Category: Technology

Are we alone?

As in: Is there life on other planets?

Last Saturday, we went to the local Freethinkers meeting in Grants Pass. It was a fascinating presentation by fellow member, Chas Rogers. Chas teaches Earth Science courses for the Rogue Community College and elsewhere.

Here is a taste of what we saw:

The Rare Earth Hypothesis argues that the development of complex life on Earth, not to mention intelligence, was an incredibly improbable thing in terms of the geological and astronomical variables involved, suggesting that the galaxy is not filled with other intelligent life forms waiting to be found.

One important factor is the Drake Equation. Here it is explained on the SETI website:

How many alien societies exist, and are detectable? This famous formula gives us an idea. The Drake Equation, which was the agenda for a meeting of experts held in West Virginia in 1961, estimates N, the number of transmitting societies in the Milky Way galaxy.

Here is that Drake Equation.

N    : The number of civilizations in the Milky Way galaxy whose electromagnetic emissions are detectable.

R*   : The rate of formation of stars suitable for the development of intelligent life (number per year).

fp   : The fraction of those stars with planetary systems.

ne   : The number of planets, per solar system, with an environment suitable for life.

fl    : The fraction of suitable planets on which life actually appears.

fi    : The fraction of life bearing planets on which intelligent life emerges.

fc    : The fraction of civilizations that develop a technology that produces detectable signs of their existence.

L    : The average length of time such civilizations produce such signs (years).

There is a great deal of information online for those that want to look into the question in much more detail. But I rather like this YouTube video by Carl Sagan.

(Sorry about the funny ending to that video.)

Carl was speaking of the Milky Way. There are plenty of astronomers who believe that the universe holds many galaxies. Plus, the universe is expanding drawn ever outwards by something that is completely unknown!

What a way to think outside the box for a while!

John Fowler

The end of our present behaviours!

What is happening to Earth’s climate needs attention NOW!

Two charts recently from the BBC News.

The 10 years to the end of 2019 have been confirmed as the warmest decade on record by three global agencies. 

According to Nasa, Noaa and the UK Met Office, last year was the second warmest in a record dating back to 1850. The past five years were the hottest in the 170-year series, with the average of each one more than 1C warmer than pre-industrial.

The Met Office says that 2020 is likely to continue this warming trend.2016 remains the warmest year on record, when temperatures were boosted by the El Niño weather phenomenon.

This is the reality.

It affects every part of the world and it affects everyone. BUT! We, as in you and me, and everyone else, still haven’t got it.

The recent COP26 was progress and, especially, the next convention being held in a year’s time is important. But it is a long way from where we need to be. A very long way.

Patrice Ayme is someone that I follow and there have been times when I have gladly republished his posts. With his permission I should add.

Recently he published a post called Cataclysmic Seven Degree Centigrade Rise and I wanted to share it with you. Here is is:

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CATACLYSMIC SEVEN DEGREES CENTIGRADE RISE

Abstract: Expected rise of temperature in mountains correspond to a seven degree C rise. This informs global heating: in the long run, it will also be 7C. Large systems (Antarctica, Greenland) have greater thermal inertia, so their temperatures rise slower… But they will rise as much. In other words the so-called “forcing” by man-made greenhouse gases (which corresponds to 600 ppm of CO2) is universal, but the smaller the system, the faster the temperature rise

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Geographical systems with little thermal inertia (mountain glaciers) show an accelerated rate of heating of these parts which is only compatible with a seven (7) degrees rise in Celsius by 2100… A rise the IPCC of the UN considers impossible… But INERTIA says that it IS happening. The first thing this implies is that most forests will burn… worldwide. Then the ice shelves in Antarctica will follow.

TEMPS RISING ULTRA FAST IN MOUNTAINS

Anybody familiar with mountains worldwide know that temperatures are rising extremely fast: large glaciers I used to know have completely disappeared.. As in Chacaltaya, Bolivia. Or Portage, Alaska. The closest glacier to an Alpine village I went to as a child has been replaced by a larch forest (melezes)… One reason for this is that mountains are smaller in frozen mass than immense ensembles like Greenland and Antarctica. Moreover, the mountains’ permafrost is not as cold.  

From 1984 to 2017, the upper reaches of the fires in the Sierra Nevada of California rose more than 1,400 feet. Now the temperature in the lower atmosphere decreases by 7C every 1,000 meters. There are many potential factors to explain why fires go higher (although some contradict each other). To avoid paralysis by analysis, I will assume the rise in fires is all due to temperature rise. So what we have here is a 2.5C rise in 33 years.

….FROM SMALLER THERMAL INERTIA:

Mountain thermal capacity is accordingly reduced relative to those of Greenland and Antarctica. The proportionality factors are gigantic. Say the permafrost of a mountain range is of the order of 10^4 square kilometers, at a depth of one kilometer (typical of the Sierra Nevada of California or the Alps at a temp of -3C. By comparison, Antarctica is 14x 10^6 sq km at a depth of 4 kilometers of permafrost at a temp of -30C. Thinking in greater depth reveals the proportions to be even greater: individual mountains are of the order of square kilometers. This means that (using massively simplified lower bounds), Antarctica has a mass of cold which is at least 4 orders of magnitude higher than a mountain range: to bring Antarctica to seriously melt, as mountain ranges are right now, would require at least 10,000, ten thousand times, as much heat (or maybe even a million, or more, when considering individual mountains).  

