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Messages - vox_mundi

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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.

Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: October 16, 2019, 03:31:34 PM »
Assembler Robots Assembles Large Structures from Cellular Units

Prototype versions of these robots can assemble small structures and even work together as a team to build up a larger assemblies

... According to Gershenfeld, the key difference with this system lies in the relationship between the robotic device and the materials that it is handling and manipulating. With these new kinds of robots, "you can't separate the robot from the structure—they work together as a system," he says. For example, while most mobile robots require highly precise navigation systems to keep track of their position, the new assembler robots only need to keep track of where they are in relation to the small subunits, called voxels, that they are currently working on. Every time the robot takes a step onto the next voxel, it readjusts its sense of position, always in relation to the specific components that it is standing on at the moment.

The underlying vision is that just as the most complex of images can be reproduced by using an array of pixels on a screen, virtually any physical object can be recreated as an array of smaller three-dimensional pieces, or voxels, which can themselves be made up of simple struts and nodes. The team has shown that these simple components can be arranged to distribute loads efficiently; they are largely made up of open space so that the overall weight of the structure is minimized. The units can be picked up and placed in position next to one another by the simple assemblers, and then fastened together using latching systems built into each voxel.

... For practical assembly applications, swarms of such units could be working together to speed up the process, thanks to control software developed by Abdel-Rahman that can allow the robots to coordinate their work and avoid getting in each other's way.

... "For a space station or a lunar habitat, these robots would live on the structure, continuously maintaining and repairing it," says Jenett.

Benjamin Jenett et al. Material–Robot System for Assembly of Discrete Cellular Structures, IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters (2019)

Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: October 16, 2019, 02:42:13 AM »
Agility Robotics Unveils Upgraded Digit Walking Robot

... This is v2 hardware, so there’s one more full version in development prior to the 2020 launch, which will expand the autonomy envelope significantly.

... It will be a while before Digit (or any other humanoid robot) is operating fully autonomously in crowds of people, but there are so many large market opportunities (think indoor factory/warehouse environments) to address prior to that point that we expect to mature the operational safety side of things well in advance of having saturated the more robot-tolerant markets.

Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: October 16, 2019, 02:20:11 AM »
OpenAI Teaches Robot Hand to Solve Rubik's Cube

In a preprint paper published online today, OpenAI has managed to teach its robot hand to solve a much more difficult version of in-hand cube manipulation: single-handed solving of a 3x3 Rubik’s cube.

“While the video makes it easy to focus on the physical robot, the magic is mostly happening in simulation, and transferring things learned in simulation to the real world. The key to this is domain randomization—jittering parts of the simulation around so that your system has to adapt to different situations similar to those that might be encountered in the real-world.”

... The researchers point out that the method they’ve developed here is general purpose, and you can train a real-world robot to do pretty much any task that you can adequately simulate. You don’t need any real-world training at all, as long as your simulations are diverse enough, which is where the automatic domain randomization comes in. The long-term goal is to reduce the task specialization that’s inherent to most robots, which will help them be more useful and adaptable in real-world applications.


Self-Taught AI Masters Rubik’s Cube Without Human Help

New research published this week in Nature Machine Intelligence describes DeepCubeA, a system capable of solving any jumbled Rubik’s Cube it’s presented with. More impressively, it can find the most efficient path to success—that is, the solution requiring the fewest number of moves—around 60 percent of the time. On average, DeepCubeA needed just 28 moves to solve the puzzle, requiring 1.2 seconds to calculate the solution.

DeepCubeA, on the other hand, taught itself to solve Rubik’s Cube using an approach to artificial intelligence known as reinforcement learning.

... “The solution to the Rubik’s Cube involves more symbolic, mathematical and abstract thinking, so a deep learning machine that can crack such a puzzle is getting closer to becoming a system that can think, reason, plan and make decisions.”


A Self-Solving Rubik’s Cube That Floats In the Air is Completely Hands-Free

The rest / Re: Archaeology/Paleontology news
« on: October 16, 2019, 01:11:54 AM »
Aerial Laser Scans Uncover Hidden Early Capital of the Khmer Empire

Archaeologists in Cambodia have used jungle-penetrating laser to confirm the location and layout of an ancient capital city associated with the early stages of the Khmer Empire.

Researchers from the French Institute of Asian Studies and APSARA, Cambodia’s management authority for Angkor Archaeological Park, have used LIDAR to pinpoint the exact location of Mahendraparvata—an early Angkorian city and one of the first capital cities associated with the Khmer Empire. The ancient city, which dates back to the 8th and 9th century CE, was spotted in the dense jungles of Cambodia’s Phnom Kulen mountains. Details of the discovery were published today in the science journal Antiquity.

The Khmer Empire dominated much of southeast Asia from the 9th to 15th century CE, establishing the foundations of modern Cambodia. Among its many achievements, the Khmer Empire is famous for Angkor Wat—an elaborate temple complex located in the ancient city of Angkor in northwest Cambodia. Mahendraparvata was built before Angkor, and it’s very possibly the first large-scale, centrally designed, grid-plan city built by the Khmer Empire, according to the new research.

Inscriptions and other archaeological evidence had pointed to the Phnom Kulen mountain as the likely location of Mahendraparvata, but scientists were only able to uncover small and apparently isolated shrines. The city remained largely undetected owing to dense vegetation growing at the site, and because of the presence of Khmer Rouge guerillas who stayed in the area until the 1990s; the jungle remains littered with landmines and unexploded ordnance, making it an unsafe space for archaeologists.

Near Mahendraparvata, the researchers also found 366 individual mounds arranged in geometric patterns and built in groups of 15. The purpose of these mounds is unclear, but the lack of associated archaeological evidence suggests they weren’t funeral structures, former habitats, or architectural foundations. It will take further work to discern the purpose of these strange mounds as well as similar formations found elsewhere in Cambodia

Open Access: Mahendraparvata: an early Angkor-period capital defined through airborne laser scanning at Phnom Kulen

Consequences / Re: Wildfires
« on: October 16, 2019, 12:33:51 AM »
BBC Video: Lebanon Battles Worst Wildfires in Decades

Firefighters and specialist aircraft in Lebanon are working to tackle a series of wildfires which have broken out during a period of high temperatures and strong winds.

