birdienl: (Winter)
While the first modern Olympic Games were held in 1896, it wasn't until 1924 that the first edition of the Winter Olympics was held in Chamonix in France, at the foot of Mont Blanc. Winter sports had been a part of the 'normal' Olympic Games on and of before they got their own special event. Alternatively, there were the Nordic Games, held for the first time in 1901 and then every four years afterwards, but these were very much a Swedish affair.

Because of the difficulty of hosting winter sports at the 'normal' Olympics held during the summer, the IOC asked of the Olympic host country of 1924, France, to organize a separate 'Winter Sports week' in the same year. This proved to be a great success, as over 250 athletes from 16 different countries competed. Finland and Norway won 28 medals, more than all the other countries combined... The 9 sports practiced during this first Winter Olympics were ice hockey, speed skating, figure skating, curling, bobsleigh, ski jumping, cross-country skiing, Nordic combined and military patrol (a predecessor to the current biathlon).

The IOC did not yet call this 'Winter Sports week' the first Winter Olympics until retrospectively. In 1925, they decided to make the Winter Olympics separate from the Summer edition and designated Chamonix, 1924 as the first Winter Olympics.

Also: check out this really funny interview in which one of our Dutch speedskating coaches has a lively discussion about Olympic success on American TV! (I don't necessarily agree with everything he says, but I do like to see how passionately he defends The Netherlands and the Dutch sports system)

birdienl: (Winter)
You might have heard that at the Olympics this weekend, the Dutchies won no less than 4 speed skating medals (gold, silver AND bronze at the men's 5 km and gold at the women's 3 km). So some skating related information seemed like an apt topic for this meme.

Archeological evidence has proven that people already tried to cross frozen surfaces by skating in the prehistoric era. In many areas of Europe sharpened bones were found, thought to be from around 3000 BC. These bones, often from horses or deer, were punctured and strapped to the feet with tendons or leather strips. In this way, people could glide across the ice, although they also often used a stick to move themselves forward. These types of skates were used until as late as the 1700s.

'Real' skates with iron blades were probably made for the first time around 1200 in what is now The Netherlands or Belgium. The oldest pair ever found dates from 1225, from the Dutch city of Dordrecht, but drawings of people skating point to an earlier invention of skates with a steel blade.

birdienl: (Extensive reading)
What is the oldest language in the world? This is difficult question to answer, as languages change and evolve all the time, to the extent that any currently spoken language is unintelligible to it's ancestor of just a 1000 years ago!

Most scientists agree that spoken language has been present since around 100,000 years ago. In the 19th and early 20th century it was a popular belief among scientists that by comparing modern languages the first human language could be reconstructed, the so-called Proto-Human. A few words/roots that where reconstructed in this way are 'ku' (who), 'pal' (two) and 'akwa' (water). However, there are also many critics of this method of tracing language to its roots.

The oldest written language is Sumerian (the language of Mesopotamia), which has records dating back to 3000 BC. Second comes Egyptian, with records of some 4500 years old (2500 BC). Ancient Egyptian actually partially survived in the Coptic language, which is used in the Christian services of the Coptic church. If the language has to have survived (in some form) until today, then Chinese and Greek are the oldest written languages, both first appearing around 1500 BC.

If a language has no old written records, it does not necessarily mean it's a 'new' language. For example, Albanian was first written in the 15th century AC, while archeological evidence suggests the Albanians were a separate people in the first century and probably spoke a language related to modern Albanian.

birdienl: (History castle)

The Great Exhibition (or, more officially Great Exhibition of the works of industry of all nations) was the first worldwide exhibition. It was held in 1851 in London, in the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, an enormous cast iron and plate glass building. The Exhibition was organized by a committee led by Prince Albert and it's goal was to celebrate modern technology and design. Although countries from around the world had displays at the Exhibition, it was clear Great Britain sought to showcase its own superiority in all things.

Six million people, equivalent to a third of the of the population of Britain at the time, visited the Exhibition in the 5,5 months it was open. Among them were many famous people of the day: the French royal family, Charles Darwin and authors like Charles Dickens and George Eliot. Admission prices varied according to the day of the visit, the lowest priced tickets were just one shilling and were very popular among the industrial classes. The profits of the Exhibition funded the foundation of the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Natural History Museum and the Science Museum, all three still popular museums in London today!

