Hexbyte Glen Cove Greece races to restore power grid as cold snap recedes thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Greece races to restore power grid as cold snap recedes

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Snow and wind felled some 900 trees in the greater Athens area

Crews in Greece on Wednesday raced to restore power to tens of thousands of homes as a severe cold front receded after bringing heavy snowfall and gale-force winds that left three dead.

Some 40,000 homes and businesses mainly in the northern Athens suburbs were still without electricity, the state power distribution network operator said in a statement.

Around half of the electricity grid has been restored in the affected suburbs, it said.

Snow had earlier blanketed ancient monuments like the Acropolis and the cold front, dubbed “Medea” after the mythical Greek sorceress of the Argonauts, sent temperatures plunging.

The maximum low of minus 24.8 Celsius (minus 12.6 Fahrenheit) was recorded near the northwestern city of Florina early Wednesday.

Snow and wind on Tuesday felled some 900 trees in the greater Athens area alone, regional governor George Patoulis said. An estimated 250,000 homes and businesses had earlier faced power outages, Patoulis told state TV ERT earlier Wednesday.

Army units were assisting the fire department in removing the debris, officials said.

The snowfall, which hit Athens on Monday, was the worst seen in the capital since 2008 according to meteorologists.

Greece’s main highway, linking Athens and Thessaloniki, reopened Wednesday after the snowfall subsided.

On Tuesday, two elderly men suffering from respiratory problems died on the island of Evia near Athens after their breathing apparatus failed during a power outage.

And a livestock farmer in his 60s on the island of Crete was found dead in the snow outside his granary.

Three other missing Cretan livestock farmers were able to reach shelter on Wednesday, state agency ANA said.

The weather conditions forced officials to cancel coronavirus vaccinations in Athens on Tuesday.

The government came under fire after a snowplow was dispatched to the chic Athens quarter of Kolonaki, where many embassies and ministers’ personal offices are located, on Tuesday while heavy machinery was lacking elsewhere.

There was further criticism after a journalist on Tuesday posted a picture on her Twitter account of herself and another journalist with Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis outside a popular Kolonaki cafe.

The snowplow operator told Skai TV he had also cleared the way to two major hospitals in the area.



© 2021 AFP

Citation:
Greece races to restore power grid as cold snap recedes (2021, February 17)
retrieved 18 February 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-02-greece-power-grid-cold-snap.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Scientists and indigenous people unite to save Colombian condor thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Scientists and indigenous people unite to save Colombian condor

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The Andean condor is one of the largest birds of prey in the world

Rosendo Quira silently shakes a medicinal plant to attract a condor to the bait. The bird of prey glides through the clouds over Colombia towards a mountain pass some 3,200 meters above the sea.

As this scene plays out, a hidden camera clicks into gear to record the ritual.

Amongst a group of some 300 volunteers, many of them like Quira, the 52-year-old stands out for his ancestral knowledge.

The volunteers deployed last weekend at 100 sites around Colombia to conduct the first-ever census of the bird that is emblematic of the Andes mountain range.

Quira, a traditional doctor in the Purace indigenous reserve, leaves a piece of meat on a rock and uses a sprig of sage to drizzle it with a herbal infusion.

In his other hand he holds a stick, while his backpack is filled with medicinal plants.

Shortly after, a bird spanning three meters from wingtip to wingtip appears through the clouds covering the clearing and swoops down to feast on the offering.

The Kokonukos indigenous people consider both the and the rock where it perches to be sacred.

The volunteers are helping biologists count the condors, one of the largest birds of prey in the world, to help the species survive.

Experts believe there are just 130 condors in the Colombian Andes, where the animal is critically endangered according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

Indigenous people in Colombia’s Purace national park are helping biologists conduct a census of condors, which are critically endangered in the country

On a global scale, the condor’s existence is close to being threatened.

“We need to know how many there are in the country and what state they’re in,” biologist Adriana Collazos, who installed the hidden camera, told AFP.

The census is the initiative of a number of NGOs, including the National Natural Parks of Colombia and the Neotropical Foundation.

The ‘sun’s messenger’

There has never before been a census of Colombia’s condors.

Indigenous people from Purace in the country’s southwest say there is at least one pair of these monogamous birds living in their territory, but some claim to have spotted another solitary female.

The biologists hope their cameras will solve the mystery.

“If it approaches it’s because we’re spiritually well, if it doesn’t approach, it’s because we’re failing,” said Quira after his close encounter with the condor.

