Tag Archives For: science

17 Aug, 2017

Ocean Adventures – Junk Raft and The Soul of an Octopus

/ posted in: Reading Ocean Adventures – Junk Raft and The Soul of an Octopus The Soul of an Octopus: A Surprising Exploration into the Wonder of Consciousness by Sy Montgomery
on May 12th 2015
Pages: 261
Genres: Nonfiction
Published by Atria Books
Format: Audiobook, Hardcover
Source: Library, Playster
Setting: Massachusetts

Octopuses have varied personalities and intelligence they show in myriad ways: endless trickery to escape enclosures and get food; jetting water playfully to bounce objects like balls; and evading caretakers by using a scoop net as a trampoline and running around the floor on eight arms. But with a beak like a parrot, venom like a snake, and a tongue covered with teeth, how can such a being know anything? And what sort of thoughts could it think?
The intelligence of dogs, birds, and chimpanzees was only recently accepted by scientists, who now are establishing the intelligence of the octopus, watching them solve problems and deciphering the meaning of their color-changing camouflage techniques. Montgomery chronicles this growing appreciation of the octopus, but also tells a love story. By turns funny, entertaining, touching, and profound, The Soul of an Octopus reveals what octopuses can teach us about consciousness and the meeting of two very different minds.


I love octopuses.  I think they are fascinating.  I’ve never had the chance to meet one though like this author did.  She got to know three octopuses over the course of a few years.  It was amazing to hear about the ways their physiology lets them interact with the world. They can taste with their skin, camouflage even though they are color blind, and work through complex puzzles.

She also lets you get to know the people working behind the scenes in the aquarium who love these animals.

This book is wonderful for anyone who is interested in finding out more about these animals.  I am looking forward to reading more from this author.

Ocean Adventures – Junk Raft and The Soul of an Octopus Junk Raft: An Ocean Voyage and a Rising Tide of Activism to Fight Plastic Pollution by Marcus Eriksen
on July 4th 2017
Pages: 216
Length: 8:05
Published by Beacon Press
Setting: Pacific Ocean

News media brought the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch"--the famous swirling gyre of plastic pollution in the ocean--into the public consciousness. But when Marcus Eriksen cofounded the 5 Gyres Institute with his wife, Anna Cummins, and set out to study the world's oceans with hundreds of volunteers, they discovered a "plastic smog" of microscopic debris that permeates our oceans globally, defying simple clean-up efforts. What's more, these microplastics and their toxic chemistry have seeped into the food chain, threatening marine life and humans alike.
Far from being a gloomy treatise on an environmental catastrophe, though, Junk Raft tells the exciting story of Eriksen and his team's fight to solve the problem of plastic pollution. A scientist, activist, and inveterate adventurer, Eriksen is drawn to the sea by a desire to right an environmental injustice. Against long odds and common sense, he and his co-navigator, Joel Paschal, construct a "junk raft" made of plastic trash and set themselves adrift from Los Angeles to Hawaii, with no motor or support vessel, confronting perilous cyclones, food shortages, and a fast decaying raft.


Plastic pollution in the ocean is a huge problem but it doesn’t manifest in exactly the ways that it has been portrayed in the press.  Most of the ocean is polluted with microparticles of plastic that make any clean up operation almost impossible.  The author’s goal is to require companies to take on more of the burden for reusing or recycling plastics they produce.  Now they are freed from responsibility by requiring consumers to recycle if they don’t want the plastic going into a landfill.

This book used the framework of the several month journey on Junk to tell the story of the Earth’s plastic pollution problem.  It is full of ideas for making the problem better but there needs to be buy in from a lot of people to make it happen.

The stories in the book are scary.  So much damage is being done through human carelessness.  Getting the word out about what needs to be done is important.

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

  • Books Set in North America
17 Dec, 2015


/ posted in: Reading Rabid Rabid on 2012
Pages: 275
Genres: Medical, Science
Format: Paperback
Source: Owned
Buy on Amazon (affiliate link)

A maddened creature, frothing at the mouth, lunges at an innocent victim--and, with a bite, transforms its prey into another raving monster. It's a scenario that underlies our darkest tales of supernatural horror, but its power derives from a very real virus, a deadly scourge known to mankind from our earliest days. In this fascinating exploration, journalist Bill Wasik and veterinarian Monica Murphy chart four thousand years in the history, science, and cultural mythology of rabies.
The most fatal virus known to science, rabies kills nearly 100 percent of its victims once the infection takes root in the brain. A disease that spreads avidly from animals to humans, rabies has served throughout history as a symbol of savage madness, of inhuman possession. And today, its history can help shed light on the wave of emerging diseases, from AIDS to SARS to avian flu, that we now know to originate in animal populations. 
From Greek myths to zombie flicks, from the laboratory heroics of Louis Pasteur to the contemporary search for a lifesaving treatment, Rabid is a fresh, fascinating, and often wildly entertaining look at one of mankind's oldest and most fearsome foes. 


I’ve had this book forever and finally read it after a staff member starting insisting that she had rabies. A stray cat bit her and died a few days later. (In my mind there is an equal chance that the staff member was poisonous to the cat.) The cat was tested and was rabies-free so all was well for the humans involved. It didn’t change things for the cat.

The first few chapters caused mass giggling in my office.

First up this is description of how Louis Pasteur collected saliva to use in developing his vaccines.

“.. watching Pasteur perform this trick with a glass tube held in his mouth, as two confederates with gloved hands pinned down a rabid bulldog.”


My confederates can’t hold a mildly pissed off cat with gloves on sometimes.  I pointed this out to them.  They pointed out that the next paragraph discusses how they had a loaded gun on hand in case someone got bit.  They postulated that they could shoot me and get a new job if I tried to get them to do something as stupid as holding a rabid bulldog.

Next it discusses getting the head removed from a rabies suspect.

“The first part of that process — capturing and humanely dispatching a deranged animal — is fairly standard stuff for your local vet.”


Well, thanks for the vote of confidence but, yeah, no.  Not routine.  At least not the deranged animal part.

“If the vet is lucky, her hospital has seen enough suspected rabies cases that it has thought to keep a hacksaw handy.”


Lucky?  Is that her definition of lucky?  Where does this woman practice?  I think I’m lucky in that I’m not handling rabies suspects every day.

One of my favorite vet school memories though involves putting a head back on after the brain was tested.  I was in my pathology rotation and someone had mistakenly told the owners of a large dog that they could have the body back in pristine condition after the brain was removed.  The pathologists were furious but couldn’t say no after it was promised.  I was just learning to quilt so I volunteered and spent an afternoon hand sewing a head back onto a body.  I matched points and gathered as needed.  The hair laid over the sutures to hide it.  He looked amazing, if I do say so myself.

Anyway, back to the book.  I liked the chapters about the medical aspects of the disease even if some of them made me doubt my medical training.

“Dogs, (Aristotle) wrote with an odd confidence, suffer from only three diseases:  lyssa, or rabies; cynanche, severe sore throat or tonsillitis; and podagra, or gout.”


Well, there’s four years of my life in vet school wasted if that’s all they get.

Other portions of this book discuss the idea that fear of rabies inspired the legends of the werewolf and the vampire.  I wasn’t as interested in those aspects as the medical ones.  Your experience may be different.

The end discusses a rabies outbreak started when someone smuggled a dog that ended up having rabies onto the previously rabies-free island of Bali in 2008.  The government’s first response was to order all dogs killed but of course, people hid their pets so that didn’t work.  Vaccination protocols were set up to contain the disease.  And that’s why governments don’t let you just bring pets into their countries just willy-nilly, even if you are a celebrity and think that laws don’t apply to you.