Sunday, February 17, 2013

Alien improbabilities..

The reason why an alien civilization has not reached the Earth (officially, that is) is actually quite simple (apart from the fact that we may really be the only planet with life as we know it):  The Earth is a tiny, tiny part of the entire Universe and happening upon it, even by accident, requires enormous luck and fortune.

Check out this video made by the American Museum of Natural History and you will truly appreciate how insignificant our place in the cosmos really is.  Carl Sagan would have simply smiled upon seeing this:

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Travel: Day 5 - Australia - The Great Barrier Reef

One of the advantages of teaching at a small liberal arts institution is the freedom to design and offer courses that are close to one's heart. 

In January 2011, I taught Tropical Ecology  and, for one of the class activities, I took a group of students on a 10 day trip to Puerto Rico. (Click here to read about the trip to Puerto Rico). 

This January (2013), I am teaching Ecology of Australia and, naturally, it entails a field trip to Australia! What follows is a travelogue of our adventures together, the sights we have seen, the things we are doing, and the lessons we are learning while exploring a land far removed from home.

(You can the previous posts in this thread here).

On Day 5 of the trip, having acclimated well to the rhythms of the Land Down Under, we undertook a (mini)voyage to one of the seven natural wonders of the world - The Great Barrier Reef!

The world's biggest naturally-made structure, the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) can be easily seen from outer space.

(AFP/Getty Images)
This giant structure is the product of years and years of build-up of the skeletal shells of tiny organisms known as coral polyps.  It gives rise to an amazing ecosystem, rich in nutrients and exposed to abundant sunlight and, consequently, a tremendous variety of plant and animal life.  The biodiversity of the area is incredible and even more amazing than one can imagine.

The GBR is located in the Coral Sea and lies parallel to the north-east coast of Australia in the state of Queensland, extending more than 2600 km (over 1600 miles) and covering an area about 344,400 square km (133,000 sq miles) .

Travel to the GBR is very carefully monitored by Australian authorities and most tour operators are restricted to visiting specifically chosen reefs or islands in order to reduce the potential impact of millions of human beings thrashing their way through the area.

A short, quick trip along the Boardwalk from the hostel took us to the Cairns Marina, where the tour operator's boat was docked.

(Kinsley Shoup 2013)
After signing our lives away (or so it seemed) and listening to a serious lecture on safety features and measures, we set sail, so to speak, on a boat to the Reef.  Soon, we left Cairns behind...

(Note: In order to conserve space on the blog and make it easier to scroll through, I am condensing how much of  the post is displayed.  To read the rest of it, simply click on the "Click here for the rest of my jaywalk" link below).