Welcome to Sott.net
Sun, 31 May 2020
The World for People who Think

Science & Technology

Bizarro Earth

Trees are getting shorter and younger says new study

Forest and River
© Getty Images
The world's collective forests have become shorter and younger overall in the past 50 years, according to a study published in the journal Science on Friday. This means that forests have less capacity to remove carbon from the atmosphere and are less hospitable to the many species that rely on them for shelter. Oh, and it's going to get worse.

The team of researchers reviewed more than 160 previous studies, analysed satellite imagery, and created models to examine how forests changed between 1900 and 2015. They found that over that 115 year period, the world has lost 14 per cent of its forests to tree harvesting alone. That includes 30 per cent of old growth forests, which are home to trees more than 140 years old and are generally tall and biodiverse.

The study doesn't account for other environmental stressors on trees, such as increased carbon dioxide fertilisation due to higher carbon emissions, and more frequent and severe climate-related disruptions such as insect infestations, wildfires, and droughts. Nate McDowell, a scientist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the study's lead author, told Earther that means the 30 per cent dip in old growth is "a very conservative estimate."

In North America and Europe, where more detailed data was available, the researchers found that tree mortality doubled over that time, and a higher proportion of those deaths were older trees. Their findings suggest that on average, the world is losing old trees. Due to a lack of data, the researchers weren't able to make a precise estimate as to how much shorter the forests have gotten.


Damage control? New study reduces coronavirus deaths for patients on ventilators to 25%

New health care data suggests that about a quarter of all coronavirus patients placed on ventilators in New York's largest health care system died, first reported by CNN.

The data was gathered at Northwell Health, New York state's largest hospital system. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) examines 5,700 patients hospitalized with coronavirus infections in the New York City region, with final outcomes recorded for 2,634 patients. The average patient age was 63 years old.

New data confirms that out of 1151 patients placed on mechanical ventilation, 282, or 24.5 percent, died. A corresponding 72.2 percent remained in hospital care, while 3.3 percent were discharged alive.

Comment: Sounds like the data has likely been manipulated since ventilators are the wrong treatment for the disease. Most of these patients seems to need more oxygen, not forced air. A high mortality rate for Covid-19 patentis on ventilators has been found all over the world: a 66% mortality rate in the UK, 81% in Italy, and 86% in Wuhan.


New class of cosmic explosions discovered by astronomers

3 Types of Explosion
© Bill Saxton, NRAO/AUI/NSF
Artist's conception illustrates the differences in phenomena resulting from an "ordinary" core-collapse supernova explosion, an explosion creating a gamma-ray burst, and one creating a Fast Blue Optical Transient. Details in text.
Astronomers have found two objects that, added to a strange object discovered in 2018, constitute a new class of cosmic explosions. The new type of explosion shares some characteristics with supernova explosions of massive stars and with the explosions that generate gamma-ray bursts (GRBs), but still has distinctive differences from each.

The saga began in June of 2018 when astronomers saw a cosmic blast with surprising characteristics and behavior. The object, dubbed AT2018cow ("The Cow"), drew worldwide attention from scientists and was studied extensively. While it shared some characteristics with supernova explosions, it differed in important aspects, particularly its unusual initial brightness and how rapidly it brightened and faded in just a few days.

In the meantime, two additional blasts — one from 2016 and one from 2018 — also showed unusual characteristics and were being observed and analyzed. The two new explosions are called CSS161010 (short for CRTS CSS161010 J045834-081803), in a galaxy about 500 million light-years from Earth, and ZTF18abvkwla ("The Koala"), in a galaxy about 3.4 billion light-years distant. Both were discovered by automated sky surveys (Catalina Real-time Transient Survey, All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae, and Zwicky Transient Facility) using visible-light telescopes to scan large areas of sky nightly.

Two teams of astronomers followed up those discoveries by observing the objects with the National Science Foundation's Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA). Both teams also used the Giant Metrewave Radio Telescope in India and the team studying CSS161010 used NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory. Both objects gave the observers surprises.


