Same as it ever was


Click to enlarge

This goes along with the “noble savage” school of utopian naturalism. Surviving nature still requires potable water, shelter from the elements – especially in a climate with seasons. Everything you can purchase or rent in civilization you now have to build or provide on your own.

First thing I always remember with images and expressions like this is completing an idyllic couple of weeks hiking through a stunning, isolated region in the highlands of Scotland. I was OK living within the boundaries of carrying everything I needed for protection from the elements + a fair amount of sustenance on my back for that time period.

And a week after I returned to urban America I learned some wandering sheep must have pooped just at the right time upstream in some delightful mountain stream where I filled my water bottle. And I needed another month to recover from a less-than-happy critter named giardia I had consumed – probably in that mountain stream.

I would have been a lot worse off if I wasn’t back in a city with easy access to a physician, etc..

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Not 12 Monkeys – but, a Fouine shuts down the Large Hadron Coillider

Fouine
Click to enlargeAlamy

The world’s largest and most powerful particle accelerator has been brought to its knees by a beech marten, a member of the weasel family, that chewed through wiring connected to a 66,000-volt transformer.

The Large Hadron Collider on the outskirts of Geneva was designed to recreate in miniature fireballs similar to the conditions that prevailed at the birth of the universe, but operations of the machine, which occupies a 17-mile tunnel beneath Switzerland, have been placed on hold pending repairs to the unit.

The collider, which discovered the Higgs boson in July 2012, is expected to be out of action for a week while the connections to the transformer are replaced. Any remains of the intruder are likely to be removed at the same time.

In an in-house report on the incident, managers at Cern, the European nuclear physics laboratory that runs the LHC, described the incident at the transformer unit as being caused by a “fouine” – a beech marten native to the region. The report concluded it was “not the best week for the LHC”.

The glitch echoes a similar event in 2009 when the power was cut to one of the LHC’s cooling plants leading to unwelcome temperature rises in the collider’s apparatus. That incident was blamed, at least tentatively, on a bird dropping part of a baguette on a compensating capacitor where the mains supply entered the LHC from the ground.

Fodder for the spookier portions of global nutball culture. My mate in Oz who emailed the link to this article couldn’t resist declaring the fouine was “clearly sent from the future to stop the apocalypse” often predicted by the tinfoil-hat set as a result of the LHC turning Switzerland into a Black Hole.

Thanks, Honeyman

Eating less calories — kids still getting more obese

crap fries
Veggies for your kids

According to a 2015 New York Times analysis of government and private-sector data, the number of calories consumed annually by the average US child declined 9 percent between 2004 and 2013. And yet, researchers from Duke and Wake Forest have found that trend has not improved the child obesity situation.

Using body mass index data from the National Health Examination Survey, which tracks randomly selected households with health exams and surveys every two years, the researchers calculated moderate (class 1), mid-level (class 2) and extreme (class 3) obesity rates among kids aged 2 to 19. Here’s what they found…

The “overweight” rate — which encompasses the above “obese” categories as well as slightly overweight kids — also nudged upward from an already-high level: 28.8 percent from 1999 to 2000, compared with 33.4 percent from 2013 to 2014…The authors broke out data by age, gender, and race, and not a single group showed a statistically significant decline in obesity or being overweight over the time frame…

So, despite the above-mentioned drop in calorie intake, our kids are still packing on too much weight too fast. What gives?

…Barry Popkin, a veteran obesity researcher…said that while kids have eased up on problematic items like sugary sodas in recent years, they’re “not shifting the quality of their diets toward healthy foods.” Instead, “we continue to see our children mainly eat what we would call junk food,” relying heavily on cookies and other grain-based sweets, along with plenty of salty snacks, fruit juice (which acts an awful lot like soda in our bodies), and other sugary beverages.

A recent analysis of another big federal data set, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, bears out Popkin’s claim. When infants transition from baby food to solid food, they still tend to get plied with plenty of processed junk and few vegetables…The report noted that 40 percent of babies get brownies or cookies, and that French fries and chips are the most common form of vegetables kids eat by the time they’re two years old.

