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Climate crisis will not be discussed at G7 next year, says Trump official

The climate crisis will not be formally discussed at the G7 summit in June next year in Miami, Donald Trump’s acting White House chief of staff said on Thursday.

“Climate change will not be on the agenda,” Mick Mulvaney told reporters, without elaborating.

... “It’s deeply ironic that the US state most vulnerable immediately to climate change impacts will host a meeting at which global leaders will be forced by the US to largely ignore the topic”

Mulvaney announced that the 2020 summit of seven of the world’s most powerful industrialised countries will take place at the National Doral Miami, one of the president’s golf resorts in Florida, despite widespread ethics concerns and an ongoing impeachment inquiry into Trump’s conduct.

Consequences / Re: Volcanoes
« on: October 17, 2019, 08:41:46 PM »
Underwater Volcano Creates Bubbles More Than a Quarter-Mile Across

In the early 20th century, sailors near Alaska reported seeing black bubbles seeming to boil out from the sea, each one the size of the dome of the capitol building in Washington, D.C. They weren't the only sailors who reported the bizarre phenomenon, and they weren't mistaken, except for one thing … the bubbles were much larger.

When the mostly underwater Bogoslof volcano in the Aleutian Islands erupts, it produces giant bubbles that can reach up to 1,444 feet (440 meters) across, according to a new study. These bubbles are filled with volcanic gas, so when they burst they create volcanic clouds tens of thousands of feet in the sky, said lead author John Lyons, a research geophysicist at the Alaska Volcano Observatory of the U.S. Geological Survey.

... "These shallow explosive submarine eruptions are so rare," Lyons said. "There's a lot of undersea volcanism, but the majority of it happens under lots and lots of water very deep and all that extra pressure tends to suppress how explosive eruptions are."

Lyons, Infrasound from giant bubbles during explosive submarine eruptions, Nature Geoscience 2019

Consequences / Re: Limits To Growth Predicts Collapse in 2015
« on: October 16, 2019, 03:59:33 PM »
Source Risks As Constraints to Future Metal Supply

The effects that environmental, social and governance (ESG) risks will have on the global supply of metals without major innovations in the mining industry have been highlighted by University of Queensland researchers.

..."The majority of the 296 copper orebodies, 324 iron orebodies and 50 bauxite orebodies we examined are in complex environmental, social, or governmental (ESG) contexts which could either prevent, delay or disrupt mining operations,"

... "Iron orebodies show a mix of low and high risks, with the high risk orebodies generally characterized by social vulnerability, political fragility, and approval and permitting challenges.

"Almost all the bauxite orebodies we studied are located in high risk contexts, making it the highest risk of the three commodities.

"Copper orebodies are more evenly distributed but water and waste risks are prevalent, with 65 percent of orebodies located in regions with medium to extremely high water risk.

Consequences / Re: Hurricane Season 2019
« on: October 15, 2019, 11:59:27 PM »
It's the Japanese word for clusterfuck.

Consequences / Re: Hurricane Season 2019
« on: October 15, 2019, 09:20:15 PM »
2,667 Bags of Radioactive Waste From Fukushima Nuke Disaster Washed Away by Typhoon Hagibis

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — As Typhoon Hagibis hammered Japan on Saturday (Oct. 12), thousands of bags containing radioactive waste have reportedly been carried into a local Fukushima stream by floodwaters, potentially having a devastating environmental impact.

According to Asahi Shimbun, a temporary storage facility containing some 2,667 bags stuffed with radioactive contaminants from the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was unexpectedly inundated by floodwaters brought by Typhoon Hagibis. Torrential rain flooded the storage facility and released the bags into a stream 100 meters away.

Officials from Tamara City in Fukushima Prefecture said that each bag is approximately one cubic meter in size. Authorities were only able to recover six of the bags by 9 p.m. on Oct. 12, and it is uncertain how many remain on the loose while the possible environmental impact is being assessed.

... In Hakone, in Kanagawa Prefecture, 37.1 inches of rain fell in 24 hours on Saturday, setting a record for that location, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency. In addition, 27 inches fell in heavily forested Shizuoka Prefecture southwest of Tokyo. In higher elevations just west of downtown Tokyo, 23.6 inches of rain fell, which was also a record.

Consequences / Re: Pathogens and their impacts
« on: October 15, 2019, 03:53:35 AM »
Researchers Find Just Two Plague Strains Wiped Out 30%-60% of Europe

The Black Death ravaged medieval Western Europe, wiping out roughly one-third of the population. Now researchers have traced the genetic history of the bacterium believed to be behind the plague in a recent paper published in Nature Communications. They found that one strain seemed to be the ancestor of all the strains that came after it, indicating that the pandemic spread from a single entry point into Europe from the East—specifically, a Russian town called Laishevo.

... Y. pestis proved to be so virulent that mice died after being infected with just three bacilli.

Phylogeography of the second plague pandemic revealed through analysis of historical Yersinia pestis genomes

Glaciers / Re: Alpine Glaciers
« on: October 11, 2019, 11:47:01 PM »
Measuring glacial movements in-situ is a challenging, but necessary task to model glaciers and predict their future evolution. However, installing GPS stations on ice can be dangerous and expensive when not impossible in the presence of large crevasses. In this project, the ASL develops UAVs for dropping and recovering lightweight GPS stations over inaccessible glaciers to record the ice flow motion. This video shows the results of first tests performed at Gorner glacier, Switzerland, in July 2019.

Consequences / Re: Drought 2019
« on: October 10, 2019, 11:46:06 PM »
And this is what Coolidge AZ soil looks like today when it blows over Phoenix AZ.

When I lived in Phoenix in the 80s, dust storms occurred 1-2 times a year; now it's 10-15 times a year. I've seen that 'soil' in Coolidge - it's nothing but dust (... mixed with a lot of pesticides)

Policy and solutions / Re: Oil and Gas Issues
« on: October 08, 2019, 11:38:41 PM »
Mystery Oil Spills Blot More Than 130 Brazilian Beaches

... Tamar, a group dedicated to the protection of sea turtles, said the oil spill was "the worst environmental tragedy" it has encountered since its formation in 1980.

The patches of oil began appearing in early September and have now turned up along a 2,000 kilometer (1,200 mile) stretch of Atlantic coastline.

On Monday, Salles said after visiting the affected areas that more than 100 tonnes of oil (27,000 gal) have been removed from the beaches in the northeast.

State oil company Petrobras, which is taking part in the cleanup, said its analysis determined that the oil was neither produced nor marketed by the company.

Regardless of the source of the oil pollution, the government did not respond to the situation until last week.


Wasn't the Bahamas missing ~75 million gallons of oil after Hurricane Dorian?

The rest / Re: The Trump Presidency
« on: October 08, 2019, 06:58:29 PM »


'In my great and unmatched wisdom': Trump Makes Modest Claim About His Intellect

Donald Trump perhaps broke a record for aggrandizement on Monday, when he referred to his “great and unmatched wisdom” following his decision to withdraw US troops from northern Syria.

Trump is no stranger to grandiose, narcissistic statements. He has frequently referred to himself as a “very stable genius” – and not tongue-in-cheek. He actually did so recently, in reference to his controversial phone call to the Ukraine president, Volodmyr Zelenskiy, which sparked an impeachment inquiry into him.

In the past, Trump has referred to himself as “the chosen one” (over his decision to start a trade war with China) and “so great looking and smart” (apropos of … nothing).

On Monday afternoon, following the great-and-unmatched-wisdom-gate, Twitter users were moved to draw comparisons between Trump and other authoritarian leaders who have inflated themselves.

Who talks like that?

Consequences / Re: Heatwaves
« on: October 08, 2019, 06:24:06 PM »
Heat Waves Could Increase Substantially in Size by Mid-Century (2050)

...In a new study, scientists funded in part by the NOAA Climate Program Office's Climate Observations and Monitoring Program, found that by mid-century, in a middle greenhouse emissions scenario, the average size of heat waves could increase by 50%. Under high greenhouse gas concentrations, the average size could increase by 80% and the more extreme heat waves could more than double in size.

