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Home country: USA
Current location: Georgia
Member since: Tue Feb 10, 2004, 01:08 PM
Number of posts: 42,876

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Environmental Scientist

Journal Archives

Vancouver Island's scallops and oysters are mysteriously dying out

The pristine, sheltered sounds off Vancouver Island, British Columbia, offer the cleanliness and protection ideal for farming oysters, clam, scallops, and other shellfish. Since the 1970s, the industry has grown so rapidly that the area once supplied nearly two-fifths of Canada’s farmed shellfish and is the coastal community’s economic backbone.

Further down the coast, the US’s $270-million Pacific Northwest shellfish industry is teetering (paywall) following the mysterious 2008 oyster die-off.

Scientists aren’t sure what the culprit is. Environmental stressors are rising, creating a complex interplay of factors. For instance, BC’s typically chilly coastal waters are warming—and that’s shifting the timing of zooplankton blooms, which in turn feed the shellfish. Scientists say seemingly slight ecosystem changes have likely compound the destruction of a deadly oyster herpes virus that has been wiping out oysters in France and Australia.

But something is killing them off. In the last two years, nine-tenths of baby oysters have died in Desolation Sound farms (the normal mortality rate is about 50%). Scallop farmers off Vancouver Island have reported mass die-offs of their hatchlings since 2010. British Columbia’s share of Canada’s aquaculture industry is in a tailspin.



Monday Toon Roundup 2- The Rest







Monday Toon Roundup 1- Torture and Death

State of LGBT Rights: Married on Sunday, but Fired on Monday

The victories for same-sex marriage are amazing. But LGBT people can still be fired or denied housing in 29 states. Still a long way to go.

If you asked most anyone in America how things were going for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, they would probably respond, “Great!” Gay and lesbian people who live in one of the more accepting, urban settings on the East or West Coast might even agree, given that these bastions of liberal thinking have enacted many protections already. Indeed, the struggle for marriage equality for gay and lesbian couples has made great strides, going from a handful of states only a year ago in which gay and lesbian people are able to marry to an astounding 35 states at present. This is amazing progress considering that marriage equality in the first state was achieved scarcely more than a decade ago.

But there is still much work to be done to ensure that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) people are recognized as full citizens of this country with all the rights and protections that citizenship usually bestows. In 14 of those states in which a gay or lesbian person is allowed to marry the person they love, one can get married on Sunday and be fired from his or her job on Monday morning—for the simple reason of being gay, with no employment protection or recourse in the courts.

The Center for American Progress has just released an exhaustive report on the state of LGBT rights in America as they pertain to public accommodation, access to credit, employment protection and the like. “We the People: Why Congress and U.S. States Must Pass Comprehensive LGBT Nondiscrimination Protections” goes on to describe the patchwork quilt of protections that vary depending upon the town or state in which one is living. As the report summarizes: “Today it is legal to fire, refuse housing, or deny service to Americans because of their sexual orientation and gender identity in 29 states. In most states, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, or LGBT, Americans currently lack explicit protections against discrimination in employment, housing, education, credit, and public accommodations. LGBT individuals and families report unacceptable levels of discrimination in the workplace, when seeking goods or services in their community’s places of public accommodation, at school, or when seeking housing. This discrimination leads to disproportionate rates of unemployment, poverty, homelessness, and negative health outcomes for LGBT people and their families.”



Is Congress About to Make Weed in Washington, DC Both Legal and Unregulated?

With the the passage of a contentious $1.1 trillion federal spending package last night, the US House of Representatives may have effectively made Washington, DC the first unregulated zone for legal marijuana in the United States.

Earlier in the week, a deal struck between Senate Democrats and House Republicans effectively blocked a law legalizing marijuana in the District by attaching a rider to the 1,600-page federal spending bill. Congress controls DC's purse strings, and the rider effectively barred DC from using federal funds to implement the recently passed Initiative 71.

That measure, which 70 percent of DC voters voted in favor of last month, permits residents and visitors in the capital who are over 21 to possess up to 2 ounces of marijuana and grow up to three plants in their homes.

