For someone born on May 8th, 1926 he, perhaps, should be slowing down. But none of it. He is passionate about how we are endangering our planet. And having a public profile he is the right position to do something about it, albeit a warning statement.
Sir David’s new programme lays out the science behind climate change, the impact it is having right now and the steps that can be taken to fight it.
“In the 20 years since I first started talking about the impact of climate change on our world, conditions have changed far faster than I ever imagined,” Sir David states in the film.
“It may sound frightening, but the scientific evidence is that if we have not taken dramatic action within the next decade, we could face irreversible damage to the natural world and the collapse of our societies.”
Speaking to a range of scientists, the programme highlights that temperatures are rising quickly, with the world now around 1C warmer than before the industrial revolution.
“There are dips and troughs and there are some years that are not as warm as other years,” says Dr Peter Stott from the Met Office.
“But what we have seen is the steady and unremitting temperature trend. Twenty of the warmest years on record have all occurred in the last 22 years.”
The programme shows dramatic scenes of people escaping from wildfires in the US, as a father and son narrowly escape with their lives when they drive into an inferno.
Scientists say that the dry conditions that make wildfires so deadly are increasing as the planet heats up.
Some of the other impacts highlighted by scientists are irreversible.
“In the last year we’ve had a global assessment of ice losses from Antarctica and Greenland and they tell us that things are worse than we’d expected,” says Prof Andrew Shepherd from the University of Leeds.
“The Greenland ice sheet is melting, it’s lost four trillion tonnes of ice and it’s losing five times as much ice today as it was 25 years ago.”
These losses are driving up sea levels around the world. The programme highlights the threat posed by rising waters to people living on the Isle de Jean Charles in Louisiana, forcing them from their homes.
“In the US, Louisiana is on the front line of this climate crisis. It’s losing land at one of the fastest rates on the planet – at the rate of of a football field every 45 minutes,” says Colette Pichon Battle, a director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy.
“The impact on families is going to be something I don’t think we could ever prepare for.”
Sir David’s concern over the impacts of climate change has become a major focus for the naturalist in recent years.
This has also been a theme of his One Planet series on Netflix.
His new BBC programme has a strong emphasis on hope.
Sir David argues that if dramatic action is taken over the next decade then the world can keep temperatures from rising more than 1.5C this century. This would limit the scale of the damage.
“We are running out of time, but there is still hope,” says Sir David.
“I believe that if we better understand the threat we face the more likely it is we can avoid such a catastrophic future.”
But then I saw another version of the same story on the BBC News site, from which I republish it in its entirety.
First ever black hole image released
By Pallab Ghosh
Science correspondent, BBC News
Astronomers have taken the first ever image of a black hole, which is located in a distant galaxy.
It measures 40 billion km across – three million times the size of the Earth – and has been described by scientists as “a monster”.
The black hole is 500 million trillion km away and was photographed by a network of eight telescopes across the world.
Details have been published today in Astrophysical Journal Letters.
Prof Heino Falcke, of Radboud University in the Netherlands, who proposed the experiment, told BBC News that the black hole was found in a galaxy called M87.
“What we see is larger than the size of our entire Solar System,” he said.
“It has a mass 6.5 billion times that of the Sun. And it is one of the heaviest black holes that we think exists. It is an absolute monster, the heavyweight champion of black holes in the Universe.”
The image shows an intensely bright “ring of fire”, as Prof Falcke describes it, surrounding a perfectly circular dark hole. The bright halo is caused by superheated gas falling into the hole. The light is brighter than all the billions of other stars in the galaxy combined – which is why it can be seen at such distance from Earth.
The edge of the dark circle at the centre is the point at which the gas enters the black hole, which is an object that has such a large gravitational pull, not even light can escape.
The image matches what theoretical physicists and indeed, Hollywood directors, imagined black holes would look like, according to Dr Ziri Younsi, of University College London – who is part of the collaboration.
“Although they are relatively simple objects, black holes raise some of the most complex questions about the nature of space and time, and ultimately of our existence,” he said.
“It is remarkable that the image we observe is so similar to that which we obtain from our theoretical calculations. So far, it looks like Einstein is correct once again.”
But having the first image will enable researchers to learn more about these mysterious objects. They will be keen to look out for ways in which the black hole departs from what’s expected in physics. No-one really knows how the bright ring around the hole is created. Even more intriguing is the question of what happens when an object falls into a black hole.
What is a black hole?
