Monday, September 30, 2019

gardening against extinction

Open Archive Day

More than half the native European tree species are facing extinction, it was reported last week. Now that is one of many signs that things are going horribly wrong for our planet, and we should do more to stop them going wrong.

The silver lining about plant extinctions though is that they are very easy to prevent. As I learned when I researched the feature about the conservation role of botanic gardens last year, experts think there is no reason to let any plant go extinct. Most can be kept as seeds and can be readily regrown. The only troublesome plant species are the weird and wonderful ones, microscopic, parasitic, mosses, liverworts, that kind of thing. As I remember it, European trees are probably fairly well looked after, so even if they are in trouble right now, they won't disappear from the face of the planet.

That feature is now in the open archives:

Can botanic gardens save all plants?







Some European trees seen at Parsons Pleasure, practically on my doorstep. (Own photo)

Sunday, September 29, 2019

last call for brexodus

Ever since the 2015 general election, living in the UK as a non-British EU citizen has been a bit of a rollercoaster ride. I have (mentally) prepared to move out at various low points, including Cameron's re-election, the referendum, the Brexit Bill which set the Article 50 procedure rolling, and now the prorogation of parliament aiming to facilitate a no-deal brexit.

So, well, it's been rather lovely living here for the first 25 years or so, but the way things are going we can't really be sure it will be safe to stay. Under Theresa May's plans, non-British EU citizens who want to stay have to apply for settled status by the end of 2020. Which makes 2020 the crunch year. If on 1.1.2020 Johnson is still PM and/or the UK has left the EU without an agreement, I think it will be time to move on rather than applying to register. Funnily enough, the very preliminary exit plan I scribbled down after the 2015 election also leads up to a 2020 exodus date. My crystal ball wasn't lying back then.

Right now there's still hope the whole thing will go up in a puff of smoke, but if the sword above our heads is still there in January, let's get a move on. It is actually dangerous to gradually adjust to worsening political climate and think it will be ok. Bad people feel encouraged by the direction things are going, and they will make everyting worse, so there is a possible feedback loop that may already have passed the point of no return.

I'll welcome suggestions re. where in the EU27 might be a soft landing place for someone grown accustomed to the cultural life of Oxford and London.



Cover of the issue of Der Spiegel dated 7.9. Since this one, the following issues of the magazine have failed to arrive here. The Death Eaters wouldn't go as far as embargoing foreign news media, or would they? (Update: the issue of 14.9. arrived on the 28th. Normally they arrive after 3 days, i.e. on the Tuesday after the cover date.)

Update 2.10.2019: Now they're blocking my escape route - when I take the Eurostar to the continent, I normally travel on the X90 to Baker St (and enjoy the 35 mins walk from there to St. Pancras). The news today is that the X90 service will stop operating after January 4th (see also the report in the Oxford Mail). As it happens I would normally come back from my next trip a few days after that date. Feels like somebody doesn't want me to come back ... or like pub staff starting to wipe the tables and putting the chairs up. Speaking of which, the pub where we were having four different sessions each month since the beginning of the year has also kicked us out on Monday giving just 24h notice. Oh well. Maybe all of these things are signs that it really is time to move.


Saturday, September 28, 2019

the quest of the absolute

The inspiration behind my new header pic:

At an Oxfam bookshop I discovered an ancient folio edition (matching my folio paperbacks from the 1980s) of the novel La recherche de l'absolu (the quest of the absolute) by Balzac. It is the story of a rich bourgeois of Douai in the North of France, who becomes so obsessed with chemical investigations that he neglects his social obligations and commercial interests and ruins his family. So the edition I found features a painting of an alchemist by Louis Gabriel Eugène Isabey, Le cabinet d'un alchimiste (Palais des beaux-arts de Lille), which I found very fitting:



I looked it up and found the complete painting here and adopted it as my new header. The old one with the word "LABORATORY", from the front door of the Dyson Perrins Laboratory, must have been in place for nearly 9 years. In the early days I changed the pictures monthly, to mimic a wall calendar, but at some point I got stuck. The most recent changes I can find recorded date from April and March 2010.

