Showing posts with label Nature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Nature. Show all posts

Monday, March 17, 2014

Cosmos: A SpaceTime Odyssey Episode # 2 "Some of the Things That Molecules Do" - Review

Cosmos airs on Fox and National Geographic Channels

The second episode of Cosmos takes a look at the evolution of life on our planet.

The host and astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson first explains the differences between artificial selection and natural selection. An example of artificial selection is the domestication of wolves by our human ancestors. The wolves that were more submissive were accepted and the more aggressive ones hunted.

The genes of the domesticated wolves were passed down, leading to the species we call today “Man's Best Friend”: Dogs. This technique is referred to as Selective breeding”.

This practice is still continued today and can be seen in shows like Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show. Dogs are subject to unnatural grooming and sometimes eugenics to promote their chances at winning the title. The show is very similar to the beauty pageants that objectify women. 

Polar Bears have flourished by the Natural Theory of Evolution as explained in Cosmos Some of the Things That Molecules Do

Contrast this with the theory of natural selection proposed by Charles Darwin in 1859. Neil gives the example of how the population of bears evolve over generations.

In the Arctic regions, Polar bears enjoyed a distinct advantage over other bears with non-white colored bodies. This coloring helped polar bears camouflage themselves better and enjoy higher levels of success in hunting their prey. This led to the slow dying out of non-white bears over the passage of time.

Neil then focuses on the fact that that we human beings share a common ancestor with not only apes like chimpanzees and gorillas, but also trees, mushroom, sharks and owls. The only difference is in the DNA. Each and every living being has an unique DNA.

Human beings share a common ancestor with many living things in Cosmos episode Some of the things that molecules do

This is very significant in today's world where the exploitation and abuse of other living beings by humans has become the norm. Man is killing animals indiscriminately for superficial reasons like non-existent health benefits or trophy hunting or for making decorative items.

Take for example, the practice of killing rhinos for their horns or bear bile farming or the dog meat industry. In certain parts of the world, these objects are believed to hold medicinal value. For this reason, dogs are brutally tortured and killed (usually right in front of other dogs). Bears are kept in small cages for their entire life and subject to inhumane farming for their biles.

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There is no scientific basis or proof for any health benefits from consuming these products. Rhino horns are made of Keratin, the same substance that constitutes human fingernails.

People need to see this show to realize that all living organisms share the same DNA. We humans need to understand this fact and respect the right of other living beings to live their life to the fullest on our planet.

The tree of life in Cosmos episode Some of the things that molecules do

We are then introduced to the Tree of Life, which represents the beauty of evolution. The trunk represents the common ancestor and each branch represents close relatives. The tree is 3.5 billion years old. The beauty and power of the natural theory of selection evolution is that it can disguise a bird as an animal and vice versa.

Another proof of the natural theory of evolution is the human eye. It is far more complex than any man made device.The show explains how a microbe would have developed the power of sight. Each living being that exists today has a different set of eyes, that provide them distinct advantages for survival.

The episode then takes a look at the natural calamities that have resulted in widespread destruction of life. There are five Halls of Extinction”: Ordovician, Devonian, Triassic, Cretaceous and Permian. Each of these has led to mass extinction of life on earth, a process Neil refers to as The Great Dying”.

Tardigrades Waterbears have survived all five mass extinctions in Cosmos episode Some of the things that molecules do

Neil then introduces us to the Tardigrade or the Waterbear. This amazing organism is about the size of a pin head and can live in boiling water and solid ice. It can survive for ten years without a drop of water. It can travel naked in the cold vacuum or intense radiation. The Waterbear has survived all five mass extinctions.

The final part of the episode explores the possibility of life on Titan, Saturn's giant moon. Titan has a nitrogen rich atmosphere, similar to earth but is four times denser. But the atmosphere has no oxygen and is much more cooler than any parts of earth.

Using the Ship of the Imagination, Neil is able to visit Titan. Titan is so cold that rivers are frozen solid and are made of ethane and methane. These two elements form natural gas on our planet.

Titan, Saturn's moon has rain composed of ethane and methane in Cosmos episode

Life on earth depends on liquid water. We earthlings inhale oxygen and give out carbon dioxide. Neil theorizes that living beings on Titan would inhale hydrogen and exhale methane.

The episode concludes with a beautiful montage of how life evolved from an one celled organism to the most dominant species on our planet: Humans.

Dogs are my favorite animals and I enjoyed understanding the process of domestication. I also found the section on Titan very enlightening. I often read reports of UFOs and the possibility of extra-terrestrial life has always intrigued me.

But the most revealing part of the episode was the information about Tardigrade, the organism that has survived so many natural catastrophes and still continues to thrive.

