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Archive for Março, 2014

Several Short Sentences About Jellyfish

Dave Pollard

 

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  1. The jellyfish is one of the simplest creatures that has ever existed.
  2. It is the oldest living animal species that has more than one organ.
  3. It has no brain.
  4. It has no central nervous system.
  5. It has no spinal column or bones of any sort.
  6. It has no heart.
  7. It has no blood.
  8. It has no circulatory system.
  9. It has no respiratory system.
  10. Despite all of the above, it is not simple.
  11. The jellyfish is, in fact, staggeringly complex.
  12. Despite centuries of study, very little is known about these creatures. We basically have no idea how they do almost anything, because just about everything about them is different from other complex creatures, and remains mostly a mystery to scientists.
  13. The jellyfish is not, even vaguely, a fish.
  14. It has brain cells, dispersed throughout its body and tied into to a neural network that communicates information neuron-to-neuron, not through a centralized system. So it is, essentially, intelligent everywhere, and cannot ‘die’ (or be rendered ‘unconscious’) through injury.
  15. It has thrived for 650 million years.
  16. There are over 10,000 enormously diverse jellyfish species, some of them microscopic, some of them with ‘bells’ over a meter across and tentacles over 100 feet long, and weighing up to a quarter of a ton.
  17. Some species have 24 eyes, which enable them to see 360-degrees in three dimensions, though only 2 of its eyes, apparently, can see in colour.
  18. It can fire venom through millions of tiny barbs fired through tiny tubes on its tentacles, in some species enough to paralyze or kill a human adult.
  19. Before it fires venom, it analyzes the chemistry of what it is touching to ensure it is either food or threatening (and hence worth immobilizing), but even taking time for this analysis it still fires at a speed 10 times faster than a car air-bag inflates in an accident, and faster than a bullet, and at a pressure of up to 2,000 psi, enough to penetrate deep into the skin of most creatures it encounters.
  20. The tentacles of a jellyfish can continue to detect threats or food, and to fire venom accordingly, long after the tentacle is separated from the ‘rest’ of the jellyfish.
  21. It reproduces both sexually and asexually, through a wide variety of ways, including (usually daily) spawning, splitting (division into two creatures), self-cloning, and ‘budding’ (producing new organisms on various parts of its body).
  22. Some species can revert from adults back to immature polyp form when threatened, and then ‘re-grow’ into ‘adults’, over and over, and are hence theoretically immortal.
  23. Jellyfish polyps can remain dormant for years, if the environment is not ideal, before starting to grow and reproduce.
  24. Most jellyfish ‘die’ by wearing out and decomposing, usually within a year of maturation, or by being eaten by creatures who have a natural immunity to their toxin.
  25. Korean robots have been developed to ‘kill’ large blooms of unwanted jellyfish (they have been clogging and shutting down the cooling systems of nuclear reactors, coal-fired power plants and desalination plants, and destroying oceanic salmon farms) by shredding them, but biologists think this will actually increase populations because “when you cut open jellies, you get artificial fertilization — that’s how aquarists get eggs and sperm from species that are difficult to spawn; all those embryos will then metamorphose into polyps which can live for years and clone themselves”.
  26. Jellyfish move with an efficiency (energy produced / energy used ratio) 50% greater than any other sea creature. We’re not at all sure how they do that.
  27. Some species are bioluminescent — they can create their own light to hunt in darkness.
  28. Some large-mass jellyfish live at ocean depths greater than most other creatures can tolerate. Biologists are just beginning to discover the nature of these even-stranger species. A deep dive off Chile last year unearthed a huge never-before-seen jellyfish with multiple solid ‘legs’ and ‘feet’ that was able to self-propel at astonishing speed in any direction and turn on a dime; photographed but uncaptured, its constitution and lineage remain a complete mystery.
  29. The collective biomass of jellyfish is so large that their vertical daily and tidal migrations are believed to affect ocean food systems and indirectly even ocean currents (they compete for food with krill, whose global biomass is second only to bacteria, and greater than that of humans)
  30. Jellyfish, at various stages of development, often form ‘colonies’ that manifest behaviours that resemble those of a single ‘creature’ more than those of a collective. If they are sharing intelligence between bodies exactly as they share them within a ‘single’ body, where exactly does one creature end and the next begin? The Portuguese Man-o’-War, a dangerous jellyfish-like ‘entity’ almost as ancient as the jellyfish, is in fact not a creature at all, but a collective of four specialized types of polyp (whose functions are, respectively, mobility, reproduction, digestion and defence) which have evolved together and now cannot survive independently. [And some octopi, which are immune to the Man-o’-War toxin, carry torn off Man-o’-War tentacles as weapons to use against other prey.]