For his community, the condor is “the sun’s messenger”—it can warn about pending threats or predict climate change. Quira says a condor once came to him in a dream with recipes for healing the sick.

The condor can be found throughout the Andes, from Venezuela in the north down to the far south of Chile and Argentina.

Experts believe there are just 130 condors left in the Colombian Andes

The expansion of agriculture and animal husbandry into high mountain territories where the condor lives are the main threats to its conservation.

And females lay only one egg every two to three years.

In 2018, a condor couple were found poisoned in the center of the country. Conservationists managed to save them and return them to the wild a few months later.

But farmers often use poison to protect their animals from attacks.

Although condors, which can weigh between nine and 15 kilograms, are scavengers, they have been known to attack on occasion.

Potential ‘fatal loss’

“Knowing the populations of species is the starting point to propose conservation strategies,” said Fausto Saenz, scientific director at the Neotropical Foundation.

Saenz is hoping to get the first census results in three weeks’ time.

The census will allow future repopulation efforts to maintain a balance between males and females. Almost half of the condors in Colombia were reared in captivity and released in the Andes as part of these initiatives.

Although the indigenous people of Purace believe the hidden cameras bother the sacred bird, they’re working with the biologists out of a desire to help the condor survive.

“Not having that symbol would be a fatal loss to our reserve,” said Javier Jojoa, the acting governor of the Purace reserve.



© 2021 AFP

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Scientists and indigenous people unite to save Colombian condor (2021, February 17)
retrieved 18 February 2021
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Plastic recycling results in rare metals being found in children's toys and food packaging thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Plastic recycling results in rare metals being found in children’s toys and food packaging

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Dr Andrew Turner. Credit: University of Plymouth

Some of the planet’s rarest metals—used in the manufacture of smartphones and other electrical equipment—are increasingly being found in everyday consumer plastics, according to new research.

Scientists from the University of Plymouth and University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign tested a range of new and used products including children’s toys, office equipment and cosmetic containers.

Through a number of detailed assessments, they examined levels of rare earth elements (REEs) but also quantities of bromine and antimony, used as flame retardants in electrical equipment and a sign of the presence of recycled electronic .

The results showed one or more REEs were found in 24 of the 31 products tested, including items where unregulated recycling is prohibited such as single-use food packaging.

They were most commonly observed in samples containing bromine and antimony at levels insufficient to effect flame retardancy, but also found in plastics where those chemicals weren’t present.

Having also been found in beached marine plastics, the study’s authors have suggested there is evidence that REEs are ubiquitous and pervasive contaminants of both contemporary and historical consumer and environmental plastics.

The study, published in Science of the Total Environment, is the first to systematically investigate the full suite of REEs in a broad range of consumer plastics.

While they have previously been found in a variety of environments—including , soils and the atmosphere—the study demonstrates the wide REE contamination of the “plastisphere” that does not appear to be related to a single source or activity.

Dr. Andrew Turner, Associate Professor (Reader) in Environmental Sciences at the University of Plymouth and the study’s lead author, said: “Rare earth elements have a variety of critical applications in modern electronic equipment because of their magnetic, phosphorescent and electrochemical properties. However, they are not deliberately added to plastic to serve any function. So their presence is more likely the result of incidental contamination during the mechanical separation and processing of recoverable components.

“The health impacts arising from chronic exposure to small quantities of these metals are unknown. But they have been found in greater levels in food and tap water and certain medicines, meaning plastics are unlikely to represent a significant vector of exposure to the general population. However, they could signify the presence of other more widely known and better-studied chemical additives and residues that are a cause for concern.”

The research is the latest work by Dr. Turner examining the presence of toxic substances within everyday consumer products, marine litter and the wider environment.

In May 2018, he showed that hazardous chemicals such as bromine, antimony and lead are finding their way into food-contact items and other everyday products because manufacturers are using recycled electrical equipment as a source of black plastic.

His work was part of a successful application by the University to earn the Queen’s Anniversary Prize for Higher and Further Education for its pioneering research on microplastics pollution.

It also builds on previous work at the University, which saw scientists blend a smartphone to demonstrate quantities of rare or so-called ‘conflict’ elements in each product.



