Open thread

Remember the story from London about a pelican eating a pigeon?  I mentioned it briefly back in October.  Well, apparently pelicans constantly try to eat things other than fish.  For example, here’s a video of another pelican eating a pigeon.  You have to watch closely right at the beginning to see the pigeon, then it’s nothing but the pelican struggling to get the bird to go down.  But that’s not all.  This page shows two things.  At the top is a photo of a pelican attempting to grab a cat.  Yes, I mean a domestic cat.  That probably didn’t go well for the pelican.  Even if it had been strong enough to lift the whole cat and get it into its mouth (which is so unlikely as to be impossible), it would never have been able to swallow it.  Meanwhile, the cat would have devastated the pelican’s mouth and throat, and would have left it unable to eat anything else.  At the bottom of that page is a video of a pelican attempting to eat some extremely large catfish (I mean much larger than a duck, also seen in the video).  That doesn’t really work for the pelican either.  I suppose they tend to have eyes much bigger than their stomachs, and they also aren’t smart enough to know what’s a safe meal and what’s not (you know, like a cat!).

This clipping is both mournful and uplifting.  Amba’s response is right: “Aw, Man.”

Tangled Bank #71 offers a visit to 1771 as part of the celebration of the best science writing and news.  This is a really good edition and I can’t recommend it enough if you’re a science geek like me.

‘Doomsday Clock’ Now Tracks Warming: “Scientist Stephen Hawking described climate change Wednesday as a greater threat to the planet than terrorism. Hawking made the remarks as other prominent scientists prepared to push the giant hand of its Doomsday Clock — a symbol of the risk of atomic cataclysm and now also of climate change — closer to midnight. Hawking warned that ‘as citizens of the world, we have a duty to alert the public to the unnecessary risks that we live with every day.’ It was the fourth time since the end of the Cold War that the clock has ticked forward, this time from 11:53 to 11:55, amid fears over what the trans-Atlantic group of scientists is describing as ‘a second nuclear age’ prompted largely by atomic standoffs with Iran and North Korea.”

In late December I mentioned a news report about the Grand Canyon.  That article, widely disseminated and discussed, said “Bush White House appointees are suppressing real science in order to promote creationism. Specifically, at the Grand Canyon National Park, a book is on sale that says the canyon was formed in Noah’s flood. Also, guides at the park are not allowed to answer questions about how old the canyon is, despite scientists’ incredibly detailed and intricate knowledge of the formation mechanism, scheme, and history of the canyon…”  I’m now retracting that.  We have now learned the entire press release was a slimy fabrication by an environmental activist group.  There ultimately was no truth to the claims.  To wit, the National Park Service fully documents the following: “If asked the age of the Grand Canyon, our rangers use the following answer: ‘The principal consensus among geologists is that the Colorado River basin has developed in the past 40 million years and that the Grand Canyon itself is probably less than five to six million years old. The result of all this erosion is one of the most complete geologic columns on the planet.'”  Both the environmental organization and the magazine that published the article are guilty of a horrible public disservice, a failure to ensure public trust by checking the facts, and duplicitous reporting.  Likewise, I am guilty of parroting a falsehood, so I apologize sincerely for doing so.

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