Category: Innovation

A good news story!

We welcome with open arms this change in the law!

From the BBC.

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Californian law change means pet shops can sell only rescued animals

December 30th, 2018.

It is hoped the law will encourage pet adoptions.

California is set to become the first state in the US to ban the sale of non-rescue animals in pet shops.

The new law, known as AB 485, takes effect on 1 January. Any businesses violating it face a $500 (£400) fine.

The change means cats, dogs and rabbits sold by retailers cannot be sourced from breeders, only from animal shelters.

Animal rights groups have heralded it as a step forward against so-called “kitten factories” and “puppy mills”.

They say the current “high-volume” industries, where pets are bred for profit, can lead to inhumane treatment and long-term emotional and physical health problems in some animals.

The new state-wide law, approved in late 2017, will now require shops to maintain sufficient records of where they sourced each animal, for periodic checks by authorities.

It does not, however, affect sales from private breeders or owner-to-owner sales.

Some Californian shop owners have raised concern the law could put them out of business. The measure has also seen resistance from the American Kennel Club, which said it limits pet owners.

According to American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) estimates, more than 6.5 million pets enter shelters across the country every year, of which about 1.5 million are put down.

It is estimated that more than than 860,000 cats are euthanised in the US every year

The California assembly member who introduced the legislation, Patrick O’Donnell, has insisted the legislation is not just “a big win” for “four-legged friends”, but for California taxpayers too, as they spend hundreds of millions on sheltering animals across the state.

A couple hoping to adopt a cat from a San Diego shelter on Friday, told NBC News the move was a step forward for the state.

“It takes the emphasis off the profit of animals and puts the emphasis back on caring for and getting these cats and dogs a good home,” prospective owner Mitch Kentdotson said.

AB 485 is the first state-wide law of its kind, although other places have enacted similar regulations on pet sales on a local level.

Earlier this month, a similar ban on third-party puppy and kitten sales was confirmed in England.

Lucy’s law, named after a mistreated cavalier King Charles spaniel, also aims to combat low-welfare animal breeding.

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Slowly but surely we are recognising that these animals are more, much more, than ‘belongings‘.

The NYC Subway

A very unlikely venue for some dog art.

In my travels around for items about dogs I came across this one.  It’s not your usual item. For it features dog art at the 23rd Street station on the IND Sixth Avenue Line in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighbourhood.

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This NYC subway station has gone to the dogs

With more than a little help from William Wegman’s Weimaraners
By MATT HICKMAN
December 24, 2018.

William Wegman’s iconic Weimaraner portraits have been rendered into stunning mosaic art in a somewhat unlikely Manhattan venue. (Photo: Patrick J. Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Flickr)

Dogs aren’t that unusual of a sight in the bowels of the New York City subway system.

There are service dogs and law enforcement dogs; dogs being transported in tote bags, baskets, backpacks and baby carriages; dogs swaddled beneath heavy winter jackets; very small dogs that come scurrying from the darkest corners of the platform towards … oh wait.
What you don’t see beneath the streets of New York are dogs depicted in public art. This has all changed with the unveiling of “Stationary Figures,” a collection of 11 glass mosaic pooch portraits now on permanent display at the 23rd Street station on the IND Sixth Avenue Line in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.

No doubt a number of straphangers passing through 23rd Street station, which services the F and M trains and was closed for several months earlier this year while undergoing a major revamping, will find that the pooches in question look familiar — maybe a bit like the average New York commuter: stoic, alert, borderline restless. But it’s mostly because the mosaics, fabricated in stunning detail by Mayer of Munich, are based on images created by none other than Mr. Weimaraner himself, William Wegman.

That’s one nattily attired Weimaraner. (Photo: Patrick J. Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Flickr)

Although Wegman’s subjects have varied over his lauded career as a photographer, painter and video artist, he’s best known for whimsical compositions that depict his beloved pet Weimaraners in humanlike poses (and sometimes donning wigs and costumes). It all began in the 1970s with Wegman’s first true four-legged muse, the leggy and camera-loving Man Ray. It wasn’t until the mid-1980s, however, that Wegman’s second Weimaraner, Fay Ray, achieved true art world stardom. Fay’s descendants — they include Battina, Crooky, Chundo, Chip, Bobbin, Candy and Penny — have all also modeled for their human.

Wegman’s pet Weimaraners — a German hunting breed dating back to the early 19th century — have the distinction of appearing in the permanent collections of numerous top art museums and being a regular feature on “Sesame Street.” That’s no small feat for an extended family of very good boys and girls.

The dogs depicted in “Stationary Figures” are Flo and her brother, Topper — Wegman’s ninth and 10th Weimaraners, respectively. As the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), which commissioned the portraits as part of its MTA Arts & Design program, explains: “The portraits highlight Wegman’s deadpan humor by juxtaposing Flo and Topper in poses that suggest the way customers group themselves with waiting for a train at the platform. In some portraits, they’re dressed in human clothes and others they’re in their natural state.”

The floppy-eared Grey Ghosts of 23rd Street. (Photo: Patrick J. Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Flickr)

In addition to showcasing the work of a world-renowned artist (and local Chelsea resident) in an unexpected venue, “Stationary Figures” is meant to bring joy to — and lower the blood pressure of — harried commuters passing through 23rd Street station, which ranks amongst the 50th busiest in the Big Apple. After all, who wouldn’t crack a smile when chancing across a mosaic portrait of a handsome pooch, especially when said handsome pooch is gussied up in a bright red rain slicker and matching cap?

As Mark Byrnes points out for CityLab, this isn’t the first time Wegman’s dogs have brightened up an American subway station. In 2005, two Weimaraners, both outfitted in NASA spacesuits, became permanent fixtures as circular murals above exits at L’Enfant Plaza Metro station in Washington, D.C.

Very good dogs, very poor service

It goes without saying that New York City subway stations, while teeming with various forms of microbial life, have never exactly been known as hotbeds of contemporary art and design.

