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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Dogs Bust a Grumpy Facing North

    Dogs do some weird and amazing things, but one habit researchers have discovered is that dogs, who can sense the Earth's magnetic field, prefer to poop while aligned with the north-south axis of the Earth's magnetic field. 
     That's the conclusion of an exhaustive study conducted by a team of German and Czech researchers led by a zoologist from Germany’s University of Duisburg-Essen. The team spent two years watching 70 dogs while they defecated and urinated thousands of times then compared the dogs' behavior and orientation with the geomagnetic conditions prevailing at the time. 
     But they do it only when the magnetic field is calm. Magnetoreception (also Magnetoception) is a sense which allows an organism to detect a magnetic field to perceive direction, altitude or location. A lot of animals have it and use it for navigation. It is present in bacteria, arthropods, molluscs and members of some vertebrates, but not humans although there is a chemical in the eye which could serve this function. 
     It is believed that red foxes use magnetoreception when hunting small rodents. When foxes perform their high-jumps onto small prey like mice and voles, they tend to jump in a north-eastern direction with successful attacks most generally facing north. 
     Resting and grazing cattle, as well as some deer, tend to align their body axes in the geomagnetic north-south direction. Body orientation on observed animals was random on pastures under or near power lines which apparently disturbs their inner compass. 
     That's why the scientists conducted their dog poop study; they were investigating magnetoreception in mammals. It's not clear what else dogs might use their magnetic sense for. 
     They studied 70 dogs from different breeds as they (they dogs) relieved themselves. At first there was no clear pattern of dogs preferring any particular orientation, but when they (the researchers) took into account the natural variations of Earth’s magnetic field and factors like the time of the day, the position of the sun, and wind direction, the secret was revealed. Dogs prefer alignment along the magnetic north-south axis, but only in periods of calm magnetic field conditions. 
     I guess this information could be of practical value to people lost in the woods with their dog. Instead of finding north by looking for moss on the north side of a tree, just watch your dog. 
     The idea that moss grows on the north side of trees is an old one and makes some sense. The north side gets less sunlight so it tends to be cooler, damper and have more shade which are good conditions for moss. But, as for it growing on the north side of trees, it depends on where you live. If you live in the southern hemisphere, it tends to grow on the south side. Even then, it's not always so simple because lots of things can create the shady conditions that moss prefers. 
     The most reliable method of knowing which way is north is to use a compass. But then which north? Magnetic or true? What if you're using a compass in the Southern Hemisphere?

Poodwaddle and Mother Nature Network - Two Must Visit Sites

     Poodwaddle is an entertaining site to visit that's filled with esoteric stats. It's the home of the World Clock, Life Clock, and many more time related apps and articles. I took the How Long Will You Live Test and hope it's right! My health and lifestyle indicate that should live to 92.1 years. People living in my region average 78.2 years. Here is a scary fact: if I lived in one of the African nations I only have a little over three years left. According to the "test" my age is equivalent to a younger person, called the "real" age, meaning that my health and other issues indicate my age is equal to a person about 6 years younger. If you take the test it is helpful to know your blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar levels. 
    Mother Nature Network has Earth matters, health, lifestyle, technical stuff, money, food and drink, home, family, a ton of stuff to keep you informed and entertained.  For example, did you know a dog's nose has about 220 million scent receptors (compared to our 5 million), so they can detect some odors in parts per trillion, and countless subtleties in scents which enables them to sniff out certain diseases?

Monday, June 27, 2016

Cool Weather Sites

     Every day over a billion people worldwide rely on AccuWeather with global headquarters in State College, Pennsylvania. AccuWeather provides hourly and even minute by minute forecasts for any longitude/latitude on Earth with customized content and video presentations available on smart phones, tablets, free wired and mobile Internet sites, connected TVs, and Internet appliances, as well as via radio, television, and newspapers.
     Below is a radar view of my area from about 8:30pm last night:

     That red cluster in the middle was accompanied by a severe thunderstorm warning and Doppler radar showed it heading straight for us. The following showed when it would arrive: 
     Fortunately this cluster weakened before it reached my location and we ended up with only light rains showers. 
     Another interesting site is Webcam Galore which gives you access to webcams from all around the world.
     Here is a webcam view at 8:45pm during the thunderstorm as it was occurring in a city about 70 miles away.
     If you have any interest in weather then these two sites are invaluable. 

