National Geographic February 2016, Part 1

Seeing the Light, by Ed Yong, photographs by David Littleschwager

Seeing the Light focuses (heh) on the evolution of the eye and its function in different species. Eyes all receive light, but they use that light for different purposes.  In humans, the light is used to perform functions like reading, driving and functioning at practical tasks. In other species, the practical aspects prevail. Some use their eyes to look for prey, others use them to avoid becoming prey.

Yong includes the sentence, “You use it (light) to . . . . read these words.” And, of course, not all prospective readers of “these words” are able to use light in this way because they are blind. By the way, I can now read the text on-line version of the magazine if I go directly to the article. If I want to use the table of contents, though I still need to go to the text version, which one can see okay on my computer, but for which a screen reader (the software that a blind user uses to read computerized documents) would be useless. I’m not sure if software like KNFB Reader, which takes pictures of words, uses optical character recognition to turn them into text, and then reads it aloud with synthetic speech would be able to see the page clearly enough to read it.  An old-fashioned screen reader, however, would be able to read the text version of the articles aloud for a blind reader, which will help for the last few years.  As to the years prior to those.  LibriVox volunteers are in the process of converting the public domain issues to speech, as well. However, that just covers issues through 1923 at the moment. They still have quite a ways to go (the latest issue available is from 1896), so that should hold them until at least 2019, when publications from 1924 will enter the public domain. I have actually considered reading for them, but I hate my voice. Like, really hate it.  I’m not enthusiastic about my appearance, either (that’s why you’ll likely never see a photograph of me on this site). I’m trying to psych myself up to do it, but I may never reach that point.

Denali, by Tom Clynes, photographs by Aaron Huey

Clynes visited Denali National Park in Alaska at least twice — one visit was in March, when he got a chance to travel the park by dogsled. The other was in June, when he visited the park like a tourist.

Early in Denali National Park’s history was first formed, there was a debate about how many miles of roads they need to pave for visitors.  They ended up with a compromise of sorts, and a 15-mile stretch was paved. The road was too narrow for the number of visitors they had, and so they ended up using a sort of mass transit system, where buses take the visitors along the road. The visitors can get on and off the buses at pretty much anywhere, and people do leave the buses.

The big draw of Denali is the wildlife. There are 39 species of mammal and 169 species of bird at Denali, according to their website. The centerpiece of Denali is their wolves. Scientists collar the wolves to study their habits and, over the last six or so years, the number of wolves in the park has been halved, from 100 to 50. This article focuses on the wolves, and why their numbers are dwindling.

Some of it, of course, is poachers — you can’t patrol the entire perimeter of a six-million-acre park, so some people will invariably sneak in to steal wildlife.  Others, however, are hunts outside the park that are otherwise perfectly legal.  Clynes meets a hunter who, among others of his fellow Alaskans, believes that the federal laws that protect the wildlife of the park, particularly the predators, are “overreach.”

There are no answers to the questions posed in this article yet.  All we can do is wait and research and study and hope that someday there will be.

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