34 results for “System Animals”

What is a species?

Henry Taylor
August 22nd 2019

A koala bear isn’t actually a bear, it’s a marsupial. Whales aren’t fish, they’re mammals. Tomatoes aren’t vegetables, they’re fruit. Almost nothing is actually a nut. Peanuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, walnuts, pecans and almonds: none of them are really nuts (for the record, peanuts are legumes, Brazils and cashews are seeds, and the others are all drupes). Hazelnuts and chestnuts are the exception: they are the elite, the “true” nuts.

We’ve all heard facts like this before. But they are …

Can technology be humane?

NextNature.net
April 30th 2019

We must be mindful about how we engage with technology: what we use it for, why, and whether it helps us or hinders us. Sometimes our tech seems to be flowing in inhumane directions, and it feels beyond our power to redirect it. But humankind dams rivers, and alters the landscape in countless other radical ways: As we can redirect our technological growth—then why shouldn’t we direct it towards humans? 

Recently our Next Nature Fellows—people from different disciplines working in and around …

Chinese farmers are using AI to help rear the world’s biggest pig population

James Vincent
February 21st 2018

It’s been called China’s “pork miracle.” For centuries, pig-rearing in the country was predominantly a backyard occupation. (The etymology of the Chinese character for “home” literally means “house with a pig in it.”) But since the 1980s, China has swiftly modernized its pork industry to meet the demands of a newly-rich middle class. Now, half of the world’s pigs — some 700 million animals — live and die in China, most in huge farms. And to help manage this porcine …

Opening HUBOT at DDW

NextNature.net
October 21st 2017

The robots have arrived! Yesterday we celebrated the launch of HUBOT, job agency for people and robots at MediaMarkt, as part of the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven. Our virtual office had opened a week before the physical launch, and the applicants were pouring in from all over the world. Now it was time to welcome job-seeking futurists to the offline opening of our office, this entailed drinks, jobs... and robots! …

Lazy Worker Ants

Charlotte Kuijpers
October 20th 2017
A study reveals that about 40% of "worker" ants spend most of their days doing nothing, but those lazy ants make themselves useful in unexpected ways.

After Horsepower Comes Robotpower?

Jack Caulfield
October 13th 2017
We fear being replaced by robots. They have the potential to be smarter, stronger and more hardworking than us, but so do horses.

HUBOT: Take the Jobtest!

NextNature.net
October 12th 2017

The robots are coming! They’re getting smarter, cheaper and more reliable. How long will I have my job before a robot steals it? The industrial revolution made muscular power redundant, the digital revolution automates our thinking. How to cope with that? Are we working against, or together with robots? Find out yourself and visit the virtual office of HUBOT.…

Kangaroos Confuse Self-Driving Cars

Julie Reindl
July 31st 2017
Volvo's driverless car system has trouble recognizing kangaroos because it gets confused by the hopping of the marsupial.

Boat Noise Makes Fish Bad Parents

Julie Reindl
July 4th 2017
A study revealed that the sound of motorboat engines disturbs coral reef fish so acutely it changes their behavior, making them bad parents.

Wind Turbines Threatens Birdlife

Elle Zhan Wei
June 10th 2017
A wind farm in Scotland is on hold because of its lethal killing power towards seabirds.
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A koala bear isn’t actually a bear, it’s a marsupial. Whales aren’t fish, they’re mammals. Tomatoes aren’t vegetables, they’re fruit. Almost nothing is actually a nut. Peanuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, walnuts, pecans and almonds: none of them are really nuts (for the record, peanuts are legumes, Brazils and cashews are seeds, and the others are all drupes). Hazelnuts and chestnuts are the exception: they are the elite, the “true” nuts.

We’ve all heard facts like this before. But they are more than just ammunition for pub conversation. They reflect an area of science known as biological taxonomy, the classification of organisms into different groups. At the core of this area lies the notion of the species. The basic idea is very simple: that certain groups of organisms have a special connection to each other. There is something that you and I have in common – we are both human beings. That is, we are members of the same species.