More information:
Andrew Turner et al, Rare earth elements in plastics, Science of The Total Environment (2021). DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.145405

Citation:
Plastic recycling results in rare metals being found in children’s toys and food packaging (2021, February 17)
retrieved 18 February 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-02-plastic-recycling-results-rare-metals.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Biotech fit for the Red Planet: New method for growing cyanobacteria under Mars-like conditions thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Biotech fit for the Red Planet: New method for growing cyanobacteria under Mars-like conditions

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A: Bioreactor Atmos (“Atmosphere Tester for Mars-bound Organic Systems”). B: A single vessel within Atmos. C: Design schematic. Credit: C. Verseux / ZARM

NASA, in collaboration with other leading space agencies, aims to send its first human missions to Mars in the early 2030s, while companies like SpaceX may do so even earlier. Astronauts on Mars will need oxygen, water, food, and other consumables. These will need to be sourced from Mars, because importing them from Earth would be impractical in the long term. In Frontiers in Microbiology, scientists show for the first time that Anabaena cyanobacteria can be grown with only local gases, water, and other nutrients and at low pressure. This makes it much easier to develop sustainable biological life support systems.

“Here we show that cyanobacteria can use gases available in the Martian , at a low total , as their source of carbon and nitrogen. Under these conditions, cyanobacteria kept their ability to grow in water containing only Mars-like dust and could still be used for feeding other microbes. This could help make long-term missions to Mars sustainable,” says lead author Dr. Cyprien Verseux, an astrobiologist who heads the Laboratory of Applied Space Microbiology at the Center of Applied Space Technology and Microgravity (ZARM) of the University of Bremen, Germany.

Low-pressure atmosphere

Cyanobacteria have long been targeted as candidates to drive biological life support on space missions, as all species produce oxygen through photosynthesis while some can fix atmospheric nitrogen into nutrients. A difficulty is that they cannot grow directly in the Martian atmosphere, where the total pressure is less than 1% of Earth’s—6 to 11 hPa, too low for the presence of liquid water—while the partial pressure of nitrogen gas—0.2 to 0.3 hPa—is too low for their metabolism. But recreating an Earth-like atmosphere would be expensive: gases would need to be imported, while the culture system would need to be robust—hence, heavy to freight—to resist the pressure differences: “Think of a pressure cooker,” Verseux says. So the researchers looked for a middle ground: an atmosphere close to Mars’s which allows the cyanobacteria to grow well.

To find suitable atmospheric conditions, Verseux et al. developed a bioreactor called Atmos (for “Atmosphere Tester for Mars-bound Organic Systems”), in which cyanobacteria can be grown in artificial atmospheres at . Any input must come from the Red Planet itself: apart from nitrogen and carbon dioxide, gases abundant in the Martian atmosphere, and water which could be mined from ice, nutrients should come from “regolith”, the dust covering Earth-like planets and moons. Martian regolith has been shown to be rich in nutrients such as phosphorus, sulphur, and calcium.

Anabaena: versatile cyanobacteria grown on Mars-like dust

Atmos has nine 1 L vessels made of glass and steel, each of which is sterile, heated, pressure-controlled, and digitally monitored, while the cultures inside are continuously stirred. The authors chose a strain of nitrogen-fixing cyanobacteria called Anabaena sp. PCC 7938, because preliminary tests showed that it would be particularly good at using Martian resources and helping to grow other organisms. Closely related species have been shown to be edible, suitable for genetic engineering, and able to form specialized dormant cells to survive harsh conditions.

Verseux and his colleagues first grew Anabaena for 10 days under a mixture of 96% nitrogen and 4% carbon dioxide at a pressure of 100 hPa—ten times lower than on Earth. The cyanobacteria grew as well as under ambient air. Then they tested the combination of the modified atmosphere with regolith. Because no regolith has ever been brought from Mars, they used a substrate developed by the University of Central Florida (called “Mars Global Simulant”) instead to create a growth medium. As controls, Anabaena were grown in standard medium, either at ambient air or under the same low-pressure artificial atmosphere.

The cyanobacteria grew well under all conditions, including in regolith under the nitrogen- and carbon dioxide-rich mixture at low pressure. As expected, they grew faster on standard medium optimized for cyanobacteria than on Mars Global Simulant, under either atmosphere. But this is still a major success: while standard medium would need to be imported from Earth, regolith is ubiquitous on Mars. “We want to use as nutrients resources available on Mars, and only those,” says Verseux.

