Category: Technology

Foreboding times?

Something brooding in the air!

The smoke from the forest fires in Oregon and California has been thick in the air here in Merlin for days.

As can be seen in the photograph below. The photograph is as it was captured by the camera at 7:15 am yesterday morning. No changes by me made at all. The middle tree line is at the Eastern end of our property about a 1/4 mile away.

We are fed up with the smoke and the terrible air conditions.

But what drew me to grab the camera and take the photograph was that the image had some sort of, Oh, I don’t know, some sort of end of the world feeling about it.

It also seemed a most apt image to be an introduction to the latest essay from George Monbiot. It is republished here with Mr. Monbiot’s kind permission.

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Don’t Look Now

2nd September 2017

The media avoids the subject of climate breakdown – to do otherwise is to bring the entire infrastructure of thought crashing down

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 29 August 2017

It is not only Donald Trump’s government that censors the discussion of climate change; it is the entire body of polite opinion. This is why, though the links are clear and obvious, the majority of news reports on Hurricane Harvey have made no mention of the human contribution.

In 2016, the United States elected a president who believes that human-driven global warming is a hoax. It was the hottest year on record, in which the US was hammered by a series of climate-related disasters. Yet the total combined coverage for the entire year on the evening and Sunday news programmes on ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox News amounted to 50 minutes. Our greatest predicament, the issue that will define our lives, has been blotted from our minds.

This is not an accident. But nor (with the exception of Fox News) is it likely to be a matter of policy. It reflects a deeply ingrained and scarcely conscious self-censorship. Reporters and editors ignore the subject because they have an instinct for avoiding trouble. To talk about climate breakdown (which in my view is a better term than the curiously bland labels we attach to this crisis) is to question not only Donald Trump, not only current environmental policy, not only current economic policy, but the entire political and economic system.

It is to expose a programme that relies on robbing the future to fuel the present, that demands perpetual growth on a finite planet. It is to challenge the very basis of capitalism; to inform us that our lives are dominated by a system that cannot be sustained, a system that is destined, if it is not replaced, to destroy everything.

To claim that there is no link between climate breakdown and the severity of Hurricane Harvey is like claiming that there is no link between the warm summer we have experienced and the end of the last ice age. Every aspect of our weather is affected by the fact that global temperatures rose by around 4° between the ice age and the 19th Century. And every aspect of our weather is affected by the 1° of global warming caused by human activities. While no weather event can be blamed solely on human-driven warming, no weather event is unaffected by it.

We know that the severity and impact of hurricanes on coastal cities are exacerbated by at least two factors: higher sea levels, caused primarily by the thermal expansion of seawater, and greater storm intensity, caused by higher sea temperatures and the ability of warm air to hold more water than cold air.

Before it reached the Gulf of Mexico, Harvey had been demoted from a tropical storm to a tropical wave. But as it reached the Gulf, whose temperatures this month have been far above average, it was upgraded first to a tropical depression, then to a category 1 hurricane. It might have been expected to weaken as it approached the coast, as hurricanes churn the sea, bringing cooler waters to the surface. But the water it brought up from 100 metres and more was also unusually warm. By the time it reached land, Harvey had intensified to a category 4 hurricane.

We were warned about this. In June, for example, Robert Kopp, a professor of earth sciences, predicted that “In the absence of major efforts to reduce emissions and strengthen resilience, the Gulf Coast will take a massive hit. Its exposure to sea-level rise – made worse by potentially stronger hurricanes – poses a major risk to its communities.”

To raise this issue, I’ve been told on social media, is to politicise Hurricane Harvey. It is an insult to the victims and a distraction from their urgent need. The proper time to discuss it is when people have rebuilt their homes, and scientists have been able to conduct an analysis of just how great the contribution from climate breakdown might have been. In other words, talk about it only when it’s out of the news. When researchers determined, 9 years on, that human activity had made a significant contribution to Hurricane Katrina, the information scarcely registered.

I believe it is the silence that’s political. To report the storm as if it were a entirely natural phenomenon, like last week’s eclipse of the sun, is to take a position. By failing to make the obvious link and talk about climate breakdown, media organisations ensure that our greatest challenge goes unanswered. They help push the world towards catastrophe.

Hurricane Harvey offers a glimpse of a likely global future; a future whose average temperatures are as different from ours as ours are from those of the last ice age. It is a future in which emergency becomes the norm and no state has the capacity to respond. It is a future in which, as a paper in the journal Environmental Research Letters notes, disasters like Houston’s occur in some cities several times a year. It is a future that, for people in countries such as Bangladesh, has already arrived, almost unremarked by the rich world’s media. It is the act of not talking that makes this nightmare likely to materialise.

In Texas, the connection could scarcely be more apparent. The storm ripped through the oil fields, forcing rigs and refineries to shut down, including those owned by some of the 25 companies that have produced over half the greenhouse gas emissions humans have released since the start of the Industrial Revolution. Hurricane Harvey has devastated a place in which climate breakdown is generated, and in which the policies that prevent it from being addressed are formulated.

Like Donald Trump, who denies human-driven global warming, but who wants to build a wall around his golf resort in Ireland to protect it from the rising seas, these companies, some of which have spent millions sponsoring climate deniers, have progressively raised the height of their platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, in response to warnings about higher seas and stronger storms. They have grown from 40 feet above sea level in 1940, to 70ft in the 1990s, to 91ft today.

This is not, however, a story of mortal justice. In Houston, as everywhere else, it is generally the poorer communities, that are least responsible for the problem, who are hit first and hit worst. But the connection between cause and effect should appeal to even the slowest minds.

