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Mar 23, 2017, 05:03 AM
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 on: Today at 05:02 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Safe toilets help flush out disease in Cambodia's floating communities

Open defecation in villages on Tonlé Sap lake contributes to sickness, pollution and drownings. Now, a pathogen-filtering toilet looks set to change lives

Lauren Crothers in Phat Sanday

Phat Sanday is – in many ways – like any other village in Cambodia. There’s a school, a petrol station and a clinic.

However, unlike most of the other rural communities, nearly every structure here – at the southern end of Cambodia’s Tonlé Sap lake – floats. The primary mode of transport for the more than 1,100 families who live here is boat.

There is no village-wide sanitation system. Residents, whose livelihoods depend largely on fishing, defecate in the open or in latrines affixed to their floating houses, where waste is deposited directly into the water below. Everything ends up in the freshwater Tonlé Sap lake and river, which merges with the Mekong further downstream in Phnom Penh, the capital. The lake and river are a major source of income for hundreds of thousands of people.

As a result of the open defecation, diarrhoea is common, in a country where Unicef estimatesdiarrheal disease is one of the leading causes of death for children under five. And there are other health risks.

“Children have died sometimes because there is no latrine … They go around the edge of their houses to defecate – and they drown,” says Hakley Ke. He is a schoolteacher and programme coordinator with Wetlands Work, an NGO that installs sustainable wastewater treatment systems. Hakley, who has lived here since 2008, says that over the past few years concerns about sanitation have become more acute.
The HandyPod system behind Hakley Ke’s floating house in Phat Sanday commune, on the Tonlé Sap lake.

Taber Hand, founder and director of Wetlands Work, says the concentration of pathogens like E coli can fluctuate from about 200-400 units per 100ml of water to as much as 4,000 units per 100ml in the dry season. When the levels of pathogens are that concentrated, he says, “it’s septic”.

In 2009, he began designing the HandyPod; a simple, two-container system that filters pathogens out of wastewater. He says the version in use by nine households and a school today, priced at $125 (£100), is the most cost-effective.

The system is gravitational. With each flush – achieved by pouring a ladle of water into the toilet bowl – waste is collected in the first of two containers, where it settles and is broken down using anaerobic processes over a three-day period, and the pathogen reduction begins. The second barrel is packed with small pieces of polystyrene, which triggers a process that reduces the levels of the remaining bacteria. Each flush also forces the newly treated water back into the river, where it will pass the test for safe levels of pathogens for recreational water just one metre beyond the discharge point.

Although it will be some time before the team can ascertain the true ecological benefits, anecdotal evidence from the initial test phase – where several pods were raffled off to families – indicates the system could have a future in riparian communities in Cambodia and beyond.

Hakley works hard to spread the message about good hygiene and sanitation in his community. He says that since he installed the system in his own household, he no longer worries about something bad happening to his children, and adds that his family’s reputation in the village has improved.

He also thinks people’s attitudes towards safer toilets are changing. “The schoolgirls used to go much further away to defecate,” he says, “but now they prefer the HandyPod.”

Yun Thy, 35, has lived in Phat Sanday all her life. Until she was given a pod last year, she would defecate over the side of a boat or in the forest behind her home on the riverbank. Nights were always the worst time to have to go, she says, and a relative’s three-year-old child drowned while defecating.

“I’m very happy that I don’t have to go in the river any more, especially at night,” she says. “It feels cleaner.”

There’s been a lot of interest in the pod from fellow villagers. Her elderly neighbours – one of whom was suffering with diarrhoea – said they would install one immediately, if they could afford it.

WaterAid Cambodia has partnered with Wetlands Work to roll out the scheme. Its country representative, James Wicken, says challenges include “changing behaviour and encouraging people to pay for the toilet”, as such an investment is not usually seen as a priority. WaterAid Cambodia “is working to engage the government in water, sanitation and hygiene issues so it is prioritised at a national level”.

