Welcome to those interested in Science!
Science Doesn't Care What You Believe In!
The effects of Global Warming are so simple. Adding more heat to the atmosphere, the oceans, and land is increasing the energy in the environment. And with more energy the environment releases more as it tries to reach a new stable equilibrium. More storms and worse storms are now in our future for decades if not centuries to come. We'll all have to pay for our stupidity!
Global Warming Is A Fact! Climate Change Is A Fact!
Burning Fossil Fuels Is The Major Cause Of Global Warming!
Only 24 of 13,950 peer-reviewed climate articles
reject climate change! That's only 0.17 percent!
Where would you place your bet?
Installation with 160 CO2 Removal Machines
We'll need 625,000 of these structures to remove the 37 Billion Tons of CO2 that we are currently dumping every year into the atmosphere.
That will be 2,500 rows of them 25 miles long!
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11-21-18 The colonization of space
Humanity is inching closer to establishing colonies on other worlds. Is it really feasible? (Webmaster's comment: Human beings will not do well in space. We are designed by evolution to survive and breed in a one g, low radation environment. 1/6 g on the moon and 1/3 g on Mars, and high radiation at both locations, will make successful raising of healthy children impossible. Their bodies will not grow as they should.)
- What’s the timeline? The best guess is that humanity will set up shop on the moon or Mars or both sometime in the 2030s. NASA says it will develop the ability to establish a lunar colony within six years, but currently has no such plans. Russia says it will establish a lunar outpost by 2030.
- Why would we do it? There are lots of practical reasons for a moon base. Private companies could mine the trillions of dollars’ worth of gold, platinum, rare Earth metals, and helium-3 under the lunar surface.
- Where will we go first? The moon is a logical first step. It takes only a few days to get there, and such proximity allows for near-real-time communications and robotic remote control.
- Can humans live on Mars? In theory. Mars has plenty of water, but it is concentrated in polar ice caps, atmospheric vapor, briny soil moisture, and subterranean lakes. The challenge is accessing it—and making it potable.
- How much would it cost? A lot. NASA estimates it could pull off its lunar station for $10 billion, or roughly the cost of an aircraft carrier. As for Mars, any figure is purely hypothetical, since the necessary technology doesn’t exist.
- What are the environments like? The airless moon is not very hospitable. Daytime lunar temperatures reach 250 degrees Fahrenheit in direct sunlight, and at night dip to minus 250. Mars is comparatively balmy, getting into the 60s during the day and around minus 81 at night. Mars has about 38 percent of Earth’s gravity—better than the weightless environment of space, but still potentially damaging to colonists’ muscles, bones, and brains.
- A different breed of humans If humans do colonize space, there’s a chance they’ll come to act—and even look—different from earthlings. Cameron Smith, a Portland State University anthropologist, speculated that isolated colonies could develop unique languages and cultures—and perhaps evolve new biological traits—in as few as 300 years.
Begin Memory Report
10-24-18 Memory special: Is your memory normal?
Why do some people remember what they did years ago, whereas others have no clue, but never forget a face or are trivia masters? Here's how to make sense of it. How much we remember of events we have experienced seems to fall on a spectrum. At one extreme, some individuals are unable to form these kinds of memories at all. “People with severely deficient autobiographical memory syndrome would report an awareness of the fact they were at the dinner, but they don’t have a feeling of re-experiencing it. It’s more of a factual memory,” says neuropsychologist Brian Levine of the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto. At the opposite end of the spectrum are those with “higher superior autobiographical memories”, who can recall in precise detail events from decades ago. The best-known case is that of a woman called Jill Price, who can recall most days of her life from the age of 11. The majority of us fall somewhere in between. Strong autobiographical memory skills are linked to the ability to form vivid visual memories of experiences, and probably to a strong sense of your own self-awareness. Known as “mind pops”, these involuntary recalls happen to all of us, on average about 20 times a day, although there is a lot of variation between individuals. “It’s a basic characteristic of autobiographical memory,” says Dorthe Berntsen of Aarhus University in Denmark, who studies this phenomenon. Once they pop into your head, they soon disappear. “They’re like dreams – if you don’t write them down, you forget all about them,” Berntsen says. We tend to experience more of these spontaneous memories as we age and retrieve fewer memories consciously, perhaps because we find it harder to inhibit thoughts as we get older. Berntsen’s work shows that they tend not to spring up when we are focused on a task, but are more likely to appear in dull moments. She thinks that, far from being an unwanted distraction, they are an important component of daily functioning.