The problem is not confined to the United States. Across the world, the issue that hangs over every aspect of our lives is marginalised, except on the rare occasions on which world leaders gather to discuss it in sombre tones (then sombrely agree to do almost nothing), whereupon the instinct to follow the machinations of power overrides the instinct to avoid a troubling subject. When they do cover the issue, they tend to mangle it. In the UK, the BBC distinguished itself in customary fashion this month, by yet again inviting the climate change denier Lord Lawson onto the Today programme, in the mistaken belief that impartiality requires a balance between correct facts and false ones. They seldom make such a mess of other topics, because they take them more seriously.

When Trump’s enforcers instruct officials and scientists to purge any mention of climate change from their publications, we are scandalised. But when the media does it, without the need for a memo, we let it pass. This censorship is invisible even to the perpetrators, woven into the fabric of organisations that are constitutionally destined to leave the major questions of our times unasked. To acknowledge this issue is to challenge everything. To challenge everything is to become an outcast.

www.monbiot.com

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Dear people, I sat staring at the screen for 10 minutes and then went off when Jeannie called lunchtime. Returned to the screen a little after 2pm yesterday and still couldn’t come up with a closing thought that merited being shared with you all.

See you tomorrow!

Visiting the Vet – More on Ruby

A need to re-check Ruby.

On Tuesday the Visiting the Vet post was about our Ruby. As was explained in the early part of that post:

Back on the 11th August Jean and I took Ruby into Lincoln Road Vet because there was blood in her urine. Ruby is one of our six dogs that we have at home. Ruby is the last of the Mexican ex-rescue dogs and is an eleven-year old Sharpei mix.

Dr Jim thought that Ruby had a straightforward Urinary Tract Infection (UTI) and that a course of antibiotic would fix that.

All of that was reported in my previous post and, indeed, it did look as though it was all resolved.

Then on Tuesday night we discovered a pee in the house that had blood in it. Repeated yesterday. Although we hadn’t caught Ruby in the act, so to speak, we were pretty sure that it was her with the blood in her urine (again).

So yesterday morning back we went to Lincoln Road Vet Clinic to be seen by Dr. Jim.

Jim and his assistant, Cianna, first took Ruby through to a lab at the back of the clinic to take an X-ray and draw some of Ruby’s urine directly from her bladder.

That urine was going to be cultured by Three Rivers Hospital in Grants Pass for that was the only reliable way of seeing what might be the cause of the infection. A quick web search found more information about a urine culture:

A urine culture is a test to find germs (such as bacteria) in the urine that can cause an infection. Urine in the bladder is normally sterile. This means it does not contain any bacteria or other organisms (such as fungi). But bacteria can enter the urethra and cause a urinary tract infection (UTI).

A sample of urine is added to a substance that promotes the growth of germs. If no germs grow, the culture is negative. If germs grow, the culture is positive. The type of germ may be identified using a microscope or chemical tests. Sometimes other tests are done to find the right medicine for treating the infection. This is called sensitivity testing.

In no time at all the images from the X-ray were available to be viewed.

Jim was delighted to report that there was no sign of stones or a tumor. Ruby is an eleven-year old dog and what Jim did see on the X-ray was ‘bridging’ along parts of Ruby’s spine. The technical term for this is spondylosis and, again, a quick web search found more:

Spondylosis in dogs, also called spondylosis deformans, is a degenerative condition that usually occurs most along the spine in older dogs. There, degenerative disks cause bone spurs to develop. These bone spurs can form bridges from one vertebrae to the next, limiting flexibility and range of motion.
Most cases of spondylosis require minor pain relief, and dogs can live out healthy, comfortable lives with this condition.

It’s not a very good image but here is an enlargement of that first X-ray picture (or rather my photograph of same) showing that bridging.

Jim offered some general information regarding idiopathic cystitis that is more commonly seen in female cats but can also be seen in dogs. In cats the cause is more likely to be stress but in dogs the more likely cause is an infection; as in a UTI. In both cats and dogs the signs are frequent peeing but cats are more likely to incur some pain when urinating compared to dogs.

Back to Ruby.

The second X-ray image (below) did nothing to change Jim’s mind that Ruby might have a UTI that requires a change of antibiotic to accurately combat the infection.

While waiting for the results of the urine culture, Jim recommended putting Ruby on a second course of Amoxicillin.

When we get those results I will add the details to this post.

Tanja Brandt

I promised you more background information.

You will all recall that when we were ‘enjoying’ the chaos of having new flooring installed in three of our rooms I posted over a number of days a selection of wonderful, incredible photographs taken by Tanja Brandt.  Here is one of those photos.

We were all utterly enthralled by them and wanted to know more about Tanja.

But Tanja is German and her website and blogsite are, not surprisingly, in German. However, a good friend of mine from times past, Chris Snuggs, who is fluent in German (and French) came to the rescue when I asked for a favour of an English translation.

I sent Chris the link to Tanja’s ‘About Me’ page and here is what Chris emailed me yesterday.

Paul

At this URL: https://www.ingoundelse.de/%C3%BCber-mich/

…. she introduces herself with two short texts followed by a list of publications and/or photographic events and awards etc.

I have done a translation of the two elements of her introduction but not attempted to translate the list that follows.

I am assuming that if you want to write an introduction to her you can take her words according to my translation and reformulate them in your own words.

If you want a proper translation of her own words then I think I would need to work on it a bit more. The difficulty there is that if I translate her words directly it will not sound great in English; to get her meaning across in good English I would have to be a bit more free with the phrasing.

I hope that makes sense.

Made sense to me! Wonderful sense!
Here are those translations with the original German in blockquotes and the English translation by Chris topped and tailed with Tanja’s photographs:

Über mich …
Verlasse dich auf dein Herz – es schlug schon, bevor du denken konntest …

…. gibt es nicht so viel zu erzählen. Meine große Leidenschaft, seit ich in Windeln krabbeln kann, sind Tiere.

Tiere im Allgemeinen – vor allem auch Greifvögel und Raubkatzen – und Hunde im Speziellen.

