The Sahara Desert in Morocco. Frans Lemmens/Getty Images A stranger sets off across the desert in search of rescue. The sun beats down as he trudges up and over endless sand dunes. Up ahead an oasis appears, but it's only a cruel mirage. Eventually, the hapless victim succumbs to the elements and collapses to the sand. All seems lost until a kindly desert dweller saves the day with a canteen of water. The stranger is thrown on the back of a camel and taken to safety -- or sold into slavery, depending on the movie. When we think of deserts, we usually picture a sea of sand, virtually no plant life and turban-clad sheiks riding camels. While there are many deserts that fit this description, they aren't all like they appear in the movies. In fact, only about 20 percent of the world's deserts are covered in sand. The other 80 percent is made up of pebbles, bedrock, desert soil and, yes, oases [source: USGS]. Roughly one-third of the Earth's land is desert [source: USGS]. There are … [Read more...] about How Desert Survival Works
How desert animals survive
I try to avoid listening to Donald Trump’s voice, but on a Wednesday in mid-May, I watched the video of a statement he made during a roundtable discussion about California’s sanctuary state policies. His exact words were: “We have people coming into the country, or trying to come in—we’re stopping a lot of them. You wouldn’t believe how bad these people are. These aren’t people, these are animals, and we’re taking them out of the country at a level and at a rate that’s never happened before.” Immediately, both conservatives and liberals jumped to his defense on the basis of context, because he had previously been talking about the MS-13 gang. These justifications are hollow. Criminals are human; I grew up Catholic, then evangelical, so I can tell you I learned that one from Jesus. It’s also fruitless to analyze the words of a man who speaks in non-sequiturs, whose brain apparently functions at the level of images that … [Read more...] about A Theory of Animals
Two peccaries (Pecari tajacu) walk by the US-Mexico border near an existing stretch of wall that bisects the San Pedro river corridor. Krista Schlyer/Nature Picture Library/Getty Images You may have heard: President Trump has some plans to build a wall between Mexico and the United States. And it's not just a little wall a bunny could hop over — no, he's promised an "impenetrable, physical, tall, powerful, beautiful, southern border wall." This wall is going to be tremendous. But regardless of much geopolitical sense you think this little construction project makes, a giant wall between Mexico and the United States will take its toll on wildlife. To humans, the desert borderlands between Mexico and the American Southwest might seem hot, dry and inhospitable, but they support a bumping ecosystem, featuring animals like bighorn sheep, the American roadrunner (yes, of "Looney Tunes" fame), and the endangered North American jaguar. Building a wall in the middle of all this will … [Read more...] about How a Trump Border Wall Would Affect Wildlife
The campfire these sportsmen built is really top-notch and aces for cooking food. Lambert/Hulton Archive/Getty Images If you have a fireplace in your home, chances are you have a gas line that helps you get it going. If you don't, you probably have some nifty long matches, a lighter and a stack of newspaper on the hearth. But what if you got lost in the wintry woods without a match or lighter? What if you washed ashore on a deserted island, soaked to the bone? You may not think so, but it could happen to you -- just ask Tom Hanks. His movie character used wits and determination to survive in "Castaway." Along with shelter and water, fire is the most important thing you need to survive in the wilderness. It provides the following: Warmth in cold conditionsA means to purify water or sterilize toolsHeat to dry wet clothesA cooking flameA sense of security and comfortSmoke for rescue signalsHeat to melt snow and ice for drinking waterA means to scare away dangerous animalsLight for … [Read more...] about How to Start a Fire Without a Match
Mesopotamia © 2010 HowStuffWorks.com Anthropologists and archaeologists love to get together to talk about the different characteristics that make up a civilized society. While the finer points are debated, there are a number of things that most researchers agree are necessary to draw such a distinction. In the mid-1930s, an archaeologist named V. Gordon Childe wrote a book called "Man Makes Himself," which named a few components that marked civilization. Among them are sailing ships, plows, wheels and draft animals, an irrigation system, standards of measurement and writing. Most of the things that Childe and other researchers list are related in some way to the nuts and bolts of survival, or at the least, how to survive efficiently. Standards of measurement and writing both stand out as more cultural in nature. While you don't need writing to survive, it may draw the most distinct line between a civilized and an uncivilized society. In fact, some argue that writing became … [Read more...] about How did writing evolve?