Month: January 2019

Elephant Seals Took Over a Beach During the Shutdown and They’re Not Giving it Back

1548875538594 42675183472 36deb959c3 hElephant seals lounging on Drakes Beach.

’During the government shutdown, while nobody was looking, a herd of elephant seals took over a popular California beach and forced authorities to close the area to visitors.

The opportunistic animals are iconic residents of Point Reyes National Seashore in Marin County near San Francisco, where they can usually be seen lounging on the sand from afar.

But with National Park Service employees furloughed, and no one around to wrangle them, 50 to 60 seals moved into Drakes Beach, known by locals for its expansive shoreline and pristine views.

Had the shutdown not occurred, “we probably would have tried to move the seals further away from the parking area,” John Dell’Osso, chief of interpretation and resource education at Point Reyes National Seashore, told Motherboard in an email.

“This would be done by a standard practice of using tarps and waving them at the seals to the point where they turn around and go further down the beach,” Dell’Osso explained.

A mid-January storm, coupled with extreme tides called “king tides,” drove the seals away from Chimney Rock, a secluded point on the peninsula where the animals tend to congregate, Dell’Osso theorized.…’

Via Motherboard

Warmer Temperatures and Disease Decimated This West Coast Starfish in Two Years

1548872516731 Sunflower seastar’The sunflower sea star, one of the largest starfish species in the world, has been practically wiped out along the west coast of North America, putting ecosystems at risk, according to a study published Wednesday in Science Advances.

Led by Drew Harvell, a Cornell University professor of ecology and evolutionary biology, the authors found that a recent outbreak of sea star wasting disease reduced the population by 80 to 100 percent across 3,000 kilometers of its territory.…’

Via Motherboard

CDC: Quit Kissing Adorable Hedgehogs

Unknown’The CDC has identified an outbreak of salmonella caused by contact with hedgehogs. A hedgehog can appear healthy and still carry salmonella. Conscientious hygiene is required for anyone living with a hedgie.…’

Via Big Think

We may finally know what causes Alzheimer’s – and how to stop it

B2201418 oral bacteria tem’If you bled when you brushed your teeth this morning, you might want to get that seen to. We may finally have found the long-elusive cause of Alzheimer’s disease: Porphyromonas gingivalis, the key bacteria in chronic gum disease.

That’s bad, as gum disease affects around a third of all people. But the good news is that a drug that blocks the main toxins of P. gingivalis is entering major clinical trials this year, and research published today shows it might stop and even reverse Alzheimer’s. There could even be a vaccine.

Alzheimer’s is one of the biggest mysteries in medicine. As populations have aged, dementia has skyrocketed to become the fifth biggest cause of death worldwide. Alzheimer’s constitutes some 70 per cent of these cases and yet, we don’t know what causes it.…’

Via New Scientist

Nearly 200 cognitive biases rule our everyday thinking – Big Think

980x’Buster Benson (a marketing manager at Slack) decided to organize 175 known biases into a giant codex… Benson (with help from illustrations by John Manoogian III), sorted biases for duplicates and grouped them into four larger categories, each called a “conundrum” or “problem”. All four of these limit our intelligence but are actually trying to be helpful. According to Benson, “Every cognitive bias is there for a reason — primarily to save our brains time or energy.” But the end result of utilizing such mental shortcuts, which are often useful, is that they also introduce errors into our thinking. By becoming aware of how our minds make decisions, we can be mindful of the inherent inaccuracies and fallacies and hopefully act with more fairness and grace.…’

Via Big Think

Secret government UFO reading list revealed

NewImage
FOIA release sheds light on the DOD’s own struggle to understand UFOs:

’The public finally had a chance in 2017 to see some of the government’s tightly guarded UFO footage — never mind the sudden admission that it existed in the first place. The handful of clips that were de-classified were eye-popping, depicting flying somethings with ridiculous maneuvering capabilities, far beyond anything we’d seen in human craft. Sure, we wondered where they came from and who was driving those things, but just as urgent was a desire to wrap our heads around how they were doing the things they were doing. Apparently, the Department of Defense (DOD) was right there with us, because their recently published reading list suggests their suspicions went in some seriously sci-fi directions.…’

Via Big Think

The “Real” Warp Drive

UnknownSure, it sounds like science fiction. But some researchers suggest that warp drives might actually be a possibility:

’…nothing in relativity suggests that spacetime cannot contract or stretch faster than light. If spacetime around the ship bends in a certain way, the craft can be swiftly propelled and, in theory, travel a vast distance in little time.

