Author Archives: mattcrowder1

MonsterQuest

MonsterQuest is a tv show that sets out to find monsters that people believe they have seen.  Most of the them clearly don’t exist, but it is interesting to see people scientifically and meticulously approach something so strange.  Some of their episodes are titled  Sasquatch Attack, Birdzilla, Bigfoot, Mega Hog, Giant Squid Found, Chupacabra, Super Rats, Monster Spiders, and the Last Dinosaur.  

I believe this show is interesting because it reaches into the unknown.  It tells us that what we can’t even imagine existing might actually exist.  We as humans are interested in the unknown because we value knowledge and the advantage that it gives us.  Whether we realize it or not, education and learning is fun and exciting and a lot of our life is spent gaining it.  

Combine our thirst for knowledge and understanding with something cool and mysterious, and you have the makings for a good tv show.  MonsterQuest entertains us because it supports the idea that monsters do exist, and it shows us how little we actually know about ourselves and our world.  It lets us fall back into the world of imagination and fantasy by showing us that our world really isn’t as predictable as we think it is.

Advertisements

Why we can’t predict the future

The video that Jake brought in was quite interesting and a bit hysterical.  How people think they can determine what the world will be like in 100 million years absolutely baffles me.  Honestly, it is clear that they came up with something that would be interesting to the viewer and would make money.  They know that it is impossible to predict that far into the future, but because people are interested in things like this, they saw it as a money making opportunity.

The reason why we can’t predict far into the future is simple.  Because there are so many examples of unknowns in the world today, it is inconceivable to try to predict the state of the world in 100 million years.  New species are found everyday.  I found one example on the front cover of National Geographic’s website.  It’s about a new species of worm that eats whales.  Also on the front cover was an article about the newly discovered world’s smallest orchid.  These are just two examples of species that were discovered recently.  Imagine how many species there are that are still undiscovered.

We simply can’t predict the future of our world if we don’t even know all the species that could be part of that future world.  Who knows, maybe whale eating worms will be the king of beasts in 100 million years, or something that has yet to be discovered.  The bottom line is that we can’t know what animals will dominate in the future if we’re not even sure what animals exist and dominate today.

Why were dogs first bred anyway?

During class today is was assumed that dogs were first bred and domesticated as helpers to humans, and that the breeding of dogs as pets came later.  This seemed like a reasonable assumption, however, new speculation from biologists suggests that dogs were actually domesticated as livestock.  This speculation comes from that fact that dogs were first domesticated in rural southern China, where eating dog has been a common practice for thousands of years, and is still very prominent today.  While it has long be thought that dogs were first domesticated in Africa, evidence shows that populations of dogs in southern China have greater genetic diversity than dogs in Africa, thus proving that dogs did not originate there.

Adam Boyko, a biologist at Cornell University, finds this study very interesting but would like to see more evidence before this hypothesis is confirmed.  “But clearly, it is a very interesting result,” he said. “There is a ton of data backing it up, [and] they put forth a really interesting hypothesis for dog domestication.”

I find this interesting because it agrees with my hypothesis for breeding and domestication of animals.  I meant to say this in class, but I wasn’t able to because the topic was changed.  My hypothesis is that humans have breed and domesticated animals simply to benefit themselves.  Whether dogs were first breed as food, helpers, or even pets, the only purpose was to benefit humans.  This leads me to the conclusion that humans only ever do anything to benefit themselves.  No matter what you can think of that a human has done, the root intention of that human was to benefit him or herself.

The Georgia Bulldog

Uga VII, Georgia’s real life bulldog mascot, recently died.  On Saturday, a short ceremony took place before the game which commemorated his life and buried him in the stadium.  After every Georgia bulldog dies, Georgia hires a breeder to breed another one. So obviously that’s what Georgia plans to do.

