Communicating Sci...
Follow
Find
175 views | +0 today
 
Rescooped by The Comunicating Science team from Amazing Science
onto Communicating Science
Scoop.it!

Turing's theory of chemical morphogenesis validated 60 years after his death

Turing's theory of chemical morphogenesis validated 60 years after his death | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

Alan Turing's accomplishments in computer science are well known, but lesser known is his impact on biology and chemistry. In his only paper on biology, Turing proposed a theory of morphogenesis, or how identical copies of a single cell differentiate, for example, into an organism with arms and legs, a head and tail.

Now, 60 years after Turing's death, researchers from Brandeis University and the University of Pittsburgh have provided the first experimental evidence that validates Turing's theory in cell-like structures.

 

The team published their findings in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, March 10.

 

Turing was the first to offer an explanation of morphogenesis through chemistry. He theorized that identical biological cells differentiate, change shape and create patterns through a process called intercellular reaction-diffusion. In this model, a system of chemicals react with each other and diffuse across a space—say between cells in an embryo. These chemical reactions need an inhibitory agent, to suppress the reaction, and an excitatory agent, to activate the reaction. This chemical reaction, diffused across an embryo, will create patterns of chemically different cells.

 

Turing predicted six different patterns could arise from this model. At Brandeis, Seth Fraden, professor of physics, and Irv Epstein, the Henry F. Fischbach Professor of Chemistry, created rings of synthetic, cell-like structures with activating and inhibiting chemical reactions to test Turing's model. They observed all six patterns plus a seventh unpredicted by Turing.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
The Comunicating Science team's insight:

Turings achievements continue to amaze:

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/scienceshow/alan-turing-e28093-thinker-ahead-of-his-time/4034006

more...
No comment yet.
Communicating Science
A site for putting new examples of science communication that you find
Your new post is loading...
Your new post is loading...
Scooped by The Comunicating Science team
Scoop.it!

Demographics is important: Maps of median ages by country

Demographics is important: Maps of median ages by country | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
Does this tell us where the next revolution will take place?

 

What can the median age of a country tell you about its future?

Turns out, quite a bit. Using data from the CIA Factbook, we’ve created the graphics below to show you the median age of every country in the world.

There are 1.2 billion people between the ages of 15 and 24 in the world today — and that means that many countries have populations younger than ever before.

Some believe that this "youth bulge" helps fuel social unrest — particularly when combined with high levels of youth unemployment. Writing for the Guardian last year, John Podesta, director of the progressive Center for American Progress, warned that youth unemployment is a “global time bomb,” as long as today’s millennials remain “hampered by weak economies, discrimination, and inequality of opportunity.” 

The world’s 15 youngest countries are all in Africa. Of the continent’s 200 million young people, about 75 million are unemployed. The world’s youngest country is Niger, with a median age of 15.1, and Uganda comes in at a close second at 15.5.

On the flip side, an aging population presents a different set of problems: Japan and Germany are tied for the world’s oldest countries, with median ages of 46.1. Germany’s declining birth rate might mean that its population will decrease by 19 percent, shrinking to 66 million by 2060. An aging population has a huge economic impact: in Germany, it has meant a labor shortage, leaving jobs unfilled.

What do you think will be the long-term impact of the world's shifting demographics?

The Comunicating Science team's insight:

Ignore the rather breathless prose: the maps are fascinating and, read in concert with Wikipedia's country by country demographics, revealing

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by The Comunicating Science team
Scoop.it!

Blood feud: The debate over how long blood lasts

Blood feud: The debate over how long blood lasts | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

Each year, one out of every 70 people in the US receives a red blood cell transfusion. It can happen during heart surgery, organ transplants, trauma treatment and a multitude of other scenarios. Thankfully, there is a steady supply of donated blood for this purpose. And, with the help of preservatives developed in recent decades, the shelf life of red blood cells can last more than a month. Increasingly, though, some are wondering whether fresher blood is a better choice for certain patients. “There’s no question that old blood is really abnormal,” says Mark Gladwin, a vascular medicine specialist at the University of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. What’s debatable, he says, is whether red blood cells expire sooner than we think. As a rule of thumb, hospital blood banks in the US hang on to red blood cells for up to 42 days, and by practice, they conserve inventory by dispensing on a first-in, firstout basis. The underlying assumption is that bags of older red blood cells are as effective as fresh ones. But although blood donations are screened for infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis, it is impractical to assess each bag of blood to see how many red cells have survived or broken apart in a process called hemolysis. “Every unit of blood is its own lot, so to speak, and you can’t test every unit because you would destroy it in the process,” says Richard Weiskopf, an anesthesiologist and emeritus professor at the University of California, San Francisco. Until recently, most trials of how long stored red blood cells last have been retrospective, including one conducted by Colleen Koch, a cardiac anesthesiologist at the Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. She and her team examined patient records, comparing individuals who had received blood transfusion near, during or just after coronary artery bypass surgery, a heart valve replacement or both from 1998 through 2006. Of the 2,872 patients who received blood stored for two weeks or less, 1.7% died of complications while still hospitalized for their procedure. Among the 3,130 patients who received blood that was
stored longer than two weeks, 2.8% died of complications—a small but statistically significant difference..

