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All posts for the month May, 2011

Meet the fire ant that pulled a groovy break-dancing pose | Mail Online

Published May 16, 2011 by tweetingdonal

Is he listening to Adam Ant? Jungle insect shows amazing balance on one leg

By Daily Mail Reporter

Last updated at 8:11 AM on 13th May 2011

It’s like an audition for Insect’s Got Talent – marvel at the amazing photograph of a fire ant performing a break-dancing move.

Robertus Agung Sudiatmoko captured the pose when a trail of fire ants passed near him in the small village of Cibinong, Indonesia.

He took lots of incredible snaps, but the most spectacular was undoubtedly the dancing ant, which unexpectedly hoisted itself up onto one of its right-hand legs for a staggering 30 seconds.

Amazing dancing ant picture

Talent: It’s a safe bet that if this was an audition, this ant is through to the next round

In another of Robertus’ shots, one ant stands on top of a mini mountain, crossing his arms in prayer.

And just like the infamous biblical scene in which Moses receives the Ten Commandments from God, rays of light shoot from the sky, illuminating the tiny praying ant.

Another shows the animal’s super-human strength as it lifts a gigantic leaf – that measures more than 10 times its height – above its head, which is easily carried along on the ant’s journey.

Astonishingly, these pictures were Robertus’s very first attempt at close-up photography.

Robertus, who lives in Jakarta, said: ‘I only started doing macro shots in September, after saving up for the equipment – but I wanted to capture the best shots of the ant that I possibly could.

‘Then suddenly, when I least expected it, the ant just lifted itself on to its leg in a break dancing pose.

‘I’ve never ever break danced myself but instantly it reminded me of that.

‘I was really happy when I looked back through my shots to see the ant dancing as I was worried I had missed it.

‘For my first go it was a good shot – it will be hard to better that.’

Amazing praying ant photo

On a wing and a prayer: This ant seems to have found religion

He added: ‘I took the pictures when a group of us got together hunting for good macro photo opportunities.

‘I was really desperate to get a good first shot so stood out in a rain storm waiting for the ants to come back out once the sun reappeared.’

Robertus, 29, who captured the astonishing images on his trusty Canon 40D with a 100mm macro lens attached, added: ‘I like ants because they are so independent – living and working together.

‘Ants are just like humans in that they are very organised and all go to work.

‘In larger colonies the sterile ringless females form groups of workers, soldiers or other specialised groups just like us.

‘They are simply fascinating.’

Amazing leaf-carrying ant

Leaf it out: Ants can easily carry many times their own weight

Robertus has shown fire ants in their possible light, but rile them and you’d be very sorry. They possess a fearsome sting that victims have likened to being burnt by fire – hence their name.

What’s more, the fire ant uses its pincers to lock itself onto its prey so it can inflict the maximum number of stings.

Each fire ant nest normally contains several hundred thousand insects and sometimes multiple queens.

The U.S spends a staggering $5million a year combating fire ants and treating people they’ve stung.

American Idle – Compass

Published May 16, 2011 by tweetingdonal

Traffic cops were required for the opening of a new In-N-Out burger restaurant in Texas this week. The video is pretty incredible. Watching it prompted me to dig out an old column by Mr. Green, Sierra magazine’s answer man:

In drive-throughs or anyplace, idling is, to summon the old saying, the devil’s workshop. Every hour you idle, you waste up to 0.7 gallons of gas (depending on your engine type) going nowhere. So it pays to turn your engine off if you’re going to be still for more than 30 seconds.

In a given year, U.S. cars burn some 1.4 billion gallons of fuel just idling. Not to mention idling trucks, which waste another 1.5 billion gallons. Collectively, we emit about 58 million tons of carbon dioxide while we’re essentially doing nothing.

Taking the fast-food industry as an example, and taking into account that the average McDonald’s drive-through wait is 159 seconds, we can calculate that the company’s consumers burn some 7.25 million gallons of gas each year. The figure for the entire U.S. fast-food industry? Roughly 50 million gallons.

It’s safe to say the drivers in this video are waiting a tad more than 159 seconds for their burger and fries.

(video via consumerist.)

— Brian Foley

US$200,000,000 a year just to wait in line for tacos/fried chicken/burgers? Someone tell the Conservatives we’ve got a place for them to start cutting. While they’re at it, how about the US $12 BILLION each YEAR we spend sitting in traffic jams?

Now that’s a justification for mass transit if I’ve ever seen one!