"As the physical size of these affected regions increases, more people will be exposed to heat stress," said Brad Lyon, Associate Research Professor at the University of Maine and lead author of the new paper published in Environmental Research Letters. "Larger heat waves would also increase electrical loads and peak energy demand on the grid as more people and businesses turn on air conditioning in response."

In addition to heat wave size and exposed population, the authors found that related attributes like duration, magnitude, and cooling degree days (a measure for energy use) could increase substantially.

... The authors explained that the added stress from a continuous heat wave in a region is very different from scattered conditions that add up to an area of the same size.

"If you have a large contiguous heat wave over a highly populated area, it would be harder for that area to meet peak electric demand than it would be for several areas with smaller heat waves that, when combined, are the same size," said Tony Barnston, Chief Forecaster at Columbia University's International Research Institute for Climate and Society and paper co-author.

Open Access: Bradfield Lyon et al, Projected increase in the spatial extent of contiguous U.S. summer heat waves and associated attributes, Environmental Research Letters (2019).

The rest / Re: The Trump Presidency
« on: October 08, 2019, 05:47:11 PM »
Pigs Observed Using Tools for the First Time

A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in France has found evidence of pigs using tools—a first. In their paper published in the journal Mammalian Biology, the group describes multiple instances of Visayan warty pigs using sticks and bark to assist with nest building.

There was a time when scientists believed humans were the only animals that used tools—a skill that set us apart from the other creatures of the Earth. But such assumptions have long been laid to rest as multiple research efforts have shown that many animal species use tools in their own unique ways. Crows have been observed using sticks to hook prey, for example; otters use stones to crack open shellfish; elephants have been observed moving rocks and logs to cover watering holes. Tool use has long been a sign of intelligence, which has led researchers to wonder why no one had ever seen pigs using tools of any kind. They are, after all, considered to be among the smartest animals. As it turns out, at least one kind of pig does use a tool—the researchers observed several of them at a Parisian zoo using sticks and lengths of bark to dig out a nest.

The researchers were able to capture on video multiple instances of the pigs using tools to dig in the dirt floor of their enclosure. In all, over the course of three years, they observed 11 instances of the pigs using tools—all but one were female.

Meredith Root-Bernstein et al. Context-specific tool use by Sus cebifrons, Mammalian Biology (2019)

Yellow Cedar Trees Denied US Threatened Species Listing

A federal agency has rejected an iconic Alaska tree for listing as a threatened species due to climate warming.


It’s Happening Now: Climate Change Is Killing Off the Yellow Cedar

You can see the dead and dying from the air.

In coastal Alaska and British Columbia, swaths of yellow cedar trees are losing their needles and withering away. Under normal conditions, these economically and culturally valuable trees can live 1,000 years or more, but enough of them are dying that the trees are now being considered for protection under the US Endangered Species Act.

A yellow cedar’s demise is not instantaneous. It takes years for a tree to die, slowly, from the inside out. It has similarly taken a long time to prove exactly why these trees are dying.

“Yellow cedar is dying because of warmer weather,” says Paul Hennon, a forest pathologist with the US Forest Service in Juneau, Alaska. But getting to that conclusion—and ruling out reams of other potential causes—took years of detective work. ...

Consequences / Re: Global Surface Air Temperatures
« on: October 04, 2019, 09:08:22 PM »
The World Just Had Another Month of Record Heat

New data released by the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), the European Union’s climate agency, shows that last month tied for the hottest September on record. This adds to the stunning string of record or near-record heat the world has been dealing with since June and underscores the growing severity of the climate crisis.

The data released on Friday reveals that this past September was 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 degrees Fahrenheit) above the pre-industrial average. It was also 0.57 degrees Celsius (1 degree Fahrenheit) above the average September measured from 1981 to 2010, putting it “virtually on par” with September 2016

The rest / Re: Economic Inequality
« on: October 04, 2019, 04:12:00 PM »
Uber Seeks to Crush Souls of Greater Pool of Gig Workers

Uber, a company arguably just exploiting human workers while it figures out how to pivot to automation, is evidently looking to expand its labor pool beyond cab drivers and food delivery.

The company announced Wednesday in a blog post that it is launching Uber Works, a platform meant to connect employers with workers for gigs such as line cook, event staff, or warehouse worker. Uber says that through its Works app, pre-vetted workers can select from a range of shifts and opportunities for temporary roles.

...  Uber said in its announcement that for employers, Uber Works will provide a “reliable pool of vetted and qualified workers.” For workers, Uber said the platform will “ensure timely payments” and provide “more transparency and opportunities for feedback in the marketplace.”

Uber said it’s partnered with the staffing agency TrueBlue, which it notes “employ, pay and handle worker benefits,” among other agencies. The Uber spokesperson said its partner agencies will provide employee benefits to workers as mandated by law.

... Neat as this whole job-on-demand thing sounds on paper, it’s still Uber. And Uber, as history has shown, tends to view human beings as a means of generating more money while it waits out the inevitable automation of service jobs. It also hasn’t been entirely forthright or even decent about employee classification for its Uber drivers. Whatever it claims now, there’s little evidence to indicate Uber will go out of its way to do right by its Works gig workers.


How Corporate Delusions of Automation Fuel the Cruelty of Uber and Lyft

Studies have repeatedly found that after fees and expenses, Uber drivers make less than minimum wage in major markets. One found that half of all Uber drivers in Washington, D.C., lived below the poverty line.

... Dara Khosrowshahi, said in a January, 2018 interview that he expected Uber to have self-driving cars on the streets, in operation, within 18 months.

Drivers, meanwhile, are meatbag placeholders whose general wellbeing is a concern relevant only to the extent that its degradation might disrupt service right now. They are therefore temporary and eminently replaceable.


Stern:   “. . . The Jews themselves receive nothing. Poles you pay wages. Generally they get a little more. Are you listening? . . . The Jewish worker’s salary, you pay it directly to the SS, not to the worker. He gets nothing.”
Schindler:   “But it’s less. It’s less than what I would pay a Pole. . . . Poles cost more. Why should I hire Poles?”

- Schindler's List (1993)

The rest / Re: Archaeology/Paleontology news
« on: October 04, 2019, 01:28:25 AM »
Oren - The study you cited is from 2012 - not that that's a bad thing. Since then, however, over 18 other sites have been discovered and dated to ~12,800 BCE.

Most of these sites are NOT wetlands.

The study you cited: Accumulation of impact markers in desert wetlands and implications for the Younger Dryas impact hypothesis

From it's Discussion Section:

... To be clear, the results of our study do not allow us to dismiss the Younger Dryas impact hypothesis outright, nor do they address the origin or significance of the remaining markers of Firestone et al. (e.g. platinum 'spike')

... They point out that Rare Earth Elements (REEs) are approximately two orders of magnitude more common in terrestrial (crustal) rocks than in chondrites and, presumably, cosmic dust ... but they don't mention the concentration in metallic meteors - which the impact crater in Hiawatha Glacier, Greenland appears to be.

Hiawatha Glacier, Greenland impact site: ... From an interpretation of the crystalline nature of the underlying rock, together with chemical analysis of sediment washed from the crater, the impactor was argued to be a metallic asteroid with a diameter in the order of 1.5 kilometres (0.9 mi).

Before the crater was discovered, the Inuit had found iron meteorites in the region. In 1957 an American surveyor found a 48-kilogram (106 lb) meteorite, and in 1963 Vagn F. Buchwald found the 20-ton Agpalilik meteorite (a fragment of the Cape York meteorite) on a nunatak near Moltke Glacier

It has been suggested that the Cape York meteorite is part of the main object responsible for creating the Hiawatha crater. Estimates of the Hiawatha impact's age (which is still being studied), along with other indicators, suggest that the crater may be connected with the Younger Dryas impact hypothesis.

