Sunday, March 18, 2007

Hotter, Smaller Sheep

Climate change is changing the size of sheep on a Scottish isle:

While every physics pupil knows that heat can usually be relied on to make objects expand, for the semi-wild sheep of the Outer Hebrides it appears to have the opposite effect.

Observations of Soay sheep on Hirta island have shown that the warmer temperatures associated with global warming allow more smaller animals to survive the winter. And with greater numbers of smaller sheep living through the cold months, the average size of the animals falls.

Research led by Imperial College London, published in the journal Science, is the first to establish a direct link between the genetic changes of an animal population and climate change. It indicates that mankind, on top of the ecological legacy of causing species to become extinct or vastly reduced in number, is leaving an evolutionary legacy by affecting natural selection.

On Hirta, the researchers used a combination of population data and field observations to track the size of individual sheep and how their survival rates influenced their numbers.

It's the mass to surface ratio there, smaller sheep just couldn't control their temperatures in the colder winters. So who says climate change is all bad then?

Wiki in the new OED

It's that time of year again and the new words are being welcomed into the OED. Wiki's made it:

THE OXFORD ENGLISH Dictionary has granted ‘wiki’ access to its hallowed ranks of words deemed acceptable.

‘Wiki wiki’ is actually a Hawaiian phrase that means ‘quick’ but ‘wiki’ earned global renown in a secondary meaning as a communally editable web page.

'Virtualize' is also there although the OED seems to think its recent upturn in usage comes from virtual reality rather than the techie business of making a computer act as many computers.

Members of think-tank Demos - and how much freedom to nip down the pub for a few hours brainstorming does that job suggest? - have thrown in the opinion that what is really needed is a web page that reflects the fast-moving change of today’s language. Yes, that’s really necessary.

What the fools at Demos think is really of no concern to any sentient being.