Category: Science

Quotes on climate change from Davos

Some key quotes from the session Tackling Climate, Development and Growth at Davos 2015:

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director, International Monetary Fund

“It’s a collective endeavour, it’s collective accountability and it may not be too late.”

“At this point in time, it’s macro critical, it’s people critical, it’s planet critical.”

“As I said two years ago, we are at risk of being grilled, fried and toasted.”

Paul Polman, CEO, Unilever

“Tackling climate change is closely linked to poverty alleviation and economic development; I would call them different sides of the same coin…”

“The first thing we need from the business community, and the business leaders themselves, is commitment. If you’re not committed, you’re more destructive at the table than if you’re really committed and you want to solve it…”

Michael Spence, William R. Berkley Professor in Economics and Business, NYU Stern School of Business, Italy

“…We have a choice: between a energy-efficient low carbon path and an energy-intensive high carbon path, which at an unknown point of time ends catastrophically. This doesn’t seem like a very hard choice.”

“We have to go very quickly… we have a window of a very small number of years… after which we cannot win the battle to mitigate fast enough to meet the safety goals… if this year goes badly it would be a massive missed opportunity.”

“This is the chance to do something we’ve never done before, to come together in a process of top down agreement, and bottom up energy, creativity and commitment. It will be a moral victory.”

I don’t think the Koch Bros. went to Davos. Their profits roll out from the fiefdom of the United States. What foreign holdings they rely on – are obedient.

I don’t think Jim Imhofe or Mike Huckabee were invited. I doubt anyone who is a serious player in the world of modern industrial, technology-driven capitalism would extend an invite to John Boehner or Mitch McConnell — or Mary Landrieu.

If you’re bright enough to be a world-class player in international commerce – including the governments actively trying to grow their national economies – you had better have modern science as part of your core skill set. Along with an understanding of political economy over the past seventy years.

No matter if your personal bent is conservative or liberal, denial of reality sufficient to get you elected to Congress from Kansas or Texas doesn’t aid global logistics or long-range marketing.

If you care to view the full session Tackling Climate, Development and Growth at Davos 2015, it’s available to watch.

The grass is always redder on the other side…

space1
Kepler-186f is the first Earth-size planet discovered in the potentially ‘habitable zone’ around another star, where liquid water could exist on the planet’s surface. Its star is much cooler and redder than our Sun. If plant life does exist on a planet like Kepler-186f, its photosynthesis could have been influenced by the star’s red-wavelength photons, making for a color palette that’s very different than the greens on Earth. This discovery was made by Kepler, NASA’s planet hunting telescope.
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Inactivity kills more than obesity

A lack of exercise could be killing twice as many people as obesity in Europe, a 12-year study of more than 300,000 people suggests.

University of Cambridge researchers said about 676,000 deaths each year were down to inactivity, compared with 337,000 from carrying too much weight.

They concluded that getting everyone to do at least 20 minutes of brisk walking a day would have substantial benefits.

Experts said exercise was beneficial for people of any weight.

Obesity and inactivity often go hand in hand…However, it is known that thin people have a higher risk of health problems if they are inactive. And obese people who exercise are in better health than those that do not…

“The greatest risk [of an early death] was in those classed inactive, and that was consistent in normal weight, overweight and obese people,” said one of the researchers, Prof Ulf Ekelund…

He said eliminating inactivity in Europe would cut mortality rates by nearly 7.5%, or 676,000 deaths, but eliminating obesity would cut rates by just 3.6%.

Prof Ekelund added: “But I don’t think it’s a case of one or the other. We should also strive to reduce obesity, but I do think physical activity needs to be recognised as a very important public health strategy…”

Professor Ekelund…says all it would need to transform health, is brisk walking…”I think people need to consider their 24-hour day.

“Twenty minutes of physical activity, equivalent to a brisk walk, should be possible for most people to include on their way to or from work, or on lunch breaks, or in the evening instead of watching TV.”

Seems to make a difference for me. I put on a bunch of weight the last few years before retiring. Two things took care of that: My wife really pushed me into healthier nutrition and portion control – and finally qualifying for Medicare I was able afford the studies confirming my guess that I have sleep apnea. Now, I’m the poster child for CPAP therapy.

I’ve lost 6-8 pounds each of the last eight years.

While I’m going through a bit of a plateau now that I’m back down to average weight I need extra discipline to further modify food behavior to get down to where I’d like to be.