Biological taxonomy’s core aim is to sort all of the organisms of the world into species. Of course, this job really matters, both inside biology and out. The task of evolutionary biology is to track the evolution and development (and eventual extinction) of species. Outside of biology, conservation programmes routinely put various species on “endangered” lists, and urge us to donate money to stop them dying out. In order for any of this to make sense, we need to know how many species there are, and what a species even is.

Darwin s finches by Gould, 1845. Via Wikimedia Commons

So, what even is a species? The truth is, we don’t really have any idea.

What is a species?

The most famous definition of a species comes from the 20th century German-born biologist Ernst Mayr, who emphasised the importance of interbreeding. The idea (roughly) is that two organisms are of the same species if they can breed with one another to produce fertile offspring. That is why a donkey and a horse aren’t the same species: they can breed and produce offspring, but not fertile offspring.

Mayr’s way of thinking about species has some amazing consequences. Recently, due to rising temperatures in the Arctic, polar bears and grizzly bears have been coming into increased contact, and have been producing fertile offspring. The offspring are (adorably) called grolar or pizzly bears. What this suggests is that polars and grizzlies may actually be the same species after all, despite radical differences in size, appearance, hibernation behaviours, diet and so on.

But it wasn’t long before the problems with Mayr’s approach became apparent. The definition makes use of the notion of interbreeding. This is all very well with horses and polar bears, but smaller organisms like bacteria do not interbreed at all. They reproduce entirely asexually, by simply splitting in two. So this definition of species can’t really apply to bacteria. Perhaps when we started thinking about species in terms of interbreeding, we were all just a bit too obsessed with sex.

Ernst Haeckel’s (1866) conception of the three kingdoms of life. Via Wikimedia Commons

So maybe we should forget about sex and look for a different approach to species. In the 1960s, another German biologist, Willi Hennig, suggested thinking about species in terms of their ancestry. In simple terms, he suggested that we should find an organism, and then group it together with its children, and its children’s children, and its children’s children’s children. Eventually, you will have the original organism (the ancestor) and all of its descendents. These groups are called clades. Hennig’s insight was to suggest that this is how we should be thinking about species.

But this approach faces its own problems. How far back should you go before you pick the ancestor in question? If you go back in history far enough, you’ll find that pretty much every animal on the planet shares an ancestor. But surely we don’t want to say that every single animal in the world, from the humble sea slug, to top-of-the-range apes like human beings, are all one big single species?

Enough of species?

This is only the tip of a deep and confusing iceberg. There is absolutely no agreement among biologists about how we should understand the species. One 2006 article on the subject listed 26 separate definitions of species, all with their advocates and detractors. Even this list is incomplete.

The mystery surrounding species is well-known in biology, and commonly referred to as “the species problem”. Frustration with the idea of a species goes back at least as far as Darwin. In an 1856 letter to his friend Joseph Hooker, he wrote:

"It is really laughable to see what different ideas are prominent in various naturalists’ minds, when they speak of ‘species’; in some, resemblance is everything and descent of little weight — in some, resemblance seems to go for nothing, and Creation the reigning idea — in some, sterility an unfailing test, with others it is not worth a farthing. It all comes, I believe, from trying to define the indefinable."

Darwin even dreamt of a time when a revolution would come about in biology. He proposed that one day, biologists could pursue their studies without ever worrying about what a species is, or which animals belong to which species. Indeed, some contemporary biologists and philosophers of biology have taken up this idea, and suggested that biology would be much better off if it didn’t think about life in terms of species at all.

Scrapping the idea of a species is an extreme idea: it implies that pretty much all of biology, from Aristotle right up to the modern age, has been thinking about life in completely the wrong way. The upshots of this new approach would be enormous, both for our scientific and philosophical view of life. It suggests that we should give up thinking about life as neatly segmented into discrete groups. Rather, we should think of life as one immense interconnected web. This shift in thinking would fundamentally reorient our approach to a great many questions concerning our relation to the natural world, from the current biodiversity crisis to conservation.

