What we're talking about California Drought Feels Fine Wednesday, July 23, 2014

California Drought Feels Fine

In the past few weeks, I have had been asked the same question by reporters, friends, strangers, and even a colleague who posts regularly on this very ScienceBlogs site (the prolific and thoughtful Greg Laden): why, if the California drought is so bad, has the response been so tepid? There is no single answer to…

Last month, listening to NPR, I learned that Sacramento, California is struggling with the installation of water meters on homes. There were two things I learned, both ungood: 1) Sacramento was installing water meters on homes, meaning, that they hadn’t been there all along. I found that astounding because water meters are the first line…

On Significant Figures, Peter Gleick examines the rather relaxed attitudes of some Californians to an extreme drought fostered by two years of dry weather. Gleick writes "reservoirs are at record low levels. Deliveries of surface water to some farmers are lower than at any time in recent history. Streams are drying up and fisheries are being devastated." Yet he and millions of other residents have been able to run water from their taps freely. Agriculture might only suffer losses of 4% (about .0008% of the state's economy). Now an expectation of El Niño rains dims the prospect of another dry year, in which case "the shit is going to start to hit the fan." The state has now imposed water restrictions and fines, but many homes lack water meters. Greg Laden writes "water meters are the first line of defense in controlling water use."

Channel Surfing

Life Science

New genetic disorders pop up all the time — each one represents a child who may face incredible challenges, or even be doomed to death. A child named Bertrand exhibited some serious symptoms — profound developmental disabilities — shortly after he was born, and no one could figure out what was wrong with him. So…

This flower, over many generations, has warped the poor buff-tail sicklebilled hummingbird’s beak into that bizarre curve.

I’m suddenly seeing more to admire in the beautiful octopus.

Physical Science

In which our hangout turns nineteen; we may need to look into a special guest for the 20th, or something. Or maybe save guest stars for the one after that, when it can drink. Anyway, Rhett and I chat about grading, lab reports, why Excel sucks, and an online experiment that we really ought to…

One of the things climate change science deniers say, to throw you off, is that Antarctic sea ice is expanding. They even claim that the amount of expansion of Antarctic sea ice offsets the dramatic retreat of Arctic sea ice (see this for the latest on the Arctic). I’ve even seen it argued, in that…

As it does every summer, the Arctic Sea ice is melting off. Over the last several years, the amount of sea ice that melts by the time it hits minimum in September has generally been increasing. So, how’s it doing now? The graph above shows the 1981-2010 average plus or minus two standard deviations. Before…

Environment

I have a sad announcement to make, further to my previous posting about a missing edition of A Week of GW News. Harvey E. Taylor, aka het, died Monday, July 14, 2014 at his home in Portage la Prairie, a small town in Manitoba, Canada.  All I know of it is from one brief online obituary and one more…

There is an old theory in psychology that characterizes humans as a bowl of Jell-O (Jelly for some of you). Life pokes at the Jell-O, the Jell-O jiggles. Eventually the jiggles begin to change the Jell-O, so certain kinds of pokes result in certain kinds of responses. The Jell-O gurgles, babbles, notices things, learns, develops,…

Do you know the real price of a piece of beef? Here is a nice, round number to chew on: The environmental cost of beef is ten times that of dairy, eggs or poultry. This means that if you chose to eat a steak over an omelet, (assuming they have equal amounts of protein) the…

Humanities

It looks like a simple piece of paper and it’s nearly as cheap, ideally costing just pennies. But despite its small size, it’s poised to make an enormous impact and potentially save thousands of lives.

Thomas Piketty’s prediction that wealth inequality will grow in the future has been everywhere in the media. Piketty’s methods would help public health efforts to reduce health inequality.

Deep in a single square metre of trench D at Landsjö castle, on the inner edge of the dry moat, we found five identical coins. Boy are they ugly. They’re thin, brittle, made of a heavily debased silver alloy and struck only from one side; they bear no legend and the image at the centre…

Education

In which our hangout turns nineteen; we may need to look into a special guest for the 20th, or something. Or maybe save guest stars for the one after that, when it can drink. Anyway, Rhett and I chat about grading, lab reports, why Excel sucks, and an online experiment that we really ought to…

As noted last week, I went to SteelyKid’s day camp on Tuesday to talk about being a college professor. This was a little awkward, because I was scheduled to talk to kids ranging from not-quite-three to six-and-a-bit, and really, what do they care about the daily routine of physics faculty? So, I did a simple…