There were 13000 exhibits at the Exhibition in total, many of them focusing on (at the time) modern technology, such as a reaping machine, electric telegraphs and microscopes. Visitors could watch the complete process of cotton production at work, from spinning to finished cloth. Non-scientific exhibits were among others the Koh-i-Noor diamond and an 8th century Irish broach. The Great Exhibition also had the honour of being the first event with public toilets! For one penny people could make use of the Retiring Rooms and they even got a comb and shoe shine!

The Great Exhibition sparked a tradition of similar world fairs. Other famous world fairs are the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris (for which the Eiffel Tower was build) and the 1893 Chicago Columbian Exposition. World fairs, now called Expo, are still being held approximately every three years around the world. The last of these was in 2012 in Yeosu in Korea, the next Expo will be held in 2015 in Milan, Italy. 
birdienl: (Horses)
We probably all wondered once what an animal was thinking and wished it could speak, so we could ask it just that. Animal cognition is a fascinating field of study, which shows us time after time animals might be less thoughtless than we anticipated!

The animals which have shown the longest memory in a research setting have so far been dolphins. Research showed that after 20 years of seperation, dolphins still recalled the whistles of former companions. Dolphins use unique whistles, akin to our names to communicate. Dolphins which had been housed together 20 years ago, still reacted when the whistle of their former mate was played to them. They approached the source of sound and started responding with their own whistle. When whistles were played from dolphins they had never met, this reaction was not seen. The scientists were amazed about this, as dolphins only have a lifespan of about 20 years in the wild. They believe the long memory is important because dolphins form 'fluid' social groups, they may leave one group and join another multiple times in a lifetime. It is therefore important for them to remember identities of dolphins they encountered long ago to decide whether or not this may be someone they want to approach or avoid upon meeting them again.
Other animals with almost equally longterm memories are great apes and elephants.

In some memory tasks, animals might even top our human memory. For example, the visual memory of chimpanzees is amazingly strong. When presented with an image of randomly scattered numbers and later asked to identify the position of each number in order, chimpanzees did better than human test subjects. Chimps seem to posses a sort of photographic memory, remembering the details of an image even if just glimpsed for a view seconds!

Why this subject? )
birdienl: (Horses)
Oh dear, I just saw that it was over a month since I did my last '100 things' post :-0 High time for some new interesting facts!

The balsa tree (Ochroma pyramidale) is a large, fast-growing tree native to the rainforests of Middle and Southern America. The trees, which can grow up to 10 meters high in only 3-4 years, are harvested for their soft and light wood.

The tree produces large flowers, which only open for a single night. The flowers can produce up to 50 ml of nectar each and this makes them very attractive to all kind of animals. Especially because the tree flowers at the end of the rainy season, when there is little other food about. Animals which feed on the nectar are as diverse as moths, bats, hummingbirds, opossums and monkeys! Some other animals do not feed on the nectar themselves, but do gather on flowering balsa trees to catch prey which comes to drink, such as snakes and predatory insects. In this respect, ecologists sometimes compare the flowering balsa tree to an African watering hole on the savanna, because of the amount of animals it attracts and supports.

Ofcourse plants do not produce nectar just to support animals, in return they 'expect' the animals to pollinate them, in other words, help with their reproduction. The main pollinators of the balsa tree are thought to be mammals: bats, monkeys, woolly opossums and the kinkajou and olingo (nocturnal animals related to raccoons)

A kinkajou with lots of balsa pollen on its cheek next to an open balsa flower.
birdienl: (Academia)

Some of you might have heard in the news that this week the very first hamburger made of cultured meat was presented to the world press in London. My professor is involved as an advisor in this development, so I've been hearing quite a lot about it.

Since the 1990's the possibility of making cultured meat has been discussed as a possible efficient and animal-friendly solution to the world food problem: the large amount of energy needed to produce meat and the limited resources we have. From around 2000 scientist have been able to grow stem cells from animals in vitro. Stem cells are a special type of cells found in most tissues which can divide to form more cells. Depending on how specialized they are, they can form only one or multiple types of cells. For the production of cultured meat, muscle stem cells are taken from a small piece of muscle. They are then promoted to divide and grow by certain proteins.

Cultured meat can be produced in small muscle fibers, for which only muscle stem cells are needed. Alternatively, real 'chunks' of muscle could be produced, but for this an artificial circulatory system is necessary and also other types of cells, such as fat cells.