And, in a way, this kind of picture may be a natural progression in biological thought. One of the great discoveries of evolutionary biology is that the human species is not special or privileged in the grand cheme of things, and that humans have the same origins as all the other animals. This approach just takes the next step. It says that there is no such thing as “the human species” at all.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image via Eric Isselee/Shutterstock.com

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We must be mindful about how we engage with technology: what we use it for, why, and whether it helps us or hinders us. Sometimes our tech seems to be flowing in inhumane directions, and it feels beyond our power to redirect it. But humankind dams rivers, and alters the landscape in countless other radical ways: As we can redirect our technological growth—then why shouldn’t we direct it towards humans? 

Recently our Next Nature Fellows—people from different disciplines working in and around the next nature theme—came together to discuss this pressing question and explore the grassroots of our upcoming research topic: Humane Technology.

Humane technology?

Humane technology is a rather ambiguous term that is open to several interpretations. It also raises the question if can technology be humane — it seems as if it’s a contradictory statement in itself.

The Oxford Dictionaries describes ‘humane’ “as to having a civilizing effect on people.” Humane technology then, refers to technology that takes society to a stage of development considered to be more advanced, by taking human needs as its starting point. Because why create technology that does not respond to how humans learn, think, and create and thrive?

With all respect to the future, we see two possible paths along which our co-evolutionary relationship with technology could unfold: the dream path and the nightmare one. We are at the turning point where we can either sleepwalk into our technological future, or contain it by building humane technology that safeguards our humanity and replenishes society.

Upgrading technology vs downgrading humanity

Many conversations about the future focus on the point where technology surpasses human capability and exceeds human vulnerabilities. Humane technology therefore requires that we understand our most vulnerable human instincts so we can design accordingly and protect us from abuse.

In his Letter to Humanity, NNN director Koert van Mensvoort writes about his concern about the questionable line between technology that facilitates humanity, and technology that deprives our human potential. “And I don’t see that as desirable, because I’m a person, and I’m playing for team human.” We must therefore envision a world where human needs and goals are incorporated into the very core of technology as they are built.

Six principles

In order for technology to thrive, we’ve taken a step towards creating a common vocabulary with six principles that should be at the core of developing humane technology.

  • Humane technology should feel natural, rather than estranging.
  • Humane technology should revive human intuitions.
  • Humane technology takes human values as its cornerstone.
  • Humane technology resonates with the human senses.
  • Humane technology should empower people.
  • Humane technology must improve the human condition.
  • Domesticated by the system

    Koert van Mensvoort wonders whether humane technology is about technological innovation or social innovation. The two seem to go hand in hand. William Myers thinks solutions and approaches towards technology are humane, although these are not technological.

    Arne Hendriks wonders whether we even need technology to become more humane, and thinks that technology itself has no morality. In his view, ‘humane’ is an ethical debate (just have a look at the technology events that raised ethical concerns in the last two years).

    In a way, you could say that humane technology is about domesticating ourselves in relation to our (technological) surroundings. Technology not only alters our environment, it ultimately alters us. In an optimistic view, the changes to come will allow us to be more human than ever before.

    “And what about animals and other lifeforms?” Teresa van Dongen wonders. It’s a legit hesitation; ‘humane’ does imply solutions that puts human concern at the core of the solution. It’s therefore necessary to question ourselves what is meant with such an adjective. Does it mean that something respects human and non-human living actors? Or is it just related to humans? And what will be the purpose of this definition?

    Sure, humane technology hints at tech that is good for humanity, but when we speak about humane technology, we need to broaden the actors into the conversation — not only for ourselves, but for the planet as a whole.

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    It’s been called China’s “pork miracle.” For centuries, pig-rearing in the country was predominantly a backyard occupation. (The etymology of the Chinese character for “home” literally means “house with a pig in it.”) But since the 1980s, China has swiftly modernized its pork industry to meet the demands of a newly-rich middle class. Now, half of the world’s pigs — some 700 million animals — live and die in China, most in huge farms. And to help manage this porcine horde, the country’s farmers are turning to a decidedly untraditional tool: artificial intelligence.

    It's basically an AI fitness tracker for pigs.

    Earlier this month, Chinese tech giant Alibaba signed a deal with pig farming corporation Dekon Group and pig feed manufacturer Tequ Group to develop and deploy AI-powered pig-tracking systems. As reported by Chinese outlet Synced, the deal is worth tens of millions of dollars, and will primarily rely on machine vision to replace the wireless radio frequency tags (RFID) used to follow pigs about farms.