New "whirling" state of matter discovered in Neodymium

Magnets Spin
© Courtesy of Daniel Wegner
Contrary to regular magnets, spin glasses have randomly placed atomic magnets that point in all kinds of directions. Self-induced spin glasses are made of whirling magnets circulating at different speeds and constantly evolving over time.
The strongest permanent magnets today contain a mix of the elements neodymium and iron. However, neodymium on its own does not behave like any known magnet, confounding researchers for more than half a century. Physicists at Radboud University and Uppsala University have shown that neodymium behaves like a so-called 'self-induced spin glass,' meaning that it is composed of a rippled sea of many tiny whirling magnets circulating at different speeds and constantly evolving over time. The results will be published on 29th of May, in Science.

Understanding this new type of magnetic behaviour refines our understanding of elements on the periodic table and eventually could pave the way for new materials for artificial intelligence.

"In a jar of honey, you may think that the once clear areas that turned milky yellow have gone bad. But rather, the jar of honey starts to crystallize. That's how you could perceive the 'aging' process in neodymium." Alexander Khajetoorians, professor in Scanning probe microscopy, together with professor Mikhail Katsnelson and assistant professor Daniel Wegner, found that the material neodymium behaves in a complex magnetic way that no one ever saw before in an element on the periodic table.

Monkey Wrench

300 year-old piston design muscles up when built from new materials

pistons new materials stronger
© Wyss Institute at Harvard University
This image shows a prototype of the linear tension piston, rested (on top) and pressurized (on the bottom).
300-year-old piston design reinvented with soft flexible materials can produce greater forces with higher energy efficiencies, and has potential for a plethora of applications.

Since their invention in the late 1700s when French-born British physicist Denis Papin, the inventor of the pressure cooker, proposed the piston principle, pistons have been used to harness the power of fluids to perform work in numerous machines and devices.

Conventional pistons are made of a rigid chamber and a piston inside, which can slide along the chamber's inner wall while at the same time maintaining a tight seal. As a result, the piston divides two spaces, which are filled with two fluids and connected to two exterior fluid sources. If the fluids have different pressures, the piston will slide into the direction with the lower pressure and can at the same time drive the movement of a shaft or other device to do physical work. This principle has been used to design many machines, including various piston engines, hydraulic lifters and cranes such as the ones used on construction sites, and power-tools.


Intelligent Design applied: Engineers know engineering when they see it

© Elisabeth via Unsplash
A gecko
Engineers of all types (e.g., mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, civil, software) are focused on how to get things to work. They need to pull together all that is known about materials and properties, and organize them to perform a function. They need to meet design requirements: a company or government says "Here is what we need to do; how can we get it done within the limits of cost and time available?" Knowledge of engineering principles grows as the needs of a society grow, often becoming more sophisticated, pushing the boundaries of know-how. Engineers are trained to see design and judge good design.

Human engineers must also navigate intellectual property laws, because many engineers want to patent their designs and protect them from theft. There's a lot of angst going on in America on this very issue. China and other countries are accused of stealing our intellectual property, which can have not only economic but national security consequences. But who owns the patent on a leaf, or a coral? Engineers don't know, and they don't care. Perhaps that's part of what makes biomimetics so popular. They see a good design, and they can copy it without violating any laws.


The universe's 'missing matter' problem has finally been solved

signals from deep space
Mysterious signals from deep space have been used to solve one of the most enduring mysteries of the universe.
When Jean-Pierre Macquart arrived home from work one night in 2019, he was buzzing with excitement. He'd just helped solve a decades-old cosmic mystery with the help of a team of international astronomers. He couldn't wait to tell his wife.

Macquart had successfully weighed the universe for the first time, finally discovering where half of all the normal matter was hiding. But as he stepped through the door, ready to explain his monumental find, the ethereal secrets of the cosmos he'd uncovered were quickly replaced by the practicalities of existence.

