Distant galaxy sends out 15 high-energy radio bursts

❝ Breakthrough Listen, an initiative to find signs of intelligent life in the universe, has detected 15 brief but powerful radio pulses emanating from a mysterious and repeating source – FRB 121102 – far across the universe.

Fast radio bursts are brief, bright pulses of radio emission from distant but largely unknown sources, and FRB 121102 is the only one known to repeat: more than 150 high-energy bursts have been observed coming from the object, which was identified last year as a dwarf galaxy about 3 billion light years from Earth.

❝ Possible explanations for the repeating bursts range from outbursts from rotating neutron stars with extremely strong magnetic fields – so-called magnetars – to a more speculative idea: They are directed energy sources, powerful laser bursts used by extraterrestrial civilizations to power spacecraft, akin to Breakthrough Starshot’s plan to use powerful laser pulses to propel nano-spacecraft to our solar system’s nearest star, Proxima Centauri…

❝ Regardless of FRB 121102’s ultimate source, when the recently detected pulses left their host galaxy, our solar system was less than 2 billion years old, noted Steve Croft, a Breakthrough Listen astronomer at UC Berkeley. Life on Earth consisted only of single-celled organisms; it would be another billion years before even the simplest multi-cellular life began to evolve.

The dominant life-form on Earth still is pretty simple-minded. When we get round to relying uniformly and consistently on scientific fact and evidence-driven conclusions, we may finally creep beyond Jack and the Beanstalk mythology and ritual.

Hurricane Harvey: Health Consequences of Mold


Not crop circles; but, mold patterns on a Louisiana ceiling after Katrina

❝ The flooding of Houston is a health catastrophe unfolding publicly in slow motion. Much of the country is watching as 50 inches of water rise around the chairs of residents in nursing homes and submerge semitrucks. Some 20 trillion gallons of water are pouring onto the urban plain, where developers have paved over the wetlands that would drain the water.

❝ The toll on human life and health so far has been small relative to what the images suggest. Authorities have cited thirty known deaths as of Tuesday night, while 13,000 people have been rescued…But the impact of hurricanes on health is not captured in the mortality and morbidity numbers in the days after the rain. This is typified by the inglorious problem of mold…

❝ Submerging a city means introducing a new ecosystem of fungal growth that will change the health of the population in ways we are only beginning to understand. The same infrastructure and geography that have kept this water from dissipating created a uniquely prolonged period for fungal overgrowth to take hold, which can mean health effects that will bear out over years and lifetimes.

The documented dangers of excessive mold exposure are many. Guidelines issued by the World Health Organization note that living or working amid mold is associated with respiratory symptoms, allergies, asthma, and immunological reactions. The document cites a wide array of “inflammatory and toxic responses after exposure to microorganisms isolated from damp buildings, including their spores, metabolites, and components,” as well as evidence that mold exposure can increase risks of rare conditions like hypersensitivity pneumonitis, allergic alveolitis, and chronic sinusitis…

❝ Under [Trump], the funding of science to better understand the health consequences of mold exposure stands to be slashed. Meanwhile, the significance of mold in human lives is expected to increase with rising sea levels and catastrophic weather events. The perennial intensification of severe weather patterns over the Gulf Coast has made flooding increasingly common, at least partly due to the warming of the ocean.

❝ The Environmental Protection Agency, which would typically be tasked with mitigating the health effects of mold in Houston…stands only less equipped now to deal with environmental mold contamination than it did in New Orleans [after Katrina].

❝ In Houston, short-term rescue funding is essential to saving lives, and supporting it is politically necessary. But most of the looming threats to human wellbeing will outlast the immediate displays of concern. They will play out when the water and the cameras are gone, and when emergency funds allocated to Houston are exhausted. Mold will mark the divide between people who can afford to escape it and people for whom the storm doesn’t end.

I’m waiting for the inevitable copout press conferences from Congress-creeps who will be “surprised” at the epidemic of respiratory and other ailments that will follow-on this weather event. They collaborate with fossil fuel-pimps like Trump, Ryan and McConnell on a day-by-day agenda committed to gutting science research and civic betterment.

RTFA for even more intimidating details.