Ich glaube, ich spreche ihre Sprache.

Ein Leben ohne Tiere ist für mich schwer vorstellbar und wenn Jemand keine Tiere mag, dann wird er sich vermutlich nicht sehr lange bei mir aufhalten.

About me
Trust your heart; it was beating before you were capable of thought.

There’s not all that much to say. My greatest passion even since I was a baby are animals – all kinds of animals, above all birds of prey and big cats – and especially dogs.

I believe I speak their language!

For me a life without animals is difficult to imagine, and if someone doesn’t like animals, then he or she would probably not be around me for long.

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Fotografie ist meine Leidenschaft

Wie es begann?

Ich wollte schöne Fotos von meinen Tieren. Bzw überhaupt von Tieren. Fotos, die die Seele und den Charakter des jeweiligen Tieres widerspiegeln. Nicht einfach nur Fotos.

So kam mir der Gedanke, mit einer professionellen Kamera dürfte das kein Problem sein. Die Kamera wurde gekauft und es ging los – das Ergebnis war ernüchternd ….

Ich musste dann doch noch einige Workshops besuchen, um da zu sein, wo ich heute stehe.Kurse, Workshops, Webinare, Bücher, Austausch mit anderen Fotografen und viel üben. Und ich versuche jeden Tag, was dazu zu lernen und zu entdecken.

Aber allein das Technikverständnis macht es nicht aus, um die Seele der Tiere zu zeigen und die Arbeit mit den Tieren ist so wertvoll. Ich kann Tiere nur fotografieren, wenn sie sich wohlfühlen und mit Begeisterung mitmachen oder Wildtiere eben keine Angst vor mir haben.

Photography is my passion. How did it all begin?
I wanted to take beautiful photos of my animals, indeed, of all animals: photos which would reveal the soul and character of each animal – not just snaps …..

So I had the idea that all I needed was a professional camera. The camera was bought and off I went – the experience was chastening. I realized I needed training to get where I am now: went to workshops, on courses, internet lessons, books, exchanges with other photographers and lots more. And I still try every day to discover and learn something new.

But technique alone doesn’t suffice to lay bare the soul of a creature. Working with animals is so fulfilling, but I can only photograph them when they are at ease and enthusiastically join in the process, or if with wild animals when they are not afraid of me.

So many things make presenting this blog to you so very special for me. Then something comes along that takes it into the stratosphere of being special. That is Tanja Brandt. Tanja’s photographs and how she describes herself are stratospheric!

I am so pleased to have been granted permission by Tanja to share her photographs; something I never want to stop doing!

Picture Parade Two Hundred and Nine

Just a few memories of the last week.

Our English guests, Mark and Debbie, who stayed with us after traveling to Warm Springs, South-East of Portland, Oregon, to view the eclipse took the following three photographs.

See the crescents in the dappled shade of a near by bush. 10 minutes before totality.

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Totality – August 21st, 2017.

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Our English guests.

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Then you will love the next one. Sent in by Neil Kelly from Devon, England.

Madison wears sunglasses to view the eclipse along the Cumberland River, Nashville, USA

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And another beauty courtesy of Neil K.

Last but not least ….

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Back to the stars!

The rising moon a little after 5am on the 19th August.

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And there hanging above that rising moon was Venus!

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Finally, back to Tanja Brandt whose most beautiful photographs will be gracing these Picture Parades in the future.

The day of the eclipse!

The day has arrived! Listen carefully!

Listen??  Yes, and thanks to The Smithsonian, if you are blind or visually impaired!

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What Does an Eclipse Sound Like?

A new app will allow blind and visually impaired users to experience the upcoming solar eclipse on August 21.

By Nathan Hurst
smithsonian.com  August 14, 2017

How would you describe an eclipse to a blind person? The moon moves in front of the sun, yes. But what does that look like? Someone trained in illustrative description of images might say, “The moon appears as a featureless black disk that nearly blocks out the sun. The sun’s light is still visible as a thin band around the moon’s black disk. To the upper right, at the moon’s leading edge, a small area of sunlight still shines brilliantly.”

That’s just an example of how such an event could be described. Bryan Gould, director of accessible learning and assessment technologies at the National Center for Accessible Media, a non-profit working to make media experiences accessible to people with disabilities, is hoping to offer oral descriptions of the eclipse in an app. Paired with other features, like a tactile diagram and audio from the changing natural environment as the eclipse darkens the sky, the app is designed to make the event more accessible to blind or visually impaired people who want to experience it.

Gould is working with Henry Winter, a solar astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, to develop the app, called Eclipse Soundscapes. As the August 21 solar eclipse darkens a path across the United States, Eclipse Soundscapes will release descriptions, timed—based on the user’s location—to match the progress of the eclipse.

Winter conceived Eclipse Soundscapes after a conversation with a friend who’s been blind since birth. She asked him to explain what an eclipse means.

Such an event might provide an interesting representation of the eclipse, thought Winter, so he partnered with the National Park Service’s Natural Sounds program, which preserves and catalogs sounds from the parks. Helpers stationed at national parks along the route will record audio during the eclipse, to hear the change in the “bioacoustical chorus” of the animals.

This can’t happen in real time, of course, so the National Center for Accessible Media is providing illustrative descriptions, based on a previous eclipse. The sounds of crickets, frogs and birds becoming active on the day of the eclipse will be added to the app later.

Last, with the help of an audio engineer named Miles Gordon, Winter is trying something completely new. Gordon developed a “rumble map” of the eclipse: The app places images of different stages of an eclipse on your smartphone’s screen, and as you trace your finger across the eclipse’s image, the vibration increases or decreases based on the brightness of the image.

“It does give you the impression that you’re actually feeling the sun, as you move your finger around,” says Winter.

