Scientists have a lot to learn about living animals before presuming to speak of long-lost extinct ones.Tree croc: Scientists have confirmed anecdotal reports that some crocodiles and alligators can climb trees. “When most people envision crocodiles and alligators, they think of them waddling on the ground or wading in water — not climbing trees,” Science Daily reported. “However, a new study has found that the reptiles can climb trees as far as the crowns.” Scientists from U of Tennessee found 4 species on 3 continents (Australia, Africa and North America) engaging in tree climbing. They think the reptiles do it to regulate their body temperature by basking, or to improve their view for surveillance. Small ones could venture farther than big ones, but “the ability to climb vertically is a measure of crocodiles’ spectacular agility on land.”Alpine bumblebee: Science Magazine reported that bumblebees appear capable of flying higher than Mt. Everest. “The last thing you’d expect to see out your airplane window is a bumblebee cruising by,” the article says. “But a new study suggests that the insects might be capable of such high-altitude jaunts.” Chinese researchers studied some bees found at high altitude, and experimented with their limits, finding some capable of thriving 100 meters above the elevation of Everest. The bees appear to compensate for the lower air pressure by flapping at the same speed but with greater amplitude.High wings: Quick: What bird flies the highest altitude? According to the BBC News, its Reppell’s vulture, found at 37,000 feet (presumably with bumblebee companions). The article gives “Seven surprising facts about vultures,” including their big appetites, ability to fly high and for long distances, and their varied diet and strong stomachs for digesting carrion. “Bearded vultures are the only animals known to have a diet of 70-90% bone and their stomach acid allows them to take nutrients from what other species discard,” the article says, noting that the stomach acid can neutralize cholera, anthrax and even botulism toxin – the strongest poison in the world (one gram could kill a billion humans). Thanks in part to vultures, the world is cleansed of decaying dead animals. One vulture carrying two dead rats was blocked at the airport gate recently. The reason? He was only allowed one carrion.Flying snakes: A video clip on the BBC News, and an accompanying article, show that some snakes in Southeast Asia can shape themselves a bit like an S-shaped Frisbee and glide through the air for long distances after flinging itself off tree branches. “Scientists say that the serpents radically alter their body shape to generate the aerodynamic forces needed to perform this feat.” A photo caption reads, “The aerodynamic forces are comparable with those generated by a plane’s wing.”Weightlifter ants: Ants are capable of sustaining “astounding pressures” on their necks, Science Daily said, calling their necks “amazing” and worth studying for improving robot strength. These aren’t specially trained ants, either, but just common American field ants. Measurements with centrifuges show the neck can withstand 5,000 times the ant’s body weight, due to a combination of materials and the structure of the joints. These leave the muscles free to lift and position objects.Sneezing sponges: This headline on Science Daily says it all: “Sneezing sponges suggest existence of sensory organ: Discovery challenges assumptions about ‘primitive’ organism.” How can an animal without a nervous system have a sense organ? That was the question a young biologist, Danielle Ludeman, decided to ask at the University of Alberta. “The sponge is a filter feeder that relies totally on water flow through its body for food, oxygen and waste removal,” the article explained. “Sneezing, a 30- to 45-minute process that sees the entire body of the sponge expand and contract, allows it to respond to physical stimuli such as sediment in the water.” This seems to presuppose sensory ability, but where did it reside? Ludeman and her supervisor, Sallie Leys, found ciliated cells lining the osculum. As evolutionists, they are trying to figure out whether this evolved uniquely in the sponge or is common to all animals. For a sponge, one of the simplest multicellular animals of all, to have a sense organ is “totally new,” not found in textbooks; “this doesn’t appear in someone’s concept of what sponges are permitted to have,” Leys said.Controlled power dive: Peregrine falcons can dive at 200 miles an hour, an article on Science Daily says. Experiments with specially designed wind tunnels shows that their feathers appear to act as “self-adaptive flaps” during dives. The body also changes shape during descent.Monarch crisis: Long live the king! We end with a sad story of the precipitous decline of Monarch butterflies, reported by Live Science and Science Now. These long-distance travelers, highlighted in the Illustra film Metamorphosis: The Beauty and Design of Butterflies, are in trouble – this time, it appears truly because of human interference. It’s not just their home in the mountains of Mexico that is threatened by logging. Use of pesticide-resistant crops in the USA has allowed many farmers to spray their fields with Roundup, killing off the milkweed on which the butterflies depend. Drought in Texas may also be a factor. Once a billion butterflies met in Mexico; now, 33.5 million were estimated during a 9-year decline. Unless quick measures are taken to restore the milkweed, this long-distance migration, a wonder of nature, is at risk of being lost.No matter where you look, the living world is filled with astonishing design. How can anyone attribute these feats to blind, aimless forces? Evolution amounts to a cop-out explanation, like saying, “Well, if they weren’t that way, they would have gone extinct” or “Stuff happens.” Come now, and let us reason together. Mistakes, in our day-to-day experience, do not generally cause exquisite design. Good design is a product of engineering. Why not make the logical inference? These animals don’t just show passable design. They show elegant, exquisite, astonishing design, as if Someone with omniscience, omnipotence, and wisdom had a plan. Follow the evidence. (Visited 71 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0
