Massive California fire eases with rains

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Firefighters were able to beat back a massive wildfire outside Los Angeles after a tropical storm brought rains and cooler temperatures, US authorities said Saturday.

California firefighters were able to beat back a massive wildfire outside Los Angeles after a tropical storm brought rains and cooler temperatures, US authorities said on Saturday.

The Fairview Fire was 40 percent contained as of Saturday evening after forcing evacuation orders and leaving two people dead, fire officials said.

The blaze erupted on Monday at the midpoint of a ferocious heat wave in the southwestern United States, scorching 28,000 acres (11,300 hectares) and destroying more than 20 buildings.

The remnants of storm Kay, which made landfall Thursday in Mexico as a hurricane before rolling north up the Pacific Coast, brought rains that helped calm the fire.

“Fire activity has been greatly reduced due to the moisture from Tropical Storm Kay,” a statement from Cal Fire, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said.

Authorities warned, however, that the rains brought a risk of flash flooding and mudflows in areas where burned-out soil cannot absorb the sudden downpour.

“We could go from a fire suppression event into significant rain, water rescues, mudslides, debris (flows),” Jeff Veik of Cal Fire’s Riverside Unit said Friday.

The western United States is more than two decades into a historic drought that scientists say is being worsened by human-made climate change.

Much of the countryside is parched and overgrown, creating the conditions for hot, fast and destructive wildfires.



© 2022 AFP

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Massive California fire eases with rains (2022, September 11)
retrieved 13 September 2022
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Hexbyte Glen Cove When and why did human brains decrease in size 3,000 years ago? Ants may hold clues

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Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

The brain is the most complex organ in the human body. Now, a new study has brought us closer to understanding some of its evolution. It shows that human brains decreased in size approximately 3,000 years ago. By studying ants as models to illustrate why brains may increase or decrease in size, the researchers hypothesize that brain shrinkage parallels the expansion of collective intelligence in human societies.

Studying and understanding the causes and consequences of brain helps us understand the nature of humanity. It is well documented that have increased in size over the course of our evolutionary history. Less appreciated is the fact that human brains have decreased in size since the Pleistocene. When exactly these changes happened, or why, was not well known.

“A surprising fact about humans today is that our brains are smaller compared to the brains of our Pleistocene ancestors. Why our brains have reduced in size has been a big mystery for anthropologists,” explained co-author Dr. Jeremy DeSilva, from Dartmouth College.

To disentangle this mystery, a team of researchers from different academic fields set out to study the historical patterns of human brain evolution, comparing their findings with what is known in ant societies to offer broad insights.

“A biological anthropologist and a behavioral ecologist and evolutionary neurobiologist began sharing their thoughts on brain evolution and found bridging research on humans and ants might help identify what is possible in nature,” said co-author Dr. James Traniello, from Boston University.

Their paper, published in Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, sheds new light on the evolution of our brain.

A recent size decrease

The researchers applied a change-point analysis to a dataset of 985 fossil and modern human crania. They found that human brains increased in size 2.1 million years ago and 1.5 million years ago, during the Pleistocene, but decreased in size around 3,000 years ago (Holocene), which is more recent than previous estimates.

“Most people are aware that humans have unusually large brains—significantly larger than predicted from our body size. In our deep evolutionary history, human brain size dramatically increased,” said Traniello. “The reduction in human brain size 3,000 years ago was unexpected.”

The timing of size increase coincides with what is previously known about the early evolution of Homo and the technical advancements that led to; for example, better diet and nutrition and larger social groups.

As for the decrease in brain size, the interdisciplinary team of researchers propose a new hypothesis, finding clues within ant societies.

What could ants teach us about human brain evolution?

“We propose that ants can provide diverse models to understand why brains may increase or decrease in size due to social life. Understanding why brains increase or decrease is difficult to study using only fossils,” explained Traniello.