A black hole is a region of space from which nothing, not even light, can escape
Despite the name, they are not empty but instead consist of a huge amount of matter packed densely into a small area, giving it an immense gravitational pull
There is a region of space beyond the black hole called the event horizon. This is a “point of no return”, beyond which it is impossible to escape the gravitational effects of the black hole
Prof Falcke had the idea for the project when he was a PhD student in 1993. At the time, no-one thought it was possible. But he was the first to realise that a certain type of radio emission would be generated close to and all around the black hole, which would be powerful enough to be detected by telescopes on Earth.
He also recalled reading a scientific paper from 1973 that suggested that because of their enormous gravity, black holes appear 2.5 times larger than they actually are.
These two previously unknown factors suddenly made the seemingly impossible, possible. After arguing his case for 20 years, Prof Falcke persuaded the European Research Council to fund the project. The National Science Foundation and agencies in East Asia then joined in to bankroll the project to the tune of more than £40m.
It is an investment that has been vindicated with the publication of the image. Prof Falcke told me that he felt that “it’s mission accomplished”.
He said: “It has been a long journey, but this is what I wanted to see with my own eyes. I wanted to know is this real?”
No single telescope is powerful enough to image the black hole. So, in the biggest experiment of its kind, Prof Sheperd Doeleman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics, led a project to set up a network of eight linked telescopes. Together, they form the Event Horizon Telescope and can be thought of as a planet-sized array of dishes.
Each is located high up at a variety of exotic sites, including on volcanoes in Hawaii and Mexico, mountains in Arizona and the Spanish Sierra Nevada, in the Atacama Desert of Chile, and in Antarctica.
A team of 200 scientists pointed the networked telescopes towards M87 and scanned its heart over a period of 10 days.
The information they gathered was too much to be sent across the internet. Instead, the data was stored on hundreds of hard drives that were flown to a central processing centres in Boston, US, and Bonn, Germany, to assemble the information. Prof Doeleman described the achievement as “an extraordinary scientific feat”.
“We have achieved something presumed to be impossible just a generation ago,” he said.
“Breakthroughs in technology, connections between the world’s best radio observatories, and innovative algorithms all came together to open an entirely new window on black holes.”
The team is also imaging the supermassive black hole at the centre of our own galaxy, the Milky Way.
Odd though it may sound, that is harder than getting an image from a distant galaxy 55 million light-years away. This is because, for some unknown reason, the “ring of fire” around the black hole at the heart of the Milky Way is smaller and dimmer.
Mr Panek, who lost his sight in his early 20s, told CNN that while he appreciated the support of human volunteers, he missed the feeling of independence.
“It never made sense to me to walk out the door and leave my guide dog behind when I love to run and they love to run,” he said. “It was just a matter of bucking conventional wisdom and saying why not.
In 2015, Mr Panek established the Running Guides programme which trains dogs to support runners.
When selecting his canine companions for the New York race, Mr Panek chose siblings Waffle and Westley to join Gus, who is his full-time guide dog.
“The bond is really important. You can’t just pick up the harness and go for a run with these dogs,” Mr Panek told CNN. “You’re training with a team no matter what kind of athlete you are, and you want to spend time together in that training camp.”
Each dogs sets its own pace – Westley runs an eight minute mile, while his sister Waffle can cover the same distance in six minutes – and helps Mr Panek avoid obstacles such as kerbs and cones.
Each dog wears a special harness and set of running boots, to protect their paws.
Gus was chosen to run the final leg of the race and cross the finish line with Mr Panek. He retired from his duties as a guide dog at the end of the race.
“It’s a little emotional for me because he’s been there with me the whole time,” Mr Panek said.
Before the race, Mr Panek told Time magazine that guide dogs give visually impaired people the freedom to “do whatever it is a sighted person does, and sometimes, even run a little faster than them”.
“It’s a little emotional for me because he’s been there with me the whole time,”
It’s not just Mr. Panek who finds the report a little emotional!
As I have said many times before and undoubtedly will continue to say: Dogs are truly amazing animals.
Three dogs help injured woman survive Canadian wilderness
24 November 2017
A Canadian dog walker could not have survived over two days in the wilderness without the help of her border collie, a boxer and a puggle.
Annette Poitras, 56, was walking the three dogs on Monday in the British Columbia backcountry when she fell, injured herself and lost her phone.
She was rescued on Wednesday afternoon after a long hunt by Coquitlam search and rescue.
