Monday, 31 December 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/31/conservation-push-yields-results-for-uk-sea-life-but-challenges-remain-plastic-pollution#img-1) but I am not wholly convinced that sporadic recording of such beasts (perhaps benefiting from conservation programmes) actually reveals a healthy marine environment. In some respects, seeing thriving populations of common species might well be a better indicator of 'health' than increases in the numbers of occasional animals often at the margins of their ranges.
- December 31, 2018
Sunday, 30 December 2018
Monday, 24 December 2018
Sunday, 23 December 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/dec/18/richard-bransons-virgin-galactic-space-flights-criticised-as-dangerous-dead-end-tech) pointing out that they are essentially high altitude flights that fall rapidly back to Earth. I am, surprised, however, that no one seems to point out that they would be a prominent addition to greenhouse gas emissions.
- December 23, 2018
Saturday, 22 December 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/20/great-pacific-garbage-patch-20m-cleanup-fails-to-collect-plastic). The device is intended to help remove floating plastic in the Pacific between California and Hawaii. Although it scoops up plastic, the material is escaping again. Hopefully, tweaks to the device will make it an effective nemesis for this ubiquitous human waste.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/20/risks-of-domino-effect-of-tipping-points-greater-than-thought-study-says). This suggests that the current situation is actually much worse than has previously been argued. In deed, the changes currently being advocated may well prove wildly inadequate.
Thursday, 20 December 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/19/houseplant-rabbit-dna-reduce-air-pollution-study-devils-ivy). The gene enables the plant filter out harmful pollutants such as chloroform and benzene. As I keep telling my students, the gene is not necessarily the exclusive property of the rabbit (many genes are shared by organisms e.g. humans share circa 20% of the genes a yeast has). So the rabbit was, presumably, a convenient source.
Wednesday, 19 December 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2018/dec/18/blind-amphibian-named-after-trumps-climate-change-stance). This Canary shouldered thorn moth would be, I feel, a pretty good candidate.
- December 19, 2018
Tuesday, 18 December 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/16/cheese-uk-waste-mountain-christmas-borough-market). This is an incredible scale of waste- just because people have become bored with the cheese board.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/17/chickens-freezing-to-death-and-boiled-alive-failings-in-us-slaughterhouses-exposed) records that some birds freeze to death or are boiled alive in American slaughterhouses. Cheapness should not, in my view, over-ride humane systems.
Sunday, 16 December 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/dec/13/neurosurgery-could-spread-protein-linked-to-alzheimers-study-finds). Their advice is that surgeons should take more care when sterilising their instruments. I seem to remember, however, that earlier studies with prions (highly resistant proteins implicated in CJD), suggested that there was no such thing as a completely safely re-utilisable (after sterilisation) surgical instrument?
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/dec/14/first-dutch-bananas-could-help-tackle-fungal-threat). This might be another method of protecting these highly inbred plants.
Saturday, 15 December 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/15/un-climate-change-talks-postpone-contentious-issues-with-draft-agreement). The change in the attitude of the new Brazilian government is particularly problematic (they have even withdrawn their offer to host the next meeting which will now be in Chile). The prognosis continues to be poor.
Friday, 14 December 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/13/global-heating-more-accurate-to-describe-risks-to-planet-says-key-scientist). This certainly makes sense in terms of the physics but, I suspect, that 'warming' was used, as the actual magnitude of the change is slight. 'Slight', however, does not mean without substantial consequences for the planet and its surface dwellers.
- December 14, 2018
Tuesday, 11 December 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/dec/10/tread-softly-because-you-tread-on-23bn-tonnes-of-micro-organisms). They estimate that more than 20 billion tons of microorganisms live below the surface. This is a greater biomass than the planet's current human population, in spite of the region being characterised by intense heat; sparse nutrition and mind-boggling pressures. Some organisms appear to have survived (largely in a state of stasis) buried in situ for millions of years. The scientists speculate as to whether colonisation of life zones of the planet have gone from surface to interior or vice versa. That actually may not matter too much as, I suspect, that life, being opportunistic, will take advantage of vacancies that occur in either location. So, if humans manage, by their actions, to eliminate much of the life on the surface, some 'deep life' will come to the surface, certainly speeding up the re-population process.
