Analiese’s Reading 3/31

Science and environmental edition: Bizarre caterpillars, space photography on the cheap, the evolution of human color vision, art and light from junk, the consolidation and corporatization of the organic food industry, oil still available at abandoned sites in the Amazon, Indian islands disappearing under rising water, Honda offers a new–and affordable–hybrid, greenwashing, photographing the melt, unique orcas doomed by the Exxon Valdez, an unusually large gathering of right whales, sweeping land and water conservation legislation passes, cleaning products creating superbugs, and studying the ties between particulate air pollution and heart disease.

Unique Shapes of Caterpillars

In general, caterpillars are elongated and tubular in shape but there are a few that have peculiar and bizarre shapes.

Here are some of the most uniquely shaped caterpillars. Pick your own choice which one on the list you think is the weirdest-looking of them all.

Impact Lab

Teens capture images of space with £56 camera and balloon

Proving that you don’t need Google’s billions or the BBC weather centre’s resources, the four Spanish students managed to send a camera-operated weather balloon into the stratosphere.


Color Vision: How Our Eyes Reflect Primate Evolution

To our eyes, the world is arrayed in a seemingly infinite splendor of hues, from the sunny orange of a marigold flower to the gunmetal gray of an automobile chassis, from the buoyant blue of a midwinter sky to the sparkling green of an emerald. It is remarkable, then, that for most human beings any color can be reproduced by mixing together just three fixed wavelengths of light at certain intensities. This property of human vision, called trichromacy, arises because the retina the layer of nerve cells in the eye that captures light and transmits visual information to the brain uses only three types of light-absorbing pigments for color vision. One consequence of trichromacy is that computer and television displays can mix red, green and blue pixels to generate what we perceive as a full spectrum of color.

Scientific American

Illuminating Reuse: 15 Recycled Lights and Lamps

Egg cartons, Legos, ballpoint pens, blenders and plastic spoons: these are just a few of the items that have been transformed into awesome light fixtures by creative DIYers. Why buy new when you could have a stunning chandelier or lamp that puts junk to good use? These 15 examples of brilliant eco-illumination show just how stylish and fun recycled materials can be.


Who Owns Organic Brands?

The Cornucopia Institute provides a link to Dr. Phil Howard’s webpage, which has all kinds of awesome graphics to illustrate concentration in the organic food sector. This one shows acquisitions by several major food corporations (sorry the images are small–there’s a link after each one that takes you to a bigger version, or you can easily see all of them at Dr. Howard’s website). For all but the third image, the color scheme is yellow = multinational processor, green = organic brand, blue = investment firms, and red = organic versions of mainstream brands.

Sociological Images

Amazon Defense Coalition: Chevron Lawyers Explode In Anger After More Oil Found at “Remediated” Sites In Ecuador Trial

After a frustrating week of setbacks in an environmental trial in Ecuador’s rainforest, two Chevron lawyers exploded in anger at representatives of the victims after a technical expert demonstrated for the third time in a week that oil was visible at a well site that the company claimed to have “remediated” a decade ago, said lawyers for the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against Chevron.

Yahoo! Finance

Islands Disappear in India

As islands in eastern India disappear under rising seas, residents are losing land, homes, and farms. (video)

National Geographic

New Honda Takes on the Prius

The road is about to get a little more crowded for the Toyota Prius. Starting Tuesday, the Honda Motor Company will offer American consumers what it bills as “the world’s first affordable hybrid.”

Costing just shy of $20,000, the Honda Insight promises to let drivers respond to both of the leading crises of our day: the environment and the recession.

New York Times

Calling ‘em Out: The World’s 10 Worst Greenwashers

As the green movement sweeps the globe, companies, trade groups and government organizations are eager to get a piece of the pie. ‘Green’ can definitely translate into big profits if you do it right – but all too often, these money-hungry entities choose to fudge the facts in an attempt to make themselves seem more environmentally friendly and responsible than they really are. That’s called greenwashing, folks, and here are 10 of the world’s worst offenders.


Photographing the Big Melt

For more than 30 years, photographer James Balog has been seeking new ways to visualize the natural world. His artistry has been featured in dozens of magazines, from National Geographic to The New Yorker. But his most recent project, the Extreme Ice Survey (EIS), has a scientific goal. It seeks to document an unprecedented melting of the world’s glaciers, a phenomenon that many scientists agree is proof of human-caused global warming. As director of the EIS, Balog considers himself a modern hunter-gatherer, collecting vital information to feed a public hungry for real evidence of climate change. In this audio slide show, let Balog whet your appetite in his own words.


Unique Killer-Whale Pod Doomed by Exxon Valdez

Most of Prince William Sound’s animal populations will someday recover from the lingering effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill. One, however, will not: a community of killer whales unlike any other in the world.

“It’s a separate population. Their genetics, their acoustics, are different from any other killer whales that we see in the North Pacific,” said Craig Matkin, director of the North Gulf Oceanic Society, who has studied the region’s whales for three decades.


Cape Cod sees rare large gathering of right whales

The number is about six times greater than last year and represents about 24 percent of the estimated 325 right whales left in the world, said officials at the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies, which is conducting aerial surveys of the whales, and the National Marine Fisheries Science Center.


Congress approves landmark conservation bill

The Democratic-led U.S. Congress gave final approval on Wednesday to sweeping land and water conservation legislation that environmental groups praised as one of the most significant in U.S. history.


Shampoo in the water supply triggers growth of deadly drug-resistant bugs

The warning has been made by Birmingham and Warwick university scientists, who say disinfectants and other products washed into sewers and rivers are triggering the growth of drug-resistant microbes. Soil samples from many areas have been found to contain high levels of bacteria with antibiotic-resistant genes, the scientists have discovered – raising fears that these may have already been picked up by humans.


How Air Pollution Causes Heart Disease

We are used to thinking of heart disease as a product of genetic factors or lifestyle choices, such as what we eat and how much we exercise. There is another road to heart disease: breathing.

Accumulating evidence indicates that an increase in particulate air pollution is associated with an increase in heart attacks and deaths. Research has begun in the relatively new field of environmental cardiology – a field that examines the relationship between air pollution and heart disease.


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