Her husband says the three dogs helped Poitras stay alive during the ordeal.
Marcel Poitras told Global News that his wife and the dogs – a collie called Chloe, a boxer named Roxy, and Bubba, a pug-beagle mix – took care of each other over two days and two nights, with no supplies and periods of “torrential” rain.
Her husband, Marcel Poitras told Global News that her three dogs—a collie called Chloe, a boxer named Roxy, and Bubba, a pug-beagle mix—helped her stay alive during the ordeal, during which Poitras had no supplies and endured torrential rain.
He said that she saw one of the dogs dig a hole underground to stay warm, and did the same.
“One of them was cuddling [her] and one of them was on guard and the other one was looking for food,” he said.
She also helped the dogs, covering the short haired boxer with her coat after she noticed it shivering during heavy rainfall on their second night.
He said the dogs did not leave her side.
Poitras was rescued after a two day search by the RCMP, which used helicopters and 100 volunteers to scour the countryside near Eagle Mountain for traces of her.
Some rescuers finally heard faint cries for help and loud barking and tracked down Poitras and the dogs to an area described by the Mounties as “well outside the normal trail system”, according to The Surrey Now Leader.
The rescue team said she was “alive and in good condition” in an area off trail, in dense bush and swamp.
CBC reported Friday that two of the dogs visited her hospital bedside Friday.
Poitras is expected to be released from hospital later in the week. Marcel said that after his wife is released from hospital they are hoping things will get back to normal.
Back to the BBC item or more specifically two more photographs included by the BBC in their report of the incident.
In the words of Mr. Poitras, the husband of the rescued woman, “He says they are looking forward to “quiet, peace, walking dogs, visiting family” now the ordeal is over.”
Dear wonderful Chloe, Roxy and Bubba – life-savers all three of them!
Dear friend of this place, Margaret K. from Tasmania (MargfromTassie), recently sent me an email with a link to a story that had appeared on the BBC website.
I thought the photographs would make a fabulous Picture Parade.
But first sufficient of the news story for the photographs to be seen in proper context.
Meet Scotland’s ‘most well-travelled dog’
By Ewan Murrie,BBC Scotland news website, 3rd June 2017
After photographs of her West Highland Terrier received more “likes” on social media than even the most stunning Glencoe landscapes she could capture, Sam Grant conceded that “the wee white dug” should star in her Scottish travel blog.
“Casper is my unique selling point,” says Sam Grant, an Edinburgh-based VisitScotland ambassador who spends her spare time travelling the country with her pet.
She adds: “There are lots of travel bloggers out there who are very good writers, but they don’t have the wee white dug.”
Here are almost all of those photographs that the BBC presented.
You will love them.
Please note that all of the photographs were taken by Sam Grant who, I am sure, retains copyright ownership of them. Sam’s blogsite is Scotland With The Wee White Dug and well worth a visit.
I can’t resist including the rest of the text that the BBC published for the photographs are strengthened enormously by Sam’s words.
Her eccentric website details places of interest in areas including Orkney, Loch Lomond and the Scottish Borders.
It was launched in 2015 after an Instagram account written from Casper’s perspective proved popular with followers.
The social media profile has nearly 4,000 followers, who Sam says “can’t get enough” of the wee white dug’s quirky anecdotes about his travels.
Sam says travelling with Casper has given her lots of insight into Scotland’s best pet-friendly tourist attractions and holiday accommodation.
She says: “There are loads of good places that you can visit nowadays where you can bring along your four-legged friends.”
Sam hopes the blog could encourage more Scots to look around their own country, as well as attracting other visitors.
She says: “If you visit the beaches in the Outer Hebrides, you’ll see there’s really no need to go to the Caribbean – unless you’re a sun worshipper.
“Scotland’s a country with a rich history and heritage. A country full of stories just waiting to be told.”
Sam says most traffic to her website comes from the UK and US but she has had visitors from more than 100 countries – including China.
“When I see that I’ve had visitors from far-flung countries, I imagine them on the other side of the world reading about Scotland and the wee white dug,” the writer adds.
Asked if she thinks some people could say her pictures are a bit twee, Sam replied: “I did worry about that at first, so I try to make a joke of it.
“But if people like my pictures and they bring a bit of happiness to someone’s day, then why not?”
I guarantee that all of you dear people who view these photographs will have much happiness brought to you. As was brought to Jeannie and me.
Yes, we know that they are but the science as to why this is nonetheless is fascinating!
