Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Four-winged dinosaur is 'biggest ever'

A new four-winged dinosaur has been discovered, with exceptionally long feathers on its tail and "hindwings".

Changyuraptor yangi was a gliding predator which lived in the Cretaceous period in what is now Liaoning, China.
Its remarkable tail feathers - measuring up to 30cm - are the longest in any non-avian dinosaur.
This unusual plumage helped the creature to slow down during flight and land safely, say scientists writing in Nature Communications.
C. yangi is a new species of microraptorine, a group related to early avians.
These ancient creatures offer clues to the origin of flight - and the transition from feathered dinosaurs to birds.
Palaeontologists once thought that four-winged gliders were a stepping stone in the path to two-winged flight.
But recent fossil discoveries suggest that microraptorines were an evolutionary side-branch.
Flight probably evolved many times in different feathered species - not only the lineage which ultimately became birds.
The skeleton of C. yangi was discovered by a team from Bohai University, China, and the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, US.
Measuring 132cm from its snout to the tip of its tail feathers, it is the largest four-winged dinosaur ever discovered - longer than an eagle or an albatross today. bbc
Microraptor gui - another ancient four-winged species

Diamond crushed to Saturn's extremes

The carbon crystal was condensed to the core pressure of Saturn - 14 times that at the centre of the Earth.
The big squeeze was performed inside the US National Ignition Facility, which recently featured in Star Trek.
It gives clues to the conditions deep inside giant, carbon-rich planets,says a study in Nature journal.
"We don't know what lies within the core of Jupiter or Saturn but now for the first time we now have the ability to study how matter exists under these extreme conditions of pressure and temperature," said lead author Dr Ray Smith, of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, California.
"Our experiments provide a method for recreating conditions within the cores of giant gas planets - both within our solar system and beyond.
"It has been proposed, for example, that Neptune has a diamond in its core, due to decomposition of methane which gets compacted under extreme pressure.
"The Kepler space mission has found Neptune-sized planets to be very common in our galaxy."
The planets and stars we see in the night sky were formed by powerful gravitational forces that crushed their constituent atoms tightly together.
The extreme pressures in their cores are expected to cause dramatic changes to the properties of matter.
How, on Earth, we can replicate these alien environments is a terrific challenge for scientists. bbc

Diamonds are thought to be common on Neptune, where they may even fall as rain

Why I support Assisted Dying

Cambridge scientist Stephen Hawking is backing the Assisted Dying Bill which is being debated by peers on Friday.
The 72-year-old cosmologist said it was "discrimination against the disabled to deny them the right to kill themselves that able bodied people have."
He said safeguards would be needed to ensure the person truly wanted to die.
Lord Falconers's bill proposes allowing doctors to prescribe a lethal dose to terminally ill patients judged to have less than six months to live.
More than 130 peers have put their names down to speak.
The Bill would enable doctors to help patients die by prescribing a lethal dose of drugs.
Two physicians would have to certify that the patient was terminally ill and expected to die within six months.
'Freedom of the individual'
Prof Hawking said it would be "wrong to despair and commit suicide, unless one is in great pain, but that is a matter of choice.
"We should not take away the freedom of the individual to choose to die."
But he admitted that he had once briefly tried to end his life when he had a tracheostomy - an operation to fit a breathing tube.
"I briefly tried to commit suicide by not breathing. However, the reflex to breathe was too strong." bbc

Do friends have similar genomes?

Looking at differences between nearly 2,000 people, recruited as part of a heart study in a small US town, they found that friends shared about 0.1% more DNA, on average, than strangers.
While small, this is the same level of similarity expected for fourth cousins.
Other scientists are sceptical about the paper, which was published inPNAS.
"I think that they're unusual findings, and that usually draws criticisms from scientists," said Prof James Fowler, one of the study's authors and a professor of both medical genetics and political science at the University of California, San Diego.
Together with Prof Nicholas Christakis from Yale University, Prof Fowler analysed nearly 500,000 single-letter markers from across the genome, using data from the Framingham Heart Study.
These results were useful because as well as providing DNA samples, participants were asked who their closest friends were. "Because the study started in a small community, many people that were named as friends, also happened to be involved in the study," Prof Fowler explained.
So he and Prof Christakis calculated a "kinship coefficient" using the genetic markers from pairs of friends and strangers, and found that it was slightly higher among friends.
"We're not really making claims about specific candidate genes here," Prof Fowler told BBC News. "We're making claims about structural characteristics across the entire genome."
Disputed conclusions
Other researchers have expressed concern about different factors that could affect the results - such as ethnicity or other types of "population stratification" - which could make people both genetically similar and more likely to be friends.
Prof Evan Charney from Duke University, who has criticised earlier research by Fowler and Christakis, said this type of analysis only works if none of the subjects are related to each other at all, which is difficult to confirm.
"These studies depend upon that assumption - that you're looking at thousands of people who are not related," he told the BBC.
The authors, however, tried to allow for any stratification or family relationships within their population, in a smaller comparison of 907 pairs of friends, this time including nearly 1.5 million genetic markers.
"We excluded any one of them that had any relatedness whatsoever," explained Prof Fowler. "We didn't want anyone to think that this was just being driven by people who were accidentally friends with their fourth cousins and didn't tell us." bbc

