Friday Shorts 2012-08-10

â–¶ Apropos to the recent “discussion” about the usefulness of any given plant or animal species (“What is it good for?) I offer this piece of interesting so-what for a creature I’d have a hard time defending: the European Hornet. In wine country, they bite into and inject grapes with microbes that give rise to subtle differences in tastes, and wine epicures find that is a good thing. Thank The Simple Wasp For That Complex Glass Of Wine : The Salt : NPR 

â–¶ Stuxnet, Flame, now Gauss: I would put money on the claim that cyber-hacking at the nation-state level (as all three of these early bunker-buster software weapons are said to have been) will be the source of future global conflict, only after being the source of significant global disruption to banking, industry, commerce and communication. That’s not much of a prediction–more of an inevitability, really.

â–¶ Aerographite: Strong as metal, 100 times lighter than styrofoam. Now here’s a solution looking for problems to solve. Will it live up to expectations?

â–¶ Flu just won’t go away: and now comes in Seal flavor. If you haven’t heard, there’s a pig flu that is spreading (not alarmingly but significantly) among those who attend state fairs. Wash your hands before eating cotton candy. And also in the FluScape, human-adapted H3N8 can spread from seal to seal. No immediate pandemic threat, but a warning sign of what can happen in viral genetics in the wild.

â–¶ IMAGE CAPTION: the eye of the camera–any camera–will often disappoint, because it can’t register the brightest brights and the details in the shadows in a single image. This picture taken with my iPhone, since that was all I had, misses entirely the magnificent subtleties in the sunset sky so that the viewer can see a properly exposed low-light landscape. There are almost always trade-offs: for everything you get, you give up something. See this view in interactive panorama at

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Fred First holds masters degrees in Vertebrate Zoology and physical therapy, and has been a biology teacher and physical therapist by profession. He moved to southwest Virginia in 1975 and to Floyd County in 1997. He maintains a daily photo-blog, broadcasts essays on the Roanoke NPR station, and contributes regular columns for the Floyd Press and Roanoke's Star Sentinel. His two non-fiction books, Slow Road Home and his recent What We Hold in Our Hands, celebrate the riches that we possess in our families and communities, our natural bounty, social capital and Appalachian cultures old and new. He has served on the Jacksonville Center Board of Directors and is newly active in the Sustain Floyd organization. He lives in northeastern Floyd County on the headwaters of the Roanoke River.

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  1. That panorama is really fun to see. I feel like I am actually there. Allen’s new point and shoot Canon HX30v has that wonderful HDR capability that blows me away. Now we can shoot in any light and get fabulous results, even better that adjusting with software later. With his Sony, you just choose a setting in AI and the camera will take as many photos as needed to get all the areas of the scene perfectly exposed, then merge them in one image, all automatically.