That, however, began to change with the long-anticipated January 2017 opening of the first phase of the Second Avenue subway line, which features eye-catching new works by Chuck Close, Vik Muniz, Sarah Sze and Jean Shin spread out across four different stations on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. Gov. Andrew Cuomo heralded the Second Avenue line’s secondary function as subterranean contemporary gallery (price tag: $4.5 million) as the “the largest permanent public art installation in New York history.”

A very good boy in plaId. (Photo: Patrick J. Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Flickr)

And this is all fine and good — great in fact. The more public art in the subways, the better — especially when it involves local artists of international renown, dapper-looking dogs and an ample dose of wit. Flo and Topper are the best thing to hit the 23rd Station since, well, forever.

Critics, however, have been left wondering as to when significant, tangible improvements to the MTA’s declining service will finally be instituted. And this is especially true with new fare hikes on the horizon.

As is the case with the 23rd Street station, which also received new benches, lighting, tile work, countdown clocks and digital screens as part of its extensive overhaul, what does it matter if the platforms and other public areas look fantastic but the trains aren’t running efficiently? (Byrnes points out that accessibility, or a lack thereof, also remains a major issue at 23rd Street station.)

Next stop Herald Square. (Photo: Patrick J. Cashin / Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Flickr)

The MTA needs to do more than outfit stations with delightful distractions to keep straphangers — who mainly just want to get from point A to point B in a minimal amount of time with minimal headache — happy. While mosaics, murals and the like do act as a sort of soothing balm and improve the user experience, public art is ultimately best enjoyed while also not on the verges of tears because three completely packed F trains have gone by and you’re running 30 minutes late.

As for Wegman, described by the New York Post as a “frequent subway commuter,” he doesn’t offer any specific thoughts as to how the MTA can also improve its service.

“I really like what they’re doing as far as making it look better,” he tells the Post. “But how to make them run better, that’s out of my area.”

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Now I can’t really comment any more as the odds of me being on the New York Subway are slim to none. Plus, it’s many years since I travelled on the British Underground.

But that doesn’t stop me from applauding this. Both the authorities for permitting it to happen and especially to William Wegman for such beautiful and outstanding work.

Now here’s a thing!

Dogs eating insects and helping climate change.

I had to look twice at this but it wasn’t April 1st and it appeared to be a serious article. It’s from the BBC website.

Will say no more. You have a read of it.

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Climate change: Will insect-eating dogs help?

By Roger Harrabin, BBC environment analyst

10th January, 2019

Do you fret that your pet pooch is blamed by environmentalists for turning rainforests into poo in the park?

Have no fear – you can now fatten Fido on black soldier flies instead of Brazilian beef.

A pet food manufacturer now claims that 40% of its new product is made from soldier flies.

It’s one of many firms hoping to cash in on the backlash against beef by people concerned that the cattle are fed on soya.

These soya plantations are responsible for the release of greenhouse gases in significant quantities.

Is it good for the dog?

The key question is whether a diet of 40% soldier flies meets the nutritional needs of your beloved canine.

We put the question to a pet diet expert at the Royal Veterinary College, Aarti Kathrani. Her conclusion was a cautious “yes”.

“Insects can be a very useful source of protein,” she told us. “More studies are needed to show how much of these nutrients can actually be absorbed by a dog’s body – but some studies suggest that insects can provide nutrients for dogs.”

Does it help the climate if dogs eat flies?

At first sight it seems obvious that feeding your dog meaty food is bad for the environment. The link between humans eating meat and the allied emissions of CO2 and methane is well established – and pets are estimated to eat 20% of global meat.

It’s also true that flies produce protein much more efficiently than cows – using a small percentage of the water and land.

But actually the analysis is more subtle than that – because as societies become more wealthy, people often turn to muscle meat and reject the animal’s offal.

The flies are brought to maturity in about 14 days

That offal is just as nutritious – and it gets made into pet food. That means that dog food is just as sustainable – or unsustainable – as humans eating meat.

In fact, if dogs were weaned off meat and on to insects, the industry would have to find another purpose for the offal. More sausage, perhaps? Or more humans eating insect protein. Or more going vegan?

Could cat food be made out of insects, too?

Dogs are omnivores – they eat more or less anything. Cats are much more choosy, because they can’t make an essential amino acid, taurine. They find it instead in meat and fish.

But Dr Kathrani says studies show that insects do contain taurine, so it’s possible that insects could also form a useful part of the moggie diet.

The new product is from Yora, a UK start-up. The insect grubs are fed on food waste in the Netherlands.

There are several competitors which also produce pet food incorporating fly protein. They include Insectdog, Entomapetfood, Chippin and Wilderharrier.

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Now I have heard of some strange things but in essence this does make very good sense.

Well done, Ikea!

That is Ikea in Italy.

This is such a wonderful idea and one that should be seen a lot farther and wider than just Catania, Italy.

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At this Ikea store in Italy, homeless dogs get a meal and a safe place to rest

Mary Jo DiLonardo
MARY JO DILONARDO
November 19, 2018
A dog naps in the Ikea store in Catania, Italy. (Photo: rewintageboudoir/Instagram)

There’s something particularly homey about the living room vignettes and kitchen setups in the Ikea store in Catania, Italy. Sprawled on the occasional braided rug or curled up under the sleek dining tables are sleeping homeless dogs. They’ve been welcomed into the store by employees who offer them comfort when the temperatures drop.

Giovanna Pecorino says she takes a photo of the dogs each time she visits the store.

“I know those dogs well,” says Pecorino, who owns a vintage clothing shop in Catania. “You find them at the entrance sleeping between the racks, or at the exit between the tables of their restaurant, always with their sweet eyes. I love them. They give me a sense of peace.”

[There are two more photographs on Instagram that I am unable to copy into this post.]

