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Mar 26, 2017, 05:10 AM
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 on: Mar 24, 2017, 05:11 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

7 Must-See Films Inspiring a Healthier Planet

Stefanie Spear

One of my favorite events of the year is only one week away—the Cleveland International Film Festival (CIFF), celebrating 41 years. EcoWatch is a media sponsor, once again, and thrilled to sponsor the film RiverBlue.

CIFF, one of the nation's top film festivals, will showcase 202 feature films and 216 short films representing 71 countries from March 29 – April 9. Here's a synopsis of the seven eco-related films being featured this year, courtesy of CIFF:

1. RiverBlue

Narrated by Jason Priestley, the original concept for RiverBlue was to film renowned conservationist Mark Angelo as he toured rivers across the world. Not only would the film spotlight the beauty of nature, but also it would examine the effects of pollution.

While it wasn't intended to focus on a specific cause, Angelo and the film's directors began to see a pattern as they embarked on their journey. A lot of the chemical waste spilling into our water is coming from the plants that manufacture our clothing. From the dyes used to make our jeans to the chemicals that go into producing leather—fashion comes at a cost to our environment.

As they ventured through China, India, Africa, Indonesia, and several other countries, including the U.S., they witnessed the horrors first-hand. A number of popular clothing brands are disposing of chemical waste improperly, leading to some very serious consequences. By exposing this underreported issue, this provocative documentary enlightens the public and makes a passionate plea to push the fashion industry into changing their unprincipled practices.

2. The Age of Consequences

For better or worse, we are all connected. Thanks to globalization, the ebbs and flows of a nation can be felt, to varying degrees, in communities on opposite sides of the world. Yet all these waves have one thing in common: climate change.

Compelling case studies reveal a powerful connection between climate change and global conflict that, without immediate attention, will be society's ultimate demise. When severe droughts, flooding, and natural disasters decimate the food and water supply for millions of people, these basic necessities can quickly turn into instruments of war.

Issues of poverty, mass migrations, and a limited capacity to provide international aid only intensify when combined with extreme weather's unpredictability. U.S. military veterans, who have firsthand experience with the devastating impacts of climate change on failing regions around the world, are leading the charge to take action. But they cannot do it alone. Relevant now more than ever, The Age of Consequences unveils a terrifying look at our present reality and the desperate race against time we are dangerously losing.

3. Footprint: Population, Consumption, and Sustainability

In 2011 a baby born in the Philippines marked a world population milestone: seven billion. Every life is cause for celebration, but with the population growing at a rapid speed, hitting such a high number raises serious concerns.

Does Earth have enough resources to meet each child's needs? Can it sustain the damage done by the humongous collective carbon footprint? And what do we do with all the trash?

Even more troubling is the issue of equality. The U.S. accounts for just five percent of the world's population, but uses over a quarter of the world's fossil fuel resources—clearly the pie is not being equally shared. As the birth rate rises, so will the disparity.

In Footprint: Population, Consumption and Sustainability, director Valentina Canavesio tours the planet, surveying the results of population explosions and overconsumption. This revealing film also spotlights activists who are doing all they can to limit population growth, despite the fierce opposition that such a controversial issue brings. Canavesio's exceptional documentary offers a comprehensive profile of a planet stretched beyond its limits.

4. Food Evolution

The reputation surrounding GMO foods paints a picture of chemically enhanced produce, pumped with steroids and other poisons, being conned into our children's mouths. But what if we have it all wrong? Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson narrates this documentary, which sheds light on the fervor against food that has been scientifically altered to meet the needs of a growing population.

The fight between organic foods versus GMO foods has been raging for a few years now, enabled by passionate advocates on both sides spreading misinformation. And Food Evolution attempts to quell the biggest fears, using science, interviews with scientists, and accumulated data about modifying our crops. Yes, there are genuine concerns about agri-giants like Monsanto, but when you finally get a glimpse at the bogus claims the "other" side has been making in the name of "organic" food, you begin to wonder which side is harder to swallow.

Beginning with Hawaii's ban on all GMO products, followed by other countries (including those in Africa) that are simply not in a place to deny food to their populace, Food Evolution will open your eyes to the state of our food today—and where it will be in the years to come.

5. The University

"Discover what being exponential means to you" is the philosophy behind Singularity University, the brainchild of X Prize founder Peter Diamandis and famous inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil. At Singularity grad and post-grad students—some of the smartest in the world—join together with the stated goal to use their intellect and ingenuity to create a business that will impact a billion people within ten years.

The University is a behind-the-scenes look at a think tank dedicated to using exponential technology to change the world and the young men and women who are determined to do it. Five years in the making, this inspiring film provides us with hope that our capabilities will be able to work for us and help humanity live long and prosper.

From self-driving cars, to printing tools in space, to being able to remotely deliver aid to those in need, The University is not only a glimpse at who will change the world, but also an in-depth look into our future and where we're headed as a people and planet.

6. Bugs

In recent years the United Nations has suggested that, due to a growing population, we may find ourselves dealing with a food shortage sooner than we think. One of their recommendations: edible insects. Championed by cooks for their unique flavors, and embraced by environmentalists for their small ecological impact, creepy crawlers are being hailed as the miracle cure.

In Bugs, director Andreas Johnsen teams up with researchers and chefs from Copenhagen's Nordic Food Lab to determine whether or not that's the case. Traveling to such places as Mexico, Australia, Kenya, and Japan, they encounter communities where such delicacies as grasshoppers, termite queens, and venomous hornets are eaten. That may sound unappetizing, but the film's expert chefs transform these gooey creatures into beautiful, great tasting dishes.

Along the way, however, the filmmakers discover a number of things that could dampen the U.N.'s perfect plan. They also learn the food dilemma is less about population growth and more about unfair distribution and corporate greed. This colorful documentary is powerful in its message while allowing for some incredibly fun moments
as well.

