Blerg

sagansense:

NASA Sees Giant Solar Wave Erupt from the Sun

The sun celebrated May Day with a spectacular solar eruption Wednesday, unleashing a colossal wave of super-hot plasma captured on camera by a NASA spacecraft.

The solar eruption occurred over a 2.5-hour period Wednesday (May 1) and appeared as a “gigantic rolling wave” on the sun in a video recorded by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, agency officials said in an image description. The solar eruption is what scientists call a coronal mass ejection (CME) — a type of sun storm that can fire off billions of tons of solar material at more than a million miles per hour, they added.

When aimed directly at Earth, the most powerful CME events can pose a risk to satellites and astronauts in orbit, as well as interfere with communications and navigation networks. They can even damage ground-based power infrastructure.

But the May Day solar eruption occurred on the side of the sun and was not aimed at Earth, NASA officials said. It produced a dazzlingly bright wave of plasma that expanded from the sun’s surface and then erupted from the sun’s side, or limb, into open space.

The sun is currently in an active phase of its 11-year solar weather cycle and is expected to reach its peak activity this year.

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory is one of several sun-watching spacecraft that keeps constant watch on Earth’s nearest star to track solar weather patterns and storm events. The $850 million SDO mission launched in 2010 and records constant high-definition views of the sun in several different wavelengths, including the extreme ultraviolet range of the light spectrum used to make the video of the May 1 solar eruption.

(via thescienceofreality)

wildcat2030:

Oxygen mystery: How marine mammals hold their breath

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Scientists say they have solved the mystery of one of the most extreme adaptations in the animal kingdom: how marine mammals store enough oxygen to hold their breath for up to an hour. The team studied myoglobin, an oxygen-storing protein in mammals’ muscles and found that, in whales and seals, it has special “non-stick” properties. This allowed the animals to pack huge amounts of oxygen into their muscles without “clogging them up”. The findings are published in Science. Dr Michael Berenbrink from the Institute of Integrative Biology at the University of Liverpool took part in the study. He said that scientists had long wondered how marine mammals managed to pack so much of this vital protein into their bodies. “At high enough concentrations, [proteins] tend to stick together, so we tried to understand how seals and whales evolved higher and higher concentrations of this protein in their muscles without a loss of function,” he told BBC News. (via BBC News - Oxygen mystery: How marine mammals hold their breath)

wildcat2030:

A jewelry store is an archive of the Earth. Every gem fixed to every ring or necklace was forged deep inside our planet, according to its own recipe of elements, temperature and pressure.
But it has taken a while for geologists to decode the cookbook for gems. Jade, for example, puzzled geologists for decades. “For a long time people looked at this crazy rock, and it didn’t make any sense,” said George Harlow, a geologist at the American Museum of Natural History. But thanks to the research of Dr. Harlow and other geologists, jade now has a back story: It formed in dying oceans.
The discovery of gems like rubies and jade thus signifies more than just a new supply of bling in jewelry stores. It tells geologists some important things about the planet. If rocks contain jade, the scientists can be fairly sure those rocks are a vestige of an ocean buried underground. Rubies, on the other hand, appear in places where mountains formed from continental collisions, even if those mountains were eroded away millions of years ago. (via In Glittering Gems, Reading Earth’s Story - NYTimes.com)

wildcat2030:

A jewelry store is an archive of the Earth. Every gem fixed to every ring or necklace was forged deep inside our planet, according to its own recipe of elements, temperature and pressure.

But it has taken a while for geologists to decode the cookbook for gems. Jade, for example, puzzled geologists for decades. “For a long time people looked at this crazy rock, and it didn’t make any sense,” said George Harlow, a geologist at the American Museum of Natural History. But thanks to the research of Dr. Harlow and other geologists, jade now has a back story: It formed in dying oceans.

