Thursday, July 19, 2007

Megaflood Made Island Britain

By Princessa

Britain became separated from mainland Europe after a catastrophic flood some time before 200,000 years ago, a sonar study of the English Channel confirms.

The images reveal deep scars on the Channel bed that must have been cut by a sudden, massive discharge of water.

Scientists tell the journal Nature that the torrent probably came from a giant lake in what is now the North Sea.

Some event - perhaps an earthquake - caused the lake's rim to breach at the Dover Strait, they believe.

Dr Sanjeev Gupta, from Imperial College London, and colleagues say the discharge would have been one of the most significant megafloods in recent Earth history, and provides an explanation for Britain's island status.

"This event, or series of events, that caused [the breach] changed the course of Britain's history," Dr Gupta told BBC News.

"If this hadn't happened, Britain would always have been a peninsula of Europe. There would have been no need for a Channel Tunnel and you could always have walked across from France into Britain, as early humans did prior to this event."

Tremor trigger?

The idea of a great flood stems from scientists' understanding of northern Europe's ice age past.

It is believed that hundreds of thousands of years ago, when ice sheets had pushed down from Scotland and Scandinavia, there existed a narrow isthmus linking Britain to continental Europe.

This gently upfolding chalk ridge was perhaps some 30m higher than the current sea level in the English Channel.

Palaeo-researchers think it bounded a large lake to the northeast that was filled by glacial meltwaters fed by ancient versions of the rivers Thames and Rhine.

Then - and they are not sure of the precise date - something happened to break the isthmus known as the Weald-Artois ridge.

"Possibly this was just the build-up of water behind. Possibly something triggered it; it's well known today that there are small earthquakes in the Kent area," explained Imperial's Dr Jenny Collier.

Re-routing rivers

Either way, once the ridge was broken, the discharge would have been spectacular.

The Imperial College and UK Hydrographic Office study used high-resolution sonar waves to map the submerged world in the Channel basin.

The images detail deep grooves and streamlined features, the hallmarks of landforms that have been gouged by large bodies of fast-moving water.

At its peak, it is believed that the megaflood could have lasted several months, discharging an estimated one million cubic metres of water per second. And from the way some features have been cut, it is likely there were at least two distinct phases to the flooding.

"I was frankly astonished," said Dr Collier. "I've worked in many exotic places around the world, including mid-ocean ridges where you see very spectacular features; and it was an enormous surprise to me that we should find something with a worldwide-scale implication offshore of the Isle of Wight. It was completely unexpected."

The researchers tell Nature that the ridge breach and the subsequent flooding would have helped reorganise river drainage in northwest Europe, re-routing both the Thames and the Rhine.

Fossil filling

The megaflood theory has been around for some 30 years; but the sonar images represent the clearest narrative yet for the story.

Previous studies of prehistoric animal remains from the past half-million years have already revealed the crucial role the English Channel has played in shaping the course of Britain's natural history.

The Channel has acted as a filter through time, letting some animals in from mainland Europe but not others.

And even when water was locked up in giant ice sheets and sea levels plummeted, the Rhine and the Thames rivers would have dumped meltwater into a major river system that flowed along the Channel's floor.

Scientists can see all of this influence written in the type and mix of British fossils they find at key periods in history.

Professor Chris Stringer is director of the Ancient Human Occupation of Britain (Ahob) project, which has sought to fill out the details of the British Isles' prehistory.

"The timing and method of formation of the Channel has been a long-running argument - after all, it really makes Britain what it is today, geographically," he commented.

"The evidence presented in this paper is spectacular. It certainly explains and reinforces the picture the Ahob project has been putting together of the increasing isolation of Britain from Europe after 400,000 years ago."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

UK Needs Clear Space Strategy

By Princessa

The UK government needs to develop a more coherent strategy on space, or risk falling behind other countries, a House of Commons committee has warned.

But MPs did not support calls for the creation of a UK Space Agency.

Many scientists say a space agency would give Britain more influence in determining international space policy.

The committee also said there should be no policy block on the UK fielding astronauts, or on developing its own rockets for launching satellites.

Observers say that despite having many leading space scientists and some of the best industry expertise, the UK remains a bit-part player on the international stage.

Britain's lack of influence means that it misses out on lucrative contracts to build science instruments and spacecraft, they argue.

Many scientists believe this is because individual space programmes are overseen by several different government departments, resulting in a lack of coherency when it comes to overall space policy.

The report by the House of Commons Science & Technology Committee agrees that there are many problems with the current situation.

The British National Space Centre (BNSC) was set up to oversee the UK's space activities.

But the report said the BNSC lacked leadership and co-ordination. It said that a low profile and poor resources contributed to the current problems.

Evidence to the committee suggested the worldwide perception of the BNSC was of an organisation with "no budget and therefore no power, whose consultative nature renders it ineffectual in the promotion of UK space interests".

Trading on past?

Phil Willis MP, the committee's chairman commented: "There is no doubt that UK space is a big success story, but there is no doubt either that we are living on past investments."

He added: "In order to stay in the game and ahead of the game we now have to take some very hard decisions, both in research terms and in commercial terms. First of all, we need focus.

"If the European Space Agency [Esa] is to be our main vehicle, then we need a far tougher approach to negotiations with them, and that is where the BNSC can play such an important role."

The report stopped short of endorsing the call, from the UK's Royal Society among others, for a full UK space agency with overall authority for British space activities.

It opted instead to recommend strengthening the BNSC's role, a decision which will disappoint many in the space community.

However, the committee said such an agency would not be able to shoulder the accompanying responsibilities based on current levels of funding.

In 2005-6, the UK spent £207.61m on space, far less than the sums invested by France, Italy and Germany during the same period.

'Comprehensive work'

George Fraser, director of the University of Leicester's Space Research Centre, called the Science & Technology Committee's report a comprehensive and detailed work.

But he added: "They have set themselves a difficulty in that they've assumed that there won't be any large-scale increase in funding so the status quo will be perpetuated.

"The select committee might have been more minded to agree with us had there been a budget there to make radical change, and I guess they anticipate there won't be, so BNSC has got to be encouraged and adapted."

The committee also criticised the UK's traditional rejection of involvement in manned spaceflight and launcher systems.

Although a member state of Esa, the UK gives no funds to the space agency's astronaut corps.

The report recommended that the UK leave the option of such missions open, to be considered like other proposals and judged according to the best science.

But, ultimately, the £150m annual cost of joining astronaut programmes could prove prohibitive.

Giving evidence to the committee, Dr David Tsiklauri from the University of Salford argued that the absence of space vehicle launching capability had reduced the UK's competitiveness in the global market.

Andrew Weston from the University of Warwick told the committee the UK could reap significant economic and technological benefits from developing its own launch capability.

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) has said it is exploring a dialogue with industry and others on developing a low-cost launcher for small satellites.

The prospect raises the possibility of a British version of the X-Prize - the US competition to develop the first private space vehicle.

Funds working harder

"We heard plenty of evidence to say there was a sufficient supply of launchers, either from the US, or Russia, or Europe through Ariane," Mr Willis told BBC News.

"But we then heard other evidence that getting the right launcher at the right time was not quite as easy as had been suggested.

"It may well be that in the future, we need that technology either in a military sense or in a civil sense, which is why we have recommended that there ought to be a closer link between the MOD and civilian space in order to develop launcher technology if that is what we want to do."

Industry believes one of the best ways limited government funding can be made to work harder is by backing Esa's technology "seedcorn" fund known as Artes (Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems).

The programme puts money into basic research and product development. Industry says it provides a 7:1 return, and has called for the UK contribution to be significantly increased to £30m (approximately 44m euros).

David Williams runs Avanti Screenmedia PLC which will soon launch the Hylas satellite to deliver broadband internet services to rural Europe. He said Britain and Europe needed to work smarter.

"The Chinese and the Indians are overtaking us in space; they are spending billions and we can't compete with that," he told BBC News.

"What we can do is maintain a cutting edge by always being at the very zenith of new technology. What I did with Hylas was take some government R&D money and marry it with City money and deploy it in real time. If the government picks winners and gets technology into space quickly, we can maintain a competitive advantage."

The Commons committee supports this view and has called on government to review its Artes contributions.

The BNSC is currently drafting a new UK space strategy, which is due for publication later in the year.

Disneyland Opens

By Princessa

July 17, 1955: The world's first theme park, envisioned by Walt Disney as a place where the entire family could go for amusement, opened July 20, 1955. With four "lands" (Adventureland, Frontierland, Fantasyland and Tomorrowland) the point of the park was that each attraction be a total experience rather just a "ride."

Word Of The Day

By Princessa

subfusc: dark or dull in color.


This place is very subfusc.
I do not like things that are subfusc.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Endangered bird 'makes comeback'

By Princessa

The woodlark, one of England's most critically endangered birds, is making a dramatic comeback, the RSPB has said.