7. Tale of a Lake

A film of astonishing grandeur, Tale of a Lake takes us on a plunge into the icy waters of Finland. In this land of 190,000 lakes, endless misty forests, and burbling brooks, water is forever reborn.

English narrator Jonathan Hutchings accompanies us along the cyclical path of a tiny Finnish mythological water spirit. We learn that ancient Finnic people considered the swan their divine ancestor, the elk their guardian spirit. Miraculous cinematography by Teemu Liakka captures mysterious loons and mischievous otters, up-close and personal. We marvel at the building skills of busy beavers—the engineers of the eco-system—as well as toad wrestling matches and water insect ballets.

There is even poetry to be found in the hatching of fish eggs. Lush symphonic sound by composer Panu Aaltio adds to the thrilling sensory experience of Tale of a Lake. Not just a hydrobiologist's dream, this film will carry viewers of all ages along its course, revealing the power of flowing water that teems with eternal life.

 on: Mar 24, 2017, 05:09 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

Peoples Climate March: See You There!

By Ryan Schleeter

The first 100 days in office are usually the height of a president's political power. It's the window in which they have the most credibility and clout to push their agenda forward.

But so far, President Donald Trump's agenda has met incredible resistance at every step. Thanks to you, his cabinet nominations were the most contested in history, his Muslim ban has been stopped in the courts at every attempt and the number of people showing up at marches and protests have dwarfed the crowds at his rallies.

For the sake of our climate and communities, we need to keep that momentum going.

To change everything, it's going to take all of us—especially when the stakes are high and President Trump's attacks on climate progress are never-ending. That's why I hope you'll join us on April 29 in Washington, DC (or a city near you) for the People's Climate March.

This is the time when we need to raise our voices and let President Trump and his administration of climate deniers and fossil fuel shills know that our people-powered resistance isn't going anywhere.

From the Women's March in January to the Native Nations March earlier this month, we have already seen how mass mobilization can change the conversation and reassert the power of people in our democracy. That's why on April 29, day 100 of the Trump administration, we're marching for:

    Jobs. A fossil fuel-based economy doesn't just pollute our environment and wreak havoc on the climate. It also hurts American workers. We're marching for a clean energy economy that expands access to jobs and opportunity—especially for the communities of color, Indigenous peoples and balue collar workers hit hardest by our reliance on fossil fuels.

    Justice. As we shift away from fossil fuels, we need to take care not to leave anyone behind. We're marching for a just transition, one that protects working people and their livelihoods as we move away from the dirty energy sources of the past to the clean power of the future. That also means uplifting the stories of those on the frontlines of climate change and environmental hazards.

    Our climate. This one might seem obvious, but right now there is more at stake than ever in the fight against climate change. We're marching for a future that invests in clean energy, climate resilient cities and equitable development. We're marching to limit global temperature increase to 1.5 degrees Celsius, which science tells us is the only way to ensure a livable planet. We're marching for a chance to avoid a climate catastrophe that future generations will have to pay for.

The first People's Climate March in 2014—when 400,000 people took to the streets of New York City—was larger than anything the climate movement had ever seen. But today, we're bigger, stronger and more motivated than ever before.

Let's show President Donald Trump the movement that he's up against. Join us this April as we resist attacks on our climate, jobs and justice.

 on: Mar 24, 2017, 05:05 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

World's Largest Artificial Sun Now Shining in Germany

Lorraine Chow

The world's largest artificial sun is now shining at the German Aerospace Center (DLR) in the town of Jülich. On Wednesday, German scientists switched on project "Synlight" to test ways to make carbon-free fuel.

The honeycomb-like setup involves 149 individually adjustable xenon short-arc lamps that can produce about 10,000 times the intensity of the natural solar radiation on Earth's surface. To illustrate how powerful the lamps are, a single one can light a projector for a large cinema.

"We use the lamps because their light is the most similar to the sun," project manager Kai Wieghardt explained to Spiegel.

If all the lamps are targeted to a single spot, Synlight can produce temperatures of up to 3,500 degrees Celsius or 5,432 degrees Fahrenheit.

The goal of the experiment, as the Guardian reported, "is to come up with the optimal setup for concentrating natural sunlight to power a reaction to produce hydrogen fuel."

The 350-kilowatt array is housed in a specially constructed facility in Germany.

You've probably heard of concentrated solar before. Concentrated solar facilities, like the ones being built in Nevada, Dubai and Morocco, involve a large field of movable mirrors that can harness sunlight and power a steam turbine to generate electricity.

Likewise, Synlight researchers are "investigating the possibility that a similar setup could be used to power a reaction to extract hydrogen from water vapor, which could then be used as a fuel source for airplanes and cars," according to the Guardian.

Hydrogen fuel—which has zero pollutant emissions and no greenhouse gases—has been touted as the fuel of the future. Hydrogen is produced by electrolysis, the process of splitting water into hydrogen and oxygen, and requires large amounts of electricity. Hydrogen fuel projects are seen as cost-prohibitive on a commercial scale.

But as the Associated Press explained, researchers hope to bypass the need for electricity by harnessing the vast and renewable energy of the sun instead.

Or, as DLR put it, Synlight researchers will be focusing on so-called "solar fuels."

The Jülich experiment currently uses artificial light and requires a lot of electricity to operate. Running the array for only four hours sucks up as much electricity that a four-person household would use in a whole year. The project was also very expensive, costing $3.8 million to build.

But the researchers hope to eventually use actual sunlight to produce hydrogen. Bernhard Hoffschmidt, director of DLR's Institute for Solar Research, explained to AP that once researchers have mastered hydrogen-making techniques with Synlight, the process can be scaled up ten-fold on the way to reaching a level fit for industry.

Although Hoffschmidt noted that hydrogen can be incredibly volatile, by combining it with carbon monoxide produced from renewable sources, scientists could potentially make eco-friendly kerosene for the aviation industry.

 on: Mar 24, 2017, 05:00 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

Tired of conditions in their city, Romans adopt a 'do it yourself' approach

Rome's residents are filling potholes, yanking weeds, and bagging trash. In doing the work, they're experimenting with what is a novel concept for many Italians: a sense of civic duty.   

