Noise

Stochastic resonance is observed when noise added to a system improves the system’s performance in some fashion. More technically, stochastic resonance occurs if the signal to noise ratio of a nonlinear system or device increases for moderate values of noise intensity.

It was discovered and proposed for the first time in 1981 to explain the periodic recurrence of ice ages. Since then, the same principle has been applied in a wide variety of systems. Currently, stochastic resonance is commonly invoked when noise and nonlinearity concur to determine an increase of order in the system response.

Stochastic resonance has been observed in a wide variety of experiments involving electronic circuits, chemical reactions, semiconductor devices, nonlinear optical systems, magnetic systems and superconducting quantum interference devices (SQUID). Of special interest are the neurophysiological experiments on stochastic resonance, three popular examples of which are the mechanoreceptor cells of crayfish, the sensory hair cells of cricket and human visual perception.

Computationally, neurons exhibit stochastic resonance because of non linearities in their processing. Stochastic resonance has yet to be fully explained in biological systems, but neural synchrony in the brain, specifically in the Gamma wave frequency, has been suggested as a possible neural mechanism for stochastic resonance by researchers who have investigated the perception of subconscious visual sensation.

Stochastic resonance based techniques have been used to create a novel class of medical devices, such as vibrating insoles, for enhancing sensory and motor function in the elderly, patients with diabetic neuropathy, and patients with stroke.

A related phenomenon is dithering applied to analog signals before analog to digital conversion. Stochastic resonance can be used to measure transmittance amplitudes below an instrument’s detection limit. If Gaussian noise is added to a subthreshold or immeasurable signal, then it can be brought into a detectable region. After detection, the noise is removed. In this way, a fourfold improvement in the detection limit can be obtained.

Stochastic resonance is a generic phenomenon. It has to do with the fact that adding noise to certain types of nonlinear systems possessing several simultaneously stable states may improve their ability to process information. As such, it is at the origin of intense interdisciplinary research at the crossroads of nonlinear dynamics, statistical physics, information and communication theories, data analysis, life and medical sciences. It opens tantalizing perspectives, from the development of new families of detectors to brain research. From the fundamental point of view it is still a largely open field of research. Its microscopic foundations have been hardly addressed, its quantum counterpart needs to be further elucidated, and its relevance in complex transition phenomena remains to be explored.

Development

Voluntary Simplicity is a lifestyle individuals choose to minimize the more-is-better pursuit of wealth and consumption. Adherents may choose simple living for a variety of reasons, such as spirituality, health, increase in quality time for family and friends, stress reduction, personal taste or frugality. Others cite sociopolitical goals aligned with the anticonsumerist movement, including conservation, social justice and sustainable development.

According to Duane Elgin, “we can describe voluntary simplicity as a manner of living that is outwardly more simple and inwardly more rich, a way of being in which our most authentic and alive self is brought into direct and conscious contact with living.”

Some people practice voluntary simplicity to reduce need for purchased goods or services and, by extension, reduce their need to sell their time for money. Some will spend the extra free time helping family or others. Others may spend the extra free time to improve their quality of life, for example pursuing creative activities such as art. The philosophy behind these choices is examined at length in Ernest Callenbach’s 1972 nonfiction book Living Poor with Style, which also devotes hundreds of pages to practical tips and how to guides for both voluntary and involuntary practitioners of simple living.

Another approach is to look very fundamentally at the whole issue of why we need to buy and consume so many resources for a good quality of life. Though our society often seeks to buy happiness, materialism very frequently fails to satisfy, and may even increase the level of stress in life. It has been said that the making of money and the accumulation of things should not smother the purity of the soul, the life of the mind, the cohesion of the family, or the good of the society. Another key practice is the adoption of a simplified diet. Diets that may simplify domestic food production and consumption include raw veganism and the Gandhi diet.

Although simple living is often a secular pursuit, it may still involve reconsidering personal definitions of appropriate technology, as groups such as the Amish or Mennonites have done. People who eschew modern technology are often referred to as Neo Luddism adherents.

