Save the chocolate!

The Amazon rain forests are disappearing at an increasing rate and along with them the best exquisite-chocolate-producing cacao trees.

From August of 2015 through July of 2016, the  Amazon forest lost nearly 8,000 square kilometers of area to clear cutting, compared to a year earlier when 6,207 square kilometers were lost. That’s an area considerably larger than the state of Delaware. Delaware may be small, but like a 1000 piece puzzle covers a large picture, the annual loss amounts to ultimate devastaion..

The Amazon has long been dubbed the lungs of the planet due to its ability to absorb carbon dioxide and emit oxygen. Rainforests can also be characterized as the medicine cabinet of the world as they are filled with medicinal treasure both discovered and yet to be discovered. Quinine, novacain, and cortisone to name a familiar few. In fact, half of the top ten prescription drugs in the U.S. are of animal, plant, or microorganism origin. 70% of plant-based cancer drugs come from plants only found in rainforests. Many plants and animals—potential sources of vital medicine—have gone extinct. Only a small percent of the existing known plant and animal species have been thoroughly examined for their medicinal potential.

About a decade ago, the problem was highlighted in the news and measures were taken to stem the destruction. Evidently, we spanked our hands on the problem and turned to other issues. Without the spotlight, Cargill and other agri-companies are not sufficiently ensuring compliance with their stated policies of only buying products from agricultural lands. The Brazilian government has become lax about enforcing legislation to protect the forest by forgiving those who have engaged in the practice.

At the same time, Mark Christian is turning to producing premium chocolate he calls wild chocolate from rare cacao trees in the Amazon forest. He is not only hoping to promote the specialty chocolate as an industry there, but hoping that it will contain  the amount of clearcutting for other crops.

I confess to attempting to trick readers who may be weary of the plea to save rainforests and view people like me as tree huggers. We might not know if we could benefit from some undiscovered medical cure or how the air we breath is affected, but I hope that the love of chocolate in all of us  will help rally the world. Truffles, anyone?

If you want to do something, click here for a list of worthy organizations, which are fighting to save this natural resource.

Sources: Medicinal treasures of the rainforest 
Preserve rare cacao resources in the Amazon
Amazon deforestation increases when our planet can least afford it.
Deforestation in Brazil and Bolivia roars back  
Video photos taken by NASA 



The Rare Lenticular Clouds Phenomenon

I found these breathtaking photos amazingly beautiful. Be sure to click on View Original Post below the first picture to see them all.


Lenticular clouds (altocumulus lenticularis) are sky phenomena often interpreted like UFO presences. These particular clouds can be generally seen on the top of the mountains, where different wind streams merge.

View original post 39 more words

Do you know what normal means?

The Normal Distribution with average in the center.

The Normal Distribution with average in the center.

One meaning of normal is what is typical, i.e. what most people do. But a recent paper in the journal Cognition argues when people think about what is normal, they combine their sense of what is typical with their sense of what is ideal. In other words, normal is a blend of statistics and model behavior.

Ask yourself, “What is the average number of hours of TV that people watch in a day?” Think of an answer before answering the next question.

“What is the normal number of hours of TV for a person to watch in a day?”

If you are like most participants in an experiment, you didn’t give the same answer. The experiment’s participants averaged four for the first question and three for the second. The results were the same for other scenarios.

So why did I find this interesting? Or why does anybody?

The researchers found it potentially dangerous as human minds are blending what is right and ideal with what is typical, and it is this blending that is of concern. It suggests that it is human nature to think that if everybody does it, it’s okay because it’s normal. Every parent rejects the “everybody does it” excuse from their offspring, but may harbor a tendency to that kind of thinking, themselves.

An argument I have always disliked is the slippery slope. If we accept A, it will lead to B and on to Z, which is perfectly horrible. Therefore, reject A. I have always argued that we are in control at each step we wish to take and will stop when appropriate. Now, I wonder if I am wrong and that as A becomes normalized, B looks less atypical and so on. Upon rethinking I  may agree that the slope is slippier than I thought, but that means we need to wear track shoes and be vigilant about our thinking.

Never should be normal

Never should be normal

We must take charge of our brains. We cannot let daily occurrence of atrocities become acceptable because it is typical. In today’s world, all of us can provide numerous examples that should cause outrage and not be normalized.

Inspired and adapted from:

Forget Atlantis. A lost continent has been discovered under the Indian Ocean!











