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Science

Location of the Kraken not specified

Cool infographic at BBC on the ocean's depths.


By fnord12 | February 24, 2012, 12:48 PM | Science | Comments (0)| Link



The Donuts are In Jeopardy!

Scientific American tells me that the southwestern U.S. looks like it might experience a drought similar to Australia's nine year drought.

Australia experienced the worst and most consistent dry period in its recorded history over much of the past decade. The Murray River failed to reach the sea for the first time ever in 2002. Fires swept much of the country, and dust storms blanketed major cities for days. Australia's sheep population dropped by 50 percent, and rice and cotton production collapsed in some years. Tens of thousands of farm families gave up their livelihoods. The drought ended in 2010 with torrential rains and flooding.
...
The southwestern U.S. bears some resemblance to parts of Australia before the drought. Both include arid regions where thirsty cities and irrigated agriculture are straining water supplies and damaging ecosystems. The Colorado River no longer flows to the sea in most years. Water levels in major reservoirs have steadily declined over the past decade; some analysts project that the largest may never refill. The U.S. and Australia also share a changing global climate that is increasing the risk of drought.
...
The Millennium Drought did have one benefit: it got people's attention. Australians responded to these extremes with a wide range of technical, economic, regulatory and educational policies. Urban water managers in Australia have been forced to put in place aggressive strategies to curb water use and to expand sources of new and unconventional supplies. They have subsidized efficient appliances and fixtures such as dual-flush toilets, launched public educational campaigns to save water, and more. Between 2002 and 2008 per capita urban water use--already low compared with the western U.S.--declined by 37 percent.

Other efforts focus on tapping unconventional supplies, such as systems that reuse gray water, cisterns to harvest rooftop runoff, and sewage treatment and reuse. The country's five largest cities are spending $13.2 billion to double the capacity of desalination, enough to meet 30 percent of current urban water needs.

Even in the midst of the drought, Australia moved forward with plans to restore water to severely degraded aquatic ecosystems. The government has continued with plans to restore rivers and wetlands by cutting withdrawals from the Murray-Darling river basin by 22 to 29 percent. It has committed $3 billion to purchase water from irrigators to restore ecosystems. Regulators introduced water markets in the hope of making farms more water-efficient and reducing waste. Despite efforts to phase out subsidies, the government announced more than $6 billion in aid to improve irrigation infrastructure and make it more productive.

The southwestern U.S. states would do well to push for these kinds of reforms before a similar disaster strikes. They need to tackle difficult policy issues, such as development of water markets and pricing, expansion of water efficiency and productivity programs, elimination of government subsidies that encourage inefficient or unproductive water use by cities and farms, and agricultural reform. As the climate continues to change, smart water planning may help ease the impacts of unexpected and severe shocks that now appear inevitable.

Is it wrong that my first reaction after reading that last paragraph is "*snort* Yeah, right."?

Ofc, once the shit hits the fan and there is a drought, the whining will start in earnest. If it's a Democrat in the White House, it will be his Commie Socialist Liberal Satan-loving policies that caused it all. There will be a few more years of finger-pointing and complaints, but no real action to fix things. People will simultaneously complain that the government isn't doing enough while accusing the government of being too involved in people's lives. And then depending on how financially important that area is, the government will either let it die or put together some half-assed solution to keep it going.

But let's get to the issue that's really important here. Without water, how the hell is Ronald's Donuts supposed to keep making delicious vegan donuts for me to eat? To hell with the rest of the southwest. I want my won ton noodle soup, dammit.


By min | February 24, 2012, 9:12 AM | Liberal Outrage & Science | Comments (0)| Link



Yeah, But Can They Power Things?

Scientists think they're soooo smart just cause they created a working transistor that's only the size of a phosphorus atom.

Their transistors can't power all sorts of gadgets, though, can they? No. And that's what makes Tony Stark better than these smarty-pants scientists.


By min | February 21, 2012, 2:32 PM | Comics & Science | Comments (0)| Link



Mmm...Staph-Flavored Bacon...

Damn you, factory farm supporting meat-eaters.

Link

One strain of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) known as CC398 has been rapidly spreading through poultry and pig farms, infecting people who work with the animals around the world (up to 26.5 percent of farm workers sampled in the Neatherlands), and popping up in nearly half of all meat sampled in the U.S.

(Yes, that says "Neatherlands". Damn you, Scientific American editors! *shakes fist*)

The detailed new study helps to clarify how this new breed of drug-resistant staph, known as livestock-acquired MRSA, has become so prevalent among livestock so quickly--after only having been spotted spreading back to humans about a decade ago. "We can't blame nature or the germs," Paul Keim, director of TGen's Pathogen Genimics Division and co-author of the study, said in a prepared statement. "It is our inappropriate use of antibiotics that is now coming back to haunt us."
...
In the U.S. and many other countries, farmers don't just use antibiotics to treat sick animals. Many producers feed it to their livestock in low levels as a preventive measure to keep animals that are in confined feeding operations, such as feed lots, from getting sick while being in such close proximity to one another.

So, clearly, my biggest concern is can the contaminated runoff from these farms then contaminate vegetable crops? If they can, then cereally, goddamn you. But if not, then i would suggest you all consider giving veganism a try. Or at least start buying organic.

And also, stop shaking hands with people. People are dirty.


By min | February 21, 2012, 2:23 PM | Science | Comments (0)| Link



Garbage collecting satelitte

Link. Solves this problem.

Via Yglesias, who of course turns it into a general policy discussion.


By fnord12 | February 15, 2012, 3:14 PM | Science | Comments (0)| Link



What If Your Job Was to Show Monkeys Clint Eastwood Movies

And you got to call it science?

A new method may help to overcome some of the difficulties in comparing the human and monkey brains. To test the method, researchers scanned the brains of humans and macaque monkeys while they watched Sergio Leone's classic spaghetti western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

And we do so lovee comparing human brains to monkey brains. If only it weren't so difficult.

They recruited 24 human participants, and used functional magnetic resonance imaging to scan their brains as they watched the same film clip. This confirmed that the film clip evoked the same pattern of brain activity in all the participants, as in the 2004 study. They then did the same with four macaque monkeys, each of which was shown the same clip six times, and found that all four animals also exhibited the same activity patterns as each other across multiple viewings. Next, the researchers compared the activity patterns they observed in the human participants with those of the monkeys, focusing on 34 distinct regions the visual cortex.
...
As expected, the first set of data obtained using the new method revealed a remarkable degree of similarity between the human and monkey brain. In general, there were very good correspondences between the activity patterns observed in both species, particularly in those brain areas involved in the earliest stages of visual processing. But the researchers also observed some surprising differences in higher order visual cortical areas. Some of those activated at the same time in both species were found to be in different locations, while others in corresponding locations were activated at different times, suggesting that they evolved entirely new functions in humans.

I think this was my favorite line from the article:

"I'm pretty sure the monkeys aren't worrying about plot twists"

How can he know??? He can't know!!!


By min | February 8, 2012, 9:27 AM | Science | Comments (0)| Link



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