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Posts Tagged ‘National Geographic’

Orphan elephants

National Geographic has a wonderful piece on the the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust, the world’s most successful orphan elephant rescue and rehabilitation center:

“Spend enough time around elephants and it’s difficult not to anthropomorphize their behavior. “Elephants are very human animals,” says Sheldrick, sitting one afternoon on the back porch of her house at the edge of the nursery grounds, the wide, acacia-dotted plains of Nairobi National Park sprawling in the distance. “Their emotions are exactly the same as ours. They’ve lost their families, have seen their mothers slaughtered, and they come here filled with aggression—devastated, broken, and grieving. They suffer from nightmares and sleeplessness.”

What makes this particular moment in the fraught history of elephant-human relations so remarkable is that the long-accrued anecdotal evidence of the elephant’s extraordinary intelligence is being borne out by science. Studies show that structures in the elephant brain are strikingly similar to those in humans. MRI scans of an elephant’s brain suggest a large hippocampus, the component in the mammalian brain linked to memory and an important part of its limbic system, which is involved in processing emotions. The elephant brain has also been shown to possess an abundance of the specialized neurons known as spindle cells, which are thought to be associated with self-awareness, empathy, and social awareness in humans. Elephants have even passed the mirror test of self-recognition, something only humans, and some great apes and dolphins, had been known to do.”

Michael Nichol’s photographs are amazing.

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The latest issue of National Geographic has a stunning photo gallery of superclimbers at Yosemite.

There is also an article to go with them (the bold highlights are mine):

On a bright Saturday morning in September a young man is clinging to the face of Half Dome, a sheer 2,130-foot wall of granite in the heart of Yosemite Valley. He’s alone, so high off the ground that perhaps only the eagles take notice. Hanging on by his fingertips to an edge of rock as thin as a dime, shoes smeared on mere ripples in the rock, Eminem blasting on his iPod, Alex Honnold is attempting something no one has ever tried before: to climb the Regular Northwest Face route on Half Dome without a rope. He’s less than a hundred feet from the summit when something potentially disastrous occurs—he loses the smallest measure of confidence.

For two hours and 45 minutes Honnold has been in the zone, flawlessly performing hundreds of precise athletic moves one after another, and not once has he hesitated. In the sport of free soloing, which means climbing with only a powdery chalk bag and rock shoes—no rope, no gear, nothing to keep you stuck to the stone but your own belief and ability—doubt is dangerous. If Honnold’s fingertips can’t hold, or if he merely believes his fingertips can’t hold, he will fall to his death. Now, the spell suddenly broken by mental fatigue and the glass-slick slab in front of him, he’s paralyzed.

Read more at National Geographic

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National Geographic has launched a series of articles on the world’s population reaching seven billion this year. Some of the fascinating facts from the magazine :

“In 1975 only three cities worldwide topped ten million – today there are 21 such megacities.

Before the 20th century, no human had lived through a doubling of the human population, but there are people alive today who have seen it triple.

There are more than twice as many people on the planet today as there were in 1960.

The current population of the planet could fit into the state of Texas, if Texas were settled as densely as New York.”

– a 50-year anniversary:  The Tyranny of Defense Inc. in The Atlantic recalls President Dwight Eisenhower’s farewell address on January 17, 1961. He warned Americans of the dangerous rise of the “military-industrial complex”:

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. Any nation that pours its treasure into the purchase of armaments is spending more than mere money. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

To emphasize the point, Eisenhower offered specifics:

The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities … We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

– defence spending is not on the list compiled by Nobel Laureates of eight very small investments that will help the planet the most, number one being micronutrients;

– from The Social Animal in the The New Yorker:

I’ve come to think that happiness isn’t really produced by conscious accomplishments. Happiness is a measure of how thickly the unconscious parts of our minds are intertwined with other people and with activities. Happiness is determined by how much information and affection flows through us covertly every day and year.”

– New York makes me happy even though it is the most unequal city in the most unequal state in the most unequal developed country in the world.

Have a good weekend.

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National Geographic has a great new map of United States based on the distribution of common surnames which gives an idea of the country’s immigration waves.

I was particularly interested to learn that :

Many of these names came from Great Britain, reflecting the long head start the British had over many other settlers. The low diversity of names in parts of the British Isles also had an impact. Williams, for example, was a common name among Welsh immigrants—and is still among the top names in many American states.

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As I have written before the World Cup, which starts a week today, is my favourite sporting event because you truly feel like you are participating in a global phenomenon. This year’s event is even more special as it is the first to be hosted by Africa, and for what it means to South Africa.

This article in National Geographic describes the World Cup as a turning point :

“South Africa’s selection to host the 2010 World Cup gave people a surge of confidence. Their nation could now be remembered for bringing the world soccer rather than apartheid.”

However it was the stories of individuals still dealing with the legacies of apartheid which made me cry. In particular, a meeting between a former white supremacist Daniel Stephanus Coetzee  and one victim of his bombing, Olga Macingwane:

“The interview goes on for two hours. Finally, Olga Macingwane gets to her feet. Unusually, she is fighting with her emotions. She says, “Stefaans, when I see you, I see my sister’s son in you, and I cannot hate you.” She extends her arms. “Come here, boy,” she says in Xhosa. Coetzee walks into her embrace. “I forgive you,” Macingwane says softly. “I have heard what you said, and I forgive you.” “

There are other inspirational voices in the piece who make you optimistic that South Africa will be able to live up to  Nelson Mandela‘s vision of a rainbow nation. Marjorie Jobson, national director of the Khulumani Support Group, an organisation of 58,000 victims of political violence, mainly during the apartheid era, who says:

“I think they just wanted apartheid to go away and the government to fix everything. But that didn’t happen. It’s up to each individual South African to participate actively in restitution. You know, the power of one. The power one person has to perpetuate our violent past, or the power one person has to contribute to a just, peaceful society.”

Or Tshepo Madlingozi, who arranges the meeting between Coetzee and Macingwane. He says:

“Meeting Stefaans has reignited my faith in the future of South Africa.  My worldview is black consciousness, and that hasn’t changed as a result of knowing Stefaans. But it has made me appreciate that even the most ardent racists—even murderers—can change and be humble. Yes, Stefaans’s intelligence, humility, acute appreciation of the consequences of his actions and the system of apartheid, as well as his appreciation that reconciliation is not merely about showing goodwill, have greatly inspired me.”

As much as I want to see England win the World Cup, in this case I won’t mind if they don’t if the tournament is even half as successful as the 1995 Rugby World Cup when the sight of Mandela in a Springbok shirt united blacks and whites into one nation.

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