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Topics - osmanthus

The headline is a  bit stupid. Birds have been around for millions of years longer than humans, and fires have been around for millions of years longer than birds, so it's a no-brainer that birds would have discovered fire before humans. However, despite the stupid headline the text below it is fascinating.

Some birds of prey have learned to control fire, a skill previously thought to be unique to humans. The birds appear to deliberately spread wildfires in order to flush out prey. The finding suggests that birds may have beaten us to the use of fire.

There are many anecdotes about Australian birds of prey using fire, according to ornithologist Bob Gosford at the Central Land Council in Alice Springs, Northern Territory. Most come from Aboriginal rangers who manage natural fires in the north Australian tropical savannah, which straddles Queensland, the Northern Territory and Western Australia. The three species mentioned are black kites (Milvus migrans), whistling kites (Haliastur sphenurus) and brown falcons (Falco berigora).

The claim is that the birds pick up burning twigs from existing fires and drop them elsewhere to start new blazes. This would flush out prey hidden in the brush.
Bit of a major fuckup here:

Kernel-memory-leaking Intel processor design flaw forces Linux, Windows redesign

Short version: Windows and Linux need major patching to work around this, and that will have significant performance impacts (roughly 20% loss of processing speed).

AMD chips are apparently not affected, so should be fine. It's only Intel chips that are buggered.
Science / Zealandia: Earth’s Hidden Continent
Nice little paper just out on GSA. Very easy reading, and very interesting.

Zealandia: Earth's Hidden Continent

Quote from: Abstract
A 4.9 Mkm2 region of the southwest Pacific Ocean is made up of continental crust. The region has elevated bathymetry relative to surrounding oceanic crust, diverse and silica-rich rocks, and relatively thick and low-velocity crustal structure. Its isolation from Australia and large area support its definition as a continent--Zealandia. Zealandia was formerly part of Gondwana. Today it is 94% submerged, mainly as a result of widespread Late Cretaceous crustal thinning preceding supercontinent breakup and consequent isostatic balance. The identification of Zealandia as a geological continent, rather than a collection of continental islands, fragments, and slices, more correctly represents the geology of this part of Earth. Zealandia provides a fresh context in which to investigate processes of continental rifting, thinning, and breakup.
The paper goes into why they've decided it's a genuine continent, and they appear to have a very good case. Check it out. :)
Science / Per Ahlberg and co: another weird fishy thing
Weird fish fossil changes the story of how we moved onto land

 osmanthus waits for Teeth to say headline is bullshit.

But when the researchers tried to fit H. chowi into the existing evolutionary tree, it didn't fit easily.

That's because in some respects, H. chowi looks like an ancient predatory fish called rhizodonts. These are thought to have branched off from lobe-finned fish long before the group gave rise to four-legged land animals.

But Ahlberg says H. chowi has aspects that look surprisingly like those seen in early four-legged animals and their nearest fishy relatives - an extinct group called the elpistostegids. These include the shoulder girdle and the support region for its gill covers.

This implies one of two things, the researchers say. The first possibility is that H. chowi is some sort of rhizodont that independently evolved the shoulders and gill cover supports of a four-legged animal.

Alternatively, the rhizodonts may be more closely related to the four-legged animals and the elpistostegids than we thought. But this would also imply a certain amount of independent evolution of similar features, because the rhizodonts would then sit between two groups that have many features in common - features the two groups would have had to evolve independently.

<el snippo>

H. chowi is also interesting for its unusual lifestyle, says Ahlberg. Its anatomy suggests it was an ambush predator that lurked just above the bottom, snapping at any smaller fish that swam too close - like some anglerfish do today.

"Hongyu is one of the earliest examples of this lifestyle," he says.

Reverse Swahilli Pig Latin Bafflegab, courtesy of your friendly neighbourhood minions of Satan: A Devonian tetrapod-like fish reveals substantial parallelism in stem tetrapod evolution

Quote from: Abstract
The fossils assigned to the tetrapod stem group document the evolution of terrestrial vertebrates from lobe-finned fishes. During the past 18 years the phylogenetic structure of this stem group has remained remarkably stable, even when accommodating new discoveries such as the earliest known stem tetrapod Tungsenia and the elpistostegid (fish-tetrapod intermediate) Tiktaalik.