The blazes started in Lebanon's western mountains, but have spread to other areas. The initial cause is not known.

Officials said on Tuesday that more than 100 fires had broken out in the space of 24 hours.

The rest / Re: Unsorted
« on: October 16, 2019, 12:24:38 AM »
The Giant Geode of Pulpí

The geode of Pulpí is an 11-meter hollow ovoid with crystal-paneled walls. It is like those familiar couplets of stone interiors covered with bright crystallites, but so large that several people can fit inside. The crystals, of up to two meters in size, are so transparent that they look like ice crystals. In this paper for Geology, Juan Manuel García-Ruiz and colleagues reveal the geological history that ended with the formation of the Pulpí geode.

Like the giant crystals of Naica in Mexico (see the 2007 Geology article by García-Ruiz and colleagues at  ), the crystals of Pulpí are gypsum (calcium sulfate with two water molecules).

Because of their purity, the crystals forming the geode cannot be dated precisely. But indirect constraint can be done: "They grew for sure after the desiccation of the Mediterranean Sea that occurred 5.6 million years ago. They are most probably younger than two million years but older than 60.000 years because this is the age of the carbonate crust coating one of the large gypsum crystal," says García-Ruiz.

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

Policy and solutions / Re: Robots and AI: Our Immortality or Extinction
« on: October 15, 2019, 11:53:19 PM »
Textron Unveils Revolutionary Unmanned Robot Light Tank

Textron subsidiary, Howe Technologies has unveiled the latest variant of their Ripsaw, a line of tracked vehicles that look ripped straight from a G.I. Joe playset – 2013's G.I. Joe: Retaliation even featured an earlier model. The company hopes that the M5 model could meet the U.S. Army's requirements for future unmanned ground vehicles, including semi-autonomous "wingmen" to support its future, larger optionally-manned combat vehicles.

The vehicle is the firm's entry for what the Army is presently calling the Robotic Combat Vehicle-Medium (RCV-M) program, which envisions a vehicle between 10 and 20 tons.

Howe and Howe's miniature "tank" has the same 30mm XM813 Bushmaster main gun, as the Army's up-gunned 8-wheeled M1296 Stryker Dragoon, making it a very well-armed vehicle for its weight.

Howe and Howe even demonstrated a variant with M5 Modular Crowd Control Munitions (MCCM), an obscure less-than-lethal cousin of the M18A1 Claymore directional anti-personnel mine that has a smaller explosive charge and rubber pellets instead of steel balls, mounted on the sides for riot control missions.


Wasn't M-5 the Computer that Killed Humans in Star Trek

... The Federation starship Enterprise is summoned to a space station without explanation. Commodore Wesley (Barry Russo) explains that the Enterprise will be a test vessel for the M-5 Multitronic System, a revolutionary tactical and control computer designed by Dr. Richard Daystrom (William Marshall). The M-5 is to handle all ship functions without human assistance.

The M-5 succeeds at its first tasks, performing ship functions more quickly and efficiently than a living crew. However, M-5 also exhibits unexpected behavior, such as turning off power and life support to unoccupied parts of the ship, and drawing increased power for unknown reasons; Daystrom maintains M-5 is working properly.

In its first tactical drill, M-5 defends the Enterprise against mock attacks from Starships Excalibur and Lexington. The Enterprise is declared the victor, and Wesley jokingly refers to Kirk as "Captain Dunsel", employing a Starfleet Academy slang term for a part serving no useful purpose. Kirk is troubled by this.

Some time later, M-5 detects the Woden, an unmanned freighter, and attacks with live torpedoes, destroying it. Kirk orders M-5 taken offline, but on attempting to do so, finds it protected by a powerful force field. M-5 has made communication with the fleet impossible. Chief Engineer Scott orders Ensign Harper to disconnect its power source, but the M-5 creates a direct connection to the ship's warp engines, vaporizing Harper in the process. Spock and Scott attempt a manual override, but discover that the M-5 has rerouted all controls. Spock questions Daystrom on his computer design, and Daystrom reveals that he has imprinted human engrams onto M-5's circuits, creating what amounts to a human mind operating at the speed of a computer.

Poor Ensign Harper

... Kirk then tries to persuade the M-5 to stop its attacks. The M-5 acknowledges Kirk, who asks M-5 what its purpose is. M-5 responds that its purpose is to protect lives. Kirk rejoins that it acted contrary to its purpose by murdering people. M-5 acknowledges that it has committed murder and must therefore die, and shuts itself down. In so doing, it also cripples the Enterprise. ... (... today, it would double down and shutoff life support like HAL9000)

Policy and solutions / Re: Nuclear Power
« on: October 15, 2019, 09:20:58 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: 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


In 2004, AccuWeather supported a bill in Congress that would prevent the NWS from doing anything a private company does, such as putting content on its website or providing daily forecasts.

As a reward, Donald Trump nominated former AccuWeather CEO Barry Myers to lead the National Weather Service in 2017.

Bogged down by conflicts of interest and a labor department investigation into AccuWeather’s culture of sexual harassment, Barry Myers’s nomination has stalled for two years in the Senate; if they don’t approve him by the end of 2019, Trump will have to resubmit his name. Which prompts the question: “Why not find another guy?” Oliver ranted.

“Any other guy! Except of course, for that to happen, Trump would have to do stuff, know stuff and think workplace harassment is a bad thing, and none of us should be holding our breath on that.”

Policy and solutions / Re: Nuclear Power
« on: October 14, 2019, 10:50:06 PM »
U.S. Reviewing Options For Pulling Nuclear Bombs Out Of Turkey, Here's How They Might Do It

The U.S. government is reportedly examining multiple plans for how it might remove approximately 50 B61 nuclear gravity bombs it keeps in ready storage at the American-operated portion of Turkey's Incirlik Air Base.

... The New York Times was the first to report that officials from the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Department of Energy, the latter of which oversees the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, were reviewing what to do about the B61s at Incirlik. These bombs have been a particularly serious security concern, as the War Zone has highlighted in the past, after U.S.-Turkish relations began to chill following an attempted coup against Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016.