People who practice simple living have diverse views on the role of technology. Some simple living adherents, such as Kirkpatrick Sale, are strong critics of technology, while others see the Internet as a key component of simple living in the future, including the reduction of an individual’s carbon footprint through telecommuting and less reliance on paper. Voluntary simplicity may include high tech components such as computers, Internet, photovoltaic arrays, wind and water turbines, and a variety of other cutting edge technologies that can be used to make a simple lifestyle within mainstream culture easier and more sustainable.

The idea of food miles, the number of miles a given item of food or its ingredients has travelled between the farm and the table, is used by simple living advocates to argue for locally grown food. This is now gaining mainstream acceptance.

Advertising is criticised for encouraging a consumerist mentality. Many advocates of voluntary simplicity tend to agree that cutting out, or cutting down on, television viewing is a key ingredient in simple living.

Enjoyment

Positive psychology is a recent branch of psychology that studies the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. Positive psychologists seek to find and nurture genius and talent, and to make normal life more fulfilling, not to cure mental illness. Martin Seligman is considered to be the father of positive psychology.

Several humanistic psychologists, such as Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, and Erich Fromm, developed successful theories and practices that involved human happiness. Recently the theories of human flourishing developed by these humanistic psychologists have found empirical support from studies by humanistic and positive psychologists, especially in the area of self determination theory.

Some researchers in this field posit that positive psychology can be delineated into three overlapping areas of research:

1. Research into the Pleasant Life or the life of enjoyment examines how people optimally experience, forecast, and savor the positive feelings and emotions that are part of normal and healthy living, such as relationships, hobbies, interests, entertainment, etc.

2. The study of the Good Life or the life of engagement investigates the beneficial affects of immersion, absorption, and flow that individuals feel when optimally engaged with their primary activities. These states are experienced when there is a positive match between a person’s strength and the task they are doing, such as when they feel confident that they can accomplish the tasks they face.

3. Inquiry into the Meaningful Life or life of affiliation questions how individuals derive a positive sense of well being, belonging, meaning, and purpose from being part of and contributing back to something larger and more permanent than themselves, such as nature, social groups, organizations, movements, traditions and belief systems.

Barbara Fredrickson hypothesizes that positive emotions undo the cardiovascular effects of negative emotions. When people experience stress, they show increased heart rate, higher blood sugar, immune suppression, and other adaptations optimized for immediate action. If individuals do not regulate these changes once the stress is past, they can lead to illness, coronary heart disease, and heightened mortality. Both lab research and survey research indicate that positive emotions help people who were previously under stress relax back to their physiological baseline.

After several years of researching disgust, University of Virginia professor Jonathan Haidt and others studied its opposite, and the term elevation was coined. Elevation is a moral emotion and is pleasant. It involves a desire to act morally and do good. As an emotion it has a basis in biology, and can sometimes be characterized by a feeling of expansion in the chest or a tingling feeling on the skin.

The broaden and build theory of positive emotion suggests that positive emotions such as happiness, interest and anticipation, broaden one’s awareness and encourage novel, varied, and exploratory thoughts and actions. Over time, this broadened behavioral repertoire builds skills and resources. For example, curiosity about a landscape becomes valuable navigational knowledge, pleasant interactions with a stranger become a supportive friendship, and aimless physical play becomes exercise and physical excellence.

This is in contrast to negative emotions, which prompt narrow survival oriented behaviors. For example, the negative emotion of anxiety leads to the specific fight or flight response for immediate survival.

Practical applications of positive psychology include helping individuals and organizations correctly identify their strengths and use them to increase and sustain their respective levels of well being. Therapists, counselors, coaches, and various other psychological professionals can use the new methods and techniques to build and broaden the lives of individuals who are not necessarily suffering from mental illness or disorder.

Colonization

The Mayflower was the famous ship that transported the English Separatists, better known as the Pilgrims, from Southampton, England, to Plymouth, Massachusetts.

The vessel left England on September 6, 1620, and after a gruelling 66 day journey marked by disease which claimed two lives, the ship dropped anchor inside the hook tip of Cape Cod in Provincetown Harbor on November 21. The Mayflower originally was destined for the mouth of the Hudson River, near present day New York City, at the northern edge of England’s Virginia colony, which itself was established with the 1607 Jamestown Settlement. However, the Mayflower went off course as the winter approached, and remained in Cape Cod Bay. On March 28, 1621, all surviving passengers, who had inhabited the ship during the winter, moved ashore at Plymouth.