By Frances D'Emilio,
Associated Press

Rome — Armed with shovels and sacks of cold asphalt, Rome's residents fill potholes. Defying rats, they yank weeds and bag trash along the Tiber's banks and in urban parks. Tired of waiting years for the city to replace distressed trees, neighbors dig into their own pockets to pay for new ones for their block.

Romans are starting to take back their city, which for years was neglected and even plundered by City Hall officials and cronies so conniving that some of them are on trial as alleged mobsters.

In doing the work, Romans are experimenting with what for many Italians is a novel and alien concept: a sense of civic duty.

One recent windy Sunday morning, Manuela Di Santo slathered paint over graffiti defacing a wall on Via Ludovico di Monreale, a residential block in Rome's middle-class Monteverde neighborhood. Men, perched on ladders, used mechanical sanders to erase graffiti on another palazzo. Women and children swept up litter, filling black plastic trash bags provided by the city's sanitation service, which is only too glad to have someone do the job for free.

"Either I help the city, or we're all brought to our knees," said Di Santo.

Splotches of paint stained a blue bib identifying her as a volunteer for Retake Roma, a pioneer in an expanding array of citizen-created organizations in the past few years aimed at encouraging Romans to take the initiative in cleaning and repairing their city.

Local politicians had been in cahoots with gangsters, shady go-betweens and corrupt city hall bureaucrats, prosecutors allege in investigations that have led to dozens of arrests since 2014. Some defendants are accused of using Mafia-like methods of intimidation to get their hands on lucrative public-works contracts.

Rome's last mayor, who failed in the Herculean task of cleaning up Rome literally and morally, was virtually forced to quit halfway through his term in 2015. Until mayoral elections this June, the Italian capital is being administered by a government-appointed commissioner, under a formula similar to what happens when Italian city halls are under the grip of organized-crime syndicates.

Retake Roma, which does cleanup projects all over the city, has been enjoying a surge of citizen support, especially since the explosion of the scandal in 2014 led Romans to realize that much-maligned city services like transport and sanitation had been used for patronage jobs for years.

With prosecutors still combing through hundreds of municipal contracts to expose even more alleged kickbacks, payoffs and other corruption, and with processes to award contracts under tightened City Hall anti-corruption measures, services for the public have been deteriorating further. Trash piles up. Potholes sprout like weeds, tripping up pedestrians and sending motor-scooter drivers into nasty spins.

Gaetano Capone, who serves on a local district council, joined some 30 neighbors one spring Saturday to rake up broken beer bottles, soda cans and cigarette butts from outside a commuter train station. Volunteers at the local Monteverde Vecchio 4Venti Neighborhood Committee paid a gardener to cut down waist-high weeds.

Romans "understand that the city machinery doesn't work anymore," said Capone.

Calls and text messages pour into Cristiano Davoli's cellphone from citizens alerting him to ominously widening potholes on their block or routes to work. On weekends, Davoli and four helpers – an off-duty doorman, a graphic artist, a government worker and a retiree – who call themselves "Tappami" (Fill Me Up) load their car trunks with donated bags of cold asphalt and fan out.

"Sometimes it's the municipal traffic police who call me," said Davoli, a shopkeeper.

After the first anti-corruption arrests, Sicilian anti-Mafia magistrate Alfonso Sabella was summoned to Rome for the hastily created post of city legality commissioner to get a handle on just how badly corruption, favoritism and ineptitude pervaded City Hall.

"It was worse than I thought," said Sabella, who was frustrated that his office wasn't assigned more personnel.

Starting with the run-up to the 2000 Holy Year, when government funds flooded the Italian capital to prepare for millions of extra pilgrims, "big projects became popular" with politicians, recalled Sabella. "If you do maintenance on city buses, nobody notices; if you make a new metro station, yes."

Rome's mass transit system is roundly scorned. Not infrequently, passengers have to yank shut doors after drivers pull away from bus stops as malfunctioning doors fail to close, with riders perilously close to falling out of buses.

American architect Tom Rankin organizes river bank cleanups by Tevereterno, a volunteer group dedicated to making the Tiber, which winds through the heart of Rome, more pleasant for strollers and cyclists. He noted that Retake Roma was inspired by an American who cleaned up the Rome building where she lived, exposing Romans to a deeply rooted American tradition of working together for one's community.

Sweeping sidewalks on Via Ludovico di Monreale, Brunella Fraleoni, who is married to an American and previously lived in the United States, pondered a moment when asked why pitching in with neighbors to clean streets is only just catching on in Rome.

"The idea of fixing up something is very poorly rooted in Italy. Maybe it's because we're used to ruins," she said with a wry laugh.

Then she turned serious. She and her neighbors were out there, she said, to "inspire public opinion. Not just cleaning to clean."

 on: Mar 24, 2017, 04:58 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
From the Tiber to the Ganges, volunteers gather to clean waterways

In Rome, a group of volunteers has taken the Tiber River's restoration into their own hands, joining a cleanup trend that extends from India all the way to Boston.

By Madison Margolin
CS Monitor
Frustrated with the city of Rome's failure to maintain the Tiber River, a group of volunteers has taken its restoration into their own hands. Not only in Rome, but globally, cleanup crusades have swept up (literally) other important rivers of the world, including the Rhine, the Ganges, and the Charles in Boston.

The Tiber, on which the city of Rome was founded, according to legend, was once deified as the god Tiberinus. Yet today, the banks of the river are covered in graffiti, litter, homeless encampments, and overgrown vegetation, while its waters endure murk and filth. Although Roman city officials have been promising for decades to  clean up the river's banks, they have yet to do so, citing a lack of money and resources.

