26 outubro 2007
Did you ever wonder what exactly that green stuff is that you smear on your sushi?
I mean, we all know that wasabi (わさび, 山葵) burns like a hell-spawned wildfire, and clears the sinuses with a fiery vengeance. But, where does it actually come from, and how can something so seemingly innocent be so unbelievably potent?
For starters, the best wasabi comes from Japan (no surprise there), most notably the Izu peninsula in Shizuoka prefecture. Much like American horseradish, wasabi plants grow naturally in stream beds, particularly where there is clean water that is free of impurities.
If you've ever had the pleasure of smearing just a tad too much of the stuff on your tuna roll, wasabi is a nasal irritant that is more comparable to hot mustard than it is to chili pepper. That wonderful little chemical that can have you rolling your head on the sushi bar is called an isothiocyanate, which coincidentally inhibits microbe growth.
Although there's no denying that wasabi brings out the flavors of sushi, it may have been traditionally added to raw fish in order to prevent it from spoiling.
Gallery: Japanese Food
Needless to say, you shouldn't eat raw fish unless you're absolutely confident in the quality of the fish. Just because sushi makes an appearance at an all you can eat buffet doesn't necessarily mean that you should eat all you can!
Interestingly enough, most Americans have never actually eaten real wasabi as the stuff sold stateside is usually squeezed out of a tube. In fact, this stuff actually doesn't even contain any real wasabi, and is usually nothing more than horseradish, mustard seed, and green food coloring.
Real wasabi, which I can assure you has no equal substitute, is sold in Japan in the form of a root.
Before it can be used, the wasabi plant is grated on a metal oroshigane (卸し金), which is a special kind of grater used solely for wasabi. Traditionally of course, the best graters were made of shark skin, and today upmarket sushi restaurants in Tokyo still grate wasabi according to this method.
Once the wasabi paste is prepared, it should remain covered until served in order to protect the flavor from evaporation. In case you were wondering, this is the actual reason why sushi chefs always put the wasabi between the fish and the rice.
Well, I hope this little lecture on wasabi has been informative. Now that you know exactly what wasabi is, go ahead and impress your friends with some wasabi trivia the next time you're sitting at a sushi bar.Gadling again ;)
Whether you are are 'wham-bam-thank-you-maam' type, or the passionate whirlwind love affair type, all's pretty easy on the road. Depending on what you are looking for and how open you are about finding it, some places can work for you more than others.
Being a girl who doesn't have the 'one-track-mind' all men are accused of having by default, to think about a piece like this wouldn't have occurred to me unless I read this great piece on the Sydney Morning Herald's travel blog.
Of his list of 10 best places to pick-up, I have been to three - Thailand, Portugal and Denmark. I'm not too sure about pick-up prospects in Portugal and Denmark -- the language barrier and the Scandinavian chill don't do much for romance; but Thailand is a sure winner.
In my opinion, other winner cities would be:
- Negril, Jamaica: Oh my goodness. Sun, beach, wild marijuana, and reggae music -- need I say more?
- Havana, Cuba: Sorry that Americans can't go here easily, but here both men and women will get together with you anyhow, and anywhere. Other than wanting toothpaste or toilet paper in return (this happened to a guy friend of mine), perhaps it's the sheer attraction of foreigners that gets them pumping. With the rum, the reggaton and the strong will to feel any sort of temporary liberty, has to make Havana one of the most sexually open and explicit places I have visited.
- Sydney, Australia: Another sun and beach lure, practically every other Ozzie you see looks like they played a role in Baywatch. Easy shmeezy, and you'll even feel like you are in Baywatch.
- Balearic Islands, Spain: Ibiza and Formentera -- hardly a surprise huh? The fact that most beaches here are nudist just emphasizes ease of hooking up.
24 outubro 2007
20 outubro 2007
Smack, crack, groupies and firearms - not to mention little blue men crawling across the floor: with Guns N' Roses, at the height of their fame, Slash saw it all. An exclusive extract from possibly the most insane rock'n'roll autobiography you'll ever read ...
