Learning about climate change, (1 of 2 posts on climate change)

A comprehensive survey of science teachers at middle and high schools across the US, conducted by the journal “Science”, finds that teachers generally devote a paltry 1 to 2 hours to the topic of climate change, and despite the fact 97 per cent of experts agree climate change is mainly human-caused, many teachers still “teach …

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Wild animals are dying off

Global wildlife populations are set to fall by more than two-thirds since 1970 by the end of the decade, warns the Living Planet report by WWF and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL). The assessment of more than 14,000 populations of 3706 species of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles from around the world reveals …

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Ripping out the smoke detectors even as the house begins to burn

“We seem intent on blinding ourselves, ripping out the smoke detectors even as the house begins to burn”.  (Bill McKibben, founder of climate change campaign 350.org, in Wired magazine, February 2017) And this is from Tom Engelhardt, who produces Tomgram: “The the most unforgivable of crime of all , is about to be wrought by …

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Let us all thank messy eaters

Researchers at the Arizona State University Institute of Human Origins have found that our species’ first ancestors began to climb down from trees to retrieve snacks they had dropped. Anatomical evidence from the 6-million-year-old fossilized remains of Sahelanthropus peinaó—which was unearthed earlier this year in South Africa and is now believed to be the last …

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The Moon, the Earth and our profligacy

Last night I was gazing at the bright sliver of tropic moon in the evening sky, reflecting on the fact that that moon, and somewhere on Earth a similar reflection of the sun upon it, have been in existence for nigh on three billion years, month in, month out. Our earliest ancestors witnessed the same …

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The despoilation of the agribusinesses

The world’s biggest palm oil agribusiness is destroying rainforests in Indonesia to make way for palm plantations — even though it’s against the law.  Last month, one of Wilmar International’s suppliers was caught bulldozing crucial rainforest in the Leuser Ecosystem, an important. wildlife habitat and the last place on earth where you can find endangered …

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Water full of drugs

Water re-use means we are all consuming a cocktail of other people’s leftover medicines, but measuring their impact is almost impossible. A recent analysis of streams in the US detected an entire pharmacy: diabetic meds, muscle relaxants, opioids, antibiotics, antidepressants and more. Drugs have even been found in crops irrigated by treated waste water. It …

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Some good news, and then some not-so-good news, for 2017

Genetic and stem cell technologies are on the cusp of letting us clone even infertile endangered animals when intact DNA is available. And some extinct species could be brought back by tweaking the genome of a living close relative. It should also be possible to engineer lost traits into a population. Some targeted animals are …

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Automating music composition

There is a computerised melody- making software , developed at the University of California, Santa Cruz, called ALYSIA, that is unusual in taking lyrics as its starting point and adding an automated tune. The system matches the metre of the melody with that of the lyrics. The originators hope to create a system capable of …

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Some hopeful news for this day of the year

Thanks to genetic modification a new strain of wheat is being grown in greenhouses, with yields up by 15 to 20 per cent, a team at Rothamsted Research, Harpenden, UK, recently announced.  The researchers have asked the government for permission to carry out field trials  in the spring.  If the plants produce anything like a …

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Depleting the soil (no.2): promising news

Indiscriminate fertiliser use hurts the soil itself, turning it acidic and salty, suppressing the symbiotic relationships between fungi and plant roots, sometimes turning beneficial bacteria against each other.  Long-term use of fertilisers risks turning even fertile soil to desert. What can be done? One possible solution is being pursued by Carlos Monreal of Carleton University in Ottawa, …

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No wonder people distrust some scientists

If you want to head off regulation arising from evidence that links your product to ill health, muddy the waters by creating the impression of a controversy where none exists.  A US study highlights this approach, suggesting the “manufacture of scientific controversy” casting doubt on the connection between sugary drinks, obesity and diabetes. Of 60 …

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Sorting the trash: the good news

In the recycling industry, waste materials are typically crushed and torn into tiny pieces to make them easier to sort. The mixture is then dumped into a pool where wood and plastic float, and metal and rock sink.  Salvage robots like those made by Zen Robotics in Helsinki, Finland, are making this process obsolete. The …

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The hounding of the bee scientist (follow-on from Friday’s posting)

This is a disgraceful. Dr. Jonathan Lundgren is the award- winning scientist, who discovered that Bayer pesticides were killing bees in huge  numbers, as discussed on this blog last Friday. It appears that Dr. Lundgrun was told by the US Department of Agriculture to stop publicizing his research, which didn’t suit USDA at all.  When …

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A question of priorities

Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, among the world’s 10 wealthiest couples, with a net worth of $55.2 billion, have announced a $3 billion effort to accelerate scientific research with the ambitious goal of “curing all disease in our children’s lifetime.” They will be giving away 99 percent of their Facebook shares …

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Is it unethical not to publish the results of medical studies?

About one third of all medical studies in the United States involving children never end up being put to use because scientists frequently don’t publish the results of their work. 19 percent of the studies that recruited children didn’t run to completion because researchers weren’t able to recruit as many volunteers as they needed to …

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Microbial fuel cells – an amazing new technology

A self-powered waste water treatment plant using microbes has just passed its biggest test, bringing household-level water recycling a step closer. Personal water treatment plants could soon be recycling our waste water and producing energy on the side. Boston-based Cambrian Innovation have began field tests of what’s known as a microbial fuel cell at the Naval Surface Warfare Center …

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