In the last 10 years, numbers have almost doubled from 1,633 breeding pairs in the UK in 1997 to 3,084 pairs, according to the charity's survey.

But conservationists fear woodlarks' good fortune may be short-lived.

They say that undisturbed and untilled farmland where the birds like to nest may begin to disappear as pressure to use land for biofuels increases.

Refuge for wildlife

Sue Armstrong-Brown, the RSPB's head of conservation, said: "The return of the woodlark to our fields, heaths and forests is brilliant news - and shows how important set-aside (land) has become as a refuge for wildlife on our farmland."

But she warned it was crucial their recovery was not "sabotaged" and called for increased efforts to restore and manage lowland heaths to create suitable conditions for the birds.

The woodlark was first red-listed as a species of conservation concern in the 1980s following a dramatic decline in its population in the previous two decades.

At its lowest point in 1986, there were just 241 breeding pairs.

Its decline coincided with the loss of traditional farmland in the south west of England and Wales, and the loss of heathland across the UK.

However, the European agricultural policy of the early 1990s proved an unlikely saviour.

Farmers were paid to take land out of production to reduce EU "food mountains".

It became known as set-aside land and proved a boon to wildlife, including the woodlark.

Nobel Physicist Julian Schwinger Dies

By Princessa

July 16, 1994: Julian Schwimmer was interested in the mathematics of forces, especially electromagnetism. He won the Nobel prize for his calculations of the influence of electromagnetism on the movement of electrons.

Word Of The Day

By Princessa

fructuous: fruitful; productive.

Please start doing something fructuous.
You are very fructuous with your students.

Friday, July 13, 2007

London's Small But Relentless Dip

By Princessa

A new assessment of land and sea level changes in London and the Thames estuary has been made by scientists.
Their study - based on tide gauge, GPS, gravity, and satellite measurements - shows a general pattern of subsidence of 1-2mm a year.

With waters rising in the region by about 1mm a year, the combined effect is a 2-3mm a year rise in sea level with respect to the land.

The study has been conducted for the Environment Agency.

The information is critical to the planning of London's sea defences in the face of climate-driven ocean rise. The region is home to 1.3 million people and has a property value put at more than £80bn.

These numbers are set to increase substantially as the capital, together with the estuary counties of Kent and Essex, look to expand development ahead of, and beyond, the 2012 Olympics.

The 300km of tidal defences including embankments, walls, gates and barriers will, at some stage, have to be adapted or moved, or new types of defences created that make better use of the natural floodplain.

London's key defensive installation, the Thames Barrier at Woolwich, also faces upgrading.

The new housing and business developments in the tidal floodplain, behind those defences, are also challenged to be located, designed and built to manage the increasing risk of flooding.

Engineers would like to know where improvements should be prioritised and on what timescale. "Monitoring of the estuary will give us a really good understanding of the likely trajectory in terms of risk," said Owen Tarrant, from the Environment Agency's TE2100 Project.

"The way that risk evolves through the century will not only affect the timing of the implementation of the options, but it will also affect the identification of the preferred options," he told BBC News.

See how defences have been raised in the past
Finer scale

The new assessment of land and sea level changes has been led by Dr Richard Bingley, from the Institute of Engineering Surveying & Space Geodesy at the University of Nottingham.

He has recruited researchers from a range of institutions and disciplines.

The team's intention has been to draw together data sets from different measurement approaches, to get a fuller picture of how the Thames region is moving over time.

Dr Bingley's own area of expertise is with the UK's scientific Global Positioning System (GPS) stations, which can, after much processing and analysis, sense millimetric changes in land movement.

Their data has been combined with readings from the absolute gravimeters run by the Proudman Oceanographic Laboratory to give detailed point trends. And this information has then been further combined with an InSAR analysis by Nigel Press Associates (NPA) of radar measurements from Europe's Envisat and ERS satellites.

The result is a broad picture of land deformation across the Thames region as whole.

The investigation confirms geologic studies that show the Earth's crust is still responding to the loss of the heavy ice sheet which covered much of Britain more than 10,000 years ago - with southeast England, including London, slowly sinking.

"Britain as a whole was already quite well understood," explained Dr Bingley. "We knew the north was rising and the south was subsiding; but without the work we've done we'd only have had a single figure for the Thames Estuary.

"Through the use of InSAR we can extrapolate from a few scattered GPS stations to almost a million points spread throughout the region so we see things on a much finer scale; we can show domains of movement and how - in some respects - they are restricted to quite close to the estuary, but of course that's where the flood defences are going to be."

The land subsidence - of the order of one or two millimetres per year - has to be combined with the measurements taken by tide gauges to give a true picture of sea level rise. Dr Bingley and colleagues have now done this for the Thames - and it equates to a year-on-year 2-3mm increase.

The new maps of land movement have been analysed by geologists to assess which rocks and sediments are likely to experience further descent. Some are relatively easily explained, such as the continued settlement of recent, or Holocene, deposits that line the river.

Some dips relate to water extraction by pumping stations, and it is even possible to see the settlement of land above underground construction projects such as the Jubilee Tube line extension and an electricity tunnel between Battersea and Putney.

But there are also some surprises, with a land rise evident in particular around Northolt in the northwest of London.

"London lies at the junction of three deeply-buried geological terrains," explained Dr Don Aldiss from the British Geological Survey.

"In the northwest, deep under Northolt, is part of what we call the Midlands Microcraton. These are among the oldest rocks in England. The uplift around Northolt is not massive - less than half a millimetre per year - but it's real. It seems to be some kind of edge effect or bulging where the rocks from the south meet the microcraton."

Tracing the millimetric trend in land movement has been an extremely challenging task, especially given the far larger day-to-day movements that can occur.

London itself will rock by 10mm, twice a day, with loading from ocean tides. The seasons also alternately load and unload the ground, making the Earth's crust "breathe" up and down over a longer period.

All of these confounding variables have to be taken into account - something that has proved especially testing when using GPS to sense millimetric changes in land movement.

"Within the GPS data you have to model loading effects and also account for atmospheric effects on the GPS signals. We have done this and have not only reduced the errors, but we now understand better what's in those error bars," explained Dr Norman Teferle from the University of Nottingham.

The full scientific report (including the images presented here) has been published as Defra/Environment Agency Joint R&D FCERM Programme R&D Technical Report FD2319/TR and can be downloaded from the Defra/EA Joint R&D FCERM Programme website (see internet links).

Marconi Receives U.S. Patent For Wireless Telegraph

By Princessa

In 1896, Guglielmo Marconi, an Italian inventor, sent his first radio transmissions, coded signals that traveled only about one mile. But Marconi saw that his invention had enormous potential. After some obstacles to the promotion of the device in Europe, Marconi received a United States patent for his wireless telegraph, or radio. In 1909, Marconi won the Nobel prize in physics for his invention, which went into widespread use and made him a wealthy man.


Word Of The Day

By Princessa

detritus: debris.


There is a lot of detritus on the beach today.
After the plane crash there was a lot of detritus.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Tech Lab

By Princessa

UK science fiction writer Charles Stross, author of novels Accelerando and Singularity Sky, posits a future in which all human experience is record on devices the size of a grain of sand.

We've had agriculture for about 12,000 years, towns for eight to 10,000 years, and writing for about 5,000 years. But we're still living in the dark ages leading up to the dawn of history.

Don't we have history already, you ask? Well actually, we don't. We know much less about our ancestors than our descendants will know about us.

Indeed, we've acquired bad behavioural habits - because we're used to forgetting things over time. In fact, collectively we're on the edge of losing the ability to forget.

For the past 50 years we've become used to computers getting cheaper and more powerful exponentially - doubling in performance (or halving in price) roughly every 18 months.

The core trend, described by Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, describes the transistor count in microchips.

But a parallel trend in data storage means that storage space is becoming twice as plentiful on a similar time scale - and our ability to generate data to store is also increasing, as witness the 4m CCTV cameras around the UK, and about 70m cellphone accounts, of which maybe half are associated with camera phones able to record video.

Sooner or later they're all going to be switched on, all the time and our data storage capacity is growing so fast that we need not delete anything ever again.

There are huge legal, ethical, and privacy issues connected with recording this much information, never mind sharing it; as security expert Bruce Schneier has said: "... managing data privacy is going to be the big legal problem of the 21st century".

But I'm assuming, for the sake of argument, that we will find answers or compromise solutions to these questions. We'd better, because those cameras aren't going to stop recording and go away.

How far can it go?

Moore's law has an end in sight, dictated by physics. We can't build circuits out of components smaller than atoms.

But we can envisage building data storage devices that use individual atoms to represent one bit of information.

Consider a carbon crystal, created (and edited) one atom at a time by nanomachinery; there are two stable isotopes of carbon, and we can use a Carbon-12 atom to represent a binary 0 and a Carbon-13 atom to represent a binary 1.