The Comunicating Science team's insight:

You will have to get the whole article from your institution

 

Erdmann, Jeanne. (2014). Blood feud: The debate over how long blood lasts. Nat Med, 20(9), 979-982. doi: 10.1038/nm0914-979

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by The Comunicating Science team
Scoop.it!

Ribosomes: Unlocking the secrets to your cellular protein factories

Ribosomes: Unlocking the secrets to your cellular protein factories | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
If I were to say the word ‘protein’, you’d probably think of a juicy steak, or perhaps a muscle-building protein shake. But in our bodies, proteins give us far more than just muscular bulk. They’re the enzymes that carry out cellular reactions — the microscopic sensors that allow us to detect the smell of a rose, or the pain of a burn. They’re the cement that connects our cells together, give our nose cartilage its rigidity and our skin its elasticity. And they serve all of these incredible functions in organisms from the lowly bacterium, to the majestic sequoia, and everything in between.

But proteins, in their myriad forms, could not exist without a complex piece of cellular machinery known as the ribosome. As important as it is, the ribosome — unlike the proteins it makes — is hardly a household name.

A few weeks ago on Up Close, I spoke to Ada Yonath, who won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009 for her pioneering work on the structure of the ribosome. She is now the Director of the Helen and Milton A. Kimmelman Center for Biomolecular Structure and Assembly at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel.

The Comunicating Science team's insight:

Another Dyani Lewis podcast. It is well worth reading her back catalogue: http://dyanilewis.com/writing/ (congratulations on Nature Medicine)

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by The Comunicating Science team
Scoop.it!

Earth Exploration Toolbook

Earth Exploration Toolbook | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
The Earth Exploration Toolbook is a collection of computer-based Earth science activities. Each activity, or chapter, introduces one or more data sets and an analysis tool that enables users to explore some aspect of the Earth system.
The Comunicating Science team's insight:

For Ozone Day (I know it is silly) I recommend you look at NASA's education resources, which includes a set of activities, old but still valid on ozone: http://serc.carleton.edu/eet/ozonehole/index.html

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by The Comunicating Science team
Scoop.it!

Maps from geteach

Maps from geteach | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
Free site dedicated to help teachers educate and engage students using Google Geo Tools
The Comunicating Science team's insight:

You can waste a huge amount of time. Good selection of overlays and a elevation tool

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by The Comunicating Science team
Scoop.it!

Altered expression: Epigenetics and its influence on human development

Altered expression: Epigenetics and its influence on human development | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

Geneticist Dr Marnie Blewitt explains how epigenetics makes us more than just our genes and how gene inactivation can be crucial to our development. With science host Dr Dyani Lewis:

 

Our genetic make-up determines a lot about who we are – it determines whether we have blue eyes or brown, what blood group we have, or whether we’re predisposed to cystic fibrosis or sickle cell anaemia. But we’re beginning to learn that we’re far more than the sum of our genetic parts. Our genes only tell part of the story of who we are.

Just as important as what genes we’ve inherited from our parents, is how those genes are switched on and off throughout our lifetime. This complex system of genetic regulation has been the focus of the burgeoning field of epigenetics.

The Comunicating Science team's insight:

I hate to direct you to the opposition but this is one of a terrific set of interviews by the great science communicator Dyani Lewis that you must listen to (or read) in order to get to grips with contemporary genetic research.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by The Comunicating Science team
Scoop.it!

We a killing species at 1000 times the rate they are evolving

We a killing species at 1000 times the rate they are evolving | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

A key measure of humanity's global impact is by how much it has increased species extinction rates. Familiar statements are that these are 100–1000 times pre-human or background extinction levels. Estimating recent rates is straightforward, but establishing a background rate for comparison is not. Previous researchers chose an approximate benchmark of 1 extinction per million species per year (E/MSY). We explored disparate lines of evidence that suggest a substantially lower estimate. Fossil data yield direct estimates of extinction rates, but they are temporally coarse, mostly limited to marine hard-bodied taxa, and generally involve genera not species. Based on these data, typical background loss is 0.01 genera per million genera per year. Molecular phylogenies are available for more taxa and ecosystems, but it is debated whether they can be used to estimate separately speciation and extinction rates. We selected data to address known concerns and used them to determine median extinction estimates from statistical distributions of probable values for terrestrial plants and animals. We then created simulations to explore effects of violating model assumptions. Finally, we compiled estimates of diversification—the difference between speciation and extinction rates for different taxa. Median estimates of extinction rates ranged from 0.023 to 0.135 E/MSY. Simulation results suggested over- and under-estimation of extinction from individual phylogenies partially canceled each other out when large sets of phylogenies were analyzed. There was no evidence for recent and widespread pre-human overall declines in diversity. This implies that average extinction rates are less than average diversification rates. Median diversification rates were 0.05–0.2 new species per million species per year. On the basis of these results, we concluded that typical rates of background extinction may be closer to 0.1 E/MSY. Thus, current extinction rates are 1,000 times higher than natural background rates of extinction and future rates are likely to be 10,000 times higher.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by The Comunicating Science team
Scoop.it!