15 outubro 2007
14 outubro 2007
Global Warming Wrecks All the Fun
Say Goodbye to French Wines
Wacky temperatures and rain cycles brought on by global warming are threatening something very important: Wine. Scientists believe global warming will “shift viticultural regions toward the poles, cooler coastal zones and higher elevations.” What that means in regular language: Get ready to say bye-bye to French Bordeaux and hello to British champagne. [LA Times]
Say Goodbye to Light and Dry Wines
Warmer temperatures mean grapes in
Say Goodbye to Pinot Noir
The reason you adore pinot noir is that it comes from a notoriously temperamental thin-skinned grape that thrives in cool climates. Warmer temperatures are already damaging the pinots from
Say Goodbye to Baseball
The future of the ash tree—from which all baseball bats are made—is in danger of disappearing, thanks to a combination of killer beetles and global warming. [NY Times]
Say Goodbye to Christmas Trees
The Pine Bark Beetle, which feeds on and kills pine trees, used to be held in control by cold winter temperatures. Now the species is thriving and killing off entire forests in
Say Goodbye to the Beautiful
Warmer weather allowed Spruce Bark Beetles to live longer, hardier lives in the forests of Kenai Peninsula in
Say Goodbye to Fly Fishing
As water temperatures continue to rise, researchers say rainbow trout, "already at the southern limits” of their temperature ranges in the
Say Goodbye to Ski Competitions
Unusually warmer winters caused the International Ski Federation to cancel last year’s Alpine skiing World Cup and opening races in
Say Goodbye to Ski Vacations
Slopes on the East Coast last year closed months ahead of time due to warmer weather, some losing as much as a third of their season. [Washington Post]
Say Hello to Really Tacky Fake Ski Vacations
Weiner Air Force and former House Majority Leader Dick Armey are building a year-round ski resort in Texas, with “wet, white Astroturf with bristles” standing in for snow to make up for all the closed resorts around the country. [WSJ]
Say Goodbye to That Snorkeling Vacation
Say Goodbye to That
Say Goodbye to Cool Cultural Landmarks
The World Monuments Fund recently added “global warming” as a threat in their list of the top 100 threatened cultural landmarks. “On Herschel Island, Canada, melting permafrost threatens ancient Inuit sites and a historic whaling town. In
Say Goodbye to Salmon Dinners
Get ready for a lot more chicken dinners: Wild pacific salmon have already vanished from 40 percent of their traditional habitats in the Northwest and the NRDC warns warmer temperatures are going to erase 41 percent of their habitat by 2090. [ENS]
Say Goodbye to Lobster Dinners
Lobsters thrive in the chilly waters of New England, but recent numbers show that as those waters have warmed up, “the big-clawed American lobster—prized for its delicate, sweet flesh—has been withering at an alarming rate from
Say Goodbye to Discoveries of Sharks That Can Walk
Scientists recently revealed a “lost world” of marine life off the coast of
Say Goodbye to Meadows of Wildflowers
Scientists think global warming could wipe out a fifth of the wildflower species in the western
Say Goodbye to Guacamole
Scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory predict hotter temps will cause a 40 percent drop in
Say Goodbye to Mixed Nuts
Guess you’ll have to start eating pretzels at the bar instead: Scientists from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory predict hotter temps will cause a 20 percent drop in
Say Goodbye to French Fries
Scientists from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research say warmer temperatures are killing off wild relatives of potato and peanut plants, “threatening a valuable source of genes necessary to help these food crops fight pests and drought.” [AP]
Say Goodbye to Your Pretty Lawn
Thanks to global warming, dandelions will grow “taller, lusher, and more resilient.” By 2100, the weed will produce 32 percent more seeds and longer hairs, which allow them to spread further in the wind. [LA Times]
Say Hello to More Mosquitoes
Get ready for more mosquitoes. Mosquitoes like to live in drains and sewer puddles. During long dry spells (brought on by higher temperatures) these nasty, stagnant pools become a vital source of water for thirsty birds ... which provide a tasty feast for the resident mosquitoes. At the same time, these dry spells “reduce the populations of dragonflies, lacewings, and frogs that eat the mosquitoes.” [Washington Post]
You’re gonna need an ocean of calamine lotion. Increased CO2 levels cause poison ivy and other weeds to grow “taller, lusher, and more resilient.” [LA Times]
Say Hello to Bulgarian Hooker Shortages
“Brothel owners in
Global Warming Kills the Animals
The latest report from the World Conservation Union says that a minimum of 40 percent of the world’s species are being threatened ... and global warming’s one of the main culprits. [Reuters]
Cannibalistic Polar Bears...
