Health/Food Posts Tagged as 'Ecology'
Welcome to Errattic! We encourage you to customize the type of information you see here by clicking the Preferences link on the top of this page.
National parks are being overrun by invasive species
Wearing headlamps and muck boots, the band of volunteer conservationists trudges into dark forests in Hawaii Volcanoes National Park and surrounding communities, turning over leaves and shining lights on tree trunks. Their quarry is a tiny frog called the coqui. No bigger than a quarter, the coqui makes an ear-splitting call as loud as a lawn mower: Ko-kee! Ko-kee! It takes special know-how and fortitude to home in on a frog in a blackened forest ringing with frog calls. But the coquistodores are efficient cutthroats. When they find a coqui, they catch it, and drench it in citric acid, killing it.
HOMO ABSURDUS: WE NO LONGER DESERVE THE TITLE OF ‘WISE HUMAN’ HOMO SAPIENS
Homo sapiens means wise human, but the name no longer suits us. As an evolutionary biologist who writes about Darwinian interpretations of human motivations and cultures, I propose that at some point we became what we are today: Homo absurdus, a human that spends its whole life trying to convince itself that its existence is not absurd.
As French philosopher Albert Camus put it: “Man is the only creature who refuses to be what he is.” Thanks to this entrenched absurdity, the 21st century is riding on a runaway train of converging catastrophes in the Anthropocene.
Discovery of self
The critical juncture in the lineage toward Homo absurdus was described by evolutionist Theodosius Dobzhansky: “A being who knows that he will die arose from ancestors who did not know.” But evolution at some point also built into this human mind a deeply ingrained sentiment—that one has not just a material life (the physical body), but also a distinct and separate mental life (the inner self).
Bill Nye: Should we penalize parents for having ‘extra kids’?
Bill Nye “the Science Guy” did exactly what scientists are supposed to do this week — ask questions — and people are blasting him for it.
The engineer-turned-comedian-turned-TV host has sparked widespread outrage on social media thanks to an idea he proposed Tuesday on his new Netflix series, “Bill Nye Saves the World.”
During a panel discussion, the 61-year-old Cornell grad asked: “Should we have policies that penalize people for having extra kids in the developed world?”
Travis Rieder, a bioethicist at Johns Hopkins University, said he believed it was a good idea.
“I do think that we should at least consider it,” he told Nye.
Thousands of birds die at California's Salton Sea
Authorities say thousands of migrating birds have died at California's Salton Sea this month from avian cholera.
The California Department of Fish and Game says ducks, gulls and other birds were found dead at the south end of the state's largest lake between Jan. 8 and last Thursday.
Scathing Report Accuses the Pentagon of Developing an Agricultural Bioweapon
A new technology in which insects are used to genetically modify crops could be converted into a dangerous, and possibly illegal, bioweapon, alleges a Science Policy Forum report released today. Naturally, the organization leading the research says it’s doing nothing of the sort.
The report is a response to a ongoing research program funded by the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). Dubbed “Insect Allies,” the idea is to create more resilient crops to help farmers deal with climate change, drought, frost, floods, salinity, and disease. But instead of modifying seeds in a lab, farmers would send fleets of insects into their crops, where the genetically modified bugs would do their work, “infecting” the plants with a special virus that passes along the new resilience genes.
This town in Greece is draped in thousands of spider webs
It sounds like a something out of a horror movie: A town covered in thousands of webs, each crawling with hordes of spiders.
But for residents of a town in Greece, it's a spooky reality.
In recent days, the webs have draped plants, trees and boats along the lagoon in Aitoliko, a town of canals that's otherwise known as Greece's "Little Venice."
Giannis Giannakopoulos noticed the "veil of webs" earlier this week and captured the spider creations with his camera.
Humans have been messing with the climate for thousands of years
Thousands of years ago, ancient farmers grew oats, corn and wheat, just as they do today. They also cultivated rice and raised livestock. But a millennia ago, they cleared much more land than modern day farmers do, despite having fewer people to feed. That’s because farming was far less efficient. Mechanized harvesters didn’t exist, and growers had yet to develop crops that could be planted in tightly packed rows, yielding more food from less space.
The scientists used a computerized climate model to simulate the climate nearly 777,000 years ago. The climate back then looked more or less what the climate today would look like if not for the warming caused by carbon pollution from ancient farming and modern industrialization, he said. This climate model offered higher resolution than previous models used by the team.
Pests to eat more crops in warmer world
Insects will be at the heart of worldwide crop losses as the climate warms up, predicts a US study.
Scientists estimate the pests will be eating 10-25% more wheat, rice and maize across the globe for each one degree rise in climate temperature.
Warming drives insect energy use and prompts them to eat more. Their populations can also increase.