The first cultured hamburger, which was presented at August 5, 2013 was made of 20.000 small strips of beef muscle. The funding for this specific project came from an anonymous donor, which was revealed at the presentation to be Sergey Brin, one of the co-founders of Google. The head scientist of the project, the Dutch professor Mark Post said it would probably still be a decade before cultured meat can become available commercially. Challenges are among others to increase the efficiency and speed of the process, to make sure the cultured meat is completely safe and to improve the taste of the product to resemble real meat as close as possible.

If you want to know more, check

Personal note: Though as a scientist, I find this development quite fascinating, I don't think this is thé solution to the world food problem. If everyone in the Western world would eat less meat (3-4 times a week), this would reduce problems surrounding meat consumption for a large part. I'm in favour of encouraging people to take this route.
birdienl: (Tea answer)

Yep, it's still quite hot here in The Netherlands (and I believe also in quite a lot of other countries?), so another summer-themed post for the 100 things blogging challenge, this time about ice cream!

Ice cream of sorts was already consumed by 600 BC by people of the Persian Empire. They poored grape-juice over snow and ate this as a treat, using snow stored in underground chambers or taken from high up in the mountains. In 400 BC a special frozen recipe was first described; faloodeh, rose water, mixed with saffron and fruits and, interestingly enough, vermicelli! This recipe is still sold in ice-cream shops in the Arab world. The Romans, especially Emperor Nero, also liked ice cream, he had it brought in from the mountains and ate it with fruit toppings.

The Arabs were probably the first who used milk and cream as ingredients for ice cream. As early as the 10th century, ice cream was sold widely in many of the Arab world's large cities. What devices they used for making the ice is unclear, this was however discovered for early Chinese civilizations. The Chinese poured a mixture of snow and salt over pots filled with the ice cream mixture. Salt lowers the freezing point of water to below zero.

How ice cream exactly came from the Eastern to the Western world is unknown. There is a legend Marco Polo discovered ice cream when he visited China and took the technique back to his native Italy in the 14th century. At the The Medici court ice cream makers were probably employed and there is a story of Charles I of England promising an ice cream maker a lifetime pension if he kept his recipe a secret. Again, there is no real proof for this stories.

The first ice cream recipes began to appear in French in the late 17th century and in English in the early 18th century. Ice cream was introduced to America by the Quakers, who brought their recipes with them. The chilled treat was sold in confectionery shops in New York already during the colonial era. In the UK, ice remained an expensive and rare treat until the mid-Victorian era. The first ice cream stall was opened in 1851 by an Italian businessman. They sold scoops of ice cream in shells for one penny.

The development of the industrial refrigerator in the 1870s and the commercial freezer in 1926 made mass production of ice cream possible.
birdienl: (Academia)
Again, sorry for my lack of posting here recently... It's been really warm here in The Netherlands and my motivation and productivity has dropped to 0. I therefore thought a nice topic for this '100 things post' might be, the way animals cope with the heat!

Most animals are clever and simply avoid being in the heat. They are active during the night or during the cool hours of the day only. For the rest of the time they retire to a cool place in a cave or burrow or bury themselves beneath the sand. The Round-tailed Ground Squirrel hibernates both during the winter and during the hottest part of the summer, simply sleeping away the heat!

Animals who do 'decide' to be active during the day, have many anatomical and physiological adaptations to keep cool. Some lizards have longer legs, so their body is higher above the ground while running and they will absorb less heat. Owls and some other predatory birds gape with their mouths open and quickly flutter their throat cavity to lose heat by evaporation of water. Desert foxes and rabbits have much larger ears than their relatives in cooler areas. These ears, with their many blood vessels release their body heat.

A little more extreme is urohydrosis, the trick vultures and storks use to keep cool. They urinate on their legs, which cool by evaporation and the cooled blood will be recycled through the rest of the body...

There's one other thing you can do as an animal living in the heat: just tolerate it. The Antilope Squirrel's body temperature can rise up to over 40 C/104 F without damaging it's organs.

Maybe if I had such ears I could also enjoy sitting outside in this weather, instead of hiding myself in front of the ventilator inside...
birdienl: (Academia)
Nature can be cruel. Many animals either eat other animals or are on the menu themselves. There are instances of feeding however, where it doesn't all end in blood-shedding and death!

