Two Na’vi from James Cameron’s film Avatar today paid a visit to British mining company Vedanta Resources’ Annual General Meeting in Westminster, London.
The Na’vi joined tribal rights organization Survival in a demonstration against Vedanta, over its controversial plan to mine the sacred mountain of India’s Dongria Kondh tribe.
Martin Horwood MP, Chair of the all-party parliamentary group for tribal peoples, also attended the AGM, whilst former Monty Python star Michael Palin sent a message of support: ‘I’ve been to the Nyamgiri Hills in Orissa and seen the forces of money and power that Vedanta Resources have arrayed against a people who have occupied their land for thousands of years, who husband the forest sustainably and make no great demands on the state or the government. The tribe I visited simply want to carry on living in the villages that they and their ancestors have always lived in.’
Vedanta’s AGM was the same day that British Prime Minister David Cameron met Indian PM Dr. Manmohan Singh. Martin Horwood MP wrote to David Cameron urging him to raise the issue of the plight of the Dongria Kondh at the meeting.
The Dongria Kondh tribe have been described as ‘the real Avatar tribe’ because their plight closely parallels that of the aliens in James Cameron’s blockbuster.
Vedanta Resources is majority-owned by billionaire Mayfair resident Anil Agarwal. …
Friday, July 30, 2010
Thursday, July 29, 2010
July 28, 2010 by Lin Edwards
(PhysOrg.com) -- Researchers reporting in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin last week say people are drawn to others who resemble their parents or themselves. This may explain why incest taboos are found in many cultures - to counter a natural tendency.
University of Illinois psychologist, Chris Fraley, said there had been a century-long debate on whether incest taboos are psychological or cultural adaptations designed to suppress a biological urge. In the early 20th century Sigmund Freud, a psychoanalyst, proposed it was psychological, while Edward Westermarck, a sociologist, proposed it was cultural. Westermarck thought there was a critical time in childhood during which people would not find attractive people who were raising them or raised with them.
Most modern researchers think Westermarck was correct, but a new study led by Fraley suggests there may also be a psychological component in which we align ourselves with our kin, who are genetically close to us.
The research involved three experiments. In the first, volunteers were shown pictures of strangers’ faces and asked to rate them on sexual attractiveness. They were unaware that they were also being shown photographs just before the strangers’ faces, and these were flashed so quickly they could only be processed subliminally. Half the volunteers were flashed a picture of their opposite gender parent, while the remaining subjects were flashed a picture of an unrelated person.
The results of this experiment were that those who were exposed to a picture of their parent generally found the stranger's face more sexually attractive than those who were shown the photo of an unrelated person.
A second experiment used images of two faces morphed together. The control group was shown images of faces of strangers morphed together, but the other subjects were shown faces that were composites of a stranger's face and (unknowingly) up to 45% their own face. They then rated the sexual attractiveness of the morph.
In this experiment the subjects shown images containing their own face found the picture more sexually attractive.
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
You can comment on the following thread to register your support for John Abraham against Monckton’s hysterical demands.
By Gareth on July 15, 2010
Potty peer Christopher Monckton has stepped up his campaign to shut down John Abraham’s debunking of one of his talks last year, by asking supporters to flood Abraham’s university with emails demanding it start a disciplinary inquiry. George Monbiot points out the obvious irony in the Guardian today:
Reading these ravings, I’m struck by two thoughts. The first is how frequently climate change deniers resort to demands for censorship or threats of litigation to try to shut down criticism of their views. Martin Durkin has done it, Richard North has done it, Monckton has done it many times before. They claim to want a debate, but as soon as it turns against them they try to stifle it by intimidating their opponents. To me it suggests that these people can give it out, but they can’t take it.
Monckton has since posted at Watts Up WIth That, including this appeal for support:
May I ask your kind readers once more for their help? Would as many of you as possible do what some of you have already been good enough to do? Please contact Father Dennis J. Dease, President of St. Thomas University, and invite him – even at this eleventh hour – to take down Abraham’s talk altogether from the University’s servers, and to instigate a disciplinary inquiry into the Professor’s unprofessional conduct, particularly in the matter of his lies to third parties about what I had said in my talk at Bethel University eight months ago? That would be a real help. [My emphasis, Dease email removed]
In other words, please help me to bully Abraham and the University into caving in to my absurd demands, and take Abraham’s presentation off the web.
