Thursday, December 29, 2011

4 Simple Steps to Grow a Hundred Pounds of Potatoes in a Barrel

Source: greenUPGRADER

Container gardening isn't only for savvy urban gardeners and folks with limited space to grow, it can also be for folks who want to maximize their yields in a controlled environment. Not only does growing potatoes in a barrel reduce the amount of weeding and exposure to pests and fungi, you don't even have to risk shovel-damage to the tender potatoes by digging them out of the ground when they're done, just tip the container over!

This is a Suspicious News Brief. Read more at greenUPGRADER.

US not ready for all-out conflict with Iran

Source: Russia Today

In the wake of Iran and the US threatening each other with navy might in the Persian Gulf, investigative writer Edwin Black says full military conflict would cripple the oil-dependent US –as well as the rest of the world.

After the International Atomic Energy Agency published a report on the Iranian nuclear program in November, Washington came up with fresh proposals to impose an embargo on Iranian oil. Iran responded with threats to block the Strait of Hormuz, the gateway for the Gulf countries’ crude exports to the rest of the world. With the two countries now showing off their naval capacities on either side of the strait, investigative writer Edwin Black tells RT that in embargos and sanctions Washington is seeking an alternative to a military strike.

America is indeed concerned that Iran may be on the fast track of developing nuclear weapons. But, Black says, the US government is unprepared for this conflict as this would mean Gulf oil supplies would be choked off.

“They do not have a plan for an oil interruption. There is a 57-day supply of unrefined oil that can be stretched to about a hundred days,” he told RT.

Iran would not limit itself to merely blocking the Strait of Hormuz, remarks Black. In the event of an all-out conflict, Tehran could target Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities, such as the desulphurization plant at Ab Tak, which processes 70 per cent of Saudi oil, and the Ras Tanura terminal, a major oil port and oil operations center for Saudi Aramco, the world’s largest oil company. “If that is done, the world will be crippled,” he pointed out.

Saudi Arabia, which has declared it will increase oil exports if Iran shuts the Strait of Hormuz, would not fill in the black hole of the world’s oil demands, observes Edwin Black. The main oil transport routes include the same strait, which would cease to be available. Other transport options do not have enough capacity.

“There is a backdoor pipeline in Yanbo which has a capacity of about 1-5 million barrels per day, but this cannot make up for the 70 million barrels a day. And the Yanbo pipeline can be bombed as easily as Ras Tanura,” says Black. “The outlook is indeed grim,” he concludes.

Most of the world is petrol addicted with maybe Brazil only enjoying the option of using alternative sources of energy. But with the US determination not to let Iran have nuclear weapons, some kind of military conflict looks inevitable.

'Iran and US playing lose-lose game' Shirin Shafaie, from the School of Oriental and African Studies and Campaign against Sanctions and Military Intervention in Iran, says the crisis around Iran’s nuclear program requires an urgent diplomatic solution of mutual concessions.

“This is a lose-lose situation,” Shafaie told RT. “Everybody is going to lose in that –except some military industrial complexes in the West.

But if there is a diplomatic solution, we have a very good nuclear deal between Iran, Turkey and Brazil, which could be revived. On this deal, Iran could have most of its uranium, which is required for fuel rods, enriched abroad. President Obama supported the deal in his letter to the leaders of Brazil and Turkey in 2010.”

This is a Suspicious News Brief. Read and watch more of this story  at Russia Today

Saudi buys nearly $30bn in US warplanes - Middle East

Source: Al Jazeera English

The United States said it had signed a $29.4bn deal to provide F-15 fighter jets to Saudi Arabia in a move likely to be seen as part of efforts to counter Iran. The deal will supply 84 new Boeing F-15SA aircraft and modernise 70 existing planes and include munitions, spare parts, training and maintenance contracts, Josh Earnest, White House deputy spokesman, said.

"This agreement reinforces the strong and enduring relationship between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and demonstrates the US commitment to a strong Saudi defense capability as a key component to regional security," Earnest said.

This is a Suspicious News Brief. Read more at Al Jazeera English

Inside the mind of the octopus

Did you know that an octopus tastes with its suckers, sees with its skin, and its severed arms can wander about, each with a mind of its own? There are researchers still working diligently to understand what it’s like to be an octopus, how they think, and why they do the strange things they do.