More than twice as much mercury in environment as thought

More than twice as much mercury in environment as thought | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
A new study reveals remarkable facts about commercial use of the toxic element

The most comprehensive estimate of mercury released into the environment is putting a new spotlight on the potent neurotoxin. By accounting for mercury in consumer products, such as thermostats, and released by industrial processes, the calculations more than double previous tallies of the amount of mercury that has entered the environment since 1850. The analysis also reveals a previously unknown spike in mercury emissions during the 1970s.

The finding doesn’t indicate a greater risk to human health; scientists already know how much mercury most people are exposed to. But it does show how tighter regulations over the past 4 decades have lowered the total amount of mercury emitted to the global environment—even as some industries in the developing world continue to expand.

Mercury is a dangerous neurotoxin, and it is most harmful when microbes convert the element into a compound called methylmercury. This form of the metal accumulates in food webs, concentrating in fish, which is how most people are exposed. Researchers in developed countries typically know how much methylmercury is in fish, which they use to set consumption advisories.

But scientists and public health advocates also want to know how mercury is used and where it eventually ends up in the environment. This knowledge can help inform policy and regulations.

First, some key figures in mercury accounting. Researchers have estimated that about 720,000 metric tons of the element have been taken out of the ground since 1850, when major silver and gold rushes were under way. Mercury is particularly useful for extracting silver from pulverized ore.

Mercury has also been used in many products and devices, such as thermometers and switches, and in various industrial processes. In addition, coal contains trace amounts of mercury, so burning this fossil fuel has spewed a lot of mercury into the atmosphere. All told, analysis of sediment cores and other research show that background levels of mercury have risen threefold since the Industrial Revolution.

The hard work for experts has been to figure out how much mercury all of these products and processes have used and what happens to the waste and pollution. Previous studies focused on emissions into the atmosphere. Roughly 100,000 tons of this pollution came from the use of mercury in silver mining, which peaked in the 1890s. Since then, most atmospheric mercury has been emitted by power plants, smelters, and chlor-alkali plants, which use it to make chlorine and sodium hydroxide for industry.

Environmental modeler Hannah Horowitz, a graduate student at Harvard University, and her colleagues wanted to account for all the uses of mercury over time, quantifying for the first time how much mercury has been released worldwide since 1850. The team found the largest peak in the 1970s, instead of the late 19th century. This time frame matches what is seen in sample cores taken from lake sediments and peat marshes.  

Adapted from H. M. Horowitz, et al., Environ. Sci. Technol. (August, 2014)

 

A previous study found that emissions of mercury to the atmosphere (light and dark gray) peaked in 1890. The new work found additional air pollution (light blue). Combined with mercury pollution in soil (green), water (dark blue), and landfills (purple), the 1970s were the time of the greatest mercury releases to the environment.

 

To produce their new estimates, Horowitz and colleagues compiled historical information from the scientific literature and various government reports. Along with commercial products, a major source in the 20th century was latex paint, which used mercury compounds as a preservative. After the 1970s, this use declined in the United States, until it was finally banned by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1991. Another important source in the 20th century continues to release mercury into the environment: the production of vinyl chloride, an important ingredient in plastics and vinyl.

All told, Horowitz and her co-authors say, they have accounted for 540,000 additional tons of mercury in the environment, including in soil and water. That’s two-and-a-half times more than the amount suggested by the previous estimates, they report in the 2 September issue of Environmental Science & Technology.

“This is quite a high number,” says Jozef Pacyna, a research director at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, near Oslo, who was not involved in the research. “It’s good they took this big picture.”

About 57% of the mercury released since 1850 continues to circulate in the environment; the remainder is locked away in sediments or landfills. Horowitz says it was “really difficult” to come up with an error range around the estimates. “I think the uncertainty is quite large,” she says. Indeed, in the latest Global Mercury Assessment, by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the estimate of annual emissions ranged by a factor of 4.

This research "helps to fill some of the many holes in our understanding of mercury flows historically," says Peter Maxson, a consultant based in Brussels who advises the European Commission, UNEP, and others on mercury issues. "Once mercury is brought into the environment, it doesn't just go away but becomes everyone's problem for a very long time," says Maxson, who was not an author of the new paper.  

Michael Bender, who directs the Mercury Policy Project, an advocacy organization in Montpelier, and who did not participate in the study, and others say it is crucial to continue encouraging companies to phase out their use of mercury and to tighten regulations for dealing with mercury wastes.

One of the largest concerns today with mercury is small-scale gold mining in the developing world. Environmentalists and public health advocates are pinning their hopes on an international treaty, agreed to in 2013, called the Minamata Convention, after a town in Japan where citizens suffered from severe mercury poisoning. The treaty would require countries that ratify it to ban mercury in batteries, light bulbs, and other products, and cut emissions from power plants, incinerators, and factories.

