Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Rerun Article: The Wonders of Snow

January is ending fast. Before you know it, it'll be February and then Spring will be in the air! Where does the time go? I don't have much to share today in regards to news, so I'll display our usual "Days Till" section, breeze through "In the Spotlight" and get into today's topic.

Days Till
It is: 13 days till Groundhog Day
It is: 23 days till Abraham Lincoln's Birthday
It is: 25 days till Valentine's Day
It is: 44 days till Zootopia's theatrical release

In the Spotlight
Since it's coming out really soon, I thought I'd showcase the latest trailer for Zootopia, coming out on March 4th:

Can't wait for this movie!!!

Topic of the Week
It's used to build snowmen out of, it's used in snowball fights, we shovel it from our sidewalks and driveways, and causes many car-related accidents each year. I'm talking about snow! It's quite literally everywhere in the more northern parts of the northern hemisphere during the winter months. But even though we all know what snow is, many don't know and haven't even thought about how it forms, why it falls, the conditions in which snow falls and many other things. So today, since it's still very snowy in many parts of the world during this time of year, these are just some of the things we're going to learn about.

Snowmen is one of the most common uses for snow.
So what exactly is snow? Well, your typical answer would be something like “that white, fluffy stuff on the ground that falls from the sky during winter time”, and your typical school kid's answer would be something like “that white, fluffy stuff on the ground that falls from the sky that delivers us from the bondage of school!” In all seriousness though, snow is actually precipitation in the form of crystalline iced water. Snow's origins (there's a topic you don't hear everyday!) are not known to well; we have no idea if snow ever was present in the world before the Genesis Flood around 4,350 years ago, but based on geological finds, we believe that if it ever did fall, it wasn't very often and the temperature of the pre-Flood world wasn't all that cold. What sorts of geological finds am I talking about? Well, one prime example is the findings of fossilized trees in what are today known as the polar regions. These trees are not only the ones you'd find in the tropics today, but they also lack frost rings, meaning if it did ever get freezing, it wasn't often, if ever.

Snow started falling in great bunches after the climax of the Genesis Flood. Thanks to the warm temperature of the oceans (which were made warm by the volcanic activity during the Flood), much water was evaporated and clouds formed. It is important to know that the land after the Flood was relatively cold in many places, so when it was time for the clouds to drop their loads, it fell down as snow in some places . . . lots of snow! The snow built up so much after several hundred years had past, the snow had turned to ice that covered much of the Northern hemisphere in great sheets known as glaciers. We call this period of time following the Flood “the Ice Age”. The glaciers eventually disappeared at the end of the Ice Age, about 700 years following the Flood.

How exactly is snow formed? Contrary to popular belief, snow isn't merely frozen water – that's ice. The actual formation of snow takes place when a drop of really cold water (and I do mean really cold!) freezes onto a tiny particle of dust or pollen and crystallizes. This “ice crystal” then proceeds to fall to the ground from the clouds and water vapor freezes to the primary crystal, causing it to reshape itself into the six-armed snowflakes we all know and love. (Keep that in mind the next time you try to catch snowflakes on your tongue).

Snowflakes are so beautiful! Did you know that no two snowflakes look alike?
So now that we now how it's caused, what needs to take place in order for snowfall to take place? The most obvious thing is that it needs to be cold, otherwise when the “snow” falls, it will quickly melt into water and the water vapor crystal can't freeze to the original ice crystal. The temperature But there's another key thing: the ice crystals have to be heavy enough to drop from the clouds. Once heavy enough, gravity does its job of pulling the snowflake down to earth where bunches of little snowflakes add up . . . often times very fast!

Even though snow causes many fatal vehicle accidents each year, there are some positive things that snow does for us. First of all, many people have fun sledding, snowboarding and skiing when there's enough snow on the ground. Sleighs and sleds pulled by horses, dogs or other animals are also a fun winter activity that many enjoy. Snow is also used in other outdoor activities such as building snowmen, having snowball fights and making snow angels.

Did you know that snow can also be beneficial to agriculture? Did you ever notice when it's snowing how it seems warmer out during winter? That's because when a layer of snow falls, it can keep the heat of the earth and protect precious crops from freezing cold winter chills. And when the snow melts and refreezes on sensitive crops such as oranges, it can protect them from those colder days during the winter. There's also another added bonus when snow melts: the water released from melting snow waters the crops.

Now you know all about snow – it's formation, the conditions in which it needs to fall and even a little bit about how important it can be to agriculture! Let's thank God for allowing us to enjoy this wonder of nature that He's allowed to happen for our enjoyment!

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Friday, January 15, 2016

Rerun Article: Polly Want Lamb Chops?

Happy 2016, everyone! Sorry that this post is late, my grandmother died at the old age of 95 this past week and I didn't have an opportunity to post. While we'll miss her dearly, I am glad that she is a Christian, so she's in heaven now with Jesus. Hallelujah!

In addition to this news, I have finally seen Star Wars: The Force Awakens! It was so awesome! The story was great (a rare thing for sequels) and so were the special effects. The only part I didn't like was when ___________ died. (I'm not gonna spoil it for those of you who haven't seen it, but I'm sure those of you who have seen the movie know who I'm talking about.). Let's get started with our first article of the new year!