10-24-18 Memory special: Do we even know what memory is for?
Remembering the past is useful, but the real purposes of memory may be quite different – from planning for the future to learning to communicate. AT FIRST, it seems obvious. Memory is about the past. It is your personal database of things you have experienced. In fact, this repository has a purpose that goes way beyond merely recalling information. Some of the best evidence of this came from studies of people with brain damage or amnesia. One iconic case was of a patient known as KC in the early 1980s. After a motorcycle accident, he was left with an impaired episodic memory: he could remember facts, but not personal experiences. The weird thing was, it also stopped him doing something else entirely. “By studying patients who have an impaired ability to recall the past, we find that they are also impaired at imagining the future,” says Eleanor Maguire at University College London. We now know there is a strong link between being able to remember past events and being able to plan for the future. Imaging studies, for example, show that similar patterns of brain activity underlie both. The key seems to be the ability to generate images of scenes in the mind’s eye. “If you think about it, recalling the past, imagining the future, and even spatial navigation, typically involve us constructing scene imagery,” says Maguire. It could be that being able to picture the past enabled us to imagine the future, and therefore plan – one of the complex cognitive feats that stands humans apart from many other species. If we can’t recall past events and preferences, our ability to make sound decisions crumbles too. This is because during the decision-making process, the brain uses previous choices and existing knowledge to assess options and imagine how they might turn out.
10-24-18 Memory special: What happens to memories over time?
Memories fade, but that's no accident. Forgetting is a useful trick of the mind, and even when memories are lost, they aren't always forgotten. MEMORIES fade quickly, as we all know too well. “All things being equal, it’s harder to remember things from a long time ago compared to more recent events,” says neuroscientist Marc Howard of Boston University. But forgetting doesn’t just happen by accident. Evidence suggests that it is largely down to active processes in the brain. In the hippocampus, for instance, which plays an important role in memory, new cells are formed throughout life. It takes energy to do this, yet these cells seem to overwrite established memories and induce forgetting. Why should the brain invest energy in dismantling its own memories? The issue isn’t storage space: given the number of cells and connections in the brain, there is reason to think we could remember much more than we do. According to Blake Richards at the University of Toronto, Canada, the goal of memory isn’t to store information indefinitely, but to optimise decision-making in the future (see “Do we even know what memory is for?”). And it seems that forgetting most of our experiences actually helps us learn important lessons. Each memory is thought to be stored in an interconnected network of brain cells. To retrieve a memory, you need some part of its content: for example, to recall who came to your last birthday party, you might start by picturing where the party took place.
10-24-18 Memory special: How can two people recall an event so differently?
We each have a personal memory style determined by the brain, so next time you argue with someone about what really happened, remember that you may both be right. IT IS the day after a blazing row and you are determined to clear the air. But the more you talk about the argument with your partner, the more you struggle to hide your incredulity. How can their recollection be so, well, wrong? It’s as if you are reading from different scripts. In some ways, you are. To understand how people can experience the same event but recall it so differently, we need to forget our assumptions about how memories work, says Signy Sheldon at McGill University in Canada. We tend to think of memories as information stored in the filing cabinet of the brain for future use. In fact, they are only built when we retrieve them. All the information you were bombarded with during that argument – what was said, the scene, your feelings and reactions – was just sitting there gathering dust. It wasn’t until you called the event to mind the next day that you created a mental representation of what happened. And of all the details you could have picked out, you can bet you didn’t focus on the same ones as your sparring partner. One reason for this is very basic. “We are now understanding that there are strong individual differences in how people remember,” says Sheldon. What’s more, these differences are etched in our brains. Hints at what is going on come from people who have aphantasia, the inability to form mental images in the mind’s eye. Unsurprisingly, such people’s memories also lack a visual component, even though they can recall facts. Sheldon and her colleagues wondered whether this might help in understanding the different ways other people remember things.
10-24-18 Memory special: Can you trust your memories?