Inevitably when you think about my cultural roots you would not be surprised to hear that I use the BBC News website as a key source of staying in touch with the world. But very rarely would I think of sharing a news item with you via these pages.
One of those rare exceptions greeted my eyes back on July 20th. It was an article published by Helen Briggs of the BBC under the Science & Environment news classification. I can’t imagine any reason why I can’t republish it here.
Why dogs are friendly – it’s written in their genes
By Helen Briggs – BBC News, 20 July 2017
Being friendly is in dogs’ nature and could be key to how they came to share our lives, say US scientists.
Dogs evolved from wolves tens of thousands of years ago.
During this time, certain genes that make dogs particularly gregarious have been selected for, according to research.
This may give dogs their distinctive personalities, including a craving for human company.
“Our finding of genetic variation in both dogs and wolves provides a possible insight into animal personality, and may even suggest similar genes may have roles in other domestic species (maybe cats even),” said Dr Bridgett vonHoldt of Princeton University.
The researchers studied the behaviour of domestic dogs, and grey wolves living in captivity. They carried out a number of tests of the animals’ skills at problem-solving and sociability.
These showed that wolves were as good as dogs at solving problems, such as retrieving pieces of sausage from a plastic lunchbox.
Dogs, however, were much more friendly. They spent more time greeting human strangers and gazing at them, while wolves were somewhat aloof.
DNA tests found a link between certain genetic changes and behaviours such as attentiveness to strangers or picking up on social cues.
Similar changes in humans are associated with a rare genetic syndrome, where people are highly sociable.
Dr Elaine Ostrander of the National Institutes of Health, who was a co-researcher on the study, said the information would be useful in studying human disease.
“This exciting observation highlights the utility of the dog as a genetic system informative for studies of human disease, as it shows how minor variants in critical genes in dogs result in major syndromic effects in humans,” she said.
Dogs were domesticated from wolves between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago.
What a delight to read this latest scientific news.
There’s so much ‘doom and gloom’ to be seen on the news services across the world that a genuine discovery that enlarges the mind is always a treat. Now make that a discovery about our dogs. Better still, let the BBC do it for you.
How did dogs become our best friends? New evidence
By Helen BriggsBBC News, 19 July 2017
Dogs most probably evolved from wolves at a single location about 20,000 to 40,000 years ago, a study suggests.
Previously, it had been thought that dogs were tamed from two populations of wolves living thousands of miles apart.
Researchers studied DNA from three dogs found at archaeological sites in Germany and Ireland that were between 4,700 and 7,000 years old.
The ancient canines share ancestry with modern European dogs.
By looking at the rates of change to the DNA from the oldest specimen, scientists were able to place the timing of the domestication of dogs to between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago.
Krishna Veeramah of Stony Brook University in New York is a researcher on the study.
He said the process of dog domestication began when a population of wolves moved to the outskirts of hunter-gatherer camps to scavenge for leftovers.
”Those wolves that were tamer and less aggressive would have been more successful at this,” he explained.
“While the humans did not initially gain any kind of benefit from this process, over time they would have developed some kind of symbiotic relationship with these animals, eventually evolving into the dogs we see today.”
The story of how dogs came to be tamed from wolves is complex and hotly debated.
Scientists believe dogs started moving around the world, perhaps with their human companions, about 20,000 years ago.
By 7,000 years ago, they were pretty much everywhere, although they were not the kind of dogs that we would consider pets.
”They would likely have resembled dogs we today call village dogs, which are free-breeding that did not live in specific people’s houses and have a similar look to them across the world,” said Dr Veeramah.
The dogs were later bred for their skills as hunters, herders or gundogs, eventually creating hundreds of modern breeds.
The research, published in Nature Communications, suggests even the dog breeds and village dogs found in the Americas and Pacific Islands are almost completely derived from recent European dog stock.
This is probably due to prolific dog breeding in Victorian times.
”In this regard, it appears therefore that our 7,000-year, Neolithic-old dog from Europe is virtually an ancestor to most modern breed dogs found throughout the world,” said Dr Veeramah.
”This ancestral relationship may even stretch back to the oldest dog fossil we know of, which is approximately 14,000 years old from Germany.”
Previous evidence suggested that the first domestic dogs appeared on opposite sides of the Eurasian continent more than 12,000 years ago.
Later, the eastern dogs moved with migrating humans and bred with those from the west, according to this theory.