Now several groups of volunteers have decided to take Rome's inaction as an opportunity to pursue various environmental and artistic initiatives. One such initiative, known as reverse graffiti, uses stencils and power-washing to reduce the organic and inorganic grime on the river embankment. The 500-yard-long project, called "Triumphs and Laments," depicts a procession of characters, such as Cicero or St. Theresa, throughout Roman history.

"There's no specific narrative, except that everyone's triumphs and glories is someone else's laments and shamefulness," says William Kentridge, a South African artist who conceived of the project. "It was a real challenge getting contemporary art accepted in the heart of ancient Rome."

The Tiber cleanup follows in the tradition of decades-long river cleanup throughout the world. During central Europe's economic resurgence in the 1960s and '70s, the Rhine's increased pollution wiped out several species of fish and other animals native to the iconic European river. By the end of the '70s, efforts among various countries to clean up the Rhine coalesced as a story of international cooperation.

In 1987, members of the ICPR (International Commission for the Protection of the Rhine) adopted the Rhine Action Plan to guarantee drinking water, reduce the amount of mercury, lead, cadmium, and dioxins by 50-75 percent, build basins to collect fire extinction water, tighten safety norms in industrial plants, rehabilitate the Rhine's ecology and fish passages, and restore the plants and animals typical of the Rhine habitat. Today the Rhine supplies drinking water for over 20 million people. 

In India, the river Ganges runs from the Himalayas, passing through 29 cities, picking up garbage, waste, and even dead bodies from each of them. The Ganges is the fifth most polluted river in the world, yet provides water to more than a third of the Indian population.

India's prime minister Narendra Modi vowed to clean up the river, having announced Namami Ganga, an Integrated Ganges Development Project, in 2014. Modi allocated $334 million to clean the river within three years, though India's supreme court was critical, saying his plan couldn't clean the Ganges even within 200 years.

Still, the plight of the holy river Ganges, worshipped by Hindus, has brought together an international effort, including Germany, Israel, the United Kingdom, and Japan, to help India with its cleanup. The Rhine cleanup plan has been an inspiration for the Ganges.

In the United States as well, river cleanup brought together more than 3,000 volunteers in Boston this past Earth Day to pick up litter, remove invasive species, and assist in park maintenance around the Charles River. The Annual Earth Day Charles River Cleanup is part of a larger effort called the American Rivers' National River Cleanup, which has cleaned up more than 20 million pounds of trash from American rivers.

In Rome, many of the Tiber's would-be saviors see the efforts they have made so far as a starting point. The banks of the Tiber will eventually be the site of international cultural projects, says Kristin Jones, a New York-based artist who founded Tevereterno, the group sponsoring "Triumphs and Laments." The Tiber is “the spine of the city," Ms. Jones told The New York Times, "and it could become a magnificent park.”

 on: Mar 24, 2017, 04:55 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Rare red-legged frog could be making a comeback

Egg masses discovered in the Santa Monica Mountains suggest that the threatened species made famous in a Mark Twain story is now sustaining itself without human help.

Patrick Reilly
CS Monitor 

March 24, 2017 —In 2014, biologists moved 350 California red-legged frog eggs to a stream in the Santa Monica Mountains where they hadn’t been seen in decades.

One member of the team, wildlife ecologist Katy Delaney, said they were “cautiously optimistic” about their effort to bring the once-widespread frog back to the mountains. “I’d love it if in a few years we had red-legged frogs galore,” she told the Los Angeles Times in late 2013.

Now, that goal is becoming reality. On March 14, researchers found nine red-legged frog egg masses – probably laid by the frogs who were re-introduced as eggs four years ago. The find is an early sign that the restoration effort is working, and that the Santa Monica Mountains ecosystem is headed to greater health.

"I was literally crying when the stream team showed me the photos of egg masses," Dr. Delaney, who works with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, told the Associated Press. "The years of work we've put in is showing amazing progress. There's still plenty of work to be done, but this is a major moment for the project."

It’s not just amphibian lovers who have a stake in the project’s success. Each year, tourism to the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area generates $26 million in economic impact for Southern California – and that’s not even counting the “ecosystem services,” like water filtration and flood control, that the area’s plants, animals, and soil provide.

Protecting delicate environments like these involves maintaining a proper balance of predators, prey, and other species. As biologist Anthony Barnosky explained to The Christian Science Monitor’s Eva Botkin-Kowacki recently, "Maybe you want to build that ecosystem into something that is functioning more or less naturally so that you don't have to constantly manage it."

"If you're thinking about building an ecosystem, it's kind of like thinking about building a house," he said. "You need a certain number of carpenters, a certain number of plumbers, a certain number of electricians."

Continuing with the house metaphor, frogs serve as an ecosystem’s smoke detectors and carbon-monoxide alarms. Exposed to both air and water, they’re considered important gauges of area’s overall health.

And in the Santa Monica Mountains, the red-legged frog has mostly shown a downward trend. Once prominent enough to figure in an 1865 short story by Mark Twain, they were gradually winnowed down by invasive species, habitat destruction, and pesticide use. By 1999, Los Angeles County only had three known populations remaining.

By the early 2010s, the frog’s absence hadn’t yet made itself felt in the rest of the NPS-administered recreation area. Joseph Serna reported for the Los Angeles Times in 2013 that “The red-legged frog is the only species missing from the park’s ecosystem.” The researchers decided that transplanting eggs from the nearby Simi Hills population was a step worth taking.

Those frogs’ hatching, maturing, and, now, breeding is one of a few glimmers of hope in the global amphibian picture. In recent months, scientists have re-discovered a long-lost frog species in Zimbabwe and found several “miniature” frog species in India.

Both in those places and in California, further conservation work remains. The researchers deliberately introduced the frogs to a stream free of invasive catfish, where they stood the best chance of surviving. But Delany sees this new generation as progress worth preserving.

“I’m really happy for every single milestone, but this is sort of the one we’ve been looking for.”

 on: Mar 24, 2017, 04:53 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Is there a link between dinosaurs' extinction and this Martian volcano?

The answer is a firm no, but scientists think they've taken an important step toward better understanding the geology of Mars.

