Category: random

Why Your Fear of Sharks is Actually Irrational

Is it rational or irrational to be afraid of sharks? Human fight or flight instinct keeps us cautious when treading in the wilderness, weather on land or by sea. Humans are at the top of the food chain not because of our formidable physique. We have become a naturally dominant predator because of our brains. We are capable of outsmarting and ultimately dominating other apex predators due to our intelligence.

Image result for grizzly bear
via discovery.com

An apex predator is a species the species at the top of the food chain, or an animal that has no natural predators in any given environment.

Brains over brawn, as they say. The animal kingdom’s list of apex predators includes lions, grizzly bears, saltwater crocodiles, and even humans. The orca whale, a type of dolphin, is the apex predator of the ocean. Though great white sharks were formerly considered to be the ocean’s apex predator, it is now known that they are not; it has been confirmed that orca whales can hunt and kill great white sharks.

Why are people more afraid of sharks than of orcas?

Now, its funny enough that our fear of sharks tends to extend up to the great white shark but not beyond it – we don’t hear people discuss a fear of orca whales, although these animals are capable of tearing apart anything in its path. For some reason, sharks tend to haunt the minds of ocean-goers while orca attacks are not nearly as fear inducing.

west coast sharks
The above shows every shark attack ever recorded along the West Coast. Image from the international shark attack file.

The reason why may be a result of societal factors rather than of rational fears. People’s fear of sharks may largely be a result of popular culture. Movies such as Jaws portray sharks as aggressive animals that are out to get humans. Shark Week, popularized by the Discovery Channel, has no doubt increased human awareness of shark attacks, but has likely done little to alleviate our widespread fear.

Yes, sharks have killed people – its no secret. But how likely is it, really, that you actually get attacked by a shark while going for a nice swim or surf in the ocean? In this article, we’re going to investigate the data to show you just how likely it is, and help you decide whether or not the common fear is rational or not.

Shark Attack Data

According to the Worldwide Shark Attack Summary, there were only 66 confirmed, unprovoked shark attacks on humans in 2018 across the globe, only 4 of which were fatal. In the United States, there was only 1 fatal shark attack.

east coast sharks
The above shows every shark attack ever recorded along the East Coast of North America, including the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. Image from the international shark attack file.

Welcome to Florida, the shark-attack capital of the United States!

In the U.S., more shark attacks happen in Florida than anywhere else, with 16 occurring there in 2018. North Carolina, South Carolina, and Hawaii are the next most-common locations for shark attacks, but it is less than 1/4 as likely.

Below is the tabulated global data on shark attack incidents in 2018, categorized by type. You will notice that many incidents represent situations where the shark was either provoked, or was the result of other non-natural scenarios. Aside from the 66 confirmed, unprovoked cases, the rest can be largely ignored – either lacking evidence or the result of human stupidity by provocation.

sharkattacktable

However, the number of confirmed attacks for 2018 (66 cases) is significantly lower than the former 5-year period, between 2013-2017, which averaged 84 incidents per year.

Shark attacks – and specifically fatalities from those attacks – are so rare that one could argue they are not even worth worrying about.

Shark attacks aside, there is another danger – a danger that most Americans do in fact experience every single day. Yet, nobody talks about nor thinks twice before engaging in this deadly activity.

Here is what you should actually be afraid of:

I hate to set a morbid tone to this article, but my purpose in writing this is to re-focus your fear of sharks, and transfer your fear toward cars. As a high school kid, my community lost multiple friends during my short 4 year span between 9th and 12th grade. If you are reading this, there is a high chance that you know someone who has been the victim of a fatal automobile crash. Although being in an automobile is one of the most dangerous things humans do on a daily basis, very few people talk about it. Why?

According to the National Safety Council, over 40,000 people were killed in vehicle-related incidents in 2018. In truth, these numbers remain consistent for each of the past 3 years – more than 120,000 total.

In 2018 in the United States, there were 32 total shark attacks, and roughly 40,000 people that died in car crashes. Statistically, dying in an automobile is 1,250 times more likely than any fatal/non-fatal shark attack. Dying in an automobile is 40,000 times more likely than a fatal shark attack.

If we want to worry about something, let’s at least worry about something that is statistically likely and that we can control. Remind your loved ones to drive safe. As a species, let’s get self driving car technology improved to the point of wide-spread adoption. Please, let’s find a way to reduce the number of automobile fatalities. And if you still worry about sharks next time you go into the ocean, just remember: car rides and orca whales are two phenomena that have been proven to be much more scary.

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The orca is the apex predator of the ocean. from Wikipedia

Meet the Most Dangerous Bird Alive: the Cassowary

As a native species in some of the most formidable territories on Earth (New Guinea and Australia), the cassowary bird stands 5-6 feet tall, weighs up to 160 pounds, can swim, jump 7 feet high, and run 30 miles per hour.