How to Predict the Weather using Clouds - Clouds are one of the most reliable predictors of weather. There are 10 types of clouds that you should be able to recognize, but if you get their names confused, just remember that the higher the clouds, the better the weather will be.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

The Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

     ...aka warts are benign (not cancerous) skin growths that appear when a virus, there are over 150 of them, infects the top layer of the skin. You are more likely to get one of these viruses if you cut or damage your skin in some way and did you know wart viruses are contagious? Warts can spread by contact with the wart or something that touched the wart. 
     Warts come in a variety of colors ( they are usually skin-colored, but can be brown or gray-black), shapes and sizes. Body warts, hand warts, foot warts, finger warts, internal genital warts, external genital warts, anal warts. You can get warts anywhere and once you have the wart virus, you can never get rid of it; it lives in your DNA. All you can do is treat them. 
     You've got your plantar warts on the soles of the feet which usually appear as flesh-colored or light brown lumps that are flecked with small clotted blood vessels that appear as tiny black dots. These boogers are highly painful! 
     Then there are the nasty genital warts which can appear in the pubic area, on the genitals, in or around the anus, and/or in the vagina. They look like small flesh-colored, pink, or red growths...similar to the small parts of a cauliflower or they may be very tiny and difficult to see. They often appear in clusters of three or four, and may grow and spread rapidly. They usually are not painful, although they may cause mild pain, bleeding, and itching. 
     The genital wart variety is specific to the genital area and can't spread to other parts of the body. The genital wart virus can lie dormant in your system for years before it is triggered by stress, immune system deficiencies, smoking, excessive alcohol consumption, life style changes and more. In fact, many people are unaware of the fact that they have HPV. Many men may have outbreaks on their penis and be unaware of them because they can be very small and hidden. Women may have internal genital warts, which may cause cervical cancer, and be unaware of them. Only 10 percent of genital warts are visible. HPV infection is the most common sexually transmitted disease in North America and certain forms of the virus can cause cervical cancer. These warts should be seen by a doctor! 
     There is the flat wart which is more common in teens and children than in adults. These warts are smoother, flatter, and smaller than other warts and they generally occur on the face, but can also can appear on the legs, especially among females. 
     Usually  basic wart is harmless and can disappear without treatment, but if you have one you probably won't want to wait for that to happen because they are aggravating and...ugly!
     They can be treated, but most methods require multiple treatments. Treatments, beside over the counter medications, may include:

Freezing using liquid nitrogen. A blister forms around the wart and the dead tissue falls off within about a week. 
Cantharidin is an extract of a blister beetle and applied to the skin, forms a blister around the wart which lifts the wart off the skin so the doctor can remove the dead portion. Other medications may be injected into a wart to kill the virus. 
Surgery is sometimes used to cut away the wart. The base of the wart is then destroyed using an electric needle or by deep freezing. Also, sometimes lasers are used to burn and destroy wart tissue. 

     If you have a wart be aware that it can spread. To prevent spreading don't pick at it! Also, try and your keep hands as dry as possible because warts like moist environments. You should never brush, comb, or shave areas where warts are present as this can cause the virus to spread. Wash hands thoroughly after touching any warts. 
     Here's a fact for you. There is something called Canine Oral Papilloma Virus...dog warts, meaning dogs get them in their mouth. While they are usually not something to worry about because they usually stop growing and disappear on their own between 1 and 5 months.
     They usually appear in the mouth, but can also appear on the nose, eyes or occasionally to other parts of the body. They are only dangerous if they begin to appear in the dog's throat. If a dog gets these warts it means it has a weakened immune system, so puppies. older dogs and dogs that are being treated with immunosuppressive medications like steroids are likely candidates. The virus is spread by direct contact with other dogs, toys and even humans if they have been in contact with a dog that carries the virus. 
     But enough of dog warts.  For anybody that has a routine wart (often called a seed wart)...on the hand or finger, for example, here is a little secret to getting rid of them that actually works. Don't try it on plantar or genital warts...see a doctor! 
     Use apple cider vinegar. Do the following every night before going to bed. 