But after Uga VII’s untimely heart attack and death, PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) has stepped in and demanded that Georgia instead switch to a mechanical dog.  Their reasoning is that the bulldog species is prone to physical challenges and diseases, and would thus be unethical to bring another one into existence.  Their statement to Georgia’s athletic director said:

“In the wake of the untimely death of the University of Georgia’s (UGA) bulldog mascot, Uga VII, PETA has asked the school’s athletic director, Damon M. Evans, to replace the mascot with an animatronic dog — or to rely solely on a costumed mascot — instead of using another real bulldog. Bulldogs are prone to breathing difficulties, hip dysplasia, heart disorders, and other congenital ailments, and acquiring a dog from a breeder perpetuates the animal overpopulation crisis while causing another dog waiting in an animal shelter to be condemned to death.”

Sticking to tradition, Georgia will breed another bulldog to become Uga VIII, despite the request from PETA.  Personally, I think Georgia is making the right decision by sticking to tradition.  I am a huge sports fan, and I think that tradition is very important in sports.  Breeding one more bulldog will not make a significant difference in the world, and if any bulldog should be breed, it should be the Georgia bulldog.  What I’m saying is that, if it is unethical for bulldogs to exist at all, PETA should focus their energy on eliminating bulldogs altogether, rather than on one specifically.  Yes, I understand that by having a bulldog as a mascot for a major sports team, fans of Georgia and other sports fans are more inclined to get a pet bulldog, but bulldogs will still exist even if Georgia switches to a mechanical mascot.

I think this story is an example of an organization not thinking things through.  If it really is important that the bulldog species become extinct, which seems kind of weird in it’s own way, PETA should start by stopping average people from having them as pets.  It’s crazy that their first step is to try to stop a football team from having one as a mascot.

The Threat of Trash to Animals

As you can probably imagine, human trash is extremely dangerous to animals.  Thousands of animals die each year in very painful ways.  A survey in Britain found that more than 69,000 animals were killed from exposure to trash in 2002.  Says Tony Crittendon, the chief officer of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, “If people disposed of their rubbish properly, many animals would be saved from injury and death.”

This survey found that the most common causes of animal death to trash are:

cuts caused by cans or broken glass

poisoning resulting from ingestion of spoiled food

suffocation caused by plastic packaging

As animals are becoming more accustomed to eating and sifting through human trash, they are becoming more susceptible to injury and death as a result.  Another way that animals are severely harmed is when they get their heads stuck in cans or jars.  One story talks about a bear that was witnessed with a plastic jug on it’s head.  People hoped that the bear would be able to pry the jar off with it’s hands, but two days later it was again seen with the jug stuck on it’s head.  The temperature was in the 80s and the bear was struggling to breathe.  After realizing that the bear would not be able to remove the jar from it’s head, Wildlife Control set up a trap.  Two days after that the bear was caught in the trap, tranquilized, and the jar was finally removed from it’s head.  This is just one example of how human trash can be extremely dangerous for animals.  We pose so many threats to animals and nature, and we often don’t even realize it.  In my upcoming class on Tuesday, I hope to explore this further.  We will talk about humans impact on animals, evolution, and the extinction process.  The principal question driving the discussion will be, “If we believe in evolution, survival of the fittest, and that extinction is a natural part of life, then why do we feel the need to “save” endangered species”

The Nature Conservancy

Yesterday, when I was watching the tv show Flashforward on hulu.com, I continually saw commercials by The Nature Conservancy.  After seeing commercial after commercial from this organization, I decided to research them to see what ideas they have for solving the worlds environmental problems.  One of the problems I have seen with the proposed solutions from other organizations and agencies to our environmental challenges is that nothing is concrete.  Too often the problem is stated and a goal is set to eliminate that problem, but no concrete plan is proposed that says how that goal will be reached.