I bought the book too, although I'm not sure I'll ever read it. Somehow I doubt whether I still have the patience to put up with Balzac.

Friday, September 27, 2019

science news 27.9.2019

PSA: The new header pic is: Louis Gabriel Eugène Isabey, Le cabinet d'un alchimiste (Palais des beaux-arts de Lille). Source.


Today's selection of science news. Links are normally to press releases on EurekAlert (at the bottom end I may also add a couple of newspaper stories). I include quotes from the summary in italics in cases where the title alone doesn't reveal what the story is about. My own thoughts appear without italics if I have any.


astrobiology

A planet that should not exist
Astronomers detected a giant planet orbiting a small star. The planet has much more mass than theoretical models predict. While this surprising discovery was made by a Spanish-German team at an observatory in southern Spain, researchers at the University of Bern studied how the mysterious exoplanet might have formed.



Jupiter-like planet with a blueish colour orbiting a cool red dwarf.
Credit: © CARMENES/RenderArea/J. Bollaín/C. Gallego


Earliest signs of life: Scientists find microbial remains in ancient rocks


birds

How neuronal recognition of songbird calls unfolds over time


nanoworld

How to tie microscopic knots

Chemists clarify a chiral conundrum?
Rice University researchers set out to untangle the mysterious interactions in mixtures of proteins and gold nanorods. Their experiments revealed multilevel chirality in the way proteins prompt nanoparticles to align and in how the particles' plasmons respond to light in the proteins' presence.
I'm not claiming I understand this, but it does sound intriguing. I also love the quizzical use of the question mark in the title.


biomedical

How fungus-farming ants could help solve our antibiotic resistance problem
For the last 60 million years, fungus-growing ants have farmed fungi for food. In their cultivation of those fungi, they've successfully relied on bacteria-produced antimicrobial ingredients to protect their crops from other species of parasitic fungi. Now, researchers reporting in the journal Trends in Ecology & Evolution say they are looking to these ants to find new ways to stop or slow the evolution of antibiotic resistance that now presents a threat to modern medicine.
See also my latest feature on the antibiotics crisis (magic link included in the blog entry should still work until early November).

Tasmanian devil research could help tackle immunotherapy resistance


humans

Sport has its benefits but do not overdo it

Music is essential for the transmission of ethnobiological knowledge
Songs are a storehouse for ethnobiological knowledge and a means to construct, maintain and mobilize peoples' relations with their local environments.


-------------

from the news media:


Germany needs a major reforestation effort
after severe recent losses, the Guardian reported earlier in the week. See also my recent feature on the global opportunities for reforestation to fight climate change.


And speaking of trees:
More than half of native European trees face extinction, warns study

Thursday, September 26, 2019

carbon rings

It's always interesting to catch up with what Oxford chemist Harry Anderson is up to - and his latest work, characterising a new allotrope of carbon, no less, even made it onto the cover of Science:



(Note however that the cover graphic misrepresents the findings in an important way. Anderson and colleagues found that the C18 ring has alternating triple and single bonds, while the graphic suggests the bonds are all the same.)

When the paper appeared online in August, I wrote a short news story about it for Chemistry World:


New form of pure carbon made by manipulating atoms


which neatly builds on last year's story about polyyne nanowires:

Most complex reaction ever triggered by atomic manipulation creates molecular wire
.

The C18 paper in Science is here (paywalled).

And C18 has its own flickr album, too.

science news 26.9.2019

Today's selection of science news. Links are normally to press releases on EurekAlert (at the bottom end I may also add a couple of newspaper stories). I include quotes from the summary in italics in cases where the title alone doesn't reveal what the story is about. My own thoughts appear without italics if I have any.


evolution

Genes 'lost' in whales and dolphins helped their ancestors transition to life underwater


ecology

Private boats in the Mediterranean have extremely high potential to spread alien species


environment

Plastic teabags release microscopic particles into tea
Apparently there is nothing that cannot be made worse by switching it to plastic. I understand even the normal paper tea bags in the UK contain a small amount of plastic, making them less than 100% biodegradable.