Studying computational models and patterns of worker ant brain size, structure, and energy use in some ant clades, such as the Oecophylla weaver ant, Atta leafcutter ants, or the common garden ant Formica, showed that group-level cognition and division of labor may select for adaptive brain size variation. This means that within a social group where knowledge is shared or individuals are specialists at certain tasks, brains may adapt to become more efficient, such as decreasing in size.

“Ant and human societies are very different and have taken different routes in social evolution,” Traniello said. “Nevertheless, also share with humans important aspects of social life such as group decision-making and division of labor, as well as the production of their own food (agriculture). These similarities can broadly inform us of the factors that may influence changes in human brain size.”

Brains use up a lot of energy, and smaller brains use less energy. The externalization of knowledge in , thus needing less energy to store a lot of information as individuals, may have favored a decrease in size.

“We propose that this decrease was due to increased reliance on collective intelligence, the idea that a group of people is smarter than the smartest person in the group, often called the ‘wisdom of the crowds,'” added Traniello.

DeSilva concluded, “We look forward to having our hypothesis tested as additional data become available.”



More information:
Jeremy DeSilva et al, When and Why Did Human Brains Decrease in Size? A New Change-Point Analysis and Insights from Brain Evolution in Ants, Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution (2021). DOI: 10.3389/fevo.2021.742639

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Greece fires under control as reconstruction begins thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Greece fires under control as reconstruction begins

Hexbyte Glen Cove

Rain and falling temperatures helped the fire-dousing effort, but crews remain on alert for possible flare-ups.

Fires burning for over a week that caused Greece’s worst ecological disaster in decades were finally placed under control Friday, the fire department said.

“As of yesterday, there is no major active front, just scattered pockets,” a department spokesman told AFP.

Rain and falling temperatures helped the fire-dousing effort, but crews remain on alert for possible flare-ups in hard-to-access ravines on the island of Evia and in the region of Arcadia in the Peloponnese, the spokesman said.

But with forecast for the weekend, the bulk of a huge multinational force that assisted Greek firefighters this week remains in place, civil protection spokesman Spyros Georgiou said.

“They are helping to monitor the perimeters of burned areas in Evia and Arcadia, which are many kilometres (miles) long,” he said.

“Many of them are actually requesting to remain,” Georgiou said.

Hundreds of homes and many businesses have been destroyed in Evia, Arcadia and the outskirts of Athens in the prolonged fire wave that struck Greece from late July and intensified last week, during the worst heatwave in decades.

Greece is just one of a number of countries in the Mediterranean region that have been hit by a savage fire season.

Heatwaves have become more likely due to climate change, scientists say.

Heatwaves have become more likely due to climate change, scientists say. As global temperatures rise over time, heatwaves are predicted to become more frequent and intense, and their impacts more widespread.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis on Thursday described the infernos as Greece’s “greatest ecological disaster in decades”.

He pledged hundreds of millions of euros in reconstruction, reforestation and flood prevention works.

“(Recovery funds) will begin to be disbursed in a few days… and they will be greater than ever before, to all those affected,” the told a news conference Thursday.

The government has come under withering criticism from locals in stricken areas whose income from and tourism has been wiped out.

There have been growing calls for the resignation of top public safety officials who as recently as June had insisted that the country was well-prepared.

Mitsotakis on Thursday said the country had battled some 600 blazes in a week, some of them “mega fires”.

But he admitted: “It seemed that this particular phenomenon exceeded our capabilities and the preparations put in place.”



© 2021 AFP

Citation:
Greece fires under control as reconstruction begins (2021, August 13)
retrieved 13 August 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-08-greece-reconstruction.html

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part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

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Hexbyte Glen Cove Even on Facebook, COVID-19 polarized members of US Congress: study thumbnail

Hexbyte Glen Cove Even on Facebook, COVID-19 polarized members of US Congress: study

Hexbyte Glen Cove

When communicating about COVID-19, most messages by members of Congress have a positive or negative tone. Credit: Laura Moses / OpenMoji

Facebook posts by members of the U.S. Congress reveal the depth of the partisan divide over the COVID-19 pandemic, new research shows.

