Tag: climate change

Scientists Are Farming Coral For Human Bones

It’s hard to say “coral molars” repeatedly without tripping over your tongue, but having teeth — and other bones — made from coral is becoming increasingly plausible.

It sounds crazy, but sea coral has actually been used in bone grafting for years as an alternative to using bone from cadavers or synthetic materials, which can introduce disease or infection.

Now, recent business successes and medical research suggests that coral bone grafting could become more mainstream.

First, some history: Back in 1988, Eugene White and h

Please is nephew Rodney White first noticed coral’s similarities to bones when diving in the South Pacific.

They went on to discover that sea coral naturally possesses the similar porous structure and calcium carbonate of human bones.




Over the years, researchers have developed coral as a bone grafting material by taking calcium carbonate from the exoskeleton of sea coral and converting it into a mineral called coralline hydroxyapatite.

Because the coral’s patterns matched the tissue in human bones, the coral could provide a platform for bones to grow.

But sometimes the coral didn’t biodegrade; it sort of stayed in the body, creating problems for the patient, including re-fracturing or turning into a source for bacteria growth.

Then, last year, Zhidao Xia, a lead researcher in coral bone grafting, and fellow researchers at Swansea University published a study in the journal Biomedical Materials, saying they had found a way to make coral more compatible with human bone.

Using their technique, 16 patients with bone defects healed four months after coral graft surgeries; two years later, the coral had naturally left the patients’ bodies.

Although coral bone grafting is still very much a “fringe thing,” according to Dr. Ruth Gates, a lead marine researcher at the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, coral reefs are definitely developing a reputation as 21st-century medicine cabinets.

According to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, corals can be used to treat cancer, arthritis, bacterial infections and even Alzheimer’s disease.

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The American Museum Of Natural History Goes Digital

The display is referred to as the “meta-message.”

The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) is one of New York’s most famous institutions.

Founded 145 years ago, moviegoers may recognize it as the setting of “Night at the Museum” and its sequels.




While the dinosaurs don’t actually come alive there, the museum has recently embraced digital technology to breathe new life into its attractions, which includes a plan to construct a $325 million science center close to Central Park in New York City.

Curators hope the interactivity of the exhibit will help visitors get a grasp on the data.

Using technology permeates every aspect of what we do,” AMNH president Ellen Futter said.

Ellen Futter has been at the helm of the museum for over two decades. When she took over in the early ’90s, she recognized a lot needed to be done. However, there was one project in particular that needed urgent attention.

The hall also features a new exhibit about mantle convection.

You know, when I first got there, I was worried about getting the museum air-conditioned,” Futter said.

Since then, the museum has not only added air conditioning, but Wi-Fi throughout all the buildings, in addition to 21st century technology to million year-old artifacts.

It’s also attracted a lot more people, with crowds swelling from 3 million to 5 million per year.

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The Weirdest Weather Events of 2018 So Far

 

We’ve already seen our share of winter storms, severe weather, cold outbreaks, flooding and droughts so far in 2018. But there are some weather events every year that are downright strange, and this year is no exception.

The events we consider strange are weather phenomena happening repeatedly in one place, in a place where you wouldn’t think they would occur or during an unusual time of year.

Some are phenomena you may not find in a Weather 101 textbook.




Freezing Rain in Florida

Just after New Year’s Day, Winter Storm Grayson blanketed Tallahassee, Florida, with its first measurable snow since 1989, and the first January such occurrence, there, in records dating to 1885.

That’s eye-catching enough.  What was even more bizarre was seeing an ice accumulation map involving the Sunshine State.

Up to a quarter inch of ice accumulation was measured in Lake City, and light icing on elevated surfaces was reported as far south as Levy County.

A Horseshoe Cloud

A horseshoe cloud was captured over Battle Mountain, Nevada on Mar. 8, 2018.

While the nor’easter parade was hammering the East Coast, a bizarre cloud was captured in video over Nevada in early March.

As meteorologist Jonathan Belles explained, this rare horseshoe vortex is fleeting, lasting only minutes, when a relatively flat cloud moves over a column of rising air, which also gives the cloud some spin.

A State Record Hailstone

The hailstone that was saved from a March 19, 2018, hailstorm near Cullman, Alabama, later to be found to set a state record.