Ditch the delicate wash cycle to save our seas
The volume of water used during a wash cycle, rather than the spinning action of the washing machine, is the key factor in the release of plastic microfibres from clothes.


biomedical

New fungus-derived antibiotic: relief in sight for immunocompromised people
Infections that are treatable in healthy people can often be fatal in immunocompromised individuals (people with a weak immune system), and hence, they require specialized treatment. Eushearilide is already known to be active against a wide range of pathogenic fungi and yeasts, but its antibacterial properties have not been explored. Now, scientists from the Tokyo University of Science have derived a new compound from eushearilide and demonstrated its antibacterial and antifungal properties. It can be used to treat lung infections, meningitis, and encephalitis.
see also my feature on antibiotics, out this week.


humans

First evidence for early baby bottles used to feed animal milk to prehistoric babies



Modern-day baby feeding from reconstructed infant feeding vessel of the type investigated here.
Credit: Helena Seidl da Fonseca


Tripolye 'mega-structures' were ancient community centers
So-called 'mega-structures' in ancient Europe were public buildings that likely served a variety of economic and political purposes,

Wednesday, September 25, 2019

science news 25.9.2019

-- normal service resumes after 10 days traveling --

Today's selection of science news. Links are normally to press releases on EurekAlert (at the bottom end I may also add a couple of newspaper stories). I include quotes from the summary in italics in cases where the title alone doesn't reveal what the story is about. My own thoughts appear without italics if I have any.


astrobiology

Could we feed one million people living on mars?


evolution

What color were fossil animals?
an international study [...] that evaluates fossil color reconstruction methods to propose a new study framework that improves and expands current practice. The paper was recently published in the journal Biological Reviews.


ecology

Bats use private and social information as they hunt
As some of the most savvy and sophisticated predators out there, bats eavesdrop on their prey and even on other bats to collect a wide variety of information as they hunt.

What wolves' teeth reveal about their lives

Jackdaws learn from each other about 'dangerous' humans
Not sure what the quote marks around the word dangerous are supposed to mean. Humans are dangerous for a vast range of species, it's not as if the birds were being paranoid.



Jackdaw
Credit: Guill McIvor


nanoworld

Quality control in immune communication: Chaperones detect immature signaling molecules


humans

Genome study shows that iran's population is more heterogeneous than previously believed

Traditional fisherfolk help uncover ancient fish preservation methods

Deep brain stimulation for refractory severe tinnitus


Tuesday, September 24, 2019

antibiotics still in crisis

Here comes another important topic that I have covered a few times before, but do people listen? Experts have been warning of the coming antibiotics crisis for decades now, but we still overuse and misuse them, and the pharma industry develops too few new products that could replace the ones lost to the spread of resistance.


So the post-antibiotic era, i.e. the return of untreatable infectious diseases and untreatable complications after routine surgery, is now coming dangerously close. However, in an attempt not to get too depressed, I have also rounded up some promising developments that may help to keep the apocalypse at bay for a little bit longer. My feature is out now:

The race against antibiotics resistance



Current Biology Volume 29, issue 18, pages R859-R861, September 23, 2019

Restricted access to full text and PDF download
(will become open access one year after publication)

Magic link for free access
(first seven weeks only)




Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), shown here with a dead human blood cell, has become a widely feared ‘hospital superbug’ resistant to multiple drugs. Widespread use and misuse of antibiotics has, however, produced many other multidrug-resistant strains. (Photo: NIAID/Flickr (CC BY 2.0).)

Saturday, September 21, 2019

caterpillar book out now

UPDATE 29.10.: Book definitely available now, even though amazon now cites publication date as November.