“I realized I didn’t have the vocabulary to answer that question for her,” says Winter. “Every way I thought about it was visual in nature, and I didn’t know how to explain it to somebody … light, dark, bright, dim, flash. All these different words have no meaning to somebody that’s never seen.”

But the project goes well beyond audio descriptions. It includes two further elements: audio of the changing soundscape caused by the eclipse, and a tactile exploration of the eclipse’s image (which means that people who are blind or visually impaired can “feel” the eclipse using vibrations on their smartphones).

Many creatures become active as the sun sets, and many of them use darkness as an indicator of time of day. During an eclipse, crickets will chirp and frogs will chorus, thinking night has fallen. These habits were noted as far back as 1932, in a Proceedings of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences article titled “Observations on the Behavior of Animals During the Total Solar Eclipse of August 31, 1932.”

Scientists around the world will be using the eclipse as an opportunity to study solar astronomy in a way they usually can’t, measuring the ultraviolet light emitted from the sun’s corona, which Earth-based observers can’t normally see, as it is overpowered by the normal sunlight. It’s also rare for an eclipse to cover this much land — it traverses from Oregon to South Carolina — and Winter points out that it is a particularly good opportunity for education and outreach.

Though education is important, for Wanda Diaz Merced, a visiting scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who is completely blind, there’s a lot more to the eclipse than that. Merced, who has consulted on the Eclipse Soundscapes project, studies human-computer interaction and astrophysics, and to do her research, she needs assistance translating data into a format she can interact with. She’s been building tools to help with that translation, and sees elements of Winter’s project that could contribute.

“It’s still not a prototype that I may use, for example, to study elements of the photosphere. It is not on that stage,” says Merced. “But hopefully one day we will be able to not only hear, but to touch.”

The eclipse will occur on August 21, starting around 10 a.m. in Oregon and finishing by 3 p.m .in South Carolina. The Eclipse Soundscapes app is available for iOS now, and the team is working on an Android app as well.

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I can’t imagine there’s anyone still pondering on whether or not to view the eclipse.

But that still doesn’t stop me offering you this recently presented TED Talk.

On August 21, 2017, the moon’s shadow will race from Oregon to South Carolina in what some consider to be the most awe-inspiring spectacle in all of nature: a total solar eclipse. Umbraphile David Baron chases these rare events across the globe, and in this ode to the bliss of seeing the solar corona, he explains why you owe it to yourself to witness one, too.

This talk was presented to a local audience at TEDxMileHigh, an independent event. TED editors featured it among our selections on the home page.

About the speaker: David Baron David Baron writes about science in books, magazines, newspapers and for public radio. He formerly served as science correspondent for NPR and science editor for PRI’s The World.

Enjoy it, good people. And protect your eyes!!!

Or better still allow NASA Television to show the eclipse to you.

NASA Television will air a four-hour show – Eclipse Across America – which will include live video of the event, along with coverage of activities in parks, libraries, stadiums, festivals and museums across the nation, and on social media. NASA’s show begins at 15:00 UTC (11 a.m. EDT; translate to your time zone), or later (we’ve seen this time waffle around a bit). Check the website for changes or further details.

Those deeper ways of listening

How humans and animals communicate with each other has more than an edge of mystery to it!

We sleep with our bedroom door open to the main run of the rest of the house. Generally, all six dogs sleep in our bedroom unless it is a very warm night when some of them may choose the cooler tiled surface of the kitchen floor.

Cleo, our female German Shepherd, has a bit of a sensitive stomach and it is not unknown for her to need to be let outside in the middle of the night. Just a couple of nights ago her need for a ‘poo’ break came at 02:40!

But the point of this is that no matter how deeply I am sleeping, all it takes is a short, quiet whimper next to my side of bed and I am instantly awake. I need no time at all to know that Cleo has to be let outside from our bedroom door that opens out onto the deck. A few minutes later I hear her feet padding along the wooden boards of the deck and she is let back in to the bedroom.

Thus this demonstrates how well I understand her and in turn how well she acutely listens to me.

Just look at this photograph.

The connection, the intensity, of her attention towards me. And this was just from me pointing the camera at her and ‘click, clicking’ my tongue.

Moving on!

My introduction today was inspired by an article that I recently read on the Care2 site and that I want to share with you. Here it is.

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Can Humans Understand When Animals Are in Distress?

By: Laura Burge   August 13, 2017

About Laura   Follow Laura at @literarylaura

Have you ever jumped at the sound of birds fighting or a squirrel screaming? Heard an animal make a sound somewhere nearby that made your heart race?

More than one hundred years ago, Darwin suggested that there was a universal understanding of certain animal vocalizations — a way of expressing emotion that went all the way back to the Earth’s earliest animals. Now, researchers are re-examining that theory, and they’re making some interesting headway.

In a study published in the journal “Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences,” researchers decided to explore the idea that animal vocalizations, including distress calls, might be recognizable across different species — and even into different animal classes.

Earlier research delved into whether or not humans could detect which emotion, or signal, another mammal was using, but this study is the first to examine other vertebrates as well. Amphibians and reptiles joined the club, and, perhaps surprisingly, humans did pretty well determining what these animals were trying to communicate.

The researchers primarily looked into whether or not people listening to certain animal sounds would be able to detect the level of arousal — high or low — that an animal expressed vocally. High arousal indicates an animal in distress, expressing desperate or negative screams, who might be calling out because of a fight, a predator in the area or another perceived danger. Scientists believe that these sounds are part of an old signaling system.

Researchers asked 75 college-aged individuals to listen to sounds from nine different species. In order to account for language differences, these people included English, German and Mandarin speakers.

Scientists collected 180 recordings of animal vocalizations, reflecting high or low levels of excitement, such as “the sounds of frogs in competition for mates, monkeys reacting to danger or ravens confronted by a dominant bird,” and included humans in that list, instructing actors to react neutrally or with different, heightened emotions while speaking Tamil.

