The Photo Ark—One man’s mission to memorialize animals before they’re gone


I can’t wait to get this book


Joel Sartore and National Geographic aim to motivate you to appreciate the beauty of animals who may not be around much longer. They also hope the photos will inspire you to act to preserve them. His  philosophy is “You cannot save what you do not love.’  In fact, his photography has inspired governments and institutions to take action to save species in their countries.  NBC Nightly News refers to him as a modern day Noah.

If you subscribe to National Geographic, you  will recognize Joel’s photos from their stunning covers. PBS has aired a fascinating film documentary of Mr. Sartore’s  exhaustive efforts to get the perfect studio photos of rare living creatures—his first 5,000. His goal is to capture all endangered species available in zoos and wildlife protection preserves. (BTW, you can view free recent back shows free from PBS and any from its history for $5/month or if you are a donor for $60 or more per year.)

In each PBS episode Joel makes the same sage comment. How can we think that it’s OK for these animals to go extinct without having an effect on humans?

He uses a white or black background and  lighting that captures whiskers and fine detail. You feel you face to face with a fellow Earth dweller.  Many I’ve never seen:colorful birds and large weird insects. The red fan parrot reminds me of the headdress of a Sioux Indian chief. Even more familiar animals such as lions, leopards, rhinos and gorillas belong to a subspecies under threat of extinction.

Check out Joel’s website for a charming picture of him facing a penguin. I ordered his book of photos, which is out of stock. It will be a Christmas gift so should arrive in plenty of time. Prints of his photos are also available.

Not only is Joel’s work inspiring, the people who assist him from zoos or wildlife preservation organizations are amazing. One woman spent an entire day rescuing a kumi kiwi egg from predators. Once the baby hatches and is old enough to stand a chance, it is released back into its habitat.

Thanks to National Geographic for their support of this project and their permission to use the photos.

See below to support Joel Sartore/National Geographic Photo Ark

.PS The book arrived and is amazing. It’s a bargain at $35.

SF’s Forecast of Robot Coup is Happening Now


I’m a robot, not an evil bot.


No, robots themselves are not governing the world as some works of Science Fiction envisioned, but unscrupulous humans are using a variant called a bot to attempt just that. Here’s what they’ve got bots to do posing as humans.

* Buy up all of the tickets to popular entertainment events and resell for millions in profits.

* Create five star reviews for products to entice unsuspecting buyers. (A single vengeful robot master could also destroy a company or product with one star reviews.)

* Distort public opinion by flooding public comment sites of government agencies.

* Spread propaganda using social media. (Twitter admits to estimates of 27 million fake accounts. Facebook concedes it was essentially hacked during the 2016 elections. Junk news was shared as widely as professional news in Michigan according to an Oxford researcher1 , who also studied the Brexit vote and the French election.)

It is one thing to interfere with commerce, but democracy depends on voters having factual information. Otherwise we will be governed not by robots but by worse, the evil among us. Tim Wu, who authored the article for this blog, suggests we are not far from the following.

* Campaign limit spending by individuals thwarted by using bots to make contributions.

* Voting bots as the ultimate destruction of democracy.

So what’s being done or what should we do? The Captchas we have to fill out to prove we are not a robot are becoming more prevalent. Despite their annoyance— wish they were more legible—they or something similar needs to be more widely employed. Perhaps social media sites should be legally required to employ means to guarantee their members are human. It should also be illegal to use any program that hides its real identity.

If we don’t do something the disastrous results predicted by Science Fiction will get worse.

  1. Philip Howard, runs the Oxford Computational Propaganda Research Project


Post Publication: Hackers at a cybersecurity convention were able to break into every voting machine used in recent US elections and manipulate the software to register fake ballots and change vote tallies.See NYTimesArticle. 

Get your free fantasy anthology here because you can.

One of my stories, Reboot, is included in this e-collection of fantasy stories and will only cost you a few clicks if you act soon.  Glimpses is free during a prepublication period. Reboot is realistic until the surprise ending.

Glimpses is an eclectic collection including humor and creepy stuff, some not for the faint of heart. I found The Eresutna, the funniest, Wolf of Wool Street and Spots All Over, the most droll. Lots of dragon-like critters. Go to and claim your free ecopy. I

The goal is to collect fans.Feel free to share with anyone you think likes fantasy. What’s nice about short stories is you can read when you’re in the mood and not have to worry where you left off.

Frugal Science-Nothing short of amazing

Dr. Pakresh holds a paper microscope before folding.

Manu Pakresh of Stanford University has invented a paper microscope, called a foldscope, which is powerful enough to identify mosquitos that carry the dengue and other viruses, detect cervical cancer, and more. It costs less than $1.00 with inexpensive lenses and batteries. There is a plan and support to send out 1,000,000 to over 130 countries.

Much of our health care depends on diagnoses obtained from costly medical equipment. A centrifuge, which tests blood and urine is one of the cheapest instruments at $1,000 and provides excellent information in diagnosing disease.