The discovery of  this non-avian dinosaur, Changyuraptor yangi, that lived 125 million years ago suggests that flight came before birds. The fossil was discovered in the Liaoning Province of northeastern China by Luis Chiappe from the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, CA. At nearly 4 feet long, it is the largest so-called 4-winged dinosaur discovered. The term “4-winged”…

Politics

This is a followup on my earlier post (see “How do you say “Surprise” in Norwegian? The word is “Entenza.” I am not making that up” also reposted here) on Matt Entenza’s bid for the DFL (Democratic Party) Primary candidacy for Minnesota State Auditor. Entenza claims he is from Greater Minnesota, and thus, would do…

I have a sad announcement to make, further to my previous posting about a missing edition of A Week of GW News. Harvey E. Taylor, aka het, died Monday, July 14, 2014 at his home in Portage la Prairie, a small town in Manitoba, Canada.  All I know of it is from one brief online obituary and one more…

There’s plenty of science and religion stuff out there, but I think talking about anything else right now would be to ignore the elephant in the room. There’s a basic moral principle that I subscribe to that goes like this: When your neighbor is relentlessly firing rockets at you in an attempt to kill as…

Medicine

It looks like a simple piece of paper and it’s nearly as cheap, ideally costing just pennies. But despite its small size, it’s poised to make an enormous impact and potentially save thousands of lives.

Only really long time readers will remember this, but back in the day (June 2005, to be exact), I discovered Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and his antivaccine nuttery when he published his epically bad piece of antivaccine conspiracy mongering, Deadly Immunity, both in Salon.com and Rolling Stone (the latter of which doubled down on it…

Some of you might remember the waves made earlier this year about ‘The Immunity Project’. They were crowdsourcing an HIV vaccine that was magical and amazing and they were totally going to give it away for free!! YAY! … Except ‘The Immunity Project’ basically had nothing to back their claims up. No publications, the investigators had…

Brain & Behavior

The discovery of  this non-avian dinosaur, Changyuraptor yangi, that lived 125 million years ago suggests that flight came before birds. The fossil was discovered in the Liaoning Province of northeastern China by Luis Chiappe from the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, CA. At nearly 4 feet long, it is the largest so-called 4-winged dinosaur discovered. The term “4-winged”…

Brandy Velten (doctoral student) and Dr. Kenneth Welch (Comparative Physiologist) from the University of Toronto wanted to know whether birds with very different speeds at which they flaps their wings (i.e. wingbeat frequencies) had correspondingly varying types of myosin proteins in their muscles. Their findings were published in the American Journal of Physiology last month.…

On April 24, 2014, an exclusive group of visionaries presented to over 4,000 students at the USA Science & Engineering Festival’s inaugural X-STEM Symposium sponsored by Northrop Grumman Foundation and MedImmune. The all day event included interactive presentations and workshops with some of the top scientists and engineers in the country. Geneticist and Physician Dr.…

Technology

It looks like a simple piece of paper and it’s nearly as cheap, ideally costing just pennies. But despite its small size, it’s poised to make an enormous impact and potentially save thousands of lives.

We are celebrating an anniversary of Apollo 11′s landing on the moon. Here, I simply post a memo from William Safire, speech writer, to H. R. Halderman, felon, providing text to be read by Richard Nixon, World’s Worst President (of the 20th century), related to that Moon Landing:

Cardboard, some velcro, a rubber band, a couple of magnets, some other stuff, and your smart phone:

Information Science

When Bethany Boggess first debuted her online mapping project, she didn’t expect it to attract so much attention. But within just six months of its launch, people from all over the world are sending in reports and helping her build a dynamic picture of the lives and deaths of workers.

Phew!! I just submitted my abstract for the Comparative Physiology meeting that will be held this October. Judging from the preliminary program, it is going to be an exciting meeting! Here is a description of the meeting from the American Physiological Society’s website: “Comparative physiology takes advantage of the diverse evolutionary histories and ecological settings…

Have you had a chance to see this video from Discovery News showing the flashy ‘disco clam’? A graduate student at UC Berkeley, Lindsey Dougherty, unraveled the mystery of this party-like effect. The clams actually have tiny silica spheres (340 nanometers in diameter) on the inside of their lips that reflect light whereas the outside of…

Jobs

When Bethany Boggess first debuted her online mapping project, she didn’t expect it to attract so much attention. But within just six months of its launch, people from all over the world are sending in reports and helping her build a dynamic picture of the lives and deaths of workers.

An OSHA news release about a cell tower inspection gave me reason to visit the White House’s Recovery.gov website.

Workers at an Alabama car seat manufacturer speak out about workplace illnesses; worker death at a Pennsylvania sugar plant could have been prevented; Los Angeles activists join fight for a living wage; and income inequality gets a laugh.