So here we humans are, clumsy, fragile, watery bags of bones and organs, neophytes in this world of unfathomable ancient complexity. Still drawn to the ocean, from where we came. Only recently did we come ashore. Who can guess what might emerge after we’re gone. And when it does, whatever it is, it will probably have to continue to deal with jellyfish

Anúncios

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Manuel Casal Lodeiro, ECOPOLÍTICA

A partir de 1776 el uso de la máquina de vapor de Newcomen mejorada por James Watt llevó a una creciente dependencia de la energía fósil, la cual otorgó temporalmente a fracciones cada vez mayores de la población humana, poderes gigantescos. Con los desarrollos tecnológicos que vinieron después, el Homo colossus adquirió durante las siguientes nueve generaciones, la ilusión de no tener límites.

William R. Catton, Jr. (2009)

El detritus que nos convirtió en colosos

Tras la Revolución Industrial los seres humanos nos convertimos en una especie detritívora, es decir, que se alimenta de detritus. Esta denominación procede de «Overshoot: The Ecological Basis of Revolutionary Change» del sociólogo estadounidense William Catton, nacido en 1926 y que lleva desde los años 70 del siglo pasado dedicado al estudio de la sociología medioambiental y de la ecología humana. Aquel libro marcó en 1980 un hito en la literatura de la ciencia ecológica con su pionera advertencia de que la humanidad estaba sobrepasando la capacidad de carga del planeta. La obra tuvo hace unos años (2009) una secuela titulada «Bottleneck: Humanity’s Impending Impasse», que constituye el lúcido testamento intelectual de Catton y en el que el profesor emérito de la Universidad Estatal de Washington ya no advierte: se limita a constatar que no se hizo nada desde aquel entonces para evitar o revertir la extralimitación y analiza en detalle cómo la arrogante desmesura (hybris) del Homo colossus2 nos lleva directos a un cuello de botella evolutivo que puede suponer la extinción de nuestra especie o, cuando menos, una drástica reducción en el número de seres humanos sobre la faz de la Tierra.

El detritus del que nos alimentamos no es otro que los tesoros energéticos fósiles (primero el carbón, después el petróleo y el gas natural) que nuestra especie aprendió a explotar y que han permitido que en un intervalo de tan solo doscientos años multiplicásemos por siete la población mundial, la cual se había mantenido hasta el siglo XIX siempre por debajo del millardo de personas.3 Esa cifra aparece por tanto como la capacidad máxima constatada que tiene el planeta para mantener a nuestra especie mediante los aportes constantes anuales de energía procedente del sol. La aportación extraordinaria que ha supuesto la energía fósil nos ha permitido, de manera temporal, ampliar enormemente nuestro nicho ecológico y sobrepasar esa cifra de manera espectacular aunque insostenible. Donde antes cabían apenas mil millones, de pronto —en términos históricos— cupimos siete mil millones. En 1920 aún éramos solamente dos mil millones, así que en el último siglo llegamos más que a triplicarnos.

Aunque también se habían producido saltos demográficos en épocas anteriores de la historia, la gráfica de la población humana desde el año 1800 es un ejemplo de libro de lo que es un crecimiento exponencial. Y si la superponemos con la gráfica del consumo total de energía —o también con la del consumo per cápita—, entenderemos cómo ha sido posible este crecimiento: la correlación entre ambas magnitudes es absoluta. Es decir, la energía consumida (más bien, consumible) es un factor determinante para los niveles de población. De hecho, podemos incluso calcular de dónde han salido tantos seres humanos en términos físico-químicos: las moléculas de nitrógeno contenidas en los cuerpos de los seres humanos que actualmente poblamos la Tierra —en forma de ADN y aminoácidos que forman los tejidos de nuestra masa muscular, por ejemplo— proceden en un 50%4 del gas natural, principalmente metano, convertido en fertilizantes nitrogenados por medio de la llamada reacción de Haber-Bosch, y estos, a su vez, en alimentos vegetales y animales por medio de la agricultura y ganadería industriales (Pfeiffer, 2006).

