David Goodall arrived in Switzerland, today — to die

❝ A 104-year-old Australian scientist arrived Monday in Switzerland before his planned assisted suicide, unbowed about his intentions and hopeful that his premeditated death will send a message to legislators back home…

“I am glad to arrive,” Goodall said from a wheelchair. “The message I would like to send is: Once one passes the age of 50 or 60, one should be free to decide for oneself whether one wants to go on living or not.”

❝ Lucid and humorous, Goodall reiterated his frustration about not being as free or as mobile in his later life as he once was. While not suffering from a terminal illness, he said he hoped his trip to take his own life in Switzerland — which allows assisted suicide, unlike Australia — would change legislators’ minds one day…

Goodall is expected to meet Tuesday with a doctor who will assess his mindset and hold another news conference on Wednesday. On Thursday, he plans to swallow a lethal cocktail of chemicals, ending his life.

More power to you, Doctor Goodall. I agree with your right to make such a determination. I consider it likely I’ll be making a similar choice some day or other. Especially living in a nation where the medical-industrial complex assures its political and economic power courtesy of primitive belief systems – and Congress.

Firehawks


Black Kite

Australia is no stranger to fire: The hardy landscape is adapted to blazes, enduring many thanks to humans and lightning. But Australia’s Aboriginal peoples have long identified a third cause: birds.

❝ In interviews, observations, and ceremonies dating back more than a century, the indigenous peoples of Australia’s Northern Territory maintain that a collective group of birds they call “firehawks” can control fire by carrying burning sticks to new locations in their beaks or talons.

The idea is that these birds of prey use fires to help find food—making easy meals out of insects and other small animals trying to flee the blaze…

❝ The anecdotes, compiled in a recent study published in the Journal of Ethnobiology, may lead some to rethink how fires spread through tropical savannas like those in northern Australia.

Terrific article. Especially including the natural history recorded by onlookers for generations.

Ready for the Jellyfish Apocalypse?

❝ The most common Irukandji, Carukia barnesi, are the size of a chickpea, and because they’re colorless, in the ocean they’re more or less invisible. The smaller ones might appear to you as the residue of a sneeze. The Irukandji’s translucent bell, shaped like a tiny boxing glove, trails four tentacles, delicate as cotton thread and about three feet long. The jellyfish’s sting doesn’t hurt overmuch. The pain is perhaps equivalent to a mild static zap from a metal doorknob—hardly even enough to make you want to suck your finger. The C. barnesi does not leave red welts, as other jellyfish do. You might miss the prick of its microscopic, stinging darts. You might think it’s just the start of sunburn.

Worst-case scenario: You’re dead by the following sunset.

RTFA. There are several little quirks like this that add a level of adventure and excitement to ordinary life in Australia I wouldn’t seek out.

Australians Stay Alive Another Day Without God-Given Right to Shoot Down Their Friends and Neighbors


Boring isn’t it?

❝ Due to the nation’s controversial and oppressive gun restrictions, no one has died as a result of a mass-shooting on Australian soil today, for the 7827th day in a row.

❝ North Betoota cinema attendant, Christina Upton can’t believe it has been a whole 21 years and 57 days since a heavily armed white Australian male decided to shoot at a crowd of unsuspecting Australian civilians for no reason.

She says the peaceful two decades that have followed are “probably” because the Australian government decided to strip her of a God-given right to own projectile weaponry capable of shooting down helicopters…

❝ Ms Upton, who claims to be able to walk freely outside of her home without fear of being killed by a mass shooter, believes that God-given rights probably play a bigger role in America’s mass shootings than Americans think.

“I don’t think America should be so hard on itself about the mental state of thousands of lonely white losers. We have those people too,”

“…Just in our country those people don’t have access to Russian-made automatic assault rifles that have been invented purely to help military personnel win wars.”…

❝ Local Betoota cop, Uncle Rick Ridgeway, says that this is because idiots have a harder time getting their hands on machine guns than criminals.

“I think America needs to realise that it’s not really the criminals you need to worry about as such. I’d be more concerned about the weirdos,”

“Criminals use guns to help their efforts in making money through crime – they have much less interest in killing you for the sake of it…”

I’ll second that emotion.

Thanks, Honeyman

Scientists in Oz crack the carbon-fibre code


Would be nice to have carbon-fibre for less than $450K

❝ Australia’s CSIRO has cracked the carbon-fibre code, and in doing so has opened the floodgates to mass-production of the composite material in Australia.

❝ Currently only a handful of companies around the world are able to manufacture carbon-fibre, each with their own closely-guarded secret recipe. But none have, as yet, cracked the method to producing ultra-lightweight, ultra-strong composite in significant quantities.