Linda Chartier Scala, an American from Rhode Island who now lives in Noto, Italy, also photographed one of the dogs that made a temporary home in a makeshift Ikea living room. She is very familiar with the pups, who are mainstays in the store through the seasons.

“Dogs are there year-round,” says Chartier Scala. “They love the air conditioning during the summer. They are sterilized and looked after by an animal welfare group. Fat and happy, they don’t wander from there.”

Shoppers like Scala often post photos of the resting pets on social media, lauding the store and its employees for feeding the homeless dogs and offering them shelter.

“Yesterday, going to the Ikea of Catania I came across this sweet scene, a stray puppy had found shelter in one of the store’s exhibits, this image was wonderful!” wrote mannilvers. “Giving shelter to a stray dog and making it feel at home is simply amazing!”

According to reports on some posts, the dogs are well cared for and quite popular with visitors, who often stop by the store just to check on their favorite canines. And the dogs, who seem to be very respectful of their surroundings, enjoy the attention.

“This is the best story I’ve read in a long time. Human kindness at it’s best,” writes ihelpanimals12018. “THANK YOU.”

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“Human kindness at it’s best … ”

This is such a wonderful account of people being loving towards dogs that were homeless.

Last, but no means least, Happy Birthday to Jeannie!

The mind-body question.

Is how you think the same as how she thinks?

The challenge of how you think, and whether or not it is similar to how others think has long intrigued us.

Tam Hunt has written an article that now ponders on whether how we think, how we are conscious of the world around us, depends on how that ‘thing’ vibrates.

Over to Tam.

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Could consciousness all come down to the way things vibrate?

By    Affiliate Guest in Psychology, University of California, Santa Barbara

Why is my awareness here, while yours is over there? Why is the universe split in two for each of us, into a subject and an infinity of objects? How is each of us our own center of experience, receiving information about the rest of the world out there? Why are some things conscious and others apparently not? Is a rat conscious? A gnat? A bacterium?

These questions are all aspects of the ancient “mind-body problem,” which asks, essentially: What is the relationship between mind and matter? It’s resisted a generally satisfying conclusion for thousands of years.

The mind-body problem enjoyed a major rebranding over the last two decades. Now it’s generally known as the “hard problem” of consciousness, after philosopher David Chalmers coined this term in a now classic paper and further explored it in his 1996 book, “The Conscious Mind: In Search of a Fundamental Theory.”

Chalmers thought the mind-body problem should be called “hard” in comparison to what, with tongue in cheek, he called the “easy” problems of neuroscience: How do neurons and the brain work at the physical level? Of course they’re not actually easy at all. But his point was that they’re relatively easy compared to the truly difficult problem of explaining how consciousness relates to matter.

Over the last decade, my colleague, University of California, Santa Barbara psychology professor Jonathan Schooler and I have developed what we call a “resonance theory of consciousness.” We suggest that resonance – another word for synchronized vibrations – is at the heart of not only human consciousness but also animal consciousness and of physical reality more generally. It sounds like something the hippies might have dreamed up – it’s all vibrations, man! – but stick with me.

How do things in nature – like flashing fireflies – spontaneously synchronize? Suzanne Tucker/Shutterstock.com

All about the vibrations

All things in our universe are constantly in motion, vibrating. Even objects that appear to be stationary are in fact vibrating, oscillating, resonating, at various frequencies. Resonance is a type of motion, characterized by oscillation between two states. And ultimately all matter is just vibrations of various underlying fields. As such, at every scale, all of nature vibrates.

Something interesting happens when different vibrating things come together: They will often start, after a little while, to vibrate together at the same frequency. They “sync up,” sometimes in ways that can seem mysterious. This is described as the phenomenon of spontaneous self-organization.

Mathematician Steven Strogatz provides various examples from physics, biology, chemistry and neuroscience to illustrate “sync” – his term for resonance – in his 2003 book “Sync: How Order Emerges from Chaos in the Universe, Nature, and Daily Life,” including:

  • When fireflies of certain species come together in large gatherings, they start flashing in sync, in ways that can still seem a little mystifying.
  • Lasers are produced when photons of the same power and frequency sync up.
  • The moon’s rotation is exactly synced with its orbit around the Earth such that we always see the same face.

Examining resonance leads to potentially deep insights about the nature of consciousness and about the universe more generally.

External electrodes can record a brain’s activity. vasara/Shutterstock.com

Sync inside your skull

Neuroscientists have identified sync in their research, too. Large-scale neuron firing occurs in human brains at measurable frequencies, with mammalian consciousness thought to be commonly associated with various kinds of neuronal sync.

For example, German neurophysiologist Pascal Fries has explored the ways in which various electrical patterns sync in the brain to produce different types of human consciousness.

Fries focuses on gamma, beta and theta waves. These labels refer to the speed of electrical oscillations in the brain, measured by electrodes placed on the outside of the skull. Groups of neurons produce these oscillations as they use electrochemical impulses to communicate with each other. It’s the speed and voltage of these signals that, when averaged, produce EEG waves that can be measured at signature cycles per second.

Each type of synchronized activity is associated with certain types of brain function. artellia/Shutterstock.com

Gamma waves are associated with large-scale coordinated activities like perception, meditation or focused consciousness; beta with maximum brain activity or arousal; and theta with relaxation or daydreaming. These three wave types work together to produce, or at least facilitate, various types of human consciousness, according to Fries. But the exact relationship between electrical brain waves and consciousness is still very much up for debate.

Fries calls his concept “communication through coherence.” For him, it’s all about neuronal synchronization. Synchronization, in terms of shared electrical oscillation rates, allows for smooth communication between neurons and groups of neurons. Without this kind of synchronized coherence, inputs arrive at random phases of the neuron excitability cycle and are ineffective, or at least much less effective, in communication.

A resonance theory of consciousness

Our resonance theory builds upon the work of Fries and many others, with a broader approach that can help to explain not only human and mammalian consciousness, but also consciousness more broadly.

