Category Archives: Nature

Reviews: The Ten Best Science Books Of 2022

Smithsonian Magazine – Ten Best Science Books of 2022 – December 7, 2022: From a detective story on the origins of Covid-19 to a narrative that imagines a fateful day for dinosaurs, these works affected us the most this year

An Immense World: How Animal Senses Reveal the Hidden Realms Around Us by Ed Yong

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In An Immense World, science journalist Ed Yong dives into the vast variety of animal senses with a seemingly endless supply of awe-inspiring facts. As humans, we move through the world within our Umwelt—a term for subjective sensory experience Yong borrows from the Baltic German biologist Jakob von Uexküll. But every creature on Earth has its own Umwelt that we can scarcely imagine. Through interviews with scientists around the globe, Yong teases out the astonishing details of other animals’ perceptions, introducing us to their fantastic Umwelten. Scallops, for example, have up to 200 eyes with impressive resolution, but their brains are likely not complex enough to receive and process such crisp images. Some butterflies can perceive ultraviolet color patterns on their wings that distinguish them from other species. And hammerhead sharks have receptors that scan the seafloor for the electric fields emitted by hidden prey, “as one might use metal detectors,” Yong writes. But many creatures’ senses have been thrown off by human activity, he notes. For example, our visually centered society has erected artificial lights that disorient migrating birds and hatchling sea turtles.

Vagina Obscura: An Anatomical Voyage by Rachel E. Gross

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Perhaps no aspect of our anatomy is both more fascinating and misunderstood than the vagina—down to the very common usage of what that word means. A vagina isn’t the whole of a woman’s reproductive anatomy. Instead, the vagina is a muscular canal that’s part of many people’s reproductive systems, of varying genders, whether they were born with it or had it surgically constructed. Nuance exists in this territory that is so often overwhelmed by a tangle of science, myth and cultural perceptions, and journalist Rachel E. Gross has composed an enthralling, sensitive book that’s relevant to everyone no matter what your personal topography looks like.

The pages of Vagina Obscura contain plenty of cutting-edge popular science and historic reflection on everything from how ovaries were once miscategorized as female testicles to how operations for individuals injured in war paved the way for gender-affirming surgeries. The book is arranged by anatomical part, and Gross details the function each part carries out. Gross’ work stands out because the unfolding story is couched in what we’ve been wrong about, how our ideas have changed, and how every person—no matter their sex—shares far more in common than we often recognize. Everyone’s reproductive anatomy, as Gross notes, is made up of the same parts in different arrangements, a quirk of human development that underscores commonality. Gross’ exploration is far more than a natural history of human anatomy, but a narrative that busts myths and celebrates all that we’ve come to know about vaginas and their associated parts during a time when such clarity on sex, gender and bodily autonomy is more needed than ever. Where the popular understanding of human anatomy is sometimes shallow, Vagina Obscura brings depth. (Riley Black)

Breathless: The Scientific Race to Defeat a Deadly Virus by David Quammen

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In Breathless, David Quammen has constructed a masterful book about scientists’ efforts to understand SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19. Make no mistake, the book is not about healthcare and our response to Covid-19. The main character in this tale is the virus, and Quammen crafts a detective tale about the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 by chronicling the efforts of scientists around the world to identify it, search for its origins, understand how it mutates and respond to it. He interviewed 95 scientists and allows readers to look over the shoulders of many of them as they use their specialized expertise to study the virus. To show how the scientific process works on a global scale, he details the work of a genomic epidemiologist here, an evolutionary virologist there and a computational biologist somewhere else. Each expert adds or refutes some important detail about the rapidly evolving virus that has created a pandemic. Each discovery builds on those that came before.

Quammen has said he wrote the book with no outline, instead allowing each addition to naturally form on the next, in the way a crystal forms. He has the skills and knowledge to do this thanks to decades spent writing captivating science books, on everything including evolution and the spillover of disease from animals into humans. What results from his immense effort is a solid, reliable and entertaining scientific thriller about a shifty and prolific virus that is still very much evolving. (Joe Spring)

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Hawaii Views: Mauna Loa Volcano Eruption (2022)

CBS Sunday Morning (December 2022) – We leave you this morning with Nature’s great spectacle at the Mauna Loa volcano on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Notice that Mauna Loa, the largest active volcano in the world, was going to erupt — as it did this week for the first time in nearly four decades — came to people on the Big Island of Hawaii an hour before the lava began to flow. Public officials scrambled to alert nearby residents. Scientists rushed to predict which areas of the island might be in danger. The curious made plans to observe what could shape up to be an event of a lifetime: the exhalation of a massive mountain.

