operation.

Debating breed bans

Pit bulls still suffer more than any other dogs from the fact that they are a type of dog, not a distinct breed. Once recognized by the American Kennel Club as an American Staffordshire terrier, popularly known as an Amstaff, and registered with the United Kennel Club and the American Dog Breeders Association as an American pit bull terrier, now any dog characterized as a “pit bull type” can be considered an outlaw in many communities.

For example, in its 2012 Tracey v. Solesky ruling, the Maryland Court of Appeals modified the state’s common law in cases involving dog injuries. Any dog containing pit bull genes was “inherently dangerous” as a matter of law.

This subjected owners and landlords to what the courts call “strict liability.” As the court declared: “When an attack involves pit bulls, it is no longer necessary to prove that the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous.”

Dissenting from the ruling, Judge Clayton Greene recognized the absurdity of the majority opinion’s “unworkable rule”: “How much ‘pit bull,’” he asked, “must there be in a dog to bring it within the strict liability edict?”

It’s equally unanswerable how to tell when a dog is a pit bull mix. From the shape of its head? Its stance? The way it looks at you?

Conundrums like these call into question statistics that show pit bulls to be more dangerous than other breeds. These figures vary a great deal depending on their sources.

Any statistics about pit bull attacks depend on the definition of a pit bull – yet it’s really hard to get good dog bite data that accurately IDs the breed

Prince George’s County, Md., is negotiating with advocates suing to revoke the county’s pit bull ban.

Over the past decade, awareness has grown that breed-specific legislation does not make the public safer but does penalize responsible owners and their dogs. Currently 21 states prohibit local government from enforcing breed-specific legislation or naming specific breeds in dangerous dog laws. Maryland passed a law reversing the Tracey ruling in 2014. Yet 15 states still allow local communities to enact breed-specific bans.

Pit bulls demand a great deal more from humans than some dogs, but alongside their bracing way of being in the world, we humans learn another way of thinking and loving. Compared with many other breeds, they offer a more demanding but always affecting communion.

Colin Dayan, Professor of English, Robert Penn Warren Professor in the Humanities, and Professor of Law, Vanderbilt University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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That is a very interesting account of the breed and shows the complexities of owning Pit Bulls in certain States, or rather local communities enacting breed-specific bans.

However, in our experience, we have found them to be smart, loving animals, and we know we are not alone in having those thoughts.