Thursday, December 25, 2014

Unexpected Life Found In The Ocean's Deepest Trench

The Mariana Trench cuts a 1,500-mile incision in the bottom of the Pacific Ocean near the island of Guam. That's where an international team of scientists has just spent over a month sending probes down to the deepest place on Earth.
The scientists were stunned by the amount of life they found there, including a fish species inhabiting the deepest depths.
The bottom of the trench lies 7 miles below the ocean's surface. It's a place of perpetual darkness and freezing cold. To explore it, scientists aboard the research vessel Falkor dropped "landers" over the side. Each one is about the size of a large refrigerator and bristles with instruments and cameras.
The landers use thick glass spheres full of air to provide buoyancy that controls their up and down movement. The spheres have to withstand pressures that would crush a human like a tin can.
"If they crack, they implode in a microsecond," says biologist Jeff Drazen of the University of Hawaii, who is a senior scientist on the team. "And that sets off a shock wave like a stick of dynamite going off."
And that's just what happened to one lander. The sphere's implosion was recorded by its microphone, and in those cold depths, the sound kept echoing along the trench. But the lander itself survived, as did all but one of the others.
Once on the bottom, they waited and watched. And they got some big surprises. "We saw the deepest living fish ever recorded," says Drazen. "Definitely something new. We took one look at the thing and were amazed — big wide wing-like fins, this eel-like tail and this scalloped face. It was very unique." They nicknamed it the "ghost fish" for its almost translucent skin. It appears to be a new species of snailfish — living 5 miles below the surface.
The landers also carried baited traps that drew fish to be videotaped. What the fish didn't eat was consumed by hordes of shrimp-like amphipods. Other traps actually caught animals, including another new species of snailfish. Several were brought back up to the ship, though they didn't survive the decompression.
The reason the fish can withstand pressure that's thousands of times that at the surface is because of a special chemical in their bodies. Called trimethylamine oxide, it keeps the cell walls of the fish and amphipods flexible instead of being crushed or infiltrated with salt water.
The scientists also wanted to know what lives in the sediment at the bottom. The sediment is made of decomposed ocean life that constantly drifts down from above like snow. The landers dug into the sediment and measured the respiration rate of microbes in it. Drazen says the results were astonishing. "The rates were really high; it was incredible. It was really cooking."
All in all, the trench turned out to be a biological hot spot. Paul Yancey is a team biologist from Whitman College. "It's looking like there's a lot more life down there than we thought," he says. "You know, this is so far from sunlight that people thought there wouldn't be a lot of life down there, but there is."
Yancey says one reason appears to be the fact that the trench is truly the bottom of the planet. Things end up there the way they do at the bottom of a purse. "It's looking like these trenches might act like funnels to collect stuff from all over the oceans that is sinking down."
The stuff that rains down to the sea floor sustains life on the bottom — if those creatures can adapt to the hostile conditions. Yancey says that's what biologists live for — the chance to find crazy new kinds of life. "I think the big picture is that there's so much about the planet we don't know yet," he says. "I mean, literally, we have better maps of the Moon and even Mars than we do of most of the deep sea."
Scientists will be back at the trench. The Schmidt Ocean Institute, which owns and operates the team's research vessel, is building a remotely operated vehicle that will be able to travel along the bottom. Then the scientists won't have to wait for deep-sea dwellers to come to them. npr