Multiple species of moths, butterflies and bees feed on tears of larger animals. The tear fluid, produced to clean the eye and keep it moist, is full of salts and proteins. These substances are valuable sources of nutrition for the insects, especially in areas far away from other sources of salt (sea water). Though the tear-feeding does not harm the larger animals, species are often targeted on the basis of them being unable to brush the insects away. Therefore most targeted species are large, placid animals, such as turtles or antilopes.

In Madagascar a species of moth was recently discovered to drink from the eyes of sleeping birds. Madagascar, with it's unique fauna, does not have any large mammals (the largest are half-apes, which could easily brush off the insects with their arms). Therefore, the moths have adapted to feed on this unique host!

birdienl: (History castle)
Kaiser Wilhelm II was the last emperor of Germany. He was also only the third of that rare species, as the German empire had not been established until 1871. He was crowned emperor in 1888 and used his power to try and make Germany as great and important as Great-Britain (Wilhelm was the grandson of Queen Victoria and looked up towards the British Empire enormously). Because of his militaristic style of government, after WWI, the defeated Germans blamed Wilhelm for the war. He was forced to abdicate and asked for asylum in The Netherlands. This country had been neutral during WWI and queen Wilhelmina was a distant relative of Wilhelm.

Wilhelm was granted asylum and in 1920 was able to buy the small manor house Huis Doorn in the middle of The Netherlands. He was allowed access to his possessions in Germany and decorated Huis Doorn with 59 train-wagons full of furniture and art objects from his palaces in Berlin and Potsdam. This was a great deal too much for Huis Doorn and most of the things were put into storage.

Wilhelm lived in Doorn first with his wife Empress Augusta-Victoria and after her death in 1921 with his second wife princess Hermine and her children from her first marriage. Wilhelm was only allowed to go 15 km beyond the boundaries of his estate. If he wanted to go further away, he had to ask permission from the Dutch government. The reason for this was that, as a political refugee, the government had in fact promised to protect him. Wilhelm hardly ever went from the terrain of Huis Doorn, where he spent the largest part of his time with chopping wood and writing his memoirs.

Wilhelm died in 1941, at which time The Netherlands was occupied by Hitler's Germany. He was buried in a small mausoleum in the garden of Huis Doorn. He did not want to be buried in German soil until the monarchy was re-established. His wish was also that no swastika's were shown at his funeral (he was opposed to the Nazi rule of Germany), but as the occupying German forces controlled his funeral, it still became a show of Nazi pride.

After WWII, the Dutch government confiscated Huis Doorn (as they did with all the properties of Germans) and the house has been a museum ever since. In June every year, a small but devoted band of German monarchists comes to pay their respect and lay wreaths at the mausoleum of Wilhelm.

If you want to see how the house looks, I went there last week and you can check my post at [ profile] all_castles here

birdienl: (LBD Jane and Lizzie)
Well, the poll I posted in my previous '100 things challenge' post, asking you what topic you'd like for this 50th post, was answered most often with Literature/Adaptation. So I hope you enjoy today's information!

Which author is the most adapted? That question is not as easy as it seems. How many books has an author written for example. How does an author of only one novel which has been adapted multiple times compare to an author of dozens of books of which 5 have been adapted? For this list, the number of movies listed behind an authors name on was counted. This includes both large and small screen adaptations and in some cases even games!

Shakespeare tops the list with over 800 adaptations! Second is surprisingly the Russian 19th century novelist Anton Chekhov with just over 350 listings. Charles Dickens comes in a the third place, about 330 movies and tv series were made of his work. Over 20 of these adaptations were inspired by A Christmas Carol. Alexandre Dumas and Edgar Allan Poe close the top 5 of most adapted authors. Other well-known names found in the top-25 are Oscar Wilde, Leo Tolstoy and Stephen King. Only one woman can be found in the top-25, Agatha Christie with 126 listings. Our dear Jane Austen has 'only' 54 adaptations and therefore does not feature in this elusive list.... (Tssk, I just saw that The Lizzie Bennet Diaries are not listed on IMDB, so Jane should have at least one more!)

birdienl: (Default)
This year, 2013, in the region where I live, we celebrate that 300 years ago, the Treaty of Utrecht was signed. Now, I must admit to my shame (as I almost live in Utrecht), that I hardly knew anything about this Treaty, leading to the Peace of Utrecht in 1713. I think not many of you know about this episode of history either, so I thought this to be an interesting subject for my 49th '100 things challenge'-post.

