Saturday, August 17, 2013

Musings on Mastery

Have you ever noticed how smooth and graceful expert athletes look in action? Mastery breeds grace and beauty, even (especially?) in the midst of heavy breathing and perspiration.

it must be easy if they all do it so similarly, right?
mastery x 3 at the Olympics

Experienced dancers make impossible moves look strangely normal. Until you try them yourself.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Animal superpowers on display

Love superheroes? Want some superpowers of your own? I thought so.

Actually, we big-brained humans have made some great strides using our own powers, and this fun video highlights some lesser-known superheroes of the natural world.

Their sometimes off-the-wall superpowers help them handle the challenges of avoiding predators, finding prey, finding each other, navigating rivers and oceans, walking up walls, withstanding radiation, toxins, freezing, and even starvation. These powers enhance the competitive advantage and, ultimately, the evolutionary fitness, of their owners.

If you like these, have a look at some of the gold medalists of the natural world, inspired by last year's Olympics.

Can you think of other animal superpowers?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Lightning strikes faster than sharks


Sharks, as seen in Time,
post-Jaws 1975

Last year, 80 unprovoked shark attacks occurred worldwide, and 7 were fatal. Are you scared yet?

If so, consider these comparisons:

Between 2001 and 2010, sharks killed 10 people in the United States, while dogs killed 263.

Along the U.S. coast, lightning killed an average of 38 people each year from 1959 through 2010, while sharks attacked 19 and killed less than 1 per year; in other words, you were 76 times more likely to die by lightning strike as by shark attack.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Here's to Big Cats!

In honor of World Cat Day (these are Big Cats, not the kitty riding around on a vacuum in a shark costume to honor Shark Week - that's another post!), have a look at this super infographic from Nature & Public Broadcasting on tigers ---

Tiger Facts from Nature-PBS

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Spice up your food, it's good for you

Bangkok street food at a vegetarian festival.
Note the red (spicy) color of some of those dishes!
I live in Bangkok, in Thailand, land of spicy (yummy) food. There are apartments in this city that don't have kitchens because cheap, tasty, relatively healthful street food is all over place, at every hour of the day and night.

While I've enjoyed many different dishes here, there is still a lot of Thai food that I can't eat because it is so spicy.

Turns out the Thai are onto something with their love of spices.

Research recently presented by Dr. John Peters of University of Colorado and the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) suggests that adding herbs and spices to lower-calorie meals and vegetables makes the food more appealing to people.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Born to throw: another part of early hunting strategies?

in search of antelope?
I've read and heard how running, as part of a strategy of persistence hunting, was critical to human development on the African savanna.

But until just this week I hadn't heard the same for throwing!

A recent study suggests that hunting was also the impetus behind baseball, javelin, and maybe even football, cricket, and tennis.

We humans (OK, not me, but others) have the unique ability to throw a rock, ball, spear or other object both far and fast, an ability that researchers from George Washington University in the U.S. say evolved nearly 2 million years ago to facilitate hunting.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Bee-utiful: honeybee pollination of our favorite foods

Enjoying your summer fruits and veggies? Thank the bees!

some favorite fruits, nuts, and veggies pollinated by bees
image: Operation Bee
Here’s why:

As they buzz from flower to flower, bees pollinate roughly 71 of the 100 fruit, vegetable, nut, and other crop plant species that provide 90% of the world’s food, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

This includes not only fruits, nuts, and veggies, but also alfalfa and other plants that are key to livestock production.

In fact, crops pollinated by bees comprise roughly one-third of our diet (here's a list of crop plants pollinated by bees), yet their requirements and their massive contribution to agricultural production have mostly gone unnoticed until recently, when bee colonies across the U.S. and Europe started failing.