Hexbyte Glen Cove Beam me up, Jeff! William Shatner lends Blue Origin star power

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On October 12, William Shatner is set to become the first living member of the iconic show’s cast to journey to the final frontier, as a guest aboard a Blue Origin suborbital rocket on the company’s second crewed flight.

When Star Trek first aired in 1966, America was still three years away from putting people on the Moon and the idea that people could one day live and work in space seemed like a fantasy.

On October 12, William Shatner—Captain James T. Kirk to Trekkies—is set to become the first member of the iconic show’s cast to journey to the final frontier, as a guest aboard a Blue Origin suborbital rocket.

For fans, the 10-minute hop from a West Texas base back to Earth will be a fitting coda for a pop culture phenomenon that inspired generations of astronauts.

“I plan to be looking out the window with my nose pressed against the window, the only thing that I don’t want to see is a little gremlin looking back at me,” the 90-year-old Canadian, who will become the oldest person ever to go to space, joked in a video release.

Blue Origin’s decision to invite one of the most recognizable galaxy-faring characters from science fiction for its second crewed flight has helped maintain excitement around the nascent space tourism sector, as the novelty starts to wear off.

This summer saw flamboyant British entrepreneur Richard Branson fly just beyond the atmosphere in a Virgin Galactic vessel on July 9, beating the Amazon founder Jeff Bezos by a few days in their battle of the billionaire space barons.

Elon Musk’s SpaceX sent four private astronauts to orbit the Earth for three days as part of the Inspiration4 mission in September, which raised more than $200 million for charity.

“Bringing on a celebrity like William Shatner, who’s related to space, brings a kind of renewed novelty, and creates media and cultural attention,” Joe Czabovsky, an expert in public relations at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill told AFP.

Pioneering show

The original Star Trek was canceled after only three seasons, but went on to spawn more than a dozen movies and several spin-off series, including some that are ongoing.

Shatner, as the plucky and decisive Kirk, commanded the USS Enterprise on a five-year-mission “to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

His actual voyage to space will be far shorter, taking the crew just beyond the Karman line, 62 miles (100 kilometers) high, where they will experience four minutes of weightlessness and gaze out at the curvature of the planet.

He will be joined by Audrey Powers, Blue Origin’s vice president of mission and flight operations, Planet Labs co-founder Chris Boshuizen, and Glen de Vries, a co-founder of clinical research platform Medidata Solutions.

Star Trek turned American attention to the stars as the US space program was in its offing, landing a man on the Moon towards the end of its run in 1969.

It broke ground by tackling complicated moral questions, and was notable for its diverse cast at a time when the country was struggling through the Civil Rights era.

The Enterprise crew included an Asian-American helmsman, a half-human half-Vulcan science officer, and a Russian-born ensign.

Shatner made history in 1968 when he kissed Black co-star Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Nyota Uhura, in the first interracial kiss on American television.

Influential

The show is also closely intertwined with the US space program.

In 1976 the first Space Shuttle was named “Enterprise” following a letter writing campaign by fans that swayed then-president Gerald Ford.

NASA hired Nichols in the 1970s to help recruit new astronauts, and numerous other cast members have voiced official documentaries or given talks for the agency.

Astronauts have returned the favor, posing in Star Trek uniforms for mission-related posters and embracing the show’s motifs.

“For 50 years, Star Trek has inspired generations of scientists, engineers, and even astronauts,” NASA astronaut Victor Glover said in a 2016 video that drew parallels between research on the Enterprise and the scientific instruments on the ISS today.

Another mega-fan: Bezos himself.

Amazon’s Alexa was said to be inspired by the conversational computer in Star Trek, and Bezos—wearing heavy makeup sporting an egg-shaped head—appeared in a cameo in the 2016 film “Star Trek Beyond.”

Shatner’s star power and wit—he joked to CNN’s Anderson Cooper that the New Shepard rocket, which has been mocked for its phallic appearance, was in fact “inseminating the program”—could provide a welcome distraction for Blue Origin.

The company is under a cloud of allegations, made by a former senior employee, about a “toxic” work culture with rampant sexual harassment and decision making that prioritized speed over safety.

Blue Origin denied the claims and said the employee was sacked two years ago for issues involving US export control regulations.



