The Hidden Life of Trees

November 21, 2016 at 10:55 pm | Posted in Media, Nature, Science | 5 Comments
Tags: ,

My father was a forest scientist, professor, and conservationist with an expertise in tree disease. While I didn’t follow in his footsteps, I’ve maintained a love of the forest.

Forest science has evolved considerably in recent years in ways that many people are unaware of.

The Hidden Life of Trees is the best-selling book by forester Peter Wohlleben. Here, the author, Dr. Suzanne Simard, and Dr Teresa Smhayetsk talk about how trees support each other, including other species, but know friends and family.
(from a longer DVD Intelligent Trees)

(video taken down)

Dr. Suzanne Simard is a western Canadian forest scientist who explains in a TED talk how trees communicate. This includes an underground network for transporting signals and sharing nutrients.

On YouTube

And here the author Wohlleben is interviewed, also mentioning the “wood wide web” and wheat “talking” at about 220 Hz.

On YouTube

And if you’ve not seen it, The Man Who Planted Trees. An old favorite.

(video taken down – other channels have it)

The Great Bear Rainforest – Coastal Revival

May 3, 2016 at 9:41 pm | Posted in Nature, Science | 2 Comments
Tags: , , , , ,

The Great Bear Rainforest is a temperate rain forest along the NW coast of North America on the Pacific Ocean. It runs from the Discovery Islands (across from Campbell River*, BC) up to the Alaskan panhandle border. Much of it is mountainous and intersected by fiords. (a map)

First named by environmental groups, a large section became protected earlier this year (years after an agreement was reached) with other areas under some protection. Most old growth forest within is now protected.

A ban on the trophy hunting of bears was also negotiated, but a changed government brought the hunt back. Ironic they allow bear hunting in a place with this name.

A rather creative solution has been to buy area hunting rights and manage them as if they were being used for hunting. But instead, they’re used for eco-tourism – the bears are shot with cameras instead of guns. They even have to go through all the motions and procedures to behave like hunters: firearms handling, hunting licenses, and so forth. It’s rather ridiculous they have to go to such lengths to protect a single species of wildlife. The first videos below describe more.

The area is also highlighted due to an attempt to build an oil pipeline from the tar sands of Alberta to the coast, dramatically increasing tanker traffic on a stormy, complex coast. Many remember the Exxon Valdez spill in the area. But tar sands oil is worse and much harder to clean up.

It’s a remarkable area, rich with wildlife. But it’s also remote. The most likely way you’d see it is on a cruise ship to Alaska while it travels up the coast. The area includes the world’s largest population of Spirit bears, also called kermode. A series of short videos have been produced speaking about the area and some healthy approaches to sustaining it.

1 – Raincoast’s Fight

2 – Banning The Trophy Hunt

3 – The Spirit Bear (Kermode or white)

4 – Revival of the Humpback Whales

5 – The Marine Detective

* about a half hours drive north of me. I live on the more moderate and populated SW coast on sheltered waters.

Our Meaningful Universe

March 27, 2015 at 10:42 pm | Posted in Media, Nature, Science | 1 Comment

Modern evidence of natural “coincidences” that the Universe was designed for complex, intelligent life. The key mechanisms and properties that allow life as we know it.

Of course having a privilege doesn’t make you special, it gives you a responsibility to do something useful with the gifts you’ve been given. And to have fun.

The Gut Brain

February 15, 2015 at 5:37 pm | Posted in Health, Nature, Science | 4 Comments

Scientists have come to view the Enteric nervous system (ENS) of the gastrointestinal tract as something of a second brain, the “gut brain”. Unlike other arms of the nervous system, it is capable of local autonomous function, and thus it’s own decision-making ability. It is however much more limited in scope than our actual brain.

However, it can have a profound effect on our cognitive functions – something we have all experienced if we get over-hungry or indigestion.

More fascinating still though is that the gut system is not a simple chemical digestion factory but “more like a super-complex ecosystem containing trillions of bacteria and other microorganisms.” “such microbiota, specifically within the gut, can greatly influence many physiological parameters, including cognitive functions, such as learning, memory and decision making processes.

Here we review evidence on the ability of the gut microbiota to communicate with the brain and thus modulate behavior, and also elaborate on the ethological and cultural strategies of human and non-human primates to select, transfer and eliminate microorganisms…

While some bacteria we work to control, there are a number of kinds we live with which are vital to our well-being and ability to digest some foods. We have trillions of cells in the body but actually carry a lot more bacteria. Though invisible to the eye, there are so many that it’s suggested they add between 2 and 9 lb to our body weight.

On the cellular level, we are not “a person”, we are a vast community. Add in the microbes and we are an entire ecosystem of life, broadly working for mutual enrichment. Take a city the size of London. Now add in 500,000 more of them. The population under your skin is much larger.

Dolphin’s are Non-Human Persons

June 24, 2014 at 2:30 pm | Posted in Economoney, Media, Movies, Nature, Science | Leave a comment

An interesting article on news that India has declared dolphin’s to be non-human persons. They’re banning the “import, capture of cetacean species… for commercial entertainment, private or public exhibition and interaction purposes whatsoever.

Whereas cetaceans [marine mammals] in general are highly intelligent and sensitive, and various scientists who have researched dolphin behavior have suggested that the unusually high intelligence; as compared to other animals means that dolphins should be seen as ‘non-human persons’ and as such should have their own specific rights and is morally unacceptable to keep them captive for entertainment purpose…

This does not mean human rights but rather “Unlike… positive rights, such as the ‘right’ to education or health care, the animal right is, at bottom, a right to be left alone… It only requires us to stop killing them and making them suffer.