As it is, mountains are exposed to a heat bath which makes their permafrost unsustainable. From their small thermal inertia, mountains warm up quickly. Greenland and Antarctica, overall, are exposed to the same bath, the same “forcing”, but because they are gigantic and gigantically cold, they resist more: they warm up, but much slower (moreover as warmer air carries more snow, it snows more while Antarctica warms up).

I have looked, in details at glaciologists records, from the US to Europe… Everywhere glaciologists say the same thing: expect a rise of the permafrost line of 1,000 meters… That corresponds to a SEVEN DEGREE CENTIGRADE RISE. Basically, while glaciers were found down to 2,500 meters in the Alps (some can still be seen in caves)… Expect that, in a few decades, none will occur below 3,500 meters… Thus speak the specialists, the glaciologists…

Mount Hood, Oregon, in August 1901 on the left, and August 2015, on the right. The Eliot glacier, front and center, which used to sprawl for miles, is in the process of disappearing completely.

What is happening then, when most climate scientists speak of holding the 1.5 C line (obviously completely impossible, even if humanity stopped emitting CO2 immediately)???… Or when they admit that we are on a 2.7C future in 2100? Well, those scientists have been captured by the establishment… They say what ensure their prosperous careers… At a global rise of 2.7 C, we get a migration of the permafrost line of around 500 kilometers towards the poles… Catastrophic, yes, but still, Antarctica will not obviously start to melt, big time. 

At 7C, the melting of the surrounding of Antarctica, including destabilization of West Antarctica, and the Aurora and Wilkes Basin can’t be avoided… They hold around 25 meters of sea level rise….

If it came to light that a seven degree centigrade rise is a real possibility, authorities would turn around and really do some things, which may destabilize the worldwide plutocratic establishment: carbon tariffs are an obvious example. Carbon tariffs could be imposed next week… and they would have a big impact of the CO2 production. So why are carbon tariffs not imposed? Carbon tariffs would destabilize the deindustrialization gravy train: by employing who are basically slaves in poor countries, plutocrats make themselves ever wealthier, while making sure there would be no insurrection at home… A trick already used in imperial Rome, by the Senatorial aristocracy/plutocracy. That would be highly effective… By the way, without saying so, of course, and maybe even unwittingly, this is basically what Trump had started to do…

The devil has these ways which the commons do not possess…

That would stop the crafty, dissembling nonsense that countries such as France are at 4.6 tons per capita of CO2 emissions per year… That’s only true when all the CO2 emitted to produce the goods the French need is NOT counted.. including deforestation in Brazil to grow soybean. With them counted, one gets to 11 tons or so, more than double… The wonderful graph of CO2 emissions collapsing in Europe is the same graph as collapsing industrial production…

The devil has these ways the commons have not even detected…

Carbon tariffs would be a way to solve two wrongs in one shot: the wrong of deindustrialization, of corrupt pseudo-leaders not putting the most advanced countries, their own countries, first… And the wrong of producing too much CO2.

Little fixes will go a long way, as long as they incorporate hefty financing fundamentally researching new energy (it does not really matter which type, as long as it is fundamental…)

Patrice Ayme

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Now this isn’t some academic treatise that doesn’t affect the likes of you and me. This is, as I have said, the harsh reality of NOW!

Here’s a photo of me and Jeannie together with Andy and Trish taken in March, 2018. On the edge of Crater Lake.

Then this is a stock photograph of Crater Lake taken in March, 2020.

Taken by Valerie Little

Not a great deal of difference but the trees in the photo above aren’t encased in snow as is the tree in the 2018 photo.

Now there is important news to bring you from COP 26. On Sunday Boris Johnson said:

Scientists say this would limit the worst impacts of climate change.

During a Downing Street news conference, Mr Johnson said: 

  • “We can lobby, we can cajole, we can encourage, but we cannot force sovereign nations to do what they do not wish to do”
  • “For all our disagreements, the world is undeniably heading in the right direction”
  • The “tipping point has been reached in people’s attitudes” – with leaders “galvanised and propelled by their electorates”
  • But “the fatal mistake now would be to think that we in any way cracked this thing”

Mr Johnson said that despite the achievements of the summit, his reaction was “tinged with disappointment”.

He said there had been a high level of ambition – especially from countries where climate change was already “a matter of life and death”. 

And “while many of us were willing to go there, that wasn’t true of everybody”, he admitted. But he added the UK could not compel nations to act. “It’s ultimately their decision to make and they must stand by it.”

That point about attitudes is interesting. Who would have thought, say, five years ago, that attitudes had changed so dramatically by late-2021.