Alabama’s notorious history of severe weather, particularly tornadoes, is well documented.  On March 19, however, it was a hailstone that captured meteorologists’ attention.

One softball-size hailstone near Cullman, Alabama, was found to set a new state record, more than 5 inches in diameter.

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Giant Panda Is One Step Further Away From Extinction

The giant panda, commonly a symbol for conservation, is no longer considered an endangered species, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

In an update to their Red List of Threatened Species on Sunday, which assesses a species’ conservation status, the IUCN reported the giant panda population has improved enough for the endangered species label to be downgraded to “vulnerable.”

A nationwide census in 2014 found 1,864 giant pandas in the wild in China, excluding cubs — an increase from 1,596 in 2004, according to the IUCN.




Including cubs, the current population count is approaching 2,060, the organization said. The report credits forest protection and reforestation measures in China for increasing the available habitat for the species.

The decision to downlist the giant panda to ‘vulnerable’ is a positive sign confirming that the Chinese government’s efforts to conserve this species are effective,” the IUCN noted in its assessment.

The giant panda was once widespread throughout southern China, and is revered in the country’s culture.

The IUCN’s first assessment of the species in 1965 listed the giant panda as “very rare but believed to be stable or increasing.

The species has been the focus of an intensive, high-profile conservation campaign to recover an endangered species since the 1970s, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) — which has used the panda in its logo since 1961.

For over fifty years, the giant panda has been the globe’s most beloved conservation icon as well as the symbol of WWF,” Marco Lambertini, director general of the WWF, said.

Knowing that the panda is now a step further from extinction is an exciting moment for everyone committed to conserving the world’s wildlife and their habitats.

Decades of conservation efforts have included the banning of giant panda poaching — their hides were considered a commodity — as well as the creation of the panda reserve system, increasing available habitats.

There are now 67 reserves in China protecting nearly 5,400 square miles (14,000 square kilometers) of habitat and 67 percent of the panda population, reported CNN.

The recovery of the panda shows that when science, political will and engagement of local communities come together, we can save wildlife and also improve biodiversity,” Lambertini said in the statement.

The Chinese government’s partnerships with the international organization have also spread conservation and breeding efforts. In June, a healthy male cub was born in a Belgian zoo.

The captive population is not taken into consideration by IUCN for the Red List, which is specific to species in the wild.

However, the captive population being bred for recovery and reintroduction are part of the overall conservation picture, according to Joe Walston, Vice President of Conservation Field Programs for the Wildlife Conservation Society.

The giant panda is not completely in the clear, however the IUCN warned that climate change and decreasing bamboo availability could reverse the gains made in the past few decades.

More than one-third of the panda’s bamboo habitat could disappear in the next 80 years, according to the IUCN.

It is a real concern, and this is emblematic of what species are facing globally with regard to climate change,” Walston told Live Science of the threat to habitat and food supply.

The most important thing we can do at the moment is to be able to grow the extent and range of that habitat and by doing that you allow pandas to move across landscapes.

Wildlife as a whole can adapt to short-term changes and season extremes, Walston said, but they need to space to move and adapt.

As such, conservation efforts continue and the giant panda will continue to be considered “a conservation-dependent species for the foreseeable future,” the IUCN’s report concluded.

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How Do Aliens Solve Climate Change?

The universe does many things. It makes galaxies, comets, black holes, neutron stars, and a whole mess more.

We’ve lately discovered that it makes a great deal of planets, but it’s not clear whether it regularly makes energy-hungry civilizations, nor is it clear whether such civilizations inevitably drive their planets into climate change.

There’s lots of hope riding on our talk about building a sustainable civilization on Earth. But how do we know that’s even possible? Does anyone across the cosmos ever make it?

Remarkably, science has now advanced to point where we can take a first step at answering this question.

I know this because my colleagues and I have just published a first study mapping out possible histories of alien planets, the civilizations they grow, and the climate change that follows.

Our team was made up of astronomers, an earth scientist, and an urban ecologist.




It was only half-jokingly that we thought of our study as a “theoretical archaeology of exo-civilizations.” “Exo-civilizations” are what people really mean when they talk about aliens.

Astronomers refer to the new worlds they’ve discovered as “exoplanets.”