Consequences / Re: The Holocene Extinction
« on: October 04, 2019, 12:20:18 AM »
Thanks Terry

I think, though, tuna (and related species) are seriously stressed, especially bluefin. And we're working down the food chain.

As a keystones species it's having ripple effects in the rest of the ecosystem.

I do recall reading of a aquaculturist, possible in Australia, who had successfully farm raised bluefin. I haven't heard anything more, so that may have been a one shot wonder.

These meta-studies have the advantage of giving a systems level view of the subject that may not be obvious at the regional level.

Consequences / Re: Drought 2019
« on: October 03, 2019, 11:04:59 PM »
'Flash Drought' Worsening Across 14 Southern US States

More than 45 million people across 14 Southern states are now in the midst of what's being called a "flash drought" that's cracking farm soil, drying up ponds and raising the risk of wildfires, scientists said Thursday.

The weekly U.S. Drought Monitor report released Thursday shows extreme drought conditions in parts of Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina and the Florida panhandle. Lesser drought conditions also have expanded in parts of Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi.

Overall, nearly 20 percent of the lower 48 U.S. states is experiencing drought conditions.

... The drought was affecting some water supplies across the region. Lake levels have been falling throughout Georgia, including at Lake Lanier, which provides much of Atlanta's drinking water. ...

The rest / Re: Systemic Isolation
« on: October 03, 2019, 10:47:41 PM »
Rodents With Part-Human Brains Pose a New Challenge for Bioethics

Rapid progress in research involving miniature human brains grown in a dish has led to a host of ethical concerns, particularly when these human brain cells are transplanted into nonhuman animals. A new paper evaluates the potential risks of creating “humanized” animals, while providing a pathway for scientists to move forward in this important area.

... Research done in 2013, for example, highlighted the potential for human brain cells to affect the behavior and capacities of nonhuman animals. In experiments, neuroscientists replaced around half of the mice brain with human cells, mostly glia, during development. As my coverage noted at the time, this intervention caused enhancements of the rodent’s cognitive capacities, including “augmentations to memory, learning, and adaptive conditioning.”

... “A chimeric animal that developed evidence of self-awareness and rational decision-making...would warrant a pause in the research and a broader discussion across society about the direction of this research.”

... “The potential generation of a ‘self-aware’ human brain organoid in a vat might create an ethical dilemma. If this is possible, we will need to address the moral status of these organoids.”

... “This concern has already been realized by the creation of mice…[that] perform better than native mice on a battery of learning tests,” in reference to the aforementioned study from 2013. “Thus, the potential of chimeras to manifest enhancement of brain function is a near-term concern, while sentience or self-awareness is a distant future possibility. Nonetheless, as thoughtfully articulated here, the potential behavioral consequences of chimerization should be a concern of all scientists creating human-animal brain chimeras.”

Open Access: H. Isaac Chen,,  Transplantation of Human Brain Organoids: Revisiting the Science and Ethics of Brain Chimeras, Cell Stem Cell, 2019

The rest / Re: Unsorted
« on: October 03, 2019, 07:19:29 PM »
Golden Ratio Observed in Human Skulls

In a new study investigating whether skull shape follows the Golden Ratio (1.61803398875 … ), Johns Hopkins researchers compared 100 human skulls to 70 skulls from six other animals, and found that the human skull dimensions followed the Golden Ratio. The skulls of less related species such as dogs, two kinds of monkeys, rabbits, lions and tigers, however, diverged from this ratio.

Rafael J. Tamargo et al. Mammalian Skull Dimensions and the Golden Ratio (Φ), Journal of Craniofacial Surgery (2019)

Consequences / Re: The Holocene Extinction
« on: October 03, 2019, 06:45:38 PM »
Booming Demand Driving Tuna to Extinction, Researchers Find

Scientists have warned that existing levels of tuna fishing are unsustainable after researchers found that global catches have increased more than 1,000% over the past 60 years.

A study in the journal Fisheries Research estimated that about 6m tonnes of tuna are now caught annually, a rate that “risks driving tuna populations to unsustainable levels and possible extinction”.

... The decline of tuna populations could threaten food supply chains and jobs around the world, as well as potentially destabilising the underwater food web, Coulter said. “Tuna are both predators and prey. They eat smaller fish and invertebrates and are a food source for larger marine life, such as sharks and whales.

“If we lose tuna due to overexploitation, we break those links in the food web and disrupt the function of the ecosystem. This means that the survival of other species in the ecosystem is also threatened,” she said.

Fig.3: Global catches of tuna and other large pelagic fishes from 1950 to 2016 as assembled and harmonized from the five separate tuna RFMO datasets, by a) ocean basins; b) major taxa (156 additional taxa are pooled in ‘Other’); and c) important taxa beyond the 12 major target species covered in the FAO Atlas of Tuna and Billfish Catches (144 additional taxa are pooled in ‘Other’).

AngieCoulter,, Using harmonized historical catch data to infer the expansion of global tuna fisheriesFisheries Research, 2020

Trump Administration's War on Science Hits 'Crisis Point', Experts Warn

The treatment of science by the Trump administration has hit a “crisis point” where research findings are manipulated for political gain, special interests are given improper influence and scientists are targeted for ideological reasons, a nonpartisan taskforce of former government officials has warned.

Safeguards meant to ensure that government research is objective and fully available to the public have been “steadily weakening” under recent administrations and are now at a nadir under Trump, according to a report released on Thursday by the National Task Force on Rule of Law and Democracy.

There are now “almost weekly violations” of previously cherished norms, the report states, with the current administration attempting “not only to politicize scientific and technical research on a range of topics, but also, at times, to undermine the value of objective facts themselves”.

“Politics is driving decisions and has been for some time,” said Christine Todd Whitman, a Republican who was formerly administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Whitman co-chairs the taskforce with former US attorney Preet Bharara.

“Right now, any finding that seems to be restricting business, especially the energy industry, appears to be destined for elimination,” Whitman said.

The problem has escalated under Trump due a combination of hefty campaign contributions from special interests, the appointment of unqualified cronies to senior positions and the reluctance of Congress to act as a proper check.]report

Today it was 93°F; tommorrow evening it's expected to be 45°F - Southern Connecticut

Consequences / Re: General Drought Stuff
« on: October 02, 2019, 11:53:28 PM »
Groundwater Pumping Will 'Devastate' River Systems

Rampant and unsustainable extraction of groundwater reserves crucial for food production will "critically impact" rivers, lakes and wetlands in half of Earth's drainage basins by mid-century, researchers warned Wednesday

... Researchers found that in around 20 percent of drainage basins the tipping point had already been reached where extraction outpaced streamflow.

They also used climate change models to predict how streamflow will diminish in future and found that between 42 and 79 percent of the world's groundwater sites will be unable to sustain aquatic ecosystems by 2050.

... "It's pretty clear that if there's no water in your stream anymore then your fish and plants are going to die," ... "About half of irrigated crops rely on groundwater. That's a lot (to lose)."

The study, published in Nature, said regions heavily reliant on groundwater for crop production, including Mexico and the Ganges and Indus basins, were already experiencing declining river and stream flows due to overextraction.

And as the demand for groundwater increases, areas of Africa and southern Europe will also see severe water disruption in the decades to come, the team predicted.

British researchers this year warned that future generations faced a groundwater "time bomb" as underground systems would take decades to replenish.

Inge E. M. de Graaf et al. Environmental flow limits to global groundwater pumping, Nature (2019)

The rest / Re: Archaeology/Paleontology news
« on: October 02, 2019, 07:10:40 PM »
Add this to the pile Terry ...

