Environment

There is ongoing concern about species extinction but it isn't just the fact that 99.999% of species have never been cataloged, so it's impossible to know how many are extinct, it's that Mother Nature may cause it long before we could.

A new study suggests nature's ecological web is so tenuous that it's amazing anything survived this long; even the smell of a predator can have disastrous effects in populations of small size in flies. They spend less time eating, more time being vigilant, have less sex, and produce fewer offspring. 

Stephen Hawking celebrated his seventy fifth birthday on the 2nd July. We can all be delighted that he lived so long, and continues in robust health, after he was diagnosed to survive only three years. May he continue to "live long and prosper" as the fictional Vulcans say in Star Trek (a UK man can expect to live another 12 years if he reaches his 75th birthday, other things being equal). He's a brilliant physicist, everyone agrees, noted for his work in General Relativity and related areas. However he has never done any research in climate change AFAIK.

Last night was the premiere of "Food Evolution", a documentary on the science in our dinner, and I saw it with a large audience for the second time.

Wait, premiere? Second time? Which is it?

It's both. And that is how it became a tale of two cities. And maybe even a metaphor for the two Americas we now live in.

Two weeks ago I moderated a panel on communicating science and, more importantly, risk, at the University of Guelph, Canada's most prominent agriculture school. In the evening, there was a showing of "Food Evolution" in an auditorium there. I don't know how many people attended, it was packed, and before the movie there was a show of hands on how many people were okay with GMOs, how many distrusted them, and how many were unsure.

The nighttime satellite photos of the Earth reveal much about the population distribution of the developed world through the intensity of the artificial lighting being observed.

A paper has linked Monarch butterfly populations to glyphosate - but only when it was first used, and not when it was most heavily used. It also linked the populations to seasonal variation. That is to be expected, except since it's 2017, they try to claim that's climate change rather than wetter weather in some years.
No-till farming uses cover crops to conserve soil and suppress weeds but many vegetable producers haven't embraced it yet.

The reason is simple; small-seeded vegetable crops struggle to emerge through thick cover crop residues. A recent program sought to see how it might work better with string beans, a common staple of many dinners, and possessing larger seeds. In both Illinois and Washington, USDA-ARS agronomist Rick Boydston and University of Illinois ecologist Marty Williams grew vetch, rye, and a combination of the two cover crops before killing them with a roller-crimper—a machine that evenly flattens and crimps standing plant biomass—or with a combination of the roller-crimper and a burndown herbicide.
A primitive, non-photosynthesizing microbe, Methanospirillum hungatei, which is thought to have existed since before the development of photosynthesis, possess genes similar to those that play a role in photosynthesis, finds a new study.

Photosynthesis, creating oxygen and carbohydrates such as glucose from solar energy, water, and CO2, is indispensable for many species on this planet. However, it is unclear exactly how or when organisms evolved the ability to photosynthesize. A team has discovered an evolutionary model for the biological function that creates CO2 from glucose in photosynthesis. 
A lot has been said about the so-called "hiatus" in Global Warming starting in 1998, a major El Niño year. Perhaps the best illustration of the problem with the talking point is an animation titled "The Escalator", over at skepticalscience.com.

There's a more fundamental issue with it, however, than failing to recognize the difference between short-term weather fluctuations and long-term climate change. The talking point is based on faulty reasoning about trend analysis and burden of proof, as I intend to argue.