Days Till
It is: 25 days till Martin Luther King Jr. Day
It is: 18 days till Groundhog Day
It is: Valentine's Day

In the Spotlight:
Not much to share this week, except my love for the new Star Wars movie! However, I recently found out about a new Disney movie coming to theaters on March 4. It's called Zootopia. The trailers for this film were hilarious! Basically, Zootopia takes place in an alternate universe where mammals are anthropomorphic -- they live like people, wear clothes (well, most of them do), own shops and restaurants and things like that. If you haven't heard of this movie, you need to check it out. See the trailer for it below, featuring the main characters trying to obtain some information from the DMV. There's one tiny problem though: everyone working at the DMV is a sloth!
Topic of the Week by Christian Ryan
People just love birds. One of everyone’s favorite types is no doubt the parrot. Parrots are very smart birds. We can train them to talk and recent tests even prove that at least some parrots actually know what they’re saying instead of just calling out words! God made these birds for us to enjoy. Parrots come in a wide range of sizes, from small Budgerigars to the giant Kakapo. Haven’t heard of the Kakapo? Well, it’s this large green parrot that lives on New Zealand. It’s not very parrot-like at all; it can’t fly! Most parrots, as we all know, can fly very well. We often like to have them sit on our shoulders, especially pirates. But one species of parrot is bound to surprise you.
A Kea sitting on a rock.

This Kea Parrot is about to land on a white car. As you can see, the undersides of its wings are a beautiful orange color.
It’s called the Kea, a small green parrot (about 19 inches long) living in New Zealand. Most parrot species are loved by millions, but not the Kea. It denies normal parrot behavior and is rather . . . “mischievous”. First of all, it likes to live in urban areas where they will tip over trash cans, break car windows, invade camping sites, and play with windshield wipers to the point of breaking them! (So they’re sort of like foxes on the wing) Another thing that makes this parrot unique is that instead of living in the lush tropical forests, it lives in the snow on the alpine slopes. Keas are the only parrots known to live in this kind of habitat.

But probably the most surprising thing about the Kea is that instead of asking it, “Polly want a cracker?” you may want to ask, “Polly want a lamb chops?” This parrot will eat fruit, but lately, they've decided to go . . . no . . . it couldn’t be . . . could these guys be turning . . . CARNIVOROUS?!? Strange but true, in the spring, summer and fall, they normally eat daisies, berries and other fruits, nectar, pollen, insects and etc. But Keas have been seen actually eating not only stuff from trash cans (which is why they tip them over in the first place), but they also will eat carrion. In winter, these foods are harder to find. The rampage began in the 1800’s when people introduced sheep to New Zealand and the Keas started to eat carrion of dead sheep. Then they really went on the rampage! Keas are believed to have actually killed 200 or so sheep in a single night (in 1884) and 15,000 sheep in a season in. Just when you saw some animals appeared to be giving meat up like the lions did in a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago, another animal switches onto meat.
How on earth do they kill sheep anyway? Well, they fly over to the sheep and start pecking at sores and I’d assume the sheep eventually died of shock and blood loss. Four main theories arose as to why the Kea transformed almost overnight to be a sheep-killer:
A Kea damaging a car.
  1. They just switched from eating insects to eating sheep
  2. There were maggots in the carrion they were eating so this is when they developed a taste for meat.
  3. The Vegetable Sheep theory is: Keas thought the sheep were plants when they were lying down so they just accidentally ate a sheep and thought, “Hey, this tastes pretty good! We should do this more often!”
  4. The bird’s diet changed because of theory adaptability, intelligence, curiosity and mischievousness

The last theory I mentioned is the one most scientists believe is most likely. Many scientists believe they also used to feast on Moa carrion too (Moas are giant birds that went extinct a few hundred years ago). Boy, I’m sure glad these birds don’t prey on people! If they did, we’d all be in big trouble no doubt! Because of their sheep-hunting behavior, the Kea was hunted and actually became endangered. The good news is, this bird received full protection in 1986.

Fortunately for all sheep-kind, Kea predations on livestock have gone down drastically. They are getting rarer and rarer over the past few years. However, occasional Kea attacks on sheep are still being reported, and most of these attacks are on sheep that are old, weak or sick (but some people sometimes will find healthy sheep with Kea wounds). So it seems as though the Kea is finally calming down . . . at least for the moment . . .

But don’t you start thinking this is the end of it! Kea’s aren’t the only so-called herbivores that weren’t told they are supposed to eat plants! A farmer in India lost 48 of his chickens. He suspected some dogs had done the deed, so he and his brother went out one night to catch the culprit. Boy were they in for a surprise when they saw his cow named Lal sneak into the chicken coop and started to grab and eat the chickens! How shocking in deed. So it turns out those cows promoting Chick-Fil-A aren’t only promoting the business, they’re also eating at the business!

Another example would be the was when someone took a trip to Kangaroo Island in Australia, the person dropped a BBQ steak sandwich. Then two grey kangaroos came in and devoured the sandwich, bread, meat and all.

In 1992, a wild Panda Bear killed and ate 26 goats before being captured and studied. In 2002, a British researcher got quite a shock when she saw a sheep snatch an oblivious grouse and devoured it whole! 

Another sheep was seen gobbling up nine chickens. There’s even a horse that actually will chase down chickens and eat them whole. And believe it or not, when a film crew was filming a migration of Wildebeest in Africa, they were migrating through a river where our “friendly” hippos live. Some wildebeest were killed by crocodiles who also inhabit the river, but before some of the crocodiles could eat, hippos came in and started eating the carcass!

Should I go on? Just as many carnivorous animals will have a vegetarian diet, many animals have become carnivorous herbivores. This, as horrifying as it may be, is a reminder to us that all animals were originally designed to eat plants as it says in Genesis. But after the first people rebelled against God, animals could go either ways. Most chose to go herbivorous because that was what their bodies were most designed for, but others chose to become carnivorous. Of course though, as we just learned, animals can change their diets. Fortunately most animals tend to stick with the diets that best suits their bodies (for instance, while horses can eat chickens, they must have a hard time tearing the bird apart with those dull teeth). Most animals probably would get sick if they tried to eat food that doesn’t suit their body. However, even in this fallen world we live in, God has promised us to one day, restore His beautiful creation.

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