The ship itself does not violate the Einsteinian prohibition on faster-than-light travel because, within its bubble of spacetime, the ship is not traveling faster than light. To a stationary observer, the ship would appear to be moving at light speed (or close to it). But it is actually the surrounding distortion of spacetime that is driving the bubble from origin to destination, kind of like a surfer riding a wave. Consequently, the ship is not empirically moving faster than light relative to anything else in its bubble. Yet if the ship and light leave the same space at the same time, the ship might get there faster than the light does.…’

Via JSTOR Daily

Trump Reportedly Demanded NASA Fly Manned Mission to Mars by 2020

For the Greater Glory of the Orange Infant:

Unknown’This absurd conversation was actually televised at the time, and mentioned in the New York Times coverage of the conversation, which speculated that he had made the suggestion “perhaps jokingly.”

But according to Sims new book, Trump was dead serious.

In the lead up to the interview, Sims says, the situation was tense. Due to the position of the ISS, there was only a 20 minute period in which the interview could be accomplished, so Trump had to be right on time.

Then, according to Sims, Trump went off on a tangent about Mars, and demanded that NASA send a manned mission there before the end of his term.

Then, something happened. Trump “suddenly appeared distracted, distant,” wrote Sims. “I could sense the gears inside of his head starting to turn. I was losing him.” As the clock ticked down, Trump “suddenly turned toward the NASA administrator.” He asked: “What’s our plan for Mars?”
When the NASA administrator explained that it would take until the 2030s to send a manned mission, Trump didn’t accept it.

“Trump bristled,” Sims writes. The president allegedly asked, “But is there any way we could do it by the end of my first term?”

President Deals then tried to negotiate.

Trump did not seem worried about the time. Sims wrote that he leaned in toward Lightfoot and made him an offer. “But what if I gave you all the money you could ever need to do it?” Trump asked. “What if we sent NASA’s budget through the roof, but focused entirely on that instead of whatever else you’re doing now. Could it work then?”

Lightfoot told him he was sorry, but he didn’t think it was possible. This left Trump “visibly disappointed,” Sims wrote. “But I tried to refocus him on the task at hand. We were now about 90 seconds from going live.”

As if this could get any more absurd, with only seconds to spare before the absolute deadline to connect with the ISS, Trump stopped to look in a bathroom mirror.

“Space Station, this is your President,” Trump said to his own reflection, according to Sims.…’

Via Splinter

10 logical fallacies you can probably do without

10 of the most sandbagging, red-herring, and effective logical fallacies.

Unknown‘…Many an otherwise-worthwhile argument has been derailed by logical fallacies. Sometimes these fallacies are deliberate tricks, and sometimes just bad reasoning. Avoiding these traps makes disgreeing so much better.…’

Via Big Think

Human Screams Occupy a Privileged Niche in the Communication Soundscape

Abstract:

Images’Screaming is arguably one of the most relevant communication signals for survival in humans. Despite their practical relevance and their theoretical significance as innate [1] and virtually universal [2, 3] vocalizations, what makes screams a unique signal and how they are processed is not known. Here, we use acoustic analyses, psychophysical experiments, and neuroimaging to isolate those features that confer to screams their alarming nature, and we track their processing in the human brain. Using the modulation power spectrum (MPS, [4, 5]), a recently developed neurally-informed characterization of sounds, we demonstrate that human screams cluster within restricted portion of the acoustic space (between ∼30–150 Hz modulation rates) that corresponds to a well-known perceptual attribute, roughness. In contrast to the received view that roughness is irrelevant for communication [6], our data reveal that the acoustic space occupied by the rough vocal regime is segregated from other signals, including speech, a pre-requisite to avoid false-alarms in normal vocal communication. We show that roughness is present in natural alarm signals as well as in artificial alarms, and that the presence of roughness in sounds boosts their detection in various tasks. Using fMRI, we show that acoustic roughness engages subcortical structures critical to rapidly appraise danger. Altogether, these data demonstrate that screams occupy a privileged acoustic niche that, being separated from other communication signals, ensures their biological and ultimately social efficiency.…’

Via Current Biology

Shhh…

‘Residents of Cremona, Italy, are hearing a lot of that lately. The city, the birthplace of the world’s finest string instruments, has thrown itself behind an effort to preserve every note before the instruments are too fragile to play.
That requires absolute silence in the cobblestoned area around the auditorium where the sounds of Stradivarius instruments are being recorded. The streets are shut down, and a dropped glass or even the sound of a woman’s high heels clicking make for an “an auditory nightmare,” said one of the people behind the project. …’

Source: The New York Times

Insect collapse: ‘We are destroying our life support systems’

Damian Carrington writes:

‘“We knew that something was amiss in the first couple days,” said Brad Lister. “We were driving into the forest and at the same time both Andres and I said: ‘Where are all the birds?’ There was nothing.”