© 2021 AFP

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Beam me up, Jeff! William Shatner

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Researchers investigate the factors that affected decisions to evacuate during and after the 2018 Montecito debris flow

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Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A new study by UC Santa Barbara researchers speaks to the importance of public awareness programs in keeping residents—and emergency management offices—informed about rare but potentially lethal natural events in their area.

The paper, co-authored by geology professor Ed Keller and colleagues Summer Gray, an assistant professor of environmental studies, Keith Clarke, a professor of geography, and Erica Goto, a postdoctoral scholar who completed her Ph.D. in geography, is published in the International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction.

The work is part of an ongoing effort to understand and improve how communities prepare for future disasters. “There were a lot of problems because people didn’t know what to do,” said Keller. “We need to learn from that.”

The Montecito debris flows that occurred in January 2018 were the result of a rare confluence of two uncommonly severe events: the Thomas Fire—at that time the largest wildfire in California history—which which for weeks burned through Ventura and Santa Barbara counties; and the intense winter storm that followed, at one point dumping half an inch of rain in a five-minute period on the newly charred mountainside. Add to that combination a topography that is prone to swift floods, as rain-swollen creeks jump their banks, creating new channels.

“All of Montecito was built on these alluvial fans,” Keller said. “The whole place.”

Residents of Montecito were made aware of the possible disaster and given an evacuation order the day before the storm’s arrival, but many chose to stay.

In surveys and interviews with hundreds of respondents, the researchers sought the residents’ reasons for choosing not to evacuate. Lack of knowledge of debris flows seems to have contributed to a false sense of security.

“From the interviews, we learned that they did not know about previous debris flows in Santa Barbara County and in Montecito, and that they didn’t know what a was,” said Goto, the lead author of the study, which is likely the first paper to dive into the physical systems of and the behaviors surrounding catastrophic debris flows. “And so, they did not understand their risk.”

Unlike wildfires—regular events for Californians—debris flows of the magnitude that occurred in Montecito are exceptionally rare, with an average recurrence interval of about 1,700 years, and a 6% chance of such a catastrophic event occurring in the next 100 years, according to the paper. However, said the researchers, it is important to remember that rare events based on probability do not mean they cannot occur again at shorter time periods. Smaller debris flows are common when rains follow wildfires, Keller pointed out, but they usually don’t make it out of the mountains.

Nevertheless, the researchers said, smaller but hazardous debris flows have flowed beyond the mountain front in recent decades. Also, with climate change bringing more intense wildfire and rainstorms, hazardous debris flows may become more common.

“These big events, such as the one that happened in Montecito in 2018, are a whole different beast,” said Keller, both for the community and for the county, whose job it was to manage the evacuations. “I think (the county) did the best they could—they didn’t understand what they were dealing with, like many people,” he said.

The lack of experience with and knowledge of this type of natural hazard led to a low perception of risk in many of the respondents, who reported that they “felt safe,” and had “no idea about debris flows,” or “did not think I was at risk.” Others, many of whom recently had to leave their homes due to the still-burning Thomas Fire, cited evacuation fatigue and pets as reasons for staying.

The dominant reason for staying given by the respondents was that they were placed in the voluntary evacuation zone in the county’s evacuation map, which at the time of the event was based on Thomas Fire evacuation zones and not on the estimated movement of water, silt and boulders down a hillside. Thus, according to the paper, “many residents were told to evacuate who lived out of the debris flow hazard area, and many residents in the voluntary evacuation zones were in areas subject to debris flows (that is, along a stream corridor close to the channel).”

In the uncertainty before the storm, residents also turned to their social networks to help them decide whether to stay or go, Goto said, something that was “surprising, but also expected since residents did not understand their risk.” Lack of understanding about debris flows is also thought to be a factor behind some last-minute decisions to flee and try to outrun the 30 mile-per-hour flows, which resulted in some residents being swept up in the rush of mud and rocks.

The interviews and surveys also addressed subsequent evacuation notices in March 2018, ahead of heavy storms. The researchers wanted to see whether evacuation compliance would increase significantly after residents had been primed with the experience of the first disaster. Contrary to the research group’s expectations, compliance between the January and March orders increased slightly, but was not statistically significant, an outcome the study says could be attributed to the relative moderate to high rates of compliance (more than 60% in both cases)—and possibly also loss of confidence in the county after the tragedy of the January debris flows.