New Research Supports Hypothesis that Asteroid Contributed to Mass Extinction During the Younger Dryas

A team of scientists from South Africa has discovered evidence partially supporting a hypothesis that Earth was struck by a meteorite or asteroid 12 800 years ago, leading to global consequences including climate change, and contributing to the extinction of many species of large animals at the time of an episode called the Younger Dryas.

The team, led by Professor Francis Thackeray of the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, discovered evidence of a remarkable "platinum spike" at a site called Wonderkrater in the Limpopo Province, north of Pretoria in South Africa. Working with researcher Philip Pieterse from the University of Johannesburg and Professor Louis Scott of the University of the Free State, Thackeray discovered this evidence from a core drilled in a peat deposit, notably in a sample about 12 800 years old. This research was published in Palaeontologia Africana.

Noting that meteorites are rich in platinum, Thackeray said "Our finding at least partially supports the highly controversial Younger Dryas Impact Hypothesis (YDIH).

... Human populations may have been indirectly affected at the time in question. In North America there is a dramatic termination of the stone tool technology of Clovis people. Remarkably, archaeologists in South Africa have detected an almost simultaneous termination of the Robberg stone artifact industry associated with people in some parts of the country, including the area around Boomplaas near the Cango Caves in the southern Cape, close to the town of Oudshoorn.

... "We cannot be certain, but a cosmic impact could have affected humans as a result of local changes in environment and the availability of food resources, associated with sudden climate change."

At Wonderkrater, the team has evidence from pollen to show that about 12 800 years ago there was temporary cooling, associated with the "Younger Dryas" drop in temperature that is well documented in the northern hemisphere, and now also in South Africa. According to some scientists, this cooling in widespread areas could at least potentially have been associated with the global dispersal of platinum-rich atmospheric dust.

This is the first evidence in Africa for a platinum spike preceding climate change. Younger Dryas spikes in platinum have also been found in Greenland, Eurasia, North America, Mexico and recently also at Pilauco in Chile. Wonderkrater is the 30th site in the world for such evidence.

A large crater 31 kilometers in diameter has been discovered in northern Greenland beneath the Hiawatha Glacier. "There is some evidence to support the view that it might possibly have been the very place where a large meteorite struck the planet earth 12 800 years ago."

Open Access: Thackeray, J. Francis; Scott, Louis; Pieterse, P, The Younger Dryas interval at Wonderkrater (South Africa) in the context of a platinum anomaly, Palaeontologia Africana 2019-10-02

The rest / Re: Astronomical news
« on: October 02, 2019, 12:34:09 AM »
Scientists Are Starting to Take Warp Drives Seriously, Especially One Specific Concept

Warp drive, as Star Trek fans know, is the ability to fly through space at speeds faster than light. A report on University of Alabama in Huntsville student Joseph Agnew’s work succinctly explained the value of speeds like that: Unless we can do it, we’re not going very far from home.

In recent years, the scientific community has become understandably excited and skeptical about claims that a particular concept – the Alcubierre Warp Drive – might actually be feasible.

This was the subject of a presentation made at this year's American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics Propulsion and Energy Forum, which took place from August 19th to 22nd in Indianapolis.

This presentation was conducted by Joseph Agnew – an undergraduate engineer and research assistant from the University of Alabama in Huntsville's Propulsion Research Center (PRC).

As part of a session titled "The Future of Nuclear and Breakthrough Propulsion", Agnew shared the results of a study he conducted titled "An Examination of Warp Theory and Technology to Determine the State of the Art and Feasibility".

... "Mathematically, if you fulfill all the energy requirements, they can’t prove that it doesn’t work"

"Warp drive theory is at the point where the mathematics needs more development and the technologies need more development," Agnew says.

The field is where radio, television, radar, microwaves, computing, cellular communications, human flight, space exploration and travel by automobile all once were. It’s ahead of the current cutting edge, theoretically possible, but limited by its prodigious energy requirements and scalability issues as well as the current state of supporting technologies.

But even if it has doubters, that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

... Engage!

J. Agnew, An Examination of Warp Theory and Technology to Determine the State of the Art and Feasibility, AIAA Propulsion and Energy 2019 Forum


Maybe they could tap into the energy all around us ...

Physicist Suggests 'Quantum Foam' May Explain Away Huge Cosmic Energy

... Conventional theory suggests that spacetime should be filled with a huge amount of energy—perhaps as much as 10120 more than seemingly exists. Over the years, many theorists have suggested ideas on why this may be—most have tried the obvious approach, trying to figure out a way to make the energy go away. But none have been successful. In this new effort, Carlip suggests that maybe all that energy really is there, but it does not have any ties to the expansion of the universe because its effects are being canceled out by something at the Planck scale.

The new theory by Carlip is based very heavily on work done by John Wheeler back in the 1950s—he suggested that at the smallest possible scale, space and time turn into something he called "spacetime foam." He argued that at such a small scale, defining time, length and energy would be subject to the uncertainty principle. Since then, others have taken a serious look at spacetime foam—and some have suggested that if a vacuum were filled with spacetime foam, there would be a lot of energy involved. Others argue that such a scenario would behave like the cosmological constant.

Thus, to explain their ideas, they have sought to find ways to cancel out the energy as a way to make it go away. Carlip suggests instead that in a spacetime foam scenario, energy would exist everywhere in a vacuum—but if you took a much closer look, you would find Planck-sized areas that have an equal likelihood of expanding or contracting. And under such a scenario, the patchwork of tiny areas would appear the same as larger areas in the vacuum—and they would not expand or contract, which means they would have a zero cosmic constant. He notes that under such a scenario, time would have no intrinsic direction.

S. Carlip. Hiding the Cosmological Constant, Physical Review Letters (2019).

The rest / Re: Archaeology/Paleontology news
« on: October 01, 2019, 11:51:39 PM »
Medieval Skeleton Puts a Face on Accounts of Torture and Violence

What’s a little strange is how little archaeological evidence of torture in the past has been found so far. Archaeologists have found evidence of violence between humans dating back to the Paleolithic, but the Milanese wheel victim is one of very few clear cases of actual torture, despite how often torture is mentioned in historical records beginning in ancient times.

Executed for the crime of being different?

... Six-hundred years later, we have no way of knowing who the unfortunate young man was or why he was executed, but historical records and his own skeleton may offer a reasonable line of speculation. In medieval Northern Italy, the wheel was mostly a tool for public executions, especially for men accused of spreading the plague. Based on the details of the wheel victim’s skeleton, his appearance might have caused his medieval neighbors to view him with suspicion, especially if they were already fearful of a plague outbreak.

He was shorter than the average man in medieval northern Italy by about 11cm (4.3 inches). Despite his small stature, he sported an extra thoracic vertebra and an extra rib on each side. The unusual thickening of his frontal bone (the forehead) suggests that he probably had a hormonal disorder. In the sutures between the bones of his skull, archaeologists found several small bits of what are called Wormian bones, which often show up along with a congenital disease. He had a noticeable gap between his upper front teeth, and his upper incisors are turned at an odd angle.

Based on bones and teeth alone, there’s no way of knowing what condition (or conditions) the man had or how else they might have impacted his appearance or his behavior. No single condition could account for everything Mazzarelli and her colleagues observed in the skeleton. But they suggest that he “could have been considered as ‘different’ by his contemporaries, and possibly this discrimination may have been the cause of his final conviction, as he could have been sacrificed, for being a ‘freak,’ by an angry crowd, as a plague spreader.

... It’s a grim story, but it illustrates one reason that studying violence in the past is relevant today; the tools have changed, but basic patterns of human behavior are still the same.

Holy Inquisitor: Now, how do you plead?

The Condemned: We're innocent.

Holy Inquisitor: We'll soon change your mind about that!

Consequences / Re: Hurricane Season 2019
« on: October 01, 2019, 09:45:07 PM »
Hurricane Lorenzo to Bring 70-Foot Waves to Azores

The Category 2 Hurricane Lorenzo is expected to hit the Portuguese islands Tuesday night and Wednesday morning. Waves up to 22 meters (72 feet) high and hurricane wind gusts over 200 kilometers mph (124 mph) are forecast for some islands.

