“Parahawking is a unique activity combining paragliding with elements of falconry. Birds of prey are trained to fly with paragliders, guiding them to thermals for in-flight rewards and performing aerobatic manoeuvres.
Parahawking was developed by British falconer Scott Mason in 2001. Mason began a round-the-world trip in Pokhara, Nepal, where many birds of prey – such as the griffon vulture, steppe eagle and black kite – can be found. While taking a tandem paragliding flight with British paraglider Adam Hill, he had the opportunity to see raptors in flight, and realized that combining the sport of paragliding with his skills as a falconer could offer others the same experience. He has been based in Pokhara ever since, training and flying birds during the dry season between September and March.
The team started by training two black kites, but have since added an Egyptian vulture and a Mountain hawk-eagle to the team. Only rescued birds are used – none of the birds has been taken from the wild.”
“The majestic old trees of the western US are disappearing twice as fast as they were three decades ago, and climate change is most likely to blame, say scientists. Philip van Mantgem of the US Geological Survey and colleagues collected data from 76 plots on the west coast – from California up to British Columbia, Canada – and in Idaho, Arizona and Colorado. These are plots without any direct human management, so any tree loss is not due to logging.
The team focused on old forests, where many of the trees were at least 200 years old, and sometimes as much as 1000 years old. In 87% of the plots, trees are disappearing faster than new trees are springing up. Death rates varied, but the trend held whether the trees were old or relatively young, big or small, high up in the mountains or down in valleys.
The Pacific Northwest, including the pine trees of British Columbia, were the worst affected – death rates there are doubling every 17 years.”
“The heyoka were different in three primary ways from the other sorts of clowns. They were truly unpredictable, and could do the unexpected or tasteless even during the most solemn of occasions. More so than other clowns, they really seemed to be insane. Also, they were thought to be more inspired by trans-human supernatural forces (as individuals driven by spirits rather than group conventions), and to have a closer link to wakan or power than other clowns. And lastly, they kept their role for life – it was a sacred calling which could not be given up without performing an agonizing ritual of expiation. Not surprisingly, these unique differences were seen as the result of their having visions of Thunderbird, a unique and transforming experience.
Testimony of Black Elk: the heyoka and lightning:
The Oglala Indian Black Elk had some interesting things to say about the heyoka ceremony, which he himself participated in. Black Elk describes the “dog in boiling water” ceremony in some detail. He also describes the bizarre items he had to carry as a heyoka, and the crazy antics he had to perform with his companions. He also attempts to explain the link between the contrary trickster nature of heyokas with that of Thunderbird.
“When a vision comes from the thunder beings of the West, it comes with terror like a thunder storm; but when the storm of vision has passed, the world is greener and happier; for wherever the truth of vision comes upon the world, it is like a rain. The world, you see, is happier after the terror of the storm… you have noticed that truth comes into this world with two faces. One is sad with suffering, and the other laughs; but it is the same face, laughing or weeping. When people are already in despair, maybe the laughing is better for them; and when they feel too good and are too sure of being safe, maybe the weeping face is better. And so I think this is what the heyoka ceremony is for … the dog had to be killed quickly and without making any scar, as lightning kills, for it is the power of lightning that heyokas have.” (quoted in Neihardt 1959: 160)
Today, of course, Western physicists describe the dual nature of electricity. An object can carry a positive or negative electric charge. The electron is simultaneously a wave and a particle. Electricity and magnetism are thought to be aspects of the same force, and as is well know with magnetism, it comes in polarities, with opposite poles (north and south) attracting. Though the Indians did not have access to our modern scientific instruments, they are likely to have observed some of the same properties in lightning. Thus it would have been intuitive to link the dual spiritual nature of the heyoka (tragicomedy – solemn joking – joy united with pain) with the dual nature of electricity.”
“Pelicans suffering from a mysterious malady are crashing into cars and boats, wandering along roadways and turning up dead by the hundreds across the West Coast, from southern Oregon to Baja California, Mexico, bird-rescue workers say. Weak, disoriented birds are huddling in people’s yards or being struck by cars. More than 100 have been rescued along the California coast, according to the International Bird Rescue Research Center in San Pedro.
Hundreds of birds, disoriented or dead, have been observed across the West Coast. “One pelican actually hit a car in Los Angeles,” said Rebecca Dmytryk of Wildrescue, a bird-rescue operation. “One pelican hit a boat in Monterey. While some of the symptoms resemble those associated with domoic-acid poisoning — an ocean toxin that sometimes affects sea birds and mammals — other symptoms do not. Domoic acid also apparently has not been found in significant amounts offshore, although more tests are needed.
