Giving the Beast a Voice: Man and Beast, a Film by Daniel Ariola

What can animals teach us about ourselves and the world around us? Perhaps humans are not as superior as we would like to be.

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Beasts do not speak our language, nor do they build civilizations we recognize, so we usually consider them lesser beings. Most people are ignorant of the richness of animal life and experience, oblivious to the fact that an animal can teach us much about survival, satisfaction, and sustainability. When catastrophe strikes, the modern human being lacks skills which are intuitive for many beasts, even “domesticated” ones. On that note, I think we could argue that, in some cases, man is actually the one who has been domesticated. Did you know that science now believes that cats meow and purr chiefly to influence human behavior?

Many people recognize the unique personhood of their pets and service animals–their moods, quirks and tastes–and bond deeply with companion animals. In many cases these animals become part of our families and gain a worth slightly below or equal to our own. Precious few humans have the opportunity to enter into an understanding with a wild animal, a contact that verges on the totemic and the spiritual even as it is visceral. This short film, Man and Beast, directed by Daniel Ariola tells the story of Dr. Alan Rabinowitz. In these days of Marvel super hero films, it has a mythological ring to it.

Video via Peter Simonite on Vimeo

Growing up in Queens, the largest borough of New York City, in the 1950s and 60s, Rabinowitz was plagued by an intractable stutter. Placed into classes with troubled students as well as those with physical and mental impairments, he was lonely and frustrated. It was only with animals that he was able to relax and speak normally. The beautiful jaguar he met at the Bronx Zoo became a symbol of the voiceless and helpless. He saw himself in her captivity and frustration. It is she who lends an air of mystery and mythology to Dr. Rabinowitz’s story. His interest in animals led him to study science, which took him out of human civilization to truths that lie in the jungle, beyond human awareness. The second jaguar encounter confirmed his youthful promise and set him on a journey to protect animals all over the globe. Dr. Rabinowitz’s journey ended last year, as he succumbed to leukemia at the age of 64. What a privilege that he was able to dedicate his life the protection and study of animals that inspired him!

Dr. Rabinowitz worked for the Wildlife Conversation Society for almost thirty years. He discovered new species of mammal, including the Leaf Deer, in Myanmar, where he also helped found five national parks. He created the Jaguar Corridor, a series of protected pathways and environments, from Mexico to Argentina and established the world’s first jaguar sanctuary in Belize, the Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Preserve. As the head of Panthera, the company he co-founded to continue his mission of helping big cats, he initiated work on a Tiger Corridor in Asia. He also worked in Taiwan and Thailand, founding and championing national parks and animal sanctuaries and studying beasts. His vision and drive are legendary, all stemming from childhood pain he was able to transmute into action. You can read a tribute to him on Panthera’s website.

 

 

 

 

 

Quote for Today: Ann Druyan

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It takes a fearless, unflinching love and deep humility to accept the universe as it is. The most effective way he knew to accomplish that, the most powerful tool at his disposal, was the scientific method, which over time winnows out deception. It can’t give you absolute truth because science is a permanent revolution, always subject to revision, but it can give you successive approximations of reality.

Ann Druyan

Public Domain Image via MaxPixel

Quote for Today: Irving Langmuir

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You may define ‘serendipity’ as the art of profiting from unexpected occurrences. When you do things in that way you get unexpected results. Then you do something else and you get unexpected results in another line, and you do that on a third line and then all of a sudden you see that one of these lines has something to do with the other. Then you make a discovery that you never could have made by going on a direct road.
Irving Langmuir

Switchbacks on the Way to Crow Pass © Frank Kovalchek with CCLicense

Quote for Today: Jacob Bronowski

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A man becomes creative, whether he is an artist or a scientist, when he finds a new unity in the variety of nature. He does so by finding a likeness between things which were not thought alike before, and this gives him a sense at the same time of richness and of understanding. The creative mind is a mind that looks for unexpected likenesses.
Jacob Bronowski, A Sense of the Future: Essays in Natural Philosophy
Public Domain Image via Pixabay

Quote for Today: Jonathan Sacks

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The extraordinary thing we now know, thanks to Crick and Watson’s discovery of DNA and the decoding of the human and other genomes, is that all life, everything, all the three million species of life and plant life-all have the same source. We all come from a single source. Everything that lives has its genetic code written in the same alphabet. Unity creates diversity. So don’t think of one God, one truth, one way. Think of one God creating this extraordinary number of ways, the 6,800 languages that are actually spoken. Don’t think there’s only one language within which we can speak to God.

Jonathan Sacks, “Enriched by Difference”, from On Being with Krista Tippett

Please read the entire interview here.

