Increase Your Brain Power
Sonia in Vert
Publications
Shared Idea
Interesting Excerpts
Awards and Honors
Presentations
This Week's Puzzle
Last Week's Puzzle
Interesting Excerpts
The following excerpts are from articles or books that I have recently read. They caught my interest and I hope that you will find them worth reading. If one does spark an action on your part and you want to learn more or you choose to cite it, I urge you to actually read the article or source so that you better understand the perspective of the author(s).
Scientists Hacked a Locust’s Brain to Sniff Out Human Cancer

[These excerpts are from an article by Jessica Hamzelou in the September/October 2022 issue of MIT Technology Review.]

      Cyborg locust brains can help spot the telltale signs of human cancer in the lab, a new study has shown. The team behind the work hoped it could one day lead to an insect-based breath test for use in cancer screeing, or inspire an artificial version that works in much the same way….

      The researchers chose to work with locusts because these insects have been well studied in recent years. In a preliminary setp, they surgically exposed the brain of a living locust. Saha and his colleagues then inserted electrodes into lobes of the brain that receive signals from the insects’ antennae, which the locusts use to sense odors.

      The team also gave three different types of human oral-cancer cells, as well as human mouth cells that were cancer-free. They used a device to capture gas emitted by each of the cell types, and delivered each of the cell types differently. The patterns of electrical activity recorded were so distinct that when the team puffed the gas from one cell tyoe onto the antennae, they could correctly identify wether the cells were cancerous from the recording alone.

      It is the first time a living insect brain has been tested as a tool to detect cancer….

Greening National Security

[These excerpts are from a book review by Oliver Belcher in the 23 September 2022 issue of Science.]

      …between 2001 and 2017—the height of the United States’ wars in Iraq and Afghanistan—the US military emitted 1.2 billion metric tons of greenhouse gases, including 458 million metric tons of carbon dioxide that can be directly attributed to post-9/11 war-related fuel consumption….

      Crawford goes beyond the usual historical overviews of the military’s reliance on fossil fuels in the 20th and 21st centuries, although she deftly covers that territory as well, given that the US military is a climate actor whose consumption of hydrocarbon-based fuels contributes directly to climate change. While the military accounts for a relatively small portion of the United States’ total annual emissions, it is still the single largest institutional consumerof energy in the world….

      …she notes that the US military was a formative influence in the development of modern climate science. At the height of this relationship early in the Cold War, the Department of Defense invested heavily in university-based and private climate science to calculate the possible effects of a nuclear war on the atmosphere….

      …Crawford makes the compelling case that if climate change poses more of a long-term national security threat than many other threats, then the Department of Defense needs to rethink its global force position “beyond adaptation…to true climate change-related conflict prevention by further reducing fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions.” This would entail drastically reducing the United States’ reliance on Persian Gulf oil….

News Stories Give Spiders a Bum Rap

[These excerpts are from an article by Betsy Mason in the 24 September 2022 issue of Science News.]

      Even spiders, it seems, have fallen victim to misinformation. Media reports about people’s encounters with spiders tend to be full of falsehoods with a distinctly negative spin. An analysis of a decade’s worth of newspaper stories from dozens of countries finds that nearly half of the reports contain errors….

      Of the roughly 50,000 known spider species, vanishingly few are dangerous. Instead, many spiders benefit us by eating insects that are harmful to people. Even with the rare exceptions like black widow spiders, bites are extremely uncommon….Some stories about spiders blamed spiders that don’t occur in the area, and others reported symptoms that don’t match symptoms of actual bites….

      If people knew the truth, they could spend less time blaming spiders for bites and killing them with pesticides that are toxic to many other species….Spiders also stand to benefit because news helps shape public opinion, which can influence conservation decisions….

How to Make Mealworms Appetizing

[These excerpts are from an article by Anil Oza in the 24 September 2022 issue of Science News.]

      …Adding sugars to dowdered, cooked mealworms creates a seasoning with an appetizing meatlike odor….

      Some insects can be environmentally friendly alternatives to other animal protein because they require less land and water to raise….But many people in the United States and other Western countries, where insects aren’t eaten widely, generally find the idea od chomping down on bugs unappealing….

      One successful insect-based product could have the snowball effect for similar foods….

      Using insects in seasoning…could help people get past the hesitations about eating bugs….

Scientists as Public Advocates

[These excerpts are from an article by Naomi Oreskes in the September 2022 issue of Scientific American.]

      …But lately some commentators and scientific leaders have argued that scientists should overcome this unease and contribute to urgent debates from climate change to gun control, alerting people to relevant scientific evidence and, in some cases, endorsing particular policies where their data provide support. One oft-cited example is the ozone hole, where scientists spoke up in support of banning the chemicals that were destroying Earth’s ozone layer….

      The public may actually be eager to hear from scientists who advocate policies that fall withi their realm of expertise….A large majority in both countries—70 percent of Germans and 74 percent of Americans—also felt that climate scientists should be advocates for specific climate policies….

      What members of the public do not endorse, for the most part, were political protests by climate scientists. Perhaps this is because people make a distinction between scientists as experts—with a capacity to make well-informed recommendations—and scientists taking specific political stands, which might mark them as political, rather than intellectual, actors….

      Trusting in science is not an either-or proposition. It depends on many variables. Researchers need to stay within their areas of authority: climate scientists should not be offering stock tips or medical advice. But our research suggests that they can feel comfortable offering policy advice in fields where they are acknowledged experts. The ozone story is a case in point: no one knew better than ozone scientists about the cause of the dangerous hole and therefore what needed to be done to fix it.

The Secrets of Thirst

[These excerpts are from an article by Claudia Wallis in the September 2022 issue of Scientific American.]

      Serious question: How much water does the average adult need to drink every day? You’ve probably heard the usual answer: eight 8-ounce glasses, sometimes stated as 8 x 8. But there’s not much science behind this ubiquitous recommendation….

      Natural thirst mechanisms are the reason that most of us do not need to be overly concerned about hydration. The adult body is roughly 60 percent water—closer to 80 percent in the lungs and kidneys—and it carefully controls the concentration of water. We are all familiar with the sensory aspect of this regulation: the dry throat and urgent alert of thirst. But recently neuroscientists have gained other remarkable insights into how thirst is monitored in the body and controlled in the brain….

      The big takeaway of Zimmerman’s work is that for the most part you can trust your thirst system to tell you when you need to drink, as opposed to following some arbitrary advice….

Health Care Starts at School

[These excerpts are from an editorial by the editors in the September 2022 issue of Scientific American.]

      …Around 3,000 school-based health centers operate in more than 30 states all around the U.S., offering primary and preventive care for students who live in medically underserved areas. Staff at the centers treat flu, asthma, diabetes and other common ailments. They administer vaccinations and screen for dental, vision and hearing problems, and some provide mental health care and reproductive health care….

      The pandemeic was hard on existing school-based health centers, and as we reckon with lost years of education, it’s time for government at all levels to recodnize that all children need accessible and affordable health care….

      …More than 20 million children in the U.S. lack sufficient access to health care, and the most direct way to address that need is to bring doctors to them….And schools are often among the most trusted institutions within communities….

      …Other studies have shown that clinics in schools can increase vaccination rates among students, reduce mental health problems and boost students’ use of contraception. On the education front, kids who use such centers have improved attendance and grades, are more likely to be promoted to the next grade and less likely to get suspended—and are overall more prepared for college….

High Seas Treaty within Reach

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Kristina M. Gjerde, Harriet Harden-Davies and Kahlil Hassanali in the 16 September 2022 issue of Science.]

      The ocean is Earth’s greatest climate mitigator, but it cannot do its work without biodiversity. Yet, accelerating climate change, unsustained fishing, and widespread plastic and other pollutants, combined with increased resource demands, are threatening life throughout our global ocean. This is particularlu acute in the two-thirds of the ocean (the high seas and seabed below) located beyond national boundaries, and as such, no state can solve these problems alone….

      These little-known negotiations should compel a sense of urgency because at risk are vital ecosystem services that keep Earth’s climate livable. Existing regional and global organizations for managing fishing, shipping, or deep-sea mining lack a global focus on marine biodiversity that the new treaty could provide….Potentially valuable genetic material from marine life has prospective applications in agriculture, industry, and biomedicine and can inform research, assessments, and monitoring of the ocean.

      Equally—both within and across generations—is at the heart of sharing the benefits of marine genetic material, empowering participation in decision-making, and enabling sufficient capacity, technology, and financial resources. Richer nations have yet to commit to delivering the capacity building, technology, and funds necessary to assist developing nations, such as small island states, to fully participate in the treaty….

      Scientists can play a role by calling on world leaders to promptly produce a treaty that will inject science-based decision-making, equity, and stewardship into the heart of how the vast majority of Earth’s ocean is managed….

The Persistent Threats Wildfires Pose to Our Drinking Water

[These excerpts are from an article by Cana Tagawa in the Summer 2022 issue of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Catalyst.]

      …It’s an important piece of the story because climate change is making wildfire seasons longer while also making wildfires bigger and more intense. Already, over the past five years, California has experienced its five largest wildfires on record, including the 2020 August Complex fire that burned more than a million acres. Other factors increasing the intensity of wildfires include, paradoxically, longstanding US policy to extinguish all wildfires (which results in more fuel to burn), the curtailment of intentional “cultural” burns by Indigenous peoples that historically clear underbrush, and the pressures of human development….

      Wildfires disrupt entire ecosystems, with far-reaching ramifications….The first level of disruption begins with the water cycle and soil. Plants and their roots stabilize the soil and take water from it. This process regulates how much water is in the soil, which is more important than most people realize. If wildfires burn these root systems and char the soil itself, rainwater is more likely to be repelled than absorbed by the soil, potentially causing floods and landslides.

      As water runs off of burning land, it can transport all kinds of harmful substances into streams, rivers, and lakes: sediments, heavy metals and other gtoxins from human-made objects, and nitrates that can cause toxic algal blooms. In California, about 60 percent of the water supply comes from surface water sources, some of which are vulnerable to this kind of contamination after a wildfire….

      There are many proactive steps communities can take to protect their water resources, starting with equipping water treatment plants to better deal with the vastly increased amounts of sediment and contaminants that are likely after a wildfire. And, because aboveground power lines are frequently responsible for igniting wildfires, communities can press to bury these lines—a costly intervention best made as part of a holistic approach that considers the overall resilience of their electricity grid….

From Coast to Coast, EVs Are Getting Even Cleaner

[These excerpts are from an article in the Summer 2022 issue of the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Catalyst.]

      Eectric vehicles (EVs) cost less to operate and maintain than gasoline vehicles and have low or no tailpipe emissions. But given their large batteries and the emissions associated with electricity generation, people often ask if EVs are indeed a climate-friendly choice. The answer…is a resounding “yes!”

      Driving Cleaner is UCS’s third investigation of vehicles’ “life cycle” emissions (that is, all the emissions from the materials and electricity used to make the vehicle, the energy used to power it, and the disposal or recycling of materials after its retirement). All three analyses found that everywhere in the United States—even in regions where fossil fuel-heavy electricity generation—the average new fully electric car results in lower global warming emissions over its lifetime than a comparable gasoline-powered car.

      …For example, more than 90 percent of people in the United States today live in areas where driving the average EV produces lower emissions than the most fuel-efficient gasoline car on the market….

      …the report recommends bringing even more renewable energy onto the grid, developing robust battery recycling programs to help reduce manufacturing impacts, and making EVs more accessible and affordable….

A Tale of Troubled Waters

[These excerpts are from a book review by Mary Ellen Hannibal in the 10 September 2022 issue of Science.]

      …Drawn to life on the water, which many had left behind in Vietnam, the refugees gravitated to fishing themselves. Their record catches drew the ire of Americans on the water, who worked fewer hours with far less efficiency. The local white community soon called in the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) to delver fresh horror to the traumatized Vietnamese….

      The second main thread of Johnson’s book focused on Diane Wilson, a Seadrift local with many more generations behind her than Alpin….

      A mother of four, Wilson is poor and married to a traumatized Vietnam vet. She scrapes together something close to a living by working on the water, and, like Alpin, she begins to associate anomalies in the region’s sea life with nearby industries. A true citizen scientist, over the years, Wilson helps collect more than 30 million “nurdles”—small pellets from which most plastics are created, which eventually convey industrial chemicals, pesticides, toxins, and dangerous bacteria into the food chain—from the shoreline. Wilson undergoes several hunger strikes to force the corporate hand, and in 2019 she succeeds in winning a $50 million settlement from Formosa Plastics.

      Johnson’s twin stories come together tangentially. They both involve cruelty and destruction in the Gulf of Mexico, but the KKK predates the capitalist forces that have exploited and polluted the region. Both the Klan and industry have wrought terrible destruction on people and ecosystems, but any direct connection between these evils is not in evidence here….

California EV Rules Jolt Battery Science

[These excerpts are from an article by Robert F. Service in the 10 September 2022 issue of Science.]

      …Most new car sales are expected to shift to battery-powered electric vehicles (EVs). But along with high prices and modest range, current EVs have another big drawback. They are slow to recharge. Whereas filling a gas tank takes only a few minutes, recharging an EV takes anywhere from the better part of an hour to a day, depending on the charging equipment and the size of the battery….

      …Fifteen years ago, Cui and others showed anodes made from silicon can increase how much charge a bettery can store and enable faster charging. Each silicon atom is able to bind four lithium ions, compared with only one for every six barbon atoms in graphite. But pushing so many lithium atoms into a silicon matrix can cause the anode material to swell up to four times in size. And repeatedly charging and discharging the battery typically pulverizes the silicon, killing the battery.

      More recently, Cui and others have shown nanoscale modifications to the structure of the silicon, such as forging it into an array of nanowires, can allow the anode to swell and shrink without fracturing, thereby extending the battery life….

      Replacing the charge-carrying lithium ions with other materials can help as well….a chemist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology…reported a novel battery design that relies on aluminum ions. Their prototype has a capacity similar to conventional lithium-ion batteries but is capable of recharging in minutes. The battery must operate at near the boiling point of water to allow aluminum ions to move through the device’s molten salt electrolyte, which ferries ions between the electrodes. But Sadoway and his team are already working to reduce the operating temperature. If they’re successful, the battery could be a blockbuster because aluminum is cheap; compared with lithium batteries, gthe cost of materials for these batteries would be 85% lower….

Protect the Vulnerable from Monkeypox

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Boghuma Titanji in the 10 September 2022 issue of Science.]

      …Cases of monkeypox show a striking parallel with HIV. Widespread, rapid transmission of both viruses first occurred in sexual networks of gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (GBMSM)….

      Engaging vulnerable communities early is an important lesson from the HIV epidemic….The fear of reliving the stigma and uncertainties experienced in the early days of the HIV epidemic is palpable in almost every monkeypox patient I’ve encountered….

      During the early years of the HIV epidemic, stigma and discrimination against GBMSM stifled research in targeted prevention. Failure of policies to address HIV were blamed on this community, further ostracizing them. The same is happening with monkeypox today….

      The health disparities seen during the spread of HIV prevailed during the COVID-19 pandemic and are again apparent with minkeypox. Unless vulnerable populations become an integral part of tackling monkeypox globally, from research participation to accessing interventions, the world will likely make the same mistake again.

Making Carbon Capture Fashionable

[These excerpts are from an article by Asa Stahl in the 10 September 2022 issue of Science News.]

      …Carbon capture and storage, or CCS, is one strategy for mitigating climate change long noted by the IPCC as having “considerable” potential. A technology that has existed since the 1970s, CCS traps CO2 from the smokestacks or ambient air and pumps it underground for permanent sequestration. Today, 27 CCS facilities operate around the world – 12 in the United States – storing an estimated 36 million tons of carbon per year….

      But rather than just storing it, the captured carbon could be used to make things. This year for the first time, the IPCC added carbon capture and utilization, or CCU, to its list of options for drawing down atmospheric carbon. CCU captures CO2 and incorporates it into carbon-containing products like cement, jet fuel and the raw materials for making plastics. Still in early stages of development and commercialization, CCU could reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 20 billion tons in 2050 – more than half of the world’s global emissions today….

      …making plastics from fossil fuels is a carbon catastrophe. Each step in the plastics life cycle – extraction, transport, manufacture and disposal – emits massive amounts of greenhouse gases….

      …the long-standing practice of fossil fuel subsidies, which in 2021 topped $440 billion worldwide. Global government subsidies to the oil and gas industries keep fossil fuel prices artificially low, making it hard for renewables to compete….

How to Break Down “Forever Chemicals”

[These excerpts are from an article by Jude Coleman in the 10 September 2022 issue of Science News.]