1989 Ozone Treaty Proven to Reduce US Greenhouse Gas Emissions

❝ The Montreal Protocol, the international treaty adopted to restore Earth’s protective ozone layer in 1989, has significantly reduced emissions of ozone-depleting chemicals from the United States. In a twist, a new study shows the 30-year old treaty has had a major side benefit of reducing climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions from the U.S.

That’s because the ozone-depleting substances controlled by the treaty are also potent greenhouse gases, with heat-trapping abilities up to 10,000 times greater than carbon dioxide over 100 years.

❝ The new study is the first to quantify the impact of the Montreal Protocol on U.S. greenhouse gas emissions with atmospheric observations. The study’s results show that reducing the use of ozone-depleting substances from 2008 to 2014 eliminated the equivalent of 170 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions each year. That’s roughly the equivalent of 50 percent of the reductions achieved by the U.S. for carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases over the same period…

❝ Previous studies have demonstrated that the Montreal Protocol has been more effective at curtailing global greenhouse gas emissions than any other international effort – even though climate change was not a consideration during the initial treaty negotiations in the late 1980s.

You know as well as I or anyone else that – as soon as our Fake President finds out about this – he’s going to make up some ridiculous excuse to try to abrogate the Montreal Treaty. Bad enough it demonstrates that political measures can positively affect some of the damage done to our biosphere by profit-pimps and greed. The treaty was signed into existence by a moderate Republican who understands the value of science..

State of the Climate – Give yourself a update in climate knowledge

❝ An international, peer-reviewed publication released each summer, the State of the Climate is the authoritative annual summary of the global climate published as a supplement to the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society.

❝ The report, compiled by NOAA’s Center for Weather and Climate at the National Centers for Environmental Information is based on contributions from scientists from around the world. It provides a detailed update on global climate indicators, notable weather events, and other data collected by environmental monitoring stations and instruments located on land, water, ice, and in space.

❝ This is the twenty-seventh issuance of the annual assessment now known as State of the Climate [large .pdf]. Surface temperature and carbon dioxide concentration, two of the more publicly recognized indicators of global-scale climate change, set new highs during 2016, as did several surface and near-surface indicators and essential climate variables. Notably, the increase in CO2 concentration was the largest in the nearly six-decade observational record.

No jokes about light reading. Reports designed for peer review are heavy on scientific citations. But, I still feel good about the research I went through at the turn of the Millennium with documents published by the Max Planck Institute as they worked their way towards a definitive response to discussions about climate change.

Here’s a chance to keep up with one of the best American-based global sources.

Latest HPV vaccine can prevent most cervical cancers

For women, cervical cancer is the fourth most widespread cancer, and in developing countries it is the most common cause of cancer death. A new study from researchers at Melbourne’s Royal Women’s Hospital and the Victorian Cytology Service has found that a new HPV vaccine could prevent up to 93 percent of all cervical cancers.

❝ For some time now we have known that infection with the Human papillomavirus (HPV) is necessary for a woman to develop cervical cancer. There are up to 200 types of HPV, but the majority of cases (75 percent) of cervical cancers are thought to be caused by one of two types – HPV 16 and 18. The current quadrivalent HPV vaccine in use, Gardasil, protects against those two key types of HPV.

In their recent study researchers looked at 847 cervical cancer samples from Australian women. The goal was to study what types of HPV were most prevalent in causing cervical cancer. Not unexpectedly, 77 percent of the samples showed HPV 16 or 18, while another 16 percent of cancers showed five other common HPV types (31, 33, 45, 52 and 58).

❝ These other common HPV types are included in this latest vaccine to be developed, called Gardasil 9. The vaccine was approved for use in the US in late 2014, and in Australia it is hoped to become part of the National HPV Vaccination Program as soon as next year.

Most significant comment is from the study’s study’s senior author Professor Suzanne Garland. “I do believe that if we continue with this high coverage of vaccination, we could almost wipe out cervical cancer in women.”

Bravo.

Pic of the Day


Click to enlarge

Thunderstorms almost spoiled this view of the spectacular 2011 June 15 total lunar eclipse. Instead, storm clouds parted for 10 minutes during the total eclipse phase and lightning bolts contributed to the dramatic sky.