- December 11, 2018
Sunday, 9 December 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/07/worlds-oldest-bird-lays-egg-wisdom-albatross). This makes it the oldest known bird to be actively reproducing with her 'long term lover' (actually, albatross pair-bond for life, if at all possible). The pair had to have only 2 chicks survive to breed to essentially replace themselves but, in spite of this, albatross numbers are in rapid decline on a world-wide basis. Wisdom needs to keep going.
Saturday, 8 December 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/08/airlines-ignoring-efficient-planes-carbon-targets-tui-airways-atmosfair-index-virgin-atlantic). As one might predict (given their enthusiasm for commercial space flight), Virgin Atlantic is reportedly one of the worst offenders.
- December 08, 2018
Friday, 7 December 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/dec/04/royal-jelly-research-could-propel-cure-for-alzheimers-claim-scientists). They note that there is a similar protein in humans, Regina, with a comparable action. Customers of alternative health shops have postulated for years that Royal jelly is a valuable addition to the human diet and, in deed, there is reasonable evidence that the substance increases longevity in animals from nematode worms to mice. The Stanford group reportedly believe that developing Regina (or variants of the molecule) might have medical applications in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases (including Alzheimer's) as well as wound healing.
- December 07, 2018
Thursday, 6 December 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/05/brutal-news-global-carbon-emissions-jump-to-all-time-high-in-2018). I can't see any early changes on the horizon.
- December 06, 2018
Wednesday, 5 December 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/dec/04/scientists-develop-10-minute-universal-cancer-test). Small amounts of cancer cells with their modified DNA appear in the blood. The cancer cell DNA has a different pattern of methyl groups from that found in normal cells, causing them to respond differently to gold nanoparticles added to the samples. This produces a distinctive difference in the colour of the suspensions with (remaining pink) and without (changing to blue) cancer cells. The test has, thus far, been carried out only on breast, prostate and colorectal sufferers but there is an intention to see what it does in other cancer groups. Although this screen does not tell the tester where the cancer is located or how problematic it is likely to be (these would require more detailed and traditional investigations), as a rapid test, it does seem to be a very promising development.
- December 05, 2018
Tuesday, 4 December 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/dec/04/french-government-to-suspend-fuel-tax-increase-say-reports). It chimes with a comment by one of the Katowice (Poland and scene of the UN Climate Change conference) coal miners to the effect that those ecologists ought to remember who is doing more for the planet (ecologists or coal miners)! Such attitudes and the political responses to them might well be the planet's epitaph.
- December 04, 2018
Monday, 3 December 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/03/we-are-last-generation-that-can-stop-climate-change-un-summit) and St David (Attenborough) is suggesting that civilisation itself is at risk, speaking at a coal mine supported meeting in Poland (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/dec/03/david-attenborough-collapse-civilisation-on-horizon-un-climate-summit). In Australia (currently an Environmental bad-boy), enlightened schoolchildren are protesting about climate damaging government policies but, in France, people are rioting partly about increases in fuel prices (a measure designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions). The UK government appears hell-bent on encouraging fracking and the US wants more coal mining and oil extraction even in national parks. As they say "the prognosis doesn't look too good". It seems that people generally know what needs to be done but they would rather that someone else did it at their expense.
- December 03, 2018
Sunday, 2 December 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/nov/29/work-on-gene-edited-babies-blatant-violation-of-the-law-says-china). This is a very difficult situation as you can't really put the genie back in the bottle. It looks as if gene editing of humans is here to stay.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/09/dan-barber-20-years-from-now-youll-be-eating-fast-food-crickets). Certainly, they can be cultured much more quickly than beef, chicken, lamb and pork and are associated with nothing like the same environmental problems. There is not actually much anatomical difference between a locust and a prawn (the former possibly has the cleaner diet) but I still think that people (not withstanding the popularity of "I'm a Celebrity: Get Me Out of Here") will have to be inventive to get the population heavily into insect grub.