The Comunicating Science team's insight:

Heavy metals in the environment are one of most dangerous assaults to human health because they target the brain and that is about the only thing we, as humans, have going for us.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by The Comunicating Science team
Scoop.it!

Science with Chris Smith: movie-time snacks

Science with Chris Smith: movie-time snacks | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
The latest news from the world of science with Chris Smith.
The Comunicating Science team's insight:

This week Chris covers: snacking and action films (you are far better off reading my scoop.it feed; the first really insightful physiological (versus epidemiological) analysis of the benefits of breastfeeding - it has to do with gut flora - there is a lot of really interesting research coming out about the importance of our gut flora - my prediction is that we will be finding out about other bacterial communities in/on our bodies have subtle and profound effects on the function of our organism as a whole; and (we brought it to you first) analysing the extinction of languages like species.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by The Comunicating Science team
Scoop.it!

Languages are being wiped out by economic growth

Languages are being wiped out by economic growth | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
Himalayas and tropical regions likely next hotspots for language extinction

The world's roughly 7000 known languages are disappearing faster than species, with a different tongue dying approximately every 2 weeks. Now, by borrowing methods used in ecology to track endangered species, researchers have identified the primary threat to linguistic diversity: economic development. Though such growth has been shown to wipe out language in the past on a case-by-case basis, this is the first study to demonstrate that it is a global phenomenon, researchers say.

Many people know about the threatened polar bear and extinct passenger pigeon, but few have heard of endangered and extinct languages such as Eyak in Alaska, whose last speaker died in 2008, or Ubykh in Turkey, whose last fluent speaker died in 1992, says Tatsuya Amano, a zoologist at the University of Cambridge in the United Kingdom and lead author of the new study. It’s well known that economic growth or the desire to achieve it can drive language loss, he notes—dominant languages such as Mandarin Chinese and English are often required for upward mobility in education and business, and economic assistance often encourages recipients to speak dominant languages. Whereas specific case studies demonstrate such forces at work, such as the transition from Cornish to English in the United Kingdom and from Horom to English in Nigeria, this is the first study to examine losses worldwide and rank economic growth alongside other possible influences, he says.

Data on the number and location of surviving fluent speakers of endangered languages are scant, but Amano and colleagues used the most complete source available—an online repository called Ethnologue—for their analysis, he says. From the database, the group was able to calculate the geographical range, number of speakers, and rate of speaker decline for languages worldwide and map that data within square grid cells roughly 190 km across, spanning the entire globe. Although they were able to obtain information about the range and number of speakers for more than 90% of the world’s estimated 6909 languages, they could only glean details about the rate of decline or growth for 9%, or 649, of those languages, Amano notes.

Next, they looked for correlations between language loss and factors such as a country's gross domestic product and levels of globalization as calculated by an internationally recognized index. In addition, they examined environmental factors such as altitude, which might contribute to language loss by affecting how easily communities can communicate and travel.

Of all the variables tested, economic growth was most strongly linked to language loss, Amano says. Two types of language loss hotspots emerged from the study, published online today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. One was in economically well developed regions such as northwestern North America and northern Australia; a second was in economically developing regions such as the tropics and the Himalayas. Certain aspects of geography seemed to act as a buffer or threat, Amano says. For example, recent declines appear to occur faster in temperate climates than in the tropics or mountainous regions—perhaps because it is easier to travel in and out of temperate regions, Amano says. More research is necessary to determine precisely what it is about economic development that kills languages, he adds. Figuring out how growth interacts with other factors such as landscape is the next step, he says.

"This is the first really solid statistical study I've seen which shows principles about language decline that we've know about, but hadn't been able to put together in a sound way," says Leanne Hinton, a linguist at the University of California, Berkeley. Economics is far from the whole story, however, she says. In the United States, for example, current attitudes toward endangered tongues stem in large part from historical policies that forced young American Indians to eschew their native tongues in order to learn English, she says. Generations of disease, murder, and genocide—both historic and present, in some regions—have also played an important role and were not included in the new study's analysis, she says.

Although the study is silent on the subject of interventions to help preserve endangered languages, there is a range of revitalization efforts that can serve as examples, such as the incorporation of the Hawaiian language into school curricula and daily government operations, she says.

The Comunicating Science team's insight:

Can I put in a personal plea for Melanesia (and in particular Vanuautu - the per capita most linguistically diverse country on earth) which has over a hundred languages with no survey of which are most at risk.

The original article is worth reading:

Amano, Tatsuya, Sandel, Brody, Eager, Heidi, Bulteau, Edouard, Svenning, Jens-Christian, Dalsgaard, Bo, . . . Sutherland, William J. (2014). Global distribution and drivers of language extinction risk. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 281(1793). doi: 10.1098/rspb.2014.1574

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by The Comunicating Science team
Scoop.it!

How fast can humans run?

