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Member Since 03 February 2012 - 03:42 PM
Offline Last Active Mar 23 2019 03:27 PM

Topics I've Started

Seismic Air Blasts for Ocean Oil Searching Approved by Trump's NOAA

23 March 2019 - 03:27 PM

Seismic air blasting is a horrendous process when you realize that marine mammals depend upon their hearing. It's so powerful it kills zooplankton that are within thousands of feet of it. NOAA, under Trump, of course wouldn't let a little thing like killing animals with sound get in the way of oil exploration.


President Trump’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) just opened the door for private companies to perform dangerous seismic airgun blasting in search for oil and gas deep beneath the sea floor – ignoring scientific evidence and the will of coastal residents. This is just the latest step in what could be the most radical approach to offshore drilling in the history of our country. If the president’s plans are approved as proposed, nearly all U.S. waters could be opened to offshore oil drilling.

The government authorized five companies to harm marine animals with dynamite-like blasts in their search for oil. Seismic airgun blasting produces one of the loudest man-made sounds in the ocean, and the blasts risk serious injury or death to marine life. The government unlawfully authorized the harm of marine mammals, such as dolphins and whales, hundreds of thousands of times.

These animals are a part of the coastal fabric – residents and tourists alike are drawn to the water in hopes of observing these beautiful creatures. But noise from seismic airgun blasting can interfere with activities like communicating, mating and finding food. This would be especially harmful to the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale, whose migratory path lies within the huge seismic blast zone that stretches from New Jersey to Florida. Recent scientific estimates put their population at around 400 individuals, and, no new calves were observed in the past year. Any disruption to this population could tip the North Atlantic right whale irreversibly towards extinction.

And, it’s not just larger charismatic mammals at risk but also smaller animals lower on the food chain. Studies have shown that seismic airgun blasting can reduce catch rates of some commercially and recreationally important fish species by as much as 80 percent and kill zooplankton, the animals that form the basis of the ocean food web. Zooplankton may be small, but their loss would affect the entire marine ecosystem.

Disruptions in the marine ecosystem could hurt economies that rely on a clean ocean that is full of fish. Tourism, recreation and fishing along the East Coast support more than 1.5 million jobs and produce nearly $108 billion in GDP. That’s why businesses along the East Coast—including an alliance that represents more than 42,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families—are opposing oil and gas exploration and drilling. These jobs and dollars are all at risk not just from seismic airgun blasting, but also from what comes after: exploration means drilling, and drilling means spilling.

When BP’s Deepwater Horizon exploratory rig exploded and poured millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, we saw environmental devastation and economic losses estimated in the billions. To add insult to injury, not only is President Trump working to sell out nearly all our waters to oil companies, he is also reversing safety rules put in place after the Deepwater Horizon meant to reduce the likelihood of a similar disaster happening again.

Other than oil companies and their paid-for politicians in Washington, no one seems to want this. Over 90 percent of coastal municipalities in the proposed blast zone have officially opposed seismic airgun blasting off their coasts. These communities reject a future of coastal industrialization, oil spills and ruined summer vacations. They are supported by nationwide bipartisan opposition to this dangerous decision to blast their treasured waters. Allowing these companies to move forward with seismic airgun blasting would be unlawful and just plain wrong given the overwhelming local opposition.

New Answer to the Question "Why Do Zebras Have Stripes?"

22 March 2019 - 03:07 PM

A researcher believes he's come up with the only plausible answer.


For Tim Caro, it was surprisingly easy to dress horses like zebras. Several vendors were already selling coats with black-and-white stripes, often as fun gimmicks. But, as Caro learned, such coverings have an unexpectedly serious effect. “There are enormous benefits to having a striped coat for a horse,” he told me.

Caro, a biologist at the University of California at Davis, has spent years thinking about why zebras are striped, and has even written a book about this mystery. In his latest bid to get clear answers, he and his colleagues traveled to Hill Livery, a stable in southwest England that keeps several captive zebras alongside domestic horses. By comparing these two species, as well as horses that were comically cloaked in zebra-striped coats, the team found fresh evidence for what Caro thinks is the only plausible explanation for the striking stripes: They evolved to deter bloodsucking flies.

Scientists have been puzzling over the role of zebra stripes for more than 150 years. But, one by one, the most commonly proposed explanations have all been refuted. Some researchers have suggested that the stripes act as camouflage—they break up zebras’ outlines or resemble fields of tree trunks. But that can’t be true: Amanda Melin of the University of Calgary recently showed that lions and hyenas can’t even make out the stripes unless they get very close. Another hypothesis says that the black stripes heat up faster than the white ones, setting up circulating air currents that cool the zebras. But a recent study showed that water drums cloaked in zebra pelts heat up just as much as those covered in normal horse skins.

That leaves the fly idea. When it comes to biting insects, zebras are doubly cursed. For one, they’re highly susceptible to a variety of fatal diseases, including trypanosomiasis, African horse sickness, and equine influenza, that are spread by horseflies and tsetse flies. They’re also very vulnerable to insect attacks: Compared with other grazers such as antelopes, the hairs on their coat are unusually short, allowing flies to more easily find blood vessels with their piercing mouthparts.

Stripes, for some reason, seem to help. In 2014, Caro and his colleagues showed that striped horses—three zebra species and the African wild ass with thin stripes on its legs—tend to live in regions with lots of horseflies. And several researchers, over the years, have shown that these flies find it hard to land on striped surfaces. No one, however, had watched the insects trying to bite actual zebras. That’s why Caro’s team went to Hill Livery.