Read more at The New York Times

Nature In Ohio: Turkeys In Swan Creek Metropark

CBS Sunday Morning – We leave you this Sunday morning with some very lucky turkeys living it up at Swan Creek Metropark in Toledo, Ohio. Videographer: Alex Goetz.

Ohio’s largest gamebird can be viewed almost everywhere, nowadays – woodlands, prairies and even areas of suburbia. Seen and heard in just about in every Metropark and sometimes frequenting the Windows on Wildlife at Wildwood and Swan Creek Preserve in the city, a wild turkey could soon be visiting a backyard feeding station near you.

Nature: ‘Four Seasons In Yorkshire Dales’, England

The Yorkshire Dales is home to outstanding scenery, great castles, abbeys and a breathtakingly peaceful atmosphere. At its heart are two very special protected areas – Yorkshire Dales National Park  and  Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) – as well as it having the Forest of Bowland AONB and North Pennines AONB as its close neighbours. These protected areas are truly not to be missed.

“Yorkshire Dales, a home to 20000 people and 600000 sheep. The Dales is group of river valley in north England, each valley having its own character. This short film shows variety of seasons in the Dales and typical Yorkshire Dales landscape, such as drystone walls, wildflower meadows and limestone pavements.”

Filmed and Edited by: Alex William Helin

Music by Mark Petrie and Andrew Phrahlow, licensed from Audio Network. Sound effects are from Epidemic Sound.

Madagascar Views: The Labord’s Chameleon (BBC)

Discover how a Labord’s chameleon learns how to hunt for a meal and find a potential mate, all in a short lifespan of just four months.

Labord’s chameleon is a semelparous species of chameleon, a lizard in the family Chamaeleonidae. The species is endemic to Madagascar.

The BBC At 100: Nature And Sir David Attenborough

David Attenborough recounts some of his timeless moments exploring the natural world with BBC Studios’ dedicated Natural History Unit. From his first major series Zoo Quest in 1954 to the amazing advances in technology that have made shows like The Green Planet possible.

See BBC 100 Year Timeline

Following the closure of numerous amateur stations, the BBC starts its first daily radio service in London. After much argument, news is supplied by an agency, and music drama and “talks” fill the airwaves for only a few hours a day. It isn’t long before radio is heard across the nation. This black and white footage from 1922 is silent.

Nature: Bryce Canyon National Park In Utah

Bryce Canyon National Park, a sprawling reserve in southern Utah, is known for crimson-colored hoodoos, which are spire-shaped rock formations. The park’s main road leads past the expansive Bryce Amphitheater, a hoodoo-filled depression lying below the Rim Trail hiking path. It has overlooks at Sunrise Point, Sunset Point, Inspiration Point and Bryce Point. Prime viewing times are around sunup and sundown.

Climate: The Future Of Our Frozen Planet – Sir David Attenborough (BBC)

“We can do it. We must do it.”

Sir David Attenborough. This is life on thin ice.

Frozen Planet II (2022): This six-part series – narrated by Sir David Attenborough – explores the wildlife found in the world’s coldest regions: the Arctic and Antarctic, high mountains, frozen deserts, snowbound forests, and ice-cold oceans. From polar bears to penguins, and from snow monkeys to Siberian tigers, each species must overcome a unique set of challenges to endure its extreme environment.

Views: San Juan National Forest In Colorado (CBS)

“Sunday Morning” takes us to San Juan National Forest in Colorado. Videographer: Scot Miller.

The San Juan National Forest covers the southern half of the massive and complex San Juan Mountains. There are numerous peaks, rivers, lakes, and remote stretches in the forest, including the Weminuche Wilderness, the largest in the state. Parts of the forest are accessible from Cortez, Durango, Pagosa Springs, Silverton, Telluride, and Ouray.