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What we're talking about Friday, July 21, 2017

Climate Change in the 'Hood

A study published in Science at the end of June should have found its way onto the front pages and screens of every community newspaper and local news program in the country. But it didn’t. At least, not around these parts. Which is a shame, because it’s precisely the kind of story we’ve been waiting…

Oh Larsen C

Stoat July 14, 2017

As sung by British Sea Power. Sou has some nice stuff, as does everyone else. Although the “news” is that the last thread of ice has broken, it’s an enormous berg so it isn’t about to float off in a hurry1, and indeed the last tiny neck was probably only a formality. What does it…

It starts with a very simple question: Is global warming real and human caused? It ends with a very simple answer: Yes to both. But in the middle we have, like every other good story, sex, intrigue, and intriguing sex. In the beginning, there was a strong theory that said, “If we add greenhouse gasses,…

On Class M, James Hrynyshyn shows us how climate change will benefit the economies of some U.S. counties while damaging many others. This mostly has to do with location; coastal areas and southern latitudes are more threatened, with Florida poised to suffer worst of all. James writes, "we’re not just talking about polar bears anymore. It’s now about jobs, wages, infrastructure, crime." Meanwhile, William M. Connolley reports Antarctica's Larsen C ice shelf is 12% smaller due to a giant iceberg splitting off and heading (presumably) toward Miami. Greg Laden says denial of global warming has shaped political discourse for decades, thanks to "deep pocketed one percenters and corporations harboring the unfortunate delusion that if we pretend climate change is not caused by the burning of fossil fuels, everything will be fine and they’ll keep getting rich." But public awareness of the problem, like sea level, continues to rise.

Channel Surfing

Life Science

Dr. Michael Tobler and Dr. Zach Culumber at Kansas State University examined 112 species of live-bearing fish (Poeciliidae) and have made some interesting discoveries about their evolution. Their analyses included information on body shape, fin size, where the species are found and information on global climate. What they discovered is that the evolution of female fish is…

The mitral valve is located between the left atrium and left ventricle of the heart where it serves an important role in preventing backflow of blood into the left atrium as the ventricle contracts. Mitral valve prolapse, a condition that occurs in humans, is characterized by regurgitation of blood into the left atrium, which receives blood from the lungs.…

Giant insects can eat tiny dinosaurs. In this case, the giant insects are praying mantis, and the dinosaurs are hummingbirds and other small birds. In some cases, maybe most cases, this involves small birds like hummingbirds being taken at nectar sites (natural or otherwise) by introduced species of praying mantis in the US. Here’s the…

Physical Science

“If I had to describe myself to an alien I’d say I was bigger than the average human, enjoy a drink or two with a good meal and have a bigger head than most. I’d also say I’m really handsome — especially if they were a female alien.” -Dwayne Johnson The Earth, to the best of our…

“Lord of Light! Come to us in our darkness. We offer you these false gods. Take them and cast your light upon us. For the night is dark and full of terrors.” -Melisandre, George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Fire and Ice Imagine a world where you know that winter is coming, but you don’t…

“We really expect the mission to be transformational. This is the capstone of the original visits to the planets. It takes us 4 billion miles away and 4 billion years back in time.” -Alan Stern When the Hubble Space Telescope discovered additional moons of Pluto, beyond Charon, it was speculated that New Horizons might find…

Environment

In what New York Magazine is calling the most-read article in the publication’s history,  David Wallace-Wells writes about what will happen if we don’t stop burning fossil fuels soon. In a nutshell: the climate “will now go to war with us for many centuries, perhaps until it destroys us.” This has made more than a few climatologists rather…

Dr. Michael Tobler and Dr. Zach Culumber at Kansas State University examined 112 species of live-bearing fish (Poeciliidae) and have made some interesting discoveries about their evolution. Their analyses included information on body shape, fin size, where the species are found and information on global climate. What they discovered is that the evolution of female fish is…

Business lobbyists in California claim proposed worker safety rules for heat illness prevention are on too fast a track. They might think differently if they set up their desk in a warehouse or laundry without air conditioning.

Humanities

It seems that my comments yesterday on the small issue of signage at Ales stenar touched a nerve regarding something bigger, having to do with the National Heritage Board’s overall societal role in relationship to archaeology and public outreach. Lars Amréus is the Board’s Director General, an archaeologist and Qaisar Mahmood’s boss. He has kindly…

Bob Lind has yet again managed to get the National Heritage Board to abdicate its responsibility at Ales Stenar, a beautiful 7th century AD burial monument near Ystad in southern Sweden. Bob has self-published odd interpretations of the site that have found no traction among professional archaeologists. He has kept vigil at Ales stenar for decades, lecturing…

Two global unions, four labor rights organizations and 23 apparel brands and retailers agreed in late June to extend the ground-breaking Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety that has led to safer working conditions for 4 million garment workers. The legally-binding agreement came about following the 2013 Rana Plaza building collapse that killed 1,138 workers in Dhaka.