Ha sido esta disponibilidad, primero de carbón pero principalmente de metano y de petróleo —en cualquier caso: energía solar prehistórica almacenada en forma química a lo largo de millones de años—, la que nos ha permitido ampliar la capacidad del planeta para albergar humanos, rebasando ese supuesto límite natural o ecológico de los mil millones de personas. La llamada Revolución Verde bien podía haberse denominado más propiamente Revolución Negra, tanto por el color del petróleo que la hizo posible como por el futuro al cual nos estaba condenando como especie. En pocas décadas cientos de miles de tractores, cosechadoras y otra maquinaria agrícola se extendieron por el mundo, miles de toneladas de fertilizantes sintéticos fueron introducidos en tierras esquilmadas, millones de vehículos de trasporte, cientos de industrias de procesado y distribución alimentaria, cadenas de supermercados y centros comerciales se convirtieron en el mecanismo creado por nuestra civilización para explotar esa energía fósil y convertirla en alimento para más y más seres humanos.

(mais…)

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António Turiel

El Colapso de la Producción

[…]

Este é um ponto de não retorno na história da humanidade. As contradições do nosso sistema económico não podem ser ignoradas por muito mais tempo, mas os nossos líderes continuam a fantasiar com a saída da crise e a retoma do crescimento económico . Mas em muito pouco tempo vão ter de tomar medidas de emergência para evitar que a sociedade entre em colapso. É fácil de prever que, quando os nossos dirigentes perceberem que o necessário petróleo deixou de fluir, devido ao desinvestimento das grandes petrolíferas, os Estados vão entrar no capital dessas companhias para assumirem os  projetos menos rentáveis. Esta medida garantirá um fluxo de base mínimo para a actividade económica, mas à custa de impostos muito superiores aos que temos actualmente, de modo que o resultado desta última tentativa de manter o status quo será a disseminação da pobreza e da miséria pela sociedade. Além disso, tendo em conta o sobrecusto social que esta intervenção implicará para cada país, o comércio de petróleo irá ressentir-se, já que os países vão mostrar-se relutantes em partilhar um recurso tão essencial, que tantos sacrifícios lhes custa.

Agora olhe à sua volta. Com que recursos conta o seu país ? Que esforço societário implicaria a exploração desses recursos de forma autárquica? Como é que o irá afectar a miséria que aí vem? Que potencial tem V. para resistir à próxima vaga?

Pode-se esboçar o caso de Espanha, como um caso paradigmático. Se se mantivesse o tipo de reacção exibido nestes primeiros anos da crise energética, na próxima década a Espanha apoiar-se-ia no carvão doméstico. As centrais eléctricas no activo seriam principalmente as hidroeléctricas, as eólicas e as centrais térmicas, a carvão, as quais permitiriam a manutenção de um nível de fornecimento não inferior ao actual, embora com quedas significativas no consumo, e não seriam de esperar grandes falhas da rede durante as próximas décadas.

O problema, como já muitas vezes o dissemos, é que em Espanha, actualmente, a electricidade representa apenas 21% do consumo final de energia. Para o resto dos usos energéticos, converter-se-ia o carvão nacional em hidrocarboneto líquido, através do processo Fisher -Tropsch, mas com o qual 50% da energia se perde pelo caminho. Como a produção seria insuficiente para cobrir a procura actual, o uso de energia seria progressivamente restringido, concentrando-se na agricultura, no exército e nos serviços essenciais, e ir-se-ia abandonando o automóvel particular, só ao alcance dos mais ricos. Isso iria afundar ainda mais a actividade económica do país e condenaria uma grande massa da população à pobreza e à sobrevivência nos termos mais miseráveis. Um fenómeno que já descrevemos aqui: A Grande Exclusão. Com o tempo, a organização social podia redundar num novo feudalismo.