How fast can humans run? | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
Find out more about the physiology of human movement below or click here to watch more episodes of A Week in ScienceMedia Articles

The Fossilized Footprint Showing a man Faster Than Usain Bolt – Article from FactFiend
Humans Could Run 40 mph, in Theory – Article from LiveScience
The physics of the world’s fastest man – Article from Gizmag
Usain Bolt’s Speed Comes Despite Serious Aerodynamic Drag, Physicists Say – Article from Huffington Post

Academic Articles

Webb S et al., Further research of the Willandra Lakes fossil footprint site, southeastern Australia, Journal of Human Evolution; 52; 2007
Hernández Gómez JJ et al., On the performance of Usain Bolt in the 100 m sprint , European Journal of Physics; 34; 2013

The Comunicating Science team's insight:

Brief but surprising: the theoretical limits are not yet close and there is some (not very convincing) evidence that humans (Aborigines at Lake Mungo) could run much faster. Is there scope for an Australian world record?

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by The Comunicating Science team
Scoop.it!

EU debates biopiracy law to protect indigenous people

EU debates biopiracy law to protect indigenous people | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
Pharmaceutical companies would need to compensate indigenous people for using their knowhow in creating new medicines

The European parliament is debating a draft biopiracy law requiring industry to compensate indigenous people if it makes commercial use of local knowledge such as plant-based medicines.

Under the law – based on the international convention on access to biodiversity, the Nagoya protocol – the pharmaceuticals industry would need the written consent of local or indigenous people before exploring their region's genetic resources or making use of their traditional knowhow.

Relevant authorities would have the power to sanction companies that fail to comply, protecting local interests from the predatory attitude of big European companies.

German firm patents South African herb

The draft report on access to genetic resources by Green MEP Sandrine Bélier cites as an example a German pharmaceutical company's dealings in South Africa.

Pelargonium sidoides, a variety of geranium known for its antimicrobial and expectorant qualities, has been used by indigenous communities in South Africa for centuries to treat bronchitis and other respiratory diseases. As it stimulates the nervous system, it has also been used in the treatment of Aids and tuberculosis.

In 2000, the German company Schwabe made significant profits on Umckaloabo, a product derived from the geranium, without compensating local communities. It then filed patents claiming exclusive rights to the medical use of the plant.

In 2010, however, the patents were cancelled following appeals from the African Centre for Biosafety in South Africa and the Berne Declaration in Switzerland, calling the patents "an illegitimate and illegal monopolisation of genetic resources derived from traditional knowledge and a stark opposition to the convention on biodiversity".

The Comunicating Science team's insight:

There is no simple solution to difficult problems but this is a useful contribution to the debate.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by The Comunicating Science team
Scoop.it!

10,000 Galaxies in one Glance - YouTube

Dr Meghan Gray on a long-term project to intensely study a postage stamp of sky. More about STAGES: http://bit.ly/STAGES_space Deep Sky Videos websit...

The Comunicating Science team's insight:

This is a brilliant piece of communication: it has personality, good science, images edited into the explanation, links to further explanation embedded in the video, and capturing the excitement of science.

 

Worth looking at other videos
Deep Sky Videos website: http://www.deepskyvideos.com/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/DeepSkyVideos

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by The Comunicating Science team
Scoop.it!

Colossal Squid - YouTube

Te Papa has a new colossal squid! Watch live online as specialists in squids ...

The Comunicating Science team's insight:

OK, this is fantastic: three and half hours of squid dissection interspersed with interviews with the scientists. From

Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by The Comunicating Science team
Scoop.it!

The CAVE artists: Using large scale visualisation to cut through complexity

The CAVE artists: Using large scale visualisation to cut through complexity | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

the era of big data, biomedical databases are brimming with protein structures, image collections and genomic sequences. As the data mount, new ‘cave automatic virtual environments’, or CAVEs, are being built to help researchers pick through the files. Dyani Lewis meets the pioneers behind these large-scale visualization labs to see whether immersive virtual worlds can cut through the complexity.

The Comunicating Science team's insight:

Lewis, Dyani. (2014). The CAVE artists. Nat Med, 20(3), 228-230. doi: 10.1038/nm0314-228

You will have to access it through your institution

The toys for boys have moved beyond Watson and Crick's models.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by The Comunicating Science team
Scoop.it!

Crowdsourcing the Collection of Oceanographic Data

Crowdsourcing the Collection of Oceanographic Data | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

We live on a vast, underexplored planet that is largely ocean. Despite modern technology, Global Positioning System (GPS) navigation, and advanced engineering of ocean vessels, the ocean is unforgiving, especially in rough weather. Coastal ocean navigation, with risks of running aground and inconsistent weather and sea patterns, can also be challenging and hazardous. In 2012, more than 100 international incidents of ships sinking, foundering, grounding, or being lost at sea were reported (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_shipwrecks_in_2012). Even a modern jetliner can disappear in the ocean with little or no trace [1], and the current costs and uncertainty associated with search and rescue make the prospects of finding an object in the middle of the ocean daunting [2].

