Archive for ‘Nature’

September 30, 2014

Since 1970 We’ve Wiped Out Half the Population of Animal Species :(

JungleAnimalsBorder_pe

This is so very sad.  A report by the World Wildlife Fund notes that we’ve lost 52% of the population from all species since 1970.  I feel like my children and their children will not know the kind of diversity of species that I had the privilege of encountering in nature as a child.  And the shows which brought us the wonderful expanse of nature, will have so much less to document and record.  It seems to me, as nature goes, so do we humans.  And right now that direction is not looking good.  Let’s change it.

From the report:

The conservation group’s Living Planet Report, published every two years, said humankind’s demands were now 50 percent more than nature can bear, with trees being felled, groundwater pumped and carbon dioxide emitted faster than Earth can recover.

“This damage is not inevitable but a consequence of the way we choose to live,” Ken Norris, Director of Science at the Zoological Society of London, said in a statement.

For more about the report, go to this link:

http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/09/29/environment-wildlife-idUSL6N0RU48D20140929

September 19, 2014

The Strange Case of An 18th-Century Sex Change Surgery [newrepublic.com]

by Alice Robb / newrepublic.com

One day in 1779, a London couple, seeking treatment for their seven-year-old daughter, showed up at the Soho Square Dispensary for the Relief of the Infant Poor. The first doctor thought she might have a hernia. The second had a different idea.

“I shall not trouble the reader with the surprise into which the parents were thrown when I first told them their child was not a girl, as they had supposed, but a boy,” wrote the second doctor. The case was recently discovered in the archives of the University of Kansas and written up in the latest issue of the journal Sexualities.

mistakenIn the early 2000s, Carol Warrenthen a professor of sociology at the University of Kansaswas researching the history of electricity in the college’s rare books library when she noticed an old pamphlet with an eye-catching title: “The case of a boy who had been mistaken for a girl; with three anatomical views of the parts, before and after the operation and cure,” by a surgeon called Thomas Brand. “I was looking through a bunch of materials that had been shoved together, and this one appeared,” recalls Warren.

According to Brand’s report, published in 1787, he noticed an “irregularity” in the patient’s “external parts.” After further examination, he concluded that the child’s “part, which had the appearance of the labia pudenda, was in fact the scrotum,” and suggested an “operation to free the penis from its confinement.” He went ahead and made some alterations, enabling the childwhose name is unknown“to urinate standing up, wear trousers, and enjoy the privileges of being a male.” Brand, who practiced at the Royal Hospital at Greenwich, was “not a quack,” according to Mary Fissell, a professor of the History of Medicine at Johns Hopkins who I spoke to on the phone.

Eight pages long, with three illustrations of the child’s anatomy, the pamphlet may describe one of the earliest instances of sex-change surgery. “The first case that I found (in America) was in the 1840s, and it was received quite critically by fellow physicians,” writes Elizabeth Reis, author of Bodies in Doubt: An American History of Intersex and professor of women’s and gender studies at the University of Oregon, in an email.

Brand saw the operation not as sex change, but as a means of returning the child to his “proper” gender; Brand seemed to believe that only two distinct sexes were possible. He denied the existence of hermaphrodites, although he was familiar with the concept: “The term ‘hermaphrodite’ is properly understood as an animal that has both the male and female organs equally and perfectly formed,” he wrote. “But,” he goes on, “There is no reason to believe that such a case ever had existence in the human subject.”

Brand’s attitude toward sex and gender was consistent with the predominant view of his time; according to eighteenth-century norms, sex was a medical fact that had nothing to do with choice or personal expression. In fact, neither the patient nor his parents seem to have even been consulted. “Gender wasn’t conceived of as a form of identity,” says Warren. “It was conceived of as a form of body.” The idea of a person being “transgender,” of course, is not something that would enter common conception until about two centuries later.

Click on the link continue reading the article…

September 12, 2014

Serendipity: Animated Chart of North American Butterflies [tabletopwhale.com]

Amazing animated chart of North American Butterflies by Eleanor Lutz!

As an aside, you can support Lutz by purchasing some of her amazing work here at: http://www.artsider.com/people/hellofromthemoon

butterflies

http://tabletopwhale.com/2014/08/27/42-butterflies-of-north-america.html

June 12, 2014

Anti-conformity Research Led to Freud’s Best Sarcastic One-Liner [io9.com]

by Esther Inglis-Arkell / io9.com

There are plenty of tests that study conformity, but measuring anti-conformity is a tougher proposition. How do you measure something that is only evident after you make your influence felt? Researching this led to some interesting experiments, and the best line ever delivered by Sigmund Freud.

Conformity experiments have revealed some horrible truths about human nature. Anti-conformity experiments have just revealed, for the most part, only the annoying truths. Then again, anti-conformity is tough to measure. Not only has a person got to go against the grain of the group, it has to be shown that their only reason for doing so is to keep themselves from fitting in. How do you set up an experiment to prove that?