      …Perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, also known as PFAS, are found in nonstick pans, water-repellent fabrics and food packaging, and they are pervasive throughout the environment. Exposure to high levels of some types of PFAS has been linked to an increased risk of cancer and reproductive problems.

      PFAS are nicknamed forever chemicals for their ability to stick around and not break down. In part, that’s because they have a superstrong bond between their carbon and fluorine atoms….Now, using a bit of heat and two relatively common compounds, researchers have degraded one major type of forever chemical in the lab. The work…could help pave the way for a process to break down certain forever chemicals commercially, forever after they are removed from wastewater….

      Scientists previously have found relatively simple ways of breaking the bonds of select PFAS, but most methods are energy-intensive and require extremely high pressures or temperatures….

      The new process doesn’t work on all forever chemicals, and it wouldn’t work on PFAS already in the environment, the team says. But it could one day be used in wastewater treatment plants, where the pollutants can be filtered out of the water, concentrated and then broken down.

Giant Undersea Crater Discovered

[These excerpts are from an article by Nikk Ogasa in the 10 September 2022 issue of Science News.]

      …Off the coast of West Africa, hundreds of meyters beneath the seafloor, scientists have identified what appears to be the remains of an 8.5-kilometer-wide impact crater, which they’ve named Nadir. The team estimates that the srater formed around the same time that another asteroid — Chicxulub, the dinosaur killer – slammed into what’s now Mexico….If fonfirmed, it could mean that nonbird dinosaurs met their demise by a one-two punch of asteroids….

      …if an asteroid was responsible for the terrain, it was probably over 400 meters wide. What’s more, the researchers estimate that the impact would have rocked the ground like a magnitude 7 earthquake and stirred tsunamis hundreds of meters high.

      Despite that fallout, the Nadir impact would have been far less devastating than the one from the roughly 10-kilometer-wide Chicxulub asteroid….

      The Nadir structure’s age is another uncertainty. The seismic data show it appears to have formed sometime near the end the Cretaceous Period or maybe a little later….

Beavers Help Fight Climate Change

[These excerpts are from an article by Richard Kemeny in the 10 September 2022 issue of Science News.]

      In the upper reaches of the Skykomish River in Washington state, a pioneering team of nature’s civil engineers is keeping things cool. Relocated beavers boosted water storage and lowered stream temperatures, indicating such schemes could help mitigate the effects of climate change.

      Just one year after their arrival, the new recruits brought average water temperatures down by about two degrees Celsius while nearby streams without beavers warmed by 0.8 degrees C. Beavers also raised water tables by as much as about 30 centimeters….

      …They build dams, ponds and wetlands, deepening streams for their burroughs and lodges. The dams slow the water, storing it upstream for longer, and cool it as it flows through the ground underneath….

      At the five sites that saw long-term construction, beavers built 14 dams, and the volume of surface water increased to about 20 times that of streams with no new beaver activity. Meanwhile below ground, wells at three sites showed that after dam construction, the amount of groundwater grew to more than twice what was stored on the surface in ponds….

Zimbabwe Find Illuminates Dawn of the Dinosaurs

[These excerpts are from an article by April Reese in the 2 September 2022 issue of Science.]

      During the late Triassic period, when the terrestrial world was a single sprawling land mass called Pangaea, a dog-size plant-eating dinosaur perished near a river in the southern part of the continent. When the river flooded, the body was buried by sediment….

      Until now, the earliest known dinosaurs, also dating to about 230 million years ago, were found in Argentina and Brazil, with a few partial specimins from India. When the continents were gathered together to form Pangaea, those sites all lay about 50o south….Earth was warmer at the time, lacking icecaps, and climate models suggest that latitude on Pangaea had a wet, temperate climate with hot summers and cool, rainy winters. Researchers have suspected the first dinosaurs needed this type of climate, and that this limited their spread across the supercontinent. But to confirm that idea, they needed dinosaur fossils from other parts of the same climate belt….

      Taken together, the fossils are the strongest evidence yet that the earliest dinosaurs and their relatives were constrained to a temperate climate belt bordered by arid ones….Dinosaurs were restricted to their semihumid oasisnfor a few million years, until the arid regions to the north and south began to become wetter….

Trickle-Down Climate Risk Regulation

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Anne M. Perrault and Gael Giraud in the 2 September 2022 issue of Science.]

      …The European Central Bank, for example, is signaling to bankls that they must plan and make their transition away from financing of fossil fuels—to respond not only to their own risks but also to the science pointing to the necessity of this transition for the planet and financial system. Yet in the US, the primary regulators of national and community banks are narrowly zeroing in on risks posed to the larger banks—those with over $100 billion in total consolidated assets—without attention to these banks’ role in financial greenhouse gas-emitting activities and what they mean for other important financial actors….

      Big banks should be worried about climate risks. Loans for fossil fuel-related activities are at risk of rapidly losing value, causing banks that hold them to suffer major losses. Bank balance sheets will also suffer when property damage creates loan defaults. Still, despite promises by most to reach “net-zero” emissions by 2050, big US banks remain the world’s largest fossil fuel financiers, apparently believing they can ditch their fossil assets before the energy transition torpedoes their value and that physical impacts to investments in one location can be offset by safe investments elsewhere.

      …Yet scientists show that climate change poses new and substantial risks, requiring greater attention to the interconnectedness of financial and environmental systems and what those relationships imply for other financial actors and risk management measures. As climate change simultaneously, repeatedly, and often permanently affects natural and human systems across geographic areas—and as borrowers and taxpayers struggle to pay their bills in response—many community banks and municipalities, ignored by the trickle-down approach, could fail….

      Despite having only 15% of total industry loans, community banks are lifelines for rural and underserved communities, representing ~90% of regulated US banks. With lending concentrated in agriculture, mortgages, and commercial real estate, they are especially vulnerable to climate change….The 20 and growing number of lawsuits against fossil fuel companies by municipalities needing financial help to deal with climate-related losses are warnings for municipal bondholders and those dependent on public-sector services. For now, government subsidies, including additional annual federal spending of $25 to $125 billion on costs such as disaster relief and insurance, are making financial harms to these entrities….

National Parks Ban Single-Use Plastics

[These excerpts are from an article by Nick Mallos in the Fall 2022 issue of the Ocean Conservancy newsletter, Splash.]

      …Phasing out the sale of single-use plastic products from 440 million acres of federally managed lands over the next decade ensures that national parks will continue to set the example for the 330 million people who visit each year. And it will also help protect our oceans. We know that trash travels. A lightweight plastic wrapper lost in Yellowstone can travel hundreds of miles via river or waterway before eventually winding up in our ocean. It’s crucial we push for policies that reduce single-use plastics throughout the country, but especially in places so essential for cultivating the next generation of environmental stewards.

      …With more than 11 million metric tons of plastic entering our ocean each year and plastic production expected to triple by 2060, we need advocates like you to continue to help us to tackle this issue….

We Continue to Accelerate Our Drumbeat for Solutions to the Climate Change Crisis – the Greatest Environmental Threat to our Ocans and our Planet

[These excerpts are from a letter by Janis Searles Jones in the Fall 2022 issue of the Ocean Conservancy newsletter, Splash.]

      …Simply put, migration is the “long haul” weapon. We must reduce the CO2 in our atmosphere, and we can do that only be moving from fossil fuels to renewable and alternate energy sources, like wind, solar and wave power. But even if we convince governments and industries to do that tomorrow, it would be years before the impacts of fossil fuels on our environment are mitigated.

      Adaptation is what we can and must do in the meantime.

      Through adaptation, human and natural systems engage innate fortitude to adjust to the conditions caused by climate change….

      If we are to prevail, we must not shy away from wielding the “double-edged sword” of adaptation and mitigation. The fight for solutions remains imperative. Failure to mitigate carbon pollution today means more extreme adaptation will be required tomorrow – from fish stocks, marine mammals, ocean ecosystems, human beings. Let’s fight together to help ensure the best benefit possible….

Teamwork Makes the Dream Work on Climate Solutions

[These excerpts are from an article in the Fall 2022 issue of the Ocean Conservancy newsletter, Splash.]

      …As climate change accelerates around the world, humans and other species are already finding ways to adapt to its harmful impacts. Of course, efforts to slow the rapid pace of climate change remain as urgent as ever. But knowledge about how communities can protect themselves and marine life ecosystems from climate impacts – such as hotter temperatures, more acidic waters, sea-level rise and devastating storms – will also be crucial in the years ahead….

      The IPCC sounded the alarm on climate change with the first report in 1990, which paved the way for international climate agreements like the Kyoto Protocol and Paris Agreement. More recently, IPCC reports have included insights that can help coastal communities and island nations adapt to predicted changes and develop new tools to reduce or sequester carbon….

      One example relates to how climate change is disturning the world’s fisheries. Since the 1950s, marine life has been migrating to cooler waters – shifting to the North or South Pole by about 60 km per decade, around the length of Washington State’s coast. Conflicts can arise as fish populatiuons move into new areas. Fishery-dependent coastal economies and Indigenous peoples and cultures are particularly vulnerable as the effects of climate change worsen….

Cruise Ships Are Destroying Our Oceans

[These excerpts are from an article in the Summer 2022 issue of Friends of the Earth Newsmagazine.]

      …Cruise ships dump enormous amounts of waste into the marine ecosystem. Items like food, glass and plastic are expelled into our oceans, ending up in the bellies of fish, sea turtles and other marine wildlife. Animals cannot process the man-made materials, which choke them and destroy their digestive systems…..

      Whales also suffen violent collisions with cruise ships. These ships are so big that they’re often unaware of an accident until they arrive in port with a dead whale across their bow. In the last five years, at least 112 whales that washed up dead were identified by the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) as having injuries that were consistent with shiop collisions. But this startling statisticdoesn’t include whales that never wash ashore. The true number of whales harmed is currently unknown….

      Cruise ships are a disaster for reefs, pumping oily bilge water, scrubber wastewater, hazardous waste, and sewage into the oceans. This waste can increase acid in the water while decreasing oxygen levels—fertile conditions for algal blooms that threaten magnificent coral reefs and the abundant wildlife that they host….

The First Global Vaccination Campaign

[These excerpts are from an article by Hannah Seo in the September/October 2022 issue of Discover.]

      On Nov. 30, 1803, military physician Francisco Xavier de Balmis set off from the port of La Coruna in northwest Spain on what would become a three-year mission. On board with him were 22 orphan boys. Their goal: to complete the first global immunization campaign.

      The world was then riddled with small pox, which killed one-third of all infected. Though Edward Jenner had discovered in 1797 that pus from a cow’s cowpox blisters could be used as a vaccine, the majority of the world had no access to the inoculation. Cowpox was such a local disease, mostly found in England and occasionally France or Italy, that it was unclear how anyone could scale vaccination to more people….

      Children were the only subpopulation tha could keep the vaccine alive, so Balmis recruited 22 orphan boys, aged 3 to 10 years old. King Charles announced that the crown would take care of all these boys as compernsation for their bravery, taking on all expenses related to the boys’ wellbeing and ensuring their schooling until they were old enough to support yhemselves….

      So the expedition set off for Venezuala, docking in the nick of time – only one of the vaccinated boys still had active pus blisters from which to draw. Balmis rushed out as soon as they landed, immediately vaccinating 28 local children to keep the reservoir of vaccine alive….

The Norsemen Take on North America

[These excerpts are from an article by Cody Cottier in the September/October 2022 issue of Discover.]

      …It consists of eight timber-frame buildings with thick walls of sod, built in the same style as Viking settlements in Greenland and Iceland. Some were dwellings, others forges and workshops. The digs uncovered evidence of iron production and ship repair, among other activities. Experts estimatethat this cluster of homes and workshops could have supported 70 to 90 people year-round, and likely took at least two months to construct….

      One theory claims that they were simply driven out by the Native peoples (whom they called Skraelings) – a problem they never faced in uninhabited Greenland and Iceland. Indeed, this is the reason given by The Saga of Erik the Red. Though trade between the two groups began amicably, the situation quickly devolved, and it seems the Vikings more or less fled in “a great shower of missiles.” After a deadly skirmish with the Natives, the saga states, they “were now of the opinion that though the land might be choice and good, there would be always war and terror overhanging them, from those who dwelt there before them.”

      Of all the artifacts at L’Anse aux Meadows, only one may speak to the relations between Vikings and Native Americans: a single arrow lodged in the wall of a house. Of course, it’s impossible to say whether it arrived there directly via bow, or whether it already existed within a piece of sod the Vikings used in building the house….

      L’Anse aux Meadows, the only proof we’ve discovered that Vikings reached North America, matches the description of Straumfjord, the year-round settlement that, according to The Saga of Erik the Red, the Vikings used as a launching point for deeper journeys into Vinland. But if the saga rings true – and there’s no reason to think that it doesn’t, broadly speaking – the Vikings built a second settlement – and it remains undiscovered….

On the Origin of Lactose Intolerance

[These excerpts are from an article by Bruce Bower in the 27 August 2022 issue of Science News.]

      …Europeans tapped into milk-drinking about 9,000 years ago when dairying groups reached southeastern Europe….Yet it took several thousand years before large numbers of Europeans evolved a gene for digesting lactose, the sugar in milk.

      …But during periodic famines and infectious disease outbreaks, lactose-induced diarrhea became fatal for severly malnourished individuals in farming communities, the scientists suggest. Those recurring threats hot-wired the evolution of lactose tolerance….

      …Investigators must also keep in mind that cheese and other low-lactose dairy products date to as early as about 7,400 years ago in Europe. If these foods were available, it’s unclear whu lactose-intolerant Europeans would not have survived times of famine or disease….

      But archeologist Ron Pinhasi…is not convinced the famine and diarrhea theory holds up. Diarrhea causes death more often in malnourished children, he says, so he questions whether it would have led to enough adult fatalities to trigger the evolution of milk tolerance. No current proposal explains how lactase persistence spread….

Lab-made Proteins Can Stop Malaria

[These excerpts are from an article by Aimee Cunningham in the 27 August 2022 issue of Science News.]

      …The shot, which contains monoclonal antibodies, would primarily be intended for infants and children in countries with the most malaria transmission….These young children have the highest risk of dying from severe malaria….

      Monoclonal antibodies could provide an option that requires only one shot, once a year. But it will take more research to see how well the antibodies work against malaria outside of the laboratory and how cost-effective the shot is….

      Malaria sickened roughly 241 million people and killed 627,000 worldwide in 2020. Most of these deathes were in sub-Saharan Africa in children younger than 5. These littlest kids haven’t had the chanceto develop immunity to the disease and are more susceptible to dying….

      Monoclonal antibodies are a lab-made version of antibodies, the proteins that the immune system produces in response to a vaccine or natural infection. Monoclonal means that it contains clones, or copies, of one articular antibody….

Tiny Crustaceans ‘Polinate’ Seaweed

[These excerpts are from an article by Jake Buehler in the 27 August 2022 issue of Science News.]

      When it comes to reproduction, one type of red algae gets by with a little help from its friends: small sea crustaceans that transport sex cells between male and female algae, just like pollen-laden bees that buzz between flowers.

      It’s the first known example of animal-driven “pollination” in algae….Both the red algae and crustaceans belong to far more ancient groups than land plants do, raising the possibility that a form of pollination first evolved in the ocean and hundreds of millions of years earlier than thought….

      In the lab, the researchers placed male and female algae 15 centimeters apart in tanks with no water movement. Some tanks also included the centimeters-long Idotea balthica, an isopod crustacean, while others didn’t. When a successful fertilization occurs on the body of a female red algae, it creates a bubblelike structure called a cystocarp. By counting cystocarps, the team quantified how many spermatia were reaching and fertilizing the female algae. When isopods were present, fertilization success was about 20 times as high as in their absence….

      Today some primitive plants like mosses are fertilized by tiny arthropods, so animal-driven fertilization on land could go back to the origin of land plants, some 470 million years ago. But red algae are possibly more than 800 million years old, and complex animal life dates back more than half a billion years….

How to Make a Green Jet Fuel

[These excerpts are from an article by Nikk Ogasa in the 27 August 2022 issue of Science News.]

      Jet fuel can now be siphoned from the air. Or at least that’s the case in Mostoles, Spain, where an outdoor system producedbkerpsene with a few simple ingredients: sunlight, carbon dioxide and water vapor. If the system can be scaled up, solar kerosene could replace petroleum-derived jet fuelin aviation and stabilize greenhouse gas emissions….

