Ice that took 1,600 Years to form — melted in only 25


Qori Kalis glacier in 1983 and 2007

Glacial ice in the Peruvian Andes that took at least 1,600 years to form has melted in just 25 years, scientists reported Thursday, the latest indication that the recent spike in global temperatures has thrown the natural world out of balance.

The evidence comes from a remarkable find at the margins of the Quelccaya ice cap in Peru, the world’s largest tropical ice sheet. Rapid melting there in the modern era is uncovering plants that were locked in a deep freeze when the glacier advanced many thousands of years ago.

Dating of those plants, using a radioactive form of carbon in the plant tissues that decays at a known rate, has given scientists an unusually precise method of determining the history of the ice sheet’s margins.

Lonnie G. Thompson, the Ohio State University glaciologist whose team has worked intermittently on the Quelccaya ice cap for decades, reported the findings in a paper released…by the journal Science.

The paper includes a long-awaited analysis of chemical tracers in ice cylinders the team recovered by drilling deep into Quelccaya, a record that will aid scientists worldwide in reconstructing past climatic variations…

Of greater immediate interest, Dr. Thompson and his team have expanded on previous research involving long-dead plants emerging from the melting ice at the edge of Quelccaya, a huge, flat ice cap sitting on a volcanic plain 18,000 feet above sea level…

In the new research, a thousand feet of additional melting has exposed plants that laboratory analysis shows to be about 6,300 years old. The simplest interpretation, Dr. Thompson said, is that ice that accumulated over approximately 1,600 years melted back in no more than 25 years.

“If any time in the last 6,000 years these plants had been exposed for any five-year period, they would have decayed,” Dr. Thompson said. “That tells us the ice cap had to be there 6,000 years ago…”

Throughout the Andes, glaciers are now melting so rapidly that scientists have grown deeply concerned about water supplies for the people living there. Glacial meltwater is essential for helping Andean communities get through the dry season.

In the short run, the melting is producing an increase of water supplies and feeding population growth in major cities of the Andes, the experts said. But as the glaciers continue shrinking, trouble almost certainly looms.

Not that we have an overabundance of politicians who pay attention to science. Imagine how World War 2 might have turned out if the head of the Democrats back in the day – President Roosevelt – hadn’t listened to Einstein and Szilard?

We may not have needed to use the atomic bomb; but, we certainly needed to prevent Hitler from building one.

The NRA – like all bullies – are always cowards

The gun-lobby goons were at it again.

The National Rifle Association’s security guards gained notoriety earlier this year when, escorting NRA officials to a hearing, they were upbraided by Capitol authorities for pushing cameramen. The thugs were back Tuesday when the NRA rolled out its “National School Shield” — the gun lobbyists’ plan to get armed guards in public schools — and this time they were packing heat.

About 20 of them — roughly one for every three reporters — fanned out through the National Press Club, some in uniforms with gun holsters exposed, others with earpieces and bulges under their suit jackets.

In a spectacle that officials at the National Press Club said they had never seen before, the NRA gunmen directed some photographers not to take pictures, ordered reporters out of the lobby when NRA officials passed and inspected reporters’ briefcases before granting them access to the news conference.

The antics gave new meaning to the notion of disarming your critics.

By journalistic custom and D.C. law, of course, reporters don’t carry guns to news conferences — and certainly not when the person at the lectern is the NRA’s Asa Hutchinson, an unremarkable former congressman and Bush administration official whom most reporters couldn’t pick out of a lineup. But the NRA wasn’t going to leave any doubt about its superior firepower

I won’t waste space here on the crap proposal from Hutchinson and the NRA. Sensible people are battling to stay free of the gangster lifestyle they advocate.

Hutchinson, pressed by reporters about the armed goons, said: “You go into a mall, there is security. And so there is security here at the National Press Club.”

A reporter asked Hutchinson what he was afraid of.

“There’s nothing I’m afraid of. I’m very wide open,” Hutchinson replied, separated from his unarmed questioners by an eight-foot buffer zone, a lectern, a raised podium, a red-velvet rope and a score of gun-toting men. “There’s nothing I’m nervous about.”

The answer you would expect from a bully. The answer you would expect from a coward with 20 bodyguards.

Dragonflies – nature’s deadly drone – but beautiful

Ruby Meadowhawk

African lions roar and strut and act the apex carnivore, but they’re lucky to catch 25 percent of the prey they pursue. Great white sharks have 300 slashing teeth and that ominous soundtrack, and still nearly half their hunts fail.