And we carry forward from there to the expected. Insufficient exercise, proper training to develop lifetime, lifestyle habits. Politicians without inclination to challenge the least lobbyist for crap food sold to meet budget cuts in school cafeterias. And on and on.

Letting beancounters overrule what we do to and for our children should be a crime.

Wildfires, once confined to a season, burn earlier, year-round


Click to enlargeHeber-Overgaard Fire District

The first Alaska wildfire of 2016 broke out in late February, followed by a second there just eight days later.

New Mexico has had 140 fires this year, double the number in the same period last year, fueled by one of the warmest, driest winters on record.

And on the border of Arizona and California this month, helicopters dumped water on flames so intense that they jumped the Colorado River, forcing the evacuation of two recreational vehicle parks.

Fires, once largely confined to a single season, have become a continual threat in some places, burning earlier and later in the year, in the United States and abroad. They have ignited in the West during the winter and well into the fall, have arrived earlier than ever in Canada and have burned without interruption in Australia for almost 12 months.

A leading culprit is climate change. Drier winters mean less moisture on the land, and warmer springs are pulling the moisture into the air more quickly, turning shrub, brush and grass into kindling. Decades of aggressive policies that called for fires to be put out as quickly as they started have also aggravated the problem. Today’s forests are not just parched; they are overgrown.

In some areas, we now have year-round fire seasons, and you can say it couldn’t get worse than that,” said Matt Jolly, a research ecologist for the United States Forest Service. “We expect from the changes that it can get worse.”

The 10.1 million acres that burned in the United States last year were the most on record, and the top five years for acres burned were in the past decade. The federal costs of fighting fires rose to $2 billion last year, up from $240 million in 1985.

RTFA. Long, detailed, filled with relevant information. The stuff that brings decisive action in nations run by reasonable people, conservative and liberal, politically committed to the good of their country.

That’s not where we get to live anymore. That portion of Congress formerly led by traditional American conservatives has been usurped by populist lunatics. Their version of heaven-on-Earth means more to them than any constitutional mandate. Dedication to racism, fear of equal opportunity for women and minorities distorts any attempt at logic or science.

With hope, with courage, the foolish corner we have allowed our nation to be jammed into will soon be unplugged. The crust of 19th Century ideology impeding any current of national rejuvenation may be cracked, failing, by Inauguration Day.

Then, we only have to deal with greed and timidity. 🙂

Greenland ice is melting faster than ever — affecting Earth’s axial rotation


Click to enlargeReuters/Bob Strong

Researchers from the Danish Meteorological Institute had to double-check their instruments to make sure they were working properly. It was hard to believe that 12% of the Greenland ice sheet was melting this early in the year; the previous record was set in 2010 when 10% of the ice sheet was melting in May.

The Earth’s two ice sheets in Antarctica and Greenland and the ice that covers the Arctic sea routinely melt and freeze again each year with the seasons. In the latter years of the 20th century, this ice has been receding more than re-freezing in the cooler months.

Climate scientists are already worried about the melting ice’s contribution to sea level rise. New research from NASA…suggests that the melting ice is also redistributing water enough to affect changes in the Earth’s axial rotation…

The poles have been shifting over time; it’s called the axial “wobble,” and it’s been happening since scientists first recorded data in 1899. In 2000, researchers noticed that the North pole was shifting eastward — toward London, as opposed to Canada, which they attributed to the ice loss in Greenland. As the ice melted, the north pole shifted toward the area with less ice.

The new data, however, indicates that the ice sheets aren’t the only factor affecting axial wobble. The balance of water held in different continents is also making a difference, researchers said. Erik Ivins, a geophysicist and co-author of the paper, explained to Scientific American that he thinks that a recent lack of rainfall in central Eurasia is also pulling the north pole to the east.

❝ “If we lose mass from the Greenland ice sheet, we are essentially putting mass elsewhere. And as we redistribute the mass, the spin axis tends to find a new direction,” Surendra Adhikari, a researcher with Caltech and NASA and co-author of the study, told the Washington Post. He estimates that about 40% of the shift is due to Greenland ice sheet loss; 25% due to Anarctica ice sheet loss, and 25% due to where water is located in continents.