Charlie Wood
CS Monitor   

March 24, 2017 —Martian volcanologists now have something else to brag about, besides a cool-sounding job title: They think they’ve nailed down the timeline of Mars’s Arsia Mons volcano.

The southernmost of a volcanic trio making up the colossal Tharsis Montes feature, Arsia Mons’s giant caldera could swallow up all the water in Lake Huron and still have room for more. Fortunately for the Curiosity rover, the mountain is extinct today, but that wasn’t always the case. Eruptions probably peaked while the Stegosaurus roamed the earth, and likely bit the dust along with the Triceratops, according to NASA scientists.

“We estimate that the peak activity for the volcanic field at the summit of Arsia Mons probably occurred approximately 150 million years ago – the late Jurassic period on Earth – and then died out around the same time as Earth’s dinosaurs,” said Jacob Richardson, a postdoctoral researcher at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, in a press release.

Dr. Richardson, of course, refers to the non-avian dinosaurs such as Tyrannosaurus, as the avian branch of the dinosaur family is alive and well today.

But any apparent correlation is purely a temporal coincidence, as even the most astronomically-inclined dinosaur would have been hard-pressed to detect a sign of the eruptions from Earth. By Terran standards, Arsia Mons's activity was quiet and rare.

At its peak, the Arsia Mons’s caldera probably oozed up to two cubic miles of magma every million years, gradually building up the volcano layer by layer.

“Think of it like a slow, leaky faucet of magma,” said Richardson. “Arsia Mons was creating about one volcanic vent every 1 to 3 million years at the peak, compared to one every 10,000 years or so in similar regions on Earth.”

Today, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter can spy with its mighty eye 29 volcanic vents in the caldera, and the team started by using that data to map the boundaries of the lava flows, and determine who was on top of whom.

The usual geologic dating tricks don’t work without direct access to the rocks in question, so the researchers had to get creative to figure out how old each flow was, just from looking at the orbiter’s pictures.

By counting the number of craters over a certain size, the volcanologists were able to figure out the ages of the flows. Older ones have had longer to get bombarded with space rocks while younger ones feature relatively few pockmarks.

Richardson and his colleagues at the University of South Florida then developed a computer simulation to parse through all the data and reconstruct a timeline for the volcano’s life, which they suggest can provide insight into the geology and history of Mars.

“A major goal of the Mars volcanology community is to understand the anatomy and life cycle of the planet’s volcanoes. Mars’ volcanoes show evidence for activity over a larger time span than those on Earth, but their histories of magma production might be quite different,” Jacob Bleacher, a planetary geologist at Goddard and a co-author on the study, said in the press release. “This study gives us another clue about how activity at Arsia Mons tailed off and the huge volcano became quiet.”

When compared with Earth, many have a tendency to think of Mars as a dead world (although it keeps surprising us in that department), but the results of this study serve as a reminder that the active histories of both planets overlap significantly.

As Richardson points out, “It’s possible, though, that the last volcanic vent or two might have been active in the past 50 million years, which is very recent in geological terms.”

 on: Mar 24, 2017, 04:50 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
The Dogs That Don't Belong to Anyone

NY Times

There are an estimated 750 million street dogs, village dogs and free-breeding dogs in the world. And while they may not have owners, that doesn’t mean they keep their distance from people.

We asked Times readers on many continents – both English and Spanish speakers – to share some of their experiences with these dogs. Some were rescued. Some appeared like apparitions and were never seen again. All made a strong impression on the people who shared their stories, and on us, too.
    One of the Neighbors

    As in any Indian town, street dogs are prominent residents of my hometown, too.

    My younger brother once brought home two stray puppies, whom we named Jimmy and Tommy. Tommy died young from rabies, but Jimmy survived. He had a shiny black coat and an adorable disposition.

    Every day when I came home from college, he would run to me with his tail wagging and jump all over me in joy. It was unadulterated love. He became a part of our life and a part of our neighbors’ families as well. He would go to one neighbor for lunch, take a nap on another’s porch and have dinner at his own house (i.e., ours). He lived a quasi-street-dog life.

    Sadly, a few years later, he died from rabies as well, leaving us heartbroken. These stray puppies are growing up to be the future Tommies and Jimmies. – SOMA CHOWDHURY
    Company Far From Home

    El Guatón (“the fat one”). I remember the first time I saw him two years ago: It was raining, and Alvarez Street, where the subway station is, was a swamp. There he was with his happy face and wagging his tail. He looked like a ball of mud and fur.

    His image cut through my immigrant silence, and brought me a consistent sense of familiarity. He kept me company with his sad eyes or hoarse bark. There he was in the street; there I was in a strange country. We were both foreigners, linked by our solitude and longing for the past. For him, it was the home where he had once lived. For me, it was Venezuela. – DANIUSKA GONZÁLEZ GONZÁLEZ

    Translated from Spanish
    Absolutely No Rescues

    Before we arrived I was adamant. No matter how many sad and abandoned animals we saw, there was absolutely no way I was going to rescue any of them. I’m probably the biggest animal lover you’ll ever meet, so that realization was hard for me. But we had three young, healthy pets. and I couldn’t endanger them in any way.

    But then Soya wandered into the right yard at the right time.

    It was raining. And dark. And cold. We showed up at a friend’s house, and there she was. A tiny black puppy out in the rain.

    She had followed people into the yard and sat there shivering and looking miserable.

    It really didn’t take much persuasion. By the end of the night she was in our house. By the end of the weekend she had a name, Soya, which is Tajik for “shadow.” She’s our permanent street dog. – KRISTEN CROCKER
    The Happiest Dog in the World

    I met the happiest dog in the world. He lives on the beach and belongs to no one.

    My girlfriend and I named him Lobito (“little wolf”), but eventually we learned that the locals of La Guaira call him Guasa. He might have German shepherd blood, given his intelligence and looks. The visitors of the beach and the “tolderos” (stand vendors) give him leftovers, and every weekend we bring him kibble.