One gram of this substance could store 10 to the power 21 bytes (887,808 petabytes) - the equivalent storage of more than 11 billion typical PCs.

By way of comparison, in 2003 we as a species recorded 2,200 petabytes (2.5 x 10 to the power 18 bytes) of data - enough to fill the hard drives of more than 28m typical PCs.

If we can figure out how to read and write data on the atomic scale, you could store the sum total of all the data we recorded in 2003 on a grain of sand.

We're only a few years away from the cost of data storage dropping so far that we can record "everything" that happens to us: our location at any given time, what we are hearing, what we are seeing, and what we are saying or doing.

The storage requirement for a video stream and two audio streams, plus GPS location, is only about 10,000 Gb per year - which will cost about £10 by 2017.

With your phone converting all the speech it hears to text (and storing that, too, and indexing it by time and location it becomes possible to search it all - like having Google for your memory.

You don't ever need to forget a conversation again, even if all you can recall about it is that it was with a stranger you met in a given pub about two months ago and someone mentioned the word "fishhooks".

If you're a police officer, it means never forgetting a face and always logging all your interactions with the public.

If you're suffering from the early stages of dementia, or if you're simply over-worked and expected to keep track of too many tasks at the office, it means you've got a memory prosthesis to help you keep track of things.

And if you're a student, it means you can concentrate on understanding your lecturer, and worry about making notes later.

This technology is available now -- some researchers are using it - in a few years' time, it's going to be as cheap as owning a mobile phone, and a few years later it'll be just an extra feature of your mobile phone.

It sounds strange right now, but there are too many uses for it to remain an eccentric niche. In the long term, almost all human experiences will be recorded. And in the very long term, they'll be a gold mine for historians.

Using nanoscale diamond as data storage, six hundred grams (about one and a quarter pounds, if you're my generation) can store a lifelog, a video and audio channel, with running transcript and search index, for six billion human beings for one year.

Sixty to a hundred kilograms is all it takes to store an entire 21st Century of human experience.

And some time after our demise, this information will be available to historians.

And what a mass of information it will be. For the first time ever, they'll be able to know who was where, when, and what they said; just what words were exchanged in smoky beer halls 30 years before the revolutions that haven't happened yet: who it was who claimed to be there when they founded the Party (but didn't join until years later): and where the bodies are buried.

They'll be able to see the ephemera of public life and understand the minutiae of domestic life; information that is usually omitted from the historical record because the recorders at the time deemed it insignificant, but which may be of vital interest in centuries to come.

For the first time ever, the human species will have an accurate and unblinking, unvarnished view of its own past as far back as the dark ages of the first decade of the 21st Century, when recorded history "really" began.

Panama Canal Formally Opens

By Princessa

June 12 1920: The Panama Canal first opened to shipping in 1914 but the event was overshadowed by news about World War I. The greatest engineering feat in the history finally had the world’s attention at its formal inauguration in 1920. More than thirty years of work and a cost of $347 million had built the fifty-one mile water tollway through the Isthmus of Panama, realizing the dream of a short shipping route from Atlantic to Pacific ports.


Word Of The Day

By Princessa

algorithm: a step-by-step procedure for solving a problem.


The notion of an algorithm is basic to all of computer programming, so we should begin with a careful analysis of this concept.

I have to come up with an algorithm for this problem.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Camp Raid

By Princessa

Friday was the big day when Jonny Keeling, the producer, and Mark Smith, the cameraman, had been due to arrive.

We were to pick up all the camera gear and the rest of our supplies from the makeshift airstrip and finally be reunited with the gear we left at Camp One.

But all of that was going to start happening at 1600 with the twin otter flight dropping the bulk of the stuff at the airstrip. The weather looked good in the morning but got a bit iffy around 1800.

I spent a good deal of Friday morning doing a piece to camera (PTC, to use the trade vernacular) for the launch of a climate change initiative I've proposed, which will be held at Windsor Castle.

In my absence, they'll show the video speech of about 6-7 minutes with a backdrop of melting sea ice. Once I'd put my teeth in and mastered the technicalities of the camera I think it went okay.

Warm greeting

"H" spent most of the day watching either wolves or birds, although he did admit to falling asleep for an hour.

Jonny and Mark eventually arrived at 2300. It was like a scene from the film Local Hero when the oil baron arrives by helicopter straight onto the beach to buy the wee Scottish village.

Jonny was waiving from the cockpit and taking photographs of "H" and me standing by.

The rotors finally stopped turning and we all greeted each other like long lost friends. I hadn't met Jonny before so I was really pleased to see how amiable he was.

Although I'd only met Mark once before in Bristol, he gave us both a warm hug. "Welcome to Ellesmere," I said.

That over with, the pilot Randy greeted us and we sorted out a plan of action. I walked to the airstrip with Jonny and loaded all our gear into the cargo net slung under the helicopter - ATV included.

"H" and Mark then unloaded it at the beach and drove it the 500m up the river to the camp. Randy then picked us up and flew us up the coast and along to Camp One.

Tent burglary

On arriving at the camp, my heart sank when we saw what was left of my tent. What a disaster! A brand new Mountain Hardwear Satellite tent ripped to shreds and wrecked, with the vast majority of poles snapped like twigs and the material in tatters.

The only saving grace was the fact that there were so many poles in the design of the tent that the wolf pack (where the blame clearly lay) couldn't have got into the main area of the tent where our personal possessions and the dried food had been stored. It was virtually untouched.

The wolves managed to drag just one of the four big food bags out and ripped open a couple of the super freeze dried beef stew with rice bags. Obviously not being to their taste, they decided to leave the rest.

I imagined it must have been like trying to eat three cream crackers as fast as possible without water. So it wasn't quite the disaster that it could have been; if they had ruined all our food then we would have needed to fly in more - very costly indeed, I'm just one tent short!

We cleared the site of debris and flew back to the beach where, having heard the story, "H" couldn't resist a smile, he had suggested that such a thing would happen just the day before and had got me to make the risky commute to check.

In our absence the wolves had come down to greet our new arrivals and Mark was already put to work filming! To have "footage in the can" within the first hour of landing here made us all happy.

We said goodbye to Randy and took everything back to camp, threw up the remaining tents and gathered outside for a cheery treat of chocolate washed down with the finest Scottish malt whisky. It was 0530 hrs before we retired happy but tired to say the least!

We had a little rain overnight; more of our 6cm annual quota.

It still seems quite bizarre to me to have rain in this land where I'm normally struggling to get comfortable due to the intense cold.

The snow on the mountains is really getting thin, revealing a vista of grey and brown rocks. These mountains are very young, geologically speaking, and absolutely fascinating just to look and stare at. Fault lines, erosion on a vast scale, massive valleys caused by glaciers, and deep river gorges still being gouged out of the rock - all the ingredients of basic school geography to wonder at.

The wolves left the den to go off hunting (we assumed) and didn't return for some 15 hours. This caused us some concern.

Had we scared them off? "H" was very worried and stayed up all night to watch for their return. Twenty-four-hour sunlight was very useful in that it provided continual visibility; unless of course the weather came down.

Just before I awoke at 0600 hrs, the wolves returned and were sleeping like warn-out pet dogs on the hill top above the den.

Camp preparations

The den, I should explain, was about 10m up a fairly loose and flaky riverbank with two enormous boulders situated about two-thirds of the way up.

The one that stuck out most didn't seem to be used and the other, which looked flatter, had piles of trodden down excavations all around it and more than one entrance hole.

From our camp 1.8km away you can count eight different holes so there must be a labyrinth of caves and tunnels underneath.

Research carried out on a den site further north indicated that the dens were re-used again and again over as much as a 700-year period. (It's good here, with all the paper research and the knowledge that the crew has; I'm becoming a little wolf "expert" in my own right - well relatively speaking anyway).

The logistics were going really well. Because we found a den so soon and much further south than the known den, we've managed to save quite a bit of the budget and so can utilise some of that in servicing this site properly.

I've planned for a helicopter to come up from Yellowknife and bring Jonny and Mark (producer and cameraman) in very close to our base camp; and en route they'll be able to take some aerial shots of Devon and Ellesmere Islands.

The helicopter will drop them off and then travel to the airstrip where I've arranged for the remainder of the equipment and provisions to be landed and cached by the crew of a twin otter aircraft.

Lots of lemmings

I'll get the helicopter pilot to under-sling this stuff and fly it the 10km to base camp (probably three journeys in all) and then fly west up the beach to pick up the remainder of our first camp; all should run like clockwork but it'll be a long day.

During the next few days, whilst we were waiting for the rest of the crew to arrive, H spent most of the time carefully noting every movement of the wolves; and when he wasn't doing that he was wandering in the local vicinity finding other wildlife gems that would add to the story.

