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What we're talking about Saturday, April 30, 2016

Severe Droughts on the Blue Marble

Populations around the world face many severe water challenges, from scarcity to contamination, from political or violent conflict to economic disruption. As populations and economies grow, peak water pressures on existing renewable water resources also tend to grow up to the point that natural scarcity begins to constrain the options of water planners and managers.…

“We are not learning to view ourselves as an advanced, evolving civilization. That is what we really must learn to do, in due course, if we were to survive. All of that will take place, in due course, and we will be able to explore solar system. We will be able to go beyond it,…

On Significant Figures, Peter Gleick explains that growing populations worldwide have exerted peak pressures on water supplies, leaving entire regions more vulnerable to natural variations in rainfall. In turn, global warming has made these natural variations more extreme. One such variation is El Niño, when "droughts are typically more widespread and severe." Dr. Gleick reports on the challenges faced around the world in 2016, as several historic droughts grow worse. Meanwhile, in honor of Earth Day, Ethan Siegel suggests we count our blessings: "there’s still no planet as friendly to life or hospitable to humans as Earth. It’s the fact that we went beyond the Earth and discovered the Universe that’s allowed us to appreciate just how rare, precious and special our home world is."

Channel Surfing

Life Science

Silent Sparks: The Wondrous World of Fireflies is about fireflies. How do they light up? Why do they light up? It is axiomatic in nature that flashy displays are related to mating. Among the flashy displays various animals have come up with, a few actually flash, and among those, the flashing of the firefly is…

Physical Science

“Nobody grows old merely by living a number of years. We grow old by deserting our ideals. Years may wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.” -Samuel Ullman When it comes to the Universe, there are some dead giveaways as to what its age is. Its elemental composition changes, the types…

“The fact that gravitational damping is measured at all is a strong indication that the propagation speed of gravity is not infinite.  If the calculational framework of general relativity is accepted, the damping can be used to calculate the speed, and the actual measurement confirms that the speed of gravity is equal to the speed…

“This event marks the culmination of many years of hard work on behalf of all involved.” -Jane Bachynski If you want to take an ideal image of the Universe, you need to not only minimize your light pollution, cloud cover and build the largest-aperture telescope you can, you also need to take away as much…

Environment

DuPont’s Board of Directors were challenged by shareholders to address the firm’s defective worker safety program.

This is a guest posts by Claire Cohen Cortright. Claire Cohen Cortright is a mother, climate activist, and biology teacher living in upstate New York. She is an active member of Citizens Climate Lobby and moderator at Global Warming Fact of the Day. ______________________________________________ It is time, now, for climate activists to get vocal. As…

Research makes it increasingly clear that along with drilling for oil and mining coal, extracting natural gas from deep underground causes serious damage to the environment and to public health. On The Pump Handle, Kim Krisberg examines the contamination that may result from dumping fracking wastewater into disposal wells, writing “about 1,000 different chemicals are…

Humanities

CDC investigates diacetyl exposure in coffee production facilities; Supreme Court rules in favor of workers’ First Amendment rights; Latino workers still face the greatest fatality risks at work; and a job-seeking experiment finds women bear the brunt of age discrimination in the job market.

Over the span of the Festival weekend (April 15-17), 365,000 people attended the FREE USA Science & Engineering Festival!  Our mission is to stimulate and sustain the interest of our nation’s youth in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by producing and presenting the most compelling, exciting, and educational Festival in the world. Once again, the…

Reading over the list of 2016 Pulitzer Prize winners makes clear just how essential journalism’s watchdog role is to public health. In 2015, news organizations devoted considerable resources to researching, reporting, and commenting on slave labor in international seafood supply chains; funding cuts resulting in dangerous conditions in Florida mental hospitals; and failures in justice systems across the country.

Education

Over the span of the Festival weekend (April 15-17), 365,000 people attended the FREE USA Science & Engineering Festival!  Our mission is to stimulate and sustain the interest of our nation’s youth in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) by producing and presenting the most compelling, exciting, and educational Festival in the world. Once again, the…

When President Obama signed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act in 2010, he also ushered in the first major nutrition changes in the school meal program in 15 years. Perhaps, not surprisingly, the changes received a good bit of pushback, with many arguing that healthier foods would mean fewer kids buying school lunches and big revenue losses for schools. But a new study shows otherwise.