As longer seasons without ice keep polar bears away from food, they start eating each other. [AP]
...And Dying Polar Bears
A recent study completed by the U.S. Geological Survey shows that cannibalism—while brutal—may be the least of the bear’s problems. Many are also drowning, unable to swim in the increased spaces between melting sea ice. Two-thirds of them may be gone by 2050. [National Geographic] [Mongo Bay]
More Bear Attacks
Earlier this year,
Dying Gray Whales
Save the whales! Global warming is thwarting majestic gray whales’ struggle to recover from their endangered status. In recent years, more gray whales have been washing up on beaches after starving to death. Culprit: Rising ocean temps, which are killing off their food supply. [Washington Post]
Death March of the Penguins
Scientists blame global warming for the declining penguin population, as warmer waters and smaller ice floes force the birds to travel further to find food. “Emperor penguins ... have dropped from 300 breeding pairs to just nine in the western
Farewell to Frogs
An estimated two-thirds of the 110 known species of harlequin frog in Central and
Farewell to the Arctic Fox
The White Arctic Fox used to rule the colder climes, but as temperatures warm up, its more aggressive cousin, the Red Fox, is moving North and taking over. [Wired]
Farewell to the Walrus
Walrus pups rest on sea ice while their mothers hunt for food. A new study shows more and more abandoned pups are being stranded on floating islands as ice islands melt. Also, sadly, mother walruses are abandoning them to follow the ice further north. [Mongo Bay]
Farewell to Cute Koala Bears
Ouch! At least 30,000 people were stung by jellyfish along the Mediterranean coast last year; some areas boasted more than 10 jellyfish per square foot of water. Thank global warming: Jellyfish generally stay out of the way of swimmers, preferring the warmer, saltier water of the open seas. Hotter temperatures erase the natural temperature barrier between the open sea and the shore. The offshore waters also become more saline, causing the stinging blobs of hurt to move in toward the coastlines (and your unsuspecting legs). [BBC]
Giant Squid Attack
Giant squid—an “aggressive predator” that grows up to 7 feet long and can weigh more than 110 lbs—used to only be found in the warm waters along the Pacific equator. Hotter waters mean today they’re invading the waters of
Homeless Sheep, Goats, and Bears
Bighorn sheep, mountain goats, and grizzly bears are becoming homeless, due to the disappearance of the alpine meadows in
Homeless Deer and Marsh Rabbits
The deer and marsh rabbits in the Florida Keys also face a housing crisis, as water levels rise and warmer temperatures destroy coastal prairies and freshwater marsh habitats. [AP]
More Stray Kitties
Global warming has extended the cat-breeding season beyond spring, which is the usual time for a kitten boom. The kittens are often homeless and end up in animal shelters. And remember, “The trouble with a kitten is that/ Eventually it becomes a cat.” [NBC-10: Philadelphia] [Ogden Nash]
Suffocating the Lemmings
Lemmings like to burrow under the snow when they hibernate for the winter. Warmer temperatures cause rain to fall during the winter months, where it freezes into a hard sheet of ice above the sleeping lemmings, who can’t crack their way out come spring. [Denver Post]
Goodbye to Cod
Cod in the
Birds around the World
Recent research found that “up to 72 percent of bird species in northeastern
Birds on the Coast
Hundreds of Pacific seabirds—such as common murres, auklets, and tufted puffins—washed ashore last year after starving to death. Scientists blame global warming which led to less plankton, which led to fewer small fish for the birds to eat. [San Francisco Chronicle]
Birds in your Backyard
A report by the National Audubon Society found that birds such as the bobwhite and field sparrow are dying thanks to global warming, as higher temperatures mess with their migration schedules. With vital food stocks peaking earlier and earlier, many migratory birds get to the party too late and can’t find enough to eat. [CNN] [ABC News]
Death to a Snail
The Aldabra banded snail is officially extinct. Existing only on an atoll 426 kilometers northwest of the northern tip of
Global Warming Kills the Planet
Less Ice in the
The amount of ice in the
Remember the “
Ice Shelf in
