July 28, 2011

Bears Prefer Doughnuts

Wildlife officials in Oklahoma are studying the state's black bear population. To study the bears, they first have to catch them. And what have the wildlife officials been using to attract the bears?

According to Tulsa's KOTV, they've been trapping them using a variety of foods as bait, and they've had the most success with pastries. So much for honey and berries. As it turns out, bears prefer doughnuts. 

July 22, 2011

Rice Paddy Murals Adorn Japanese Villages

A Sengoku period warrior on horseback
Stunningly beautiful crop art has sprung up across rice fields in Japan. This creative agricultural art form is relatively new and quite real. It's not a hoax. The designs have been cleverly planted using rice plants with different colored leaves. Farmers creating the huge displays use neither ink nor dye, and the photos are not doctored. Instead, different colors of rice plants have been precisely and strategically arranged and grown in the rice fields. As summer progresses and the plants shoot up, the detailed artwork begins to be visible.

Farmers create the murals by planting little purple and yellow-leafed kodaimai rice along with their local green-leafed tsugaru roman variety to create the colored patterns between planting and harvesting in September. 

The murals in Inakadate cover 15,000 square meters of rice fields. From ground level, the designs are invisible, and viewers have to climb a nearby tower to view the fabulous artwork. Rice-paddy art began in Inakadate in 1993 as a local area revitalization project. The idea for such a delightful art form emerged from meetings of the village committee. 

July 21, 2011

Last Space Shuttle Lands in Florida

America's space shuttle program, which saw triumph and tragedy over its 30 years, came to the end of a chapter this morning when the space shuttle Atlantis and its four-member crew touched down at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida after nearly 13 days in space. Atlantis landed in the pre-dawn dark just before 5:58 a.m. ET. The following video shows the event.

July 19, 2011

Long Lost Rainbow Toad Found

Photo courtesy Indraneil Das, Conservation Intl.
We have news of an exiting discovery by Conservation International and the International Union for Conservation of Nature's Amphibian Specialist Group:

A colorful, toxic toad that was last seen 87 years ago, and never photographed, has been rediscovered in the jungles of Southeast Asia. Called the Sambas stream toad or Bornean rainbow toad, the elusive amphibian was last spotted by European explorers in 1924. The toad has unusually long limbs and a pebbly back covered with bright red, green, yellow, and purple warts. Like many other colorful amphibians, the toxic toad's appearance is likely a warning to potential predators, said Robin Moore, an amphibian expert with Conservation International.

"You can see the skin is rough, which usually indicates the presence of poison glands," Moore said. "You probably don't want to put this in your mouth."

July 8, 2011

Last Space Shuttle Launch

Space Shuttle Atlantis leaves the launch pad (Photo: NASA)
"Space shuttle Atlantis roared off the launch pad at Florida's Kennedy Space Center this morning, beginning a 12-day mission to the International Space Station that marks the end of NASA's 30-year-old shuttle program," wrote NPR's Mark Memmott.

With hundreds of thousands of people watching from highways, beaches and balconies along Florida's "Space Coast," and millions more watching on television and the Web, the shuttle and its crew of four astronauts lifted off after a morning of uncertainty about whether storms in the area might force a postponement. If you missed the launch, there is a video below.