GOUSA falls out of Top 10 innovator nations

South Korea returned to first place in the latest Bloomberg Innovation Index, while the U.S. dropped out of a top 10 that features a cluster of European countries…

The Bloomberg index analyzes dozens of criteria using seven equally weighted metrics, including research and development spending, manufacturing capability and concentration of high-tech public companies…

In a report last year, the National Science Board found that “where once the U.S. was the uncontested leader in science and engineering, we are now playing a less dominant role…”

Given that almost anything BUT science and technology plays an important role in American politics, I have to wonder how long we’ll stay in the Top 20.

What’s happening to the bees?

Researchers at the Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas (CONICET) in Argentina have found that, since the 1990s, up to 25% of reported bee species are no longer being reported in global records, despite a large increase in the number of records available. While this does not mean that these species are all extinct, it might indicate that these species have become rare enough that no one is observing them in nature. The findings appear [in January 22, 2021 issue of] the journal One Earth.

“With citizen science and the ability to share data, records are going up exponentially, but the number of species reported in these records is going down,” says first author Eduardo Zattara…“It’s not a bee cataclysm yet, but what we can say is that wild bees are not exactly thriving.”

While there are many studies about declining bee populations, these are usually focused on a specific area or a specific type of bee. These researchers were interested in identifying more general, global trends in bee diversity…

“It’s not really about how certain the numbers are here. It’s more about the trend,” says Zattara. “It’s about confirming what’s been shown to happen locally is going on globally. And also, about the fact that much better certainty will be achieved as more data are shared with public databases…”

“Something is happening to the bees, and something needs to be done. We cannot wait until we have absolute certainty because we rarely get there in natural sciences,” says Zattara. “The next step is prodding policymakers into action while we still have time. The bees cannot wait.”

I second that emotion!

Fences affect environments around the world…rarely studied or regulated


Marian Deschain

What is the most common form of human infrastructure in the world? It may well be the fence. Recent estimates suggest that the total length of all fencing around the globe is 10 times greater than the total length of roads…

On every continent, from cities to rural areas and from ancient to modern times, humans have built fences. But we know almost nothing about their ecological effects. Border fences are often in the news, but other fences are so ubiquitous that they disappear into the landscape, becoming scenery rather than subject.

[In fact]…compiling studies from ecosystems around the world…research shows that fences produce a complex range of ecological effects.

I love articles that jog my brain into looking at my own life’s landscape to examine/re-examine the subject matter. Living where barbed wire rules, here in the American Southwest, you have to think about fences anywhere you roam.

Reminder…

…A Reminder Of How Gorgeous Earth Is


Father and son catch fish inside a cave in Vietnam during monsoon season.

A reminder of how gorgeous our world is — you know, back before all we were thinking about was COVID-19 and lockdowns and vaccine trials?

Take a look at the winning entries of the 2020 Siena International Photo Awards, an annual contest organized by a group of photographers and enthusiasts from Siena, Italy, that aims to showcase images of beauty, culture and nature across the globe.

Same as it ever was.

Life without coffee?

“What would life be without coffee?” King Louis XV of France is said to have asked. “But, then, what is life even with coffee?” he added. Truer, or more apt, words for the present moment were never spoken, now usable as a kind of daily catechism. At a time when coffee remains one of the few things that the anxious sleeper can look forward to in the morning….giving as it does at least an illusion of recharge and a fresh start, the charge has invariably slipped away by the time the latest grim briefing comes…