Hand sees the challenges with confronting tradition, but is looking forward to installing 18 more pods over the coming months in a community at the north end of the lake. “This is about dignity; about how children feel, learning and having a connection to sanitation,” he says. “The issue is human health.”

 on: Today at 04:55 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Dam project promises water – but also conflict – for dusty Afghan border lands

Neglected Nimruz province hopes a dam will boost agriculture but faces hostility from Iran, unhappy at the Helmand river’s meager flow, and their Taliban allies

Sune Engel Rasmussen in Chahar Burjak, Nimruz
Wednesday 22 March 2017 09.00 GMT

In a corner of the southern Afghan desert, scorched by heat and thrashed by sandstorms, Nimruz is one of Afghanistan’s most remote and lawless provinces. Enjoying little international aid or government authority, it is also one of the least developed.

However, there is hope for progress. But that hope is pinned on a resource that could spark regional conflict: water.

The Afghan government plans to construct a dam to boost agriculture and livelihoods in a region where one of the main paths to profit is smuggling – of drugs as well as people.

One of Afghanistan’s many untapped resources, water has real potential. Of its 8m hectares of fertile land, Afghanistan cultivates only 2m. It imports 80% of its electricity. The dam, called Kamal Khan, could irrigate 175,000 hectares of land, the size of Greater London, according to project manager Mohammad Nabi.

However, the dam project risks angering neighbouring Iran, which already frets about how slowly the Afghan Helmand river trickles over to its side of the border. Nimruz officials accuse Iran of paying local Taliban groups to sabotage the project.

“When work on the dam begins, of course security will worsen,” Ali Ahmad, a young police officer guarding the site said when the Guardian visited. He was manning a rudimentary checkpoint overlooking the endless, arid desert enveloped in a haze of sand. “Iran won’t let us build the dam. But we are ready to fight,” he said.

Iran and the Taliban were once arch-enemies, and water was one battleground. When it was in power, the Taliban closed the sluices at Kajaki dam, in Helmand, choking off water to Iran from 1998 to 2001. Coinciding with drought, that had devastating environmental consequences. Wetlands dried up, leading to mass migration of people living there. In 2001, after the overthrow of the Taliban, Iran asked the UN to get Afghanistan to release the water.

Since 2001, however, Iran and the Taliban have developed a pragmatic relationship. The governor of Nimruz, Mohammad Sami, pointed out that when a US drone killed the Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour in May on a Pakistani highway, he was returning from a visit to Iran. Sami avoided going into further details, but said that Iranian support for the Taliban was obvious. “Like sunshine,” he said.

Ties between Iran and the Taliban are well documented but have mostly been clandestine. However, in December Iran issued an unprecedented public invitation to the Taliban for an Islamic conference in Tehran.

In a briefing to Congress in December, the top US commander in Afghanistan, John W Nicholson, accused Iran of propping up the Taliban.

In 2011, a captured Taliban commander claimed to have received $50,000 and military training in Iran to sabotage the Kamal Khan dam. Officials elsewhere in Afghanistan have made similar accusations, pinning the assassination in 2010 of a police chief in Herat, home to the another large dam, on Iran.

The Helmand river rises in the Hindu Kush mountains close to Kabul and flows 700 miles south before pouring into the Hamoun wetlands on the Iranian-Afghan border. On the way, it passes Chahar Burjak and Kamal Khan dam.

Getting here is not easy, and requires a two-hour drive from the provincial capital, Zaranj, through punishing terrain without signs or roads, often through sandstorms.

Unsurprisingly, Nimruz is a haven for migrant and drug smugglers who travel concealed by the wind that whisks sand up from the ground like smoke, making sky and earth almost indistinguishable.

The dam does not look like much yet. The two first phases involved merely building a wall and reinforcing a dyke. Phase three – installing three turbines and a power station, and digging hundreds of miles of canals – has not yet begun. At an estimated cost of about $100m, the dam is slated for completion in four years.

The whole area looks abandoned, apart from 300 policemen. Some have been here for years. It’s a sizable force, admits the commander, Maj Fazal Ahmad Zori, but necessary. The Taliban are flush with Iranian weapons and cash, and can easily cross the border to restock and recuperate, he said.