Dalhousie biologists interpret the language of sperm whales

Published May 16, 2011 by tweetingdonal

Whales have accents and regional dialects

When they dive together, sperm whales make patterns of clicks to each other known as “codas”. Recent findings suggest that, not only do different codas mean different things, but that whales can also tell which member of their community is speaking based on the sound properties of the codas. Just as we can tell our friends apart by the sounds of their voices and the way they pronounce their words, different sperm whales make the same pattern of clicks, but with different accents.

Caribbean and Pacific whales have different repertoires of codas, like a regional dialect, but the “Five Regular” call—a pattern of five evenly spaced clicks— is thought to have the universal function of individual identity because it is used by sperm whales worldwide.

These discoveries were recently published in the journal Animal Behaviour, in an article authored by University of St. Andrews PhD student Ricardo Antunes, Dal alumnus Tyler Schulz, Mr. Gero, Dal professor Dr. Hal Whitehead, and St. Andrews faculty members Dr. Jonathan Gordon and Dr. Luke Rendell.

Mr. Gero and Dr. Whitehead explain that the sperm whale’s biggest threat is human pollution. Not only do humans introduce toxins into the ocean, but they also generate harmful sound pollution. Increased shipping traffic, underwater explosions caused by searching for oil, and military sonar all contribute to ocean noise that masks communication between whales. “No one wants to live in a rock concert,” says Mr. Gero, adding that noise pollution is especially troublesome in the ocean because “it is a totally different sensory world.” The sperm whales can dive to depths of over 1000 metres and depend on sound for communication and navigation in the pitch black of the deep water.

The Dominica Sperm Whale Project hopes to understand more about sperm whale society because, as Mr. Gero says, “it is infuriating that we know more about the moon than the oceans.” He hopes to communicate a better understanding of life in the oceans to people by using these beautiful whales as examples, and by placing an emphasis on “how similar their lives actually are to ours.”

The whales live in matriarchal social units composed of mothers, daughters, and grandmothers. Once males reach adolescence, they are ostracized from the group and travel towards the poles until they are ready to breed. Consequently, little is known about the males, but the roles of females in relation to their young have been studied extensively by Mr. Gero and Dr. Whitehead. Female whales will baby-sit each other’s offspring while mothers are diving, forming a strong community that revolves around the upbringing of calves. “They are nomadic,” explains Dr. Whitehead, “so the most important things in their lives are each other.”

Dr. Whitehead enjoys researching sperm whales because of their “fascinating and complex social lives.” He hopes the Dominica Sperm Whale Project will be able to trace how whale communities change through time.

Part of Mr. Gero’s PhD includes studying how calves acquire their dialect. Baby sperm whales babble at first, and Mr. Gero is interested in discovering how the babies’ diversity of calls gets narrowed down to the family repertoire.

“One of the most exciting parts [of returning to Dominica] is to go down and see who’s around,” says Mr. Gero, admitting that he has “become attached to the individual whales.” For the first time, sperm whales can be studied as individuals within families, with such lovable nicknames as “Pinchy” and “Fingers”. The family that includes these two whales is recognized as “the best studied social unit of sperm whales in the world.”

Mr. Gero would like to continue working with the same groups of whales because a long-term project will offer a better understanding of their social developments. He “feels a responsibility to speak on [the whales’] behalf” and hopes to move toward conservation, while still remaining in the field of biology.

###

Incredible!

Why Mississippi floods were expected : Nature News

Published May 16, 2011 by tweetingdonal

Published online 13 May 2011 |Nature | doi:10.1038/news.2011.289

News: Explainer

Why Mississippi floods were expected

A combination of bad weather, ocean conditions and land development conspired to produce high waters.

Richard A. Lovett

floodsFloodwater engulfs a farm after the Army Corps of Engineers blew a massive hole in a levee at the confluence of the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers near Wyatt, Missouri, to divert water from the town of Cairo, Illinois.Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images

Last year, it was Pakistan and Russia. This spring, all talk of disasters attributable to freak weather conditions turns eyes to the United States.

First, it was snowfalls that never seemed to end. After that came tornadoes. Now, a massive slug of water is working its way down the Mississippi River, forcing the US Army Corps of Engineers to deliberately flood farmland to spare riverside towns such as Cairo in Illinois, and threatening near-record water levels all the way to New Orleans. Nature looks at the underlying causes of these extreme events, and how the surge might have been predicted.

Why did it happen?

The simple answer is because it rained. A lot. Parts of the US Midwest reported rainfalls up to four times the norm in April. And that came on top of a winter that saw some regions receiving unusually high snowfalls.

But that’s only part of the answer. For decades, people have been building shopping malls and parking lots that cause water to flow quickly into rivers, rather than soak into the ground. They’ve built levees that constrict the flow of rivers, forcing water to travel downstream faster. In places, this has been referred to as a ‘levee war’, whereby one town’s levees funnels water downstream to become the next town’s crisis.