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

A Very Native American Christmas

A Native American family gathers around a Christmas tree in Montana, ca. 1900-1920.With the spread of Christianity among some Native Americans in the early 20th century came certain Christmas rituals — trees and presents and jolly old Santa Claus — that were folded into traditional wintertime celebrations.According to a 1909 account in the Tombstone Epitaph, members of the Gila River Indian Community — living on reservations in Arizona — were introduced to imported-from-Europe Christmas customs, such as St. Nicholas and Christmas trees. "It was the first time the Indians had ever seen the good old saint and they were highly amused and pleased."The Yale Expositor of St. Clair County, Mich., reported on December 18, 1913 that for certain Sioux dwelling in South Dakota, Christmas and its accoutrements came through government-run schools. In each village, the Sioux collected funds for a feast. One member dressed up as Kris Kringle and made speeches and handed out presents. Native American children, the newspaper noted, "were quick to show interest in the Christmas tree."In a round-the-nation story, The Winchester News from Winchester Ky., on Dec 31, 1910, wrote that the Christmas tree "brought to their notice by the palefaces, caught their fancy and today ...forms the center of nearly all the Indian Christmas celebrations."Some Native Americans put a special spin on Christmas, incorporating traditions and tales that dated back ages. The Salish passed down a Christmas story of a "great and good man who came among their forefathers and performed miracles of all kinds, and on leaving them said he would return in the form of a large white coyote," the 1910Winchester News noted. "They say he has appeared at different times, but has not been seen now for more than 150 years."In San Felipe Pueblo, N.M., the 1913Expositor account pointed out, the holiday celebration among Native Americans living there was "a curious mixture of Christian and pagan customs."Members went to the old mission church in the morning, held a feast at midday and then began "a fantastic and ceremonial dance that continues for half a week."Christmas is still celebrated at some of the Pueblos in many of the same ways.Today, explains Deborah A. Jojola, Curator of Exhibitions at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque – which represents the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico — "most of the Pueblo Nations within New Mexico have seasonal cycles for ceremonies and celebrations."Many Pueblo communities celebrate the harvest, she says. And the day of the patron saint of the church and the village that "blends both native and Catholic expressions with a single purpose — the welfare of the people."But through the decades, Christmas – which also combines old familiar folkways with Catholicism — has taken on added significance. On Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, she says, many of the Pueblos host special masses and dances.The Jemez Pueblo, for example, celebrates with Buffalo Dances on Christmas Eve and early morning on Christmas Day. The Buffalo Dancers – featuring two men and one woman — make their way down from the nearby mesas into the Pueblo "bringing the Spirit of Prayer, Song and Dance," Deborah says. The woman "is said to represent Our Mother of all living things, She is young, beautiful and full of strength. She holds the utmost honor during the four day celebration."In Isleta Pueblo, Deborah says, there is a winter dance held in the St. Augustine Church after the Christmas Eve mass. Many of the festivities are for all ages. "In virtually all ceremonies," Deborah says, "Pueblo children are integral participants. Indian parents rarely, if ever, need a babysitter for traditional ceremonial preparations or actual events."The Christmastime dancing is led by elders, but at some point – on the fourth day of the celebration — young children are invited to dance. For many, she says, "this is their first welcome celebration." npr

regions of russia

remane's species-minimum concept; salinity v species

Japanese Artist Indicted For 'Vagina Kayak'

Provocative Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi, who has been arrested twice this year on charges related to her design for a kayak that incorporates a 3-D model of her genitals, has been indicted on charges that she distributed "obscene" data.
The case has attracted wide attention, both for its unique circumstances and for its depiction of how Japan's pornography laws interact with cutting-edge technology and images of the female body.
"Obscenity laws ban pictures of actual genitalia, which normally are obscured in pornography," Japan Times notes today. "If convicted, Igarashi could face up to two years behind bars and a fine of [$20,755]."
Her lawyers say Igarashi will plead not guilty to the charges. She was arrested in early December over what police called her distribution of "obscene" data — computer code that would let other people use a 3-D printer to make their own copy of a kayak that's based on her vagina.
Igarashi, 42, is also known by the name of Rokudenashiko, Japanese slang that is often translated as "reprobate child." She had reportedly offered to send the kayak data to the biggest donors to a crowdfunding campaign that supported her project to build the boat.
An arrest on similar charges in July resulted in Igarashi being released. At the time, she said, "I don't believe my vagina is anything obscene," according to theJapan Times. "I was determined I would never yield to police power."
Igarashi drew headlines last year when she rowed her kayak across a Tokyo river, a trip that was meant "to confront the county's taboos regarding the female form," as The Washington Post reported.
Other than the now-famous kayak, Igarashi makes cartoon-like figurines. As she says in her Twitter bio, her vagina is the "primary motif" of her work. She also tried highlights what her supporters call flaws in Japanese laws.
After her July arrest, Igarashi was released from jail after an online petition drew more than 21,000 signatures.
"Supporters felt that the Japanese laws, which came down too hard on women, while allowing men to celebrate an annual 'penis festival,' should be reconsidered," the website reported.
That festival is the Kahamara Matsuri, an event held at a shrine in Kawasaki; the event's name is often translated as the "Festival of the Steel Phallus," which includes a parade that features models and sculptures of male genitalia. npr