I walk every day. About 40 minutes/day – a few laps along our fence line. But, regardless of weather, I get the laps in every day.

Pic of the Day

Eagle_nebula_pillars
Click to enlarge

Star forming pillars in the Eagle Nebula, 7,000 light years from Earth, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope’s WFPC2. January 5th, 2015 High-resolution version

This image shows the pillars as seen in visible light, capturing the multi-coloured glow of gas clouds, wispy tendrils of dark cosmic dust, and the rust-coloured elephants’ trunks of the nebula’s famous pillars. The dust and gas in the pillars is seared by the intense radiation from young stars and eroded by strong winds from massive nearby stars. With these new images comes better contrast and a clearer view for astronomers to study how the structure of the pillars is changing over time.

Beam me up!

Could salty potatoes build a food revolution?

A team of researchers in the Netherlands has discovered that potatoes can grow in earth fed by salty sea water.
The development could spark a revolution in the way food is produced in land previously considered unsuitable for agriculture.

Anna Holligan reports from the Dutch island of Texel.

While researchers think of islands and saltwater coasts – my first response went straight to inland geologies like New Mexico. Most underground water, aquifers, here, are of brackish water.

Nice to know we can do more than raise shrimp and crawdads.

Really interesting list of scientific breakthroughs in 2014


#1 of 10

In 2007, archaeologists examining fossilized seashells in a museum collection stumbled upon a detail other scientists had somehow missed: deliberate engravings of abstract patterns. These shells were dated to over 500,000 years ago, and were found amongst other shells that had been carefully crafted into specialized tools, at the same site where the first fossils of Homo erectus, our hominin ancestor, had been discovered, in 1890.

Taken together, these discoveries suggest that Homo erectus was far more sophisticated than previously believed and capable of symbolic thought…The discovery “raises the possibility that the development of human cognition — human culture — was a very long process. It was not a sudden development…”


#3 of 10

In late September, for the first time ever, a woman gave birth to a baby after receiving a womb transplant. The mother and child offer hope to women the world over with missing or non-functional uteruses, who desire to carry their own children to term.

The unidentified 36-year-old woman was born without a womb…and is one of nine Swedish women who received a uterine transplant from live donors between 2012 and 2013. Some of those women received wombs from family members (including their own mothers), but this particular uterus was reportedly donated by a 61-year-old “family friend” who had undergone menopause 7-years prior to the 2013 surgery.

Lists like these are often throwaway crap, filler from an editor or editors with a writing staff on holiday.

This batch reminds me – once again – to add io9.com to my morning reads. Give it a thorough trial. They produce interesting reads on a consistent basis.

And wander through all 10 of these offerings. Some have already been noted in eideard.com and I’ve read most of the rest as they were published. But, it’s always worth being reminded of increases in our knowledge base and to check in on further progress from time to time.

Thanks, Ursarodinia — GMTA

CERN ready to continue the search for exotic particles


Click to enlargeMartial Trezzini/European Pressphoto Agency

The Large Hadron Collider at CERN is once again getting ready to smash protons together, hoping to find evidence of elusive and exotic particles that have never been detected before.

The largest and fastest particle accelerator in the world, located in Geneva, will officially start up again in March. When it is turned on, scientists and engineers say the two beams of protons that fly around its 17-mile loop at close to the speed of light will collide with nearly double the energy of the previous run.

The collider’s first stint of proton smashing led to the discovery of the Higgs boson or Higgs particle — a long theorized but never before seen subatomic particle. It exists for just a fraction of a second, and yet its discovery helps explain the existence of all the mass in the universe.

Scientists are not sure what they will find this time around, but some possibilities include particles associated with dark energy and dark matter, as well as particles that could provide evidence for a theory known as supersymmetry. This theory holds that there is a mirror universe made up of invisible particles that have mass but do not react with light, and that correspond to particles that we can detect…

For the last two years the collider has been undergoing repairs and changes in preparation for its next, super-powered run. Already it has already been cooled to its normal operating temperature of 1.9 degrees Kelvin, or -456.25 degrees Fahrenheit.

I surprised we haven’t yet suffered the onslaught of popsci/junksci Talking Heads predicting the end of the world as soon as the the ON-switch is thrown at CERN.

Not that it requires any original thought. Less-than-competent conspiracy nuts have been predicting a human-made end of the earth since the first nuclear reaction. I don’t doubt the Leyden Jar provoked as much fear and trepidation. You’d think the expanding base of real knowledge would diminish fear-mongers.