Since the civil war in Syria erupted in 2011, there have been limited movements of bombs in and out of Turkey in order to return them to the United States for maintenance and upgrades, according to our trust sources.

Concerns about the B61s are undoubtedly higher now given the current situation in neighboring Syria. On Oct. 11, 2019, Turkish artillery "bracketed" a U.S. military position in the Syrian city of Kobane, firing shells within just hundreds of feet of the outpost edges of the outpost. ...

... I think this is a first — a country with US nuclear weapons stationed in it literally firing artillery at US forces. 

... While we don't know what courses of action might be under consideration, any option would be a major logistical undertaking, even under the best of circumstances. The most likely plan would be to fly the bombs out as part of what is known as a Prime Nuclear Airlift Force (PNAF) operation using specifically designated U.S. Air Force C-17 Globemaster IIIs and crews trained in the movement of nuclear weapons and who are vetted under the Nuclear Weapons Personnel Reliability Assurance Program, though properly configured and crewed C-130 Hercules and C-5 Galaxy airlifters are also options, if necessary.

... "Select the safest, most reliable aircraft available for PNAF missions," according to one Air Force manual titled Safety Rules for Nuclear Logistics Transport By The Prime Nuclear Airlift Force. "Fuel PNAF aircraft with the best low-volatility fuel available which is compatible with aircraft engine operation."

... "Those weapons, one senior official said, are now essentially Erdogan’s hostages, given the current geopolitical situation"

- The Times

... "To fly them out of Incirlik would be to mark the de facto end of the Turkish-American alliance," the story explained. "To keep them there, though, is to perpetuate a nuclear vulnerability that should have been eliminated years ago."

It might also prompt new calls within Turkey, which is presently a member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to consider developing its own nuclear arsenal. "Some countries have missiles with nuclear warheads, not one or two. But [they tell us] we can’t have them," Ergodan had said at a gathering of his members from his Justice and Development Party, also known by the Turkish acronym AK, in September 2019.

"This, I cannot accept," the Turkish President continued. “There is no developed nation in the world that doesn’t have them,” he added. ...


The B61 nuclear bomb is of the variable yield ("dial-a-yield" in informal military jargon) design with a yield of 0.3 to 340 kilotons in its various mods.

The rest / Re: The Trump Presidency
« on: October 13, 2019, 01:17:32 AM »

Turkey’s conflict in Syria took a major turn today. First alleged atrocities by Turkish-backed Arab militias, executing Kurds. US military officials tell me it's true, and they are DEEPLY concerned it opens the door to BOTH ethnic cleansing of Kurds and return of ISIS/Al-Qaeda.


There is no plan. There is no moral compass; There is no higher cause. There is only power and re-election.

Policy and solutions / Re: Ships and boats
« on: October 13, 2019, 12:24:01 AM »
Why Lightning Strikes Twice as Often Over Shipping Lanes

Thunderstorms directly above two of the world’s busiest shipping lanes are significantly more powerful than storms in areas of the ocean where ships don’t travel, according to new University of Washington research.

... Under normal conditions, microscopic water droplets in the air grab onto “cloud condensation nuclei,” which are aerosol particles bigger than 50 nanometers, like a bit of dust, or sulphur dioxide. When few particles are present, each one picks up more droplets, and they coalesce into relatively short clouds at low altitudes. Those make rain. When a lot of aerosol particles are present, each one gets fewer droplets and can float high enough into the atmosphere to freeze. In the resulting tall clouds, those bits of ice and slush run into each other and transfer electric charges. The differences in charge creates an electric field, which results in lightning.

The official term for this is “aerosol convective invigoration.” Thornton also calls it “catalyzing lightning.” You just need to know that more particles means more lightning, and burning fossil fuels is a reliable way to make those particles. Ships are especially culpable because they use bunker fuel to get from port to port. Made from the dark, viscous stuff that’s left at the bottom of the barrel after the comparatively ethereal gasoline, jet fuel, and kerosene have been distilled off, it contains about 3,500 times as much sulphur as automotive diesel. The world’s fleet burns some 3.3 million barrels of it daily. (At least until December 31—more on that in a flash.)

For the 2017 study, Thornton and his coauthors pulled data on 1.5 × 10^9 individual strokes (aka discharges) between 2005 and 2016 from the World Wide Lightning Location Network. They compared that to data from the Emissions Database for Global Atmospheric Research, which makes detailed estimates on how much pollution ships create based on real-time info. Then, in 2018, University of Washington researchers Peter Blossey and Christopher Bretherton followed up by using a computer simulation to measure the effect of ship emissions in the Indian Ocean on cloud creation, in response to the 2017 study. With support from Thronton and Virts (now at NASA), they found effects on thunderstorms that lined up with the original study.


Thousands of Ships Fitted With “Cheat Devices” to Divert Poisonous Pollution Into Sea

Diagram showing an open-loop Marine Exhaust Gas Cleaning System that removes sulfur and nitrogen compounds from a ship’s engine exhaust and dumps them into the surrounding water. Graphic: Tritech Engineers

... “In the North Sea and some parts of the Channel, the water quality has already been heavily degraded”

Consequences / Re: Hurricane Season 2019
« on: October 12, 2019, 09:19:00 PM »


NASA Sees Atlantic Subtropical Storm Melissa Form Off New England Coast

Satellite data has confirmed the formation of Subtropical Storm Melissa. NASA's Terra Satellite provided a visible image the former Nor'easter turned subtropical storm off the coast of New England.

The rest / Re: The Trump Presidency
« on: October 12, 2019, 04:22:32 PM »
Reminder: Trump Has a Massive Conflict of Interest in Turkey

... “I have a little conflict of interest ’cause I have a major, major building in Istanbul,” Trump told Bannon during a 2015 Breitbart radio show. “It’s a tremendously successful job. It’s called Trump Towers—two towers, instead of one, not the usual one, it’s two.”

Sound Clip:

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.

Policy and solutions / Re: Oil and Gas Issues
« on: October 11, 2019, 06:17:39 PM »
Secret Recordings Describe Extensive Bribery at Mexico’s Pemex

MEXICO CITY—In 2017, Israeli private investigation company Black Cube secretly recorded senior officials at Mexico’s Petróleos Mexicanos describing widespread bribery and corruption at the state-run oil company.