Though catastrophic debris flows are uncommon—and precisely because we’re not likely to see another one in the same area in our lifetimes—Goto, Keller and colleagues have been working to glean as much knowledge as possible about the Montecito flows from a variety of perspectives, including physical processes, social implications and vulnerability. The memory of the disaster should be kept alive, they say, if only to serve as a warning to present and future residents that the ground under their feet is not as stable as they might think. And with increasing the intensity and frequency of severe events such as wildfires and winter rains, rare events might become more common.

According to Goto, who specializes in the combination of physical and social aspects of disaster risk reduction, residents, particularly those who are new to the area, would benefit from a long-term, onging public awareness program and educations about the risks.



More information:
Erica Akemi Goto et al, Evacuation choice before and after major debris flows: The case of Montecito, CA, International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction (2021). DOI: 10.1016/j.ijdrr.2021.102400

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Hexbyte Glen Cove COVID-19 leads to African agricultural innovation

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by The Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture

A bean market in Kampala, Uganda. Credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT

In a paper published in Advances in Food Security and Sustainability, researchers found that farmers in East Africa (Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda) were able to better adapt to the impact of COVID-19 than those in the Southern African countries of Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. 

These , the researchers said, could largely be explained by the difference in arrival times of lock-down measures, access and adoption of technology and cultural differences in adapting to the new situation.

Timing of the pandemic

Eileen Bogweh Nchanji, a gender specialist at the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT and a co-author of the paper, said that when COVID-19 lockdowns started in southern Africa, it happened right in the middle of the harvest of legumes like beans, a key crop for food security and livelihoods.

“If you had to go out to sell your crops, nobody wanted to do the transport and a lot of people lost their crops,” she said, adding that East Africa was more fortunate in that lockdowns hit at a more advantageous part of the crop cycle, and that relatives returning from the cities were available as labor.

Lutomia Kweyu, a researcher at the Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization in  Nairobi, Kenya, and another co-author of the paper, said that before the pandemic, the Sub-saharan food systems were very fragile and again, the timing was a big factor.

“We were dependent on imports and inputs, mostly from Asia and Europe… then the pandemic struck Asia, a big source of fertilizer and ,” he said, adding that this led to large disruptions in the supply chains of those farming inputs. 

Changes in farmer behavior

Kweyu explained that particularly in East African countries like Kenya, there was a large increase in the plot size of urban farms.

“Urban Farmers wanted to have access to healthy and safe food, so they increased plot sizes in the urban areas, to increase the production,” he said.

“Meat was so expensive, many people began to grow and consume legumes,” he said, “It was a blend of those who had gardens before and others who hadn’t farmed before but were now stuck at home and wanted to reduce their trips to the markets and their overall food budget.”

Kweyu said more farmers in East Africa were able to access government support, in comparison to southern African countries and supply chains were more certain.

“The huge difference was the ability of the east Africans to process their raw materials into value-added products,” he said, “In Kenya particularly, the milk processing capacity is higher, the milk trucks were declared essential services and, in the dairy-producing regions, processing of milk into butter and yogurt increased substantially at the co-op level.”

As the pandemic wore on, farmers in eastern and southern Africa also found feed and fertilizer solutions closer to home.

Mobile phone apps to the rescue

One of the more surprising findings from the pandemic, said Nchanji (who is originally from Cameroon), was the rapid adoption of communication apps to facilitate new connections between farmers and buyers.

According to Nchanji, in general, the challenges posed by lockdowns and supply chain disruption, led to farmers reassessing their activities.

“They couldn’t do anything for the season, but then they realized they had more time on the farm, so they started think about what else they could grow and how to sell more efficiently,” she said, adding that digital platforms were able to bring together farmers and aggregators (traders who put together big lots of produce for sale).

“In Kenya, for example, someone will now go on to a WhatsApp group and say, I have this quantity of beans to sell, in this district and then an aggregator or wholesale buyer will be able to get in contact with them directly instead of having to make stops at various farms,” Nchanji said.

Nchanji said however that the prices were generally lower than the old market price, as biosecurity measures and scarcity meant climbing transport costs.

“The WhatsApp group for the bean farmers actually got so big, we’ve had to move to Telegram,” she said.



More information:
Sustainability of the agri-food supply chain amidst the pandemic: Diversification, local input production, and consumer behavior, Advances in Food Security and Sustainability, DOI: 10.1016/bs.af2s.2021.07.003 , www.sciencedirect.com/science/ … ii/S2452263521000033

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The Alliance of Bioversity International and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture

Citation:
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Dams disproportionately removed from areas with more non-Hispanic white residents

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Dam removal project completed in 2018 along the Paulinskill River in New Jersey. Credit: Josh Galster.

Since the 1970s, dams have been removed from the U.S. at an increasing rate, with the aim to improve the ecology of river ecosystems, fish migration pathways, water quality, and recreation spaces.

“We have about 90,000 dams here in the United States and these dams were built for a whole host of reasons, and many of them are reaching the end of their lifespans. So it’s starting to be recognized that their removal will have net benefits for society,” said Josh Galster, an associate professor in the department of Earth and Environmental Studies at Montclair State University.

In 2018, Galster was working on a on the Paulinskill River near Columbia, New Jersey, doing scientific monitoring of the river. Since the dam was being removed to improve the natural setting of the recreation areas in an already quite scenic area of New Jersey, Galster wondered where else dam removals were happening nationwide and if they were being done in an equitable fashion.

Galster teamed with his father, George Galster, an emeritus professor in the Department of Urban Studies and Planning at Wayne State University, to evaluate the environmental justice of dam removal.

“My father and I feel that it’s important to recognize and analyze where we’re doing these [dam removals] and where these resources are being spent because if we’re spending that much to improve the local conditions around that dam, then who are the people that are living near that dam that are going to benefit the most?” said Galster.

They examined dam removals since 2010 and compared that information to a database of existing dams in the U.S. and demographic information from the U.S. Census Bureau, broken down into four regions: Northeast, South, Midwest, and West.

Almost half of the dams removed since 2010 were in the Northeast, while the South had the fewest removed. Areas that had a dam removed had significantly larger populations of non-Hispanic white residents when compared to other areas with dams or to the nation as a whole.

“We found that really the racial gap in where dams are being removed is basically entirely being created by dams being removed in the South,” said Galster.

Even controlling for the type of dam, whether it was shorter, older, made of earthen versus concrete material, they found that dams were still being disproportionately removed in the southern region from areas with a higher degree of white residents.

A potential complicating factor in dam removal is the variability in procedures based on the state in which the dam is located and who owns the dam. Dams can be owned by either the federal government, state or local governments, utility companies, private businesses, or individuals. States like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin have led the way in dam removals, with some of the highest numbers of dams removed in the nation, while states like Oklahoma have only had one dam removed between 1912 and 2020.

“Dam removals are an important way to restore rivers, and we should keep doing them. However, we should also be aware of the larger picture of where those have been done and where we should do those in the future to make sure that everybody benefits from all of these resources that we are spending on , and so that we can make that group of people that benefits from them be more diverse,” said Galster.

Galster will present this research on Sunday at the Geological Society of America’s GSA Connects 2021 annual meeting in Portland, Oregon.



More information:
Session 31: D23. Recent Advances in Quaternary Geology and GeomorphologyPaper 31-1: Dam removals and environmental justicehttps://gsa.confex.com/gsa/2021AM/meetingapp.cgi/Paper/369553Sunday, 10 Oct., 1:35–1:50 p.m.Oregon Convention Center Room D137

Citation:
Dams disproportionately removed from areas with more non-Hispanic white residents (2021, October 8)
retrieved 9 October 2021
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Vermont bald eagle restoration follows years of trying

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In this Aug. 19, 2012 file photo, a pair of nesting bald eagles perch in a tree near their nest on Lake Bomoseen in Castleton, Vt. The state of Vermont is proposing to remove the bald eagle from the state’s list of threatened and endangered species. It comes 13 years after Vermont lost the distinction of being the only state in the continental United States without any breeding pairs of bald eagles. Credit: AP Photo/Toby Talbot, File

Thirteen years after Vermont lost the ignominious distinction of being the only state in the continental United States without any breeding pairs of bald eagles, the state is moving to remove the iconic national symbol from its list of threatened and endangered species.

Since 2008 the number of breeding eagles have grown to where, last year, biologists discovered 64 young eagles in the state and more than 75 were found in a recovery region, which includes portions of New Hampshire and New York.

“They are pretty amazing looking birds. They are huge, first of all, they’re just a striking predator,” said Margaret Fowle, a conservation biologist with Vermont Audubon who has been working on eagle projects in the state for almost 20 years. “For me, every time I see them, it’s kind of awe-inspiring.”

