September 9, 2010
Around the world, sharks are being harvested for the fins. Hong Kong is the major hub for shark fins in Asia, with most of the fins going into mainland China. The demand for the fins is driven by the popularity of shark fin soup, a delicacy that the Chinese believe is nutritious, with some believing, incorrectly, that it helps prevent osteoarthritis and cancer. For most Chinese the soup is a luxury item, served at social gatherings to show status. It is practically tasteless by itself, and it serves only to provide texture in the soup. With the growth of the middle class in China, this style of soup is driving the massacre of tens of millions of sharks every year.
The New Scientist Culture Lab has a quick review of a new book which examines the Asian shark trade:
Sharks attacking humans is big news; humans attacking sharks, not so much. Conservation photographers Paul Hilton and Alex Hofford are trying to redress this imbalance. In revealing the extent of the bloody trade in shark fins, their book Man and Shark is a testament of our cruelty towards these majestic creatures.
Hilton and Hofford, who both live in Hong Kong, have witnessed the butchery of sharks in places as diverse as Mozambique, Yemen and Sri Lanka. But Hofford had seen nothing until he went to Japan.
“Seeing it in Japan shocked me beyond all belief,” he says. “I thought Yemen was bad, but then I walked into this warehouse and saw 75 tonnes of blue shark laid out across the dock at 8:30 in the morning, with workers silently moving among them, cutting off their fins.” The tableau is the same every morning, except on Sundays, when the market is closed. Hilton calls it “shark genocide”.
Read the complete article in The Shark Soup Massacre and How To Stop It
For more on the campaign against of harvesting shark fins visit WildAid
March 4, 2010
The Chicxulub Impact
In 1980, Louis Alvarez and his son Walter published a paper blaming an asteroid impact for the dinosaur extinction 65 million years ago. The probable crater was later found at Chicxulub, Mexico, and the idea gained wide scientific acceptance.
In the past few years, however, suggestions were made that the demise of the dinosaurs might have been caused by the eruption of volcanoes, known as the Deccan Traps, in India, or multiple asteroid impacts.
That prompted 41 geologists, paleontologists and other researchers to come together to review the data.
The abstract at Science:
The Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary ~65.5 million years ago marks one of the three largest mass extinctions in the past 500 million years. The extinction event coincided with a large asteroid impact at Chicxulub, Mexico, and occurred within the time of Deccan flood basalt volcanism in India. Here, we synthesize records of the global stratigraphy across this boundary to assess the proposed causes of the mass extinction. Notably, a single ejecta-rich deposit compositionally linked to the Chicxulub impact is globally distributed at the Cretaceous-Paleogene boundary. The temporal match between the ejecta layer and the onset of the extinctions and the agreement of ecological patterns in the fossil record with modeled environmental perturbations (for example, darkness and cooling) lead us to conclude that the Chicxulub impact triggered the mass extinction.
The Chicxulub Asteroid Impact and Mass Extinction at the Cretaceous-Paleogene Boundary. Peter Schulte et al. Science 5 March 2010: Vol. 327. no. 5970, pp. 1214 – 1218 DOI: 10.1126/science.1177265
January 4, 2010
A new series begins on PBS this Wednesday called The Human Spark.
Series host and narrator, Alan Alda, confronts the puzzle of why our ancestors in Africa got the Spark and evolved into us, while the first humans to leave Africa for Europe–the Neanderthals–never did. Why did we flourish, while they changed very little for thousands of generations before eventually dying out?
The Human Spark, showing on January 6, 13, and 20, 2010 at 8pm (check local listings)