All of that said, legalization is still very much a possibility in DC thanks to a potential loophole in the language of the measure attached to the spending bill.

The rider prevents the District from spending money to "enact any law, rule, or regulation to legalize or otherwise reduce penalties" related to marijuana. But as Eleanor Holmes Norton, DC's non-voting delegate to Congress, points out, that does not actually repeal legalization since — depending on legal interpretation — the law was already "enacted" when it was passed by DC voters.



Photographer Captures 9 Whales in One Underwater Photo


Incredible! Not a record, apparently….

Sunday's Doonesbury- Epidemics

Big Bang May Have Created a Mirror Universe Where Time Runs Backwards

Why does time seem to move forward? It’s a riddle that’s puzzled physicists for well over a century, and they’ve come up with numerous theories to explain time’s arrow. The latest, though, suggests that while time moves forward in our universe, it may run backwards in another, mirror universe that was created on the “other side” of the Big Bang.

Two leading theories propose to explain the direction of time by way of the relatively uniform conditions of the Big Bang. At the very start, what is now the universe was homogeneously hot, so much so that matter didn’t really exist. It was all just a superheated soup. But as the universe expanded and cooled, stars, galaxies, planets, and other celestial bodies formed, birthing the universe’s irregular structure and raising its entropy.

ne theory, proposed in 2004 by Sean Carroll, now a professor at Cal Tech, and Jennifer Chen, then his graduate student, says that time moves forward because of the contrast in entropy between then and now, with an emphasis on the fact that the future universe will so much more disordered than the past. That movement toward high entropy gives time its direction.

The new theory says a low entropy early universe is inevitable because of gravity, and ultimately that’s what gives time its arrow. To test the idea, the theory’s proponents assembled a simple model with nothing more than 1,000 particles and the physics of Newtonian gravity. Here’s Lee Billings, reporting for Scientific American:

The system’s complexity is at its lowest when all the particles come together in a densely packed cloud, a state of minimum size and maximum uniformity roughly analogous to the big bang. The team’s analysis showed that essentially every configuration of particles, regardless of their number and scale, would evolve into this low-complexity state. Thus, the sheer force of gravity sets the stage for the system’s expansion and the origin of time’s arrow, all without any delicate fine-tuning to first establish a low-entropy initial condition.



A Step Toward Artificial Cells, Built from Silicon

In a step toward sophisticated artificial cells, scientists have engineered a silicon chip that can produce proteins from DNA, the most basic function of life.

The system, though relatively simple, suggests a path to mimicking life with partly manufactured components, says Roy Bar-Ziv, a materials scientist at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel, who is leading the work.

Cells constantly create proteins from instructions coded in DNA sequences. How much of each protein is made is controlled by other genes, often in complicated feedback loops. Bar-Ziv calls his cell-on-a-chip “a new system allowing us to examine how genes are turned on and off outside the living cell.”

The chips were created using a technique Bar-Ziv’s lab developed several years ago to anchor DNA to silicon by first coating the surface with a light-activated chemical. They used patterns of light to create spots where DNA binds and assembles into toothbrush-like bundles. Each DNA brush was confined to a small, round compartment. These compartments were joined by a narrow capillary 20 micrometers wide to a larger channel, which carried a flow of liquid extracts from bacterial cells—all the ingredients needed to synthesize proteins from the DNA brushes.



Physicists solve decade-old quantum mechanics problem

by: Kristian Sjøgren

Danish scientists have solved the quantum mechanics problem that has been teasing them since the 1930s: how to calculate real life behaviour of atoms.

The formula helps them work out how to optimise the transport of information from one atom to another. This will be necessary if we are to one day construct quantum computers.

"The problem has been to calculate when atoms do one thing or another in the real world. We have been able to calculate this in theory, but when we experiment and insert data into existing models, they fall apart,” says co-author Nicolaj Thomas Zinner, associate professor at the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Aarhus University. “We have finally solved that problem."

The study was recently published in Nature Communications.


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