South African scientists including Geologist Lewis Ashwal of Wits University announced that three billion year old zircons have been found on the nine million year old tropical island of Mauritius. They believe the only explanation is that the island, which is near Madagascar off the eastern coast of Africa, sits atop a lost continent, which was once part of Gondwana, the huge land mass from which Africa, South America, Antarctica, India and Australia split off.  The continent dubbed Mauritia is described as having to have splintered off in a complicated way. Check out the first website below to see a conjectured outline of Mauritia which extends from the island of Mauritius to north of the southern tip of India. I have no idea how they were able to formulate the shape unless it is a missing sliver from Gondwana.

When ancient small zircons were first found on the beaches in 2013, it was speculated that they could have blown there or arrived on the shoes of tourists. Now that  the oldest mineral on Earth has been found embedded in rocks on the island paradise, scientists are completely convinced the point of origin comes from a contnent below.

What I found fun about this discovery is that I am writing a novel about an intelligent human-like species which lives under an unnamed sea floor. If Mauritia splintered in a complicated way, it could provide the home for my imagined tetrapeds. Hooray!


Adapted from:


Latest Medical Discovery: Brave New World or Lifesaving?


Say what?

Say what?

An important step has been accomplished in the possibility of growing human organs in animals. The organs would be created from stem cells derived from the future recipient’s skin so that the issue of rejection is minimized. Scientists at Salk Institute announced that undifferentiated human stem cells have survived for four weeks in a mother pig. Undifferentiated cells have the potential to become specialized to create specific human tissue and organs in the presence of the right chemical cocktail, rather the right sequence of chemicals.

Scientists have attempted growth of human tissue in glass tubes, but do not have the recipes for the chemical cocktails for different organs. Now here comes something I don’t understand. By genetically engineering an embryo to be unable to create a certain type of organ, somehow the embryo’s chemical cocktail might use the inserted human cells to make the organ. What I don’t get is if the master gene for a liver, say, has been removed, then how does the embryo know to make one from the human cells? Whether I understand it or not, the procedure has worked for rats and mice. A rat’s master gene for a pancreas has been removed causing the embryo to create one from implanted mouse cells. The pancreas then has been transplanted into a mouse suffering from diabetes.

In the pig experiment, the pig’s genes were not modified, and when the embryos were withdrawn after four weeks, the surviving human cells had become precursors of human muscle, heart, pancreas, liver and spinal cord tissue. Rats and mice are more closely related than humans and pigs, which makes the success less expected. Hmm, I know some humans . . . The goal is to control the development of the human cells into the intended organ. The rat/mice experiment shows promise. Some research has been banned in the past because of perceived risk to human cells developing into cells of the brain or reproductive organs of the animals. The removal of the embryos after four weeks is intended to respect ethical concerns.

Scientists say that even if organs are not developed for transplant, the tissue could be useful for testing drugs and treatment for disease in place of or before human trials as well as for learning more about embryo development.

We are said to think with our guts or emotions rather than our brains. I admit to feeling uneasy about this experimentation, but in reading the articles and learning that 76,000 people per year are in need of transplants, I understand I need to weigh the idea with my brain cells.



Adapted from: NYTimes Article and others


Wave goodbye to fossil fuels?

ocean-918999_1280Britain’s first wave farm is poised to generate electricity in 2018. If successful fourteen more wave farms will be constructed in 2020. Together they could power 6,000 homes. One advantage of a wave farm is that no land use is required.


Another advantage is that this Cornwall wave farm will operate underwater and is therefore less susceptible to storm damage. It is also not visible so does not interfere with property purchased for ocean views. This wave energy production device is called ‘Ceto 6’ after a Greek sea goddess and designed by Carnegie Wave Energy, an Australian company.

The company received a  grant of nearly twelve million  from the European Regional Development Fund, which is supported by the EU. Government has traditionally played a large role in innovations that improve and save lives. We can only hope that we have reached a tipping point towards renewable energy and that corporations understand the need to revolutionize our energy sources for the future of the planet.

Adapted from

Can Spinach Combat Terrorism?

popeye-37117_1280No, it’s not Popeye the Sailor Man coming to the rescue by eating his spinach. It’s nanotubes inserted into spinach plants which can detect bomb ingredients and other chemicals. If munitions are buried nearby, elements seep into the ground water. Then it is transported from the roots of the plant to the tiny tubes in the leaves where it can be detected using laser beams, which induce the tubes to emit near-infrared fluorescent light. A cheap single board computer hooked to a camera or even an adapted smart phone can be used to detect the light.

The article states that the plants can also detect presence of nasty stuff in the air. The paper published by researchers at MIT have established proof of concept. That might mean it may be some time before we have web cameras sticking out of spinach plants to keep public areas safe.

This ingenious use of Mother Nature delights me. I need something delightful right now.


Adapted from: