Archive for the ‘environmental’ category

Earth Day and The March for Science…

April 27, 2017

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This past weekend brought the convergence of both Earth Day and The March for Science at a less than auspicious time for both science and environmentalism in American history. With protective environmental regulations being rolled back and scientific research and programs likely to face significant budget cuts, it’s time for those of us who are friends of the sciences to stand up and be counted, and push back against regressive and unwise trends in the current Washington administration…you can make a difference!

Of Blood Rain and Star Jelly…

October 6, 2016

 

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Every day, about 100 metric tons of material rains down on Earth’ s surface.  Episode 11 of Season 1 of Monsters and Mysteries Unsolved ventured into the sticky, perhaps revolting question of what exactly was “star jelly” and “blood rain.”  Please be advised that frog spawn will probably be discussed in the post, so if this offends or disgusts you, read no further.– You have been duly warned!

Now references to star jelly and blood rain date back to medieval times, with an account presented as far back as the year 1176.  Modern references are numerous; in November of 2001, for example, a gelatinous blob was found in Manchester, England that emanated a smell of rotten eggs, and dissolved when touched.  In 1950 in southern Philadelphia, two police officers saw a “dissolving UFO” that gave off a purplish glow, and inspired the 1958 Steve McQueen movie, “The Blob.

In Oakville, Washington in 1994, a gelatinous rain fell during a meteor shower that covered tree branches and made some individuals sick.  Two bacteria were found in samples tested by the Washington Dept. of Health that were capable of causing urinary tract infections and septicemia.  Conspiracy theories then blossomed as black planes and helicopters were later seen over the area. – –  Was Oakville chosen as a military test site? – – Was Fox Mulder summoned?  Alas, the remaining samples disappeared, and department scientists reported being told not to say anything about it.  Fortunately, an area resident kept a sample in her refrigerator (“Don’t eat the jelly, Honey!“), and it was taken to an independent lab that found bacteria present and a eukaryotic cell.  This sample then also disintegrated.

Now in India in 2001, a blood red rain fell to Earth, freaking out the residents.  Originally told that the rain was colored red by dust, it was later disclosed that the rain contained biological cells that strangely matched no known DNA.  The question was raised if these unknown cells were possibly of extraterrestrial origin.

Now Scotland has had numerous reports logged of luminous jelly falling from the sky.  Clarkson University specialist Dr. Langen feels that many of these samples are of terrestrial origin, did not fall from the sky, but are in reality…frog spawn (remember, you were warned)!  Langen exposed frog spawn to freezing and heating, and found that it could dehydrate and rehydrate in a manner similar to “star jelly.” Other creatures such as tardigrades can also survive extreme conditions of heat, cold, and even the vacuum of space.

The panspermia theory holds that life originated someplace other than Earth, and was seeded here by meteorites and comets.  While some scientists and researchers believe that Earth was “pollinated” by outer space, others do not.  At any rate, should you find any star jelly lying around, don’t eat it…you don’t know where it’s been!

“Animal Apocalypse” on Monsters & Mysteries Unsolved

September 27, 2016

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Episode 10, Season 1 of Monsters and Mysteries Unsolved looked  at a global increase in animal die-offs, a phenomena referred to as the “Animal Apocalypse.”  Several examples of this were then investigated.

On New Year’s Eve 2010 in Beebe, Arkansas, blackbirds swarmed all over the town, impacting with buildings and other objects, and dropping dead on lawns and streets.  The next morning, residents found 5,000 dead birds in the city.  In a scene reminiscent of The X-Files, crews in Hazmat suits were called in, collecting the birds and taking them to a wildlife health center in Madison, Wisconsin where experts examined the bodies and found that birds were not ill but had impact injuries, dying from blunt force trauma.  The question was why had blackbirds bruised and battered their bodies in Beebe; nothing like a little alliteration to liven things up!  The best answer was that New Year’s Eve fireworks displays had scared hundreds of thousands of birds, forcing them into flight at night when the species couldn’t see, causing them to simply fly into things, which did not go well for them.  

Elsewhere in Ozark, Arkansas 80,000 drum fish were found dead along the Arkansas River. No abnormal toxins were found in the water, but examination of the fish revealed that they had over-inflated swim bladders, a condition referred to as gas bubble disease.  This condition was felt to have been caused by an abnormally high number of gate openings at a dam on the river.

Some entire species of bees are disappearing at a furious rate in a phenomena referred to as “Colony Collapse Disorder .”  Such things could pose a direct threat to the world food supply of fruits, nuts, and vegetables where pollination by bees is critical.  The mystery of the vanishing bees remains unsolved.  “White Nose Syndrome” has also ravaged bat populations in the eastern U.S., causing strange behavior such as bats flying out during the day and in winter.  Five to seven million bats were lost during the winter of 2008, with the afflicted bats showing a fungus which eroded through tissues and made them thirsty during normal hibernation times.

Time was given to a Pastor Wohlberg, who felt that species die-offs were part of Biblical end times prophesy.  By this viewpoint, it’s all a reflection of corruption of the Earth due to human immorality…

Wildlife die-offs have been noted globally, in countries that have included England, Brazil, Italy, the Philippines, and Peru.  Pandemics are likely to happen as animal diseases jump to human populations.  This occurred with the Black Death that ravaged medieval Europe, as well as with the 1918 Influenza epidemic, the West Nile virus, the Swine Flu, and others.  Pathogens getting into the human population increases every year, so we can reasonably expect more of the same in the future, with animal populations providing an advance warning.  

