• Are Mermaids real? Vampires?

    1. Vampires Tales of vampires which have been the inspiration for horror movies the world over originate from a small flying mammal that weighs less than two ounces. Of the three species of vampire bat the one that has contributed to the misunderstanding and fear of bats more than any other is the infamous common vampire bat. Perhaps an unfair reputation considering that they rarely kill their prey, in fact they can feed without their incision even being noticed due to specially adapted blade like incisors. They are found in the deserts and rainforest of the tropical and subtropical regions of Central and South America, making their homes in caves, mines and tree hollows. If they are unlucky in their night-time search for sustenance for two consecutive nights they will die. Luckily for nursing mothers other bats will regurgitate blood meals to them. So how has this inconspicuous creature become the stuff of nightmares? When explorers returned to Europe from the Americas in the 16th century, news of the bloodsucking creatures augmented the ancient myths of human vampires. Myths which had come about to explain blood dribbling from the mouths of semi-decomposed corpses. These South American night feeders carry and spread the deadly rabies virus and are considered an agricultural pest due to their paralytic affect on cattle herds. While bats may prefer bovine blood they have been known to attack humans. So beware the reality of the vampire myth! 2. Dragons With a reputation reaching back over 1,000 years, the stories that surround this outsized reptile are recalled by cultures all over the world. For instance, in England, St George’s day is celebrated in honour of the man who saved his town - and a princess - by slaying a dragon. As a result of this story, dragons are now considered to be a key part of England's heritage. Portraying one in bold colours across its national flag, Wales makes it clear that dragons are a part of the country's national heritage. It is believed that the ferocious, red dragon that appears on the flag symbolises the strength and courage of the Welsh people. With such an iconic position within the heritage of two cultures, it is not surprising that the dragon is not as mythical as some may think. At three metres long (9.8ft) and weighing around 70kg (150lb), the Komodo dragon is a living, breathing representative of this family of creatures which many think are only found in fairytales. A member of the monitor group, it is the largest living species of lizard. Although populations are now only found on a few volcanic Indonesian islands, fossil evidence suggests that they evolved in Australia and dispersed westward to Indonesia. Whether we celebrate its strength or revel in man's ability to overcome its fearsome spirit, the dragon has burst forth from the story books and is still alive and well in the 21st century. >> Read the Full Article
  • Seeking Protection for Coral Sea "Hotspot"

    The Coral Sea is perhaps best known and celebrated for the area that occupies much of its western edge: the Great Barrier Reef, which fringes the northeastern Australian coast. The world's largest coral reef, it was designated as a World Heritage Site in 1981 in recognition of its extensive biological diversity and richness; six years earlier, the Australian government established the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park, which regulates some activities (such as fishing) in some areas and bans them altogether in others. >> Read the Full Article
  • New Jersey DEP Will Provide Green Job Training Through EPA Brownfields Grant

    (New York, N.Y.) The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has awarded the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection a $300,000 workforce development and job training grant to help fund DEP's program to recruit, train and place residents of the City of Camden in green jobs assessing and cleaning up brownfields and other contaminated sites. >> Read the Full Article
  • The most painful sting in the world

    Steve Backshall and the Deadly 60 team trek deep into the hot and muddy jungle to seek out one of the world’s most elusive birds of prey. But no Deadly 60 trip is without its surprises, and when Steve meets an old enemy his nerves truly are put to the test. What's the most painful sting in the insect world? In the jungles of Panama Steve faced his fear and handled a mind blowingly painful stinger – the bullet ant. A sting from most ants is nothing more than a painful nip, often with a bit of formic acid thrown in. But not the bullet ant. As its name suggests, a sting from one of these is like being shot! In 1984, a man named Justin Schmidt published a paper in the journal Archives of Insect Biochemistry and Physiology. He subjected himself to the stings of 78 different insects which resulted in the Schmidt Pain Index with stings rated from 0 (no effect) to a maximum of 4 (most painful). Here are some of his pain ratings and his amusingly vivid descriptions. 1.0 - Sweat Bee: Light, ephemeral, almost fruity. As if a tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm. >> Read the Full Article
  • BrightSource Glad to See Carbon "Tax" Down Under

    Israel's BrightSource Energy is among the large-scale solar developers happy with the Australian government's new carbon "tax" that was just carefully shepherded through parliament by Prime Minister Julia Gillard despite the sort of astroturfing hysteria normally perpetrated only in American media. >> Read the Full Article
  • Unbelievable! The fastest fish in the sea!

