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In Africa, lion populations are dwindling. Big cats have been relegated to just 17% of their historical range. This make me sad. I love lions. In fact, my last name is the Spanish word for lion. So I feel like I’m related to lions. When I was young I used to have dreams that I was a lion before I was born. I lived in the wild. I saw myself running through grasslands and playing with a lioness. Then I was reincarnated as a human. A sort of karmic rebirth.

Karmic (theosophy) – the cosmic principle according to which each person is rewarded or punished in one incarnation according to that person’s deeds in the previous incarnation.

I can still remember when the movie Lion King came out. My mom pre-ordered the VHS tape. She got this enormous poster as a promotional gift. She picked me up from school with the poster sticking out of the car window. I remember being so excited to watch the movie as a family.

Despite the downturn, lions seem to be making a resurgence in other parts of Africa. The Serengeti population comes to mind. All other lion populations are in decline. Serengeti lions are mainly concentrated in Southern Africa. Populations are thriving there. Lions live in groups called prides. These consist of 30 lions on average. Three males, 12 females, and their offspring. If resources are scarce the pride becomes smaller.

So why are they thriving in the Southern parts?

A – they live in deserts far away from humans

B – they are fenced in

“Any land we can get under protection can contribute to conservation. So the more the better”, says Peter A. Lindsay, researcher at the conservation organization Panthera.

Proponents of fencing argue that lions act as a buffer against other predators from coming into conflicts with humans (ranchers, poachers), livestock (horses, cattle) and agriculture. But others disagree. Biologists argue that enclosed lions make only “limited contributions to ecosystem functionality”. So is fencing really just a way to attract tourists to Africa?

South Africa’s mostly fenced Krueger National Park is nearly the size of New Jersey. Here, the lions can still perform their roles as apex predators and regulate the ecosystem by controlling populations of antelope, buffalo, and other ungulates, which in turn help to maintain plant communities. But the problem is that preserving the ecosystem and upkeep of such parks is costly. Money has to be spent on buying contraceptives for lionesses in order to avoid overpopulation and on transferring lions to other reserves to prevent inbreeding.

Underfunding is a huge issue!

A study conducted by Packer found that it’s cheaper to manage lions in fenced areas at around $500 per square kilometers than in unfenced areas, where $2,000 is only enough to manage a population at half its potential density. The problem is that lions like to roam in huge swaths of land. They can claim territory as large as 260 sq km. They detest confinement. So this could cost up to $130,000 in fencing projects. On the other hand, researchers at Montana State University found that dollar for dollar spending in unfenced areas helps more individual lions.

However, national and state governments simply don’t have the cash to manage the average unfenced lion population. The money government collects from taxes on trophy hunting and ecotourism barely reaches the pockets of wildlife managers. Most critically, locals need strong economic incentive to coexist with lions. Having apex predators around means risking inventory on livestock and keeping their flocks from grazing on protected lands due to lions chasing them.

Some speculate that if land managers in Africa were as well funded as Yellowstone National Park they could afford to manage more unfenced lions! But these are third world nations. The reality is that all sides of this issue need better funding.

Some ecosystems will benefit from fences, whereas other populations will require “conflict-mitigation” projects.

“If the funding is there…there’s no reason why the existing protected areas couldn’t carry alot more lions”, concluded Peter A Lindsay.

Source:

Goldman, J. (2016, April). Lions on the Edge. Scientific American, 12-14.

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When I wrote about Rosetta about a year ago I was really coming into my own with the style of this blog. I had a lot of fun with that article – it was quirky and my friend really dug it. So I thought, hey, I think it’s time to write about space again.

So what has our dear Rosetta been up to lately? A lot, apparently. She’s been a busy girl. In my last post, she was on her way to a date with comet 67P. How did it turn out? Did she excuse herself to go to the bathroom? Nope, it seems she had dinner and sexual intercourse with the thing. What a rouse! My Rosetta all grown up. *weeps*

It’s funny. In the advent of writing my last Rosetta blog the Democrats had just lost a bunch of elections. This time around, I write this a day after the first Democratic debates. Gosh, what a snoozer that was! And well, I’m beginning to think my antidote to a bad Democratic hangover is space travel news. It’s been working pretty good so far!

