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Sun, 08 Dec 2019
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Fungi Perfecti: Mushroom extracts are saving millions of bees from Colony Collapse Disorder

A recent study published in Nature Scientific Reports, a specific type of mushroom extract can help honey bees fight off a devastating virus that is suspected of contributing to massive bee die-offs in recent years.

Bees are dying, in massive numbers. Termed colony collapse disorder, a significant cause of the die-offs is a parasite named Varroa destructor. A tiny 2mm eight legged mite that invades honeybee hives around the world, latching onto the bees and feeding on their bodies, a process which transmits a devastating RNA virus.

This new study was conducted by researchers at Washington State University, with help from the USDA and a Washington based business called Fungi Perfecti.

Comment: Paul Stamets' epiphany that mushrooms could help save the world's bees


Men lose Y chromosomes as they age says study

Human Chromosomes
A set of human chromosomes, with a pair of XY and XX chromosomes in the bottom right.
In the 1960s, doctors counting the number of chromosomes in human white blood cells noticed a strange phenomenon. Frequently — and more frequently with age — the cells would be missing the Y chromosome. Over time, it became clear this came with consequences. Studies have linked loss of the Y chromosome in blood to cancer, heart disease, and other disorders.

Now a new study — the largest yet of this phenomenon — estimates that 20 percent of 205,011 men in a large genetic database called the UK Biobank have lost Y chromosomes from some detectable proportion of their blood. By age 70, 43.6 percent of men had the same issue. It's unclear exactly why, but the authors think these losses might be the most glaring sign of something else going wrong inside the bodies of these men: They are allowing mutations of all kinds to accumulate, and these other mutations could be the underlying links to cancer and heart disease.

Mutations are, after all, spontaneously popping up in the human body all the time. Every cell division produces errors as small as miscopying one letter or as large as losing an entire chromosome. So over a lifetime, this can lead to what scientists call "clonal mosaicism" — in which a person's body is a mosaic of distinct populations of cells, each with their accumulated mutations. This is true of everyone to some extent, but it becomes more relevant as you get older. "The more you age, the more errors have taken place in cell division," says John R. B. Perry, a biologist at the University of Cambridge who led the recent study.


'Short window' to stop AI taking control of society, warns ex-Google employee

google employee walkout
© Nick Bradshaw
Google employees in Dublin take part in an organised walkout in November 2018: some 20,000 employees in 50 cities across the globe were involved in the walkout.
Meredith Whittaker warns we are becoming lab animals in a giant tech experiment.

The big news in tech this week is the announcement that Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are stepping down as executives of parent company Alphabet, founded in 2015 with the goal of making it "cleaner and more accountable".

Page and Brin said it was time to "assume the role of proud parents - offering advice and love, but not daily nagging" while handing the reins to Sundar Pichai.

A group of Google employees feel differently: "Some had seriously hoped Sergey and Larry would step in and fix Google. Instead of righting the sinking ship, they jumped ship," tweeted Google Walkout for Real Change, a worker's organisation protesting, various unfair practices and policies within the tech company.

Comment: For as much debasing of the Chinese social credit system you see in the western press, this system is basically already here, only in a more covert form. The future of the western world is a society run by these technocratic institutions, where the fate of the individual is determined by a set of algorithms.

See also:


Recordings reveal that plants make ultrasonic squeals when stressed

spiny pincushion cactus
© Jose A. Bernat/Getty Images
The spiny pincushion cactus has been found to emit sounds when stressed.
Although it has been revealed in recent years that plants are capable of seeing, hearing and smelling, they are still usually thought of as silent. But now, for the first time, they have been recorded making airborne sounds when stressed, which researchers say could open up a new field of precision agriculture where farmers listen for water-starved crops.

Itzhak Khait and his colleagues at Tel Aviv University in Israel found that tomato and tobacco plants made sounds at frequencies humans cannot hear when stressed by a lack of water or when their stem is cut.

Microphones placed 10 centimetres from the plants picked up sounds in the ultrasonic range of 20 to 100 kilohertz, which the team says insects and some mammals would be capable of hearing and responding to from as far as 5 metres away. A moth may decide against laying eggs on a plant that sounds water-stressed, the researchers suggest. Plants could even hear that other plants are short of water and react accordingly, they speculate.

Comment: As researchers continue to uncover more of the fascinating world of plant intelligence, it becomes increasingly clear that plants are a lot more sentient that we would normally believe.

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Fireball 5

Heavy metal diet: Meteorite-consuming microbes could offer clues on how life formed on Earth

meteorite fragments consumed by M. sedula
© Springer Nature / Scientific Reports / Tetyana Milojevic et al
Scanning electron microscopy (SEM) images of meteorite fragments consumed by M. sedula.
Meteorites may not sound appetizing, but for one strange microbe they're breakfast, lunch and dinner. The creature's bizarre eating habits could help unlock mysteries about how early life forms endured harsh conditions on Earth.

Metallosphaera sedula, a highly resilient microbe able to withstand extreme temperatures and highly acidic environments, can survive solely on a diet of space rocks, new research published in Scientific Reports has found. The finding not only sheds light on how organisms could survive on other planets, but provides valuable insight into how early life on Earth may have thrived on nutrients imported from deep space.