Last year, about 60 Taliban fighters on pickup trucks attacked a police checkpoint, said Hekmatullah, the commander of that checkpoint. His men got off lucky with few injuries, but he expects that when work on the dam picks up, so will the fighting.

Water has been a source of contention for many decades but the dispute has intensified in recent years, in which Afghanistan has directed portions of its international aid towards development projects.

In fact, the two neighbours have had an agreement to share the water since 1973, obligating Afghanistan to channel at least 22 cubic metres a second annually to Iran. Both countries have accused the other of breaching the treaty.

Most recently, in October 2015, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, when grilled by parliamentarians to demand more water from Afghanistan, said Afghanistan lived up to the treaty “inadequately and inconsistently”.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Afghan ministry of energy and water, Abdul Basir Azimi, assured that Afghanistan intends to enforce the treaty.

According to Andrew Scanlon, Afghanistan country manager for the United Nations Environment Programme (Unep), water no doubt holds genuine potential for sustainable development in Nimruz. “The key issue,” he said, is political negotiations.

For now, though, diplomacy is dormant. The Atlantic Council thinktank argues in a recent report that Kabul and Tehran prefer to rouse public opposition to the other side, rather than negotiate.
‘I am Lake Urmia’: a social media campaign takes on the environment in Iran

“Unfortunately, and largely for political reasons, both sides have failed to inform their publics properly and have fed them biased information despite the urgent need to improve water management and infrastructure,” the report says, calling on the US to mediate.

For his part, Nimruz governor Sami refuses to even speculate openly about what the perceived threat from Iran might entail.

“This is our right,” he said. “If we have water, the climate of this region will change. If Iran is not happy, it is up to them.”

 on: Today at 04:51 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Scientists launch campaign to restore Pluto to the planet club

21 Mar 2017 at 15:07 ET

A team of scientists seeking to restore Pluto to planethood launched a campaign on Tuesday to broaden the astronomical classifications which led to its demotion to a “dwarf planet” a decade ago.

Six scientists from institutions across the United States argued that Pluto deserves to be a full planet, along with some 110 other bodies in the solar system, including Earth’s moon.

In a paper presented at an international planetary science conference at The Woodlands, Texas, the scientists explained that geological properties, such as shape and surface features, should determine what constitutes a planet.

In 2006, the International Astronomical Union, struggling with how to classify a newly discovered icy body beyond Pluto, adopted a definition for a planet based on characteristics that include clearing other objects from its orbital path.

Pluto and its newfound kin in the solar system’s distant Kuiper Belt region were reclassified as dwarf planets, along with Ceres, the biggest object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The decision left the solar system with eight planets.

But this definition sidelines the research interests of most planetary scientists, said the paper’s lead author, Kirby Runyon, a doctoral candidate at Johns Hopkins University.

Runyon said he and other planetary scientists are more interested in a planet’s physical characteristics, such as its shape and whether it has mountains, oceans and an atmosphere.

“If you’re interested in the actual intrinsic properties of a world, then the IAU definition is worthless,” he said by phone.

Runyon and colleagues argue that the IAU does not have the authority to set the definition of a planet.

“There’s a teachable moment here for the public in terms of scientific literacy and in terms of how scientists do science,” Runyon added. “And that is not by saying, ‘Let’s agree on one thing.’ That’s not science at all.”

Runyon’s group advocates for a sub-classification system, similar to biology’s hierarchal method. This approach would categorize Earth’s moon as a type of planet.

That idea irks California Institute of Technology astronomer Mike Brown, who discovered the Kuiper Belt object that cast Pluto out of the planet club.

“It really takes blinders to not look at the solar system and see the profound differences between the eight planets in their stately circular orbits and then the millions and millions of tiny bodies flitting in and out between the planets and being tossed around by them,” he wrote in an email.

(Editing by Letitia Stein and Leslie Adler)

 on: Today at 04:47 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Could conservation provide ground for peace in conflict zones?

Some things, like birds, transcend political boundaries. That's why some scientists say conservation of the natural world could promote peace among humans.   

Eva Botkin-Kowacki
CS Monitor
March 23, 2017 —A farmer's field in Israel was being overrun by rodents. As was common practice, the farmer used poison to deal with the little unwanted animals that were snacking on his crops. But the poison wasn't just killing the pests. It was also killing owls that would snack on the rodents and jackals that would eat the toxic owls.