They’re now gearing up to use the James Webb Space Telescope and other instruments to search for life by looking for signs of “exo-biospheres” on those exoplanets.

So if we have exoplanets and exo-biospheres, it’s time to switch out the snicker-inducing word “aliens” for the real focus of our concerns: exo-civilizations.

Of course, we have no direct evidence relating to any exo-civilizations or their histories. What we do have, however, are the laws of planets. Our robot emissaries have already visited most of the worlds in the solar system.

We’ve set up weather stations on Mars, watched the runaway greenhouse effect on Venus, and seen rain cascade across methane lakes on Titan.

From these worlds we learned the generic physics and chemistry that make up what’s called climate.

We can use these laws to predict the global response of any planet to something like an asteroid impact or perhaps the emergence of an energy-hungry industrial civilization.

Science fiction has given us enduring images of alien races. Not surprisingly, most of them look a lot like us but with different kinds of foreheads or ears, or a different number of fingers on their hands.

In developing our first cut at a science of exo-civilizations, my collaborators and I weren’t interested in what aliens might look like or what kind of sex they have.

To do our job we had to avoid the specifics of both their individual biology and their sociology because science provides us little to work with on those fronts. There was, however, one place where biology was up to the task.

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How Aliens We’ve Never Met Could Help Humanity Escape Self-Destruction

Humans have had such a dramatic impact on Earth that some scientists say we’ve kickstarted a new geological era known as the Anthropocene.

A fascinating new paper theorizes that alien civilizations could do the same thing, reshaping their homeworlds in predictable and potentially detectable ways.

The authors are proposing a new classification scheme that measures the degree to which planets been modified by intelligent hosts.

Whenever a distant exoplanet is discovered, astronomers categorize it according to its most obvious physical features and orbital characteristics.

Examples include hot-Jupiters, Earth-like terrestrial planets, and brown dwarfs.

With ongoing advances in telescope technology, the day is coming when astronomers will be able to expand on these simple characterizations, classifying a planet according to other features, including atmospheric or chemical composition.

But as a new study led by University of Rochester astrophysicist Adam Frank points out, we may eventually be able to place exoplanets within an astrobiological context, too.




In addition to taking the usual physical measures into account, Frank and his colleagues are proposing that astronomers take the influence of a hypothetical planet’s biosphere into account—including the impacts of an advanced extraterrestrial civilization.

Frank’s hypothetical planets, ranked from Class I through to Class V, range from dead, rocky worlds through to planets in which a host intelligence has solved the problems caused by its own existence, like excessive use of resources and climate change.

Moreover, as Frank explained, this paper presents more than just a planetary classification scheme—it’s a potential roadmap to an environmentally viable future.

If we discover signs of an advanced alien civilization—and that’s a big if—we may learn a thing or two about how we might be able to survive into the far future.

Indeed, we’re at a critical juncture in our history, one in which we’re crafting the planet according to our will—and so far, we’re not doing a very good job of it.

There’s ongoing debate as to whether or not our planet has crossed into the Anthropocene epoch, a new geologic chapter in which we’ve become the primary driver of planetary change.

Some scientists point to the fact that half of the planet’s land surface has been claimed for human use, or that Earth’s biogeochemical cycles of nitrogen and phosphorus have been radically altered on account of agriculture and fertilizer use, as evidence that we have.

While the technical debate over what constitutes evidence of a geologic shift continues, it’s clear humanity is altering Earth in some rather profound ways.

So much so, says Frank, that we need to place our planet, and the Anthropocene itself, within an astrobiological context. What’s happening here on Earth, says Frank, is likely happening elsewhere in the Galaxy.

Though we may be inclined to think that our situation is somehow special or unique, we have no good reason to believe that’s really the case.

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Impacts Of Genetically Modified Animals On The Ecosystem And Human Activities

The genetic modification of animals to obtain transgenic animals started in 1980. The first transgenic animals were mice, which are still the most frequently used transgenic species.

About 20 transgenic species have been obtained and they are more or less currently used. Various methods are being implemented to transfer foreign genes to the different species.

Transgenic animals are mostly used for basic research to study gene and biological functions. Transgenics may also be the source of organs and cells for humans as well as of medicaments.

The impact of transgenesis to improve animals for food and feed production is still non-existent but is expected to become a reality in the coming months.

