WHAT IS ACID RAIN?





However, acid rain is certainly not a new phenomenon brought on by modern industrialization as all rainfall has a certain amount of natural acidity. It is just that pollutants released from industrialization increases this acidity a thousand fold! And don't think it's just rain you need to worry about as acidity can also be present - and be just as damaging - in snow hail, cloud, fog, mist and even air borne dust!

What causes acid rain? 

Approximately 300 million years ago, huge areas of the Earth were forested. Over time, tress came to the end of their natural life and died. Where they fell, they were gradually transformed into seams of fossil fuels such as coal and oil.

 Today we mine and burn fossil fuels in enormous quantities to generate electricity, heat our homes and power our factories. Unfortunately, burning fossil fuels releases releases huge amounts of pollutants - notably sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and hydrocarbons - into the atmosphere.

Once they are in the atmosphere, sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and the hydrocarbons react with sunlight to produce a selection of secondary pollutants such as ozone.

These secondary pollutants react with the sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxide to form sulphuric-acid and nitric acid in the tiny droplets of water that go to make up our clouds. In this form the acids are carried on the wind to fall as 'acid rain' , often great distances away. Today, in spite of growing environmental awareness all around the world - and so is the damage caused by acid rain., large scale industrialization is still increasing.

The damage caused by acid rain

Over 1,000,000 square kilometres of Europe's forests have suffered the effects of acid rain, with conifers being damaged the most. The sulphur dioxide from burning fossil fuels may damage and kill many trees, but this is compounded as acid rain reacts with vital plant nutrients, preventing their uptake through root systems.

Even slight damage to a mature tree caused by pollution can be enough to kill it because it reduces the trees frost hardiness and its resistance to fungal and pest attack.

American studies have indicated that even where forests are showing none of the easily visible external signs of acid rain damage, pollution is nevertheless limiting their growth.

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Based on an article by http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rainforest
Photo care of http://article.wn.com/view/2009/02/13/Government_to_tap_Brazils_agriculture_expertise/  and
Images care of http://aml0839.edu.glogster.com/environmental-effects/ and http://conservationreport.com/2010/06/21/acid-rain-is-increasing/

WHO WAS JULIUS CAESAR?




Gaius Julius Caesar July 100 BC – 15 March 44 BC was a Roman general and statesman and a distinguished writer of Latin prose. He played a critical role in the gradual transformation of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire. He also greatly extended the Roman empire before seizing power and making himself dictator of Rome, paving the way for the imperial system.

Julius Caesar was born in Rome on 12 or 13 July 100 BC into the prestigious Julian clan. His family were closely connected with the Marian faction in Roman politics. Caesar himself progressed within the Roman political system, becoming in succession quaestor (69 BC), aedile (65 BC) and praetor (62 BC). In 61-60 BC he served as governor of the Roman province of Spain.

Back in Rome in 60 BC, Caesar made a pact with Pompey and Crassus, who helped him to get elected as consul for 59 BC. The following year he was appointed governor of Roman Gaul where he stayed for eight years, adding the whole of modern France and Belgium to the Roman empire, and making Rome safe from the possibility of Gallic invasions. He made two expeditions to Britain, in 55 BC and 54 BC.

Julius Caesar, in his famous account of the Gallic Wars of the 50s BC, provided readers at home with a blood-curdling description of the Germanic tribes he encountered in battle:

'...The various tribes regard it as their greatest glory to lay waste as much as possible of the land around them and to keep it uninhabited. They hold it a proof of a people's valour to drive their neighbours from their homes, so that no-one dare settle near them. No discredit attaches to plundering raids outside tribal frontiers. The Germans say that they serve to keep young men in training and prevent them from getting lazy...'

Caesar then returned to Italy, disregarding the authority of the senate and famously crossing the Rubicon river without disbanding his army. In the ensuing civil war Caesar defeated the republican forces. Pompey fled to the Egyptian capital Alexandria, where he was murdered on the orders of Ptolemy. Caesar followed and he and Cleopatra became lovers. Cleopatra, who had been exiled by her brother, was reinstalled as queen with Roman military support. Ptolemy was killed in the fighting and another brother was created Ptolemy XIII. In 47 BC, Cleopatra bore Caesar a child - Caesarion - though Caesar never publicly acknowledged him as his son. Cleopatra followed Caesar back to Rome where he made himself consul and dictator and therefore master of Rome.