In 2002, a chunk of ice in Antarctica larger than the state of
Ice Shelf in
In 2005, a giant chunk of ice the size of
Say Farewell to Glaciers
The Green, Green Grass of
Grass has started to grow in
The Swiss Foothills
Late last summer, a rock the size of two Empire State Buildings in the Swiss Alps collapsed onto the canyon floor nearly 700 feet below. The reason? Melting glaciers. [MSNBC]
Global warming may unleash giant “sand seas” in
Global warming is “bleaching” the coral in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, killing the coral, tourism, and local fish that live among the coral for protection. [Washington Post]
The Oceans are Turning to Acid
It sounds like a really bad sci-fi movie, but it’s true: The oceans are turning to acid! Oceans absorb CO2 which, when mixed with seawater, turns to a weak carbonic acid. Calcium from eroded rocks creates a “natural buffer” against the acid, and most marine life is “finely tuned” to the current balance. As we produce more and more CO2, we throw the whole balance out of whack and the oceans turn to acid. [CS Monitor]
Say Goodbye to the
According to the U.N., the
Italian experts say thanks to faster evaporation and rising temperatures, the
A Sacred River Dries Up
Disappearing African Rivers
Geologists recently projected a 10 percent to 20 percent drop in rainfall in northwestern and southern
Suddenly Vanishing Lakes
What happened to the five-acre glacial lake in
Goodbye to the Mangrove Trees
Next on the global warming hit list: Rising sea levels linked to climate change mean we could lose half of the mangrove trees of the Pacific Isles by the end of the century. [UNEP]
Volcanoes Blow Their Tops
British scientists warn of another possible side effect of climate change: A surge of dangerous volcanic eruptions. [ABC News Australia]
Over the past century, the number of hurricanes that strike each year has more than doubled. Scientists blame global warming and the rising temperature of the surface of the seas. [USA Today]
During the summer of 2007,
Global warming has also allowed non-native grasses to thrive in the
Thunderstorms Get Dangerous
Hurricanes aside, NASA scientists now say as the world gets hotter, even smaller thunderstorms will pose more severe risks with “deadly lightning, damaging hail and the potential for tornadoes.” [AP]
Higher Sea Levels
Scientists believe sea levels will be three feet higher by the end of the century than they are now. [National Geographic]
As “shifting rainfall patterns” brought on by global warming “have made northern
A New Dust Bowl
Calling Mr. Steinbeck. Scientists this year reported the Southwest United States is "expected to dry up notably in this century and could become as arid as the North American dust bowl of the 1930s," a process which has already started. [ABC News]
Global Warming Makes Us Sicker
People Are Dying
150,000: Number of people the World Health Organization estimates are killed by climate-change-related issues every year. [Washington Post]
Heat Waves and Strokes
Death by Smog
Three words you really don’t want in your obit: “Death by Smog.” Yet Canadian doctors say smog-related deaths could rise by 80 percent over the next 20 years. And since warm air is a key ingredient in smog, warmer temperatures will increase smog levels. [CBC News]
More Heart Attacks
Doctors warn global warming will bring more cardiovascular problems, like heart attacks. “‘The hardening of the heart's arteries is like rust developing on a car,’ said Dr. Gordon Tomaselli, chief of cardiology at
More Mold and Ragweed = More Allergies, Asthma
A Harvard Study in 2004 showed higher concentrations of CO2 in the atmosphere is good news to allergens like mold and ragweed (they love the stuff). And that means higher rates of asthma attacks, especially in kids. [Globe and Mail]
A Resurgence In Deadly Disease
“The World Health Organization has identified more than 30 new or resurgent diseases in the last three decades, the sort of explosion some experts say has not happened since the Industrial Revolution brought masses of people together in cities.” Why? Global warming “is fueling the spread of epidemics in areas unprepared for the diseases” when “mosquitoes, ticks, mice and other carriers are surviving warmer winters and expanding their range, bringing health threats with them.” Ick. [Washington Post]
More Malaria in
“A WHO report in 2000 found that warming had caused malaria to spread from three districts in western
