City populations are expected to grow by five billion people and expand by 1.2 million square kilometers by 2030. Much of this expansion is forecast to occur in the tropics, which contain the bulk of the world's species. The new study attempts to quantify the impact of urbanization on the world's so-called "hotspots" — nearly three dozen areas with exceptionally high levels of species found no where else.
Using data from a variety of sources, researchers at Yale University, Texas A&M University, and Boston University developed a probabilistic model for estimating the impacts of urbanization on vegetation, carbon stocks, and threatened species. They found that by 2030, nearly three percent of hotspot areas will be urbanized, up from one percent in 2000. While the extent seems small, paving over marshes, forests, and grasslands could generate 1.38 billion tons of carbon emissions (5 billion tons of CO2) from direct land use change. Some 214 species currently listed as endangered and critically endangered and considered focal species by the Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) would be affected by urban expansion, including 20 — 15 of which are amphibians — that would experience complete urbanization of their habitat.
The biggest biodiversity impacts would occur in Africa and Europe, whereas the biggest increase in hotspot urbanization is forecast in Africa and Asia, specifically the Eastern Afromontane, the Guinean Forests of West Africa, the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka hotspots, according to the study.
At the moment, wind power supplies about 4.1 percent of electric power in the United States. Still a bit player. Yet there’s a whole lot of untapped wind left in the world. Wind whipping through the Great Plains. Wind gusting off the shores. Wind circulating high up in the sky. So what would happen if we tried to harvest all of that wind?
We’d have enough energy to power the world. At least in theory. A new study published this week in Nature Climate Change finds that there’s enough wind potential both on the Earth’s surface and up in the atmosphere to power human civilization 100 times over. Right now, humans use about 18 terawatts of power worldwide. And, technically, the study found, we could extract about 400 terawatts of wind power from the Earth’s surface and 1,800 terawatts of power from the upper atmosphere.
Even the most optimistic near-term projections for wind power, however, tend to be more restrained. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy released a comprehensive report estimating that wind power could provide, at most, 20 percent of U.S. electricity by 2030. And for that to happen, the cost of wind power would have to keep plunging, the number of turbines built would have to steadily increase by about 14 percent each year, and utilities would have to build new transmission lines to accommodate the extra energy.
For the first time, people with broken spines have recovered feeling in previously paralysed areas after receiving injections of neural stem cells. Three people with paralysis received injections of 20 million neural stem cells directly into the injured region of their spinal cord. The cells, acquired from donated fetal brain tissue, were injected between four and eight months after the injuries happened. The patients also received a temporary course of immunosuppressive drugs to limit rejection of the cells. None of the three felt any sensation below their nipples before the treatment. Six months after therapy, two of them had sensations of touch and heat below their belly button. The third patient has not seen any change. The patients are the first three of 12 who will eventually receive the therapy. The remaining recipients will have less extensive paralysis.
Fireflies, one of the most conspicuous of nocturnal insects, are a relatively recent addition to the twilight world. A new analysis of all bioluminescent species suggests that those living on land might be mere tens of millions of years old – a fraction of the age of bioluminescing marine groups. Bioluminescence serves many purposes, from communication to finding mates, scaring off predators to attracting prey. Yet while many marine species bioluminesce, very few terrestrial animals have evolved the ability. Besides fireflies and a few other insects, only one snail, a few earthworms and a handful of millipedes can produce light.
Most marine light-producing animals can trace their origins back to the Devonian period, at least 400 million years ago, wheres bioluminescent animals are all much younger – no more than 65 million years old. It's possible that luminescent species appeared on land only when night life began to diversify, although there are indications that some of the dinosaurs and early birds living before the bioluminescent insects evolved were already nocturnal. Another possibility is that terrestrial species have only recently cracked the problem of disposing of the toxic by-products of bioluminescence – less of an issue in the marine realm where temperatures are often cooler and more stable than in tropical forests.
Whatever the reason for the discrepancy, the future for terrestrial bioluminescent species might not be bright. While bioluminescent insects on land have diversified into 13 known species, most of them are known from only a single collected individual. That suggests they are extremely rare and vulnerable to extinction.
This new digital age can put a strain on the teachers when it comes to enforcing the "no phones in class" rule, but it can also streamline the teaching process to make things more accessible and easier to understand. Here are eight apps that can help teachers better reach their students without pulling them away from their iOS devices.