One hopes that we will come to our collective senses but I can’t see the CO2 index being returned to its normal range without machines taking the excessive CO2 out of the atmosphere. Because, as was quoted on The Conversation nearly a year ago:

On Wednesday this week, the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere was measured at at 415 parts per million (ppm). The level is the highest in human history, and is growing each year.

Finally, my daughter, Maija, and my son-in-law, Marius, had a child some ten years ago. He is my grandson and I left England before he was born. He is Morten and he is a bright young spark.

Morten

Morten and all the hundreds of thousands of young persons like him are going to have to deal with the world as they find it!

Darkness!

Chris Impey writes about his specialty in observational cosmology.

This has nothing to do with life, nothing that we are dealing with in our daily affairs, and has nothing to do with our dear dogs. BUT! This is incredibly interesting! Incredibly and beautifully interesting!

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The most powerful space telescope ever built will look back in time to the Dark Ages of the universe

Hubble took pictures of the oldest galaxies it could – seen here – but the James Webb Space Telescope can go back much farther in time. NASA

Chris Impey, University of Arizona

Some have called NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope the “telescope that ate astronomy.” It is the most powerful space telescope ever built and a complex piece of mechanical origami that has pushed the limits of human engineering. On Dec. 18, 2021, after years of delays and billions of dollars in cost overruns, the telescope is scheduled to launch into orbit and usher in the next era of astronomy.

I’m an astronomer with a specialty in observational cosmology – I’ve been studying distant galaxies for 30 years. Some of the biggest unanswered questions about the universe relate to its early years just after the Big Bang. When did the first stars and galaxies form? Which came first, and why? I am incredibly excited that astronomers may soon uncover the story of how galaxies started because James Webb was built specifically to answer these very questions.

A graphic showing the progression of the Universe through time.
The Universe went through a period of time known as the Dark Ages before stars or galaxies emitted any light. Space Telescope Institute

The ‘Dark Ages’ of the universe

Excellent evidence shows that the universe started with an event called the Big Bang 13.8 billion years ago, which left it in an ultra-hot, ultra-dense state. The universe immediately began expanding after the Big Bang, cooling as it did so. One second after the Big Bang, the universe was a hundred trillion miles across with an average temperature of an incredible 18 billion F (10 billion C). Around 400,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe was 10 million light years across and the temperature had cooled to 5,500 F (3,000 C). If anyone had been there to see it at this point, the universe would have been glowing dull red like a giant heat lamp.

Throughout this time, space was filled with a smooth soup of high energy particles, radiation, hydrogen and helium. There was no structure. As the expanding universe became bigger and colder, the soup thinned out and everything faded to black. This was the start of what astronomers call the Dark Ages of the universe.

The soup of the Dark Ages was not perfectly uniform and due to gravity, tiny areas of gas began to clump together and become more dense. The smooth universe became lumpy and these small clumps of denser gas were seeds for the eventual formation of stars, galaxies and everything else in the universe.

Although there was nothing to see, the Dark Ages were an important phase in the evolution of the universe.

A diagram showing different wavelengths of light compared to size of normal objects.
Light from the early universe is in the infrared wavelength – meaning longer than red light – when it reaches Earth. Inductiveload/NASA via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

Looking for the first light

The Dark Ages ended when gravity formed the first stars and galaxies that eventually began to emit the first light. Although astronomers don’t know when first light happened, the best guess is that it was several hundred million years after the Big Bang. Astronomers also don’t know whether stars or galaxies formed first.

Current theories based on how gravity forms structure in a universe dominated by dark matter suggest that small objects – like stars and star clusters – likely formed first and then later grew into dwarf galaxies and then larger galaxies like the Milky Way. These first stars in the universe were extreme objects compared to stars of today. They were a million times brighter but they lived very short lives. They burned hot and bright and when they died, they left behind black holes up to a hundred times the Sun’s mass, which might have acted as the seeds for galaxy formation.

Astronomers would love to study this fascinating and important era of the universe, but detecting first light is incredibly challenging. Compared to massive, bright galaxies of today, the first objects were very small and due to the constant expansion of the universe, they’re now tens of billions of light years away from Earth. Also, the earliest stars were surrounded by gas left over from their formation and this gas acted like fog that absorbed most of the light. It took several hundred million years for radiation to blast away the fog. This early light is very faint by the time it gets to Earth.

But this is not the only challenge.

As the universe expands, it continuously stretches the wavelength of light traveling through it. This is called redshift because it shifts light of shorter wavelengths – like blue or white light – to longer wavelengths like red or infrared light. Though not a perfect analogy, it is similar to how when a car drives past you, the pitch of any sounds it is making drops noticeably. Similar to how a pitch of a sound drops if the source is moving away from you, the wavelength of light stretches due to the expansion of the universe.

By the time light emitted by an early star or galaxy 13 billion years ago reaches any telescope on Earth, it has been stretched by a factor of 10 by the expansion of the universe. It arrives as infrared light, meaning it has a wavelength longer than that of red light. To see first light, you have to be looking for infrared light.

Telescope as a time machine

Enter the James Webb Space Telescope.