Removing the eagles from the state list was the culmination of decades of work at the state, regional and national level that benefitted a number of other species of birds and other animals, said Mark Scott, the director of wildlife for the Vermont Department of Fish and Wildlife.

“When people care about something and we all come together to work on things great things can happen,” Scott said Thursday.

Habitat destruction and the use of the pesticide DDT beginning in the 1940s reduced the numbers of bald eagles across North America. By the early 1960s, bald eagles—adopted as the national symbol in the 1700s—were nearly wiped out.

DDT was banned in 1972. In 1978, the bald eagle was placed on the federal endangered species list.

Vermont’s list of threatened and endangered species is separate from the federal list, which is managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The bald eagle was removed from the federal list in 2007.

Vermont wasn’t part of the original bald eagle reintroduction plans in the 1970s and 1980s, Fowle said. The eagles were in neighboring states and people expected them to come back to Vermont naturally.

“From what I’ve learned they are sort of slow to pioneer new places so they tend to saturate an area before they spread into new areas,” she said.

Throughout the early 2000s, Vermont biologists were repeatedly frustrated by efforts to bring back the birds, which were known to be successfully breeding in the adjacent states of New Hampshire, Massachusetts and New York. Some were nesting within just a few hundred yards of Vermont.

The state tried to lure breeding eagles to Vermont by building nests and laying deer carcasses near them.

In 2002, eagles were spotted building a nest, but the next year great horned owls took over the nest. In 2005, eagles built two nests in southeastern Vermont but didn’t lay any eggs. Then in 2006, a pair hatched an eaglet in Rockingham—but a few weeks later, the young bird was found dead.

Around the same time biologists began raising young eagles in special boxes in the Dead Creek Wildlife Management Area in Addison. By the time the project ended in 2006, biologists had raised 29 young eagles.

The September 2008 confirmation that a bald eagle pair had successfully raised a young eagle along the upper reaches of the Connecticut River ended Vermont’s distinction as the only state without breeding eagles. It’s unclear if those birds came from the Dead Creek program.

As a proven success to the program, this year the Vermont Endangered Species Committee determined the bald eagle population has grown to the point where it no longer needed the additional protections.

Scott said that even after the eagles are delisted, they will still be protected by state and federal laws.

But it’s not all good news: The Vermont Endangered Species committee is recommending adding the American bumblebee, some species of plants and smaller birds to the state’s list.



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

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Vermont bald eagle restoration follows years of trying (2021, October 7)
retrieved 8 October 2021
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Microbiology researchers further understanding of ocean’s role in carbon cycling

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Depiction of what was studied. Credit: Oregon State University

Microbiology researchers at Oregon State University have shed new light on the mechanisms of carbon cycling in the ocean, using a novel approach to track which microbes are consuming different types of organic carbon produced by common phytoplankton species.

The research is an important step toward forecasting how much carbon will leave the ocean for the atmosphere as greenhouse gas carbon dioxide and how much will end up entombed in marine sediments, said Ryan Mueller, associate professor in OSU’s Department of Microbiology and the leader of the study.

Findings were published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

“Our research shows that different species of microbes in the ocean are very particular yet predictable in the sources they prefer to eat,” said first author Brandon Kieft, a recent Oregon State Ph.D. graduate who is now a postdoctoral researcher at the University of British Columbia. “As continues to alter oceanic environments at a rapid pace, the availability of food sources for microbes will also change, ultimately favoring certain types over others.”

Phytoplankton are microscopic organisms at the base of the ocean’s and a key component of a critical biological carbon pump. Most float in the upper part of the ocean, where sunlight can easily reach them.

The tiny autotrophic plants—they make their own food—have a big effect on the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere by sucking it up during photosynthesis. It’s a natural sink and one of the primary ways that CO2, the most abundant greenhouse gas, is scrubbed from the atmosphere; atmospheric carbon dioxide has increased 40% since the dawn of the industrial age, contributing heavily to a warming planet.

“We’re studying the consumers—the heterotrophic microbes—of the organic material made by the primary producers, the microbial phytoplankton,” Mueller said. “Both groups are microbes, the former primarily consumes organic carbon as a food source, while the latter ‘fix’ their own organic carbon. Microbes form the basis of the food web and biological carbon pump, and our work is primarily focused on exploring what the consumers are doing in this system.”

