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Sat, 21 Oct 2017
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Attention

Beekeepers warn 'Bee Mageddon' as France authorizes sulfaoxaflor

© Michael Probst
French bee keepers are up in arms over the authorisation of an insecticide they warn could sound the death knell of their already decimated bee population.

Bee hives have been hit in Europe, North America and elsewhere by a mysterious phenomenon called "colony collapse disorder". The blight has been blamed on mites, a virus or fungus, pesticides, or a combination of factors.

With the honey harvest in France down to just 10,000 tons this year - three times less than in the 1990s - the country's national apiculture union, UNAF, slammed what it called the "scandalous" authorisation of sulfaoxaflor, which attacks the central nervous system of insects. According to UNAF, sulfaoxaflor acts like a neonicotinoid, a pesticide based on the chemical structure of nicotine that many blame for being at least partially responsible for plummeting bee populations.

Music

Interspecies communication: Beluga rooming with dolphins learns their language

© Shutterstock/Andrii Zhezhera
In November 2013, a four-year-old captive beluga whale moved to a new home. She had been living in a facility with other belugas. But in her new pool, the Koktebel dolphinarium in Crimea, her only companions were dolphins. The whale adapted quickly: she started imitating the unique whistles of the dolphins, and stopped making a signature beluga call altogether.

"The first appearance of the beluga in the dolphinarium caused a fright in the dolphins," write Elena Panova and Alexandr Agafonov of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. The bottlenose dolphins included one adult male, two adult females and a young female. But the animals soon got along, er, swimmingly. In August 2016, one of the adult female dolphins gave birth to a calf that regularly swam alongside the beluga.

Bizarro Earth

Supernova theory explains global warming, extinction events, ice ages says engineer

Do Supernova Events Cause Extreme Climate Changes?
"Global warming will not be reduced by reducing man made CO2 emissions" - Dr. William Sokeland
© No Tricks Zone
In recent years, mass die-offs of large animals - like the sudden deaths of 211,000 endangered antelopes within a matter of weeks - have been described as "mysterious" and remain largely unexplained.

Determining the cause of the retreat to ice ages and the abrupt warmings that spawned the interglacial periods has remained controversial for many decades.

Dr. William Sokeland, a heat transfer expert and thermal engineer from the University of Florida, has published a paper in the Journal of Earth Science and Engineering that proposes rapid ice melt events and ice age terminations, extreme weather events leading to mass die-offs, and even modern global warming can be traced to (or at least correlate well with) supernova impact events.

The perspectives and conclusions of researchers who claim to have found strong correlations that could explain such wide-ranging geological phenomena as the causes of glacials/interglacials, modern temperatures, and mysterious large animal die-offs should at least be considered...while maintaining a healthy level of skepticism, of course.

Discovery - if that is potentially what is occurring here - is worth a look.

Ice Cube

'I have this alien': Monster plankton discovered in Arctic ice

© umanitoba.ca / Aurelie Delaforge
A new species that has been dubbed a hidden 'monster' of the plankton world has been found lurking under Arctic sea ice in Canada.

The fortuitous discovery of the eight-legged creature - which freakishly only has one eye, no mouth and two hairy antennae - was made by a University of Manitoba student in 2014.

Aurelie Delaforge was working at an ice camp in the wilds of Cambridge Bay, Nunavut, to study plankton blooms when the zooplankton emerged in ocean ice samples. With the bizarre creature turning up in ice on a number of occasions, Delaforge thought it likely that the species was local to the area.

Delaforge sent a message to Department of Fisheries and Oceans researcher Wojciech Walkusz, informing him: "I have this alien."

Fireball

Bus-sized asteroid heading for Earth after string of near-miss encounters

© Getty
NEAR MISS: An asteroid is hurtling towards Earth tonight after a string of near misses
The newly-discovered space rock - named Asteroid 2017 TD6 - is expected to zoom past our planet at around at around 7.53pm.

It will be travelling at a distance of 191,000km away from civilisation.

According to NASA the chunk of rock is a whopping 22m wide.

Last week another asteroid made a close shave with Earth, as it soared past at a distance of just 27,000 miles above the surface.

Brain

Aid memory & attention with specific brain training

New research suggests a specific method of brain-training is significantly better in improving memory and attention than other training protocols. Johns Hopkins University researchers discovered the method that helps the most also demonstrates more significant changes in brain activity.

Researchers explain that while the brain exercise didn't make anyone smarter, it greatly improved skills people need to excel at school and at work. Investigators believe these results suggest it's possible to train the brain like other body parts - with targeted workouts.