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Monkey Doctor saves friend's life after high voltage shock

Floating Toilets That Clean Themselves Grow On A Lake

magine you live on a floating lake house. Open air. Chirping crickets. Clear, starry nights. Everything seems great until you need to use the bathroom.
The natural instinct might be to make a deposit in the water. But that wouldn't be safe. Microbes in your feces would contaminate the water and could cause outbreaks of deadly diseases, like cholera.
A group of engineers in Cambodia wants to solve that problem for the floating villages ofTonle Sap Lake, the largest freshwater lake in Southeast Asia. Over a million people live on or around it. Exposure to wastewater spawns diarrhea outbreaks each year. In Cambodia, diarrheal diseases cause 1 in 5 deaths of children under age 5.
To help clean the lake's water, engineers at the company Wetlands Work! in Phnom Penh are developing plant-based purifiers, called Handy Pods. The pods are essentially little kayaks filled with plants. They float under the latrine of a river house and decontaminate the water that flows out. npr

A pod to pick up your poo: The Handy Pod features floating hyacinth plants placed underneath a houseboat's latrine. The blue tarp offers privacy.

FDA Proposes End To Lifetime Ban On Gay Blood Donors

Men who haven't had sexual contact with other men in a year will be allowed to donate blood under a policy change the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday it will recommend.
In a statement, the agency said it had "carefully examined and considered the available scientific evidence" and will "take the necessary steps to recommend a change to the blood donor deferral period for men who have sex with men from indefinite deferral to one year since the last sexual contact."
A draft guidance recommending the proposed change will be issued in 2015, the agency said. There will also be a period of public comment.
A ban on gay and bisexual blood donors has been in effect since the early 1980s when fears about HIV/AIDS were widespread. npr

Monday, December 22, 2014

suicide protests in japan

On the evening of November 11, 2014, a man set himself on fire at Hibiya Park in Tokyo, an area where government buildings are concentrated. The act was a protest against both the “July 1 Cabinet Decision,” which paved the way to lifting the constitutional ban onJapan’s exercise of its right to collective self-defense, and the new US military facility construction at Henoko and Takae in Okinawa.

Just four and a half months earlier, in Shinjuku, a major Tokyo commercial and entertainment district, another man from Saitama, north of Tokyo set himself afire in the middle of a busy shopping street, barely escaping death. His name has not been reported but Asahi Shimbun’s follow-up article two month later describes him as a previously homeless man in his sixties now living on welfare. This self-immolation occurred on June 29, in the midst of a national debate over re-interpretation of Article 9 of the constitution that would allow Self Defense Forces to fight wars outside Japan in support of its allies, namely the United States. His act was witnessed by hundreds, many of whom photographed it and posted on social media sites. 

In contrast to the international media that acted quickly, the major Japanese media followed slowly, with the exception of NHK, which blacked out the incident at a time when the Abe administration was bent on eliminating the constitutional restriction on Japan’s overseas military action. The incident took most observers by surprise, as self-immolation as an act of political expression is, as Temple University Japan’s Jeff Kingston writes, “a last-resort demonstration of defiance normally confined to despotic states.”

The Japanese media response to the November 11 event was swifter than it was to the earlier self-immolation. The story was covered by NHKAsahiYomiuriMainichi, and Jiji, but their reports were uniformly based on the information provided by the police – the man was seen on fire at around 6:55 PM, November 11 in Hibiya Park, and he died shortly after being taken to a hospital; he had a camera set up to film the event and left a note addressed to Prime Minister Abe and the two parliamentary leaders, demanding nullification of the July 1 Cabinet Decision and the Henoko/Takae construction.

Most Japanese newspapers ran a small story buried inside the paper. Internationally, BBCTelegraphDaily MailIndependent and RTwere among those that provided coverage, but interestingly there did not seem to be any US mainstream media coverage of the second incident, in contrast to the June self-immolation when the New York Times and CNN were among those that quickly reacted. Whether this had anything to do with the fact that the second suicide protested not just the Japanese government’s policy but also the construction of new US military facilities in Okinawa is unknown. But many of those that did report the November 11 self-immolation only mentioned opposition to constitutional revisions as the motive, making no mention of the US military base issue.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A Snail So Hardcore It's Named After A Punk Rocker

Shannon Johnson, a researcher at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, found that when she talked to youngsters about sea snails, she communicated a little more effectively if she skipped the technical description and called them "punk-rock snails."