Telescopes are like time machines. If an object is 10,000 light-years away, that means the light takes 10,000 years to reach Earth. So the further out in space astronomers look, the further back in time we are looking.

A large golden colored disc with a sensor in the middle and scientists standing below.
The James Webb Space Telescope was specifically designed to detect the oldest galaxies in the universe. NASA/JPL-Caltech, CC BY-SA

Engineers optimized James Webb for specifically detecting the faint infrared light of the earliest stars or galaxies. Compared to the Hubble Space Telescope, James Webb has a 15 times wider field of view on its camera, collects six times more light and its sensors are tuned to be most sensitive to infrared light.

The strategy will be to stare deeply at one patch of sky for a long time, collecting as much light and information from the most distant and oldest galaxies as possible. With this data, it may be possible to answer when and how the Dark Ages ended, but there are many other important discoveries to be made. For example, unraveling this story may also help explain the nature of dark matter, the mysterious form of matter that makes up about 80% of the mass of the universe.

James Webb is the most technically difficult mission NASA has ever attempted. But I think the scientific questions it may help answer will be worth every ounce of effort. I and other astronomers are waiting excitedly for the data to start coming back sometime in 2022.

Chris Impey, University Distinguished Professor of Astronomy, University of Arizona

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

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The dark ages of the universe that lasted for millions of years until gravity started to form some order out of the ‘soup’.

I don’t know about you but the winter nights, when the sky is clear, have me waiting outside for the dogs to come in looking up at the night sky just lost in the sheer wonder of it all.

The very best of luck to NASA on December 18th!

Furry life saver!

The story of Rhys the dog!

I have known Keith Edmunds from a long time ago and we chat from time to time. Keith has his own company Tiger Computing, Linux specialists, (We provide managed cloud services and Linux support services for high-tech businesses), and we had a business connection many moons ago. But in an effort to stay connected with friends in the old country I have subscribed for quite some time to Keith’s newsletter. Although Keith clearly is speaking to potential clients his newsletter is quite readable for non-technical peeps such as myself.

At the end of September this year Keith’s newsletter was a little different. Here it is:

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Rhys the dog saved my wife’s life last week.

She was alone in the house. She put some flatbread in a pan on the hob, then went to check something on her PC. And forgot about the flatbread.

The flatbread got hotter, started smoking, and then the smoke alarm went off. That would be a clue for most of us that something may be amiss.

But my wife is deaf. She can’t hear the smoke alarm.

That’s when Rhys, the Hearing Dog, leapt into action. He found her and butted her hard with his nose. “What is it?”, she asked him. He squatted down on all fours, the signal that the smoke alarm is going off. He only makes that move for the smoke alarm so it’s clear what the problem is.

My wife ran to the kitchen, turned off the hob and opened windows to disperse the smoke. Without Rhys alerting her there would have been a fire. The consequences of that can only (fortunately) be imagined.

So here’s how it works. Rhys is trained to notify my wife when he hears certain sounds. He notified her when he heard one, and corrective action was taken.

Here at Tiger Computing we have sophisticated monitoring systems that keep an eye on our clients’ Linux systems. They’re configured to alert our support staff if things start going wrong, and the support staff can take corrective action.

Our monitoring probably won’t save your life. But it might save your bacon.

Until next week –
Keith

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It is a delightful account of yet another aspect of dogs. Dogs can undertake many things and some of our dogs are really clever. Rhys is an example of how highly trained dogs can be.

I spoke to Keith and asked permission to republish this, gladly and readily given, and whether Keith had any photographs of Rhys.

Rhys and Mrs. Edmunds

Beautiful!

Larry the guide dog!

Serendipity at work!

Yesterday morning while sitting up in bed I was browsing the internet on my iPad. I looked up TED Talks and fancied watching the story of Mark Pollock and Simone George. It turned out to be 19 minutes of incredible viewing and it is reproduced below as a YouTube video.

Towards the end Mark refers to his guide dog Larry. More of that later.

First watch the video.

It is a most amazing talk.

Next I wanted to research some more.

First I found Mark’s website that is here.

Then I came across a comprehensive entry on WikiPedia. From which the following is taken:

Pollock enrolled in a course to help come to terms with his disability. He left for Dublin with his guide dog Larry and began putting himself forward for job interviews. Prospective employers were uncertain as to how to approach him. Eventually the father of one of his college friends assigned him to organising corporate entertainment. He returned to rowing and won bronze and silver medals for Northern Ireland in the 2002 Commonwealth Rowing Championships. He engaged in other athletic pursuits, including running six marathons in seven days with a sighted partner across the Gobi Desert, China in 2003 when he raised tens of thousands of euro for the charity Sightsavers International. On 10 April 2004, he competed in the North Pole Marathon on the sixth anniversary of his blindness.

Then I discovered that Larry had died: “My great mate Larry The Guide Dog died on Sunday night. An amazing Guide Dog and amazing friend.”.

He died on the 2nd May, 2010 just a couple of months before Mark’s terrible accident.

Finally a photograph of Mark and Larry!

