China’s interest in Philippine Rise

 

After what happened in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) where China claimed practically the whole of it, including what belongs to us in the context of the exclusive economic zone (EEZ), only to convert it into militarized zone by turning reefs, atolls and other protrusions into islands complete with troops, airstrips and armaments of all kinds, would you blame the Filipino people now if most will question China’s interest in the Philippine Rise?

The 13-million-hectare Benham Rise is believed to be rich in maritime resources. The United Nations in 2012 recognized the Philippines’ exclusive economic rights to it as part of its continental shelf.

It is for this reason that I wrote a series of blogs about this new-found wealth of the country, which prompted me to say in one of the pieces, upon knowing that we own it, thus:  ‘I may never see it explored and developed in my generation, but it feels good heading towards the sunset years of my life that the succeeding generations faces a brighter future.’

You can open the following links for more information, if only to have an idea of what I am talking about:

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/philippines-pin-hopes-on-benham-rise/

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/thank-god-for-benham-rise-part-ii/

https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/tag/benham-rise/

What I am trying to say here now is that after China’s scientific study/exploration in the resource-rich Philippine Rise, which included the giving of Chinese names to some features it has discovered, that it should not further its interest in and of the area.

At most it is very reassuring that President Rodrigo Duterte has calmed the concern and anxiety of the nation by telling the public not to be alarmed over China’s move to name features in the Philippine Rise (Benham Rise), even as he stressed Manila’s sovereign rights over the resource-rich waters.

“Benham Rise belongs to the Filipino. We will claim exclusive ownership of the economic zones — 200 nautical miles,” Duterte said.

“Let me be very clear about this: The Philippine Rise is ours and any insinuation that it is open to everybody should end with this declaration.”

Well said, but does this mean that we have to put our guards down just because it is coupled with the heartening words of Duterte?

I believe in Duterte’s ardor in protecting the interests of the country and the Filipino people, and he could not be corrupted.

But what happens when he is gone and the one succeeding does not have the political will and leadership capability that Duterte has in stopping China’s aggression, especially that the latter is  now at our own backyard in the West Philippine Sea?

This is the price we get for having China as our closest neighbor now, even honoring every which way their presence.

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Dealing with loneliness issues

 

This may sound odd indeed, but it has been reported that U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has created a government agency, to be headed by a Minister, that will be dealing with loneliness issues.

A study conducted found that one in 10 people in the U.K. face isolation, a condition that can trigger a range of physical and mental health issues.

“I want to confront this challenge for our society and for all of us to take action to address the loneliness endured by the elderly, by carers, by those who have lost loved ones ― people who have no one to talk to or share their thoughts and experiences with,” May said in a statement.

Statistics have shown that more than 9 million adults in the U.K. report feeling often or always lonely. For 3.6 million people aged 65 or older, it found, television is considered the main form of company.

According to Brigham Young University Psychology Professor Julianne Holt Lunstad, the harmful impact of loneliness is more than psychological. Having weak social connections is considered to be as damaging to one’s health as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.

“There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality and the magnitude of the risks exceeds that of many leading health indicators,” Lunstad  is quoted as saying in the Jo Cox Commission’s on Loneliness, an organization that works to combat social isolation and loneliness.

More than half of all disabled people in the U.K. experience loneliness, with it being more prominent among younger individuals. Eight out of 10 caregivers have also felt lonely or isolated as a result of looking after a loved one, according to the Jo Cox Commission’s report.

The commission is named after Labor Party lawmaker Jo Cox, who was a prominent advocate for addressing the issue of loneliness in Britain before her 2016 shooting death by a right-wing extremist.

As loneliness is universal that comes in different manner, shape and form, it may be beneficial for other countries to take notice of what the U.K. is doing in raising understanding and awareness of loneliness issues if only for the afflicted to know that there are organizations and people out there who support and care for them.

 

A drone comes to the rescue

 

Before going to the full text of how and where this drone made a dramatic rescue, let me just conceptualize first what a drone is.

A drone, in a technological context, is an unmanned aircraft. It is more formally known as unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).