The U.S. National Hurricane Center forecasts continuing large swells around the North Atlantic basin in the coming days, producing life-threatening surf and rip tide conditions. It predicts that Lorenzo will be slow to weaken but probably will be below hurricane strength as it approaches Ireland and the United Kingdom.

Britain's Met Office said Lorenzo would bring very strong winds and heavy rains to western areas of the U.K. on Thursday and Friday.

Science / Re: Carbon Cycle
« on: October 01, 2019, 07:20:15 PM »
Humanity's Emissions '100-Times Greater' than Volcanoes

Histograms of carbon influx (positive values) and outflux (negative values) to the atmosphere and the oceans. Units are in Pg C/y. (A) Carbon fluxes based on steady state models. Abbreviations: MOR = mid ocean ridge; org carbon = organic carbon. (B) Carbon fluxes as a result of large-scale perturbations to the carbon cycle. Total outgassing refers to events listed in Figure 2A; anthropogenic is human contributions; Chicxulub (Mexico) refers to the end-Cretaceous asteroid impact and resultant mass extinction; average LIP refers to the input from large igneous provinces.

The Deep Carbon Observatory (DCO), a 500-strong international team of scientists, released a series of papers outlining how carbon is stored, emitted and reabsorbed by natural and manmade processes.

They found that manmade carbon dioxide emissions drastically outstrip the contribution of volcanoes—which belch out gas and are often fingered as a major climate change contributor—to current warming rates.

The findings, published in the journal Elements, showed just two-tenths of 1 percent of Earth's total carbon—around 43,500 gigatonnes—is above the surface in oceans, the land, and in our atmosphere.

The rest—a staggering 1.85 billion gigatonnes—is stored in our planet's crust, mantle and core, providing scientists with clues as to how Earth formed billions of years ago.

... They found that in general the planet self-regulated atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide, a key greenhouse gas, over geological timeframes of hundreds of thousands of years.

The exceptions to this came in the form of "catastrophic disturbances" to Earth's carbon cycle, such as immense volcanic eruptions or the meteor strike that killed off the dinosaurs.

The team estimated that the Chicxulub impact 66 million years ago, which killed off three-quarters of all life on Earth, released between 425 and 1,400 gigatonnes of CO2.

Manmade emissions in 2018 alone topped 37 gigatonnes.

By comparison, the CO2 released annually by volcanoes hovers around 0.3 and 0.4 gigatonnes—roughly 100 times less than manmade emissions.

"The amount of CO2 pumped into the atmosphere by anthropogenic (manmade) activity in the last 10-12 years (is equvalent) to the catastrophic change during these events we've seen in Earth's past,"
Edmonds told AFP.

Celina Suarez, Associate Professor of Geology at the University of Arkansas, said modern manmade emissions were the "same magnitude" as past carbon shocks that precipitated mass extinction.

"We are on the same level of carbon catastrophe which is a bit sobering,"
she told AFP.

"Climate deniers always say that Earth always rebalances itself," said Suarez.

"Well, yes it has. It will rebalance itself, but not on a timescale that is of signficance to humans."

Policy and solutions / Re: Cars, cars and more cars Part Deux
« on: October 01, 2019, 07:12:16 PM »
UPS Gets FAA Nod for Widespread Drone Deliveries

UPS subsidiary UPS Flight Forward Inc. today announced it has received the U.S. government’s first full Part 135 Standard certification to operate a drone airline. United Parcel Service Inc. said it received the first-of-its-kind federal approval to start setting up a fleet of unmanned aircraft to deliver health supplies and eventually consumer packages potentially throughout the U.S.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) awarded UPS Flight Forward a Part 135 Standard certification on Friday. The UPS subsidiary immediately launched the first drone delivery flight by any company under Part 135 Standard at WakeMed’s hospital campus in Raleigh, N.C. That flight, using a Matternet M2 quadcopter, was flown under a government exemption allowing for a beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS) operation, also a first in the U.S. for a regular revenue-generating delivery.

The FAA’s Part 135 Standard certification has no limits on the size or scope of operations. It is the highest level of certification, one that no other company has attained. UPS Flight Forward’s certificate permits the company to fly an unlimited number of drones with an unlimited number of remote operators in command. This enables UPS to scale its operations to meet customer demand. Part 135 Standard also permits the drone and cargo to exceed 55 pounds and fly at night, previous restrictions governing earlier UPS flights.

Even before getting the airline designation, UPS Flight Forward, as the subsidiary is called, has operated more than 1,000 flights at Wake Forest University's medical center in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Going forward, UPS Flight Forward says it has a long-term plan with several milestones:

- Expansion of the UPS Flight Forward delivery service to new hospitals and medical campuses around the country;
- Rapid build-out of ground-based, detect-and-avoid technologies to verify drone safety while enabling future service expansion;
- Construction of a centralized operations control center;
- Regular and frequent BVLOS drone flights;
- Partnerships with additional drone manufacturers to build new drones with varying cargo capacities; and
- Adding new services outside of the healthcare industry, including the transport of special commodities and other regulated goods.

UPS believes the earliest commercially viable uses of drones will be for same-day deliveries, for augmenting truck-borne deliveries in rural areas, and for larger drones that could carry cargo of up to a ton from one rural area to another. Price said the latter idea is still years away.

Policy and solutions / Re: Becoming Vegan.
« on: October 01, 2019, 06:11:43 PM »
Raw vs. Cooked Diets Have Distinct Effects on Both Mouse and Human Gut Microbiomes

Scientists at UC San Francisco and Harvard University have shown for the first time that cooking food fundamentally alters the microbiomes of both mice and humans, a finding with implications both for optimizing our microbial health and for understanding how cooking may have altered the evolution of the our microbiomes during human prehistory.

In recent years, scientists have discovered that many facets of human health—ranging from chronic inflammation to weight gain—are strongly influenced by the ecological health of the vast numbers of microbes that live in and on us, collectively known as our microbiome.

... The researchers examined the impact of cooking on the microbiomes of mice by feeding diets of raw meat, cooked meat, raw sweet potatoes, or cooked sweet potatoes to groups of animals—selected because prior data demonstrated that cooking alters the nutrients and other bioactive compounds in both meat and tubers.

To the researchers' surprise, raw versus cooked meat had no discernible effect on the animals' gut microbes. In contrast, raw and cooked sweet potatoes significantly altered the composition of the animals' microbiomes, as well as microbes' patterns of gene activity and the biologically crucial metabolic products they produced. The researchers confirmed their findings using a more diverse array of vegetables, performing what Turnbaugh called a "mad scientist experiment"—feeding the mice an assortment of raw and cooked sweet potato, white potato, corn, peas, carrots, and beets.

The group attributed the microbial changes they saw to two key factors: cooked food allows the host to soak up more calories in the small intestine, leaving less for hungry microbes further down the gut; on the other hand, many raw foods contain potent antimicrobial compounds that appear to directly damage certain microbes.

"We were surprised to see that the differences were not only due to changing carbohydrate metabolism but also may be driven by the chemicals found in plants," Turnbaugh said. "To me, this really highlights the importance of considering the other components of our diet and how they impact gut bacteria.

R. Carmody,, Cooking shapes the structure and function of the gut microbiome[/b]]Cooking shapes the structure and function of the gut microbiome, Nature Microbiology (2019).

Consequences / Re: Climate change, the ocean, agriculture, and FOOD
« on: October 01, 2019, 06:02:53 PM »
Multifactor Models Reveal Bleaker Picture of Climate Change Impact on Marine Life

... "Most models have only considered the changing temperature of the ocean to make projections for sea life," McHenry said. "However, considering factors beyond temperature provide a more complete picture of how marine life will fare as the Earth warms and these factors change accordingly."