Dragonflies, by contrast, look dainty, glittery and fun, like a bubble bath or costume jewelry, and they’re often grouped with butterflies and ladybugs on the very short list of Insects People Like. Yet they are also voracious aerial predators, and new research suggests they may well be the most brutally effective hunters in the animal kingdom.

When setting off to feed on other flying insects, dragonflies manage to snatch their targets in midair more than 95 percent of the time, often wolfishly consuming the fresh meat on the spur without bothering to alight…

Next step: grab more food. Dragonflies may be bantam, but their appetite is bottomless. Stacey Combes, who studies the biomechanics of dragonfly flight at Harvard, once watched a laboratory dragonfly eat 30 flies in a row. “It would have happily kept eating,” she said, “if there had been more food available.”

In a string of recent papers, scientists have pinpointed key features of the dragonfly’s brain, eyes and wings that allow it to hunt so unerringly. One research team has determined that the nervous system of a dragonfly displays an almost human capacity for selective attention, able to focus on a single prey as it flies amid a cloud of similarly fluttering insects, just as a guest at a party can attend to a friend’s words while ignoring the background chatter.

Other researchers have identified a kind of master circuit of 16 neurons that connect the dragonfly’s brain to its flight motor center in the thorax. With the aid of that neuronal package, a dragonfly can track a moving target, calculate a trajectory to intercept that target and subtly adjust its path as needed…

…As a dragonfly closes in on a meal, it maintains an image of the moving prey on the same spot, the same compass point of its visual field. “The image of the prey is getting bigger, but if it’s always on the same spot of the retina, the dragonfly will intercept its target,” said Paloma T. Gonzalez-Bellido, an author of the new report…

Dragonflies are true visionaries. Their eyes are the largest and possibly the keenest in the insect world, a pair of giant spheres each built of some 30,000 pixel-like facets that together take up pretty much the entire head.

They have a full field of vision,” Dr. Robert Olberg said. “They can see you when they’re flying toward you and still see you when they’re flying away.”

RTFA. Lots of pertinent scientific information. Clinical description rendered fascinating by a unique subject.

The authors cover everything from sex to navigation, evolution to mechanics. Delightful read. Look forward to the whole report.

Connecticut lawmakers pass gun control law

Screen Shot 2013-04-04 at 6.44.41 PM
Donald Williams, D-Brooklyn and John McKinney, R-Fairfield, who represents Newtown

Connecticut lawmakers gave final approval early Thursday to a wide-ranging bill that includes sweeping new restrictions on weapons and large capacity ammunition magazines, a response to last year’s deadly school shooting in Newtown that one lawmaker called “the nation’s worst nightmare.”

Following a total of more than 13 hours of respectful and at times somber debate, the House and the Senate voted in favor of the 139-page bill crafted by leaders from both major parties in the Democratic-controlled General Assembly…

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed the bill into law at noon in a ceremony at the state Capitol.

The December massacre, which reignited a national debate on gun control, set the stage for changes in the state that may have been impossible elsewhere: The governor, who personally informed parents that their children had been killed that day, championed the cause, and legislative leaders, keenly aware of the attention on the state, struck a bipartisan agreement they want to serve as a national model…

The bill passed 26-10 in the Senate and 105-44 in the House of Representatives. Both were bipartisan votes.

House Minority Leader Lawrence Cafero Jr., R-Norwalk, who helped craft the bill, said he realizes [some] gun owners are unhappy with the bill, but he stressed that no one will lose their legally owned guns or magazines under the legislation.

We did our job. We did it together,” he said. “We did the best we could and I think we did a good thing.”

Another example why Connecticut retains the mantle of Constitution state. As one of the most democratic of the original 13 colonies, the state constitution served as the model for Thomas Jefferson crafting the United States Constitution.

Though a minority party in predominantly working class Connecticut, the state’s Republican Party hasn’t been captured by Tea Party nutballs. Religious and social crazies have migrated to the state GOP in numbers sufficient to skew primaries; but, then, that’s why they continue to lose representation at the federal level. Independents vote for Democrats in federal elections.

Still, the vote on this issue shows that bipartisanship on equal terms, with an eye to real needs voiced by the majority of the people in the state means a lot more than kissing NRA butt. Even in the Arsenal of America. Another Connecticut nickname.