This comes out of a 2011 meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science gathering support for the 2010 Declaration of Rights for Cetaceans:

1. Every individual cetacean has the right to life.
2. No cetacean should be held in captivity or servitude; be subject to cruel treatment; or be removed from their natural environment.
3. All cetaceans have the right to freedom of movement and residence within their natural environment.
4. No cetacean is the property of any State, corporation, human group or individual.
5. Cetaceans have the right to the protection of their natural environment.
6. Cetaceans have the right not to be subject to the disruption of their cultures.
7. The rights, freedoms and norms set forth in this Declaration should be protected under international and domestic law.
8. Cetaceans are entitled to an international order in which these rights, freedoms and norms can be fully realized.
9. No State, corporation, human group or individual should engage in any activity that undermines these rights, freedoms and norms.
10. Nothing in this Declaration shall prevent a State from enacting stricter provisions for the protection of cetacean rights.

(the linked article is missing the last 3)

In my local community, Orcas have been removed from the local aquarium but they still have dolphins and belugas, so there is a move to ban all cetaceans from display for entertainment purposes. What makes it messy is they present as a “research aquarium” and consider that work critical. While I certainly agree marine research is very important, tying it to funding by using research subjects for public entertainment is highly questionable and an inherent conflict of interest.

Waterproof IMAX cameras are far less expensive and invasive to use in exposing us to marine life.

The article closes with this question: “Once we give rights to some animals how do we justify our continued exploitation of others?” Another recent local controversy is violent abuse of dairy cows. But as one article commented, the entire treatment of animals as a commodity on factory farms is abuse. Films like Food Inc. have spoken to this.

Wolves Change Geography

February 15, 2014 at 4:08 pm | Posted in Media, Nature, Science | Leave a comment

A short film about “trophic cascade“- the cascading consequences of changes in individual species populations – especially of top-of-the-pyramid predators.

After 70 years absence, wolves were reintroduced into Yellowstone National Park in the United States. They restored balance to grazing populations. This created a cascading effect that allowed the natural restoration of plant life, improvements in bear and rodent populations, and better river flows. Wolves changed the geography.

Our Blue Earth

April 11, 2013 at 8:57 pm | Posted in Media, Nature, Science | Leave a comment

Awhile back, I wrote about a TED talk that framed “Earth” as a dark ages term. That we lived on an ocean planet and there’s far more life in the water than on land. How land is a 2D flatland while the ocean is 3D.

It was a cool talk. Similar references have more actively suggested a name change for the planet. From space, we are indeed a blue planet. However, we’re still talking surface appearances. Under all that water is more earth. And there remains more earth than water. But that’s just the crust, like the skin of an apple. Even deeper is the mantle made of viscous rock. The earth’s crust is just the solidified surface of that. The mantle makes up 84% of the earth’s volume. Would it be a better representation?

And then there’s Lovelock’s Gaia theory that shows that organisms interact with their inorganic surroundings on Earth to form a self-regulating, complex system that contributes to maintaining the conditions for life on the planet. Our oxygen-rich atmosphere is one example. The name Gaia is Greek, from the goddess or personification of the earth as the mother of all.

Perhaps that’s the best idea of all. Gaia recognizes the earth as a whole interdependent system that supports life. A useful reminder for all of us.

Testing if we Live in a Computer Simulation

December 14, 2012 at 5:23 pm | Posted in Nature, Science, Strange | Leave a comment

British philosopher Nick Bostrom published a paper in 2003 that suggests the universe we live in might in fact be a computer simulation run by our descendants. (future offspring) Using logic, he determined that if we survive into becoming post-humans, that outcome is likely.

We’re a long way from such an ability today. Physicists at the University of Washington are proposing experiments that might test for it. If the universe is a simulation, there will be constraints created by the underlying structure that have “signatures”, such as a limitation in the energy of cosmic rays.

If you’ve studied eastern philosophy at all, you’ll be familiar with this general idea. One perspective suggests the world is Maya, commonly understood to mean illusion. Another perspective uses the term Lila, meaning the divine play. In this case, the simulation is not created by our descendants but by divine entities.

The UW article

Bruce Lipton and Tom Campbell

December 4, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Posted in Media, Nature, Science | 2 Comments

This summer, MBT Events toured physicist Tom Campbell around the west coast to speak with other cutting edge thinkers and recorded the conversations. In this chat, Dr. Campbell met with epigenetic biologist Bruce Lipton. It was the first time they’d met.

Tom talks a little about set theory and observes that many of the problems of modern science are due to thinking inside a subset. If we recognize consciousness as the superset, then we can derive all subjective experience as well as all physics as subsets of consciousness. As well as addressing many issues, it also makes things like paranormal normal.

“Part of our evolution now is beyond biology, in the evolution of community and networks and information. Does it grow love or does it grow fear? Does it increase separation or bring us together?”
Not typical observations you expect to hear from a scientist.

part 1

part 2

Ordered Water

December 4, 2012 at 1:04 pm | Posted in Media, Nature, Science | Leave a comment

You’re probably familiar with surface tension in water. However, the effect is much deeper than was previously thought. In this talk by Dr. Gerald Pollack, UW professor of bioengineering, he shows  that, when exposed to light (energy), a visible layer of water self-orders and becomes a liquid crystal. It gains a negative charge, becomes more stable and viscous, and it excludes solutes – things floating in the water.

This explains a number of natural phenomena he questions during the start of the talk; like photosynthesis, why water vapour gathers into clouds, and why life uses water so much. He suggests some applications, like a water purifier. He even touches on why water had become an unpopular science and the ball was dropped.

58 min

Next Page »

Blog at
Entries and comments feeds.