The online companion to Steven Johnson's book The Ghost Map: The Story of London's Most Terrifying Epidemic - and How it Changed Science, Cities and the Modern World, including video, reviews, maps, reader's guide, discussion questions, and links to further onine resources.
If you knew absolutely nothing about the bitter public debates over certain scientific issues in the US, the “teach the controversy” bills that keep surfacing would probably sound reasonable and unremarkable.
Diane Johnson's insight:
"The problem with the bills isn’t that legislators want to see students grapple with bioethics; that could certainly be worthwhile. The problem is that they think it makes sense to describe that as reviewing “in an objective manner the scientific strengths and weaknesses” of human cloning. Ethics are not scientific strengths, scientific weaknesses, or even objective. They’re ethics. Values. Subjective.
It’s not really surprising that some people would conflate the ethical implications of a science or technology with “scientific weaknesses.” It’s the perceived religious implications of evolution that make that science hard for some to accept, just as the perceived political implications of climate change make that science hard for some to accept. But this confusion on the part of the bills' sponsors isn’t protected from being wrong by being unsurprising."
Further support for 3-dimensional approach of the NGSS. Sigh...
For the first time, scientists have witnessed a direct connection between rising levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide and an increase in the amount of thermal radiation striking Earth’s surface. The work affirms a cornerstone of the theory that humans have contributed to worldwide warming in recent decades, the researchers report online February 25 in Nature.
Carbon dioxide, like other greenhouse gases, can absorb and reradiate infrared light back down to Earth. This process traps thermal energy around the planet that would otherwise escape into space. To uncover how large an effect recent CO2 increases have had on Earth’s energy balance, climate scientist Daniel Feldman of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California and colleagues monitored the amount of thermal radiation hitting two sites in Alaska and Oklahoma on cloudless days. Because CO2 emits light within a signature range of wavelengths, the researchers could differentiate between energy balance changes caused by CO2 and those caused by other factors, such as water vapor.
Over 10 years of near-daily observations, the team found that a rise in CO2 concentrations of 22 parts per million boosted the amount of incoming thermal radiation from CO2 by 0.2 watts per square meter, an increase of about 10 percent. The researchers say their results agree with the theoretical predictions of CO2-driven warming used in simulations of future climate.
Rain and snow have graced the West recently, causing many residents to breathe a sigh of relief about possible easing of the severe drought conditions that have worsened there over the past three-plus years. Complacency about drought and climate change is not warranted, say Dr. Noah Diffenbaugh and his research team from Stanford.
In “Anthropogenic warming has increased drought risk in California,” an article just published online today by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Diffenbaugh and colleagues reveal proof of a somewhat counterintuitive hypothesis: higher temperatures, not necessarily precipitation shortages, drive the phenomenon of drought.
Diffenbaugh heads the Climate and Earth System Dynamics research group in the School of Earth, Energy & Environmental Sciences at Stanford, where he’s an associate professor and a senior fellow in the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. He was behind last September’s conclusions that climate change is occurring 10 times faster now than at any time in the past 65 million years. He has also said that at its current pace, climate change will involve a 5- to 6-degree Celsius rise by 2100.
We are living in an era of receding glaciers, accelerating loss of species habitat, unprecedented population migration, growing inequalities within and between nations, rising concerns over resource depletion, and shifting patterns of interaction and identity. This website provides 11 geographic investigations aligned to the geographic questions in the NRC Understanding Our Changing Planet report. The report focuses on the future directions in the geographical sciences and how these key questions will guide research to help us understand the planet on which we live.
University of Utah engineers have discovered a new approach for designing filters capable of separating different frequencies in the terahertz spectrum, the next generation of communications bandwidth that could allow […]...
For the first time ever, scientists have photographed light behaving simultaneously as both a particle and a wave. The image is a momentous achievement, providing direct observation of both behaviors simultaneously for the first time, after decades of attempts by the scientific community. Previous research projects have successfully observed wave-like behaviors and particle-like behaviors in light, but not at the same time.