Notwithstanding satellite constellations, autonomous vehicles, and more than 300 research vessels worldwide (www.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_research_vessels_by_country), we lack fundamental data relating to our oceans. These missing data hamper our ability to make basic predictions about ocean weather, narrow the trajectories of floating objects, or estimate the impact of ocean acidification and other physical, biological, and chemical characteristics of the world's oceans. To cope with this problem, scientists make probabilistic inferences by synthesizing models with incomplete data. Probabilistic modeling works well for certain questions of interest to the scientific community, but it is difficult to extract unambiguous policy recommendations from this approach. The models can answer important questions about trends and tendencies among large numbers of events but often cannot offer much insight into specific events. For example, probabilistic models can tell us with some precision the extent to which storm activity will be intensified by global climate change but cannot yet attribute the severity of a particular storm to climate change. Probabilistic modeling can provide important insights into the global traffic patterns of floating debris but is not of much help to search-and-rescue personnel struggling to learn the likely trajectory of a particular piece of debris left by a wreck.

Oceanographic data are incomplete because it is financially and logistically impractical to sample everywhere. Scientists typically sample over time, floating with the currents and observing their temporal evolution (the Langrangian approach), or they sample across space to cover a gradient of conditions—such as temperature or nutrients (the Eulerian approach). These observational paradigms have various strengths and weaknesses, but their fundamental weakness is cost. A modern ocean research vessel typically costs more than US$30,000 per day to operate—excluding the full cost of scientists, engineers, and the cost of the research itself. Even an aggressive expansion of oceanographic research budgets would not do much to improve the precision of our probabilistic models, let alone to quickly and more accurately locate missing objects in the huge, moving, three-dimensional seascape. Emerging autonomous technologies such as underwater gliders and in situ biological samplers (e.g., environmental sample processors) help fill gaps but are cost prohibitive to scale up. Similarly, drifters (e.g., the highly successful Argo floats program) have proven very useful for better defining currents, but unless retrieved after their operational lifetime, they become floating trash, adding to a growing problem.

Long-term sampling efforts such as the continuous plankton recorder in the North Sea and North Atlantic [3] provide valuable data on decadal trends and leveraged English Channel ferries to accomplish much of the sampling. Modernizing and expanding this approach is a goal of citizen science initiatives. How do we leverage cost-effective technologies and economies of scale given shrinking federal research budgets?

 
The Comunicating Science team's insight:

Another citizen science project from PLOS

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by The Comunicating Science team
Scoop.it!

World's highest squat

 

Facing a mounting housing shortage, squatters have transformed an abandoned skyscraper in downtown Caracas into a makeshift home for more than 2,500 people.

The Comunicating Science team's insight:

The video is old but the squatters are still there but about to be evicted: http://www.pri.org/stories/2014-09-12/caracas-finally-ending-worlds-tallest-squat

The tower has an interesting history which captures the best and worst of free market capitalism and state intervention:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centro_Financiero_Confinanzas

 

This is one of Seth Dixon's collection of place based videos which are well worth wasting some time on:

http://www.arcgis.com/apps/MapTour/index.html?appid=4d4212dd1729479b94dcec85e0efd2d6&webmap=1f7438f251a0458395a72937b9063fe3

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by The Comunicating Science team
Scoop.it!

Microscopic Diamonds Suggest Cosmic Impact Responsible for Major Period of Climate Change

Microscopic Diamonds Suggest Cosmic Impact Responsible for Major Period of Climate Change | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

A new study published in The Journal of Geology provides support for the theory that a cosmic impact event over North America some 13,000 years ago caused a major period of climate change known as the Younger Dryas stadial, or “Big Freeze.”

 

 

Around 12,800 years ago, a sudden, catastrophic event plunged much of the Earth into a period of cold climatic conditions and drought. This drastic climate change—the Younger Dryas—coincided with the extinction of Pleistocene megafauna, such as the saber-tooth cats and the mastodon, and resulted in major declines in prehistoric human populations, including the termination of the Clovis culture.

 

With limited evidence, several rival theories have been proposed about the event that sparked this period, such as a collapse of the North American ice sheets, a major volcanic eruption, or a solar flare.

 

However, in a study published in The Journal of Geology, an international group of scientists analyzing existing and new evidence have determined a cosmic impact event, such as a comet or meteorite, to be the only plausible hypothesis to explain all the unusual occurrences at the onset of the Younger Dryas period.

 

Researchers from 21 universities in 6 countries believe the key to the mystery of the Big Freeze lies in nanodiamonds scattered across Europe, North America, and portions of South America, in a 50-million-square-kilometer area known as the Younger Dryas Boundary (YDB) field.

 

Microscopic nanodiamonds, melt-glass, carbon spherules, and other high-temperature materials are found in abundance throughout the YDB field, in a thin layer located only meters from the Earth’s surface. Because these materials formed at temperatures in excess of 2200 degrees Celsius, the fact they are present together so near to the surface suggests they were likely created by a major extraterrestrial impact event.