Within minutes, he was wrangling two children, ages two and four, and taking to the kitchen, helping his wife with the cooking. In reflecting on the evening he says he likely helped with the meal, but it wasn't all that memorable. His head was "still up in the sky." The discovery he'd made earlier in the day, which he says "put to bed" the mystery of the universe's missing matter problem, was still playing on his mind.

In a new study, published in the journal Nature on Wednesday, Macquart and a team of international astronomers detail their discovery for the first time. They reveal how a stream of bizarre signals sent from deep space helped solve a lingering mystery about the normal matter in the universe -- and how their technique has provided a whole new way to look at the cosmos.


Study gives new insights into the all-important placenta

Foetus in Womb
© University of Nottingham
MRI research has revealed detailed new insights into how the placenta works in pregnancy and discovered a completely new phenomenon where the placenta contracts every now and then.

Using the very latest wide-bore magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scanning equipment at the University of Nottingham experts in the School of Physics and Astronomy and Schools of Medicine Life Sciences found differences in blood flow to the placenta in healthy and pre-eclampsia pregnancies, a finding which could help understand why in pre-eclampsia the baby can be born small and pre-term.

The research published today in PLOS Biology also identified a completely new phenomenon which the researchers have termed the 'uteroplacental pump'. This involves contractions of placenta and the part of the uterine wall to which it is attached.

The placenta is vital in the transfer of the right amount of nutrition and oxygen from the mother to the baby. Any disturbance to the flow of blood could affect the delivery of vital nutrients restricting fetal growth. If the placenta is not working properly this can lead to pre-eclampsia.

In the placenta the fetal blood flows in tree-like villi which are bathed in a lake of the mother's blood, so that the two different blood supplies are kept separate. Changes in blood flow and oxygenation affects fetal growth and well-being.


New clues to deep earthquake mystery

Understanding Earthquakes
© U.S. Geological Survey
Subduction zones occur where one tectonic plate dives under another. New computer modeling by Magali Billen, professor of earth and planetary sciences at UC Davis, shows why earthquakes on these sinking plates cluster at certain depths and could give insight into processes deep in the Earth.
A new understanding of our planet's deepest earthquakes could help unravel one of the most mysterious geophysical processes on Earth.

Deep earthquakes — those at least 300 kilometers below the surface — don't typically cause damage, but they are often widely felt. These earthquakes can provide vital clues to understanding plate tectonics and the structure of the Earth's interior. Due to the extremely high temperature and pressures where deep earthquakes occur, they likely stem from different physical and chemical processes than earthquakes near the surface. But it's hard to gather information about deep earthquakes, so scientists don't have a solid explanation for what causes them.

"We can't directly see what's happening where deep earthquakes occur," said Magali Billen, professor of geophysics in the University of California, Davis, Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences.

Better Earth

Collapse of ozone layer correlated with mass extinction event 252 million years ago

© John Marshall
Normal and malformed spores from East Greenland.
Researchers at the University of Southampton have shown that an extinction event 360 million years ago, that killed much of the Earth's plant and freshwater aquatic life, was caused by a brief breakdown of the ozone layer that shields the Earth from damaging ultraviolet (UV) radiation. This is a newly discovered extinction mechanism with profound implications for our warming world today.

There have been a number of mass extinction in the geological past. Only one was caused by an asteroid hitting the Earth, which was 66 million years ago when the dinosaurs became extinct. Three of the others, including the end Permian Great Dying, 252 million years ago, were caused by huge continental scale volcanic eruptions that destabilised the Earth's atmospheres and oceans.

Comment: The evidence shows cosmic catastrophes feature much more prominently in Earth's history than merely 'once': The Seven Destructive Earth Passes of Comet Venus

Now, scientists have found evidence showing it was high levels of UV radiation which collapsed forest ecosystems and killed off many species of fish and tetrapods (our four limbed ancestors) at the end of the Devonian geological period, 359 million years ago. This damaging burst of UV radiation occurred as part of one of the Earth's climate cycles, rather than being caused by a huge volcanic eruption.

Comment: See also: And check out SOTT radio's: MindMatters: The Lighter Side of Space Rocks - The Holy Grail, Directed Panspermia and the Origin of Life