Larger than a Canadian goose but smaller than an ostrich, the cassowary has sturdy, splayed out feet with 10-centimeter long talons that are capable of disemboweling a human. They are even known to kick humans with their legs. On top of the head protruding from the skull, cassowaries possess a dense, helmet-like horn (called a casque) which they use aggressively during fights (see video). The Cassowary is considered class 2 wildlife, alongside howler monkeys, bobcats, honey badgers, clouded leopards, and alligators. Cassowary2

“The inner or second of the three toes is fitted with a long, straight, murderous nail which can sever an arm or eviscerate an abdomen with ease. There are many records of natives being killed by this bird.” – Living Birds of the World by Ernest Thomas Gilliard

Recently, a Florida man was killed by one of these rare, flightless birds. According to sources, the man raised the animal and was certified to work with and breed them on his farm. He was clawed to death.

With a decreasing overall population, the cassowary is considered to have a vulnerable conservation status.

Most often, cassowary attacks on humans occur when plucking at food or being fed. A quick internet search down the rabbit holes of reddit or YouTube yields a few video clips of these menacing creatures in action.

 

Searching for the Perfect Burrito: El Toro Bravo

Its lunch time a picture of the sign in front of el toro bravoon a Sunday in a place where the weather doesn’t stray too far from perfect year round. Viewed from the sidewalk of a suburban side street, a sign with green and red letters reads El Toro Bravo Mexican Food. The building is unremarkable. Ten people line up to order. Ordering to-go is commonplace, so there are plenty of open tables.

A red awning covers the front of the dining area. On a silver steel appliance, a sticker reads ‘Don’t Trash Beaches’. A kid with dreadlocks and flip flops juggles his plate full of tacos with a skateboard in one hand. Five out of six large flat screens display a static menu, while a Spanish-commentated Juventus vs. img_4364Milano futbol match plays on the sixth. For such an efficiently organized assortment of food, the menu itself is misleadingly complex. They do the familiar dishes – tacos, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, tamales, empanadas. Rather than squinting at the menu screens, ingredients may be readily inspected by peeking through the sneeze guard. This is Mexican food for the type A personality – made to order with artisan like craftsmanship.

img_4366Carrying a huge tray from the back, a chef unloads tongfulls of steaming slow cooked meat into the food display. Anchored by familiar crowd pleasers like al pastor, pollo and carne asada, the restaurant’s real chef d’oeuvre is carnitas (which I’ve devoured on previous occasions). The nonchalant casualness and proximity my friend’s house assumes repeat visits, so I’m empowered to experience the asada.

After placing a few pieces on the counter and slamming a butcher knife 5-10 times, a small mountain of fluffy chopped meat remains. For those with a large appetite, portion size is a distinct selling point. el toro bravo burrito rolling

After spreading refried beans on the open faced tortilla and adding a few scoops of rice, the chef  piles on the slow roasted asada. Desiring a traditional combination, I dodge the guac and sour cream, selecting pico de gallo, parmesan, cilantro, onions, lettuce, and salsa picante. The tortilla maintains its elasticity as the chef rolls the splayed out contents. His technique embodies a practiced muscle memory that produces a well wrapped Nalgene bottle sized finished product – toasted and warmly nestled in a blanket of foil. Hungry and overly ambitious, we order nachos as well. nachos from el toro bravo

We take a seat at a high top table and I smile at the silver bullion atop the crumpled paper plate. I peel away the foil revealing a crisply toasted tortilla – flaky golden dough is malleable enough that it somehow maintains its strength as I dig in.

It isn’t until the second and third bites that my expectations are exceeded, el toro bravo burritoas either edge of a burrito tends to contain extra tortilla. The bulging burrito is wide enough to resemble a bowl. I sample a fork full of ingredients from the squishy cylinder. The flavor itself blends a charred smoke with saucy marinade. To avoid inhaling my food at a stomach condemning pace, I set it on the paper plate, standing upright, and sip a plastic cup of water.

Salsa splattering onto shirt fronts, we finish up as a young couple sheepishly walks in. She’s donning flannels el toro bravo burritoand vans, he’s in a flat brimmed five-panel hat and beige new balances. The woman at the register greets him like a close relative – maybe a nephew – and hands him a Pacifico beer. They walk to the back of the line and a chef walks around to greet them with a smile and Spanish exchanges. Clearly regulars, the couple knows what to expect at El Toro Bravo – nothing short of the finest burrito known to man.

There’s a million and one places to find great mexican food in this world. Somehow, El Toro Bravo has distinguished itself beyond the common taco shack; I’m still trying to pinpoint what exactly seduces me to return time and again.

