I wonder: What did we all focus on or with or like before lasers came along? Whatever it was, it’s now forgotten. Can anybody still recall?

I wonder: In the Citizens United decision, the Supreme Court determined corporations are now people. At least, that seems to be one consequence of the ruling. So. Must they have birth certificates as proof of U.S. citizenship? Can corporations now vote? One vote or more? Can a corporation run for political office?

I wonder: How have we come to admire universities and colleges for their sports programs rather than for intellectual achievement? Is that not absurd?

I wonder: How can anyone, let alone a trained person, so casually direct pepper spray — repeatedly — into the faces of nonthreatening persons?

I wonder: Did anyone believe the Supercongress Committee would reach any agreement at all? Can anyone explain why the report of the Bowles-Simpson effort was not followed up on? This is the fate of almost all reports of that kind, but Simpson and Bowles worked hard to make theirs relevant.

I wonder: Can the decline being observed of most bird populations by local bird-watchers in recent years (and this season, so far, quite significantly) be reversed this winter? I’ve been rather whistling past the empty bird feeders saying birds shall return. It’s getting to be kind of a barren landscape out there. It’s no wonder folks are anxious.

I wonder about — rather, I’m anxious for —  the launch of NASA’s newest Mars rover, Curiosity, scheduled to blast off Saturday, a day away as I write this.

The history of failed missions to Mars by the United States and the Russians is sobering. Most failed in initial attempts. With experience, the successes are far more frequent, but a Japanese mission failed recently.

So, it is always finger-crossing time all the way from the launch of any space instrument until orbit and operation. The American rovers performed outstandingly: Opportunity is still performing since its arrival on Mars in 2004. Good wishes for Curiosity.

Sunday, Nov. 27

The Mars Science Laboratory and Curiosity rover launched successfully on Saturday and are now flying free, headed for Mars, which it will reach in August 2012, to look for ancient habitable environments there.

In 1976, NASA sent two Viking missions to Mars to look for organics in the soil. None were found. In 2004, the Opportunity and Spirit rovers looked for minerals that might help suggest the history of water on Mars. Found: Water was extensive. Curiosity won’t look directly for life itself, but for evidence of it. A big task, a big effort, and complex. Good luck.

I wonder, often, if only humans wonder. Much as I credit other mammals and birds with more intelligence than recent literature permits, I wonder if some wonder.

Notice a pet dog left in a vehicle as its person goes into a store. Almost all dogs fix their eyes and bodies to stare at the place their person disappeared — and stay that way until, Oh good! There she is. Does the dog wonder if she’ll ever return? Some birds and animals demonstrate an awareness of the death of a comrade. Do they wonder how or why the event had occurred? I wonder.

Field Notes: Locals are settling into winter mode. Local folks readying for snow-oriented activities. Local elk coming down to the valley floor. Local bears denning up. Local birds — ? They aren’t doing their anticipated early-winter customary things, for many bird-watchers complain of “no birds.” (Not all bird-watchers, but a lot.)

The whereabouts and numbers of a few particular birds are of interest, if you should know. Where are pine siskins? Are red-breasted nuthatches around? Are starlings in the region? Will evening grosbeaks and pine grosbeaks put in appearances this winter?

Come Dec. 18, the Jackson Hole Christmas Bird Count should answer some of these questions. This year’s count is facilitated by Susan Marsh and her helper elves as a Jackson Hole Bird Club function. If you’d enjoy being on this activity — field work in assigned areas within the designated count circle — come to the Bird Club meeting at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 11, in the Jackson Town Hall. Can’t make that? Please call Susan at 733-5744.

© Bert Raynes 2011

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Bert Raynes writes weekly on whatever suits his fancy with a dash of news on nature and its many ways.

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