Education

Dr. Michael Tobler and Dr. Zach Culumber at Kansas State University examined 112 species of live-bearing fish (Poeciliidae) and have made some interesting discoveries about their evolution. Their analyses included information on body shape, fin size, where the species are found and information on global climate. What they discovered is that the evolution of female fish is…

  Preeclampsia is a serious complication that develops in about 5-8% of pregnant women. It is characterized by elevated blood pressure and is typically accompanied by excess protein in the urine (a sign of kidney problems). Symptoms often (but not always) return to normal after delivery of the baby. Elabela is a recently discovered micropeptide secreted by the placenta in…

Humans are not the only primates that spontaneously develop hypertension. A new study published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, examined the development of spontaneous hypertension in African Green Monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops sabaeus; aka: vervets). The team measured blood pressure in 424 adult monkeys and found that 37% had…

Politics

Remember in the bad old days before the ACA, when those who bought individual plans on the private market faced unpleasant surprises – like finding at out a very inopportune time that their plans didn’t cover hospitalization or maternity care, or that they’d reached a lifetime limit? If Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has his way, we’ll be going back to those hated conditions, but with the added burden of deep Medicaid cuts and other provisions that are awful for public health.

The Constitution of Great Britain, which was famously not a thing, defined three entities of what Americans would call government, one elected by the common people, the King or Queen, and in between, the House of Lords, inherited and fancy like the Monarch, but many, and representing the wealth and power of the people. In…

In 2011, Texas legislators slashed the state’s family planning budget by 67 percent. The justification? To reduce abortions by defunding clinics associated with an abortion provider (read: Planned Parenthood). Now, it turns out Texas legislators actually accomplished the opposite: narrowing access to family planning services only led to more unplanned pregnancies and more abortions.

Medicine

The ubiquity of quackery and pseudoscience of the sort epitomized by Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop empire can be depressing if you’re a skeptic. Sometimes it feels as though it’s not worth refuting the nonsense she peddles. But it is. Just maybe not in the way you think.

A new study by Leigh Turner has found that dubious stem cell clinics are registering even more dubious “clinical trials” under ClinicalTrials.gov in which they charge patients to enroll. In this unethical practice, they are merely following the trail blazed by cancer quack Stanislaw Burzynski.

Paul Davies is a physicist turned Brave Maverick Cancer Researcher who thinks that, as an outsider, he’s had an insight to the origin of cancer. The problem is that his “insight” is 100 years old. Scientists rejected it long ago because it doesn’t fit with the evidence and produces no promising strategies to improve cancer care. Naturally, Davies cries “Big pharma!”

Brain & Behavior

Remarks about safety for cyclists at the Tour de France have a familiar ring to those about workplace safety.

Most of us have heard the phrase: Laughter is contagious. When we hear other people laughing, we often smile even if we have no idea why they are laughing. Dr. Sophie Scott from the University College of London and her colleagues played both positive sounds (like laughter) and negative sounds (like retching or screaming) to subjects and…

While lavender aromatherapy has been documented to reduce stress in humans, little is known about its potential for reducing stress in veterinary medicine. Horses can develop elevated heart rates and stress hormone levels when they are confined to horse trailers and transported to new competition venues. Therapies to reduce stress in competition horses are regulated…

Technology

First, a word about Arduino and why you should care. An Arduino is what is called a “prototyping micro-controller” aka “really fun electronic gizmo toy.” Micro-controllers are everywhere. When you “turn on” a machine in your house, chances are there was already a micro-controller sitting there, running on a minute bit of juice from a…

I got an Amazon Echo Dot for my birthday. This allows me to command a computer, using voice, to do things. The voice response on the echo is amazing. It does not get much wrong, and you can speak in a fairly normal voice from another room and the mysterious entity that apparently lives inside…

Anyone asked to identify the two biggest forces for change in the world today could do worse than choose artificial intelligence and climate change. Both are products of technology whose effects are only beginning to be felt, and the ultimate consequences of both will almost certainly be transformative in every sense of the word. Other than that, there…

Information Science

At the moment, all these are anywhere from free to two bucks. The Darwin books are always cheap, the others are probably temporarily cheap. If you’ve not read The Autobiography of Charles Darwin, you should. It is always avaialable for next to nothing on the kindle, currently this version is 99 cents. Concerning his autobiography–written…

I’m avoiding books that are recent so you can get a deal on price, and to bring books from the past that you didn’t read but should have back into focus. Each of these, I’ve either read (most of them) or have a recommendation from top notch sources. You should be able to finish then…

Today is the 20th anniversary of the beginning of the Harry Potter phenomenon.Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published on this day in 1997, and Harry Potter And The Chamber Of Secrets, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Harry Potter And The Goblet Of Fire, Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix,…

Jobs

Business lobbyists in California claim proposed worker safety rules for heat illness prevention are on too fast a track. They might think differently if they set up their desk in a warehouse or laundry without air conditioning.

Two global unions, four labor rights organizations and 23 apparel brands and retailers agreed in late June to extend the ground-breaking Bangladesh Accord on Fire and Building Safety that has led to safer working conditions for 4 million garment workers. The legally-binding agreement came about following the 2013 Rana Plaza building collapse that killed 1,138 workers in Dhaka.

Remarks about safety for cyclists at the Tour de France have a familiar ring to those about workplace safety.