In my view, it’s time to stand up to the potty peer’s attempts at intimidation of Abraham and his University. Rather than flood them with email, I propose that anyone who supports the statement below leave a comment with their name, location and academic affiliation (if any). You will need to leave an email, but that will not be published. I will enforce strict moderation. If you want to support Monckton, go elsewhere. I will ensure that Abraham and the university are aware of the thread. Please leave a comment and encourage as many people as possible to join in. …
Already one of the most bike-friendly cities in the world, Copenhagen is used as the setting for an interesting conceptual bike sharing system. Termed “Bicyclus” by Italian designer Stefano Marchetto, the new eco-friendly plan would reuse some 8,000 bikes that are abandoned every year and further facilitate easier commutes for residents through the city.
The Bicyclus idea intends to upgrade the city’s current world-famous bike system run by Bycykelservice. Since 1995, the city has systematically expanded the number and accessibility of bicycle lanes and routes, making bicycle travel more efficient than using cars or buses.
With Bicyclus, each recycled bike would receive a touchscreen display with information about the city, while the on board computer system would also be equipped to allow Bicyclus bikers to interact. …
Monday, July 26, 2010
Container ships are taking longer to cross the oceans than the Cutty Sark did as owners adopt 'super-slow steaming' to cut back on fuel consumption
By John Vidal, The Observer
Sunday 25 July 2010
A combination of the recession and growing awareness in the shipping industry about climate change emissions encouraged many ship owners to adopt "slow steaming" to save fuel two years ago. This lowered speeds from the standard 25 knots to 20 knots, but many major companies have now taken this a stage further by adopting "super-slow steaming" at speeds of 12 knots (about 14mph).
Travel times between the US and China, or between Australia and Europe, are now comparable to those of the great age of sail in the 19th century. American clippers reached 14 to 17 knots in the 1850s, with the fastest recording speeds of 22 knots or more.
Maersk, the world's largest shipping line, with more than 600 ships, has adapted its giant marine diesel engines to travel at super-slow speeds without suffering damage. This reduces fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by 30%. It is believed that the company has saved more than £65m on fuel since it began its go-slow.
Ship engines are traditionally profligate and polluting. Designed to run at high speeds, they burn the cheapest "bunker" oil and are not subject to the same air quality rules as cars. In the boom before 2007, the Emma Maersk, one of the world's largest container ships, would burn around 300 tonnes of fuel a day, emitting as much as 1,000 tonnes of CO2 a day – roughly as much as the 30 lowest emitting countries in the world.
Maersk spokesman Bo Cerup-Simonsen said: "The cost benefits are clear. When speed is reduced by 20%, fuel consumption is reduced by 40% per nautical mile. Slow steaming is here to stay. Its introduction has been the most important factor in reducing our CO2 emissions in recent years, and we have not yet realised the full potential. Our goal is to reducing CO2 emissions by 25%." …
By Eloi Rouyer Eloi Rouyer – Mon Jul 26, 7:09 am ET
MARSEILLE, France (AFP) – An explosion in costs has cast a cloud over a multi-billion-dollar nuclear fusion project aiming to make the power that fuels the Sun a practical energy source on Earth.
Delays, rocketing costs and financing problems have hit the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (ITER) whose consortium members start a meeting on Tuesday aiming to get the project back on course.
ITER was set up by the European Union, which has a 45-percent share, China, India, South Korea, Japan, Russia and the United States to research a clean and limitless alternative to dwindling fossil fuel reserves by testing nuclear fusion.
Work is to start at the test reactor site at Cadarache in southern France next month, but the cost now worries many members.
The total estimated bill for the EU, the main backer, has doubled to 7.2 billion euros (9.2 billion dollars), with the overall cost now reckoned to be around 15 billion euros.
The meeting on Tuesday and Wednesday in Cadarche of ITER's council members marks the start of the construction phase and comes after the EU pledged to pump in extra funds to keep the project going.
The European Commission, the EU executive arm, this month offered to fork out an extra 1.4 billion euros to fulfil Europe's commitment to the project, but this needs the approval of EU member states.
ITER's administrative headquarters and two buildings housing equipment will be the first to be started. …
Saturday, July 24, 2010
By Joe Romm
The blame game has already begun.