Using data on marine species from NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service and a high-resolution global climate model projection from the NOAA Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory, McHenry and her team examined the expected habitat changes of more than 100 species living in the U.S Northeast Shelf—a highly productive and economically important region that spans from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina to Nova Scotia, Canada. Researchers found that when using a multifactor model more than 50 percent of marine species in that region would experience a decline in habitat space.

For example, the Atlantic cod had diminished habitat space when looking at temperature models, but the multifactor habitat suitability models rendered Atlantic cod essentially absent in the future.

"Atlantic cod was once an important fishery in the Northeast," McHenry said. "There are ongoing efforts to rebuild it, but these models indicate a less hopeful future for this species than originally suspected."

Jennifer McHenry et al, Projecting marine species range shifts from only temperature can mask climate vulnerability, Global Change Biology (2019).

Consequences / Re: Climate change, the ocean, agriculture, and FOOD
« on: October 01, 2019, 05:56:07 PM »
Biologists Track the Invasion of Herbicide-Resistant Weeds into Southwestern Ontario

Researchers studied strains of the common waterhemp—aka Amaranthus tuberculatus—that are resistant to glyphosate, one of the most widely used herbicides in the world, commonly known by its trade name Roundup.

... "To our surprise, we found that the genomes of some resistant plants in Ontario were nearly identical to those in very distant U.S. plants. This was evidence that the Ontario plants were very closely related to the U.S. plants and suggests that the former came from seeds that were just picked up from one field and dropped in another."

The same DNA analysis identified some resistant plants that did not genetically match any other plants suggesting they appeared through the independent emergence of a genetic mutation conveying resistance.

The researchers were surprised to discover both mechanisms at play.

... "One of the most striking findings is that we see both ways that weeds could become resistant happening on really short time scales. Evolution is happening very quickly, and using multiple mechanisms."

... "At this point, we're running out of herbicides. These plants have evolved resistance to pretty much every herbicide we've come up with. And it doesn't seem like there's ever going to be a herbicide that a weed can't eventually evolve resistance to.

Open Access: Julia M. Kreiner et al, Multiple modes of convergent adaptation in the spread of glyphosate-resistant Amaranthus tuberculatus, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2019)

Consequences / Re: Prepping for Collapse
« on: October 01, 2019, 05:45:21 PM »
New Zealand: Lifeboat to Save Humanity from Extinction in a Catastrophic Pandemic, Researchers Say

New Zealand, Australia and Iceland could act as island refuges to save humanity from extinction in the event of a catastrophic global pandemic, researchers have found.

The researchers, from the University of Otago, Wellington and Adapt Research, have ranked 20 island nations which could act as refuges from which large-scale technological society could be rebuilt. From this process, New Zealand came out second best.

Their work has just been published as a research paper in the international journal Risk Analysis.

... "Discoveries in biotechnology could see a genetically-engineered pandemic threaten the survival of our species. Though carriers of disease can easily circumvent land borders, a closed self-sufficient island could harbor an isolated, technologically-adept population that could repopulate the earth following a disaster." ... "It's like an insurance policy. You hope that you never need to use it, but if disaster strikes, then the strategy needs to have been in place ahead of time."

The researchers ranked island nations with populations of more than 250,000 as possible refuges, considering that the larger the population, the more likely it was that the refuge would ultimately be able to reboot global civilization.

The researchers say that for such a strategy to succeed, preparations must be made ahead of time. They suggest that New Zealand consider investing in resiliency measures and rehearse the rapid introduction of border controls.

Matt Boyd et al. The Prioritization of Island Nations as Refuges from Extreme Pandemics, Risk Analysis (2019)

EPA's Proposed Coal Ash Amendments Will Boost Risk of Toxic Contamination

Federal rules currently prohibit the uncontrolled disposal of coal ash into the environment, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has recently proposed amendments to the federal 2015 Coal Ash Rule that will allow coal ash to be spread on soil or stored in unlined pits and landfills and remove other safeguards if the ash is dumped or spread for a "beneficial use," such as fill.

That's a bad idea, said Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke's Nicholas School of the Environment. ... "Our experiments suggest that when coal ash interacts with water—as it will if it is spread on soil or buried in soil without protective liners—there is extensive mobilization of arsenic, selenium, and chromium, in the form of highly toxic hexavalent chromium," Vengosh said.

"Our experiments also demonstrate that coal ash chemistry induces high pH when the ash interacts with freshwater and this further enhances the mobilization and solubility of elements like hexavalent chromium and arsenic," he said.

"The amendments proposed by the EPA would allow the 'beneficial' placement of unlimited quantities of coal ash in the environment, potentially near drinking water wells, rivers and lakes, without any restrictions or safeguards," he said. "That could create countless new sources of leached contamination that will infiltrate into the subsurface and contaminate soil and water resources across the nation."


Trump Administration is Sidelining Science - and It Puts Us All In Danger

Antarctica / Re: The Amery Ice Shelf Thread
« on: October 01, 2019, 06:34:17 AM »
Giant Iceberg Breaks Off East Antarctica

The tabular iceberg, officially named D-28, separated from the Amery ice shelf on 26 September. The iceberg is 1,636 square kilometres in size, or about 50 x 30km, the Australian Antarctic Division said.

It is the first major calving event on the Amery ice shelf since 1963-64.

Consequences / Re: The Holocene Extinction
« on: October 01, 2019, 01:24:09 AM »
Thanks, Bruce  :)

Here on the East coast the survivors seem to be omnivores, seed and fruitovores. That said, the bird population here has crashed. Some days, I can count the number of birds I see in one day on one hand.

Fortunately, we have plenty of water.

Consequences / Re: Pathogens and their impacts
« on: September 30, 2019, 11:16:56 PM »
Possible Cover-Up of Ebola Outbreak in Tanzania Prompts Travel Warnings

US and UK government officials are warning travelers of the possibility of a concealed Ebola outbreak in Tanzania after the World Health Organization reported that the government there is withholding information about possible cases of the deadly virus.

On September 21, the WHO released an unusual statement outlining a series of unofficial reports from the country. The first was that a doctor who had recently traveled to Uganda had returned to Tanzania with a “suspected” case of Ebola. Testing performed by the Tanzanian National Health Laboratory reportedly indicated that the doctor was positive for the virus. She died on September 8 in Dar es Salaam, the largest city in Tanzania, after traveling extensively throughout the country. Subsequent unofficial reports to the WHO indicated that there were several other suspected cases as well as contacts in quarantine in various sites in Tanzania.

The Tanzanian government has said that there have been no cases of Ebola and that no suspected cases are “admitted anywhere” in the country. But officials there have been remarkably slow to respond to the WHO’s requests for information, have failed to provide critical details about the cases, have not offered alternative explanations for the illnesses and death, and have refused to perform confirmatory tests to ensure that the disease is not spreading, according to the WHO.

The US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention and the State Department updated their travel advisories for Tanzania late Friday, September 27.

The UK’s warning notes that the WHO declared the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) in July and that cases have spilled over to Uganda.

The outbreak, which began in August of 2018, has sickened over 3,000, killing more than 2,000 so far. It is the second largest Ebola outbreak on record, surpassed only by the 2014 West African outbreak involving more than 28,000 cases and 11,000 deaths.

Consequences / Re: Heatwaves
« on: September 30, 2019, 10:45:32 PM »
Collapse of Desert Bird Populations Likely Due to Heat Stress from Climate Change

As temperatures rise, desert birds need more water to cool off at the same time as deserts are becoming drier, setting some species up for a severe crash, if not extinction, according to a new study from the University of California, Berkeley.