Here we present a large lobe-finned fish from the Late Devonian period of China that disrupts this stability. It combines characteristics of rhizodont fishes (supposedly a basal branch in the stem group, distant from tetrapods) with derived elpistostegid-like and tetrapod-like characters. This mélange of characters may reflect either detailed convergence between rhizodonts and elpistostegids plus tetrapods, under a phylogenetic scenario deduced from Bayesian inference analysis, or a previously unrecognized close relationship between these groups, as supported by maximum parsimony analysis.

In either case, the overall result reveals a substantial increase in homoplasy in the tetrapod stem group. It also suggests that ecological diversity and biogeographical provinciality in the tetrapod stem group have been underestimated.
Pop-sci: Our controversial footprint discovery suggests human-like creatures may have roamed Crete nearly 6m years ago

For those unable to see beyond Africa as the "human cradle", these tracks present a considerable challenge, and it has not been easy to get the discovery published. Some have even questioned whether the observed features are footprints at all. However, collectively, the researchers behind this study have published over 400 papers on tracks, so we are pretty confidence we know what they are.

Open access paper: Possible hominin footprints from the late Miocene (c. 5.7 Ma) of Crete?


We describe late Miocene tetrapod footprints (tracks) from the Trachilos locality in western Crete (Greece), which show hominin-like characteristics. They occur in an emergent horizon within an otherwise marginal marine succession of Messinian age (latest Miocene), dated to approximately 5.7 Ma (million years), just prior to the Messinian Salinity Crisis. The tracks indicate that the trackmaker lacked claws, and was bipedal, plantigrade, pentadactyl and strongly entaxonic. The impression of the large and non-divergent first digit (hallux) has a narrow neck and bulbous asymmetrical distal pad. The lateral digit impressions become progressively smaller so that the digital region as a whole is strongly asymmetrical. A large, rounded ball impression is associated with the hallux.

Morphometric analysis shows the footprints to have outlines that are distinct from modern non-hominin primates and resemble those of hominins. The interpretation of these footprints is potentially controversial. The print morphology suggests that the trackmaker was a basal member of the clade Hominini, but as Crete is some distance outside the known geographical range of pre-Pleistocene hominins we must also entertain the possibility that they represent a hitherto unknown late Miocene primate that convergently evolved human-like foot anatomy.
Science / Winemaking in Sicily dates back 6,000 years
Journo blurb: Traces of 6,000-year-old wine discovered in Sicilian cave

Researchers have discovered traces of what could be the world's oldest wine at the bottom of terracotta jars in a cave in Sicily, showing that the fermented drink was being made and consumed in Italy more than 6,000 years ago.

Previously scientists had believed winemaking developed in Italy around 1200 BC, but the find by a team from the University of South Florida pushes that date back by at least three millennia.

"Unlike earlier discoveries that were limited to vines and so showed only that grapes were being grown, our work has resulted in the identification of a wine residue," said Davide Tanasi, the archeologist who led the research.

Really sciency stuff: 1H-1H NMR 2D-TOCSY, ATR FT-IR and SEM-EDX for the identification of organic residues on Sicilian prehistoric pottery

Insights into the diets of early societies can be gained, indirectly, from the cultural evidence of artefacts related to food procurement, preparation and consumption and human skeletal remains. However, more direct evidence for dietary constituents derives from the identification of intact plant and animal remains collected during the excavations but also from the exam of the amorphous remains of foodstuff associated with artefacts.

Organic residues adhering to the surface or absorbed into the porous fabric of an unglazed cooking vessel should provide important information both about the usage of the vessel and dietary practices. This contribute deals with the results of a combined analytical research via 1H-1H NMR 2D-TOCSY, ATR FT-IR and SEM-EDX on organic residues on pottery from two Sicilian prehistoric sites of Monte Kronio and Sant'Ippolito. The goal was that to shed new light on the use of certain ceramic shapes and infer some hypothesis about ancient dietary habits.
Science / Why do ponytails swing when we run?
This is a bit of fun: Why do ponytails swing when we run?

