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. 

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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

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.