The Mayflower has a famous place in American history as a symbol of early European colonization of the future United States. With their religion oppressed by the English Church and government, the small party of religious separatists who comprised about half of the passengers on the ship desired a life where they could practice their religion freely. This symbol of religious freedom resonates in US society and the story of the Mayflower is a staple of any American history textbook. Americans whose roots are traceable back to New England often believe themselves to be descended from Mayflower passengers.

Initially, the plan was for the voyage to be made in two vessels, the other being the smaller Speedwell, which had transported some of the Pilgrims embarking on the voyage from Delfshaven in the Netherlands to Southampton, England. The first voyage of the ships departed Southampton, on August 15, 1620, but the Speedwell developed a leak, and had to be refitted at Dartmouth on August 27.

On the second attempt, the ships reached the Atlantic Ocean but again were forced to return to Plymouth because of the Speedwell’s leak. It would later be revealed that there was in fact nothing wrong with the Speedwell. The Pilgrims believed that the crew had, through aspects of refitting the ship, and their behavior in operating it, sabotaged the voyage in order to escape the year long commitment of their contract.

To establish legal order and to quell increasing strife within the ranks, the settlers wrote and signed the Mayflower Compact after the ship dropped anchor at Provincetown Harbor on November 21.

The settlers, upon initially setting anchor, explored the snow covered area and discovered an empty Native American village. The curious settlers dug up some artificially made mounds, some of which stored corn while others were burial sites. The settlers stole the corn and looted and desecrated the graves, sparking friction with the locals. They moved down the coast to what is now Eastham, and explored the area of Cape Cod for several weeks, looting and stealing native stores as they went. They decided to relocate to Plymouth after a difficult encounter with the local native Americans, the Nausets, at First Encounter Beach, in December 1620.

During the winter the passengers remained on board the Mayflower, suffering an outbreak of a contagious disease described as a mixture of scurvy, pneumonia and tuberculosis. When it ended, there were only 53 persons still alive, half of the passengers and half of the crew. In spring, they built huts ashore, and on March 31, 1621, the surviving passengers left the Mayflower.

On April 15, 1621, the Mayflower set sail from Plymouth to return to England, where it arrived on May 16, 1621. In 1623, a year after the death of captain Christopher Jones, the Mayflower was most likely dismantled for scrap lumber in Rotherhithe, London.

Splitting

According to Sigmund Freud, projection is a psychological defense mechanism whereby one inflicts one’s own undesirable thoughts, motivations, desires, and feelings onto someone else. It is a common process that every person uses to some degree.

To understand the process, consider a person in a couple who has thoughts of infidelity. Instead of dealing with these undesirable thoughts consciously, he or she subconsciously projects these feelings onto the other person, and begins to think that the other has thoughts of infidelity and may be having an affair. In this sense, projection is related to denial, arguably the only defense mechanism that is more primitive than projection. Projection, like all defense mechanisms provide a function whereby truth about a part of themselves that may otherwise be unacceptable is shielded.

Compartmentalization, splitting and projection are ways that the ego continues to pretend that it is completely in control at all times, when in reality human experience is one of shifting beingness, instinctual or territorial reactiveness and emotional motives, for which the “I” is not always complicit. Further, common in deep trauma, individuals will be unable to access truthful memories, intentions and experiences, even about their own nature, wherein projection is just one tool.

It has been described as the operation of expelling feelings or wishes the individual finds wholly unacceptable, too shameful, too obscene, too dangerous by attributing them to another.

The philosopher Ludwig Feuerbach based his theory of religion in large part upon the idea of projection such that the idea that an anthropomorphic deity is the outward projection of man’s anxieties and desires.

Psychological projection is the subject of Robert Bly’s book A Little Book on the Human Shadow. The shadow, a term used in Jungian psychology to describe a variety of psychological projection, refers to the projected material. Marie-Louise Von Franz extended the view of projection to cover phenomena in Patterns of Creativity Mirrored in Creation Myths and notes that wherever known reality stops, where we touch the unknown, there we project an archetypal image.

