Speculative biology

In 1981, Scottish geologist Douglas Dixon wrote a book about what creatures may evolve to look like 50 million years from now post humans. The book entitled entitled After Man, came with drawings of biomorphs to illustrate his vision.

Check out the ‘flunkey’ above, a flying monkey that glides like a squirrel.

From Evolution After Humans:

Imagine a game of biogeographical musical chairs in which penguins have evolved comb-like beaks to sieve plankton as whales do, rats have replaced the big cats as dominant carnivores, cats swing through the tropical canopy chasing monkeys, and monkeys glide on flaps of skin like flying squirrels. The book’s central idea is convergent evolution: that similar traits arise independently in different species, to perform similar functions in similar environments.

The longest straight line you can walk without hitting the ocean

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If you were the next Forest Gump and wanted to walk Earth in a straight line without hitting the water, here’s your guide.

The path starts east in China and ends in Liberia.

Lace up those walking shoes, we’ve got a project for you. An intrepid cartographer has, with the help of Google Earth, tracked down the longest-possible straight land path on earth – and it starts in China.

Just start walking due west from Shitangzhen, a town south of Taizhou, in Zhejiang Province. Keep on moseying, and in about 589 miles you’ll hit Wuhan. You will then, eventually, pass just south of Xi’an and (sooner or later) hit Qinghai. Getting tired yet?

After a brisk hike (i.e. crossing the Himalayas) you’ll end up in Tajikistan. From there, it’s just a quick poke through Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, Egypt (right through the heart of Cairo!) Libya, Niger, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ivory Coast and, finally, hit Liberia.

via Amazing Maps

Watch Volcano Calbuco Erupt in Chile 🌋

This is a timelapse of the Volcano Calbuco in Chile that erupted 3 times in 8 days between April 22–23, 2015.

One of the eruptions lasted 90 minutes, sending a plume of ash 6 miles into the sky.

While climate change deniers might point the finger at mother nature for these CO2 emissions, as one Facebooker notes in the comment section, “volcanic eruptions only make up about 1-2 % of the C02 emitted into the atmosphere. they also have a cooling effect on the climate from the Sulphur dioxide emitted.”

Free the animals 🦁🐘🦓

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Updated box design

The design for Animal crackers just got an update.

Due to mounting pressure from animal rights group PETA, Nabisco removed the cages from its iconic cracker box. The updated version shows the animals roaming free.

The redesign of the boxes, now on U.S. store shelves, retains the familiar red and yellow coloring and prominent “Barnum’s Animals” lettering. But instead of showing the animals in cages – implying that they’re traveling in boxcars for the circus – the new boxes feature a zebra, elephant, lion, giraffe and gorilla wandering side-by-side in a grassland. The outline of acacia trees can be seen in the distance.

Said PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman:

“The new box for Barnum’s Animals crackers perfectly reflects that our society no longer tolerates the caging and chaining of wild animals for circus shows.”

This is the first significant redesign since Nabisco launched the crackers in a 1902 partnership with the now-defunct Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey circus.

“New look, same great taste.”

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The original design

This bird-sized moth is gorgeous

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Introducing the Cecropia silkmoth, North America’s largest native moth, with a female wingspan reaching six inches. These striking moths live all across the Eastern United States and are one of over 1,860 species of Lepidoptera (Moths and Butterflies) found in the park! You can protect these beautiful insects by capturing them only in photographs.

Apparently, the spots help it ward off predators.

(via)

Nature’s flying jewels

If you liked the video of the dead leaf butterfly, then you’ll want to check out this video of the beautiful Archduke (Lexias pardalis dirteana) butterfly in its baby caterpillar state.

Full of spines, its next stage will be chrysalis before shedding and breaking into a restless butterfly. 

The link between rainfall and the duration of Roman emperors

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There’s an interesting piece in The Economist about the link between rainfall and the rise and fall of Roman emperors.

One such lesson is how drought affected the stability of the Roman empire 1,500 years ago. In a new paper published in Economics Letters, Cornelius Christian of Brock University and Liam Elbourne of St Francis Xavier University identify a strong association between rainfall patterns and the duration in power of Roman emperors. The academics hypothesise that lower precipitation reduced crop yields, leading to food shortages and eventually starvation for soldiers stationed at the empire’s frontiers. As a result, troops were more likely to stage mutinies and assassinate their emperor.

The data, collected from oak tree rings, shows hungry troops peaking in revolts around The Gordian dynasty from 235 AD to 285. Invasions and the economic plight brought on by droughts were also contributors.

The academics combine data on assassinations—some 25 emperors were assassinated, roughly one-fifth of the total—with precipitation data collected from rainfall-sensitive oak-tree rings across the Roman frontier in France and eastern Germany.

Today’s natural disasters in California, Greece, and Japan due to heatwaves may not lead to overthrows, but they don’t augur well either.

It might be easy to dismiss the lessons from 1,500 years ago. Ancient Rome had little ability to store grain for long periods or irrigate crops. Yet, to this day, dictators rely on an obedient army to retain power. And more broadly, it has been long established that adverse weather causes economic shocks that lead to unrest, and even to civil war.

Setting sun

telescope science discover world

Whether you set the route or leave it open-ended, you can discover things along the way.

Constraints produce their own magic. They make you innovate based off what you have to play with. But so too do indefinite destinations.

Out of curiosity blooms everything.

The more we know, the more we want to know. We permit our heuristic temptations to guide the discovery process. The rush to fill ignorance with self-knowledge makes us feel alive.

The world is more like a playground than a camp. It begs us to take more information than we need. But in borrowing its widgets, we have to reciprocate to ensure what we put out or reinvent comes back to enrich nature itself.

How spiders use silk to ride the wind

 

 

Sometimes spiders ride the wind. They spin out lines of silk that are caught by the breeze and carry them aloft. They have been reported to rise a mile or two above the earth, and perhaps even to cross oceans.

It’s called ballooning.

Watch the spider raise the leg to test the wind and then shoot silk up to six feet long to ride through the air.

Read more here

Nelder Plots

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A Nelder Plot, also called a Nelder Wheel or Nelder Fan, is a systematic planting design in which plants or trees are planted at the intersection of circular arcs and linear spokes. In general, Nelder Plots allow many different planting densities to be examined in a single plot.

via

To get lost, on purpose

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Nothing is more abandoned than the desert. Yet, there is nothing more stimulating than letting the imagination fill in the empty space.

The blank page work the same way. We fill it in with fiction and truth, recasting observations and thoughts about our surroundings.

Curiosity is the best book. As more land becomes visible, we realize how much more hides away in the distance. It’s vital to get outside the bubble that is our screen-obsessed culture. We’ve let entertainment replace reading and thinking. We’ve outsourced our memory to social media. Society is becoming plastic.

Jettison the map. It is arbitrary, anyway. As the Polish-American scientist Alfred Korzybski once said, “the map is not the territory.”

We shall explore the world as a desert, as William Atkins writes “a library whose shelves have never been occupied.” The cost of distance is nothing compared to the rich expansion of the mind’s eye.