The surface ocean stores nearly as much carbon as exists in the atmosphere. As the ocean pulls in , phytoplankton use the CO2 and sunlight for photosynthesis: They convert them into sugars and other compounds the cells can use for energy, producing oxygen in the process.

This so-called fixed carbon makes up the diet of heterotrophic microbes and higher organisms of the marine food web such as fish and mammals, which ultimately convert the carbon back to atmospheric CO2 through respiration or contribute to the carbon stock at the bottom of the ocean when they die and sink.

The collective respiratory activity of the heterotrophic microbial consumers is the main way that fixed dissolved organic carbon from phytoplankton is returned to the atmosphere as CO2.

Mueller, Kieft and collaborators at the Oak Ridge and Lawrence Livermore national laboratories and the universities of Tennessee, Washington and Oklahoma used labeling to track carbon as it made its way into the organic matter produced by the phytoplankton and, ultimately, the heterotrophic microbes that consume it.

The scientists used those isotopes to tell which organisms were eating diatoms and which were consuming cyanobacteria, two species of phytoplankton that combine to produce a majority of the ocean’s fixed carbon. The researchers could also tell when the consumption was happening—for example, at times the cells were producing substances known as lysates during their death phase or exudates during their growth phase.

“Our findings have important implications for understanding how marine and photosynthetic algae function together to impact global carbon cycling and how this oceanic food web may respond to continued environmental change,” Kieft said. “This will help us predict how much will go back into the atmosphere and how much will be buried in for centuries.”



More information:
Phytoplankton exudates and lysates support distinct microbial consortia with specialized metabolic and ecophysiological traits, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2021). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2101178118 , www.pnas.org/content/118/41/e2101178118

Citation:
Microbiology researchers further understanding of ocean’s role in carbon cycling (2021, October 7)
retrieved 8 October 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-10-microbiology-ocean-role-carbon.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Elastic polymer that is both stiff and tough, resolves long-standing quandary

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A highly entangled hydrogel (left) and a regular hydrogel (right). Credit: Suo Lab/Harvard SEAS

Polymer science has made possible rubber tires, Teflon and Kevlar, plastic water bottles, nylon jackets among many other ubiquitous features of daily life. Elastic polymers, known as elastomers, can be stretched and released repeatedly and are used in applications such as gloves and heart valves, where they need to last a long time without tearing. But a conundrum has long stumped polymer scientists: Elastic polymers can be stiff, or they can be tough, but they can’t be both.

This stiffness-toughness conflict is a challenge for scientists developing polymers that could be used in applications including tissue regeneration, bioadhesives, bioprinting, wearable electronics, and soft robots.

In a paper published today in Science, researchers from the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) have resolved that long-standing conflict and developed an elastomer that is both stiff and tough.

“In addition to developing polymers for emerging applications, scientists are facing an urgent challenge: Plastic pollution,” said Zhigang Suo, the Allen E. and Marilyn M. Puckett Professor of Mechanics and Materials, the senior author of the study. “The development of biodegradable polymers has once again brought us back to fundamental questions—why are some polymers tough, but others brittle? How do we make polymers resist tearing under repeated stretching?”

Polymer chains are made by linking together monomer building blocks. To make a material elastic, the are crosslinked by . The more crosslinks, the shorter the chains and the stiffer the material.

“As your polymer chains become shorter, the energy you can store in the material becomes less and the material becomes brittle,” said Junsoo Kim, a at SEAS and co-first author of the paper. “If you have only a few crosslinks, the chains are longer, and the material is tough but it’s too squishy to be useful.”

To develop a polymer that is both stiff and tough, the researchers looked to physical, rather than to link the polymer chains. These physical bonds, called entanglements, have been known in the field for almost as long as polymer science has existed, but they’ve been thought to only impact stiffness, not toughness.

But the SEAS research team found that with enough entanglements, a polymer could become tough without compromising stiffness. To create highly entangled polymers, the researchers used a concentrated monomer precursor solution with 10 times less water than other polymer recipes.

Each polymer chain has a large number of entanglements along its length (left) and a cross-link at each end. A stretched polymer (middle) showing transmission of the tension to other chains. Credit: Suo Lab/Harvard SEAS

“By crowding all the monomers into this solution with less water and then polymerizing it, we forced them to be entangled, like tangled strings of yarn,” said Guogao Zhang, a postdoctoral fellow at SEAS and co-first author the paper. “Just like with knitted fabrics, the polymers maintain their connection with one another by being physically intertwined.”