The 75 people were then asked to identify which vocalization out of paired sounds from the same species represented the higher level of arousal.

In this study, the results showed that people identified the correct “emotion,” roughly speaking, better than expected by chance. Here is how the accuracy broke down across species:

  • Humans: 95 percent correct
  • Giant panda: 94 percent correct
  • Hourglass tree frog: 90 percent correct
  • African bush elephant: 88 percent correct
  • American alligator: 87 percent correct
  • Black-capped chickadee: 85 percent correct
  • Pig: 68 percent correct
  • Common raven: 62 percent correct
  • Barbary macaque (monkey): 60 percent correct

It seems strange that people were less able to identify the distress call of a monkey than a frog, but Harold Gouzoules, a bioacoustician and animal behavior expert at Emory University, posits that the monkey calls may have sounded less extreme in intensity than those of the other species, making it harder to tell the difference.

“Our study shows that humans are naturally able to recognize emotional arousal across all classes of vocalizing animals,” said Piera Filippi, who studies the evolution of cognition and communication at the Vrije University Brussels in Belgium.

This doesn’t mean that humans should feel confident in interpreting animal emotions or body language in general, though. Those behaviors can vary greatly, and humans are prone to misinterpretation and anthropomorphism. You wouldn’t, for example, want to assume a wolf baring its teeth is simply smiling at you.

Naturally, much remains to be studied in the effort to understand a wider range of animal emotions. Filippi hopes to repeat the experiment, but with the black-capped chickadees taking the place of the college-aged humans in interpreting the distress calls. It will be interesting to see if this understanding between humans and other animals goes both ways.

Could there be a beneficial reason for animals to understand each other’s distress calls? What do you think?

Photo Credit: Valentino Funghi/Unsplash

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Just so long as too many different animals don’t all sound out distress calls at the same time around here!

 

Our incredible world!

What to see in the night sky in August

You all understand that this blog, while predominantly about our special doggie friends, never hesitates to wander away from matters canine if I think it will be enjoyed by all you good people.

You will also all appreciate that August is the month where in the USA, on August 21st, there will be a total eclipse of the sun.

The reasons why I didn’t hesitate to republish a recent post that was presented on Mother Nature Network.

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What to see in the night sky in August

While the total solar eclipse is the highlight, there are other celestial fireworks to look forward to this month.

Michael d’Estries   August 1, 2017.

Michael d’Estries ( @michaeldestries ) covers science, technology, art, and the beautiful, unusual corners of our incredible world.

Celestial events for August 2017 include a total solar eclipse, Perseid meteor shower and the rise of the Sturgeon Moon. (Photo: Michael Seeley/Flickr)

Welcome to August, a month defined by loud cicadas, pool parties, humidity and children fretting about an impending return to school. When it comes to celestial happenings, however, there is no larger star this month that our own moon. From a partial lunar eclipse to the first coast-to-coast solar eclipse in almost a century, the moon will be the cause of most eyeballs drifting towards the heavens over the next several weeks.

Below is a small sampling of some of the night and day celestial events to look forward to this month. Wishing you all clear skies!

The rise of the full Sturgeon Moon (Aug. 7)

The full Sturgeon Moon is so-named for the fish that are easily caught in August and early September. (Photo: Paul Kline/flickr)

August’s full moon, nicknamed the Sturgeon Moon, will rise for the U.S. Eastern Seaboard on the evening of Aug. 7 at 8:05 p.m.

The Sturgeon Moon gets its name from the species of fish native to both Europe and the Americas that is easily caught this time of year. Other nicknames include the Corn Moon, Fruit Moon and Grain Moon. In countries experiencing winter, such as New Zealand, native Māori called this full moon “Here-turi-kōkā” or “the scorching effect of fire is seen on the knees of man.” This reference is to warm fires that glow during the Southern Hemisphere’s coldest month.

Partial lunar eclipse (Aug. 7 & 8)

Observers in Africa, Asia and Australia will see August’s partial lunar eclipse in its entirety. (Photo: Forrest Tanaka/flickr)

As a kind of consolation prize for missing out on this month’s total solar eclipse over North America, those living on the continents of Africa, Asia and Australia will bear witness to a partial lunar eclipse. Spectators in Europe will catch the tail end of the eclipse as the moon rises around 7:10 p.m. on Aug. 7.

This phenomenon occurs between two to four times a year when the moon passes through a portion of the Earth’s shadow. Because the shadow cast is more than 5,700 miles wide, lunar eclipses last much longer than solar eclipses. In some instances, totality can occur for as long as 1 hour and 40 minutes. As a reference, maximum totality for the Aug. 21 solar eclipse will top out a mere 2 minutes and 42 seconds. The longest, at over 7 minutes, won’t take place until the year 2186.

This month’s partial lunar eclipse is the last of the year. Next year, total lunar eclipses will take place in January and July.

Perseid meteor shower (Aug. 12)

A composite shot of last year’s Perseid meteor shower over Turkey. Notice how the path of the meteors appears to race from the constellation Perseus. (Photo: NASA)

Regarded as one of the best celestial light shows of the year, the Perseid meteor shower occurs from July 17 to Aug. 24 and peaks on the evening of Aug. 12.

The shower, sometimes creating as many as 60 to 200 shooting stars per hour, is produced as Earth passes through debris left over from the orbit of Comet Swift-Tuttle. This 16-mile-wide periodic comet, which completes an orbit around the sun every 133 years, has been described as “the single most dangerous object known to humanity.” This is because every instance of its return to the inner solar system brings it ever closer to the Earth-moon system. Though astronomers believe the comet bears no threat for at least the next 2,000 years, future impacts cannot be ruled out.