He used his power to carry out much-needed reform, relieving debt, enlarging the senate, building the Forum Iulium and revising the calendar. Dictatorship was always regarded a temporary position but in 44 BC, Caesar took it for life. His success and ambition alienated strongly republican senators. A group of these, led by Cassius and Brutus, assassinated Caesar on the Ides of March 44 BC. This sparked the final round of civil wars that ended the Republic and brought about the elevation of Caesar's great nephew and designated heir, Octavian, as Augustus, the first emperor.

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Based on an article from http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/caesar_julius.shtml
Images care of http://juliuscaesarsjohnson1.blogspot.co.uk/ and http://www.cosmiq.de/qa/show/450507/warum-waren-caesars-letzte-worte-auch-du-brutus-der-legende-nach-in-griechisch-und-nicht-latein/ and http://thedorkfishexpress.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/all-roads-lead-to-chicago.html

GIRAFFE FACTS




The giraffe is one of the iconic and spectacular land mammals of the African plains, but how much do we know about them? To find out more, try digesting my overly-long list of giraffe facts:

1. The giraffe is the tallest living terrestrial animal and the worlds largest ruminant. Fully grown giraffes stand 5–6 m (16–20 ft) tall, with males taller than females. The average weight is 1,600 kg (3,500 lb) for an adult male and 830 kg (1,800 lb) for an adult female

2. The giraffes specific name - Giraffa camelopardalis refers to its camel-like face and the patches of color on its fur, which bear a vague resemblance to a leopard's spots.

3. The giraffe is noted for its extremely long neck and legs, as well as its horn-like ossicones.

4. The giraffes closest living relative is the okapi.

5. There are nine subspecies of giraffe which are distinguished by their coat patterns.

6. The giraffe's scattered range extends from Chad in the north to South Africa in the south, and from Niger in the west to Somalia in the east. Giraffes usually inhabit savannas, grasslands, and open woodlands.

7. The primary food source for giraffes are acacia leaves, which they can browse at heights that most other herbivores cannot reach.

8. Giraffes are preyed on by lions, and calves are also targeted by leopards, spotted hyenas and wild dogs.

9. Adult giraffes do not have strong social bonds, though they do gather in loose aggregations if they happen to be moving in the same general direction.

10. Males establish social hierarchies through "necking", which are combat bouts where the neck is used as a weapon. Dominant males gain mating access to females, who bear the sole responsibility for raising the young.

11. The gifaffe family was once much more extensive, with over 10 fossil genera described. Giraffids first arose 8 million years ago (mya) in south-central Europe during the Miocene epoch.

12. The giraffe was one of the many species first described by Carl Linnaeus in 1758. He gave it the binomial name Cervus camelopardalis. Morten Thrane Brünnich classified the genus Giraffa in 1772.

13. Giraffe subspecies are distinguished by their coat patterns.

14. Despite its long neck and legs, the giraffe's body is relatively short. Located at both sides of the head, the giraffe's large, bulging eyes give it good all-round vision from its great height.

15. Giraffes see in colour and their senses of hearing and smell are also sharp.

16. Giraffes can close its muscular nostrils to protect against sandstorms and ants.

17. The giraffe's prehensile tongue is about 50 cm (20 in) long. It is purplish-black in colour, perhaps to protect against sunburn, and is useful for grasping foliage as well as for grooming and cleaning the animal's nose.

18. The upper lip of the giraffe is also prehensile and useful when foraging. The lips, tongue and inside of the mouth are covered in papillae to protect against thorns.

19. The coat has dark blotches or patches (which can be orange, chestnut, brown or nearly black on colour) separated by light hair (usually white or cream in colour). Each individual giraffe has a unique coat pattern. The coat pattern serves as camouflage, allowing it to blend in the light and shade patterns of savannah woodlands. The skin underneath the dark areas may serve as windows for thermoregulation, being sites for complex blood vessel systems and large sweat glands.

20. The skin of a giraffe is mostly gray. It is also thick and allows them to run through thorn bush without being punctured. Their fur may serve as a chemical defence, as it is full of parasite repellents that give the animal a characteristic scent. There are at least eleven main aromatic chemicals in the fur, although indole and 3-methylindole are responsible for most of the smell. Because the males have a stronger odour than the females, it is suspected that it also has a sexual function.

