Nature is a temple
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Nature is a temple

The complexity of nature

It can be very difficult to look at nature and come to perceive the depth of its complexity, at least past a certain age. We take it for granted.

Perhaps some meditation in the style of Yoga Nidra, except for nature: Maybe starting with grass, and working its way towards more complex life.

On every tree there are entire populations in enormous variety, living out their lives - animals, insects, all with their own culture.

Nature is the single greatest pool of creativity in the known universe.

People would do well to recognise it and spend some time there, away from the artificial human construction every now and then.

John Ruskin, Modern Painters

For a stone, when it is examined, will be found a mountain in miniature. The fineness of Nature's work is so great, that, into a single block, a foot or two in diameter, she can compress as many changes of form and structure, on a small scale, as she needs for her mountains on a large one; and, taking moss for forests, and grains of crystal for crags, the surface of a stone, in by far the plurality of instances, is more interesting than the surface of an ordinary hill; more fantastic in form and incomparably richer in colour.

The human species on Earth are like destructive infants in a gallery of masterpieces.

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Tadpole forest

We've only mapped a small part of nature

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Mark Stoeckle, Paul Waggoner, and Jesse Ausubel, Barcoding Life

A New Estimate of Biodiversity on Earth by ScienceDaily

In a new paper published in The Quarterly Review of Biology (September 2017), researchers from the University of Arizona have estimated that there are roughly 2 billion living species on Earth, over a thousand times more than the current number of described species.

In coming up with their estimate, the researchers took advantage of the fact that many estimates now agree on the projected number of insect species, around 6.8 million. They incorporated new estimates of species boundaries revealed by DNA sequences, which suggest there might be six times as many insect species, increasing the total to 40 million for insect species alone.

They then reviewed all groups of organisms associated with insects as parasites or symbionts. They found that each insect species most likely hosts a unique species of mite, roundworm (nematode), a one-celled fungus called a microsporidian, and a one-celled organism called an apicomplexan protist (which cause malaria in humans).

Most importantly, the researchers estimated that each insect species is likely to host at least 10 bacterial species found nowhere else. Based on these estimates, they deduce that there should be around 2 billion species on Earth.

The authors also suggest that the diagram of which taxonomic groups contain the most species, or the "Pie of Life," is very different from traditional estimates. Rather than being dominated by insects, as traditionally shown, their estimates show a pie dominated by bacteria (70 to 90% of all species), with insects (and animals in general) having a much smaller slice.

The designs of nature

[But it's not as simple as copy/paste. You have to work out *why* it works in nature, and then apply those workaround principals to your problem.]

Helen Walters, The world’s best creative director: Nature

As scientists, we looked and saw all this incredible diversity: ‘wow, that organism can fly at that speed and live without oxygen for three hours!’ There are all those individual technologies — and 30 million species! So we wanted to know if there’s anything that all or even most species have in common. Because that would be an operating manual for how to live on earth. So we began to collect them. And now we work with these principles as a filter. Some of them look at how complex adaptive systems grew to be sustainable or actually enhance their place; they’re almost a buildup of rule sets … How might things like a list of life’s principles be used to choose the things that will bring us toward better adaptation on the planet?

The simplistic view of borrowing is that you see a solution here and you apply that solution there. And that works sometimes, but it doesn’t work very often … The obvious thing is to just take that solution and apply it wherever you’re looking to solve a problem. But it turns out that very rarely works. What you actually have to do is to abstract out what it is you’re learning from that solution, understand what the principles are, understand perhaps what the strategies are, and then from there reformulate the right solution for the circumstances that you’re talking about. This process of spotting, seeing, observing and then abstracting — and then from that abstraction being able to create multiple potential solutions — is an important subtlety when it comes to this idea of borrowing. Ideas don’t just shoot across from the moment you saw an interesting new idea straight through to a solution. Instead, we go through this elevated process of abstraction to the point where we’ve got a set of principles through which we can design many different potential answers.

An interesting resource is this website based on answering the question of how the natural world has solved problems: http://www.asknature.org/

Nature is magic

If dragons existed today we'd classify them, put them in a zoo, and consider them just another animal.

We have to appreciate that the world is already brimming with magic.

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Animals have culture and personality

Science has a hard time understanding the personality of animals.

To understand this, you actually have to get on the ground and live with them.

But watch any David Attenborough series and you'll see it.

But science has historically had a hard time understanding the personality of animals. A significant breakthrough came from Jane Goodall, who was the first scientist to get up close to wild chimpanzees.

Wild and Captive Chimpanzees Share Personality Traits With Humans, published in The New York Times by Karen Weintraub:

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Jane Goodall started attributing personalities to the chimpanzees she followed in Gombe National Park in what is now Tanzania. In her descriptions, some were more playful or aggressive, affectionate or nurturing.

Many scientists at the time were horrified, she recalled. Considered an amateur — she didn’t yet have her Ph.D. — they contended she was inventing personality traits for animals.

Dr. Goodall, now 83, said in a phone interview on Monday from her home in England that scientists thought “I was guilty of the worst kind of anthropomorphism.”

But time has borne out her insights. Chimpanzees in the wild have personalities similar to those in captivity, and both strongly overlap with traits that are familiar in humans, a new study published in Scientific Data confirms.

The new examination of chimpanzees at Gombe updates personality research conducted on 24 animals in 1973 to include more than 100 additional chimps that were evaluated a few years ago. The animals were individually assessed by graduate students in the earlier study, and in the latest by Tanzanian field assistants, on personality traits like agreeableness, extroversion, depression, aggression and self-control.

Researchers used different questionnaires to assess the chimps’ traits in the two studies, but most of the personality types were consistent across the two studies.

These traits seen among wild chimps matched ones seen among captive animals, the study found, and are similar to those described in people.

Dr. Goodall, who is promoting a new documentary, “Jane,” about those early days of her research, said she’s not surprised. She knew from childhood experiences with guinea pigs, tortoises and her favorite dog, Rusty, that animals have personalities that are quite familiar.

“I honestly don’t think you can be close to any animals and not realize their very vivid personalities,” she said...

“Today you can get your Ph.D. studying animal personality. I think we’ve come around full-cycle,” she said. “It absolutely vindicates all that I’ve ever believed.”

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