- The Big Picture shares shocking photos of the Portuguese forest fires.
- blogTO notes that, happily, Seaton Village's Fiesta Farms is apparently not at risk of being turned into a condo development site.
- Centauri Dreams notes a new starship discussion group in Delft. Shades of the British Interplanetary Society and the Daedalus?
- D-Brief considers a new theory explaining why different birds' eggs have different shapes.
- The Frailest Thing's Michael Sacasas commits himself to a new regimen of blogging about technology and its imports. (There is a Patreon.)
- Language Hat notes the current Turkish government's interest in purging Turkish of Western loanwords.
- Language Log's Victor Mair sums up the evidence for the diffusion of Indo-European languages, and their speakers, into India.
- The LRB Blog notes the Theresa May government's inability post-Grenfell to communicate with any sense of emotion.
- Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen wonders if the alt-right more prominent in the Anglophone world because it is more prone to the appeal of the new.
- Personal Reflections' Jim Belshaw wonders if Brexit will result in a stronger European Union and a weaker United Kingdom.
- Seriously Science reports a study suggesting that shiny new headphones are not better than less flashy brands.
- Torontoist reports on the anti-Muslim hate groups set to march in Toronto Pride.
- Understanding Society considers the subject of critical realism in sociological analyses.
- Window on Eurasia notes how Russia's call to promote Cyrillic across the former Soviet Union has gone badly in Armenia, with its own script.
- Crooked Timber responds to The Intercept's release of data regarding Russian interference with American elections.
- Dangerous Minds reports on how Melanie Gaydos overcame a rare genetic disorder to become a model.
- Dead Things seems unduly happy that it does see as if Tyrannosaurus rex had feathers. (I like the idea.)
- The Dragon's Gaze reports on our ability to detect the effects of a planet-shattering Nicoll-Dyson beam.
- The Frailest Thing considers being a parent in the digital age.
- Language Hat notes the African writing systems of nsibidi and bamum.
- Marginal Revolution notes that Trump-supporting states are moving to green energy quite quickly.
- Window on Eurasia notes how Russian guarantees of traditional rights to the peoples of the Russian North do not take their current identities into account.
The Crow Agenda, as described by its Indiegogo fundraising page, is a recent documentary a half-hour long that takes a look at Charlottetown's crow population and the whole complex mixture of thoughts about them. Apparently these feathered apes are common here.
Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island is known as the birth place of Canadian Confederation. The city also plays a lesser known historic role as a roosting site for over 15,000 crows who have been sharing the city space since the 1800s. The crows affect the residents both positively and negatively, and this dichotomy gives rise to an important question – is this murder of crows a persistent problem that needs to be permanently eliminated or a gift of nature from which to draw inspiration?
For some residents an emotional and spiritual connection has developed with the crows. Stories emerge about grandfathers thought to be reincarnated as crows, crows that talk, residents with pet crows, and people who claim to have been feeding the same crows for over ten years. They are in support of leaving them alone and allowing the birds to be uninhibited in Victoria Park. They draw inspiration from the beauty of the birds daily commute in and out of the city. Local artists, dating back to world-renowned poet and Charlottetown native Milton Acorn, have developed a strong stance on the crows. They are in support of leaving them alone and allowing the birds to be uninhibited in Victoria Park. They draw inspiration from the beauty of the birds daily commute in and out of the city.
Other residents have had their lives turned upside down by what they see as an unwanted invasion. Farmers have had their crops ruined, residents have had the paint jobs on their cars destroyed from crow droppings, children and the elderly are afraid to leave their homes due to the overwhelming number of loud birds in the area. The response from these residents has not been one of acceptance. Instead, they have waged a small-scale war upon the birds: a weapon-like sound cannon has been purchased by the city; some residents fire off cap guns, bang pots and pans and garbage lids together in order to scare the birds away. A crow complaint hot-line and bureaucracy has been established to help deal with complaints and local politicians have made getting rid of the crows a key component of their political platforms in the last local election.
The Crow Agenda is an entertaining short documentary film that examines the people of a small East Coast Canadian city who have a unique relationship with these birds. Love them or hate them, the intelligent and mysterious crows have deeply influenced local art, politics and the relationships between family, friends, and neighbours.
- Centauri Dreams looks at signs of advanced technologies detectable by SETI searches.
- D-Brief notes evidence of the domestication of turkeys in eth and 5th century Mexico.
- Dangerous Minds discusses a legendary 1985 concert by Einstürzende Neubauten.
- Joe. My. God. notes the banning of Tila Tequila from Twitter.
- Language Log looks about a Hebrew advertisement that makes use of apostrophes.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money bids farewell to one of its bloggers, Scott Eric Kauffman.
- The LRB Blog notes that Israel is fine with anti-Semites so long as they are Zionists.