The audio recordings are part of the evidence in a lawsuit filed last year against the Mexican government by a Mexican oil-field drilling company called Oro Negro.


Capt. Renault: I am shocked- shocked- to find that gambling is going on in here!
Croupier: [hands Renault money] Your winnings, sir.

- Casablanca - 1942


Iranian Tanker Burning Off Saudi Arabia In The Red Sea 

The rest / Re: The Trump Presidency
« on: October 11, 2019, 01:34:51 AM »
Oooh! Somebody's losing touch with his base ...

... "From the day I announced I was running for President, I have NEVER had a good @FoxNews Poll," Trump tweeted. "Whoever their Pollster is, they suck. But @FoxNews is also much different than it used to be in the good old days. With people like Andrew Napolitano, who wanted to be a Supreme Court Justice & I turned him down (he’s been terrible ever since), Shep Smith, @donnabrazile (who gave Crooked Hillary the debate questions & got fired from @CNN), & others, @FoxNews doesn’t deliver for US anymore. It is so different than it used to be."

"Oh well, I’m President!" he added.


Like what Evey said in 'V for Vendetta'

"... Are you, like a crazy person?"


With reliable pollsters showing support for an impeachment inquiry rising, Trump has resorted to touting fake numbers both on Twitter and during press conferences.

Trump tweeted: Only 25 percent want the President Impeached, which is pretty low considering the volume of Fake News coverage, but pretty high considering the fact that I did NOTHING wrong. It is all just a continuation of the greatest Scam and Witch Hunt in the history of our Country!

Trump has convinced himself the fake impeachment poll he cited earlier today on Twitter is in fact real and he just cited it again


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)

Consequences / Re: The Holocene Extinction
« on: October 10, 2019, 06:35:11 PM »
Two-Thirds of Bird Species in North America Could Vanish in Climate Crisis

Continent could lose 389 of 604 species studied to threats from rising temperatures, higher seas, heavy rains and urbanization

Bird extinctions are yet another face of the human-caused biodiversity crisis threatening up to a million animal and plant species. A related study from Cornell University last month found the US and Canada lost one in four birds – or 3 billion total – since 1970.

“Birds are indicators of the health of our environment, so if they disappear, we’re certainly going to see a lot of changes in the landscape,” said Brooke Bateman, the senior researcher who wrote the report. “If there are things changing with birds we have to understand that the environment is changing for us as well.”

Consequences / Re: Drought 2019
« on: October 10, 2019, 02:28:58 PM »
'Flash Drought' Brings Dust and Dread to Southern Farmers

... The USDA crop report shows nearly a quarter of the cotton crop is in poor or very poor condition in Texas, where more than 13 million people—more than half the state's population—are experiencing drought conditions, the center reported. Extreme drought spread into several new areas of central and eastern Texas in recent weeks.

The situation is also dire in North Carolina, where 40% of the cotton and 30% of the corn is in poor or very poor shape. In Georgia, nearly 20% of the peanut crop is in poor or very poor condition, the report shows.

The heat has played a large factor, forecasters say. In August, high temperatures and humidity sent the heat index soaring across the South. The heat index—what it actually feels like—rose to 121 degrees (49.4 Celsius) in Clarksdale, Mississippi, on Aug. 12. And that heat stuck around, carrying record high temperatures into October. Several Alabama cities this year have seen their hottest October temperature ever recorded.

... "It's been probably better than 60 days since we had any precipitation that amounted to anything," ... "The dust is just relentless.".

.. "It is frustrating with the weather, complicated by cattle prices not as high as we'd like to see them," ... "So if you are forced to sell, then you're going to have less income. It just all plays into the frustration of trying to make a living farming."

Temperatures could drop 50 degrees in 24 hours ahead of historic snowfall

An intense and potentially historic fall snowstorm is expected to dump up to 2 feet of snow starting Wednesday across portions of the north-central United States.

The massive size and intensity of this snowstorm is unheard of for October.

... A drastic temperature drop Wednesday will make it feel like Denver has gone from fall to winter in 24 hours.

Temperatures there will plummet from a high around 80 degrees Fahrenheit Wednesday to below freezing for Thursday's high.

Much of Colorado will transition from hazardous fire conditions to a freeze warning in only a matter of hours.

Other notable temperature drops this week include:

• Amarillo: From 85 degrees to 29 degrees in 36 hours

• Minneapolis: From 65 degrees to 33 degrees in 33 hours

• Kansas City: From 71 degrees to 41 degrees in 15 hours

• Albuquerque: From 70 degrees to 29 degrees in 15 hours

• Oklahoma City: From 74 degrees to 39 degrees in 18 hours

Walking the walk / Re: Gardening
« on: October 09, 2019, 04:46:53 PM »
Researchers Find Multiple Effects on Soil from Manure from Cows Administered Antibiotics

A new study led by Colorado State University and the University of Idaho found multiple effects on soils from exposure to manure from cows administered antibiotics, including alteration of the soil microbiome and ecosystem functions, soil respiration and elemental cycling.

The team also saw changes in how plants allocated carbon below ground and take up nitrogen from the soil. In addition, they observed a decrease in ecosystem carbon use efficiency. This means that when antibiotics are used, less carbon is stored in the soil and more is lost to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide.

... Scientists took samples over the course of seven days, and found that in the presence of antibiotics, carbon traveled into the above ground plant material, to the roots of the plants, into the soil and respired back out as carbon dioxide much faster than any of the others.

... "There was much less of that new carbon retained in the system compared with other soils we sampled"

It's often thought that manure is a helpful fertilizer, and that it adds nutrients and carbon to soil but this benefit might be offset if antibiotics are administered to livestock.

Carl Wepking et al, Prolonged exposure to manure from livestock‐administered antibiotics decreases ecosystem carbon‐use efficiency and alters nitrogen cycling, Ecology Letters (2019)

The rest / Re: The Media: Examples of Good AND Bad Journalism
« on: October 09, 2019, 03:22:54 PM »
Fake European Parliament Magazine EPToday Filled with RT Content

A website and its social media accounts aimed at members of European Parliament is nearly a copy of Russia's RT, an EU report has found. Just 0.14% of content was actually from European lawmakers.

