The Bug Report

A New Unicorn Praying Mantis
& the Rediscovered Queen Bee

Without fuss, our relationship with insects has been wildly changing lately. First, we considered eating them in case of an apocalyptic scenario. Then came the worldwide alert: bugs are disappearing – led by a bee catastrophic fallout. Whatever happened to our lunch?
Then again, the same science that predicts climate change may cause the extinction of critters and humans alike, keeps finding new species to amaze us all. The latest: a stunning praying mantis, and the reappearance of the giant Wallace bee, not seen since 1981.
Bugs’ otherworldly beauty and, based on what we now know, crucial role in the food chain, reassigns our appreciation of these creatures. So utterly distinct from us, and yet, so essential to life. The poignant note about it all is that we may not get to discover them in time.
It was surprising, for instance, to find out that spiders eat in a year the weight of the entire mankind. Or that beetles, with over 380,000 species, are the most biodiverse, making up to 40% of all insects on Earth. Some would say, no wonder The Beatles are still so dominant.
But even before the troubling notion that we’d need to start eating them – ‘for the protein, they said’ -, they began to vanish. It’s still unclear how they’re being affected by the changing climate, but one thing is for sure: if they go, we all go right after.

A UNICORN IN A BRAZILIAN FOREST
Brazil’s Mata Atlântica, near Rio, is one of the world’s most diverse forests. Older than the Amazon, only 10% is now left from its original size. In this doomed place, however, life thrives, and it’s where a magical creature was discovered, among half a dozen new species.
Science has no place for praying, except for the praying mantis (pardon the poor pun). Their alien appearance is not very popular, though, even when looking like a dead leaf, or an orchid. And then, there’s that business of having their heads eaten while copulating.
Maybe that’s how evolution treated such a mortal threat: by developing horns. The hand-sized Zoolea praying mantis has one, along a pair of imposing metallic-red limbs. Thus, next time you see one, before running, check for the unicorn. And make a wish or something.

THE BEE MISSING FOR 38 YEARS
Over a decade ago, what became known as Colony Collapse Disorder was so serious that scientists feared for our food crops, without bees to pollinate them. Luckily, it wasn’t to be, not because of that, anyway. But bee populations are still declining, and now, other insects too.
That’s why the rediscovery of the Wallace‘s giant bee (Megachile Pluto) in Indonesia is so auspicious. Four times as big as a honeybee, it does not produce honey or live in hives. Also, confirming a trend (more)
________
Read Also:
* Racy Meals
* Heat Riders
* Honey, We’ve Shrunk the Bees

Continue reading

Scream

A Blast Heard Around the World,
Skies of Blood & New York’s Fate

What an Expressionist masterpiece painted by a Norwegian, the world’s loudest recorded explosion, and New York City’s possible doom may have in common? Not much really, but to think about the eruption of the Krakatoa volcano 130 years ago is a good start.
For while Edvard Munch’s The Scream is the most dramatic depiction of the surreal red sulphur-dioxide skies that covered Europe and circled the world for months after the explosions of Aug. 26, 1883, many wonder what if it’d happen again today.
That’s when that scenario of destruction comes to play, in a way that would shame all those nightmarish visions Hollywood has been concocting for years about NYC, with room to add terrifying touches of real life tragedies, such as the 2004 earthquake and tsunami in Asia.
Before going any further, a bit of a disclaimer of sorts, for we’re fully aware of the tendency of New Yorkers to think themselves as the center of the world, and imagine that there’s always a conspiracy apace against this fair city. But guess what, sometimes they’re right.
Also, we’re far from giving shelter to tabloid doomsday scenarios, for the sake of advancing our unique and highly personal view that, yes, we’re all going to die, and despite our laborious efforts, constructing a pseudo-safe reality to prepare us for the inevitable won’t help us.
We may also need to add that we do resent the fact that New York is always the stand in, and scapegoat, for evil, when it comes to the undying desire of movie execs to make another buck on our account. Like, just blow up the statue (and the box office proceeds), and we’ll be fine. You know who you are.
With that out of the way, let’s now revisit that terrible day in Java and Sumatra, brewed for months prior, then jump to a decade later, when a gifted artist’s visions exploded out of his head and onto the canvas, and then onward to a possible nitty gritty future.

THE RUDE AWAKENING OF A MONSTER
The explosion heard around the world started with a murmur sometime in May of 1883, from the volcano that had been dormant for two centuries. In three months, it built up into a crescendo of small tremblores, dust spewing, earth rattling, and finally to rocks shot 50 miles high into the stratosphere. Blasts were heard 3,000 miles away.
At its peak, the eruption of the Krakatoa volcano is estimated to have reached the energy of 10,000 Hiroshima atomic bombs. It ignited earthquakes and tsunamis that possibly killed 100 thousand people and shrunk the land surrounding the mountain to a fraction.
It covered the sun for several days and affected global climate conditions for years. A two-degree dip in the average temperature in the Northern Hemisphere is thought to have been a direct consequence of the thick cloud of ash, rock and dust that the eruption spewed up to the atmosphere. Even snow has been recorded in some regions during the following summer.
If the explosions were heard so far away from Sumatra, the scarlet sunsets were equally intense all over the world. Fire engines were called in Poughkeepsie, New York, a few weeks after the eruption, by people sure that an inferno was crackling just beyond (more)
_______
Read Also:
* Going Under
* Walking the Isles
* Drowning Nations

Continue reading

The Day After

10 Years Ago Today, Recovery From
the Monster Tsunami Got Under Way

The day after Christmas, 2004, a giant wave came crashing on the beaches of 14 Asian countries, taking a quarter of a million lives with it, and leaving indelibly tragic memories on its wake. But the day after, survivors and volunteers from all over the world fought back.
Nothing will replace those gone with the receding waters, or their earthly possessions lost to the flooding. But tsunamis and tragedies do happen all the time. What not always survives is the courage to move on. And that was exactly what took place at those places and time.
There were worldwide ceremonies marking the first decade since the equivalent of a small city got wiped out of the face of the Earth. Neither those who perished will be forgotten, nor those left behind will ever get used to their absence. But they will light candles and carry on.
It helps that much of what was destroyed has since been rebuilt. Emotional wounds take long to turn into scars, but just like in Japan, reconstruction is truly remarkable. No one’s wasting time waiting for the next wave. And when it does come, they’ll beat it all over again.

Brews & Brains

When You Spell Hot Coffee &
Taste the Words in Your Mouth

Imagine if you knew words by their flavor, or colors by their sounds? What about if you could speak ‘coffee’ fluently as if it were a foreign language?
It’s not always easy to combine the particulars of a world-class commodity with the strangeness of a neurological condition. But now that we brought you all the way here, there’s no way back.
That delicious, vital, customary cup of hot arabica, that promptly elicits a world of sensations to your tasting buds, and a jolt to your brain, may be getting ever more expensive.
That’s because a roster of factors, from environmental conditions, to climate change, to labor regulations around the world, to the fragility of most coffee beans, seem to be conspiring against your daily rush ritual.
Plus, not to put too fine a print on it, it may also make us all get dementia, judging by recent studies linking the benefits of drinking Continue reading

Change the World

TED Award for J R,
Street Provocateur

If you’re not well acquainted with the agitprop world of graffiti expression or street art, or don’t live in one of the slums of South America, Asia and Africa, you may never have heard of J R, the secretive Parisian artist who just won the TED’s 2011 “Wishes Big Enough to Change the World” award.
But to scores of impoverished communities around the world, it’s Continue reading