The discovery of gems like rubies and jade thus signifies more than just a new supply of bling in jewelry stores. It tells geologists some important things about the planet. If rocks contain jade, the scientists can be fairly sure those rocks are a vestige of an ocean buried underground. Rubies, on the other hand, appear in places where mountains formed from continental collisions, even if those mountains were eroded away millions of years ago. (via In Glittering Gems, Reading Earth’s Story - NYTimes.com)

wildcat2030:

Real-Life True Blood: Synthetic Blood Is Coming — And So Are a Host of Potential Complications
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Season 6 of HBO’s vampire drama True Blood premieres on Sunday night, presumably following up on last year’s cliffhanger where the factory that produces Tru-Blood — the bottled synthetic blood that allows vampires go “vegetarian” — was burned to the ground, destroying the product that made it possible for vampires to non-violently co-exist with people.
But out here in the real world, the future of synthetic blood is just beginning. After decades of global research, controversies, and failed approval petitions, the UK’s Medical and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency finally gave researchers at the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine the go-ahead late last month to start developing synthetic blood with adult stem cells.
The license allows the researchers to use already-recognized stem cell technology to create a compound that would both eliminate the risk of infusion-transmitted infections and supplement (if not eventually take the place of) chronically limited blood banks worldwide. After years of partial synthetic successes at best, it will permit the first-ever human clinical trials of synthetic blood. Oh, also? The license permits blood manufacturing “on an industrial scale.” Cue the True Blood overture (albeit sans vampires).
And according to Ruha Benjamin, a sociologist at Boston University, the arrival of synthetic blood is also likely to come with some serious socioeconomic and ethical issues, including ones that have complicated many medical advances before it.
Benjamin is the author of People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier, a new book that explores the social forces that inform and arise from scientific research, especially controversial medical practices like stem cell trials. Though her research focuses specifically on the politics of paying clinical egg donors in California, the patterns of structural inequality she outlines are in danger of repeating themselves in Scotland – and later, in the rest of the world. The two major quagmires, she told Wired, lie in how clinical trials for synthetic blood are conducted and in the potential patenting of the technology. (via Real-Life True Blood: Synthetic Blood Is Coming — And So Are a Host of Potential Complications | Underwire | Wired.com)

wildcat2030:

Real-Life True Blood: Synthetic Blood Is Coming — And So Are a Host of Potential Complications

-

Season 6 of HBO’s vampire drama True Blood premieres on Sunday night, presumably following up on last year’s cliffhanger where the factory that produces Tru-Blood — the bottled synthetic blood that allows vampires go “vegetarian” — was burned to the ground, destroying the product that made it possible for vampires to non-violently co-exist with people.

But out here in the real world, the future of synthetic blood is just beginning. After decades of global research, controversies, and failed approval petitions, the UK’s Medical and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency finally gave researchers at the Scottish Centre for Regenerative Medicine the go-ahead late last month to start developing synthetic blood with adult stem cells.

The license allows the researchers to use already-recognized stem cell technology to create a compound that would both eliminate the risk of infusion-transmitted infections and supplement (if not eventually take the place of) chronically limited blood banks worldwide. After years of partial synthetic successes at best, it will permit the first-ever human clinical trials of synthetic blood. Oh, also? The license permits blood manufacturing “on an industrial scale.” Cue the True Blood overture (albeit sans vampires).

And according to Ruha Benjamin, a sociologist at Boston University, the arrival of synthetic blood is also likely to come with some serious socioeconomic and ethical issues, including ones that have complicated many medical advances before it.

Benjamin is the author of People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier, a new book that explores the social forces that inform and arise from scientific research, especially controversial medical practices like stem cell trials. Though her research focuses specifically on the politics of paying clinical egg donors in California, the patterns of structural inequality she outlines are in danger of repeating themselves in Scotland – and later, in the rest of the world. The two major quagmires, she told Wired, lie in how clinical trials for synthetic blood are conducted and in the potential patenting of the technology. (via Real-Life True Blood: Synthetic Blood Is Coming — And So Are a Host of Potential Complications | Underwire | Wired.com)

sagansense:

Dear Congress: Why Are You So Anti-Science?

New criteria for choosing NSF grants is the latest salvo from our anti-science government.

Of the many and varied things going wrong in Washington today, the frontal assault on science is one of the most alarming. Sequestration will be a blip compared to the setback that could result if Congress makes science—the peer-reviewed, community-checked, fact-based realm of science—all about politics.

The chair of the U.S. House of Representatives’ science committee is floating a bill that would eliminate peer review at the National Science Foundation, essentially replacing it with a Congressional stamp of approval. President Obama has signaled he opposes this, and the bill’s future is unclear right now. But Republican lawmakers are nothing if not tenacious.

Science has been suffocating in a toxic political atmosphere for years, with national leaders outwardly denying climate change is happening, celebrities pushing dangerous anti-vaccine (and anti-science) views on a frightened and malleable public, and conservatives angling to teach creationism using taxpayer dollars. The proposed 2014 federal budget doesn’t help, with major cuts in planetary research and high-energy physics just two of the problems. But this latest salvo could be one of the most damaging anti-science campaigns yet.