But now, CSIRO and Deakin University have, as they put it, “cracked the code” to mass-production through the use of a patented wet spinning line which can produce carbon-fibre that is both stronger and of a higher quality than previously produced…

❝ The CSIRO has patented the technology which has the potential to be a game-changer for the automotive industry. With current technology cost-prohibitive for wider use, carbon-fibre is usually found only on high-end luxury cars or supercars.

With the potential to now mass-produce the composite material, carbon-fibre is set to be cheaper than ever before, possibly leading to application in mass-produced vehicles. Lighter body panels would make cars even more fuel efficient, no bad thing in this day and age of climate change.

❝ The Director of CSIRO Future Industries, Dr Anita Hill, said the development was an important discovery that has the potential to disrupt the status quo in the carbon-fibre industry.

“This facility means Australia can carry out research across the whole carbon fibre value chain: from molecules, to polymers, to fibre, to finished composite parts,” said Dr Hill.

“Together with Deakin, we’ve created something that could disrupt the entire carbon-fibre manufacturing industry.”

More geek globalism providing a market common to existing and emerging industrial nations. It’s enough to make a parochial knee-bender sweat.

Thanks, Honeyman

No — that’s not tinsel wrapped around the Xmas tree

❝ It’s no partridge in a pear tree but a Melbourne woman got a seasonal surprise when she found a tiger snake entwined among the tinsel on her Christmas tree.

The Frankston woman discovered the snake in her tree on Sunday morning and called in professional snake catcher Barry Goldsmith.

“It’s one of the more different ones, but we find them in all sorts of places,” Goldsmith said. “Tiger snakes are very good climbers.”

❝ With the warmer weather, snakes are more active, but people should leave them alone and not try to kill them, Goldsmith said. “It’s dangerous, it’s illegal, and it’s cruel.”

Eeoouugh!

Thanks, Honeyman – I think

Sydney, Australia, high schoolers cooked up $2 malaria pills

screen-shot-2016-12-01-at-6-13-17-pm
Click link below to the article – and this video

❝ The “pharma bro” who increased the price of a life-saving medicine, Daraprim, by 5,000% has been rattled by a group of Australian school students who managed to make the same drug for $2 per pill.

❝ Former hedge fund manager Martin Shkreli last year bought Turing Pharmaceuticals and almost immediately increased the price of the drug – which has been off-patent since the 1970s – from US$13.50 to US$750 a tablet.

The drug is used to treat certain types of malaria as well as toxoplasmosis, a rare and life-threatening infection caused by the Toxoplasma parasite which particularly affects people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV.

❝ To show how exorbitant Shkreli’s pricing of the drug was, a group of year 11 students aged 16 and 17 from Sydney Grammar aimed to recreate the drug molecule in their school laboratory under the guidance of Dr Alice Williamson and Associate Professor Matthew Todd from the Open Source Malaria consortium.

They succeeded, making the drug for a mere $2 a pill

❝ On Twitter Shkreli dismissed what the students achieved, saying “how is that showing anyone up? Almost any drug can be made at small scale for a low price”.

❝ Williamson told Guardian Australia showing how cheap and easy the drug was to produce was part of the point of the project, as it highlighted how unfair Shkreli’s pricing of the drug was…“I like to let the work speak for itself.”

The kids are all right. Shkrell is still a creep!

Thanks, Honeyman and many others

Marine heatwaves are causing unprecedented climate chaos

Oz mangrove die-off
Click to enlargeNorm Duke/James Cook University

Mangrove die-off from diminished rainfall, increasing temperatures – Australia

First seabirds started falling out of the sky, washing up on beaches from California to Canada…Then emaciated and dehydrated sea lion pups began showing up, stranded and on the brink of death…A surge in dead whales was reported in the same region, and that was followed by the largest toxic algal bloom in history seen along the Californian coast. Mixed among all that there were population booms of several marine species that normally aren’t seen surging in the same year.

Plague, famine, pestilence and death was sweeping the northern Pacific Ocean between 2014 and 2015.

This chaos was caused by a single massive heatwave, unlike anything ever seen before. But it was not the sort of heatwave we are used to thinking about, where the air gets thick with warmth. This occurred in the ocean, where the effects are normally hidden from view.

Nicknamed “the blob”, it was arguably the biggest marine heatwave ever seen. It may have been the worst but wide-scale disruption from marine heatwaves is increasingly being seen all around the globe, with regions such as Australia seemingly being hit with more than their fair share…

It was in the study of a marine heatwave in south-west Australia that the term was coined just five years ago. In a report that still used the term “marine heatwave” in scare quotes, scientists from the West Australian department of fisheries found the heatwave off the state’s coast was “a major temperature anomaly superimposed on the underlying long-term ocean-warming trend”.