But, then, who would be left to vote for Prohibition?

What a backup reservoir looks like during a drought

image
Click to enlarge — New Mexico Sailing Club’s marina at Heron Lake

The San Juan-Chama Project, which delivers water from the mountains of southwest Colorado to central New Mexico, had the first shortfall this year in its four-decade history after three consecutive years of bad snowpack.

Water managers say the impact on Rio Grande Valley water operations was small, but the implications are significant – a demonstration that a supply once seen as dependable backup to a faltering Rio Grande might not be as reliable as once thought. Albuquerque and Santa Fe pull San-Juan Chama water from the Rio Grande for their local water supplies…

The first-ever shortfall comes just a year after a federal study warned that climate change would mean less reliable supplies from the project as temperatures warm during the 21st century…

Scientists are not ready to blame the shortfall on climate change, but they point out that the pattern seen in recent years is consistent with last year’s U.S. Bureau of Reclamation study of the risks to the San Juan-Chama Project posed by climate change…

Studies using tree rings to estimate long-term water supplies showed there were risks of shortfalls even without climate change, said hydrologist Dagmar Llewellyn, the study’s lead author.

“It isn’t just climate change,” she said in an interview.

But the warmer temperatures in recent decades can add to problems caused by a lack of winter snow, Llewellyn said. With a longer growing season and greater evaporation, less of the rain and snow that does fall makes it into the region’s rivers.

“The difference is it’s hotter,” she said. “For the same precipitation, you’re going to have less water…”

Llewellyn’s study concluded that, by the 2020s, the previously unheard of possibility of a San Juan-Chama Project shortfall could happen on average once every six years.

But, hey – gubernatorial elections are every four years. Republicans should be able to lie their way into continuing control of the legislature and the governor’s mansion. Between Koch Bros/Oil Patch Boys money and Democrats whose primary concern is which wardheeler’s kid is next in line to run for office – no problemo.

Ibuprofen experiment extends life span

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Ibuprofen stress apparently triggered longer life in yeast

Yeast cells like these lived longer when researchers dosed them with the drug ibuprofen.

Ibuprofen can banish headaches and soothe throbbing joints, but the drug may have another benefit. A new study shows that it increases longevity in lab organisms, raising the possibility it does the same thing in people.

Researchers used to scoff at the idea of extending life span, but it turns out to be surprisingly easy—at least in organisms such as mice and worms. Drugs that prolong survival of these creatures—aspirin and the antidiabetes compound metformin, for example—are already in many of our medicine cabinets. Several studies suggest that ibuprofen is also worth a look. Ibuprofen suppresses inflammation, which underlies many age-related diseases and might contribute to aging itself. In addition, people who take ibuprofen for a long time have a lower risk of developing two age-related illnesses, Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease, several analyses found.

Michael Polymenis and colleagues found that tryptophan levels declined in yeast cells exposed to ibuprofen. They also showed that the drug spurs destruction of a protein that enables cells to absorb tryptophan.

Ibuprofen doesn’t have a huge impact on tryptophan levels, though, decreasing them by about 15% to 20% in the yeast. To explain how this modest drop in tryptophan concentration promotes longevity, the researchers invoked a counterintuitive mechanism. Numerous studies have found that instead of killing organisms, moderate amounts of stress—such as intermediate doses of radiation or toxic chemicals—actually increase life span. A mild tryptophan deficiency triggered by ibuprofen might work in the same way, the researchers speculate. “We figure it’s one more type of stress that seems to be conducive to life span,” Polymenis says…

“There are two new good ideas here,” says gerontologist Richard Miller of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, who is one of the participants in the U.S. National Institute on Aging’s Interventions Testing Program (ITP), in which researchers at three institutions are gauging whether a variety of compounds alter the life spans of mice. One is the revelation that “some anti-inflammatory drugs that people are taking may have beneficial effects that are unrelated to inflammation,” he says. The other is the possible involvement in the aging of proteins that transport amino acids into cells, which could lead researchers to new ways to tweak life span.

Nollen and Miller say the study supports testing ibuprofen in mice

To folks who are impatient, Miller cautions against extrapolating the study’s results, especially because the side effects of long-term ibuprofen use can include fatal stomach bleeding. “I think any person who says, ‘Anything that works in yeast is something I want to take,’ is asking for trouble.”

I’ll second that thought.