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petronius

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Gender: Male
Hometown: California
Member since: 2003 before July 6th
Number of posts: 25,725

About Me

Inveniet quod quisque velit; non omnibus unum est, quod placet; hic spinas colligit, ille rosas.

Journal Archives

500-year-old clams unlock history of oceans

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By studying growth rings in the shells of quahog clams, scientists have pieced together the history of the North Atlantic Ocean over the past 1,000 years. The method is similar to how tree rings can serve as climate proxies by revealing clues about past weather and climate changes, including droughts.

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By studying the clams' shells, scientists from Cardiff University and Bangor University in Wales found that the ocean's relationship with the atmosphere drastically changed over the centuries. That is likely due to the influence of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane that have been pumped into the atmosphere from humanity's burning of fossil fuels, beginning with the Industrial Revolution.

Although clams have been used as climate proxies through the field called sclerochronology since the 1970s, the new study is the first time researchers have been able to obtain a 1,000-year record of the ocean with absolute dating precision, according to lead author David Reynolds of Cardiff University.

In the pre-industrial era, roughly before 1800, the climate was driven by natural factors such as volcanic eruptions and solar activity, he said. At that time, the ocean influenced the atmosphere. But since then, it's been the other way around: The atmosphere, with its increasing levels of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, has driven major shifts underwater.

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http://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/sciencefair/2016/12/06/500-year-old-clams-oceans-climate/95040372/

http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms13502

Climate change is a serious threat, Pentagon says as it shores up vulnerable sites

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President-elect Donald Trump has described global warming as a hoax, and Republicans in Congress who reject science showing that greenhouse gases have warmed the planet have blocked funding to help the Pentagon assess the damage and plan for the future.

The House voted in June to bar the Defense Department from spending money to evaluate how climate change would affect military training, combat, weapons purchases and other needs.

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But the debate is settled at the Pentagon. Rising sea levels and temperatures have forced it to rebuild or move roads, housing, airfields and other vulnerable facilities damaged by mudslides in Hawaii, floods in Virginia, drought in California and thawing permafrost in Alaska.

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The Pentagon doesn’t say that climate change alone will cause wars. But the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, the Defense Department’s major planning plan for the next four years, calls it an “accelerant of instability” and a “threat multiplier.”

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http://www.sanluisobispo.com/news/nation-world/national/article116053413.html

Why did Greenlands Vikings disappear?

In 1721, missionary Hans Egede sailed a ship called The Hope from Norway to Greenland, seeking Norse farmers whom Europeans hadn't heard from in 200 years in order to convert them to Protestantism. He explored iceberg-dotted fjords that gave way to gentle valleys, and silver lakes that shimmered below the massive ice cap. But when he asked the Inuit hunters he met about the Norse, they showed him crumbling stone church walls: the only remnants of 500 years of occupation. "What has been the fate of so many human beings, so long cut off from all intercourse with the more civilized world?" Egede wrote in an account of the journey. "Were they destroyed by an invasion of the natives … perished by the inclemency of the climate, and the sterility of the soil?"

Archaeologists still wonder today. No chapter of Arctic history is more mysterious than the disappearance of these Norse settlements sometime in the 15th century. Theories for the colony's failure have included everything from sinister Basque pirates to the Black Plague. But historians have usually pinned most responsibility on the Norse themselves, arguing that they failed to adapt to a changing climate. The Norse settled Greenland from Iceland during a warm period around 1000 C.E. But even as a chilly era called the Little Ice Age set in, the story goes, they clung to raising livestock and church-building while squandering natural resources like soil and timber. Meanwhile, the seal-hunting, whale-eating Inuit survived in the very same environment.

Over the last decade, however, new excavations across the North Atlantic have forced archaeologists to revise some of these long-held views. An international research collective called the North Atlantic Biocultural Organisation (NABO) has accumulated precise new data on ancient settlement patterns, diet, and landscape. The findings suggest that the Greenland Norse focused less on livestock and more on trade, especially in walrus ivory, and that for food they relied more on the sea than on their pastures. There's no doubt that climate stressed the colony, but the emerging narrative is not of an agricultural society short on food, but a hunting society short on labor and susceptible to catastrophes at sea and social unrest.