That’s because on its face, it sounds innocuous. Wise, even. It’s called the “High Quality Research Act.”

The draft legislation, as originally reported by ScienceInsider, would force the National Science Foundation to adopt three criteria in judging every grant proposal. Quoting ScienceInsider’s copy of the draft, NSF-funded research must be:

1) “… in the interests of the United States to advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare, and to secure the national defense by promoting the progress of science;
2) “… the finest quality, is groundbreaking, and answers questions or solves problems that are of utmost importance to society at large; and
3) “… not duplicative of other research projects being funded by the Foundation or other Federal science agencies.”

Right now, NSF grants—which are highly competitive—are decided by panels of expert scientists, who rank them on their intellectual merit and their broader impacts on society. “Questions and problems of utmost importance” is a key phrase here. It would be hard to argue that research on duck penises is of utmost importance, for instance. But it does have scientific merit, and incredible impacts on the research community and society at large.

Did you know ducks are one of a very small number of species that commit rape? Female ducks have evolved clockwise spiraling vaginas to avoid this forced copulation, and in turn, male ducks have evolved counterclockwise corkscrew penises. Scientist Patricia Brennan’s study, also the target of GOP ridicule, examined how the presence of other male ducks affects genital morphology. She and her colleagues found competition is a driving force behind these traits.

“Generating new knowledge of what factors affect genital morphology in ducks, one of the few vertebrate species other than humans that form pair bonds and exhibit violent sexual coercion, may have significant applied uses in the future, but we must conduct the basic research first,” Brennan writes in an excellent Slate essay defending her research.

Basically, the bill is the latest effort by Republicans to attack basic scientific research, in the physical as well as the social sciences. From Sarah Palin mocking fruit fly research to John McCain questioning the value of astronomy outreach, this game has a long history. The NSF bill’s author is Rep. Lamar Smith, who authored the much-loathed and eventually-killed SOPA bill to “stop online piracy.” He sent a letter last week to acting NSF director Cora Marrett, questioning a swath of scientific studies conducted with NSF dollars.

“I have concerns regarding some grants approved by the Foundation and how closely they adhere to NSF’s ‘intellectual merit’ guideline,” he wrote. He proceeded to call out studies titled “Picturing Animals in National Geographic,” “Comparative Histories of Scientific Conservation: Nature, Science, and Society in Patagonian and Amazonian South America,” “The International Criminal Court and the Pursuit of Justice,” and a few others.

The names of these studies are now flash points, joining the ranks of others previously held up as exemplars of your money wasted on privileged intellectuals. But the leaders of these projects were awarded grants, in each case a few hundred thousand dollars, because a committee of their peers and competitors judged them worthy and important for scientific research. No offense to Rep. Smith, but he’s not exactly qualified to judge the nature of ecological protection in South America, or the conservation benefit of National Geographic’s nature photography. Neither am I—the committee of peers that made those awards is the rightful decider.

President Obama, speaking to the National Academy of Sciences on its 150th anniversary this week, signaled he won’t stand for this political change.

“In order for us to maintain our edge, we’ve got to protect our rigorous peer review system,” he told the gathering Monday. “One of the things that I’ve tried to do over these last four years and will continue to do over the next four years is to make sure that we are promoting the integrity of our scientific process; not just in the physical and life sciences, but also in fields like psychology and anthropology and economics and political science — all of which are sciences because scholars develop and test hypotheses and subject them to peer review.”

That Obama felt the need to define science highlights the real problem with Smith’s legislation, and the problem with the Republicans’ attack on science in general: They aim to undermine the very meaning of it. They’re not just judging the results. They’re judging the validity of even asking the question. Of even wanting to look for an answer. And that is the scariest thing of all.

(via thescienceofreality)

wildcat2030:


Nanotechnology and religion: a complex relationship
There is much evidence that public views on nanotechnology will be shaped by religious beliefs