I haven't seen a physical copy yet, but apparently my latest book in German is out today (at least that's what amazon thinks). Ask at your bookshop or get it from amazon if you must. It is the second collection of the sketches I write for the Nachrichten aus der Chemie, the magazine of the German Chemical Society, covering roughly the last decade. The first collection was the nine million bicycles book published in Feb 2011.




The caterpillar in question is the tobacco hornworm / tobacco hawk moth (Manduca sexta), which has a remarkable resistance to nicotine as well as some other chemical tricks up its sleeve which I discussed in one of the sketches included here. I have a strong suspicion that Lewis Carroll had this species in mind when he invented the hookah-smoking caterpillar that confuses Alice with unhelpful answers in Alice's adventures in Wonderland, so I suggested to use an Alice illustration for the cover and got away with it. While it may be a little bit naughty to use another author's popularity this way, I feel that after 26 years at Oxford I can claim Lewis Carroll as my cultural background.

Friday, September 20, 2019

stupid useless vain

as today's global wave of climate demos were held, I happened to be in Düsseldorf. Starting point for the local demo was Corneliusplatz, and I didn't know the way there all that well, so I was really glad that this cyclist overtook me as I was cycling into town:




and I only had to follow her. The demo here was huge - this is what I saw on arrival at Corneliusplatz, clearly more than 10k people:





I've posted these and a few other quick picks from today on flickr, more to follow at a later date.

Monday, September 16, 2019

the trouble with tourists

Open Archive Day


travel is fun when you're a small number of travelers and you get to blend in with the locals in some faraway scenery. When the travelers outnumber the locals, we tend to call them tourists, and their idea of fun can become a problem for the resident population and for the environment. Blame it on capitalism commercialising and over-selling everything.

A year ago, prompted by a special issue on migration, I wrote a feature on the environmental impact of tourism, which is now in the open archives:


Global tourism's growing footprint




This August, Der Spiegel featured the madness of cruise operations on its cover - probably the most dramatic example of tourism going off the rails.

Oh, stop press, I just discovered that the Guardian has published a photo essay about this issue today:

A rising tide: ‘overtourism’ and the curse of the cruise ships

Thursday, September 12, 2019

science news 12.9.2019

Today's selection of science news. Links are normally to press releases on EurekAlert (at the bottom end I may also add a couple of newspaper stories). I include quotes from the summary in italics in cases where the title alone doesn't reveal what the story is about. My own thoughts appear without italics if I have any.


astrobiology

First water detected on potentially 'habitable' planet
This should be in today's issue of the Guardian as it appeared on their website yesterday afternoon.



evolution

Scientists identify rare evolutionary intermediates to understand the origin of eukaryotes
Took me a while to work out what this is really about, but it appears to be about ribosomal proteins in archaea.

Half-a-billion-year-old tiny predator unveils the rise of scorpions and spiders
Two palaeontologists working on the world-renowned Burgess Shale have revealed a new species, called Mollisonia plenovenatrix, which is presented as the oldest chelicerate. This discovery places the origin of this vast group of animals--of over 115,000 species, including horseshoe crabs, scorpions and spiders--to a time more than 500 million years ago.



Reconstruction of Mollisonia plenovenatrix, by Joanna Liang. Mollisonia was only about 2.5 cm long.
Credit: Illustration by Joanna Liang © Royal Ontario Museum


Ground-breaking method to reconstruct the evolution of all species
Researchers identified an almost complete set of proteins, a proteome, in the dental enamel of the now-extinct rhino and the resulting genetic information is one million years older than the oldest DNA sequenced from a 700,000-year-old horse.

Long before other fish, ancient sharks found an alternative way to feed


ecology

Aphid-stressed pines show different secondary organic aerosol formation

A precise chemical fingerprint of the Amazon
This novel drone-based chemical monitoring system tracks the health of the Amazon in the face of global climate change and human-caused deforestation and burning.