Humans domesticated some animal species to obtain food, acquire strength for various activities and as companions.




Breeding likely contributed to revealing to humans the mechanisms of reproduction, including their own.

Long ago, humans probably made a distinction between themselves and animals, while recognizing their resemblance to animals.

More recently, humans have considered combining the biological properties of some animals with their own. They imagined the creation of chimeras from human and bull or goat.

They described and represented these chimeric organisms but could not produce them.

Genetic selection has thus become more efficient but is still totally dependent on natural and spontaneous random mutations.

In order to enlarge the choice of plants and animals for selection, humans started to use mutagenic chemical compounds.

The mutagens were applied to micro-organisms, then to plants and animals. The mutations were then much more frequent, but still totally random and unknown.

A selection makes the emergence of new lines of interest possible. More than 3000 plant varieties have thus been obtained and validated and are being used as food.

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It Seems Someone Is Producing A Banned Ozone-Depleting Chemical Again

The Montreal Protocol—a 1987 international agreement to end production of ozone-destroying chemicals like freon—seems miraculous compared to the long struggle to achieve meaningful action on climate change.

Even more astonishing is that the agreement has worked. Those chemicals (known as CFCs) take a long time to flush out of the atmosphere, but monitoring has shown that the flushing is proceeding largely according to plan.

That keeps the hole in the ozone layer on track to shrink over the coming decades. However, a new study shows that someone has been cheating in the last few years.

A group of researchers led by Stephen Montzka of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had been tracking the progress of CFCs and noticed something off with CFC-11.

This chemical has been used as a refrigerant, solvent, and propellant for aerosol spray cans, as well as in the production of styrofoam. As with the other CFCs, nations agreed to end production of CFC-11 entirely.

While there may still be some older machines leaking CFC-11, these sources should gradually disappear over time, allowing the decline of its atmospheric concentration to accelerate.




Hiding the decline?

Instead of an accelerating decline, CFC-11 showed a steady drop of 2.1 parts-per-trillion each year between 2002 and 2012.

Since then, its decline has actually slowed. Between 2015 and 2017, CFC-11 dropped at only 1.0 part-per-trillion per year.

There are a few possible explanations to sort through. The most important one is natural variations in the transport of emitted CFCs into the stratosphere, which depends on weather patterns.

But some of them can be eliminated quickly. A sudden uptick in the demolition of old buildings with CFC-11 refrigerants in their HVAC systems doesn’t seem to plausibly fit the data, for example.

Careful analysis of the data and some modeling can help us choose among the remaining explanations.

First off, the concentration of these gases has always been a little higher in the Northern Hemisphere than the Southern Hemisphere, because most of the sources are in the north.

Over the last few years, the difference between the two hemispheres has increased a bit. Similar gases haven’t done that, which points to increased emissions from the Northern Hemisphere rather than just a change in the winds.

Second, measurements from atop Mauna Loa in Hawaii show correlations between CFC-11 concentrations and a few other gases known to come from industrial emissions.

That means CFC-11 isn’t the only human pollutant seeing an uptick over the same time span.

A new source

At the height of use in the 1980s, humans released 350,000 tons of CFC-11 each year—a number that dropped to 54,000 tons per year in the early 2000s.

An additional 6,500 to 13,000 tons released each year in Eastern Asia would be enough to change the declining trend in just the way we’ve observed.

An increase that large seems to require renewed production of CFC-11—violating the Montreal Protocol.

Seeing as nations are required to track CFC production and report accurate numbers to the United Nations group that oversees the Montreal agreement, this is going to be a contentious conclusion.

The researchers chose their words carefully, and the network of measurements isn’t complete enough to point the finger at a specific nation.

Still, the list of suspects is short, and some nation needs to find and snuff out the illicit industrial activity within its borders in order to hold up its end of the Montreal Protocol.

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Some Species Of Plants Are Sleeping To Cope With Climate Change

Buttercups are dormancy-prone plants.

Not all species flee rising temperatures.

As the mercury has inched upward across western North America over the last 40 years, many plant species have moved downhill, toward—not away from—warmer climates, according to the results of a new study.

The finding adds to growing evidence that temperature isn’t the only factor influencing how Earth’s life will respond to climate change.