Science can be a struggle for many students, especially those who do not have logical/mathematical brains. Start off the school year by directing your students toward apps that will make science a little easier.
Humans may have conquered the world, but not without a big helping hand from climate change. A major study of the last 120,000 years of history reminds us that, while we are adaptable, our species is ultimately at the mercy of the climate. Homo sapiens evolved in Africa around 200,000 years ago, but only left the continent about 70,000 years ago. After that our species rapidly went global, colonising first Europe and Asia, and then Australasia and the Americas.
But why did early humans linger so long in Africa, and what spurred them to finally move? Several theories have been proposed, but according to a large effort to reconstruct the last 120,000 years of human history – including the climate we lived in and the vegetation we fed on – the current population spread around the planet would not be as it is without key changes in the climate.
The new climate model revealed that climate changes probably had a key role in lifting four major roadblocks to humanity's global takeover. The first and most important roadblock was the Arabian peninsula, an impassable desert that trapped humans in Africa for tens of thousands of years. Then, 70,000 years ago it began receiving more rain. The coastal areas became more fertile, allowing humans out of Africa. One group expanded east into Asia, spreading south-east into Indonesia. There, they hit a second roadblock: high sea levels meant that wide stretches of open water separated the many islands. Manica assumed that crossings of 100 kilometres were a bridge too far, leaving pioneers no way to reach Australia. That meant people could only go further once sea levels fell, exposing more patches of low-lying land and making for shorter sea journeys. The waters fell 60,000 years ago and then again 15,000 years later, as successive glaciations trapped more of the world's water at the poles.
Further north, humans reached Siberia by 30,000 years ago, where they were met by a vast ice sheet which prevented them from entering North America – the third roadblock. Not until 15,000 years ago did it shrink, allowing them into the Americas. Once in, they spread rapidly. Back in Europe and Asia, populations faced one last roadblock: their local ice sheets. During warm periods humans went north into Scandinavia and northern Asia, but they were forced south when the ice advanced again.
A fully-functioning, water-resistant cardboard bicycle is all set to hit the streets. And all major engineers claimed "it cannot be done".
The last time you purchased something made entirely from cardboard, chances are it was a box to pack up your belongings. While the sturdy material is perfect for moving your stuff, an inventor from Israel has figured out a way to make cardboard move you. Using nine dollars worth of materials, bicycle enthusiast Izhar Gafni has created a fully functioning, water-resistant bicycle, made, from seat to spokes, entirely of recycled cardboard. The technology makes the environmentalist's choice mode of transportation even a bit greener and easier on the wallet.
The all cardboard bike is shockingly durable: it can carry riders who weigh up to 485 pounds. A layer of coating atop the cardboard shields the bike from the elements and gives the finished product the look and feel of lightweight plastic. While the cost to make the bicycle ranges from nine to twelve dollars, the manufacturer expects to sell the vehicle for sixty to ninety dollars depending on the optional addition of an electric motor.
“It's going to be a game-changer in the bike world,” says Giora Kariv, an Israeli artist and a longtime friend of Gafni's who made a documentary about the project. “Like Henry Ford who made the car available to anybody, this bike is going to be cheap and available to any child in the world, including children in Africa who walk dozens of miles to school everyday.” Gafni's next steps involve establishing a company to produce and distribute his cardboard creation to the world market. He's currently working with investors to have the product ready for mass-production and worldwide distribution by next year.
Saturn's moon Titan has many of the components for life without liquid water. But the orange hydrocarbon haze that shrouds the planet's largest moon could be creating the molecules that make up DNA without the help of water – an ingredient widely thought to be necessary for the molecules formation according to a 2011 international study.
Paul Davies, a leading authority in astrobiology, director of BEYOND: Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science and co-director of the ASU Cosmology Initiative, says: "To the best of our knowledge, the original chemicals chosen by known life on Earth do not constitute a unique set; other choices could have been made, and maybe were made if life started elsewhere many times."
Researchers warn however that although Titan's atmosphere is creating these molecules, that doesn't mean that the molecules are combining to form life, But the finding could entice astrobiologists to consider a wider range of extrasolar planets as potential hosts for at least simple forms of organic life, the team of scientists from the US and France suggests.
Johns Hopkins scientists have developed a reliable method to turn the clock back on blood cells, restoring them to a primitive stem cell state from which they can then develop into any other type of cell in the body.
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