In the last post I was eager to know what Rosetta’s findings would be. But before we get into that allow me to give you some background deets on the comet itself. Founded by Soviet astronomers Klim Churyomiv and Svetla Gersimenko (whom the comet was named after) in ’69, 67P/C-G has 19 distinct regions. Each region is named after an Egyptian deity. This is why they named the probe Rosetta, because it’s also of Egyptian origin. Some of the names are: Seth, Atum, Babi, and Nut. Each corresponding to a geological distinction in the comet.

How did this comet come about? Scientists estimate the comet was created shortly after the Solar System emerged – more than 4 billions years ago. Scientists say 67P/C-G likely formed when two separate objects collided during the early stages of the Solar System. Matteo Massironi, professor at the University of Padova, Italy, adds, “The fusions should have happened when dust was transmuting and planets were growing in the inner regions”.

Now if this thing is that freakin’ old, it must have definitely played a part in the creation of many of the planets in our galaxy. And these guys more or less agree with me. We know the Solar System had a hand in creating the physical constitution of asteroids and comets, so we can surmise that comets and asteroids did the same with planets.

Rosetta took some pictures. And guess what? The comet looks like a giant rubber ducky. The two lobes connecting the two main bodies are in the shape of a neck. See, I knew 67P would be a suitable playmate for Rosetta! It’s the way love goes.

churyumov-gerasimenko-jan-31-2015

67P was so enamored by Rosetta that he was caught singing in the shower.

Using Rosetta’s Plasma Consortium magnetometer, which sounds like sci-fi technology if you ask me, scientists detected a string of comet sounds inaudible to humans. In case you didn’t know it’s impossible to talk in space, so this was some sort of weird space chatter that only other comets can understand. Similar to how whales communicate underwater. The ESA converted the magnometer data into sounds us Earthlings can comprehend. 67P must have been really horny because the “song” was different from other sounds that have been recorded by other comets in the past. It’s physical properties were different.

Let’s keep in mind that recently 67P reached perihelion. Perihelion is when a comet or planet is at its closest point to the Sun. So there’s a buttload of activity taking place in the comet right now. Scientists wonder whether 67P will change its chanson d’amour as it nears the Sun.

You can listen to the song here: http://www.space.com/30323-mystery-of-comet67p-singing-solved.html

Charles Darwin spoke about the geometrical ratio of increase which posits that every organic being is said to be striving to increase in numbers. Right now comets such as 67P are trying to increase in numbers. This is why it mated with Rosetta which is not a comet but a man made invention – a machine. In this case, we have a trans species ratio of increase. Now, please consider my wild theory or I will have no recourse but to label you transphobic. No wait, transastrophobic. Yeah, I just made that up. Put it in the books because I coined it. Trans-astro-phobic.

On a serious note, let’s move on to the main purpose of this post. Did comets bring organic chemicals to Earth? Not only do I want to know about this, the ESA wants to establish a link between terrestrial and cosmic water. Well, we know that during the early days of the Solar System comets were responsible for bringing water and other ingredients to the inner planets. This is known from the chemical make up of comets. We know meteors had a hand to play as well.

So far Rosetta has detected argon, nitrous, hydrogen and deuteron.

Hydrogen is a positively charged particle, while deuteron is a subatomic particle.

Thanks to Rosetta’s mass spectrometer argon ( a noble gas ) was discovered. This is a key breakthrough in the project because noble gases are hard to find in comets. And scientists see this as an important step in determining the noble gas inventory of terrestrial planets. The argon was found inside the icy nucleus of the comet and was later released into space. In my last post I wondered if ice was brought over by a comet. Well, it looks like that’s a possibility. At some point some of that ice containing argon may have landed on Earth while traveling through space. But people think that argon tells us more about how the comet formed and less about the role comets played in the creation of planet Earth. Argon makes up about 1% of the Earth’s atmosphere, while the comet is full of argon. True, but we should expect the molecular makeup of a planet and a comet, really far away from each other, to be significantly different. However, this difference alone is not the only criteria we can go by if we want to shoot down the hypothesis.