Based on the observed behavior of the entities that surround us, from electrons to atoms to molecules, to bacteria to mice, bats, rats, and on, we suggest that all things may be viewed as at least a little conscious. This sounds strange at first blush, but “panpsychism” – the view that all matter has some associated consciousness – is an increasingly accepted position with respect to the nature of consciousness.

The panpsychist argues that consciousness did not emerge at some point during evolution. Rather, it’s always associated with matter and vice versa – they’re two sides of the same coin. But the large majority of the mind associated with the various types of matter in our universe is extremely rudimentary. An electron or an atom, for example, enjoys just a tiny amount of consciousness. But as matter becomes more interconnected and rich, so does the mind, and vice versa, according to this way of thinking.

Biological organisms can quickly exchange information through various biophysical pathways, both electrical and electrochemical. Non-biological structures can only exchange information internally using heat/thermal pathways – much slower and far less rich in information in comparison. Living things leverage their speedier information flows into larger-scale consciousness than what would occur in similar-size things like boulders or piles of sand, for example. There’s much greater internal connection and thus far more “going on” in biological structures than in a boulder or a pile of sand.

Under our approach, boulders and piles of sand are “mere aggregates,” just collections of highly rudimentary conscious entities at the atomic or molecular level only. That’s in contrast to what happens in biological life forms where the combinations of these micro-conscious entities together create a higher level macro-conscious entity. For us, this combination process is the hallmark of biological life.

The central thesis of our approach is this: the particular linkages that allow for large-scale consciousness – like those humans and other mammals enjoy – result from a shared resonance among many smaller constituents. The speed of the resonant waves that are present is the limiting factor that determines the size of each conscious entity in each moment.

As a particular shared resonance expands to more and more constituents, the new conscious entity that results from this resonance and combination grows larger and more complex. So the shared resonance in a human brain that achieves gamma synchrony, for example, includes a far larger number of neurons and neuronal connections than is the case for beta or theta rhythms alone.

What about larger inter-organism resonance like the cloud of fireflies with their little lights flashing in sync? Researchers think their bioluminescent resonance arises due to internal biological oscillators that automatically result in each firefly syncing up with its neighbors.

Is this group of fireflies enjoying a higher level of group consciousness? Probably not, since we can explain the phenomenon without recourse to any intelligence or consciousness. But in biological structures with the right kind of information pathways and processing power, these tendencies toward self-organization can and often do produce larger-scale conscious entities.

Our resonance theory of consciousness attempts to provide a unified framework that includes neuroscience, as well as more fundamental questions of neurobiology and biophysics, and also the philosophy of mind. It gets to the heart of the differences that matter when it comes to consciousness and the evolution of physical systems.

It is all about vibrations, but it’s also about the type of vibrations and, most importantly, about shared vibrations.

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Well, I’m not sure of the relevance but I’m bound to say that I am going to the doctor once a week for Alpha-Sim resetting. The reason I mention it is the Alpha frequency in the above brain wave chart.  I sit very quietly for about 90 minutes and it does seem to provide some benefit.

Out of this world

The text, and more photographs, of that Sunday Picture Parade.

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33 out-of-this-world images of the Milky Way, aurora borealis and more

Astronomy Photographer of the Year contest reveals dozens of photos before winners are announced.

By JACQUELINE GULLEDGE   July 20, 2018

‘Rigel and the Witch Head Nebula’ (Photo: Mario Cogo)

An aurora borealis that lights up the night sky in Iceland. The Milky Way that illuminates in a remote area in Australia. Even nebulae that display dazzling colors. All these phenomena have delighted astronomy enthusiasts for years, and many people travel the globe to capture such events.

The Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition honors amateur astronomy photographers who capture stunning images of space. The organization released several dozens images out of the more than 4,200 entries it received ahead of its announcement this October of this year’s winners. The competition began in 2009 and is organized by the Royal Observatory Greenwich in the United Kingdom.

The photographers featured here are a mixture of amateurs and professionals, but their images are universally stunning.

The photo above entitled “Rigel and the Witch Head Nebula” was taken by Mario Cogo in Namibia. “The dark Namibian sky was the perfect location to capture the wonder of the Witch Head Nebula and Rigel,” said Cogo in his submission. “The Witch Head Nebula is a very faint molecular gas cloud which is illuminated by supergiant star Rigel, the seventh brightest star of the sky and the brightest star in the constellation of Orion.”

The caption listed below each photo was written by the photographer and provides additional context.

‘Thunderstorm under milky way’ (Photo: Tianyuan Xiao)

“A glorious Milky Way looms over a thunderstorm that lights up the Florida sky. The photographer wanted to show the great contrast between stable (Milky Way) and moving (thunderstorm) objects in the sky.” — Tianyuan Xiao

‘The Orion Nebula in 6-Filter Narrowband’ (Photo: Bernard Miller)

“One of the brightest nebulae, the M42 or the Orion Nebula, is located in the Milky Way south of Orion’s belt. It is an emission nebula about 1500 light years away in the constellation Orion. This image was produced by combining 36 hours of total exposure using six different filters; Ha, SII, OIII, Red, Green, and Blue. The central Trapezium cluster of the nebula is so bright that it is usually over exposed with the long exposures needed for the nebula. In this image a series of short 3-second exposures in each filter were blended with the long exposures to create a high dynamic range image that produces detail in the faint nebula and bright Trapezium.” — Bernard Miller

The neglected neighbour’ (Photo: Kfir Simon)

“Taken from Tivoli Southern Sky Guest Farm in Namibia, the great Horsehead nebula is overlooking the striking and often overlooked Nebula NGC 2023. At 4 light years in diameter it is one of the largest reflection nebulae ever discovered.” — Kfir Simon

‘The Hidden Galaxy’ (Photo: Tom O’Donoghue and Olly Penrice)

