## Search This Blog

### Kitty Cops

 hard at work                                                                                                               screen shot
Homeless cats. Nuisance rats. Put them together, as the Los Angeles Flower Market has done, and everyone's happy (except the rats). The Working Cats program places shelter cats in locations that could use their services, including businesses, schools, and warehouses. So far, they've matched up about 500 cats with close to 50 places. Often, these felines are not the friendliest and, for that reason, are hard to place in private homes. After "working" around people, like at the Flower Market, many become used to humans and end up being adopted. "It's not anything new," says Melya Kaplan, executive director of Voice for the Animals, who came up with the idea in 1999. "People used to have barn cats or church cats to keep out rodents. We just brought [it] to the city, and it seems to be really working": http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-adv-cats-for-hire-20150627-story.html

### The Female Arts

 one of oldest cave paintings. El Castillo Cave, Spain Pedro Saura/AFP/Getty Images
The title of this article ("Early Humans Became More Feminine, Which Led to the Birth of Culture") drew me in immediately, as this correlation is something I've thought and wondered about for a long time. In particular and bringing it to the present tense, it seems to me that many of the countries whose laws make it more difficult for creativity to bloom are the same as those where punishment for unsanctioned behavior is the harshest and, (not) coincidentally, where women are subjugated and seen, basically, as non-citizens with few, if any, rights or voice. Conversely, it seems to me, those where women have attained some level of acceptance and respect and, even, elected positions in government, are those in which the arts are more revered and dissent and "otherness" are more tolerated. This observation seems to apply even to organized groups or areas within countries. Now comes a study that finds a correlation between lower levels of testosterone in early humans and the beginning of agriculture and cooperation. According to the article, the study concludes that "this may have proved an evolutionary advantage for early human societies, as it would have fostered wider-ranging social networks, closer cooperation between unrelated individuals, a wider choice of mates, and reduced chances of inbreeding." (This is one of the reasons I'm so concerned about women feeling they need to be more competitive and aggressive/assertive in the name of equality, instead of men feeling the need to be less so, but that's another story): http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/crux/2015/06/22/early-humans-feminine-culture/#.VZG21OezfeR

Get ready to have your mind bent. It seems that what happens to an atom in the present can change its past. As if the bit about photons changing as a result of the mere fact of being observed wasn't weird enough. According to the article, a team of physicists at the Australian National University "showed that if you offer a speeding helium atom two possible paths, the route it takes appears to be retroactively determined by the act of measuring the atom at the end of its journey." No one is quite sure what all this means yet. "If you ask 10 people, you'll get 11 opinions," says Radu Ionicioiu, of Bucharest’s Horia Hulubei National Institute for Physics and Nuclear Engineering: https://cosmosmagazine.com/physical-sciences/time-travel-and-single-atom

### A Day Twice As Nice

There's Pi Day, of course, on March 14, or 3.14. It's notable date, celebrating as it does a most reputable and essential cipher. Since 2010, though, it's had a competitor for your devotion ~ Tau Day, or 6.28, aka 2 Pi Day (http://somanyinterestingthings.blogspot.com/2014/06/the-joy-of-628.html). What argument could possibly be made for Tau Day, you might ask. Well, allow educator and physicist Michael Hartl to elucidate: "Since the circle constant is important, it’s important to get it right," he writes in his Tau Manifesto, "and we have seen in this manifesto that the right number is τ. Although π is of great historical importance, the mathematical significance of π is that it is one-half τ." And, yes, the day is gaining its adherents and, consequently, recommended ways of celebrating in style: http://www.scientificcomputing.com/blogs/2015/06/are-you-tau-ist-pi-day-under-attack

### On Second Thought

It's only the 26th time this has happened since 1972, and it may be the last, so enjoy the leap second while you can (which would be at the end of the last minute of June 30). The extra second is being tacked on to correct a slight error made back in the 1960s. John Lowe, of the National Institute of Standards and Technology, explains: "The rate we chose for the atomic clock is slightly wrong. We could have done a little better." Indeed. Why on Earth would anyone calculate a second as being 9,192,631,770 oscillations instead of 9,192,631,950 oscillations? Well, we may be paying for it now. Some are predicting computer-related issues, along the lines of the Y2K scare: http://www.latimes.com/science/la-sci-leap-second-20150110-story.html
It's all so simple! Scientists use Very Long Baseline Interferometry, employing geometry ~ and quasars as reference points ~ to determine how Earth's radio telescopes are moving relative to one another and over time. And that's how they figure out exactly how long a day is and why we need that extra second every once in a while. It's also not so simple. There are lots of factors, including earthquakes, volcanoes, and oceanic tides, that impact how we roll. “In the short term, leap seconds are not as predictable as everyone would like,” says geophysicist Chopo Ma, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center (story, video): http://www.nasa.gov/feature/goddard/nasa-explains-why-june-30-will-get-extra-second