Then, in the early 1980s, the farmer decided to try something different. Instead of poisoning the whole food chain, he looked to the rodents' natural predators to take care of the pests and began installing nesting boxes for barn owls throughout his fields. With up to 11 offspring born to each pair of owls and each eating 2,000 to 6,000 rodents each year, the birds could do the same job as the rodent poison.

But, as birds don't distinguish between one farmer's field and another's, the owls were still ingesting poisoned rodents from neighboring fields. That's when the farmer began talking to his neighbors about building nesting boxes, too.

The flow of information didn't stop with this handful of Israeli neighbors. Once Tel Aviv University's Yossi Leshem got involved, the effort became a national – and then international – project. And now Dr. Leshem and his colleagues say their project could be a model for the way that conservation efforts might plant seeds of peace among people divided by conflict.

"Ecological problems know no boundaries," says Alexandre Roulin, a biologist at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland and first author on a paper published Wednesday in the journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution highlighting the potential of nature conservation for peacebuilding.

That's why the project to use barn owls and kestrels, another common rodent-eating bird, as rodent control has attracted the interest of Jordanians and Palestinians. So Leshem, Dr. Roulin, and coauthors of this new paper have been working to bring Israelis, Jordanians, and Palestinians together for such ecological education and to share knowledge.

This project is part of a larger effort in the region to use birdwatching as a way of promoting cooperation. And these efforts have brought people from all three regions together in spaces where they share jokes and even visit each other's religious sites.

"Conservation dialogues – and conservation work generally – can indeed be a good way to bring people in conflict together, especially in highly polarized situations (like the Middle East) where there is pressure against peacebuilding and conflict resolution and where there is extreme lack of trust," Diana Chigas, who teaches international negotiation and conflict resolution at The Fletcher School at Tufts University, and who was not an author on the new paper, writes in an email to The Christian Science Monitor. "The environmental area generally has been a good 'entry point' because there is recognition among people concerned with the environment that environment does know no borders."

Roulin and Leshem aren't the first to point to environmental issues as a way of bringing people together. Saleem Ali, an environmental diplomacy expert currently at the University of Delaware, has spent years advocating for environmental peacebuilding and science diplomacy in cross-border conflicts.

Still, where this kind of diplomacy has been employed, Dr. Ali tells the Monitor, "there haven't really been peace dividends as much as you would hope."

That's not to say that science can't still be a mechanism for cooperation, he explains in a phone interview. But the challenge is scaling up such cooperation from the local level – like, say, among farmers – to the political level where peacemaking negotiations are made.

Professor Chigas agrees that key leaders must be engaged in conservation dialogues for them to be effective peacemaking tools. She points to an example Roulin and Leshem outline in their paper of how such relevant leadership in a conflict could be engaged with scientific issues to build toward peace successfully: the story of peace between Israel and Jordan around the neck of a wolf.

The story goes that Israeli researchers were using radio collars to track wolves when one of the wolves crossed into Jordan in 1993. When the wolf was killed, the radio collar ended up in the hands of Jordanian soldiers who were concerned about spying.

Israeli General Baruch Spiegel and Jordanian General Abu Rashid Mansour (who is also a co-author on the new paper) were already in contact to discuss a peace treaty. General Spiegel asked for the collar back for scientific study and General Mansour was able to return it. Then-Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin took this as a sign of mutual trust from Jordanians. The peace treaty was signed just 8 months later, in 1994.

Roulin points out that he and Leshem are working with government officials for the bird project and advocate for a top-down perspective as well as a local one for any other conservation cooperation projects.

"By integrating the needs of national leaders, scientists can substantially increase the impact of cooperation around nature conservation," they write in the paper. "The involvement of governmental interest can favor the long-lasting success of joint projects between nature conservation and peacebuilding."

It's not just the political entities that need to stay engaged long-term, Ali says.