“Camelopardalis, also known as the Hidden Galaxy is one of the largest Galaxies visible from the Northern Hemisphere; however it is also obscured by foreground stars and dust, as it lies in the Milky Way plane. The photographer added a Ha filter to this LRGB image in order to enhance the emission nebula regions in the galaxy and after stacking single exposures (subs) the brilliant spiral arms at the core were revealed.” — Tom O’Donoghue and Olly Penrice

‘The Eagle nebula’ (Photo: Marcel Drechsler)

“The Eagle Nebula, also known as Messier 16, is a young open cluster of stars, surrounded by hot hydrogen gas in the constellation Serpens and lies at a distance of 7,000 light years from Earth. Taken at the Baerenstein Observatory in Germany, the photo is a RGB-Ha-OIII image and shows off the radiant red and blue colours of the nebula. In the centre you can spot the famous Pillars of Creation.” — Marcel Drechsler

‘Stars over Sacred Mongolian Ovoo’ (Photo: Qiqige Zhao)

“Taken during a summer night in Mingantu in Inner Mongolia, star trails are sweeping over the colourful and extraordinary sacred altars, called Ovoo, creating a spectacular painting.” — Qiqige Zhao

‘NGC 6726 and NGC 6727’ (Photo: Mark Hanson, Warren Keller, Steve Mazlin, Rex Parker, Tommy Tse, David Plesko, Pete Proulx)

“These spectacular reflection nebulae in the Corona Australis constellation depict the characteristic vivid blue color produced by the light of hot stars, reflected by silica-based cosmic dust. A rare high resolution view of the cores NGC 6726 and 6727 is captured on camera. The data was acquired by Star Shadows Remote Observatory at CTIO’s PROMPT2, using LRGB filters, stacked with CCDStack and post-processed in Photoshop and PixInsight.” — Mark Hanson, Warren Keller, Steve Mazlin, Rex Parker, Tommy Tse, David Plesko and Pete Proulx

‘Mosaic of the Great Orion & Running Man Nebula’ (Photo: Miguel Angel García Borrella and Lluis Romero Ventura)

“The Orion Nebula, also known as Messier 42, M42, or NGC 1976, is a diffuse nebula situated in the Milky Way, south of Orion’s Belt in the constellation of Orion. It is one of the brightest nebulae and is visible to the naked eye during a clear night sky. M42 is 1270 light years from our planet and is the closest region of massive star formation to Earth. It is estimated to be 24 light years across and it has a mass of about 2,000 times more than that of the Sun. This image is the result of the efforts of two astrophotographers using different equipment from their observatories. Located hundreds of kilometres away from each other, they chose the Orion Sword are as a common target to render. The software suites used in this image are Maxim DL, Pixinsight and Photoshop CC 2017.” — Miguel Angel García Borrella and Lluis Romero Ventura

‘Milky Way shining over Atashkooh’ (Photo: Masoud Ghadiri)

“The Milky Way stretches across the night sky between four columns in the ancient Atashkooh Fire Temple near Mahllat city in Iran. The camera was placed on the ground in the centre of the four columns, and with no use of any other equipment, the photographer managed to capture our magnificent galaxy using just one image.” — Masoud Ghadiri

‘Magic’ (Photo: Jingyi Zhang)

“The magical Aurora Borealis explodes from the clouds and looms over the mountains in Stokknes on the south coast of Iceland. Snow has melted and created pools of water between the dunes, creating a perfect foreground for this image.” — Jingyi Zhang

‘Kynance cove by night’ (Photo: Ainsley Bennett)

“On a family trip to Cornwall after visiting Kynance Cove, on the Lizard Peninsula, the beautiful landscape seemed to be the ideal place for the photographer to capture the glimmering stars and the striking colours of the Milky Way illuminating the beautiful rocky coastline. This is a composition of two separate exposures, one for the sky and one for the foreground blended together post-processing to achieve the desired result, producing a more even exposure.” — Ainsley Bennett

‘Keeper of the Light’ (Photo: James Stone)

“The Milky Way rises above an isolated lighthouse in Tasmania. The photographer planned his position to shoot the perfect composition positioning the Milky Way in conjunction with the lighthouse and observing how to best light the tower for artistic effect. This image is part of a time-lapse sequence, allowing the photographer some time to climb the tower into the lantern room of the lighthouse and reflect on the hard and lonely, yet incredible life the former lighthouse keepers would have lived.” — James Stone

‘ISS sunspots’ (Photo: Dani Caxete (Fernández Méndez))

“The International Space Station (ISS) was captured between two massive sunspots, the AR 12674 and AR 12673, during its solar transit. The image was taken in Madrid and it took ISS less than a second to cross the solar disk.” — Dani Caxete

‘Ice Castle’ (Photo: Arild Heitmann)

“A remarkable display of the Northern Lights reflecting shades of green and yellow on the snow. Squeezed into a tiny cave on Lake Torneträsk, in Swedish Lapland, in minus 26 degrees with the camera lens just a few centimeters away from the icicles, it was a challenge well worth it for the photographer.” — Arild Heitmann

‘Holy Light II’ (Photo: Mikkel Beiter)

“The Black Church at Búðir in Iceland beneath the stripes of the Aurora Borealis and the bright stars in the night sky. Fighting the worst weather the photographer had ever encountered in Snæfellsnes Peninsula and with strong gale winds around 30 meters per second on the night the image was taken, his hard work paid off.” — Mikkel Beiter

‘Holding Due North’ (Photo: Jake Mosher)

“A weathered juniper tree in Montana’s northern Rocky Mountains is filled with arced star trails and in the centre sits Polaris, the brightest star in the constellation of Ursa Minor. It took several test frames of long exposures to make sure that Polaris was in the right position, but eventually things lined up and the Moon provided enough light to the foreground, yet plenty of dark skies to allow a high enough ISO to capture lots of stars.” — Jake Mosher

‘Guarding the galaxy’ (Photo: Jez Hughes)