Who do you rely on most? When I was just blind, it was my guide dog Larry who empowered me to live life independently.”

The words of Mark Pollock.

What an inspiration he must be to so many!

Resilience Thinking – a review

A book to make one think anew.

Let me make myself absolutely clear about this book, indeed I can do no better than to publish part of an email that I sent to the authors last Saturday:

To say that I was inspired by what you wrote is an understatement. More accurately it has changed my whole understanding of this planet, of the natural order of things, of the politics of the Western world, of vast numbers of us humans, and how precarious is our world just now. It has opened my eyes radically, and I thought before that I was fairly in touch with things.

Resilience is a simple idea but in its application has proved to be anything such. On page 2 the authors set out as they saw it The Drivers of Unsustainable Development. Here’s how that section develops:

Our world is facing a broad range of serious and growing resource issues. Human-induced soil degradation has been getting worse since the 1950s. About 85 percent of agriculture land contains areas degraded by erosion, rising salt, soil compaction, and various other factors. It has been estimated (Wood et al. 2000) that soil degradation has already reduced global agricultural productivity by around 15 percent in the last fifty years. In the last three hundred years, topsoil has been lost at a rate of 200 million tons per year; in the last fifty years it has more than doubled to 760 million tons per year.

As we move deeper into the twenty-first century we cannot afford to lose more of our resource base. The global population is now expanding by about 75 million people each year. Population growth rates are declining, but the world’s population will still be expanding by almost 60 million per year in 2030. The United Nations projections put the global population at nearly 8 billion in 2025. In addition, if current water consumption patterns continue unabated, half the world’s population will live in water-stressed river basins by 2025.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 2004 Annual Hunger Report estimates that over 850 million people suffer from chronic hunger. Hunger kills 5 million children every year.

It goes on ….!

Now I want to quote from the end of the book, from their section on Resilience Thinking.

In our opening chapter we observed that there were many pathways into resilience thinking and suggested readers not worry too much if the finer details of a resilience framework are a bit obscure. We emphasized that what is of much more importance is an appreciation of the broader themes that underpin such a framework. Those broader themes revolve around humans existing within linked social and ecological systems. These are complex adaptive systems, and attempts to control or optimize parts of such systems without consideration of the responses that this creates in the broader system are fraught with risk. Much of this book has been spent on attempting to explore the consequences of such an approach.

In the broadest sense, optimizing and controlling components of a system in isolation of the broader system results in a decline in resilience, a reduction in options, and the shrinkage of the space in which we can safely operate. Resilience thinking moves us the other way.

It is our hope that readers who are persuaded of this basic premise will be encouraged to explore the inevitable consequences of such thinking. Even if you are not completely clear on the basins of attractions, thresholds, and adaptive cycles, if the concepts of ecological resilience and dynamic social-ecological systems have any resonance then you are in a better position to appreciate what is happening to the world around you.

The phrase complex adaptive system was new to me but intuitively I got what the authors meant. As they state on page 35: The three requirements for a complex adaptive system are:

  • That it has components that are independent and interacting,
  • There is some selection process at work on those components (and on the results of local interactions),
  • Variation and novelty are constantly being added to the system (through components changing over time or new ones coming in),

This was my eye-opener. It was now obvious that many processes, especially in nature, that I had hitherto regarded as constant were changing albeit usually on a timescale of many decades sometimes centuries.

And the other conclusion that was inescapable was that we humans were largely responsible for those changes because we couldn’t see the longterm consequences of what we were doing.

As I remarked in a previous post :

David writes that firstly carbon dioxide is not like other pollutants, for example like air particulants.  Then later goes on to say:

The second difference is that climate change is irreversible.

As Joe Romm notes in a recent post, New York Times columnist Joe Nocera slipped up in his latest column and referred to technology that would “help reverse climate change.” I don’t know whether that reflects Nocera’s ignorance or just a slip of the pen, but I do think it captures the way many people subconsciously think about climate change. If we heat the planet up too much, we’ll just fix it! We’ll turn the temperature back down. We’ll get around to it once the market has delivered economically ideal solutions.

But as this 2009 paper in Nature (among many others) makes clear, it doesn’t work that way:

This paper shows that the climate change that takes place due to increases in carbon dioxide concentration is largely irreversible for 1,000 years after emissions stop. Following cessation of emissions, removal of atmospheric carbon dioxide decreases radiative forcing, but is largely compensated by slower loss of heat to the ocean, so that atmospheric temperatures do not drop significantly for at least 1,000 years. [my emphasis]

My last piece in this review is to republish a graph that is shown on the NASA Global Climate Change website:

For all our sakes, dogs and humans and many other species, let us all please change our behaviours! Soon!

Back to the book: It is a remarkable book!

I will close with quoting one of the praises shown on the back cover. This one by Thomas Homer-Dixon, professor of political science, University of Toronto, and director of the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies.