- Marginal Revolution notes that Hillary Clinton won the most economically productive areas of the United States.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer suggests anti-sprawl legislation helped lose the recent election.
- The Russian Demographics Blog notes Russia's banning of LinkedIn.
- Towleroad notes Ellen Degeneres' winning of a Presidential honor medal.
- Window on Eurasia suggests Trump could be much less easy to handle than the Kremlin thinks, and looks at claims that small northern peoples are conspiring with foreigners.
The Toronto Star's Azzura Lalani explains why the gray jay, Canada's new national bird, does not have the Canadian "grey" in its name.
Canadians haven’t wasted much time since the gray jay was named Canada’s national bird on Wednesday asking why its name is spelled the American way.
“We wholeheartedly agree that the Canadian/British spelling of “grey” would be preferable, but this is the species’ official name,” said Nick Walker, managing editor of Canadian Geographic magazine in an email to the Star. “As a journalistic publication, we must honour proper names of birds and other animals even when they conflict with Canadian spellings.”
What Walker would most like to see, he added, is for “gray jay” to be changed to “Canada jay,” which is what the bird was known as for about 200 years until the label was changed in 1957.
“Grey,” the British spelling of the colour, is the more common spelling in Canada, but it wasn’t always that way, said University of Toronto linguistics professor J.K. Chambers in an email.
“Until the 1700s, spelling was flexible. In Canada, we have a long history of accepting either British or American standards . . . . Because we are Canadian, we also accept ‘gray’ for ‘grey.’ ”
- blgoTO notes how the Guild Inn was once a popular resort.
- Centauri Dreams notes the import of real scientists in Arrival.
- Crooked Timber notes that anti-Trump Republicans did not seem to matter in the election.
- The Dragon's Gaze looks at cutting-edge options for studying exoplanets.
- False Steps notes a proposed American spacecraft that would have landed on water.
- Far Outliers notes the pointless internment of foreign domestics in Second World War Britain.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money looks at the potential impact of a Michael Bloomberg presidential run.
- Marginal Revolution looks at the development of apps which aim to find out the preferred songs of birds.
- Steve Munro and Transit Toronto look at ongoing controversy over the 514 Cherry streetcar line's noise, including upcoming public meetings.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer suggests the election of Trump could lead to the election of a similar populist to the presidency of Mexico.
- The Volokh Conspiracy deals with the odd and seemingly meaningless distinction made by Americans between "republic" and "democracy".
- Window on Eurasia wonders if Trump's negotiating style might lead to worse Russian-American relations and looks at his business history in Russia.
Via 3 Quarks Daily I found Grigori Guitchounts' article in Nautilus making the case for research into the mechanisms of corvid intelligence.
The animals of neuroscience research are an eclectic bunch, and for good reason. Different model organisms—like zebra fish larvae, C. elegans worms, fruit flies, and mice—give researchers the opportunity to answer specific questions. The first two, for example, have transparent bodies, which let scientists easily peer into their brains; the last two have eminently tweakable genomes, which allow scientists to isolate the effects of specific genes. For cognition studies, researchers have relied largely on primates and, more recently, rats, which I use in my own work. But the time is ripe for this exclusive club of research animals to accept a new, avian member: the corvid family.
Corvids, such as crows, ravens, and magpies, are among the most intelligent birds on the planet—the list of their cognitive achievements goes on and on—yet neuroscientists have not scrutinized their brains for one simple reason: They don’t have a neocortex. The obsession with the neocortex in neuroscience research is not unwarranted; what’s unwarranted is the notion that the neocortex alone is responsible for sophisticated cognition. Because birds lack this structure—the most recently evolved portion of the mammalian brain, crucial to human intelligence—neuroscientists have largely and unfortunately neglected the neural basis of corvid intelligence.
This makes them miss an opportunity for an important insight. Having diverged from mammals more than 300 million years ago, avian brains have had plenty of time to develop along remarkably different lines (instead of a cortex with its six layers of neatly arranged neurons, birds evolved groups of neurons densely packed into clusters called nuclei). So, any computational similarities between corvid and primate brains—which are so different neurally—would indicate the development of common solutions to shared evolutionary problems, like creating and storing memories, or learning from experience. If neuroscientists want to know how brains produce intelligence, looking solely at the neocortex won’t cut it; they must study how corvid brains achieve the same clever behaviors that we see in ourselves and other mammals.
- Beyond the Beyond links to an interview with Darran Anderson, a writer of cartographic fiction.
- Centauri Dreams notes that 2028 will be a time when microlensing can b used to study the area of Alpha Centauri A.
- The Crux engages with the question of whether or not an astronaut's corpse could seed life on another planet.
- The Dragon's Gaze links to a study that gathers together signals for planetary companions orbiting nearby stars.
