Will to Live

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“In animal life there are certain moments where what happens at that moment, could be more important than you would think…Hatching is one of those moments.”

- Dr. Karen Warkentin

Studying the adaptive plasticity in Red-Eyed Tree Frog Embryo’s is in part, studying the behaviors of organisms that have not yet been born. At first glance it is clear that frog eggs, clutches sometimes deposited on leaves hanging over water sources, will react to subtle changes in their environment by hatching early. Biologist and Professor Karen Warkentin made this observation when she bumped into a clutch of eggs while wading through the dense forest of Costa Rica, this was over a decade ago. Further into her research, Warkentin discovered that these pre-natal beings have the ability to make evaluative decisions in response to environmental conditions in order to stay alive. Warkentin explains that while the organisms are extremely vulnerable to predation, they can receive information about the world around them and, “for some (time) period,” make the decision to hatch.

Phenomena so subtle as these can go unnoticed, the ferocious and loud wilderness of this planet often drowning out the nearly noiseless drop of a egg into its aquarian home. Even more so, how perceptive of an eye would it take to capture the writhing’s of these minuscule creatures, hesitant in their egg sac waiting for the right moment to hatch or not. Warkentin’s research embarks on the journey of Red Eyed Tree frogs from inception, to hatching and into the adolescent and adult lives of the species. Understanding how the life patterns of these organisms are shaped is highly informed by the, “critical transition point,” of frog embryos making the decision to hatch. Taking a critical view of the many different elements of Warkentin’s research we can begin to ask further questions about the abilities of these organisms and how they might relate to our place within The Animal Kingdom. One such question might be whether these embryos are making a decision to hatch based on something inherent or something external.

The ‘will’ of an organism to survive has been described as an inherent ability, the survival mechanism a function able to be switched on and off in response to environmental pressures. Amidst this concept remains the fact of mortality, the physiological inevitability of death. Given this boundary organisms are armed with (r)evolutionarily designed tools to increase opportunities and chances for survival. Which tools to use and when to use them can be considered variable from one individual to the next, an individual's decision or in simpler terms an individual’s own will.

If there is to be an understanding of, whether the ability to make a critical decision to survive is inherent or acquired, at what point in the development of an organism does this will or ability to choose a survival mechanism arise? Further, is the choosing simply a physiological and behavioral response to environmental stimuli or rather a sentient device that actively makes personal decisions to modify the onset of death. Consider the concept of adaptive plasticity in Agalychnis Callidryas, the Red-Eyed Tree Frog.

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Metamorphosis in the animal world is consider the transformation from a juvenile form into an adult one. Scientist and laymen alike might maintain metamorphosis as simply a developmental process where the transformation is determined by a physiological mechanism that at some point leads to a new stage. Warkentin however, describes metamorphosis and hatching as being a, “critical transition point,” where, “there is (kinda) like a developmental window of possibility,” in which the Tree Frog embryos can make a critical decision to hatch, or not. When frog embryos move from one life stage to the next depends on what the embryo decides to do and when it decides to do so.

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Like the Red Eyed Tree Frog, Glass Frogs lay their eggs terrestrially, on land. While studying the behavioral similarities between these species of frog can give scientist key insight into their evolutionary histories, finding a frog that is nearly transparent in a densely covered rainforest can be quite the challenge. Join Field Biologist Javier Mendez as he leads us into the realm of the elusive Glass Frog. 

A. Terrestrial vs. Aquatic Colonization 

Lineages of frogs that evolved the ability to lay eggs on land as opposed to in water, also had to evolve mechanisms to deal with the differences in biotic and abiotic components found in these environments. How can comparing Glass Frogs and their behaviors give us further knowledge of plastic hatching? 

B. Glass Frog Dads

In the world of Glass frogs, it is common for the male to provide most of the parental care to their eggs. How they do so while fending off the various threats posed by the environment is an example of a evolutionary behavior that went on to alter the fate of a species. 

C. Parental and Offspring Success

“Waste disposal is an issue that life faces,” explains Dr. Warkentin, and in many animals waste disposal is aided by water in its ability to flush out toxic substances which makes waste disposal much easier for aquatic animals. So how do terrestrial animals who have far less access to water cope with the issue? One answer is to let parents take care of it, but how can frog embryo’s be sure that they will be given this life saving tender love and care?

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Read more about Warkentin’s work and peek behind the scenes at The Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute’s Experimental Pond in Gamboa:

Uploaded by arjuncollins on 2018-12-16.
Uploaded by arjuncollins on 2018-12-16.

An Introduction to Adaptive Plasticity in Agalychnis Callidryas

Dr. Karen Warkentin describes hatching as a mechanism for survival as part of a three arc case study on adaptive plasticity in Red Eyed Tree Frogs.

