Category Archives: The Natural World
Ed Yong’s TED Talk: Suicidal crickets, zombie roaches and other parasite tales
“Are there any parasites that are influencing our behaviour without us knowing it?”
When I started this blog back in 2007, Ed Yong was a fledgling science writer gaining an audience with his Not Exactly Rocket Science wordpress blog; clear and engaging online articles that opened up primary research to a wider audience. You’ll find many links to his writing throughout this site, connecting the concepts of the IB Biology course to current science and ‘the wow beat’. He has since had a book and is resident at NatGeo’s Phenomena Salon, after moving through Science Blogs and Discover.
He continues to inspire me as a writer and this week he gave his TED Talk, a funny and fact-packed tour of the sinister side of parasites. Enjoy! You will even be able to find some links out to further reading and references.
If you don’t already, you should subscribe to the Phenomena blogs, and if you’re a teacher or student whose schedule are as packed a mine, I highly recommend Ed’s weekly ‘Missing Links‘ roundup of science news and writing – they make for my Sunday morning reading!
Somewhere, by Miadox. Beautiful timelapse of nature & industry.
Just in time for Earth Day, here’s a lovely Vimeo video by Miadox. Timelapse images of human impacts and influences, mingled with nature.
I saw this on Twitter from the QI Elves. They also posted this great clip of an eagle owl. Follow them!
The Biggest Wave Ever Surfed
Garret McNamara, a Hawaiian surfer who looks suspiciously like the dad from Modern Family, has broken the world record for the largest wave ever surfed. At an estimated 90 feet (30 metres), the wave is off Nazaré, Portugal. Here it is:
This video clip from the Guardian has his board-cam and a short interview with him.
To find out more about the science of riding big waves, this is a good ten-minute clip from KQED Quest explains how giant waves are formed at Mavericks.
Riding Giants, about the history of big wave surfing and Laird Hamilton, is great too.
Stephen Fry and the Great American Oil Spill
“This turtle gonna go to rehab, to make its flippers go, go, go…*”
In a recent BBC documentary, Stephen Fry and Mark Carwardine head to the USA to see the damage and recovery from the Deepwater Horizon oilspill:
“Stephen Fry loves Louisiana. Four months after the BP oil spill, dubbed the worst ecological disaster in the history of America, Fry returns to the Deep South together with zoologist Mark Carwardine, to see what the impact has been on the people, the vast wetlands and the species that live there. What they find both surprises and divides the travelling duo.”
From the BBC Website (you might get it in your area)
Two more BBC YouTube clips: Has the oil really gone? and Damage to the deep-sea ecosystem.
The BBC has a good set of resources on the BP Oil Spill, as do the Geographical Association and PBS News Hour Extra. More resources can be found at NewsroomAmerica and Associated Content.
The Deepwater Horizon spill would make a great foundation for an interdisciplinary science unit or Group 4 project, looking at ocean chemistry, waves and dispersal, remote sensing technologies, geological resources, ecology, marine biology and food chains, economics, politics, ethics and much more.
*Amy Winehouse, if you didn’t get it.
The 11th Hour re-up: Human Impacts on Ecosystems
In 2007, Leonardo DiCaprio released his environmental call-to-arms, The 11th Hour. And it’s very good. It really knocks home the old proverb that we are not inheriting the Earth from our ancestors, but borrowing it from our children.
Update 2009: the whole film is available on GoogleVideo (as all good documentaries should be):
The movie contains contributions from the likes of Stephen Hawking, Nobel-winner Wangari Maathai and David Suzuki. Particularly useful is Gloria Flora‘s sentiment that we all vote, every day – even those who are too young to cast a ballot – by making informed choices about what we consume, spend our money on and throw away.
The first half of the movie is a talking-heads and imagery look at our impacts on the Earth, with plenty of soundbites and starting-points for further discussion. The political middle section describes how economic growth and interests are driving destruction. The final act is a great collection of ideas and hope – a call to arms and a realisation that the environmental movement is growing quickly and strongly. But is it going to be in time to save our species and the thousands that we drive to extinction each year?
Now here’s Leo’s video message (including the ‘vote’ quote from Gloria Flora):
For some further reading, go to the 11th hour Action website.
IB Biology students:
Here is a quick question sheet for the movie, linking some of the topics to the Ecology and Conservation option.
Higher Level students: pay attention to the parts about the role of trees in the environment, in particular through water-uptake. Also, do you understand how mycofiltration (using fungal mycelia) could be used to clean polluted soils?
For good measure, here’s Linkin Park’s accompanying music video, What I’ve Done :
How to regrow a rainforest – Willie Smits on TED Talks
My Grade 12 class have looked at this story before, and now we can hear about it from Willie Smitts, a primatologist and conservationist who has led a huge project to replant and revive a section on rainforest in Borneo. They have taken over 8,000 hectares of scorched and cleared land and are returning it to a habitat worthy of orang-utans and many more endangered species.
Smits was featured in TED2009 and here he is with his story of how they regrew the rainforest.