“The Milky Way rises over some of the oldest trees on Earth in the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, set within the Inyo National Forest along the White Mountains in California. Growing at altitudes of over 10,000 feet, these trees can live for over 4,000 years. The high elevation also results in thin air and incredibly dark skies on display. This photograph was taken in between rolling thunderstorms which were passing through the Eastern Sierras, leaving time for only a few exposures.” — Jez Hughes

Guardian of Tre Cime’ (Photo: Carlos F. Turienzo)

“This panoramic image, composed out of eight photos, depicts the Milky Way emerging over the rocky Dolomites in Tre Crime on the left and on the right the lights from a house illuminating the beautiful terrain. The photographer noted that the image represents sharing unforgettable moment with the ones you love.” — Carlos F. Turienzo

‘First Impressions’ (Photo: Casper Kentish)

“After a few days of cloudy skies the photographer finally got the chance to use his birthday present, a new telescope. The clouds were moving fast so there was not much time to capture the Moon. With the help of his grandfather who kept moving the telescope and trying to keep an iPad at the right position, he managed to capture this wonderful and artistic image of his first viewing of our Moon.” — Casper Kentish

‘Expedition to Infinity’ (Photo: Jingpeng Liu)

“The photographer captured the splendor of our galaxy in Badlands National Park, in South Dakota and is a panoramic view of a 6-shot composite, three for the sky and three for the foreground, all of which were taken successively using the same gear and equivalent exposure settings, from the same location, within a short period. The raw files were initially processed in Lightroom for lens correction only, followed by merging to panorama in Photoshop. Final retouching was applied back in Lightroom, including WB correction, basic toning and local adjustments.” — Jingpeng Liu

‘Empyreal’ (Photo: Paul Wilson)

“A flared up Aurora reflects bright pink and yellow colours on the water at Southern Bays near Christchurch, New Zealand. The incredible combination of the radiant Aurora colours, the wide green fields and the dark blue, starry night sky paint a spectacular picture and accentuates the wonders of our galaxy.” — Paul Wilson

‘Earth Shine’ (Photo: Peter Ward)

“During a solar eclipse, the brightness of the solar corona hides the details of the moon. By layering 9 exposures ranging from 2 seconds to 1/2000th of a second and with Extreme High Dynamic Range photography or XHDR the image shows not just the radiant solar corona, but the newest possible of new moons, seen here illuminated by sunlight reflecting off the earth.” — Peter Ward

‘Deep Space’ (Photo: Dave Brosha)

“Exploring the remarkable underbelly of the Breiðamerkurjökull glacial tongue in Iceland. With this image the photographer wanted to pay tribute to the serenity and wonder he felt while he spent some time in this peaceful and magnificent place.” — Dave Brosha

‘Daytime Moon’ (Photo: Helen Schofield)

“Earth’s only natural satellite is situated above the horizon of our planet so it is visible during daytime and the waxing gibbous phase can clearly be seen in the sky. The photographer captured this imposing image in Malaga, Spain while vacationing with her children.” — Helen Schofield

Color-Full Moon’ (Photo: Nicolas Lefaudeux)

“A phenomenal image depicting the incredible colours and details of the surface of the Moon. The photographer applied a similar procedure he used for capturing the solar eclipse and noted that this lit up the full Moon like a Christmas tree ornament, with a great variety of hues and shades.” — Nicolas Lefaudeux

‘Cable Bay’ (Photo: Mark Gee)

“The magnificent Milky Way stretches across the night sky reflecting on the Cable Bay near Nelson, New Zealand. The photographer had to take the picture before the light washed out the sky. 42 individual images were stitched in to a large multi row panorama to create this image.” — Mark Gee

‘Aurorascape’ (Photo: Mikkel Beiter)

“The conditions the night the image was taken were not ideal because of the bright moon lighting up the sky. The photographer managed to overcome this obstacle and capture the incredible Aurora Borealis above the fjord at Haukland in the gorgeous Lofoten archipelago, Northern Norway. The small pool of water with rocks made the perfect foreground and a natural leading line into the frame.” — Mikkel Beiter

‘Aurora Borealis on the coast of the Barents sea’ (Photo: Michael Zav’yalov)

“From the city of Yaroslavl in Russia to the coast of the Barents Sea in the Arctic Circle, a party of three travelled 2000 kilometers to capture the magnificent Northern Lights. The photographer stayed in the village of Teriberka in the Murmansk Oblast district for five days. After four days of bad weather, with heavy snow and thick clouds the sky finally cleared on the last day and the Northern Lights appeared in all their glory.” — Michael Zav’yalov

‘AR 2665 and Quiescent Prominence’ (Photo: Łukasz Sujka)

“The sunspot AR2665 was one of the most active regions in 2017 on the right you can see a phenomenal quiescent prominence extending from our star, the Sun. This type of prominence lasts for a very long time and its structure is quite stable. The photo is a composition of two images: one of the magnificent prominence and one of the Sun’s surface. The surface is much brighter than the prominence so it is a negative to reveal details of Sun chromosphere (spicules and filaments).” — Łukasz Sujka

‘Andromeda Galaxy’ (Photo: Péter Feltóti)

“Andromeda Galaxy has always amazed the photographer. The dust lanes and bright star clusters in its arms, the emblematic galaxy shape of it, and the magnificent look of this great star city make it one of his most desired objects to photograph. This image was taken using a 200mm mirror and creating a three panel mosaic.” — Péter Feltóti

‘A Magnificent Saturn’ (Photo: Avani Soares)

“In high resolution planetary photography having a good view of a planet is a key factor but also completely out of a photographer’s control. In this image the photographer was lucky to capture our second largest planet, Saturn, in all its glory. After stacking 4,000 out of 10,000 frames we can admire details such as the beautiful polar hexagon, the Encke Division and even the crepe ring.” — Avani Soares

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These are the most beautiful images of the cosmos that I have ever seen!

A complex relationship

Slowly getting back to normal!

And posts like this help.