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In the science fiction short story Halo, a panel of Muslim scholars discuss a strip of bacon made by a “molecular assembler”, a device capable of producing the meat directly from individual atoms, instead of slicing it from an animal. All meat from a pig is forbidden according to Islam’s halal laws. Synthetic bacon is identical to the real one, but it has never been part of a living pig. Is it still forbidden?
“The story may look like a joke, but it shows how the capacity of nanotechnology to manipulate atoms may change the material world in such a way to raise religious questions,” says Chris Toumey, a cultural anthropologist at the University of South Carolina, who has studied in depth the relation between nanotechnology and faith.
It is mostly secular voices who have expressed their thoughts and concerns on nanotechnology until now, but there is a lot of evidence that public views on it will be shaped by religious beliefs. For example, a 2009 survey found that strength of religious beliefs in the US is negatively related to support for funding of nanotechnology. A study of the same year found that the more religious a country is, the less it tends to find nanotechnology morally acceptable.
Until now, religions have been remarkably silent on nanotechnology, Toumey points out. Nothing compared to the harsh bioethical controversies about in vitro fertilisation in the Catholic world, for example. “Nanotechnology is a heterogeneous body of sciences and technologies: few faith communities have enough universities or journals to examine such a complicated issue,” says Toumey. “Their attention may be attracted if some dramatic event happens: either positive, something like a cure for a cancer, or negative, like an environmental disaster.” The scarcity of official documents makes it difficult to guess religious views, but it is an opportunity for scientists to get prepared in advance.
go read..
(via Nanotechnology and religion: a complex relationship | Science | guardian.co.uk)

wildcat2030:

Nanotechnology and religion: a complex relationship

There is much evidence that public views on nanotechnology will be shaped by religious beliefs

-

In the science fiction short story Halo, a panel of Muslim scholars discuss a strip of bacon made by a “molecular assembler”, a device capable of producing the meat directly from individual atoms, instead of slicing it from an animal. All meat from a pig is forbidden according to Islam’s halal laws. Synthetic bacon is identical to the real one, but it has never been part of a living pig. Is it still forbidden?

“The story may look like a joke, but it shows how the capacity of nanotechnology to manipulate atoms may change the material world in such a way to raise religious questions,” says Chris Toumey, a cultural anthropologist at the University of South Carolina, who has studied in depth the relation between nanotechnology and faith.

It is mostly secular voices who have expressed their thoughts and concerns on nanotechnology until now, but there is a lot of evidence that public views on it will be shaped by religious beliefs. For example, a 2009 survey found that strength of religious beliefs in the US is negatively related to support for funding of nanotechnology. A study of the same year found that the more religious a country is, the less it tends to find nanotechnology morally acceptable.

Until now, religions have been remarkably silent on nanotechnology, Toumey points out. Nothing compared to the harsh bioethical controversies about in vitro fertilisation in the Catholic world, for example. “Nanotechnology is a heterogeneous body of sciences and technologies: few faith communities have enough universities or journals to examine such a complicated issue,” says Toumey. “Their attention may be attracted if some dramatic event happens: either positive, something like a cure for a cancer, or negative, like an environmental disaster.” The scarcity of official documents makes it difficult to guess religious views, but it is an opportunity for scientists to get prepared in advance.

go read..

(via Nanotechnology and religion: a complex relationship | Science | guardian.co.uk)

mothernaturenetwork:



 Surprising pollution problem: Too many trees  



Jamie Workman, writer for the Environmental Defense Fund, discusses the negative effects that billions of excess trees have on the environment.

mothernaturenetwork:

Jamie Workman, writer for the Environmental Defense Fund, discusses the negative effects that billions of excess trees have on the environment.

rhamphotheca:

Another Study Documents Dramatic New Impacts to Birds from Outdoor Cats

ABC media release

A new study from British scientists has documented for the first time, significant new impacts to birds from outdoor cats, reporting that even brief appearances of cats near avian nest sites leads to at least a doubling in lethal nest predation of eggs and young birds by third-party animals, as well as behavioral changes in parent birds that lead to an approximately 33 percent reduction in the amount of food brought to nestlings following a predation threat.

The study was peer-reviewed and published in the Journal of Applied Ecology (January 30, 2013). The study was led by Karl Evans of the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield in collaboration with his PhD student Colin Bonnington and Kevin Gaston of the Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter.

 The study was carried out by observing 47 blackbird nests in 2010 and 49 nests in 2011 in Sheffield, England, during the breeding season from March to August and compared nest dynamics following presentation of a taxidermist-prepared cat, a predatory grey squirrel, and a rabbit. The crucial finding is that the natural response of parenting birds to the appearance of predators – alarm calling and nest defense – dramatically affects rates of bird nest predation by third-party animals thusly alerted to the nest, as well as much lower feeding rates of young birds for prolonged periods following the threat of predation by cats…

(read more: American Bird Conservancy)

(photo on L: iStockphoto)

(via thescienceofreality)