"Their entire shells are covered in spikes," Johnson explains. "And then the spikes are actually all covered in fuzzy white bacteria."
These punk rock snails live thousands of feet underwater, crowded around the mouths of chimneys of hydrothermal vents — the kind of place that might survive the apocalyptic "nuclear error" in the Clash album London Calling.
"They live in hot, acidic poison, basically, so they're pretty hardcore," she says.
Since Johnson had such success in calling the spiky, acid-loving mollusks punk-rock snails, she and her colleagues decided to name them Alviniconcha strummeri, after the late Joe Strummer, frontman for the Clash.
"Not only was a he a punk-rock icon — he's kind of one of the originators of the punk movement — but he also was kind of an environmentalist," she says. "He started a foundation that was planting trees all over the world. He's a neat guy."
Strummer is not the only big name with his own namesake animal. A wooly lemur from Madagascar is named after John Cleese — the Avahi cleesei. A frog in the Amazon that makes a shrill, bat-like call is named after Ozzy Osbourne.
The Ramones each have their own trilobite, and there's a parasitic wasp named after Shakira. The scientists who discovered the wasp say it causes the caterpillar it inhabits to wriggle and writhe, which reminds them of Shakira's energetic dancing.  npr

Thursday, December 18, 2014

cornhole board dimensions

kitchen cheat sheet

how much to serve at a party

how to cook grains

types of knives

chobani exchange

cray falls, the yorkshire dales, england

japan's butter shortage and climate change

The traditional Japanese Christmas dish is served with strawberries and cream, and it is rich, thanks to lots and lots of butter. But the Japanese have been using even more butter for their Christmas cakes this year, exacerbating what was already a national butter shortage.

Elaine Kurtenbach, a reporter for the Associated Press in Tokyo, says climate change and an aging farming industry have led to the butter crisis. (Here's her Thursday story for the AP.)

"The weather up in Hokkaido, which is the main dairy region in Japan, is getting very hot in the summer and extremely cold in the winter, so the cows are stressed, and they don't produce enough milk," Kurtenbach tells NPR's Audie Cornish on All Things Considered. "And on top of that, the average age of farmers is about 70 now, and not many young people want to do the work." npr

Arctic Is Warming Twice As Fast As Anyplace Else On Earth

The latest word from scientists studying the Arctic is that the polar region is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. And researchers say the trend isn't letting up. That's the latest from the 2014 Arctic Report Card — a compilation of recent research from more than 60 scientists in 13 countries. The report was released Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Jackie Richter-Menge, a polar scientist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who collaborated with NOAA on the analysis, says the findings demonstrate the "power of persistence" in the Arctic — "persistence in the warming air temperatures and the impact that is having on this icy environment."

In fact, she points out, "It's warming in the Arctic faster than anywhere on the globe."

That's largely because of arctic amplification. Here's how it works: Normally, snow and ice cool the surface by reflecting a lot of the sun's energy back up into the atmosphere. But warming air temperatures melt snow and ice. "And when they melt," says Richter-Menge, "they expose darker regions." npr

Darker regions, once covered in snow and ice, now absorb more heat, like a dark shirt does on a hot, sunny day. The same thing happens when sea ice melts – the exposed water is darker and warms up.

So what happens as a result of this amplification? Well, warmer water affects what lives in it. Apparently, plankton like the warmer conditons; they're thriving. Scientists say they don't know whether that's good or bad for the rest of us. But unlike plankton, polar bears don't like the warmer water and having less sea ice around.

"There's a strong connection between what's going on with the sea and polar bears," says Richter-Menge. In regions where the sea ice is holding steady, bears are doing OK, according to the report card. Where the ice is gone, bear numbers are down.

Then there's Greenland. The giant land mass is covered in ice that's a mile thick. Geophysicist Beata Csatho at the University of Buffalo has just completed the most comprehensive satellite survey of that ice cover.