21. Along the animal's neck is a mane made of short, erect hairs.

22. The giraffes 1 m (3.3 ft) tail ends in a long, dark tuft of hair and is used as a defense against insects.

23. A giraffe's skull is lightened by multiple sinuses. However, as male giraffes age, their skulls become heavier and more club-like, helping them become more dominant in combat.

24. The front legs of a giraffe are slightly longer than its hind legs.

25. A giraffe has only two gaits: walking and galloping. Walking is done by moving the legs on one side of the body at the same time, then doing the same on the other side. When galloping, the hind legs move around the front legs before the latter move forward, and the tail will curl up. The animal relies on the forward and backward motions of its head and neck to maintain balance and the counter momentum while galloping.

26. The giraffe can reach a sprint speed of up to 60 km/h (37 mph), and can sustain 50 km/h (31 mph) for several kilometres.

27. A giraffe rests by lying with its body on top of its folded legs. In order to lie down, the animal kneels on its front legs and then lowers the rest of its body. To get back up, it first gets on its knees and spreads its hind legs to raise its hindquarters. It then straightens its front legs.

28. The giraffe sleeps intermittently around 4.6 hours per day, mostly at night. It usually sleeps lying down, however, standing sleeps have been recorded, particularly in older individuals. Intermittent short "deep sleep" phases while lying are characterized by the giraffe bending its neck backwards and resting its head on the hip or thigh, a position believed to indicate paradoxical sleep.

29. If the giraffe wants to bend down to drink, it either spreads its front legs or bends its knees.

30. Giraffes would probably not be competent swimmers as their long legs would be highly cumbersome in the water, although they could possibly float. When swimming, the thorax would be weighed down by the front legs, making it difficult for the animal to move its neck and legs in harmony or keep its head above the surface.

31. The circulatory system of the giraffe has several adaptations for its great height. Its heart, which can weigh more than 25 lb (11 kg) and measures about 2 ft (61 cm) long, must generate approximately double the blood pressure required for a human to maintain blood flow to the brain.

32. Giraffes have usually high heart rates for their size, at 150 beats per minute.

33. Giraffes have oesophageal muscles that are unusually strong to allow regurgitation of food from the stomach up the neck and into the mouth for rumination. They have four chambered stomachs, as in all ruminants, and the first chamber has adapted to their specialized diet.

34. Female giraffes give birth standing up. Their young endure a rather rude welcome into the world by falling more than 5 feet (1.5 meters) to the ground at birth. These infants can stand in half an hour and run with their mothers an incredible ten hours after birth.

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Based on an article from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giraffe
Images care of http://my.opera.com/ausblonde/albums/showpic.dml?album=11107762&picture=153284722 and http://thompsontravel.smugmug.com/keyword/tanzania/1/800364374_aeKYN#!i=800364374&k=aeKYN and http://www.mysweeetworld.com/2011/01/did-you-know_17.html and http://davids-pics.blogspot.co.uk/2007/10/giraffe-neck-hairs-close-up.html and http://animals-ofworld.blogspot.co.uk/2010/12/giraffe-rarely-sleep.html

WHY DO GIRAFFES HAVE LONG NECKS?




Not only are giraffes the tallest land animal on earth, they also possess the longest neck of any living creature. So long is the giraffes neck that if it want to take a drink it can't simply lower its head, it has to give itself a fighting chance by either spreading its front legs, bend its knees, or kneel on the ground - a risky move by a water hole no matter how big you are!

There are two main hypotheses regarding the evolutionary origin and maintenance of elongation in giraffe necks. The 'competing browsers hypothesis' was originally suggested by Charles Darwin and only challenged recently.

It suggests that competitive pressure from smaller browsers, such as kudu, steenbok and impala, encouraged the elongation of the neck, as it enabled giraffes to reach food that competitors could not.

This advantage is real, as giraffes can and do feed up to 4.5 m (15 ft) high, while even quite large competitors, such as kudu, can only feed up to about 2 m (6 ft 7 in) high.

There is also research suggesting that browsing competition is intense at lower levels, and giraffes feed more efficiently (gaining more leaf biomass with each mouthful) high in the canopy.

However, scientists disagree about just how much time giraffes spend feeding at levels beyond the reach of other browsers.

The other main theory, the sexual selection hypothesis, proposes that the long necks evolved as a secondary sexual characteristic, giving males an advantage in "necking" contests -see above film clip - to establish dominance and obtain access to sexually receptive females.

 In support of this theory, necks are longer and heavier for males than females of the same age, and the former do not employ other forms of combat.

