Discovery of giant sulfur-powered shipworm — Eeoough!

❝ Our world seems to grow smaller by the day as biodiversity rapidly dwindles, but Mother Earth still has a surprise or two up her sleeve. An international team of researchers were the first to investigate a never before studied species — a giant, black, mud dwelling, worm-like animal. The odd animal doesn’t seem to eat much, instead it gets its energy from a form of sulfur. The findings, led by scientists at the University of Utah, Northeastern University, University of the Philippines, Sultan Kudarat State University and Drexel University, will be published online in the…Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

❝ People have known about the existence of the creature for centuries. The three- to five-foot long, tusk-like shells that encase the animal were first documented in the 18th century. “The shells are fairly common,” begins lead investigator Daniel Distel, Ph.D., a research professor and director of the Ocean Genome Legacy Center at Northeastern University, “But we have never had access to the animal living inside.”

The animal’s preferred habitat was unclear, but the research team benefitted from a bit of serendipity when one of their collaborators shared a documentary that aired on Philippine television. The video showed the bizarre creatures planted, like carrots, in the mud of a shallow lagoon. Following this lead, the scientists set up an expedition and found live specimens of Kuphus polythalamia.

❝ With a live giant shipworm finally in hand, the research team huddled around Distel as he carefully washed the sticky mud caked to the outside of the giant shipworm shell and tapped off the outer cap, revealing the creature living inside.

Not exactly destined to replace linguine with clams. But, RTFA for an interesting tale of science and search.

Yum!


Click to enlargeSteve Chao/Al Jazeera

Once the most iconic symbol of animals threatened with extinction, pandas were taken off the endangered list in 2016 by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature Surveys suggest the wild population has increased to more than 1800. But China continues to give them the highest level of protection.

Thanks, Tom

Moving Beyond the Original Industrial Age, Britain Goes a Day Without Coal-Generated Electricity


Oli Scarff/Agence France-Presse

❝ Last Friday was the first full day since the height of the Industrial Revolution that Britain did not burn coal to generate electricity, a development that officials and climate change activists celebrated as a watershed moment.

The accomplishment became official just before 11 p.m., when the 24-hour period ended…

❝ For many living in the mining towns up and down the country, it was not just the backbone of the economy but a way of life. But the industry has been in decline for some time. The last deep coal mine closed in December 2015, though open cast mining has continued.

❝ Coal-fired power generation contributes heavily to climate change; burning coal produces twice as much carbon dioxide as burning natural gas. Reducing the world’s reliance on coal and increasing the use of renewable energy sources like solar and wind power have long been part of proposals to prevent the worst consequences of climate change.

Now on a path to phase out coal-fired power generation altogether by 2025, Britain, also the home of the first steam engine, is currently closing coal plants and stepping up generation from cleaner natural gas and renewables, like wind and solar.

Some countries have already left coal behind in power generation. In Switzerland, Belgium and Norway, “every day is a coal-free day,” Carlos Fernández Alvarez, a coal analyst at the International Energy Agency in Paris, pointed out.

❝ In the United States, where coal still accounts for about 30 percent of power generation, Vermont and Idaho are the only coal-free states, and California is close behind…

❝ Meanwhile, in the London Museum of Water & Steam, which has a heritage collection of coal-fired steam engines and railway engines, the operations manager, Edward Fagan, was planning for a future exhibition.

“Coal-fired power generation is very fast becoming a heritage item,” Mr. Fagan said. “One day we’ll have to add a power station to our collection.”

We can contribute wax replicas of the Koch Bros – exemplars of corporate barons trying to stop time, halt progress, save their death-filled fortunes. Oh, perhaps one of their pimps like Donald Trump or Mitch McConnell.

The Electric-Car Boom Is So Real One Global Oil Company Says Oil Consumption Will Peak In The 2030s

❝ Electric cars are coming fast — and that’s not just the opinion of carmakers anymore. Total SA, one of the world’s biggest oil producers, is now saying EVs may constitute almost a third of new-car sales by the end of the next decade.