One exasperated administration official on Thursday lambasted the environmentalists – led by the Environmental Defense Fund – for failing to effectively lobby GOP senators.
“They didn’t deliver a single Republican,” the official told POLITICO. “They spent like $100 million and they weren’t able to get a single Republican convert on the bill.”
No doubt that is a quote from somebody in the Rahm and Axelrod camp.
But while I certainly think that enviros made mistakes — see Can you solve global warming without talking about global warming? — I agree with CAP’s Dan Weiss who told Climate Progress today:
In my 30 years of environmental advocacy, this has been the most sophisticated, political savvy, vigorous legislative campaign. The Environmental Defense Fund undertook heroic efforts to convince reluctant senators of both parties to support investments in clean energy jobs, reduce oil use, and cut pollution.
The inability to achieve support from Republican senators was due to their feality to their leadership, big oil, and dirty coal, and not for lack of effort. Senators of both parties who supported global warming legislation in previous Congresses should be ashamed that they were AWOL in 2010.
I would go further.
It is absurd to think that environmentalists could deliver Republicans — the GOBP doesn’t count environmentalists among their constituents. Maybe they could have delivered the Maine Senators, but Cantwell give Collins an out. Snowe remains a puzzle. …
On the political front, the White House deserves most of the blame for not getting Republicans. Why? Because the White House never tried to keep moderate Democrats in line, never made it clear that there was definitely gonna be a vote on this bill and the moderates should figure out what they needed to support the bill (as in the case of healthcare reform). …
Friday, July 23, 2010
By MATTHEW L. WALD
July 14, 2010, 7:27 am
Part of the fine print in solar power systems is that whatever wattage number is quoted, it is usually “peak watts,’’ or the amount of electricity that the panel would deliver when the sun is directly overhead. For the rest of the daylight hours, the output is lower; a graph showing minute-by-minute production resembles a sharp mountain peak.
One way to do better is to mount the panel on a metal backbone and let it tilt over the course of the day, keeping itself pointed towards the sun from sunrise to sunset. This is called a single-axis tracker. Better yet is a two-axis tracker, which also adjusts the angle to compensate for how high the sun is in the sky. Then the graph showing output would resemble a plateau. But all of this adds cost.
Envision Solar, a San Diego company, has found a niche in the solar world by building shaded parking areas with solar panels fixed to the roofs. The panels do not track the sun, but they are angled to take advantage of it: they are usually tilted to the south.
But parking lot designers seldom take solar orientation into account when painting the stripes for the parking spaces; the company has sometimes had to realign the parking stalls so that the roofs will have good solar orientation, with the rows of cars running east-west. In the ideal configuration, said Robert Noble, an architect who founded the firm and is its chief executive, the sun rises in the windshield and sets in the back window, or vice versa.
Now Envision is trying out another idea. On Wednesday, it will announce that with financing from the state of Pennsylvania, it is trying out a “solar tree” mounted on a gimbal, a mechanical device with rings mounted on axes at right angles to each other. …
Thursday, July 22, 2010
By Ariel Schwartz
Tue Jul 20, 2010
Google's entrance into the energy market has been a long time coming. Earlier this year, the Internet giant formed an energy subsidiary, dubbed "Google Energy", and soon afterwards Google announced that its first direct investment in utility-scale clean energy would go towards NextEra Energy Resources' wind energy project in North Dakota to the tune of $38.8 million. Now Google reports that it has entered into a 20-year green Power Purchase Agreement with NextEra--and Google plans to sell some of that wind power back to the grid for Renewable Energy Certificates. In other words, Google-owned resources may soon be keeping your lights on.
Beginning on July 30, NextEra will supply Google with 114 megawatts of wind generation from the NextEra Energy Resources Story County II facility in Iowa. Google will continue to buy the energy from NextEra at an undisclosed rate for the next 20 years. But according to Google, the deal is a bit complicated: …
Monday, July 19, 2010
By Joe Romm
July 19, 2010
Prof. Stephen Schneider, one of the truly important voices in climate science of our time, has died. For over three decades, he had been researching and speaking out on the need to sharply and quickly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Schneider served as a consultant to Federal Agencies and White House staff in the Nixon, Carter, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Clinton, George W. Bush and Obama administrations…..