However, one objection is that it fails to explain why female giraffes also have long necks. However, this ridiculous objection is as intelligent as questioning the need for the male nipple. If human males did not have the genetic information for nipples then Mendelian theory would dictate that you would have a selection of human offspring displaying one nipple, two nipples, or no nipples at all!

Therefore, if female giraffes had short necks then you would end up with progeny with a selection of neck sizes. This is isn't going to be very helpful when it come to impressing your future giraffe 'wife' in the next neck bashing competition!

The circulatory system of the giraffe has several adaptations for its great height. Its heart, which can weigh more than 25 lb (11 kg) and measures about 2 ft (61 cm) long, must generate approximately double the blood pressure required for a human to maintain blood flow to the brain.

In order to cope with pumping blood up to such a great height, giraffes have usually high heart rates for their size, at 150 beats per minute.

Giraffes have oesophageal muscles that are unusually strong to allow regurgitation of food from the stomach up the neck and into the mouth for rumination.

 They have four chambered stomachs, as in all ruminants, and the first chamber has adapted to their specialized diet.


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World's Largest Insect
Based on an article from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giraffe
Images care of http://www.timelessafrica.com/index.php?L1=destinations&L2=botswana&L3=linyanti and http://rankabut.blogspot.co.uk/2009/06/design-in-nature-8.html

HOW TO GROW THE SAGO PALM FROM SEED





The incredible, yet stunning looking sago palm is so unusual in shape and design that it almost looks unreal. Both visually and literally prehistoric, species of sago palm can be found across much of the subtropical and tropical regions of the world. However, should you require one for the garden they can be expensive, so growing sago palm seed can be a far more sensible option .

Before you plant up your sago palm seeds, place them into a bucket of water. Mature seeds, which have a bright orange or red color, will sink, while immature or infertile seeds will continue to float. Dispose of any seeds that float as these are unlikely to germinate.

To help encourage successful germination, scrape the outer coating of the seeds with a sharp knife. The seed coat of the sago palm is very hard so scraping it - which is known as scarification - slightly weakens this outer coating, enabling moisture to penetrate into the seed. Wear your garden gloves when performing this activity, as the seed coat is poisonous.

Sow sago palm seeds in large modular trays, or pots, using a good seed compost such as John Innes seed and potting with the seed half out of the compost. Place your newly planted sago palm seeds into a heated propagator an optimum temperature of 70-75F (20-25C), or failing that a warm windowsill out of direct light.

Germination can take 1-3 months, so try to keep the compost moist but not over wet. They are very slow growing at first, and the last thing you want to do is over-water. When you sago palm seedlings are large enough, pot on as required into 5in and finally 8in pots.

Remember that sago palms are not fully hardy and while they are small provide a temperature of 5-10C (40-50F) throughout the winter. Do not allow them to suffer cold damage as they are unlikely to survive.

Planting sago palm seeds outside

Of course, sago palms are not terribly hardy, even in the southernmost parts of the United Kingdom. However, they can be successfully grown outdoors in both Georgia and Florida. Select a warm location that does not receive any direct sunlight.

To begin with, dig a series of shallow furrows into the soil. The furrows should be about 1 inch deep and 18 inches apart.

Place the individual seeds in the furrow. The pointed ends of the seeds should be oriented horizontally.

Space the seeds 12 to 24 inches apart,you will find that this spacing will make it easier to transplant the seedlings later on.

 Lightly cover the seeds with soil or sand.

It is not necessary to tamp the soil into place. Water the area thoroughly, but do not saturate the soil.

Continue watering the seed bed on a regular basis, never allowing the soil to dry out completely.

If your seeds are viable they will begin to emerge in three to six months.

Continue to water the the seedlings for another one to two years.

The sago palm is a slow-growing plant and it may take that long before the seedlings develop a root system large enough and strong enough to allow successful transplantation. Once established you should have a stunning specimen which can only improve as time goes on.

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BUCKINGHAM PALACE




If you are unfortunate enough to have not been born in the green and pleasant land that is known to all as England, then your first thoughts of Her Royal Highnesses' kingdom are likely to be drawn to the City of London. More specifically St Pauls Cathedral, Big Ben, and Buckingham Palace!

Originally known as Buckingham House, the building which forms the core of today's palace was in the beginning just a large town house built for the Duke of Buckingham (hence the name) in 1705. However, continuing building work has made the original house unrecognisable. The last major structural additions were made in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including the East front which contains the well-known balcony on which the Royal Family traditionally congregate to greet crowds outside.