Psychologist Elizabeth Loftus exposed false memories in historic sex abuse cases. Now there are new reasons not to trust your memories, she says. NO ONE has done more than Elizabeth Loftus to expose the fallibility of human memory. In the 1990s, amid growing panic over claims of satanic child sex abuse rings, the psychologist showed how easy it is for people to develop false memories of events that never happened. All it took was repeatedly being asked to imagine them. At the time, this was a common psychotherapy technique to recover supposedly repressed memories. Over the past three decades, Loftus, from the University of California, Irvine, has become well known for her work as an expert witness in legal cases. Her ongoing research on the fallibility of eyewitness testimony has taken on fresh importance in an era of fake news, the Me Too movement and digital image manipulation. I had already been looking at how reliable eyewitness testimony was, to see if people’s memories of the details of an event could be distorted. Like if the guy running away had curly hair, not straight hair. But in the 1990s, when there was an explosion of highly improbable satanic child abuse claims, it looked like people were developing whole memories for things that didn’t happen. We came up with the idea of trying to make people remember an event that never happened – being lost in a shopping mall when they were young. We told people we were doing studies of childhood memory, and we talked to their parents to get some stories. Then we would interview adults and present them with three true events from their childhood, and a completely made-up experience about how they got lost in a shopping mall, frightened, crying, and were ultimately rescued by an elderly person and reunited with the family. After they’d had about three interviews, we found that about a quarter of these adults fell prey to the suggestion and developed a partial or complete memory of being lost.
10-24-18 Memory special: Can you supercharge your memory?
Want to remember whatever you like with no effort? Superhuman enhancements in the form of memory prostheses and implants are just around the corner. SUPERHUMAN memory has a special appeal. Who could resist the idea of remembering everything they wanted to, without trying? Learning would be made easy, exams a breeze and you would never forget where you left your keys. Oh and memory-related disorders like Alzheimer’s would have met their match. So it is of little surprise that scientists have turned their attention to ways of enhancing human memory using techniques that stimulate, supplement or even mimic parts of the brain. The immediate goal is to treat memory disorders, but the idea of a memory prosthesis for everyday life is gaining ground. “We’re at the point now where on the one hand it’s very exciting, but on the other it’s controversial because we are not only treating disorders, we’re trying to enhance mental functions,” says Michal Kucewicz at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. One approach is deep brain stimulation (DBS), which involves zapping an affected brain area with an implanted electrode. This is already used in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease and epilepsy, among other conditions. Implanting electrodes in brain regions responsible for memory, such as the hippocampus, seems to offer a short-term memory boost too. And small studies have even suggested that DBS might reverse some of the damage seen in certain people with Alzheimer’s disease, halting the shrinking of the hippocampus and potentially encouraging it to grow bigger.
10-24-18 Memory special: What happens to your memories while you sleep?
As you slumber, the brain is a whir of activity sorting and storing your memories. How does it know which to choose, and how can you game the system? THERE is an old wives’ tale that putting your revision notes under your pillow the night before an exam will make you remember more. That might be stretching the truth, but there could be something in it – you really do learn in your sleep. You don’t need sleep to create a memory. “But sleep plays a critical role in determining what happens to these newly formed memories,” says Bob Stickgold at Harvard Medical School. Sleep determines what goes into long-term storage. It can also select which parts of a memory to retain. And it links new memories with established networks of remembrances. It discovers patterns and rules, says Stickgold, “and it’s doing this every night, all night long.” One of the biggest unanswered questions is how the sleeping brain knows which memories to strengthen, and which to ignore. “We don’t know either the algorithms the brain uses to make these decisions, or how they are implemented,” says Stickgold. What we do know is that sleep is special. “During slow-wave sleep, there is this release, a kind of beautiful set of interactions between different brain areas, that is specialised, and it looks different than what we see during awake periods,” says Anna Schapiro, also at Harvard Medical School. There is conversation between regions key to memory, including the hippocampus, where recent memories are stored, and the cortex, where long-term memories end up. This chatter might be allowing the cortex to pull out and save important information from new memories.
