Scientists have made a biological discovery in Arctic Ocean waters as unexpected as finding a rainforest in the middle of a desert. A NASA-sponsored expedition named ICESCAPE punched through three-feet of sea ice to find waters richer in microscopic marine plants, essential to all sea life, than any other ocean region on Earth.
“If someone had asked me before the expedition whether we would see under-ice blooms, I would have told them it was impossible,” said Kevin Arrigo of Stanford University in Stanford, Calif., leader of the ICESCAPE mission and lead author of the new study. “This discovery was a complete surprise.”
The microscopic plants, called phytoplankton, are the base of the marine food chain. Phytoplankton were thought to grow in the Arctic Ocean only after sea ice had retreated for the summer. Scientists now think that the thinning Arctic ice is allowing sunlight to reach the waters under the sea ice, catalyzing the plant blooms where they had never been observed.
The finding reveals a new consequence of the Arctic’s warming climate and provides an important clue to understanding the impacts of a changing climate and environment on the Arctic Ocean and its ecology.
The discovery was made during ICESCAPE expeditions in the summers of 2010 and 2011. Scientists onboard a U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker explored Arctic waters in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas along Alaska’s western and northern coasts. During the July 2011 Chukchi Sea leg of ICESCAPE, the researchers observed blooms beneath the ice that extended from the sea-ice edge to 72 miles into the ice pack. Ocean current data revealed that these blooms developed under the ice and had not drifted there from open water, where phytoplankton concentrations can be high.
The phytoplankton were extremely active, doubling in number more than once a day. Blooms in open waters grow at a much slower rate, doubling in two to three days. These growth rates are among the highest ever measured for polar waters. Researchers estimate that phytoplankton production under the ice in parts of the Arctic could be up to 10 times higher than in the nearby open ocean.
“Part of NASA’s mission is pioneering scientific discovery, and this is like finding the Amazon rainforest in the middle of the Mojave Desert,” said Paula Bontempi, NASA’s ocean biology and biogeochemistry program manager in Washington. “We embarked on ICESCAPE to validate our satellite ocean-observing data in an area of the Earth that is very difficult to get to. We wound up making a discovery that hopefully will help researchers and resource managers better understand the Arctic.”
The discovery has implications for the broader Arctic ecosystem, including migratory species such as whales and birds. Phytoplankton are eaten by small ocean animals, which are eaten by larger fish and ocean animals. A change in the timeline of the blooms can cause disruptions for larger animals that feed either on phytoplankton or on the creatures that eat these microorganisms. “It could make it harder and harder for migratory species to time their life cycles to be in the Arctic when the bloom is at its peak,” Arrigo noted. “If their food supply is coming earlier, they might be missing the boat.”
Previously, researchers thought the Arctic Ocean sea ice blocked most sunlight needed for phytoplankton growth. But in recent decades younger and thinner ice has replaced much of the Arctic’s older and thicker ice. This young ice is almost flat and the ponds that form when snow cover melts in the summer spread much wider than those on rugged older ice.
These extensive but shallow melt ponds act as windows to the ocean, letting large amounts of sunlight pass through the ice to reach the water below, said Donald Perovich, a geophysicist with the U.S. Army Cold Regions and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, N.H., who studied the optical properties of the ice during the ICESCAPE expedition.
“When we looked under the ice, it was like a photographic negative. Beneath the bare-ice areas that reflect a lot of sunlight, it was dark. Under the melt ponds, it was very bright,” Perovich said. He is currently visiting professor at Dartmouth College’s Thayer School of Engineering.
“At this point we don’t know whether these rich phytoplankton blooms have been happening in the Arctic for a long time and we just haven’t observed them before,” added Arrigo. “These blooms could become more widespread in the future, however, if the Arctic sea ice cover continues to thin.”
The findings were published in the journal Science.
As I was planting my seasonal crop of tomatoes last month, a good friend (and my personal gardening guru) informed me that they liked their leaves rubbed, “like petting a pet’s ears,” which I received with equal parts astonishment, amusement, and mild concern for my friend. But, as Tel Aviv University biologist Daniel Chamovitz reveals in What a Plant Knows: A Field Guide to the Senses (public library), that might not be such a crazy idea after all. Plants, it turns out, possess a sensory vocabulary far wider than our perception of them as static, near-inanimate objects might suggest: They can smell their own fruits’ ripeness, distinguish between different touches, tell up from down, and retain information about past events; they “see” when you’re approaching them and even “know” whether you’re wearing a red or blue shirt; like us, they have unique genes that detect light and darkness to wind up their internal clock.