... The researchers' latest findings, part of UC Berkeley's Grinnell Resurvey Project, come from comparing levels of species declines to computer simulations of how "virtual birds" must deal with heat on an average hot day in Death Valley, which can be in the 30s Celsius—90s Fahrenheit—with low humidity. These temperatures are, on average, 2 C (3.6 F) hotter than 100 years ago. The birds that the model predicted would require the most extra water today, compared to a 100 years ago, were the species that had declined the most in the Mojave Desert over the past century. The desert straddles the border between California and Nevada.

The most threatened turn out to be larger birds, and those that have an insect or animal diet.

The team calculated that larger birds, like the mourning dove, require 10% to 30% more water today to keep cool because of the 2 C increase in Mojave Desert temperatures over the last 100 years.

According to the UC Berkeley analysis, birds that eat insects or other animals are more threatened by changes in evaporative water loss because they typically get all of their water from the moisture in their food. They seldom, if ever, drink from surface water sources. A 30% increase in water requirement could mean that larger birds have to catch an extra 60 to 70 bugs per day to survive the increased heat. If those bugs are even around, the birds still have to expend extra energy and time to find them.

The American kestrel, prairie falcon and turkey vulture, all large and carnivorous, have declined, as have large insect-eaters like the white-throated swift, violet-green swallow, olive-sided flycatcher, Western meadowlark and Western bluebird.

Smaller birds that eat seeds or are omnivores are less threatened, according to the model.

Vegetarian birds, such as seedeaters, face a different problem. Because they can drink from surface water sources—springs and pools in desert oases, they can supplement the water they get from their food. But that's only if water is around.

... According to Beissinger, the team's conclusions about these California and Nevada desert birds may apply to species in other regions of the world.

Eric A. Riddell el al., "Cooling requirements fueled the collapse of a desert bird community from climate change," PNAS (2019)

The rest / Re: Economic Inequality
« on: September 30, 2019, 07:07:57 PM »
High Wealth Inequality Linked With Greater Support for Populist Leaders

People who live or think they live in a more economically unequal society may be more supportive of a strong, even autocratic leader, a large-scale international study shows. Their findings appear in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

"The results suggest that the growth in support for populist leaders who are happy to abandon democratic principles to achieve particular outcomes may partly be due to increasing levels of economic inequality," said Jolanda Jetten, a psychological scientist at the University of Queensland in Australia and an author on the report. Led by Stefanie Sprong of Trinity College Dublin, the collaborators conducted a series of surveys and experiments. In these studies, the researchers examine the effects of economic inequality on people's wish for a strong leader, and investigate whether this link can be explained by perceptions of anomie—the perceived breakdown in social fabric in society.

... In analyzing the data, the researchers found evidence that people in countries with high levels of economic inequality, both real and felt, were more supportive of a strong leader. But only perceived inequality appeared to have any relationship with a sense of societal and governmental corrosion.

... "This strengthens our reasoning that economic inequality perceptions enhance the feeling that society is breaking down ... fueling a desire for a leader who will restore order (by whatever means necessary)," the authors conclude.

Sprong, S; Jetten, J; Wang, Z; et al., "Our Country Needs a Strong Leader Right Now": Economic Inequality Enhances the Wish for a Strong Leader" Psychological Science (2019)

Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: September 30, 2019, 06:50:44 PM »
Robots & AI eliminating jobs ...

AI Just as Good at Diagnosing Illness as Humans


Even Good Looks Won't Get You a Job; 100,000 Free AI-generated Headshots

None of these photos are of real people


Computer Says No: An Expression-Analysing AI has been Picking Out Job Candidates for Unilever

Hirevue claims to have already carried out 100,000 interviews for companies in the UK. Most of the analysis is based on language – word choice, tone, speed of speech and sentence length are all considered. But the software also looks at facial expressions – smiling, brow raising and eye widening.

Loren Larsen, CTO at Hirevue, said: "There are 350-ish features that we look at in language: do you use passive or active words? Do you talk about 'I' or 'We.' What is the word choice or sentence length? In doctors, you might expect a good one to use more technical language.

"Then we look at the tone of voice. If someone speaks really slowly, you are probably not going to stay on the phone to buy something from them. If someone speaks at 400 words a minute, people are not going to understand them. Empathy is a piece of that."

People are then ranked on a 1-100 score system.


Drones Now Dominate Israeli Flying Operations

Israel’s Air Force, long dominated by some of the world’s best fighter pilots, has completed the shift from pilots to drones, with more than 80 percent of all Israeli Air Force flight hours executed by unmanned aircraft. ... "Last year 78 percent of the IAF's operational flight hours were performed by UAS. This year the number jumped and is 80 percent,"

Recent reports by Arab media describing Israeli attacks on Iranian targets far from Israel included details of unidentified drones. Israel has never confirmed that it performed such long-range attacks.

... What was missing in the view around us when we walked on the tarmac was the presence of the “outside pilot,” using controllers that are required for many other drones. This job has been eliminated because the Heron-TP uses an automatic takeoff and landing system, which also functions in inclement weather. To begin a mission, the commander simply pushes a button. The large drone taxis out of its hangar, continues to the runway and takes off. The same sequence is used once the mission is complete.

The rest / Re: Astronomical news
« on: September 30, 2019, 03:26:43 AM »
Life on Mars Could be Found Within Two Years But World is ‘Not Prepared’, NASA’s Chief Scientist Says

NASA is close to finding life on Mars but the world is not ready for the “revolutionary” implications of the discovery, the space agency’s chief scientist has said.

Dr Jim Green has warned that two rovers from NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) could find evidence of life within months of arriving on Mars in March 2021.

Dr Green compared the potential discovery to when the astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus stated that the Earth revolves around the Sun in the 16th century.

“It will start a whole new line of thinking. I don’t think we’re prepared for the results,” he told The Sunday Telegraph. “I’ve been worried about that because I think we’re close to finding it and making some announcements.”

... “What happens next is a whole new set of scientific questions. Is that life like us? How are we related?” he said. “Can life move from planet-to-planet or do we have a spark and just the right environment and that spark generates life – like us or do not like us – based on the chemical environment that it is in?”

Earlier this year, scientists discovered that there may be a vast and active system of water running underneath the surface of Mars.

... “There is no reason to think that there isn’t civilisations elsewhere, because we are finding exoplanets [planets outside the solar system] all over the place,” he said.


We Should Deliberately Contaminate Mars With Our Microbes, Controversial Study Argues

A research team is proposing a major philosophical shift in our thinking about the spread of Earthly microbes in space and on Mars in particular. Believing interplanetary contamination to be “inevitable,” the team argues that future Martian colonists should use microorganisms to reshape the Red Planet—a proposition deemed grossly premature by some experts.

In a paper published last month in FEMS Microbiology Ecology, microbiologist Jose Lopez, a professor at Nova Southeastern University in Florida, along with colleagues W. Raquel Peixoto and Alexandre Rosado from Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, proposed a “major revision” to current philosophies behind space exploration and planetary protection policies as they pertain to the spread of microorganisms in space.

...“Microbial introduction should not be considered accidental but inevitable.”

Rather than worry about contaminating foreign celestial bodies—something NASA and other space agencies take great care to avoid—Lopez and his co-authors make the case that we should deliberately send our germs to outer space and that the dissemination of our microbes should be part of a larger colonization strategy to terraform the climate on Mars. A key argument proposed by the researchers is that the prevention of contamination is a “near impossibility,” as the authors phrase it in the study.

Open Access: Jose V Lopez,, "Inevitable future: space colonization beyond Earth with microbes first", FEMS Microbiology Ecology, Volume 95, Issue 10, October 2019


Resistance is futile!

The rest / Re: Systemic Isolation
« on: September 29, 2019, 05:58:18 PM »

The rest / Re: The Koch Watch Thread
« on: September 29, 2019, 10:26:11 AM »

Science / Re: Trump Administration Assaults on Science and the Environment
« on: September 29, 2019, 12:25:41 AM »
EPA Wants to Push Through Bad New FOIA Regulations without Public Comment

The Environmental Protection Agency wants to publish new FOIA regulations in the Federal Register – without public comment – under which rules “the administrator and other officials would be allowed to review all materials that fit a FOIA request criteria, known as responsive documents, and then decide ‘whether to release or withhold a record or a portion of a record on the basis of responsiveness or under one or more exemptions under the FOIA, and to issue ‘no records’ responses.