      Jet fuel can now be siphoned from the air. Or at least that’s the case in Mostoles, Spain, where an outdoor system producedbkerpsene with a few simple ingredients: sunlight, carbon dioxide and water vapor. If the system can be scaled up, solar kerosene could replace petroleum-derived jet fuelin aviation and stabilize greenhouse gas emissions….

      When heated with sunlight, the ceria reacts with CO2 and water vapor to make syngas—a mixture of hydrogen gas and carbon monoxide. The syngas is piped to the tower’s base where a machine converts it to kerosene and other hydrocarbons.

      Over nine days of operations, the tower converted about 4 percent of the solar energy used to heat the ceria into roughly 5,200 liters of syngas. From the syngas, this proof-of-principle setup made about a liter of kerosene a day….

Ancient DNA from the Near East Probes a Cradle of Civilization

[These excerpts are from an article by Andrew Curry in the 26 August 2022 issue of Science.]

      …Their genetic story starts with the early days of farming, a period known as the Neolithic. Farming began in Anatolia in what is present-day Turkey. But the DNA shows that the people who experimented with planting wheat and domesticating sheep and goats starting about 10,000 years ago weren’t simply descendants of earlier hunter-gatherers living in the area. Dozens of newly sequences genomes suggest Anatolia absorbed at least two separate migrations from about 10,000 to 6500 years ago. One came from today’s Iraq and Syria and the other from the Eastern Mediterranean coast. In Anatolia they mixed with each other and with the descendants of earlier hunter-gatherers. By about 6500 years ago, the population had coalesced into a distinct genetic signature.

      Another genetic contributon came from the east about 6500 years ago, as hunter-gatherers from the Caucasus entered the region. Then about 5000 years ago, a fourth group—nomads from the steppes north of the Black Sea, known as the Yamnaya—arrived, adding to the genetic picture but not fundamentally redrawing it….

      This scenario supports existing evidence that agriculture arose in a network of people interacting and migrating in this region….

How Much Heat Can We Handle?

[These excerpts are from an article by Carolyn Gramling in the 27 August 2022 issue of Science News.]

      …Recent research suggests that people’s tolerance to heat stress may be lower than previously thought. If true, millions more people could be at risk of succumbing to dangerous temperatures sooner than expected. That’s bad news as climate change cranks up the temperature….

      Heat waves ravaged many countries this year. In April, Wardha, India, saw a high of 45o Celsius (113o Fahrenheit); in May in Nawabshah, Pakistan, temperatures rose to 49.5o C (121.1o F). And extreme heat alerts have blared across Europe. The United Kingdom shattered its highest-ever record July 19 when temperatures reached 40.3o C in the English village of Coningsby.

      …In hot, dry areas, where the outside temperature may be much hotter than skin temperature, human bodies rely entirely on sweating to cool down….In warm, humid areas, where the air temperature may be cooler than skin temperature (but the humidity makes it feel warmer than it is), the body can’t sweat as efficiently. Instead, the cooler air passing over the skin can draw away the heat….

      By naming and ranking heat waves, officials hope to increase citizens’ awareness of the dangers of extreme heat and help cities tailor their interventions to the severity of the event. Six metro areas are testing the system’s effectiveness: four in the United States and Athens, Greece, and Seville, Spain. On July 24, with temperatures heading toward 42o C, Seville became the first city in the world to officially name a heat wave, sounding the alarm for Heat Wave Zoe….

Wishful Thinking in Climate Science

[These excerpts are from an article by Naomi Oreskes in the August 2022 issue of Scientific American.]

      At last year’s Glasgow COP26 meetings on the climate crisis, U.S. envoy and former U.S. secretary of state John Kerry stated that solutions to the climate crisis will involve “technologies that we don’t yet have” but are supposedly on the way. Kerry’s optimism comes directly from scientists….

      Stop and think about this for a moment. Science—that is to say, Euro-American science—has long been held as our model for rationality. Scientists frequently accuse those who reject their findings of being irrational. Yet depending on technologies that do not yet exist is irrational, a kind of magical thinking. That is a developmental stage kids are expected to outgrow. Imagine if I said I planned to build a home with materials that had not yet been invented orbuild a civilization on Mars without first figuring out how to get even one human being there. You’d likely consider me irrational, perhaps delusional. Yet this kind of thinking pervades plans for future decarbonization.

      …for years industry has pumped carbon dioxide or other substances into oil fields to flush more fossil fuel out of the ground. But carbon dioxide doesn’t necessarily stay in the rocks and soil. It may migrate along cracks, faults and fissures before finding its way back to the atmosphere. Keeping pumped carbon in the ground—in other words, achieving net negative emissions—is much harder. Globally there are only a handful of places where this is done. None of them is commercially viable.

      …In 2016 the Massachusetts Institute of Technology closed its Carbon Capture and Sequestration Technologies program because the 43 projects it was involved with had all been canceled, put on hold or converted to other things.

      It’s obvious why ExxonMobil and Archer Daniels Midland are pushing CCS. It makes them look good, and they can get theb taxpayer to foot the bill….

Oyster GPS

[These excerpts are from an article by Kate Golembiewski in the August 2022 issue of Scientific American.]

      …Australian flat oysters’ microscopic larvae drift in currents and swim with hairlike cilia, searching for a hard surface—ideally a thriving reef made of shells from other oysters—to cement themselves to for the rest of their lives. If no established reef is nearby, the babies float aimlessly over the sandy seafloor; only a luckt few find homes on stray rocks. Conservation scientists have tried to start new reefs by introducing limestone boulders for larvae to settle on, but most remain lost at sea.

      Previous studies demonstrated that other sea creatures can navigate toward the sounds of healthy ecosystems—sounds that have become increasingly rare as reefs fall silent and ships dominate the ocean soundscape. Oysters lack ears but sense sound vibrations, so the team wondered if the larvae could follow a sonic beacon of their own: the crackle of snapping shrimp.

      These reef-dwelling creatures snap their claws to unleash jets of water that stun prey, producing a staticky-sounding, 210-decibel cacophony—as loud as a rock concert. In their laboratory and in an ocean experiment, the scientists found that oyster larvae navigated toward recorded shrimp sounds and settles on hard surfaces nearby. Larvae had difficulty locating those surfaces without the sounds playing or with boat noise disrupting them….

      And this sound technique might eventually help more than just oysters….Where oysters go, more life will follow. And although tricking larvae into settling on a lifeless reef might seem like a cuel bait and switch, rest assured the plankton and algae that oysters eat are nearly omnipresent in the water, so the bivalve trailblazers won’t starve while they wait for the rest of the reef community to arrive.

Buzzkill

[These excerpts are from an article by Darren Incorvaia in the August 2022 issue of Scientific American.]

      …a chemical human use to protect crops may have an unexpected side effect of making certain bees less attractive to mates, potentially threatening populations of the crucial pollinators.

      The common pesticide fenbuconazole is classified as relatively safe for bees because it specifically targets fungi (which are taxonomically very different from bees) and because exposure to it does not typically kill bees directly. Previous research has found that insecticides deemed “low risk” for bees can still impact their development, feeding behavior and learning….

      But there was, in fact, a surprising effect: fenbuconazole exposure altered two distinct components of male horned mason bees’ courtship ritual. A male typically vibrates his thorax alluringly and also relies on his scent to attract females. Exposure to the fungicide lowered the vibrational frequency (possibly by influencing muscle contractions) and additionally altered the males’ chemical profiles, changing their scent. Females seemed put off by these changes; they preferred unexposed males. The study authors speculate that such female mating avoidance could reduce populations of horned mason bees and other species with similar mating systems….

Snowflakes

[This excerpt is from chapter 4 in Islands of Truth by Ivars Peterson.]

      One secret is revealed by comparing snowflake formation with the freezing of water in a pond or in a refrigerated ice tray. The water doesn’t normally freeze into a branched pattern. Ice first forms at the container’s walls, then gradually spreads smoothly toward the middle. The walls drain away excess heat, which represents the energy that water molecules give up when they stop moving and settle into place. Snowflakes, however, freeze and take shape in moist air, free from any walls. A typical snowflake begins as a dust particle or some other airborne impurity. The particle snares some of the water molecules that happen to be wandering about nearby. Gradually, as more molecules arrive, a microscopic layer of ice forms.

      As it takes on water molecules, the snowflake must get rid of its excess heat to keep growing. That happens most effecently when the snowflake has a wrinkled, rather than a smooth, surface. Because added roughness increases its surface area, the more it becomes like a pincushion rather than a ball, the more effectively a burgeoning snowflake can shed heat.

      How quickly and readily heat diffuses is governed by how steeply the temperature changes near the snowflake’s surface. The steeper the temperature gradient, the faster snowflake growth will be at a given point. But that process is complicated by the fact that settling water molecules themselves release heat, warming the neighborhood. That heat must be removed before further solidification can take place.

Moo-ving the Dial on Methane

[These excerpts are from an article by Joanna Foster in the Summer 2022 issue of Solutions.]

      …The dairy’s more than 2,000 milking cows also help generate enough electricity to power the entire farm, cheese factory and 300 local homes. The miracle of cow poop power dervies from two massive anaerobic manure digesters that capture the methane released as the manure is processed into liquid fertilizer and bedding material for cows….

      Methane is an extremely potent greenhouse gas, with more than 80 times the warming power of carbon dioxide in the short term. It is responsible for 25% of the global warming we’re experiencing today. Globally, agriculture is the largest source of human-caused methane emissions. And in the U.S., agriculture is responsible for about one-third of total methane emissions. That’s on a par with the oil and gas industry. Unlike in the oil and gas industry however, when tightening a valve may be all it takes to stop a methane leak, that’s not the case on farms….

      To diminish the belching problem, farmers are turning to feed additives that interrupt the microbian processes in a cow’s gut that produce methane. One of the most well-studied food additives, 3-NOP, marketed as Bovaer, has been shown to reduce methane from belching bovines by about 30%. It was recently approved for use in the EU, Chile and Brazil and is currently being evaluated for U.S. approval. Another promising additive, still in development, is a red seaweed (Asparagopsis spp.) that may cut methane from belching by as much as 70%....

      Because these additives must be administered daily, however, they are only viable for dairy cows, which live in a barn, not for beef cattle left to graze in grasslands. These cattle may require the development of a one-time vaccine, slow-release treatment or selective breeding….

Hope in Hard Times

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Fred Krupp in the Summer 2022 issue of Solutions.]

      …The cost of solar declined 90% between 2009 and 2021. A few months ago, renewable electricity briefly produced almost 100% of California’s power—a historic first. In addition, carbon markets, which are considered the fastest way to reduce emissions, now exist in over 40 nations, covering more than 20% of global greenhouse gas emissions. We’re working to see that they are designed and implemented to function efficiently and equitably….

      Two recent developments are very encouraging. One of the fastest ways to slash climate pollution is to stop the destruction of tropical forests. Last year, we helped launch the largest-ever private sector effort to fund tropical forest preservation and sustainable development. LEAF…has already raised $1 billion, and if enough is raised to fund every eligible proposal it has received, that could protect an area larger than the European Union.

      There’s been progress, too, on reducing methane pollution. Today’s emissions of methane will harm the earth, over the next ten years, more than all the carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels. This makes slashing methane pollution the quickest way to slow global warming….

      Meanwhile, in the United States, the bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill, enacted in November, will improve mass transit, upgrade the nation’s power infrastructure and help build a network of charging stations for electric vehicles. And EPA’s new clean car standards will prevent more than 3 billion tons of climate pollution by 2050….

Chickens Arose in Southeast Asia

[These excerpts are from an article by Bruce Bower in the 2 July 2022 issue of Science News.]

      …In two new studies, scientists lay out a potential story of chicken origins. This poultry tale begins surprisingly recently in rice fields planted by Southeast Asian farmers around 3,500 years ago….From there, the birds were transported westward….

      Domesticated fowl then arrived in Mediterranean Europe no earlier than about 2,800 years ago….The birds appeared in northwest Africa between 1,100 and 800 years ago….

      Archeological evidence indicates that chickens and rice cultivation spread across Asia and Africa in tandem….But rather than eating early chickens, people may have viewed them as special or sacred creatures. At Ban Non Wat and other early Southeast Asian sites, partial or whole skeletons of adult chickens were placed in human graves. That behavior suggests chickens enjoyed some sort of social or cultural significance….

      The expansion of the Roman Empire around 2,000 years ago prompted more widespread consumption of chickens and eggs….In England, chockens were not eaten regularly until around 1,700 years ago, primarily at Roman-influences urban and military sites. Overall, about 700 to 800 years elapsed between the introduction of chickens in England and their acceptance as food….

Learning to See What’s There

[These excerpts are from an article by Paul G. Hewitt in the July/August 2022 issue of The Science Teacher.]

      …a large photo of what seemed to be random black splotches on a white background was displayed on a wall….A close look seemed to confirm that the spots were entirely random. Then an Exploritorium explainer would direct a viitor’s attention to the right side of the image and point out a Dalmation dog—with its head in the middle sniffing the ground. Voila! Once it was pointed out, most people saw the dog. If they returned to the photo in a subsequent visit, they’d see the dog right away. He trained eye sees what is there, just as the trained ear of a musician hears what others miss. Using our senses is an ongoing learning experience. We learn to perceive what is there….

      When I first began teaching at the San Francisco Exploratorium, founder Frank Oppenheimer took me on a tour of the visual illusion exhibits….He wrapped up this personal tour with a great illusion involving my hands. He asked me to raise my hands higher than my head, with one hand half as far from my eyes as the other, and make a casual judgement as to which hand looks bigger. My belief that my hands are the same size influenced my answer, which was that the closer one looked slightly larger. Then he directed me to overlap my hands a bit so I could clearly see that the closer hand was twice as tall as the far hand….Aha! And twice as wide, all according to perspective and the momentarily forgotten imverse square law! So the near hand was four timesthe size of the far hand. Without the overlap, I’d be less apt to view them that way….

Teaching Societal Issues in the Science Classroom

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Ann Haley MacKenzie in the July/August 2022 issue of The Science Teacher.]

      …We live ata a time when noneducators often decide what should be included in the curriculum, sometimes at a huge cost to scientific literacy. These decisions can post a danger to our society, especially if they preclude young adults from learning how societal issues impact them at the personal, community, state, federal, and international levels.

      Exploring societal issues in science affords our students the opportunity to generate enduring questions; experience positive confusion; engage in reflective thought; and develop an understanding of differences in values, priorities, and definitions of morality among people all over the world….

      A current societal issue is COVID. Could it have been predicted? Could it have been avoided? What will be the long-term impact of our international community experiencing a two-year long pandemic? What can be done to prevent future pandemics? As of now, COVID appears to be a part of our lives for the long term, much like the flu. What science is involved in these long-term phenomena? How will COVID impact communities, if it becomes endemic to our society? How will people living in poverty be affected within our country and throughout the world? All of these questions need to be explored in the science classroom when discussing viruses, evolution, disease transmission, or areas in other disciplines of science….

How Dinos Survived Triassic Cold Snaps

[These excerpts are from an article by Carolyn Gramling in the 13 August 2022 issue of Science News.]

      Widespread volcanic eruptions around 202 million years ago triggered a mass extinction that killed off three-fourths of the planet’s species, including many large reptiles. Yet dinosaurs, somehow, survived.

      Dinosaurs are often thought of as heat-loving, well suited to the steamy Triassic Period. But their secret to survival may have been adaptation to the cold. Their warm coats of feathers could have helped them weather relatively brief but intense bouts of volcanic winter associated with the massive eruptions….

      Evidence of feathers has been found in the fossils of many types of dinosaurs. Recent reports that flying reptiles called pterosaurs also had feathers suggest that the insulating fuzz may have appeared as early as 250 million years ago.

      Thanks to those insulating feathers, dinosaurs were able to survive the lengthy winters that ensued during the end-Triassic mass extinction….Dinosaurs might then have been able to spread rapidly during the Jurassic, occupying niches left vacant by less hardy reptiles….

Reusing the Heat beneath our Feet

[These excerpts are from an article by Nikk Ogasa in the 13 August 2022 issue of Science News.]

      …Just as cities warm the surrounding air, giving rise to urban heat islands, so too does human infrastructure warm the underlying earth….An analysis of groundwater well sites across Europe and parts of North America and Australia now reveals that roughly a couple thousand of those locations possess excess underground heat that could be recycled to warm buildings for a year….

      What’s more, even if humans managed to remove all this accumulated thermal pollution, existing infrastructures at about a quarter of the locations would continue to warm the ground enough that heat could be harvested for many years to come. That could reduce reliance on fossil fuels and help mitigate climate change….