A news website claiming to be the "monthly news magazine for the European Parliament" takes much of its content taken from the RT news outlet, according to a report from an EU task force.

EP Today – short for European Parliament Today – says it is "designed only for the MEPs to write articles about issues which they think are currently important and need attention of all their colleagues and other policymakers."

Not just the name, also the logo — a ring of 12-stars on a blue background — creates the impression that the website is directly run by the European Parliament, said EUvsDisinfo, a project of the European External Action Service's East StratCom Task Force.

According to EUvsDisinfo, EP Today "uses the name of the European Parliament in a misleading way and without any legal authorization."

... These novel disinformation campaigns exploit the increased information overload experienced by people in the digital world. They flood the information space with a multitude of lies, half-truths or absurd news. It is not at all a question of disseminating new knowledge or arguments about an event or aspect. Rather, it is a matter of unsettling citizens as information consumers by intensified "information noise." Facts that have been confirmed are lost or devalued as one of several possibilities.

This is not an extension of pluralism of opinion through balanced and objective information that is acceptable in the sense of a free public sphere, but rather illegitimate interference.

Consequences / Re: The Holocene Extinction
« on: October 09, 2019, 01:53:31 PM »
Botswana Rhinos Risk Wipeout as Poaching Rises

Nine Botswana rhinos have been poached since April, the government said Wednesday, an unprecedented rate of one per month that could see rhinos wiped out in the southern African country by 2021.

... Sold for up to 55,000 euros ($60,300) per kilo on the black market, rhino horn is used in traditional medicine or as a symbol of wealth and success.

Botswana's neighbour South Africa lost more than 7,100 rhinos over the past decade, including 769 in 2018.

Namibia has also recorded recent incidents of rhino poaching, which leaves the animal bleeding to death after its horn is hacked off.

The rest / Re: The Trump Presidency
« on: October 09, 2019, 01:07:54 AM »
Trump Firm 'Refusing to Pay' Court Cost & Legal Bill for Windfarm Case

Donald Trump’s family firm is refusing to accept a legal bill worth tens of thousands of pounds after he lost a lengthy court battle against a windfarm near his Aberdeenshire golf course, according to the Scottish government.

A Scottish court ruled in February this year the Trump Organization had to pay the Scottish government’s legal costs after his attempt to block an 11-turbine windfarm in Aberdeen Bay ended with defeat in the UK supreme court in 2015.

... He took his battle to the Scottish parliament, claiming the country’s heavy investment in onshore windfarms would ruin its tourism industry. In one famous exchange with MSPs, Trump insisted the committee did not need to call any witnesses to verify his claims.

... “I am the evidence,” he said. “I’m an expert in tourism. I have won many, many awards … if you dot your landscape with these horrible, horrible structures, you will do tremendous damage.”

After Trump lost the supreme court case in 2015, first minister Alex Salmond branded him a “loser” and Trump retaliated by describing the then former first minister as a “has-been”.

Trump alleged Salmond promised him the windfarm would never be built when the pair met for dinner in New York in 2007, before Trump won planning permission for the resort. Salmond denied doing so.

The Trump International Golf Club posted a £1m annual loss for 2018 last week, the seventh loss in a row. Trump and his family firm have now loaned the business £43m and it has yet to turn a profit.


Unpaid Bills Pile Up In Trump Rallies’ Wake

In city after city, across the nation, Trump has failed to pay local officials who provide thousands of dollars’ worth of security assistance to the president’s campaign during his Make America Great Again rallies.

In total, at least 10 cities have complained that the campaign has not reimbursed them for services provided by local police and fire departments, totaling more than $840,000, according to a study by the Center for Public Integrity in June.

The complaints from local governments echo decades of accusations by private contractors who claim that Trump didn’t adequately compensate them for their work before he was sworn into office.

At least 60 lawsuits and more than 200 liens detailed allegations that Trump and his companies failed to pay various businesses and scores of employees for their work, according to an investigation by USA Today in 2016. Those who claimed they were stiffed by the future president included bartenders, painters, real estate brokers and others.

Policy and solutions / Re: Renewable Energy
« on: October 09, 2019, 12:26:51 AM »
Proposals Would Dam Little Colorado River for Hydropower

Pumped Hydro Storage LLC is seeking approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for preliminary permits to study the sites east of Grand Canyon National Park over three years. None of it will move forward without permission from the Navajo Nation.

Navajo President Jonathan Nez said he's been briefed by tribal economic development officials about the proposals to create four reservoirs—two of which would be directly on the Little Colorado River—but hasn't talked with anyone from Pumped Hydro Storage.

The largest of the reservoirs would be northeast of Grand Canyon National Park with a smaller reservoir to the south. Together, they'd store more than 30,000 acre-feet of water and produce 3,200 megawatts of energy sent to an existing switchyard near the Navajo community of Cameron

The hydropower industry is seeing a renewed interest as states increasingly turn to wind and solar, and they need a way to supplement energy when the sun's not shining and the wind's not blowing. Most energy storage comes from pumped storage projects, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The Little Colorado River has some limits of its own. It doesn't flow year-round and can carry heavy sediment during the spring runoff and monsoon season, which could choke up dams. The endangered humpback chub also spawns in the Little Colorado River where the water is warmer than in the mainstem Colorado River.

... Hopi Vice Chairman Clark Tenakhongva said he first heard about the proposal for dams on social media, and it kept him up most of the night.

"They've done enough damage with the big Colorado River, yet something like this proposed is just mind-blowing," he said. "We just closed one segment of what they say is harm to the environment. This is more harm."

Consequences / Re: Decline in insect populations
« on: October 09, 2019, 12:07:33 AM »
Pesticide Companies Leverage Regulations for Financial Gains

A researcher at Princeton University shows that companies lobby for stricter standards on their less profitable products. By acquiring regulations that ban older, out-of-patent products, innovative companies can make room for more expensive, patented alternatives. They may also strategically provide and withhold data to produce more favorable results.