A key reason why plants have evolved such complex sensory system is that, unlike us and our fellow animals, they can’t escape a bad environment, pursue a good one, run away when danger approaches, or get up for a glass of water. Their “rootedness,” which keeps them immobile, is an enormous evolutionary constraint and, like all such constraints, responsible for a great many adaptations. Chamovitz explains:
While most animals can choose their environments, seek shelter in a storm, search for food and a mate, or migrate with the changing seasons, plants must be able to withstand and adapt to constantly changing weather, encroaching neighbors, and invading pests, without being able to move to a better environment. Because of this, plants have developed complex sensory and regulatory systems that allow them to modulate their growth in response to ever-changing conditions. An elm tree has to know if its neighbor is shading it from the sun so that it can find its own way to grow towards the light that’s available. A head of lettuce has to know if there are ravenous aphids about to eat it up so that it can protect itself by making poisonous chemicals to kill the pests. A Douglas fir tree has to know if whipping winds are shaking its branches so it can grow a stronger trunk. Cherry trees have to know when to flower.
Even though plants don’t have a central nervous system where this “knowledge” resides and is enacted, their sophisticated vessels connect their various parts into one responsive whole. In many ways, Chamovitz points out, plants are significantly less genetically different from us than we tend to think — yet his arguments are reserved and rooted in research, far from arguing that plants are just like us. What does emerge from What a Plant Knows, however, is a fascinating inside look at what a plant’s life is like, and a new lens on our own place in nature.
Scientific American has an interview with Chamovitz.
Treasure-hunting for literary history gems in second-hand books.
On her 70th birthday, Dorothy Parker — prolific poet, celebrated satirist, keen critic, astute observer of literary culture — noted wryly:
If I had any decency, I’d be dead. Most of my friends already are.
Less than four years later, on this day in 1967, she suffered a heart attack in her New York City hotel suite and died. The following day, June 8, The Kansas City Times published the following obituary, which my friend Wendy found tucked inside the pages of an old copy of Enough Rope, Parker’s first volume of poetry — a living testament to the wonders tucked inside second-hand books.
Once, reviewing a performance of Katherine Hepburn on Broadway, Miss Parker wrote: ‘She ran the gamut of emotions from A to B.’
As a lover of famous correspondence, especially extraordinary love letters, and of Rilke, I was instantly enamored with Rilke and Andreas-Salomé: A Love Story in Letters (public library) — a magnificent collection of letters exchanged between Rilke and the Russian-born writer, intellectual, psychoanalyst, and “muse of Europe’s fin-de-siècle thinkers and artists” Lou Andreas-Salomé, fifteen years his senior.
The relationship, which began when 21-year-old Rilke met the 36-year-old and married Salomé, commenced with the all-too-familiar pattern of one besotted lover, Rilke, flooding the resistant object of his desire with romantic revelations, only to be faced with repeated, composed rejection as Salomé claimed to wish she could make him “go completely away.” But Rilke’s love didn’t flinch and the two eventually developed a passionate bond which, over the thirty-five-year course of their correspondence that followed, we see change shape and morph from friends to mentor and protégé to lovers to literary allies — a kaleidoscope of love that irradiates across the romantic, the platonic, the creative, the spiritual, the intellectual, and just about everything in between.
Rilke with Lou Andreas-Salomé (1897) On the balcony of the summer house of the family Andreas near Munich. Left to right: Professor Andreas, August Endell, Rilke, and Lou Andreas-Salomé.
In a letter dated May 13, 1897, at the very onset of the relationship, Rilke writes:
You see, gracious lady, through the unsparing severity, through the uncompromising strength of your words, I felt that my own work was receiving a blessing, a sanction. I was like someone for whom great dreams, with all their good and evil, were coming true; for your essay was to my poems as reality is to a dream, as fulfillment is to a desire.
I always feel: when one person is indebted to another for something very special, that indebtedness should remain a secret between just the two of them.
On May 31 and June 1, 1897, Rilke and Salomé took a two-day trip to a small village south of Munich and it was during that trip that the two first became lovers. In a letter dated June 3rd, Rilke writes:
Songs of longing!
And they will resound in my letters, just as they always have, sometimes loudly and sometimes secretly so that you alone can hear them… But they will also be different — different from how they used to be, these songs. For I have turned and found longing at my side, and I have looked into her eyes, and now she leads me with a steady hand.
In a lengthy letter dated July 6, 1898:
Now I come to you full of future. And from habit we begin to live our past.
Rilke and Andreas-Salomé: A Love Story in Letters is remarkably rich and dimensional in its entirety, each of the 200 letters revealing a different facet of Rilke’s exceptional heart and mind, and of the universal commonalities of love itself.
by Maria Popova
“Anything that puts a sense of the miraculous in you… Anything that makes you feel alive is good.”