    Since we met him, he made friends with our Dalmatian, Blondie, and every time we reach his home – a plot of land by the sea that he shares with a toldero named Gabriel, and his hens – he runs to us and kisses us. Unlike other solitary and stray dogs, Guasa or Lobito looks healthy and happy. Once we thought about taking him with us to the city, but taking the sea out of him may well be like letting the air out of him. – DANIEL GARRIDO

    Translated from Spanish.
    A Lover of the Arts

    This is a very cultured dog. He likes the arts. He lives in the National Gallery of Art in Caracas, Venezuela, and the museum guards take care of him. You can see him by the door, greeting you. He’s very calm, social, and everyone loves him. As curious as it seems, almost all of the museums in Caracas have their own stray dogs. – SANDRA SANTINI

    Translated from Spanish
    The World’s Most Spoiled Street Dog

    I used to live in India and had a neighborhood reputation for looking out for street dogs. One day a friend found a two-week-old pup who had been abandoned by its mother and was badly infested with maggots. I took the pup, thinking she might not make it through the night and intending to leave her with a vet in the morning. The vet ended up giving her a good prognosis, so I decided I would foster her until I found her a family. Weeks turned into months, and I hadn’t looked very hard for a new home. It’s now almost three years later. My street pup received official Indian state travel papers and made the trek from Mumbai to Chicago with me. She’s the world’s most spoiled street dog. I even have a tattoo portrait of her. – LAUREN DEAN
    Where the Puppies Go

    In late November, a neighborhood dog gave birth to a litter of seven puppies under the tree in my front yard. Her mother gave birth to a litter in the yard next door, and her sister another around the corner.

    Within days the puppies started disappearing, through death, neglect or displacement. The dog in my yard took up the nursing duties for all the remaining puppies of the three litters.

    Once they started exploring and became a nuisance, my landlady bagged them and took them to the back side of Buddhist temple around the corner, not to the area where the monks would notice them and tend to them. There’s a strong rivalry between the monk’s dogs and these “others.”

    A few were adopted, but the majority have died, being run over, starved, injured in fights. The dogs that remain are left to scrounge. – RICH AMBUSKE
    South Africa
    Dog, Beach and Sun

    Dog lived in Llandudno, Cape Town, the sort of place where people want for nothing. Especially not a big, smelly dog like Dog.
    Dog was something of a Labrador, and judging by his glacial gait, approaching 10 times 7.

    Whenever you found yourself on Llandudno Beach, you’d see him limping from picnic to picnic, looking for a morsel to eat. He never gave any affection in return and seemed totally oblivious to the touch of human hands. Dog was deaf to the shrillness of children’s play and above butt sniffing.

    He only seemed to see the sunsets. For hours, Dog would stare intently at the sun’s track into the waves. He would watch the sky change from azure to orange to pink to purple to black. Then he’d drag himself up the hill to hide among the massive houses to be back the next day. – LEON JACOBS
    A Highly Recommended Guide

    My boyfriend and I visited the Teotihuacán Pyramids, not far from Mexico City. On the way to the top of the largest – Pyramid of the Sun – we saw a small black dog dozing on the steps. I took a quick break to give his head a little scratch before continuing on. When we reached the top and were admiring the amazing view, we realized the black dog had become our shadow. He followed us to the top, sat with us while we rested, and trotted down the pyramid behind us. Much to our amazement, he then led the way to the next pyramid – Pyramid of the Moon. When we stopped, he stopped. When we turned, he turned. We reached the top of the second pyramid and knew we needed a photo of our furry tour guide. – CARLA SCHAFFER
    There’s Always a Stray

    I’ve spent about a year and half total at various points of my life in India. Each time there’s been a stray dog. During a summer in Delhi there was one, affectionately named Bhura Bhai, who lounged outside the house of my host family and cried when he saw you. He was fed by members of the colony. There was a pile of sand outside of the house, and he’d make himself comfortable on top of it (a little king). I remember a businessman stopping by once and asking him kindly in Hindi, “Kya takleef hai?” (what’s the problem) as he whined. It was thrilling for me to hear people chat with him, as I loved dogs and had just started learning Hindi. Years later, living in Jaipur, I met another lovely dog who would jump up as I walked home and accompany me the rest of the way. – TALI DATSKOVSKY
    Coaxing Him Home

    On a Sunday, I was playing squash, and a dog came next to me. He was running away from the security officers who didn’t want him near the sports club.

    After noticing the resemblance to a dog I had when I was 17 years old, I said to him: “Manti (the name of my late dog), if you wait for me, I will finish this game and I’ll take you with me.” The dog – I later called him Benji – sat beside my bag and waited until the end of the game.

    Because of his condition as a stray dog, it was difficult to coax him into the car to take him home, and train him to not run away as soon as I opened a gate. Nowadays he walks freely on the streets, with a full stomach and soft hair. He’s confident and joyful. He makes me happy. – ELENA MARÍA BARRANDEGUY

    Translated from Spanish
    A City That Cares for Dogs

    We have many street dogs. About 20 live in our neighborhood park, and another five by the taxi stand, where drivers built shelters for them.

    Municipalities routinely vaccinate, fix and tag them, and place recycling stands around the city where dog food is dispensed in exchange for empty bottles. Neighbors generally take care of them – there is even a Facebook group where we can check with one another to find out the latest on our neighborhood dogs.

    One best friend is Sofi. She follows us as we go for several hours of walking around the city, patiently waiting for us if we stop for lunch or coffee. If we run into her on our way to work, she walks us to the metro station.

    We don’t feed her – it’s all about affection and company. – CHIAKI YAMAMOTO
    A Dog’s Lesson

    When visiting the beautiful country of Uganda, I befriended a stray dog in Kisoro. As I reached a lake, he ran toward me. Barking, he beckoned me to follow him, running forth and stopping often to look behind and check on me.


    So I followed.

