All posts by thehigherlearningteam

No Borders in Space: An Astronaut’s Perspective of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

A German astronaut named Alexander Gerst recently created a lot of online attention earlier this week with a picture he posted of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict from space.

These photos were taken from the International Space Station as it flew over Israel last week. Below is the image that went viral, getting over 39,000 re-tweets after Gerst posted it on Twitter.

As you can see, from space, borders are indistinguishable…

Gerst also added that the crew could actually see the rocket explosions as they passed over the region at night.

Gerst, a German astronaut is still currently aboard the International Space Station with American Reid Wiseman and Russian Maxim Suarev.

The crew has had some fun since they departed Earth on May 28th, even playing some zero gravity soccer and making friendly wagers on the recent World Cup.

But the mood has become a bit more somber with the end of the Cup and the resurgence of the conflict in the Middle East.

In a blog post he wrote for the European Space Agency’s website, Gerst gave insight into the astronauts’ perspective on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His introduction is very powerful:

“Some things that on Earth we see in the news every day and thus almost tend to accept as a ‘given,’ appear very different from our perspective. We do not see any borders from space.

We just see a unique planet with a thin, fragile atmosphere, suspended in a vast and hostile darkness. From up here it is crystal clear that on Earth we are one humanity, we eventually all share the same fate.

What came to my mind at the time of this photo was, if we ever will be visited by another species from somewhere in the universe, how would we explain to them what they might see as the very first thing when they look at our planet?

How would we explain to them the way we humans treat not only each other but also our fragile blue planet, the only home we have? I do not have an answer for that.”

If These Photos of Dogs Underwater Don’t Make You Smile, Nothing Will (Photo Gallery)

Seth Casteel is a photographer based out of Chicago and Los Angeles who specializes in taking pictures of animals.

Though he photographs all types of animals, dogs are one of his favorite subjects. A few years back, he shot a series of photos of dogs playing underwater. Check out the pictures below (click an image to enlarge):

The success of the photos landed him a book deal, and the photo-book “Underwater Dogs” was released in October of 2012.

Casteel’s photography company, Little Friend’s Photography, specializes in lifestyle pet photography. Casteel describes this art form as,

“embracing the at-ease mentality of pets on location in the natural surroundings.”

You can check out more of Casteel’s work on Little Friend’s Photography’s website here.

(h/t CBS News)

Saskatoon: A New Kind Of “Super Fruit” Berry Is Making Its Way Into The States

Saskatoon berries may look like blueberries, but the shrub is actually more closely related to an apple tree.

According to NPR’s The Salt, the berry,

“…is pretty common in Canada but hasn’t been grown by farmers in the U.S. until recently. Here [in the U.S.], the berry, also sometimes called the serviceberry, has been collected in the wild for generations.”

Until recently the berry had not been commercially grown in the U.S.. The commercial strain, which produces a larger berry with fewer seeds, has just found its way to farmers in Michigan, but hopes to have a nationwide presence eventually.

Saskatoon berries before being picked

So what do they taste like? Well, it’s kind of hard to say. Here’s Steve DuCheney, who grows the berries in northern Michigan:

“Every time I eat them I get a different flavor…The other day I had somebody tell me they tasted like peach, and that was the first time I heard that one.”

Some people describe the flavor as being nutty, like almonds, and still others say that the berry is sort of like a mix between blueberries and cherries. But everyone seems to agree that the berry is sweet and good for pies.

The saskatoon berry is also a “super fruit”, meaning that it has high levels of antioxidants which help fight heart disease. It also provides 5 essential vitamins and minerals and contains high levels of fiber.

Saskatoon pie, anyone?

This Animal Isn’t A Snake. Think You Can Guess What It Really Is? (Photos)

Professor Daniel Janzen, a biology professor from the University of Pennsylvania, has spent years of his life cataloguing and photographing a very unique group of creatures: caterpillars that defend themselves against predators by looking and acting like snakes.

Check out some more pictures of “Snake Caterpillars” taken by Professor Janzen below:

Snake caterpillars can be found in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Belize, and some parts of Mexico. Their markings resemble a snake’s head, which they can actually use to “strike” at would be predators (though they obviously can’t bite like a real snake would).

Janzen is an ecologist and what most would call a caterpillar expert. He’s been tracking these insects in Costa Rica since 1978 and  has been an expert in the field of entomology (the study of insects) for 50 years.

Dan Janzen, with a prehensile-tailed porcupine on his shoulder (Photo: Winnie Hallwachs / NOVA)

He splits his time between his labs and the field, spending half the year at the University and the other half in Central America, searching for strange new species of insect like the snake caterpillars.

Us Marine lance corporal Zachary Densmor

March 2014 was the First Month in 11 Years Without a U.S. Fatality in Iraq or Afghanistan

According to an article published by Time:

“There were no American troop casualties in Afghanistan or Iraq in March (2014), for the first time since February 2003, ending 133 straight months when at least one U.S. service member was killed. “

Fortunately, the death count has been significantly lowering steadily in both these areas seemingly leading to near peace. If the areas are  near peace it did come at a price, also according to Time…

“The deadliest year in Iraq for U.S. troops was 2007, when 904 perished. In Afghanistan, 2010 was the grimmest, with 496 dead. A total of 4,486 U.S. troops were killed in Iraq, including in accidents and other non-hostile events. The toll in Afghanistan stands at 2,315.”

Comparatively, the number of civilian deaths on the Iraqi side was estimated at 115,000 by the UK-based group Iraq Body Count. However, a group of university researchers from the United States, Canada and Baghdad teamed up with the Iraqi Ministry of Health to obtain an estimate that,

“covers not only violent deaths but other avoidable deaths linked to the invasion, insurgencies and subsequent social breakdown,”

according to this Huffington Post article. The number they came up with was closer to half a million.

Hopefully we have more months in the future of zero U.S. Service Member deaths, and maybe even some months with no deaths at all.

War is the result of fear, fear of the unknown. But at the end of the day, the average person in every country is trying to do the same things: provide for their family, advance themselves and enjoy life. Once we see this we will realize how mutually destructive war is to our pursuit of these basic, common motivations.

Check Out the full article to see detailed data on the fatality counts here: March Was First Month Without U.S. Fatalities in Iraq or Afghanistan In 11 Years

 

Rapper’s GRAPHIC Demonstration of the Force-Feeding Process Used on Hunger Strikers at Guantanamo (Video)

Rapper Mos Def wanted to raise awareness about this inhumane process, currently being carried out twice a day on 44 of the 120 detainees on hunger strike at the Guantanamo Bay military prison. He didn’t anticipate the horror that he signed himself up for…

The majority of the detainees are uncharged and untried. We will examine the facility in more depth in the very near future. If the video doesn’t direct you to the video use this   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4hQ5xz_5to4&feature=c4-overview&list=UUdWZG7e4ZlzMK9epYSmoKtA