Nitrogen was also found. Nitrogen is present in Saturn’s moon, Titan, and is present in the atmospheric ices on Pluto and Neptune’s moon Triton. Nitrogen is abundant in these planets. Earth is also dominated by nitrogen. So here we see that Earth has more in common with other planets. And while this makes sense, it doesn’t exclude the possibility that comets may have also played a role in Earth’s creation. Plus, it is in these cold outer reaches that other comets, including 67P, are believed to have formed. Nitrogen would have been part of the building blocks of life when Earth was in its initial developmental stages.

1-cometprobero

In the first hundred million years of Earth’s history hydrogen cyanide rained down steadily. This compound was part of chemical reactions that created early organisms on Earth. Nitrogen was found wound up in compounds such as HCN in 67P’s nucleus. So we have more proof. And while we know that the dissemination of HCN was due to meteors crashing on young Earth, it could be said that comets and meteors were both responsible for the creation of Earth; to varying degrees. And Tansu Daylan, from Science in the News (a Harvard endorsed website) agrees with me. Since comets are old and contain significant reservoirs of ice, it is plausible that comets may be responsible for bringing water to Earth through an extended episode of comet bombardment. He concludes that knowing more about comets will lead to a better understanding of our origins as well.

Now onto the last two findings. Comets can hold large reservoirs of water. Most are leftovers from the formation of the Solar System. Both the water on Earth and 67P have a mix of hydrogen and deuteron water molecules. The comets’ water molecules are “heavier”. This is because the chemical makeup of comets is different due to the melting process that takes place. And Rosetta observed frozen material on the surface turn into sprays of vapor and boulder sized chunks of ice and rocks were ejected into space. Which, incidentally, almost knocked over Rosetta.

There’s a lot that points to the claim that comets played a role in the creation of Earth. As I have shown, several key ingredients found on Earth were also found on 67P. We’ll have to wait until all the data has been gathered from Rosetta to really come to a solid conclusion.

Sources:

http://www.hometownstations.com/story/30131051/rosetta-comet-likely-formed-from-2-separate-objects

http://blogs.esa.int/rosetta/2015/09/25/rosina-detects-argon-at-comet-67pc-g/

http://phys.org/news/2015-03-comet-probe-rosetta-molecule.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2837866/World-awaits-Rosetta-probe-s-results-Esa-reveal-Philae-discovered-comet-reveal-origins-life-Earth.html

http://www.space.com/30666-nasa-mars-discovery-webcast-monday.html

http://news.sciencemag.org/biology/2015/03/researchers-may-have-solved-origin-life-conundrum

http://sitn.hms.harvard.edu/flash/2015/closing-in-on-the-origin-of-terrestrial-water-philae-calls-back-home/

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/hydrogen_sulfide.html

power_eggs

When your tummy grumbles in the morning make this.

Quick and Easy

Power Eggs

Ingredients:

2 eggs

2 slices of ham

cilantro

tomato sauce

chipotle sea salt

Directions:

Heat skillet on medium, drop 1 tbs of butter onto pan. In a bowl, whisk 2 eggs. Cut slices of ham into pieces. Add to battered eggs or whisk simultaneously. Pour mix into skillet ( I use a special kind of saute pan := ) and keep heat on medium. Sprinkles chipotle salt.

After a minute or two, bring down heat to medium-low, cleaving the eggs apart and moving them around.

Wash cilantro with filtered water and slice into pieces.

Add to eggs.

Pour 2 tbs of tomato sauce. Bring heat back up to medium and whisk eggs again. Spread tomato sauce evenly across eggs. Once the eggs look golden brown turn off heat and let stand for a few minutes so that the ham cooks thoroughly.

Serve with side of toast with jelly or by itself. Cup of tea or orange juice.

So I decided I would wake this blog from its year-long hibernation since I’ve gotten several requests to post something new. It all started when I started posting essays from my literature class just for the heck of it. I just wanted to start a blog. But being the depressive person that I am, I lost interest (or, shall we say, the necessary inspiration?) to make another blog post. I didn’t want to post yet another one of my essays (although I may do so in the future) so I sort of ran out of ideas. I went into “everything sucks” mode.