Malaria Spreading in
The World Health Organization warns warmer temperatures mean malaria-carrying mosquitoes are able to live in northern climes, which could lead to a surge in malaria outside the tropics (aka
Malaria Spreading in
Thanks to global warming, “Malaria has spread to higher altitudes in places like the Colombian Andes, 7,000 feet above sea level.” [An Inconvenient Truth]
Malaria Spreading in
Russians found larvae of the anopheles mosquito, the malaria carrier, for the first time in
Spread of Dengue Fever
Scientists predict warmer temperatures will allow mosquitoes carrying Dengue Fever to travel outside the tropics. Since people in cooler climes lack immunity from previous exposure, that means transmission would be extensive. You get a severe fever, you start spontaneously bleeding, you can die. There is no vaccine. [Science Daily]
Death in the Time of Cholera
Cholera, which thrives in warmer water, appeared in the newly warmed waters of
Spread of Lyme Disease
Cold weather no longer kills ticks that carry Lyme Disease. Ticks recently began spreading along the coastlines of
West Nile Virus Home Invasion
Once confined to land near the equator, West Nile Virus is now found as far north as
Global Warming Threatens Our National Security
IISS: “A Global Catastrophe” For International Security
A recent study done by the International Institute for Strategic Studies has likened the international security effects of global warming to those caused by nuclear war. [On Deadline]
U.N.: As Dangerous As War
United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said this year that global warming poses as much of a threat to the world as war. [BBC]
Center for Naval Analyses: National Security Threat
In April, a report completed by the Center for Naval Analyses predicted that global warming would cause “large-scale migrations, increased border tensions, the spread of disease and conflicts over food and water.” [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon charges, “Amid the diverse social and political causes, the
In April, a group of 11 former
A study by IISS found that reduced water supplies and hotter temperatures mean “65 countries were likely to lose over 15 percent of their agricultural output by 2100.” [Yahoo]
Global warming will turn already-dry environments into deserts, causing the people who live there to migrate in massive numbers to more livable places. [MSNBC]
A study by the relief group Christian Aid estimates the number of refugees around the world will top a billion by 2050, thanks in large part to global warming. [Telegraph]
Increased Border Tensions
A report called “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change,” written by a group of retired generals and admirals, specifically linked global warming to increased border tensions. “If, as some project, sea levels rise, human migrations may occur, likely both within and across borders.” [NY Times]
“Developing countries, many with average temperatures that are already near or above crop tolerance levels, are predicted to suffer an average 10 to 25 percent decline in agricultural productivity by the 2080s.” [Economic Times]
Global warming will cause longer, more devastating droughts, thus exacerbating the fight over the world’s water. [Washington Post]
The Poor Are Most at Risk
Although they produce low amounts of greenhouse gases, experts say under-developed countries—such as those in sub-Saharan
A report done last year by the British government showed global warming could cause a Global Great Depression, costing the world up to 20 percent of its annual Global Domestic Product. [Washington Post]
The World’s Checkbook
A study by the Global Development and Environment Institute at
This piece is from the Center for American Progress Action Fund's Mic Check Radio.
Remember all the hoopla about several chocolate companies who were planning on changing the way they made their chocolate? Well, don't include Mars in all that talk.
The company (which makes Milky Way, M&Ms, Snickers, Dove Chocolate, and other chocolate candies and bars) has announced that they are going to keep making their chocolate with 100% cocoa butter. Some have been pushing for the industry to change to cheaper, healthier vegetable oils and fats. One thing I didn't realize is that the FDA says that if a company changes to those oils, they can't call it "chocolate."