Costa Mesa, California

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Accounting for Pollution: Garbage lasts Forever

You won’t hear an accountant mention pollution & accounting in the same sentence, but we are going to do so here, since we aren’t accountants. Garbage is what’s known as an economic bad, as opposed to most physical items, which are considered economic goods. Since garbage costs time and energy to remove, the possession of more garbage decreases the value of the one who possesses it. The phrase “throw it away” is misleading, comparable to fake news. Forget about diamonds – garbage quite literally is forever. We have nowhere to put it, so we resort to housing garbage in designated areas of our home planet Earth. As we continue generating this economic bad, garbage accumulation must result in a decrease in the value of planet Earth.

If you take a class in environmental science or search online, you’ll learn of the two rough categories of pollution:

Point and non-point source pollution —

Point-Sources

Point-source originates from a definite, identifiable source. Think of it as original pollution. Examples of point-sources:

– factories
– sewage treatment plants
– electric power generation
– oil & gas extraction
– oil & gas refineries
– coal mining
– coal fired power generation
– air pollution
– mobile sources & transportation (planes, trains, automobiles)

This San Antonio de los buenos pipe dumps over 20 million gallons of sewage into the Pacific Ocean every single day. Although the origin has been identified, there is nothing that has been done. A solution may cost hundreds of millions of dollars.

Humans, mammals, and creatures of every taxonomic rank experience pain. Illness affect us all, and each illness has the potential to reach a point of no return, at which point it becomes terminal for the organism. As of this moment, humans are inflicting a seemingly small amount of damage – analogous to an illness – on our earth via pollution. In an anthropomorphic sense, we are giving Earth a weakened immune system. It has the sniffles. As of now its not too late to get healthy. We can reduce the ill effects of pollution on our environment and atmosphere. And in doing so discover practices that promote a healthier Earth. Although not easy, we have to believe that it is possible. This is of utmost importance because if we aren’t careful, the small damages we are doing to earth may turn into something more serious. Its far easier to prevent lung cancer by refraining from smoking than it is to cure lung cancer after you get it. Likewise, it requires significantly more energy to clean up pollution than to prevent it. Prevention is better than clean up.

Non-point sources:

Non-point does not originate from a definite, identifiable source. It is a result of the diffusion of point-source pollution.

Run Off: Let’s look at an example. Think about the contribution of a cars in a city to non-point source pollution that accumulates on roads (let’s simplify by excluding air pollution from the equation).  in your city distribute substances (oil, gasoline, exaust, sludge, rubber, litter, debris, etc.) that accumulate on road surfaces. Individually, each car is a point-source. The aggregation of these chemicals being deposited by all 494,000 cars registered in San Francisco contributes to the category known as non-point source pollution.

Another example is runoff. The harmful chemicals that collect on any surface of earth, whether a road, parking lot, farm, originate at point-sources including cars, equipment, debris, agricultural materials, etc.

“When rain or melted snow moves over and through the ground, the water absorbs and assimilates any pollutants it comes into contact with.” (USEPA, 2004b)

Let us consider agricultural non-point sources, which are a result of the diffuse runoff that comes from the use of fertilizers, pesticides, or animal waste while growing crops and livestock.

Simple logic: to reduce the non-point source pollution that as a result of agriculture sources, we must stop it at the point of origin.

In this case, identifying each point source is too cumbersome and thus impractical… but we can paint a picture of what the point source associated with each non-point source generally looks like.

The pollution in the runoff example is the result of multiple locations over a period of days or weeks before rainfall, so you can’t pinpoint the exact source. Runoff is difficult to measure, identify, and control because it is the result of combined pollution sources that are received by the environment when water absorbs those chemicals which occurs over the entire surface of earth.

– land runoff
– precititation (acid rain)
– atmospheric deposition
– drainage
– leakage
– seepage (from underground storage tanks)
– hydrological modification (via rainfall and snowmelt)
– storm water runoff
– atmospheric deposition of contaminants, and
– storm water runoff from
– golf courses
– agricultural establishments
– forestry or construction sites

Acid Rain: Sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) enter the atmostphere when fossil fuels are burned at factories or by internal combustion engines. These chemicals can cause acid rain. Acid rain occurs when sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) reacting in the atmosphere with water; it then returns to earth as polluted rain, fog, or snow. Acid rain is considered non-point source. The originating source of acid rain are the multitude of point-sources sending smog into the atmosphere that combines with clouds.

After examining how we define point and non-point sources, logic will allow us to realize that by reducing all the point-sources, we will eliminate non-point sources of pollution from appearing. This of course does not include pollution that has already entered the atmosphere. What’s there is there unless we can do something to remove it. Reducing point sources of pollution will thus stop non-point sources of pollution from accumulating, but we will still have cleanup to do. However, for now, to make the largest impact, humans should focus efforts toward reducing point-sources.