https://www.theguardian.com/music/2018/dec/02/killing-of-swan-family-in-kent-brings-calls-for-airgun-regulation). Apparently, that county has a very high incidence of airguns being used on wild animals (apparently, even grass-eating birds).There seems to be a good case for regulating the ownership of these weapons.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/28/climate-change-already-a-health-emergency-say-experts). They point out that, not only are we losing food crops in many parts of a warming, sometimes more arid world, but heatwaves are also increasing death-rates in both younger and older citizens (they are more vulnerable). Transmitted human diseases, such as dengue fever, are also spreading to new regions of the planet. They think that we should take the situation seriously.
Friday, 30 November 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/bike-blog/2018/nov/30/whos-behind-the-bid-to-get-londons-flagship-bike-lane-ripped-up). The London Embankment cycle way, used by tens of thousands of cyclists per day and occupying 1 lane of a 4 lane road, is being threatened by a combination of property groups, motorised transport bodies and taxi companies. I would have thought we needed more provision for cyclists in our cities, not less!
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/nov/29/scientists-discover-spider-species-that-feeds-its-young-milk).Although we normally associate milk production with Mammals, other species, e.g. pigeons, produce 'crop milk'. Consequently, the idea of producing body secretions to give one's offspring a helping start is, perhaps, more widespread than was earlier thought. Some species even donate their bodies to their progeny (they get eaten).
Thursday, 29 November 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/29/great-british-beach-clean-attracts-record-number-of-volunteers). There was, however, a record amount of plastic and, I suspect, it will not be reducing anytime soon.
- November 29, 2018
Wednesday, 28 November 2018
https://nationalpost.com/news/world/sea-turtles-some-dead-some-barely-alive-wash-ashore). Apparently, the cold seas result in these cold-blooded animals becoming moribund and geography makes in difficult for them to escape to warmer waters. There have also been a recent mass stranding of whales in a remote area of New Zealand.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/28/report-urges-network-rail-rethink-scale-line-side-tree-felling). The rail folk seem to 'hate' the trees, whose falling autumn leaves can cause delays and storms can blow trees onto the tracks. Having said that, trees are important removers of greenhouse gases (which diesel trains contribute to); provide an effective visual (and even a bit of sound deadening) screen for people living near the tracks; give rail passengers something nice to look at and might even reduce the possibility of landslides. The rail track system (like motorway verges) makes up a surprisingly high area of unbuilt and unfarmed land in the UK. Viva the trees!
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/28/microplastic-toxins-leave-shellfish-at-mercy-of-predators-research). This behavioural change is likely to have a real impact on marine populations and at least raises the question whether these plastics can change human cognition. We are certainly getting doses of them when we eat seafood.
Tuesday, 27 November 2018
https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/tv/news/dynasties-bbc-poisoned-lion-cub-vets-crew-call-africa-a8651726.html). It reminded me of the Masters programme carried out, under my distant supervision, by Dr Kate Evans before she became @elephantkate, after changing her beast. Her animals (especially the females) also had a complex social life. It was also remarkable how much of the water obtained by the animals at certain times of the year came from their prey. There were also some interesting associations between social status and their burdens of worm parasites as evidenced by eggs in the faeces (as these had to be collected fresh, there was a fraught risk assessment for the project).
- November 27, 2018
Monday, 26 November 2018
- November 26, 2018
Sunday, 25 November 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/23/climate-change-america-us-government-report) and that too little is being done about it. It's just a pity that there are votes to be obtained by ignoring (or even robustly contradicting without any actual evidence) the advice presented. I have frequently noted that that the basic problem is that the time courses for global change and the political cycles have very different periodicities. Short-termism wins every time.