It's all a blur.....why stripes hide moving prey

Insects as food and feed: research and innovation drive growing field


humans

Discovering biological mechanisms enabling pianists to achieve skillful fingering


Wednesday, September 11, 2019

science news 11.9.2019

Today's selection of science news. Links are normally to press releases on EurekAlert (at the bottom end I may also add a couple of newspaper stories). I include quotes from the summary in italics in cases where the title alone doesn't reveal what the story is about. My own thoughts appear without italics if I have any.


astrobiology

Nitrogen explosions created craters on Saturn moon Titan



plant science


Raising a glass to grapes' surprising genetic diversity
genome sequence of Chardonnay grape


behaviour

Sex for cooperation
Using behavioral and hormonal data from a habituated bonobo community at the long-term LuiKotale field site in the Democratic Republic of Congo researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Harvard University and the Leibniz Institute for Farm Animal Biology have now shown that same-sex sexual behavior in female bonobos increases friendly social interactions, including cooperation.


nanoworld

Optical vacuum cleaner can manipulate nanoparticles


humans

Researchers find earliest evidence of milk consumption
A research team, led by archaeologists at the University of York, have identified a milk protein called beta lactoglobulin (BLG) entombed in the mineralised dental plaque of seven individuals who lived in the Neolithic period around 6,000 years-ago.



A jaw bone used in the study -- from the collections of the Dorset County Museum.
Credit: Dr Sophy Charlton, University of York


Bones of Roman Britons provide new clues to dietary deprivation
Researchers at the University of Bradford have shown a link between the diet of Roman Britons and their mortality rates for the first time, overturning a previously-held belief about the quality of the Roman diet.

The vagina monocultures
Researchers at Johns Hopkins have taken the first step towards trials of vaginal microbiota transplantation (VMT). Inspired by the success of fecal transplantation, it is hoped that transplants of vaginal fluids from healthy donors will provide the first restorative, curative treatment for bacterial vaginosis. Published in Frontiers in Cellular and Infection Microbiology, the team's donor screening concept aims to ensure that only beneficial microbes are transferred by VMT - and not potential pathogens.
The award for today's best headline goes to ...


--------------

In the news:

The science says that badger culls don't work against bovine TB, because badgers are social animals and if you disrupt their community structures, they'll move and spread any TB they carry even more. Regardless, UK governments are keen to approve badger culls, just to show farmers that they are doing something for them - and never mind the science. The Guardian reports today that a badger cull of unprecedented scale has been approved for this autumn.




Tuesday, September 10, 2019

science news 10.9.2019

Today's selection of science news. Links are normally to press releases on EurekAlert (at the bottom end I may also add a couple of newspaper stories). I include quotes from the summary in italics in cases where the title alone doesn't reveal what the story is about. My own thoughts appear without italics if I have any.


astrobiology

And then there was light: Looking for the first stars in the universe


evolution

Identity crisis for fossil beetle helps rewrite beetle family tree
The beetle at the center of this mix-up, about the size of Franklin D. Roosevelt's nose on the U.S. dime, is Leehermania prorova.


zoology

'Building blocks' of bird calls resemble human languages


environment

Major environmental challenge as microplastics are harming our drinking water


humans


Watching music move through the brain
Scientists have observed how the human brain represents a familiar piece of music, according to research published in JNeurosci. Their results suggest that listening and remembering music involve different cognitive processes.

Monday, September 09, 2019

save the sharks

We're culturally conditioned to see sharks as a threat to humans, but the reality is exactly the other way round. Humans are an enormous threat to a whole range of species of cartilaginous fish including sharks, rays and chimaeras. I wrote a feature about shark conservation back in 2014, but the recent news that the UK is actually exporting shark fins troubled me so much I decided to revisit the field. As a result I discovered more disturbing news - many people may be eating sharks without even realising it.

My new shark feature is out now:

Stop the global slaughter of sharks


Current Biology Volume 29, issue 17, pages R819-R829, September 9, 2019

Restricted access to full text and PDF download

(will become open access one year after publication)

Magic link for free access

(first seven weeks only)





The whale shark (Rhincodon typus), the largest fish on our planet, has remained mysterious in many ways. (Photo: EliasSch/Pixabay.)

