Scientists: Drug hippos are... good?

Cocaine, as they say, is one hell of a drug. In fact, it was recently shown in a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science to have greatly helped the re-wilding a good chunk of Columbia.

How you might ask?

Pablo Escobar's hippos, which are still hanging around breeding in Columbia today, were bought with cash made from selling massive amounts of nose candy. Instead of simply shitting in the water and troubling anything that moves, they've been busy fulfilling the role of long-absent megafauna in Columbia's ecosystem.

From Gizmodo:

“While we found that some introduced herbivores are perfect ecological matches for extinct ones, in others cases the introduced species represents a mix of traits seen in extinct species,” study co-author John Rowan, a study co-author and biology researcher at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said in a statement.

Pablo’s hippos, for instance, are similar in diet and size to the now-extinct giant llamas that once roamed the area. They’re also similar in size and semiaquatic behavior to another extinct species, notoungulates, which have been gone for thousands of years. That allows them to fill two long-vacated roles in the Colombian ecosystem they were introduced to after Escobar died and they began to roam the countryside.

According to Gizmodo, it's not just hippos jazzing up local ecosystems where they don't belong. The study also looked at 72 other invasive species to see if their introduction to an ecosystem had been a boon or a blight. In 64% of the cases that the study examined, the introduced species showed the potential to fulfill the roles of long extinct animals in a given ecosystem that could have a effect on the ecosystem's overall health. Read the rest

New York City! I'm onstage tonight with Radiolab's Jad Abumrad (Swarthmore, you're next!)

A reminder that I'm wrapping up my Columbia University lecture series tonight at 5PM, when I'm appearing onstage with Radiolab's Jad Abumrad at the lecture theater in Pulitzer Hall (RSVP here); and then I'm heading to Swarthmore tomorrow, to give a talk at the Lang Performing Arts Center Room (LPAC) 101 Cinema from 7-9PM. Both talks are free. Read the rest

This newspaper classifieds section is trippy

I'm not sure who reads the classifieds anymore but this special optical illusion ad section by Felipe Salazar and Karen Castañeda is definitely worth a look. The Columbia-based graphic designers took the text-heavy newspaper page and it turned it into a kitchen, which is an ad for HiperCentro Corona supermarket. Can you see it?

If you're having a hard time seeing the kitchen, click here.

(Neatorama, DesignTAXI)

image via Felipe Salazar and Karen Castañeda Read the rest

Retired NASA flight director blogs about the aftermath of Columbia disaster

On February 1, 2003, the space shuttle Columbia broke up in the sky over Texas, bits and pieces falling onto at least two states. All seven astronauts on board died. As we close in on the 10-year anniversary of the disaster, you can expect lots of media outlets and experts to start offering their take on what happened and what we've learned from it. But there's one voice that you should really be listening to ... and he's speaking already.

Wayne Hale was a flight director on the space shuttle for 40 or 41 missions (His blog says 40, his NASA bio says 41). Flight controllers are the people who manage a space flight—they deal with the logistics, monitor all the various systems of the vehicle, make the decision to launch or abort, and deal with trouble-shooting. In other words, they play a key role in safety, and the flight director is the person in charge of all the flight controllers.

More importantly, Wayne Hale is one of the people who suspected something might be wrong with Columbia before its fatal reentry, and tried to get his superiors at NASA to pay attention to the risks. Here's Dwayne Day writing at The Space Review:

During the Columbia accident investigation I was one of over 100 staff members who worked for the CAIB (not all of them worked simultaneously, and for the many months I was there, the staff probably numbered no more than 50–60). There were so many aspects to the investigation that it was impossible to follow them all, and my responsibility was for policy, history, and budget, and later, some of the issues concerning schedule pressure.

Read the rest

What do astronauts and the Holocaust have in common? "An Article of Hope"

Filmmaker Dan Cohen is the guy behind "An Article of Hope," a feature film project seven years in the making. The documentary is done, but Dan's got a Kickstarter to raise funds to get it on television and into schools. Below, some words from Dan for Boing Boing readers about the film:

What could space shuttle Astronauts and the Holocaust possibly have in common? When I began my research into my documentary An Article of Hope, I thought I was making a film about a Holocaust story. But I soon unraveled a story that was much more than that. It is a story that crosses generations woven by the lives of three men, born at a different time, but brought together by a twist of fate.

At the center of the story were the Astronauts of the Space Shuttle Columbia. All from different backgrounds from around the world, magnificently diverse, yet threaded by a moment from the Holocaust, a horrific attempt to stamp out diversity.

Israeli Astronaut Ilan Ramon was a hero fighter pilot, a man who had the ability to rise to the moment. By the time he launched into space he was more than that, he was the representative of his country, his faith, and in his eyes perhaps, humanity. He searched for a symbol of this responsibility, and found a little Torah scroll given to a boy in a secret Bar Mitzvah in a Nazi concentration camp.

Read the rest