He points to a situation in Ecuador and Peru in 1998. One of the factors in their peace agreement, he says, was the need to conserve the biodiversity in the Cordillera del Condor border region. And although the peace between the countries has held, Ali says that the region is now unmonitored for conservation and things like illegal mining are threatening the supposedly protected area.

Other such jointly protected, cross-border parks, dubbed Peace Parks, have been proposed as a way to protect biodiversity along other violent borders, too. For example, Ali says, the Siachen region between Pakistan and India is a disputed area, and the ecosystem there has been profoundly impacted by the political strife. As a result, Ali and others advocated for a Peace Park there, and the idea received support from high-level officials, he says. But "then we had an election in India, everything changed, and now it has fallen off the radar."

Chigas notes that peace won't come easily from simple cooperative conservation efforts. "Relationship improvements do not flow automatically," she says. "Broader impacts on peace also do not flow automatically. The projects also are affected by the larger context, which limit their potential for impacts."

As such, Chigas says, there need to be a number of pieces in place for conservation projects to promote

"These conservation efforts can be important entry points, and in the current situation, for example, in Israel and Palestine, might be one of the few areas where conflict resolution can happen," she says. "It is important, however, not to oversell its impacts or to expect too much from these efforts."

"They can be a very effective way (where there is concern, interdependence, and constituencies that care about and are active on environmental issues, or where environmental issues affect people’s lives) to create space for bringing people together, to generate cooperation, and generate results that give some legitimacy to cooperative efforts in some areas."

 on: Today at 04:44 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Why origami machines may unlock secrets of Mars and the universe

More than a mere pastime, the tools of origami are leaping off the page and into the realms of engineering and manufacturing.    

Charlie Wood
CS Monitor
March 23, 2017 —If some NASA researchers have their way, Mars exploration technology of the future may rely on an art form from the past.

NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) has developed a Pop-Up Flat Folding Explorer Robot (PUFFER) prototype that could change how we explore Mars. The rugged yet portable machine takes its inspiration from the art of origami, which, despite Americans' association with grade-school arts and crafts, is proving to be a cutting-edge design philosophy. Recent developments in the field have led to an explosion of uses ranging from solar panels to bulletproof barriers.

What sets PUFFER apart from other rovers is that it folds flat, making its mini-profile even slimmer. Mission planners find this feature attractive, because it means they can pack many robots into one spacecraft. After popping up and assuming their full 3-D form on Mars, such robots could accompany a main explorer, scouting out fascinating but perilous targets such as caves, craters, lava tubes, and overhanging rocks.

“We’ve seen a lot of interesting terrain features we have yet to explore,” says project manager Jaakko Karras. “But they tend to be places you don’t want to send your one multi-billion dollar rover,” he tells The Christian Science Monitor in a phone interview.

Rover design balances the need to cram the vehicle into a small rocket with the desire for high clearance, using big-wheeled machines that won’t get “hung up on every pebble,” Mr. Karras explains. “The expanding chassis sort of gives you the best of both worlds.”

In addition to serving as “mobility supplements,” PUFFERs’ literal flexibility pays off in a number of areas. They can squeeze into small spaces, survive rough falls, climb steep slopes, and easily flip themselves over to expose solar panels for charging. In fact, they’re so rugged Karras suspects that, before they’re ready for Mars, PUFFERs may find use as cheap, remote, long-term sensors of seasonal ice changes in the Arctic.

And PUFFER isn’t the first time engineers have turned to the Japanese art of paper-folding to solve aerospace problems. In 2013, then-JPL researcher Brian Trease partnered with renowned origami pioneer Robert Lang to design a novel scheme for packaging space solar cells.

Rather than using the square creases seen in the International Space Station’s panels, they based their device on a circular pattern that easily folds to pack around a spacecraft, before fanning out for deployment in space. Their solution allowed them to fold an 82-foot wide cell into a 9-foot wide package.

“Origami naturally lent itself as a solution because if you want to fold anything, that comes from origami,” explains Dr. Trease, who has fond memories of his time studying abroad in Japan and origami’s power to bridge the language barrier with his host family.

More than just origami-inspired, the solar panel’s design relied directly on a classic technique called the flasher pattern. “We started applying some basic patterns that were originally from children's origami books. We took those and used engineering to make them useful for thick structures,” Trease says.