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

yamal crater

The area of Russia is said to be called, ominously enough, the end of the world. And that's where researchers are headed this week, to investigate a large crater whose appearance reportedly caught scientists by surprise. The crater is estimated at 262 feet wide and is in the northern Siberian area of Yamal.
The crater has been a magnet for attention and speculation since aerial footage of it was posted online last week, showing a gaping hole and what looks to be rocks and earth that exploded from within it.
A team of scientists, including experts from Russia's Center for the Study of the Arctic and the Cryosphere Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences, were reportedly heading to the site today to investigate — and perhaps to debunk some of the theories about its cause. npr

seaweed beer from maine

More craft breweries are using exotic ingredients in their creations these days. There are ales made with all kinds of fruit, beers infused with coriander and other spices, stouts brewed with oysters — even beer made from yeast scraped off 35 million-year-old whale bones. But what about a beer made with seaweed?
At Marshall Wharf Brewing Co. on the Belfast, Maine, waterfront, new beers begin their journey into draft lines and pint glasses inside two large tanks. Marshall Wharf has a reputation for making some unconventional beers — a stout with locally sourced oysters, for example, and a wheat-infused kolsch with jalapeno and habanero peppers. A few years ago, David Carlson, the brewing company's owner, discovered a beer from Scotland, called Kelpie, made with seaweed. npr

Monday, July 14, 2014

lake street dive

dementia facts

  • 44 million
    globally have dementia
  • 135 million
    will have the disease in 2050
  • By then
    will be poor and middle income
  • $600bn
    global cost of dementia
  • In the UK, cancer research gets
    as much funding as dementia
Source: Alzheimer's Society

The research group, which combines university and industry scientists, looked for differences in the blood of 452 healthy people, 220 with mild cognitive impairment and 476 with Alzheimer's disease.
They were able to tell with 87% accuracy which patients with mild cognitive impairment would go on to develop Alzheimer's disease in the next year.
"We want to be able to identify people to enter clinical trials earlier than they currently do and that's really what we've been aiming at," said lead researcher Prof Simon Lovestone from the University of Oxford. bbc

HIV re-emerges in 'cured' Mississippi girl

Tests last week on the four-year-old child from Mississippi indicate she is no longer in remission, say doctors.
She had appeared free of HIV as recently as March, without receiving treatment for nearly two years.
The news represents a setback for hopes that very early treatment of drugs may reverse permanent infection.
There was huge hope that the "Mississippi baby" would live a life free of the HIV.
Antiretroviral drugs can keep the virus in check in the bloodstream, but HIV has hiding places - known as reservoirs - in the gut and brain.
If treatment stops, then the virus emerges from its reservoirs and begins its assault afresh.
Doctors had hoped that starting drug treatment within hours of birth would prevent the reservoirs forming.
This seems not to have been the case.
This case was never going to lead to an HIV-cure for infected adults, who begin treatment months or years after infection.
The Mississippi baby has become a reminder of how difficult HIV is to defeat and how distant a cure really

ocean circulation patterns associated with the MOC

Schematic of the ocean circulation (from Kuhlbrodt et al., 2007) associated with the global Meridional Overturning Circulation (MOC), with special focus on the Atlantic section of the flow (AMOC). The red curves in the Atlantic indicate the northward flow of water in the upper layers. The filled orange circles in the Nordic and Labrador Seas indicate regions where near-surface water cools and becomes denser, causing the water to sink to deeper layers of the Atlantic. This process is referred to as “water mass transformation,” or “deep water formation.” In this process heat is released to the atmosphere. The light blue curve denotes the southward flow of cold water at depth. At the southern end of the Atlantic, the AMOC connects with the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). Deep water formation sites in the high latitudes of the Southern Ocean are also indicated with filled orange circles. These contribute to the production of Antarctic Bottom Water (AABW), which flows northward near the bottom of the Atlantic (indicated by dark blue lines in the Atlantic). The circles with interior dots indicate regions where water upwells from deeper layers to the upper ocean (see Section 2 for more discussion on where upwelling occurs as part of the global MOC).

Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC)

The Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) is a major current in the Atlantic Ocean, characterized by a northward flow of warm, salty water in the upper layers of the Atlantic, and a southward flow of colder water in the deep Atlantic. The AMOC is an important component of the Earth’s climate system.

This ocean current system transports a substantial amount of heat energy from the tropics and Southern Hemisphere toward the North Atlantic, where the heat is then transferred to the atmosphere. Changes in this ocean circulation could have a profound impact on many aspects of the global climate system.
There is growing evidence that fluctuations in Atlantic sea surface temperatures, hypothesized to be related to fluctuations in the AMOC, have played a prominent role in significant climate fluctuations around the globe on a variety of time scales.