When addressing psychological trauma the defense mechanism is sometimes counter projection, including an obsession to continue and remain in a recurring trauma causing situation, and the compulsive obsession with the perceived perpetrator of the trauma or its projection.

Carl Jung mentioned that all projections provoke counter projection when the object is unconscious of the quality projected upon it by the subject.

Projection is the opposite defense mechanism to identification. We project our own unpleasant feelings onto someone else and blame them for having thoughts that we really have.

Blessings

Prayer flags are colorful panels or rectangular cloths often found strung along mountain ridges and peaks high in the Himalayas to bless the surrounding countryside or for other purposes. Unknown in other branches of Buddhism, prayer flags are believed to have originated with Bön, which predated Buddhism in Tibet. Traditionally they are woodblock printed with texts and images.

The Indian Buddhist Sutras, discourses attributed to the Buddha, written on cloth in India, were traditionally distributed to other regions of the world. These sutras, written on banners, were the origin of prayer flags. Legend ascribes the origin of the prayer flag to the Shakyamuni Buddha, whose prayers were written on battle flags used by the devas against their adversaries, the asuras. The legend may have given the Indian bhikku a reason for carrying the heavenly banner as a way of signifying his commitment to ahimsa. This knowledge was carried into Tibet by 800 CE, and the actual flags were introduced no later than 1040 CE, where they were further modified.

Traditionally, prayer flags come in sets of five, one in each of five colors. The five colors represent the elements, and the Five Pure Lights and are arranged from left to right in a specific order. Different elements are associated with different colors for specific traditions, purposes and sadhana:

  • Blue (symbolizing sky/space)
  • White (symbolizing air/wind)
  • Red (symbolizing fire)
  • Green (symbolizing water)
  • Yellow (symbolizing earth)

The center of a prayer flag traditionally features a powerful or strong horse bearing three flaming jewels on its back. The Ta is a symbol of speed and the transformation of bad fortune to good fortune. The three flaming jewels symbolize the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha, the three cornerstones of Tibetan philosophical tradition.

Surrounding the Ta are various versions of approximately 20 traditional mantras, each dedicated to a particular deity. In Tibetan, deities are not so much gods as aspects of the divine which are manifest in each part of the whole universe, including individual humans. These writings include mantras from three of the great Buddhist Bodhisattvas. In addition to mantras, prayers for the long life and good fortune of the person who mounts the flags are often included.

Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to gods, a common misconception, rather the Tibetans believe the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. Therefore, prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all.

By hanging flags in high places the Wind Horse will carry the blessings depicted on the flags to all beings. As wind passes over the surface of the flags which are sensitive to the slightest movement of the wind, the air is purified and sanctified by the Mantras.

The prayers of a flag become a permanent part of the universe as the images fade from exposure to the elements. Just as life moves on and is replaced by new life, Tibetans renew their hopes for the world by continually mounting new flags alongside the old. This act symbolizes a welcoming of life changes and an acknowledgment that all beings are part of a greater ongoing cycle.

Some believe that if the flags are hung on inauspicious astrological dates, they may bring negative results for as long as they are flying. The best times to put up new prayer flags are in the mornings on sunny, windy days.

Sets of five coloured flags should be put in the order: blue, white, red, green, yellow from left to right. The colours represent the Five Buddha Families and the five elements. The origin of Prayer flag colors may be traced to an ancient tradition of Tibet where shamans used primary colored plain flags in healing ceremonies. According to Traditional Tibetan medicine, health and harmony are produced through the balance of the five elements. Old prayer flags are replaced with new ones annually on the Tibetan New Year.

Because the symbols and mantras on prayer flags are sacred, they should be treated with respect. They should not be placed on the ground or used in clothing. Old prayer flags should be burned.

During the Cultural Revolution, prayer flags were discouraged but not entirely eliminated. Many traditional designs may have been lost. Currently, different styles of prayer flags can be seen all across the Tibetan region. Most of the traditional prayer flags today are made in Nepal and India by Tibetan refugees or by Nepali Buddhists. The flags are also manufactured in Bhutan for local use.