Origami's practical applications extend far beyond aerospace. Mechanical engineers from Brigham Young University harnessed the curvature of what’s known as the Yoshimura folding pattern to manufacture a stable, quick set-up bulletproof shield that shelters up to three police officers, yet weighs just half as much as similar barriers.

In a phone interview with The Christian Science Monitor, Dr. Lang cites this shield as an example of an especially unique application, because unlike other armor designs, its single-sheet manufacturing means it has no weak joints between neighboring plates.

Just sixty years after Akira Yoshizawa formalized the arrow-and-crease-based visual language that spread origami around the world, what was born an art is coming of age as a science.

And in this case, the partnership has proved fruitful for the art, as well. “You can find a lot of examples where engineering and science try to take inspiration from art or nature, but usually that’s a one way transaction,” Trease says. “With this particular marriage,... [Robert Lang] came up with these general [mathematical] tools that the origami community took back, and used to advance their own art. It was a great acceleration, an explosion by origami artists to create the most amazing, intricate patterns,” he explains.

The frenzy of activity has advanced the field of math, as well. When asked what insights he’s gained from origami, Lang mentions a proof he worked on showing that one can fold a shape in such a way that its perimeter grows. Formally known as the napkin folding problem, it’s a result many find surprising, but Lang credits his origami experience for providing the intuition necessary for one of his solutions.

But despite its numerous engineering successes, origami sometimes suffers from its image as a juvenile pastime, according to Trease. “The biggest obstacle is going forward and saying saying ‘I want to use origami to do something,’ and getting serious bias for that. Everyone remembers doing origami when they were a kid and it’s kind of a child’s toy thing,” he explains.

It’s a perception that couldn’t be farther from the truth, as the field grows to include ever-more abstract branches of mathematics. “Geometry is definitely part of the mix,” says Lang. “For a lot of designs, nothing more than simple, plain geometry is needed,” but when designing large deployable space structures, for example, engineers also rely on linear algebra, and differential geometry, among other fields of computational geometry.

Fortunately for origamist researchers, funding organizations seem to be getting the message. The National Science Foundation has distributed millions of dollars in grants to origami-inspired design, and the PUFFER program received support from JPL’s Game Changing Development Program, a NASA funding source that purposely tries to foster what Karras calls “out-there ideas.”

While Lang’s algorithms are powerful enough to take in a stick-figure sketch of an insect and spit out a fold pattern for a terrifyingly realistic paper model, the field of origami manufacturing is still in its infancy. Both Lang and Trease point out the need for better mathematical models that can incorporate thickness (since you can’t make a bulletproof barrier out of thin paper), and bending (good for paper beetles but bad for ceramic or glass solar panels).

These open problems represent hurdles that stand in the way of translating the wealth of knowledge origamists have gathered over the last century about design into practical manufacturing processes that work in materials besides paper, such as the Smart Composite Microstructures architecture, which Karras and his team implemented in PUFFER.

As engineers overcome these obstacles, Trease suggests origami-based design may even emerge alongside 3-D printing as a tool for quickly and cheaply creating structures with volume. After all, we already have a heritage of 2-D printing techniques that stretches back centuries, he points out.

“So origami presents this potential platform where we do all these interesting things leveraging all this great 2-D technology, and then in this last step in the end you pop or transform it into its 3-D form,” Trease explains.

Lang too predicts a bright future for the origami-based design and its applications. Especially in the realm of space, he says, origami is playing a direct role in “increasing our store of knowledge about the universe and our place in it.”

Click to watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nRmorQmGqVM

 on: Today at 04:41 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
430-million-year-old fossil named after Sir David Attenborough

by Brett Smith
Red Orbit

An international team of researchers has found a new 430 million-year-old fossil and named it in honor of Sir David Attenborough, an icon of conservationism in the United Kingdom.

The fossil is said to be 'exceptionally well preserved in three-dimensions', and included many soft parts of the animal, like legs, eyes and antennae. The fossil has been established as an ancient crustacean and remote relative of modern lobsters and shrimps.