    RFID tags are reliable, but expensive and time-consuming to manage. They have to be fitted to each pig, and scanned individually for tracking. With millions of animals raised each year in large farms, this can be a real bottleneck. “If you have 10 million pigs to raise, you can barely count how many piglets were born on a daily basis when the due date comes,” said Tequ Group’s chief information officer, Zhang Haifeng.

    The solution is to use machine vision technology, tracking pigs using overhead cameras that identify numbers tattooed onto their bodies. At a basic level, this system will be able to count pigs and piglets, but Alibaba hopes it will also offer more sophisticated analysis.

    "We’d like to translate AI technology into safe, tasty pork"

    For example, by combining temperature readings from infrared sensors with records of how much each pig is moving each day, the AI will be able to estimate the health of individual animals. Connected “voice” recognition tools are even cleverer. One will alert farmers when piglets are being crushed by their mothers by listening out for young pigs’ squeals. (Alibaba claims this system alone will lower the death rate for piglets by three percent annually.) Another will try to monitor the spread of disease by recording the sounds of pigs coughing.

    “On one hand, we hope to bring down husbandry costs and achieve agricultural reform,” said Alibaba’s Zhang Sheng, reports Chinese news agency Xinhua. “On the other hand, we’d like to translate AI technology into safe, tasty pork.”

    China isn’t the only country interested in this synthesis of tech and farming. US agricultural giant Cargill recently starting testing facial recognition for cows, while last year, tractor-maker John Deere bought an AI startup that puts cameras in crop sprayers to identify and precisely target weeds with pesticides. To feed a growing population, farming will need to become more automated and efficient, and it’s tools like this that will help meet the demand.