Captured with a 30-second exposure the scene also inspired one of the more memorable titles…The lightning reference clearly makes sense, and the shadow play of the dark lunar eclipse was widely viewed across planet Earth in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia. The picture itself, however, was shot from the Greek island of Ikaria at Pezi. That area is known as “the planet of the goats” because of the rough terrain and strange looking rocks.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Amphibious robot with undulating propulsion


Click to website with video demo

The US Office of Naval Research…is funding an amphibious optionally autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) or remotely operated vehicle (ROV) prototype for use in littoral, surf and tide-zones, high-vegetation, debris-filled, or icy environments. The prototype was showcased and demonstrated at the Naval Future Force Science and Technology Exposition in Washington, DC, in July…

Pliant Energy Systems’ agile swimmer robot uses multi-stable non-linear systems to produce repetitive undulating motion for propulsion. Instead of propellers, the planar hyperbolic geometry and flexible electroactive-polymer undulating fins are able to propel the system underwater, on sandy beaches, over sea- or land-based vegetation, slippery or wet rocks, and over or under ice floes and ice shelves. It is powered by a lithium-ion battery.

Can’t wait to see what this critter might do untethered.

Death Valley set new record for hottest month — avg temp = >107º — avg high = >119º


Republican rose garden

❝ According to the National Weather Service, the average temperature for Death Valley in July was a blistering 107.4 degrees. Video provided by Newsy Newslook

Hell on Earth: With an average temperature of 107.39 degrees in July, Death Valley set the record for hottest month at a single location in U.S. history.

❝ Keep in mind that that number is an average of all the high and low temperatures. The average daily high temperature was an unbearable 119.6 degrees.

❝ “It should be noted that this is the hottest average monthly temperature ever measured in the U.S. or, for that matter, anywhere in the Western Hemisphere,” Weather Underground weather historian Christopher Burt…

And, so, the United States is pulling out of the Paris Climate Accords.

Whistleblower Case Illustrates How Trump/Flunkies Try to Silence Science


“The threat to these Alaska Native communities is not theoretical…Retaliation against me for those disclosures is unlawful.”

❝ For the first time since the Trump administration came to office and began dismantling the key science underpinnings of federal climate policy, a senior agency official has invoked the protections of the whistleblower law to publicly object to what he calls an illegal attempt to intimidate him.

The official, Joel Clement, had been the director of the Office of Policy Analysis at the Interior Department before he says he was arbitrarily reassigned to an obscure accounting post to punish him for speaking up about protections for native Americans in Alaska. He says that was ordered by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to force him to be quiet or quit — and to send a message.

Clement, who publicized his formal complaint in a commentary published Wednesday in the Washington Post, said his case is not an isolated example but part of a pattern.

Witch Hunt is one of Trump’s favorite condemnations of journalists working hard to present facts to confront his lies – and more. No doubt many of his appointed flunkies – like Ryan Zinke – not only approve of their boss’s lies; but, join willingly in shameful practices like those described by Clement in an attempt to close down criticism and confrontation.

Not unusual for rightwing ideologues. Reminiscent of that Republican creep, Joe McCarthy, who popularized the witch hunt as his favorite political theatre decades ago. Trump’s theatrics promise a revival.

Some Antibiotics in First Trimester Raise Risk of Major Birth Defects

❝ Several common types of antibiotics were linked both to major congenital and to organ specific malformations in infants when taken during the first trimester of pregnancy, a retrospective Canadian cohort study found.

❝ Exposure to antibiotics, such as clindamycin, doxycycline, quinolones, macrolides and phenoxymethylpenicillin, increased the risk of these birth defects, reported Flory T. Muanda, MD, of the University of Montreal, and colleagues.

However, there was no increased risk of major congenital malformations linked to exposure to amoxicillin, cephalosporins, or nitrofurantoin, the authors wrote in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology…

❝ Researchers examined data from the Quebec pregnancy cohort, an ongoing population-based cohort with data on all pregnancies covered by Quebec Public Prescription Drug Insurance from 1998 to 2008, comprising about 140,000 infants.

Be aware.

❝ They concluded that, despite the small absolute risks associated with these birth defects, “physicians should consider prescribing safer antibiotics for the treatment of maternal infections when possible.”