Well, the other day I got myself a copy of the new Times magazine. As I flipped through back-to-back articles about the Democrats’ embarrassing defeats in the midterm elections I came across an article about space travel. Yep, this oughta do it.

Ok, so the European Space Agency built this robotic, unmanned space probe dubbed Rosetta. The name is of Egyptian origin. This probe will orbit a comet called 67P (Churyumov Gerasimenko) currently floating in the Kuiper Belt and making its way to the inner Solar System. As I write this, Rosetta has already reached its destination and deployed a lander which will attach itself to the comet for a look-see. But let me give you some background on this Rosetta.

The ESA spent $1.8 billon (appx.1.3 billion Euros) to build this thing, which (according to my calculations) is about 33% of the agency’s annual budget. Don’t worry though, they are based in France, and as we all know France has crazy high taxes which can more than well pay for it.

It’s crazy to think that this probe was launched ten years ago. This fucking thing has been journeying about in space for over a decade only to intersect with a tiny little comet which may or may not give us the answers we need about the origin of life on Earth.

And the fact that nothing bad happened to Rosetta during its trek to the cosmos is nothing short of a miracle. A few days ago, dumbfuck Richard Bronson’s SpaceShipTwo spaceplane crashed miserably in the Mojave Desert killing one pilot and injuring another. Look up Richard Bronson, I bet you’ve seen this guy a million times on TV. Space travel is no joke.

“This was the first flight ever to use a new type of fuel: nylon plastic grains”. (The Bakersfield Californian)

Da fuck is that? It sounds cool though.

Rosetta is lucky that during its rocket propelled ascension it didn’t prematurely deploy its feathering system which is used to help planes get back to Earth in one piece.

I gotta give it to Rosetta. This little bitch is the queen of first place ribbon victories like that one kid who wins all the races on field day back in primary school. It’s also the first spacecraft to fly close to Jupiter using only solar cells as its main power source. First to orbit a comet’s nucleus, and first to study up close how a frozen comet is transformed by the Sun’s heat.

This is where it gets interesting.

When Rosetta arrived on her date with 67P it just kind of danced around aimlessly for like 3 months. This I guess was her mating call. Well, to be fair, it was mapping out a path to the comet’s nucleus.

On November 12, Rose gave birth to her son Philae. Rosetta opened her womb and ejected her demonic offspring. Meet Philae. Philae is a research probe, or a lander, responsible for collecting data from the comet. The ESA jumped up and down when it was announced that the lander’s 7 hour descent to 67P was a great success! Great Success!

Emily Barone of Time Magazine writes:

“The lander could offer clues to the origins of the solar system”.

Yes, I’m intrigued. Continue.

“Once on the surface, this lander will take measurements that could reveal the conditions that prevailed in the universe not long after the Big Bang”

Man, this is great. This thing could literally end the age old Big Bang v Creationism debate. Maybe this fucking probe will have the ability to shut Christians up once and for all (gasp!).

It is theorized that things like water, ice and organic chemicals were brought to our planet by comets. God didn’t just fart them out one day.

Philae will be relaying a bunch of cosmic data to us Earthlings for over a year before it makes its 10 year roadtrip back to Earth.

I think much of the data will be monitored by Germany’s ESOC post. They’re in charge of telemetry. Let’s hope they don’t use any of the information to build the next breakthrough in Nazi-inspired flight technology. Allegedly, after WW2, Nazi scientists worked on UFO airplane technology they had extracted from data obtained using secret satellites hidden in Antarctica.

According to Rosetta’s project manager, most of what Philae will find while he sniffs his way around the comet are prebiotic molecules. These are molecules known to be the precursors of life, but not living organisms.

I wish Rosetta and her curious son the best of luck. I hope nothing happens to them. I hope the comet’s atmosphere treats them with mercy. I’m really looking forward to reading about the kinds of discoveries this mission will uncover.

Am I a space geek?

It’s possible.