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Wolves on Michigan’s Isle Royale reveal new info about predator-prey relationships

This we know: Top carnivores profoundly influence local ecosystems.

By STARRE VARTAN  October 26, 2018.

Dawn breaks over Moskey Basin, at Isle Royale National Park, Michigan. Canadian wolves colonized the island in 1949. (Photo: Steve Lagreca/Shutterstock)

The American people’s relationship with top predators — especially wolves — is complex and ever-evolving. About three decades ago, it was mostly just animal-rights groups and their supporters who fought for the wolves’ right to exist; they were often considered a nuisance. But now there’s plenty of scientific evidence proving what’s good for wolves is good for their prey, the plants those prey eat, and indeed, positively affects the entire ecosystem. That’s ultimately good for humans too — unless you’re competing with the wolves, like a rancher who grazes animals or a hunter who wants to shoot the same deer or moose that wolves need to eat. But at this point, even some ranchers and hunters have come over to the pro-predator side.

Much of that change in the perception of predators is down to studies that have proven how precisely cougars, wolves, bears, tigers, lions, bald eagles, alligators and other apex predators affect the land around them. None have been studied longer than the wolves and moose in Isle Royale National Park, a Guam-sized island in Lake Superior. For almost 60 years, the populations of these two groups have been tracked — as well as their effects on the plants and other animal communities on the island. (You can read the reports here, including the recent 59th annual report.)

As the video above explains, there used to be as many as 50 wolves on Isle Royale; however, that number has dwindled, mostly due to inbreeding that caused a debilitating spinal condition to proliferate among the too-closely-related wolves. Just 10 years ago, there were still around 30 wolves but by 2015, there were only three wolves left. Now, there are just two, a closely related male-female pair that probably won’t breed. (The female of the pair has aggressively fought back when the male attempted to breed with her.)

Already, the moose population on the island has boomed, “undoubtably because of lack of predation,” John Vucetich, a wildlife ecologist from Michigan Technological University told Science magazine, adding that the two remaining wolves are now “… swimming in moose.” Despite the wolves’ regular predation on moose, there’s been a 20 percent increase in moose in just one year, which scientists estimate is about five to 10 times higher than on mainland areas. Beaver populations have also risen sharply. There’s just not enough wolves to keep either population in check.

So what’s so bad about so many moose? Well, as most ungulates do, moose spend their days browsing on vegetation, so the more moose, the more food they need — and the plants on the island can only take so much nibbling. An aquatic plant, which was found in abundance just six years ago, is now only found in places where moose are not. Long-term, this means the island will soon run out of food to keep the ever-larger moose population alive, and many will starve once food becomes scarce. Previously, the wolves have kept moose populations low enough so they didn’t overeat the vegetation, keeping the system in balance.

A plan to rebalance the ecosystem

This female wolf arrived at Isle Royale on Oct. 2, 2018. (Photo: NPS/Jim Peaco)

This is why some people think the best solution is to bring a fresh influx of wolves to Isle Royale National Park. The plan is to release 25-30 wolves over the next three to five years. So far, park officials have trapped four wolves on the mainland beginning in late September and released them on the island. Three of the wolves are female — with the hope they will successfully breed.

This new blood would potentially rebalance the predator-prey relationship and the idea is that the rest of the ecosystem would follow. Introducing so many wolves over several years is hardly natural either, others argue, saying that humans should just be hands off and let nature take its course. The original 50 wolves had found their way to the island on their own, having moved in from Canada; perhaps they could do so again if given the chance.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated since it was originally published in April 2017.

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This is the real news!

Bet they are wrong!

It seems to me, that although the science is good it can’t be perfect!

I saw this recently and, ….. well you decide!

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Dogs may not be as exceptionally smart as we think they are

Mary Jo DiLonardo

MARY JO DILONARDO

October 3rd, 2018.

Dogs have a scientific reputation for being rather brainy, but a new study says that may not be deserved. (Photo: Shevs/Shutterstock)

I know I’m biased, but I think my dog is brilliant. I’ve been bringing home animals all my life — from parakeets to ducks, cats to horses. But of all my feathered and furry pets, it’s no contest: Dogs are by far the brainiest. They are quick learners and great communicators with an incredible ability to solve problems.

But a new paper in the journal Learning & Behavior finds dog intelligence is “not exceptional.”

Although animal smarts have long been the subject of scientific research, recently there’s been a lot of focus on canine cognition. And that’s what triggered Stephen Lea, professor emeritus at the University of Exeter, to take a closer look. He was editor of the journal Animal Behavior, where he saw so many papers dealing with the mental abilities of dogs.

“Through the process of working as an editor [and] seeing all this research, I definitely got a sense that we as a collective had gotten a bit overexcited about dog intelligence,” Lea told Popular Science.

History of studying dog smarts

Dogs can learn problem solving, but raccoons often solve puzzles more easily. (Photo: Joerg Huettenhoelscher/Shutterstock)

Dogs and their brains have been studied for centuries (remember Pavlov and his bell?), but then were pushed aside for more popular studies with primates and other species. It wasn’t until the 1990s when dogs came back into focus. Lea wondered whether humans were giving dogs too much credit.

Lea and his coauthor, Britta Osthaus of Canterbury Christ Church University, studied more than 300 papers on the intelligence of dogs and other animals. They looked at research that covered three groups: carnivorans (another name for carnivores), social hunters and domesticated animals. Dogs fall into all three groups.

They discovered that when it comes to brainpower, dogs don’t particularly excel in any of the groups. There were species in each that were on par with or better than dogs in cognition comparisons. Raccoons, for example, seem to solve puzzles more easily, and hyenas seem to follow the cues of their pack more handily.

“Taking all three groups (domestic animals, social hunters and carnivorans) into account, dog cognition does not look exceptional,” said Osthaus in a statement. “We are doing dogs no favor by expecting too much of them. Dogs are dogs, and we need to take their needs and true abilities into account when considering how we treat them.”