There's a lot of maths -- and a bit of astronomy -- behind the sideways swing of a ponytail.

If you go for a run, your head bobs up and down a little bit as you move forward. But if you've got a ponytail, something weird happens. As you run forward, and your head bobs up and down, the ponytail attached to it swings from side-to-side.

Where does this sideways movement come from? The mystery of the swinging ponytail was solved in 2010 by one of the great mathematicians of the last century, Joseph B Keller.
More on the link. :parrot:
Pop-sci: Death metal: how nickel played a role in the world's worst mass extinction

Scientists previously thought that nickel released into the atmosphere could explain the glut of marine nickel 250 million years ago. But how could nickel get into the air? This is where our work comes in.

Volcanoes and champagne

Let's take a step back: how do nickel ore deposits form from molten rock (or magma)? Magma rich in nickel needs to come all the way to shallow depths beneath volcanoes, where it becomes enriched with sulfur, and forms liquid sulfide droplets.

The volcanic plumbing system then acts as a smelter. The sulfide liquid droplets scrub the nickel out of the magma. Ore deposits form when the sulphide droplets finally sink and accumulate at the bottom of the magma under the volcanoes. The nickel never reaches the surface - making it hard to explain how so much nickel got into the atmosphere.

A previous paper by our group showed that when liquid sulfide droplets and gas bubbles form together in the same magma they have a strong tendency to stick together. So, if there is a gas present, sulfide droplets can rise to the top of the magma chambers, taking the metals with them.
Actual article has links to other stuff, including the paper itself (not open access):

Role of degassing of the Noril'sk nickel deposits in the Permian-Triassic mass extinction event

Quote from: Abstract
The largest mass extinction event in Earth's history marks the boundary between the Permian and Triassic Periods at circa 252 Ma and has been linked with the eruption of the basaltic Siberian Traps large igneous province (SLIP).

One of the kill mechanisms that has been suggested is a biogenic methane burst triggered by the release of vast amounts of nickel into the atmosphere. A proposed Ni source lies within the huge Noril'sk nickel ore deposits, which formed in magmatic conduits widely believed to have fed the eruption of the SLIP basalts.

However, nickel is a nonvolatile element, assumed to be largely sequestered at depth in dense sulfide liquids that formed the orebodies, preventing its release into the atmosphere and oceans. Flotation of sulfide liquid droplets by surface attachment to gas bubbles has been suggested as a mechanism to overcome this problem and allow introduction of Ni into the atmosphere during eruption of the SLIP lavas.

Here we use 2D and 3D X-ray imagery on Noril'sk nickel sulfide, combined with simple thermodynamic models, to show that the Noril'sk ores were degassing while they were forming. Consequent "bubble riding" by sulfide droplets, followed by degassing of the shallow, sulfide-saturated, and exceptionally volatile and Cl-rich SLIP lavas, permitted a massive release of nickel-rich volcanic gas and subsequent global dispersal of nickel released from this gas as aerosol particles.
I can see this going well.

The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has achieved victory in a historic referendum on a package of constitutional amendments that will grant him sweeping new powers.

Sadi Güven, the head of Turkey's high electoral board (YSK), confirmed the passage of the referendum on Sunday night, based on unofficial results.

The yes campaign won 1.25m more votes than the no campaign, with only about 600,000 votes still to be counted, Güven told reporters in Ankara, meaning the expanded presidential powers had been approved.
This is all kinds of stupid.

Anger in Tasmania after one of pair of rare giant pine cone bunya trees gets the chop

Horticulturalists and historians are outraged a 170-year-old tree rarely seen in Tasmania has been chopped down because of its dangerously large and heavy pine cones.

The bunya pine tree - or araucaria bidwillii - is native to Australia, and was first identified by Europeans in Queensland.

It is a rare sight in Tasmania where it is not endemic, and is difficult to grow due to the cool climate.

It is understood a pair were planted in the Hobart suburb of New Town in the 1840s by Captain Charles Swanston, the first president of the Hobart Town Horticultural Association.
And the reason it was chopped down is...