É isto inevitável? Não, por Jove. Não temos por que seguir um caminho tão triste. Não é nosso destino inexorável acabar como escravos, longe disso, tal como não o é o colapso social ou a extinção da espécie humana; definitivamente não temos por que acabar no Apocalipse. Mas, se não tivermos cuidado, o nosso destino pode ser muito pouco brilhante. Ainda o podemos evitar. Mas para tal o primeiro passo é reconhecer a verdade, uma verdade dura e que se deve declarar abertamente: E depois passar por fim da ideia à acção. Mas mexa-se: porque já não resta muito tempo .

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James Howard Kunstler

 

     So, now we are threatening to start World War Three because Russia is trying to control the chaos in a failed state on its border — a state that our own government spooks provoked into failure? The last time I checked, there was a list of countries that the USA had sent troops, armed ships, and aircraft into recently, and for reasons similar to Russia’s in Crimea: the former Yugoslavia, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, none of them even anywhere close to American soil. I don’t remember Russia threatening confrontations with the USA over these adventures.

     The phones at the White House and the congressional offices ought to be ringing off the hook with angry US citizens objecting to the posturing of our elected officials. There ought to be crowds with bobbing placards in Farragut Square reminding the occupant of 1400 Pennsylvania Avenue how ridiculous this makes us look.

     The saber-rattlers at The New York Times were sounding like the promoters of a World Wrestling Federation stunt Monday morning when they said in a Page One story:

“The Russian occupation of Crimea has challenged Mr. Obama as has no other international crisis, and at its heart, the advice seemed to pose the same question: Is Mr. Obama tough enough to take on the former K.G.B. colonel in the Kremlin?”

     Are they out of their chicken-hawk minds over there? It sounds like a ploy out of the old Eric Berne playbook: Let’s You and Him Fight. What the USA and its European factotums ought to do is mind their own business and stop issuing idle threats. They set the scene for the Ukrainian melt-down by trying to tilt the government their way, financing a pro-Euroland revolt, only to see their sponsored proxy dissidents give way to a claque of armed neo-Nazis, whose first official act was to outlaw the use of the Russian language in a country with millions of long-established Russian-speakers. This is apart, of course, from the fact Ukraine had been until very recently a province of Russia’s former Soviet empire.

     Secretary of State John Kerry — a haircut in search of a brain — is winging to Kiev tomorrow to pretend that the USA has a direct interest in what happens there. Since US behavior is so patently hypocritical, it raises the pretty basic question: what are our motives? I don’t think they amount to anything more than international grandstanding — based on the delusion that we have the power and the right to control everything on the planet, which is based, in turn, on our current mood of extreme insecurity as our own ongoing spate of bad choices sets the table for a banquet of consequences.

     America can’t even manage its own affairs. We ignore our own gathering energy crisis, telling ourselves the fairy tale that shale oil will allow us to keep driving to WalMart forever. We paper over all of our financial degeneracy and wink at financial criminals. Our infrastructure is falling apart. We’re constructing an edifice of surveillance and social control that would make the late Dr. Joseph Goebbels turn green in his grave with envy while we squander our dwindling political capital on stupid gender confusion battles.

     The Russians, on the other hand, have every right to protect their interests along their own border, to protect the persons and property of Russian-speaking Ukrainians who, not long ago, were citizens of a greater Russia, to discourage neo-Nazi activity in their back-yard, and most of all to try to stabilize a region that has little history and experience with independence. They also have to contend with the bankruptcy of Ukraine, which may be the principal cause of its current crack-up. Ukraine is deep in hock to Russia, but also to a network of Western banks, and it remains to be seen whether the failure of these linked obligations will lead to contagion throughout the global financial system. It only takes one additional falling snowflake to push a snow-field into criticality.

     Welcome to the era of failed states. We’ve already seen plenty of action around the world and we’re going to see more as resource and capital scarcities drive down standards of living and lower the trust horizon. The world is not going in the direction that Tom Friedman and the globalists thought. Anything organized at the giant scale is now in trouble, nation-states in particular.  The USA is not immune to this trend, whatever we imagine about ourselves for now.

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