After this morning’s remembrance of Ray Bradbury through 11 of his most memorable quotes, here comes a rare archival gem: On August 22, 2003, SCVTV news man Leon Worden conducted a short but wide-ranging interview with the beloved author, in which he discusses such timely subjects as future of space exploration, what’s wrong with the education system, and where technology is taking us, exploring ideas as broad and abstract as the possibility of alien life and as specific and concrete as tackling the 40,000 highway deaths that take place every year.
The interview is now available online, mashed up with images from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory — highlights below.
In commenting on the cultural impact of mainstream media, Bradbury echoes David Foster Wallace’s lament:
Maybe we can get rid of a lot of lousy TV, I hope. It can look better if we can destroy most bad TV shows and most bad movies, really making more quality movies. And maybe we’ll redo our educational system and begin to teach reading and writing again. We’re not doing it now, and until we do, we’re going to be a stupid race.
But, unlike Wallace, Bradbury doesn’t believe the medium is the problem and instead makes a case for filling it with more substantial messages:
Anything except what’s on there! I watch the Turner Broadcast night after night — the old movies are better, no matter how dumb they are, they’re better what we’re doing now… We have to have more documentaries, more histories of the various countries of the world, more films on the miracles of life under the sea… when you look at the varieties of life that are under the ocean… Anything that puts a sense of the miraculous in you, that we’re living in a very strange element in this time, and we should appreciate the fact that we’re alive. Anything that makes you feel alive is good.
When asked about our obligation is in terms of passing our legacy along to future generations, Bradbury gives an answer that nods to combinatorial creativity and the idea that “you are a mashup of what you let into your life”:
If you don’t read or write, you can’t be educated, you can’t care about anything — you’ve gotta put something in people’s heads so the metaphors bounce around and collide with each other and make new metaphors. That’s the success I’ve had of daring to put different metaphors together, mashing their heads together, saying, ‘Oh my god, I didn’t think of that — how wonderful!’
“You have to go wholeheartedly into anything in order to achieve anything worth having.”
Frank Lloyd Wright, who took his first breath 145 years ago today, is frequently regarded as modern history’s greatest architect, having masterminded the Guggenheim Museum, Fallingwater, and a number of other iconic structures. He was also, unbeknownst to many, a formidable graphic artist. More than a legendary creator, however, he was also a deep, broad thinker of crisp conviction and wide-spanning wisdom. Frank Lloyd Wright on Architecture, Nature, and the Human Spirit: A Collection of Quotations is lovely pocket-sized micro-tome from Pomegranate (previously), edited by Frank Lloyd Wright Archives director Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer, meticulously culling more than 200 of Wright’s most memorable quotes from his published writings and his famous Sunday morning talks, which followed the Saturday evening dinners and film screenings he held at his Taliesin studio. The quotes are divided into subjects like Nature, Work & Success, Beauty, Democracy & Individual, and Creativity, but among his keenest insights explore education and learning. Here are ten of my favorites.
True study is a form of experience. (1958)
The present education system is the trampling of the herd. (1956)
(Cue in Sir Ken Robinson on the industrialization of education.)
Cultivate the poet. The poet is the unacknowledged legislator of this universe and the sooner we knock under to that the better. Get Emerson’s essay on the American scholar and read it once a year. (1957)
Culture is developed from within and education is to be groomed from without. (1959)
(Cue in William Gibson on cultivating a personal micro-culture.)
When anyone becomes an authority, that is the end of him as far as development is concerned. (1948)
Education, of course, is always based on what was. Education shows you what has been and leaves you to make the deduction as to what may be. Education as we pursue it cannot prophesy, and does not. (1955)
An expert is a man who has stopped thinking because ‘he knows.’ (1957)
You have to go wholeheartedly into anything in order to achieve anything worth having. (1958)
There is no real development without integrity, that is — a love of truth. (1957)
(Cue in this morning’s Richard Feynman commencement address on integrity.)
And, finally, an affirmation of networked knowledge and combinatorial creativity:
Quality consists in a developed consciousness and in a capacity for complete correlation of your faculties. If you are not a correlated human being, you are fragmentary, you are awkward, you are not there in any sense with the thing that is needed to be there. (1952)
Frank Lloyd Wright on Architecture, Nature, and the Human Spirit: A Collection of Quotations is a treasure trove in its entirety, full of countless other FLW gems.
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tags: architecture art books creativity design education Frank Lloyd Wright history
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You may not know it ever happened.