      Groundwater warmed by all that trapped heat and piped to the surface could heat buildings…providing some communities with a reliable and low-energy means to warm homes….

      Constructing systems to take advantahe of human heat pollution today could one day help residents harvest heat from climate change….

Why We Do What We Do

[These excerpts are from a book review by Rob Dunn in the 5 August 2022 issue of Science.]

      …what to some will be a radical idea: that humans are just another animal species. We may be unusual, and hence “special”, in some of our behaviors, but so too, she argies, is the sea slug that abandons its body when attacked by parasites only to grow a new one from its disembodied head.

      …Genes, she argues, influence behavior, but how they do so depends on the environment. Similarly, the environment influences behavior, but how it does so depends on the genes….

      The book also considers those cases in which animals’ behaviors help them to avoid disease, Chimpanzees self-medicate by eating plants that help to kill their intestinal parasites, as do goats and sheep. Some populations of house sparrows bring cigarette butts to their nests to kill ticks. Ants gather antimicrobial resins and incorporate them into their mounds.

      …Like chimpanzees, humans use plants as medicines. Like many animals, humans exploy social distancing in the presence of parasites. And like one African ant species, humans use a mix of techniques to wash pathogens off their bodies to reduce the risk of infection….

Ambitious Bill Leads to 40% Cut in Emissions, Models SHow

[These excerpts are from an article by Erik Stokstad in the 5 August 2022 issue of the EDF newsletter, Science.]

      …They plugged major provisions, including subsidies for renewable energy and tax cuts for electric vehicles, as well as controversial incentives for the fossil fuel industry, into their models. Three models now agree that if the bill’s provisions are carried out, U.S. greenhouse gas emissions would fall be perhaps 40% by 2030, although only part of that stems from the bill alone. One model also finds that the renewable energy subsidies will likely create 1.5 million jobs and prevent thousands of premature deaths from air pollution, especially in disadvantaged communities.

      …Variables such as the price of natural gas account for much of the uncertainty: If gas prices drop, utilities might favor gas over renewable power, slowing the decline in carbon emissions….

      All the analyses find the two most important factors driving down emissions are clean electricity tax cedits—which the bill provides for at least a decade—and expanded tax credits for both new and used electric vehicles. The subsidies will help utilities install more capacity from wind farms and solar panels and help keep nuclear power plants financially viable as they face competition from cheap natural gas. Previous analyses had also pointed to green electricity generation and transportation as crucial to reducing emissions….

      The measure won’t be enough, however, for the United States to reach its Paris goal of a 50% greenhouse emissions reduction by 2030….

Climate Miseducation

[These excerpts are from an article by Katie Worth in the July 2022 issue of Scientific American.]

      …Over the past two years school board meetings around the country have erupted into shout fest over face masks, reading lists and whether to ban education about structural racism in classrooms. In Texas, a quieter political agenda played out during the lightly attended process to set science education standards—guidelines for what students should learn in each subject and grade level. For the first time, the state board considered requiring that students learn something about human-caused climate change. That requirement came under intense dispute between industry representatives interested in encouraging positive goodwill about fossil fuels and education advocates who think students should learn the science underlying the climate crisis unfolding around them….

      For at least a decade the fossil-fuel industry has tried to green its public image. The Texas proceedings show that the actions do not always reflect that image. In little-watched venues, the industry continues to downplay the crisis it has wrought, impeding efforts to provide clear science about that crisis to a young generation whose wor;d will be defined by it….

      All sources of energy come with costs. But a fixation on “cost-benefit analysis” is a plank in a raft of arguments supporting what climate scientist Michael Mann has called “inactivism”—a tactic that doesn’t deny human-caused climate change but downplays it, deflects blame for it and seeks to delay action on it. Sure, this brand of thinking goes, fossil fuels have their ills. But what form of energy doesn’t? Mann and others have criticized such arguments for their false equivalencies: the environmental and health costs of rare earth minerals for certain renewable energy sources are small compaired with hose of fossil fuels….

      …The nation’s most popular middle school science textbooks are replete with language that conveys doubt about climate change, subtly or otherwise. In one textbook that, as of 2018, was in a quarter of the of the nation’s mddle schools, students read that “some scientists propose that global warming is due to natural climate cycles.” In fact, the number of climate scientists who support that idea is effectively zero.

      Texas isn’t the only major buyer of textbooks. Other large states such as California have adopted standards that embrace the science of climate change, leading to a divide. Textbook publishers create one set of products to sell in Texas and states that lean the same way and a second set of products for states aligned with California. This poses an equity problem: the education a child receives on an issue central to the modern world depends on what state they happen to live in….

Constriction Site

[These excerpts are from an article by Lars Fischer and Joanna Thompson in the July 2022 issue of Scientific American.]

      …Instead of using a diaphragm muscle to inflate their lungs as mammals do, snakes activate a series of muscles around their extremely long rib cage. But crushing a struggling animal restricts these muscles, and scientists have long puzzled how the snakes survive this constriction contradiction.

      …boa constrictors can selectively move individual rib muscles in whatever parts of their chest are unlocked at a given moment. This lets small areas of the lungs function like a pump, sucking air through the constricted zones to absorb as much oxygen as possible….

      To discover this process, the researchers wrapped boa constrictors with blood pressure cuffs to prevent certain parts of their chests from expanding. Then they measured respiratory flow using small masks strapped to the reptiles’ snouts. Unfortunately, the snakes proved to be mask skeptics….

      But the researchers eventually saw how the the snakes used selective breathing to take in adequate air despite the cuffs. Recording of electrical activity and x-ray images confirmed that nerve impulses strategically activated specific muscles in free areas. The snakes did not even attempt to breathe with the restricted parts of their rib cage—instead they exclusively used muscles on ribs that could still move….

Thirsty Air

[These excerpts are from an article by Ula Chrobak in the July 2022 issue of Scientific American.]

      Drought is typically thought of as a simple lack of rain and snow. But evaporative demand—a term describing the atmosphere’s capacity to pull moisture from the ground—is also a major factor. And the atmosphere over much of the U.S. has grown a lot thirstier over the past 40 years….

      …examined five data sets covering 1980 to 2020 that included temperature, wind speed, solar radiation, and humidity—all of which contribute to evaporative demand. They found the biggest U.S. increases occurring over Southwestern states, whereas rising humidity offset higher temperatures in the East. In the Rio Grande region, the atmosphere craved 135 to 235 millimeters more water annually in 2020 than it did in 1980, an 8 to 15 percent increase. That water vaporized instead of quenching crops and filling aquifers….

      Along with higher temperatures and lower humidity, the study also noted rising wind speeds and increasing solar radiation. In arid regions, humidity declines as temperatures warm….

      Rising evaporative demand adds to the strain as the West continues to endure megadrought conditions that have not been seen for 1,200 years. The increase contributed to low spring runoff from the Sierra Nevada in 2021, when much less stream water came from snow that precipitated….A thirsty atmosphere also dried out Western forests, leading to larger wildfires….

Spider Launch

[These excerpts are from an article by Jack Tamisiea in the July 2022 issue of Scientific American.]

      For some spiders, love is all-consuming. In a grisly practice known as sexual cannibalism, females of many species devour their mates after procreation, either for sustenance or to keep their sexual options open.

      Female spiders are usually much larger than their male counterparts and thus have a strong physical advantage. But…some males protect themselves. Using energy stored in their front leg joints, the males of the orb-weaving spider species called Philoponella prominens can fling themselves off of a ravenous mate in a split second….

      These orb weavers live together in complexes, formed from many interconnected webs, that can house more than 200 individuals. With so many leggy bachelors roaming around, females can afford to devour a few—so to avoid becoming a postcoital snack, male spiders must flee immediately after procreation. The researchers discovered that during the deed itself, male spiders fold their front legs against the female. Immediately after mating, they straighten their legs, using the hydraulic pressure built up along their tibia-metatarsus joints to launch themselves as if to spring.

      The spiders fly off their mate so fast that ordinary cameras cannot capture the behavior….Breaking down the dramatic escapes at 1,500 frames per second, the scientists found that the three-millimeter-long spiders launched themselves at speeds approaching 88 centimeters per second….

      Although sexual cannibalism seems gruesome from a human perspective, the behavior makes evolutionary sense….In most spider species, males contribute nothing to the next generation beyond their sperm, and females have nothing to lose by eating them….

Electrifying Everything

[These excerpts are from an editorial by the editors in the July 2022 issue of Scientific American.]

      Converting a home to run on renewable energy has never looked more appealing. Oil and gas prices have surged while material costs foor solar panels and other clean technologies continue to fall. Billions of dollars have been proposed for carbonizing efforts in the Biden administration’s Build Back Better plan. And, of course, the climate crisis is urgent….

      We’ve been told that individual actions won’t make a dent in the climate crisis without structural change, but people are hungry to participate directly in solutions. Lobbying efforts that push back against the renewables and incentives make the goal of net-zero homes out of reach for most in the U.S. Our policy makers at every level of government must make it easier for all to take part and to benefit….

      The biggest barriers to residential energy conversion are political and psychological. Our love of gas cooking, for example, comes from industry’s success in convincing us that real cooks prefer gas. Yet recent studies have shown that stoves running on natural gas and other fossil fuels create indoor air pollution and elevate risk levels for asthma and other health issues, especially in children. Meanwhile improved induction stovetop technologies (which use an electromagnetic field t heat pans directly) are widely available. They ffer more temperature precision than flames and don’t heat up the kitchen while you’re cooking. But they still account for less than 2 percent of the U.S. market and are more expensive than their fossil-fuel-burning counterparts….

      …Smaller, community-based utilities that are trying to set up clean energy and are more dependent on tax credits and vulnerable to politics. Because utilities need investors, banks are often the beneficiaries of the tax incentives, rather than the fledgling company or the customers it serves. That is why supporters of the congressional Green New Deal, for instance, suggest more publicly owned power companies that give agency to customers, especially as more people are contributing to the electricity grid with rooftop solar panels….

The Hidden Costs of Batteries

[These excerpts are from a book review by Benjamin K. Sovacool in the 29 July 2022 issue of Science.]

      …Batteries are ubiquitous because they can do many things: They can store energy in homes, improve the resilience of electric grids, and assist with the integration of low-carbon electricity sources such as wind farms and solar photovoltaic panels….

      Charged is more critical of battery power than most other books on this topic, noting that they appear “clean” only because they obscure other, more discrete, impacts. In the environmental dimension, batteries depend on some of the most toxic metals and materials in industrial supply chains. The list of environmental insults is long and sobering: lead, sulfuric acid, mercury, manganese, zinc, steel, carbon, graphite, ammonium chloride, potassium hydroxide, cadmium, lithium, nickel, cobalt, and sometimes rare easth minerals. Batteries are thus intimately connected with mining and extraction and with energy0intensive processing. When they are used up, they often return to the earth in the hazardous form of waste or pollution.

      The material economy behind batteries also has a poignant human and social cost. People at both ends of the battery supply chain—extraction and waste—must handle the toxic materials they contain, either coping with the precarious practices of artisanal mining for lithium and cobalt or managing burgeoning flows of electronic waste at at scarpyards. Everey step in the battery manufacturing process moves toxic materials such as lead or cobalt into workers’ bodies….

      …policies are needed to promote more responsible sourcing of battery materials and more responsible manufacturing and production of batteries. He argues in favor of new and expanded mining operations (as well as more sustainable refining operations) in the United States….

The Court Is Lost

[These excerpts are from an editorial by H. Holden Thorp in the 29 July 2022 issue of Science.]

      …Science and technology marched ahead against a backdrop of devotion to a set of founding documents that didn’t contemplate any of these advances….

      The court’s recent spate of bad decisions mocks scientific facts. It obviated a modest and reasonable gun control law in New York despite research showing that gun control saves lives. It removed a woman’s right to abortion even though the Turnaway Study and others like it show that access to abortion improves health. They attributed their rulings to fealty to a document written by slaveowners who had no idea about automatic weapons and who didn’t even think women should participate in the government.

      …The court objected to the fact that that the plan would have shifted production from coal to natural gas. Apparently, they couldn’t find any support in the Constitution for environmental regulation. The notion that the Constitution would contemplate climatr change is ridiculous….

      …The scientific community must value and partner with communicators and policymakers who can help show that scientific advancement demands that the nation operate as a work in progress. Otherwise, America will be stuck with a government that worships a set od documents created by men who had no idea about evolution, dinosaurs, hydrocarbons, women’s health, or digital communication….

How Will ERA Regulate the Power Sector?

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Richard L. Revesz in the 29 July 2022 issue of Sciencee.]

      …The court objected to the Clean Power Plan’s reliance on “generation shifting,” a partial shift in electricity production from coal to natural gas, which generayes fewer emissions, and from coal and natural gas to renewables, which produces no emissions. According to the court, the Clean Air Act didn’t authorize EPA to base its standard on this technique. Climate regulations for other sectors, including transportation, oil and gas, and manufacturing, are likely to be source specific, and therefore unaffected by this decision.

      With generation shifting now off the table, EPA must choose the “best system of emission reduction” under the relevant provision of the Clean Air Act. This system must be “adequately demonstrated,” which means that it cannot be too speculative. And the agency must “take into account the cost achieving such regulation….”

      …unfortunately, other regulatory approaches for the power sector will be more costly or less effective. Moreover, these regulations, as well as other regulations in the climate change and environmental sectors, may be slowed or stalled on other grounds. The fallout from the Supreme Court’s decision across the economy is likely to have only just begun.

Black Unicorns Are Real

[These excerpts are from an article by Alexis Pauline Gumbs in the Summer 2022 issue of Sierra.]

      …The tusks coming out of their heads can be 10 feet long. Narwhals are so good at hiding in the ice at the top of the planet that for centuries they were a myth. For many years, European hunters hid the fact that narwhals existed so they could sell “unicorn horns” at a premium. Queen Elizabeth I bought one for the price of a castle.

      Right now, scientists are watching narwhal movement patterns from outer space.On a clear day, space-camera observers will notice how narwhals “seek areas of complex shorelines” to avoid orcas. We can watch 12,000 narwhals converge every summer in a place called Eclipse Sound. We can speculate about whynarwhals on opposites sides of Greenland, separated for 100 centuries and genetically distinct from each other, appear to be changing their migration patterns in similar ways to adapt to melting ice.

      …The narwhal’s tusk senses changes in temperature, pressure, percussion. It accurately measures the levels of salt in the water. It reaches forward and translates all that information through a nerve that goes directly to the brain. Information transmitted by the tusk changes a narwhal’s heart rate. The tusk gives the heart and mind details about the ocean of the narwhal’s own existence….

Suck It Up

[These excerpts are from an article by Paul Rauber in the Summer 2022 issue of Sierra.]

      …We haven’t done that—at least, not yet, and not at the scale that’s required. Had we listened to Hansen in 1988, we could have limited global warming by simply pivoting to clean energy. The world could have decarbonized by 2 percent a year and met the Paris goal. Even in 2015, a rapid transition to clean energy might have done the trick. But after decades of manufactured climate denial, governmental foot-dragging, and desperate delaying tactics by the fossil fuel corporations, we now need to decarbonize three times as fast, by 6 to 7 percent a year. Carbon emissions need to peak by 2025 at the very latest, and investments in clean energy need to increase three- to sixfold….

      Both the Obama and Biden administrations bought heavily into CCS. Obama supported billions of dollars in funding through the Department of Energy…..Biden’s bipartisan infrastructure bill included $12 billion for carbon capture.

      The first recipients of the DOE’s carbon-capture largesse were coal-burning power plants. Every single one has been a failure….

      …Conveniently for the petroleum industry, the Internal Revenue Service ingeneously takes it at its word regarding the actual storage. In 2020, the US Treasury inspector general for tax administration found that 87 percent of the credits awarded under 45Q—nearly a billion dollars, at that point—were improperly claimed, with no verification that the promised carbon storage had actually occurred….

      Remember: We don’t have 30 years. The IPCC says that carbon emissions need to peak within three years from now. Its latest report is unequivocal that no new fossil fuel infrastructure can be built if we want to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement. Yet Big Oil is forging ahead with continued exploration and extraction and using the promise of carbon capture as political cover….

      Pulling carbon out of the atmosphere may well be necessary (“compulsory” and “unavoidable”) to meet the Paris Agreement climate targets. But it cannot substitute for not putting CO2 there in the first place….Unlike the options for carbon dioxide removable, renewable energy technologiesaren’t bedeviled by what environmental journalist Elizabeth Kolbert calls “solution bias”—the belief that a particular solution must work because we so desperately need it to. Clean energy comes with no moral hazard….