Watch this space. Ivins hopes to have sufficient data added within the year to determine whether or not climate change is the prime factor.

Supreme Court says any judge can OK search warrants for every computer in the country

The Supreme Court might have just given the FBI expanded hacking powers, opening the door for the feds to legally hack any computer in the country, and perhaps the world, with a single warrant authorized by a judge located anywhere in the United States.

The court approved a controversial change in in Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, a procedural rule that regulates when and under what circumstances judges can issue warrants for searches and seizures.

Under the old language of Rule 41…judges could approve warrants authorizing hacking — or as the FBI calls it, network investigative technique, or NIT — only within their jurisdiction.

With the changes, first proposed by the Department of Justice in 2014, judges could now approve hacking operations that go beyond their local jurisdiction if the target’s location is unknown or is part of a network of infected computers, or botnets, under the control of criminals.

This change would be “the broadest expansion of extraterritorial surveillance power since the FBI’s inception,” according to Ahmed Ghappour, an computer crime law expert and professor at UC Hastings…

Privacy advocates, legal experts, and Google, have long opposed changing Rule 41 with this new language, and are now arguing that Congress should step in and amend or reject the rule change.

“The Department of Justice is quietly trying to grant themselves substantive authority to hack into computers and masking it as a bureaucratic update,” Amie Stepanovich, the U.S. policy manager at Access Now, a digital rights organization…

Congress now has until December 1 to weigh in, according to the US law governing the rulemaking process. If Congress doesn’t act, the rule will automatically come into effect.

Do I need to suggest you write, email or otherwise inform your Congress-critter to get off their rusty-dusty and do some work for ordinary citizens? Tell our elected officials to shutdown the free-form snooping our Constitutional government thinks it needs to make us safe.

US gun violence is worse than we think


AFP via Getty Images

America is already known for leading the developed world in gun violence. But a new study finds the problem may be even worse than we think.

The study, from economists Jillian Carr and Jennifer Doleac, looked at new ShotSpotter data, which uses high-tech audio sensors to report gunshots, in Oakland, California, and Washington, DC. It found that only 12 percent of gunfire incidents resulted in a 911 call to report gunshots, and only 2 to 7 percent of incidents resulted in a reported assault with a dangerous weapon.

In other words, shootings are tremendously underreported in the US.

One catch to the research: ShotSpotter is likely picking up some false positives. Past evaluations have suggested the technology has anywhere from 50 to 97 percent accuracy, although Carr and Doleac acknowledge more rigorous research is necessary. But even if the low range is right, there would still be a lot of unreported shootings.

It’s also possible that many shootings go unreported because no one was injured or killed. It’s hard to imagine, after all, that a death went completely unnoticed, and Carr and Doleac note that homicide is reported to and by police “with near-accuracy.”…

Currently, crime research generally relies on surveys and crime reports from law enforcement. More specifically, the research tends to focus on reports for homicides, since homicide reports tend to have the most accurate data. Researchers use these data sources to try to evaluate the effects of certain policies — if crime reports went down after a policy was implemented, it’s presumed that the policy helped bring crime down (after some statistical checks).

But the ShotSpotter data suggests the traditional sources of crime research — the law enforcement reports — overlook a lot of crime. What’s more, Carr and Doleac suggest that a drop in reports of crime may just mean that people are reporting fewer crimes even as it continues happening. So researchers using the traditional sources may have been picking up how policies affect reports of crime, not necessarily crime itself…

Beyond the implications for policy research…at the very least, we’re not counting a lot of shootings as shootings.

Which is exactly the way folks with monomaniacal belief in guns as the righteous solution to everything from elections to divorce – would like things to stay.

Cartoon: look at the size of that hairball!

We have a lot of great cartoonists in the United States. Honestly, I think as much as corporate media moguls have succeeded in homogenizing, watering-down what used to be the American press, they haven’t the guts to take away all of our cartoonists. Even the Liberal and Progressive flavor with the courage to point a finger at the class served by most of our politicians.