    This story was sourced from The Verge. Read the original piece here. [post_title] => Chinese farmers are using AI to help rear the world’s biggest pig population [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => chinese-farmers-using-ai-help-rear-worlds-biggest-pig-population [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2018-02-23 14:02:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2018-02-23 13:02:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=80629 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[3] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 78099 [post_author] => 367 [post_date] => 2017-10-21 14:36:09 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-10-21 12:36:09 [post_content] => The robots have arrived! Yesterday we celebrated the launch of HUBOT, job agency for people and robots at MediaMarkt, as part of the Dutch Design Week in Eindhoven. Our virtual office had opened a week before the physical launch, and the applicants were pouring in from all over the world. Now it was time to welcome job-seeking futurists to the offline opening of our office, this entailed drinks, jobs... and robots! Kicking off the event was HUBOT director Koert van Mensvoort, who introduced the project to the audience as no other human can. HUBOT presents 16 professions from the future, with its goal to inspire everybody, from all different levels of education, from young to old, including those who are currently excluded from the labor market.[caption id="attachment_78102" align="alignnone" width="640"] HUBOT director Koert van Mensvoort in his opening speech[/caption]Preceding the event, NNN teamed up with Start Foundation and Gemeente Eindhoven and called upon creators around the world to design the worker tools from the future. We challenged the participants to conceptualize new employment opportunities for the labor market, and consider its feasibility in doing so.During the opening event, a winner was chosen from five finalists (do note all five projects are showcased at HUBOT). NNN congratulates Roald Klumpenaar for his winning submission; the smart factory goggles. Klumpenaar received €10.000 to develop a working a working prototype of his creation. The jury said the smart goggles can serve a wide range of people in an innovative way and shows that, with a simple technological intervention, it’s possible to make a big difference.[caption id="attachment_78111" align="alignnone" width="640"] The installment of the winning submission. Meet the Focussed Assembly Worker.[/caption]At HUBOT, people and robots work alongside each other. Looking to discuss future robotics? Have a talk with one of our human workers. Looking to do a jobtest? Then our robotic counterparts are for you. Introducing B24U and its sibling M24U, these autonomous creatures roam around the job agency to get your application going. Excited? Take the test from your home![caption id="attachment_78091" align="alignnone" width="640"] Meet the HUBOT team! Elle, Charlotte, M24U, Zarah and Julia[/caption]The first person to take the jobtest at HUBOT was alderman Staf Depla from the city council of Eindhoven. Turns out, Depla was meant to have a career as a supersmart handyman! "I'm not a handyman at all!" laughs Depla, "perhaps the more reasons to partner with a robot." Depla was happy with his job, and with that, our first customer was a happy one.[caption id="attachment_78104" align="alignnone" width="640"] Alderman Staf Depla taking the jobtest[/caption]Then it was time for drinks, and for our visitors to take a jobtest of their own. Robot coach? Streetknitter? Organ designer? HUBOT knows what's best. "I'm a gaming farm director!" visitor Roos smiled. Another visitor noticed the exoskeleton's similarity to the one his character is wearing in the first person shooter videogame franchise Call of Duty.[caption id="attachment_78094" align="alignnone" width="640"] Visitors taking a jobtest, with HUBOT employee Chloé guiding them.[/caption][caption id="attachment_78095" align="alignnone" width="640"] NNN blogger Nadine van Roestenburg looking for a new job[/caption][caption id="attachment_78096" align="alignnone" width="640"] This young enthusiast was struck by the organ designer[/caption][caption id="attachment_78097" align="alignnone" width="640"] Taking a closer look at the augmented contact lens from the data waiter[/caption]And that's that! HUBOT has opened. It was our great pleasure to welcome so many enthusiast job-seekers last night, and many more to come! NNN wants to thank everybody who worked alongside the process of this production, we couldn't have done it without you. With some extra spotlight on our producer Tim, who went for the extra mile to make this happen.Want to visit HUBOT? Our online office is opened 24/7. The offline office of HUBOT is opened daily from 21-29 October, between 10 am and 9 pm (for actual times, visit this page) at the MediaMarkt in Eindhoven. Entrance to the event is free. Are you ready for a challenging job? www.hubot.org [post_title] => Opening HUBOT at DDW [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => opening-hubot-at-ddw [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-04-18 10:39:55 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-04-18 09:39:55 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=78099/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[4] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 77424 [post_author] => 1433 [post_date] => 2017-10-20 10:00:01 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-10-20 08:00:01 [post_content] => When looking at a crowded street from far above, it’s easy to make the comparison between humans and ants and think “we’re just like ants, aren’t we?”