Carry the Zero

[These excerpts are from an article by Holly Jean Buck in the Summer 2022 issue of Sierra.]

      …What’s clear is that some redistribution of carbon will be required to reach global net-zero emissions, which is necessary to fulfill the ambitions of the Paris Agreement. Here’s where it gets tricky: Net zero does not mean zero emissions. It means that any remaining, hard-to-avoid anthropogenic emissions need to be zeroed out by carbon dioxide removal—that is, taking some amount of carbon out of the atmosphere and putting it someplace else.

      It's reasonable to wonder if net zero is a greenwashing scam, because it sound like one at first glance—and some governments and corporations appear to be using vague net-zero goals to procrastinate on decarbonizing. But scenarios used by the International Panel on Climate Change assume we’ll need to deploy carbon dioxide removal at some scale for two main reasons. First, some industrial emissions are genuinely difficult to eliminate. The IPCC states that using carbon removal to counterbalance these emissions is “unavoidable” if net-zero targets are to be achieved. Second, since governments and corporations have spent 40 years delaying greenhouse gas reductions, we are now backed into a corner and will likely need to recapture some of what has already been emitted….

      Above all, there is a real risk that carbon removal could distract from the effort to transition away from fossil fuelsby creating a “moral hazard”—it might allow politiciansand companies to focus on negative emissions while avoiding the harder challenge of ending fossil fuel production. The danger that carbon removal might delay the phaseout of fossil fuels is one reason that carbon-removal debates need the voices of grassroots climate advocates. People who care about climate justice can make sure that carbon-removal policies do not serve the interests of big corporations. They can keep the pressure on governments to ensure that the leftover emissions are truly hard to abate and set out a path for net zero to be a temporary step toward reaching true zero by the end of the century.

      Given the risks of distraction and knowing that vested interests—from agribusiness and forestry to carbon traders and fossil fuel corporations—are tangled up with emergent ideas about carbon removal, it might seem simpler to just say no to carbon removal. Unfortunately, the science tells us that we are past that point. Without public guidance, the risk of carbon removal becoming a dangerous distraction is much higher….

Trash Nerd

[These excerpts are from an article by Edward Humes in the Summer 2022 issue of Sierra.]

      Recycling in Maine, as in the rest of the country, has taken a double hit in recent years. In 2018, China stopped accepting the enormous quantities of US trash that used to provide raw materials for its factories. Suddenly, once profitable “recycling” (a lot of it was actually just offshoring) became a net cost that many communities could no longer afford. Then the pandemic accelerated the crisis with enormous amounts of packaging waste from online purchases….

      Instead of giving up on recycling, however, Maine responded by changing the game, passing a first-in-the-nation law that shifts 100 percent of the cost of recycling from communities and taxpayers to the makers of wasteful products….

      The new law, which begins its gradual rollout this July, will expand recycling in participating communities, requiring them to collect everything on a “readily recyclable” list and providing funding for them to do so. Overseen by the state Department of Environmental Protection, a new stewardship organization will collect fees from producers and reimburse towns and cities for their recycling costs. Any fees left over will be used to fund schools and infrastructure, or go to governments and private entities wanting to beef up their packaging and recycling systems.

      In the new system, the recycling infrastructure remains the same; just the billing address changes. Manufacturers pay based on the tonnage and volume of the packaging they sell, or they pay a fee if their materials are too expensive or difficult to recycle. The smaller their packaging and the more readily it can be reused or recycled, the less manufacturers pay. (Small businesses are exempted if they have less than $2 million in annual gross revenues or sell less than one ton of packaging per year to consumers in Maine.) It’s a form of extended producer responsibility, similar to requirements long in place for recycling computers and electronics. But now the target is the much larger and fast-growing tide of packaging and containers that make up a third of all city and business trash nationally and 40 percent in Maine….

2030 Vision

[These excerpts are from an article by Dan Chu in the Summer 2022 2021 issue of Sierra.]

      We are living in a now-or-never moment. This next decade will be decisive in our effort to address the climate crisis and the extinction emergency. We must make a major leap from an economy built on extraction and fossil fuels to a regenerative economy centered on clean energy, good jobs, and freedom from oppression. Failure is not an option: On our current trajectory, we will pass an average global temperature rise of 2.7oF (1.5oC) as early as 2030. If we blow past that threshold, we will experience deadlier hurricanes and wildfires, the loss of communities to sea level rise, and even more species extinctions. According to the World Health Organization, between 2030 and 2050 an additional 241,000 people per year will die from climate-related causes such as malnutrition, heat streaa, and malaria….

      …We will build power together through recruiting our friends and family to join us on outings that inculcate a love of nature, speaking out about environmental injustices, and holding our representatives accountable for acting on climate change….

      Together, we hold the power to advance climate solutions, be in solidarities in the journey for environmental justice, restore the promise of our democracy, and protect our lands, water, air, and wildlife. Together, we will win the fight for a healthy climate built on a foundation of environmenta; racial, economic, and gender justice. We will work toward a future in which all people benefit from a healthy, thriving planet and a direct connection to nature. Our new 2030 strategic framework lays out our path to getting there….

Moral Hazards Ahead

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Jason Mark in the Summer 2022 issue of Sierra.]

      …If we’re going to stay within the goals of the Paris Agreement, a new process will have to enter the equation: subtraction. To keep average global temperature rise beneath 2.7oF (1.5oC), we’ll have to begin deliberately removing carbon dioxide from the air. In its most recent report, released in April, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declared, “All available studies require at least some kind of carbon dioxide removal to reach net zero.” The math is implacable.

      As a matter of global justice and ecological solidarity, the obligations of the Paris Agreement should also be implacable. Tweo degrees Celsius of global warming would be a “death sentence” for island nations, Mia Mottley, the prime minister of Barbados, has warned. Temperature overshoot will also spark more environmental losses….

      Then there are the whizbang, high-tech solutions. The cool kid in this space is direct air capture—literally sucking CO2 out of the air. The thing that’s really supposed to save our bacon is something called bioenergy with carbon capture and storage, a Rube Goldberg scheme to generate power from biomass and then capture and store all the emissions. These technologies have the advantage of being fast-acting. They are also going to be expensive, since they’ll require massive new infrastructure to collect and store all that CO2….

      Carbon dioxide removal may be a mathematical necessity. But if we have to engage in this costly endeavor, let’s at least make sure that the climate criminals don’t profit from the chaos they’ve created. The calculus is clear: The Carbon Barons are the ones who need to pay.

SHalf of Americans Anticipate a U.S. Civil War Soon, Survey Finds

[These excerpts are from an article by Rodrigo Perez Ortega in the 22 July 2022 issue of Science.]

      …Firearm deaths in the United States grew by nearly 43% between 2010 and 2020, and gun sales surged during the coronavirus pandemic….

      Although almost all respondents thought it’s important for the United States to remain a democracy, about 40% said having a strong leader is more important. Half expect a civil war in the United States in the next few years….About 7% of the participants—which would correspond to about 18 million U.S. adults—said that they would be willing to kill a person in such a situation.

      …conspiracy theories, some rooted in racism, are helping shape views about political violence. They found roughly two in five adults agreed with the white nationalist “great replacement theory,” or the idea that native-born white voters are being replaced by immigrants for electoral gains. And one in five respondents believed the false QAnon conspiracy theory that U.S> institutions are controlled by an elite group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles….

Confronting 21st-Century Monkeypox

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Michael T. Osterholm and Bruce Gellin in the 22 July 2022 issue of Science.]

      …People 40 years old and younger who have had not benefitted from the immunization campaign that eradicated smallpox by 1980 are now susceptible to monkeypox (which is the same virus family as smallpox), and this lack of population community has contributed to the current outbreak. Most of the cases to date have occurred among men who have sex with men (MSM), particularly those with new or multiple partners. Epidemiologic investigations indicate that the predominant mode of transmission is through skin-to-skin and sexual contact, not contact with contaminated clothing or bed linens. Although respiratory droplet transmission might occur, transmission as there is with COVID-19. And because smallpox is a self-limited infection with symptoms lasting 2 to 4 weeks, there isn’t a chronic carrier state as there is with HIV, which would increase the risk of ongoing transmission.

      …Transmission among MSM populations must be reduced through aggressive public health measures, including increased vaccination and diagnostic testing and extensive education campaigns targeted at populations at risk and minimizing social stigma….

      …Long-term control of monkeypox will require vaccinating as many as possible of the 327 million people 40 years of age and younger living in the 11 African countries where monkeypox is endemic in an animal (rodent) reservoir. This effort should include childhood vaccine programs….

      The smallpox eradication program was a 12-year effort that involved 73 countries working with as many as 150,000 national staff. Because of its animal reservoir, monkeypox can’t be eradicated. Unless the world develops and executes an international plan to contain the current outbreak, it will be yet another emerging infectious disease that we will regret not containing.

Paper-thin Loudspeakers

[These excerpts are from an article by Adam Zewe in the July/August 2022 issue of MIT News.]

      MIT engineers have developed a paper-thin, low-power loudspeaker that can turn any surface into an active audio source.

      This paper-thin loudspeaker produces sound with minimal distortion while using a fraction of the energy required by a traditional loudspeaker. A hand-size version weighs about as much as a dime and can generate high-quality sound no matter what surface the film is bonded to.

      The researchers’ deceptively simple fabrication technique requires only three basic steps and can be scaled up to produce ultrathin loudspeakers large enough to cover the inside of an automobile or to wallpaper a room….

      A typical loudspeaker uses electric current inputs that pass through a coil of wire, which generates a magnetic field. This moves a speaker membrane, which moves the air above it to make the sound we hear. By contrast, the new loudspeaker uses a thin film of a shaded piezoelectric material that expands the contacts when voltage is applied over it, which moves the air above it and generates sound….

A Better Heat Engine

[These excerpts are from an article by Jennifer Chu in the July/August 2022 issue of MIT News.]

      Engineers at MIT and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have designed a heat engine with no moving parts. It converts heat to electricity with over 40% efficiency—making it more efficient than steam turbines, the industrial standard.

      The invention is a thermophotovoltaic (TPV) cell, similar to a solar panel’s photovoltaic cells, that passively capture high-energy photons from a white-hot heat source. It can generate electricity from sources that reach 1,900 to 2,400 oC—too hot for turbines, with their moving parts. The previous record efficiency for a TPV cell was 32%, but the team improved this performance by using materials that are able to convert higher-temperature, higher-energy photons.

      …The system would absorb excess energy from renewable sources such as the sun and store that energy in heavily insulated banks of hot graphite. Cells would convert the heat into electricity and dispatch it to a power grid when needed.

      …they hope to scale up the system to replace fossil-fuel plant on the power grid….

Discovering the “Hobbit”

[These excerpts are from a book review by Richard G. Roberts and Thomas Sutkins in the 15 July 2022 issue of Science.]

      On 28 October 2004, Homo floresiensis became a scientific and and media sensation. Dubbed the “Hobbit” after J. R. R. Tolkien’s wee folk, this primitive little hominin was thought to have survived on the island of Flores in Indonesia until just 18,000 years ago (subsequently revived to 50,000 years ago). H. floresiensis stood only 1 meter tall and had several odd features, including a small head, hunched shoulders, short legs, and long flat feet with curved toes. The news was greeted with glee, astonishment, skepticism, and counterclaims….

      Ancient DNA has yet to be recovered from hominin remains older than a few thousand years in the tropics, and the use of ancient proteins to elucidate hominin taxonomy is in its infancy. Revealing the history of the Hobbit, its contemporaries, and their ancestors therefore depends on detailed analysis of the few and typically fragmentary bones and teeth preserved over the eons….

      …the available skeletal evidence supports the evolution of Hobbits from small-bodied hominins who dispersed out of Africa more than 2 million years ago, rather than from a large-bodied ancestor (H. erectus) who dwarfed over time in response to environmental pressures on Flores, which is the alternative hypothesis still in contention….

Ominous Feedback Loop May Be Accelerating Methane Emissionss

[These excerpts are from an article by Paul Voosen in the 15 July 2022 issue of Science.]

      If carbon dioxide is an oven steadily roasting our planet, methane is a blast from the broiler: a more potent but shorter lived greenhouse gas that’s responsible for roughly one-third of the 1.2oC of warming since preindustrial times. Atmospheric methane levels have risen nearly 7% since 2006, and the past two years saw the biggest jumps yet, even though the pandemic slowed oil and gas production, presumably reducing methane leaks. Now, researchers are homing in on the source of the mysterious surge. Two new preprints trace it to microbes in tropical wetlands. Ominously, climate change itself might be fueling the trend by driving increased rain over the regions.

      If so, the wetlands emissions could end up being a runaway process beyond human control, although the magnitude of the feedback loop is uncertain….

      …Most researchers think a mix of cattle ranching and landfill in the tropics are the main driver of the post-2006 increase, because they have expanded dramatically alongside populations in the region.

      But the sharp acceleration in the past couple of years seemed to require some other source. Studies are now implicating the Sudd in South Sudan, the continent’s largest swamp and a region researchers have been unable to study on the ground because of the long-term conflict in the region….the Sudd had grown as a methane hot spot since 2019, adding some 13 million extra tone per year to the air—more than 2% of annual global emissions….When combined with smaller increases from the Amazon and the northern forests, it largely explains the observed rise in the atmosphere….

Nailing the Nuance on COVID-19

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Robert H. Wachter in the 15 July 2022 issue of Science.]

      …policy-makers must produce overarching recommendations that are understandable to the public. In doing so, such recommendations occasionally trade accuracy for simplicity. Although sometimes necessary, the message can end up more confusing than clarifying….

      But for an individual trying to decide whether to eat indoors or wear a mask while shopping, hospitalization rates are nearly meaningless. Instead, the salient question is: What are the odds that a person standing near me in an indoor space has COVID-19? For that, local case rates (even though they are underestimates because of home testing that goes unreported), test positivity rates, and wastewater detection rates provide far more useful information….

      …For example, rather than implying that most people are not contagious after day 5 of infection, it would be preferable for officials to explain that a patient with improving symptoms, the chance of spreading infection to others is low (but not zero) after day 5, which is why further isolation is not required. However, to be safe to others, individuals exiting isolation should wear a mask until day 10….

Nukes on the Moon?

[These excerpts are from an article by Fred Nadis in the July/August 2022 issue of Discover.]

      …While robotic rovers on Mars indicate a thirst for scientific knowledge and the International Space Station (ISS) symbolizes cooperation, peaceful and purely scientific aims in outer space have always contended with military. And no one better embodied the tension between militarism and the high ideals of spaceflight than Wernher von Braun….

      President Dwight D. Eisenhower offered a more moderate vision of the advance into space. In 1958, he proposed to Congress that NASA be established under civil control, with the aim tha “outer space be devoted to peaceful and scientific purposes.” But Eisenhower also made the Department of Defense responsible for “space activities perculiar to or primarily associated with military weapons systems or military operations.” Eisenhower’s dual approach indicated that exploration and the military use of space were not easily separated: Space-based surveillance and communication had both military and peaceful applications, and the same rockets that launched satellites could be armed as missiles. In fact, ballistic missiles, in their parabolic flights, have the potential to reach altitudes of thousands of miles….

      Eisenhower not only rejected Project Horizon, but questioned the strategic value of any nuclear weapons in space. His Scientific Advisory Committee had reported in March 1958 that while reconnaissance and communication from spaceflight would have important military applications, there was no real value to releasing atomic or other weapons from space….

      While space is currently free of nuclear weapons, it is stocked with satellites that spy and guide weapons systems on Earth. These satellites, in turn, have long been strategic targets….While shared concern over space debris may eventually shape a new consensus, a diplomatic resolution to curtail antisatellite weapons is not in sight….

Editor’s Note

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Marian Starkey in the June 2022 issue of Population Connectione.]

      …From a Supreme Court on the brink of a decision that will take away a fundamental right to bodily autonomy for Americans in half the states in this country to the despicable failure of Susan Collins…to vote for the Women’s Health Protection Act despite her pro-choice claims to the state abortion bans that are getting passed faster than you can say mifepristone, I just cannot….

      The madness of it all is heightened by “pro-life” (give me a break) members of Congree failing to extend the expanded child tax credit that reduced child poverty by 50 percent in 2021 and refusing to vote for a bill to address the critical shortage of baby formula in the United States. So make sure every fertilized egg becomes a baby, but then once those babies are born, let them starve. Got it….

      As tired as we all are, we can’t let the cynicism and misogyny of a few hundred right-wing politicians bring us down and snuff out our spirits—we can’t afford to let them win the long game. They might be creating chaos and catastrophe right now, but the midterms are coming up this fall, and before we know it, there will be more Supreme Court seats to fill….