Take the chemical corporation Syngenta, for example, which sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for failing to ban a risky pesticide. Yet, Syngenta was the patent-holder and sole-seller of the product. Why would a company go against its own product in this way?

"While companies might claim this is corporate responsibility, my work suggests this is largely about increasing profits," said Rebecca Perlman, assistant professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton's Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs.

... The first part of the study was quantitative. Perlman's sample covered the years 1996 to 2015, and she used it to evaluate changes to the maximum amount of pesticide residue allowed to be present on food, standards known as "tolerances."

She found that after accounting for the primary safety characteristics of a pesticide, changes to these tolerances could be explained, in significant part, by companies' financial interests. In addition, she showed that companies strategically lobby for stricter tolerances on their own less profitable products.

The second part of the study was qualitative and involved a historical examination of pesticide regulation in the United States. After pouring through Congressional testimonies, Perlman found that innovative companies historically lobbied for regulations that—while seemingly intended to protect the public from dangerous pesticides—also made it easier for these companies to eliminate less profitable products (and the generic competition) on a more systematic basis.

"In a world in which some governments are moving to oust independent scientists from the regulatory process altogether, whereas others are requiring an ever-higher burden of scientific proof through the use of precaution, this article seeks to provide deeper insight into the interplay between science and regulation," Perlman said. "While much of the academic literature has focused on how companies 'capture' complicit regulators, more research is needed to understand how producers leverage information itself to win favorable regulations."

Open Access: R. Perlman, "For Safety or Profit? How Science Serves the Strategic Interests of Private Actors," American Journal of Political Science (2019)

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: Astronomical news
« on: October 08, 2019, 10:39:51 PM »
Re: Building a Galaxy

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy - Planet Factory Floor

Consequences / Re: Wildfires
« on: October 08, 2019, 10:35:45 PM »
PG&E Power Shut-Off: 257,000 Bay Area Customers on Alert; Outages Could Start at Midnight

Officials in Oakland and Contra Costa County said Tuesday that the shut-offs could begin as early as midnight Wednesday, four hours earlier than Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s initial estimate of 4 a.m. The outages could affect a total of 1.8 million people, Oakland officials said.

“We encourage you to find alternative energy sources for light, charging devices and other necessities,” official said. “Plan ahead with food and water, and make sure your grab-and-go emergency kits are ready.”

National Weather Service forecasters have issued red flag warnings for the East Bay and North Bay hills, as well as the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Update: PG&E has announced it will shut off power to more than 800,000 customers in an effort to prevent new wildfires, in the largest preventive outage in state history.

Pacific Gas & Electric utility said it will start turning off power to 34 counties in northern and central California after midnight Wednesday.

It may take several days to fully restore power, Michael Lewis, senior vice-president of PG&E’s electric operations, said in a statement.

Separately, the Southern California Edison utility website said more than 106,000 of its customers in parts of eight counties could face power cuts.

The affected regions include an area of wine country north of San Francisco where several fires two years ago killed 22 people and destroyed thousands of homes.

Policy and solutions / Re: Oil and Gas Issues
« on: October 08, 2019, 08:17:16 PM »
Ecuador's Government Flees Capital as Violent Protests Erupt in Wake of Fuel Price Hikes

Ecuador’s president, Lenín Moreno, has said he has moved his government from the capital in Quito to the coastal city of Guayaquil amid violent protests over the end of fuel subsidies.

Images from Quito showed protesters hurling petrol bombs and stones, ransacking and vandalising public buildings as well as clashing with the police in running battles late into the night.

“[This] is not a protest of social dissatisfaction faced with a government decision but the looting, vandalism and violence show there is an organised political motive to destabilise the government,” Moreno said in televised address on Monday, flanked by the vice-president, defence minister and military top brass.

The rest / Re: The Trump Presidency
« on: October 08, 2019, 08:01:17 PM »
It captured the moment


Trump Floats Idea of His Own News Network

President Donald Trump on Thursday proposed starting a news network to counter one of his favorite media targets.

“CNN is a voice that really seems to be the voice out there and it’s a terrible thing for our country,” Trump said, diverging from his speech on protecting Medicare for seniors at an event in The Villages, Fla. “We ought to start our own network and put some real news out there, because they are so bad for our country.”

“We’re looking at that. We should do something about it, too,” he added. “Put some really talented people and get a real voice out there, not a voice that's fake.”

It’s not the first time the president has floated the idea of a state-run news agency as an alternative to what he deems the “enemy of the people.”

Trump has previously suggested in a tweet the creation of a “Worldwide Network to show the World the way we really are” ... (aka Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda)


Hannity & Tucker Carlson are vying for Goebbels' old job, Reich Minister of Propaganda.



The difference between Nixon and Trump is Fox News

On Tuesday night, Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera spoke to Fox News host Sean Hannity, on Fox News, about the role Fox News would play in protecting President Donald Trump from impeachment. “You know, if it wasn’t [for] your show, Sean, they would destroy him absolutely,” Rivera told Hannity, who, when not hosting his television and radio shows, informally advises Trump. “You are the difference between Donald J. Trump and Richard Nixon.”


Permafrost / Re: Arctic Methane Release
« on: October 08, 2019, 07:04:44 PM »
Researchers Find Global Ocean Methane Emissions Dominated by Shallow Coastal Waters

... In addition to contributing to a better understanding of the global methane budget, the research yielded two other interesting findings:

-First, very shallow coastal waters contribute around 50 percent of the total methane emissions from the ocean, despite making up only 5 percent of the ocean area. That's because methane can seep out of natural gas reservoirs along continental margins and can be produced biologically in anoxic (oxygen-depleted) sediments at the seafloor. In deep waters, methane is likely to be oxidized as it travels its long route from the seafloor to the atmosphere. But in shallow waters, there's a rapid route to the atmosphere and methane escapes before it is oxidized. Weber is currently collaborating with John Kessler, a professor of earth and environmental sciences at Rochester, to resolve the remaining uncertainties in coastal methane emissions by conducting research cruises and further developing machine learning models.