Dried Anabaena biomass was ground, suspended in sterile water, filtered, and successfully used as a substrate for growing of E. coli bacteria, proving that sugars, amino acids, and other nutrients can be extracted from them to feed other bacteria, which are less hardy but tried-and-tested tools for biotechnology. For example, E. coli could be engineered more easily than Anabaena to produce some food products and medicines on Mars that Anabaena cannot.

The researchers conclude that nitrogen-fixing, oxygen-producing cyanobacteria can be efficiently grown on Mars at low pressure under controlled conditions, with exclusively local ingredients.

Further refinements in the pipeline

These results are an important advance. But the authors caution that further studies are necessary: “We want to go from this proof-of-concept to a system that can be used on Mars efficiently,” Verseux says. They suggest fine-tuning the combination of pressure, , and nitrogen optimal for growth, while testing other genera of , perhaps genetically tailored for space missions. A cultivation system for Mars also needs to be designed:

“Our bioreactor, Atmos, is not the cultivation system we would use on Mars: it is meant to test, on Earth, the conditions we would provide there. But our results will help guide the design of a Martian cultivation system. For example, the lower pressure means that we can develop a more lightweight structure that is more easily freighted, as it won’t have to withstand great differences between inside and outside,” concludes Verseux.



More information:
“A low-pressure, N2/CO2 atmosphere is suitable for cyanobacterium-based life-support systems on Mars” Frontiers in Microbiology, DOI: 10.3389/fmicb.2021.611798 , www.frontiersin.org/articles/1 … icb.2021.611798/full

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Greek travel chaos after heavy snowfall thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Greek travel chaos after heavy snowfall

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Greece’s weather agency said snowfall would continue on Tuesday

Greek travellers faced major disruption to road and sea transport on Monday after strong winds and heavy snowfall that have made conditions even more miserable in the country’s migrant camps.

Over the past few days the United Nations’ refugee agency, the UNHCR, has sent radiators to the camps around the country where tens of thousands of have been struggling with the cold and hail.

Along with northern Greece where sub-zero temperatures are common at this time of year, snow blanketed Athens’ northern and eastern suburbs Monday, with traffic on the main motorway to northern hub Thessaloniki cut off for several hours.

Greece’s civil protection agency warned of “continuing dangerous weather conditions” as battered the coast, forcing a halt to ferry services connecting Athens with Greece’s Aegean islands.

Some villages on the island of Evia near Athens were facing power cuts as well as blocked roads.

Greece’s weather agency said the “low temperatures, ice and snowfall” would continue on Tuesday, with the civil protection agency recommending that people avoid travel.

On the island of Lesbos, where more than 6,000 asylum seekers are currently living, “no one is in danger in the camp,” insisted asylum service secretary Manos Logothetis.

“We are working every day to improve the conditions in the camps on the islands,” he told local media.

Lesbos’ squalid Moria migrant camp was ravaged by two fires in September.

It has since been replaced by a hastily-erected temporary encampment in an area prone to flooding and strong winds.

Aid groups have denounced the poor conditions and the lack of infrastructure on the site, while media outlets have complained that they are banned from entering.



© 2021 AFP

Citation:
Greek travel chaos after heavy snowfall (2021, February 15)
retrieved 17 February 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-02-greek-chaos-heavy-snowfall.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Corn belt farmland has lost a third of its carbon-rich soil thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Corn belt farmland has lost a third of its carbon-rich soil

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Credit: CC0 Public Domain

More than one-third of the Corn Belt in the Midwest—nearly 100 million acres—has completely lost its carbon-rich topsoil, according to University of Massachusetts Amherst research that indicates the U.S. Department of Agricultural has significantly underestimated the true magnitude of farmland erosion.

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers led by UMass Amherst graduate student Evan Thaler, along with professors Isaac Larsen and Qian Yu in the department of geosciences, developed a method using to map areas in in the Corn Belt of the Midwestern U.S. that have no remaining A-horizon soil. The A-horizon is the upper portion of the soil that is rich in , which is critical for plant growth because of its water and nutrient retention properties. The researchers then used high-resolution elevation data to extrapolate the satellite measurements across the Corn Belt and the true magnitude of .

Productive agricultural soils are vital for producing food for a growing global population and for sustaining rural economies. However, degradation of soil quality by erosion reduces . Thaler and his colleagues estimate that erosion of the A-horizon has reduced corn and soybean yields by about 6%, leading to nearly $3 billion in annual economic losses for farmers across the Midwest.

