Earth Sciences

Over the past few weeks there have a been a series of reports raising concerns about the felling of old-growth trees in the ancient Bialowiezça forest in eastern Poland. A recent piece in the Guardian begins

Today the House Committee on Ways and Means put a likely end to the production tax credit expiration for nuclear energy by approving H.R.5879 - To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to modify the credit for production from advanced nuclear power facilities. Since new facilities will be public-private partnerships, and public entities can't be taxed, this was creating a lot of confusion and that meant if nothing was done, the incentive for a company to help build an expensive clean energy plant would be gone. 

My last post dealt with the permaculture edible forest garden, and it received some commentary on a couple of Facebook groups and permaculture forums.

A lot of the responses were, predictably, from permaculture advocates who took umbrage at my having deigned to critique their philosophy at all, but there was one very valid criticism concerning yields: while I had compared weights of different crops per acre, a more useful approach would be to compare calorific yield.

Doing this for the crops I listed gives a result looking something like this:

Using software tools developed by the marketing group Near Zero, which has developed open-source software tools to examine where experts agree and disagree and why, a research group hosted by the Carnegie Institution for Science's Department of Global Ecology has completed the largest expert survey yet of wind energy. 

By 1992, environmental activist Jeremy Rifkin claimed, we would achieve Peak Oil. Fossil fuels would begin to decline. Rifkin was just going by an environmental press release but Peak Oil had a long history; almost as long as oil itself.

In 1919, the chief geologist of the United States Geological Survey, said Peak Oil would happen within 3 years, while King Hubbert of Shell Oil predicted in 1956 that Peak Oil would happen by 1971. So by 1992 those claims were only working with a new generation of people who didn't understand science. In reality, math models containing all those variables are unlikely to be right. 

With GMOs going off patent, anti-science activists and the PR groups running interference for them (such as US Right To Know and Sourcewatch) are running out of time to use one of the arguments they love most to disguise the fact that they hate science; that corporations control the food supply.

Because GMOs are patented, they have  an expiration and that is happening right now. If it's not about the science, but instead about having farmers controlled by an evil seed corporation, then it's all good, right? Their war on science has ended?

A peptide and its receptors work to regulate auxin response and control leaf tooth growth in plants.

The plant hormone auxin has been known to take part in the development of leaf teeth, but the exact mechanism of their formation has been a mystery up till now. In this study, the research group has found that a peptide called EPIDERMAL PATTERNING FACTOR-LIKE 2 (EPFL2) and its receptor protein, ERECTA family receptor kinases, control the amount of auxin during leaf tooth growth. In plant leaves where the EPFL2 peptide is inactive, the leaf becomes round without teeth.

A new hypothesis aims to explain how the complex vertebrate body, with its skeleton, muscles, nervous and cardiovascular systems, arises from a single cell during development and how these systems evolved over time. They give it a proper name, embryo geometry, but scientists are going to hold off on calling it a theory until it shows some chance of validation. Until then, it is like String Theory, more philosophy than science.

The paper, along with illustrations - or "blueprints" - depicting how it applies to different vertebrate organ systems, is in Progress in Biophysics&Molecular Biology.

Atmospheric scientists overwhelmingly deny the existence of a secret, elite-driven plot to release harmful chemicals into the air from high-flying aircraft, according to the first peer-reviewed journal paper to address the "chemtrails" conspiracy theory.

Researchers from the University of California, Irvine, the Carnegie Institution for Science and the nonprofit Near Zero organization asked 77 atmospheric chemists and geochemists if they had come across evidence of such a large-scale spraying program, and 76 responded that they had not. The survey results were published Wednesday in Environmental Research Letters.

In recent years, litigation attorneys and environmental epidemiologists have attempted to link flame retardants, which were put in furniture and electronics to prevent immolation by national mandate, to health problems. Studies have shown that the substances, or their constituents, can leach out of products, and end up in indoor dust,  over time. In a world where we can now detect parts per quadrillion, they can also be found in us.

A new paper in Environmental Science&Technology discusses how flame retardants in our homes could also be ending up in surface water, via our laundry.