    Sometimes an animal is so fast even the record books can't keep up! In this second instalment of "Behind the speed", we journey away from the land into the ocean, to uncover the anatomical secrets of one of nature’s greatest speed demons; the Atlantic sailfish. In pursuit of the title for "fastest animal on the planet" is a fish whose agility and speed pips even a sprinting cheetah to the finishing line. With its long circular bill and elongated body, the sailfish's striking profile makes it a predator created for speed. A master of stability and solidity, the sailfish achieves unbelievable speeds while remaining perfectly on target. Considering the fact that water is over 750 times denser than air, these fish are effectively overcoming greater resistance than to their four-legged feline friends. Which is quite a feat! >> Read the Full Article
  • Amazing recovery, Blue iguana back from the dead

    The blue iguana (Cyclura lewisi) was once king of the Caribbean Island, Grand Cayman. Weighting in at 25 pounds, measuring over 5 feet, and living for over sixty years, nothing could touch this regal lizard. But then the unthinkable happened: cars, cats, and dogs, along with habitat destruction, dethroned Grand Cayman's reptilian overlord. The lizard went from an abundant population that roamed the island freely to practically assured extinction. In 2002, researchers estimated that two dozen—at best—survived in the wild. Despite the bleak number, conservationists started a last ditch effort to save the species. With help from local and international NGOs, the effort, dubbed the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, has achieved a rarity in conservation. Within nine years it has raised the population of blue iguanas by twenty times: today 500 wild blue iguanas roam Salina Reserve. How did they do it? Blue iguanas are raised in captive breeding until they are two years old—big enough to keep feral cats at bay, which were decimating juvenile iguanas. Once they hit two, they are released in the 625 acres of Salina Reserve. Populations are then monitored. >> Read the Full Article
  • Chair of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board says plants need to improve safety

    Chemical makers must do more to prevent careless oversights that have led to a recent increase in fatal errors, the head of a key oversight panel said. The $720 billion chemical industry makes the building blocks for plastics, electronics, furniture, clothing and dozens of other popular consumer products. In the last 20 years, the chemical industry has become safer, Rafael Moure-Eraso, chair of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB), told Reuters. "But we still see very basic things happening, going wrong," he said. "There are errors in the bread-and-butter issues of health and safety." >> Read the Full Article
  • Why the U.S. Debt Crisis is just the Tip of the Melting Iceberg

    As many of this column's readers know, I am from the U.S. and have lived in Europe and most recently Canada for the 10 years since getting my Ph.D. at the University of Colorado. While I am no economist (my Ph.D. is in business), I believe that the recent U.S. debt crisis and the complete and utter failure of our politicians from the President on down to find common ground is just the tip of a melting iceberg for the U.S. economy. >> Read the Full Article
  • Behind the lens of Deadly 60 - Filming a Pit Viper striking a water balloon in slow motion

    To get this fantastic action shot, the team took a nifty bit of kit into the jungle with them. Cameraman Johnny Rogers rigged up a miniature camera. We used a Sony HXR MC1P, but there are lots of fairly cheap, lightweight camcorders in the shops now and most have a slo motion feature. For a hot wet jungle in Costa Rica we needed a splash proof camcorder, but also small enough to position it right in front of the action; nice and close to the snake. TV is shot at 24 or 25 frames per second – the viper shot is 60 frames per second. Given that ultra slo motion can be up to 5000fps, this shot is hardly impressive technically but what’s more important is to get the shot. The result was this great footage of a strike, two and a half times slower than the real action. But you don't have to be a pro to get these kinds of shots. You can pick up a camcorder that shoots as fast as 300 frames per second for a few hundred dollars. >> Read the Full Article