That year, the researchers found, Western Australia had an unprecedented surge of hot water along its coast. Surface temperatures were up to 5C higher than the usual seasonal temperature. The pool of warm water stretched more than 1,500km from Ningaloo to the southern tip of the continent at Cape Leeuwin, and it extended more than 200km offshore. Unlike a terrestrial heatwave that will normally last a couple of weeks at most, this persisted for more than 10 weeks.

…Five years later the full impact of that marine heatwave have are beginning to be more fully understood.

RTFA. It’s long, detailed – still hasn’t been through a complete gamut of peer review – but, keep your brain cells up-to-date on some of the latest findings on climate change. You need to know especially since many of our politicians fear that happening.

Conservative PM in Oz has references to climate change removed from UN report


Click to enlarge

The lead author of a major UN report on climate change has expressed his shock that every reference to Australia was removed from the final version, following intervention from the Australian government.

Guardian Australia on Friday revealed that chapters on the Great Barrier Reef and sections on Kakadu and Tasmanian forests were removed from the World Heritage and Tourism in a Changing Climate report, following the Australian Department of Environment’s objection that the information could harm tourism.

The Union of Concerned Scientists, which jointly published the report with the United Nations environment program and Unesco, published an independent statement on the reef this morning.

“The biggest threat to the GBR today, and to its ecosystems services, biodiversity, heritage values and tourism economy, is climate change, including warming sea temperatures, accelerating rates of sea level rise, changing weather patterns and ocean acidification.”

Adam Markham of the UCS, the lead author of the report, said he was “really disappointed” by the revelation that parts of the document had been excised.

He also noted that with the removal of every mention of Australia went a number of positive stories about research and safeguards, including the protected area management strategies being tested to make Australian world heritage sites more resilient to change.

Australia has a good story to tell about its climate science and it should tell it,” he said.

It never ends, does it. We had conservative thugs like George W in the US – and Harper in Canada – condemned by the world of science journalism for their creepy efforts at censorship. They think no one will notice, no one will stick a finger in their eye and point out their deceit.

Thanks, Honeyman

Hidden housemates in Oz

golden huntsman
Click to enlargeBeregama aurea, Golden HuntsmanLinda Rayor

You’re driving along and you open the sun visor. You’re cleaning at home and bump a painting hanging on the wall. Suddenly, out runs a huge, hairy spider. Australia’s huntsman spiders are the stuff of myths and nightmares.

But these are also the most interesting of their family, and deserve their place in the pantheon of Australian wildlife…

First, let’s talk numbers: there are currently 1,207 species of huntsman spider in the Family Sparassidae, out of the total 45,881 described spider species worldwide. It is estimated that there are 155 huntsman spider species found throughout Australia.

Of those, approximately 95 species are found only in Australia. All of these are probably descended from a single common ancestor that immigrated from Papua New Guinea or elsewhere in Southeast Asia.

Huntsmen are big spiders…many of the endemics are sizeable animals that can weigh 1-2 grams and may be as big as the palm of your hand.

The world’s second largest species, the massive Golden Huntsman (Beregama aurea) from tropical Queensland, weighs over 5.5 grams. An adult’s forelegs may stretch 15 cm, and they lay egg sacs the size of golf balls…

All huntsman spiders are active at night, emerging from their retreats to forage for insects and other invertebrates, and occasionally small vertebrates. They are ambush predators, generally sitting and waiting for prey to come close before running and leaping on it…

During the day, most huntsman prefer to rest in retreats under bark, crevices, or other protected areas. This is why so many people encounter the spiders under the sun visors of their cars or behind curtains in their homes, because those are perfect tight spaces for a sleepy spider…

What should you do if you do find a big spider in your car or living room? First, get a grip! She isn’t going to hurt you.

Second, find a take-away container, scoop the spider into the container and release it outside. Huntsman spiders almost never bite humans since they rely on speed to escape most predators. When they do bite, most bites are quick defensive nips without injecting venom…

Treasure your huntsman spiders. They deserve a place alongside koalas and kangaroos as iconic Australian wildlife.

Really nice article and this is only a small portion. Click the link up top in this post and read the whole thing. Interesting, entertaining, stuff worth learning.

We get Golden Orb Weaver spiders here in New Mexico that think they’re as big as a Huntsman – but, they really aren’t. They are just as pretty. You really should get to know all your housemates.

Thanks, Honeyman