What Makes Tardigrades So Tough

[These excerpts are from an article by Douglas Fox in the 16 July 2022 issue of Science News.]

      No beast on Earth is tougher than the tiny tardirade. It can survive being frozen at -272o Celsius, being exposed to the vacuum of outer space and even being blasted with 500 times the dose of X-rays that would kill a human.

      In other words, the creature can endure conditions that don’t even exist on Earth. This outerworldly resilience, combined with their endearing looks, has made tardigrades a favorite of animal lovers. But beyond that, researchers are looking to the microscopic anials, about the size of a dust mite, to learn how to prepare humans and crops to handle the rigor of space travel….

      As a tardigrade dries out, its cells gush out several strange proteins that are unlike anything found in other animals. In water, the proteins are floppy and shapeless. But as water disappears, the proteins self-assemble into long, crisscrossing fibers that fill the cell’s interior. Like Styrofoam packing peanuts, the fibers support the cell’s membranes and proteins, preventing them from breaking or unfolding….

Butterflies May Lose Tails Like Lizards

[These excerpts are from an article by Jake Buehler in the 16 July 2022 issue of Science News.]

      On some butterfly wings, tails may be more than just elegant adornments. They might be survival tools too….

      In summer 2020, the team collected 138 sail swallowtail butterflies (Iphiclides podalirius) in France. Sail swallowtails sport a conspicuous black tail on each hind wing with some blue and orange spotting, contrasting with the rest of the body’s yellow striped coloration.

      Among the collected swallowtails, 65, or 47 percent, had damaged wings. Of all of these mangled wings, more than 82 percent had damaged tails, suggesting that predators might target the spindly parts….

      The findings, the researchers argue, suggest that swallowtails deflect attacks from a butterfly’s vulnerable body to brittle extensions that easily tear off, allowing the insect to escape. This may be similar to how some lizards sacrifice their detachable tails to predators….

Foodmaking Microbes Bear Marks of Domestication

[These excerpts are from an article by Elizabeth Pennisi in the 1 July 2022 issue of Science.]

      …Like the ancestors of the corn and the dog, the fungi and bacteria that drive these transformations were mofidied for human use. And their genomes have acquired many of the classical signatures of domestication….

      …But humans can grow microbes and select variants that best serve our purposes. The studies how the process, repeated over thousands of years, has left genetic hallmarks similar to those in domesticated plants and animals: The microbes have lost genes, evolved into new species or strains, and become unable to thrive in the wild….

      The yeasts used in making bread have lost genetic variation and can’t live in the wild. But for other microbes, scientists have been “lacking clear evidence of domestication … in part because [their] microbial communities can be hard to study….”

Science, Health, and Truth

[These excerpts are from an editorial by William L. Roper in the 1 July 2022 issue of Science.]

      …The COVID-19 pandemic has brought illness, hospitalization, and death near to many people. In the United States, people are divided not only on what they should do but also on what constitutes the facts. Many are seemingly in an alternate world, driven by disinformation, conspiracy theories, and anti-science beliefs. How can health and medical leaders do their jobs while trying to cope with a polarized public? They must be more effective on explaining and persuading the public on matters of science and health. This will require better clarification of two things to the public—the roles of science and politics in public policy decisions, and the means by which scientific truth is established and updated.

      …The reality is that both science and politics are essential for public health to work well. Scientists inform public understanding of the patterns of health and illness in populations, especially when epidemics and pandemics strike. And politics—the way decisions are made in a democratic society—is vital for acting on the information and insights that the scientific community provides for the benefit of everyone

      …society needs to understand better how scientific truth is established and updated. It is based on verified and reproducible facts. The scientific method of gathering data, debating various formulations of the information, and arriving at consensus understandings of what is “true” about a particular matter has been the bedrock for establishing scientific truth for centuries….

      This knowledge-certifying system is under concerted attack today, most notably in polarized political conflicts, including about maks and vaccines, climate change, and gun violence. Restoring confidence in messages regarding science for the public good will be challenging, but it can only be done if there is an effort to explain, defend, and reinforce this public system for shepherding new knowledge….

Dispatches from the Redwood Rebellion

[These excerpts are from a book review by Jeremy B. Yoder in the 24 June 2022 issue of Science.]

      The concept of stealing a tree seems, at first, like a category error. Under the spreading boughs of a centuries-old valley oak or amidthe green-lit colonnade of a basswood forest, a tree theft seems as likely as the theft of a mountain or a river. Of course, we do take trees out of the forest for fuel and timber and fiber, just as we exploit mountains for mining and reroute rivers for irrigation. And if trees are a resource for monetary value, then it follows that they can be stolen….

      The Redwood National and State Parks were first established in the early 20th century to protect old-growth coast redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens). These trees can live more than 2000 years, growing into enormous pillars of fine, durable wood, taller than any other tree species. A grove of old-growth redwoods is a living cathedral, valued for its beauty and for the foundational role these trees play in the ecosystems they inhabit. It is also worth a fortune as timber. That dual statis means that efforts to protect redwoods are often in direct conflict with the needs of communities that depend on them for income….

      Tree Thieves places the Outlaws’ actions in broader context, providing a pocket history of forest regulation in English law that explains how public rights to forest resources were guaranteed from the time of the Magna Carta and how the privatization of forests by the wealthy has been a continual source of discontent for those without privilege. Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood delivering one of “the king’s deer” to Prince John’s banquet table is an echo of such struggles….

      The book’s unavoidable conclusion is that the problem manifest in timber poaching is not the destruction of a particular tree or the failure of a conservation plan but rather a social and economic system that roots personal identity in wage-earning work (or lack thereof) and that describes a tree by its value as board feet in a lumberyard….

The Matter of a Clean Energy Future

[These excerpts are from an editorial by James Morton Turner in the 24 June 2022 issue of Science.]

      A clean energy transition will create jobs, promote energy independence, improve public health, and, ultimately, mitigate climate change. But getting to this new future will require more tha just phasing out fossil fuels. The production of a wide range of energy-relevant materials—lithium, cobalt, and nickel for batteries; rare earth elements for wind turbines and electric motors; silicon for solor panels; and copper to expand the electric grid—must be scaled up substantially. Mobilizing these materials without reproducing the environmental harms and social inequities of the fossil fuel status quo poses an urgent challenge.

      Studies project that producing the materials to enable a clean energy transition will be a massive undertaking….will require expanding production of energy-relevant materials six-fold between 2020 and 2040, to 43 milion tons per year. At first glance, that may seem to pale in comparison to the fossil fuel industries, which produce roughly 15 billion tons of coal, oil, and natural gas globally in 2020 alone and added 32 billion tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere when burned.

      But the transition will be even more difficult than it first appears. Nickel, cobalt, and copper and many other energy-relevant materials occur in low-grade ores, which entail far more mining, processing, and waste than fossil fuels. Securing the millions of tons of finished materials needed will require mining hundreds or thousands of times more raw ore. Although this transition will ultimately lower greenhouse gas emissions, especially as more renewable energy powers mining processes, it will require processing metal ores at a scale that rivals the material through-put of today’s fossil fuel industries….

      To meet the global clean energy challenges, government policies supporting public and private sector investments are needed at every stage of extraction and processing….

      Ultimately, innovation will reshuffle the burdens of resource extraction in ways that cannot be fully aanticipated….

Confronting the Climate Crisis

[These excerpts are from a book review by Joseph Swift in the 17 June 2022 issue of Science.]

      In ancient times, it was common to divine the future by watching animal behavior. For example, an unexpected appearance of a bear or serpent could indicate the will of the gods. As we slide further into a future of climate change, there is no shortage of such omes. Around the world, animals are acting unusually—ticks are migrating northward into Canada, swarms of jellyfish are invading the Sea of Japan, and bats are dying in the thousands in eastern Australia….

      Each essay in the book serves as a type of local dispatch, with the authors sharing how climate change has shaped their own sense of place and self. On the surface, what they choose to share can appear unrelated and even irrelevant—readers learn about nuclear contamination, Arizona cacti, mold allergies, dam building, grief, commune life, raising children, and, of course, COVID-19. But as a collection, these narratives work together to shift the audience’s perception of the environment, unsettling assumptions that it is something to be controlled or conquered….

      Even as they challenge the ways we rationalize our relationship with nature, the book’s authors do not attempt to promote an alternate philosophy….

      …The World As We Know It is resoundingly articulate about climate change in ways that dispassionate scientific inquiry cannot be. By taking a more off-one feels the-cuff approach, the essay collection is so razor sharp, it has chance of reaching even the most hardened climate skeptic.

Ancient DNA Reveals Black Death SoOurce

[These excerpts are from an article by Ann Gibbons in the 17 June 2022 issue of Science.]

      …In European historical accounts, the Black Death appears first in 1346 at ports on the Black Sea. Within a year it was in Europe, where scholars estimate it killed more than half of the population by 1353. In 1894, microbiologists identified Y. pestis as the cause. Ever since, they have debated where and when the deadly strain was born, considering China, Central Asia, India, and Genghis Kahn’s armies marching from Mongolia….

      One branch of the tree underwent a “big bang” explosion of diversity at the time of the Black Death, creating a starlike pattern of four new lineages of Y. pestis whose descendant strains still persist in 40 species of rodents around the world. One of those lineages was the source of the Black Death and later outbreaks in Europe until the 18th century….

      …The authors suggest it spilled over to humans, perhaps from a marmot, which are abundant in the Tian Shan mountain region of northern Kyrgystan, southern Kyrgystan, and northwestern China. Sudden changes in rainfall or temperature could have led to surges in local rodent populations and the fles or other insects they harbor. More rodents and their pests meant more opportunities to hop to a new host—humans—and adapt to it….

      The remaining mystery…is how the Black Death traveled 3500 kilometers from Central Asia to the Black Sea, where historical accounts describe the Mongolian army hurling the bodies of plague victims into the besieged city of Caffa in Crimea in 1346 in an early form of biological warfare….

A Future for Ukranian Science

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Jerzy Duszynski, Marcia McNutt and Anatoly Zagorodny in the 17 June 2022 issue of Science.]

      As the war in Ukraine enters its fourth month, Russian forces continue to destroy the nation’s scientific institutions and infrastructure, signaling Russia’s intent to obliterate the future for Ukraine….

      Lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic can also be applied to help Ukrainian researchers form virtual networks with international colleagues, with international encouragement from institutions and researchers. These efforts cost little but would keep these scientists engaged and involved.

      Once the war is over, it is hoped that Ukraine will swiftly begin the monumental task of rebuilding. National science academies around the world should advocate that international aid to Ukraine be directed to rebuilding science infrastructure alongside other critical needs such as transportation, energy, and health care….

      The stakes of the war in Ukraine are high—the future of democracy in Europe is at risk. The global science community should not only help guarantee that Ukrainian science remains a vital source of national advancement, but also ensure that it is part of international science so that its values of collaboration, cooperation, and mutual trust continue to contribute to a better world.

G7: Balance Security and Collaboration

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Harry G. Broadman and Chaouki Abdallah in the 17 June 2022 issue of Science.]

      …When the leaders of G7 meet in late June…, they should make it a priority to coordinate controls of knowledge flow and technology. They need to act together to demonstrate how democracies can counter illicit activities for acquiring technologies.

      The issue of research security bubbled up on university campuses in the US almost 5 years ago as questions about technology exports to, and acquisitions of US firms by, China raised concerns about the economic, military, and intelligence vulnerabilities of G7 nations. Then in February 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine. Many of the world’s liberal democracies banded together—in record time and a highly coordinated fashion—to impose far-reaching export controls to prevent advanced technology products from reaching Russia. Democracies in general, and the G7 in particular, have awoken to the fact that they have the means and powerful new motivations to more carefully control the diffusion of dual-use knowledge and advanced technologies to adversaries.

      The result is looming changes—to law and enforcement—of national policies in advanced democracies. The new approaches fall to different governmental entities, depending on whether the policy is the granting of export licences; agency clearance of inbound—and likely soon even outbound—foreign direct investment; or the funding of university research. The result…is predictable: regulatory confusion for both researchers and companies engaged in cross-border activity, and a reduction in international flows of scientific and engineering knowledge and personnel….

      The first step is for the G7 to agree on the principles of a new regime: making the implementation of national regulations smarter about global knowledgenetworks, coordinating to facilitate openness among the G7 nations and control at the interface between those within the group and those outside; and ensuring harmonizationthat supports cross-border collaboration in public and private R&D and innovation within the G7….

Swapping Meat for Microbial Protein May Take a Bite out ofClimate Change

[These excerpts are from an article by Carolyn Gramling in the 18 June 2022 issue of Science News.]

      “Fungi Fridays” might save a lot of trees. Eating one-fifth less red meat and instead munching on fungi- and ahgae-derived microbial proteins could cut annual deforestation in half by 2050….Just 20 percent microbial protein substitution cut annual deforestation rates—and associated greenhouse gas emissions from clearing trees for cattle pastures—by 56 percent. So eating more microbial proteins could help address global warming.

Revising Leonardo da Vinci’s Rule for how Trees Branch

[These excerpts are from an article by James R. Riordon in the 18 June 2022 issue of Science News.]

      …More than 500 years ago, the multi-talented Renaissance genius wrote down his “rule of gtrees,” describing the way he thought that trees branch. It was a brilliant insight that helped him to draw realistic landscapes, but Leonardo’s rule breaks down for many types of trees. A new branching rule—dubbed “Leonardo-like”—works for virtually any leafy tree….

      Leonardo’s rule says that the thickness of a limb before it branches into smaller ones is the same as the combined thickness of the limbs sprouting from it. But…it’s the surface area that stays the same.

      Using surface area as a guide, the new rule incorporates limb widths and lengths, and predicts that long branches end up being thinner than short ones. Unlike Leonardo’s guess, the updated rule works for trees that range from slender to sturdy….

      The connection between the surface area of branches and overall tree structure shows that it’s the living, outer layers that guide tree structure….And two factors are key for determining structure: the width of each limb and the length between branchings on a limb. As a result, when trees are rendered in two dimensions in a painting or on a screen, the new rule describes them particularly well….

Did Black Volcanic Rock Help Spark Early Life?

[These excerpts are from an article by Robert F. Service in the 10 June 2022 issue of Science.]

      When life emerged, it did so quickly. Fossils suggest microbes were present 3.7 billion years ago, just a few hundred million years after the 4.5-billion-year-old planet had cooled enough to support biochemistry. Many researchers think the hereditary material for these first organisms was RNA. Although not as complex as DNA, RNA would still be difficult to forge into the long strands needed to convey genetic information, raising the question of how it could have spontaneously formed.

      Now, researchers may have an answer. In lab experiments, they show how rocks called basaltic glasses help individual RNA letters, known as nucleoside triphosphates, link into strands up to 200 letters long. The glasses would have been abundant in the fire and brimstone of early Earth; they are created when lava is quenched in air or water or when the melted rock created in asteroid strikes cools off rapidly….

      Origin-of-life researchers are fond of a primordial “RNA world” because the molecule can carry out two distinct processes vital for life. Like DNA, it’s made up of four chemical letters that can carry genetic information. And like proteins, RNA can catalyze chemical reactions needed for life….

      Still, the results leave questions unanswered. One is how the nucleoside triphosphates could have arisen in the first place…..

Climate Risk Is Financial Risk

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Gernot Wagner in the 10 June 2022 issue of Science.]

      …showed a profound lack of understanding of climate risks and their financial implications. Despite much progress, some of these views remain troublingly widely held among many in the financial sector, whose well-informed engagement is essential to mitigating and adapting to climate change.

      Climate risks are neither distant nor small. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s latest assessment report cites a litany of studies showing how climate damages have material impacts now. Insurer Aon tallied over $343 billion in weather- and climate-related economic losses in 2021 alone….

      Climate risk includes both the risk of unmitigated cliame change and the risk to a business’s bottom line posed by climate policy….But the world cannot rely on informed business decisions alone. It takes policy to internalize the risks businesses would otherwise offload onto society.

      Climate risk has some other distinctive properties that ought to worry financial risk managers as much as regulators. Correlated risks linked to rising global average temperatures, sea levels, and related climate impacts everywhere all but ensure systemic risks propogating throughout the global financial sector. Diversifying risk is nigh impossible when it affects the entire planet. Global reinsurance companies have been concerned about climate change longer than most for good reason….

Innovations Ventered on Developing World

[These excerpts are from an article in the Spring 2022 issue of Spectrum.]