In a statement, a TCEO spokesman said the bunya tree was removed on Thursday.

"The tree recently dropped several large oval-shaped pine cones, measuring 350mm in diameter, and weighing approximately 6kg each, onto several parked cars causing considerable damage," he said.

"The dropping of pine cones presented an ongoing safety risk to staff and visitors to the site, who could have been struck by one of the falling pine cones."
Well yes, it's a fucking bunya pine. Everyone who knows the first thing about bunyas knows they make cones the size of footballs, but made out of solid pine stuff. You do not park cars under bunya pines, unless you are a complete fucking idiot.

If you are a complete fucking idiot, you blame the tree.
This here new-fangled invention is kinda nifty, if it fucking works.

NET Power's CO2 cycle: the breakthrough that CCS needs

NET Power's proposed oxyfuel power plant technology, with supercritical CO2 as the working fluid in a radically new cycle, makes carbon capture an inherent feature of the process, not an add-on with very large parasitic loads, as with "conventional" CCS approaches. The result: 100% carbon capture with extraordinarily high target efficiencies, 58.9% LHV for gas, 51.44% LHV for coal.

Vox version here: (has less complicated diagrams)

Could be a useful thing to have.
US energy systems at the mercy of cyberattack, warns report

The digital systems that run the electricity grid, gas pipelines and other critical infrastructure in the US have 25 years' worth of fundamental weaknesses to hacking that need fixing.

That's a main finding in a report from MIT's Internet Policy Research Initiative by a former National Security Agency inspector general, Joel Brenner, with input from industry experts.

"Controls on an oil pipeline can use the same hardware as your teenager's computer," says Brenner. Suppliers make the most profit by selling general hardware components that have various uses, but they have security flaws. "We know how to fix the vulnerabilities, but there's no market incentive for companies to do so," he says.
This is cool: Night parrot sighting in Western Australia shocks birdwatching world

The night parrot was thought to be extinct until a few years ago, when a few were found living in western Queensland. Now a bunch of birdwatchers just found some living 2,000 kilometres away in northern West Australia. Which, pretty obviously, means the little buggers have a large habitat range at the moment, even though nobody has a clue what the actual population numbers are.

"There were quite a few of them, there was at least five or six of these things calling around us, so we didn't know what they were, but we saw the habitat was beautiful and thought that they could be night parrots."

    "The next day we walked out into that area and one just burst out from under our feet from the spinifex."

In that moment, one of the members of the group, Bruce Greatwich, managed to take a photo of the south end of the northbound bird. It was definitely a night parrot.

The men's discovery is the first confirmed sighting of a night parrot in Western Australia for nearly a century. There have been other rumours of sightings throughout the 2000s, but no evidence accompanied them.


While it is unlikely that the bird consistently appears across the whole arid interior, this find gives scientists and birdwatchers hope that pockets of population live in areas relatively undisturbed by development, other human-caused habitat degradation or feral animals.

"Having a photograph now, being absolutely certain [about the birds' presence], hopefully our regulators will be able to use that," says Dr Burbidge.

"So if anyone's sceptical about they can say: 'We have definite evidence that they're in Western Australia and we really do need to survey adequately for them where there are development proposals.'"

:parrot:  :parrot:  :parrot:  :parrot:  < Not night parrots.
This is shaping up to be a real walloper. First one of the season for Queensland, which is unusually late this year.

Cyclone Debbie forces coastal evacuations in north Queensland

Short version is it's ramping up as it gets into warmer water nearer the coast. Currently Cat 2. Expected to reach Cat 3 overnight, and upper end of Cat 4 by the time it hits the coast on Tuesday. It's big too. Townsville to Mackay is 390 km (about 240 miles).
Ok, so this "oh hai we're gonna stay under 2 degrees" thang that everyone oh-so-sincerely signed up to. How we gonna do it?

There's a new open access paper out over at Science: A roadmap for rapid decarbonization. This one very sensibly allows a small contingency for risks of biosphere carbon feedbacks.