In a recent article on Satyameva Jayate (SJ hereafter) one of our important film, TV and theater artist B. Suresha brought in the argument of the visible and invisible connection between commerce and art and on how the control of commerce over art can limit art and also corrupt and dilute it.
When the strings of art is in the hands of commerce, whichever art may it be, how much ever concerned the art is and has its heart in the right (rather left) place finally its concern and artivism will be playing within the framework of commerce (read capitalism) and all its concern will be, in one or the other way, benefiting the larger capitalist structure. Else why would the capitalist structure even bother to hold the strings of art in the name of artivism.
What actually makes such associations quite limiting and also dangerous is that the art, in the name of artivism, will not be able to survive of its own and the commercial interest becomes more important than the very artivism of such art.
With all respects to the concern of Aamir Khan and all those who are watching the show, we should not let the question on how Aamir Khan, with so much of advertising, Ambani and corporate interest intertwined with SJ will be able to raise some of the most inhumane issues of this country- say caste discrimination/oppression, demand for reservation, khap panchayat, communalism etc- in his show? One show on caste discrimination and a call for mass support for reservation will make Aamir Khan a villain in the eyes of most of the viewers. One show on how monopoly of Reliance can ruin this nation and the capital flow for the show will vanish- or make the show itself vanish. Or let Amir give us one show on NBA- a movement with which he has identified earlier- and speak of the problems associated with the popular model of development. Will he and his show have the same number of audience the following week? The point here is not whether Aamir Khan is concerned or not but how these associations and negotiations chain one! He may not be able to speak of NBA, even while having his heart with the movement, because of the fear of losing TRPs.
This association between commerce and art, thus, lets art be concerned and speak about all those issues which, if spoken, doesn’t harm its commercial interest. So what happens as a result is that the structure of world, which in itself is very oppressive and needs to be fought, remains untouched. Moreover it keeps benefitting from such programmes too.
Have not people like Sainath, Kalpana Sharma, Harsh Mander, Arundati Roy, Anand Teltumbde spoken about burning issues to us? The fact that we require an Aamir Khan- with an aura of being a star- to wake us up speaks about the thick skin we have developed. This is a sort of moral illness. May be the world which we have constructed for ourselves is not a thick skinned one and – to use a marketing word- “good packaging” is required to take the message. But it becomes important to see what is happening to the message itself when it is sealed in a plastic cover?
This moral illness of our times is something which artivism has to cure. We the people, with this moral illness, who are a part of this larger structure and also benefiting from this structure, amidst our busy life strengthening the status quo and this larger structure for our own benefits, feel satisfied about our ‘sensitivity’ about ‘burning issues’ of the world by watching and speaking of some socially relevant issues. This is like personal/ individual CSR. It is, forgive the language, a kind of moral masturbation.
One should remember the recent Idea and Samsung advertisements which showed that ‘like’ buttons on facebook can change the world, bring a revolution, and awaken a generation. It may be speaking about how facebook can help in raising questions and bring about awareness. But the bottom line is “buy idea 3G” and “buy samsung”. Worse it takes activism and artvism from the real to the virtual space. SJ is not very different from this because it again is playing within the framework of an oppressive system, with its close association with commerce, which surely is benefitting capitalism.
One problem with SJ (and also the column by Aamir Khan in The Hindu) is that they sound very much like a moral science class. Bringing up issues and discussing them and thus opening the eyes of the people to the issues and also awakening them are fine. But what makes one turn skeptical about it is the moral high position that Aamir Khan seem to assume for himself. One wouldn’t become so skeptical about it the research team of SJ was to come and narrate these stories. When SJ becomes more of an Aamir Khan show and not a programme which speaks of reality as it really is, there are all reasons for one to be skeptical about it as one has all reasons to be skeptical about all such works where an individual’s aura eclipses the work. In the narratives narrated by Sainath, Kalpana Sharma or Harsh Mander (for example) we do not see their individual personality casting its shadow on the issues they are raising.
It can be argued that Sainath, Kalpana Sharma or Harsh Mander has not been able to penetrate to the larger mass and mass consciousness the way Amir Khan has done. But how can we ignore the difference in the issues being raised by Sainath, Mander, Roy etc and Amir Khan? May be there is a need for the former to invent newer methods of speaking. Possible. But SJ does’nt become an alternative for the former.
That does’nt mean that SJ does’nt have any right for existence. To think that though within the framework of a capitalist system it is raising questions and trying to bring in a difference from within is to just have imaginations and not an imaginary. Like there is poverty of morality and poverty of sensitivity there exists also poverty of imagination. We have been tied by imagination and have not been able to imagine the imaginary to bring in a new form of activism and artivism.