We are now entering the age of artificial intelligence (AI), also called machine intelligence (MI), as it is mostly found in machines or robots, if you may. MI is in contrast with the natural intelligence (NI) displayed by humans and other animals.

So, basically, a drone is a flying robot. The aircraft may be remotely controlled or can fly autonomously through software-controlled flight plans in their embedded system working in conjunction with on-board sensors and global positioning system (GPS.)

In the recent past, UAVs were most often associated with the military, where they were used initially for anti-aircraft target practice, intelligence gathering and then, more controversially, as weapons platforms. Drones are now also used in a wide range of civilian roles ranging from search and rescue, surveillance, traffic monitoring, weather monitoring and firefighting to personal drones and business drone-based photography, as well as videography, agriculture and even delivery services.

Having said the foregoing, it was reported recently that a pair of Australian swimmers became the first people to be rescued in the ocean by a drone when the aerial lifesaver dropped a safety device to the distressed teens caught in rough seas.

The two boys is said to have been caught in three-meter (10-foot) swells while swimming off Lennox Head in New South Wales, near the border with Queensland.

Beach goers onshore raised the alarm to the lifeguards who then alerted the drone pilot, and the aerial lifesaver was deployed in moments.

Note that Australia is leading the use of the technology in surf lifesaving, with dozens of drones being tried on beaches around the country.

Along with their ability to spot swimmers in trouble and deliver life saving devices faster than traditional lifesaving techniques, like launching surfboards or rubber dinghies, drones are being used in Australia to spot underwater predators like sharks and jellyfish.

 

Supermoon

 

People usually get excited when there is scheduled date for the appearance of a supermoon, like today, December 3, 2017.

What makes it more fascinating is remembering some exceptional photos in the past where objects are pictured either superimposed over or juxtaposed with the seemingly oversized moon.

Alas, I saw the moon tonight and there was really nothing spectacular about it. There was nothing of the much heralded events like the blood moon, the black moon, the blue moon, the strawberry moon and the harvest moon, among others.

But let me just share with you the explanation of the science and origins behind some of these events that will let you decide whether they are worth late nights or early mornings of moongazing.

According to James Lattis, an astronomer at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the supermoon is a made-up term, meaning it is not an astronomical term.

Supermoon was actually coined by an astrologer in the 1970s, not by a scientist. The term has come to loosely mean a full moon that is at perigee, or when the moon is at its closest position to Earth along its orbit.

Dr. Noah Petro, deputy project scientist for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, also explains that the supermoon really shines when it is compared with the full moon at apogee, or its farthest position from Earth. Placing images of the two side by side, according to him, you can see the difference more easily – the supermoon is 14 percent larger than the apogee full moon and 30 percent brighter.

On average, the moon is about 238,900 miles away from Earth. During supermoons it gets closer – in November 2016  when the moon was at its closest approach since 1948, it was approximately 221,524 miles away.

Astronomers measure the distance of the moon from Earth by shooting lasers to the surface of the moon, which then bounce off mirrors called retroreflectors, which were left behind by the Apollo missions and two Soviet landers.

 

New species of orangutan discovered

 

An adult male Tapanuli orangutan in the Batang Toru Forest (Photo from National Geographic).

Far from being the Fosseys and Goodalls of this world, both leading primatologists, the discovery of a new species of orangutan, however, brings excitement to ordinary people, like me, who loves and gets immensely entertained by this kind-looking, playful and intelligent variety among the primates, who generally are considered one of humankind’s closest relatives.

Orangutans long were considered a single species, but were recognized as having two species in 1996, one in Sumatra (Pongo abelii) and one in Borneo ((Pongo pygmaeus).

(Photo by National Geographic)

The new species, called Pongo tapanuliensis, is found in the isolated Batang Toru forest in Sumatra, Indonesia. And it’s estimated that there are fewer than 800 of these shaggy reddish tree dwellers left, making it very vulnerable to extinction. It makes the new species also the rarest great ape on Earth. Note that the Sumatran (estimated 14,000) and Bornean (estimated 55,000) have both been declared as critically endangered.