Resilience Thinking is an essential guidebook to a powerful new way of understanding our world – and of living resiliently with it – developed in recent decades by an international team of ecologists. With five clear and compelling case studies drawn from regions as diverse as Florida, Sweden, and Australia, this book shows how all highly adaptive systems – from ecologies to economics – go through regular cycles of growth, reorganization, and renewal and how our failures to understand the basic principles of resilience have often led to disaster. Resilience Thinking gives us the conceptual tools to help us cope with the bewildering surprises and challenges of our new century.

Please, if you can, think about reading it.

Off air for the time being.

My Mac is playing up.

Dear good people,

Yesterday I updated my iMac and ended up with a dark screen.

Apple Support recommended me downloading and reinstalling the latest O.S.

This morning I still can’t get my Apple to behave normally.

I have no option other than to take it into a local Grants Pass computer technician and see if he can make sense of the issue.

In the meantime normal service will be somewhat curtailed.

The Seafire Spitfire and dogs!

Ray offers us a guest post.

As can happen from time to time, I was contacted by Ray Dunthorne in England. He very kindly said that he had been following Learning from Dogs for a while and also was aware of my previous interest in flying.

So I emailed Ray saying that I would love to publish his account as a guest post and lo and behold in came the following story.

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The Story of Lulu

Ah hello again, I’ll try ever so hard not to give you my full life story, but just stuff you might find interesting and relevant, but can’t promise to get the balance right! 

Willows Activity Farm St Albans 

My adult dog journey began with Lulu, 15 years ago, but the seed was sown some 5 years earlier at a city farm. We’d gone with the then middle-born five-year-old for his birthday party. The shepherd who did herding demonstrations was over from New Zealand and had two dogs who’d just had a litter of puppies, which we were shown. We’d never heard of the New Zealand Huntaway, it was described as a combination of German Shepherd, Border Collie and Labrador, with a few other breeds thrown in for good measure. 

They’d been consistently bred in, yes, you guessed it, New Zealand for over 100 years, specifically to help move large herds of sheep or cattle over long distances. The agile New Zealand Huntaway became known for its ability to move across packed, penned herds by leaping from the back of one sheep to another. Its loud LOUD bark was also required, as if not busy barking to get cattle or sheep moving, the Huntaway would be sent after a sheep or lamb that had strayed out of sight, hold it down (I don’t know how) and BARK so the shepherd could locate the unruly pair. 

Little thought was given to the New Zealand Huntaway for a few years, when – on the other side of divorce – my then ex-wife and I decided to get a dog to raise collaboratively, to keep the disparate family united in some way. Divorce-wise, it wasn’t so amicable initially, as these things usually aren’t, but soon settled down with the three growing boys being the priority. 

Lime End Farm, Sussex

Of course we couldn’t agree on the type of dog. I’d always wanted a German Shepherd, madame a Border Collie and a Labrador was a popular choice with Stanley, Arthur and Sidney (the aforementioned three boys). I bet you can tell where this is going. Yes, I remembered the New Zealand Huntaway. In 2006, it was a lot harder to find a litter in the UK than it is now, but I did. Down on a farm in Sussex. Lulu’s mum and dad were also over from New Zealand with a shepherd, this one herding cattle at Lime End Dairy Farm. 

Lime End is in Herstmonceux, East Sussex, which is as Olde English countryside as it sounds, with a castle and an annual Medieval festival to complete the picture.

As soon as we arrived in the classic farm yard, all the puppies bumbled out to say hello, emerging three at a time from under an old caravan where they’d been sheltering from the sun. Their dad, Lord Toro was tied to a nearby barn, doing some general barking ‘he’s frightened of the puppies’ the lady told us. The nine puppies all toppled about us for a few minutes, then all rushed off to find dinner. All except one.

Eight week old Lulu came back with me, Sidney and Helen, my new girlfriend at the time, who I’d charmingly had to borrow the £300 needed to secure Lulu from. It was a four or five hour round trip for the three of us, four including Lulu. A bonding opportunity all round.

I always remember that – to add to the idyllic Sussex farm scene, as if it wasn’t enough like a scene from a film Hugh Grant drives a Mini in – just as we were leaving, an old barn door got pushed open from the inside and a litter of Border Collie puppies and their mum and dad ran out, to say hello to the remaining Huntaways and good bye to us.

Best Laid Plans

The wisdom of bringing that hard-working herding dog into two separate St Albans houses didn’t cross my mind. It probably should have, especially as my ‘house’ was a rented Maisonette, no dogs aloud. The theory was Lulu would be at the children’s house in the week, mine along with the children at the weekends. It didn’t turn out like that.

After a few months both me and my ex-wife got short contracts that meant heading off to work in an office for the day. Far from ideal, but no money at that point meant no choice. At least it was only temporary. Lulu would have been about six months old by then and absolutely should not have been left alone FOR A SECOND.

The office was just 15 minutes away (PC World, Maylands, Hemel Hempstead). I did manage to pop back at lunchtime most days and a child would pop round a few hours later after school. New Zealand Huntaways are like any puppy only more so. They need a lot of exercise and mental stimulation, or else you will pay.