Vox has an article about it: Scientists made a detailed "roadmap" for meeting the Paris climate goals. It's eye-opening.

And there was a report yesterday at Carbon Brief: Seven things that need to happen to keep global temperature rise below 2C.

That one doesn't allow the same contingency, but both studies appear to be based on a 66% chance of staying below 2 degrees.

So here's my first question: if everyone has agreed that 2 degrees is the hard not-to-exceed figure, why are these studies choosing a 33% probability of failure?

That's like playing Russian roulette with a six shot chamber and two bullets. It's not awesome odds.

I'm not good at statistical analysis (I found that part of maths boring and have forgotten most of it) so feel free to help me out here, but offhand it seems that if we're determined to stay under 2 degrees then it'd be more appropriate to shoot for a 90% chance of getting there.

Or am I missing something? Is 66% reasonable?

Of course we're also supposed to be shooting for the "aspirational goal" of 1.5 degrees, although fuck knows at what probability. But, again offhand, I'd think at worst they'd have to assume a 50% chance of 1.75 degrees for the aspirational goal to make any sense at all.
Putting  it here because it doesn't really warrant a place in politics or current events, and it's defo alternative reality shit.

Breitbart's James Delingpole says reef bleaching is 'fake news', hits peak denial

It takes a very special person to label the photographed, documented, filmed and studied phenomenon of mass coral bleaching on the Great Barrier Reef "fake news".

You need lashings of chutzpah, blinkers the size of Donald Trump's hairspray bill and more hubris than you can shake a branch of dead coral at.

It also helps if you can hide inside the bubble of the hyper-partisan Breitbart media outlet, whose former boss is the US president's chief strategist.

So our special person is Britain's James Delingpole who, when he's not denying the impacts of coral bleaching, is denying the science of human-caused climate change, which he says is "the biggest scam in the history of the world".

Delingpole was offended this week by an editorial in the Washington Post that read: "Humans are killing the Great Barrier Reef, one of the world's greatest natural wonders, and there's nothing Australians on their own can do about it. We are all responsible."

Delingpole wrote: "Like the thriving polar bear, like the recovering ice caps, like the doing-just-fine Pacific islands, the Great Barrier Reef has become a totem for the liberal-left not because it's in any kind of danger but because it's big and famous and photogenic and lots and lots of people would be really sad if it disappeared. But it's not going to disappear. That's just a #fakenews lie designed to promote the climate alarmist agenda."


"Is the Great Barrier Reef dying due to climate change caused by man's selfishness and greed?" asks Delingpole, before giving a long list of people and groups who he thinks will answer yes, including "the Guardian" and "any marine biologist".

"Have they been out there personally - as I have - to check. No of course not," says Delingpole.
Turns out he was there once, briefly, in 2012. Obviously the latest bleaching was in 2016 and (now) 2017. And is very well documented.

Today: Denis Voronenkov: former Russian MP who fled to Ukraine shot dead in Kiev

The former Russian MP Denis Voronenkov has been shot and killed in Kiev.

Police said an unidentified gunman had shot Voronenkov dead at the entrance of an upmarket hotel in the Ukrainian capital.

Voronenkov, 45, a former member of the Communist faction in the lower house of the Russian parliament, had moved to Ukraine last autumn and had been granted Ukrainian citizenship.

He left Russia with his wife, the singer Maria Maksakova, who was also an MP. He said he had to leave the country because the Russian security agencies were persecuting him, and he renounced his Russian citizenship.

Voronenkov gave a number of interviews after his defection that were sharply critical of the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, and Kremlin policy in Ukraine. However, the decision to grant him citizenship after he had taken part in the parliamentary vote to annex Crimea was strongly criticised in Ukraine.

Voronenkov was on his way to meet Ilya Ponomarev, also a former Russian MP who fled the country, when he was shot, according to Ponomarev.

The Premier Palace hotel is in the very centre of Kiev, and is popular with local businessmen and visiting dignitaries.

Ponomarev wrote on Facebook: "I have no words. The security guard was able to injure the attacker. The potential theory is obvious. Voronenko was not a crook, but an investigator who was fatally dangerous to Russian authorities."