By watching and filming the stable’s horses and zebras, the team confirmed that horseflies were much worse at alighting on the latter. The flies had no problem finding the zebras or approaching them, but couldn’t stick the landing. “You get a quarter as many landings,” Caro said. “The flies just can’t probe for a blood meal with the zebras.”

The team found the same trend when they put striped coats on the horses. Cloaked in stripes, the very same animals suddenly became more resistant to flies, except on their uncovered heads. And uniformly colored coats had no effect; the stripes, specifically, befuddled the flies.

Microsoft Playing With DNA Data Storage

22 March 2019 - 01:39 PM

Interesting concept but if it's a Microsoft implementation how long before you end up with warning messages about your data having mutated?


Microsoft is on its way to replacing data centers with DNA. The company and researchers from the University of Washington have successfully automated the process to translate digital information into DNA and back to bits. They now have the first, full end-to-end automated DNA storage device. And while there's room for improvement, Microsoft hopes this proof-of-concept will advance DNA storage technology.

In its first run, the $10,000 prototype converted "HELLO" into DNA. The device first encoded the bits (1's and 0's) into DNA sequences (A's, C's, T's, G's). It then synthesized the DNA and stored it as a liquid. Next, the stored DNA was read by a DNA sequencer. Finally, the decoding software translated the sequences back into bits. The 5-byte message took 21 hours to convert back and forth, but the researchers have already identified a way to reduce the time required by 10 to 12 hours. They've also suggested ways to reduce the cost by several thousand dollars.

In nucleotide form HELLO (01001000 01000101 01001100 01001100 01001111 in bits) yielded approximately 1 mg of DNA, and just 4 micrograms were retained for sequencing. As Technology Review notes, at that rate, all of the information stored in a warehouse-sized data center could fit into a few standard-size dice. Once the technique is perfected, it could store data much longer than we're currently able to. As Microsoft points out, some DNA has held up for tens of thousands of years in mammoth tusks and the bones of early humans. That's why Microsoft and other tech companies are eying DNA as a way to solve looming data storage problems. As previously reported, Microsoft's formal goal is to have an operational DNA-based storage system working inside a data center by the end of this decade.

DNA storage isn't entirely new, but the novelty here is that this system is fully automated. Before it can succeed commercially, though, the cost to synthesize DNA and extract the information is stores needs to come down. In other words, we need a way to synthesize DNA cost-efficiently. While it may sound a bit sci-fi, we could all be storing data as DNA before we know it.

Jimmy Carter Is Officially The Longest-Living President In US History

22 March 2019 - 08:45 AM

He just passed HW.


Nearly four decades after voters unceremoniously rejected then-President Jimmy Carter’s bid for a second term, the 39th president has reached a milestone that electoral math cannot dispute: He is now the longest-living chief executive in American history.

Friday is the 172nd day beyond Carter’s 94th birthday, exceeding by one day the lifespan of former President George H.W. Bush, who died Nov. 30 at the age of 94 years, 171 days. Both men were born in 1924: Bush on June 12, Carter on Oct. 1.

It’s yet another post-presidency distinction for Carter, whose legacy since leaving office has long overshadowed both his rocky White House tenure and the remarkable political rise that led him from his family peanut farm and a state Senate seat to the governor’s mansion and his unlikely presidential victory in 1976.

The achievement also defies medical odds, coming more than three years after Carter announced he had melanoma that had spread to his liver and brain. He underwent treatment and received a clean bill of health.

“There are no special celebrations planned,” said Deanna Congileo, spokeswoman for the former president and The Carter Center, which Carter and his wife, Rosaylnn, now 91, founded in Atlanta in 1982 to focus on global human rights issues.

Ari Fleischer Tries to Rehabilitate the Iraq War Disaster

20 March 2019 - 05:27 PM

Fleischer was hands down every bit as mendacious and slippery as Kellyanne Conway. Their jobs were the same; lie, twist, attack, but never provide anything resembling useful information. Now Fleischer is back and lying about the Iraq War as he tries to justify his and Bush's places in history which, of course, are shameful. The problem is that we have a lot of info about that war.


Ari Fleischer is a liar. He lies about stuff big and small. And as President George W. Bush’s press secretary during the run-up to the Iraq War, he participated in a large effort to exaggerate and misrepresent what the intelligence community believed about weapons of mass destruction and Iraq’s (negligible) links to al-Qaeda.

But Fleischer does not like it when people point out that he’s a liar, so he took to Twitter on Tuesday night to mark the anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and address what is, in his mind, a major tragedy surrounding the war: the fact that people sometimes point out that he and his friends are liars.


Ari Fleischer
The Iraq war began sixteen years ago tomorrow. There is a myth about the war that I have been meaning to set straight for years. After no WMDs were found, the left claimed "Bush lied. People died." This accusation itself is a lie. It's time to put it to rest.

Some might argue the real victims of the war are the nearly 300,000 civilians and combatants killed due to an unnecessary invasion, but Fleischer would rather focus on his and his colleagues’ hurt feelings.

Fine. Let’s focus there. Fleischer is, once again, lying — and lying about the times his colleagues lied. There were numerous occasions when Bush and his advisers made statements that intelligence agencies knew to be false, both about weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) and about Iraq President Saddam Hussein’s nonexistent links to al-Qaeda. The term commonly used for making statements that one knows to be false is “lying.”

Mother Jones’s David Corn has been excellent about chronicling specific examples over the years. Here are just a few:

I've seen other mentions of people tearing into Fleischer over his lies about lying. Few people seem interested in giving him a pass on this one.