Dr Greger Larson of the University of Oxford said it was great to see more ancient dog genomes being published.
“There is a fascinating story here and we’re only just scraping the surface,” he said.
“The more we get the more we might have a shot at finally unravelling the story of how we became such good friends over such a long time.”
Study Reveals Origin of Modern Dog Has a Single Geographic Origin
Reported in Nature Communications, the finding counters previous research that suggested two domestication events led to the modern dog
STONY BROOK, N.Y., July 18, 2017 – By analyzing the DNA of two prehistoric dogs from Germany, an international research team led by Krishna R. Veeramah, PhD, Assistant Professor of Ecology & Evolution in the College of Arts & Sciences at Stony Brook University, has determined that their genomes were the probable ancestors of modern European dogs. The finding, to be published in Nature Communications, suggests a single domestication event of modern dogs from a population of gray wolves that occurred between 20,000 and 40,000 years ago.
Dogs were the first animal to be domesticated by humans. The oldest dog fossils that can be clearly distinguished from wolves are from the region of what is now Germany from around 15,000 years ago. However, the archeological record is ambiguous, with claims of ancient domesticated dog bones as far east as Siberia. Recent analysis of genetic data from modern dogs adds to mystery, with some scientists suggesting many areas of Europe, Central Asia, South Asia and the Middle East as possible origins of dog domestication.
In 2016, research by scientists using emerging paleogenomics techniques proved effective for sequencing the genome of a 5,000-year-old ancient dog from Ireland. The results of the study led the research team to suggest dogs were domesticated not once but twice. The team from Oxford University also hypothesized that an indigenous dog population domesticated in Europe was replaced by incoming migrants domesticated independently in East Asia sometime during the Neolithic era.
“Contrary to the results of this previous analysis, we found that our ancient dogs from the same time period were very similar to modern European dogs, including the majority of breed dogs people keep as pets,” explained Dr. Veeramah. “This suggests that there was no mass Neolithic replacement that occurred on the continent and that there was likely only a single domestication event for the dogs observed in the fossil record from the Stone Age and that we also see and live with today.”
In the paper, titled “Ancient European dog genomes reveal continuity since the Early Neolithic,” Veeramah and colleagues used the older 7,000 year old dog to narrow the timing of dog domestication to the 20,000 to 40,000 years ago range.
They also found evidence of the younger 5,000 year old dog to be a mixture of European dogs and something that resembles current central Asian/Indian dogs. This finding may reflect that people moving into Europe from the Asian Steppes at the beginning of the Bronze Age brought their own dogs with them.
“We also reanalyzed the ancient Irish dog genome alongside our German dog genomes and believe we found a number of technical errors in the previous analysis that likely led those scientists to incorrectly make the conclusion of a dual domestication event,” added Veeramah.
Overall, he emphasized, their new genomic analysis of ancient dogs will help scientists better understand the process of dog evolution, even if the exact geographic origin of domestication remains a mystery. He expects further sequencing of the ancient genomes from Eurasia will help to eventually solve the issue.
The study and findings are a collaboration between scientists at Stony Brook University; the University of Michigan, Johannes Gutenberg-University, Germany; University of Bamberg, Germany; Trinity College, Ireland; and the Department of Monumental Heritage in Germany.
The research was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health.
About Stony Brook University Stony Brook University is going beyond the expectations of what today’s public universities can accomplish. Since its founding in 1957, this young university has grown to become one of only four University Center campuses in the State University of New York (SUNY) system with more than 25,700 students, 2,500 faculty members, and 18 NCAA Division I athletic programs. Our faculty have earned numerous prestigious awards, including the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Indianapolis Prize for animal conservation, Abel Prize and the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics. The University offers students an elite education with an outstanding return on investment: U.S. News & World Report ranks Stony Brook among the top 40 public universities in the nation. Its membership in the Association of American Universities (AAU) places Stony Brook among the top 62 research institutions in North America. As part of the management team of Brookhaven National Laboratory, the University joins a prestigious group of universities that have a role in running federal R&D labs. Stony Brook University is a driving force in the region’s economy, generating nearly 60,000 jobs and an annual economic impact of $4.65 billion. Our state, country and world demand ambitious ideas, imaginative solutions and exceptional leadership to forge a better future for all. The students, alumni, researchers and faculty of Stony Brook University are prepared to meet this challenge.
Even better than the University providing the link to the above, it also gave me the good Doctor’s email address. I shall reach out to him and see if there is more that I can share with you!