Prana

The etheric body is a name given to a supposed vital body propounded in esoteric philosophies as the first or lowest layer in the human energy field or aura. It is said to be in immediate contact with the physical body, to sustain it and connect it with higher bodies.

The term etheric in this context seems to derive from the Theosophical writings of Madame Blavatsky, but its use was formalised by C.W. Leadbeater and Annie Besant due to the elimination of Hindu terminology from the system of seven planes and bodies.

The term gained some general popularity after the 1914-18 war, Dr. Walter John Kilner having adopted it for a layer of the human atmosphere which, as he claimed in a popular book, could be rendered visible to the naked eye by means of certain exercises.

The classical element Aether of Platonic and Aristotlean physics continued in VIctorian scientific proposals of a Luminiferous ether as well as the cognate chemical substance ether. According to Theosophists and Alice Bailey the etheric body inhabits an etheric plane which corresponds to the four higher subplanes of the physical plane. The intended reference is therefore to some extremely rarefied matter, analogous in usage to the word spirit. In selecting it as the term for a clearly defined concept in an Indian derived metaphysical system, the Theosophists aligned it with ideas such as the prana maya kosha (sheath made of prana, subtle breath or life force) of Vedantic thought.

In popular use it is often confounded with the related concept of the astral body as for example in the term astral projection. The early Theosophists had called it the astral double. Others prefer to speak of the lower and higher astral.

Linga sarira is a Sanskrit term for the invisible double of the human body, the etheric body or etheric double, or astral body in some Theosophical concepts. It is one of the seven principles of the human being, according to Theosophical philosophy.

Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Anthroposophy, often referred to the etheric body in association with the etheric formative forces and the evolution of man and the cosmos. According to him, it can be perceived by a person gifted with clairvoyance as being of peach blossom color.

Steiner considered the etheric reality or life principle as quite distinct from the physical material reality, being intermediate between the physical world and the astral or soul world. The etheric body can be characterised as the life force also present in the plant kingdom. It maintains the physical body’s form until death. At that time, it separates from the physical body and the physical reverts to natural disintegration.

According to Max Heindel’s Rosicrucian writings, the etheric body, composed of four ethers, is called the Vital Body since the ether is the way of ingress for vital force from the Sun and the field of agencies in nature which promote such vital activities as assimilation, growth, and propagation. It is an exact counterpart of our physical body, molecule for molecule, and organ for organ, but it is of the opposite polarity. It is slightly larger, extending about one and a half inches beyond the periphery of the physical body.

Samael Aun Weor teaches that the vital body is the five dimensional part of the physical body and the foundation of organic life. He states that in the second Initiation of Fire, which is reached through working with sexual magic with a spouse, the Kundalini rises in the vital body. Then the initiate learns how to separate the two superior ethers from the others in order for them to serve as a vehicle to travel out of the physical body.

Some clairvoyants and occultists have produced drawings and paintings that record their perceptions of the etheric body, such as Leadbeater’s Man Visible and Invisible for one example. The images produced by Kirlian photography bear obvious resemblances to these graphics, showing a spiky looking energy field extending a few inches around the human body, as well as other biological specimens, like leaves, and objects like coins. The fact that Kirlian photography can capture the acupuncture points of the body links the technology with concepts of prana, qi, bioplasma, and related ideas and theories. For some believers in the etheric body, Kirlian photography provides important supporting evidence, though skeptics are generally not swayed.

Modern theosophists sometimes claim that the ideas are related to a contemporary area of fringe science, modern Aether theories. However, there are alternative explanations that some Theosophists may regard as plausible, which includes the conception of the dynamic aether, possessing a fluid crystal structure, subdivided in different levels of density, with density proportional to the density of any physical substance occupying the area of space concerned, increasing around large bodies such as stars and planets, acting as a refracting medium, affecting the speed of propagation of light and conveying electromagnetic forces.