As I mentioned earlier, the ending montage has been executed very well.

A very informative episode and a must watch for everyone.

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Image Sources: Cosmos Studios, Fuzzy Door Productions, National Geographic Channel, Six Point Harness, Fox Network

Sunday, November 3, 2013

CNN Blackfish (2013) - Review

CNN Blackfish SeaWorld Killer Whale Orca Documentary Poster

The movie opens with 911 distress calls about killer whale attacks on their trainers.

We then go back to the 1970s, when killer whales (also called “Orcas”) were captured for display purposes. Baby orcas were specifically targeted. It is heart-breaking to see the families not leaving the captured ones behind, even when they had the option to do so.

When SeaWorld was legally told to stay away from Washington, they immediately moved to Iceland to procure more orcas.

Now comes the focus of the movie, a male killer whale called “Tilikum”. Captured in 1983, he showed extraordinary physical growth right from a young age.
Killer Whale Orca in captivity

Tilikum was initially placed at Sealand of the Pacific, where he was paired with a trained killer whale. Based on Tilikum's performance, both were offered food (as positive reinforcement) or denied food as punishment.

Tilikum's mistakes made him the unfortunate victim of physical attacks by other orcas. On top of that, the orcas were put in a small enclosure that limited their mobility. All these incidents are suggested to have caused a growing psychosis in Tilikum.

This would soon manifest in 1991, when Tilikum claim his first victim, Keltie Byrne. He would go on to claim two more victims: Daniel P. Dukes (with his private parts bitten off) and a trainer, Dawn Brancheau.

But Tilikum is the only killer whale to go rogue in the documentary. Kasatka initiates an assault on his trainer, Ken Peters that goes on for a few minutes and is gripping to watch. To watch a human at the complete mercy of a huge animal underwater is frightening.

Gabriela Cowperthwaite Blackfish director

The director, Gabriela Cowperthwaite has done a tremendous job. Kudos to her for presenting an objective view of the dangers inherent in holding such powerful and intelligent living beings in captivity. Even worse is subjecting such life forms to perform actions and tricks, that they would never do in the wild.

Along with the director, the other stars of the documentary are the ex-SeaWorld trainers who honestly express their concerns about the hazards and reality of holding killer whales in captivity. The initial parts of the documentary has some scenes, where the trainers discuss their fascination with killer whales and how they were inspired to work for SeaWorld.

Samantha Berg Carol Ray Dean Gomersall Jeffrey Ventrea Ex SeaWorld Trainers in CNN Blackfish 2013 documentary

It is tough to accept one's lapse in judgment and full credit to these real life heroes for their profound contributions.

Orcas have very advanced brains and are very social beings. They are capable of communicating with each other using sounds and language. It has been documented that each pod of whales have their own set of signs and communication signals.

Orcas live as long as humans do (unlike how some of the SeaWorld employees in the documentary would have us believe).

Orca Killer Whale family wild and free in the oceans

Again, it is interesting to note that there has not been a single human casualty due to killer whale attack in the wild. All the casualties have occurred in the marine theme parks.

The movie raises some hard hitting questions:

1. Is it ethical to subject such intelligent and caring living forms to a captive life in a relatively small enclosure for their entire lives? Who is responsible for causing the killer whales to attack (and sometimes kill) their trainers? Is it the orcas themselves or the marine mammal parks or the people who encourage this industry by buying tickets to such shows?

2. Is it a wise move to use Tilikum's genetic material to create new babies, given his track record of aggression towards his human handlers? Does not that tantamount to taking unnecessary risks of having such incidents recur?

Killer Whale Orca in captivity

3. Was it ethical in the first place to take away baby orcas from their families to live their entire lives in captivity? Even now, baby orcas are taken away from their mothers, to be transported to other branches of SeaWorld. The decisions are made based on monetary considerations, without any regard for the emotional well being of the whales themselves.

4. Further, does it make any sense to let children watch other equally (if not more) intelligent living beings behave in an unnatural way. For example, killer whales are trained to “wave” to the audience using their fin. This is something that the whales never do in the wild. Is that way we want the young children to take away from such shows?

Unfortunately, Tilikum and other orcas are still held captive. Let us hope that this movie will help create the necessary public awareness and consensus to have these killer whales released to the wild.

Gabriela Cowperthwaite Blackfish director with cameraman Jonathan Ingalls Chris Towey

Gabriela Cowperthwaite and her crew have delivered a one of a kind experience that will change your perception of Orcas/Killer Whales and marine theme parks forever.