Dogs do, however, stand out from their smart counterparts because they perform well in all three categories.

“Every species has unique intelligence,” Lea told Popular Science. “Their intelligence is what you would expect of an animal that is … recently descended from social hunters … that are carnivores and that have [also] been domesticated …There’s no other animal that fits all three of those criteria.”

Sounds pretty brilliant to me.

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It seems to me that science it taking far to narrow a look at our dogs.

For if one expands the range of qualities then one can include:

  • Unconditional love,
  • Companionship,
  • Sensitivity,
  • Consciousness,
  • Spirituality,
  • Bravery,
  • and a whole lot more besides.

Brushing one’s teeth!

A delightful post, and one that had an edge to it.

Brushing one’s teeth is hard enough for us to do, let alone our dogs.

No more from me than to reproduce this item which is a republication of a post that appeared in The Conversation site.

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Why is it such a pain to brush a dog’s teeth?

This ‘magic stick’ claims to provide a solution to the problem.

by MARY JO DILONARDO

August 11, 2018
It’s a toy and a toothbrush rolled into one. (Photo: Bristly)

You eye each other across the room. You’re using your sweetest, most coaxing voice, but behind your back you have a toothbrush covered in chicken-flavored paste. Your pet eyes you warily, knowing something is up. Those teeth haven’t been pearly in a very long time, but it’s not for a lack of trying.

About 80 percent of dogs will have some periodontal disease by the time they are 3 years old. In addition to dental checkups by your vet, the American Veterinary Medical Association recommends regularly brushing your dog’s teeth as “the single most effective thing you can do to keep their teeth healthy.” It may even eliminate the need for occasional dental cleanings by your veterinarian.

In addition (or in place of cleaning, if your dog isn’t a fan), you may have also tried dental chews or dental toys. The hope is that by gnawing on these items, your pet will scrub off the tartar and plaque buildup all by himself.

Personally, I’ve tried them all. My beautiful boy, Brodie, has breath that will make your eyes water. We’ve worked very hard on brushing. Normally he acts like I’m going to torture him when I persuade him to sit in the bathroom for a dental session. He either clamps down on the bristles as hard as he can or performs impressive gymnastics trying to evade my grasp. A few teeth get lightly grazed in the process.

The dental chews are equally unsuccessful. My pup doesn’t understand that he’s supposed to be taking his time with them. Instead, he manages to gulp them down (even frozen) which, I’m pretty sure, defeats the purpose of the exercise.

My friend has offered to scrape Brodie’s teeth with a dental tartar scraper he bought online (and uses on his well-behaved dogs), but I’m pretty sure my anxious boy would never recover.

A glimmer of green hope

If only it were this easy. (Photo: KPG Payless2/Shutterstock

There may be a solution. Years ago, Petros Dertsakyan lost his childhood Pomeranian to dental disease. As an adult and the father of two dogs of his own, Dertsakyan knows the importance of dental care but also knows first-hand the struggles of taking care of a dog’s teeth.

He decided to come up with a solution and, after lots of prototypes and testing, he developed what he calls Bristly, a “magic” toothbrushing stick that dogs hold down with their paws while gnawing on rows of flavored bristles. There’s also a reservoir to dispense toothpaste during the whole process.

Dertsakyan put his invention on Kickstarter, hoping to raise $15,000 to fund his project. He way underestimated how much people want to avoid getting anywhere near their dogs’ teeth. Just hours before the campaign ended, more than $437,000 had been raised from more than 10,000 backers. The products are scheduled to be shipped in October.

Here’s the Bristly in action. I know my dog has high hopes it will work.

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I love these dogs!

A Letter to Mr. Cosmos, Page Two

The concluding part of my letter to Mr. Cosmos.

Your Universe, Mr. Cosmos, is an enormous place.

Just the view at night from one small planet, the one that I happen to live on, Planet Earth, reveals millions upon millions of stars. It is then beyond inconceivable that there are not, in turn, countless numbers of other planets.

Extending this line of thought and recognising that a ‘mere’ billion years after the formation of our solar system and Planet Earth, some 4.54 billion years ago, the earliest life appeared, we can’t surely be alone!

Granted it was only cyanobacteria, as in blue-green algae, but, but, but ……… that this evolution of life on Planet Earth, and that evolution eventually leading to intelligent life, including the gift to us humans of the genetic separation of the dog from the wolf some 100,000 years ago, has not occurred on other planets is also totally inconceivable.

So, dear Mr. Cosmos, why have we not detected any signs of that intelligent life. Where are they?

Mr. Cosmos, back in June this year there was an article on the Big Think site that asked just this question.

Are we alone in the universe? New Drake equation suggests yes

A fresh take on the decades-old Drake equation incorporates new factors and greater uncertainty, suggesting a high likelihood that humanity is alone in the universe.

By , 25th June, 2018

At the Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1950, physicist Enrico Fermi famously posed to his colleagues a simple question borne of complex math: ‘Where are they?’

He was asking about aliens—intelligent ones, specifically. The Italian-American scientist was puzzled as to why mankind hasn’t detected any signs of intelligent life beyond our planet. He reasoned that even if life is extremely rare, you’d still expect there to be many alien civilizations given the sheer size of the universe. After all, some estimates indicate that there is one septillion, or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, stars in the universe, some of which are surrounded by planets that could probably support life.

So, where are they, and why aren’t they talking to us?

Now, as the article reveals, there is a lot to tackling this question, much of it involving statistics and mathematics, but it does prove one very important fact: Finding another planet as good for life and humanity as this one is just about impossible.

This is our only home!!

My wish, dear Mr. Cosmos, to you is this: That before I die it becomes clear beyond question that the peoples of this sweet Planet, from the lone individual living on some island out in the wilderness to the Governments of the most powerful nations on Earth, understand that nothing is more important than loving, caring for and looking after Planet Earth.

I remain, dear Mr. Cosmos, your respectful servant.

Paul H.