 

In addition to providing support for the cosmic impact event hypothesis, the study also offers evidence to reject alternate hypotheses for the formation of the YDB nanodiamonds, such as by wildfires, volcanism, or meteoric flux.

 

The team’s findings serve to settle the debate about the presence of nanodiamonds in the YDB field and challenge existing paradigms across multiple disciplines, including impact dynamics, archaeology, paleontology, limnology, and palynology.

The Comunicating Science team's insight:

Not the final word but evidence pushing away from my preferred explanation: "Humans did it"

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by The Comunicating Science team
Scoop.it!

New deep sea mushroom-shaped organisms discovered

New deep sea mushroom-shaped organisms discovered | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

Scientists discovered two new species of sea-dwelling, mushroom-shaped organisms, according to a study published September 3, 2014 in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Jean Just from University of Copenhagen, Denmark, and colleagues.

Scientists classify organisms based on shared characteristics using a taxonomic rank, including kingdom, phylum, and species. In 1986, the authors of this study collected organisms at 400 and 1000 meters deep on the south-east Australian continental slope and only just recently isolated two types of mushroom-shaped organisms that they couldn't classify into an existing phylum.

The new organisms are multicellular and mostly non-symmetrical, with a dense layer of gelatinous material between the outer skin cell and inner stomach cell layers. The organisms were classified as two new species in a new genus, Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides, in the new family, Dendrogrammatidae. Scientists found similarities between the organisms and members of Ctenophora and Cnidaria and suggest that they may be related to one of these phyla. Scientists also found similarities to 600 million year-old Pre-Cambrian extinct life forms, suggested by some to be early but failed attempts at multi-cellular life.

The authors originally preserved the specimens in neutral formaldehyde and stored them in 80% ethanol, which makes them unsuitable for molecular analysis. However, they suggest attempting to secure new samples for further study, which may provide further insight into their relationship to other organisms.

Jørgen Olesen added: "New mushroom-shaped animals from the deep sea discovered which could not be placed in any recognized group of animals. Two species are recognized and current evidence suggest that they represent an early branch on the tree of life, with similarities to the 600 mill old extinct Ediacara fauna."

Explore further: Oldest biodiversity found in Gabonese marine ecosystem

More information: Just J, Kristensen RM, Olesen J (2014) Dendrogramma, New Genus, with Two New Non-Bilaterian Species from the Marine Bathyal of Southeastern Australia (Animalia, Metazoa incertae sedis) – with Similarities to Some Medusoids from the Precambrian Ediacara. PLoS ONE 9(9): e102976. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0102976



Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-09-deep-sea-mushroom-shaped.html#jCp
The Comunicating Science team's insight:

 

More weird organims:

http://phys.org/news/2014-06-oldest-biodiversity-gabonese-marine-ecosystem.html#inlRlv

 

 

Just J, Kristensen RM, Olesen J (2014) Dendrogramma, New Genus, with Two New Non-Bilaterian Species from the Marine Bathyal of Southeastern Australia (Animalia, Metazoa incertae sedis) – with Similarities to Some Medusoids from the Precambrian Ediacara. PLoS ONE 9(9): e102976. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0102976

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2014-09-deep-sea-mushroom-shaped.html#jCp
more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by The Comunicating Science team
Scoop.it!

xkcd: Writing skills

xkcd: Writing skills | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
The Comunicating Science team's insight:

Randall Munroe of xkdc is always worth looking at and his current cartoon advertising his new book http://whatif.xkcd.com/book/ is very clever: http://xkcd.com/1416

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by The Comunicating Science team
Scoop.it!

Why is the Sky Blue? | Halftone

Why is the Sky Blue? | Halftone | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
It's a simple question that few can answer correctly. We created this simple animated explanation to demonstrate the power of using clear narrative structures to educate and inform. Imagine if you had seen something like this when you were in school.
The Comunicating Science team's insight:

A simple animation that is a great example of science communication. Halftone has some other great examples (they are in the business of selling visualisations) such as the map of Tibetan self immolations that they produced for Aljazeera.

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by The Comunicating Science team
Scoop.it!

Science Advice to Governments

The Comunicating Science team's insight:

Mostly you go to conferences to talk but here is a great briefing doc; along with some great links:

From the European Commission’s Science and Technology Advisory Council: Science for an informed, sustainable and inclusive knowledge society

From Royal Society UK: New Frontiers in Science Diplomacy

From European Food Safety Authority: EFSA initiative on Openness and Transparency

From the OECD Global Science Forum: Scientific Advice for Policy Making and Consequences for the Role and Responsibility of Scientists

From the OECD Global Science Forum: OECD-Global Science Forum (GSF) work on science advice

From the Scientific Advisor’s Office, Cuba: Cuban Science Advisory Model

From University of Waterloo, article by Heather Douglas: Scientific Integrity in a Politicized World

From University of Waterloo, article by Heather Douglas: Bullshit at the Interface of Science and Policy: Global Warming, Toxic Substances,and Other Pesky Problems

From Office of the PM’s Chief Science Advisor, NZ: The role of evidence in policy formation and implementation

From Department of Politics, University of Exeter Article: The temporal dimension of knowledge and the limits of policy appraisal: biofuels policy in the UK

Special Supplement of Research Fortnight: Global Science Advice, Auckland, August 2014

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by The Comunicating Science team
Scoop.it!