10-24-18 Why memories are an illusion and forgetting is good for you
Rather than a filing cabinet in the mind, it turns out memory is an exquisite illusion that shapes our sense of self. Here's how to understand yours better. WHEN considering what makes us who we are, it is easy to think our memories are the answer. Aside from the physical traces of the passing of time on your body, your recollections are perhaps the only thing that links the you sitting here today to the many yous from every previous day of your existence. Without them, your relationships would mean nothing, not to mention your knowledge, tastes, and your many adventures. It might be no exaggeration to say your memories are the essence of you. With this in mind, it is not surprising that much of the burgeoning field of neuroscience has turned its efforts to understanding what makes a memory and how to keep hold of it. Perhaps the most intriguing idea to come from recent discoveries is a reimagining of the dark side of memory – forgetting. As cherished memories fade or when we fail to remember an important task it is easy to feel that memory is failing us. But what the latest findings show is that simply thinking of memory as either accurate or fallible is a mistake. Instead, our memories are malleable, and for good reason. Rather than existing in the filing cabinet of the brain, we conjure memories from scratch with our own style (see “How can two people recall an event so differently?”). As we sleep, the brain meticulously crafts them into the most useful versions (see “What happens to your memories while you sleep?”). Technology too, affects how we remember and might even create whole new recollections (see “Is technology making your memory worse?”). As for forgetting, as infuriating as it can be, we’d be lost without it. Because memory, it turns out, is an illusion – one we create every time we recall the past and that is exquisitely designed to help you live your life.
10-24-18 Memory special: Can you choose what to forget?
If you want to forget an embarrassing encounter, you may just need to try. Forgetting isn't a passive process – so here's how to choose which memories you lose. WE ALL have memories we would rather forget – and it is possible, if you try hard enough. It is easy to think of memories as something you can actively strengthen, whereas forgetting is a passive process. But we have started to discover it can be intentional too. Perhaps the easiest way to forget something is simply to try to suppress a memory. Jeremy Manning at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, has found that just telling people to “push thoughts out of their head” is enough to make them forget lists of words they have learned to associate with particular cues. “We don’t know how, but people seem to know how to do it.” This seems especially paradoxical because we also know that rehearsing memories helps to strengthen them. Suppression has been linked to decreased activity in the hippocampus, so we may be unknowingly reducing our hippocampal activity by focusing on the present, says Justin Hulbert at Bard College, New York. This won’t work for everyone. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) involves intrusive memories that keep coming back – often suddenly and unexpectedly. Studies have found that people with this condition are less able to suppress memories, even those unrelated to traumatic incidents. But other approaches for forgetting might help, including what are known as cognitive vaccines: interventions that can “inoculate” the brain against the onset of PTSD symptoms if administered soon after trauma.
End Memory Report
9-28-18 Why haven’t we heard from aliens? Because we’ve barely started looking
The search for alien life has found nothing so far. But the part of the galaxy we’ve searched is equivalent to just a bathtub of water in the world’s oceans. Where is everybody? With billions of stars in our galaxy, many of which are thought to harbour habitable planets, surely there should be signs of life. Yet after decades of searching, we’ve found nothing. The mystery of this great silence is known as Fermi’s paradox, after physicist Enrico Fermi. Some have used it to argue that the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (SETI) is doomed. But a new mathematical analysis of SETI activity by Jason Wright at Pennsylvania State University and his colleagues shows this is far from the case. The team claim that the basic assumption of Fermi’s paradox – that there’s nobody out there – is false. In fact, we’ve barely begun looking. Wright’s team analysed the many variables involved in SETI – what to look for, where to look, how often and for how long – and ended up with an eight-dimensional model. They then devised an equation that computes the fraction of the galaxy searched so far. “It lets you build the haystack, then calculate how much of it you’ve looked at,” says Wright. They claim that the volume of our galaxy searched so far is roughly equivalent to a bathtub of water in the world’s oceans. “You don’t have to do a calculation to say we’ve only just started,” says Duncan Forgan at the University of St Andrews, UK, who is a member of the UK SETI network. “But they’ve done a nice job of showing the huge scale of the problem mathematically.”
8-27-18 ‘Replication crisis’ spurs reforms in how science studies are done
But some researchers say the focus on reproducibility ignores a larger problem. What started out a few years ago as a crisis of confidence in scientific results has evolved into an opportunity for improvement. Researchers and journal editors are exposing how studies get done and encouraging independent redos of published reports. And there’s nothing like the string of failed replications to spur improved scientific practice. That’s the conclusion of a research team, led by Caltech economist Colin Camerer, that examined 21 social science papers published in two major scientific journals, Nature and Science, from 2010 to 2015. Five replication teams directed by coauthors of the new study successfully reproduced effects reported for 13 of those investigations, the researchers report online August 27 in Nature Human Behavior. Results reported in eight papers could not be replicated. The new study is an improvement over a previous attempt to replicate psychology findings (SN: 4/2/16, p. 8). But the latest results underscore the need to view any single study with caution, a lesson that many researchers and journal gatekeepers have taken to heart over the past few years, Camerer’s team says. An opportunity now exists to create a scientific culture of replication that provides a check on what ends up getting published and publicized, the researchers contend.