The study appears in the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement.

Sun

Quack scientists propose dimming out the sun to save the coral reefs

© ullstein bild/Getty
Can geoengineering protect corals from the warming climate?
Time for artificial planet coolers? A cooling "sunshade" for the planet could reduce harmful coral bleaching and the number of hurricanes, which damage reefs.

With the effects of climate change becoming increasingly apparent, the idea of squirting a cloud of sulphate aerosols into the upper atmosphere is being investigated by several groups of scientists. This would scatter some of the sun's rays back into space, reducing the rate at which the Earth is warming.

Now a study by James Crabbe at the University of Bedfordshire, UK, and his colleagues examines what this form of geoengineering would do to the Caribbean region and its fragile reefs. "Corals are the rainforests of the sea, and if you lose them the impacts on ecosystems and people would be complex and far-reaching," says Crabbe.

The team used computer models to simulate both the changing climate and rising seas between 2020 and 2069. They then modelled what would happen if solar radiation was artificially reduced. "We show very convincingly that, by injecting sulphur dioxide in the atmosphere, sea surface temperatures would decrease significantly by 2069," says Crabbe.

Hold back the hurricanes

When the sea is too warm, corals expel the tiny algae living in their tissues, which feed their hosts through photosynthesis. The corals turn white or "bleached". After severe bleaching, most corals starve to death. Keeping temperatures down prevented this in the model.

Comment: All these ridiculous schemes based on the global warming hoax. Are these people serious??


Dig

9.7mn-yo ape teeth discovered in Germany puzzle scientists, challenge timeline of human species

© Naturhistorisches Museum Mainz
Dig site near Eppelsheim, Germany.
Ancient ape teeth dating back more than 9 million years and discovered in Germany last year are raising questions about the timeline of human evolution.

The two teeth, discovered in sediment of the Proto-Rhine River, are of an ape species whose remains have never before been observed in Europe.

Understood to belong to one ape, the two teeth are similar in structure to 3 million year old fragments belonging to an ape skeleton previously uncovered in Africa.

However, the German river bed remains, an upper right molar and left canine, predate the African example by more than 6 million years, according to a study published by the National History Museum Mainz.

Comment: See also: New primate species changes base morphotype of hylobatid-hominid common ancestor


Laptop

Google's DeepMind group unveils AI that learns on its own

© Erikbenson
Match 3 of AlphaGo vs Lee Sedol in March 2016.
Google's artificial intelligence group, DeepMind, has unveiled the latest incarnation of its Go-playing program, AlphaGo - an AI so powerful that it derived thousands of years of human knowledge of the game before inventing better moves of its own, all in the space of three days.

Named AlphaGo Zero, the AI program has been hailed as a major advance because it mastered the ancient Chinese board game from scratch, and with no human help beyond being told the rules. In games against the 2015 version, which famously beat Lee Sedol, the South Korean grandmaster, in the following year, AlphaGo Zero won 100 to 0.

The feat marks a milestone on the road to general-purpose AIs that can do more than thrash humans at board games. Because AlphaGo Zero learns on its own from a blank slate, its talents can now be turned to a host of real-world problems.

At DeepMind, which is based in London, AlphaGo Zero is working out how proteins fold, a massive scientific challenge that could give drug discovery a sorely needed shot in the arm.

Comment: More on Google's DeepMind:


Beaker

African gene study shows human skin tone has varied for 900,000 years

© Courtesy of the Tishkoff lab
Researcher in the field measures skin colour
Skin tone has varied greatly among humans for at least the last 900,000 years. So concludes an analysis of the genetic variants associated with skin pigmentation in people from several regions of Africa. The latest findings suggest that some particularly dark skin tones evolved relatively recently from paler genetic variants, underlining how deeply flawed the racist concept of people with whiter skin being "more advanced" really is.

Nicholas Crawford and Sarah Tishkoff at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia recruited around 1500 ethnically and genetically diverse volunteers living in Ethiopia, Tanzania and Botswana for their study. Each person agreed to provide a DNA sample and have their skin pigmentation measured (pictured above).

The combined data allowed the team to find eight sites in the human genome that are particularly associated with the level of skin pigmentation. Together, these sites account for about 30 per cent of the variation they found in skin pigmentation among the volunteers.

For each of the eight sites of variation, there existed a genetic variant associated with paler skin, and a variant linked to darker skin. Seven of the paler skin variants emerged at least 270,000 years ago. Four of these arose more than 900,000 years ago.