Sunday, January 24, 2016

Girls on Ice offers free Earth science glaciology program for teenage girls

Gulkana Glacier, Alaska
Gulkana Glacier, Alaska

An exciting opportunity is available for teenage girls between the ages of 16-18 who are interested in taking a mountain adventure during their summer vacation. The program, which offers a wilderness education experience, free of charge, is taking applications through Jan. 29 for its two glaciology expeditions this year.

Girls on Ice, a non-profit wilderness science education program for young women, will take two teams of nine girls and three instructors on a 12-day trek into Alaska or Washington for field work in alpine landscapes, Lake County News reports Jan. 22. The teams will explore and study mountain glaciers and high mountain terrains alongsideprofessional glaciologists, ecologists, artists and mountaineers.
Applicants will be placed in two groups:

Girls on Ice North Cascades will bring participants to Mount Baker in Washington state. There, participants will explore a glacier, the mountain and the surrounding alpine meadows. The trip is open to applicants from all around the world. The expedition runs from July 10 to July 21.

The second team of young women will explore the Gulkana Glacier in the Alaska Range while hiking and camping in the Alaskan alpine landscape. This arm of the program is open to young women from Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, British Columbia, Yukon and California. This expedition runs from June 17 to June 28.

Participants will learn mountaineering and how to conduct their own science experiments. The program is also designed to challenge participants and help them gain self-confidence on many levels while also integrating lessons in Earth science.
For more information on how to apply, visit the Girls on Ice website.

*originally published on the now defunct

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Animals have the ability to think and empathize with others

Recent studies and observations show that empathy, an ability that many think only humans capable, is a trait that other animals also exhibit.

Voles, along with many other animals have been shown capable of exhibiting empathy
Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images

While in the past, such observations have been deemed controversial, more studies have been coming to the fore rendering humans’ former beliefs that animals are nothing more than “mindless automata” questionable. Researchers have been pairing science alongside philosophical queries concerning animal subjectivity and they are finding that their observations are not solely the product of anthropomorphizing projections.

For example, Dr. Larry Young, a researcher at Emory University witnessed what looks like consoling behavior in prairie voles, reports The Atlantic, Jan. 21. In an experiment where two voles were placed in separate cages, one received a small electric shock and then, when it was reunited with its mate, received ten minutes worth of licking and grooming that seemed to calm it down.

Researchers found that voles witnessing the distress of their cohorts take on the behavior exhibited by their stressed companions. For example, a vole not receiving the shock would continuously groom itself and freeze whenever it heard a tone that heralded an impending shock. Those same voles exhibited higher stress hormone levels when tested even though they had not been shocked. Then, when reunited with their companions, they would groom distressed animals.

Voles are not alone in their show of concern and feeling for one another. Elephants conduct funerary rituals over their dead cohorts, burying deceased elephants with leaves and grass and then holding week long vigils. The recognition of their loss does not end there. Elephants visit the bones of those who passed for many years after burying them.
Rats have been shown to exhibit empathy for their cohorts, freeing trapped rats before pursuing any personal rewards. Dolphins have been shown to not only exhibit love and empathy for their own kind, but for other animals and humans, as well. Many animals have exhibited metacognition and still others such as chickens, and cows have been shown to have emotions.

According to an article published in July by National Geographic, animals think and feel. They have consciousness. Environmental writer Carl Safina recently wrote about animal consciousness in his book Beyond Words: How Animals Think and Feel and explains why it’s important to acknowledge animal consciousness. He also explains how neurological science will most likely make humans’ former belief that animals are incapable of such abilities as love and empathy obsolete.

*originally published on the now defunct

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Five planets will align in rare celestial spectacle

Starting Jan. 20, five planets will line up single file in the predawn skies.
Starting Jan. 20, five planets will line up single file in the predawn skies.

Five planets will align in a rare celestial show that hasn’t been seen in more than a decade. The planets Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn will line up single file in the predawn sky starting Jan. 20 and will be visible to the naked eye.

The line of planets can be seen around the world until Feb. 20. It is best viewed one to one-and-half-hours before sunrise, reports Accuweather Jan. 19.

If stargazers attempt to view the line of planets just before dawn, they may find that it has not completely risen. After dawn, the line of planets will begin to disappear as its visibility in Earth’s skies will be cancelled out by sunlight.

Venus will be the brightest planet in the sky and can assist viewers in finding the rest of the planets. Mercury, Venus and Saturn will be low over the southeastern horizon (in that order) while Mars and Jupiter will reach across the sky into the southwest. Jupiter, which ends the line, will be the second brightest visible planet. Mars may be hard to see low on the horizon, but its faint red color will differentiate it from surrounding stars.

Viewers will be able to differentiate the planets from stars because starlight twinkles and the light reflected from planets is more of a steady glow.

The last time five planets have glowed like this in a singular line was between Dec. 15, 2004 to Jan. 15, 2005.

Another celestial treat visible via telescope or binoculars in predawn skies is Comet Catalina. The two-tailed comet is passing by Venus. According to, the comet probably hails from the Oort cloud. The comet is on its way from circling the sun and will continue its journey into the outer Solar System. Comet Catalina was closest to the Earth on Jan. 17.