Because the AMOC's heat transport makes a substantial contribution to the moderate climate of maritime and continental Europe, and any slowdown in the overturning circulation would have profound implications for climate change, there have been questions about the likelihood of an "collapse" or an abrupt change. In the a 2008 study on Abrupt Climate Change by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program, the following conclusions were drawn :
  • It is very likely that the strength of the AMOC will decrease over the course of the 21st century in response to increasing greenhouse gases, with a best estimate decrease of 25–30%.
  • Even with the projected moderate AMOC weakening, it is still very likely that on multidecadal to century time scales a warming trend will occur over most of the European region downstream of the North Atlantic Current in response to increasing greenhouse gases, as well as over North America.
  • It is very unlikely that the AMOC will undergo a collapse or an abrupt transition to a weakened state during the 21st century.
  • It is also unlikely that the AMOC will collapse beyond the end of the 21st century because of global warming, although the possibility cannot be entirely excluded.
  • Although it is very unlikely that the AMOC will collapse in the 21st century, the potential consequences of this event could be severe. These might include a southward shift of the tropical rainfall belts, additional sea level rise around the North Atlantic, and disruptions to marine ecosystems.

what is "popular music"?

The term popular music refers to any musical style accessible to the general public and disseminated by the mass media. Musicologist and popular music specialist Philip Tagg defined the notion in the light of sociocultural and economical aspects:
Popular music, unlike art music, is (1) conceived for mass distribution to large and often socioculturally heterogeneous groups of listeners, (2) stored and distributed in non-written form, (3) only possible in an industrial monetary economy where it becomes a commodity and (4) in capitalist societies, subject to the laws of 'free' enterprise ... it should ideally sell as much as possible.[5]
Popular music is found on most commercial radio stations, in most commercial music retailers and department stores, and in movie and television soundtracks. It is noted on the Billboard charts and, in addition to singer-songwriters and composers, it involves music producers more than other genres do.
The distinction between classical and popular music has sometimes been blurred in marginal areas[9] such as minimalist music and light classics. In this respect music is like fiction, which likewise draws a distinction between literary fiction and popular fiction that is not always precise.

reduce greenhouse gas emissions; eat less meat

 In one UK study, vegetarians had roughly half the carbon footprint of meat eaters. That is, they produced less greenhouse gas emissions. But if you can’t give up meat completely, reducing the quantity you consume or giving up beef can make a big difference.
“The carbon footprint of red meat is absolutely phenomenal,” Alter said. “The food cows get fed is very high energy input, and they make a lot of methane.”
Giving up meat won’t help much if you’re buying out-of-season produce that has to be flown in from far-off places. “Chicken has a lower carbon footprint than a hothouse tomato,” Alter said. “So much energy goes into heating the greenhouses. You have to look at what you’re eating and be sensible.” Aim for local and in-season foods as much as you can. (Plus, you’ll save 10% to 15% by sticking with in-season produce.) bbc

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

guinea worm

Guinea worm is about as close to a real-life Alien event as you can get — a parasitic worm mates inside a person's abdomen, grows up to 3 feet long and then exits (painfully) from a blister.
But the worm's final chapter is near: The world is closer than ever to wiping the parasite off the face of the Earth.
There were only 17 cases of Guinea worm in the first five months of this year, the Carter Center reported Monday. That's a 75 percent reduction from this time last year, when 68 people reported infections.

Back in the mid-'80s, more than 3 million people were catching the parasite each year. Then an international campaign started slashing cases, year after year. npr

what if you still have one?

Thursday, July 3, 2014

pallid sturgeon babies

We have babies at the Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery in South Dakota!

The fish are spawned at the hatchery and later released to increase or maintain fish populations in the wild. The pallid sturgeon is one of the rarest and largest freshwater fish in North America. It is an endangered ancient fish that can live up to 50 years, grow up to 6 feet long and weigh up to 85 pounds (endangered fish).

The hatchery is strategically located on the Missouri River near Lewis and Clark Lake and Lake Yankton. The pallid sturgeon is present in both the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers. At this time, there are only an estimated 6,000-10,000 fish in both river systems as populations have undergone a severe decline. Current stocking efforts at Gavins Point and other fish hatcheries, along with habitat restoration efforts, are helping to increase these numbers in the future.

The hatchery is open to the public and provides nature hikes and hatchery tours and houses an aquarium for visitors to observe fish.

Photo: Wild pallid sturgeon hatching at Gavins Point National Fish Hatchery. (Spencer Neuharth/USFWS)

German parliament has approved the country's first minimum wage

The German parliament has approved the country's first minimum wage, in a vote in the Bundestag on Thursday.
The wage will be set at 8.50 euros (£6.80) per hour, which is higher than the equivalent in the US and UK.
Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats approved the new policy as part of a power-sharing deal with the Social Democratic Party (SPD).
Germany has previously relied on trade unions and business groups to fix minimum pay instead.
At the moment, the country is one of seven in the 28-nation EU without a minimum wage level. bbc

The Hidden Jewels of Appalachia

The Hidden Jewels of Appalachia from Joe Milmoe on Vimeo.