8-13-18 US mid-term elections: Truth-seeking scientists run for office
"Scientists are not natural politicians... but they solve problems and defend principles," says Valerie Horsley. She's one of a record number of scientists who are running for office in the US in 2018.
7-18-18 Move over, Hubble. This sharp pic of Neptune was taken from Earth
Cancelling out blur from Earth’s atmosphere lets astronomers focus like never before. A telescope on Earth has snapped pictures of Neptune at least as clear as those from the Hubble Space Telescope. The trick? Taking the twinkle out of stars. Released by the European Southern Observatory on July 18, the images come from a new observing system on the Very Large Telescope in Chile. The instrument uses four lasers to cancel out blurring caused by Earth’s atmosphere — the same effect that makes it look like stars are twinkling — at different altitudes. The system is an updated version of adaptive optics (SN: 6/14/03, p. 373), a technique astronomers have long used to focus telescopes. Lasers create artificial “stars” whose size and brightness are precisely known. That gives scientists a way to measure how the atmosphere is distorting their view of real, faraway stars at any given moment. Small motors then change the shape of the telescope’s mirror in real time to correct for that distortion and see the sky as it really is. The resulting images from the Chilean telescope are as sharp and clear as those taken from space. That’s good news, as Hubble won’t last forever, and planned future space telescopes won’t take images in the visible part of the light spectrum (SN: 3/17/18, p. 4). With adaptive optics, telescopes on the ground can pick up where Hubble leaves off. (Webmaster's comment: Neptune is 4 times the size of Earth and this is the best we can do.)
7-5-18 Most Americans think funding science pays off
But there is some disagreement over where that money should come from. Forget all the ridicule heaped on treadmill-running shrimp. About 80 percent of U.S. adults think that government spending on medical research, engineering and technology, and basic science usually leads to meaningful advances, a new survey from the Pew Research Center shows. The nonprofit, nonpartisan research organization queried 2,537 people from April 23 to May 6. No matter where they fell on the political spectrum, a majority of Republicans and Democrats shared that view. Of liberal Democrats surveyed, 92 percent said government investments in basic scientific research “usually pay off in the long run.” Of conservative Republicans, 61 percent agreed. That general agreement broke down when it came to private versus government spending. Two-thirds of conservative Republicans said that private investment alone would be enough to see that scientific progress is made, compared with 22 percent of liberal Democrats. Surveys in 2017, 2014 and 2009 by Pew also found similar support among Americans for spending taxpayer dollars on science. (Webmaster's comment: Conservative Republicans just want research on what makes them personally wealthy!)
6-27-18 How to think about… Scientific truth
All swans are white. Or are they? It’s difficult to establish absolute truths about the world, and science is the worst method – apart from all the others. VIENNA, 1919: a city scarred by lost war and empire. Navel-gazing is in order, and Sigmund Freud’s new ideas of the subconscious and psychoanalysis are all the rage. One young apprentice cabinet-maker is brooding – how could anyone prove them true, when the subconscious is unknowable? Karl Popper soon abandoned cabinet-making for a loftier pursuit. He wanted to find a way to demarcate ideas like Freud’s from what he saw as a truer kind of knowledge: science. It still isn’t at all easy. By its nature, science can’t rely on logical deduction alone, or build up knowledge purely from incontestable truths (see “How to think about… Logic”). It must make leaps into the unknown, just as Freud did, formulating hypotheses and searching for evidence of their truth. This is called induction, and it hides a niggle described by philosopher David Hume 150 years before Popper. The classic example involves checking the colour of as many swans as you can find, then extrapolating a rule to say “all swans are white”. That sounds like science. But it can’t lead to reliable knowledge, Hume argued, because you can never know a black swan isn’t in the next pond. Popper’s resolution seems oddly negative: science is about proving not truth, but falsehood. The crucial thing is that when you find evidence that disproves a scientific hypothesis, you discard or amend that hypothesis. You can never find truth exactly, but by slowly ruling out ideas, you edge closer to it. When at some point the weight of evidence seems overwhelming, your hypothesis becomes a scientific theory, like the general theory of relativity, the theory of evolution by natural selection or the theory of human-induced climate change.