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/nov/25/woman-inherited-fatal-illness-sue-doctors-groundbreaking-case-huntingtons). The hospital doctors presumably did not formally inform the immediate family of the man because of patient confidentiality (but they might have suggested that the man should inform his children as they would have a 50% chance of inheriting this condition which currently has no cure). The woman claims that, had she been informed, she would have had an abortion rather than giving birth to her daughter 8 years ago (as the woman has inherited the condition, also giving her daughter a 50% chance of developing the disease). This is a difficult one (and not, in my view, one for the legal eagles). The situation seems straight forward as described but the availability of gene testing techniques is reportedly revealing odd family secrets and misconceptions (no pun intended). What if the father had not actually conceived his 'daughter' and, because she was informed of his condition, she had an entirely unnecessary abortion? Would hospital be liable for this? I think that medical ethics needs to get on the case and give some clear guidance.
Wednesday, 21 November 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/20/air-pollution-cuts-global-average-lifespan-by-nearly-two-years-study). That's one 'bonus' that the US President is presumably not thanking the Saudis for (they are reducing the oil price).
- November 21, 2018
Tuesday, 20 November 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2018/nov/19/top-filmmakers-back-penguin-intervention-on-attenborough-show). Arguments seem to revolve around the issue of the natural history film maker's code requiring them to not normally interfere with the lives of the animals they are studying (e.g. they would not be expected to intervene, on either side, in a predator versus prey encounter). The camera folk argue (not unreasonably) that no animal was probably directly disadvantaged by digging the escape slope (picking the penguins out of the ravine would have been different). Having said that, it could be the case that some, as yet unarrived, scavengers missed out as a result of the film-makers actions. I suspect, however, that I would have done the same under these circumstances.
- November 20, 2018
Monday, 19 November 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/18/peanut-allergy-treatment-around-the-corner-but-cost-raises-concerns). Having said that, concerns have been raised that the cost might be a further challenge to a cash-strapped NHS as one would have to use a very purified material to get the safe doses needed. The thing is, however, that the allergy can (and does) kill.
https://www.theguardian.com/food/2018/nov/19/set-age-ban-on-sale-of-energy-drinks-at-18-government-told). This is primarily an attempt to stop these drinks producing unruly behavioural changes in school settings. I personally think that more effort ought to be directed to convincing young (and older?) folk that these concoctions are of little benefit rather than attempting to cut off the supply by making the age of legal consumption higher.
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2018/nov/18/scientists-unravel-secret-of-cube-shaped-wombat-faeces) has suggested that the last portion of the wombat's intestine (unlike that of e.g. the pig) has sections of periodic stiffness enabling it to generate 2cm cubes. The Hippopotamus also marks its territory with faeces using a 'muck-spreader' approach. If they could generate cuboidal faeces, they might look like bricks!
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/19/gruesome-discovery-of-czech-tiger-farm-exposes-illegal-trade-in-heart-of-europe). The 'farm' had lots of rotting animal parts in freezer chests lacking the necessary electrical supply as well as strange 'stews' of animal bones and meat. This finding gives the lie to the claim that Europeans would never be involved in such an unsavoury trade.
Sunday, 18 November 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/16/sad-surprise-amazon-fish-contaminated-by-plastic-particles). Given the duration and ubiquitousness of plastic use, I would be astounded if they weren't found in all living things in every location on the planet.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/nov/16/gulls-gulls-gulls-how-the-seaside-birds-took-over-urban-britain). Many of our high-rise buildings seem to have characteristics of the elevated, predator free nesting locations that these birds favour and edible rubbish still exists outside treatment areas. I predict that they will still thrive in our cities.
Saturday, 17 November 2018
https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/nov/14/testosterone-therapy-could-help-tackle-male-depression-study). This essentially means that the disturbed mood in males is strongly linked to their endocrine status (so, either depression lowers testosterone or lowered testosterone, as in aging cohorts, tends to elevate depression). Although not currently recommended by NICE, testosterone might be a relatively cheap therapy for some forms of male depression.
- November 17, 2018
It has been reported that US scientists have developed a mega-slippery spray for toilet pans that might well lead to the disappearance of...
A combination of night rain and day-time sun has resulted in more Bynea blooms. The Southern marsh orchid ( Dactylorhiza praetermissa...
The fuss about allegedly suspect data emanating from the East Anglia University Climatic Research Unit and the 'theft' of emails fr...
Workers in Montreal have shown that adding boiling water to a single plastic tea-bag releases almost 15 billion micro and nano particles ...