Vodacom, First National Bank and Sanlam have been voted tops in an annual consumer satisfaction survey.The survey with a moniker bigger than a mouthful – the “internationally measurable consumer satisfaction index research in the long-term insurance, telecommunications and banking sectors”, or the SAS index survey – was conducted by South African Satisfaction (SAS) Index in partnership with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).The survey measured some 27 critical drivers of “customer satisfaction and delight”. Some of these included quality and efficiency of staff, general attitude of staff and whether client information is kept up to date.The survey is an annual initiative designed to encourage competitiveness across industries. According to the DTI, it is unlike similar benchmark offerings and is comparable to similar surveys in the US and Europe – such as the American (ACSI) and European (EPSI) studies. It is the third year running that the survey has been conducted.View the full resultsof the survey.See comparable statistics (US and UK).Results indicate that South African customers are more satisfied than their counterparts in Europe and America. However, the DTI says this may be because South African consumers “have lower expectations”, suggested by a recent consumer survey conducted by the department.The DTI says the survey raises important issues about the level of consumer protection and awareness in South Africa. The results clearly show low levels of awareness about consumer rights, and limited support mechanisms to promote consumer activism and protection on the ground.Of consumers surveyed 55% did not know any consumer rights at all, 85% asked for more information on consumer rights, 79% did not know of any consumer rights organisations and only 2% belong to a consumer NGO. The DTI says this “poses a challenge to all government, industry and consumer activists to improve services and raise consumer awareness of their rights and expectations”.Improvement across the boardThe survey shows that overall improvement has been seen in all the sectors:TelecommunicationsLooking at the industries individually, the ranking of the players in the telecommunications industry remained consistent. However, the industry as a whole showed a 5.5% point improvement.Although Telkom showed a substantial improvement ahead of the launch of the second fixed-line operator, it is not yet delivering the same level of performance as the more competitive cellular industry. On the brighter side, the survey shows that Telkom is doing significantly better than the telecommunication industry in both Europe and the US in satisfying its customers.Vodacom and MTN continue to lead the telecommunications field, but Cell C is well on track to challenge the more established players on service levels. Vodacom and MTN are producing the sort of satisfaction levels that one would expect from global players, making their results even more significant.Banking industryAccording to the DTI, the banking results confirm the success of its investment in the SAS index to improve service levels. Significant levels of improvement were reported by all of the big four banks. FNB and Standard Bank still scored higher than Nedbank and ABSA, with their improvements setting a new benchmark for competitors in the banking industry. As was the case last year, South African banking customers remain more satisfied than banking customers in America and Europe.Long-term insurance industryThe DTI says the better banking and telecommunications service levels may be one of the reasons for the new entrant, the long-term insurance industry, trailing behind banking and telecommunications as far as customer satisfaction is concerned. Little separated the top long-term insurance performer (Sanlam) from the least well received (Liberty Life) – a result the DTI attributes to the highly competitive nature of the industry.The department says the study will be rolled out across all major industries in South Africa in the near future, providing local and international comparisons to fuel the ongoing drive of local businesses to achieve world-class customer satisfaction.SouthAfrica.info reporter
Sachin Tendulkar is set to another feather to his already crowded cap as Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Tuesday announced that the iconic Indian cricketer will be conferred the membership of the Order of Australia, an honour “rarely” awarded to non-Australians.The 39-year-old Tendulkar, who is currently in South Africa playing in the Champions League Twenty20, will become only the second Indian after former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee to get the honour.Sorabjee was made an Honorary Member of the Order of Australia (AM) “for service to Australia-India bilateral legal relations” in 2006.”Cricket is of course a great bond between Australia and India. We are both cricket-mad nations. I am very pleased that we are going to confer on Sachin Tendulkar, membership of the order of Australia (AM),” Gillard, who is on a visit to India, told reporters here.”This is a very special honour very rarely awarded to someone who is not an Australian citizen or an Australian national. The award will be conferred on him by cabinet Minister Simon Crean when he visits India,” she said.”So, a special honour and a very special recognition of such a great batsman. The honour is very special and Sachin is a very special cricketer.”Tendulkar is not the first cricketer to be made an Order of Australia AM as in 2009, West Indies legend Brian Lara was also made an honorary member.Another West Indies legend, Clive Lloyd, is an Honorary Officer in the Order of Australia, having been conferred the award way back in 1985.advertisementThe right-handed Tendulkar, considered the finest batsman in contemporary cricket, has 15,533 runs in 190 Tests besides a mammoth 18,426 runs in 463 ODIs.