The A-horizon has primarily been lost on hilltops and ridgelines, which indicates that tillage erosion—downslope movement of soil by repeated plowing—is a major driver of soil loss in the Midwest. Notably, tillage erosion is not included in national assessments of soil loss and the research highlights the urgent need to include tillage erosion in the soil erosion models that are used in the U.S. and to incentivize adoption of no-till farming methods.

Further, their research suggests erosion has removed nearly 1.5 petagrams of carbon from hillslopes. Restoration of organic carbon to the degraded soils by switching from intensive conventional agricultural practices to soil-regenerative practices, has potential to sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while restoring productivity.



More information:
Evan A. Thaler el al., “The extent of soil loss across the US Corn Belt,” PNAS (2021). www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1922375118

Citation:
Corn belt farmland has lost a third of its carbon-rich soil (2021, February 15)
retrieved 17 February 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-02-corn-belt-farmland-lost-carbon-rich.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Egypt unearths 'world's oldest' mass-production brewery thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Egypt unearths ‘world’s oldest’ mass-production brewery

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The vats unearthed in southern Egypt are thought to have been used to brew beer 5,000 years ago

A high-production brewery believed to be more than 5,000 years old has been uncovered by a team of archaeologists at a funerary site in southern Egypt, the tourism ministry said Saturday.

The site containing several “units” consisting of about 40 earthenware pots arranged in two rows was uncovered at North Abydos, Sohag, by a joint Egyptian-American team, the ministry said in a statement on its Facebook page.

The brewery likely dates back to the era of King Narmer, it quoted the secretary general of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities, Mostafa Waziry, as saying, adding it believed the find to “be the oldest high-production brewery in the world.”

Narmer, who ruled more than 5,000 years ago, founded the First Dynasty and unified Upper and Lower Egypt.

British archaeologists first discovered the existence of the brewery at the beginning of the 20th century but its location was never precisely determined, the statement said.

The joint Egyptian-American team “was able to re-locate and uncover its contents”, it said.

According to Waziry, the brewery consisted of eight large areas which were used as “units for beer production”.

Each sector contained about 40 earthenware pots arranged in two rows.

A mixture of grains and water used for beer production was heated in the vats, with each basin “held in place by levers made of clay placed vertically in the form of rings”.

The brewery uncovered in North Abydos likely dates back to the era of King Narmer, founder of the First Dynasty who ruled more than 5,000 years ago

Brew for ‘royal rituals’

Archaeologist Matthew Adams of New York University, who heads the joint mission with Deborah Vischak of Princeton University, said studies have shown that beer was produced at a large scale, with about 22,400 litres made at a time.

The brewery “may have been built in this place specifically to supply the royal rituals that were taking place inside the funeral facilities of the kings of Egypt”, the statement quoted him as saying.

“Evidence for the use of beer in sacrificial rites was found during excavations in these facilities,” the statement said.

Evidence of beer-making in ancient Egypt is not new, and past discoveries have shed light on such production.

Fragments of pottery used by Egyptians to make beer and dating back 5,000 years were discovered on a building site in Tel Aviv, the Israeli Antiquities Authority announced in 2015.

Abydos, where the latest discovery was unearthed, has yielded many treasures over the years and is famed for its temples, such as that of Seti I.

Evidence of beer-making in ancient Egypt is not new, and past discoveries have shed light on such production

In 2000, a team of US archaeologists brought to light in Abydos the earliest known example of an ancient Egyptian solar barge, dating back to the first Pharaonic dynasty around 5,000 years ago.

Egypt has announced several major new discoveries which it hopes will spur tourism, a sector which has suffered multiple blows—from a 2011 uprising to the coronavirus pandemic.

A mission working near Alexandria recently discovered several mummies from around 2,000 years ago bearing golden-tongued amulets—thought to have been placed in the mouths of the dead to ensure they could speak in the afterlife.

Authorities had expected 15 million tourists to visit Egypt in 2020, compared to 13 million the previous year, but the virus has kept holidaymakers away.



© 2021 AFP

Citation:
Egypt unearths ‘world’s oldest’ mass-production brewery (2021, February 14)
retrieved 16 February 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-02-egypt-archaeologists-unearth-ancient-beer.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Endangered baby right whale found dead on Florida beach thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Endangered baby right whale found dead on Florida beach

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This photo provided by Anastasia State Park shows a baby whale that washed ashore at Anastasia State Park near St. Augustine, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. The plight of endangered right whales took another sad turn Saturday, when a baby whale, possibly two months old, washed ashore on a Florida beach with telltale signs of being struck by a boat. (Anastasia State Park via AP)

The plight of endangered right whales took another sad turn Saturday, when a baby whale, possibly two months old, washed ashore dead on a Florida beach with telltale signs of being struck by a boat.