Ukraine's president, Petro Poroshenko, summoned the head of the security services to brief him on the killing. Ukraine's prosecutor general, Yuri Lutsenko, wrote on Facebook that the killing was "the usual kind of Kremlin retribution".

And yesterday: Lawyer for family of Russian whistleblower falls from fourth floor

A Russian lawyer who represents the family of Sergei Magnitsky is in intensive care after falling from the fourth floor of his apartment building near Moscow, according to unconfirmed reports.

The Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta suggested Nikolai Gorokhov had fallen after a winch snapped as he tried to lift a bath to a fourth-floor apartment, though details of the incident remained murky.


Hermitage Capital sent a press release stating Gorokhov had been "thrown from the fourth floor of his apartment building" on Tuesday, but did not give any further details. Browder did not respond to an emailed request for further comment.
Although Gorokhov is still alive, so it may actually be a (very convenient) accident.
New Scientist: First dinosaurs may have been omnivores in the north hemisphere

Hips really can lie. In 1888, H. G. Seeley split the dinosaur family tree into two branches based on pelvic bones, but a new analysis suggests a complete rejig of early dinosaur types and challenges assumptions about where the first dinosaurs lived and what they ate.

"Maybe we shouldn't just blindly accept this 130-year-old idea," says Matthew Baron at the University of Cambridge. "Seeley's idea, while it was brilliant for his time, it's arguably archaic. It's based on very few specimens."

Seeley divided dinosaurs into "bird-hipped" animals, like the herbivorous Stegosaurus and Triceratops, and "reptile-hipped" ones, including carnivores like Tyrannosaurus rex and long-necked herbivores like Apatosaurus.

Instead of focusing on the pelvic bone, Baron and his team analysed 457 characteristics of 74 species
and found that 21 other anatomical features divide the dinosaurs differently.  Some of the common features shared between dinosaurs that were previously thought unrelated include straight thigh bones instead of the S-shaped ones found in some later dinosaurs, shoulder bones three times the length of the forelimb, and the first metatarsal - a long foot bone - not reaching the ankle joint.

"It sounds like trivial little features, very picayune things, but when you get that big a pile of bits of information just accumulating, you really do come up with a picture, a rearrangement," says Kevin Padian, a palaeontologist at the University of California, Berkeley.

Nature article: Dinosaur family tree poised for colossal shake-up

The longstanding division of dinosaurs into 'bird-hipped' species including Stegosaurus and their 'lizard-hipped' counterparts such as Brachiosaurus and Tyrannosaurus rex may no longer be valid, a study published on 22 March in Nature contends1. Among the other proposed changes to the dinosaur family tree, the long-necked herbivorous and often gargantuan sauropods such as Brachiosaurus are no longer as closely related to bipedal, meat-eating theropods such as T. rex as they were under previous schemes.

"This is a textbook changer -- if it continues to pan out," says Thomas Holtz, a vertebrate palaeontologist at the University of Maryland in College Park. "It's only one analysis, but it's a thorough one."

The new study assesses kinship among 74 dinosaur species that span the family tree, on the basis of similarities or differences in more than 450 anatomical features, says Matthew Baron, a vertebrate palaeontologist at the University of Cambridge, UK, who led the study.

Paper (not open access): A new hypothesis of dinosaur relationships and early dinosaur evolution

Quote from: Abstract
For 130 years, dinosaurs have been divided into two distinct clades--Ornithischia and Saurischia. Here we present a hypothesis for the phylogenetic relationships of the major dinosaurian groups that challenges the current consensus concerning early dinosaur evolution and highlights problematic aspects of current cladistic definitions. Our study has found a sister-group relationship between Ornithischia and Theropoda (united in the new clade Ornithoscelida), with Sauropodomorpha and Herrerasauridae (as the redefined Saurischia) forming its monophyletic outgroup. This new tree topology requires redefinition and rediagnosis of Dinosauria and the subsidiary dinosaurian clades. In addition, it forces re-evaluations of early dinosaur cladogenesis and character evolution, suggests that hypercarnivory was acquired independently in herrerasaurids and theropods, and offers an explanation for many of the anatomical features previously regarded as notable convergences between theropods and early ornithischians.
Pop-sci: Natural Gas Power Plants Emit up to 120 Times More Methane Than Previously Estimated

Researchers at Purdue University and the Environmental Defense Fund have concluded in a recent study that natural gas power plants release 21-120 times more methane than earlier estimates.