### Alone in a Crowd

Billy Idol was nothing if not prescient when he sang "if I had the chance I'd ask the world to dance/and I'll be dancing with myself." Enter, about a year or so ago, the silent disco, in which revelers wear headphones or earbuds they can tune to whichever of several DJs they want to listen and dance to. As one might expect, this leads to everyone dancing to the beat of his or her own drummer, as it were, and pretty much dancing on his/her own. Then again, it also allows everyone to customize, to a certain extent, and gives the DJs fairly instant feedback as they note who's bopping to the tune they're playing. So, you decide ~ individualization or isolation? momentary fad or long-term trend?: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/18/style/silent-discos-let-you-dance-to-your-own-beat.html?hpw&rref=fashion&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=well-region&region=bottom-well&WT.nav=bottom-well

### Talk of Ages

Age ~ and, more particularly, aging ~ seems to be the obsession du jour today (see post immediately below this one), but really, it's only because these articles and Census Bureau figures appeared recently. The fact that this country is getting grayer (OK, silver or platinum) pretty quickly is not news; we've been hearing this for years. But here's the interesting part: not all areas are doing so equally. The maps in this article show, for example, that the grayest counties seem to be in rural areas, mostly in the center of the country, while those with the fastest rise in older residents tend to be in the left half. One county in Nevada, population about 800, has seen the percentage of its residents over age 65 rise from 20 percent in 2010 to almost 30 percent in 2014. Other maps show where there are the fewest and the most working-age residents per capita and where more than 27.3 percent of the population is younger than 19: http://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/some-parts-of-america-are-aging-much-faster-than-others/
According to the latest report from the Census Bureau, millennials (those born between 1982 and 2000) now make up one-quarter of the population, and 44.2 percent of them belong to a minority race or ethnic group. Another interesting statistic is that, while most states are graying (led by Maine), North Dakota, Montana, Iowa, Hawaii, and Wyoming showed a decline in median age from July 1, 2013, to July 1, 2014. Utah is the state with the lowest median age (30.5): http://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2015/cb15-113.html

### Long Time Growing

 Posidonia oceanic
It's all relative, right? So here are a few facts about old age and long lives that might make some of us feel just a bit better about where we stand on our own timeline. from wisegeek.com:

The oldest living thing in the world is thought to be an ancient seagrass known as Posidonia oceanic that was estimated to be approximately 200,000 years old when it was discovered in the Mediterranean Ocean, from Spain to Cyprus in 2012. Scientists believe that the seagrass is able to live so long because it is asexual. It can reproduce on its own and essentially clone itself as needed. Over time, as Posidonia oceanic expands by growing more branches. Each individual patch of the seagrass weighs about 6,000 tons and takes up about 10 miles (16 km) over the Mediterranean Ocean.
The second oldest living thing is the world is a 43,000-year-old Tasmanian shrub, Lomatia tasmanica.

More about the oldest living things on Earth:
• A French woman named Jeanne Calment is considered the person who lived the longest in documented history, and was 122 when she died in 1997.

### Itching for Summer

A little public-service post here. About mosquitoes. I've been noticing more of them around lately than I remember in previous years (at least, I think that's what's been biting me whenever I'm outside in the evening), and that brings up an old dilemma ~ bug or drug? Most of the conventional repellents are chemical-laden, and many of their ingredients are not so good for us. But they work. Over the last few years, more "natural" repellents have hit the market, but not all of them work as well. Here's a list of essential oils whose scent mosquitoes apparently don't like and that work at least as well as the DEET-based formulas: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/top-5-natural-mosquito-repellents-that-really-work.html

### Body of Art

 "Microbial Me," by Mellissa Fisher
We are the world, yes, and each of us is also a world unto ourselves ~ a total microbiome that's home to a trillion organisms, give or take. While every individual has certain of these organisms in common with certain other individuals, each microbiome is as unique as a fingerprint. A U.K. exhibit called "Invisible You" illustrates these facts and others with the works of 11 artists. These include a sound piece, sculptures, textiles ~ and photos from a Brooklyn-based artist of what grows in a petri dish when one swabs people's belly buttons: http://mentalfloss.com/article/65297/artists-reveal-bacterial-beauty-human-microbiome