“People don’t realize how dramatically humans have altered many of these river systems,” says Len Shabman, an economist at Resources for the Future, a think tank in Washington DC.

But the much-publicized diversion of water into Missouri farmlands to spare Cairo was actually a success, Shabman adds. “That was always part of the plan,” he says. The federal government long ago purchased easements — the right to flood the land — from the farmers who own it, precisely for this purpose. “The farmers may not have remembered they had an easement,” Shabman says. “But they were there.”

Has anything like this happened before in the United States?

Yes. The greatest flood of the twentieth century occurred in 1927, but there were also large floods in 1937, 1973, 1993 and 2008, although only the 1927 flood compared to this year’s.

“This is the blessing and curse of farmers in the American Midwest,” says Bill Patzert, a climatologist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. “They’re blessed with rich farmland and the rivers that irrigate it. The downside is that sometimes they overflow.”

Could this have been predicted?

Of course. Large snowfalls and heavy spring rains are a classic formula for flooding. All of the water has to go somewhere.

“By January or February, everybody should have known we were going to have May floods,” Patzert says. “To be shocked and awed by these kinds of events is disingenuous. It means you haven’t read your history.”

But that’s only after the snow and rains hit. Forecasting the weather patterns that produced them is still a science of the future.

It may not be so very far away, however. Even before the storms hit, a research group led by Upmanu Lall at Columbia University in New York had been trying to correlate a century’s worth of floods in the Midwest to continent-wide weather patterns.

What they found, Lall says, is a surprisingly consistent pattern whereby a pair of high-pressure systems — one over western Texas and another off the US Atlantic coast — conspire to force moisture inland from the Gulf of Mexico “like a funnel”.

It is possible, he adds, that these persistent high-pressure zones may be produced by two well-known oceanographic patterns: La Nina and El Nino in the Pacific Ocean (which mark alterations in warmer and cooler conditions between that ocean’s eastern and western equatorial waters) and the North Atlantic Oscillation (which results from weather patterns between Iceland and the Azores).

If so, he says, it may someday be possible to predict weather patterns likely to produce flooding in the Midwest, perhaps 30–90 days in advance.

So why were people taken by surprise?

Partly because conditions have changed since 1927. The population has soared and urban development has encroached onto many areas that were once farmland. There are simply a lot more people, and a lot more infrastructure, in harm’s way.

Nicholas Pinter, a geologist at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, who works on flood hydrology, has a word for this: “hydro-amnesia”. It causes people to build in places that were flooded a generation ago and will be flooded again a generation hence.

“In 1927, everyone had a boat,” Patzert adds. “They knew it was coming. One thing I noticed about this particular flood was that all these people living in harm’s way didn’t have boats in their backyards.”

Did global warming play a part?

Maybe, but not a big one. In Northern Europe, Pinter says, it’s clear that global warming is producing bigger floods. But in the Midwestern United States, the impact is less clear.

Not that this lets us off the hook. A much bigger factor is the degree to which we have altered the rivers. “The river dynamics in no way resembles what it did 200 years ago,” Pinter says.

In The Netherlands, Shabman adds, there is an official policy of leaving room for rivers. “In the US, we’ve done the opposite,” he says. “Then we’re horrified when the inevitable occurs.” 

Well balanced reporting. I grew up on the banks of the Mississippi. Everyone knew there was gonna be a flood this year, it was just hard to gauge how big it was gonna be. We all knew it wasn’t going to be small.

City of Bryan Installs Cooper Lighting LED Streetlights to Reduce Energy Costs and Increase Light Quality on Environmental Expert

Published May 15, 2011 by tweetingdonal

YAY! Hooray! OOOOORAH! Energy efficient AND Dark Sky compliant!!!! YESSSS!

PEACHTREE CITY, Ga., May 13, 2011 /PR Newswire/ — When an engineering study of the city of Bryan, Ohio, indicated that there was a need—and opportunity—for more energy-efficient street lighting, city officials began to research the best alternative to meet the city’s needs. After an extensive evaluation process, the city chose two LED luminaires from Cooper Lighting, a division of Cooper Industries plc (NYSE: CBE), to replace its 150-watt high-pressure sodium (HPS) street lighting fixtures. Expecting to see a savings of 25 to 30 percent in energy costs by installing Cooper’s Streetworks™ OVH LED Cobraheads (80W) and CLB Generation LED Decorative Post Top Luminaires (70W), officials are achieving an actual energy savings of 30 to 35 percent, and meeting the city’s sustainability goals.