There are fewer than 400 north Atlantic right remaining, and any mortality of the species is a serious setback to rescuing the animals from extinction, according to federal biologists who expressed dismay over Saturday’s discovery of the 22-foot (7-meter) male infant at Anastasia State Park near St. Augustine.

“This is a very sad event,” said Blair Mase, a whale expert with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

“Every mortality that occurs really has a devastating impact on the population as a whole, because they are one of our most critically in the world,” she said. “Every whale counts.”

The infant whale is believed to be the first born of a 19-year-old whale biologists named “Infinity.” Both were sighted off Amelia Island in northern Florida on Jan. 17.

The circumstances surrounding the whale’s death are under investigation. But said it was clear that a vessel was involved. The whale suffered propeller wounds to the head and back.

Inclement weather kept biologists from immediately launching a search for the calf’s mother to see if she might have also been injured by the collision with a boat.

This photo provided by Anastasia State Park shows a baby whale that washed ashore at Anastasia State Park near St. Augustine, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. The plight of endangered right whales took another sad turn Saturday, when a baby whale, possibly two months old, washed ashore on a Florida beach with telltale signs of being struck by a boat. (Anastasia State Park via AP)

It was the second calf mortality since the calving season. Another calf was found dead in November on one of North Carolina’s barrier islands.

From November to April, right whales swim south from the frigid northern Atlantic to give birth in warmer waters off the northern coast of Florida.

The whales spend those months cruising through waters off the coast, sometimes coming within a couple hundred feet from beaches—which make them vulnerable to boaters and fishing vessels going in and out piers.

Mase said some 40 right whales have been sighted off the southeast coast of the United States, with 15 pairs of moms and their calves.

Federal laws prohibit people from harming the animals. And people are supposed to remain at least 500 yards (460 meters) away from the whales.

“If you’re in this area, please give these animals space,” said Allison Garrett, a NOAA spokesperson. “The rule is 500 yards—that’s five football fields. That includes people, boats, drones, paddle boards—everything. That’s the law.”

This photo provided by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission shows a baby whale that is been injured near St. Augustine, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021. The plight of endangered right whales took another sad turn Saturday, when a baby whale, possibly two months old, washed ashore on a Florida beach with telltale signs of being struck by a boat. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission via AP)

Garrett urged people who come upon one of the rare whales to report the sighting to officials at (877) 942-5343 to help track their numbers.

Ocean vessels and fishing operations—as well as disease—have taken a toll on the whale’s numbers.

Since 2017, the animals have been experiencing what biologists call an “unusual mortality event.” In those years, at least 33 dead and 13 seriously injured whales have been found—accounting for more than a tenth of the remaining population.

Last month, sued the to force it to further accelerate action on proposals meant to protect the whales.

The groups want the government to impose stricter speed limit on ships traveling from Maine to Florida.



© 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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Endangered baby right whale found dead on Florida beach (2021, February 14)
retrieved 16 February 2021
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Powerful Japan quake sets off landslide, minor injuries (Update) thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Powerful Japan quake sets off landslide, minor injuries (Update)

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A landslide caused by a strong earthquake covers a circuit course in Nihonmatsu city, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021. The strong earthquake shook the quake-prone areas of Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures late Saturday, setting off landslides and causing power blackouts for thousands of people. (Hironori Asakawa/Kyodo News via AP)

Residents in northeastern Japan on Sunday cleaned up clutter and debris in stores and homes after a strong earthquake set off a landslide on a highway, damaged buildings and parts of bullet train lines and caused power blackouts for thousands of people.

The 7.3 magnitude temblor late Saturday shook the quake-prone areas of Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures that 10 years ago had been hit by a powerful earthquake that triggered a tsunami and a meltdown at a nuclear power plant.

More than 140 people suffered mostly minor injures, many of them by falling objects and cuts while stepping on broken glass. Three people were confirmed with serious injures but there were no reports of deaths, Chief Cabinet Secretary Katsunobu Kato said.

Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility that runs the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant that was hit by the March 2011 disaster, said the water used to cool spent fuel rods near the reactors had spilled because of the shaking. But there were no radiation leaks or other irregularities, TEPCO said.

The quake did not cause a tsunami because the epicenter was deep at 55 kilometers (34 miles) beneath the ocean.

Noriko Kamaya, a Japan Meteorological Agency spokesperson, said in a news conference that the quake is considered to be an aftershock of the 9.1 magnitude quake in 2011.

Collapsed rocks block a road after a strong earthquake hit Soma city, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021. The strong earthquake shook the quake-prone areas of Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures late Saturday, setting off landslides and causing power blackouts for thousands of people. (Yohei Nishimura/Kyodo News via AP)

Power had been restored by early Sunday, although some bullet train services were still halted. East Japan Railway Co. said the bullet train on the northern coast will be suspended through Monday due to damage to its facility.

TV footage and video shared on social media showed boxes, books and other items scattered on floors. In the northern Fukushima city of Soma, a roof at a Buddhist temple collapsed.

Workers were clearing up a major coastal highway connecting Tokyo and northern cities where a major landslide occurred. Several other roads were also blocked by rocks.

Saturday’s powerful rattling less than a month before the 10th anniversary of the 2011 triple disaster was a frightening reminder of the earlier tragedy for the residents in the region.

“It started with minor shaking, then suddenly became violent,” said Yuki Watanabe, a convenience store employee in the Fukushima town of Minamisoma, told the Asahi newspaper. “I was so frightened,” she said, adding it reminder her of the 2011 quake.

  • A portion of a highway is blocked by a landslide after an earthquake hit the city, in Soma, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021. A strong earthquake hit off the coast of northeastern Japan late Saturday, shaking Fukushima, Miyagi and other areas, but there was no threat of a tsunami, officials said.(Hironori Asakawa/Kyodo News via AP)
  • A portion of a highway is blocked by a landslide after an earthquake hit the city, in Soma, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021. A strong earthquake hit off the coast of northeastern Japan late Saturday, shaking Fukushima, Miyagi and other areas, but there was no threat of a tsunami, officials said.(Hironori Asakawa/Kyodo News via AP)
  • Evacuees shelter at a gym as an earthquake hit the area, in Soma, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021. A strong earthquake hit off the coast of northeastern Japan late Saturday, shaking Fukushima, Miyagi and other areas, but there was no threat of a tsunami, officials said.(Kyodo News via AP)
  • A large boulder sits on a road after an earthquake hit the city, in Soma, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021. A strong earthquake hit off the coast of northeastern Japan late Saturday, shaking Fukushima, Miyagi and other areas, but there was no threat of a tsunami, officials said.(Hironori Asakawa/Kyodo News via AP)
  • A landslide caused by a strong earthquake covers a circuit course in Nihonmatsu city, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021. The strong earthquake shook the quake-prone areas of Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures late Saturday, setting off landslides and causing power blackouts for thousands of people. (Hironori Asakawa/Kyodo News via AP)
  • Heavy machinery work to remove a landslide blocking Joban Expressway after a strong earthquake hit Soma city, Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan, Sunday, Feb. 14, 2021. The strong earthquake shook the quake-prone areas of Fukushima and Miyagi prefectures late Saturday, setting off landslides and causing power blackouts for thousands of people. (Yusuke Ogata/Kyodo News via AP)

As she ran outside, she heard banging noise coming from behind the store as glass bottles from the shelves smashed against the floor.

Experts warned of more aftershocks. Many residents spent the night at evacuation centers, where tents were set up as part of coronavirus protection measures.

Yasutoshi Nishimura, the minister in charge of economic and fiscal policy, expressed sympathy for those who had suffered damage and injuries.

“The government will continue to do our utmost to respond,” he said.

Defense troops also were mobilized to provide water in some areas.



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Powerful Japan quake sets off landslide, minor injuries (Update) (2021, February 13)
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Psychology professor's 'couple simulation' model helps us dive into the mysteries of mate selection thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Psychology professor’s ‘couple simulation’ model helps us dive into the mysteries of mate selection

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

In your quest for true love and that elusive happily ever after, are you waiting for the “right” person to come along, or do you find yourself going for the cutest guy or girl in the room, hoping things will work out? Do you leave your options open, hoping to “trade-up” at the next opportunity, or do you invest in your relationship with an eye on the cost-benefits analysis?