His return to the Luquillo rainforest in Puerto Rico after 35 years was to reveal an appalling discovery. The insect population that once provided plentiful food for birds throughout the mountainous national park had collapsed. On the ground, 98% had gone. Up in the leafy canopy, 80% had vanished. The most likely culprit by far is global warming.

“It was just astonishing,” Lister said. “Before, both the sticky ground plates and canopy plates would be covered with insects. You’d be there for hours picking them off the plates at night. But now the plates would come down after 12 hours in the tropical forest with a couple of lonely insects trapped or none at all.”

“It was a true collapse of the insect populations in that rainforest,” he said. “We began to realise this is terrible – a very, very disturbing result.”

Earth’s bugs outweigh humans 17 times over and are such a fundamental foundation of the food chain that scientists say a crash in insect numbers risks “ecological Armageddon”. When Lister’s study was published in October, one expert called the findings “hyper-alarming”. …’

Source: The Guardian

Steven Pinker’s ideas are fatally flawed. These eight graphs show why

Steven PinkerJeremy Lent in openDemocracy:

’Pinker is… an intellectual darling of the most powerful echelons of global society. He spoke to the world’s elite this year at the World’s Economic Forum in Davos on the perils of what he calls “political correctness,” and has been named one of Time magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World Today.” Since his work offers an intellectual rationale for many in the elite to continue practices that imperil humanity, it needs to be met with a detailed and rigorous response.…’

Via openDemocracy

Earth’s magnetic field is acting up and geologists don’t know why

D41586 019 00007 1 16383826’Something strange is going on at the top of the world. Earth’s north magnetic pole has been skittering away from Canada and towards Siberia, driven by liquid iron sloshing within the planet’s core. The magnetic pole is moving so quickly that it has forced the world’s geomagnetism experts into a rare move.

On 15 January, they are set to update the World Magnetic Model, which describes the planet’s magnetic field and underlies all modern navigation, from the systems that steer ships at sea to Google Maps on smartphones.

The most recent version of the model came out in 2015 and was supposed to last until 2020 — but the magnetic field is changing so rapidly that researchers have to fix the model now. “The error is increasing all the time,” says Arnaud Chulliat, a geomagnetist at the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA’s) National Centers for Environmental Information.

The problem lies partly with the moving pole and partly with other shifts deep within the planet. Liquid churning in Earth’s core generates most of the magnetic field, which varies over time as the deep flows change. In 2016, for instance, part of the magnetic field temporarily accelerated deep under northern South America and the eastern Pacific Ocean. Satellites such as the European Space Agency’s Swarm mission tracked the shift.…’

Via Nature

R.I.P. Joseph Jarman, 81

 

12JARMAN OBIT1 superJumbo v2Mainstay of the Art Ensemble of Chicago:

’Joseph Jarman, a saxophonist, flutist, woodwind player and percussionist who helped expand the parameters of performance in avant-garde jazz, especially as a member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, died on Wednesday at the Lillian Booth Actors Home in Englewood, N.J. He was 81.

His former wife, the writer and scholar Thulani Davis, said the cause was cardiac arrest as a result of respiratory failure.

Over the last two decades Mr. Jarman was less active in music than in other pursuits, notably his ministrations as a Buddhist priest and aikido instructor. With Ms. Davis, he founded the Brooklyn Buddhist Association in 1990. And his students at the Jikishinkan Aikido Dojo, which he established in Brooklyn, typically did not enroll there because of his jazz career; some may not have known much about it.

But Mr. Jarman was revered for his tenure in the Art Ensemble, from its inception in the late 1960s, through his departure in the early 1990s and again early in this century.
The group was an indomitable presence in experimental music, and a flagship of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians, a nonprofit cooperative with a focus on new music and African-American artists. It drew inspiration not only from jazz and blues but also from world music, ritual and folklore, all keen interests of Mr. Jarman’s.…’

Via New York Times obituary

Ranking Every Type of Sushi by How Healthy It Is

Ian Lecklitner writes:

‘The upshot here is, I feel like crap, partly because my body is full of plastic, but mostly because my insatiable, kraken-like desire for sushi is ruining the ocean. It’s true: Our collective sushi habits are certainly contributing to the deteriorating health of the oceans. “The United Nations comes out with The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture every two years, and the 2016 version basically shows that we overfished more than one-third of all fisheries — another 55 percent were maxed out, meaning we would be overfishing those, too, if we removed any more fish,” Hunnes explains. “A mere nine percent of fisheries are underfished.”