A study of all 12,031 Facebook posts concerning the pandemic by members of Congress between March and October 2020 showed that Democrats generally took a more negative or neutral tone on the issue, while Republicans were more likely to have a positive tone in their posts.

Public crises, like the pandemic, highlight how central social media is to messaging and how important it is to understand how rhetoric impacts engagement and sharing of messages said Laura Moses, co-author of the study and a doctoral student in at The Ohio State University.

“When members of Congress communicate with the public about the pandemic, there is not a ‘rally around the flag’ effect, suggesting a shift toward partisan politics,” Moses said.

The study also found that Democrats posted more on COVID-19 than did Republicans, were shared more often than positive ones, and Republicans’ posts attracted more engagement, such as “likes” and comments, than did Democrats’ messages.

Moses conducted the study with Janet Box-Steffensmeier, professor of political science at Ohio State. Their results were published today (July 14, 2021) in the journal Science Advances.

These findings reflect the overall fractured nature of politics in the country today, Box-Steffensmeier said.

“We find partisan tone differences in messaging, even at the outset of the crisis” she said.

The researchers measured the tone in members’ Facebook messages using a state-of-the-art machine learning tool that analyzed the text in each message. The tool looked for the use of words that are positive or negative to give an overall “sentiment” score for each message.

For example, a post offering a resource guide to staying safe and healthy was labeled positive. A message that criticized a Trump administration official for comparing lockdowns to slavery was labeled negative. A post that urged readers to wear a mask was marked as neutral.

Results showed that Democratic members posted an average of 26 times about COVID-19 during the period of the study, compared to 18 times for Republicans. The only pandemic-related issue that Republicans posted more about than Democrats was social distancing.

The daily average tone by political party, values near 1 are more positive and values near -1 are more negative. Credit: Box-Steffensmeier and Moses, Sci. Adv. 2021; 7: eabg2898

While Democrats tended to have a more negative tone than did Republicans, they were still slightly on the positive side overall. The one issue about which Democrats were more negative than positive was the postal service: Trump admitted to blocking funding for the , and some Democrats tied this to delayed delivery of medicines, as well as interference with mail-in voting.

Many of the more negative posts by Democrats were critical of the Trump administration’s response to the pandemic.

Republicans were most positive when discussing resources and sharing information related to the pandemic.

“For example, Democrats use a more negative tone when discussing the pandemic and the Trump administration than Republicans discussing the same topic,” Moses said.

Democrats’ tone shifted drastically relative to Republicans’ after milestones that marked the severity of the , such as when COVID-19 deaths in the United States exceeded 100,000, the study found.

Overall, negative posts were more likely to be spread by Facebook users, meaning that Democrats saw an increase in their messages being shared. But Republicans saw an increase in engagement, meaning users commented on their posts or responded with one of the reaction emojis such as “like” or “love.”

There was an increase in “sad” emoji reactions to the more negatively toned posts and to posts by more liberal members, results showed.

Negative tone also increased the use of the “haha” emoji, suggesting that users were replying with sarcasm or distaste.

The researchers noted that the study did not account for images or videos used in the posts, which may also affect the tone that Facebook users take away from a message.

Even with just the text, the study showed that tone impacts engagement with messaging from members of Congress. This has important implications for understanding how government can connect individuals with crucial information in emergent or pivotal moments, Box-Steffensmeier said.

“Facebook messages about COVID-19 suggest that members of Congress were not amplifying the public health or medical professional information about the global health emergency,” she said.

“The divergence in tone between Democrats and Republicans suggests that members of are crafting messaging to represent their opinions or political identity, rather than sending a unified government response.”



More information:
J.M. Box-Steffensmeier el al., “Meaningful messaging: Sentiment in elite social media communication with the public on the COVID-19 pandemic,” Science Advances (2021). advances.sciencemag.org/lookup … .1126/sciadv.abg2898

Citation:
Even on Facebook, COVID-19 polarized members of US Congress: study (2021, July 14)
retrieved 15 July 2021
from https://phys.org/news/2021-07-facebook-covid-polarized-members-congress.html

This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no

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