❝ The surge in battery powered vehicles will cause demand for oil-based fuels to peak in the 2030s, Total Chief Energy Economist Joel Couse said at Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s conference in New York on Tuesday. EVs will make up 15 percent to 30 percent of new vehicles by 2030, after which fuel “demand will flatten out,” Couse said. “Maybe even decline.”

Couse’s projection for electric cars is the highest yet by a major oil company and exceeds BNEF’s own forecast, said Colin McKerracher, head of advanced transport analysis at Bloomberg New Energy Finance…

❝ Electric cars are beginning to compete with gasoline models on both price and performance. The most expensive part of an electric car is the battery, which can make up half the total cost, according to BNEF. The first electric cars to be competitive on price have been in the luxury class, led by Tesla Inc.’s Model S, which is now the best-selling large luxury car in the U.S.

But battery prices are dropping by about 20 percent a year, and automakers have been spending billions to electrify their fleets. Volkswagen AG is targeting 25 percent of its sales to be electric by 2025. Toyota Motor Corp. plans to phase out fossil fuels altogether by 2050.

Not so incidentally, Total SA is the seventh largest oil company in the world. Of course, none of this means anything to the dork in the White House or Congressional Republicans. They will continue pimping for Big Oil until the last fossil fuel dollar drips into their bank accounts.

AT&T’s fiber-to-the-home rollout: 1Gbps for the rich, 768kbps for the poor — surprised?

❝ AT&T’s deployment of fiber-to-the-home in California has been heavily concentrated in higher-income neighborhoods, giving affluent people access to gigabit speeds while others are stuck with Internet service that doesn’t even meet state and federal broadband standards, according to a new analysis…

❝ California households with access to AT&T’s fiber service have a median income of $94,208…By contrast, the median household income is $53,186 in California neighborhoods where AT&T provides only DSL, with download speeds typically ranging from 768kbps to 6Mbps. At the low end, that’s less than 1 percent of the gigabit speeds offered by AT&T’s fiber service.

The income difference is even more stark in some parts of California. “For example, in Los Angeles County, the median income of households with fiber-to-the-home access is $110,474, compared with $60,534 for those with U-verse availability, and $47,894 for those with only DSL availability,” the report said.

❝ In 4.1 million California households, representing 42.8 percent of AT&T’s California service area, AT&T’s fastest speeds fell short of the federal broadband definition of 25Mbps downloads and 3Mbps uploads…

❝ As copper networks increasingly become outdated, the FCC is seeking to eliminate regulations to make it easier for ISPs to retire copper networks. However, the copper could be replaced by wireless networks instead of fiber in areas where fiber rollouts aren’t cost-effective. AT&T is deploying a 10Mbps fixed wireless service in order to meet its Connect America Fund obligations.

As if AT&T cared a rat’s ass about service to folks in rural America. They won’t even sort out democratic access in urban areas – and if the experience in other Western nations is a model, that’s simply short-term greed overcoming good sense.

Drones used for first time in a major search at Grand Canyon


Brandon TorresAP Photo

❝ The desperate effort last week to find two hikers who disappeared at the bottom of the Grand Canyon represented the National Park Service’s most extensive use yet of drones in a search-and-rescue mission.

The Grand Canyon is the only national park with its own fleet of unmanned aircraft for locating people who have gotten lost, stranded, injured or killed. Under a program that began last fall, it has five drones and four certified operators.

While the aerial search for the two hikers came up empty, it threw a spotlight on technology that can enter crevices and other rugged spots unreachable by foot while sparing searchers the dangers of going up in a helicopter.

❝ The aircraft were used Monday through Wednesday in the search for LouAnn Merrell, 62, and her step grandson, Jackson Standefer, 14. The park also sent out three ground search teams of about 20 people in all, an inflatable motor boat and a helicopter.