We were building quite a collection: the snowy owls nest that we came upon earlier; a snow buntings nest just yards from our camp in the crumbling mud of the river bank; a Jaeger's nest found on our route to the beach some 500m away; and of course the lemmings. Wow!

There are thousands of dear little brown lemmings (their coats turn white in winter) scattered all over the bog. It seems they dig their burrows when the bog is really wet and sit there waiting and willing for it to dry out! (I know the feeling!).

Meanwhile I was exploring on a daily basis, gently pushing the boundaries of our immediate situation and adding to the knowledge of our whereabouts - one day north, the next west; and so on.

This was incredible fun. I felt like Huckleberry Finn, stripping off naked on a daily basis and washing in the pure clean melt-water of the river and then deciding what amazing adventure I'd get up to today.

I had a feeling that things might change somewhat when the crew arrived, however, and the real work would start.

"H" was very keen to keep observing the wolves which was very understandable but having risked the sea ice the previous day and got away with it and the rivers on previous occasions, I thought we'd be looking at trouble if we were to continue our little commute each day.

So we hatched a plan to provision ourselves and create a small camp near the den to monitor activity until the rest of the crew flew in by helicopter in six days' time.

The helicopter could then be used to get the rest of our equipment and provisions.

This of course meant one more journey of river crossings or ice; but this time towing a laden trailer.

We set off when the tide was at its lowest in case we had to get on the ice. This would make it easier. We chose to look at the rivers first and if they were impassable, somehow get onto and over the ice.

River 1 was the lowest we'd ever seen it and H duly hopped off the back and forged a route as high as his boots would allow.

Too cosy

It proved to be no obstacle although the shear weight of two people and a full trailer being pulled across very rough terrain was putting an audible strain on our poor ATV. So much so we had to stop every 20 minutes to let the clutch cool down.

River 2 proved much trickier. The entire structure and flow of rivers, sand, stony banks and paths change so quickly here in the Arctic; and the frozen muddy banks of silt were now just quicksand waiting to catch us like a fly on flypaper.

The trailer acted as an added hazard that would float like a boat if we weren't careful, dragging the ATV, H and me downstream with it!

Was it heavy enough? What was the alternative: the cracking sea ice? Maybe our luck would last one more time?

"Let's give it a go!" seemed to be the phrase coined too often on this trip. We gave it a go and got away with it again!

We soon made it over to River 3 and set up our new camp on the eastern river bank some 1.8km away but in full view of the den on the opposite bank, upstream.

H wasn't impressed at all by my brand new two-man tent, arguing that, "it might be a two-boy tent but there's no way you could get two men in there".

Well, he is six-foot-five inches tall so his yardstick is somewhat different. However, I had to agree with him, it was a bit like being in a cloth coffin.

So we turned the trailer up on its' side and put a tarpaulin over the top reaching almost down to the ground and secured it with bungees hooked onto our spare fuel canisters. Home from home.

Arctic 'king'

Later that afternoon, H, who'd been observing the wolves whilst I got the camp organised, radioed telling me that seven adult wolves were on their way downstream to see me.

I got all excited and readied my cameras but alas they went off in a different direction, after all. "Never mind," I thought to myself; "I'm sure there'll be time to watch a few wolves in the weeks to come."

Just to crown a perfect day, a beautiful musk-ox appeared in the sunshine some 10m up on the far bank of the river downstream, and H and I went to say hello.

They are extraordinary creatures with their buffalo type head and big curly horns, huge pale muscular legs draped all over in thick dark brown hair with the occasional light brown bit down the back and on the shoulders.

"Gordon", I called him, strode on his own up and down the bank as if belonging to a lost ancient world of which he was king. It really fires your imagination this place!

Having, beyond all expectations, found a wolf den we had thought that the day's events were over. We reached our camp on the beach and settled down to a well-earned supper.

The seemingly impossible task of finding a den was completed in just three days and called for a celebratory wee dram of Canada's finest whiskey.

Then, just as we were looking out over the magnificent sea ice to the seemingly never-ending mountains beyond, "Lucy" walked into our lives.

The beautiful female wolf came sauntering along the beach heading straight for us.

Totally unperturbed by our presence - you would have thought she had seen humans every day, whereas we were probably the first she'd ever seen.

She carefully smelt our tracks and then proceeded to come into camp and pick up my best float rope and cheekily carried it off - I felt an instant rapport with her. We thought it was a female because she squatted in front of us, making her mark; nothing to do with me fantasising.

I took the opportunity of photographing her in all her stances and expressions as she seemed to pose for the camera. This lasted about 10 minutes before she continued on her way along the beach.

We saw her scratch up the odd lemming as a snack as she disappeared off westward and out of sight. As we settled down to enjoy our evening again, she reappeared.

As she passed through our camp again she took a fancy to a jacket I had left on the floor. TV producer "H" had the video camera out this time and caught me chasing her over the ice in hot pursuit of my favourite coat. I liked her cheek!

Back to business

The next day was a serious day, full of logistics. How were we going to get the camp over to River 3 with the deadly raging rivers or disintegrating ice? How were we going to land cameraman Mark Smith, producer Jonny Keeling and even more equipment if the sea ice was getting so bad? Could we get a helicopter and use it to take some aerial footage at the same time?

Lots of questions, phone calls, discussions, plans and contingencies made. This was my area of expertise and I loved every moment of it.

I needed to keep our options open and my eye on the budget, so today's task was to recce the beach for a suitable landing strip for the twin-engine aircraft.

This meant negotiating either the rivers, one of which H had now named "Jim's Drift", or the diminishing sea ice.

We chose the ice which was OK apart from the numerous just-too-wide cracks we had to get the ATV over; but we made it to River 3. By 1230, we had our runway - 230m of gravel, sort of straight and level; recced a suitable campsite and started to watch the wolf den for activity.

As soon as we stopped to watch, the pack came running down the far bank of the river and across to us.

One of them, a male we had called "Bill", came really close, about 4m away, until the alpha male called him back and came close himself.

He looked, moved, sniffed, looked again and paced off to the rest of the pack to report his findings and announce his conclusions. They all eagerly greeted him with suitable reverence; lots of face-licking, tail-swishing and bottom-smelling.

It was a gorgeous day with the sun beating down on us; could it get any better than this?

By half-past three in the afternoon, we thought we'd better get home to camp. Having come the ice way we were going to try to return the ice way. Our first problem was actually getting on the ice.

The tide was in and the small cracks were now wide and full of water. You couldn't really see much ice because of the large amount of water lying in pools on top and we soon found out these were also pretty deep.

Having finally found a way out on to the ice, I drove the ATV very carefully indeed, trying to see through the foot or so of water to spot the large cracks in the ice. I knew they existed because I had seen them earlier. The last thing we wanted was to lose the ATV in deep water, let alone stranding us on the ever-melting sea ice.

This was hair-raising stuff and by the time we had made it back to camp my eyes were bulging and my nerves wrecked; I was mentally and physically exhausted.

H, who had been riding shot gun as usual, was in a similar state having been bracing himself for a deep ditch in the ocean at any moment.

We made it but I did think that we were really pushing our luck now.

Having met Bertie the previous day and then seen him disappear across the plain towards the east, we woke up determined to try to get further east ourselves to see if we could stumble across his den.

The thought of crossing raging rivers or driving on the rapidly melting ice didn't sit well with me in my capacity as guardian of safety but we had to progress.

That being the case I thought we'd attempt the sea ice. If we went far enough out to avoid the river outflows it shouldn't be too bad, as long as we took it really slowly and assessed each problem in turn.

So suitably provisioned we set off in search of Bertie (which unbeknown to me is the name of the brother of my TV producer companion "H").

We had a few maintenance tasks to begin with which included repairing a puncture on our trusted iron horse but got going eventually at 0920 hrs.

Vantage points

We reached River 2 with all its problems at about 0946 hrs - record time. But we were wearing a path along the beach - a distinct blot on an otherwise virgin environment.

We took the deep wade very cautiously up to the point where the engine started to gurgle under the water and then I wellied it praying that positive thought and momentum would see us through. Luckily it did, but not without taking its toll on our nerves!

Yee ha! We were back on the trail of old Bertie.

H had spotted a rocky outcrop that could have contained a den so we headed in that direction and went as far as we dared on the ATV and then proceeded on foot.

We came upon a number of piles of gravel, geographically known as pingos, which we thought would be a good place to observe the rocks and so sat down and had some lunch of cheese, nuts and a chocolate bars.

Presently, H skipped up to an adjacent pingo to observe the south west a little more, scanning the horizon for wolves.

Fantastic find

About 10 minutes later he returned, and I went to the same pingo. But on reaching the peak I beckoned H over. There, not four metres from where H had stood was a nest with six beautifully white eggs.

Harry recognized them as snowy owl eggs and we quickly vacated to the next hillock some 300m away to watch and make sure the bird returned.