The dual behavior of light, which is demonstrated through quantum mechanics and was first proposed by Albert Einstein, was only possible to capture by scientists at École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland, due to an unorthodox imaging technique. The scientists generated the image with electrons, making use of EPFL’s ultrafast energy-filtered transmission electron microscope. This gave them a rare advantage over other institutions, as EPFL has one of only two microscopes in the world.
The image was achieved first by firing a pulse of laser light at a miniscule metallic nanowire, adding energy to charged particles in the nanowire and making them vibrate. The light waves travel along the nanowire in opposite directions, like lanes of cars on a road, but when they meet from opposite directions they form a new wave the appears as if it is “standing in place”, effectively confined to the nanowire. This wave, which radiates around the nanowire, was the light source that was imaged.
The scientists fired a stream of electrons in close proximity to the nanowire, and imaged their interaction with this “standing wave”. As they came into contact with the light, their changes in behavior acted as a visualization of the light’s behavior. The electrons that interacted with the light, or photons, either slowed down or sped up, together forming a visualization of the light’s wave. However, the changes in speed also appeared as an exchange of quanta – packets of energy – between the electrons and the photons. These packets were the tell-tale sign of the light behaving as a particle.
Thick armor and jaws packed full of teeth aren't the only defences that alligators and crocodiles have. They also have formidable immune systems and some of the protective molecules that enable this have now been identified. Their discovery in the blood of the American alligator might even pave the way for a new generation of antibiotics.
Crocodilians have existed on Earth for at least 37 million years. Over the course of their evolution, they have developed a very strong defence against infection. "They inflict wounds on each other from which they frequently recover without complications from infection despite the fact that the environments in which they live are less than sterile," says Barney Bishop of George Mason University in Fairfax, Virginia, co-author of the new study.
American alligators have an enviable innate immune system, the "primitive" first line of defence that is shared by all vertebrates. In 2008, chemists in Louisiana found that blood serum taken from the reptiles destroyed 23 strains of bacteria and depleted reserves of the HIV virus. The germ-killing molecules were identified as enzymes that break down a type of lipid.
Although their results have yet to lead to any new antibiotics, enzymes aren't the only pathogen-busting molecules that alligators have up their sleeve. Bishop's group has now identified and isolated peptides known as a CAMPs or cationic antimicrobial peptides. These molecules are positively charged so the team developed nanoparticles to electrostatically pick them out of the complex mix of proteins in alligator blood plasma.
In total, the group fished out 45 peptides. Of these, they chemically synthesised eight and evaluated their antimicrobial properties. Five killed some of the E.colibacteria they were presented with, while the other three destroyed most of theE.coli and also showed some activity against bacteria including Pseudomonas aeruginosa, which can cause inflammation and sepsis, and Staphylococcus aureus, which can trigger skin infections, sinusitis and food poisoning. So far, the strains have performed well, says Bishop. Identifying novel antimicrobial peptides is urgently needed because of the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, says Guangshun Wang at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. "Because of the novelty of the sequences," he says, "these peptides provide new templates for developing antimicrobials to combat superbugs."
There may be a counterintuitive explanation for the deep freeze that hit New England this winter: The rapidly warming Arctic is causing big disruptions in the jet stream, which carries weather across North America. Is this the worst winter you've experienced?
Tags: physical, weather and climate, Arctic, Boston, climate change, podcast.
Innovate to Mitigate wants students or student groups to submit ideas about how to address climate change by reducing greenhouse gases.
People around the world are working hard on this problem. To meet the big challenges we face, we need good ideas from everyone. This challenge encourages young people to unlock their immense potential for finding solutions!
Students will competing for a chance to win prize money and earn recognition from peers, community and experts.
Diane Johnson's insight:
Terrific opportunities for students and great applications for your units!
The tunable laser spectrometer in the SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) instrument of the Curiosity robot has unequivocally detected an episodic increase in the concentration of methane in Mars’ atmosphere […]...
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