The company says that even though they could have saved money by switching, that would hurt the taste of the chocolate. Thank you Mars!
Reparem que não tenho nada contra a Espanha e os espanhóis, nem me apanham a escrever coisas contra o «perigo espanhol» (é o mercado, estúpido); simplesmente me dou mal com o castelhano.
Talvez isso tenha alguma coisa a ver com experiências linguísticas. O ridículo do portunhol, as séries americanas dobradas na TVE («Espencer, detective privado»). E com os títulos. Ai os títulos.
Acho que já contei que descobri o Mein Kampf numa versão espanhola que se chamava naturalmente Mi Lucha. O sinistro panfleto nazi, agreste e tudo («Kampf»), transformado numa simples putéfia espanhola (a Milucha).
Depois os pintores: esse misterioso «Durero» que afinal não é andaluz mas o alemão Albrecht Dürer; esse mestre incógnito, «El Bosco», que afinal é Hieronymus Bosch e não um aguarelista primo de Mota Amaral.
E finalmente o inadjectivável Wuthering Heights degradado e arrojado pelo chão como Cumbres Borrascosas.
É de mais. Irra. Ou antes: coño.
13 outubro 2007
2. For some people the Creation, as a matter of religious belief, gives a meaning to life. Nevertheless, the Parliamentary Assembly is worried about the possible ill-effects of the spread of creationist ideas within our education systems and about the consequences for our democracies. If we are not careful, creationism could become a threat to human rights which are a key concern of the Council of Europe.
3. Creationism, born of the denial of the evolution of species through natural selection, was for a long time an almost exclusively American phenomenon. Today creationist ideas are tending to find their way into Europe and their spread is affecting quite a few Council of Europe member states.
4. The prime target of present-day creationists, most of whom are Christian or Muslim, is education. Creationists are bent on ensuring that their ideas are included in the school science syllabus. Creationism cannot, however, lay claim to being a scientific discipline.
5. Creationists question the scientific character of certain items of knowledge and argue that the theory of evolution is only one interpretation among others. They accuse scientists of not providing enough evidence to establish the theory of evolution as scientifically valid. On the contrary, they defend their own statements as scientific. None of this stands up to objective analysis.
6. We are witnessing a growth of modes of thought which challenge established knowledge about nature, evolution, our origins and our place in the universe.
7. There is a real risk of a serious confusion being introduced into our children’s minds between what has to do with convictions, beliefs, ideals of all sorts and what has to do with science. An “all things are equal” attitude may seem appealing and tolerant, but is in fact dangerous.
8. Creationism has many contradictory aspects. The “intelligent design” idea, which is the latest, more refined version of creationism, does not deny a certain degree of evolution. However, intelligent design, presented in a more subtle way, seeks to portray its approach as scientific, and therein lies the danger.
9. The Assembly has constantly insisted that science is of fundamental importance. Science has made possible considerable improvements in living and working conditions and is a not insignificant factor in economic, technological and social development. The theory of evolution has nothing to do with divine revelation but is built on facts.
10. Creationism claims to be based on scientific rigour. In actual fact the methods employed by creationists are of three types: purely dogmatic assertions; distorted use of scientific quotations, sometimes illustrated with magnificent photographs; and backing from more or less well-known scientists, most of whom are not specialists in these matters. By these means creationists seek to appeal to non-specialists and sow doubt and confusion in their minds.
11. Evolution is not simply a matter of the evolution of humans and of populations. Denying it could have serious consequences for the development of our societies. Advances in medical research with the aim of effectively combating infectious diseases such as AIDS are impossible if every principle of evolution is denied. One cannot be fully aware of the risks involved in the significant decline in biodiversity and climate change if the mechanisms of evolution are not understood.
12. Our modern world is based on a long history, of which the development of science and technology forms an important part. However, the scientific approach is still not well understood and this is liable to encourage the development of all manner of fundamentalism and extremism. The total rejection of science is definitely one of the most serious threats to human rights and civic rights.
13. The war on the theory of evolution and on its proponents most often originates in forms of religious extremism which are closely allied to extreme right-wing political movements. The creationist movements possess real political power. The fact of the matter, and this has been exposed on several occasions, is that some advocates of strict creationism are out to replace democracy by theocracy.