We then went on to a further hillock where H bagged the only seat out of the cool uncomfortable breeze. Unable to sit down I was wandering around, occasionally conversing with H when I noticed wolf tracks all over the place and some fresh ones distinctly leading off to the east.

Could this be Bertie? I suggested H follow the tracks to the banks of River 3, which were visible, while I went back to the ATV to try to bring that around to meet him. Just to keep his hopes up, I flippantly remarked that Bertie and his family den would be just over the horizon, down the river bank.

About 20 minutes later, having wrestled hugely with the ATV and the bog, I had just stopped the engine when H called me on the radio.

"You're not going to believe this Jim but I'm staring at four wolves sitting round a big rock on the far side of the river.

"Fantastic!" I said, excitedly, "I've given up driving and I'm walking toward you at the moment."

"Jim, one has just gone down a hole by the big rock. I think we may have found our den."

"I'll be there very shortly."

And, sure enough, we could not believe our luck. We chanced upon a den. We phoned Fergus immediately and gave him the good news. He was delighted and somewhat surprised. The filming was on.

There was a deep water channel and "H" got off the back of the machine to see which would be the best route. This was a technique we were going to perfect in a very short period of time.

"River One" was next (we'd started to name them rather creatively). This was fairly deep and wide and we found our best bet for a crossing was at the mouth of the river where the water had spread its volume over an even wider distance - and was therefore shallower.

We made it; but only just! And mostly thanks to the fact that the mud banks were still frozen.

Travelling along the shore towards the next river, we went past a beautiful little iceberg some 500m offshore and spotted what we thought was the most amazing sand and rust coloured rock.

On closer examination, it turned out to be a massive piece of polyurethane foam, 3m x 2m x 0.5m. All over it were signs of wolf claws and stains. H thought it was a spot where they mark their territory.

Dried milk and sawdust

Another amazing place we found was what appeared to be an old hunter encampment with many musk ox heads scattered about the beach as though there had been a dreadful slaughter of some kind.

spotted something that looked like an iron object and asked H to investigate, as he was close by. It turned out to be the remains of a very old rifle; large bore, single shot, but quite small.

My mind raced, thinking of all the early explorers and how they would have settled their ship in the bay and put ashore a hunting party to supplement the ship's rations. I took a picture of H with the rifle in one hand and a musk ox head in the other - like the hunters used to do.

We went as far as fuel allowed and returned somewhat tired from our adventures, particularly the nerve-wracking river crossings.

The following day, after our normal breakfast of dehydrated porridge (a bit like chewing your way through sawdust and dried milk powder with the odd dead fly thrown in for good measure) we phoned Fergus, our producer boss back in the BBC Natural History Unit's Bristol HQ and explained how difficult we were finding getting about but that we were going to do our very best regardless.

He thanked us for our efforts and said he really wasn't expecting us to be successful in finding a wolf den.

On the trail

Our mission today was to push the eastern boundary and so we stocked up as before, plus more fuel, and set off determined to get further.

After only 40 minutes and just past the iceberg we had seen the previous day, we came across our first wolf of the trip. We were euphoric; like two children having just reached the seaside after a long car journey.

Characteristically, the wolf - soon to be named Bertie - went a full semi-circle around us so that he (at least it looked like a he) could get a sniff of our tracks. He was a little bit scrawny and had what looked like a fly bitten tail, I got the impression he was of the older generation.

He passed through our camp, having investigated a ringed seal some 300m off shore. As soon as Bertie got close, it promptly disappeared down its breathing hole under the ice.

Den hunt

We wanted to follow Bertie for as long as we could, hoping that he would give us some inkling as to where his den was. As it happens, just close to where we were scuppered from going any further west, Bertie turned inland and up the side of a valley.

I pursued at a distance with H hanging on for grim death but, alas, again the bog got us; but not before noticing that the wolf was doubling back inland. I flippantly remarked to H that we should get back to camp, have a brew and catch him where we first saw him later on.

And - believe it or not - that is exactly what happened. H and I were both staggered at our impeccable timing and we were both beginning to believe that luck was on our side.

Again we followed Bertie eastward until we came across big "River Number Two". This one we nearly managed to negotiate, but for the last deep channel of water. We agreed it might be pushing our luck a little too far, so we returned to camp happy at our day's progress.

Later that evening it rained. Rain in the Arctic - apparently we are due 6cm - the entire average rainfall for a year!

With all this peace and tranquillity it was a little hard to get going and get ourselves organised.

The sky reminded me of one of those Scottish winter skies with dramatic clouds, fierce swathes of colour and hugely differing areas of contrast.

Temperature-wise it was warm - around 10C (50F) - and quite alien to me.

I had nothing but my cherished tracksuit trousers, bog standard T-shirt and newly donated Mountain Hardwear over-trousers on (and, of course insulated wellies that I had bought in Resolute). When hauling equipment, this proved to be far too hot. No gloves or hat; very strange.

We unravelled the second largest tent and had some fun deciding quite how to erect it. "A deliberate ploy," I said tongue-in-cheek to "H" (the producer), "to instil good teamwork from the start".

The truth was I had never camped with this particular tent before in my life so was on the same voyage of discovery as H. Needless to say, he hasn't let me forget it in the context of my "field expert" role.

Heavy going

Having finally erected the "monkey-puzzle" tent and got ourselves organised, we decided to have a quick recce up the shallow sloping hill reaching down to our encampment.

I recognised this location as being directly south of where I'd camped on a previous expedition, during which getting across the 11km (seven miles) peninsula was a major undertaking, taking us two whole days dragging sledges through heavy snow and undulating terrain.

Ready with our all-terrain vehicle (ATV) suitably "armed" with all the necessary equipment for a complete disaster, we shot off up the hill.

Just 50m (160ft) later we began to get bogged down in very silty, heavy mud. The terrain that looked so easy to travel on turned out to be a quagmire and the only thing I could do was welly it as fast as possible to prevent us getting bogged down completely.

Over my left shoulder, H was hanging on for his life. After almost one kilometre of full throttle I found a relative dry spot and stopped the poor machine.

We turned to each other and each expressed the awful realisation that simply getting over the terrain was not going to be easy.

We eventually made it back to camp having got stuck a few more times. By now, we were absolutely shattered, somewhat disillusioned and pondering our next move. We slept on it!

And what a great night's sleep we had; probably better than the four-star hotel accommodation we experienced on the way up.

Our spirits were high despite realising how difficult this job was going to be and we felt like two excited children about to undertake a fabulous adventure, straight out of an Enid Blyton novel.

I suggested we try travelling on the ice a bit to see how we faired. My concern here was obvious. It's one thing getting the ATV bogged down on dry land but to lose it altogether in deep water is quite another!

We took it cautiously at first, still heading in a westerly direction with H riding "shotgun" behind me. The going was great until we reached the next river outflow where a wide open lead of water blocked our path.

There was no way of getting across this and reluctant to turn inland we headed back towards camp on the ice we knew to be good but rapidly melting.

We stopped for a quick brew and a lunchtime snack and off we headed on the beach in an easterly direction this time.

We quickly encountered the first of many rivers that were set to be the bane and the most exciting part of our continuing adventures.

It isn't very often that I get asked to conduct an expedition to the High Arctic and get paid for it.

So when the BBC Natural History Unit in Bristol asked me if I would be their Arctic field expert, I jumped at the chance.

Not only was this a fantastic opportunity (and very welcome having turned "professional explorer" in October of last year) but I would also be working alongside a group of people I had long admired for their tenacity and resilience in producing some of the world's most amazing wildlife documentaries.

The programme series is BBC 2's The Natural World and this particular programme would follow two Arctic species - gyrfalcons and wolves - and has a working title: Sisters of the Snow.

I found out very early on that senior producer Fergus Beeley would constantly pick my brains (in the nicest possible way) about where I had seen wolves previously.

So, the plan was for Harry (programme producer and ardent naturalist) and me to carry out reconnaissance on an area I had been to on Ellesmere Island - the largest, and one of the most northerly islands in the Canadian High Arctic.

I had encountered Arctic wolves here several times before.

Beneath the cloud

As is often the way when travelling in the Arctic, our flights north from Resolute Bay, the last staging point and second most northerly community, were delayed by bad weather for two whole days which we found very frustrating; but on the third attempt Harry (now known as "H") and I were off at last.

As we went further west, the cloud became visibly thicker until just before our refuelling stop, it was an absolute pea-souper! I thought this was it; we'd be flying back to Resolute for sure.

The pilot, Paul (not someone with whom I had flown before) turned the aircraft seaward and spiralled downward almost into the ground it seemed.

I shouted to "H": "He must be trying to get beneath the cloud" and sure enough he was, and did so very successfully. We had made it to Grise Fiord, the most northerly community in Canada. After a quick refuel we were heading north.