Kammatipaadam...Not a Real Village but a Reel Village

 Photography courtesy of  Miles Trevelyan-Johnson

Photography courtesy of Miles Trevelyan-Johnson

The rural lifestyle dependent on hunting and/or agriculture has been the primary socio-cultural preference among civilizations throughout almost all of human history. The early 1800’s saw only 3% of the worlds population living in cities, 150 years later that number had jump to 30%. In 2008 the world’s population was recorded to be equally split between urban and rural areas. It is projected that by 2050, 70 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities. The majority of this growth will be experienced in less developed countries. 

Advancements in technology, healthcare, access to food, water, shelter and a milieu of other modern amenities have made city life a far more poignant choice than it had been in the past however, to what consequence.

India, the sub-continent has had a crucial influence on the global climate in the areas of medicine, technology and socio-cultural evolution for centuries. More still, India now provides a model for human socio-culturally evolution under the pressures of population growth. 

Kammatipaadam, a film from the Indian State of Kerala – highest English literacy rate in India at 94%, highest life expectancy at 78 years, lowest population growth at 3.4%– artfully depicts the possible effects of urbanizations coming from the perspective of one of the most governmentally successful states in India. 

This time around Arjun’s Arrow speaks with Shaun Romy, about her lead role in the film and its stark rendition of urbanization and its effects on the Dalit communities of India.

Kammatipaadam Trailer



A Message From the Hereafter: Malcolm, Martin, Medgar

“We shared the good and the pain. The pain was the loss of him, the good was her memories of him.”

-Malaak Shabaaz, Daughter of Malcolm X
 The film,  I Am Not Your Negro , written by James Baldwin explores the relationship between his close friends. Clockwise from top left: James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Medgar Evers.   *See the trailer for,  I Am Not Your Negro , at the end of this post.

The film, I Am Not Your Negro, written by James Baldwin explores the relationship between his close friends. Clockwise from top left: James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Medgar Evers. 

*See the trailer for, I Am Not Your Negro, at the end of this post.

“There were very few people in a prominent position who could call Martin Luther King, Malcolm (X) and Medgar Evers friends, James Baldwin was one of them. I wish that had been explored more in that film.”
-A. Peter Bailey


Join Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and Medgar Evers in the Hereafter, where the leaders reflect on their past lives, their families and the revolution they left behind. An OFT/ON Production directed by Carole Mumin (director) and Dawn Jones. (consulting director)


A. Peter Bailey is an acclaimed Journalist, Author, and Lecturer. He was a founding member of The Organization of Afro-American Unity (OAAU), organized in 1964 by Brother Malcolm X. Bailey was editor of the OAAU newsletter, Blacklash. He was one of the last few persons to speak with Brother Malcolm X on the day of his assassination (February 21, 1965) and served as one of the pallbearers at his funeral. He has contributed to numerous books, articles, and documentaries about the celebrated leader. Bailey has lectured at over thirty-five colleges and universities throughout the country on Brother Malcolm X. He has also lectured on Harlem, the Civil Rights Movement, the Black Press and several other topics in which he draws from his vast reservoir of historical and cultural knowledge and uses his powerful voice to inform, educate, and inspire.

Bailey, a former editor of Ebony magazine, is the author ofWitnessing Brother Malcolm X, The Master Teacher:A MemoirHarlem: Precious Memories, Great Expectations, co-author ofRevelations: The Autobiography of Alvin Ailey with Alvin Ailey and co-author of Seventh Child: A Family Memoir of Malcolm X  with Rodnell P. Collins (nephew of Malcolm X). He assisted John Henrik Clarke with the editing of Malcolm X: The Man and His Times. While Associate Director of The Black Theatre Alliance (BTA), Bailey edited the BTA Newsletter. He  has also contributed articles to numerous publications including Essence, Black Enterprise, Jet Magazine, the New York Times, the Negro Digest, Black World, The Black Collegian, and the New York Daily News.

Bailey, born in Columbus, Georgia and raised in Tuskegee, Alabama, attended Howard University. He currently resides in Washington, D.C. where he has taught Communication courses as an Adjunct Professor and conducted workshops on writing memoirs and autobiographies. Bailey currently writes a column for the Trice Edney News Wire.

I Am Not Your Negro examines an American society whose moral identity is based on the maintenance of a dehumanized underclass. Director Raoul Peck uses the works of James Baldwin, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King and Medgar Evers to elicit an understanding of the current era's plight.

- Arrow

Alternative Medicine, Ayurveda and Cannabis

Nearly 2,700 years ago the Doctor Suśruta authored the text Suśruta-saṃhitā, a keystone text in Ayurveda, a system of medicine founded in India.

The text went on to become foundational to the practices of modern medicine with 184 chapters that analyzed over 1,200 illnesses, 700 medicinal plants, 64 preparations from mineral sources and 57 preparations based on animal sources. The Saṃhitā further examines surgical practice detailing the removal of internal foreign bodies, dentistry, extraction and transplantation of organs and glands, hernia treatment, intestinal failure and obstruction, caesarian section, osteology and the gamut physiological conditions.