1) wash the part of your body that has warts 
2) soak a cotton ball with vinegar 
3) place the cotton ball on the wart. Note avoid soaking the area of skin surrounding the wart because it can cause a chemical burn to the healthy tissue. For that reason, it may be necessary to use only a portion of the cotton ball. 
4) place a bandage over the cotton balls to keep it in place. 
5) Repeat this process until you start to see that your warts are turning black. 
6) Even after the wart falls off continue treatment for a few days to ensure that the virus will not come back. This process may take a week or so, but it does work and it works better that a lot of commercial products.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Light Pollution

     From CNET...for a third of humanity, it's obscured by fog of light, caused by the artificial illumination used at night in towns and cities. And for Americans, it's even worse: Around 80 percent of the country can't see the Milky Way at night. "We've got whole generations of people in the United States who have never seen the Milky Way," said Chris Elvidge, a scientist with NOAA's National Centers for Environmental, who co-authored an update of a global atlas of light published in the journal Science Advances. "It's a big part of our connection to the cosmos -- and it's been lost." They discovered that it's most prevalent in Singapore, Italy and South Korea, while Canada and Australia are the darkest (although it's worth noting that most of Australia's population is concentrated around its edges). You can play with an interactive map to find out how heavily your home is light polluted HERE.
     Less than 100 years ago everyone could look up and see the Milky Way, but now increased and widespread use of artificial light is impairing our view of the sky, adversely affecting the environment, causing safety issues and affecting energy consumption and even health. The inappropriate or excessive use of artificial light can have serious environmental consequences for humans, wildlife, and the climate. Types of pollution:

Glare – excessive brightness that causes visual discomfort 
Skyglow – brightening of the night sky over inhabited areas Light trespass – light falling where it is not intended or needed 
Clutter – bright, confusing and excessive groupings of light sources 

   Light pollution is a side effect of our civilization. Sources include building, both exterior and interior lighting, advertising, commercial properties, offices, factories, streetlights, and illuminated sporting venues. Much outdoor night lighting is inefficient, too bright, poorly targeted, improperly shielded and, in many cases, unnecessary. Both the light and the electricity is wasted by spilling it into the sky, rather than focusing it on what is intended to be illuminated. Artificial lights overpower the darkness causing cities glow at night which disrupts the natural day-night pattern and shifting the balance of the environment. 
     The negative effects of the loss is very real. It leads to:

Increased energy consumption
Disrupting the ecosystem and wildlife
Harms human health
It has an effect crime and safety

    There is evidence that artificial light can alter physiology, including hormonal balance, as well as behavior, orientation, organism fitness, food web interactions, and biotope connectivity. The artificial disturbance of the natural day/night cycle may, as a result, have serious psycho-physiological and even medical consequences for humans, along with ecological and evolutionary implications for animals, plants, and even entire terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems.
    Street lighting has been blamed for up to 50 percent of the urban sky glow due to 95 percent of the light directed down toward the pavement being reflected upward at reflectance rates ranging from 6 percent for asphalt to 25 percent for concrete. Urban sky glow has been reported to be increasing around 30 percent annually in some American cities
     Long-term exposure to artificial lights can prevent trees from adjusting to seasonal changes, which has an impact on wildlife that depend on trees for food or shelter.  Artificial lights also have a devastating impact on birds. There are over 200 bird species that follow nocturnal migratory patterns across North America, but the sky is lined with communication towers and skyscrapers. Lights confuse the birds and cause them to crash into buildings. Seriously! It's estimated that the New York City skyline kills 10,000 birds per year and one billion die from collisions across North America alone. 
     Even turtles are impacted by artificial lights. Some sea turtle hatchlings born at night follow the moon’s reflection on the water to find the ocean, but now big cities along coastlines confuse them and they head inland by mistake. 
     How bad is light pollution, really? Los Angeles experienced a full blackout in 1994 and people reported a strange, silvery cloud over the city; they were seeing the Milky Way for the first time. 

5 Appalling Facts about Light Pollution

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Earth's Amazing Oceans

The Ocean is DEEP! This graphic can be seen HERE and it's impressive. 