We had asked the pilot to fly up and back a couple of times over the area before we landed to see if anything would give us a clue to the whereabouts of a wolf den.

Musk oxen and Arctic hares were plentiful. Both of these are wolf prey, so we knew the possibility was there.

Negotiating the ice

"H" told me later that research has shown that a typical hunting area for a pack could be as large as 1,000 sq km; so our chances of finding a wolf den were very slim but we were determined to give it a real go.

Twenty minutes later, Paul was looking for a landing spot on the fjord ice just near to the peninsula we had surveyed.

The ice looked decidedly wet and dodgy to me, but after three practice runs and some steep low banking, Paul placed the aircraft down between two cracks, about a metre or so either side of the wing tips. He knew his stuff!

We unloaded all of our gear, which seemed like a huge amount, and then carefully lowered the all-terrain vehicle (ATV) on to the ice.

The problem now was how to get from the sea ice to the land. The cracks Paul landed between were very deep and about three-quarters of a metre wide, just too wide for the tyres of the ATV.

So we had to travel up and down the crack until we found a place just wide enough. Having done this two or three times with different cracks, we reached the stony beach; and then went back for the second load.

Meanwhile, Paul had taken off and was flying back to civilisation. We were on our own, left to take in this spectacular, silent and tranquil wilderness.

Opinion: I wonder how they survived, it was freezing cold.

Jean Louis Pons Discovers His First Comet

By Princessa

French astronomer Jean-Louis Pons discovered or co-discovered thirty-seven comets in his lifetime. In 1789, he took a concierge position at the Observatory at Marseilles and quickly learned how to make observations with the instruments. He logged his first discovery of a comet on July 11, 1801, and discovered at least one comet every year afterward, until 1827 when he began to lose his eyesight. Jean-Louis Pons holds the record for the most visually discovered comets by any individual.


Word Of The Day

By Princessa

betimes: early; also, on occasion.


The bus is betimes.
He better wake up betimes.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

General John A. Logan

By Princessa


1. Brief Biography

2. General John A. Logan's Education Speech

3. Biography


Brief Biography:

John A. Logan, the man after whom John A. Logan College is named, was born February 9, 1826, in what is now Murphysboro, Illinois. Raised in a home that was a center of political activity, he came to love politics, he came to love politics at a early age.

In 1840 his father, Dr. John Logan, sent him to Shiloh Academy at Shiloh Hill, Illinois, to complete his education. Here Logan excelled in oratory.

Logan volunteered for the Mexican War in 1846. He saw no combat, but did travel to Santa Fe, where he served as post quartermaster and learned Spanish.

The 1850's brought may changes in Logan's life, law school at Louisville University; marraige ti Mary S. Cunningham at Shawneetown; a move to Benton; and a political career that led from country clerk to U.S. Congressman. In Southern Illinois, he was "Egypt's spokesman."

At the onset of the Civil War, the formerlt pro-Southern Logan decided that "the union must prevail." He fought at Bull Run as a civilian. He then returned home where his speech at Marion ended Egypt's talk of secession and put southern Illinois during the Civil War strongly in the Union camp.

Logan volunteered for the war and rose from colonel to major general. Fighting in eight major campaigns, he distinguished himself at Cicksburg and commanded the entire Union forces at the Battle of Atlanta. At the war's end, he saved Raleigh, North Carolina, from being burned by angry Union troops. Many historians consider him the remier volunteer general of the Civil War.

After the war, Logan returned to Congress. His concern for veterans led him to take part in Illinois' first organized veterans memorial services at Woodlawn Cemetery in Carbondale in 1866. In 1868, he helped found Memorial Day as a national holiday.

In 1871 and again in 1874, Logan was elected to the U.S. Senate. Throughout his political career, he was a strong advocate for public education. In 1884, he was James G. Blaines' vice-presidential running mate. During the campaign, Logan commissioned the painting that became the center for Atlanta's famed Cyclorama.

John A. Logan died December 26, 1886, in Washington D.C. Where he lies buried in Soldier Cemetery.

Logan's fame did not die with him as the towns and counties named for his show. Fine equestrian statues were erected in Chicago and Washington in his honor. Bronze plaques from Arlington Cemetery to Denver attest to his role in establishing Memorial Day. Yet the turmoil of the mid-twentieth century saw Logan's fame fade. In May, 1986, the Washington post wrote that this was "pretty shoddy treatment" for the man who founded Memorial Day.

In 2002, John A. Logan College erected a statue of Logan at the center of campus. Logan is shown in the summer of 1865 as he sets aside his sword, and two-star general's coat and becomes a man of peace.

John A. Logan's Education Speech:

Nations are counted great and remembered chiefly for two things-- wisdom and power: the former the property of the few; the latter the property of the many, though wielded by the few. The ancients aimed to confine knowledge to a select class, and to make it, so far as possible, an inheritance transmissible to their descendants. The enlightened moderns seek to make it the common heritage of all. They search for all the specimens of mind, even to the shreds of it found in idiots, and cultivate all these. Why? Because every mind is an element of power. Private individuals ransack the streams and the mountains for particles of gold, and offer them to the world as an addition to its wealth; but a nation finds honor in discovering minds, and offering them to be used in all the duties of life. Des Cartes was accustomed to say, "In the universe there is nothing great but man, and in man there is nothing great but mind,''-an expression afterward condensed and improved by Sir William Hamilton thus: "In the universe nothing is great but mind."

Our systems of public schools give emphasis to this idea, and justify the search alluded to. A nation may honorably seek power; indeed, if it is to live, it must seek and retain power. Those who are to constitute the power of the nation are the children scattered in the palaces, garrets, and cellars of cities, and in the homes and cabins of the country, from the Atlantic seaboard to the Pacific shore. Whatever force there shall be, therefore, to do or direct, must be found in these children. Their tide, growing with every advancing year, must supply for the future of our nation all its wealth, all its science, all its power, all its honor.

It may be assumed that, as the present generation shall receive and educate its children, and welcome the annual swarms of immigrants crowding to our shores, so will the land increase in all that makes a people worthy of everlasting remembrance.

And the same conditions which secure this, will also establish our country in all that a free people can desire-power, honor, comfort, intelligence, and wealth. What some of these conditions are, it is not hard to declare; for knowledge, universally diffused, is so clearly the great force, that even a statement to this effect is unnecessary. That "knowledge is power" is a truism now denied by none.

What is of so much worth as children, even reckoning, on that very low plane, their simple cash value as prospective laborers? A fine climate gives effect to every interest and industry of a land; a fertile soil attracts population and enterprise to cultivate it; mines afford opportunity for the poor to gather wealth and scatter it abroad throughout the world. But none of these are of any more worth than a desert, without hands to improve them; and what are hands worth, without minds to direct them? A hand, with an educated brain behind it, is worth more than treble an ignorant one. Give the finest climate earth can show, the fattest soil the continents lift out of the sea, the richest mines the mountains contain, the safest harbors that border the sea or indent the land, and let a people be ignorant of their own capabilities, or of the resources of Nature and her mighty agencies, and what are all these worth? Africa today has ten-million square miles of soil as fertile as lies beneath the sun. She has a hundred millions of people. Yet the little island of England, with only about sixty thousand square miles and forty millions of people, produces annually, in a climate almost of the polar circle, more articles of food and clothing raised directly from the earth by agricultural labor alone, than all that continent; and if you "count in" the manufactures which her machinery yields, she does the work of ten times the whole population of Africa. How is she enabled to do this? Simply because the educated mind of England can multiply her hands by a thousand-fold. Nature lends her gravitation-even enslaves her sun, and harnesses her lightening, so that they afford hands and feet to labor and run for those people who have learned how to use such agencies. The same thing is seen in any enlightened country, or at least where education is widely diffused. And yet in England less than half the common people's children are educated in any suitable degree. It is mind which has accomplished all these wonders; and minds are found in almost equal numbers in all ranks of society. The child of the peasant is often as full of genius as the child of the prince, with a stronger body and less tendency to habits of vice or recklessness; and if he can be found and educated, the nation certainly derives the greatest possible benefits; and, if a nation is to be raised to its highest degree of efficiency, every particle of its mind must be utilized.

The war between France and Germany affords pertinent illustration of the value of education in a peasantry to increase the worth of men, considered as mere machines of warfare. Every German soldier could read and write, and knew the geography of France. He could calculate almost as well as his officers, and he knew how to take care of his person and health. Those of France were nearly half illiterate, and as an army they seemed little more than a bank of snow before an April wind in comparison with the Germans.