Historian Poul Holm of Trinity College in Dublin lauds the new picture, which reveals that the Greenland Norse were "not a civilization stuck in their ways." To NABO archaeologist George Hambrecht of the University of Maryland in College Park, "The new story is that they adapted but they failed anyway."

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http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/11/why-did-greenland-s-vikings-disappear

US to launch its most advanced weather satellite yet

The most scientifically capable weather satellite the United States has ever launched is slated to soar into orbit on 19 November. From its vantage point 35,800 kilometres up — nearly one-tenth of the way to the moon — the Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellite-R Series (GOES-R) will snap images of weather and atmospheric phenomena as they roll across the United States.

GOES-R can take pictures as often as every 30 seconds, much faster than the several-minute intervals of current GOES weather satellites. That rapid-fire imagery allows the satellite to track developing changes in thunderstorms, hurricanes and other severe storms. It also enables meteorologists to follow plumes of wildfire smoke or volcanic ash as they spread. And it helps emergency responders to better prepare for where to deploy resources as a storm advances, says Louis Uccellini, director of the National Weather Service.

The next-generation satellite can also take pictures with a sharper focus and in a broader range of wavelengths than the current GOES satellites. “It’s like going from black-and-white to a super-high-definition television,” says Stephen Volz, an assistant administrator with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Silver Spring, Maryland.

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http://www.nature.com/news/us-to-launch-its-most-advanced-weather-satellite-yet-1.20970

https://www.wmo-sat.info/oscar/satellites/view/152

And GOES-S is scheduled for 2018. Hope the launches go well (and I wish it was from Vandenberg so I could watch...)

An Ecosystem's Lifeblood, Flowing Through Gravel (NY Times)

MISSOULA, Mont. — They are beautiful, glistening icons of the West, filled with life and history. But there is far more to mountain rivers, scientists are learning, than the water churning between their banks.

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“A river doesn’t just flow down the channel,” said F. Richard Hauer, a professor of stream ecology at the University of Montana and the lead author of the paper. “It flows over and through the entire flood plain system, from valley wall to valley wall, and supports an extraordinary diversity of life.”

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Melting snow and groundwater flow down the channel; this is what we think of as a “river.” But underground, far more water is moving slowly through a labyrinthine network of cobbles, gravel and sand that make up the entire valley bottom.

This deeply buried habitat is far more important and far more productive than thought. The matrix of gravel and sand cleans the water, filtering organic material and freeing up nitrogen and phosphorous embedded in the gravel.

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http://nyti.ms/2eziEPk


Trout in Ole Creek, a tributary of the Flathead River in northwestern Montana.

We Couldn't Believe Our Eyes: A Lost World of Shipwrecks Is Found (NY Times)

The medieval ship lay more than a half-mile down at the bottom of the Black Sea, its masts, timbers and planking undisturbed in the darkness for seven or eight centuries. Lack of oxygen in the icy depths had ruled out the usual riot of creatures that feast on sunken wood.

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Archaeologists date the discovery to the 13th or 14th century, opening a new window on forerunners of the 15th- and 16th-century sailing vessels that discovered the New World, including those of Columbus. This medieval ship probably served the Venetian empire, which had Black Sea outposts.

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Remarkably, the find is but one of more than 40 shipwrecks that the international team recently discovered and photographed off the Bulgarian coast in one of archaeology’s greatest coups.

In age, the vessels span a millennium, from the Byzantine to the Ottoman empires, from the ninth to the 19th centuries. Generally, the ships are in such good repair that the images reveal intact coils of rope, rudders and elaborately carved decorations.

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http://nyti.ms/2epImpi

The images with the article are amazing; I'm looking forward to seeing more...


A photogrammetric image of a ship from the Ottoman era that most likely went down between the 17th and 19th centuries. The discoverers nicknamed it the Flower of the Black Sea because of its ornate carvings, including two large posts topped with petals.