Published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, the study also found that for oil refineries, emission rates were 11-90 times more than initial estimates. Natural gas, long touted as a cleaner and more climate-friendly alternative to burning coal, is obtained in the U.S. mostly via the controversial horizontal drilling method known as hydraulic fracturing ("fracking").

The scientists measured air emissions at three natural gas-fired power plants and three refineries in Utah, Indiana, and Illinois using Purdue's flying chemistry lab, the Airborne Laboratory for Atmospheric Research (ALAR). They compared their results to data from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Greenhouse Gas Reporting Program.


"[Methane is] a better fuel all around as long as you don't spill it," Paul Shepson, an atmospheric chemistry professor at Purdue, said in a press release. "But it doesn't take much methane leakage to ruin your whole day if you care about climate change."

The researchers were careful to differentiate between emissions related to natural gas combustion versus leakage, with the latter found to be the primary source of methane emissions in this small, preliminary study. Previous estimates of methane emissions were reported to the EPA from the facilities themselves and were restricted to what came out of the smokestack, which means they excluded leaks from equipment such as steam turbines and compressors.

The study was done as part of EDF's ongoing series of studies measuring methane emissions and leakage throughout the U.S. natural gas supply chain. EDF said in its press release that the Purdue scientists plan to follow up with research at additional oil refineries and power plants. Purdue stated in a press release that support for the research also came from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

Paper: Assessing the Methane Emissions from Natural Gas-Fired Power Plants and Oil Refineries (open access).
Arts and Entertainment / Things that make ya go boom

After collecting dust in high-security vaults for more than 65 years, hundreds of reels of film showing Cold War nuclear bomb tests have been declassified by the United States.

From 1945 to 1962, the United States detonated more than 210 nuclear bombs, with multiple cameras capturing each explosion at around 2,400 frames per second.

For decades, about 10,000 of these films have been locked away, sitting idle, scattered across the US in high-security vaults. Until now.

A team from the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has worked for the last five years on finding, declassifying and preserving the films' content before it was lost forever.


To date, the team has located around 6,500 of the estimated 10,000 films created during atmospheric testing.

Around 4,200 films have been scanned, 400 to 500 have been reanalysed and around 750 have been declassified.

Even more exciting, the public can now watch some of these declassified films on the LLNL's YouTube playlist.

Publicity photos from the launch of Saudi Arabia's new Girls' Council have gone viral for all the wrong reasons -- namely, the lack of actual women in attendance.

Saudi Arabia is not known for its strong record on women's rights so the formation of a council, intended to provide women with more opportunities and a voice, was taken to be encouraging.

But photos have now emerged of the council's first meeting, and there are no women in sight -- the photos show 13 men.
KSA leads the way.
The fossil fuel industry's invisible colonization of academia

Fossil fuel interests - oil, gas, and coal companies, fossil-fueled utilities, and fossil fuel investors - have colonized nearly every nook and cranny of energy and climate policy research in American universities, and much of energy science too. And they have done so quietly, without the general public's knowledge.

For comparison, imagine if public health research were funded predominantly by the tobacco industry. It doesn't take a neurosurgeon to understand the folly of making policy or science research financially dependent on the very industry it may regulate or negatively affect. Harvard's school of public health no longer takes funding from the tobacco industry for that very reason. Yet such conflicts of interest are not only rife in energy and climate research, they are the norm.

This norm is no accident: it is the product of a public relations strategy to neutralize science and target those whom ExxonMobil dubbed "Informed Influentials," and it comes straight out of Big Tobacco's playbook. The myriad benefits of this strategy to the fossil fuel industry (and its effects on academic research) range from benign to insidious to unconscionable, but the big picture is simple: academia has a problem.