“Bermuda Triangle” on Monsters and Mysteries Unsolved

September 18, 2016

 

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Ships go missing!- – Planes vanish without a trace! – – Are strange forces at work, or is the Bermuda Triangle just a myth?  In another episode focusing on the paranormal and mysteries rather than cryptozoology, Monsters and Mysteries Unsolved on their S1/Ep09 installment dealt with such questions.  Most of the segments again covered familiar territory and occurrences in an uneven fashion.

There was pilot Bruce Gernon, who in 1970 while flying from Palm Beach to the Bahamas encountered a lenticular cloud which ascended and expanded, trapping him.  A kind of tunnel with strange lines formed, his instruments went haywire, and the pilot could not ascertain his position, but reported the sensation of zero-gravity and hydroplaning.  He arrived at his destination earlier than otherwise would have been possible given the capabilities of his small plane.  At least this pilot had a positive outcome…

…not so the legendary Flight 19, a group of five American Navy Avenger bombers which a quarter century earlier disappeared while on a training flight out of Ft. Lauderdale.  Compass deviations were reported, with the final squadron transmission occurring two hours into the flight.  Despite a massive search, no trace of the planes or their occupants were ever found.  The ill-fated Fight 19 was termed the single most important event perpetuating the myth of the Bermuda Triangle.

On the sea itself, the USS Cyclops disappeared in 1918 on route to Baltimore out of Barbados.  A massive ship for its day, no wreckage, oil slick, or any trace of the vessel was ever found.  The ship went down over the Puerto Rico Trench, a deep part of the ocean.  A rogue wave was advanced as the leading theory for the disappearance.  Other oceanic disasters have included the sinking of the Ocean Ranger oil rig in 1982.

These are but a few of the best known Bermuda Triangle disappearances, with author/researcher Michael Preisinger reporting over fifty unsolved cases.  Even Christopher Columbus reported compass malfunctions.  David Pares believes that bad weather accounts for most of the disappearances, noting that converging storms can form a hole between them, possibly like that experienced by pilot Gernon in 1970.  Efforts to recreate his experience, however, have not been successful.  Other explanations briefly and weakly advanced included the possible association of gamma rays with thunderstorms, and the weakening of Earth’s magnetic fields, especially in association with an area called “the South Atlantic Anomaly.”  Ultimately, the show concluded that the Bermuda Triangle is felt to be founded more on myth than on facts…

 

Feline Terminators…

January 31, 2013

blofeld-cat– – It’s been said that were videos about cats and pornography eliminated from the internet, there would be little left!  While appealing and loved by many, cats can at times also show a darker side.  Here we see the lap cat of Bond arch-villain Blofeld.  Cats have demonstrated abilities to be efficient predators, as has been recently noted by research conducted by the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service published on Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.  

The study found that previous wildlife mortality estimates owing to feline predation were way too low.  Cats, primarily un-owned, feral ones, are felt to be responsible for the deaths of 1.4 to 3.7 billion birds, and 6.9 to 20.7 billion mammals annually.  If 2.3 billion birds are killed by cats, this would mean that 1 in 10 birds are taken by cats every year. 

In New Zealand, cats are considered an invasive species, and have prompted environmentalist/economist Gareth Morgan to push for much tighter controls on the island nation’s cat population expressed through a “Cats to Go” campaign.  Rather than declaring open season on cats, however, the program advocates neutering cats, keeping them indoors, and not getting any new ones. 

The American study does not recommend any drastic schemes to cut down on U.S. wildlife deaths, but rather calls for “conservation and policy intervention” in order to reduce environmental impact.  It should be pointed out that humans are responsible for most modern animal extinctions, whether through hunting, habitat destruction, introduction of invasive species, or other environmental disruptions…

 

The Python Purge Proceeds…

January 18, 2013

Florida python hunt– – The month-long python purge is in progress in Florida, with about 800 intrepid hunters in pursuit of the estimated 15,000 to 20,000 Burmese pythons who live in the Everglades where they are an invasive species and decimate natural populations.  The pythons are elusive, however, and not that many carcasses have been turned in to date.  Recommended methods of dispatching them include shooting or cutting off their heads with a machete; the “captive bolt” method is also mentioned if the device can be attached to their heads to destroy their brains as one would a zombie. 

If encountered, the pythons are unlikely to engage in a death struggle with their pursuers, and most will likely either remain where they are spotted or seek to escape.  Most are thought to have been spawned from pet shop purchased snakes that either escaped or were released by their owners into the wild when their size exceeded expectations.  A carnivorous, apex predator, the pythons have been known to consume prey as large as deer and alligators…

Cannibalistic, Jumbo Squid Invading California!

January 8, 2013

Humboldt squid– – It may alarm some to hear that hundreds of blob-like squid are invading California; on the other hand, some might think that this was inevitable, or that they might just be assimilated to become Californians.  The squid are big suckers known as Humboldt squid, who can reach up to six feet and weigh as much as 100 pounds.  They normally live at depths of 660 to 2,300 feet in the eastern Pacific.

Humboldts have been known to attack humans and are nicknamed “red devils” for their rust-red coloring and mean streak, and can hunt in schools of up to 1,200 individuals.  First washing up dead on the beaches off San Diego, California, the squid have been emerging from the depths recently, roughing up unsuspecting divers, some of whom report tentacles enveloping their masks and yanking at their cameras and gear…that’s right, squid thugs!  As the animals taste with their tentacles, they may be touching divers and their wet suits to determine if they are edible.

Humboldts are cannibalistic, and in addition to eating lanternfish, shrimp, and mollusks have been known to eat other Humboldt squid that have been captured in nets.  Over 800 of the jumbo squid were hooked in the Pacific Ocean off Orange County in Southern California in just 45 minutes last Saturday.  Gradual warming of the ocean, pollution, and over-fishing of large predators are felt to be contributing to the territorial expansion of the squid…