If the comet were to hit Earth, scientists believe Swift-Tuttle would be at least 27 times more powerful than the asteroid or comet that wiped out the dinosaurs. For now, you can take in the beauty of the debris from this harbinger of doom by looking north towards the constellation Perseus. Because the moon will be three-quarters full, you’ll need to search out a nice dark sky to escape any light pollution from urban environments.

Total solar eclipse (Aug. 21)

A total solar eclipse as captured over the Southern Hemisphere in November 2012. (Photo: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center)

By far the biggest celestial event in ages, Aug. 21 marks the first time since June 1918 that a total solar eclipse will race from coast to coast across the United States. Cities and towns along the 72-mile-wide path of totality are preparing for an influx of visitors, with millions of Americans expected to drive to view the rare phenomenon. Those outside totality will still experience a show, with partial solar eclipses happening over much of North America. Regardless, everyone will want to invest in a pair of special solar eclipse glasses to avoid ruining your eyesight.

Total solar eclipses occur when the new moon moves between the Earth and the sun and casts its shadow on the planet. This shadow is comprised of two concentric cones –– the larger penumbra, which from Earth only shows the sun partially blocked, and the much smaller umbra, which blocks the sun completely. It is within this latter cone that totality will occur, giving spectators on the ground what’s considered by many to be a “once-in-a-lifetime” experience.

The Great American Eclipse will actually first start out in the Pacific (at this point, it will actually, unbelievably rise while completely eclipsed!), making landfall on the Oregon community of Lincoln Beach at 10:16:01 a.m. (PDT). From there, the moon’s shadow will continue to race across the U.S. The point of greatest eclipse, where the axis of the moon’s shadow passes nearest to the center of Earth, will take place in Hopkinsville, Kentucky and last 2 minutes and 40.1 seconds. In celebration of the event, the town has temporarily renamed itself “Eclipseville,” and expects anywhere from 55,000 to 150,000 tourists to visit in advance of Aug. 21.

The next total solar eclipse over the U.S. will take place on April 8, 2024.

New moon (Aug. 21)

August’s new moon will not only create a show during the day, but also leave the heavens to glow unimpeded by night. (Photo: Coconino National Forest/flickr)

Fresh after wowing the U.S. during the day with its solar theatrics, August’s new moon will give way to dark skies for the next several nights. This is the perfect opportunity to grab a blanket and head outside into the still-warm summer evenings to enjoy the heavens in all their glory. With some remnants of the Perseids still visible, it will also offer a chance to catch some of the faintest shooting stars.

Look for Earth’s shadow (All year)

The Earth’s shadow and ‘Belt of Venus’ as captured above Mauna Kea, Hawaii. (Photo: Jay El Eskay/flickr)

Ever wonder what causes the beautiful bands of color in the eastern sky at sunset or the western sky at sunrise? The dark blue band stretching 180 degrees along the horizon is actually the Earth’s shadow emanating some 870,000 miles into space. The golden-red portion, nicknamed the “Belt of Venus,” is Earth’s upper-atmosphere illuminated by the setting or rising sun.

Now that you know about this phenomenon, choose a night or morning sometime to try and pick it out. You’ll need a western or eastern horizon that’s fairly unobstructed to get a clear view of our planet’s huge curved shadow.

Looking ahead to September

On Sept. 15, the Cassini spacecraft will end its 20-year mission to Saturn with a dramatic death dive into the ringed planet. (Photo: NASA)

As fall beckons, the biggest event next month will be the dramatic death dive of the Cassini spacecraft into Saturn. Taking place on Sept. 15, Cassini will make discoveries about Saturn right up until its fiery conclusion, with unprecedented photos and data captured and transmitted during its final moments.

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It is going to be quite a month!

Oh, and for those of you that want to know the timings of the eclipse over North America there is a useful reference site here, from which I republish the following table.

Eclipse Start & End: Local Time for US States

The eclipse will begin over the Pacific Ocean at 15:46 UTC, which corresponds to 8:46 am Pacific Time. It will reach the coast of Oregon at Lincoln City, just west of Salem, at 9:04 am local time. The eclipse will reach its maximum point here at 10:17 am.

From here, the Moon’s central shadow will move inland. The following table shows when the Moon will begin to move in front of the Sun and the moment it completely covers the Sun, as seen from some locations along the central path of the eclipse. All times are local.

Location Partial Eclipse Begins Sun Completely Obscured
Salem, OR 09:05 am PDT 10:18 am PDT
Idaho Falls, ID 10:15 am MDT 11:33 am MDT
Casper, WY 10:22 am MDT 11:43 am MDT
Lincoln, NE 11:37 am CDT 1:03 pm CDT
Sabetha, KS 11:38 am CDT 1:05 pm CDT
Jefferson City, MO 11:46 am CDT 1:14 pm CDT
Carbondale, IL 11:52 am CDT 1:21 pm CDT
Hopkinsville, KY 11:56 am CDT 1:25 pm CDT
Nashville, TN 11:58 am CDT 1:28 pm CDT
Talulah Falls, GA 1:07 pm EDT 2:37 pm EDT
Columbia, SC 1:13 pm EDT 2:43 pm EDT
Charleston, SC 1:16 pm EDT 2:47 pm EDT

Please note that this list includes only a small selection of locations where the total eclipse will be visible. You can look up more locations in our Eclipse Database or via the Eclipse Map.

Enjoy your nights out there! And let your dogs howl their hearts out!

Picture Parade Two Hundred and Six

Forgive the indulgence today.

In last week’s Picture Parade it was mentioned that at some point I would share some of the sights of home.

Well today, all the photographs were taken here at home (that being Merlin, Southern Oregon). The motivation behind these photographs was learning the operation of a new camera that I recently treated myself with. That is turning out to be quite a task; the user manual is 510 pages long!