Schneider was the founder and editor of the journal Climatic Change and authored or co-authored over 450 scientific papers and other publications. He was a Coordinating Lead Author in Working Group II IPCC TAR and was engaged as a co-anchor of the Key Vulnerabilities Cross-Cutting Theme for the Fourth Assessment Report (AR4) at the time of his death.
Schneider managed this urgent message even while consistently focusing on the uncertainties inherent in the science — he understood that the uncertainties made the case stronger, not weaker, particularly since most of the uncertainty is on the high end of climate sensitivity and impacts. And he managed this even while he battled and beat a rare cancer.” …
Monday, July 12, 2010
Researchers at Mathematics Research Centre and Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona have discovered the mathematical relation between the number of hurricanes produced in certain parts of the planet and the energy they release. The distribution is valid for all series of hurricanes under study, independent of when and where they occurred. The research, which will be published on Sunday online edition of Nature Physics, suggests that the evolution of hurricane intensity will be very difficult to predict.
It is well known that there are less probabilities of a devastating hurricane developing than of a modest one. However, the exact relation between the number of hurricanes and energy released was not known until now. Researchers from the Mathematics Research Centre (CRM) and the Department of Physics of Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona have analysed data corresponding to tropical cyclones (generic name used for hurricanes) which have appeared in different parts of the planet between 1945 and 2007. Scientists have discovered that this relation corresponds to a power-law, a precise mathematical formula cyclones obey in a surprising manner, regardless of where on the planet and when they appear.
This fundamental discovery has led researchers to more general conclusions on the behaviour of hurricanes. The first conclusion states that a hurricane's dynamics can be the result of a critical process, therefore making it impossible to predict its intensity. One of the aspects traditionally studied by organisations monitoring the danger of hurricanes is the prediction of their intensity, since this determines which alert and prevention systems are to be used in populated areas. Despite the efforts of scientists and resources invested, until now results have been very poor, although predictions on hurricane trajectory have improved considerably. The fact that hurricanes follow this power-law, as do other natural phenomena where large amounts of energy are released, e.g. earthquakes, questions the ability to predict the evolution of their intensity. In these types of processes, the dynamics behind large hurricanes are the same as those producing tropical storms of less importance and range. The way in which a small storm evolves and transforms into a catastrophic hurricane depends on whether the fluctuations amplifying the storm are stronger than those which tend to dissipate it. However, there is no specific aspect pointing to which will be the dominant fluctuations, since the system at that moment is in a critical situation, i.e. on the verge of either dissipating or growing. …
The research, which will be published on Monday in the online edition of Nature Physics, was carried out by Álvaro Corral, researcher at Mathematics Research Centre (consortium formed by the Institute of Catalan Studies and the Catalan Government, located at the UAB Research Park; CRM is also a CERCA center); Albert Ossó, UAB student in Physics; and Dr Josep Enric Llebot, professor at the UAB Department of Physics.
Friday, July 9, 2010
WHAT: Learn where Puget Sound waters have particularly low pH values compared to what is normal for ocean waters and what proportion is probably the result of man-made carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. View a buoy and sleek University of Washington-built Seaglider on board the ship that is about to deploy them off the Washington coast. They will be used to monitor ocean water, destined to end up in Puget Sound, for such things as acidification.
SPEAKERS: Oceanographers with the UW’s Applied Physics Laboratory and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory
WHEN: 10 a.m. Monday, July 12
WHERE: Applied Physics Laboratory dock, Eastlake Avenue East, under the University Bridge
DETAILS: NOAA and UW scientists will announce findings that are about to be published about acidification in Puget Sound and the outlook for the Sound’s waters if carbon dioxide continues building in the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide gas dissolving in seawater lowers the pH and makes it more difficult for organisms to get the substances they need to build their skeletons and shells. Scientists are working to determine the effects on everything from single-celled organisms to oysters, mussels and crabs. To learn more, the most sophisticated array of instruments ever put in Washington waters will be deployed on a buoy and Seaglider off the coast near La Push, Wash., in water that typically makes its way into Puget Sound. The instruments also will keep tabs on ocean and atmospheric conditions that can lead to toxic algae outbreaks along the coast as well as low-oxygen waters, like those that have plagued Hood Canal in recent years.
Researchers will also discuss:
- How carbon dioxide sensors on the Space Needle since spring are helping citizen scientists learn about emissions.