The Treaty ended the War of Spanish Succession, which had raged all over Europe between from 1701 onwards. It started with the death of Charles II, King of Spain. Charles II did not have an heir and the Kingdom of Spain (with dominions in Italy, Asia and the Americas) was a force to be reckoned with. Multiple candidates to inherit the throne of Spain stood up. First and foremost of this was the heir apparent to the French throne: dauphin Louis. Another candidate was Leopold I, Holy Roman Emperor of the Habsburg empire. Both these men were cousins in the first degree to Charles II, but for both candidates a similar problem to their inheriting the Spanish crown arose: it would combine two large empires under one crown (either France-Spain or Austria-Spain) and offset the precarious balance of power in Europe.

Forces supporting either candidate fought all over Europe. Great Britain and the Dutch Republic sided with the Holy Roman Empire, while Bavaria fought with the French. Battles were won and lost by both sides of the argument, with none gaining the upper hand. In 1712, the new Conservative British parliament, seeing that a quick victory was unlikely, started negotiations.

Why Utrecht was chosen to be the place of this negotiations is not entirely sure. Perhaps because the Dutch Republic wás a part of the conflict, but not a very powerful player, so negotiating here would not humiliate or exalt any of the parties. Previous treaties had been signed in Dutch cities, such as the Treaty of Nijmegen (1678) and Treaty of Rijswijk (1697). Interestingly, the 1,5 years of the negotiations were a golden time for the city of Utrecht. A great number of parties, dinners and cultural performances took place to keep all the international guests satisfied. Economic growth and employment soared. The Calvinistic city of Utrecht had a ban on theater, but for the duration of the negotiations, this was lifted!

The most important provisions in the Treaty of Utrecht were that Philip (grandson to the King of France, son to dauphin Louis) would become King of Spain, but had to renounce his rights to the throne of France. There were also territorial changes to Spain's empire, the Spanish Netherlands and Kingdoms of Naples and Sardinia were given to the Holy Roman Empire, Gibraltar and Minorca to Great Britain.

Georg Friedrich Händel wrote a festive piece of music to commemorate this Treaty: the Utrecht Te Deum

Now I'm just happy that the inheritance of 'our' Dutch throne is a lot simpler and we have an interesting and festive day tomorrow with the inauguration of King Willem-Alexander!

As you can see, I'm nearing the midway-point of the 100 things challenge! To make the 50th post a little more special, I'll let you choose the subject! Be as broad or as specific as you like in the comments!

[Poll #1911239]
birdienl: (Academia)
The days are getting longer (at least in the Northern hemisphere) and isn't it lovely that when you come back from work it's still light outside? The phenomenon of Daylight Saving Time is only a little less than 100 years old, but ancient civilizations already adjusted their days according to the day length. In ancient Rome the hours of the day were counted from the moment of sunrise and so differed in actual time during the year. But the Romans also changed the length of their 'hours' during the year. A day (sunrise to sunset) was divided into twelve 'hours', which lasted 44 minutes at the winter solstice, but 75 minutes at the summer solstice!

Though not actually proposing Daylight Saving Time, Benjamin Franklin once published a letter suggesting people could economize on candles by rising earlier in summer. He also proposed measures such as taxes on window shutters and waking the public by firing cannons at sunrise....

British MP Robert Pearce introduced a Daylight Saving Bill before the House of Commons in 1908. A committee was set up to examine the matter, but in the end, the bill did not pass the House, nor did similar bills in the next few years. Interestingly, it was the Germans and their allies in WWI who first used the Daylight Saving Time in 1916, as a way to preserve precious coal during wartime. Britain and the rest of Europe soon followed suit and the USA adopted the measure in 1918.

After WWI the practice of Daylight Saving Time was dropped again in many places. It was brought back for different periods of time in different countries and adopted widely during WWII. It was however not until the 1970s that the practice became as standard as we now know it to be, mostly stimulated by the energy crises of that time period.

birdienl: (Academia)
Yes, I know I've been AWOL the last two weeks... I have been very busy at work and in the evenings I only wanted to crash on the couch and watch some tv. But I hope in the coming time I'll have some more time to post here. Beginning with a 100 things challenge  post, about the subject which has been most on my mind in the last few weeks: chickens!