For something so fundamental to our existence, remains one of humanity’s most enduring mysteries. It’s been the topic of intense psychological research for decades, spawning myriad hypotheses of why we choose whom we choose.

“Mate choice is really complicated, especially in humans,” said Dan Conroy-Beam, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at UC Santa Barbara, and author of a paper in the journal Personality and Social Psychology Review. “And there have been a lot of people who have proposed abstract ideas about how it might happen.”

One line of thinking, for instance, posits that we assess potential mates against an internal threshold of preferred qualities and attributes—a “minimum bar,” that they have to meet to be considered a potential partner.

“And we learn where that minimum bar is based on how other people treat us,” he said. Another model describes the dating market somewhat like the European social dances of the 18th century.

“One side approaches the other side and they get these kinds of temporary relationships going,” Conroy-Beam said. “And basically you stay in a relationship until you get a better offer and everybody kind of recurrently ditches their partners for better ones.”

But these mate selection models, and others like them, don’t capture a lot of the nuance that goes into real-life mate selection, Conroy-Beam noted.

“When you have a system that is particularly complicated like human mating markets are, verbal models are sometimes not such a great way to understand what’s going on,” he said. Competing desires and social dynamics play heavily into mate selection, he explained, adding layers of complexity and moving parts that can’t be captured or quantified.

So what can hold human-like multiple levels of detail and complexity? The next best thing: a computer simulation. In an effort to move understanding of mate choice forward, Conroy-Beam has developed a new approach—called “couple simulation”—that essentially test-drives models of mate selection against the attributes and priorities of a sample of real-life couples.

“The real advantage that we have here is that we’re going away from just these verbal models and into explicit computational models,” he said. “We’re directly simulating people’s real choices; we’re removing the limits of doing this in our own heads because we have computers that can keep track of all the very complicated interactions that are going on.”

Sim Dating

The process begins by measuring the traits and preferences of a population of a few hundred couples—real people who have made real-life mate choices. That data is crunched into simulated copies of each person—”avatar agents” that have the same attributes and desires as their human counterparts, except in the simulated world they’re single.

“We break them up and throw all these little agents into the market,” said Conroy-Beam, who received support for his research from the National Science Foundation’s Early CAREER program. “Then we run various algorithms and see which ones do the best job at putting them back together with the agent representing their real-world partner.”

The algorithms represent different models of mate selection, which dictate the rules by which the agents can interact, based on the predictions of the model. In addition to the Aspiration Threshold Model (minimum bar) and the Gale-Shapley Algorithm (optimizing stable pairs), the team also used the Kalick-Hamilton Model (KHM), which assumes people choose mates according to their attractiveness, and a new model Conroy-Beam proposed called the Resource Allocation Model (RAM).

“It’s thinking about in terms of investment of limited resources,” he said. “So you’ve only got so much time and so much money and so much energy that you can dedicate to potential partners. And so your question as the person who’s looking for a partner is ‘who deserves most of these limited resources?'”

Conroy-Beam’s model, it turns out, proved to be the most accurate, correctly matching approximately 45% of the couples in the simulated market in the very first runs of couple simulation. What makes the Resource Allocation Model work so well?

“There are a number of differences between RAM and the other models,” he said. “The other models treat attraction like an on/off switch, but RAM allows for gradients of attraction. It also incorporates reciprocity: the more a potential mate pursues you, the more you pursue them in return,” he said. The Gale-Shapley algorithm came in second, followed by the aspirational threshold and then the KHM (attractiveness). Random pairings came in last.

It’s still early days for couple simulation; after all, Conroy-Beam said, 45% right is still 55% wrong. For a first pass, however, 45% accuracy is impressive, and according to the study, the people in this cohort also report having higher-quality relationships (more satisfied, more committed, more love, less jealous) than the people in the inaccurately paired couples.

Conroy-Beam and his team at the Computational Mate Choice Lab at UCSB will continue to refine their models, which he calls “really rough sketches,” to increase accuracy. They’re hoping to soon conduct a longer term longitudinal study to see if couples that are accurately predicted differ in longevity.

“We hope to do this across cultures as well as to incorporate same-sex couples in the near future,” he said. “We also have plans in the next couple of years to try to apply this to single people to prospectively predict their future relationships.”



More information:
Daniel Conroy-Beam. Couple Simulation: A Novel Approach for Evaluating Models of Human Mate Choice, Personality and Social Psychology Review (2021). DOI: 10.1177/1088868320971258

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