Study: 2 gun-control laws really do lower homicides (3 others don't)

Firearm laws that strengthen background checks and require permits to purchase a gun are effective in reducing gun homicide rates, according to a study published by the Journal of the American Medicine Association Internal Medicine.

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The scientists found that overall, stronger guns laws did lower homicide rates. But what seemed to make the difference were robust background checks and permit-to-purchase requirements.

Laws designed ban assault weapons, improve child safety and interdict gun trafficking did not have any effect on homicide rates.

As for restrictions on concealed carry and carrying guns in public, the jury is still out. The evidence was mixed, according to the study.

http://www.sfgate.com/science/article/Study-2-gun-control-laws-really-do-lower-firearm-10618398.php

http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/article-abstract/2582989

A review of other peer-reviewed literature, written by some familiar names (and the authors do betray their hopes/expectations a bit in the write-up).

Perhaps not hugely surprising, but some insight into which regulatory ideas should (not) be emphasized--if any...

The lowly earthworm poses a dire threat to this California island (LA Times)

San Clemente Island has been invaded by foreign intruders, threatening inhabitants of the volcanic isle owned by the Navy.

The island is home to the only ship-to-shore bombardment training range in the United States, but this invasion isn’t part of a military exercise. The intruders are thousands of lowly earthworms.

While they may seem harmless, scientists say, the worms pose a mortal threat to the native species clinging to life on the island about 75 miles northwest of San Diego.

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The invasion of earthworms in this earthworm-free region is a major concern. The worms alter the soil and microbial communities where they dwell, laying the groundwork for invasions of nonnative plants that would alter the island’s unique ecosystem and threaten biodiversity there, said Travis Longcore, a spatial scientist at USC.

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http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow/la-sci-sn-earthworms-san-clemente-island-20161007-snap-story.html

Another one of those seemingly-inconsequential human disruptions that I never would have imagined...

This seems to be the speech:



And it seems that he's referring to this statement on the university website:

http://diversity.unl.edu/our-core-values-beliefs

Doesn't take much to feed the RW froth-machine...


Edit to add the text of the relevant statement:

Beliefs on Diversity and Inclusion

At the University of Nebraska, we strive for excellence in all that we do. True excellence requires that each individual be able to work and learn in an atmosphere of respect, dignity, and acceptance. Our commitment to diversity and inclusion requires each of us to continuously ensure our interactions be respectful, protect free speech and inspire academic freedom.

At the University of Nebraska:
  • We value equity, inclusion, and dignity for all.
  • We strive for excellence and recognize that our differences make us stronger. We respect and seek out inclusion of differences, realizing we can learn from each other.
  • We insist on a culture of respect, and recognize that words and actions matter. The absence of action and words also matter.
  • We believe in the freedom of speech, and encourage the expression of ideas and opinions, and we do not tolerate words and actions of hate and disrespect. We know how to share criticism of ideas with respect.
  • We all share in the responsibility to create a positive culture and to safeguard equity, inclusion, dignity, and respect for all. Each member of the University community—faculty, staff and students—should be a role model for others.
  • We take action when we observe someone being treated unfairly or in a demeaning manner.

Why Small Rural Counties Send More People to Prison (NY Times)

LAWRENCEBURG, Ind. — Donnie Gaddis picked the wrong county to sell 15 oxycodone pills to an undercover officer.

If Mr. Gaddis had been caught 20 miles to the east, in Cincinnati, he would have received a maximum of six months in prison, court records show. In San Francisco or Brooklyn, he would probably have received drug treatment or probation, lawyers say.

But Mr. Gaddis lived in Dearborn County, Ind., which sends more people to prison per capita than nearly any other county in the United States. After agreeing to a plea deal, he was sentenced to 12 years in prison.

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Just a decade ago, people in rural, suburban and urban areas were all about equally likely to go to prison. But now people in small counties are about 50 percent more likely to go to prison than people in populous counties.

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http://nyti.ms/2bHfmYR

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