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Bizarro Earth

Earthquake Magnitude 5.4 - Central Peru

Image
© US Geological Survey
Date-Time:
Monday, June 15, 2009 at 13:04:37 UTC
Monday, June 15, 2009 at 08:04:37 AM at epicenter

Location:
13.576°S, 75.993°W

Depth:
53.2 km (33.1 miles) set by location program

Distances:
20 km (15 miles) SE of Chincha Alta, Peru

55 km (35 miles) NNW of Ica, Peru

185 km (115 miles) SSW of Huancayo, Peru

200 km (125 miles) SE of LIMA, Peru

Bell

Science, belief and rational debate - AGW

The scientific method is a valuable way to advance objective knowledge. By testing a hypothesis against observation, it can either be falsified or supported. Not proved, of course, but nevertheless over time sufficient evidence can accumulate for a hypothesis to be generally accepted as the best available explanation. It is then known as a theory. Hence, although the vast majority of scientists and citizens (at least in Europe) accept Darwin's description of evolution, this is still regarded as a theory rather than fact. This is important, because as our understanding develops, apparently satisfactory theories may be replaced by others.

For simple things such as the effect of the Earth's gravity on objects we are familiar with, collecting the evidence is straightforward and no experiments have been done which contradict the theory of gravity. But over the last century, it has been accepted that classical Newtonian mechanics is actually only valid at a certain scale (which encompasses everything in our normal Earthbound existence). At the atomic scale, we enter the abstruse realm of quantum mechanics, and on a cosmic scale Einstein's theory of relativity is currently the best description of what goes on across the observable universe.

Importantly, both of these deviations from the familiar everyday world as explained by Newton arose because observation did not fit with prediction: the theory broke down at very large and very small scales. The boundaries of knowledge have since been pushed back steadily, leading to a general acceptance of quantum mechanics and relativity as the best theories to date to explain observations.

Bizarro Earth

Killer fungus spells disaster for wheat

A wheat disease that could destroy most of the world's main wheat crops could strike south Asia's vast wheat fields two years earlier than research had suggested, leaving millions to starve. The fungus, called Ug99, has spread from Africa to Iran, and may already be in Pakistan. If so, this is extremely bad news, as Pakistan is not only critically reliant on its wheat crop, it is also the gateway to the Asian breadbasket, including the vital Punjab region.

Scientists met this week in Syria to decide on emergency measures to track Ug99's progress. They hope to slow its spread by spraying fungicide or even stopping farmers from planting wheat in the spores' path. The only real remedy will be new wheat varieties that resist Ug99, and they may not be ready for five years. The fungus has just pulled ahead in the race.

Bizarro Earth

Crops Under Stress as Temperatures Fall

Image
© Reuters
Waterworld: Floodwater surrounding a farm near Fargo, North Dakota, in March 2009
Our politicians haven't noticed that the problem may be that the world is not warming but cooling, observes Christopher Booker.

For the second time in little over a year, it looks as though the world may be heading for a serious food crisis, thanks to our old friend "climate change". In many parts of the world recently the weather has not been too brilliant for farmers. After a fearsomely cold winter, June brought heavy snowfall across large parts of western Canada and the northern states of the American Midwest. In Manitoba last week, it was -4ºC. North Dakota had its first June snow for 60 years.

Chalkboard

Climate change? Check this data

Next there is the problem of attributing temperature changes to CO2 emissions. In the recent report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), Figure 9.1 shows that the main effect of CO2 over the past century (see panel (c)) should have been a strong warming in the mid-troposphere over the tropics. Figure 10.7 shows the same pattern resulting from current and future CO2 emissions. Changes are also projected at the surface in the polar regions. However they are not so easy to tie to greenhouse gases since those regions are also sensitive to solar variability and natural atmospheric oscillations.

Better Earth

Argentine glacier advances despite so-called global warming

Image
© AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko, File
In this May 18, 2009 file photo, a tourist looks back through a cave on Perito Moreno Glacier in Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina's Patagonia region.
Argentina's Perito Moreno glacier is one of only a few ice fields worldwide that have withstood rising global temperatures.

Nourished by Andean snowmelt, the glacier constantly grows even as it spawns icebergs the size of apartment buildings into a frigid lake, maintaining a nearly perfect equilibrium since measurements began more than a century ago.

"We're not sure why this happens," said Andres Rivera, a glacialist with the Center for Scientific Studies in Valdivia, Chile. "But not all glaciers respond equally to climate change."

Viewed at a safe distance on cruise boats or the wooden observation deck just beyond the glacier's leading edge, Perito Moreno's jagged surface radiates a brilliant white in the strong Patagonian sun. Submerged sections glow deep blue.

Magnify

US: 1967 study had flood prediction right on target

'No one ever dreamed' was a refrain frequently heard after the second week of June 2008: No one ever dreamed a flood of such magnitude could happen in Cedar Rapids.

But such a flood not only had been dreamed of, it had been predicted by the Army Corps of Engineers - 41 years before it happened. The Corps' report with that dire prediction was released in October 1967.

In the Corps' terms, the Flood of 2008 was a "standard project flood ... produced by the most severe combination of meteorological and hydrological conditions that are considered reasonably characteristic of the drainage basin."

Bizarro Earth

Strong 6.3 magnitude earthquake hits Mindanao, Philippines

An earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale hit the southern Philippines this afternoon, geological agencies reported.

The Hong Kong Observatory said the quake occurred 2:03 p.m. local time (0603 GMT). The epicenter was initially determined to be 5.4 degrees north latitude and 126.4 degrees east longitude, about 210 km south-southeast of Davao, Mindanao.

Meanwhile, the United States Geological Survey recorded the quake at 01:58 local time (05:58 GMT). The quake was located 160 kilometers east-southeast of General Santos, Mindanao or 1,185 kilometers south-southeast of Manila, at an depth of 75.8 kilometers.

Wolf

What really prompts the dog's "guilty look"

guilty dog
What dog owner has not come home to a broken vase or other valuable items and a guilty-looking dog slouching around the house? By ingeniously setting up conditions where the owner was misinformed as to whether their dog had really committed an offense, Alexandra Horowitz, Assistant Professor from Barnard College in New York, uncovered the origins of the "guilty look" in dogs in the recently published "Canine Behaviour and Cognition" Special Issue of Elsevier's Behavioural Processes.

Horowitz was able to show that the human tendency to attribute a "guilty look" to a dog was not due to whether the dog was indeed guilty. Instead, people see 'guilt' in a dog's body language when they believe the dog has done something it shouldn't have - even if the dog is in fact completely innocent of any offense.

During the study, owners were asked to leave the room after ordering their dogs not to eat a tasty treat. While the owner was away, Horowitz gave some of the dogs this forbidden treat before asking the owners back into the room. In some trials the owners were told that their dog had eaten the forbidden treat; in others, they were told their dog had behaved properly and left the treat alone. What the owners were told, however, often did not correlate with reality.

Bizarro Earth

Strong 6.3 magnitude earthquake hits Vanuatu

A magnitude 6.3 earthquake struck off the Vanuatu islands in the Pacific Ocean on Friday, the U.S. Geological Survey said, but local police said there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.

The quake was centred 38 miles (60 km) west-northwest of Port Vila and had a depth of 33 miles, the USGS said.