- How local conservation groups, government and university scientists, those who fish for a living, shellfish aquaculturists and Native Americans have come together to support a comprehensive ocean acidification research and monitoring program in Puget Sound.
Sandra Hines, Vince Stricherz. University of Washington News, 8 July 2010.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
James Murray, BusinessGreen, Wednesday 7 July 2010 at 13:22:00
MEPs vote 644-25 in favour of legislation blocking the import and sale of illegally logged timber
Green groups celebrated today after the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly to pass legislation banning the import and sale of timber obtained through illegal logging.
The parliament voted 644-25 in favour of the legislation, paving the way for the rules to come into effect from 2012.
The regulations still need to be rubber stamped by the European Council of member states, although the final approval is expected to be a formality after the council signalled last month that it would support the legislation.
The new rules will close a loophole that has made it possible for European firms to import and sell timber that has been logged illegally in countries such as Brazil and Indonesia.
According to WWF, the trade is worth up to £700m a year, with up to a fifth of timber imported into the EU alleged to come from illegal sources.
Under the new regulations, all companies importing and selling timber in the EU will be required to demonstrate that they have exercised adequate due diligence to ensure their timber has been felled legally.
European environment commissioner Janez Potocnik welcomed the passage of the legislation, arguing that the regulations marked a significant step towards tackling illegal logging.
"Combating illegal logging will bring environmental and development benefits, " he said. "With this, we are sending a signal to the world that the EU will no longer serve as a market for illegally harvested timber." …
‘Climategate’ review clears scientists of dishonesty over data -- ‘Their rigour and honesty as scientists are not in doubt’
By David Adam, environment correspondent
www.guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 7 July 2010 13.02 BS
The climate scientists at the centre of a media storm were today cleared of accusations that they fudged their results and silenced critics to bolster the case for man-made global warming.
Sir Muir Russell, the senior civil servant who led a six-month inquiry into the affair, said the "rigour and honesty" of the scientists at the world-leading Climatic Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia (UEA) are not in doubt. They did not subvert the peer review process to censor criticism as alleged, the panel found, while key data needed to reproduce their findings was freely available to any "competent" researcher.
The panel did criticise the scientists for not being open enough about their work, and said they were "unhelpful and defensive" when responding to legitimate requests made under freedom of information (FOI) laws.
The row was sparked when 13 years of emails from CRU scientists were hacked and released online last year. Climate change sceptics claimed they showed scientists manipulating and suppressing data to back up a theory of man-made climate change. Critics also alleged that the scientists abused their positions to cover up flaws and distort the peer review process that determines which studies are published in journals, and so enter the scientific record. Some alleged that the emails cast doubt on the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
Announcing the findings, Russell said: "Ultimately this has to be about what they did, not what they said."
He added: "The honesty and rigour of CRU as scientists are not in doubt ... We have not found any evidence of behaviour that might undermine the conclusions of the IPCC assessments." …
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
BusinessGreen.com staff, BusinessGreen, Wednesday 7 July 2010 at 00:15:00
Carbon offsetting service to be extended to 35 countries and territories from next week
Logistics and delivery giant UPS yesterday announced that it has expanded its carbon-neutral shipping programme to 35 countries and territories across Europe, Asia and the Americas, allowing its customers to pay a small premium to calculate and offset the carbon emissions associated with their shipments.
The move follows the launch late last year of the company's US carbon offsetting programme, which offered customers the chance to pay fees ranging from $0.05 (£0.03) to $0.75 per package to offset carbon emissions associated with the delivery.
The company said that the new global service will come into effect from the start of next week and will provide business customers with the option of choosing to offset emissions from individual packages or agreeing a contract that will see them offset all emissions arising from UPS shipments.
Initially UPS will continue to purchase carbon offsets from the Garcia River Forest Climate Action Project in the US, but the company said it would now seek to extend its offset purchases to other independently approved projects around the world. …
Monday, July 5, 2010
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News
Page last updated at 12:23 GMT, Monday, 5 July 2010 13:23 UK
A Dutch inquiry into the UN's climate science panel has found "no errors that would undermine the main conclusions" on probable impacts of climate change.
However, it says the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) should be more transparent in its workings.
The Dutch parliament asked for the inquiry after two mistakes were identified in the IPCC's 2007 report.
The inquiry is the latest in a series that have largely backed "mainstream" climate science against detractors.
The Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) does not give the panel a completely clean bill of health, however.
Whereas the IPCC's landmark Fourth Assessment (AR4) from 2007 "conclusively shows" that impacts of human-induced climate change are already tangible in many places around the world and will become more serious as temperatures increase, PBL also says the foundation for some of the specific projections "could have been made more transparent".
The Netherlands inquiry adds that the IPCC's summaries tended to emphasise "worst-case scenarios".
However, this was disputed by scientists who had played a leading role in AR4.
"The net impacts of climate change are not beneficial," said David Vaughan, science leader at the British Antarctic Survey, who coordinated the AR4 chapter on polar impacts.
Martin Parry, visiting professor at the Grantham Institute for Climate Change Research at Imperial College London who co-chaired AR4 Working Group 2 on climate impacts, welcomed the PBL report.
"We welcome the conclusion of this report, which is essentially that our conclusions are safe, sound and reliable," he said.
"The IPCC is about to venture into the next assessment; so it's important that we learn from these issues, and it's important not to be defensive, and I think that's how the IPCC is approaching things now." …
Date: 05 Jul 2010
Depicts: First year all-sky survey map
Copyright: ESA, HFI and LFI consortia
This multi-colour all-sky image of the microwave sky has been synthesized using data spanning the full frequency range of Planck, which covers the electromagnetic spectrum from 30 to 857 GHz.
The grainy structure of the CMB, with its tiny temperature fluctuations reflecting the primordial density variations from which the cosmic web originated, is clearly visible in the high-latitude regions of the map, where the foreground contribution is not predominant.
A vast portion of the sky, extending well above and below the galactic plane, is dominated by the diffuse emission from gas and dust in the Milky Way, which shines brightly at Planck's frequencies. While the galactic foreground hides the CMB signal from our view, it also highlights the extent of our Galaxy's large-scale structure and its emission properties.
Although the two main components of the microwave sky appear to be separable only in certain areas, an optimal foreground removal over the entire sky is possible thanks to sophisticated image analysis techniques, which have been developed by the Planck scientific teams. These techniques rely on the observatory's unique frequency coverage and the unprecedented accuracy of its measurements.
This image is derived from data collected by Planck during its first all-sky survey, and covers about 12 months of observations.
Note: Because of the manner in which all the channels have been combined to produce this image, the colours no longer represent accurately the brightness at each frequency. The angular resolution of this image has been reduced by a factor of around three from its sharpest rendition, to better match it to a typical viewing screen. For these and other reasons, this image is not suitable for scientific analysis.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Research reveals potential reservoir species, new mechanism for how mammals acquire genes
(University at Buffalo)
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Modern marsupials may be popular animals at the zoo and in children's books, but new findings by University at Buffalo biologists reveal that they harbor a "fossil" copy of a gene that codes for filoviruses, which cause Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fevers and are the most lethal viruses known to humans.
Published this week in the online journal BMC Evolutionary Biology, the paper ("Filoviruses are ancient and integrated into mammalian genomes") demonstrates for the first time that mammals have harbored filoviruses for at least tens of millions of years, in contrast to the existing estimate of a few thousand.
It suggests that these species, which maintain a filovirus infection without negative health consequences, could have selectively maintained these so-called "fossil" genes as a genetic defense.
The work has important implications for the development of potential human vaccines, as well as for the modeling of disease outbreaks and the discovery of emerging diseases, including new filoviruses.
"This paper identifies the first captured 'fossil' copies of filovirus-like genes in mammalian genomes," says Derek J. Taylor, PhD, associate professor of biological sciences in the UB College of Arts and Sciences and co-author. "Our results confirm for the first time that several groups of mammals, including groups such as marsupials that never colonized Africa, have had an association with filoviruses."
The UB co-authors say that if the rarely captured genes represent antiviral defenses or genomic scars from persistent infections, then the work opens up new possibilities for identifying reservoir species for filoviruses, which harbor the virus but remain asymptomatic. …
The research also demonstrates a new mechanism by which different species of mammals can acquire genes, through non-retroviral integrated RNA viruses, which the UB scientists had previously identified in eukaryotes but was unknown in mammals.
The UB scientists note that it is well-known that RNA retroviruses, like HIV-AIDS, can be integrated into mammal genomes.