This confirms all the experimental data and astronomical observations currently cited in support of the special and general theories of relativity, including the phenomena known as vacuum energy and other unsolved problems in physics that baffles the current standard theories. Also taken into account are the internal inconsistencies and unwarranted assumptions of standard relativity theory have been pointed out by dozens of scientists. It must be reiterated, though, that these ideas should in no way be construed as being indicative of generally accepted scientific opinion on the subject.

Accomplishment

In athletics, the four minute mile is the running of a mile, or 5280 feet, in less than four minutes. It was first achieved in 1954 by Roger Bannister. The four minute barrier has since been broken by many male athletes, and is now the standard of all professional middle distance runners. In the last 50 years the mile record has been lowered by almost 17 seconds.

When Bannister crossed the finish line of Oxford’s Iffley Road track on May 6, 1954, he could hardly see straight. Completing the mile in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds, he had not only trimmed two seconds off the world record, but also run the world’s first sub four minute mile.

“People thought it was like bouncing off a brick wall,” explains close rival John Landy, who had come within three seconds of the four minute mark six times.

“It was a sense of relief,” said Bannister, recalling the momentous event more than 50 years later. “There was a mystique, a belief that it couldn’t be done, but I think it was more of a psychological barrier than a physical barrier.”

Landy, who broke Bannister’s record with a 3 minute 58 second finish only six weeks later, argues otherwise. “It has nothing to do with psychology,” he says. “It was just a matter of having the right runners at the right level of training and the right set of circumstances.”

John Walker, a distance runner from New Zealand, managed to run 129 sub four minute miles during his career, during which he was the first person to run over 100 sub four minute miles, and American Steve Scott has run the most sub four minute miles, with 136. Currently, the mile record is held by the Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj, who set a time of 3 minutes 43.13 seconds in Rome in 1999.

Another illustration of the progression of performance in the men’s mile is that in 1994, forty years after Bannister’s breaking of the barrier, the Irish runner Eamonn Coghlan became the first man over age 40 to run a sub four minute mile.

No woman has yet run a four minute mile. The current women’s record holder is retired Russian Svetlana Masterkova, with a time of 4 minutes 12.56 seconds.

In 1997, Daniel Komen of Kenya ran two miles in less than eight minutes, doubling up on Bannister’s accomplishment.

Hovering

The American Kestrel is the smallest falcon in North America. In addition to requiring open space for hunting, they seem to need perches for hunting from, cavities for nesting, and a sufficient food supply.

It is the only North American falcon to habitually hover with rapid wing beats, keeping its head motionless while scanning the ground for prey. The kestrel commonly perches along fences and powerlines. It glides with flat wings and wingtips curved upward. It occasionally soars in circles with its tail spread and its wings flat.

This falcon species is not long-lived. The oldest banded wild bird was 11 years and seven months old while a captive lived 17 years. A mortality rate average of 57 percent was found. First year mortality rates have declined since 1945 with a decrease in shooting. Major causes of death include collision with traffic, illegal shooting, and predation.

The American Kestrel is a common prey item of other raptors, including Red-tailed Hawks

In summer, kestrels feed largely on grasshoppers, dragonflies, lizards, mice, and voles. They will also eat other small birds. Wintering birds feed primarily on rodents and birds. However, due to its diminutive size even in open cerrado habitat, mixed-species feeding flocks will hardly consider it a threat. The birds characteristically hunt along roadsides from telephone wires, fence posts, trees or other convenient perches when not flying in search of food. When they are flying and looking for food they frequently hover with rapid wingbeats.

Because it feeds on both insects and vertebrates, the American Kestrel maintains fairly high population densities. It has a small breeding home range, from 1.75 square miles to 2 square miles. Territory size has been estimated at 269 acres much larger wintering home ranges.

Several hunting techniques are used by the American Kestrel. It will hover over one spot and when prey is sighted the kestrel will partly fold its wings and drop lower once or several times before striking. When the prey disappears the falcon will glide in a semicircle before turning back into the wind to hover again. It will also soar in circles, or figure eights, using the same stooping tactics as when hovering.

The kestrel commonly hunts from elevated perch sites, waiting for prey to move on the ground. The kestrel bobs its head and pumps its tail just before attacking.