    He stopped at a dock around the corner. As I stayed, he remained at my side and chewed on my shoelaces.

    I learned during my trip that attitudes toward dogs are different in Uganda. Villagers scorn dogs, considering them terrible pests for killing chickens. Since poultry is an indispensable part of a typical diet, this view is very justified. As a Westerner growing up surrounded by ideals of the perfect family pet, learning about this aspect of Ugandan culture is a perspective changer. Having the resources to raise dogs as family is a luxury that dog owners should not take for granted. – KELLY HSU
    Simple Name, Simple Life

    I was told not to get attached to any of the dogs at the research station I’d be living at for the next month and a half.

    “If they go missing, it may be because a family was hungry,” my mentor and translator told me, quite nonchalantly.

    Of course, being the dog lover I was, I did not heed his advice, and the pooch I endearingly named Dog began sleeping on my porch at night after roaming the forests and mountains of northern Thailand during the day. I haven’t heard what became of this tough canine, but I like to picture him still tromping through the woods and terrorizing the cooks, a happy and free dog. – BECCA ACETO
    Back to the Junk Yard at Night

    It started with Annie. I fell in love with her after arriving in a small town in Macedonia to begin my two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

    There were a lot of street dogs. Some were wary of me, most of them were dirty, skinny, and showed scars from fights or limping from accidents. But she came right up to me, put her paws on my shoulders and started to talk to me.

    I named her Annie and started to feed her. She followed me on my walks and at night she went back to the junk yard.

    Then another hound showed up, Joe. Then another and then a little black dog. Annie had thirteen puppies and she almost died. Only one puppy survived past two months. Every day I would feed five of them and whatever cats showed up. They all ate together. And all they wanted was love. – MARGERY RUBIN

 on: Mar 24, 2017, 04:43 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Lizards, Too, May Sleep in Stages

NY Times
Horses snooze in their stalls. Fish take their 40 winks floating in place. Dogs can doze anywhere, anytime. And even the lowly worm nods off now and then.

All animals, most scientists agree, engage in some form of sleep.

But the stages of sleep that characterize human slumber had until now been documented only in mammals and birds.

A team of researchers in Germany announced in a report published on Thursday, however, that they had found evidence of similar sleep stages in a lizard: specifically, the bearded dragon, or Pogona vitticeps, a reptile native to Australia and popular with pet owners.

Recordings from electrodes implanted in the lizards’ brains showed patterns of electrical activity that resembled what is known as slow-wave sleep and another pattern resembling rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep, a stage of deep slumber associated with brain activity similar to that of waking.
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Some researchers had argued that these stages were of relatively recent origin in evolutionary terms because they had not been found in more primitive animals like amphibians, fish, reptiles other than birds, and other creatures with backbones.

But the new finding, said Gilles Laurent, director of the department of neural systems at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and the principal author of the study, “increases the probability that sleep evolved in all these animals from a common ancestor.”

He added that it also raised the possibility that staged sleep evolved even earlier and that some version of it might exist in animals like amphibians or fish. The report appeared in Thursday’s issue of the journal Science.

Researchers studied sleep patterns in lizards, specifically bearded dragons from Australia. They found both slow-wave and rapid-eye-movement sleep, the phase in which dreams occur. By MAX PLANCK INSTITUTE FOR BRAIN RESEARCH on Publish Date April 28, 2016. .

Other researchers said the study could help scientists understand more about the purpose and mechanisms of sleep. But the finding, they added, is bound to generate more controversy about whether the resting state of primitive animals is really the same as sleep, and whether the brain activity seen in a lizard can be compared to that in mammals.

“Like any good science, it raises more questions than it answers,” said Matthew Wilson, a professor of neuroscience at M.I.T. who has studied sleep and learning.

Daniel Margoliash, a professor of organismal biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago, said the study provided “extremely strong evidence that the patterns of structure of sleep that we’ve seen in a broad range of species is reflective of something that evolved very early in vertebrate evolution and is shared across many — perhaps all — vertebrates.”

He added: “It forces us to think about the earliest evolution of these phenomenon. When did these aspects of sleep start, and what were they for?”

Dr. Margoliash said he found especially intriguing the idea that in the lizard, sleep might play a role in the consolidation of learning and memory, as studies have suggested it does in mammals.

The research team studying the bearded dragon described its sleep patterns as a simpler, “stripped down” version of mammalian sleep.

The entire sleep cycle was completed in about 80 seconds, and the proportion of REM stayed the same throughout. In contrast, human sleep cycles take an hour or more to complete, and the percentage of REM increases over the course of a night.

The scientists also found bursts of brain activity during the lizard’s slow-wave sleep that they proposed were the equivalent of what are known as sharp-wave ripples in mammalian sleep patterns.

The ripples — which, in mammalian sleep, have been observed in a brain area called the hippocampus — have been associated in rats with the replaying of recent tasks while the animals were awake. And scientists have theorized that they represent the transfer of information from the hippocampus to other areas of the brain, like the cortex.

In the lizards, the sharp-wave ripples came from a different brain area called the dorsal ventricular ridge, not the reptilian equivalent of the hippocampus.

Dr. Wilson said it was possible in an evolutionary sense that there might be “a deep, common mode of off-line processing that got elaborated and refined in these other vertebrate systems like mammals,” expanding into the hippocampus.

But Gyorgy Buzsaki, a professor of neural sciences at New York University, said the study presented convincing evidence of an earlier evolutionary timeline for staged sleep: “It’s a wonderful study,” he said. But he questioned whether the bursts of activity seen by the researchers were sharp-wave ripples or simply part of the lizards’ slow-wave sleep.

“This rhythmic pattern reminds me very much of the up-and-down shifts that are the hallmarks of slow-wave sleep,” he said.

Dr. Laurent said that his team had stumbled on the sleep stages by accident; their research was intended to look at cortical function in the lizards more generally.

“It was totally unanticipated,” he said.

