BLETHERHEIDS

I went to ‘Bletherheids’ at Edinburgh Festival last night.

There were performances from A.L. Kennedy, Alan Bissett, Kevin Williamson, Kirstin Innes, Iain HeggieRodge GlassAnneliese Mackintosh and Tam Dean Burn.

I recorded all of their performances and managed to speak to most of them outside for a moment too.

The problem was that I had to run to catch the train so I only got the briefest of words with one or two of them.

I did however have a nice hour back on the train speaking to Iain Heggie as he was going the same way.

I am very busy at the moment and there was a lot of material recorded so it is going to take me at least a couple of weeks to put it all together and then make it available.

PODCAST ONE

I decided a while ago that I would like to try putting together a few podcasts just to see how it went.

So I bought the equipment and last month I went to London to speak to one of the funniest bloggers and writers you could come across.

I met with Philip Challinor, otherwise known as ‘The Curmudgeon‘, who is a writer as well as a blogger.

As I am very much learning this podcasting thing on the job I wasn’t able to add an introduction before the conversation starts on the mp3 file but in failing to do it this time I have learned how to do it for the next one.

This podcast was very much a conversation in the pub [with added rat]. There are a couple of conversations put together as we were variously interrupted by having to go to the bar or the rain.

Some of the subsequent ones might be conversations and some might be more formal. I am going to try to make them all different.

In this one we discuss the Scotland/England thing, Douglas Adams, Gordon Brown, Science-Fiction and a few other things too.

RIGHT CLICK HERE FOR DOWNLOAD

If you go to THIS LINK HERE then you can listen to it online or download it as an mp3. You want the VBR MP3 link where it says ‘Audio Files’.

You can also LISTEN ONLINE HERE

Hope you like it.

Finally, if you have any complaints about what we said you can write an email. But don’t send it to me.

NOT FOR ALL THE SPICE IN INDIA

This story is a couple of months old but what do you think the man himself would have made of it all.

I suspect he would not have been concerned about the personal belongings but much more worried about the state of things in general.

Even though there is some pretence that they were bought ‘for India’ it is not sure if they are going to a museum. Gandhi is after all the man who said…”A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.”

NEW YORK: Hours after high drama and frenzied bidding, Mahatma Gandhi’s personal belongings were bought for USD 1.8 million by industrialist Vijay Mallya, who said he “bidded for the country” at the auction after last-ditch attempts by India to stall the sale of the memorabilia fell through.

NOT A METEOR THEN?

This is a press release…

Sudden Collapse in Ancient Biodiversity: Was Global Warming the Culprit?

Scientists discover early warning signs of ecosystems at risk

Photo of ancient fossil leaves.
Ancient fossil leaves tell a story of sudden loss of biodiversity that may have future parallels.
Credit and Larger Version

June 18, 2009

Scientists have unearthed striking evidence for a sudden ancient collapse in plant biodiversity. A trove of 200 million-year-old fossil leaves collected in East Greenland tells the story, carrying its message across time to us today.

Results of the research appear in this week’s issue of the journal Science.

The researchers were surprised to find that a likely candidate responsible for the loss of plant life was a small rise in the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide, which caused Earth’s temperature to rise.

Global warming has long been considered as the culprit for extinctions–the surprise is that much less carbon dioxide gas in the atmosphere may be needed to drive an ecosystem beyond its tipping point than previously thought.

“Earth’s deep time climate history reveals startling discoveries that shake the foundations of our knowledge and understanding of climate change in modern times,” says H. Richard Lane, program director in the National Science Foundation (NSF)’s Division of Earth Sciences, which partially funded the research.

Jennifer McElwain of University College Dublin, the paper’s lead author, cautions that sulfur dioxide from extensive volcanic emissions may also have played a role in driving the plant extinctions.

“We have no current way of detecting changes in sulfur dioxide in the past, so it’s difficult to evaluate whether sulfur dioxide, in addition to a rise in carbon dioxide, influenced this pattern of extinction,” says McElwain.

The time interval under study, at the boundary of the Triassic and Jurassic periods, has long been known for its plant and animal extinctions.

Until this research, the pace of the extinctions was thought to have been gradual, taking place over millions of years.

It has been notoriously difficult to tease out details about the pace of extinction using fossils, scientists say, because fossils can provide only snap-shots or glimpses of organisms that once lived.

Using a technique developed by scientist Peter Wagner of the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., the researchers were able to detect, for the first time, very early signs that these ancient ecosystems were already deteriorating–before plants started going extinct.

The method reveals early warning signs that an ecosystem is in trouble in terms of extinction risk.

“The differences in species abundances for the first 20 meters of the cliffs [in East Greenland] from which the fossils were collected,” says Wagner, “are of the sort you expect. “But the final 10 meters show dramatic loses of diversity that far exceed what we can attribute to sampling error: the ecosystems were supporting fewer and fewer species.”

By the year 2100, it’s expected that the level of carbon dioxide in the modern atmosphere may reach as high as two and a half times today’s level.

“This is of course a ‘worst case scenario,'” says McElwain.  “But it’s at exactly this level [900 parts per million] at which we detected the ancient biodiversity crash.

“We must take heed of the early warning signs of deterioration in modern ecosystems.  We’ve learned from the past that high levels of species extinctions–as high as 80 percent–can occur very suddenly, but they are preceded by long interval of ecological change.”

The majority of modern ecosystems have not yet reached their tipping point in response to climate change, the scientists say, but many have already entered a period of prolonged ecological change.

“The early warning signs of deterioration are blindingly obvious,” says McElwain. “The biggest threats to maintaining current levels of biodiversity are land use change such as deforestation. “But even relatively small changes in carbon dioxide and global temperature can have unexpectedly severe consequences for the health of ecosystems.”

The paper, “Fossil Plant Relative Abundances Indicate Sudden Loss of Late Triassic Biodiversity in East Greenland,” was co-authored by McElwain, Wagner and Stephen Hesselbo of the University of Oxford in the U.K.

ON THE ROAD AGAIN

Never blogged from a moving train before but thought I should post the photograph below which I noticed whilst waiting for my last connection.

Does it strike anyone else as a bit odd? Not “Thanks for travelling with our company” or “Thanks for coming to ———-” but just “Thanks for travelling…in general”.

I am all for it – travel broadens the mind all that but it did strike me as strange..

travelling