Here is the list of their five priorities:

  1. Passing carbon cap and trade legislation that will drive overall reductions in carbon emissions by as much as 20 percent by 2020 and at least 80 percent by 2050.
    While this is an immense challenge in today’s economic climate, such legislation can help revive our economy and improve our quality of life through investment in energy conservation and new energy technologies and by providing a source of funding for the planned adaptation of natural landscapes to a warming Earth.
  2. Creating a new generation of Federal funding and landowner incentive programs to complete networks of conserved land and well managed working landscapes sufficient to withstand the pressures of climate change and continuing urbanization.  The design of these systems should be guided by the State Wildlife and Forest Plans already authorized in law and should include re-investment in and protective management of the nation’s remarkable legacy of Federal lands.
  3. Encouraging Congress to provide the direction and resources to the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Department of Agriculture to restore water resources in whole watersheds.

    Such a move means re-evaluating the operating criteria of the nation’s dams, supporting more large scale restoration projects like that in Florida’s Everglades, passing National Fish Habitat Legislation, and better coordinating the use of the 2008 Farm Bill programs to assist farmers, ranchers and forest land owners to reduce polluted runoff.

  4. Bringing together state and Federal agencies to better plan out the future of our coastal regions — either through new legislation or through re-authorization of the Coastal Zone Management Act.

    Through such action, we should decide as a nation in a cooperative way what should be protected, what can be restored, where to put various human uses like wind power and other energy development, and how to respond to sea level rise and increased storm intensity.

  5. And helping to restore America’s conservation standing in the world by our actions here at home, by our ratification of international environmental treaties and by increasing U.S. funding and technical assistance for conservation in the developing world.

After reading this list of priorities, or goals, I believe that the Nature Conservancy is taking the first step toward effective climate change and environmental awareness.  They are identifying what they think are the most important issues and proposing concrete solutions for how they could be solved.  For example, in #3, they state specific regions where they think water restoration is important.  Also, in #5, they state that America should ratify environmental treaties.  However, about the other issues, they simply suggest the right people to come up with solutions.  For example, in #1 and #2, they propose increased funding to solve the problem and not any concrete ideas.  In #4, their only proposition is to join state and federal agencies to solve the problem.

I definitely think this organization is doing a good job and is making the right first step, but in order for any of these problems to be solved, we need concrete solutions.  We can’t just state the problem and say that it needs to be solved, we have to have practical, concrete ideas for how they can be.

Returning to weather in Moscow

Many inventions and new technologies don’t prove to be as beneficial as they seem.  An example is the chemical DDT.  DDT was first used to eradicate malaria for troops in WWII by killing mosquitos and lice.  It was extremely successful and was then used agriculturally all around the world when the war ended.  But a few years later, it was found to have seriously harmful effects.  It is known to cause cancer, birth defects,  and destroy soil.  Also, it is harmful through the food chain, which means everything in a DDT environment is hurt by it.

Thinking about how new technologies can have harmful effects made me think more about the idea of changing the weather, which has already begun in Moscow.  During the class I taught first quarter, we started by talking about this but we weren’t sure if what Moscow was doing would have any environmental impact, so I found an article that talked about how Moscow planned to change the weather.  Moscow’s plan is to make the clouds rain/snow by dumping chemicals on the clouds.  The chemicals and substances they will dump are iodic silver, frozen carbon dioxide, cement and liquid nitrogen.  These chemicals will make the clouds slightly heavier causing them to dump their rain or snow.  Moscow and the scientists that invented this technology claim that these chemicals are harmless because they are in such low quantities.  

In order to play down the harmful effect of their chemicals, they talk about the much more harmful car exhaust that people breath in everyday.  This is true, but the problem is that this technology is so new that we can’t be sure there aren’t any unknown side effects.  Just like DDT, this is a technology that seems without flaws, but there might be some kind of horrible side effect that we can’t even understand yet.  It’s the human attitude of complete control and confidence that can cause problems like this.  Lots of ideas are correct in theory but when they are put into real situations they fail.  Because the scientists in Moscow tested the chemicals to make sure they are not harmful, it is most likely that this technology will do no harm, but because it is a new technology that is not completely understood, there is that chance that it could have horrible side effects.  And if it does have horrible side effects, we could be in a lot of trouble.