As scientists and policy experts rush to find solutions to the greatest challenge humanity has ever faced, our institutions are embroiled in a nationwide conflict of interest with the industry that has the most to lose. Our message to universities is: stop ignoring it.

We are not saying that universities must cut all ties with all fossil fuel companies. Energy research is so awash with fossil fuel funding that such a proposal would imply major changes. What we are saying is that denial - "I don't see a conflict," MIT's Chairman told the Boston Globe - is no longer acceptable.

Two parallel approaches can help. First, mandatory standards should be established in climate policy and energy research for disclosing financial and professional ties with fossil fuel interests, akin to those required in medical research. And second, conflicts of interest should be reduced by prioritizing less conflicted funding and personnel.

One way or another, the colonization of academia by the fossil fuel industry must be confronted. Because when our nation's "independent" research to stop climate change is in fact dependent on an industry whose interests oppose that goal, neither the public nor the future is well served.
Luminous frog is the first known naturally fluorescent amphibian

Julián Faivovich at the Bernardino Rivadavia Natural Sciences Museum in Buenos Aires, Argentina, made the discovery unexpectedly while studying a pigment in the frog. "For some things we were planning on doing, we had to illuminate the frog tissues with UV light. Then we realised the whole frog was fluorescing," he says.

He and his colleagues traced the fluorescence to a compound found in the lymph and skin glands. They found that this trait enhances the brightness of the frog by 19 per cent on a night with a full moon and 30 per cent during twilight.

The fluorescent compounds absorb light at a wavelength at which frog photoreceptors have low sensitivity, and emit it in a wavelength at which they have high sensitivity. That means it's likely the frogs themselves can see the fluorescence.


With around 5000 known species of frogs, it's unlikely that the polka-dot tree frog is the only fluorescent one.

"There's very few frogs that have a feature that's not found in any other frogs," says Blackburn. "So it probably is a trait that's more widespread, but then the question becomes what are the ecological circumstances that would drive fluorescence? Is it only common in tree frogs? Or is it ever found in other ecological circumstances?"
Boaty McBoatface lives! :cheer:  :parrot:  :happydance:  :clap:

Boaty McBoatface to go on first Antarctic mission

A small yellow robot submarine, called Boaty McBoatface after a competition to name a new polar research ship backfired, is being sent on its first Antarctic mission.

Boaty, which has arguably one of the most famous names in recent maritime history, is a new type of autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), which will be able travel under ice, reach depths of 6,000 metres, and transmit the data it collects to researchers via a radio link.

Its mission will be to investigate water flow and turbulence in the dark depths of the Orkney Passage, a 3.5km deep region of the Southern Ocean. The data it collects will help scientists understand how the ocean is responding to global warming.

<Snippy McSnipface>

Boaty will travel with the DynOPO (Dynamics of the Orkney Passage Outflow) expedition on the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) research ship James Clark Ross, departing from Punta Arenas in Chile on 17 March.
The fukn god botherers are interfering with beer!


Coopers Brewery under fire for Bible Society video debating marriage equality

Coopers Brewery has come under fire for apparently involving itself in the marriage equality debate by collaborating with the Bible Society on a campaign "to reach even more Australians with God's word".

To commemorate the 200th birthday of the non-profit organisation - which has the slogan "Live light" - Coopers released 10,000 cases of a limited-edition Coopers Premium Light beer, emblazoned with different Bible verses.

The Bible Society said on its website that the Keeping it Light campaign was a bid to foster a respectful "national conversation", which it said had become "fraught with shallowness and contempt for those who have a differing opinion".

"From yelling matches on ABC's Q&A to screed on Twitter, we just don't seem to be able to talk any more ... To speak into this, Bible Society Australia has teamed up with Coopers Premium Light to ask Australians to try 'Keeping it Light' - a creative campaign to reach even more Australians with God's word."

It released a video in which the Liberal MPs Andrew Hastie and Tim Wilson debated the issue of same-sex marriage. In the light-hearted clip, billed as the first in a series, the two "disagree most agreeably" over gay Australians' right to wed while they drink a couple of Coopers Premium Light beers.