Rescuers are wondering whether the illness is caused by a virus, or even by contaminants washed into the ocean after recent fires across Southern California. Many of the birds also have swollen feet.”
“In an important breakthrough in deciphering dolphin language, researchers in Great Britain and the United States have imaged the first high definition imprints that dolphin sounds make in water. The key to this technique is the CymaScope, a new instrument that reveals detailed structures within sounds, allowing their architecture to be studied pictorially. Using high definition audio recordings of dolphins, the research team, headed by English acoustics engineer, John Stuart Reid, and Florida-based dolphin researcher, Jack Kassewitz, has been able to image, for the first time, the imprint that a dolphin sound makes in water. The resulting “CymaGlyphs,” as they have been named, are reproducible patterns that are expected to form the basis of a lexicon of dolphin language, each pattern representing a dolphin ‘picture word.’
Certain sounds made by dolphins have long been suspected to represent language but the complexity of the sounds has made their analysis difficult. Previous techniques, using the spectrograph, display cetacean (dolphins, whales and porpoises) sounds only as graphs of frequency and amplitude. The CymaScope captures actual sound vibrations imprinted in the dolphin’s natural environment-water, revealing the intricate visual details of dolphin sounds for the first time.
Within the field of cetacean research, theory states that dolphins have evolved the ability to translate dimensional information from their echolocation sonic beam. The CymaScope has the ability to visualize dimensional structure within sound. CymaGlyph patterns may resemble what the creatures perceive from their own returning sound beams and from the sound beams of other dolphins. Reid said that the technique has similarities to deciphering Egyptian hieroglyphs. “Jean-Francois Champollion and Thomas Young used the Rosetta Stone to discover key elements of the primer that allowed the Egyptian language to be deciphered. The CymaGlyphs produced on the CymaScope can be likened to the hieroglyphs of the Rosetta Stone. Now that dolphin chirps, click-trains and whistles can be converted into CymaGlyphs, we have an important tool for deciphering their meaning.”
“It is a remarkably hairy close-up. But this tiny microchip attached to a bee’s back will hopefully explain why so many honeybees are dying from disease. Professor Juergen Tautz and his team at the University of Wurzburg in Germany are studying the health of more than 150,000 bees, in the hope of halting the apparently inexorable decline in their worldwide population.
Bees have always been tricky to study individually. Each colony has around 50,000 members, all interacting simultaneously and making it near-impossible to observe them. Previously, each bee would be painted with a different-coloured dot on its back and scientists would video the colony – watching the tape endlessly, to try to work out the behaviour in each insect. But a revolutionary technology enables the study of bees at close quarters. As soon as a bee hatches, a tiny radio frequency identification (RFID) microchip is stuck to its back using a lacquer. This allows scientists to study its behaviour throughout its life.”
“Hacker and writer Joshua Klein is fascinated by crows. (Notice the gleam of intelligence in their little black eyes?) After a long amateur study of corvid behavior, he’s come up with an elegant machine that may form a new bond between animal and human.”
In an attempt to shake off a major case of cabin fever, I went to my local botanic gardens to take a walk. In their exhibition building was a pictoral showing of “The Garden of Cosmic Speculation” created by renown architect Charles Jencks and his late wife Maggie. This is an amazing piece of work and I was blown away with it’s concept and design.
“This book tells the story of one of the most original and important gardens of the 21st century, created by the internationally celebrated architectural critic and designer Charles Jencks. He and his late wife started working on a landscape, that, after her death in 1995, continued to grow into a larger project, an ongoing speculation on the basic elements of nature. Covering thirty acres in the Borders area of Scotland, the Garden of Cosmic Speculation is conceived as a place to explore certain fundamental aspects of the universe.
What are atoms made of and how should we conceive of them? How does DNA make up a living organism and why is it essential to celebrate it in a garden? In dialogue with eminent physicists, cosmologists, and biologists, including Paul Davies, Lee Smolin, and Steven Rose, Charles Jencks has created a series of new, expansive, visual metaphors that challenge misleading and frequently misunderstood concepts, such as the ‘Big Bang’ and the ‘Selfish Gene.’
“The Snow Maiden, or Snegurochka, is a core part of winter celebrations in Russia. She partners Russia’s Santa – Father Frost – helping him with his New Year duties. Her image is familiar to everyone across the country. But her origins remain shrouded in mystery, even to Russians.The character of Snegurochka actually dates back to pagan Slavic religion. She symbolised the change of seasons, the transition from winter to spring.”