      …India has millions of small farms cultivating rice, wheat, sugarcane, and other staple crops. Twice a year, when the harvest is in, farmers burn the remaining stalks and other waste, releasing carbon dioxide and particulate matter into the atmosphere, profoundly degrading the air quality in downwind cities….

      Rapid urban growth has led to an increaee in overcrowded informal settlements—particularly in and around the major cities of the developing world. A lack of infrastructure and open spaces as well as unsafe structures make such areas difficult places to live and work….

      Having developed a relicable and sustainable methodology for transforming spaces, Vargas went on to found Trazando Espacios (Tracing Spaces), a Venezualan nonprofit that develops training programs aimed at children between the ages of 9 and 13 who live in communities with the potential for transformation. In 2015, Vargas received the Dubai International Award for Best Practices in recognition of her innovative work on public spaces around the globe….

      Damak and Varanasi found that vapor collection could be made much more efficient by applying a charge to the tiny droplets that make up fog and then collecting them on an oppositely charges wire mesh. The project ultimately led them to cofound Infinite Cooling to capture and reuse water evaporating from cooling towers at power plants, reducing water consumption for some plants by more than 20%. The technology was successfully piloted at MIT’s Central Utility Plant and is now being deployed commercially around the world….

Tyson Is Too Big for Our Own Good

[This excerpt is from an article by Karen Perry Stillerman in the Spring 2022 issue of Catalyst.]

      …Corn and soybeans take up more than half of this country's total cropland, and the dominant way those crops are grown is anything but sustainable. It relies on the overuse of fertilizers that contribute to climate change, pollute drinking water, and produce coastal “dead zones,” uninhabitable for marine life. Plus, the damage it does to soil leaves farms and surrounding communities more vulnerable to drought and floods.

      This status quo threatens to lead our food system to disaster. Tyson has the size to help us avoid that outcome, but isn’t doing nearly enough. After committing in 2018 to achieve “improved environmental practices” on 2 million acres of cropland (about 20 percent of the total under its influence), the company dropped the ball: by 2021, it had taken initial steps on just 408,000 acres. Tyson is thwarting the changes we need by choosing not to support them.

      Moreover, Tyson’s unchecked size and power enables it to engage in numerous abusive practices while earning record profits. It has been sued for price fixing and toxic spills. It was accused early in the pandemic of lying to its workers about the dangers of COVID-19 and then went on to force employees to work six days a week regardless of whether they were ill—or risk being fired. And the company employs a stock structure that allows the Tyson family to vote down any and all calls for change made by other shareholders.

      For all these reasons, federal regulators should take bold action to rein in Tyson and its ilk. With stronger enforcement of antitrust laws and continued investment in smaller meat and poultry processors, the Biden administration can decrease Tyson’s power by increasing competition. Congress and the US Department of Agriculture should also boost investments in conservation and research programs that help farmers producing corn and soybeans—often used for feed—adopt more sustainable practices….

Electric Cars Charge Ahead

[These excerpts are from an article by Elliott Negin the Spring 2022 issue of Catalyst.]

      …After all, cars are the largest source of carbon emissions for most people in this country, so going carless can dramatically shrink your carbon footprint. Each typical gasoline-powered passenger vehicle emits about 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per year from tailpipe emissions alone, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, assuming it gets about 22 miles per gallon and travels around 11,500 miles annually. Many city dwellers with decent public transportation options report they have had little trouble hanging up the keys.

      …charging the average EV in this country for driving now produces global warming pollution equivalent to a gas-powered vehicle getting about 93 miles per gallon—roughly half the emissions of today’s most efficient gasoline-only models….

      Charging—and the question of how far a vehicle can go on a charge—also remains a concern for potential EV drivers. Depending on battery size and the price per kilowatt-hour of electricity, a full charge will normally cost a small fraction of what it takes to fill up a gas-powered car’s tank. But things get trickier if drivers don't have a garage or a driveway, or their apartment’s parking lot doesn’t have chargers….

      As more charging stations are installed in cities and along highways, so-called “range anxiety” (concerns about the distance an EV can go between charges, and the availability of stations) will surely dissipate. Some EVs are already meeting and even exceeding the range of gasoline vehicles….

On the Road to 100 Percent Renewables

[These excerpts are from an article by by Michelle Rama-Pocciain the Spring 2022 issue of Catalyst.]

      …Formed in 2017 to fill the void left by the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Agreement, the USCA pledges to reduce its collective global warming emissions some 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 and 50 to 52 percent below those levels by 2030, achieving overall net-zero emissions no later than 2050.

      The new analysis finds that the USCA states in the contiguous United States can meet 100 percent of their electricity needs with renewables by 2035. What's more, they can do so even with strong increases in demand resulting from efforts to electrify transportation and heating. Even more promising, the process could create hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs, lower energy costs, and reduce the number of premature deaths and illnesses from pollution….

      Perhaps the most eye-opening benefits of a rapid transition to renewables are the vast improvements to people’s health and economies. Across all the USCA states, the move to 100 percent renewable energy would result in approximately 6,000 to 13,000 fewer premature deaths due to pollution, 140,000 fewer cases of asthma, and 700,000 fewer lost workdays over the next two decades—adding up to almost $280 billion in health benefits t. from 2022 to 2040….

      Accelerating the deployment of renewable energy creates new opportunities in solar array and wind facility installation, increasing demand for electricians, pipefitters, and welders. It also creates opportunities in component manufacturing, sales, financing, and maintenance for those and other renewable energy technologies….

      Similarly, states should prioritize the accelerated reduction of emissions in communities overburdened by pollution, and make sure these communities are fully involved in decisionmaking about the policies that affect them, including proposals to retire fossil fuel plants or to build renewable energy infrastructure….

Clean Trucks Drive Change across the Country

[This excerpt is are from an article in the Spring 2022 issue of Catalyst.]

      Trucks and buses remain a major source of both climate pollution and localized air pollution that takes the form of smog and fine particulate matter, which irritate and inflame the lungs, worsen asthma, and cause tens of thousands of premature deaths nationwide each year. The impact on public health is especially pronounced in Black and Brown communities adjacent to ports, rail hubs, and freight corridors.

      Using electric trucks and buses for shipping and transportation is one promising solution toward addressing this toxic pollution, and many are readily available for deployment. Transitioning to electric trucks and buses would also cut down on climate pollution, save money for fleet operators, lower electricity bills, and allow communities to breathe more easily.

      In recent years, California has taken the lead in passing innovative.clean truck policies, and the rest of the country is only just catching up. In the summer of 2020,15 of the state's jurisdictions signed a nonbinding memorandum of understanding that lays out truck electrification goals. And over the past year, five states—Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, and Washington—have followed California's lead by adopting the Advanced Clean Trucks rule, which is a first-of-its-kind regulation that guarantees an increasing number of electric Ltrucks sold in these states….

Public Health Experts: Your Voice Is Needed on Chemical Safety

[These excerpts are from an article in the Spring 2022 issue of Catalyst.]

      Facilities that produce and contain dangerous chemicals are subject to an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule called the Risk Management Plan (RMP), which requires a written set of procedures for handling accidental chemical spills or releases. This may seem like common sense, but without rules in place, many companies don’t bother to map out their worst-case scenarios—which puts the communities they’re located in at risk from health hazards related to water, air, or soil contamination.

      There are more than 12,000 “RMP facilities,” as these sites are known, throughout the United States. Exposure to the chemicals they produce can be dangerous and even deadly. And according to the Government Accountability Office, a nonpartisan congressional watchdog agency, one-third of RMP facilities are at risk of future disasters due to climate change….

      The current rule does not mandate that chemical facilities consider the impending effects of climate change such as sea level rise—creating disproportionate risk for people of color and people with lower incomes, who are more likely to live near such facilities. The EPA is currently working on a new rule, slated to be open for public comment by September 2022, with a final rule to be issued by August tr2023….

Hawai’i Cast against Fossil Fuel Companies Moves Forward

[These excerpts are from an article in the Spring 2022 issue of Catalyst.]

      In a major milestone, a judge in Hawai’i recently ruled that a lawsuit seeking damages from major oil and gas companies for their climate disinformation campaigns can move forward in state court. The ruling sets an important precedent that the fossil fuel industry has been fighting to prevent in similar cases across the country.

      In the lawsuit, the city and county of Honolulu charge that Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, Sunoco, and other major oil and gas producers have worked for decades to deceive the public and policymakers about the devastating impacts of climate change. As a result, it claims, communities in Hawai'i now face increased flooding, more extreme weather events, and rising seas. Under the current emissions trajectory, the state faces more than three feet of sea level rise within the century, putting more than $19.6 billion of land and infrastructure at risk. The lawsuit charges these impacts were exacerbated by the companies’ deliberate decisions to hide findings and sow public mis-rust in climate science….

      The Hawai’i ruling is particularly notable because it marks the first time a climate disinformation case has moved to the legal “discovery” phase, in which the companies charged can be forced to disclose internal company documents and correspondence. Its findings could have a bearing on dozens of similar lawsuits now pending in the United States, including cases brought by the attorneys general of Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Vermont, and the District of Columbia.

      Notably, during efforts to hold US tobacco companies liable for the damages caused by their products, scores of cases were defeated and dismissed before one brought by the state of Minnesota advanced to the legal discovery phase and subsequently to trial. The documents that came to light, combined with grassroots campaigning, played a major role in eventually forcing tobacco companies to shut down their lobbying efforts, cease certain marketing tactics, and pay out billions of dollars in damages and penalties….

These Bats Buzz Like Wasps and Bees

[These excerpts are from an article by Jake Buehler in the 4 June 2022 issue of the Science News.]

      Some bats buzz like wasps and bees when grasped, and the sound seems to deter predatory owls….

      …the researchers decided to 11 test the idea that the uncanny buzzing was a defense mechanism called Batesian mimicry. Batesian mimics are themselves harmless but resemble — visually, acoustically or chemically — a different species that is distasteful or dangerous to predators. When wary predators can’t tell harmless mimics from the noxious originals, the mimics are protected….

      Birds tend to avoid stinging insects, Russo says. The negative association might be evoked if an owl grasps a bat and hears an indignant buzz, he and colleagues suspect. If so, this scenario is the first known example of mimicry — acoustic or otherwise—where a mammal copies an insect….

      But behavioral ecologist Matthew Bulbert isn’t convinced the new finding is mimicry. Owls encounter bats and stinging insects in different contexts, so it’s unlikely that bat buzzes fool the birds, says Bulbert….Instead, the buzzing might startle an owl, increasing the chance it releases the bat. “That in itself is still pretty cool,” he says.

A Weapon against Mosquitoes

[These excerpts are from an article by Tina Hesman Saey in the 4 June 2022 issue of Science News.]

      …Normally, any particular version of a gene has a 50 percent chance of being passed from parent to offspring. But with the copy-and-paste CRISPR system, gene drive-carrying mosquitoes pass the drive to about 96 percent of male progeny and more than 99 percent of females. With that genetic cheat, the gene drive spreads rapidly through the population….

      Female offspring that inherit two copies of a broken doublesex gene develop mouthparts and genitalia that are closer to the male form. Those females are sterile, and they cannot bite people with their malformed mouthparts. Unable to bite, those mosquitoes can’t transmit malaria-causing parasites from their bodies to humans.

      In those naturelike cages in Terni, when gene drive-carrying mosquitoes were introduced, the populations died out in 245 to 311 days….In two cages where no gene drive mosquitoes were added, mosquito populations lived normally to the end of the experiment….

      At least 46 theoretical harms could arise from the use of gene drives on mosquitoes….Those potential downsides include reductions in pollinators and other species directly or indirectly related to the disappearance of the mosquitoes. It’s possible that people could develop allergic reactions to the bite of mosquitoes carrying a single copy of the gene drive, or to fish that eat the altered mosquito larvae. There could be a decline in water quality caused by large numbers of mosquito larvae dying. There's even a set of scenarios in which malaria cases increase if, for instance, mosquito species that are better malaria spreaders take over in areas where a gene drive has thinned out less-troublesome mosquitoes.

      Dreaming up possible nightmare consequences was an exercise intended to tell researchers what they might need to plan for and test before releasing gene drive mosquitoes into the wild….

Trilobite Eye Inspires a New Camera

[These excerpts are from an article by Anna Gibbs in the 4 June 2022 issue of Science News.]

      Roughly 400 million years before the founding father invented bifocals, the now-extinct trilobite Dalmanitina socialis already had a superior version….Not only could the sea critter see things both near and far, it could also see both distances in focus at the same time — an ability that eludes most eyes and cameras.

      Now, a new type of camera sees the world the way this trilobite did. Inspired by D. sacialis’ eyes, the camera can simultaneously focus on two points anywhere from three centimeters to nearly two kilometers away….

      To mimic the trilobite’s ability, Agrawal and colleagues constructed a metalens. This flat lens is made up of millions of rectangular nanopillars arranged like a cityscape, if skyscrapers were one two-hundredth the width of a human hair. The nanopillars act as obstacles that bend light in different ways depending on their shape, size and arrangement. The researchers arranged the pillars so some light traveled through one part of the lens and some light through another, creating two focal points.

      The team then built an array of identical metalenses into a light-field camera that could capture more than a thousand tiny images. Combining all the images results in a single image that's in focus close up and far away, but blurry in between. The blurry bits can then be sharpened with a machine learning computer program….

A Calming Brew for Child Sacrifices

[These excerpts are from an article by Bruce Bower in the 4 June 2022 issue of Science News.]

      Two Inca children slated for ritual sacrifice more than 500 years ago quaffed a special soothing concoction that has gone undetected until now.

      Those young victims, identified from their remains as a girl and a boy roughly 4 to 8 years old, drank a liquid that may have lightened their moods and calmed their nerves in the days or weeks before they were ceremonially killed and buried on Peru’s Ampato Mountain….

      The youngsters’ bodies contained chemical remnants from one of the primary ingredients of ayahuasca, a liquid concoction known for its hallucinogenic effects….Analyses focused on hair from the girl’s naturally mummified body and fingernails from the boy’s partially mummified remains….

      The sacrificed children were found during a 1995 expedition near the summit of Ampato….It would have taken at least two weeks and possibly several months for the children to complete a pilgrimage from wherever their homes were located to the capital city of Cuzco for official ceremonies and then to Ampato Mountain….

Corals Turn a Sunscreen Chemical Toxic

[These excerpts are from an article by Erin Garcia de Jesus in the 4 June 2022 issue of Science News.]

      A common chemical in sunscreen can have devastating effects on coral reefs. Now, scientists know why.

      Mushroom coral and sea anemones, a coral relative, can turn the chemical, oxybenzone, into a light-activated toxin that’s deadly to them….

      The good news is that algae coexisting with coral can soak up the toxin and blunt its damage. The bad news is that bleached coral reefs, where helpful algae have been ejected, may be more vulnerable to death….

      Whether sunscreen components similar to oxybenzone have the same effects is unknown….The answer could lead to better reef-safe sunscreens.

Flowers Use Sex to Lure Pollinators to their Deaths

[These excerpts are from an article by Susan Milius in the 4 June 2022 issue of Science News.]

      …The fatal part isn’t the surprise. Jack-in-the-pulpits are the only plants known to kill their own insect pollinators as a matter of routine….The new twist, if confirmed, would be using sexual deception to woo pollinators into the death traps….

      Until now, biologists have found only three plant families with any species that pretend to offer sex to insects….But unlike the proposed jack-in-the-pulpit deceit, the other cases aren't fatal, just phony….

      Two jack-in-the-pulpit species in Japan, Arisaema angustatum and A. peninsulae, have now raised suspicions that their family should be added to the list of sexual cheats. These oddball flowers, with floppy canopies bending over little cupped “pulpits,” depend mostly on punctuation-sized fungus gnats for pollination. The plants have a strong scent to lure mate-seeking gnats. But for gnats that enter the pulpit, things will go terribly wrong….

      Biologists had assumed that jack-in-the-pulpits seeking fungus gnats were perfuming the air with mushroomy, nice-place-to-have-kids scents. But homey smells don't explain one of Suetsugu’s odd observations: Almost all the gnats found in A. angustatum and A. peninsulae traps were males….

We Know What the Problem Is

[These excerpts are from an editorial by H. Holden Thorp in the 3 June 2022 issue of Science.]

      …One argument used to justify continued gun ownership is that mass shootings are often the result of shooters with severe mental illness. No doubt that mental health is a factor. But the rates of mental illness in the United States are similar to those in other countries where mass shootings rarely occur. It’s access to guns that is the problem….less than a third of the people who commit mass shootings have a diagnosable mental disorder.

