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Environmental Scientist

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Facebook plots first steps into healthcare


(Reuters) - Facebook Inc (FB.O) already knows who your friends are and the kind of things that grab your attention. Soon, it could also know the state of your health.

On the heels of fellow Silicon Valley technology companies Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and Google Inc (GOOGL.O), Facebook is plotting its first steps into the fertile field of healthcare, said three people familiar with the matter. The people requested anonymity as the plans are still in development.

The company is exploring creating online "support communities" that would connect Facebook users suffering from various ailments. A small team is also considering new "preventative care" applications that would help people improve their lifestyles.

In recent months, the sources said, the social networking giant has been holding meetings with medical industry experts and entrepreneurs, and is setting up a research and development unit to test new health apps. Facebook is still in the idea-gathering stage, the people said.


The Most Ambitious Environmental Lawsuit Ever


In Louisiana, the most common way to visualize the state’s existential crisis is through the metaphor of football fields. The formulation, repeated in nearly every local newspaper article about the subject, goes like this: Each hour, Louisiana loses about a football field’s worth of land. Each day, the state loses nearly the accumulated acreage of every football stadium in the N.F.L. Were this rate of land loss applied to New York, Central Park would disappear in a month. Manhattan would vanish within a year and a half. The last of Brooklyn would dissolve four years later. New Yorkers would notice this kind of land loss. The world would notice this kind of land loss. But the hemorrhaging of Louisiana’s coastal wetlands has gone largely unremarked upon beyond state borders. This is surprising, because the wetlands, apart from their unique ecological significance and astounding beauty, buffer the impact of hurricanes that threaten not just New Orleans but also the port of South Louisiana, the nation’s largest; just under 10 percent of the country’s oil reserves; a quarter of its natural-gas supply; a fifth of its oil-refining capacity; and the gateway to its internal waterway system. The attenuation of Louisiana, like any environmental disaster carried beyond a certain point, is a national-security threat.

Where does it go, this vanishing land? It sinks into the sea. The Gulf of Mexico is encroaching northward, while the marshes are deteriorating from within, starved by a lack of river sediment and poisoned by seawater. Since 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has delisted more than 30 place names from Plaquemines Parish alone. English Bay, Bay Jacquin, Cyprien Bay, Skipjack Bay and Bay Crapaud have merged like soap bubbles into a single amorphous body of water. The lowest section of the Mississippi River Delta looks like a maple leaf that has been devoured down to its veins by insects. The sea is rising along the southeast coast of Louisiana faster than it is anywhere else in the world.

The land loss is swiftly reversing the process by which the state was built. As the Mississippi shifted its course over the millenniums, spraying like a loose garden hose, it deposited sand and silt in a wide arc. This sediment first settled into marsh and later thickened into solid land. But what took 7,000 years to create has been nearly destroyed in the last 85. Dams built on the tributaries of the Mississippi, as far north as Montana, have reduced the sediment load by half. Levees penned the river in place, preventing the floods that are necessary to disperse sediment across the delta. The dredging of two major shipping routes, the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet and the Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, invited saltwater into the wetlands’ atrophied heart.



NOAA’s Highest-Res Weather Forecast Yet Is Also Its Most Beautiful

This image, made with NOAA’s newest weather model, shows ground temperature readings at a 2 mile resolution. Each pixel is shaded according to the temperature, ranging from 113 degrees F (the brightest yellow) to freezing (white). NOAA

This colorful map of ground temperature shows the tapestry of American weather on September 30. Undeniably beautiful, it owes its rich color gradient to a powerful new scientific tool for modeling the weather for incredibly small chunks of both time and space.

After five years of work, NOAA unveiled the new model, called High Resolution Rapid Refresh (HRRR), on September 30. Like its predecessor, HRRR will update every hour. But, HRRR fine tunes the forecast every 15 minutes by constantly digesting radar reports, so that the hourly update is as accurate as possible. Each forecast starts with a 3-D radar snapshot of the atmosphere that it modifies with data from NOAA’s vast network of weather stations, balloons, and satellites.

The added timeliness is important, but where the HRRR really shines is in its spatial resolution. While the previous model could only model the weather in 8-mile chunks, HRRR has a 2-mile spatial resolution. This is important because even a small front can contain dozens of individual storms. Forecasters will have the ability to read the weather on a neighborhood scale, rather than a city-wide scale.

This will let meteorologists and disaster-planners focus on localized weather threats, like tornadoes, hail, or whether that rain-laden thundercloud is going to pass over a neighborhood that’s prone to flooding, or one with better drainage. It could also lead to smoother flights by helping pilots and air traffic controllers get a more detailed picture of where turbulence occurs



New Secret Service director comes directly from Comcast

By Aaron Sankin on October 03, 2014
To say that the relationship between the Obama administration and Comcast—widely consideredthe most hated company in America—is cozy would be an understatement. Not only is telecom giant one of the biggest power players in Washington, but, during a 2013 fundraising event at the home of Comcast Vice President David Cohen, Obama quipped, "I have been here so much, the only thing I haven't done in this house is have Seder dinner."