- Joe. My. God. notes that the only gay bar in Portland, Maine, is set to close.
- Language Log notes the proliferation of Chinese characters and notes that a parrot could not be called to the stand in Kuwait.
- Lawyers, Guns and Money notes that the last time the Chicago Cubs won, Germany was an empire.
- The Map Room Blog notes the discovery of an ancient stone map on the Danish island of Bornholm.
- The Planetary Society Blog examines some of the New Horizons findings of Pluto.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer argues that Venezuela is now a dictatorship.
- Towleroad notes
- Window on Eurasia notes a Russian cleric's call for the children of ethnically mixed marriages in Tatarstan to be legally identified as Russians.
- Bloomberg talks about Poland's problems with economic growth, notes that McMansions are poor investments, considers what to do about the Olympics post-Rio, looks at new Japanese tax incentives for working women, looks at a French war museum that put its stock up for sale, examines the power of the New Zealand dairy, looks at the Yasukuni controversies, and notes Huawei's progress in China.
- Bloomberg View is hopeful for Brazil, argues demographics are dooming Abenomics, suggests ways for the US to pit Russia versus Iran, looks at Chinese fisheries and the survival of the ocean, notes that high American population growth makes the post-2008 economic recovery relatively less notable, looks at Emperor Akihito's opposition to Japanese remilitarization, and argues that Europe's soft response to terrorism is not a weakness.
- CBC notes that Russian doping whistleblowers fear for their lives, looks at how New Brunswick farmers are adapting to climate change, and looks at how Neanderthals' lack of facility with tools may have doomed them.
- The Globe and Mail argues Ontario should imitate Michigan instead of Québec, notes the new Anne of Green Gables series on Netflix, and predicts good things for Tim Horton's in the Philippines.
- The Guardian notes that Canada's impending deal with the European Union is not any model for the United Kingdom.
- The Inter Press Service looks at child executions in Iran.
- MacLean's notes that Great Lakes mayors have joined to challenge a diversion of water from their shared basin.
- National Geographic looks at the elephant ivory trade, considers the abstract intelligence of birds, considers the Mayan calendar's complexities, and looks at how the young generation treats Pluto's dwarf planet status.
- The National Post notes that VIA Rail is interested in offering a low-cost bus route along the Highway of Tears in northern British Columbia.
- Open Democracy notes that the last Russian prisoner in Guantanamo does not want to go home, and wonders why the West ignores the Rwandan dictatorship.
- TVO considers how rural communities can attract immigrants.
- Universe Today suggests sending our digital selves to the stars, looks at how cirrus clouds kept early Mars warm and wet, and notes the discovery of an early-forming direct-collapse black hole.
- Variance Explained looks at how Donald Trump's tweets clearly show two authors at work.
- The Washignton Post considers what happens when a gay bar becomes a bar with more general appeal.
- Wired notes that the World Wide Web still is far from achieving its founders' dreams, looks at how news apps are dying off, and reports on the Univision purchase of Gawker.
Torontoist's Mark Mann describes how Toronto's skyscrapers are starting to heighten their toll in birds killed.
It’s hard to know what to care about. Our terrible world offers plenty of options, and, considered all together, they are overwhelming and exhausting, which is maybe why most of us refuse to pay much attention to anything that isn’t directly in front of our faces getting in the way.
This sad fact of human limitation—our wilful confinement to the immediate and obvious—is bad news for animals, whose main skill sets are sneakiness and hiding (swaggering city raccoons not included). Among the all-time great hiders are the millions of birds that pass through the GTA twice annually, who fly by night to avoid detection.
Toronto lies at the confluence of two major flyways, making it a “bird super-highway,” according to Bridget Stutchbury, author of Silence of the Songbirds. Migrating birds should simply slip past us in the dark. But because they suffer from a condition called “fatal light attraction,” they get stuck on our street lamps and spotlights.
It’s not clear why birds can’t resist light bulbs, but one study suggests that artificial lighting interferes with their internal magnetic compass. So, technically, nocturnal birds aren’t attracted to light, but they reflexively switch to daytime travel mode and then can’t switch back.
- blogTO looks back on a Toronto heat wave in 1935.
- Centauri Dreams looks at the K2-72 and Kepler-80 systems.
- D-Brief reports on early signs of global warming in Siberia and looks at how African honeyguide birds work together with human hunters.
- The Dragon's Gaze looks at the search for habitable planets around red dwarfs, looks at the habitability of planets with eccentric orbits, and notes that warm Jupiters can co-exist with smaller planets nearby.
- The Dragon's Tales look at a proposed Europa mission, and notes an astrobiological model of Titan's atmosphere.
- Imageo shares Juno's first view of Jupiter.