More than anything, similar to our previous fish ranking, this list should also emphasize the importance of understanding both where and how your seafood is caught (sushi-grade or not), which can dramatically impact the health and sustainability of that meal. To keep track of that kinda stuff, we recommend checking out SeafoodWatch.org. …’

Source: MEL Magazine

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

980xShe met mere mortals with and without the Vatican’s approval.

’For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.…’

Via Big Think

The states with the happiest Americans spend more money on ‘public goods’

ImagesThe states with the happiest Americans spend more money on ‘public goods’.

’Study reveals the Americans who live in states that spend more on tangible “public goods” are happier.
This spending makes communities “more livable.”
Pain of higher property taxes largely balanced out by higher property values and quality of life.…’

Via Big Think

ACLU Warns: Trump’s Attorney General Pick Is the ‘Godfather’ of America’s Surveillance Hell

Uznql6raocoqbacwczy1’The corporate lawyer and former chief U.S. law enforcement officer nominated to replace Jeff Sessions at the Justice Department has a controversial past involving the warrantless surveillance of Americans and once fought to make it easier for phone companies to secretly hand over customer records to the government, legal experts at the American Civil Liberties Union warned on Wednesday.

In 1992, William Barr, who previously served as U.S. attorney general under President H.W. Bush, was instrumental in the development of a program that enabled the Justice Department and Drug Enforcement Agency to collect the telephone records of millions of Americans, regardless of whether they were suspected of criminal activity.…’

Via Gizmodo

A Pale Blue Dot

Il 570xN 485802879 1d4sWhen I posted (below) about the fiftieth anniversary of the ‘Good Earth’ photo, I neglected to link to this, which never fails to move me.

Via YouTube

Crossword, sudoku plague threatens America!

189ec27b d87e 499c a0ad 657169245a99Ron Rosenbaum:

’The world is divided between those who willingly waste precious moments, hours, weeks, years of life doing crosswords, double-crostics, sudoku, and other word and number puzzles—and those (like myself) who are virtually allergic to them. (The puzzles, not the people.)

I’m not claiming any superiority for those who share my allergy. (Well, that’s my story, anyway, and I’m sticking to it.) I just think our brains are wired differently. Really differently.

Try this experiment at a dinner party (if you want to ruin it). Mention a frequent obsession of puzzle people, the NPR “news quiz” show, Wait Wait … Don’t Tell Me! (Or, as I call it, “Wait Wait … Please Kill Me!”) About half the attendees will exhibit violent, often physical reactions ranging from cringing to shuddering. Meanwhile, the other half will have sublime self-satisfied smiles. They sometimes get the answers before the guests! The show is so mentally stimulating!

What always gets to me is the self-congratulatory assumption on the part of puzzle people that their addiction to the useless habit somehow proves they are smarter or more literate than the rest of us. Need I suggest that those who spend time doing crossword puzzles (or sudoku)—uselessly filling empty boxes (a metaphor for some emptiness in their lives?)—could be doing something else that involves words and letters? It’s called reading.…’

Via Slate

Green Burials and the Truth About the Dirty Death Industry

Yynwzasvlcmfwsnben1c’In the U.S., 18th and 19th century burials involved at most, a pine casket and a plot in a cemetery or on your land. But embalming techniques pioneered during the Civil War so thousands of soldiers could be brought home helped spawn the modern funeral industry. The death of Abraham Lincoln and the public viewings of his embalmed body as it was brought from Washington, D.C. to its final resting in Springfield, Illinois likely also contributed to the shift in how Americans conceive of death.

“The reports we get from that era is he [Lincoln] looked pretty doggone good for being dead after being assassinated with a bullet to the head,” Bill Hoy, an end of life expert at Baylor University, told Earther. “That confirmed that [embalming] is especially helpful for two things: One, when our dead’s death occurs a few days from home, and two, when an injury or disease process was such that dead just look horrible, and people thought ‘I don’t want that to be my last picture.’”

But while the growth of arterial embalming fluid gave loved ones more time to say goodbye and create a last memory, the processes also cuts bodies off from what some would argue is their final purpose, of giving life the Earth.