This change is real, and is reflected in the numbers. As Jonathan Morris documents in his recent book, “Coffee: A Global History”, epicurean coffeehouses in the United States numbered in the hundreds in 1989, and in the tens of thousands by 2013. A lot of that is Starbucks, but not all. Roasters in Italy went from exporting twelve million kilograms of espresso in 1988 to more than a hundred and seventy million in 2015. Not surprisingly, the growth of a coffee culture has been trailed, and sometimes advanced, by a coffee literature, which arrived in predictable waves, each reflecting a thriving genre. First, we got a fan’s literature—“the little bean that changed the world”—with histories of coffee consumption and appreciations of coffee preparations. (The language of wine appreciation was adapted to coffee, especially a fixation on terroir—single origins, single estates, even micro lots.) Then came the gonzo, adventurer approach: the obsessive who gives up normal life to pursue coffee’s mysteries. And, finally, a moralizing literature that rehearsed a familiar lecture on the hidden cost of the addiction…

This is worth reading if you haven’t any problem with the worst of several styles of writing loved by The New Yorker. Never use 8 words in a sentence when you can use 38 (or more). See what I just did. It happens almost every paragraph.

I have been guilty of every fault I find in the article…including obscurant conclusions. But, RTFA. It is well recommended. And in The New Yorker, after all.

How folks in 34 countries feel about democracy…

People around the world are widely dissatisfied with democracy in their country and believe that elected officials don’t care what people like them think, according to a new Pew Research Center survey. Global opinion is more divided on the question of whether the state is run for the benefit of all, while people generally agree that voting gives them a say about how the government runs things in their country.

Here’s a link to eight charts that show how people around the world see the state of democracy in their country, based on the new report…

Here’s one of them:

Twitter now a quiet island on the global map of crap paid political advertising

❝ Twitter will no longer run political ads, CEO Jack Dorsey announced Wednesday, a move that comes as fellow social media giant Facebook faces rising heat over its policy of allowing candidates to lie in their campaign messaging.

❝ Twitter is removing itself from that contentious tangle as U.S. political campaigns prepare to spend vast sums of money on online advertising around the 2020 elections. The new policy applies worldwide, not just in the U.S., and to issue ads as well as ads run by specific political campaigns.

Hallelujah!

Fire cloud — up close


Click to enlargeNOAA/NASA

❝ On August 8, 2019, a team of atmospheric scientists got an exceedingly rare look at fire clouds as they were forming. NASA’s DC-8 flying laboratory passed directly through a large pyrocumulonimbus that day as it was rising from a fire in eastern Washington. The flight was part of a joint NOAA and NASA field campaign called FIREX-AQ. Scientists are studying the composition and chemistry of smoke to better understand its impact on air quality and climate…

❝ The photograph above, shot from roughly 30,000 feet (9 kilometers), shows the setting Sun shining through thick smoke at 8 p.m. Mountain Time. Particles in the smoke reflect light in ways that make the Sun appear orange…

The flight was the most detailed sampling of a pyrocumulonimbus in history, explained Peterson. A second research aircraft flew over the plume a few hours earlier in the day, and mobile labs on the ground also made detailed measurements.

Amazing photos. Quality and timing should offer useful analysis, learning for future events and their global effect.

NotPetya — Tale of a Global Cyberattack

❝ It was a perfect sunny summer afternoon in Copenhagen when the world’s largest shipping conglomerate began to lose its mind…

The gift shop also houses a technology help center, a single desk manned by IT troubleshooters next to the shop’s cashier…Across the street, an IT administrator named Henrik Jensen was working in another part of the Maersk compound, an ornate white-stone building that in previous centuries had served as the royal archive of maritime maps and charts. (Henrik Jensen is not his real name.)…Jensen was busy preparing a software update for Maersk’s nearly 80,000 employees when his computer spontaneously restarted…

❝ Jensen looked up to ask if anyone else in his open-plan office of IT staffers had been so rudely interrupted. And as he craned his head, he watched every other computer screen around the room blink out in rapid succession.

“I saw a wave of screens turning black. Black, black, black. Black black black black black,” he says. The PCs, Jensen and his neighbors quickly discovered, were irreversibly locked. Restarting only returned them to the same black screen.

That was how it started. A long, complex tale of a cyberattack that was more powerful than even the originators of the attack could have predicted. A worthwhile read.