### The Boy Who Went Fission

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### The Real SEAL

Only those who've been on a regular Navy SEAL team for several years can try out for Team 6 (the Navy's counterpart to the Army's Delta Force), and only about half of those who try out make it. Most of us know Team 6 as the group that found and killed Osama Bin Laden, but as this extensive, in-depth New York Times investigative piece shows, what we don't know about it could fill tomes. The team's current role, according to the report, "reflects America’s new way of war, in which conflict is distinguished not by battlefield wins and losses, but by the relentless killing of suspected militants.
"Almost everything about SEAL Team 6, a classified Special Operations unit, is shrouded in secrecy — the Pentagon does not even publicly acknowledge that name — though some of its exploits have emerged in largely admiring accounts in recent years. But an examination of Team 6’s evolution, drawn from dozens of interviews with current and former team members, other military officials and reviews of government documents, reveals a far more complex, provocative tale" (story, video, GIF, links): http://www.nytimes.com/2015/06/07/world/asia/the-secret-history-of-seal-team-6.html?hp&action=click&pgtype=Homepage&module=mini-moth&region=top-stories-below&WT.nav=top-stories-below&_r=0

### May Flowers Bring Bridal Showers

 3,500 couples married in a Unification Church ceremony in 2013              © AP
In honor of June, which, as we know, is traditionally the month for weddings, at least in the United States, a compendium of photographs of the ceremony from around the world (slideshow): http://www.nationalgeographic.com/125/photos/explore-weddings/ and one of interesting traditions, many of which involve mass weddings, also from around the world. It's never too late to incorporate some of these in your own celebration (story, slideshow): http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/30/living/matrimony-global-traditions/index.html

### One White Woman's Burden

The story of Cynthia Ann Parker could very easily be seen as a metaphor for the egocentric way in which groups of people have always viewed and continue to view each other. After reading this excerpt, I wondered what happened to her children, the two sons and one daughter by her Comanche husband, Peta Nocona. Both a son and her daughter died young (Prairie Flower was 4) of influenza, and her remaining son, Quanah Parker, grew up to be one of the last Comanche chiefs: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=3141

from delanceyplace.com:

In today's encore excerpt -- from Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne. The heartbreaks of Cynthia Ann Parker. In 1836, when she was nine years old, she was captured in a murderous raid by Comanches on her frontier family. The story, and the resulting search for her, became famous throughout the country. However, she then became the wife of a Comanche chief of that tribe, bore two sons and a daughter, and seemed a content wife and proud mother. She was finally "rescued" by Sul Ross and the U.S. Army twenty-four years later in a battle that saw her husband killed, her two young sons run away to save their lives, and both she and her young daughter taken into captivity:

"[There was the] virtually universal belief among Texans at the time that Sul Ross, the hero of the battle and the future Texas governor, had saved the poor, unfortunate Cynthia Ann Parker from an ugly fate. That belief would color the histories for a long, long time.
"We will never know how Cynthia Ann Parker felt in the weeks and months after her capture by Sul Ross. There are so few comparable events in American history. But it was painfully apparent from the earliest days that the real tragedy in her life was not her first captivity but her second. White men never quite grasped this. The event that destroyed her life was not the raid at Parker's Fort in 1836 but her miraculous and much-celebrated 'rescue' at Mule Creek in 1860. The latter killed her husband,

### Creature Watch

 ospreys, Bremen, Maine                                                                 screen shot
Live cams! It's time for the Hatch Watch with this particular osprey pair (the dad arrived as I was watching), who are caring for their eggs in a beautiful nest with a view of the bay. But wait! There's more! The Audubon website offers links to live cams trained on walruses and puffins and polar bears, too, among others: http://explore.org/live-cams/player/osprey-nest

### Maybe Socks, Too?

 from unclaimedbaggage.com
There is a place where the precept "reduce, reuse, recycle" is taken very seriously, and that is the Unclaimed Baggage Center. Before you ask, yes, there really is such a thing. It's in Scottsboro, Alabama (mostly known, until now, for the landmark Scottsboro Boys case of 1931 ~ in fact, the center is not far from the Scottsboro Boys Museum and Cultural Center). It's hard to understand how so many suitcases are left behind by their owners, but there you have it ~ and there, in Scottsboro, you have the spoils, ripe for the picking. Says the center's Brenda Cantrell, "Our shelves provide both a snapshot of what's going on in America right now and also a chance for shoppers to essentially travel the world" (story, slideshow): http://www.smithsonian.com/travel/nations-stash-lost-luggage-finds-new-life-tiny-alabama-town-180955422/

### The Police and the People

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Whatever your political stance or general ideology, this chart listing all those known to have been killed by police in the United States so far this year is hard to ignore. So many questions are raised. Are these statistics correct? Have previous years' statistics been correct, and if not, how can we determine whether the number of such incidents has grown over the years? Is it possible, for example, that we are just more aware of them, that their documentation is more publicly available now, due to the growing prevalence of citizen videos shared over the Internet? If their number is indeed up, could that possibly be connected to the easy availability of guns in the country? Or are officers being trained differently?: http://www.theguardian.com/us-news/ng-interactive/2015/jun/01/the-counted-police-killings-us-database?CMP=ema_565#