Public Domain Image via Pixabay

Quote for Today: Kate Racculia

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They’re ghosts, surely, and Rabbit absolutely believes in them. There are things in the world, strange machinations of physics and chemistry, queer intersections of biology and theology, that Rabbit hasn’t the slightest interest in assuming he’ll ever understand or be able to solve. They’re simply there to be believed in, and Rabbit is a born believer. He wants to believe. He has always thought of life as pregnant with possibility– a freak twister or wardrobe the only thing separating him from another world– so ghosts, spirits, aliens and supreme beings coexist within Rabbit with ease. There’s a kind of beauty in accepting the possibility, if not the plausibility, of everything imaginable.
Kate Racculia, Bellweather Rhapsody

Image: Orbs © Alice Popkorn with CCLicense

Quote for Today: Akira Kurosawa

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People today have forgotten they’re really just a part of nature. Yet, they destroy the nature on which our lives depend. They always think they can make something better. Especially scientists. They may be smart, but most don’t understand the heart of nature. They only invent things that, in the end, make people unhappy. Yet they’re so proud of their inventions. What’s worse, most people are, too. They view them as if they were miracles. They worship them. They don’t know it, but they’re losing nature. They don’t see that they’re going to perish. The most important things for human beings are clean air and clean water.

Public Domain Image via pexels.com

Quote for Today: Suzy Kassem

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SONG OF THE STAR

I am nothing but
Oxygen and hydrogen,
A luminous sphere of plasma
Held together by helium and gravity,
And like a balloon I float on earth,
Waiting to be released back into the sky,
Waiting to go back in the reverse direction
From which I came,
Traveling through a warm tunnel of light,
And out into a dark, cold abyss
Where I will explode into a thousand pieces.
I shall leave behind my body,
Just like air abandons the skin of
A shattered balloon,
And the magnetic dust that carries my
Heart and spirit will lift us back
To congregate and shine
With the stars.
Home again,
In the fluorescent
Kingdom of the constellations,
I will once again be called by
My soul’s true name.
And my heart,
It will flicker again,
With every memory
From its many
Lifetimes,
And with every wish
Made by a child.
Suzy Kassem, Rise Up and Salute the Sun: The Writings of Suzy Kassem

 

Public Domain Image via Nasa, ESA and G. Bacon

Window on the Universe: The Hubble Space Telescope Turns 25

Deep space photography explores the craftsmanship of the cosmos. Where do we draw the dividing line between art and science?

Hubble Space Telescope in Orbit

Hubble Space Telescope in Orbit
Credit: European Space Agency

On April 24, 1990, the Discovery Shuttle mission STS-31 launched the Hubble Space Telescope into a low orbit around the Earth, the result of decades of planning, research, funding and construction. It was not the first telescope in space, but, twenty-five years later, it remains among the most advanced and most versatile. Its position grants it the ability to observe infrared and ultraviolet light, both of which are filtered out by Earth’s protective atmosphere, and it does not have to contend with atmospheric turbulence, the force that makes the stars appear to twinkle.

The early days of the Hubble began with disappointment and embarrassment. The first images received were not of the expected quality. A fault in the main mirror, which had not been ground correctly, created blurring. NASA, already under the gun for spending money on “Buck Rogers stuff” was a public laughing stock. The fault was fixed three years later by installing corrective lenses. The result has been pure magic. Please click on the attribution links for a wealth of information on each image.

Westerlund 2, a star cluster  in the Milky Way, estimated at one to two million years old. It contains some of the hottest, brightest, and most massive stars known. The cluster resides inside a stellar breeding ground known as Gum 29, located 20,000 light-years away in the constellation Carina.

Westerlund 2, a star cluster in the Milky Way, inside the stellar nursery Gum 29, located 20,000 light-years away in the Carina constellation.

Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), A. Nota (ESA/STScI), and the Westerlund 2 Science Team

The Pillars of Creation, interstellar dust in the Eagle Nebula. The large formations are called elephant's trunks. News stars are being formed here, even as radiation and solar winds erode the dust clouds. Credit: NASA, ESA/Hubbleand the Hubble Heritage Team

The Pillars of Creation, interstellar dust in the Eagle Nebula within the Serpens Constellation, 7,000 light years from Earth. The large formations are called elephant’s trunks. New stars form here, even as radiation and solar winds erode the dust clouds. New data from the Spitzer Telescope suggests that these pillars may have already been destroyed by a supernova a few thousand years ago. 
Credit: NASA, ESA/Hubble and the Hubble Heritage Team

Towering 9.5 light year (90 trillion km) spire in the Eagle Nebula Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)

Towering 9.5 light year (90 trillion km) spire in the Eagle Nebula
Credit: NASA, ESA, and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)

For the past twenty-two years, images of a quality previously unimaginable have been taken of distant nebulae, planets and galaxies, looking far into space and time. Some of these cosmic features are billions of light years away. By the time the light from the stars reaches the Hubble, they may no longer be shining. Astronomer Edwin Powell Hubble was one of the first to espouse the the idea that the universe is expanding. His namesake has proven him correct.