. Swarming around, running from place to place: we can be quite busy creatures. Although there are some crucial differences between us and them, ants can give us some interesting insights into our own systems, by showing us theirs.Ant colonies are complex social systems. They are efficient and self-organizing. Nevertheless, a large number of ants inside the colony are inactive workers. Those lazy ants can be seen spending time completely immobile, while their busy colleagues are basically "running the company". However, those inactive insects may, in their own way, serve a certain purpose.A recent study on ants explored the function of inactive ants. The researchers tested whether colonies of ants replace active or inactive workers when they are removed. The research proved that a small amount of busy worker ants is quickly (within one week) restored to the original number. Removing inactive ants does not directly result in a replacement with new lazy ants.So, while inactive ants seem lazy, they are just waiting for new job openings. They act as labor force in reserve and enable colonies to jump at new opportunities and respond to worker loss. Couch potato ants are ultimately what keeps the colony flexible and adaptable to change.Source: Boing Boing______________________________This article is part of the "HUBOT weeks" to contextualize our latest project HUBOT, the job agency for people and robots. Want to learn more about this project? Join NNN and we will keep you posted! [mc4wp_form id="72385"] [post_title] => Lazy Worker Ants [post_excerpt] => A study reveals that about 40% of "worker" ants spend most of their days doing nothing, but those lazy ants make themselves useful in unexpected ways. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => lazy-worker-ants [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-10-19 10:14:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-10-19 08:14:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=77424/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[5] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 77852 [post_author] => 1425 [post_date] => 2017-10-13 10:00:26 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-10-13 08:00:26 [post_content] => We fear being replaced by robots. They have the potential to be smarter, stronger and more hardworking than us. Yet, one could say that horses are bigger, faster and tougher than humans, and still no-one outside of "Gulliver’s Travelsfears being replaced by horses. Instead, we note these useful qualities in horses and quite literally harness them for our own advantage.In fact, our control over the natural abilities of horses is so great that we incorporate it into our language and measurements. When we talk about 'horsepower' in reference to our manmade vehicles, we rarely even consider the metaphor. We do not think of our cars as equivalent to hundreds of galloping horses, but this is what the terminology implies. In the next nature, will we harness 'robotpower' as effectively as we did with horsepower? Or will we allow ourselves to be trampled underfoot?Image: Porsche adverts show benefits of 'rear horsepower'______________________________This article is part of the HUBOT weeks, to contextualize our latest project HUBOT, the job agency for people and robots. Want to learn more about this project? Join NNN and we will keep you in the know! [mc4wp_form id="72385"] [post_title] => After Horsepower Comes Robotpower? [post_excerpt] => We fear being replaced by robots. They have the potential to be smarter, stronger and more hardworking than us, but so do horses. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => horsepower [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-10-12 15:28:15 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-10-12 13:28:15 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=77852/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[6] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 77790 [post_author] => 367 [post_date] => 2017-10-12 10:00:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-10-12 08:00:21 [post_content] => The robots are coming! They’re getting smarter, cheaper and more reliable. How long will I have my job before a robot steals it? The industrial revolution made muscular power redundant, the digital revolution automates our thinking. How to cope with that? Are we working against, or together with robots? Find out yourself and visit the virtual office of HUBOT.Robots can work 24 hours a day and will never call in sick. No wonder people think that  robotization will lead to job losses. But new technology can also make our work more enjoyable, interesting and humane. A horse can run faster than a human, and yet nobody claims that horses will make mankind obsolete. A man on a horse, or a man with a robot; this offers new opportunities. HUBOT explores the future of work. Our goal is to inspire everybody, from all different levels of education, from young to old, including those who are currently excluded from the labor market. Are you ready for a challenging job? Take the jobtest and find out which HUBOT job suits you best.The physical office of HUBOT can be found at the MediaMarkt in Eindhoven from the 21st of October during the Dutch Design Week 2017, and will travel around the world afterwards. HUBOT is a project by Next Nature Network, Start Foundation and Gemeente Eindhoven [post_title] => HUBOT: Take the Jobtest! [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => hubot-jobtest [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2019-04-18 10:40:16 [post_modified_gmt] => 2019-04-18 09:40:16 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=77790/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[7] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 76244 [post_author] => 1317 [post_date] => 2017-07-31 10:00:10 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-31 08:00:10 [post_content] => Seems like Volvo's self-driving car will have to go back to car school in order to learn how to detect kangaroos. The Swedish car producer tested its autonomous vehicle in Australia to find out that the car has problems recognizing the jumping marsupials.The self-driving car gets confused by kangaroos' special way of moving. Volvo’s technicians explained that the troubles had arisen because the object detection systems of the autonomous car uses the ground as a reference point. So the kangaroo hops make it difficult for the care to judge how close the animal is.At the moment, nine out of ten car accidents caused by an animal involve kangaroos. Volvo has an ambitious target that no hopping kangaroo is killed or seriously injured in a new Volvo by 2020, and in the best case also jumping humans.Source: TheVerge. Image: Ankeschimmer [post_title] => Kangaroos Confuse Self-Driving Cars [post_excerpt] => Volvo's driverless car system has trouble recognizing kangaroos because it gets confused by the hopping of the marsupial. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => kangaroos-confuse-volvo-self-driving-car [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-28 11:15:43 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-28 09:15:43 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=76244/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[8] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 75691 [post_author] => 1317 [post_date] => 2017-07-04 07:58:12 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-07-04 05:58:12 [post_content] => Noise, with 7.423.642.565 people living on the planet we produce a lot of it, and everyone knows how exhausting and tiring the exposure to noise can be. We, humans, are able to escape loud places, but other species have to deal with the sounds we produce and its consequences. For instance, the sound of motorboat engines disturbs coral reef fish so acutely it changes their behavior, making them loose their parenting skills.Scientists at the University of Exeter discovered that fish get so distracted by the noise of boat engines that their abilities to protect, feed and interact with their offspring decrease immensely. Tested with an audio experiment, 38 natural fish nests where put under constant sound by either motor or unpolluted natural reef buzz. The experiment showed that male fish exposed to the engine sound, got so confused and stressed that they rather spend time attacking harmless fish instead of protecting and caring for their nest.Unlike birds that build their nests out of the plastic trash we produce, those confused fish cannot find a proper way to deal with the effects of our culture. So maybe this is again a task for us to make our culture resonate with our surroundings.Source: Sciencedaily. Image: Turks and Caicos [post_title] => Boat Noise Makes Fish Bad Parents [post_excerpt] => A study revealed that the sound of motorboat engines disturbs coral reef fish so acutely it changes their behavior, making them bad parents. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => boat-noise-make-fish-bad-parents [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-07-12 10:51:39 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-07-12 08:51:39 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=75691/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 )[9] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 75571 [post_author] => 1324 [post_date] => 2017-06-10 15:36:02 [post_date_gmt] => 2017-06-10 13:36:02 [post_content] => Wind power is an excellent source of clean energy. The use of large wind turbines is growing worldwide and the demand continues to increase. That's why the Scottish government proposed to build a windfarm of 335 turbines in the waters of the North Sea, a few miles off Scotland’s east coast. It could have brought jobs and more clean energy and be beneficial to everyone, except for one group: birds.The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), stood up for Scotland's beloved bird species, calling out the windfarm plan to be "lethal" towards these birds. In addition to killing passing-by birds (in the US, for instance, 20.000 to 573.000 birds and bats die every year flying close to wind turbines), windfarms take away the feeding and breeding ground of the flocks. This is a massive weapon. Scotland hosts 1/3 of the seabirds of the continent throughout seasons. Once the chain breaks, the balance of the environment is immediately at risk.In the last nine years the RSPB has been in court fighting against the sustainability project praised by the Scottish government as the "key to the economic future". This shifts it to a political and legal issue. Interestingly, both parties at conflict claim that they share a passionate commitment towards the environment and yet cannot seem to find a common ground. The Scottish government responded to the estimated 1000 inevitable deaths of gannets and hundreds of kittiwakes defining it an "acceptable minimum", this, of course, infuriated the protection agencies. The protection of birds is done in the name of nature, but so is green power. Who is the bad guy in this case? In other words, what's the better thing to do for nature?Source: The Guardian. Images: Audubon [post_title] => Wind Turbines Threatens Birdlife [post_excerpt] => A wind farm in Scotland is on hold because of its lethal killing power towards seabirds. [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => closed [post_password] => [post_name] => wind-turbines-threatens-birdlife [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2017-06-13 07:51:29 [post_modified_gmt] => 2017-06-13 05:51:29 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => https://nextnature.net/?p=75571/ [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 1 [filter] => raw [post_category] => 0 ))[post_count] => 10 [current_post] => -1 [in_the_loop] => [post] => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 114681 [post_author] => 2175 [post_date] => 2019-08-22 09:52:21 [post_date_gmt] => 2019-08-22 08:52:21 [post_content] =>