Suśruta is perhaps best known for being recorded as the first physician to successfully perform a cataract surgery.

In the Samhita’s references to proper practice in the art and science of medicine; prevention, diagnosis and treatment of ailments plaguing the physical, spiritual and mental condition are practiced systematically, adjusted based on the individuals medical history and lifestyle.    

Despite its use for thousands of years, Ayurveda has been reduced to being labeled as, “alternative medicine” or, “holistic medicine,” when in fact; it is a principal of modern medical science.

Of course, medicine has changed; technology and productivity have been major contributing factors to the changes. However the feasibility of over diagnosis, over prescription and over addiction in the United States, where three out of five American Adults are on at least one prescription drug and the number of adults taking five or more prescription drugs has jumped from 8% to nearly 20% since 2015 the question begs why have historical sciences, not been given tenure in the healthcare world, despite their proven effectiveness.  Dr. Uma Dhanabalan dives into the subject.

Annual Malcolm X Day Celebrations Coming to Boston

Citizens from across the nation gather in New York for the annual celebrations of late revolutionary leader Malcolm X. City of Boston recognizes Malcolm's Legacy and annual commemoration. 

This May 19th, U.S. and Global Citizens began celebrations at the burial site of Malcolm X at the Ferncliff Cemetery in New York. Rituals at the gravesite featured in the above video include:

The Empty Chair -  An African tradition in which a chair is left empty in honor of a leader who has passed. 

Black Nationals Flag Recognition- A result of the of the Garvey movement that both Malcolm's Parents lead, Red represents the blood of the people lost, Black the people, the core and the strength and Green the fertile land. 

Elder Speakers- Dr. Leonard Jeffries, Nana Kwaku-Duah Asante Ghana, recognized as a divisional chief in the Asante Kingdom of Ghana. Professor James Small, professor of Africana Studies and one of the original founders of the celebration. 

The City of Boston has officially recognized Malcolm's Legacy. The document below encourages protocol commemoration of Malcolm X to begin May 19th 2018.

Red Soil Through Our Fingers

Explore our stellar neighborhood as Aerospace Research Engineer Nalin A. Ratnayake discusses his new book Red Soil Through Our Fingers, and the implications behind surviving and thriving in the farther reaches of space. 

Blast off on your drive home listening to this podcast episode!

After Listening: Check out GoogleMars and see if you can locate any of the real life Martian destinations that serve as a setting for the book. 



Prior to feeling the call to become an educator, Nalin A Ratnayake was a aerospace propulsion research engineer. He holds a B.S.E. and M.S. in Aerospace Engineering and has published 11 peer-reviewed technical papers on supersonic air-breathing propulsion, environmentally responsible aviation technologies, and advanced access-to-space systems.

After changing careers, Nalin completed an M.Ed. through the Boston Teacher Residency, focusing his studies on the connections between scientific literacy and social justice, particularly in the context of urban schools and communities.

After five years of teaching Physics and Engineering at an urban public high school in Boston, Nalin recently returned to research engineering, at a research center near Norfolk, Virgina.

Nalin writes fiction under the name N.A. Ratnayake. His speculative fiction has appeared in Crossed Genres Magazine as well as the post-colonial SF anthology We See A Different Frontier. His short story Remembering Turinam received an honorable mention in Gardner Dozois’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction, Thirty-First Edition.

Though later a New Englander and presently a resident of the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, Nalin was born and raised in the American West — a region whose history and character continue to strongly influence his writing. The mountains, rains, coasts, and deserts of the West have been the backdrop for a rich interplay of conquest, struggle, identity, and hope. These themes often emerge entangled in Nalin’s fiction.

As an engineer, writer, and educator, Nalin is strongly committed to exploring ideas for creating a more positive and sustainable future for all people.

You can find Nalin on Twitter as @quantumcowboy, and on the web at www.naratnayake.com.

The Bedrock of Roxbury

The City of Boston's groundbreaking archeological dig gives insight into the history of Boston's Roxbury neighborhood.

Uncovering a plethora of artifacts, City of Boston archeologist Joe Bagley reveals a centuries old story beginning with the geological formations that provided the foundation for human rights leader Malcolm X and the people living in the area today.

Enjoy a sneak peak virtual tour inside the Malcolm X Ella Little Collins House at the end of the clip!

BBC Radio: Rodnell Collins & Malcolm X

Playback technology enables guests to have real time conversations with someone now dead.

Using archive clips, Malcolm X and Nephew Rodnell Collins have a conversation in the Boston home they once shared. Reunited they discuss; Islam in America, human rights and the meaning behind, “by any means necessary.”

Host: Adam Fowler

Rodnell Collins is the owner and developer of the Malcolm X Ella Collins House and Author of Seventh Child: A Family Memoir of Malcolm X