The nine millions of children who daily march to the school-houses of the North, the West, and the South, are better, as a defence for the whole nation, than a standing army as large as all the armies of Europe. The quarter of a million of school-teachers, who daily drill these children in the school-houses, are a better provision for training the nation in patriotism than all the statesmen and military officers of the Old World. Let every child of the Nation be sent to a good school, and trained by a proper method in broad national ideas, and we never need fear either foreign aggression and domination, or domestic insurrection and sectional strifes and jealousies. Strength, peace, harmony, prosperity, nobility of character, patriotism, virtue and happiness, would flow as from a perennial spring in the mountains, to fill the land forever.

But the benefits of education are not confined to an increase of material prosperity, and to the means of promoting the public defence. The physical comfort and general healthfulness of the whole population are advanced thereby in even a greater ratio than the interests before named. Can it be reckoned no benefit to a community that every person possesses sufficient intelligence to understand the reasons for cleanliness and exercise, the necessity for pure air and good food, and the means of securing all these? Are more comfortable and beautiful homes no profit to families, and do not all arts which knowledge fosters contribute to the happiness and power of a people? In the mere matter of bodily health it would not be difficult to show that if the whole of a community could be brought to practice the precepts of hygiene, which could be readily learned by a child of fourteen without loss of time for ordinary family duties or for needed rest, at least two-thirds of all the diseases which now afflict the human race would be as effectually banished from the earth as reptiles are from Ireland.

The effect, also, of the general diffusion of education among the masses of our population in respect to their moral condition can scarcely be calculated. That evil will ever go side by side with good in this world, experience leaves us no reason to doubt. That while, by a general school system we are educating those who will be an honor to themselves and a benefit to society and the nation, we are also to a certain extent educating the vicious, is true; but that, on the whole, education tends largely, very largely, to increase the better element in proportion to the vicious, is a fact that cannot be denied. To enter fully upon the discussion of this proposition would be out of place here, notwithstanding its great importance in this connection. But it is evident, to every intelligent person, that safety in this matter consists in continued progress. To halt in the race, will result in giving over society and the nation to the control of the vicious. To education, therefore, must we look for all the elements of national strength, and the more generally it is diffused and the higher its grade, in like proportion will our national power be increased. So that if Congress intends to do anything in this great work that will be adequate to the wants of the people, it must be done with a liberal hand, and in a manner that will show manifest justice to all sections. While ten or fifteen millions may, and will, do much good if granted to one section, those who are imposing heavy burdens upon themselves in other sections to educate their children will have just grounds to complain that injustice has been done them.

While Illinois spends 1 percent of the assessed value of her taxable property, and Iowa 1.4 percent, for school purposes, Georgia spends but one-tenth of 1 percent, and North Carolina but one-fourth of 1 percent for this purpose. This difference cannot, of course, be charged to inability, but, to put it in the mildest form, it must be charged to neglect, or the want of appreciation of the value of education. To help the latter, then, and withhold assistance from the former, would have too much the appearance of rewarding the negligent, who are unwilling even to do what they can to help themselves, and refusing aid to those who are burdening themselves to prepare their children to be useful members of society and valuable citizens of the Nation. I am as desirous as anyone in this Senate to assist those States that are in the background in this respect, for I am fully aware they are laboring under difficulties which do not apply to their sister States, and this is one great reason - in fact, I may say the chief reason - why I have brought forward this bill. But I wish the Government to be just in distributing its favors, and this cannot be done effectually in this matter with much less than the amount I have proposed. Although money from this tax has no more inherent value in it for this purpose than any other fund, yet there is something pleasing in the idea that the mighty stream of liquid sin, flowing on in spite of all the efforts made to check it, and bearing multitudes downward to its whirlpool of crime and death, will thus be made, by its very downward pressure, a power to lift as many more from the depths of ignorance; that the very streams the distillers and retailers are sending forth to foster vice and crime may be used as a force to destroy their origin, just as the maddened waters of Niagara may be made a force to level the precipice from which they fall. So far, then, as the use of this particular fund in this way inspires this feeling in those who encourage education and temperance, so far, we may truly say, it would be more effectual than any other.

Men called statesmen are apt to believe that they control the masses; but when the masses, whether right or wrong, become aroused on any question pertaining to government, the men known as statesmen are as powerless to control them as they are to direct the storm; and so the leading men, or statesmen, as they are called, join their respective sides and add fury to the desires of the people. Aristides did not control Athens, nor Xerxes, Persia, in that fullest sense which brought the destinies of nations into conflict. The common Greeks and the common Persians, who had in some way learned in their ignorance to hate and despise each other, made those furious wars possible, if not necessary. So it will always be. The instincts, as we sometimes call them, - and these are scarcely anything but the transmitted notions and sentiments of one generation accumulating power in another, - will sway the populace, and influence the policy of rulers. They will, by their desires, force the government into unwise measures. If they are selfish, they will compel a selfish, and perhaps an aggressive, policy. If they are vicious, the government cannot long maintain a consistent course of justice and honor. If they are divided by sectional jealousies and trained to hostile feelings, can there be union of sentiment and action?

In our own land, today, the grossly ignorant are numerous enough to control the affairs of the Nation. They hold the balance of power, if they could only unite. But while they do not unite as a class, their influence may do worse than form a union among themselves; for any apparent attempt to form a party of the ignorant, would undoubtedly be met by a combination of the intelligent. Their wishes and desires, their prejudices and jealousies, may suggest to demagogues opportunities to gain selfish ends, and plunge us into still greater sectional strifes. We need, as a Nation so extended, to foster homogeneous instruction in our hundred different climates and regions. The one grand thing to do in every one of these regions, each larger than most of the nations of the world, is to secure the uniformity of intelligence and virtue. We need no other.

If our people in the pine woods of Maine or Michigan; if those in the mines of the Carolinas and Virginia, in Colorado and Nevada, in California and Alaska; if the cultivators of the farms in Ohio and Dakota, of the plantations of Georgia and Louisiana; if the herders of the ranches of Texas and New Mexico, - can all be rendered intelligent enough to see the excellence of virtue, and be made noble enough to practice its self-restraining laws; if they can be taught wisdom enough to appreciate the ten thousand advantages of a national Union embracing a hundred climates and capable of sustaining a myriad of mutually helpful industries, freely interchanging their products and acting on one another, as mutual forces, to stimulate every one to its highest capacity of rival endeavor, - then we would be sure of a stable Union, an immortality of glory.

Is it not, now, easy to see that the education of the young, on one common plan, with one common purpose, - the people's children taught by the people themselves, - in schools made by the people themselves, yet in some noble sense patronized by the Nation, and supervised by the Nation, in some proper manner, will aid in making on this continent a nation such as we hope to be, and what the foreshadowings of Providence seem to indicate we ought to be, the one great and mighty Nation of the world? We have the same glorious Constitution. Let us all, from highest to lowest, from richest to poorest, from blackest to whitest, learn to read its words as they are written, and then we shall be most likely to interpret its provisions alike, and administer its enactments alike, in justice and honor.

We all read the same Bible, and claim to practice the same golden rule. Let us instruct all the youth whom the beneficent Father gives us, natives of this land or born on other shores, in the grand principles of morality which it inculcates, and in all the science which it has fostered. We all inherit, from our motherland, the same invaluable code of common laws and institutions. Let us, if need be, be careful all to obtain enough knowledge to read and understand the laws which the Legislatures of the several States shall make, and the decisions, in accordance with that common law, which their courts shall render. We have received from our ancestors, and from the present generation of philosophic scientists, a body of knowledge and wisdom, the worth of which even genius can scarcely estimate. Let that be given to every child that breathes our atmosphere, in substantially the same spelling book and primer, in schools as good among the snows of Aroostook as in marts of New York, Boston, or Charleston; as free on the shores of Puget Sound as on the prairies of Illinois, and as well taught in the rice-fields of the South as on the hills of Connecticut. Then we shall be "one and inseparable, now and forever."



John Alexander Logan was an American soldier and political leader. He served in the Mexican-American War and was a general in the Union Army in the American Civil War. He served the state of Illinois as a Senator and was an unsuccessful candidate for Vice President of the United States.

Logan was born in what is now Murphysboro, Jackson County, Illinois. He had no schooling until age 14; he then studied for three years at Shiloh College, served in the Mexican-American War as a second lieutenant in the 1st Illinois Infantry, studied law in the office of an uncle, graduated from the Law Department of the University of Louisville in 1851, and practiced law with success.
Logan entered politics as a Douglas Democrat, was elected county clerk in 1849, served in the State House of Representatives from 1853 to 1854 and in 1857; and for a time, during the interval, was prosecuting attorney of the Third Judicial District of Illinois. In 1858 and 1860, he was elected as a Democrat to the U.S. House of Representatives.