Other prey capture techniques include direct pursuit, landing and flushing prey from the ground (especially for grasshoppers) and then taking them in flight, capturing flying insects from an elevated perch, and nest robbing including the burrows of Bank Swallows and the nests of Cliff Swallows. It is also an occasional bat catcher, taking bats from their tree roosts, or striking bats in flight from above or as the bats leave or enter caves. The kestrel will kill and cache food items.

American Kestrels will use holes in trees, rock cavities and crevices in cliffs, artificial nest boxes, or small spaces in buildings. The number of suitable breeding cavities limits this species’ breeding density. The American Kestrel has adapted well to nest boxes. In one program, nest boxes were fixed to the backs of signs along a freeway thus allowing kestrels to breed in areas formerly devoid of nest sites. Pairs nesting in boxes on poles have much higher nesting success than pairs using boxes on trees. No nest is built inside. In nest boxes sawdust and wood shavings may be a suitable substrate for the eggs. Males and females defend the nest against intruders, with the male maintaining a small core territory and the female defending the nest cavity directly rather the surroundings.

Both sexes take turns incubating their eggs, a very rare situation among North American birds of prey where the female usually incubates exclusively. Correspondingly, both sexes develop bare oval patches on each side of their breasts where the warm bare skin can contact the eggs for warming.

As this bird occurs over a wide range and is not generally rare, the IUCN classifies it as a Species of Least Concern. Local populations may fluctuate according to resource availability, and birds may become locally extinct if habitat deteriorates.

The American Kestrel’s North American population has been estimated at 1.2 million pairs, with the Central and South American populations being as large. It is possible that the clearing of parts of North America for agriculture in the last two hundred years has caused the American kestrel population to increase. The southeastern race, Falco sparverius paulus, is in serious decline (an 82 percent decrease since the early 1940s in north central Florida) possibly due to habitat loss and loss of nest sites, and has been listed in Florida as “threatened”. Threats to the species as a whole include loss of nest sites, pesticide poisoning (dieldrin and DDT, among others), and death through collisions with vehicles as well as shooting.

Hunting Kestrels are also at risk of predation by cats, dogs, and other raptors, in particular Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii).

Species

A fairy is a type of mythological being or legendary creature, a form of spirit, often described as metaphysical, supernatural or preternatural.

Fairies are generally described as human in appearance and having magical powers. Their origins are less clear in the folklore, being some form of angel, or a species completely independent of humans or angels. Folklorists have suggested that their actual origin lies in a conquered race living in hiding, or in religious beliefs that lost currency with the advent of Christianity.

Although in modern culture fairies are often depicted as young, sometimes winged, females of small stature, they originally were depicted much differently as tall, radiant, angelic beings or short, wizened trolls. Diminutive fairies of one kind or another have been recorded for centuries, but occur alongside the human sized beings. These have been depicted as ranging in size from very tiny up to the size of a human child. Even with these small fairies, however, their small size may be magically assumed rather than constant.

Wings, while common in Victorian and later artwork of fairies, are very rare in the folklore. Even very small fairies flew with magic, sometimes flying on plant stems or the backs of birds. Nowadays, fairies are often depicted with ordinary insect wings or butterfly wings.

One common theme found among the Celtic nations describes a race of diminutive people who had been driven into hiding by invading humans. They came to be seen as another race, or possibly spirits, and were believed to live in an Otherworld that was variously described as existing underground, in hidden hills, many of which were believed to be ancient burial mounds.

In popular folklore, flint arrowheads from the Stone Age were attributed to fairies. Their green clothing and underground homes were credited to their need to hide and camouflage themselves from hostile humans, and their use of magic a necessary skill for combating those with superior weaponry.

Perhaps some of the most well known fairies were made by Disney. Tinkerbell was the adaptation from the Peter Pan stories by J.M. Barrie. The Fairy Godmother in Disney’s version of Cinderella and the fairies in Sleeping Beauty are another example. In Carlo Collodi’s tale Pinocchio, a wooden boy receives the gift of real life from a fairy described as a lovely maiden with azure hair, who was dubbed the Blue Fairy in Disney’s adaptation.