In a Ted talk, Dr.Pakresh described parts of the world where over a billion people live without electricity, making a donated centrifuge so pointless that in one remote village, it was used as a doorstop. He goes on to describe a device based on a toy whirligig, or a button on a pair of strings. He invented a paperfuge to which one can tape a tiny tube of blood obtained with a lancet, which can then be spun by hand to achieve results capable of separating blood cells in order to detect anemia, malaria, and more. When people live 6 hours from the nearest road, this is a lifesaver. The device costs 20 cents and obviously requires no electricity.

Humans do not have a world location map  of the different varieties of mosquitos in the world. Professor Pakresh  would like to solicit the aid of many volunteers to record mosquito whines. While mosquitoes are difficult to distinguish visibly, their whines are distinct and can be easily recorded with a $5-$10 flip cell phone. Since different mosquitos carry different diseases, the implication for world health is significant.

A curious young girl wanted to count the muscles on an ant leg.

These cheap but powerful instruments could make a huge impact on improving healthcare worldwide, but the good professor sees yet another long-lasting benefit. Born in an underdeveloped country, he sees the availability of these tools in schools as tapping the inherent curiosity of children everywhere and creating a new generation of scientists who will further improve the human condition.


Sources: Ted Talk
Foldscope materials 
More Foldscope info

Gastrophysics: No, that’s not a typo!

My kind of dessert (lemon sorbet & berries.)

An author1 interviewed on NPR has invented a new science: the study of the taste of food and named his book, Gastrophysics.  All of our senses affect how our food tastes and the amount we eat. I knew the French eat richer, tastier food, but less of it because one eats until satisfied, and the yummier it is the quicker that happens. Slower mindful eating also resonated as common sense in terms of enjoyment. Eating while multitasking equates with eating more, taking longer for the brain to notice the tummy is full. Ergo, turn off the TV and get your devices off the table.

The fact that presentation adds to one’s satisfaction  is also not surprising. The gastrophysicist  tested white vs. black plates. Strawberries taste better on white plates. I thought I circled my plate for easier access to cut my meat, but aesthetic reasons may be involved. I understand the influence of the shape of the plate and the heft of the flatware for the total dining experience, but not the taste.

It goes without saying that smell affects taste since much of taste is smell, but what is more tantalizing to the appetite than the aroma of a roasting turkey on Thanksgiving?.

I’ve always appreciated certain textures of food. I like chewy, and I like something crisp in a salad. Mr. Spence asked if anyone would eat a soggy potato chip.

The biggest surprise  was how sound affects taste. It’s not just that calm music relaxes you, allowing you to enjoy your meal. The author played two selections of music while Michael Krasny tasted chocolate. One had more bass and now I don’t recall which gave the chocolate a sweeter taste. When some high-pitched screechy bit was played, I could feel the saliva building in the back of my mouth as if I had swallowed pure lemon juice.

Then there may be an explanation about why airplane food is not prized. Altitude affects  taste. However, a spicy bloody mary mix tastes better in the friendly skies, and a higher percentage of bloody marys are sold on planes than in bars.Now I know why it’s my favorite order even if it’s a virgin order.

At any rate, I thought the interview was food for thought. Don’t groan!


  1. Charles Spence

Mysterious phenomenon may now have explanation



Reports of  light in the middle of the night called airglow or nocturnal sun— by which one could read— date back to the time of the Romans and have mystified scientists for centuries. Now Canadian scientists1 think they have the answer.

The oxygen we breathe is a molecule of two oxygen atoms. Beyond 60 miles from earth’s surface, ultraviolet light from the sun separates the atoms during the day. Then at night when the sun is gone, the atoms reunite and in the process release energy in the form of light. I find this counterintuitive, but it’s standard chemistry. Normally, while the energy is visible as light only to scientific instruments, sometimes humans can see it, but why?

Think of air currents as waves in the ocean. In fact they are called zonal waves and are influenced by Earth’s rotation and severe weather on Earth’s surface. Usually waves peak in different places, but occasionally there’s a pileup of waves in the same spot. This pileup is believed to account for increased intensity of the light to the point that it beautifully lights the sky. Despite growing up on a farm with minimal light pollution, I’ve never seen it. It happens about once a year and is more common at middle latitudes.

It must be exciting to be a scientist who unlocks the mysteries of our universe.


  1. Gordon Shepherd and Young-Min Cho, atmospheric scientists from York University.



Source:  NYTimes Article 

What I learned from a second grader

Pretty deadly

On a flight back from a sisters visit in the Chicago area, I sat next to a charming second grade boy. Despite the fact the battery on his game tablet needed recharging, he sat quietly with his thoughts, a fidget spinner, and looking out the window throughout three hours of a four hour flight. Isaiah—yes, that was his name with brothers Elijah and Ezekiel—was getting a bit restless, and I engaged him in conversation to discover his fascination with carnivorous plants. He had a Pitcher Plant and a Venus Flytrap, both familiar. The Venus flytrap died he reported, because he and his dad stuck their fingers in it too many times.   He went on to describe his Sundews, which I had never heard of nor knew how to spell. He said they have sticky drops, which attract insects and entrap them. Then their petals fold to digest their prey. Online I Iearned that insects may provide nutrients lacking in the soil in which these beautiful plants grow.

I was totally charmed and heartened. Maybe this young boy, who was content imagining,  will grow to be a man who figures out a way for this planet to survive climate change.