Asked if the presence of staged sleep in lizards meant that reptiles dreamed, Dr. Laurent noted that dreaming was a subjective experience and that if consciousness were assumed to be required for it, the answer was probably no.

But if dreams are defined as “bits of ‘neuronal playback’ in certain brain areas during sleep,” he said, “I’ll bet that lizards dream.”

 on: Mar 24, 2017, 04:40 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
The Purpose of Sleep? To Forget, Scientists Say

Carl Zimmer
NY Times
3/24/ 2017

Over the years, scientists have come up with a lot of ideas about why we sleep.

Some have argued that it’s a way to save energy. Others have suggested that slumber provides an opportunity to clear away the brain’s cellular waste. Still others have proposed that sleep simply forces animals to lie still, letting them hide from predators.

A pair of papers published on Thursday in the journal Science offer evidence for another notion: We sleep to forget some of the things we learn each day.

In order to learn, we have to grow connections, or synapses, between the neurons in our brains. These connections enable neurons to send signals to one another quickly and efficiently. We store new memories in these networks.

In 2003, Giulio Tononi and Chiara Cirelli, biologists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, proposed that synapses grew so exuberantly during the day that our brain circuits got “noisy.” When we sleep, the scientists argued, our brains pare back the connections to lift the signal over the noise.

In the years since, Dr. Tononi and Dr. Cirelli, along with other researchers, have found a great deal of indirect evidence to support the so-called synaptic homeostasis hypothesis.

It turns out, for example, that neurons can prune their synapses — at least in a dish. In laboratory experiments on clumps of neurons, scientists can give them a drug that spurs them to grow extra synapses. Afterward, the neurons pare back some of the growth.

Other evidence comes from the electric waves released by the brain. During deep sleep, the waves slow down. Dr. Tononi and Dr. Cirelli have argued that shrinking synapses produce this change.

Four years ago, Dr. Tononi and Dr. Cirelli got a chance to test their theory by looking at the synapses themselves. They acquired a kind of deli slicer for brain tissue, which they used to shave ultrathin sheets from a mouse’s brain.

How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep

How do you become a more successful sleeper? Grab a pillow, curl up and keep reading to find out.

Luisa de Vivo, an assistant scientist working in their lab, led a painstaking survey of tissue taken from mice, some awake and others asleep. She and her colleagues determined the size and shape of 6,920 synapses in total.

The synapses in the brains of sleeping mice, they found, were 18 percent smaller than in awake ones. “That there’s such a big change over all is surprising,” Dr. Tononi said.

The second study was led by Graham H. Diering, a postdoctoral researcher at Johns Hopkins University. Dr. Diering and his colleagues set out to explore the synaptic homeostasis hypothesis by studying the proteins in mouse brains. “I’m really coming at it from this nuts-and-bolts place,” Dr. Diering said.

In one experiment, Dr. Diering and his colleagues created a tiny window through which they could peer into mouse brains. Then he and his colleagues added a chemical that lit up a surface protein on brain synapses.

Looking through the window, they found that the number of surface proteins dropped during sleep. That decline is what you would expect if the synapses were shrinking.

Dr. Diering and his colleagues then searched for the molecular trigger for this change. They found that hundreds of proteins increase or decrease inside of synapses during the night. But one protein in particular, called Homer1A, stood out.

In earlier experiments on neurons in a dish, Homer1A proved to be important for paring back synapses. Dr. Diering wondered if it was important in sleep, too.

To find out, he and his colleagues studied mice genetically engineered so that they couldn’t make Homer1A proteins. These mice slept like ordinary mice, but their synapses didn’t change their proteins like the ones in ordinary mice.

Dr. Diering’s research suggests that sleepiness triggers neurons to make Homer1A and ship it into their synapses. When sleep arrives, Homer1A turns on the pruning machinery.

To see how this pruning machinery affects learning, the scientists gave regular mice a memory test. They put the animals in a room where they got a mild electric shock if they walked over one section of the floor.

That night, the scientists injected a chemical into the brains of some of the mice. The chemical had been shown to block neurons in dishes from pruning their synapses.

The next day, the scientists put all the mice back in the chamber they had been in before. Both groups of mice spent much of the time frozen, fearfully recalling the shock.

But when the researchers put the mice in a different chamber, they saw a big difference. The ordinary mice sniffed around curiously. The mice that had been prevented from pruning their brain synapses during sleep, on the other hand, froze once again.

Dr. Diering thinks that the injected mice couldn’t narrow their memories down to the particular chamber where they had gotten the shock. Without nighttime pruning, their memories ended up fuzzy.

In their own experiment, Dr. Tononi and his colleagues found that the pruning didn’t strike every neuron. A fifth of the synapses were unchanged. It’s possible that these synapses encode well-established memories that shouldn’t be tampered with.

“You can forget in a smart way,” Dr. Tononi said.

Other researchers cautioned that the new findings weren’t definitive proof of the synaptic homeostasis hypothesis.

Marcos G. Frank, a sleep researcher at Washington State University in Spokane, said that it could be hard to tell whether changes to the brain at night were caused by sleep or by the biological clock. “It’s a general problem in the field,” he said.

Markus H. Schmidt, of the Ohio Sleep Medicine Institute, said that while the brain might prune synapses during sleep, he questioned whether this was the main explanation for why sleep exists.

“The work is great,” he said of the new studies, “but the question is, is this a function of sleep or is it the function?”

Many organs, not just the brain, seem to function differently during sleep, Dr. Schmidt pointed out. The gut appears to make many new cells, for example.

Dr. Tononi said that the new findings should prompt a look at what current sleeping drugs do in the brain. While they may be good at making people sleepy, it’s also possible that they may interfere with the pruning required for forming memories.

“You may actually work against yourself,” Dr. Tononi said.

In the future, sleep medicines might precisely target the molecules involved in sleep, ensuring that synapses get properly pruned.

“Once you know a little bit of what happens at the ground-truth level, you can get a better idea of what to do for therapy,” Dr. Tononi said.

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