As it stands, the new regulations, which appear to expand the circle of non-FOIA officials who can make final determinations on FOIA requests and allows the agency to functionally ignore any requests sent to regional offices, would go into effect 30 days after the publication in the Federal Register.

Long-time FOIA champion Senator Chuck Grassley wasn’t having it, and tweeted,

“Americans deserve 2kno what their govt is up to Freedom of Information Act designed to promote transparency when govt lacks openness but recent SCOTUS ruling+EPA &Interior regs undermine FOIA I will write legislation 2fix TRANSPARENCY BRINGS ACCOUNTABILITY.”

Senator Patrick Leahy added,

“Congress won’t sit idly by while @EPA further guts FOIA w. an offensive rule allowing politicals to reject #FOIA requests w/o explanation. @EPAAWheeler: a friendly reminder that #Appropriations has oversight responsibilities. We’ll be chatting about this.”

Consequences / Re: Places becoming less livable
« on: September 26, 2019, 11:17:37 PM »
Turkey Doctor Gets 15 Months for Revealing Pollution Cancer Risk

A Turkish scientist was sentenced to 15 months in prison on Thursday for revealing the cancer risks posed by toxic pollution in western Turkey.

The court in Istanbul found Dr Bulent Sik guilty of "disclosing classified information"—a verdict described as a "travesty of justice" by Amnesty International.

Dr Sik last year revealed the results of a study carried out with other scientists for the Ministry of Health between 2011 and 2015 linking the toxicity in soil, water and food to high rates of cancer in several western provinces.

He wrote the articles for newspaper Cumhuriyet after realising the government was not acting on the study's findings.

The study "clearly revealed the extent to which water resources were contiminated by toxic materials," Dr Sik told reporters after the verdict.

Pollution from the industrial zone of Dilovasi, around 80 kilometres from Istanbul and home to many chemical and metallurgy factories, was singled out in the report for having cancer rates well above the international average.

Permafrost / Re: Arctic Methane Release
« on: September 26, 2019, 09:17:43 PM »
Mysterious 'Pocket' of Underwater Gas Could Contain 50 Million Tons of CO2

New research from Japan reminds us, enormous, miles-wide reservoirs of greenhouse gases lurk in untouched pockets just below the seafloor.

In a study published Aug. 19 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, a team of researchers discovered one such pocket at the bottom of the Okinawa Trough, a massive submarine basin sitting southwest of Japan where the Philippine Sea plate is slowly sinking below the Eurasian plate. Using seismic waves to map the trough's structure, the team found a huge gas pocket stretching at least 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) wide and potentially containing more than 100 million tons (90.7 million metric tons) of CO2, methane or some combination of the two.

... Pressure wave velocities slowed down significantly over a wide area in the middle part of the trough, indicating a massive gas pocket. The team estimated that the pocket's width, but were unable to calculate how deep or concentrated the reservoir was.

... If the gas in the undersea reservoir is mostly CO2, it could have an even greater impact on climate change. If the pocket were to pop and release 50 million tons (45 million metric tons) of CO2 into the air at once, it could have a measurable effect on CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere, and thus on climate change. If pockets like this one are a widespread feature at ocean rifts, as the researchers suspect they might be, then the potential consequences could be even more significant.

... Based on the flow of heat around the study area, the researchers think another possibility is that a low-permeability cap of methane hydrate--a methane-containing ice--acts as the lid.

Large Gas Reservoir Along the Rift Axis of a Continental Back‐Arc Basin Revealed by Automated Seismic Velocity Analysis in the Okinawa Trough. Kota Mukumoto, Takeshi Tsuji, Andri Hendriyana. Geophysical Research Letters

Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: September 26, 2019, 07:27:57 PM »
Agent Smith: Never send a human to do a machine's job.


The standard term in the Pentagon now for human involvement with AI and weapons now is “human ON the loop,” a shift from human IN the loop. That reflects greater stress on the advisory function of humans with AI and a recognition that domains like cyber require almost instantaneous responses that can’t wait for a human.

Next: ... 'humans OUT of the loop'


No AI For Nuclear Command & Control: JAIC’s Shanahan

The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center won't automate nuclear response -- but it is working towards AI on conventional weapons.

In movies like WarGames and Terminator, nuclear launch controls are the first thing fictional generals hand over to AI. In real life, the director of the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center says, that’s the last thing he would integrate AI with. The military is beginning a massive multi-billion dollar modernization of its aging system for Nuclear Command, Control, & Communications (NC3), much of which dates to the Cold War. But the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center is not involved with it.

A recent article on the iconoclastic website War on the Rocks argued “America Needs A ‘Dead Hand’,” a reference to the Soviet system designed to automatically order a nuclear launch if the human leadership was wiped out. “I read that,” Shanahan told the Kalaris Intelligence Conference here this afternoon. “My immediate answer is ‘No. We do not.’

The rest / Re: Systemic Isolation
« on: September 26, 2019, 01:56:07 AM »
Numbers Limit How Accurately Digital Computers Model Chaos

... Chaos is more commonplace than many people may realise and even for very simple chaotic systems, numbers used by digital computers can lead to errors that are not obvious but can have a big impact. Ultimately, computers can't simulate everything.

The study, published today in Advanced Theory and Simulations, shows that digital computers cannot reliably reproduce the behaviour of 'chaotic systems' which are widespread. This fundamental limitation could have implications for high performance computation (HPC) and for applications of machine learning to HPC.

The study builds on the work of Edward Lorenz of MIT whose weather simulations using a simple computer model in the 1960s showed that tiny rounding errors in the numbers fed into his computer led to quite different forecasts, which is now known as the 'butterfly effect'.

The team investigated the impact of using floating-point arithmetic—a method standardised by the IEEE and used since the 1950s to approximate real numbers on digital computers.

Digital computers use only rational numbers, ones that can be expressed as fractions. Moreover the denominator of these fractions must be a power of two, such as 2, 4, 8, 16, etc. There are infinitely more real numbers that cannot be expressed this way.

In the present work, the scientists used all four billion of these single-precision floating-point numbers that range from plus to minus infinity. The fact that the numbers are not distributed uniformly may also contribute to some of the inaccuracies.

... "The four billion single-precision floating-point numbers that digital computers use are spread unevenly, so there are as many such numbers between 0.125 and 0.25, as there are between 0.25 and 0.5, as there are between 0.5 and 1.0. It is amazing that they are able to simulate real-world chaotic events as well as they do. But even so, we are now aware that this simplification does not accurately represent the complexity of chaotic dynamical systems, and this is a problem for such simulations on all current and future digital computers."

... "These are being used to predict important scenarios in climate change, in chemical reactions and in nuclear reactors, for example, so it's imperative that computer-based simulations are now carefully scrutinised."

The rest / Re: Astronomical news
« on: September 25, 2019, 11:59:29 PM »
NASA Visualization Shows a Black Hole's Warped World

This new visualization of a black hole illustrates how its gravity distorts our view, warping its surroundings as if seen in a carnival mirror. The visualization simulates the appearance of a black hole where infalling matter has collected into a thin, hot structure called an accretion disk. The black hole's extreme gravity skews light emitted by different regions of the disk, producing the misshapen appearance.

Seen nearly edgewise, the turbulent disk of gas churning around a black hole takes on a crazy double-humped appearance. The black hole's extreme gravity alters the paths of light coming from different parts of the disk, producing the warped image. The black hole's extreme gravitational field redirects and distorts light coming from different parts of the disk, but exactly what we see depends on our viewing angle. The greatest distortion occurs when viewing the system nearly edgewise.

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