14. All leading representatives of the main monotheistic religions have adopted a much more moderate attitude. Pope Benedict XVI, for example, as his predecessor Pope John-Paul II, today praises the role of the sciences in the evolution of humanity and recognises that the theory of evolution is “more than a hypothesis”.
15. The teaching of all phenomena concerning evolution as a fundamental scientific theory is therefore crucial to the future of our societies and our democracies. For that reason it must occupy a central position in the curriculum, and especially in the science syllabus, as long as, like any other theory, it is able to stand up to thorough scientific scrutiny. Evolution is present everywhere, from medical overprescription of antibiotics that encourages the emergence of resistant bacteria to agricultural overuse of pesticides that causes insect mutations on which pesticides no longer have any effect.
16. The Council of Europe has highlighted the importance of teaching about culture and religion. In the name of freedom of expression and individual belief, creationist ideas, as any other theological position, could possibly be presented as an addition to cultural and religious education, but they cannot claim scientific respectability.
17. Science provides irreplaceable training in intellectual rigour. It seeks not to explain “why things are” but to understand how they work.
18. Investigation of the creationists’ growing influence shows that the arguments between creationism and evolution go well beyond intellectual debate. If we are not careful, the values that are the very essence of the Council of Europe will be under direct threat from creationist fundamentalists. It is part of the role of the Council’s parliamentarians to react before it is too late.
19. The Parliamentary Assembly therefore urges the member states, and especially their education authorities:
19.1. to defend and promote scientific knowledge;
19.2. strengthen the teaching of the foundations of science, its history, its epistemology and its methods alongside the teaching of objective scientific knowledge;
19.3. to make science more comprehensible, more attractive and closer to the realities of the contemporary world;
19.4. to firmly oppose the teaching of creationism as a scientific discipline on an equal footing with the theory of evolution and in general resist presentation of creationist ideas in any discipline other than religion;
19.5. to promote the teaching of evolution as a fundamental scientific theory in the school curriculum.
20. The Assembly welcomes the fact that 27 Academies of Science of Council of Europe member states signed, in June 2006, a declaration on the teaching of evolution and calls on academies of science that have not yet done so to sign the declaration.
Baobabs are popularly seen as vegetable elephants, the most bulky, contorted, awesome, antique masses of tree tissue on the planet. The greatest are believed to be 1,000 years old, but it's their surreal shapes as much as their presumed ages that have always marked them out. The Senegalese trees in Mimi Mollica's portraits seem to be chimeras, hybrids between plant, animal and rock. They're alabaster columns, lava streams, desert boulders, cave mouths. Their bark echoes the hide of the elephants to which they are so often compared, pouched and wrinkled and etched, ironically, with the gougings of tusks. When they're young, they inhabit a monde renversé, the flat, foreshortened topknot of branches looking for all the world like a root system.
No wonder baobabs were the subject of fascinated myths in West Africa. One is that, at the Creation, the animals were each given trees of their own. The hyena got the baobab - and was so appalled he turned it upside down. A related story tells that the primordial baobab was too beautiful for its own good, so the gods punished it by turning it topsy-turvy. In Senegal, villagers once buried their dead in the hollow trunks. In nearby Burkina Faso, the death of a baobab is commemorated by a full-dress communal wake. It's not that the trees are seen as gods or wreathed by taboos. They are accepted as members of the community, arboreal village elders.
Baobabs share many of the qualities of their human compatriots. They're citizens of the arid lands, frugal, resilient, inventive. The tree originated in Madagascar, where there are seven indigenous species; 10 million years ago, the seeds of one floated out into the Indian Ocean and arrived in Africa, from which beaching it spread across the continent. Others bobbed across the Pacific to Australia, where their descendants evolved into an eighth species.