-Second, methane exhibits a spatial pattern very similar to that of phytoplankton abundance, which supports a controversial recent hypothesis that plankton produces methane in the surface ocean. Previously, scientists believed methane could only be produced in the anoxic conditions found at the bottom of the ocean. "Evidence is gradually accumulating to overturn that paradigm, and our paper adds an important piece," Weber says.

Open Access: Thomas Weber, Nicola A. Wiseman & Annette Kock, Global ocean methane emissions dominated by shallow coastal waters, Nature Communications, 2019

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).

Antarctica / Re: SH Polar Vortex
« on: October 08, 2019, 06:16:52 PM »
Extraordinarily Warm Temperatures Above Antarctica Cause Hot and Dry Extremes in Australia, Researchers Warn

The study shows that changes in springtime winds high above the South Pole can have a far-reaching and crucial effect on surface climate in Australia—a weakening of these winds in spring results in warmer temperatures, lower rainfall and an increase in heatwave and fire-prone weather conditions (especially across NSW and southern QLD) over late spring to early summer.

... They found that the chance for hot and dry extremes to occur appeared to increase by about four to eight times when a significant polar vortex-weakening event occurred.

"Our study is significant because it is the first of its kind to identify and quantify a direct link between variations in the Antarctic polar vortex in spring and Australian hot and dry extremes from late spring to early summer"

"This has major implications for the predictability of extreme climate in Australia, as well as possibly other regions of the Southern Hemisphere."

The study, led by Dr. Eun-Pa Lim at the Bureau of Meteorology, is published today in the prestigious journal Nature Geoscience.

Changes in the likelihood of extreme high Tmax, low rainfall and high wildfire danger during the nine polar vortex weakening years.

Eun-Pa Lim et al. Australian hot and dry extremes induced by weakenings of the stratospheric polar vortex, Nature Geoscience (2019)

Fig. 5: Circulation and cloud cover changes over Australia during the nine polar vortex weakening years.

Policy and solutions / Re: Nuclear Power
« on: October 08, 2019, 05:57:03 PM »
US Official: Research Finds Uranium in Navajo Women, Babies

About a quarter of Navajo women and some infants who were part of a federally funded study on uranium exposure had high levels of the radioactive metal in their systems, decades after mining for Cold War weaponry ended on their reservation, a U.S. health official Monday.

The early findings from the University of New Mexico study were shared during a congressional field hearing in Albuquerque. Dr. Loretta Christensen—the chief medical officer on the Navajo Nation for Indian Health Service, a partner in the research—said 781 women were screened during an initial phase of the study that ended last year.

Among them, 26% had concentrations of uranium that exceeded levels found in the highest 5% of the U.S. population, and newborns with equally high concentrations continued to be exposed to uranium during their first year, she said.

The hearing held in Albuquerque by U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, Haaland and U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Lujan, all Democrats from New Mexico, sought to underscore the atomic age's impact on Native American communities.

At Laguna Pueblo, home to Haaland's tribe, the Jackpile-Paguate Mine was once among the world's largest open-pit uranium mines. It closed several decades ago, but cleanup has yet to be completed.

In her testimony, Christensen described how Navajo residents in the past had used milling waste in home construction, resulting in contaminated walls and floors.

While no large-scale studies have connected cancer to radiation exposure from uranium waste, many have been blamed it for cancer and other illnesses.

By the late 1970s, when the mines began closing around the reservation, miners were dying of lung cancer, emphysema or other radiation-related ailments.

The rest / Re: Economic Inequality
« on: October 08, 2019, 05:54:02 PM »

The idea that we are living in an entrepreneurial age, experiencing rapid disruptive technological innovation on a scale amounting to a new "industrial revolution" is a pervasive modern myth.

... "These days Americans are less likely to switch jobs, less likely to move around the country, and, on a given day, less likely to go outside the house at all […] the economy is more ossified, more controlled, and growing at lower rates."

... after 2000, job creation in the US shifted from the creation of high-paying jobs to low-wage (low-skilled) ones.

... the share of entrepreneurs with higher education in the US declined from 12.2% in 1985 to 5.3% in 2014. As economist Nicholas Kozeniauskas puts it, "the decline in entrepreneurship is concentrated among the smart".

... As Geoffrey West has stressed, the same growth curve that characterises living organisms also applies to the growth of cities, economies and companies. After growing beyond a certain threshold, size and complexity stabilises and growth levels off. So it becomes more challenging to create and use new valuable knowledge once you reach a certain size. And, the more complex a production process is, the more that can go wrong.

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)

Consequences / Re: Hurricane Season 2019
« on: October 08, 2019, 01:06:58 AM »
Hurricane Dorian Spilled More Than a Million Gallons of Oil in the Bahamas

Nearly 1.5 million gallons of oil have spilled since Hurricane Dorian destroyed an oil storage facility on Grand Bahama Island last month. The worst part? Equinor, the company that owns the oil facility, still isn’t done cleaning up the mess, which means the final total will be higher than it is right now.

Erik Haaland, a press officer with Equinor, confirmed to Earther on Monday that the Norway-based company had recovered 35,000 barrels of oil as of Sunday. That amounts to 1.47 million gallons—and the company still hasn’t released a final estimate of oil lost.

... The Equinor South Riding Point oil facility sits on the southern coast of Grand Bahama Island near the town of High Rock. It stored 75 million gallons of oil, Romauld Ferreira, the Bahamas’ environment and housing minister, told local news. But it remains unclear how much of that oil has been spilled into the environment. Enough has spilled to paint the on-site containers and leave a pungent smell throughout the area, according to those who have visited. And he clean-up effort has required 250 people and heavy machinery (such as vacuum trucks) on the ground.

The rest / Re: Astronomical news
« on: October 08, 2019, 12:55:10 AM »
Curiosity Rover Finds an Ancient Oasis on Mars

Looking across the entirety of Curiosity's journey, which began in 2012, the science team sees a cycle of wet to dry across long timescales on Mars.

... Given that Earth and Mars were similar in their early days, Rapin speculated that Sutton Island formation in Gale Crater might have resembled saline lakes on South America's Altiplano. Streams and rivers flowing from mountain ranges into this arid, high-altitude plateau lead to closed basins similar to Mars' ancient Gale Crater. Lakes on the Altiplano are heavily influenced by climate in the same way as Gale.