"There are some places," she says, "where in the last 20 years the ice surface is just lowering, lowering, lowering very uniformly."

Csatho, whose research appears separately in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences this week, says she's noticed something else about Greenland's blanket of ice: Because the ice melts from the top down, the surface elevation gets lower over time. And at lower elevations, the air generally is warmer.

"As Greenland is losing ice, it gets more and more irreversible," Csatho explains, "because you get the ice into lower and lower elevations."

The research shows some exceptions to the warming trend — places where ice is building back up or temperatures are cooling. But overall, warming is winning in the Arctic.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

how to pick an awesome board game

madden julian oscillation

The Madden–Julian oscillation (MJO) is the largest element of the intraseasonal (30–90 day) variability in the tropical atmosphere, and was discovered by Roland Madden and Paul Julian of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in 1971. It is a large-scale coupling between atmospheric circulation and tropical deep convection.[1][2] Rather than being a standing pattern like the El NiƱo–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), the MJO is a traveling pattern that propagates eastward at approximately 4 to 8 m/s (9 to 18 mph), through the atmosphere above the warm parts of the Indian and Pacific oceans. This overall circulation pattern manifests itself in various ways, most clearly as anomalous rainfall. (Again, the comparison with ENSO is instructive, since their local effects on Peruvian fisheries were discovered long before the global structure of the pattern was recognized.)[not verified in body]

The MJO is characterized by an eastward progression of large regions of both enhanced and suppressed tropical rainfall, observed mainly over the Indian and Pacific Ocean. The anomalous rainfall is usually first evident over the western Indian Ocean, and remains evident as it propagates over the very warm ocean waters of the western and central tropical Pacific. This pattern of tropical rainfall then generally becomes nondescript as it moves over the cooler ocean waters of the eastern Pacific (except over the region of warmer water off the west coast of Central America) but occasionally reappears at low amplitude over the tropical Atlantic and higher amplitude over the Indian Ocean. The wet phase of enhanced convection and precipitation is followed by a dry phase where thunderstorm activity is suppressed. Each cycle lasts approximately 30–60 days. Because of this pattern, The MJO is also known as the 30–60 day oscillation, 30–60 day wave, or intraseasonal oscillation. wiki

guilty pleasure at christmas time

the world's most ancient trees – in pictures by beth moon

Off to Market, Madagascar, 2006

King’s Canyon Sequoias, USA, 2006

Rilke’s Bayon, Cambodia, 2007

Heart of the Dragon, Yemen, 2010

The Ifaty Teapot, Madagascar, 2006

Richard Estes

Double Self-Portrait, 1976, oil on canvas

Jone's Diner, 1979, oil on canvas

Monday, December 15, 2014

Invisible Children, The Organization Behind 'Kony 2012', Set To Close Its Doors In 2015

Invisible Children, the organization that made the viral video Kony 2012, will likely cease to exist at some point in 2015, the nonprofit's leadership says.

It's been just two years since Invisible Children — once a tiny, little-known San Diego nonprofit — made Kony 2012, which highlighted the atrocities of Central African warlord Joseph Kony. The video attracted more than 100 million views in just five days, and helped Invisible Children raise more than $30 million.

Now, in a statement, the group's leaders say they've accomplished many of their goals:

"Invisible Children has seen incredible strides toward the achievement of its mission — a permanent end to LRA [Lord's Resistance Army] violence. ... While Kony is still being pursued by regional security forces, the unprecedented political momentum galvanized by Invisible Children dedicated activists has helped secure and maintain an international coalition, working toward ending the LRA's violence and bringing Kony to justice. As a result of these collective efforts, three of the five ICC [International Criminal Court]-indicted senior LRA commanders have been removed from the battlefield in the last three years, and LRA-affected communities in central and east Africa have experienced a significant improvement in safety and livelihood ... "
In an interview with NPR, Invisible Children CEO Ben Keesey said he knew Invisible Children would end at some point. "We never built Invisible Children to be something that would last forever," Keesey said. "Frankly, we thought it would be a one- or two-year project."

But, he admits, the organization has not accomplished one of its biggest goals. "You know, we've seen radical progress," Keesey said. "But it's never come with that signature win of a Joseph Kony capture." npr