Bryan Municipal Utilities applied for and was awarded a $540,000 matching grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) to install approximately 1,400 energy-efficient streetlights. With the goal of choosing light fixtures that would provide the same light coverage at a lower wattage and with a quality light color, officials organized a selection process in which four manufacturers participated. Engineers metered and captured various luminaires’ actual energy usage and solicited feedback from the community. Community members preferred the warm white light (4000K correlated color temperature) that Cooper Lighting’s LED fixtures provided, and after a complete evaluation, Bryan officials made the selection to install 329 Cooper Lighting luminaires in their streets.

‘Bryan Municipal Utilities has provided street lighting for the community for more than a century. The municipal electric plant first illuminated the streets at night with 63 arc lights powered by DC current in 1897. The transition to LED streetlights comes from a long history of lighting Bryan‘s streets with the best fixtures of the time,’ says Steve Casebere, Director of Utilities. ‘Many of our existing streetlights were Cooper Lighting fixtures and we believe that Cooper is an industry leader in testing and warranties of LEDs, so we were confident that we could rely on the company to provide superior luminaires to meet our goals in lighting and energy savings.’

The Streetworks OVH LED Cobraheads are designed to provide superior optical performance and outstanding versatility for area and roadway applications. Cooper’s patent pending modular LightBAR™ technology delivers uniform illumination to walkways, parking lots, and roadways, and offers energy savings from 30-75% over standard H.I.D. sources found in most of these applications today. The CLB LED Generation Series was designed to bridge the gap between aesthetic ambiance and modern lighting performance. The decorative post top series offers modular fixture design flexibility to achieve hundreds of different looks and styles in both traditional and contemporary forms. The fixture’s optical performance provides even and uniform illumination and when paired with available control options, the Generation Series can reduce energy consumption by as much as 75 percent.

‘As an electric power utility, we wanted to reduce our carbon footprint and light pollution. Cooper’s LED products helped us achieve those goals as the products are Dark Sky compliant and use less energy,’ continued Casebere. ‘Ultimately, this helped us deliver on our business goal of keeping energy rates low since using less power means we purchase less power.  Most importantly, we are able to keep customer rates stable.’

Cooper Lighting offers a range of indoor and outdoor LED lighting products and corresponding accessories, all of which are specifically designed to maximize energy and cost savings.  For additional information, visit www.cooperlighting.com/led.

Now here’s the smart way to cut City Budgets!

City of Bryan Installs Cooper Lighting LED Streetlights to Reduce Energy Costs and Increase Light Quality on Environmental Expert

Published May 15, 2011 by tweetingdonal

YAY! Hooray! OOOOORAH! Energy efficient AND Dark Sky compliant!!!! YESSSS!

PEACHTREE CITY, Ga., May 13, 2011 /PR Newswire/ — When an engineering study of the city of Bryan, Ohio, indicated that there was a need—and opportunity—for more energy-efficient street lighting, city officials began to research the best alternative to meet the city’s needs. After an extensive evaluation process, the city chose two LED luminaires from Cooper Lighting, a division of Cooper Industries plc (NYSE: CBE), to replace its 150-watt high-pressure sodium (HPS) street lighting fixtures. Expecting to see a savings of 25 to 30 percent in energy costs by installing Cooper’s Streetworks™ OVH LED Cobraheads (80W) and CLB Generation LED Decorative Post Top Luminaires (70W), officials are achieving an actual energy savings of 30 to 35 percent, and meeting the city’s sustainability goals.


Bryan Municipal Utilities applied for and was awarded a $540,000 matching grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) to install approximately 1,400 energy-efficient streetlights. With the goal of choosing light fixtures that would provide the same light coverage at a lower wattage and with a quality light color, officials organized a selection process in which four manufacturers participated. Engineers metered and captured various luminaires’ actual energy usage and solicited feedback from the community. Community members preferred the warm white light (4000K correlated color temperature) that Cooper Lighting’s LED fixtures provided, and after a complete evaluation, Bryan officials made the selection to install 329 Cooper Lighting luminaires in their streets.

‘Bryan Municipal Utilities has provided street lighting for the community for more than a century. The municipal electric plant first illuminated the streets at night with 63 arc lights powered by DC current in 1897. The transition to LED streetlights comes from a long history of lighting Bryan‘s streets with the best fixtures of the time,’ says Steve Casebere, Director of Utilities. ‘Many of our existing streetlights were Cooper Lighting fixtures and we believe that Cooper is an industry leader in testing and warranties of LEDs, so we were confident that we could rely on the company to provide superior luminaires to meet our goals in lighting and energy savings.’