    A koala bear isn’t actually a bear, it’s a marsupial. Whales aren’t fish, they’re mammals. Tomatoes aren’t vegetables, they’re fruit. Almost nothing is actually a nut. Peanuts, Brazil nuts, cashews, walnuts, pecans and almonds: none of them are really nuts (for the record, peanuts are legumes, Brazils and cashews are seeds, and the others are all drupes). Hazelnuts and chestnuts are the exception: they are the elite, the “true” nuts.

    We’ve all heard facts like this before. But they are more than just ammunition for pub conversation. They reflect an area of science known as biological taxonomy, the classification of organisms into different groups. At the core of this area lies the notion of the species. The basic idea is very simple: that certain groups of organisms have a special connection to each other. There is something that you and I have in common – we are both human beings. That is, we are members of the same species.

    Biological taxonomy’s core aim is to sort all of the organisms of the world into species. Of course, this job really matters, both inside biology and out. The task of evolutionary biology is to track the evolution and development (and eventual extinction) of species. Outside of biology, conservation programmes routinely put various species on “endangered” lists, and urge us to donate money to stop them dying out. In order for any of this to make sense, we need to know how many species there are, and what a species even is.

    Darwin s finches by Gould, 1845. Via Wikimedia Commons

    So, what even is a species? The truth is, we don’t really have any idea.

    What is a species?

    The most famous definition of a species comes from the 20th century German-born biologist Ernst Mayr, who emphasised the importance of interbreeding. The idea (roughly) is that two organisms are of the same species if they can breed with one another to produce fertile offspring. That is why a donkey and a horse aren’t the same species: they can breed and produce offspring, but not fertile offspring.

    Mayr’s way of thinking about species has some amazing consequences. Recently, due to rising temperatures in the Arctic, polar bears and grizzly bears have been coming into increased contact, and have been producing fertile offspring. The offspring are (adorably) called grolar or pizzly bears. What this suggests is that polars and grizzlies may actually be the same species after all, despite radical differences in size, appearance, hibernation behaviours, diet and so on.

    But it wasn’t long before the problems with Mayr’s approach became apparent. The definition makes use of the notion of interbreeding. This is all very well with horses and polar bears, but smaller organisms like bacteria do not interbreed at all. They reproduce entirely asexually, by simply splitting in two. So this definition of species can’t really apply to bacteria. Perhaps when we started thinking about species in terms of interbreeding, we were all just a bit too obsessed with sex.

    Ernst Haeckel’s (1866) conception of the three kingdoms of life. Via Wikimedia Commons

    So maybe we should forget about sex and look for a different approach to species. In the 1960s, another German biologist, Willi Hennig, suggested thinking about species in terms of their ancestry. In simple terms, he suggested that we should find an organism, and then group it together with its children, and its children’s children, and its children’s children’s children. Eventually, you will have the original organism (the ancestor) and all of its descendents. These groups are called clades. Hennig’s insight was to suggest that this is how we should be thinking about species.

    But this approach faces its own problems. How far back should you go before you pick the ancestor in question? If you go back in history far enough, you’ll find that pretty much every animal on the planet shares an ancestor. But surely we don’t want to say that every single animal in the world, from the humble sea slug, to top-of-the-range apes like human beings, are all one big single species?

    Enough of species?

    This is only the tip of a deep and confusing iceberg. There is absolutely no agreement among biologists about how we should understand the species. One 2006 article on the subject listed 26 separate definitions of species, all with their advocates and detractors. Even this list is incomplete.

    The mystery surrounding species is well-known in biology, and commonly referred to as “the species problem”. Frustration with the idea of a species goes back at least as far as Darwin. In an 1856 letter to his friend Joseph Hooker, he wrote:

    "It is really laughable to see what different ideas are prominent in various naturalists’ minds, when they speak of ‘species’; in some, resemblance is everything and descent of little weight — in some, resemblance seems to go for nothing, and Creation the reigning idea — in some, sterility an unfailing test, with others it is not worth a farthing. It all comes, I believe, from trying to define the indefinable."

    Darwin even dreamt of a time when a revolution would come about in biology. He proposed that one day, biologists could pursue their studies without ever worrying about what a species is, or which animals belong to which species. Indeed, some contemporary biologists and philosophers of biology have taken up this idea, and suggested that biology would be much better off if it didn’t think about life in terms of species at all.

    Scrapping the idea of a species is an extreme idea: it implies that pretty much all of biology, from Aristotle right up to the modern age, has been thinking about life in completely the wrong way. The upshots of this new approach would be enormous, both for our scientific and philosophical view of life. It suggests that we should give up thinking about life as neatly segmented into discrete groups. Rather, we should think of life as one immense interconnected web. This shift in thinking would fundamentally reorient our approach to a great many questions concerning our relation to the natural world, from the current biodiversity crisis to conservation.

    And, in a way, this kind of picture may be a natural progression in biological thought. One of the great discoveries of evolutionary biology is that the human species is not special or privileged in the grand cheme of things, and that humans have the same origins as all the other animals. This approach just takes the next step. It says that there is no such thing as “the human species” at all.

    This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

    Image via Eric Isselee/Shutterstock.com

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