4-14-18 On the ground at today’s March for Science rallies
The March for Science returns with rallies around the globe in support of science-based policies. Follow our coverage from New York and elsewhere. The March for Science returned today for its second year, with marches and rallies planned for 200 cities worldwide. Last year’s march was one of the largest public displays of support for science, drawing 1.3 million people around the globe to rallies in more than 450 cities. David Kanter, an organiser of the march in New York, says the theme of the day is the intersection of science and education. “We really want to focus on the power of science and scientific training to empower young people, to empower communities that have often been underrepresented in society and in science,” he says. “The theme for all the marches this year is accountability, making sure that all of our elected officials are held accountable in terms of being able to respect science.” This morning in Washington Square Park in New York, the day started slow as a small crowd began to gather under a cloudless sky. Some, like mechanical engineer Patrick Landry, had attended marches and rallies last year. He came out today because “carbon emissions keep going up, we need to send a message to our administration and the world that we need to find a solution,” he said. Other marchers, like Liz Ndoye, a retired teacher from Hoboken, did not attend last year but felt that current events make this year’s march particularly important. “I’m terrified to live in a time when our leaders say science is fake news or a conspiracy. Marches make everyone aware there are people concerned about, for example, the EPA rolling back regulations,” Ndoye said.
4-13-18 What to expect from this Saturday’s March for Science
The March for Science on 14 April will involve rallies in more than 200 cities, as a sequel to last year’s inaugural march in protest of president Donald Trump. What started as a march is turning into a movement. This year’s March for Science will involve rallies on 14 April in more than 200 cities, as a sequel to last year’s inaugural march in protest of president Donald Trump and his administration’s anti-science rhetoric. This time around, the day of protest aims to be more than just crowds of people wielding witty signs – though those will likely still be in high supply. “The theme of the march last year has hardened and endured into this year,” says David Kanter, co-organiser of the New York City march. “Given that last year it was the early months of the Trump administration, there was more anxiety there. But the ultimate goals of building a community of science advocates and influencing policy with science are still the driving forces.” In Washington, DC, crowds will descend on the National Mall for a morning of talks and performances before the march. Cities around the world have adapted the March for Science to their own communities, including seminars to encourage more scientific activism. Marches in other places, including New York City and London, will also promote voter registration efforts. “We’re hoping people come away from the march knowing more about organisations in their own backyard,” says Jillian Sequeira, a coordinator of the London March for Science. For the New York organisers, the focus is on influencing local and national politics. “Our driving concern is making sure that the work of scientists is used in decision-making to make smart policy,” says Kanter.
4-11-18 Science fans have many reasons to take to the streets again
A global rally against the denigration of science was a huge event in 2017. The need for a repeat this weekend is strong, says Jonathan Berman. WHEN I first started recruiting for a scientists’ march on Washington DC in early 2017, it seemed like an uphill battle. I was just a researcher without money, connections or crowd-pulling charisma, moved to action by the election of Donald Trump, a powerful climate change denier and anti-vaxxer, as US president. Of course, science was already beset with human problems. Research funding had been declining and although people often said they loved science, they would then say how acupuncture had “cured” their back pain, or produce a salad of words like “quantum” and “consciousness” with no regard to physics or neuroscience. Science was well loved, but much abused and rarely understood. I felt nearly alone, facing a world of fantasists, believers and deniers. That feeling turned out to be wrong. Thanks to thousands of volunteers and hundreds of thousands of protesters, the Washington event became the March for Science, the largest public science education event in history. It extended to cities around the world and saw more than 1 million people participate. It is hard to quantify its impact. But a year later, more scientists than ever have run for political office. There are new expos and outreach projects. Sound science seems to be entering the cultural lexicon as a virtue, like honesty or hard work. More people are aware of science denial and more are taking on leadership roles in science education and advocacy. And science advocates are poised to rally again. The second March for Science is on 14 April. There are good reasons for a repeat.