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Image Sources: CNN Films, Cable News Network (CNN), Magnolia Pictures, Manny O Productions

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Please adopt a Shelter  Dog
Please adopt a Shelter animal
Please save the Mountain Gorillas
Save the Mountain Gorillas

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Please ADOPT a Shelter Animal and help stop Animal Cruelty

Stop Shelter killing. Join the No Kill revolution. Adopt a Shelter animal.

Dear Readers,

Every day, thousands of animals are killed in "rescue" shelters, presumably for lack of space. Please do NOT buy your pet from a pet store or an online store. Pet stores/online stores are supported by the barbaric puppy mill industry.

Please ADOPT your pet from a rescue shelter. You will earn a loyal and loving companion forever.

Adopt Foster Rescue a Shelter Dog. Please be a hero and help stop Shelter killing and Puppy Mill industry

Click here to know more about the No Kill Revolution. Please help make a positive change to stop Animal Cruelty.

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Image Source: Animal Cruelty Exposed

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Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Celebrating World Dog Day today

World Dog Day Aug 26 2013 Poster Message

Happy Dog Day to everyone. Let us celebrate Man's Best Friend today and every day.

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Image Source: A Place to Love Dogs

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Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Celebrating World Elephant Day today

World Elephant Day 2013 Save Elephants from Extinction

Elephants are gentle giants. There are 2 species of elephants surviving today: the African Elephant and the Asian Elephant.

Elephants are social beings and lead very emotional lives. Elephants live in herds, led by a matriarch. All the female elephants in the herd work together to care of their young.

Elephants, like most other species of animals, have been hunted down to near extinction. The reason is again, sheer human greed and arrogance: The tusks are used as status symbols in certain parts of the world.

Please visit The David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust to learn more about Elephant Conservation and how YOU can help save this magnificent species.

Elephants need our help now more than ever.

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Photos were taken at Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.

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Tuesday, July 30, 2013

About Me

I blog about the latest happenings in the world of Sherlock Holmes. I also review latest and classic movies and books.

I am passionate about preventing cruelty to fellow living beings. Animals and Birds are brutally killed in slaughterhouses to provide meat for human consumption. Please consider becoming vegetarian/vegan. 

To learn more, please check out these Videos exposing Animal Farming
Millions of healthy and adoptable cats and dogs are killed in animal "shelters" every year. Many of them are "gassed" to death. This is a very painful way of dying.

Please adopt your pet from a rescue shelter. Buying your pet from a pet store only supports the barbaric puppy mill industry.

Please support the No-Kill Animal Shelters. To learn more, please visit No Kill Advocacy Center

Breed Specific Legislation (BSL) needs to be revoked ASAP. The so called “Bully” Breeds are among the most loving and affectionate of all dog breeds. BSL only serves to legally sanction the taking away and subsequent kiling of beloved family members.

To learn more about Pit Bulls, please visit this site - Don't Bully My Breed

For any inquiries, I can be reached at

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Happy Birthday, David Attenborough!

David Attenborough quote
David Attenborough was born on this day in 1926.

He has been an extraordinary natural historian for over half a century and his name is synonymous with several pathbreaking documentaries.

From critically endangered Mountain Gorillas in the Virunga Mountains to Lemurs in Madagascar to the largest animal ever on the planet, Blue Whale, David has seen and studied them all. A living legend, in every sense of the word.

David Attenborough bird quote

Wishing him many happy returns of the day and a long and healthy life ahead!

To learn more about David, please visit his website.

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Image Source: PBS Nature

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Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Black Rhinoceros

Black Rhinoceros - Diceros bicornis - Endangered African species - Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden

Phylum : Chordata
Class : Mammalia
Order : Perissodactyla
Suborder : Ceratomorpha
Family : Rhinocerotidae
Genus : Diceros
Species: Diceros bicornis
Protection status : Critically Endangered
Diet : Herbivore 
Habitat : Woodland and scrubland

Black Rhinos are found in Central and Southern Africa. They weigh between 2090 to 2870 lbs. Their height varies from 4.7 to 5.2 ft and live up to 40 years.

Black Rhinos feed on woody plants, herbs and fruits.

The most distinguishing feature of the rhino, the 2 horns are also the leading cause for their current precarious situation. The horns are highly priced by poachers, who acquire them to sell them at exorbitant rates to certain countries/cultures that use them in traditional medicine and/or high status dagger handles.

Black Rhinoceros - Diceros bicornis - Endangered African species - Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden

The simple fact remains that the horns are only made of tightly packed hair-like fibers (called Keratin). There is no scientific proof for the effectiveness of rhino horns to cure illness/disease(s).

Black Rhinos are one of the many critically endangered species on our planet and need active conservation on our part.

To learn more about rhino conservation and how you can contribute to saving these magnificent animals, please visit African Wildlife Foundation and International Rhino Foundation.

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Photos were taken at Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden.

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