With hundreds of these entanglements, just a handful of chemical crosslinks are required to keep the polymer stable.

“As elastomers, these polymers have high toughness, strength, and fatigue resistance,” said Meixuanzi Shi, a visiting scholar at SEAS and co-author of the paper. “When the polymers are submerged in water to become hydrogels, they have low friction, and high wear resistance.”

That high fatigued resistance and high wear resistance increases the durability and lifespan of the polymers.

“Our research shows that by using entanglements rather than crosslinks, we could decrease the consumption of some plastics by increasing the durability of the materials,” said Zhang.

“We hope that this new understanding of polymer structure will expand opportunities for applications and pave the way for more sustainable, long-lasting polymer materials with these exceptional mechanical properties,” said Kim.



More information:
Zhigang Suo, Fracture, fatigue, and friction of polymers in which entanglements greatly outnumber crosslinks, Science (2021). DOI: 10.1126/science.abg6320

Citation:
Elastic polymer that is both stiff and tough, resolves long-standing quandary (2021, October 7)
retrieved 8 October 2021
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Hexbyte Glen Cove Growing climate anxiety poses significant threat to individuals and society

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Credit: CC0 Public Domain

Levels of eco-anxiety—the chronic fear of environmental doom—are growing, particularly among children and young people, and are likely to be significant and potentially damaging to individuals and society, warn experts in The BMJ today.

Mala Rao and Richard A Powell say neglecting the effects of increasing eco-anxiety “risks exacerbating health and between those more or less vulnerable to these psychological impacts,” while the socioeconomic effects—as yet hidden and unquantified—”will add considerably to the national costs of addressing the climate crisis.”

And they call on leaders to “recognize the challenges ahead, the need to act now, and the commitment necessary to create a path to a happier and healthier future, leaving no one behind.”

They point to a 2020 survey of child psychiatrists in England showing that more than half (57%) are seeing children and young people distressed about the climate crisis and the state of the environment.

And a recent international survey of climate anxiety in young people aged 16 to 25 showed that the psychological (emotional, cognitive, social, and functional) burdens of climate change are “profoundly affecting huge numbers of these young people around the world.”

These findings also offer insights into how young people’s emotions are linked with their feelings of betrayal and abandonment by governments and adults, they write. Governments are seen as failing to respond adequately, leaving with “no future” and “humanity doomed.”

So what is to be done to alleviate the rising levels of climate anxiety, they ask?

“The best chance of increasing optimism and hope in the eco-anxious young and old is to ensure they have access to the best and most reliable information on mitigation and adaptation,” they explain.

“Especially important is information on how they could connect more strongly with nature, contribute to greener choices at an individual level, and join forces with like-minded communities and groups.”

They conclude: “The is an , and fearfulness about the future cannot be fully tackled until a common united global strategy is put in place to address the root cause, , and to give everyone—especially the young and the most vulnerable communities—the hope of a better future.”



Citation:
Growing climate anxiety poses significant threat to individuals and society (2021, October 6)
retrieved 7 October 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-10-climate-anxiety-poses-significant-threat.html

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Dismayed by oil spill, some in Huntington Beach say it’s time to end offshore drilling

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Credit: CC0 Public Domain

A large yellow bulldozer pushed a mound of sand toward the mouth of the Huntington Beach Channel, creating a barrier that would hopefully slow the amount of oil that was floating up to the nearby wetlands.

Farther up, in the underpass, cleaning crews on two boats replaced the booms that had absorbed the oil.

On one end, two men placed the long, white booms on the water, tying them together. On the other end, two other men picked up the spent, blackened barriers as if they were picking up a large python and placed it in a large see-through bag.

Rolling up on his skateboard with his wife riding her bicycle behind, Sumio Uchida, 67, came to watch the aftermath of this past weekend’s massive oil .

He looked at the dozer and the warning signs about swimming in the ocean.

“This is sad.”

His wife, Gloria Uchida, nodded and added, “Very sad.”

The couple, longtime residents of Huntington Beach, were angry. The spill has left many residents questioning the oil industry off its shore and officials calling for a ban on drilling off the coast.

“This is why offshore oil drilling needs to stop,” Sumio Uchida said. “This happened in 1990.”