The current domestic chicken was domesticated from the Red Junglefowl, a tropical bird of the pheasant family and still scientifically belongs to the same species (Gallus gallus). The Red Jungle fowl itself can still be found in the wild in Eastern Asia. Three other closely related junglefowl species have most likely also contributed to our modern domestic chicken.

The exact date and place of the domestication of the chicken remains a puzzle, but it is believed to have occurred about 8000 years ago somewhere in Asia. Genetic studies point to multiple domestication events. The earliest archaeological evidence of domesticated chickens is found in China in the 6th millennium BC in a relatively widespread area. On Mesopotamian clay tablets of 2000 BC, mentions of chickens are found. In Egypt around this time, depictions of the birds adorned royal tombs. The ancient Egyptians also first mastered the art of artificial incubation of chicken eggs, freeing hens to lay more eggs.

Interestingly, it is believed chickens were first domesticated for the purpose of cockfighting in stead of eating! Until the large-scale meat and egg production of the 20th century, chickens have always been of use to humans, but have not, like the ox and the horse, significantly influenced human history.

 photo egypt_food_zps3feaf650.jpg
Chickens and chicken eggs among other food on an ancient Egyptian mural
birdienl: (Tea answer)
Tea. It's such an obvious part of our lives. We drink it, we enjoy trying out new flavours, we make icons about it... But the history of tea, at least in the Western world, is relatively recent. It wasn't until the mid 17th century that tea made it's way to Europe and it did not become really popular until around 1750.

Tea finds it's origins in southeast Asia. The oldest records of drinking tea come from China with records dating back to the 10th century BC. There's even a Chinese legend recounting the discovery of tea. In this legend, Shennong, the legendary Emperor of China is drinking a bowl of boiled water, when the wind blows a few leaves into it. Shennong is pleased with the taste and restorative properties of the new drink. The earliest use of tea in China was probably as a medicine, but it slowly became a staple drink for daily use. The first known book with instructions on preparing tea was written in 59 BC.

The first mention of tea in Western sources comes from the work of Marco Polo, who mentions tea taxes when he describes his travels through China. It is known tea was consumed by for example Portugese missionaries and merchants in their Asian settlements, but they probably did not bring it back with them to Europe. This did not happen until the early 17th century, when a ship from the Dutch East Asia company brought tea to Amsterdam. The drink enjoyed a brief period of popularity in the mid 17th century, mainly in France.

The import of tea into Britain, nowadays the quintessential home of tea culture, started around the 1660s, when king Charles II married the Portugese princess Catharina of Braganze, who brought with her the habit of drinking tea. From the court is spread as a popular drink to the upper classes of British society. But it became popular among the 'masses' by a strange turn of events. Merchantships would deliver fabric from Britain to East Asia, but the ships would return only half-full. Thinking tea would be a good return cargo, the East India Company started a campaign to popularize the drinking of tea and thus make the trade in it viable.

Between 1690 and 1750 tea importation escalated and by the mid 18th century tea had the popularity in Britain which it has today!

birdienl: (Default)
In the olden days, scientists looking for new species and habitats would simply trek into it. Nowadays, the Internet is an unmissable help even in these areas of science. In 2005, scientists using Google Earth to look for unknown wildlife hotspots 'discovered' Mount Mabu in Mozambique, the largest area of pristine medium-altitude rainforest in Africa. The rainforest is now frequently referred to as the 'Google rainforest'.

The Mount Mabu rainforest is so unspoiled, ironically, because it is surrounded by an area devastated by the Mozambique Civil War (1977-1992). Since 2009, the forest is a protected area under regulation by the Mozambique government.

Many new species have already been discovered in the rainforest, among which are a pygmy chameleon and multiple snake and butterfly species. In addition, the forest seems to be a refuge for many species on the Globally Threatened List, new population of at least seven threatened bird species have already been found.

birdienl: (Academia)
You'd think that in the 21st century, scientist know of every living creature in every corner of the earth. But no, new species of plants and animals are still discovered regularly.