Located in the City of Westminster, Buckingham Palace finally became the official royal palace of the British monarch on the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837.

Today it is best known as the official London residence and office of the British monarch - currently Queen Elizabeth II.

At the rear of the palace, is the large and park-like garden which, together with its lake, is the largest private garden in London.

Here the Queen hosts her annual summer garden parties, and also holds large functions to celebrate royal milestones, such as jubilees. The grounds cover 40 acres, and include a lake, a tennis court, and a helicopter landing pad!

The State Rooms

The principal rooms of the palace are contained on the piano nobile behind the west-facing garden façade at the rear of the palace.

The centre of this ornate suite of state rooms is the Music Room, its large bow the dominant feature of the façade.

Flanking the Music Room are the Blue and the White Drawing rooms.

At the centre of the suite, serving as a corridor to link the state rooms, is the Picture Gallery, which is top-lit and 55 yards (50 m) long.

The Gallery is hung with numerous works including some by Rembrandt, van Dyck, Rubens and Vermeer; other rooms leading from the Picture Gallery are the Throne Room and the Green Drawing Room.

 The Green Drawing room serves as a huge anteroom to the Throne Room, and is part of the ceremonial route to the throne from the Guard Room at the top of the Grand staircase.

The Guard Room contains white marble statues of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, in Roman costume, set in a tribune lined with tapestries. These very formal rooms are used only for ceremonial and official entertaining, but are open to the public every summer.

Buckingham Palace and Queen Victoria

Buckingham Palace became the principal royal residence in 1837, on the accession of Queen Victoria. She was in fact the first monarch to reside there as her predecessor William IV had died before its completion.

While the state rooms were a riot of gilt and colour, the necessities of the new palace were somewhat less luxurious.

For one thing, it was reported that the chimneys smoked so much that the fires had to be allowed to die down, and consequently the court shivered in icy magnificence.

Ventilation was so bad that the interior smelled, and when a decision was taken to install gas lamps, there was a serious worry about the build-up of gas on the lower floors. It was also said that the staff were lax and lazy and the palace was dirty.

Following the Queen's marriage in 1840, her husband, Prince Albert, concerned himself with a reorganisation of the household offices and staff, and with the design faults of the palace. The problems were all rectified by the close of 1840. However, the builders were to return within the decade.

 By 1847, the couple had found the palace too small for court life and their growing family, and consequently the new wing, designed by Edward Blore, was built by Thomas Cubitt, enclosing the central quadrangle.

The large East Front facing The Mall is today the "public face" of Buckingham Palace and contains the balcony from which the Royal Family acknowledge the crowds on momentous occasions and annually after Trooping the Colour. The ballroom wing and a further suite of state rooms were also built in this period, designed by Nash's student Sir James Pennethorne.

Before Prince Albert's death, the palace was frequently the scene of musical entertainments, and the greatest contemporary musicians entertained at Buckingham Palace. The composer Felix Mendelssohn is known to have played there on three occasions. Johann Strauss II and his orchestra played there when in England. Strauss's "Alice Polka" was first performed at the palace in 1849 in honour of the Queen's daughter, Princess Alice. Under Victoria, Buckingham Palace was frequently the scene of lavish costume balls, in addition to the routine royal ceremonies, investitures and presentations.

Widowed in 1861, the grief-stricken Queen withdrew from public life and left Buckingham Palace to live at Windsor Castle, Balmoral Castle, and Osborne House. For many years the palace was seldom used, and even neglected. Eventually, public opinion forced her to return to London, though even then she preferred to live elsewhere whenever possible. Court functions were still held at Windsor Castle rather than at the palace, presided over by the sombre Queen habitually dressed in mourning black while Buckingham Palace remained shuttered for most of the year.

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Based on an article from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buckingham_Palace
Images care of http://www.thecheaphotelslondon.com/local-attractions and http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/the_queens_diamond_jubilee/8987156/In-Queen-Victorias-glorious-footsteps.html and http://www.guardian.co.uk/tv-and-radio/2012/apr/24/queen-victorias-lastlove and http://arthurvoonwenghong.wordpress.com/2011/11/22/johann-strauss-ii-best-waltzes-and-performers-vol-2/ and http://fuckyeahancientarchitecture.tumblr.com/ and http://www.finalarchitecture.com/architecture-buckingham-palace-england-queen-residence