Like animals, plants require specific environmental conditions—such as the right temperature, moisture, and light levels—in order to thrive.

Even small changes in environmental parameters can affect the reproduction and survival of a species.

As global temperatures rise, both animal and plant populations are projected to gradually shift toward northern latitudes and upward to higher elevations where temperatures are cooler in order to stay within their ideal range of environmental conditions.




In an effort to understand how plants may cope with changing climates, researchers at the University of Washington, Seattle, compiled geographic coordinate data for the locations of nearly 300 plant species within seven topographically distinct regions across western North America.

Ranging from the western Sierra Nevada mountain range in Nevada to the eastern Rocky Mountain Foothills of northern Canada, spanning the last 40 years.

They then compared these findings with changing climate conditions, such as temperature, rain, and snowfall. The study is the most extensive of its kind to date.

The results of the analysis were unexpected. More than 60% of plants shifted their distributions downward, toward warmer, lower elevations—despite significant climate warming across the regions under study, the team reported online on 24 July in Global Change Biology.

Even more striking, all plants within a region—regardless of species—moved in the same direction.

A Pogonia japonica flower. Pogonias are dormancy-prone plants.

A closer look revealed that the downhill movement of plants was likely driven by the changes in precipitation that accompanied warming temperatures.

Those regions that experienced less rain and snow at high elevations were those with plants shifting toward lower elevations with wetter climates.

Less snow in winter translates into less water in summer, resulting in water-stressed plants and downward shifts,” Harsch says.

Although plant populations are shifting downward toward greater water availability, they will also have to contend with an increasingly warming climate.

It’s a double-edged sword,” Harsch states, “as temperatures rise, water needs will also increase.”

A bee pollinating.

Although previous, smaller studies have also noted downhill movements in relation to water availability, others report uphill movements in relation to temperature, suggesting the direction of species movements is dependent on local environmental conditions as well as the types of species present.

These studies highlight the importance of understanding the complexities not only of future climate change but the climatological requirements of individual species,” says Anne Kelly, a plant ecologist at the Catalina Island Conservancy in Avalon, California, who was not involved in the work.

Future climate changes are projected to intensify precipitation patterns in western North America, leading to more pronounced shifts in plant distributions and potential subsequent effects on the wildlife that depend on them for food and habitat.

How we decide where to allocate limited resources such as money and manpower to conserve species in the face of long-term global warming is a primary concern right now,” Harsch notes.

“We can’t monitor all species everywhere, but, by identifying the factors responsible for environmental changes, we can begin to predict effects and prioritize conservation management choices.”

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5 Ways to Recycle Your Old Smartphone

Having your new phone on hand, you finally have an excuse to ditch your current smartphone. Even if your old phone’s glory days are far behind it, you can still get some value when you decide to get rid of it.

Recycling your smartphone is a great way to reduce electronic waste, help your outdated tech find a new life, support a good cause or even make a little money.




According to a November 2012 survey by Lookout, 62% of American households have old cellphones lying around, unused.

Discarded iPhones alone account for $9 billion of unused goods in consumers’ homes.

Here are eight things you can do to make parting with your old phone that much more exciting.

1. Donate Your Phone to the Troops

Non-profit Phones for Soldiers works to provide U.S. troops with a cost-free way to call home from their active stations.

Through recycling partner Mindful eCycling, old mobile phones are traded in for calling cards and other communications devices.

2. Sell It on Glyde

Looking for a one-stop shop for selling back all the old tech in your home?

Glyde lets you buy and sell a variety of devices, plus it compares the amounts you can fetch on its site with offers from Amazon, Apple and Gazelle.

3. Put It on an Appstand

This picture frame for your iPhone 3 or 3GS turns your old iPhone into a lovely piece of home decor.

Available on sale for $8.73, the Appstand lets you breathe new life into your outdated Apple smartphone.

4. Sell It Back to Apple

Apple will trade your old iPhone for an Apple gift card through its Reuse and Recycling program. Amounts vary depending on your phone’s make and model.

5. Donate to Survivors of Domestic Violence

Verizon has collected more than 10 million phones since 2001 for victims of domestic abuse: one in four U.S. women, one in seven men and nearly 3 million children.

To donate your old phone, drop it at a Verizon store, ship it or donate to a HopeLine phone drive.

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