According to a report published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, the discovery was made in volcanic marine deposits that built up near the present day Wales-England border.

"Such a well-preserved fossil is exciting, and this particular one is a unique example of its kind in the fossil record, and so we can establish it as a new species of a new genus,” study author David Siveter, a paleontologist from the University of Leicester, said in a news release. "Even though it is relatively small, at just 9 millimeters long, it preserves incredible detail including body parts that are normally not fossilized. It provides scientists with important, novel insights into the evolution of the body plan, the limbs and possible respiratory-circulatory physiology of a primitive member of one of the major groups of Crustacea."

An ancient crustacean

The study team said the crustacean they discovered lived from the Silurian period, around 430 million years ago, when the southern area of Britain was in subtropical latitudes and near what we currently call North America. The entire region was covered by a shallow sea. The crustacean was killed and preserved when volcanic ash rained down.

The new fossil species was named Cascolus ravitis, an Old English allusion the 'Attenborough' surname (Cascolus), and the Roman name for Leicester, which is where the British icon grew up.

"In my youth, David Attenborough's early programs on the BBC, such as 'Zoo Quest', greatly encouraged my interest in Natural History and it is a pleasure to honor him in this way,” Siveter said.

Attenborough responded to the honor by saying, "The biggest compliment that a biologist or paleontologist can pay to another one is to name a fossil in his honor and I take this as a very great compliment. I was once a scientist so I'm very honored and flattered that the Professor should say such nice things about me now."

 on: Today at 04:40 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
March 23, 2017

Baby undergoes risky surgery to remove her ‘parasitic twin’

by Chuck Bednar
Red Orbit

A baby is recovering in Chicago after successfully undergoing surgery to remove a parasitic twin sibling from her back and shoulder, an extremely rare phenomenon that made it appear as though the girl was born with two extra legs and feet, various media outlets reported on Tuesday.

According to BBC News, the girl – identified only as Dominique due to privacy concerns – was supposed to have a twin, but the sibling never fully developed. Instead her twin fused to her own body, becoming parasitic and depending solely on the baby girl’s body in order to survive.
baby extra arms

Dr. John Ruge observes the child's extra limbs

In addition to appearing as though she had an extra set of legs out of her back, Dominique had a second spine and was born with her twin’s waist growing out of her back, CNN noted. She came from the Ivory Coast and traveled to Chicago’s Advocate Children's Hospital, where five doctors performed a surgery to carefully remove to parasitic twin without causing her any harm.

Dr. John Ruge, who led the surgery, told BBC News that the biggest challenge faced by his team was to make sure that Dominique was not paralyzed after the operation. His colleague, Dr. Frank Vicari, said that the surgery was essential due to the strain Dominique’s twin put on her heart and lungs, which were ill-equipped to “provide nourishment to another almost individual.”

Patient is doing well after the six-plus hour procedure

Dr. Vicari went on to explain that the surgeons used “an enormous amount” of special imaging technology that let them differentiate between Dominique’s own anatomy and that of her parasitic twin. This allowed them to “anticipate the problems we might see... so that we could pre-plan what we intended to do and minimize any opportunity for a surprise during surgery.”

Prior to her surgery on March 8, Dominique underwent an MRI, an MRA (magnetic resonance angiography), a CAT scan, a CT myelogram and several X-rays to identify her native anatomy and to find out exactly how her parasitic twin was connected to her, CNN explained. Next, the doctors created 3D models of her two spines and discovered a second bladder behind her extra limbs that also needed to be removed.

Along with the five surgeons involved in the operation, Dr. Ruge’s team included more than 50 different specialists who worked together to ensure that the procedure went smoothly. It took six hours, but the doctors were able to completely remove the parasitic twin, carefully disconnecting nerves and blood vessels to keep from harming or paralyzing Dominique.

Dominique was two pounds lighter after the surgery, CNN said, and while she experienced some swelling after the operation, she is expected to suffer no long-term ill effects. In fact, doctors said that she recovered faster than they had expected. She was sitting up the next day and was able to leave the hospital just five days after the surgery. She still has her second spine, and although Dr. Ruge’s team will continue to monitor Dominique’s condition, they do not anticipate the need for any additional operations.

