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One Tyrannosaurus rex seems scary enough. Now picture 2.5 billion of them. That’s how many of the fierce dinosaur kings probably roamed Earth over the course of a couple of million years, a new study finds.
Using calculations based on body size, sexual maturity, and the creatures’ energy needs, a team at the University of California, Berkeley figured out just how many T. rex lived over 127,000 generations, according to a study in Thursday’s journal Science. It’s a first-of-its-kind number, but just an estimate with a margin of error that is the size of a T. rex.
“That’s a lot of jaws,” said study lead author Charles Marshall, director of the University of California Museum of Paleontology. “That’s a lot of teeth. That’s a lot of claws.”
The species roamed North America for about 1.2 million to 3.6 million years, meaning the T. rex population density was small at any one moment. There would be about two in a place the size of the Washington, D.C., or 3,800 in California, the study said.
“Probably like a lot of people, I literally did a double-take to make sure that my eyes hadn’t deceived me when I first read that 2.5 billion T. rexes have ever lived,” said Macalester College paleobiologist Kristi Curry Rogers, who wasn’t part of the study.
Marshall said the estimate helps scientists figure the preservation rate of T. rex fossils and underscores how lucky the world is to know about them at all. About 100 or so T. rex fossils have been found — 32 of them with enough material to figure they are adults.
If there were 2.5 million T. rex instead of 2.5 billion, we would probably have never known they existed, he said.
Marshall’s team calculated the population by using a general biology rule of thumb that says the bigger the animal, the less dense its population. Then they added estimates of how much energy the carnivorous T. rex needed to stay alive — somewhere between a Komodo dragon and a lion. The more energy required, the less dense the population.
They also factored in that the T. rex reached sexual maturity somewhere around 14 to 17 years old and lived at most 28 years.
Given uncertainties in the creatures’ generation length, range, and how long they roamed, the Berkeley team said the total population could be as little as 140 million or as much as 42 billion with 2.4 billion as the middle value.
The science about the biggest land-living carnivores of all time is important, “but the truth, as I see it, is that this kind of thing is just very cool,” said Purdue University geology professor James Farlow. (VOA/KB)
The aromatic and simple vanilla is actually quite an exotic flavour. It comes with its own history, and is perhaps one of the best discoveries. Vanilla is grown from a unique species of orchid that is native to South America. It was used by the Mayans and Aztecs in a drink that they mixed with cacao, the precursor to chocolate. It arrived in Europe after South America was conquered.
Vanilla did not attract much patronage immediately. It began rather humbly. Queen Elizabeth I was the first person to taste vanilla flavouring and took to its mild but pleasant taste. Prior to this, it was not well received. Since it is pollinated only by the native Melipona bee, Europeans were unable to study it and grow it themselves.
Vanilla beans hanging off a vine at a plantation in Idukki, Kerala Image source: wikimedia commons
One day, a young slave boy Edmond Albius developed what is now practiced as hand pollination. A stick is used to pry the male and female parts of the flower apart, and with a gentle flick of the thumb, it is pollinated. The bulb swells up immediately if the fertilisation is successful. If the process involves any extra force, the entire effort is in vain. The vanilla flowers remain open only for a day, and fall to the ground if not pollinated.
When the Europeans discovered this, vanilla was grown widely. Once the long vanilla bean grows to the required length, it is dried and fermented. This is when the vanilla aroma begins to develop. Vanilla became a much-loved flavour in European food, and today is the most used ingredient in baking.
Vanilla beans being cured and dried Image source: wikimedia commons
Since the production of vanilla is expensive and so laborious, scientists have discovered an alternative. They make a synthetic compound that has the same chain structure as vanilla, called vanillin, which can be created from petrochemicals, lignin, eugenol, and even the anal secretions of beavers. This synthetic vanillin smells and tastes the same as real vanilla and is much cheaper.
Despite protests from activists, vanillin is widely used in the food industry to ease consumer demands. The real vanilla bean takes an entire year to grow and ferment enough to be used as flavouring, and at that rate, it is impossible to meet the global demand.