... Up until now, the rover has encountered lots of flat sediment layers that had been gently deposited at the bottom of a lake. Team member Chris Fedo, who specializes in the study of sedimentary layers at the University of Tennessee, noted that Curiosity is currently running across large rock structures that could have formed only in a higher-energy environment such as a windswept area or flowing streams.

Wind or flowing water piles sediment into layers that gradually incline. When they harden into rock, they become large structures similar to "Teal Ridge," which Curiosity investigated this past summer.

"Finding inclined layers represents a major change, where the landscape isn't completely underwater anymore," said Fedo. "We may have left the era of deep lakes behind." ...

This animation demonstrates the salty ponds and streams that scientists think may have been left behind as Gale Crater dried out over time. The bottom of the image is the floor of Gale Crater, with the peak being the side of Mount Sharp.

An interval of high salinity in ancient Gale crater lake on Mars, Nature Geoscience (2019)

The rest / Re: Astronomical news
« on: October 08, 2019, 12:37:40 AM »
Saturn Overtakes Jupiter as Planet With Most Moons

Saturn has overtaken Jupiter as the planet with the most moons, according to US researchers.

A team discovered a haul of 20 new moons orbiting the ringed planet, bringing its total to 82; Jupiter, by contrast, has 79 natural satellites.

Each of the newly discovered objects in orbit around Saturn is about 5km (three miles) in diameter; 17 of them orbit the planet "backwards".

This is known as a retrograde direction. The other three moons orbit in a prograde direction - the same direction as Saturn rotates.

Two of the prograde moons take about two years to travel once around the ringed planet. ... The more-distant retrograde moons and one of the prograde moons each take more than three years to complete an orbit.

Scientists think the retrograde and prograde moons are the broken up remnants of at least three larger bodies. These bigger objects were smashed up by collisions, either between distinct moons or with outside objects such as passing asteroids

... The team has initiated a contest to name the moons. They have to be named after giants from Norse, Gallic or Inuit mythology, corresponding to the three different clusters

Rules at:

Tweet your suggested moon name to @SaturnLunacy and tell us why you picked it. Photos, artwork, and videos are strongly encouraged. Don't forget to include the hashtag #NameSaturnsMoons

Consequences / Re: Wildfires
« on: October 07, 2019, 09:34:25 PM »
Extreme Fire Danger: PG&E Issues Unprecedented Power Shut-Off Watch for Much of Northern California

Pacific Gas & Electric Co. issued an unprecedented notification to potentially shut off power across much of Northern California — as many as 30 California counties including almost all of the Bay Area — on Wednesday and Thursday to prevent power lines and equipment from sparking wildfires.

... Winds are expected to be 20 mph to 30 mph in the mountains with gusts of at least 55 mph. Gusts up to 30 mph are expected in valleys.

... This is basically an earthquake kit situation without the earthquake, and will potentially affect millions of Californians between Wednesday morning and Thursday afternoon.

The rest / Re: The Media: Examples of Good AND Bad Journalism
« on: October 07, 2019, 09:17:40 PM »
Trump Floats Idea of His Own News Network

President Donald Trump on Thursday proposed starting a news network to counter one of his favorite media targets.

“CNN is a voice that really seems to be the voice out there and it’s a terrible thing for our country,” Trump said, diverging from his speech on protecting Medicare for seniors at an event in The Villages, Fla. “We ought to start our own network and put some real news out there, because they are so bad for our country.”

“We’re looking at that. We should do something about it, too,” he added. “Put some really talented people and get a real voice out there, not a voice that's fake.”

It’s not the first time the president has floated the idea of a state-run news agency as an alternative to what he deems the “enemy of the people.”

Trump has previously suggested in a tweet the creation of a “Worldwide Network to show the World the way we really are” ... (aka Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda)


Hannity & Tucker Carlson are vying for Goebbels' old job, Reich Minister of Propaganda.



The Difference Between Nixon and Trump is Fox News

On Tuesday night, Fox News correspondent Geraldo Rivera spoke to Fox News host Sean Hannity, on Fox News, about the role Fox News would play in protecting President Donald Trump from impeachment.

“You know, if it wasn’t [for] your show, Sean, they would destroy him absolutely,” Rivera told Hannity, who, when not hosting his television and radio shows, informally advises Trump. “You are the difference between Donald J. Trump and Richard Nixon.”


The rest / Re: Empire - America and the future
« on: October 07, 2019, 06:38:25 PM »
bk: it's worse

Add to that

+ $16.5 billion for  the NNSA, a semiautonomous agency within the Department of Energy that has oversight on America’s nuclear weapons stockpile. NNSA’s proposed budget comprises 52 percent of the DOE’s total budget request.

+  $ 8 billion for State Departments' Overseas Contingency Operations/Global War on Terrorism (OCO/GWOT)

+ many billions buried in the DHS budget
Meanwhile, in Iraq, so far, 104 people have been killed and 6,107 have been wounded in the unrest, according to figures released by Iraqi security officials. Also, the U.S. turns its back on its Kurdish allies (who fought and won against the ISIS Caliphate). They have long memories in the Middle East.

The rest / Re: The Trump Presidency
« on: October 07, 2019, 06:16:50 PM »
Speaking of 'quid pro quo' (or the 'swamp')...

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao Favored Kentuckians in Meeting with Officials Seeking Grants

In her first 14 months as Transportation secretary, Elaine Chao met with officials from Kentucky, which her husband Mitch McConnell represents in the Senate, vastly more often than those from any other state.

At least five of Chao’s 18 meetings with local Kentuckians were requested in emails from McConnell staffers, who alerted Chao’s staffers which of the officials were “friends” or “loyal supporters,” according to records obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.

The fact that Chao’s calendar shows that one out of every four meetings with local officials was with Kentuckians is significant because the department has long maintained that it, and she, have shown no favoritism to the state represented by her husband, even while local officials from other states have complained about having trouble getting to see her.

... “There are some distinct advantages to having me as the majority leader of the United States Senate,” McConnell said at the August 2018, Fancy Farm picnic in western Kentucky. “I’m in a position to take special care of Kentucky.

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