The reason for the baobabs' immense girth and a physiognomy that can remind you of a pitcher, or a teapot, or a rather superior magnum of wine, is that they are filled to bursting with water. The soft wood of the trunk serves as a sponge, a living cistern sometimes 1,000 cubic metres in capacity; as a result, they are resistant to drought. They grow quickly and soon become hollow, at which point they may be dragooned into use as village reservoirs: a water tank inside a watery shell. Almost every part of the tree, except the spongy timber, is put to use. The fruit shells are rich in protein and used in Africa for animal food. In India (where the tree has been introduced) they make floats for fishing nets. The trunk can be debarked and used to make rope. Even the seed pulp is used for a drink that resembles lemon sherbet.
But the biggest and oldest baobabs become places. Their characterful bulk makes them landmarks, meeting points, shrines. One in South Africa has been turned into a pub. A famous "boab" in Australia, with the improbable shape of the pots in which missionaries were supposedly cooked, was used as a prison for Aborigines, then as a sacred burial site.
Thomas Pakenham, in The Remarkable Baobab, deplores these vulgar "desecrations", but they seem no more disrespectful or unnatural than the burrowings of woodpeckers and badgers. Humans have anciently had intimate and affectionate relationships with huge trees. Not just because they so surpass us in size and longevity, but because they stir empathy. One of the awesome South African baobabs, the Hoedspruit giant, is a writhing mass more than 30m in circumference. It has horizontal trunks, immense supporting buttresses, huge fatty calluses. Its history is impenetrable. It may have been knocked down by an elephant in its youth, blown apart by storms, set on fire by honey-hunters. Yet it's still vivaciously alive, and growing back towards the light. All trees react positively to damage. They don't repair wounds, they transcend them, creating a new kind of tissue called "reaction wood". This is the sinewy material that edges scars, that supports wind-warped trunks as they begin their slow climb back to the vertical. It is nothing less than wooden muscle.
We recognise this. In ancient baobab or beech we instinctively understand the tree's response to a challenge shared by all living things: of staying upright, holding the centre in a disorderly world.
* My photo of a Baobab tree in Lake Malawi
11 outubro 2007
The 87-year-old has been honoured with the 10m kronor (£763,000) award for her life's work over a 57-year career.
Her best-known works include The Golden Notebook, Memoirs of a Survivor and The Summer Before the Dark.
Lessing said she was "very glad" about the honour - particularly as she was told 40 years ago that the Nobel hierarchy did not like her.
She told BBC Radio 4: "I've won it. I'm very pleased and now we're going to have a lot of speeches and flowers and it will be very nice."
"So now they've decided they're going to give it to me. So why? I mean, why do they like me any better now than they did then?"
The author, who turns 88 on 22 October, said she thought she had become more respectable with age.
"They can't give a Nobel to someone who's dead so I think they were probably thinking they had better give it to me now before I popped off," she said.
And she is the second British writer to win in three years, after Harold Pinter was honoured in 2005. Turkish author Orhan Pamuk won last year.
The Swedish Academy, which awards the prize, described Lessing as "that epicist of the female experience, who with scepticism, fire and visionary power has subjected a divided civilisation to scrutiny".
"Oh good, did they say that about me?" she replied. "Oh goodness, well obviously they like me better now than they used to."
Lessing was out shopping when the announcement was made and said she thought a TV show was being filmed on her street when she returned to find TV crews outside her house.
Lessing was born in what is now Iran and moved to Rhodesia - now Zimbabwe - as a child before settling in England in 1949.
Her debut novel The Grass is Singing was published the following year and she made her breakthrough with The Golden Notebook in 1962.
"The burgeoning feminist movement saw it as a pioneering work and it belongs to the handful of books that informed the 20th Century view of the male-female relationship," the Swedish Academy said.
But Lessing herself has distanced herself from the feminist movement.
The content of her other novels ranges from semi-autobiographical African experiences to social and political struggle, psychological thrillers and science fiction.
She has been nominated for the Booker Prize three times - for Briefing for a Descent into Hell in 1971, The Sirian Experiments in 1981 and The Good Terrorist in 1985 - but has never won.
In addition to the Nobel cash prize, Lessing will receive a gold medal and an invitation to give a lecture at the academy's headquarters in Stockholm. She can also expect to see a rise in sales.