Michael Argyle, a psychologist, attempted the first experiment meant to measure anti-conformity in 1957. He had volunteers come in, and pair up, in order to engage in a little art critique. Unbeknownst to one half of each pair, their partner was actually Argyle’s assistant. The assistant was there to reject the participant’s view of the painting they were evaluating – which, by the way, was The Poet Reclining, by Marc Chagall. (If anyone is wondering about my opinion, I am not a fan, although I like the colors in the sky, and the piggy. Have at me, anti-conformists!)

Whatever view the participant expressed of the painting, Argyle’s stooge rejected it. The participant was then given another chance to evaluate the painting. Fifty-eight percent of the participants didn’t change their ideas. Around thirty-five percent adjusted their opinions towards those of their partners. Eight percent went the other way. They exaggerated the differences between their opinions and the opinions of their supposed partner. Argyle dubbed these people anti-conformists.

Click here to continue reading the article: http://io9.com/anti-conformity-research-led-to-freuds-best-sarcastic-o-1589769720

June 2, 2014

The Road Less Traveled

TrubucoCanyonSunsetTwo roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

~ Robert Frost

September 3, 2013

Do We Know How to Connect? Or Do We Know How to Converse?

July 20, 2013

SeaWorld Is So Pissed Over the Blackfish Documentary [gawker.com]

WhaleTail

by Rich Juzwiak / gawker.com

Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite recently told the New York Times that she approached her documentary Blackfish as a journalist with an open mind. The resulting film, which is about killer whales in captivity (specifically at SeaWorld and focusing on the 32-year-old orca Tilikum, who’s killed three people), is nonetheless damning enough that it reads like animal liberation propaganda. We hear numerous testimonials from former SeaWorld trainers on the negative effects of keeping these giant, sensitive creatures penned. We see hidden-camera footage of SeaWorld guides feeding park guests incorrect information about orcas’ lifespans and fins — the dorsal fins of captive killer routinely collapse, or flop to the side, which is rare in the wild. We see footage of brutal whale-on-human attacks. We hear nothing from SeaWorld itself.

(The corporation’s general counsel told the Times that SeaWorld declined to be interviewed for the film “because they doubted the material would be used in good faith.” SeaWorld also declined interviews for David Kirby’s book Death at SeaWorld, which was released last year.)

The film is not all straightforward condemnation – it highlights the irony at the heart of the anti-captivity movement. If SeaWorld hadn’t offered the general public an up-close look at these animals that were previously misunderstood as killing machines, killer whales wouldn’t have captured the sympathy of so many humans. It was largely through orca captivity that humans learned just how harmful captivity can be. The film spends a lot of time on former trainers’ accounts of bonding with these animals. Captivity may be widely denounced by scientists, and it may produce behavior that we just don’t see in the wild. For example, there have been two recorded human attacks by killer whales in the wild; in 2006 ABC reported that there had been nearly two dozen in captivity. However, the human-whale shared experience is not without joy, and Blackfish reasonably documents that.

Click here to read the complete article…

And, click here for the NY Times article with a different perspective…

February 3, 2013

When Taking Multiple Husbands Makes Sense [theatlantic.com]

Historically, polyandry was much more common than we thought.

by Alice Dreger / Northwestern University / theatlantic.com

For generations, anthropologists have told their students a fairly simple story about polyandry — the socially recognized mating of one woman to two or more males. The story has gone like this:

While we can find a cluster of roughly two dozen societies on the Tibetan plateau in which polyandry exists as a recognized form of mating, those societies count as anomalous within humankind. And because polyandry doesn’t exist in most of the world, if you could jump into a time machine and head back thousands of years, you probably wouldn’t find polyandry in our evolutionary history.

That’s not the case, though, according to a recent paper in Human Nature co-authored by two anthropologists, Katherine Starkweather, a PhD candidate at the University of Missouri, andRaymond Hames, professor of anthropology at the University of Nebraska. While earning her masters under Hames’ supervision, Starkweather undertook a careful survey of the literature, and found anthropological accounts of 53 societies outside of the “classic polyandrous” Tibetan region that recognize and allow polyandrous unions. (Disclosure: I first learned of Starkweather’s project while researching a controversy involving Hames and he is now a friend.)

Indeed, according to Starkweather and Hames, anthropologists have documented social systems for polyandrous unions “among foragers in a wide variety of environments ranging from the Arctic to the tropics, and to the desert.” Recognizing that at least half these groups are hunter-gatherer societies, the authors conclude that, if those groups are similar to our ancestors — as we may reasonably suspect — then “it is probable that polyandry has a deep human history.”
Rather than treating polyandry as a mystery to be explained away, Starkweather and Hames suggest polyandry constitutes a variation on the common, evolutionarily-adaptive phenomenon of pair-bonding — a variation that sometimes emerges in response to environmental conditions.

