National Geographic September 2015, Part 2

True Colors, by Patricia Edmonds, photographs by Christian Ziegler

True Colors is about chameleons. Edmonds goes into the conservation status of chameleons (threatened or near threatened) and a bit about habitats and such, but ultimately the meat of this article is about how chameleons change color and why they do so.

Chameleons largely change color as a means of communication. A red chameleon is feeling aggressive, but when it feels submissive, it will turn brown. In one species, at least, the females turn pink when they’re ready to mate, and then fade so that the pink is on a brown background once they are carrying fertilized eggs. As to the “how,” apparently, chameleons have a specialized skin layer that has crystals in it that cluster together or spread apart. As the crystals spread out, the color becomes warmer, going from green to yellow or orange or red.

Rescuing Mes Aynak, by Hannah Bloch, photographs by Simon Norfolk

Afghanistan needs money. To that end, they have leased an area outside Kabul, which is one of the world’s richest sources of copper, to a Chinese company so that the Chinese company can extract the copper. Mining was supposed to have begun in 2012, but the presence of the Taliban and difficulty in agreeing to the terms of the mining have led to a delay in beginning work.

This has given the archaeologists a chance to get in there to study the site and extract as many artifacts as they can. You see, for a period of five hundred years, beginning in the third century A.D., Mes Aynak was the home to a Buddhist community. Not many Buddhists were involved in heavy industry, but these Buddhists were, so the study being done at Mes Aynak will tell the archaeologists there, and from there, to the rest of the world, about the relationship between Buddhists and heavy industry.

Years ago, I did some volunteer work with some archaeologists and I discovered that much of the digging-and-sifting work done on dig sites is done by volunteers. I want to explore South Texas thoroughly over these next few years because once Alex is out of college (around eight years from now), I’m leaving Texas. And part of how I will “shop” for a new home is that I will be looking for active archaeological schools and other organizations that will take volunteers. Doing the digging-and-sifting work, so long as it’s not in the hot South Texas sun, sounds, to me, like a lot of fun. While working with the archaeologists, by the way, I got a chance to read some of the field reports put together by the Archaeologists at the Center for Archaeological Research at the University of Texas at San Antonio. As I create my South Texas Destinations writeups I will occasionally refer to, and, when possible, link to some of these reports.