Where China and Kazakhstan Meet

Where China and Kazakhstan Meet | Communicating Science | Scoop.it
People often say that borders are not visible from space. But the line between Kazakhstan and China couldn't be clearer if it were drawn on the sand.

The border between the two countries is defined by land-use policies. In China, land use is intense. Only 11.62 percent of China’s land is arable. Pressed by a need to produce food for 1.3 billion people, China farms just about any land that can be sustained for agriculture. Fields are dark green in contrast to the surrounding arid landscape, a sign that the agriculture is irrigated. As of 2006, about 65 percent of China’s fresh water was used for agriculture, irrigating 629,000 square kilometers (243,000 square miles) of farmland, an area slightly smaller than the state of Texas.

The story is quite different in Kazakhstan. Here, large industrial-sized farms dominate, an artifact of Soviet-era agriculture. While agriculture is an important sector in the Kazakh economy, eastern Kazakhstan is a minor growing area. Only 0.03 percent of Kazakhstan’s land is devoted to permanent agriculture, with 20,660 square kilometers being irrigated. The land along the Chinese border is minimally used, though rectangular shapes show that farming does occur in the region. Much of the agriculture in this region is rain-fed, so the fields are tan much like the surrounding natural landscape.

The Comunicating Science team's insight:

A dramatic reminder that government is important in ecological and sustainability battles. Sometimes the global is global.

 

The references that NASA provides are also interesting (and NASA is always worth looking at http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov)

BBC News (2010, January 30) Kazakhs protest against China farmland lease. Accessed July 9, 2014.Earth Observatory (2013, September 25) Fall harvest in Kazakhstan. Accessed July 9, 2014.Encyclopedia of Earth (2013, August 25) Land use profile of China. Accessed July 9, 2014.Fragile Oasis (2011, September 7) Borders from space. Accessed July 9, 2014.United States Central Intelligence Agency (2014, June 22) The world factbook: China. Accessed July 9, 2014.United States Central Intelligence Agency (2014, June 22) The world factbook: Kazakhstan. Accessed July 9, 2014.
more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by The Comunicating Science team
Scoop.it!

Metabolically Active Microbes In Hydrocarbon Lakes

Metabolically Active Microbes In Hydrocarbon Lakes | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

In a ground-breaking discovery released by the journal Science, researchers have revealed microhabitats of metabolically active, thriving microbes living in the world’s largest asphalt lake, Pitch Lake, on the island of Trinidad in the Caribbean.  Asphalt lakes are large reservoirs of a sticky, black, viscous hydrocarbons (known as asphalt, bitumen or pitch) where no life was expected to be found.

The international team discovered the microbes in tiny water droplets recovered from the lake in 2011.  Each sample, measuring only one to three microliters, has the equivalent volume of approximately 1/50 of a conventional “drop” of water.

The team’s only United States-based researcher, Dirk Schulze-Makuch, is a professor at Washington University School of the Environment.  Using advanced sequencing technologies, the team extracted all the DNA of all organisms in each droplet simultaneously.  Reading through 12 microdroplets, they found 21 species of bacteria and archaebacteria.

Professor Schulze-Makuch explained that each water droplet seems representative of an entire ecosystem because of the observed diversity in bacteria and archaea.  Moreover, remarkably there was very little measurable ammonia or phosphates, both ingredients thought to be essential for life.

These microbes, the researchers report, are actively degrading oils in the lake, most likely to exploit it as a source of bioenergy.  One bioengineering implication of this discovery is to use these active microbes to clean up oil spills with as little impact to the environment as possible.

The water droplets also had an unusually high salt content.  By studying the isotope composition of droplets from Pitch Lake, the team was able to say that the microbes did not originate from surface waters that are part of the hydrologic cycle, but rather from much deeper, for example ancient underground seawater or another deep source of brine.

Professor Schulze-Makuch went on to explain that these microbes could mean life on other planets as well.  One well-known example is Saturn’s moon, Titan.  Its surface is characterized as being saturated with hydrocarbons, in liquid lakes on the ground and also in vapor form and liquid rain in the atmosphere.  Schulze-Makuch explains that this discovery has implications for astrobiology, the study of life on other planets.

The Comunicating Science team's insight:

The closer we look the weirder life on earth looks, even ignoring life beyond earth.

Science 8 August 2014: Vol. 345 no. 6197 pp. 673-676

more...
No comment yet.
Scooped by The Comunicating Science team
Scoop.it!

Topography of religion

Topography of religion | Communicating Science | Scoop.it

from USA TODAY an interactive infographic of state by state religious affiliations

The Comunicating Science team's insight:

Elegant interactive infographic: even if the information does not grab you (and it should) admire its presentation

more...
No comment yet.