A hole in ancient ice

A huge hole opened in the Arctic’s oldest, thickest ice in May 2020, a new study revealed. Scientists previously thought that this area of ice was the Arctic’s most stable, but the giant rift signals that the ancient ice is vulnerable to melt.

The polynya, or area of open water, is the first ever observed north of Ellesmere Island. But in their report on the hole in the ice, published in August in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, researchers deduced from old satellite data that similar polynyas may have opened in 1988 and 2004.

“North of Ellesmere Island it’s hard to move the ice around or melt it just because it’s thick, and there’s quite a bit of it,” study lead author Kent Moore, an Arctic researcher at the University of Toronto-Mississauga, said in a statement. “So, we generally haven’t seen polynyas form in that region before.

Just because something’s been around for millenia doesn’t mean human beings can’t screw it up!

Adding healthy years to your life


Virginia Oliver, lobstering crew member, is 101 years old

Death comes for us all. But recent research points to interventions in diet, exercise and mental outlook that could slow down aging and age-related diseases – without risky biohacks such as unproven gene therapies. A multidisciplinary approach involving these evidence-based strategies “could get it all right,” said Valter Longo, a biochemist who runs the Longevity Institute at the University of Southern California’s Leonard Davis School of Gerontology…

Time will tell who’s right regarding the life span of our species. What’s clear is that certain lifestyles help individuals live longer than they otherwise would – including the genetically blessed. Harvard researchers found that healthy habits add nearly 15 years of life expectancy. “That’s over $100 trillion in health-care savings,” said Harvard biologist David Sinclair…

Stress that’s good for longevity can be caused by nutrition. Ideally, our ancestors enjoyed protein-rich red meat for peak energy and performance. But when hunting expeditions failed, people resorted to eating hardy plants. Today, our bodies still infer a state of scarcity if we consume lots of vegetables, switching on the longevity genes. Indeed, such a diet is associated with longer lives, according to the Harvard study. Becoming a full-fledged vegetarian probably isn’t necessary, but, to maximize what longevity experts call “healthspan,” at least 50 percent of protein should come from vegetable sources, Longo said.

Exercise can further simulate our ancestors’ stressful environments, some experts say, which can dupe your genes into extending your span of health. Just don’t do too much…As with fasting, just don’t go overboard…

Lots more in the article including love and happiness. Companionship helps…if and when you find the right person to be your better half. I try to keep up with what proves to help. I passed my textbook average a few decades ago. Feeling better all the time. :-]

Megafires are becoming common!

What the US Forest Service once characterized as a four-month-long fire season starting in late summer and early autumn now stretches into six to eight months of the year. Wildfires are starting earlier, burning more intensely and scorching swaths of land larger than ever before. Risks for large, catastrophic fires like the Camp fire that leveled the town of Paradise in 2018 are rising…

More than half of the 20 largest fires in California history burned in just the last four years. Eight of the top 20 fires in Oregon occurred in that time frame too. Last year, Arizona saw the most acres burned in its history. California’s August Complex fire, which consumed more than 1m acres alone, became the first-ever giga-fire in 2020. The Dixie fire this year came close to becoming the second, burning through more than 963,200 acres…

The conditions that set the stage for a staggering escalation in wildfire activity in the American west are layered and complicated, but the climate emergency is a leading culprit…

There are still solutions and mitigations that could slow the shift in intensity – but researchers say that window is closing.

“The trends that are driving this increase in fire risk, fire size, fire severity over time are continuing – that’s climate change.”

Until and unless people press politicians to act upon climate change, reversing human-made trends decades in the making, the dangers to whole communities, whole states, regional disasters, will continue and increase.

Anti-Vaxxers Could Bring Back Childhood Diseases


“The good old days”

…Replicated in some form or another in cities and towns across America, (there is) a growing grassroots movement of people who believe that vaccine mandates—for COVID, yes, but increasingly for other diseases as well—are an affront to their personal freedom. That represents a marked shift from pre-pandemic times, when vaccine opponents typically based their reasoning on medical concerns and were largely comprised of a few religious sects and a small number of left-leaning activists seeking explanations for rising rates of autism. As the anti-vaxx mandate movement gains political traction, particularly on the right, medical experts fear it could not only cripple efforts to eradicate COVID but could also lead to a surge in long-conquered diseases, from mumps to whooping cough to smallpox.

“There are some more conservative states where we are likely to see other non-COVID vaccine mandates under attack, and it is very worrisome,” says Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials. “If we have some of these pediatric infectious diseases come back, it will be horrific.”