Tarantula Nebula, 170,000 light years from Earth and part of the Large Magellanic Cloud. Credit: ESA/NASA, ESO and Danny LaCrue

Tarantula Nebula, 170,000 light years from Earth and part of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a nearby galaxy disrupted by multiple encounters with our Milky Way.
Credit: ESA/NASA, ESO and Danny LaCrue

Part of the Large Magellanic Cloud, a disrupted barred spiral galaxy and a close neighbor of the Milky Way. This features star cluster LH63 within emission nebula N-51 as observed  by Hubble's WFPC2 camera.  Credit: NASA, ESA, and D. Gouliermis (University of Heidelberg) Acknowledgement: Luca Limatola

Star cluster LH63 within emission nebula N-51, part of the Large Magellanic Cloud as observed by Hubble’s WFPC2 camera.
Credit:NASA, ESA, and D. Gouliermis (University of Heidelberg)
Acknowledgement: Luca Limatola

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field, full of thousands of galaxies. This is the deepest visible light image available, looking back billions of light years.

The Hubble Ultra Deep Field, full of thousands of galaxies. This is the deepest visible light image available, looking back billions of light years. . 
“The image required 800 exposures taken over the course of 400 Hubble orbits around Earth. The total amount of exposure time was 11.3 days, taken between Sept. 24, 2003 and Jan. 16, 2004.” –ESA/Hubble
Credit: NASA, ESA, and S. Beckwith (STScI) and the HUDF Team

Arp 273, two interacting galaxies in the constellation of Andromeda, about 300 million light years from Earth. The smaller one is actively forming new stars and is thought to have passed through the larger, reshaping it into a form that resembles a stemmed rose.  Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Arp 273, two interacting galaxies in the constellation of Andromeda, about 300 million light years from Earth. The smaller one is actively forming new stars and is thought to have passed through the larger, reshaping it into a form that resembles a stemmed rose.
Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

The Sombrero Galaxy, M104, an unbarred spiral galaxy in the constellation Virgo, is 50,000 light years across and 28 million light years from Earth.  Credit:NASA/ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)

The Sombrero Galaxy, M104, an unbarred spiral galaxy in the constellation Virgo, is 50,000 light years across and 28 million light years from Earth.
Credit:NASA/ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)

The high resolution images taken by the Hubble feature little to no background light, and are some of the most detailed images from outer space. This well placed telescope has been able to turn its gaze to many places and produce pictures of heavenly bodies far too dim and distant to be observed from ground based telescopes. What it hasn’t been as successful with is taking shots of planets, which are much smaller and rely on stars for luminescence. Such work is more suited to smaller, portable devices that can get the correct angle and light on the subject. As I write this, the New Horizons Spacecraft, on its journey to Pluto,  is beginning to transmit “better than Hubble” enhanced images of the dwarf planet. You can read more about that here. Jupiter, which is more than twice as massive as all of the planets in our solar system combined, has proved the easiest and most impressive planet to photograph from the large telescope.

Io, one of Jupiter's moons, in transit around the giant planet. Io travels quickly, completing an orbit of Jupiter every 1.8 days. Credit: J. Spencer (Lowell Observatory) and NASA/ESA

Io, one of Jupiter’s moons, in transit around the giant planet. Io travels quickly, completing an orbit of Jupiter every 1.8 days.
Credit: J. Spencer (Lowell Observatory) and NASA/ESA

Jupiter, featuring the Great Red Spot and the shadow of one of the planet's moons, Ganymede. Credit:NASA, ESA, and A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center) Acknowledgment: C. Go and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Jupiter, featuring the Great Red Spot and the shadow of one of the planet’s moons, Ganymede.
Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center)
Acknowledgment: C. Go and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

The Hubble is the only telescope designed to be serviced by astronauts, specifically astronauts traveling in Space Shuttles. The final servicing mission occurred in 2009, and the subsequent retirement of the Shuttles means that there is no vehicle capable of performing service to the large telescope, nor is there any means to bring it back to Earth when it fails. This beautiful window to the stars is closing. It is anticipated that the Hubble may remain in operation through 2020. If allowed to take its natural course, the Hubble is predicted to fall from orbit and re-enter the atmosphere sometime between 2030 and 2040.

Hubble has shown us the distant past, but will not be a part of the near future. It will be succeeded by the James Webb Telescope, slated for launch in 2018.

The images the Hubble has collected have changed and reshaped our knowledge and perception of outer space, revealing both order and chaos. They have enlarged our sense of wonder, simultaneously giving us pride in human achievement and humility in our extreme provinciality and insignificance.