A novice dog guardian then, I learned everything the hard way. Before her first birthday, Lulu had removed the floor covering in the kitchen and the lounge. She’d moved a large old cathode ray TV across the room, knocked bookshelves over and generally done over £1,000 of damage. I know it was that much because I got a bill from the landlord. I paid. 

What dogs do

I will cut to the end here. That was in the first year of Lulu’s life.

The contract I mentioned was my first proper BIG company for the digital stuff I was doing, without it I wouldn’t have been able to have the career I’ve had, which started late as I accidentally tried to be a musician for ten years. Not too successfully. That doesn’t matter though.

The 14 years has gone by and even Sidney, who was about five years old when he came with us to East Sussex to meet Lulu, has gone off to university, the older two long-since moved away, to Nottingham and London respectively, leaving me, Lulu and my Helen, that new girlfriend who’d come to Sussex with us on that early date, who moved in a year or so later and is still here. 

What Lulu did was tie us all together. Yes, she was a nightmare initially. Yes, she would run away, out of sight chasing imaginary deer, for 30 or 40 minutes at a time. Yes, she’d bark at everything, constantly herding the children when they were small, stopping them from fighting among each other as they got bigger, becoming more and more generally in control and charming with each year. Almost without us noticing. All of a sudden, she was one of us. Not a pet, not a ‘furry friend’, not even a dog really.

She could sense when someone was ill or in distress and would attend accordingly. She loved small children and even when in a fierce mood, if a small child the same size as her approached, she would sit down and raise her head waiting for a pair of tiny arms to be thrown around her. It had all just got normal for us. Pretty much every time when we were out with her, she’d do something that would further add to our respect for her understanding of what’s going on. She WAS one of us. 

Lulu loved an air show, going to several with us over the years. Here she is at Eastbourne air show, enjoying the Lancaster Bomber and a Spitfire from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight. 

Now it’s all gone

It’s only when Lulu was finally gone I noticed everything else that’s passed too. All that time, pretty much my entire career, moving from acrimoniously divorced to getting along just fine and concentrating on giving the three boys as good a start as we could manage.  The three boys no longer the children they were when Lulu was working out her role in the family, now all long-since scarpered and working harder than I ever have. 

My career is pretty much done too. I’m finding it harder to get new contracts or jobs in digital. ‘What are you doing working in digital? I thought that was a young man’s game’ one marketing director interviewing me for a dull digital role I didn’t want tactfully said, almost ten years ago too. I won’t say where, for reasons of professional discretion (David Lloyd Leisure, Hatfield, Monday 4th March 2013)

When I was working from home and madame, who I now call Mrs Tagmaster, was coming home from London, me and Lulu would go and pick her up. I trained Lulu to sit in the middle of the station and wait for Mrs Tagmaster for as long as 10 minutes, which meant several packed commuter trains unloaded past her. I’d hide out of sight, watching to see how many pats on the head she got. Usually several.

Lulu’s Legacy is Ten Year Tags

Phew, we’re getting up to date at last. Lulu lost dog name tags like it was something she was born to do. Sometimes in a few months, sometimes in a few days. We got through dozens. I’m a bit slow on the uptake, it took me a while to work out the dog name tags on the market just might not be up to the job.

It took about a year of fact-finding, market assessment and trying to work out how to make a better dog name tag before I was ready to start planning the equipment we needed. Having wasted months liaising with companies in China to get the tags made in volume, I gave up on that idea to both keep our carbon footprint down AND have more control over any supply chain and not have to worry about any one critical supplier. 

With over 9 million dogs in the UK alone, there’s a good sized market. Research quickly revealed this ubiquitous, low price point product has largely been ignored, especially digitally. Consequently many competitors are getting away with minimal product quality and poor customer experience (I’ll come back to this).  This surprised me, as not many products pretty much anyone can manufacture are actually required by law in the UK courtesy of a stupidly out of date Dog Tag Law

I pretty much, at least subliminally, thank Lulu for every tag I press out and when it’s a busy day that started at 6 am and is only drawing to a close with a 6pm trip to the sorting office with a sack of 50 or more orders, I’m ever so grateful to Lulu, as without her showing us the flaws in all those substandard products over the years, patiently waiting until Raymond here got the hint, we probably wouldn’t be coping at all right now. Lulu is still looking after us.

ooOOoo

Thank you, Ray.

This is such a delightful story. So much so that I am going to post another story for Saturday. Namely, a short article, broadly written by Ray, and featuring the Spitfire.

Ray’s company Ten Year Tags is linked to Ray’s website.

The Old and the New

This caught my eye!

Humans are great inventors! Indeed, a better way to describe H. sapiens ever since we separated from the chimpanzees, some 5 or 6 million years ago, is to describe us as explorers both outwards and inwards constantly in search for new worlds and new insights into meaning.

Thus this naturally caught me eye as Doug Thron uses a modern device, a drone, to search for animals in distress, a very ancient behaviour!

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Drone Pilot Rescues Animals After Natural Disasters

Doug Thron goes to devastated areas to save pets and wildlife.

By Mary Jo DiLonardo

Mary Jo DiLonardo

Published June 9, 2021.