Yet what scares epidemiologists now is that many conservatives who denounce vaccine mandates are eliding the medical questions of whether they are safe. Instead, says David Rosner, a Columbia University historian who specializes in the intersection of politics and public health, they’re focusing on a political view that requiring them is wrong.

“We are at the beginning of a much more profound change that may lead to resistance to other vaccines but also may lead to disintegration of any sense of social obligation, social cohesion and social purpose,” he warns. “It’s part of the questioning of what the country is and what it represents. When you see this kind of breakdown and unwillingness to work together, even under the most obvious circumstances where we’ve had more than 650,000 people die, it feels like the beginning of a major dividing point.”

I usually end a post like this by saying “I try to differentiate between ignorance and stupidity”. I have no interest, however, in letting “Stupid” win this one. I’ve said this several times before. Let me repeat myself. I’m old enough to remember springtime and gathering together with the other kids in my neighborhood to figure out who died over winter from diphtheria or pneumonia or influenza.

And even if you’re ignorant enough to make a religious crusade of libertarian healthcare choice, I hope you’re not stupid enough to offer your children a better chance of dying before they’re old enough to vote.

A billion head of cattle roam Earth – burping out methane

Cows, you see, have a serious emissions problem. To digest tough plant material, their cavernous stomachs act as fermentation vats. They’re teeming with methanogens, microbes that process cellulose to make volatile fatty acids, which the cows turn into meat and milk. But those methanogens also produce methane, a particularly nasty greenhouse gas that is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide, thanks to the way its molecules vibrate to absorb infrared radiation. These gases capture heat, and that means more global warming…

Now multiply those burps by the world’s huge cattle population. To satisfy humanity’s bottomless appetite for beef and milk, a billion head of cattle now roam the planet. A paper published in September in the journal Nature Food by an international team of researchers found that the global food system generates a staggering 35 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. Beef is responsible for a quarter of those food emissions, with another 8 percent coming from milk production…

If scientists can figure out how to get cows to stop belching so much, that would make a big dent in emissions, and we’d see the climate effects almost immediately. So Mitloehner and other researchers are experimenting with food additives like seaweed, garlic, and even essential oils derived from plants like coriander seed, which tweak the animals’ gut environment in different ways, for instance by disrupting the enzymes that produce methane.

RTFA. Lots about hows and whys of the difficulties coming up with a solution to the problem. Beaucoup detail about the inventive constructs researchers come up with to measure the methane output…and what they’ve tried, so far, in attempts to mitigate that production.

Earth’s submarine cable network

Should I admit to how old this admission makes me? I worked in the testing lab of one of the firms that made the copper alloy wire inside many of these cables…in 1956. Before folks started using fibre-optic cables.

Coffee linked to DNA integrity

A controlled randomized study conducted on 100 healthy Europeans just vindicated you and your coffee obsession. As far as DNA integrity is concerned coffee is actually more beneficial than water

The coffee group exhibited much less DNA strand breakage than the control group by the end of the 4-week span…

As it stands – all coffee is rich with anti-oxidants, a compound that enables cells to better repair themselves in the wake of the damage done by free radicals. Free radicals, birthed by sunlight, oxygen, and pollution, deteriorate the collagen fibers in the skin. The microbial properties in coffee help ward off germs in the skin. Its caffeic acid boosts collagen levels which in turn reduces the aging process…The antioxidants found in coffee are also instrumental in fighting diseases, preventing cavities, diabetes, cirrhosis of the liver and various forms of cancer.

Take a minute to click through to the original – and you’ll discover even more great reasons to drink coffee. Good old dark roast used in most of this research. Delicioso!

A little bit of New Mexico on Mars

A sample of basaltic rock from a lava flow in New Mexico serves as a calibration target carried on the front of NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity for the rover’s Canadian-made Alpha Particle X-Ray Spectrometer instrument. This image of the APXS calibration target was taken by the rover’s Mars Hand Lens Imager during the 34th Martian day, or sol, of Curiosity’s work on Mars (Sept. 9, 2012). The image has been rotated to compensate for the tilted orientation of the camera when it was taken.

The prepared slab of well-characterized dark rock collected near Socorro, N.M., is held in a nickel mounting. The circular opening revealing the rock is about 1.4 inches (3.5 centimeters) in diameter.

Probably held in place with fire-roasted cement made from Hatch chiles.