But in no particular order, here are a few pictures.

Brandy staying cool on the kitchen floor!

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Looking out to the East from the deck adjoining the house.

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Photo taken at 06:10 on the morning of the 25th July. That is Mount Sexton on the horizon and the view is towards the North-East, again taken from our deck. (I was playing with the exposure control on the camera.)

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Looking from the end of the deck towards the South down to where our stables are. Photo taken at 06:20 on the 28th shortly after I had put out feed for the deer that come most mornings.

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Taken at 06:10 on the 25th. This shows ‘Doris’ (the second) who has been sleeping under the trees overnight.

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Zoomed in a little closer to Doris and she looked up at me exactly when I took the photograph!

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Morning sky. Unusual to have cloudy skies at this time of the year. 06:20 on the 26th July.

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Our beautiful, gorgeous stag. He has been a regular visitor for the last two years. Taken at 06:10 on the 25th.

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Morning sky, with exposure adjustment, taken at 06:00 on the 25th July.

Can’t close without publicly thanking the wonderful photographic forum Ugly Hedgehog. With over 75,000 users it really is a superb place for all those interested in photography. The forum was invaluable in helping me decide what camera to purchase and, just as importantly, where to purchase it from.

Have a great week, everyone!

We are of the stars!

I so relate to this item from EarthSky News!

Long-term readers of this place will possibly recall that between April, 1989 and June, 1994 I lived on a Tradewind 33 sailing yacht Songbird of Kent. I have written before about those days.

Songbird of Kent. My home for five years.

When sailing at night when the sky is clear it is impossible not to feel deeply connected to the stars above one’s head.

My logbook for Songbird of Kent reports that at noon on Wednesday, 1st June, 1994, I departed the yacht harbour at Horta in The Azores bound for Plymouth, South-West England. Plymouth was 1,257 nautical miles (2,329km/1,447 statute miles) from Horta.

Horta on Faial Island of the Azores

The logbook has an entry for the 6th June.

0400 Lat. 43 deg 25 minutes North, Long 22 deg 3 minutes West. Engine Off. Still no wind but must sleep after 19 hours of helming. 840 miles to run. Wind 2 knots from SW. Baro 1027 mb, Viz Good.

The visibility was wonderful and seeing the stars up in the night sky all around me, as in all 360 degrees about me, practically down to the horizon on this moonless night is an image still etched in my mind.

That’s why I want to republish this article that appeared on the blog EarthSky News yesterday.

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We are galaxy stuff

A new study – based on supercomputer simulations – reveals that each one of us may be made in part from matter that passes from one galaxy to another.

This image shows M81 (bottom right) and M82 (upper left), a pair of nearby galaxies where intergalactic transfer – transfer of materials between galaxies – might be happening. Image via Fred Herrmann.

Sagan famously said that we are made of star stuff. He meant the carbon, nitrogen and oxygen atoms in our bodies, as well as atoms of all other heavy elements, were created inside stars. Yet Sagan’s expression of this idea, which quickly became a cornerstone of popular culture, might not take the concept far enough. According to astrophysicists at Northwestern University, our origins are much less local than previously thought. In fact, according to their analysis – which they say is the first of its kind – we’re not just star stuff. We’re galaxy stuff.

This study is being published on July 26, 2017 (July 27 in the U.K.) by the peer-reviewed journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

The Northwestern researchers found that up to half of the matter in our Milky Way galaxy may come from distant galaxies. As a result, each one of us may be made in part from extragalactic matter. That is, atoms of carbon, nitrogen, oxygen and so on in our bodies may be created not just by stars in our own Milky Way galaxy, but by stars in far-flung galaxies.

They arrived at this conclusion using supercomputer simulations. The study required the equivalent of several million hours of continuous computing.

The simulations show that supernova explosions eject great quantities of gas from galaxies, which causes the atoms made inside stars to be transported from one galaxy to another via powerful galactic winds. According to their statement, intergalactic transfer is a newly identified phenomenon, which, they say, requires supercomputer simulations in order to be understood. According to these astrophysicists, this understanding is critical for knowing how galaxies evolve … and hence for knowing our own place in the universe.

Animation of gas flows around a Milky Way-like galaxy, as seen by the team’s computer simulations.

Daniel Anglés-Alcázar is a postdoctoral fellow in Northwestern’s Center for Interdisciplinary Exploration and Research in Astrophysics (CIERA). He led the study, and he said:

It is likely that much of the Milky Way’s matter was in other galaxies before it was kicked out by a powerful wind, traveled across intergalactic space and eventually found its new home in the Milky Way.

Given how much of the matter out of which we formed may have come from other galaxies, we could consider ourselves space travelers or extragalactic immigrants.

Space is vast. Galaxies are located at almost inconceivable distances from each other. So, Alcázar and his team said, even though galactic winds propagate at several hundred kilometers per CIERA second, the process of intergalactic transfer occurs over billions of years.

As always, this new research built on earlier studies. Northwestern’s Claude-André Faucher-Giguère and his research group, along with a unique collaboration called Feedback In Realistic Environments (FIRE), had developed numerical simulations that produced realistic 3-D models of galaxies. These simulations followed a galaxy’s formation from just after the Big Bang to the present day.

Anglés-Alcázar then developed state-of-the-art algorithms to mine this wealth of data. In this way, he and his team were able to quantify how galaxies acquire matter from the universe.

The scientists say the prediction of intergalactic transfer can now be tested. The Northwestern team plans to collaborate with observational astronomers who are working with the Hubble Space Telescope and ground-based observatories to test the simulation predictions.

Simulated examples of intergalactic winds, shown as green string, in action around galaxies, shown as clusters of yellow dots. The galaxy at the center is ejecting the winds, blowing them toward potential the other galaxies.

Bottom line: Supercomputer simulations suggest that each one of us may be made in part from extragalactic matter. Hence, we are galaxy stuff.