- The Planetary Society Blog reports about the Planetary Society's presence at San Diego Comic-Con.
On Monday, I passed by a small flock of a dozen Canada geese feeding on the grass by the Lake Ontario shoreline in Marilyn Bell Park. These archosaurs were not afraid of people, even the ones that had been banded. Handsome and strong animals, I could tell that they and their kin were residents here: The grass had been very carefully nibbled.
- blogTO looks at the history of the Kingston Road.
- The Dragon's Gaze considers the birth of carbon planets.
- Language Log notes that a speaking parrot may well be used as evidence I an American court.
- The LRB Blog looks at the aftermath of Brexit.
- Marginal Revolution considers Brexit from the perspective of a Japan-style isolationism.
- Steve Munro looks at plans for the Downtown Relief Line.
- Peter Rukavina examines Stan Rogers' Barrett's Privateers.
- Understanding Society examines systems management as applied to the war on poverty.
- The Volokh Conspiracy takes issue with Posner's criticism of Scalia.
- Window on Eurasia warns that health care reform in Russia will undermine small communities.
- Arnold Zwicky looks at Chuck Tingle's Brexit porn.
- Centauri Dreams examines circumbinary planet Kepler-1647b.
- Crooked Timber takes issue with Peter Singer's identification of boat people as queue jumpers.
- D-Brief notes the superior design of the brains of birds.
- The Dragon's Gaze considers if the James Webb Space Telescope could detect signs of life on the planets of the TRAPPIST-1 system.
- The Dragon's Tales points to more evidence for Planet Nine.
- The LRB Blog considers gay pride after the Orlando shooting.
- Marginal Revolution calls for a revival of supersonic air transport.
- The NYRB Blog argues terrorism is the wrong framing for the Orlando shooting.
- The Planetary Society Blog considers the future of the Arecibo radio telescope.
- Peter Rukavina considers what it means to leave the Island.
- The Russian Demographics Blog tracks births in Russia over the past century.
- Savage Minds considers the decolonization of anthropology.
- Strange Maps tracks political trends in the United States.
- Towleroad shares Susie Bright's thoughts about the persecution of gay venues.
- Window on Eurasia notes the commemoration of the deportations from the Baltics by the Soviet Union, reports on a Russian nationalist who thinks Ukraine's European trajectory was inevitable, and parses a distinction between "ethnic Russian" and "Russophone".
- The Big Picture shares photos from the eruption of Mount Sinabung in Indonesia.
- The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly writes about the importance of colleagues for solitary writers.
- D-Brief notes the rediscovery of the Blue-Eyed Ground Dove in Brazil, once believed extinct.
- The Dragon's Gaze notes reports of the discovery of massive planets via gaps in the protoplanetary disks of HL Tauri and HD 135344B.
- The Dragon's Tales notes a paper making specific projections about the shape of the Kuiper Belt if Planet Nine was around.
- A Fistful of Euros speculates as to the severity of the United Kingdom's post-Brexit recession.
- Language Log considers writing Shanghainese.
- The LRB Blog remembers Madeleine Lebeau, last survivor of the cast of Casablanca.
- Marginal Revolution engages with Peter Thiel's funding of Hulk Hogan's lawsuit against Gawker.
- The Planetary Society Blog notes sterling work reclaiming distorted images from the Voyager probes.
- pollotenchegg reports on the origins of migrants to Kyiv.
- The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer reports on Puerto Rico.
- Seriously Science notes that wild boar apparently wash their food before eating.
- Window on Eurasia looks at Putin's traditionalism, wonders if there might be a Russian Olympics boycott to spare the country the shame of being excluded, speculates about the North Caucasus' future within Russia, and reports Ukrainian worries of being isolated versus Russia.
- Bloomberg looks at the restarting of northern Alberta oil, looks at the deterioration in Sino-Taiwanese relations, reports on how Norway is using oil money to buffer its economic shocks, and suggests low ECB rates might contribute to a property boom in Germany.
- Bloomberg View notes the idea of a third party in the US, one on the right to counter Trump, will go nowhere.
- The CBC notes the settlement of a residential school case in Newfoundland and Labrador and predicts a terrible fire season.
- The Globe and Mail' Kate Taylor considers Canadian content rules in the 21st century.
- The Inter Press Service notes that planned Kenyan closures of Somali refugee camps will have terrible results.
- National Geographic looks at the scourge that is Pablo Escobar's herd of hippos in Colombia.
- The National Post notes VIA Rail's existential need for more funding and reports on Jean Chrétien's support of decriminalizing marijuana.
- Open Democracy looks at controversies over Victory Day in Georgia, and notes the general impoverishment of Venezuela.
- Vice looks at new, accurate dinosaur toys, feathers and all.
- Wired explains why Israel alone of America's clients can customize F-35s.