Logan fought at Bull Run as an unattached volunteer to a Michigan regiment, and then returned to Washington, resigned his congressional seat, and entered the Union army as Colonel of the 31st Illinois Volunteers, which he organized. He was known by his soldiers with the nickname "Black Jack" because of his black eyes and hair and swarthy complexion, and was regarded as one of the most able officers to enter the army from civilian life. He served in the army of Ulysses S. Grant in the Western Theater and was present at the Battle of Belmont, where his horse was killed, and at Fort Donelson, where he was wounded. Soon after the victory at Donelson, he was promoted to brigadier general, as of March 21, 1862. Major John Hotaling served as his chief of staff. During the Siege of Corinth, Logan commanded first a brigade and then the 1st Division of the Army of the Tennessee. In the spring of 1863, he was promoted to major general to rank from November 29, 1862.

In Grant's Vicksburg Campaign, Logan commanded the 3rd Division of James B. McPherson's XVII Corps, which was the first to enter the city of Vicksburg in 1863, and after its capture, Logan served as its military governor. He received the Medal of Honor for the Vicksburg campaign[1]. In November 1863 he succeeded William Tecumseh Sherman in command of the XV Corps; and after the death of McPherson he commanded the Army of the Tennessee at the Battle of Atlanta (July 22, 1864) until relieved by Oliver O. Howard. He returned to Illinois for the 1864 elections but rejoined the army afterwards and commanded his XV corps in the Carolinas Campaign.

In December 1864, Grant became impatient with George H. Thomas's performance at Nashville and sent Logan to relieve him. Logan was stopped in Louisville when news came that Thomas had completely smashed John Bell Hood's Confederate army in the Battle of Nashville.

After the war, Logan resumed his political career as a Republican, and was a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1867 to 1871, and of the United States Senate from 1871 until 1877 and again from 1879 until his death in 1886. He lay in state in the United States Capitol and lies buried at United States Soldiers' and Airmen's Home National Cemetery.

Logan was always a violent partisan, and was identified with the radical wing of the Republican Party. His forceful, passionate speaking, popular on the platform, was less effective in the halls of legislation. In 1868, he was one of the managers in the impeachment of President Andrew Johnson. His war record and his great personal following, especially in the Grand Army of the Republic, contributed to his nomination for Vice President in 1884 on the ticket with James G. Blaine, but they were not elected. For this campaign, he commissioned the painting of the Atlanta Cyclorama, which emphasized his heroism in the Battle of Atlanta. He was active in veterans' affairs and helped lead the call for creation of Memorial Day as a national public holiday.

Logan was the author of The Great Conspiracy: Its Origin and History (1886), a partisan account of the Civil War, and of The Volunteer Soldier of America (1887). The state of Illinois commissioned an equestrian statue of the general that now stands in Chicago's Grant Park. Another equestrian statue stands in Logan Circle in Washington, D.C. and the circle gives its name to the surrounding neighborhood. Logan Square and Logan Boulevard in Chicago are named after him, as well as Logan Avenue and the neighborhood of Logan Heights (AKA Barrio Logan), in San Diego, and the town of Logan Township, New Jersey. His hometown, Murphysboro, Illinois, is home to the Logan Museum, and in nearby Carterville, Illinois there is the John A. Logan College, a community college.

Logan was at one time honored with the naming of a street in Lansing, Michigan. Community activists persuaded the city council to co-rename the street as Martin Luther King Blvd in 1991. Logan's name was dropped completely a few years later.

Baby Mammoth Discovery Unveiled

By Princessa

A baby mammoth unearthed in the permafrost of north-west Siberia could be the best preserved specimen of its type, scientists have said.

The frozen carcass is to be sent to Japan for detailed study.

The six-month-old female calf was discovered on the Yamal peninsula of Russia and is thought to have died 10,000 years ago.

The animal's trunk and eyes are still intact and some of its fur remains on the body.

Mammoths are an extinct member of the elephant family. Adults often possessed long, curved tusks and a coat of long hair.

The 130cm (4ft 3ins) tall, 50kg Siberian specimen dates to the end of the last Ice Age, when the great beasts were vanishing from the planet.

It was discovered by a reindeer herder in May this year. Yuri Khudi stumbled across the carcass near the Yuribei River, in Russia's Yamal-Nenets autonomous district.

Missing tail

Last week, an international delegation of experts convened in the town of Salekhard, near the discovery site, to carry out a preliminary examination of the animal.

"The mammoth has no defects except that its tail was bit off," said Alexei Tikhonov, deputy director of the Zoological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences and a member of the delegation.

"In terms of its state of preservation, this is the world's most valuable discovery," he said.

Larry Agenbroad, director of the Mammoth Site of Hot Springs research centre in South Dakota, US, said: "To find a juvenile mammoth in any condition is extremely rare." Dr Agenbroad added that he knew of only three other examples.

Some scientists hold out hope that well preserved sperm or other cells containing viable DNA could be used to resurrect the mammoth.

Despite the inherent difficulties, Dr Agenbroad remains optimistic about the potential for cloning.

"When we got the Jarkov mammoth [found frozen in Taimyr, Siberia, in 1997], the geneticists told me: 'if you can get us good DNA, we'll have a baby mammoth for you in 22 months'," he told BBC News.

Lucrative trade

That specimen failed to yield DNA of sufficient quality, but some researchers believe it may only be a matter of time until the right find emerges from Siberia.

Bringing mammoths back from the dead could take the form of injecting sperm into the egg of a relative, such as the Asian elephant, to try to create a hybrid.

Alternatively, scientists could attempt to clone a pure mammoth by fusing the nucleus of a mammoth cell with an elephant egg cell stripped of its DNA.

But Dr Agenbroad warned that scientifically valuable Siberian mammoth specimens were being lost to a lucrative trade in ivory, skin, hair and other body parts.

The city of Yakutsk in Russia's far east forms the hub for this trade.

Local people are scouring the Siberian permafrost for remains to sell on, and, according to Dr Agenbroad, more carcasses could be falling into the hands of dealers than are finding their way to scientists.

Japan transfer

"These products are primarily for collectors and it is usually illicit," he explained.

"Originally it was for ivory, now it is everything. You can now go on almost any fossil marketing website and find mammoth hair for $50 an inch. It has grown beyond anyone's imagination."

Dr Agenbroad added: "Russia says that any mammoth remains are the property of the Russian government, but nobody really pays attention to that."

The Yamal mammoth is expected to be transferred to Jikei University in Tokyo, Japan, later this year.

A team led by Professor Naoki Suzuki will carry out an extensive study of the carcass, including CT scans of its internal organs.

Mammoths first appeared in the Pliocene Epoch, 4.8 million years ago.

What caused their widespread disappearance at the end of the last Ice Age remains unclear; but climate change, overkill by human hunters, or a combination of both could have been to blame.

One population of mammoths lived on in isolation on Russia's remote Wrangel Island until about 5,000 years ago.


Nasa Launches Telsar I Satellite

By Princessa

Telstar I, the world's first geosynchronous communications satellite, was launched by NASA from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Designed by AT&T to relay media signals to homes around the world, its launch ushered in the era of live satellite TV broadcasts. For the first time ever, voice and video were beamed directly between the United States and Europe.


Word Of The Day

By Princessa

fraught: full of or accompanied by something specified - used with with
causing or characterized by emotional distress or tension : uneasy


He seems to be fraught with anxiety.
I am fraught with tension.


Note: If you click on this link and it doesn't show the exact word of the day on my post, all you have to do is go under archives and look for the word.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Delay For Nasa Asteroid Mission

By Princessa

The launch of a Nasa mission to explore two giant asteroids has been pushed back to September. The Dawn spacecraft was due to launch on Sunday from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

But US space agency managers decided to postpone the lift-off due to scheduling problems with another Nasa mission.

Officials felt the window for launching Dawn in July was too tight, and that it could affect preparations for the Mars-bound Phoenix spacecraft.

Phoenix will launch from the Cape in August on a mission to explore the Red Planet's northern polar region.

Dawn is due to set off on an eight-year mission to explore the two biggest asteroids in the Solar System - Ceres and Vesta.

Asteroids are considered the building blocks of planets - primordial relics left over from the formation of the Solar System 4.6 billion years ago.

Dawn will carry out a detailed study of the structure and composition of these giants, shedding light on their evolution and the conditions in which they formed.

The mission will reach Vesta in 2011 before going on to visit Ceres in 2015.

Ceres - now formally classed as a dwarf planet - may harbour significant stores of water ice; Vesta is devoid of water and appears to have been resurfaced by ancient lava flows.

The launch window closes on 19 July; managers decided there was too little time to get the spacecraft on the right trajectory to fly past Mars on a gravity assist manoeuvre, which will help propel it to the asteroid belt.

The Dawn mission has experienced a number of hurdles on its way to the launch pad. It was cancelled by the US space agency in March 2006.

The decision caused a furore in the scientific community, prompting Nasa to reinstate the mission less than a month later.

In August 2006 the International Astronomical Union created a new category of celestial body known as a "dwarf planet" for large Solar System objects that were more significant than asteroids in general but not quite "true planets". Ceres was put in this category.