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16th June, 1994

1945 Lat. 50 deg 21 minutes North, Long. 4 deg 10 minutes West. ARRIVED MAYFLOWER MARINA. Wind Nil. Baro 1023 Mb. Viz Good.

LOG CLOSED!

Mayflower Marina is at Plymouth.

Protecting our dogs from being stolen!

Can you imagine anything more awful!

I’m not sure if we are out and about with our dogs more frequently in the Summer but one would assume so.

But whatever the season, the number of people that do take their dogs with them when they are out is very significant.

So a recent article published by Care 2 about how thieves do steal dogs seemed timely.

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5 Ways Thieves Could Steal Your Dog

Editor’s note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on January 1, 2013. Enjoy!

Sergeant Kenneth Chambers was playing Frisbee with his dog in the parking lot of a Jacksonville, Florida, grocery store recently when lightning struck out of the clear blue sky. The young American veteran, in recovery for post traumatic stress disorder, rolled down the car windows and placed his Australian Shepard/Blue Heeler Mix inside the vehicle just briefly, while he went inside to help his mother with the bags. When he came out moments later, Adalida was gone.

Unfortunately for Sergeant Chambers, and for Adalida, the parking lot scenario placed them in two of the top five high-risk situations for pet theft. And while Sergeant Chamebers’ search continues for Adalida, there are measures that all of us can take to prevent a similar tragedy.

Here are five of the top high-risk pet theft scenarios to avoid: 

1. Dogs in cars

In the blink of an eye, a partially opened window can be forced down or smashed. It takes 20 seconds or less to abduct a dog, and by the time a pet owner returns to the car, their dog is long gone. The American Kennel Club reports a 70 percent rise in dog theft in 2012 and a 40 percent rise the year before. A weak economy has fueled financially motivated dog-napping — and a dog in a car is, quite simply, a sitting duck.

2. Highly prized breeds or dogs with special abilities

A purebred dog or a dog with special skills is a bit like a gold watch. Thieves see dollar signs, and that’s more than enough temptation. Any dog left unattended can be taken, but there is far greater motivation for criminals to walk off with a dog who can bring in a large sum of cash.

3. Pets left in fenced backyards

Everyone loves the convenience of a doggy door — especially criminals. Homeowners who let their pet explore the fenced yard without supervision maintain the illusion of safety, but police departments across the country will tell you that this isn’t enough.

In broad daylight on a single Saturday in November, Corning Animal Shelter Manager Debbie Eaglebarger documented the theft of four Dobermans, four Australian shepherds and two Rottweilers. One neighbor witnessed a man and a woman lure one of the dogs out of a backyard and into their vehicle. All dogs taken that day were purebred, but that is not always the case.

4. Pets left tied in front of businesses

This one may sound like a no-brainer, but particularly in urban areas where pets accompany their owners on errands, it’s not uncommon to find dogs tied up in front of a bank or grocery store. Typically, these are dogs with a gentle demeanor — and that makes them highly susceptible to the commands of a would-be thief.

“Leaving your dog tied up in front of a store is about as ludicrous as leaving your child out front and saying, ‘Wait right there, I’ll be back in 10 minutes,” explains Howard Simpson of Integrated Security and Communications in Tyngsboro, Massachusetts. “Do yourself a favor and realize that there are security risks in even the safest of neighborhoods. Being naive makes you a target.”

5 Strangers in the neighborhood

Any strangers on your property can be a risk to your pets. Whether they are invited contractors, deliverymen or political campaigners, visitors could easily grab a pet during a moment when the homeowner is distracted. In some cases, they are making a mental note of homes with valuable breeds or easy-to-subvert home security that will facilitate a quick dog-napping at a later time. It bears mentioning that it’s not uncommon for cats to jump into the back of truck beds for a snooze and to be unwittingly carried off at the end of the day.

Which breeds are most likely to be stolen?

According to the American Kennel Club, the most stolen dog of 2011 was the Yorkshire terrier, followed by the Pomeranian, Maltese and Boston terrier. Small breeds are targeted by thieves because of their size but also because of their value on the market — a single dog can fetch well over $1,000! Among the large breeds, Labrador retrievers are a frequent target, as well as pit bull terriers and pit bull mixes – perhaps for a much more sinister purpose.

Why do thieves target pets?

1. Bait dogs and laboratory dogs

This is every dog guardian’s worst nightmare. Indeed people involved in dog fighting will gather “bait” dogs to be used as training tools for fighting dogs. It happens in both urban and rural areas, and there has been no measurable decline in dog fighting in recent years. Despite some legislation intended to stop the sale of undocumented dogs to research laboratories, under-the-table sales continue — and, in some countries, these exchanges are not considered a crime.

2. Financially motivated theft

“For the first time ever we’ve seen a trend now where shelters are being broken into and purebred and mixed breed dogs are being stolen,” said Lisa Peterson, spokesperson for the American Kennel Club. In fact, any purebred dog, particularly puppies, is considered a high-value commodity. Even with a microchip, it’s often too late when a pet buyer discovers that they have purchased a stolen dog.  By then, the thief is long gone.

3. Emotionally driven theft

What’s often overlooked are the emotionally motivated crimes that rob dogs of their families. This can happen because the perpetrator feels that a dog is not being properly cared for. Some animal lovers will feel justified in stealing a dog that is tied in front of a store or who gets  loose one day. Other times it’s an act of revenge, and, in many cases, a former romantic partner is considered the prime suspect.

Whatever the scenario or the motivation, dog guardians can best protect their dogs with watchfulness. Never leave a dog unattended. Secure your home, including all doors and windows, to the best of your ability and budget. And be wary of strangers in your neighborhood at all times.

Brought to you by the Harmony Fund, an international animal rescue charity.