"But because filoviruses infect only the cytoplasm of cells and not the nucleus and because they have no means of making DNA copies that might be integrated into the genome -- as retroviruses do -- it was never thought gene transfer could occur between non-retroviral RNA viruses and hosts," says Bruenn. "This paper shows that it does and it may prove to be a far more general phenomenon than is currently known." …
Conspiracy Theory 101: any investigation that disconfirms the theory is itself part of the conspiracy. QED.
2 July 2010
Well, that didn’t take long. Yesterday, I covered the exoneration of Michael Mann by the Penn State University “climategate” inqury. And I wondered (mostly rhetorically, I admit) whether this would give impetus to allegations of “whitewash”.
Lo and behold, Marc Morano of Climate Depot has come through right on schedule, even comparing Mann to disgraced investment fraudster Bernie Madoff and calling Mann the “posterboy of the corrupt and disgraced climate science echo chamber” . And, the denialosphere’s star scientist, MIT meteorologist Richard Lindzen, has weighed in right behind him, echoing Morano’s “whitewash” characterization.
Can the rest of the denialosphere be far behind? Oh, the sad - and presumably unintentional – irony of it all.
The PSU report must be a big deal; indeed, a it’s very rare event for Marc Morano to actually rouse himself and write a press release. Usually he just slaps a misquote on top of a convenient link, and sends it around the blogosphere. …
Friday, July 2, 2010
Southampton, UK (SPX) Jul 02, 2010 - Adding nutrients to the sea could decrease viral infection rates among phytoplankton and enhance the efficiency of the biological pump, a means by which carbon is transferred from the atmosphere to the deep ocean, according to a new mathematical modelling study.
The findings, published in the Journal of Theoretical Biology, have implications for ocean geo-engineering schemes proposed for tackling global warming.
Tiny free-floating algae called phytoplankton dominate biological production in the world's oceans and sit at the base of the marine food web. Their population dynamics are controlled by sunlight, nutrient availability, grazing by tiny planktonic animals (zooplankton) and mortality caused by viral infection.
"Viruses are the most abundant organism in the world's oceans, and it is thought that all phytoplankton species are susceptible to infection. Our aim was to model the interaction between viruses, phytoplankton, zooplankton grazing and nutrient levels," said Dr Adrian Martin of the National oceanography Centre (NOC), who collaborated in the project with Dr Christopher Rhodes, a bio-mathematician at Imperial College London.
The researchers took an 'eco-epidemic' modelling approach, taking into account the mutual interaction between the effects of ecology and disease epidemiology. This approach has been used previously to model the effects of infection by pathogens on the population dynamics of mammals and invertebrate animals. …
The models predict that decreased nutrient levels correspond to high viral infection rates among phytoplankton.
On the other hand, increased nutrient levels are predicted to decrease viral infection rates. This means that more of the carbon contained in phytoplankton would be available to zooplankton and other creatures higher up the food chain.
When these organisms die, a proportion of the associated carbon would sink down to the deep ocean, where it could be locked away for centuries, rather than being released back to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide. This mechanism for exporting carbon to the deep ocean is called the biological carbon pump. …
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Pennsylvania State University today issued its final report thoroughly exonerating climate scientist Dr. Michael Mann of any wrongdoing in the wake of the “Climategate” myth that emerged late last year when thousands of emails and documents were stolen from a computer server at the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia in the UK.
In the days following the posting of the stolen material onto the Internet, right-wing bloggers and media outlets loudly issued allegations of misconduct among climate scientists mentioned in the giant trove of emails. Conspiracy theorists on the right cherry-picked flagrantly out-of-context portions of the email collection in order to gin up a grand tale suggesting that man-made climate change is a fraud concocted by all of the world’s leading climate scientists, the much-despised United Nations IPCC, and, of course, Al Gore.
Despite their success in elevating this nontroversy to the national level via Fox News and other right wing media, every single independent investigation of the climate scientists involved has since cleared them of any misconduct and verified the science underpinning the IPCC’s consensus position that manmade climate change is real.
In February, Penn State officials concluded the first round of inquiry into Professor Mann’s conduct, finding no evidence to support the accusations against him.
That did not stop the right-wing attacks on Professor Mann or Penn State, with some notorious climate skeptics attempting to spin the exoneration as a whitewash. (True to form, skeptics repeated the ridiculous 'whitewash' allegations again today upon hearing of the final report clearing Mann.) …