2-5-18 Wikipedia has become a science reference source even though scientists don’t cite it
Phrases from Wikipedia pages on hot scientific fields end up in published papers, a study finds. Wikipedia: The settler of dinnertime disputes and the savior of those who cheat on trivia night. Quick, what country has the Nile’s headwaters? What year did Gershwin write “Rhapsody in Blue”? Wikipedia has the answer to all your burning trivia questions — including ones about science. With hundreds of thousands of scientific entries, Wikipedia offers a quick reference for the molecular formula of Zoloft, who the inventor of the 3-D printer is and the fact that the theory of plate tectonics is only about 100 years old. The website is a gold mine for science fans, science bloggers and scientists alike. But even though scientists use Wikipedia, they don’t tend to admit it. The site rarely ends up in a paper’s citations as the source of, say, the history of the gut-brain axis or the chemical formula for polyvinyl chloride. But scientists are browsing Wikipedia just like everyone else. A recent analysis found that Wikipedia stays up-to-date on the latest research — and vocabulary from those Wikipedia articles finds its way into scientific papers. The results don’t just reveal the Wiki-habits of the ivory tower. They also show that the free, widely available information source is playing a role in research progress, especially in poorer countries.
12-25-17 Eight amazing science stories of 2017
It was a year of endings and beginnings: the plucky Cassini spacecraft's 13-year-long mission reached its finale, while the fledgling field of gravitational wave astronomy bagged the catastrophic collision of two dead stars. BBC News looks back on eight of the biggest science and environment stories of 2017.
- Star crash: In 2017, scientists detected Einstein's gravitational waves from a new source - the collision of two dead stars, or neutron stars.
- Cassini's final bow: The Cassini spacecraft arrived in the Saturn system in 2004. In the 13 years it was operational it transformed our understanding of the ringed planet and its moons.
- Paris pull-out: While he was on the campaign trail, Donald Trump said he would "cancel" the Paris climate agreement, taking the US out of the deal. But after winning the US election in November of that year, he made few public pronouncements on the topic of climate change.
- Multiple "Earths": But this year, astronomers discovered a planetary system with seven Earth-sized planets. What's more, these worlds seem to be locked in a strange "resonance" as they orbit their host star.
- Recent relative: In July, researchers unveiled fossils of five early humans found in North Africa that showed our species - Homo sapiens - emerged at least 100,000 years earlier than previously recognised. The finds suggested that our species did not evolve in a single "cradle" in East Africa.
- Dark skies: On 21 August, a giant shadow cast by the Moon swept across America, marking the first total solar eclipse since the country's founding in 1776 where totality made exclusive landfall in the US.
- Visitor from beyond: Though scientists had been predicting for years that we would be visited by an asteroid from interstellar space, 2017 was the first time we spotted one.
- Giant iceberg: One of the biggest icebergs ever recorded broke away from Antarctica's Larsen C ice shelf in July.
12-13-17 Is there a limit to what science can understand?
Maybe science can't answer all the complex questions. Where does that leave us? Albert Einstein said that the "most incomprehensible thing about the Universe is that it is comprehensible." He was right to be astonished. Human brains evolved to be adaptable, but our underlying neural architecture has barely changed since our ancestors roamed the savannah and coped with the challenges that life on it presented. It's surely remarkable that these brains have allowed us to make sense of the quantum and the cosmos, notions far removed from the "commonsense" everyday world in which we evolved. But I think science will hit the buffers at some point. There are two reasons why this might happen. The optimistic one is that we clean up and codify certain areas (such as atomic physics) to the point that there's no more to say. A second, more worrying possibility is that we'll reach the limits of what our brains can grasp. There might be concepts, crucial to a full understanding of physical reality, that we aren't aware of, any more than a monkey comprehends Darwinism or meteorology. Some insights might have to await a post-human intelligence. (Webmaster's comment: I've been saying the same thing for a long time. You could teach chimps how to drive a car but they'll never understand how to fix the engine. Humans are smarter than chimps, and they understand how to use many of the physical laws of the universe, but not why those laws are what they are and what's behind them. Human intelligence has its limits.)