Keywords: Vannila, Vannilin, Synthetic flavouring, Europe, South America
The world of martial arts has been dominated by the Far Eastern nations, and words like kung fu and karate, immediately create a mental image of Asian men with long hair, white robes, and flexible bodies flying through the air. These arts, although completely assimilated by the Asian cultures, originated in India. Like Buddhism, which is the foundational religion that the principles of martial arts are derived from, the actual art form itself made its way from South India, where it was practiced for many years.
Kerala is known predominantly for coconuts, toddy, boats, and communism. It is also the house of Ayurveda, and Kalaripayattu. Kalaripayattu has become a dance form that is performed at festivals and in cultural programmes, but it began as a medieval fighting technique that was kept a secret among the warrior caste of Kerala, the Nairs.
Kalaripayattu trainees must learn to jump through fire hoops without getting burned. Image source: wikimedia commons
Kalaripayattu deals with bodily, mental, and emotional strength. Before the fighting begins, the warriors are required to practice meditation. They must learn to harness strength from the mind, in order to move in a way that acts as self-defence against the enemy, and serves as healing from temptation and waywardness. According to scholars, this art form is considered the most lethal, as the same hand can deliver a life-taking blow, and restore mobility in a single move.
The word kalarippayattu is an amalgam that means "training ground combat". It teaches the use of psychology in discipling the body and the mind. It was developed nearly six thousand years ago, and is deeply rooted in religion. Its five inter-related parts are fighting, Ayurveda (healing), spiritual practice, astrology, and yoga. Kalaripayattu warriors are taught to harness self-control, and develop their human spirit before they learn to fight. It is an art form that does not involve motive to kill, only to defend. The technique of imitating animal postures originated in Kalaripayattu, the eight animals being the lion, boar, cobra, rooster, buffalo, elephant, tiger and horse.
Young trainees learning to combat with fire Image source: wikimedia commons
In the 6th century, a monk from China came to India and learned the art. His name was Bodhidharma, and he is responsible for propagating martial arts across Asia. China and Japan developed kung fu and karate from the original kalarippayattu. Today, kalarippayattu is regarded more of a dance than a martial art, and it still is a very indigenous craft that has not been shared with the western world.
Keywords: Kalaripayattu, Bodhidharma, kung fu, karate, martial arts
The Reformation in England is notorious for the religious impact it had on the countries of the world, and the current ongoing dispute among the various factions of Catholicism and Protestantism. Three Blind Mice, a rhyme that emerged in 1609, roughly a few years after the death of Queen Elizabeth I, is somewhat a dark reminder of the Dark Ages.
The Reformation began in England when King Henry VIII broke away from the Catholic church because he wanted to divorce his wife, to marry another woman who would bear him a male heir. His wife was a devout catholic and refused to give up her crown to another. The king decided to break away from the Papacy, from Rome, where the Catholic church reigned from. He created the Church of England, and put himself as the legal head. England broke into two factions based on religion, and after Henry's death, the country was plunged in war.
Henry's eldest daughter, Queen Mary I took the throne after her father, and propagated Catholicism, as taught by her mother. Henry's other daughter, through his second wife, Queen Elizabeth I embraced the Protestant faith. Queen Mary was always paranoid of losing her throne to Elizabeth, and she hated the Protestants because of what happened to her mother. She set about ruthlessly persecuting anyone who openly professed their faith, which led to her being known as 'Bloody Mary'.
Illustration of Christian protestants being burned at the stake Image source: wikimedia commons
History has recorded the death of three Bishops, Ridley, Lattimer, and Crammer, known as the Oxford martyrs. They were burned at stake for teaching the Protestant doctrine. The rhyme Three Blind Mice is believed to be an allegorical allusion to the incident of the bishops' execution. They are called 'blind' because of their refusal to recant their confession. Queen Mary is said to have "cut off their tales with a carving knife" and is referred to as a farmer's wife to lighten the scene for children; perhaps to also reduce the ruthlessness of the act.
Three blind mice. Three blind mice.
See how they run. See how they run.
They all ran after the farmer's wife,
Who cut off their tails with a carving knife,
Did you ever see such a sight in your life,
As three blind mice (Modern version of the rhyme, Wikipedia)
Three Blind Mice is sung widely in nurseries of the world by little children, often innocent of the true story behind it.
Keywords: Three Blind Mice, Nursery Rhymes, Reformation, Persecution, England, Queen Mary