I am very excited to report this year’s awardees from the Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology Section (CEPS) of the American Physiological Society! The New Investigator Award is given to a young investigator who has made contributed significantly to the field of comparative and evolutionary physiology. This year’s awardee is Casey Mueller from California State University, San…

Politics

This is a guest posts by Claire Cohen Cortright. Claire Cohen Cortright is a mother, climate activist, and biology teacher living in upstate New York. She is an active member of Citizens Climate Lobby and moderator at Global Warming Fact of the Day. ______________________________________________ It is time, now, for climate activists to get vocal. As…

Voting is not party involvement. We hear a lot of talk these days about “voters” being repressed in their attempt to be involved in the Democratic primary process. There may be something to that, and it might be nice to make it easier for people to wake up on some (usually) Tuesday morning and go…

CDC investigates diacetyl exposure in coffee production facilities; Supreme Court rules in favor of workers’ First Amendment rights; Latino workers still face the greatest fatality risks at work; and a job-seeking experiment finds women bear the brunt of age discrimination in the job market.

Medicine

I hate these stories, because they so seldom end well. Unfortunately, this one is more messy than even the usual messiness of the typical story of this type. The type of story I’m referring to, of course, is one that I’ve told from time to time ever since near the first year of this blog’s…

About a month and a half ago, I became aware of the case of Ezekiel Stephan, a 19-month-old Canadian toddler living in Alberta who in 2012 developed bacterial meningitis. Unfortunately for Ezekiel, his parents, David and Collet Stephan, were believers in alternative medicine. They didn’t take Ezekiel to a real doctor. Instead, they relied on…

There is a disturbance in the antivaccine Force. I can sense it. Actually, it doesn’t take any special talent to detect this. You don’t have to be some sort of pro-science Jedi. The evidence is everywhere. The most prominent examples of posts in the antivaccine crankosphere that tipped me off are on—of course!—the antivaccine propaganda…

Brain & Behavior

Today was the final day of the meeting. Dr. Joe Thompson (Franklin and Marshall College) spoke about oblique striated muscles, which get their name from the diagonal pattern formed by the location of the Z-lines. This type of muscle is common among cephalopods, nematodes, tunicates, molluscs, etc. Dr. John Whiteman (University of Wyoming) gave a…

This year’s August Krogh Distinguished lecture, the highest award given to an accomplished Comparative Physiologist from the Comparative and Evolutionary Physiology section of the American Physiological Society was awarded to Dr. Jon Harrison, Arizona State University. Dr. Harrison gave an outstanding seminar in which he reviewed some of his major research discoveries. His work has…

Still going strong…here are the highlights from several sessions held on Day 4: John Eme (California State University, San Marcos) presented data testing the effects of varying temperatures mimicking overwintering conditions on embryonic development of Lake whitefish. He found that indeed exposure to variable incubation temperatures between 2-8 deg C resulted in increased mortality. Moreover, the embryos hatched…

Technology

Today was the final day of the meeting. Dr. Joe Thompson (Franklin and Marshall College) spoke about oblique striated muscles, which get their name from the diagonal pattern formed by the location of the Z-lines. This type of muscle is common among cephalopods, nematodes, tunicates, molluscs, etc. Dr. John Whiteman (University of Wyoming) gave a…

I just got my new Semogue 1305 Superior Boar Bristle Shaving Brush. It is the one on the left. I like it. I prefer boar because I don’t want to kill badgers and because the bristles are stiff and it basically works better. I got the old one decades ago, and it was decades old…

For the chess fans, the big candidates tournament begins in Moscow tomorrow. Eight of the top players in the world will be competing for the chance to face Magnus Carlsen in a match for the title. As it happens, the US has two representatives: Fabiano Caruana and Hikaru Nakamura. Going strictly by ratings, they are…

Information Science

And by blame, I mean “blame.” Yesterday the flagship journal of the AAAS, Science, published a series of feature and editorial articles on Sci-Hub, the unauthorized article sharing site. Who’s downloading pirated papers? Everyone The frustrated science student behind Sci-Hub My love-hate of Sci-Hub It’s a Sci-Hub world data set Overall, the articles are pretty…

The math the planet relies on isn’t adding up right now Reframing The Economics Debate Could Lead To More Action To Fight Climate Change Abandon hype in climate models The Future Role of Economics in the IPCC Climate change will wipe $2.5tn off global financial assets: study The Unsexy Climate Solution That’s a Total No-Brainer…

DN Lee used to be a mere human, a biologist and a great person, but still, just a human. But now she is a book! Urban Biologist Danielle Lee (Stem Trailblazer Bios) is part of a series exploring, well, STEM trailblazers. You Probably know of DN Lee from her famous blog now at Scientific American…

Jobs

DuPont’s Board of Directors were challenged by shareholders to address the firm’s defective worker safety program.

CDC investigates diacetyl exposure in coffee production facilities; Supreme Court rules in favor of workers’ First Amendment rights; Latino workers still face the greatest fatality risks at work; and a job-seeking experiment finds women bear the brunt of age discrimination in the job market.

The fatal work-related injuries that killed Tim Cooper, 49, could have been prevented had his employer followed worker safety regulations.