11-13-17 Bad news: Carbon emissions have suddenly started rising again
Emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuel are on the rise again. We desperately need more action to stop climate change, and that means putting a price on carbon. If the world does not do more to limit greenhouse gas emissions soon, the final slender hope of preventing global temperature rise being much above 2°C will slip away. Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry are set to rise sharply this year, after remaining stable for the past three years. “This is really not good news,” says Corinne Le Quéré, director of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research in the UK, who led the research by the Global Carbon Project. The findings are yet more evidence that, despite the 2015 Paris agreement, the world is still not doing nearly enough to limit emissions. Yet there is wide agreement on what needs to be done: introducing a meaningful price on carbon. “We need to cost the negative effects of carbon into the activities that produce it,” says Le Quéré. “A carbon price is absolutely essential,” economist Nicholas Stern told a meeting in London organised by the Task Force on Climate-related Financial Disclosures earlier this month. “We may be on a path to 3°C. The risks are enormous.” The biggest global obstacle to investment in clean growth is governments’ failure to pursue clear, credible and predictable policies, Stern said. A well-designed carbon price is an indispensable part of any strategy for efficiently reducing emissions. The European Union does have a carbon trading scheme, but it has produced a low and erratic carbon price – which doesn’t incentivise cutting emissions. The scheme has been close to meaningless, says Wendel Trio of Climate Action Network Europe. Reforms announced last week won’t change this. “What businesses want to know is that the price of carbon is going to be high, and that the price will increase,” says Le Quéré. Le Quéré’s team previously found that, from 2014 to 2016, emissions from fossil fuels and industry remained flat despite continuing economic growth. This led some to hope that global emissions had peaked, although many experts warned it was too early to tell. Now fossil fuel and industry emissions are projected to rise 2 per cent in 2017, to a record 37 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide. Whether emissions will continue to rise in the coming years or flatten out again is not clear, says Le Quéré. “We can’t say what trajectory is going to be realised.”
11-3-17 Humans are driving climate change, federal scientists say
New U.S. report tallies impacts from hottest-ever years to extreme weather threats. Jakobshavn Glacier in western Greenland (its front edge, where ice is calving into the ocean is one of the world’s fastest-shrinking glaciers. A new U.S. report increases projections of average global sea level rise due to accelerating ice sheet melting if greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated. It is “extremely likely” that humans are driving warming on Earth since the 1950s. That statement — which indicates a 95 to 100 percent confidence in the finding — came in a report released November 3 by the U.S. Global Change Research Program. This interagency effort was established in 1989 by presidential initiative to help inform national science policy. The 2017 Climate Science Special Report, which lays out the current state of scientific knowledge on climate change, will be rolled into the fourth National Climate Assessment, set to be released in late 2018. The last national climate assessment, released in 2014, also concluded that recent warming was mostly due to humans, but didn’t give a confidence level (SN Online: 5/6/14). Things haven’t gotten better. Ice sheet melting has accelerated, the 2017 report finds. As a result, projections of possible average global sea level rise by 2100 under a high greenhouse gas emissions scenario (in which emissions rise unabated throughout the 21st century) have increased from 2 meters to as much as 2.6 meters. In addition, the report notes that three of the warmest years on record — 2014, 2015 and 2016 — occurred since the last report was released; those years also had record-low sea ice extent in the Arctic Ocean in the summer.
See the Global Temperature History Charts
See the Global Ice Loss Charts
10-30-17 Record surge in atmospheric CO2 seen in 2016
Concentrations of CO2 in the Earth's atmosphere surged to a record high in 2016, according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). Last year's increase was 50% higher than the average of the past 10 years. Researchers say a combination of human activities and the El Niño weather phenomenon drove CO2 to a level not seen in 800,000 years. Scientists say this risks making global temperature targets largely unattainable. his year's greenhouse gas bulletin produced by the WMO, is based on measurements taken in 51 countries. Research stations dotted around the globe measure concentrations of warming gases including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. The figures published by the WMO are what's left in the atmosphere after significant amounts are absorbed by the Earth's "sinks", which include the oceans and the biosphere. 2016 saw average concentrations of CO2 hit 403.3 parts per million, up from 400ppm in 2015. "It is the largest increase we have ever seen in the 30 years we have had this network," Dr Oksana Tarasova, chief of WMO's global atmosphere watch programme, told BBC News. "The largest increase was in the previous El Niño, in 1997-1998 and it was 2.7ppm and now it is 3.3ppm, it is also 50% higher than the average of the last ten years."