Oceans and sharks
15 Fun and Surprising Facts about the Earth’s Oceans 
Ocean Facts - 26 slides
Interesting Ocean Facts 
The Earth's Amazing Oceans
National Ocean Service

What is the highest point on Earth as measured from Earth's center? Mount Everest is usually said to be the highest mountain on Earth, 29,029 feet at its summit, but that is the highest point above global mean sea level. The summit of Mt. Everest is not the farthest point from Earth’s center; it is the peak of Ecuador’s Mount Chimborazo, located just one degree south of the Equator where Earth’s bulge is greatest. Mauna Kea, a volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii originates deep beneath the Pacific Ocean and rises more than 33,500 feet from base to peak making it the highest mountain on earth. See article.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Does Lightning Kill Fish?

     That's "lightning," not "lightening." Lightning is an abrupt electric discharge from cloud to cloud or from cloud to earth accompanied by the emission of light, while lightening is the process of making something lighter, or medically speaking, it refers to the sensation that a pregnant woman feels when the baby drops. 
     While lightning is one of the most beautiful displays in nature, it's also one of the most deadly natural phenomena known to man. Lightning is a sudden electrostatic discharge during an electrical storm between electrically charged regions of a cloud (called intra-cloud lightning), between that cloud and another cloud, or between a cloud and the ground. 

     All thunderstorms produce lightning and are very dangerous. If you hear the sound of thunder, then you are in danger from lightning. Lightning kills and injures more people each year than hurricanes or tornadoes; between 75 to 100 people. 
     Lightning is an electric current. Within a thundercloud many small bits of ice (frozen raindrops) bump into each other as they move around in the air. All of those collisions create an electric charge. After a while, the whole cloud fills up with electrical charges. The positive charges or protons form at the top of the cloud and the negative charges or electrons form at the bottom of the cloud. Since opposites attract, that causes a positive charge to build up on the ground beneath the cloud. The ground's electrical charge concentrates around anything that sticks up, such as mountains, people, or single trees. The charge coming up from these points eventually connects with a charge reaching down from the clouds and lightning strikes! For complete details on lightning see the excellent article on How Stuff Works.

Does Lightning Kill Fishes or Other Marine Creatures? 
6 Weird Facts About Lightning Strikes 
Unusual Lightning Facts
Where Lightning Strikes More Than Twice 
What Happens When You Get Struck by Lightning? 
11 crazy facts about getting struck by lightning (and how to avoid it)

Ball Lightning - This type is rare. I have seen it once. When I was elementary school there was a thunderstorm and a ball passed through the window and exploded in a puff of smoke in the classroom. My dad also reported seeing it once when he was working on the railroad. A ball about the size of a basketball bounced down the track for some distance before it finally exploded. Yes, it DOES exist!

Monday, June 6, 2016

What's the Easternmost Point in the United States?

     If you said West Quoddy Head, Maine, you'd be wrong. Or, would you? It all depends on where you are measuring from
     The geographic center of United States, including Alaska and Hawaii, lies west of Castle Rock, South Dakota at 44°58' latitude and 103°46' West longitude. Castle Rock lies in the middle of nowhere in western South Dakota.  However, if measured from the prime meridian in Greenwich, England, then Cape Wrangell on Attu Island, Alaska, would be the easternmost point. 
Castle Rock, South Dakota

 Cape Wrangell is considered to be the westernmost point of Alaska and all of the United States by direction of travel. It is located on Attu Island.  But, because it sits west of the 180th meridian it can also be viewed as the easternmost point of the United States. Cape Wrangell is not to be confused with the CITY of Wrangell which is located in the Alaska Panhandle; it's located on the island of Attu which has a pretty interesting history. 
Cape Wrangell
     Attu is the largest island in the Near Islands group of the Aleutian Islands of Alaska; it became uninhabited in 2010. Attu was the site of the only World War II land battle fought on an incorporated territory of the United States (see the Battle of Attu) and its battlefield area is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. 
     Attu Station was a former Coast Guard LORAN station. The facility was closed on August 27, 2010,but the airfield remains available for emergency use. The station was established as Naval Air Facility on June 7, 1943, just seven days after Attu Island was declared secured.
     Attu Island probably is not a place you would want to visit. The weather on Attu is typically cloudy, rainy, and foggy. High winds occur occasionally. Five or six days a week are likely to be rainy, and there are only about eight or ten clear days a year. The rest of the time, even if rain is not falling, fog of varying density is the rule rather than the exception. There are 39–49 inches of annual rainfall and other precipitation with the heaviest rains in the autumn and early winter.