*originally published at the now defunct

Monday, January 18, 2016

Honoring Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Civil Rights activist and minister Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was integral to the Civil Rights Movement from the mid-1950s until his assassination in 1968. His work led to the creation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a document that put an end to legalized segregation and banned workplace discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin.

Dr. King’s activism was led by the nonviolent philosophies of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the leading voice inIndia’s independence movement which began in 1857 and ended in 1947. Both leaders taught that a strong body of individuals brought together in solidarity can create long-lasting change for the betterment of everyone.

Gandhi led nonviolent protests which included week-long fasts and marches to protest everything from British occupation to caste separation. Similarly, Dr. King led boycotts, committees and campaigns to end social injustices, marches and other peaceful demonstrations and protests.

Though members of Congress proposed a legislated holiday for the fallen leader directly after Dr. King’s assassination, it wasn’t until 15 years after his death that the day became a national holiday. Many advocates were on board, including Stevie Wonder who wrote a song honoring Dr. King called “Happy Birthday.” According to Time Magazine, the song was meant to “make a case for the holiday,” and point out anyone who was opposed to the idea.

Finally, in 1983, despite then-president Ronald Reagan’s reluctance to pass the bill, he conceded. Dr. King’s birthday became a national holiday. This was an honor that up until that time had only been given to George Washington, the first president of the United States.
Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. -Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
To learn more about Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy and words, check out Martin Luther King Jr. OnlineThe King CenterThe King Institute, or any number of archival websites compiling Dr. King’s work.

*originally published at the now defunct

Saturday, January 16, 2016

David Bowie never limited himself to any one art form

The world was rocked when news of David Bowie’s death hit Jan. 10. The British singer and multi-instrumentalist had a long career in music which ended with one last album, a carefully planned farewell to his fans called “Blackstar.”

Fans mourn David Bowie in numerous memorials around the world
Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

While most fans know Bowie because of his musical career which spanned more than fifty years, some may be surprised to learn that he wasn’t just a musical artist. He was also a big art collector, a voracious reader, a visual artist and writer. He was a creative who supported many other facets of the arts just as much as he was influenced by them.

“Bowie was curious about everything in the world, whether it had to do with gender issues, jazz, movement—he understood the symbolic significance of any gesture or thought form. He was able to use it as food for his own art,” wrote avant garde pianist Matthew Shipp in an exclusive email exchange with “Bowie was a great model for all artistsof any genre because he utilized the symbolic nature of everything. He was also fearless in his ability to explore the many aspects of his many selves.”

One of Bowie’s many talents included painting. He had started painting as a practice in 1976 to help distract him from depression and the stressors of the the music business. He returned full-fledged to music and picked up visual art again in the 1990s, reports the New York Times Jan. 14

During that time, Bowie joined the board of the British magazine Modern Painters and personally interviewed many contemporary artists of note including: Balthus, Damien Hirst, Tracey Emin, Jeff Koons and Julian Schnabel. During his stint with the magazine, he also created a lot of work of his own. He was prolific, creating hundreds of pieces of art using paint, chalk, charcoal and other mediums.

According to the Independent, Bowie even helped create a fictitious artist named Nat Tate, a man who was a supposed Abstract Expressionist who destroyed 99 percent of his work and killed himself by jumping off the Staten Island ferry. Tate’s story was told in a book written by William Boyd, a best-selling UK writer who was integral in the creation of the hoax. The book was published with a publishing venture that Bowie created called “21.”

David Bowie never stopped creating, not even during his seeming retirement from celebrity in 2004. He continued painting, designing, and exploring new expressions of art while intermittently contributing more music to his canon.

*originally published at the now defunct

Sunday, January 3, 2016

First Black Female-owned comics shop on the East Coast opens in Philly

Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse is Philadelphia's first Black Female-owned comic book store. In fact, the comics and coffee shop is the first Black Female-owned comic book store on the East Coast, reports Fabulize Magazine Jan. 2.

Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse Logo
Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse / Facebook

Amalgam Comics owner Arielle R. Johnson said that the idea was brewing for 12 years. “My favorite coffee shop was directly across the street from my comic book store of choice. So, each Friday, I would buy my books at Fat Jack's, go across the street to Crimson Moon, and read everything I bought,” she said. "When the coffee shop closed its doors, I was devastated. That's when the idea came to me."

Amalgam Comics aims to promote diversity and community with events, workshops, movie, TV screenings, book signings and BYOG (Bring Your Own Game) nights. In a recent interview, she noted that when she was developing the idea for Amalgam, she really yearned for a place where people could not only buy their comics, but sit and read them, and even have conversations with others about their love for the medium. “I thought that a space like that would be conducive to some fun conversations, and who doesn't love that?”
Along with today’s mainstay titles in comics, the store will showcase comics from indie and marginalized communities not often represented in the world of comics.
We think that comics are for everyone and anyone that loves comics-women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community. We will actively look to stock titles that showcase people in these groups, right along with Superman, Batman, Captain America, and Thor.
Amalgam Comics & Coffeehouse opened its doors on Dec. 14. The shop has received much community support. From the spaciousness of the shop to the knowledge and friendliness of the staff, reviewers only have good things to say.

*originally published on the now defunct