Thanks, gocomics.org

We just lost a critical climate satellite — to Congress

One of climate change’s most important biographers — a 2,700-pound satellite orbiting 450 miles above the surface of the Earth — just recorded its last data point.

Earlier this month, the National Snow and Ice Data Center announced that, after nine years and five months in orbit, the satellite known as F17 had stopped transmitting sea ice measurements. That’s not unusual — satellites in F17’s series, all named sequentially, are normally expected to last about five years, though some make it much longer. But F17’s failure could preempt the end of the series entirely…

Since 1978, the satellites, each equipped with a set of passive microwave sensors, have been recording conditions on Earth, day in and day out. By measuring the amount of radiation given off by the atomic composition and structure of different substances, like ice or seawater, microwave sensing is a useful tool for pilots and military officers tracking weather conditions. Over time, these measurements can also track cumulative changes in sea ice. As early as 1999, scientists saw that sea ice cover was decreasing more quickly than it had in previous decades — and they’ve been observing similar trends ever since.

Until now, there have always been three or four satellites in the series orbiting at a time, as part of one of the country’s oldest satellite programs, the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program (DMSP). Over time, as new satellites were launched and older models went dark, overlapping data have kept the 40-year sea-ice dataset consistent…

❝ “The real problem is that there’s nothing on the horizon,” said Walter Meier, NASA researcher.There’s nothing funded, or planned right now.”

There is one other option — but it’s sitting in a storage room somewhere on Earth. This satellite, F20, was the last of its series to be built, and was tentatively planned to launch in 2018. That plan fell through last June, when the Senate Appropriations Committee revoked funding for the DMSP, even rescinding $50 million that had been specifically designated for launching F20. Without Congressional approval, F20 is grounded.

❝ “It’s sitting there, ready to be launched,” said Meier. He pointed out that the data from the satellite series is also used to study snow cover on land, ocean currents, temperature change, drought detection, and many other natural cycles. “The benefit is beyond my own work on sea ice.”

Even the few conservatives in Congress willing to admit to scientific evidence about climate change gets their knickers bunched over questions of responsibility and reaction. So, they respond to scientific questions the same way they have for recent decades to questions of social need, education, trade, peace – you name it. Their response is Do Nothing. They’re like petulant, ignorant children who shut their eyes and try to shout down the obvious. Hoping it will go away before they’re forced to open their eyes, again.

Help out the rest of the nation with confidence enough in science and human responsibility to fight for action. Start by kicking the deadwood out of elected office. Let them try to get honest jobs for a change.

Jean-Michel Jarre and Edward Snowden combine in a music video

…Jean-Michel Jarre and Edward Snowden recently released a track they worked on together called “Exit.” It’s a freaky and aggressive little piece of electronic music that calls for an equally strange visual. Well today, The Verge has the premiere of the song’s new video, and it’s definitely strange.

Writers and editors at the Verge must live in a small bubble universe tied to days of yore when the Cleveland Browns were dominant in American football. Or Pat Boone was fashionable outside of Bill O’Reilly’s musings.

The video itself is… quite literal. In case you somehow missed the fact that the song was about surveillance and our uneasy relationship with technology, the video should make that clear. As the song plays, the clip hits you with jittery flashes of news headlines, satellites in space, security cameras, and other paranoid imagery; like hands rapidly typing on keyboards, phones, and men in sunglasses. There’s also an old interview with Snowden in there, now adorned with Matrix-style falling code.

“Exit” comes off Jarre’s upcoming album, Electronica 2: The Heart Of Noise, out May 6th

Lizzie – you really should get out more. 🙂

As a really old cranky old geek I’m always astounded when someone I first heard a long, long time ago [not in a galaxy far, far away, though] is still around. I recall premiers of “Oxygen” by Jarre in the 1970’s. While comparisons to Edgar Varese were inevitable, classical music lovers knowledgeable of experiments like this back to the 1930’s were accepting, interested in his work.

The merger of these two, Jarre and Snowden, is a success. Obama and the NSA would try to have it banned if this were 1948. The year Jarre was born.