"Meteorites may have delivered a variety of essential compounds facilitating the evolution of life, as we know it on Earth," the study said.


4 Renowned scientists expose major IPCC shortcomings: "Models Clearly Erroneous"

The Munich Climate Conference 2019

Last weekend the climate conference by the Germany-based European Institute for Climate and Energy EIKE took place in Munich, despite threats by leftist radicals.

More than a dozen leading international climate experts presented views that severely challenge mainstream alarmist climate science.

1. Alps glaciers smaller than today during much of the Holocene

Among the speakers was Prof. em. Christian Schlüchter is a leading Swiss geologist who studied the glaciers of the Alps in great detail for decades. In his talk he reported his findings from very old timber found in and below glaciers, and what those ancient tree remnants tell us about the glacial epochs of the Alps.
Prof em Christian
IPCC Address (in German)


Two of the biggest US earthquake faults might be linked

San Andreas fault
© Underwood Archives/Getty
The earthquake that devastated San Francisco, California, in 1906 arose from the San Andreas fault — which might be linked to another major fault zone to the north.
A controversial study argues that at least eight times in the past 3,000 years, quakes made a one-two punch off the west coast of the United States. A quake hit the Cascadia fault off the coast of northern California, triggering a second quake on the San Andreas fault just to the south. In some cases, the delay between the quakes may have been decades long.

The study suggests that Cascadia, which scientists think is capable of unleashing a magnitude-9 earthquake at any time, could set off quakes on the northern San Andreas, which runs under the San Francisco Bay Area.

Several earthquake scientists told Nature that more work is needed to confirm the provocative idea. Researchers have long considered the two faults seismically separate.

Comment: See also:

Cow Skull

Paleoartist sketches what modern animals would look like using techniques applied to dinosaurs to highlight flaws in approach

swan dinosaur

A modern-day swan - imagined using its skeleton in a streamlined version of reality
Dinosaurs have always been illustrated as a bony lot, and is it any wonder when much of what palaeontologists have to base their reconstructions on are bones?

Palaeoartist C. M. Kosemen believes that there was more to the shapely dinosaurs than has been depicted, including larger layers of fat and areas of soft tissue.

He believes Hollywood is to blame for giving dinosaurs their skeletal 'monster' image.

In a series of sketches Mr Kosemen has set about making that point by re-imagining modern day animals from their skeletons.

Comment: It's an interesting critique, particularly when we consider tht there are published papers highlighting the significant artistic license that goes into human facial reconstruction dating back to even the recent past.

It's possible that direct comparisons with modern day creatures may not be totally accurate, if environmental conditions were quite different when compared to the present era, but with numerous fossil discoveries of ancient creatures turning up all the time, showing the impressions of feathers, skin and even coloration, it's seems that we're getting closer to what they may have looked like:


The many wonders of butterflies and how they evolve by design

© Carleton University/Wikimedia Commons
Photo: Numata Longwing, a Heliconius butterfly
Butterflies, those universally loved flying works of art, offer many reasons to celebrate design in nature.
  • They showcase aesthetic beauty beyond the requirements of survival (see "Beauty, Darwin and Design," featuring Paul Nelson).
  • Their migrations show foresight over multiple generations.
  • The one-gram Monarch butterflies astonish biologists with their exceptional endurance to survive hardships while flying thousands of miles on paper-thin wings (see "2-Minute Wonder: A Monarch's Journey").
  • Their navigation systems exhibit stunning accuracy to arrive at locations they have never seen.
  • Their keen senses can find the right host plants from miles away; they can smell very faint pheromones for mating; and they can distinguish precise angles of sunlight for orientation and timing of migration.
  • Their wing scales, organized into "photonic crystals," give precision control of light waves to create iridescent colors.
  • Last, but not least, their metamorphosis from egg to caterpillar to chrysalis to flying adult is, as Illustra Media showed in the film Metamorphosis, like turning a Model T into a helicopter inside a garage by breaking down and reassembling all the parts.

Comment: One particularly curious, and clever, wing pattern is that of the Macrocilix Maia moth - as detailed on Wikipaedia:
The moth features two symmetrical patterns resembling flies feeding on bird droppings. The moth has a pungent odor.[5]
Macrocilix Maia
© wiki
Macrocilix Maia
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Accessing higher-energy light to fight cancer

laser beam
Materials scientists at the University of California, Riverside and The University of Texas at Austin have demonstrated that it is possible to achieve photon up-conversion, the emission of light with energy higher than the one that excites the material, when using carefully designed structures containing silicon nanocrystals and specialized organic molecules.

The accomplishment, published in Nature Chemistry, brings scientists one step closer to developing minimally invasive photodynamic treatments for cancer. The advance could also hasten new technologies for solar-energy conversion, quantum information, and near-infrared driven photocatalysis.

High energy light, such as ultraviolet laser light, can form free radicals able to attack cancer tissue. Ultraviolet light, however, doesn't travel far enough into tissues to generate therapeutic radicals close to the tumor site. On the other hand, near-infrared light penetrates deeply but doesn't have enough energy to generate the radicals.