Doug Thron with Duke, a dog he rescued after California wildfires.”Doug to the Rescue”

For nearly three decades, seaplane and drone pilot Doug Thron has been a professional photographer and cinematographer, primarily for nature shows and magazines. A few years ago he was using his drone to film the devastation left behind after wildfires in California when he teamed up with rescuers to help find lost pets and reunite them with their owners.

A long-time animal lover and environmentalist, Thron realized he could combine those passions, using his aerial skills. He now travels wherever there is need, using his drone to help communities dealing with the destruction after natural disasters.

Thron is featured in a six-part documentary series “Doug to the Rescue”streaming on CuriosityStream beginning June 10.

He talked to Treehugger about his first animal rescues, his drones, and some of the challenges he’s faced.

Treehugger: Which came first: the animal rescue work or the drone?

Dough Thron: I was using drones for filming for TV shows, commercials, and real estate clients before doing the animal rescue work. 

Were you involved in animal rescue and realized that your drone work could come in handy? 

Definitely. I was doing animal rescue work after the wildfires in Paradise, California. I was working with an expert cat rescuer named Shannon Jay, and I saw him using an infrared scope at night to help find the cats. We talked about how incredible it would be to put one on a drone and when the opportunity came up about 10 months later in the Bahamas after the category 5 Hurricane Dorian, that’s what I did and it worked incredibly.

I had raised orphaned baby animals as a kid and worked with animals such as possums, raccoons, squirrels, beavers, and even mountain lions. I’ve been using drones since 2013 for cinematography, so I’ve used them for quite a while before I got involved in the actual rescuing of animals with drones.

Duke in the Bahamas.Doug Thron / “Doug to the Rescue”

What was your first big rescue using a drone?

My first big rescue using a drone was in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian. I was there helping to deliver aid and film the destruction when I spotted a dog roaming around the mountains of debris. He obviously hadn’t had any water or much food for days. He was really apprehensive at first, but warmed up over the course of the day, as I just sat with him. Dog food and water helped! The next day, some animal rescuers came with me to get him. He’s such an incredible dog, and meant so much to me, so I adopted him and named him Duke after a sign I’d seen where I found him.

Where are some of the places you’ve gone to help stranded animals? 

The Bahamas, Australia, Oregon, California, and Louisiana.

Thron with a rescued koala.”Doug to the Rescue”

What were some of the most challenging circumstances?

In Australia, it was challenging because the hurt koalas were deep in burnt out forests, often with a dense canopy. It was so hot out you had to fly strictly at night with spotlights and infrared and fly the drone pretty far and often drop it down through the trees to see the animals, which takes a lot of skill. Koalas are also very aggressive and strong, and not always thrilled when you go to grab them out of a tree to rescue them. On almost all these rescues, Australia and everywhere else, it’s countless long hours of work—generally about 20 hours a day—which can certainly wear you down day after day.

What is it like when you spot an animal in an area of devastation where there is no other sign of life? 

It’s great to be able to rescue these animals so much more efficiently and faster and, in many cases, find animals that never would have been found.  It’s different everywhere I go—finding animals when there aren’t any others alive nearby is always really hard. But in places like Louisiana, where I was searching in so many neighborhoods, it gives you a feeling of hope when you find a cat or dog, knowing it was someone’s pet. 

In other places, like Australia, I’d be covering dozens of miles a night, sometimes and only finding an occasional animal. It’s really sad because you realize how many thousands of animals didn’t make it. It’s also really hard to see how fires and other natural disasters as a result of climate change are taking out the last patches of unentered habitat and endangered animals.

A dog rescued in Louisiana.”Doug to the Rescue”

How heart-wrenching can it be?

It can be really heart-wrenching to find animals that are severely wounded, but it’s wonderful to be able to save them. 

How euphoric is it when you make a great save?

It’s awesome to be able to save people’s cats and dogs because frequently, that might be the only thing they have left after a fire or hurricane. Obviously, for the animal’s sake, it’s so incredible because without the infrared drone, in many cases, the animal would have never been found and would have died, sometimes a slow and painful death.

Thron with his drone.”Doug to the Rescue”

What is your drone like?

The Matrice 210 V2 are the drones I use with an infrared camera, spotlight, and 180x zoom lens. The combination of using those three attachments for animal rescue has never been done before.

How much time do you spend doing animal rescue work? What else do you do?

The rescue work is pretty continuous for 9 to 10 months during the fire and hurricane seasons. After that, there are occasional lost pets to be found.

What else do you want to accomplish?

I hope to make using infrared drones for animal rescue as popular as helicopters are for rescuing people after a natural disaster. So many more animals can be saved when you can find them so much faster and find ones that never would have been found on foot because there is just too much area to cover.

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This account makes me want to choke up. Doug is clearly used to being a professional photographer and, also, works with others in the field of animal rescue. But this story is about Doug and he is engaged with animal rescue with his heart as well as his head!

Doug has been reported widely I am delighted to say and there’s a YouTube video that you can watch.

It doesn’t get any better than that!