In 1992, a group of researchers from the WWF found skulls of an unknown bovid in hunter's huts in a nature reserve in Vietnam. The villagers called the animal saola, which translated means 'spindle-horned'. The researchers proposed a survey to observe the living animal, but 20 years later, there is still no report of a sighting in the wild of a saola by a scientist, though it had been captured on camera-trap footage. In 2010, a saola was captured by villagers, but it died before it could be released back into the wild. In the last few years, some more saola have been captured, but none of them survived for long, making scientists believe these animals cannot sustain captivity.

The very limited information known about the saola (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis) tells us that they live in mountain forests of Vietnam and Laos. The animals are shy and never enter cultivated fields or come close to villages. They are reported to eat small leafy plants and live in couples or groups of three. Though it it unknown how many saola are living in the wild,
they might be the rarest bovid species and one of the world's rarest mammal species.

I think it is nice to hear nature still has secrets for us, even in 2013!

Here are my answers to the 'Top 5'-meme I posted last week:

[ profile] ever_maedhros asked for my Top 5 classical music pieces:
Click to read )

[ profile] msantimacassar asked for my Top 5 period drama couples and also had the nerve to ask for my Top 5 books (tssk..)!
Click to read )

And [ profile] caffeinatedlife asked for my Top 5 classics I would like to see (re)adapted
Click to read )
birdienl: (LBD Lizzie/Darcy)
In the last 100 things post I posted about the beginning of the Dutch monarchy, a relative short while ago. Only three generations later, it seemed for a while the line of Dutch monarchs would end. King William III had married his cousin Sophie van Württemberg in 1839. Though the marriage was a very bad one (mainly due to the many mistresses William kept), three sons were born. Tragically, they all died young. The oldest, also called William, had settled in Paris due to a conflict with his father about his choice of bride. Here, he died at 38, a destitute alcoholic. Maurits, the second son, died from meningitis at the age of only 6. The couple's third son, Alexander, had always been a problem child. Though highly intelligent and involved in scientific pursuits, he had been sickly from a young age. He died of typhus in 1884.

At that time, William III's first wife had also passed away and William had married for a second time, to the 40-year younger German princess Emma van Waldeck-Pyrmont. Emma gave birth to a daughter called Wilhelmina in 1880. After Alexander died 4 years later, the young child was suddenly the only hope of a continuing line of monarchs. 

King William himself died in 1888, making his only 8-year old daughter in fact Queen. Her mother Emma had however been appointed as Regent and ruled in her daughter's name until Wilhelmina was 18. 

Wilhelmina was the first of three subsequent Queens of The Netherlands and coming April we will have a King again for the first time in over a 100 years!

I stole this meme fro [ profile] caffeinatedlife:

'Ask me my Top Five Whatevers. Fannish or literary or otherwise. Any top fives. Doesn't matter what, really! Fandoms, ice cream flavours, cartoon moments, women/men in my fandoms, OTPs, ideal holiday destinations, goals for the future, celebrity crushes, books I wish would be made into movies, love songs... And I will answer them all in comments and in a seperate entry!'
birdienl: (Default)
As you might have heard, last week, our current queen, Queen Beatrix, has announced she will abdicate the throne after 33 years and her son Willem-Alexander will become our King. So, I thought to devote the next two 100 things posts to the Dutch monarchy! Hope you all think them interesting!

The Netherlands has been a monarchy for a relatively short time, compared to other European countries. The country became a kingdom in 1813, as part of the rearrangements of Europe after the Congress of Vienna (a conference of state leaders to discuss the many issues arising from the Napoleontic Wars). The kingdom of The Netherlands was then larger than we know it now and also included the current countries of Belgium and Luxemburg. 

The first Dutch monarch, William I, had lived 18 years in exile in England because of the invasion of the French Revolutionary Army in The Netherlands. After Napoleon's defeat, William returned to The Netherlands, and was gladly welcomed by the Dutch provisional government, who offered him the title of King. Now, even before that, William was not just somebody. He was the son of the last Dutch 'stadtholder', a hereditary office of high influence in the pre-French state of The Netherlands. William also already was a Prince, as his family, the House of Orange-Nassau, owned a principality in France. 


Also, the new issue of Femnista is out! The theme this time is 'Memorable love stories' and you can read the issue online here. You can read articles about for example Lancelot and Guinevere, Luke and Leia or my article about Bathseba Everdene and Gabriel Oak from Thomas Hardy's novel Far from the Madding Crowd!

February 2017

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