Saturday, September 07, 2019

hilary's tune

If you remember the biopic "Hilary and Jackie" (about cellist Jacqueline du Pre and her flautist sister Hilary), there is a scene where Hilary plays a piece to impress her new flute teacher. The teacher, however, tells her to go back to basics and focus on one note - the B at the beginning of the piece.

She was playing the Badinerie from the Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor by JS Bach, and in spite of the unhappy outcome of that performance in the movie, the piece has stayed with me and I am very pleased that I am now able to find my way through it. I think the trigger for actually learning it was stumbling upon this rendition from the young Spanish flautist, Andrea Rozas, on some sort of talent show.

Although it is written for flute and harpsichord, it works very nicely for solo flute. And I've managed to memorise it (it is a very short piece). I've also learned the previous movement of the suite, which is a minuet. Both are also very nice for the alto recorder. Check also this version of both movements on the pan pipes.


I used the sheet music from flutetunes.com, so I have no beautiful antiquarian edition to show, but here's a flute portrait I took last month at the Half Moon:



I love the fact that pubs have flute-sized mats to put your instrument down ...


After a year spent with JSB and CPE, I am now ready to play a composer whose last name is not Bach.

UPDATE 20.1.2020: Just a week before I am due to perform this piece, the jazz singer Sheila Blanco released a vocal version with a text (in Spanish) praising the life and work of JSB, called Bach es Dios. (Makes perfect sense, as Bach's music is mostly about praising God, so if she uses his music to praise him, and he is God, the circle is closed.) I will play this on closed loop until my performance in the hope of persuading my brain that it can actually work at this speed. The vocal version has 100 crotchets per minute, which sounds scary but is a bit slower than the 120+ speed that professional flautists choose for this piece. Personally I prefer my music a bit slower, so I find the 100 nice to listen to and maybe even achievable to play.

Friday, September 06, 2019

science news 6.9.2019

Today's selection of science news. Links are normally to press releases on EurekAlert (at the bottom end I may also add a couple of newspaper stories). I include quotes from the summary in italics in cases where the title alone doesn't reveal what the story is about. My own thoughts appear without italics if I have any.



ecology


New study tracks sulfur-based metabolism in the open ocean



Study reveals new patterns of key ocean nutrient
The important nutrient phosphate may be less abundant in the global ocean than previously thought, according to a new paper in Science Advances. The researchers compiled data collected using highly sensitive techniques that measure phosphate to create a more accurate dataset to power global ocean models.


Breakdown in coral spawning places species at risk of extinction
Synchronized coral spawning has become erratic, endangering the long-term survival of coral species,


humans

First ancient DNA from Indus Valley civilization links its people to modern South Asians


Hunter-gatherers agree on what is moral, but not who is moral

People can see beauty in complex mathematics, study shows



-----------------


in the news


phosphate fertilisers are still at risk of running out
, but then again, recycling the phosphorus is eminently feasible, so just a question of political will. See also my relevant feature from November 17




Thursday, September 05, 2019

science news 5.9.2019

Today's selection of science news. Links are normally to press releases on EurekAlert (at the bottom end I may also add a couple of newspaper stories). I include quotes from the summary in italics in cases where the title alone doesn't reveal what the story is about. My own thoughts appear without italics if I have any.

(Later than usual today as yahoo mail was down today which is where I normally get the EurekAlert email.)


astrobiology

Planetary collisions can reduce the internal pressures in planets
(I dropped the word "drop" from the headline as I didn't approve of the way it was used.)


evolution

Death march of segmented animal unravels critical evolutionary puzzle
The death march of a segmented bilaterian animal unearthed from ~550-million-year-old rocks in China shows that the oldest mobile and segmented animals evolved by the Ediacaran Period (635-539 million years ago). The research was conducted by an international research team from China and the US.