Click to read the rest of the article…

January 24, 2013

Scientists just don’t understand Spider Sex (and the resulting Cannibalism) [io9.com]

by Annalee Newitz / io9.com

We call those deadly spiders with the red hourglass shapes on their abdomens “black widows” because they eat their mates as part of the sex act. But black widows are far from the only spiders who sexually cannibalize, and some insects and fish do it too. It’s just a natural part of some animals’ reproductive process. So why use a term like “widow” for a creature who has no notion of marriage, and who is part of a species that evolved to eat or be eaten during sex? That’s what British biologist Emily Burdfield-Steele and her colleagues wanted to find out.

Their hypothesis was that people, including scientists, were grossly misunderstanding spider reproduction because they couldn’t stop anthropomorphizing the creatures involved. Instead of seeing a natural spider sex act, they kept seeing “widows” and “male sacrifices.” Those are decidedly human ideas. To find out whether this anthropocentric bias was pervasive, the biologists conducted a survey of 47 scientific papers about sexual cannibalism, to see how the act was described. Not surprisingly, they discovered a lot of non-scientific (and inaccurate) terms like “rapacious” and “voracious” attributed to the females; the males were called “unwilling” and “suicidal” in some cases. They created a fascinating chart of the most popular human-centric terms used to describe the spidery experience of sexual cannibalism.

Spidey SexClick image at right to enlarge to enlarge.

In their paper published earlier this month in Animal Behavior, the researchers describe what you’re seeing in this chart:

Frequency of terms used when describing male and female behaviour of sexually cannibalistic species considered separately for (a) studies in which cannibalism occurs before and/or during copulation (26 papers) and (b) studies in which cannibalism occurs only during and/or after copulation (17 papers), excluding reviews. See the appendices for references and excluded words. The frequency for each sex is the number of articles the term appears in, in the context of describing behaviour. Words were also classified by three independent observers as active (a), reactive (re) or neutral (n). Terms marked with an asterisk were classified differently by at least two of the parties and so could not be given an overall classification.

It’s fascinating to see how the females are more often described as “attacking” or “predatory” if they eat their mates before or during sex, versus afterwards. Maybe eating somebody after sex doesn’t strike us as being quite so aggressive?

Click here to read the rest of the article…

January 23, 2013

Indiana Univ study reveals sex to be pleasurable with or without use of a condom or lubricant [iu.edu]

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — American men and women rated sex as highly arousing and pleasurable regardless of whether condoms and/or lubricants were used, according to a study led by Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington researchers and published in The Journal of Sexual Medicine.

Led by Debby Herbenick and Michael Reece, co-directors of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion, researchers reviewed a nationally representative study of men and women ages 18 to 59 to assess characteristics of condom and lubricant use during participants’ most recent sexual event, and the relationship of their condom and lubricant use to their ratings of sexual quality.

Data were from the 2009 National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, which involved the administration of an online questionnaire to a nationally representative probability sample of U.S. adults. Results showed that men and women consistently rate sex as highly arousing and pleasurable with few differences based on condom or lubricant use. More than twice as many women than men were unsure whether the condom was lubricated — 26.6 percent vs. 11.4 percent — or from what material it was made — 23.6 percent vs. 8.9 percent.

“This may be because men are more likely than women to purchase condoms and to apply condoms,” Herbenick said. “However, it’s important for more women to become familiar with the condoms they use with their partner so that they can make choices that enhance the safety and pleasure of their sexual experiences.”

Additionally, no significant differences were found in regard to men’s ratings of the ease of their erections based on condom and lubricant use.

“The U.S. continues to grapple with high rates of sexually transmitted infections, HIV and unintended pregnancies,” Herbenick said. “We need to understand how people make choices about the products they use, or avoid using, and how these products contribute to the safety and pleasurable aspects of their sexual experiences. This is particularly important as the products themselves evolve and become more mainstream in American society. We also need to understand what men and women know, or don’t know, about the products they use so that we can better target public health education messages to individuals and groups.”

“The epidemiologic studies assessing human sexual function and behavior in the U.S. that were started 60 years ago by Kinsey are continued now by Herbenick and Reece. Gathering sexual data regarding condom use is highly relevant,” said Irwin Goldstein, M.D., editor-in-chief of The Journal of Sexual Medicine. “Understanding current condom use offers health care providers an opportunity to educate those people uncomfortable with condoms but for whom lack of use may lead to significant sexually transmitted infection health risk.”

A PDF of “Characteristics of Condom and Lubricant Use Among a Nationally Representative Probability Sample of Adults Ages 18-59 In the United States” is available at sciencenewsroom@wiley.com or online in the Wiley Press Room for media with log-in access. (To request a login, click here). It will appear in the February issue.

The study was supported by Church & Dwight, Inc., the maker of Trojan Brand condoms and vibrators. Co-authors include Vanessa Schick, Nicole Smith and Brian Dodge, Center for Sexual Health Promotion at the IU School of Public Health-Bloomington; Stephanie Sanders, The Kinsey Institute for Research on Sex, Gender and Reproduction and Department of Gender Studies, College of Arts and Sciences at IU Bloomington; and J. Dennis Fortenberry, M.D., IU School of Medicine.

http://newsinfo.iu.edu/news/page/normal/23720.html

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