What we're talking about California Drought Feels Fine Monday, July 28, 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 buoys the grim prospect of another dry year, in which case "the shit is going to start to hit the fan." The state government recently 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

“Ignorance is hardly unusual, Miss Davar. The longer I live, the more I come to realize that it is the natural state of the human mind. There are many who will strive to defend its sanctity and then expect you to be impressed with their efforts.” -Brandon Sanderson At the risk of inflaming everyone who…

  Toxoplasma gondii is a parasite found in cat poop that can make both people and cats ill. It can infect any warm-blooded animal, including reportedly 60 million Americans. People infected with T. gondii typically have flu-like symptoms. Dr. David J Bzik in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology at Dartmouth recently said, “We know biologically…

Science and its interpretation is wonderful. Today I saw a post on Twitter from @LAbizar, referencing an @GEN, post that stated 8.2% of Human DNA is Functional with a link to a GEN article: “Surprise: Only 8.2% of Human DNA Is Functional.” The GEN writeup cited a PLoS Genetics article, “8.2% of the Human Genome Is Constrained: Variation in Rates of…

Physical Science

“General Kenobi. Years ago you served my father in the Clone Wars. Now he begs you to help him in his struggle against the Empire. I regret that I am unable to convey my father’s request to you in person, but my ship has fallen under attack, and I’m afraid my mission to bring you…

“As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality.” -Albert Einstein It’s been a fabulous, fun-filled week over at the main Starts With A Bang blog, and we’ve taken on a variety of topics that range from the small…

“Ignorance is hardly unusual, Miss Davar. The longer I live, the more I come to realize that it is the natural state of the human mind. There are many who will strive to defend its sanctity and then expect you to be impressed with their efforts.” -Brandon Sanderson At the risk of inflaming everyone who…

Environment

No happy ending for us tonight alas. We had a good start, and not one but two whistles on Tabs into Grassy, and all of that was the plan, but we lacked the oomph to close down the last half length plus the overlap. Which was the bit that wasn’t under our control. We also…

The original hoser, I’m told by an unimpeachable source from way up in Canada, was the guy who went out to his front yard in the middle of the winter and hosed down the lawn in order to make some flat ice, so he and his friends could play hockey. A better way to get…

One reporter’s tale of hoops and roadblocks trying to get an interview with an EPA official.

Humanities

Lance Mannion has a really nice contrast between childhood now and back in the 1970′s that doesn’t go in the usual decline-of-society direction. He grew up not too far from where I now live, and after describing his free-ranging youth, points out some of the key factors distinguishing it from today, that need to be…

Nearly two years ago, American schoolchildren began sitting down to healthier school lunches, thanks to new federal nutrition guidelines. Media reports of the nutrition upgrade weren’t terribly encouraging, with stories of unhappy kids, unhappy parents and politicians who think addressing childhood obesity is an example of the “nanny state.” However, recent research has found what most parents probably already know: Kids are pretty adaptable — they just need some time.

I should really know better than to click any tweeted link with a huff.to shortened URL, but for some reason, I actually followed one to an article with the limited-reach clickbait title Curious About Quantum Physics? Read These 10 Articles!. Which is only part one, because Huffington Post, so it’s actually five articles. Three of…

Education

I should really know better than to click any tweeted link with a huff.to shortened URL, but for some reason, I actually followed one to an article with the limited-reach clickbait title Curious About Quantum Physics? Read These 10 Articles!. Which is only part one, because Huffington Post, so it’s actually five articles. Three of…

From the current issue of The New York Times Magazine: One of the most vivid arithmetic failings displayed by Americans occurred in the early 1980s, when the A&W restaurant chain released a new hamburger to rival the McDonald’s Quarter Pounder. With a third-pound of beef, the A&W burger had more meat than the Quarter Pounder;…

Like Aesop’s fable, rats have another reason to be envious of elephants. Elephants also have significantly more genes that can detect different smells (i.e. olfactory receptor genes) than other super-sniffers like rats and dogs. In fact, compared to 13 other species, African elephants have 1,948 genes related to smell putting them ahead of the previous…

Politics

Lance Mannion has a really nice contrast between childhood now and back in the 1970′s that doesn’t go in the usual decline-of-society direction. He grew up not too far from where I now live, and after describing his free-ranging youth, points out some of the key factors distinguishing it from today, that need to be…

Nearly two years ago, American schoolchildren began sitting down to healthier school lunches, thanks to new federal nutrition guidelines. Media reports of the nutrition upgrade weren’t terribly encouraging, with stories of unhappy kids, unhappy parents and politicians who think addressing childhood obesity is an example of the “nanny state.” However, recent research has found what most parents probably already know: Kids are pretty adaptable — they just need some time.

The 2000 election was probably won by Al Gore. But George Bush was put into office anyway. Imagine what this world would be like had Gore been ensconced in the white house? The Tea Party would probably have emerged sooner and madder, but less organized; global climate change would have become a widely accepted issue…

Medicine

There is an Ebola Outbreak currently underway in several West African countries, mainly Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea. This is the most extreme known Ebola outbreak to date. The first known outbreak of this virus was in 1976, and there have been several instances since then ranging from single cases (which by definition are not…

Nearly two years ago, American schoolchildren began sitting down to healthier school lunches, thanks to new federal nutrition guidelines. Media reports of the nutrition upgrade weren’t terribly encouraging, with stories of unhappy kids, unhappy parents and politicians who think addressing childhood obesity is an example of the “nanny state.” However, recent research has found what most parents probably already know: Kids are pretty adaptable — they just need some time.

I came so close. Yes, when I read the latest target subject of this piece of Insolence to be bestowed upon you today, I came so close to resurrecting a certain undead Fuhrer who used to roam this blog on a regular basis chomping brains and inspiring horrible Nazi analogies. Indeed, it’s been at least…

Brain & Behavior

Like Aesop’s fable, rats have another reason to be envious of elephants. Elephants also have significantly more genes that can detect different smells (i.e. olfactory receptor genes) than other super-sniffers like rats and dogs. In fact, compared to 13 other species, African elephants have 1,948 genes related to smell putting them ahead of the previous…

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.…

Technology

Like Aesop’s fable, rats have another reason to be envious of elephants. Elephants also have significantly more genes that can detect different smells (i.e. olfactory receptor genes) than other super-sniffers like rats and dogs. In fact, compared to 13 other species, African elephants have 1,948 genes related to smell putting them ahead of the previous…

If the IT resources exist to simulate 90 billion neurons and 100 trillion connections between them, mediated by dozens of different neurotransmitters and organized into highly specialized networks, there’s still no reason to expect intelligence to emerge or a ghost to glom on to the machine.

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.

Information Science

I have some theories about both children’s books and about science-themed graphic works. There are basically two kinds of children’s books: those that are designed to please children versus those that are designed to attract the adults that buy most children’s books. There are also basically two kinds of science-themed graphic works: those that are…

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…

Jobs

This week’s snapshot of just one work-related fatality. This one occurred on July 21 at a construction site in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

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.