The Streetworks OVH LED Cobraheads are designed to provide superior optical performance and outstanding versatility for area and roadway applications. Cooper’s patent pending modular LightBAR™ technology delivers uniform illumination to walkways, parking lots, and roadways, and offers energy savings from 30-75% over standard H.I.D. sources found in most of these applications today. The CLB LED Generation Series was designed to bridge the gap between aesthetic ambiance and modern lighting performance. The decorative post top series offers modular fixture design flexibility to achieve hundreds of different looks and styles in both traditional and contemporary forms. The fixture’s optical performance provides even and uniform illumination and when paired with available control options, the Generation Series can reduce energy consumption by as much as 75 percent.

‘As an electric power utility, we wanted to reduce our carbon footprint and light pollution. Cooper’s LED products helped us achieve those goals as the products are Dark Sky compliant and use less energy,’ continued Casebere. ‘Ultimately, this helped us deliver on our business goal of keeping energy rates low since using less power means we purchase less power.  Most importantly, we are able to keep customer rates stable.’

Cooper Lighting offers a range of indoor and outdoor LED lighting products and corresponding accessories, all of which are specifically designed to maximize energy and cost savings.  For additional information, visit www.cooperlighting.com/led.

Now here’s the smart way to cut City Budgets!

City of Bryan Installs Cooper Lighting LED Streetlights to Reduce Energy Costs and Increase Light Quality on Environmental Expert

Published May 15, 2011 by tweetingdonal

YAY! Hooray! OOOOORAH! Energy efficient AND Dark Sky compliant!!!! YESSSS!

PEACHTREE CITY, Ga., May 13, 2011 /PR Newswire/ — When an engineering study of the city of Bryan, Ohio, indicated that there was a need—and opportunity—for more energy-efficient street lighting, city officials began to research the best alternative to meet the city’s needs. After an extensive evaluation process, the city chose two LED luminaires from Cooper Lighting, a division of Cooper Industries plc (NYSE: CBE), to replace its 150-watt high-pressure sodium (HPS) street lighting fixtures. Expecting to see a savings of 25 to 30 percent in energy costs by installing Cooper’s Streetworks™ OVH LED Cobraheads (80W) and CLB Generation LED Decorative Post Top Luminaires (70W), officials are achieving an actual energy savings of 30 to 35 percent, and meeting the city’s sustainability goals.


Bryan Municipal Utilities applied for and was awarded a $540,000 matching grant through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) to install approximately 1,400 energy-efficient streetlights. With the goal of choosing light fixtures that would provide the same light coverage at a lower wattage and with a quality light color, officials organized a selection process in which four manufacturers participated. Engineers metered and captured various luminaires’ actual energy usage and solicited feedback from the community. Community members preferred the warm white light (4000K correlated color temperature) that Cooper Lighting’s LED fixtures provided, and after a complete evaluation, Bryan officials made the selection to install 329 Cooper Lighting luminaires in their streets.

‘Bryan Municipal Utilities has provided street lighting for the community for more than a century. The municipal electric plant first illuminated the streets at night with 63 arc lights powered by DC current in 1897. The transition to LED streetlights comes from a long history of lighting Bryan‘s streets with the best fixtures of the time,’ says Steve Casebere, Director of Utilities. ‘Many of our existing streetlights were Cooper Lighting fixtures and we believe that Cooper is an industry leader in testing and warranties of LEDs, so we were confident that we could rely on the company to provide superior luminaires to meet our goals in lighting and energy savings.’

The Streetworks OVH LED Cobraheads are designed to provide superior optical performance and outstanding versatility for area and roadway applications. Cooper’s patent pending modular LightBAR™ technology delivers uniform illumination to walkways, parking lots, and roadways, and offers energy savings from 30-75% over standard H.I.D. sources found in most of these applications today. The CLB LED Generation Series was designed to bridge the gap between aesthetic ambiance and modern lighting performance. The decorative post top series offers modular fixture design flexibility to achieve hundreds of different looks and styles in both traditional and contemporary forms. The fixture’s optical performance provides even and uniform illumination and when paired with available control options, the Generation Series can reduce energy consumption by as much as 75 percent.

‘As an electric power utility, we wanted to reduce our carbon footprint and light pollution. Cooper’s LED products helped us achieve those goals as the products are Dark Sky compliant and use less energy,’ continued Casebere. ‘Ultimately, this helped us deliver on our business goal of keeping energy rates low since using less power means we purchase less power.  Most importantly, we are able to keep customer rates stable.’

Cooper Lighting offers a range of indoor and outdoor LED lighting products and corresponding accessories, all of which are specifically designed to maximize energy and cost savings.  For additional information, visit www.cooperlighting.com/led.

Now here’s the smart way to cut City Budgets!