As Secret Service Director Julia Pierson steps down from her post mired in scandal, her replacement comes directly from Comcast. Earlier this week, Joseph Clancy was officially named as Pierson's replacement to lead the agency tasked with guarding the physical safety of top national officials.

However, it isn't just that Clancy is coming from Comcast. Prior to his time leading corporate security at the Philadelphia-based cable giant, Clancy worked in in the Secret Service leading the agency's Presidential Security Division until he retired in 2011

"I appreciate his willingness to leave his position in the private sector on very short notice and return to public service for a period," said Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson in a statement announcing Clancy's appointment.


GOP Cut $600 Million To CDC But Louie Gohmert Thinks The Answer To Ebola Is Ending Political Correct

The GOP has cut about $600 million in funds for the Center for Disease Control since 2010, but Rep. Louie Gohmert (Batshit Insane Republican-Texas) thinks the real disease is political correctness. The Republicans in Congress did however, ultimately approve $88 million in funding to fight the Ebola virus requested by the White House.

With regards to President Obama sending 3,000 troops to Africa to head off the Ebola virus the Congressman told Fox News that, “The military is not trained to go catch Ebola and die,” and that, “political correctness is going to get people killed in all of these areas.”

The President ordered the troops to help end the spread of the disease by opening 17 treatment facilities mostly concentrated in the impoverished country of Liberia. There the US military will lead a command center and international relief efforts training up to 500 Liberian health workers a week.

President Obama contends there is no imminent threat to America from Ebola and that any cases that arise could be isolated quickly, but Gohmert says the answer is to end travel between the US and African countries where the disease is prevalent. The rightwing media has even exploited the epidemic to suggest that “Ebola people” could be sneaking across the southern border even though the CDC says there is no evidence that is happening.


Republican Pig of the Day

Missouri state Rep. Bill Lant pokes fun at high school crush's sagging breasts on his blog

By Steve Vockrodt on Fri, Oct 3, 2014 at 11:02 AM

Somehow, Missouri state Rep. Bill Lant, of Pineville, thought that a blog post that started out about the increasing instances of child abuse in the state was an appropriate venue to also reminisce about the breasts of one of his high school classmates from 50 years ago.

Lant sits on the Joint Committee on Child Abuse and Neglect, so you'd think that the southwest Missouri Republican might show better judgment than making tasteless remarks about the bodies of teenage girls. Yet, October 2, Lant wrote on his website about catching up with an old crush at his 50th high school reunion in Collinsville, Illinois.

Lant, sounding like the type of classmate whom no one else wants to see at a reunion, commented about how fat the jocks had become and speculated that the cheerleaders had skipped the event "because they didn't want us to see how old they looked."

One woman who did show up was once the object of a teenage Lant's creepy obsession.



Mike Luckovich Toon- Rebranding


Giant Clams Use Iridescence to Create Living Greenhouses to Grow Algae

A new study published in Journal of the Royal Society Interface, demonstrate how giant clams use iridescence to create living greenhouses to grow algae (their food source).

It has been known for a while that within Giant clams and various other aquatic animals, there is a layer of cells known as iridocytes that can scatter light to allow photosynthesis to occur deep in the tissue. However, the main purpose for these structures was not known.

Alison Sweeney, the lead researcher said "Many mollusks, like squid, octopuses, snails and cuttlefish have iridescent structures, but almost all use them for camouflage or for signalling to mates. We knew giant clams weren't doing either of those things, so we wanted to know what they were using them for."

The Giant Clams are found in tropical reefs that are exposed to intense sunlight. The algae that grows on the flesh of the clams use the sunlight as a source of nutrition but ironically the sunlight is so intense that it disrupts photosynthesis reducing the algae’s energy generation.


Satellite images reveal shocking groundwater loss in California

The severity of California’s drought continues to shock, with the latest example coming courtesy of NASA.

The space agency’s two Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment, or GRACE, satellites have been been in orbit since 2002, making highly sensitive measurements of Earth’s gravity field. Variations in the gravity field can be caused by a number of factors, including the amount of water stored underground in soil and rocks.

This week, scientists working on the GRACE mission released a series of images that reflect the drastic loss of groundwater over the last dozen years.

The image on the left was taken in June 2002, just three months after GRACE was launched. The one in the middle was taken in June 2008, and the one on the right is from June 2014.

These are not satellite photographs. The colors indicate how much groundwater has been lost over time.

Batteries Included: A Solar Cell that Stores its Own Power

By: Pam Frost Gorder
COLUMBUS, Ohio—Is it a solar cell? Or a rechargeable battery?

Actually, the patent-pending device invented at The Ohio State University is both: the world’s first solar battery.

In the October 3, 2014 issue of the journal Nature Communications, the researchers report that they’ve succeeded in combining a battery and a solar cell into one hybrid device.

Key to the innovation is a mesh solar panel, which allows air to enter the battery, and a special process for transferring electrons between the solar panel and the battery electrode. Inside the device, light and oxygen enable different parts of the chemical reactions that charge the battery.


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