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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

LIFE CAN BE INTERESTING

I reviewed this posting and came to a conclusion that my educator's proclivity to share information and my engineer's need for coherency utterly failed today.  Five years ago I came to the same conclusion, but decided to call it Sunday Bon Bons, and it had one of the highest readership ever.  In this age of false information and nasty Trumpisms, there must be some value to almost utter uselessness.  So find a way to delete this paragraph and anonymously send the rest of this article to some general readership bin of an adversary.  This mash of factual confusion will obfuscate and waste time.  And, by the way, that book on the left now sells for $1.26 through Amazon.

Life forms are either plant or animal, right?  Wrong!  As of 2015 there are now 7 kingdoms, with the others being bacteria, archaea, protozoa, chromista and fungi.  About a century ago there were only two, prokaryote and eukaryote.  Mind you, in 1993 there supposedly were 8 kingdoms, so it's not just a matter of finding something new.  The science is still evolving.


Viruses were once definitely not considered to be alive.  Now, maybe, but still not quite.  In comparison, bacteria are larger than 1000 nm, while viruses range from 20-400 nm.  They cause colds, rabies, Ebola, HIV and SARS, so they are kind of important.  

With the above as the lesson for the day, let me today just point out some interesting things about life in general.  First, you must have seen on TV Lake Hillier, Middle Island, off the south coast of Western Australia, that turned pink.  

West Gate Park Lake in Melbourne also is well-known for this phenomena.  People complained about extreme eye pain, but that would be the case if you dropped transparent salt water into your eye.  

Also, Hutt Lagoon in Australia.  Of all the things, Dunaliella salina, a green algae, was the primary cause.  But that is because it produces carotenoids, which can be pink.  Salinibacter was also implicated in the mystery.  Best time to see this phenomena?  Go when it is the hottest, which would be January or February.

 And, by the way, there are pink and red (for the same reason) lakes in Spain, Senegal, the Crimean Peninsula, Azerbaijan, Tanzania, Bolivia, Kenya, Mexico, France (right, Southern France), etc.  Watch this short clip of 10 colored lakes.

Anyone heard of the worm that roars?  The root worm Diabrotica virgifera virgifera is responsible for $2 billion/year worth of damage to the American corn industry.  Everything science comes up with, like GMO corn, this larva of a beetle quickly evolves to survive.

Remember Timon, the meerkat, who with Pumbaa, a warthog, raised Simba in The Lion King?  Well, meerkats are mostly deprived animals.  In a commune of up to 50, only two get to have sex.  Through a combination of age, weight and aggressiveness, this couple monopolizes mating and pup-bearing.  The others become sentries, burrowers and babysitters.  Males usually leave, while females stay, and when the dominant lady passes away, the heaviest usually takes on that role.  Timon, being a male, clearly was not a dominant male.  Meerkats, of the mongoose family, live in the Kalahari Desert of Botswana.

Every so often, while I mean well, something goes haywire, so I might as well take eclecticism to a new low by mentioning that Ark Encounter can now be visited in Kentucky.  This Noah's Ark, all of 510 feet long, will even have dinosaurs in cages.  

Led by Ken Ham, this is the same team that opened the Creation Museum a decade ago, also in Kentucky.  Depending on how you look at both, they could be pseudoscientific or a fundamentalist interpretation of The Bible, which is the same thing.  While CM cost $27 million, AA involves a $100 million investment.

The BBC wondered who goes to these attractions in the USA, for there is a similar museum in Portsmouth, except hardly anyone bothers to go to a place that dishonors Charles Darwin.  Read about Darwinius masillae and the silence of creationists.

So would you rather be a pink lake, a meerkat, Ken Ham or a corn farmer?  Don't answer, but, I feel compelled to provide a second lesson.  Repeat after me:  corn ethanol is terrible, corn ethanol is bad.  Ethanol from other parts of the corn plant make sense, but if oil remains at around $50/barrel, the production process for cellulosic biofuels will always be too expensive.  I will review this topic next week.  In the meantime, isn't life, indeed, interesting?

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