This is bound to put pressure on the world's leading cereal crops, says study co-author Curtis Deutsch.
Earliest Evidence of Our Human Ancestors Outside of Africa Found
Our ancient human relatives got around more than scientists previously thought. Researchers in China excavated stone tools that were likely made by our human ancestors some 2.12 million years ago — the earliest evidence ever discovered of the human lineage outside of Africa.
"It suggests a way earlier migration out of Africa than we ever would have imagined," said Michael Petraglia, a paleoanthropologist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, who was not involved with the study. "It's very exciting."
WE HAVE NO IDEA HOW BAD THE US TICK PROBLEM IS
WHEN RICK OSTFELD gets bitten by a tick, he knows right away. After decades studying tick-borne diseases as an ecologist at the Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies in Millbrook, New York, Ostfeld has been bitten more than 100 times, and his body now reacts to tick saliva with an intense burning sensation. He’s an exception. Most people don’t even notice that they’ve been bitten until after the pest has had time to suck up a blood meal and transfer any infections it has circulating in its spit.
Around the world, diseases spread by ticks are on the rise. Reported cases of Lyme, the most common US tick-borne illness, have quadrupled since the 1990s. Other life-threatening infections like anaplasmosis, babesiosis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever are increasing in incidence even more quickly than Lyme. Meat allergies caused by tick bites have skyrocketed from a few dozen a decade ago to more than 5,000 in the US alone, according to experts. And new tick-borne pathogens are emerging at a troubling clip; since 2004, seven new viruses and bugs transmitted through tick bite have shown up in humans in the US.
Red states will lose the most in trade war with China: Citigroup
The U.S. officially implemented tariffs on Chinese imports, to which China immediately retaliated to with levies of its own.
This tit-for-tat trade war would mostly impact states that voted “overwhelmingly” in favor of Trump in 2016 as they possess “jobs and output significantly affected by tariffs,” says Dana Peterson, Citi's North America economist.
She notes, “80 percent of ‘red’ states produce goods subject to retaliatory tariffs totaling 10 percent or more of GDP, compared to 10 percent of ‘blue’ states.”
Inside the vigilante group of New Yorkers who hunt rats at night
Rats aren't only a part of New York City’s underground — they're an inseparable part of its pop culture. There’s Master Splinter from the Ninja Turtles, Pizza Rat, and even Cannibal Rat. But for every celebrity rat, there’s another 250,000 to 2 million anonymous rodents living in the city — and the city health department is fighting to bring down.
Last year, three people in a Bronx city block made the news for contracting leptospirosis through rat urine. Only two survived.
SAN ANDREAS FAULT: NEXT BIG EARTHQUAKE LOCATION IDENTIFIED BY GEOLOGISTS
Geologists have identified a new section of California’s famous San Andreas Fault (SAF), which could be the site of the region’s next major earthquake, according to a study published in the journal Lithosphere.
The seismically active, 15.5-mile-long stretch is buried in silt at the bottom of the Salton Sea—a shallow, salty lake that sits directly on top of the SAF’s southern tip. It has been named the “Durmid Ladder” by the researchers from Utah State University (USU), because it consists of two master faults and hundreds of smaller rung-like faults that run perpendicular to these.
The Y chromosome is disappearing – so what will happen to men?
The Y chromosome may be a symbol of masculinity, but it is becoming increasingly clear that it is anything but strong and enduring. Although it carries the “master switch” gene, SRY, that determines whether an embryo will develop as male (XY) or female (XX), it contains very few other genes and is the only chromosome not necessary for life. Women, after all, manage just fine without one.
What’s more, the Y chromosome has degenerated rapidly, leaving females with two perfectly normal X chromosomes, but males with an X and a shrivelled Y. If the same rate of degeneration continues, the Y chromosome has just 4.6m years left before it disappears completely. This may sound like a long time, but it isn’t when you consider that life has existed on Earth for 3.5 billion years.
Another country has banned boiling live lobsters. Some scientists wonder why.
Poached, grilled, or baked with brie.
Served on a roll, or in mac ‘n cheese.
Lobsters may be one of the most popular crustaceans in the culinary arts. But when it comes to killing them, there’s a long and unresolved debate about how to do it humanely, and whether that extra consideration is even necessary.
The Swiss Federal Council issued an order this week banning cooks in Switzerland from placing live lobsters into pots of boiling water — joining a few other jurisdictions that have protections for the decapod crustaceans. Switzerland’s new measure stipulates that beginning March 1, lobsters must be knocked out — either by electric shock or “mechanical destruction” of the brain — before boiling them, according to Swiss public broadcaster RTS.
The announcement reignited a long-running debate: Can lobsters even feel pain?