Seems simple enough. But what happens when we try to track pollution to discover where it is coming from?

Can we track pollution?

It turns out that tracking pollution to a single source is difficult.

How can we determine the source of microplastics pollution, the material washing up on the far-stretching beaches of Zlatni Rat, Croatia? By first examining the materials themselves, maybe we discover that a large percentage of it is made up of specific types of materials – for instance, polystyrene (aka styrofoam).

Going with this example, after disposal, a piece of styrofoam will break up into 999,999 pieces pretty quickly. These tiny polystyrene particles may have come from a piece of packaging, part of a cooler, a styrofoam cup, you name it. We can consider existing ocean currents  in the Mediterranean and near Croatia to consider what may have sent it there. Because the Mediterranean is a semi-closed body of water, attaching to the Atlantic only through the strait of Gibraltar on the west and to the Red Sea via the Suez Canal on the southeastern side, we can hypothesize that microplastic particles existing there also originated there. The Mediterranean is more or less a closed system.

It is much more likely that the point-source origin is located somewhere along the coast of the Mediterranean sea. By narrowing it down, we can then try to estimate travel time to determine how long it may have taken to get from one place to another. We can think about ocean currents that may have sent it there. We can try multiple things to try to get a sense for where exactly all of the rubbish is coming from.

But ultimately, it is absolutely impossible to know where exactly plastics on the beaches of Croatia originated.

Scientists have categorized this as “non-point source” pollution because its origin is unknown. In a disorganized universe that follows the second law of thermodynamics, microplastics get lost in the clutter of the environment and atmosphere. Nobody can identify the source.

But these microplastics came from somewhere. So by convention, these pieces of microscopic polystyrene are considered non-point and separate from point-sources of pollution.

Non-point source pollution results from the disorganization and diffusion of all the point-sources of pollution combined through the environment. Non-point source pollution is “redundant source pollution”. Current technology is too incompetent to identify the point-source tied to every non-point source.

Accounting for pollution

In 1769, when James Watt patented the first steam engine. Voila, air pollution was amplified. With the growth of transportation technology as well as the human population since that date, pollution has progressively gotten worse as we’ve continued polluting the earth for at least 250 years.

Imagine for a second that we want to calculate how much pollution has ever occurred in the history of the world between now and forever-ago. To measure and account for quantity of those harmful substances in our environment, it would be helpful to differentiate between point and non-point because to avoid redundancy. Although an impossible feat in practice, to do so in theory, we would simply need to account for pollution arising from every single point-source in human history. By summing up pollution from each and every the point source ever, we would get an exact amount of total historical pollution (THP). We don’t need to factor in non-point source, because it would be counted twice.

(Point Source) + (Non Point source) > THP

THP is equal to the sum of all point sources of pollution from time = year 1700, to time = year 2018.

THP = ∑ (all point-sources of pollution) = Total Point-Source Pollution

Conclusion

Two broad types of pollution have been discussed briefly. When we consider which efforts will most greatly impact the future of humanity and help us create a clean, healthy environment, it can be hard to say which efforts are most effective.

The intention is not to say one category of pollution is worse or more benign than the other. The purpose is to identify the difference between pollution that has already entered the ecosystem, and pollution that is currently entering the ecosystem.

Before taking efforts to eliminate it, let’s realize there are different strategic purposes to reduction of each.

  1. The value in eliminating non-point source pollution: stop pollution from diffusing and spreading to new areas, and remove old, existing pollution from our environment. Pollution that is already there.
  2. Value in eliminating point-source pollution: prevent future pollution from entering out atmosphere and environment in the first place! Pollution that is entering the environment right now and into the future.

It is far easier to prevent a problem than it is to fix a problem.

In order to minimize human contribution to the pollution problem, humans must stop putting it into the ecosystem in the first place.

When calculating amounts of pollution, non-point source pollution has already been accounted for via the summation of all point sources. Point source pollution that has diffused throughout the environment can no longer be traced, so we duplicate it if we add them together. In theory, non-point source pollution is redundant and already accounted for, so we can essentially ignore it when accounting for how much pollution we create.

With enough thought and research, a point source can be broken down into its component point-sources. If you think you have a non-point source, ask yourself: What do I need to do to identify the original source?

Who has the power? The decision makers in the agriculture industry control what pesticides and fertilizers are used, as well as what happens to animal waste. In addition, every automobile manufacturer . on the business side of a a farm or agricultural facility. But as comsumers, we have the power to choose where our dollars go. Each dollar spent is like casting a vote for which business practices we will incentivize. If we purchase products that contribute to jit, we are playing our small but incremental role in the continuation of

For the future of our species, we must be focus on identifying point-sources in order to reduce the amount of pollution at its origin, rather than after-the-fact removal. If you are interested in discussing this further, please contact us.