“Like any child, she needs to be cared for and watched for developmental issues,” Dr. Ruge told CNN. “She has slightly more risk because she is built slightly more different than other children. But she looks great. We had 100 worries before surgery, and risks were high, so we're pleased with how she's doing.”

 on: Today at 04:38 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
March 23, 2017

Scientists capture first-ever evidence of landslide on a comet

by John Hopton
Red Orbit

Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko may not have the most catchy name in the solar system, but there are plenty of other things that make it intriguing - not least the first observation of a landslide on a comet.

The comet 'belongs to' the Rosetta spacecraft, and this image taken in December 2015 first caused excitement regarding an interestiong phenomenon.
Astronomer Maurizio Pajola, who at the time had just started a job studying Mars' moon Phobos at NASA's Ames Research Center, noticed something bright emanating from the comet's surface. He was looking over Rosetta photos in his own time, late at night.

Looking back through Rosetta images, including some taken by the spacecraft's powerful OSIRIS instrument, he landed on one from July 4th which showed a 200-ft-long gap on a cliff named Aswan, located in the comet's northern hemisphere.

Another photo showed a burst of gas and dust, which turned out to be radiant material set beneath the cliff - revealed when it collapsed.

The rubber duck comet

In recently published papers in the Nature Astronomy and Science journals, Pajola and colleagues explained how what he had seen was the first observation of a landslide on a comet. Dark organic material on the cliff face had collapsed to reveal pristine water beneath the comet's surface.

The team also noted that the comet, which happens to be shaped like a rubber duck, has a constantly changing surface due to its rotation and the sun's glare.

“These images are showing that comets are some of the most geologically active things in the solar system,” Pajola said. “We see fractures increasing, dust covering areas that were not dusted before, boulders rolling, cliffs collapsing”.

The comet is around the size of Mount Fuji, and its mass means gravity is less than that on Earth. Therefore, unlike with landslides on Earth, there is an outburst of material rather than a rapid tumble downwards.

Such destructive events go towards explaining comets' distinctive shapes.
Extreme temperature swings

Destructive events are most likely when a comet is closest to the sun.

“This is the time where you get maximum activity, the time where you get a maximum amount of change,” said Ramy El-Maarry, a planetary scientist at the University of Colorado at Boulder who was the lead author on the Science study.

Without the protection of an atmosphere, the sun's intensity has a dramatic effect. When parts of the comet are facing away from the sun, they are colder than any temperature ever recorded on Earth. When the sun then hits these areas, the temperature shoots up to levels similar to the hottest found on Earth.

This causes fracture and collapse - in this case, the landslide.

 on: Mar 22, 2017, 05:08 PM 
Started by Deva - Last post by marty
yes, Deva,

   it will be interesting to add signs to the lesson that we are working on. thanks for your time and effort.


 on: Mar 22, 2017, 02:21 PM 
Started by soleil - Last post by soleil
Hi Helena,

Thanks for that article. I do think that people with evil intent go after the weak, the uninformed, and those who are most easily brainwashed.

In the case of Trump, I don’t think his base is comprised of people who are suffering the most. According to stats, the average salary of his voters is $72,000.

Trump appealed to people with strong racist and misogynist tendencies (they would never vote for a woman president), and that’s something an evil person knows how to exploit.

In the end, Hillary only lost by the slimmest of margins---about 70,000 votes across three states---and if not for the Comey letter 11 days before the election and if not for the Russians hacking the DNC and giving the hacked emails to Wikileaks, she most likely would have won.

He did not win legitimately. That’s why the Russia story is so important and may prove to be his undoing. We’ve only hit the tip of the iceberg.

What’s so devastating about having Trump in the White House is that not only is he evil and a crook and a conman, he’s also clinically insane. And he has surrounded himself with the most evil, crooked, and mentally unbalanced people on the planet, including the spineless, ethics-challenged Republicans, who are going right along with all the insanity.

In any case, the guy has to go. I don’t know how or when, but, for the sake of the entire world, I’m praying it’s soon.


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