Merrell and Standefer vanished last weekend after losing their footing while crossing a creek near the North Rim. They were on a hike with Merrell’s husband, Merrell Boot Co. co-founder Randy Merrell, and the boy’s mother.

The park soon scaled back the operation and stopped using the drones but continued the search. In a statement, the hikers’ families backed the decision and said they were “still praying for a miracle.”

❝ Other national parks use drones, but for wildlife research. The use of private drones is prohibited in national parks.

James Doyle, a spokesman for the park service’s Intermountain region, said other national parks will probably seek their own drone fleets, too. He said the Grand Canyon’s extreme topography — it is a mile deep — makes it a perfect candidate.

Even unsuccessful, this latest use of new technology cost less and endangered a fewer folks than traditional means. Which, BTW, were revolutionary in their own time.

Wife’s Fitbit leads to husband’s murder arrest


That’s hubby in the middleMark Mirko/AP

❝ A Connecticut man accused in his wife’s murder might have gotten away with it — if not for the victim’s Fitbit fitness tracker and other electronic devices…

Richard Dabate, 40, was charged this month with felony murder, tampering with physical evidence and making false statements following his wife Connie’s December 2015 death at their home in Ellington…

❝ Dabate called 911 reporting that his wife was the victim of a home invasion, alleging that she was shot dead by a “tall, obese man” with a deep voice like actor Vin Diesel’s, sporting “camouflage and a mask,” according to an arrest warrant.

Dabate alleged her death took place more than an hour before her Fitbit-tracked movements revealed. CCTV footage also showed her visiting a local gym the morning she died.

❝ Investigators uncovered text messages between the couple, as well as the suspect and his reported pregnant mistress — thought to be a main motive behind the suspected domestic homicide.

One year before the murder, Dabate texted his wife saying, “I want a divorce,” around the time bank statement records obtained by the Hartford Courant showed credit card charges from hotels, strip clubs and floral purchases for his girlfriend.

❝ State police used an analysis of the home’s “alarm system, computers, cellphones, social media postings and Connie Dabate’s Fitbit to create a timeline that contradicted Richard Dabate’s statements to police,” the warrant cited.

Gotta love it when family gadgets testify against you. 🙂

Climate change stole a Yukon river almost overnight

❝ Its water rerouted by a retreating glacier, the Slims River offers researchers an extreme example of ‘river piracy’ – one with far-reaching implications for northern waters, Ivan Semeniuk explains


Click to enlargeDaniel Shugar

❝ Daniel Shugar knew his research trip was in trouble when he arrived at Kluane Lake last August.

A Canadian geomorphologist based at the University of Washington in Tacoma, Dr. Shugar’s plan had been to study currents at the mouth of the Slims River, which spills down from the mountains of Kluane National Park and feeds Yukon’s largest lake from its southern end.

There was a problem: The river was gone.

❝ In what appears to be a first for the scientific record books, the Slims has become an extreme example of what geographers call “river piracy”: when the drainage of one watershed is stolen by another. But on this occasion the shift occurred virtually overnight.

❝ In a report published…in the journal Nature Geoscience, Dr. Shugar and his colleagues provide a detailed analysis of how an atmosphere warmed by fossil-fuel emissions has led to the river’s dramatic disappearance.

“To me, it’s kind of a metaphor for what can happen with sudden change induced by climate,” said John Clague, who holds a chair in natural hazard research at Simon Fraser University and was a co-author on the report.

While people may think of climate change as a gradual process, its effects need not be, Dr. Clague said, adding, “I think that has important implications for society.”

RTFA. Entertaining as journalism – not the processes which our most ignorant politicians continue to ignore. As one sign said in this past weekend’s March for Science during Earth Day — Accepting science as a fact or not doesn’t change the facts.

Unless you’re a fool. Sorry about that. I know it ain’t polite. But, I’ve been a student of science for several decades. Understanding has changed, knowledge has deepened, even changed direction. Facts don’t change.