Although the Tapanuli orangutans were thought to belong to the species Pongo abelii, also known as the Sumatran orangutan, scientists discovered that the new species is more closely related to its cousins in Borneo than to its fellow Sumatran apes.

But according to scientists there had been a few hints in their observation that the so-called Tapanuli orangutans were different. Previous research showed that this population of orangutans behaved differently than other orangutans and had some genetic differences. But it wasn’t clear whether those differences were enough to name a new species, thus, it continued to be identified as belonging to the Sumatran orangutan.

The tell tale signs of significant difference later came when researchers got access to the skeleton of an orangutan found in the Tapanuli region. The orangutan, named Raya, had died after being harassed and injured by people, according to National Geographic. A comparison between Raya’s skull and teeth and those of 33 other adult male orangutans revealed that there were enough differences to grant a new species designation.

Orangutan means “person of the forest” in the Indonesian and Malay languages, and it is the world’s biggest arboreal mammal. Orangutans are adapted to living in trees, with their arms longer than their legs. They live more solitary lives than other great apes, sleeping and eating fruit in the forest canopy and swinging from branch to branch.

“It’s pretty exciting to be able to describe a new great ape species in this day and age,” said University of Zurich evolutionary geneticist Michael Krützen, adding that most great apes species are listed as endangered or critically endangered.

“We must do everything possible to protect the habitats in which these magnificent animals occur, not only because of them, but also because of all the other animal and plant species that we can protect at the same time.”

Matthew Nowak, of the Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Program, echoed the same sentiment, saying, that “In addition to threats like hunting by humans, significant areas of the Tapanuli orangutan’s range are seriously threatened by habitat conversion for small-scale agriculture, mining exploration and exploitation, a large-scale hydroelectric scheme, geothermal development and agricultural plantations.”

Talking about collateral damage!

High hopes for the visually impaired

 

Like bats that use sound waves and echoes – a technique called echolocation – to capture prey and find food, a visually impaired person may soon find its way easily and safely by practically using the same technique as additional aid methods like the cane and walking dogs.

To echolocate, bats send out sound waves from their mouth or nose. When the sound waves hit an object they produce echoes. The echo bounces off the object and returns to the bat’s ears.

The active use of sonar (SOund Navigation And Ranging), which actually is the essence of echolocation, along with special morphological (physical features) and physiological adaptations – allows bats to “see” with sound.

Ars Technica, a website covering news and opinions in technology, science, politics and society, was quoted in an article in Newser, saying that a man who recently lost his vision has a new device, a wristband, which lets the visually impaired navigate via sonar, and could be “the Fitbit for the blind.”

He wristband, called Sunu Band, is a devise that emits a high-frequency sound wave that bounces off objects and back to the hand, where it is translated into vibration.

Fernando Albertorio, one of the co-creators of Sunu, said that one of his friends call the devise his “sixth sense.”

Albertorio, who is legally blind, has used the wristband to avoid objects while walking, find doorways, identity crosswalk buttons, and even run a 5K race. He says the “feeling of independence” is “amazing.”

The Sunu team hopes their invention changes how the visually impaired live. Albertorio says people who are blind can be afraid to go outside, but not only will Sunu help them move about safely it allows the visually impaired to “blend in and be part of their community,” unlike a traditional cane.

 

“Aliens” are coming

 

Bryant Johnson

This is definitely not fake news. This is authentic.

The only problem is that the news came from an overly boozed up man who was accused of public intoxication and detained later after he told police that he traveled from the year 2048 to warn mankind of an impending invasion by extraterrestrials.

After reeking of alcohol and speaking with slurred words about his out-of-this-world warning, Bryant Johnson, who is from Wyoming, was eventually transported peacefully to the Natrona County Detention Center.

Johnson informed the officers that he was able to travel through time because the aliens filled his body with alcohol. He also claimed he stood on a “giant pad” which then transported him to the year 2017 — though he said he was supposed to be sent to the year 2018.

According to the news, Johnson didn’t specify an exact date or time for the aliens’ arrival except to say that “the aliens were coming next year and we needed to make sure to leave as fast as possible.”

A joke? Maybe.

But the joke could be on us if and when all this turns out to be true!