Infrared image of the Horsehead Nebula in Orion. Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI)

Infrared image of the Horsehead Nebula in the Orion Constellation.
Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (AURA/STScI)

In the Butterfly Nebula, 20,000 degree (Celsius) gas shoots into space at more than 950,000 km/h. This nebula surrounds a red giant near the constellation Scorpius, about 3,800 light years away. Credit:NASA, ESA and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team

In the Butterfly Nebula, 20,000 degree (Celsius) gas shoots into space at more than 950,000 km/h. This nebula surrounds a red giant near the constellation Scorpius, about 3,800 light years away.
Credit:NASA, ESA and the Hubble SM4 ERO Team

Pismus 24 star cluster in the nebula NGC6357, about 8,000 light years from earth in the Scorpius Constellation.  Credit: NASA, ESA and Jesús Maíz Apellániz (Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, Spain). Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin (ESA/Hubble)

Pismus 24 star cluster in the nebula NGC6357, about 8,000 light years from earth in the Scorpius Constellation.
Credit: NASA, ESA and Jesús Maíz Apellániz (Instituto de Astrofísica de Andalucía, Spain). Acknowledgement: Davide De Martin (ESA/Hubble)

The bright star RS Puppis, a Cepheid variable star in the constellation Puppis, roughly 6,500 light years away and surrounded by dust. Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-Hubble/Europe Collaboration Acknowledgment: H. Bond (STScI and Penn State University)

The bright star RS Puppis, a Cepheid variable star in the constellation Puppis, roughly 6,500 light years away and surrounded by dust.
Credit: NASA, ESA, and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)-Hubble/Europe Collaboration
Acknowledgment: H. Bond (STScI and Penn State University)

New stars forming in N90, a  stellar nursery in the constellation Hydrus, 200,000 light years away. Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

New stars forming in N90, a stellar nursery in the constellation Hydrus, 200,000 light years away.
Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

M51, The Whirlpool Galaxy, about 25 million light years from Earth in the constellation Canes Venatici, and its companion NGC 5195, which has been passing behind it for millions of years.  Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI), and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)

M51, The Whirlpool Galaxy, about 25 million light years from Earth in the constellation Canes Venatici, and its companion NGC 5195, which has been passing behind it for millions of years.
Credit: NASA, ESA, S. Beckwith (STScI), and The Hubble Heritage Team STScI/AURA)

The Antennae galaxies in the constellation Corvus are two galaxies in collision.   Formerly arranged into spiral galaxies, stars have been flung out into space. The nuclei of the galaxies will one day collide, resulting in one large elliptical galaxy. Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

The Antennae Galaxies in the constellation Corvus are two galaxies in collision. Formerly arranged into spiral galaxies, stars have been flung out into space. The nuclei of the galaxies will one day collide, resulting in one large elliptical galaxy.
Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Mystic Mountain, in the constellation Carina. The formation is three light years tall, full of baby stars letting off jets of gas.  "Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 observed the pillar on 1-2 February 2010. The colours in this composite image correspond to the glow of oxygen (blue), hydrogen and nitrogen (green), and sulphur (red)." --ESA/Hubble Credit: NASA, ESA, M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI)

Mystic Mountain, in the constellation Carina, about 7,500 light years away. The formation is three light years tall, full of baby stars letting off jets of gas.
Credit: NASA, ESA, M. Livio and the Hubble 20th Anniversary Team (STScI)

Binary star system Eta Carinae within the Homunculus Nebula, which lies within  in the Carina Nebula and Constellation, about 7,500 light years away from Earth. This shows a false supernova which stopped short of killing the star. "This image, taken with the Advanced Camera for Surveys High Resolution Channel is the most detailed yet, and shows how the material from the star was not thrown out in a uniform manner, but forms a huge dumbbell shape." --ESA/Hubble Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Binary star system Eta Carinae lies within the Homunculus Nebula, inside the Carina Nebula and Constellation, about 7,500 light years away from Earth. This shows a false supernova which stopped short of killing the star.
Credit: ESA/Hubble & NASA

Star Cluster NGC 3603 in the Constellation of Carina, 20,000 light years away. Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

Star Cluster NGC 3603 in the Constellation of Carina, 20,000 light years away.
Credit: NASA, ESA and the Hubble Heritage (STScI/AURA)-ESA/Hubble Collaboration

The red giant, U Camelopardalis, a small carbon star 1500 light years   away. As the star deteriorates, it emanates a bubble of gas once every few thousand years. "The image was produced with the High Resolution Channel of the Advanced Camera for Surveys." --ESA/Hubble Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA and H. Olofsson (Onsala Space Observatory)

The red giant, U Camelopardalis, a small carbon star 1,500 light years away. As the star deteriorates, it emanates a bubble of gas once every few thousand years.
Credit: ESA/Hubble, NASA and H. Olofsson (Onsala Space Observatory)