The modern green burial movement is a sort of course correction for the Western world. Acciavatti said that it’s always been much bigger in Europe compared to the U.S. “[i]n part because embalming was never really a thing there, but also because we’re so behind the curve in terms of green movements in the U.S.” But the U.S. is now catching up.

Ramsey Creek Preserve, the first modern green burial cemetery in the U.S., opened 20 years ago in South Carolina. Since then, roughly 150 green burial sites have opened their gates (if they even have them), allowing family and friends to bury loved ones in a more natural way. That generally means wrapping their body in a shroud, digging a grave that’s three feet deep—far enough down to not be detected by scavengers but not so far down as to be cut off from microbial decay—and keeping the grave unmarked.…’

Via Earther

How Far Does the Periodic Table Go?

Efforts to fill the periodic table raise questions of special relativity that “strike at the very heart of chemistry as a discipline.”

How far does the periodic table go 1050x700

’Until December 2015, there were holes in the periodic table, elements synthesized but not yet officially recognized. But as we enter the International Year of the Periodic Table, the classic periodic table has been filled to its seventh row: In late 2015, the International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry officially confirmed elements 113, 115, 117, and 118. The new elements also received their final names: nihonium, moscovium, tennessine, and oganesson. Efforts to find the next elements, 119 and 120, are underway.

Exactly how many elements are still to be discovered? Is there an end to the periodic table? When will we reach it? What does it teach us about the nature of the elements?…’

Via JSTOR Daily

This is the worst oil disaster you’ve never heard of

5399Janis Searles Jones and Philippe Cousteau:

’Eight years ago, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico devastated communities, wildlife and livelihoods all along the Gulf coast. While dying dolphins and oil-soaked marsh grass dominated the headlines, the human cost was catastrophic. Now, it appears that a new disaster is slowly unfolding that may soon eclipse that horrific event to become the worst environmental disaster in US history.

In 2004, Hurricane Ivan triggered an undersea mudslide that sank an oil platform owned by Taylor Energy. Since then, between 300 and 700 barrels of oil have been spewing into the Gulf of Mexico every day. Let’s put that into perspective. The Deepwater Horizon disaster spilled almost 200m gallons of oil into the Gulf. To date, the Taylor spill has released as much as 140m gallons of oil into the Gulf.…’

Via The Guardian

Wonderful set of New Year’s wishes from Neil Gaiman

Neil Gaiman writes:

‘If you have come here for New Year’s Wishes, I don’t have a new one. But here are the ones that already exist. This is from 2014:

Fifteen Years ago, I wrote:

May your coming year be filled with magic and dreams and good madness. I hope you read some fine books and kiss someone who thinks you’re wonderful, and don’t forget to make some art — write or draw or build or sing or live as only you can. And I hope, somewhere in the next year, you surprise yourself.

And almost a decade ago I said,

…I hope you will have a wonderful year, that you’ll dream dangerously and outrageously, that you’ll make something that didn’t exist before you made it, that you will be loved and that you will be liked, and that you will have people to love and to like in return. And, most importantly (because I think there should be more kindness and more wisdom in the world right now), that you will, when you need to be, be wise, and that you will always be kind.

Half a decade ago, I wrote:

And for this year, my wish for each of us is small and very simple.

And it’s this.

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

And here, from 2012 the last wish I posted, terrified but trying to be brave, from backstage at a concert:

It’s a New Year and with it comes a fresh opportunity to shape our world.

So this is my wish, a wish for me as much as it is a wish for you: in the world to come, let us be brave – let us walk into the dark without fear, and step into the unknown with smiles on our faces, even if we’re faking them.

And whatever happens to us, whatever we make, whatever we learn, let us take joy in it. We can find joy in the world if it’s joy we’re looking for, we can take joy in the act of creation.

So that is my wish for you, and for me. Bravery and joy.

I meant, and mean them all. I wasn’t going to write a new one this year. But…

Be kind to yourself in the year ahead.

Remember to forgive yourself, and to forgive others. It’s too easy to be outraged these days, so much harder to change things, to reach out, to understand.

Try to make your time matter: minutes and hours and days and weeks can blow away like dead leaves, with nothing to show but time you spent not quite ever doing things, or time you spent waiting to begin.

Meet new people and talk to them. Make new things and show them to people who might enjoy them.

Hug too much. Smile too much. And, when you can, love….’

Source: Neil Gaiman’s Journal