Uchida was referring to Feb. 7, 1990, when the oil tanker American Trader ran over its anchor in shallow water off Huntington Beach, ripping a hole in its hull and spilling nearly 417,000 gallons of crude that fouled popular beaches along the Orange County coast. The oil killed fish and about 3,400 birds.

Uchida now was witness to another ecological disaster.

“Many of my neighbors are upset,” he said before shaking his head. “Oil companies.”

Uchida questioned how long it would take to recover from this spill. He worried not just about the wildlife that had been affected but also for his coastal town, which had already suffered economically from the pandemic and now had to deal with the oil spill.

He worried that events such as surfing and volleyball competitions that brought revenue to the city may not happen again. He worried the organizers would choose to go elsewhere.

Sitting on her bicycle, staring out at the crashing waves, Gloria Uchida said she too worried about that, but all anyone could do now was volunteer and help clean up.

“I may do that.”

The spill, first reported Saturday morning but perhaps detected the night before, originated from a pipeline running from the Port of Long Beach to an offshore oil platform known as Elly. The failure caused as much as 144,000 gallons of oil to gush into the Catalina Channel.

In the days that followed, the spill has left crude along stretches of sand in Newport Beach, Laguna Beach and Huntington Beach, killing fish and birds and threatening sensitive marine habitats.

“The ecological and economic damage from this oil spill has the potential to reverberate for generations,” state Sen. Dave Min (D-Irvine) said this week. At a news conference Tuesday, Min called the spill “either a case of negligence or inaction.”

“The legislation after the Santa Barbara damage [from the Refugio spill in 2015] was meant to prevent this,” he said. “It really speaks to the need to get rid of these .”

Gov. Gavin Newsom said during a news conference at Bolsa Chica State Beach on Tuesday afternoon that it’s “time once and for all to disabuse ourselves that [oil drilling] has to be part of our future.”

“This is part of our past, and we can moralize and talk about the good old days, we can talk about how important these rigs had been to the prosperity of this country in the , but at the end of the day, this is about the stale air of normalcy versus the fresh air of progress,” he said.



©2021 Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Citation:
Dismayed by oil spill, some in Huntington Beach say it’s time to end offshore drilling (2021, October 6)

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Smoggier skies, lower scores? A Brazilian study examines the effects of air pollution on students’ cognitive performance

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A new study published in the Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists looks at the causal relationship between outdoor air pollution levels on nationwide university entry examination day and students’ cognitive performance in Brazil.

In “The Effects of Air Pollution on Students’ Cognitive Performance: Evidence from Brazilian University Entrance Tests,” authors Juliana Carneiro, Matthew A. Cole, and Eric Strobl use Brazilian data on concentrations of ozone (O3) and particulate matter (PM10) and a data set of students’ scores to examine the impact of air pollution on academic performance in national examinations. The air pollution data focuses on Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo—Brazil’s most industrialized states—using air pollution and weather monitoring station data to build a unique data panel from 2015–17.

The authors constructed individual-level panel data for the two days of exams across three years and applied student fixed effects to address potential endogeneity concerns. “In addition,” they note, “We take advantage of plausibly exogenous spatial and temporal variation in PM10 across municipalities in the states of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo and utilize an instrumental variable approach based on .”

The findings suggest that an increase of 10 micrograms per cubic meter (mg/m3) of PM10 on the day of the examination decreases students’ scores by 6.1 points (8% SD). “Even when including a more flexible measure of our treatment that is utilizing a dummy variable to account for the days in which PM10 exceeded the WHO’s acceptable threshold, our findings still point to negative effects of air pollution on cognitive performance during examinations,” they note. Placebo tests, sensitivity checks, and falsifications tests reinforced the main findings: evidence of a link between air pollution and exam performance.

Consistent with previous studies, the authors also find evidence that the effect of air pollution on exam performance appears to affect males more adversely than females. “Our results also suggest that poorer students may be more susceptible to air than wealthier exam takers,” they write, adding, “Our findings provide plausible evidence to suggest that may be hindered by poor air quality, but unequally so.”



More information:
Juliana Carneiro et al, The Effects of Air Pollution on Students’ Cognitive Performance: Evidence from Brazilian University Entrance Tests, Journal of the Association of Environmental and Resource Economists (2021). DOI: 10.1086/714671

Citation:
Smoggier skies, lower scores? A Brazilian study examines the effects of air pollution on students’ cognitive performance (2021, October 6)
retrieved 7 October 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-10-smoggier-scores-brazilian-effects-air.html

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