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Saturday, January 21, 2006

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Another fine issue of "Calodema"

Trevor Hawkeswood keeps up a high standard with his latest issue of "Calodema", "An Australian biological journal devoted to promoting knowledge about the flora and fauna of Australia and the Pacific". Volume 4, with the now familiar cover illustration of the magnificent Australian jewel beetle, Calodema regale, includes some observations that will intrigue anyone interested in natural history.

Of particular importance is the report by Trevor of two new populations of the rare plant Zieria involucrata. This shrub is listed under the New South Wales Threatened Species Conservation Act (1995) as "Endangered", according to the recently issued popular book, "Seldom Seen: Rare Plants of Greater Sydney" by Alan Fairley (published by Reed New Holland in 2004). Fairley's book contains some useful background on this plant and an illustration of the "large flowerheads and softly hairy leaves" typical of the species. Dr Hawkeswood reports two populations of 25 and 10 individuals respectively in the rugged sandstone ridgetop habitat within the Lower Portland area of north-western Sydney. The exact locality is kept secret for the safety of the species. Trevor discusses the conservation status of the plant.

Dr Dewanand Makhan continues his work on new species, particularly water beetles and particularly from Suriname in South America. Also included is his report of three new jumping spiders (Salticidae) from the same country.

Other papers included in this issue of Calodema cover a specialty of Dr Hawkeswood's, namely studies on beetle host plants, both of the larvae and adults.

Paul O Downey is listed as a specialist on parasitic plant species. It seems he works at the Cooperative Research Centre for Weed Management Systems here in Australia. He recently (1998) published an inventory of host species for aerial mistletoe species in Australia. Trevor Hawkeswood cites this inventory in two papers in the latest Calodema on observations on Australian native mistletoes parasitising introduced trees, namely a pear tree and - most extraordinarily - the London plane tree (Platanus). Trevor suggests that, with the decline of eucalypts (the usual host of the Australian mistletoe, Dendrophthoe vitellina) in the area of observation, the parasitic plant appears to be broadening its host range in order to survive. All sixteen London plane trees in the main street of Riverstone, New South Wales, were observed to be heavily parasitised. The mistletoe was not apparently having any serious effects on the host.

My only complaint about this issue is that it lacks the usual index.

Dr Trevor Hawkeswood, the Editor of "Calodema", may be contacted at the following email address: spilopyra@hotmail.com

Julian

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

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Telluric currents and the origin of life

Telluric currents are electrical currents in the earth's crust. Here is an Australian reference to them - "Steve's Telluric Pages".

My thinking about the role of such currents in a subterranean origin of life is here.

Julian

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Thursday, January 05, 2006

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Why the Pope was right about Humanae Vitae?

Mark Steyn on the West's demographic decline.

An American complaining that he is losing the demographic battle.

Julian

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Salted cashews

I have been eating a lot of ("Nobby's" brand) salted cashews lately. They are very tasty, though relatively expensive - for nuts. Today I went to a Coles supermarket, here in Canberra. A full range of Nobby's nuts is still available, except the cashews. Instead, Coles is now selling their own "Coles" brand of salted cashews, with words of approval from, and a picture of, "Duncan, nut lover" (whoever he is).

Compared with the Nobby's brand, the new Coles nuts are undercooked, undersalted and bland.

Julian

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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

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American Woman

Steve Sailer writes about the marked relative decline in the number of young men attending higher education in the United States compared with young women:

" One of the oft-forgotten rules of history is that the fate of a society's males determines the fate of the society. In the big picture, women's lives vary much less than men's lives. A culture in which men achieve at less than their full potential will lag behind one in which women achieve at less than their full potential. For example, I was watching the Vienna Philharmonic on New Year's Day on TV. They had one woman musician. Yet, despite widespread employment discrimination against women of this sort, Vienna is a pretty nice place. In East St. Louis, women hold most of the jobs, but it's not a nice place. "

Actually, I suspect that America is such a big, powerful, populous nation that it can afford quite a lot of wastage of its male talent. Likewise, America can afford to have women in its military precisely because its materiel is so numerous and powerful that it hardly matters who operates it. A fleet of aircraft carriers is a fleet of aircraft carriers.

The counter-example to the absolute necessity of women in the workforce has always been Japan. The really interesting thing will be to compare the performance, in the future, of Asian economies - such as Japan, Korea - and China - which will be mostly male-dominated against the performance of the United States economy. I note, in Steve's remarks above, that even he refers to women in their traditional role as not reaching their "full potential". However, from a societal and economic point of view, keeping the home fires burning may be a perfectly desirable role.

Julian

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