Source: Orion Magazine

A typical human brain has about 100 billion neurons. The common octopus has about 130 million of them in its brain. Three-fifths of an octopus’s neurons are not in the brain; they’re in its arms. “It is as if each arm has a mind of its own,” says Peter Godfrey-Smith, a diver, professor of philosophy at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and an admirer of octopuses. For example, researchers who cut off an octopus’s arm (which the octopus can regrow) discovered that not only does the arm crawl away on its own, but if the arm meets a food item, it seizes it—and tries to pass it to where the mouth would be if the arm were still connected to its body. “Meeting an octopus,” writes Godfrey-Smith, “is like meeting an intelligent alien.”

So what does it feel like to be an octopus? Godfrey-Smith has given this a great deal of thought, especially when he meets octopuses and their relatives, giant cuttlefish, on dives in his native Australia. “They come forward and look at you. They reach out to touch you with their arms,” he said. “It’s remarkable how little is known about them . . . but I could see it turning out that we have to change the way we think of the nature of the mind itself to take into account minds with less of a centralized self.”

JENNIFER MATHER SPENT MOST of her time in Bermuda floating facedown on the surface of the water at the edge of the sea. Breathing through a snorkel, she was watching Octopus vulgaris—the common octopus. Although indeed common (they are found in tropical and temperate waters worldwide), at the time of her study in the mid-1980s, “nobody knew what they were doing.”
In a relay with other students from six-thirty in the morning till six-thirty at night, Mather worked to find out.

Sometimes she’d see an octopus hunting. A hunting expedition could take five minutes or three hours. The octopus would capture something, inject it with venom, and carry it home to eat. “Home,” Mather found, is where octopuses spend most of their time. A home, or den, which an octopus may occupy only a few days before switching to a new one, is a place where the shell-less octopus can safely hide: a hole in a rock, a discarded shell, or a cubbyhole in a sunken ship. One species, the Pacific red octopus, particularly likes to den in stubby, brown, glass beer bottles.

One octopus Mather was watching had just returned home and was cleaning the front of the den with its arms. Then, suddenly, it left the den, crawled a meter away, picked up oneparticular rock and placed the rock in front of the den. Two minutes later, the octopus ventured forth to select a second rock. Then it chose a third. Attaching suckers to all the rocks, the octopus carried the load home, slid through the den opening, and carefully arranged the three objects in front. Then it went to sleep. What the octopus was thinking seemed obvious: “Three rocks are enough. Good night!”

The scene has stayed with Mather. The octopus “must have had some concept,” she said, “of what it wanted to make itself feel safe enough to go to sleep.” And the octopus knew how to get what it wanted: by employing foresight, planning—and perhaps even tool use.

Mather is the lead author of Octopus: The Ocean’s Intelligent Invertebrate, which includes observations of octopuses who dismantle Lego sets and open screw-top jars. Coauthor Roland Anderson reports that octopuses even learned to open the childproof caps on Extra Strength Tylenol pill bottles—a feat that eludes many humans with university degrees.

So why is the octopus so intelligent? What is its mind for? Mather thinks she has the answer. She believes the event driving the octopus toward intelligence was the loss of the ancestral shell. Losing the shell freed the octopus for mobility. Now they didn’t need to wait for food to find them; they could hunt like tigers. And while most octopuses love crab best, they hunt and eat dozens of other species—each of which demands a different hunting strategy. Each animal you hunt may demand a different skill set: Will you camouflage yourself for a stalk-and-ambush attack? Shoot through the sea for a fast chase? Or crawl out of the water to capture escaping prey?

Losing the protective shell was a trade-off. Just about anything big enough to eat an octopus will do so. Each species of predator also demands a different evasion strategy—from flashing warning coloration if your attacker is vulnerable to venom, to changing color and shape to camouflage, to fortifying the door to your home with rocks.

Such intelligence is not always evident in the laboratory. “In the lab, you give the animals this situation, and they react,” points out Mather. But in the wild, “the octopus is actively discovering his environment, not waiting for it to hit him. The animal makes the decision to go out and get information, figures out how to get the information, gathers it, uses it, stores it. This has a great deal to do with consciousness.”

“I think consciousness comes in different flavors,” agrees Mather. “Some may have consciousness in a way we may not be able to imagine.”

This is a Suspicious News Brief. Read more at Orion Magazine.