So Long, Lonesome George and Other News of the Week

Lonesome George. (Image: putneymark via Flickr)

Goodnight, George. Lonesome George, the last of the Pinta island giant tortoises, the symbol of Galapagos Island, and an icon of the conservation movement, died this week at his home in Galapagos National Park. George was 100 years old. Cause of death is believed to be a heart attack.

To eat or not to eat… If you, like me, like to conserve your organic eating dollars for where they can make the most impact on your family’s health, you may be interested to note that the Environmental Working Group has recently released a new Dirty Dozen List. The list highlights the 12 fruits and vegetables most likely to be contaminated by pesticides, and therefore, the most important to buy in their organic forms if you can. Of course, as the Environmental Working Group, NPR, and The Five-Year-Old’s pediatrician point out, it’s far better for your family to eat conventional produce than none at all. As the NPR story points out, most of the dirty dozen had residue levels below acceptable government standards. And the mere presence of a chemical doesn’t always mean a risk. A 2011 study by the University of California, Davis, that says that swapping organics for conventional produce wouldn’t necessarily make people any healthier.

Cat and… Robin? Three Michigan cats have adopted a baby robin. Two of the cats actually allow the bird to nestle in their fur, while the third merely deigns to allow the bird to prance in circles around it–clear proof that Cat #3 isn’t getting as much of whatever’s in the water out there.

Ancient rock art found in Australia. Last week, University of Southern Queensland archaeologist Bryce Barker announced that he has found the oldest unequivocally dated Aboriginal rock art. The rock art, a charcoal drawing on a bit of granite, dates back 28,000 years. While this may be the oldest bit of art found in Australia so far, it’s not the oldest work of art in the world. That title belongs to the 40,800 year-old hand stencils and red disks painted on the wall of the El Castillo cave in Spain. Of course, those hand prints may have been made by Neanderthals.

And finally, Britain’s first urban cable car opened this week, ahead of the Summer Olympics, which start July 27.

About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book will focus on science, and how parents without a science degree can answer their curious child's questions without enrolling in a college level refresher course. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Eleven-Year-Old at, chatting about books and the writing life at, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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