Prehistoric AC

Tyrannosaurus rex, one of the largest meat-eating dinosaurs on the planet, had an air conditioner in its head, suggest scientists from the University of Missouri, Ohio University and University of Florida, while challenging over a century of previous beliefs.



A graphic thermal image of a T. rex with its dorsotemporal fenestra glowing on the skull.
Credit: Illustration courtesy of Brian Engh.


ecology

Underwater soundscapes reveal differences in marine environments


genomes

Researchers move beyond sequencing and create a 3D genome





humans

Denisovan finger bone more closely resembles modern human digits than Neanderthals

Depression breakthrough
Major depressive disorder -- referred to colloquially as the 'black dog' -- has been identified as a genetic cause for 20 distinct diseases, providing vital information to help detect and manage high rates of physical illnesses in people diagnosed with depression.

How 'information gerrymandering' influences voters
Featured on the cover of today's issue of Nature.

Wednesday, September 04, 2019

science news 4.9.2019

Today's selection of science news. Links are normally to press releases on EurekAlert (at the bottom end I may also add a couple of newspaper stories). I include quotes from the summary in italics in cases where the title alone doesn't reveal what the story is about. My own thoughts appear without italics if I have any.


astrobiology

Study reveals 'radical' wrinkle in forming complex carbon molecules in space


earth

Oldest lake in Europe reveals more than one million years of climate history
That's Lake Ohrid (North Macedonia / Albania), in case you wondered.


zoology

New whale species discovered along the coast of Hokkaido

Birds in serious decline at Lake Constance



Nowadays a rare visitor: barn swallows have decreased by 70 percent around Lake Constance. The animals suffer above all from the disappearance of smallholder farms and barns where they can build their homes as well as the decline in insects.
Credit: Stephan Trösch

Slowed metabolism helps geese fly high
New physiology study sheds light on how bar-headed geese migrate over the Himalayas


sustainable tech

Europe's future is renewable
Europe has enough solar and wind resources to meet its electricity demand entirely from renewable sources. A new study by researchers at the Institute for Transformative Sustainability Research (IASS) in Potsdam shows that many regions and municipalities could meet their electricity demand using electricity systems based exclusively on renewables. However, their development would exacerbate land use pressure around metropolitan areas and larger conurbations.


humans

Scotland's genetic landscape echoes Dark Age populations

Human perception of colors does not rely entirely on language, a case study


-----------

in the news:


squirrels listening to birds' chitchat





Tuesday, September 03, 2019

science news 3.9.2019

Today's selection of science news. Links are normally to press releases on EurekAlert (at the bottom end I may also add a couple of newspaper stories). I include quotes from the summary in italics in cases where the title alone doesn't reveal what the story is about. My own thoughts appear without italics if I have any.




ecology

Toxic frogs with weak defenses persist in the gene pool alongside stronger competitors



climate change

Vintage film shows Thwaites Glacier ice shelf melting faster than previously observed



Not much happening today, apparently (apart from UK's political meltdown).

-----

In the news:

a rather scary reminder to eat your five portions of fruit and veg ...



Monday, September 02, 2019

frack off

Open Archive Day

I only covered fracking in my features only once, I think, as I find it amounts to insulting people's intelligence to explain why this is a stupid idea, and even more so on a small and crowded island like this one. There's no space to build a high speed railway or to put up some wind generators, but messy gas production that causes earthquakes, sure we got space for that ...

So, experimental fracking attempts are still happening around here, except when they have to be stopped because of another earthquake (as happened again last week), until people have forgotten about that, and then they are started again.

I have no ambition to write another feature about that, so the old one from October 2013 will have to make do as my statement on these things:

Dash for gas leaves Earth to fry



Exploratory fracking operations in the UK have found enthusiastic support from the government, but fierce opposition from environmentalists and local residents. (Photo: courtesy of Sophie Yeo, RTCC (http://www.rtcc.org).)
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