      Another argument is that however strict we make gun control laws, would-be shooters would find ways to get around them. This is also misleading. As the 2017 analysis of Cook and Donohue conclusively shows, extending criminal sentences for gun use in violent crime, prohibiting gun ownership by individuals convicted of domestic violence, and restricting the concealed carry of firearms lead to demonstrable reductions in gun violence. It's not a stretch to assume that further restrictions would save even more lives.

      It’s also argued that gun ownership is guaranteed in the Bill of Rights by the Second Amendment. But a lot of things have changed since 1789, and there are many times when the American people have concluded that rights granted at the nation’s founding could not be reconciled with modern conditions and knowledge. It was decided that owning other human beings was not consistent with the founding principles of America. It was decided that prohibiting women from voting was not consistent with a representative democracy. And now it needs to be decided that unfettered gun ownership by American citizens is not consistent with a flourishing country where people can worship, shop, and be educated without fear….

      Women’s suffrage, the end of slavery, and civil rights were not won without struggle. Courageous activists put their lives and livelihoods on the line to achieve these advances. The victims of gun violence are not here to fight for their rights, which were taken away against their will. But the economic and social success of the country affects everyone. If children do not feel safe, they cannot learn. And a country that cannot learn cannot thrive. A nation of children threatened by gun violence does not have a future….

Justices Allow Higher Carbon Cost

[This brief note is from an editorial by William C. Kirby in the 3 June 2022 issue of Science.]

      The U.S. Supreme Court last week allowed the Biden administration to use a higher number for how much carbon pollution costs society; after declining to take up a challenge from energy-producing, Republican-led states. Federal agencies use the figure, known as the social cost of carbon, when evaluating the costs and benefits of regulations; it attempts to capture costs, such as adverse health effects, that aren’t reflected in market prices. The court’s refusal to take the case means the administration can use its proposed cost of $51 per ton of carbon dioxide emissions. That figure was used by former President Barack Obama’s administration before former President Donald Trump’s administration cut it to $7 per ton.

Zeroing Out on Zero-COVID

[These excerpts are from an editorial by William C. Kirby in the 3 June 2022 issue of Science.]

      …Two trajectories have defined China’s response to COVID-19. Its centuries-long engagement with science and engineering has fostered a culture that reveres institutions of science and technology and a public that appreciates basic science. Its government and academic laboratories are among the best in the world. But China's Marxist-Leninist political system, led by an infallible Party, often defines what is, and is not, “science.” These two beliefs have been in tension since the founding of the People’s Republic in 1949, aggravated by the rise of pseudoscience during the 1950s and the privileging of “red” over “expert” during the isolationist years of the Cultural Revolution….

      This global pandemic should have been an opportunity for strengthening US-China collaboration. Ever since the two nations signed the US-China Agreement on Cooperation in Science and Technology in 1979, scientific cooperation between the two has produced break-throughs in the development of cancer treatments, AIDS research, influenza tracking, and climate change technology. Over the years, even when political relations cooled, bilateral scientific research persisted. Now, this collaboration is threatened….

      China’s deep respect for science still provides an opening for better collaboration with the West in COVID-19 and future pandemics. International vaccines can help China boost vaccination rates among its elderly to prevent massive loss of life when it does drop zero-COVID. We must remember that China’s scientific and economic strengths have risen because of, not despite, China’s integration into the larger world of international education, research, and technology….

      As history shows, a self-isolating China is a threat to itself and a loss to the world.

Project Hail Mary

[These excerpts are from a book review by Holly Amerman in the May/June 2022 issue of The Science Teacher.]

      …Because of the nature of the story, an invasive species, interstellar space travel, a slowly dying Earth, and meeting another form of life, there is barely a high school science topic that is not covered in this book….The characters must use the stars and astronomical calculations to find a location, navigate, and much, much more. For chemists, the construction of a wall between the two space ships to determine which material is best for the task is a treasure trove of exploration for chemistry students learning about atoms, molecules, compounds, and their many interactions. The way Grace learns to talk to his new alien friend is based on the periodic table—if your kids can unravel the mystery before Grace does, they can count themselves as molecular experts!

      Anatomy and physiology teachers can make comparisons between alien species and humans. And as the book goes in-depth into both the anatomical and physiological structures and needs of both humans and the alien, the text is rich for exploration and project ideas. Physics students can think about force, motion, energy, velocity, and vectors, and even try to replicate the many mathematical calculations Grace must use to solve exceedingly complex and deadly situations he encounters in another galaxy. Environmental scientists will love the climate change take in this book, which will turn what may be a controversial topic in their classrooms into an engineering issue that requires both lowering AND raising the temperature on Earth by changing the structure of the atmosphere.

      And finally, the biologists, oh, the phylogenies you can draw! The evolutionary nature of all interdependencies and interactions and some fascinating ideas about what is and what is not required for life are captivating. One of these debates is a central theme, and as the story slowly expands, every added detail helps to both deepen and unravel the mystery simultaneously. Set your students on an evolutionary biology quest as they read….

      Overall, my favorite thing about this book is not the educational value, for which I hope I have convinced you there is plenty, but the story of a science teacher. A science teacher who proves that this is not something we “have” to do or are doing because there are no other good options for us, but because there is something extraordinary in loving science and sharing that love with teenagers….

Inclusive Strategies for the Science Classroom

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Ann Haley MacKenzie in the May/June 2022 issue of The Science Teacher.]

      …We strive to make our classroom and our teaching welcoming for all students, regardless of their social identity, gender-identity, ableism, cultural or sexual orientation, race, and a multitude of others.

      No student wants to be “othered.” To be othered means feeling invisible, having a voice unheard, and an identity undervalued. Teenagers in particular want to fit in, to belong, and to feel accepted. By having inclusive science classrooms, we can strive to reach this goal….

      The STEM pipeline is leaky and we, as science teachers, must do all we can to ensure that all of our students know the STEM career door is open to them if they choose to enter. However, once they enter that door, we must do all we can to keep them exploring and engaging in STEM careers in order to reduce the current attrition rate….

      By providing an inclusive classroom, there will be less need for redirection, consequences, and oppressive strategies, because the students will have greater ownership of their work. The classroom environment also provides space for building meaningful relationships among students, the teacher, and the curriculum, making the entire classroom ecosystem a healthier place for all members….

The Myth of the Lost White Tribe

[These excerpts are from a book review by Laura Stark in the 27 May 2022 issue of Science.]

      …One archetypal white American origin story is the myth of the lost white tribe. In the 19th century, a vaguely documented theory took hold among white elites and everyday folks that a tribe of white people inhabited North America prior to the people we rightly regard as Indigenous to the land. At stake was the project of manifest destiny, the idea that white settlers were the (Christian) God- given inheritors of the land, a notion that still has legs today….

      The myth of this lost tribe wandered northward into white people’s explanations for oil wells dug into the Appalachian foothills, apparent when settlers arrived. Native communities had dug holes to draw petroleum for purposes of ceremony, fuel, and trade. For very different reasons, white speculators pocked the same ground when oil was given commodity value in the late 19th century. They made shallow use of techniques appropriated from Native life—as mere guides to the oil’s location—without the corollary commitment to long-term care….

      By the early 20th century, the myth of the lost white race began to recede, but the anxieties that nourished it sprouted another theory that justified white dominance over Native communities. The theory of the “vanishing Indian” taught that Native people would soon be extinct, but not for obvious reasons of dispossession and extermination….

      Despite their whiff of falseness, the theories of the lost white tribe and vanishing Indian work a strange magic. They reproduce white dominance, while the landscapes to which the stories refer appear as evidence of dominance’s end….

How Mammals Prevailed

[These excerpts are from an article by Steve Brusatte in the June 2022 issue of Scientific American.]

      …For the next 160 million years dinosaurs and mammals went their own separate ways, but both were successful. Dinosaurs became giants and excluded mammals from large-bodied niches. Mammals did the opposite: with their small body sizes, they could exploit ecological niches that the bigger dinosaurs couldn’t access. Having attained a competitive edge in those habitats, they effectively prevented T. rex, Triceratops and kin from becoming small. Between 201 million and 66 million years ago, during the Jurassic and Cretaceous periods, a bounty of pint-sized mammals—none larger than a badger—lived underfoot of the dinosaurs. Among them were scurriers, climbers, diggers, swimmers and gliders. It was these animals that developed the classic mammalian blueprint: hair, warm-blooded metabolism, a complex lineup of teeth (canines, incisors, premolars, molars), and the ability to feed their babies milk….

      The earliest Paleocene scene is dire. There is a fossil locality in Montana dated to approximately 25,000 years after the asteroid hit, called the Z-Line Quarry. It reeks of death. Almost all the mammals that flourished in the region in the Cretaceous are gone; only seven species remain. Several other fossil sites divulge what was happening over the next 100,000 to 200,000 years. If you pool together all mammals from this time, there are 23 species. Only one of these is a metatherian; these marsupial ancestors, once so abundant in the Cretaceous, were nearly extinguished. All told, if you consider the entire Montana fossil record, along with other data from across western North America, the statistics are grim. A paltry 7 percent of mammals survived the carnage. Imagine a game of asteroid roulette: a gun, with 10 chambers, nine of which hold a bullet. Even those odds of survival are slightly better than what our ancestors faced in the brave new world of the Paleocene.

      …The survivors were smaller than most of the Cretaceous mammals, and their teeth indicate they had generalist, omnivorous diets. The victims, on the other hand, were larger, with more specialized carnivorous or herbivorous diets. They were supremely adapted to the latest Cretaceous world, but when the asteroid unleashed disaster, their adaptations became hardships. The smaller generalists, in contrast, were better able to eat whatever was on offer in the postimpact chaos, and they could have more easily hunkered down to wait out the worst of the bedlam….

      This sudden global warming event, called the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, was yet another hurdle that mammals had to overcome. But this time, unlike the asteroid 10 million years earlier, very few mammal species were extinguished. Instead they went on the move, following new high-latitude migration corridors that opened as temperatures warmed. Some of the migrants boasted new adaptations, notably much larger brains. They debuted other new traits, too: primates evolved nails on their fingers and toes to grip branches, even-toed artiodactyls developed pulley-shaped ankles that facilitated fast running, and odd-toed perissodactyls acquired big hooves that made them champion gallopers. These more modern-style mammals swarmed across the interlinked continents of North America, Europe and Asia, and their mass migration over-whelmed the archaic placentals….

One Million Dead from COVID Is Not Normal

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Steven W. Thrasher in the June 2022 issue of Scientific American.]

      …several large mainstream publications, as well as politicians of both major political parties, have been beating a drum to get “back to normal” for months. The effect has been the manufactured consent to normalize mass death and suffering—to subtly suggest to Americans that they want to move on….

      About 200,000 children in the U.S. have lost one or both parents because of COVID—roughly one in every 375 children. This is a big and consequential loss, and those children are probably not among the many who are ready to “move on.” So is it rational?...

      If you don’t want people to wonder why in just two years the U.S. death toll for COVID was about 130 percent of the death toll of four decades of HIV—while global COVID deaths amount to less than 20 percent of the world’s AIDS deaths—then it's rational….

      But it’s not ethical to manufacture what I call a viral underclass, and it’s incorrect to pretend the news media have no role in creating it or in persuading the public that so many deaths are inevitable….But it’s not ethical to manufacture what I call a viral underclass, and it’s incorrect to pretend the news media have no role in creating it or in persuading the public that so many deaths are inevitable….

One World or None

[These excerpts are from an editorial by the editors in the June 2022 issue of Scientific American.]

      …The doctrine of mutually assured destruction, or MAD, held that neither superpower could initiate an attack without itself facing annihilation. But in 2002 the U.S. withdrew from the ABM Treaty and began to build a missile defense system, destabilizing this uneasy balance and sparking a new arms race. In 2019 then president Donald Trump went further, abandoning the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty.

      These eliminations leave the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, negotiated by former presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev in 2010, as the only constraint on the numbers of strategic nuclear weapons. Negotiations for renewing and possibly expanding the agreement were scheduled to begin this year; these talks have now been suspended. But if New START is allowed to lapse, a new arms race will begin. If then unregulated nuclear warheads were combined with other unregulated technologies, such as hypersonic or autonomous weapons, the consequences would be unimaginable.

      …Almost all nations signed multilateral conventions that came into force in 1975 and 1997, banning biological and chemical weapons, respectively. These agreements may be hard to enforce, but they confirm that the global community deems the use of such weapons morally repugnant.

      The U.N.’s Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, advanced by civil society in partnership with nonnuclear states, came into force in January 2021. It aspires to “completely eliminate” nuclear weapons. None of the nuclear-weapons states signed on. But the U.S. and Russia are both signatories of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty of 1970, in which nations without nuclear weapons agreed to never acquire them; in exchange, they got access to peaceful nuclear technology and, crucially, a promise from nuclear-armed nations to eventually eliminate nuclear weapons….

A Better Way to Clean Solar Panels

[These excerpts are from an article by Carolyn Wilke in the 4 December 2021 David L. Chandler in the May/June 2022 issue of MIT News.]

      …But the accumulation of dust on solar panels or mirrors can reduce the output of photovoltaic panels by as much as 30% in just one month.

      The regular cleaning that solar panels require currently is estimated to use about 10 billion gallons of water per year—enough to supply drinking water for up to 2 million people. Water cleaning also makes up about 10% of the operating costs of solar installations since water typically has to be trucked in from a distance and must be very pure to avoid leaving deposits on the surfaces. But waterless cleaning methods are less effective and labor-intensive and tend to scratch the panels, which also reduces their efficiency.

      Now, MIT researchers have devised a waterless, no-contact system to automatically clean solar panels or the mirrors of solar thermal plants. The new system uses electrostatic repulsion to cause dust particles to detach from the panel’s surface, without water or brushes….The system…can be operated automatically using a simple electric motor and guide rails along the side of the panel.

Smoking Gun

[These excerpts are from an article by Jennifer Chu in the May/June 2022 issue of MIT News.]

      …A team led by environmental studies professor Susan Solomon showed that in March 2020, shortly after the fires subsided, nitrogen dioxide in the stratosphere dropped sharply, which is the first step in a chemical cascade known to end in ozone depletion. The researchers found that this drop in nitrogen dioxide directly correlates with the amount of smoke that the fires released into the stratosphere. They estimate that this smoke-induced chemistry depleted the column of ozone by 1% for several months, canceling out the roughly 1% ozone recovery from earlier ozone decreases that had been achieved through the phaseout of ozone-depletting gases.

      …Solomon wondered whether smoke from the Australian fires, which went as high as 35 kilometers, could have depleted ozone through a chemistry similar to volcanic aerosols. Major volcanic eruptions can also reach into the stratosphere, and in 1989, Solomon discovered that the particles in these eruptions can destroy ozone through a series of chemical reactions. As the particles form in the atmosphere, they gather moisture on their surfaces. Once wet, the particles can react with circulating chemicals in the stratosphere, including dinitrogen pentoxide, which reacts with the particles to form nitric acid.

      Normally, dinitrogen pentoxide reacts with the sun to form various nitrogen species, including nitrogen dioxide, a compound that binds with chlorine-containing chemicals in the stratosphere. When volcanic smoke converts dinitrogen pentoxide into nitric acid, nitrogen dioxide drops, and the chlorine compounds take another path, morphing into chlorine monoxide, which destroys ozone….

A Superhero Polymer

[These excerpts are from an article by Anne Trafton in the May/June 2022 issue of MIT News.]

      …Unlike all other polymers, which form one-dimensional, spaghetti-like chains of building blocks called monomers, the new material self-assembles into 2D sheets. Scientists have long hypothesized that if polymers could be induced to grow into such a sheet, they should form extremely strong, lightweight materials. Yet many decades of work led to the conclusion that it was impossible. One reason was that if just one monomer rotates up or down, out of the plane of the growing sheet, the material will begin expanding in three dimensions and the 2D structure will be lost.

      To create the monomer building blocks, Strano's lab used a compound called melamine, which contains a ring of carbon and nitrogen atoms, for the monomer building blocks. Under the right conditions, these monomers can grow in two dimensions, forming discs. These discs stack on top of each other, held together by powerful hydrogen bonds between the layers….

      Because the material, called 2DPA-1, self-assembles, it’s easy to produce in large quantities. Its elastic modulus—the force it takes to deform a material—is between four and six times greater than that of bulletproof glass. The force required to break it is twice that of steel, even though it's about one-sixth as dense. And while other polymers are made from coiled chains with gaps that allow gases to seep through, 2DPA-1 is made from monomers that lock together like Lego bricks, so molecules cannot get between them….

Flushing Our Future

[These excerpts are from an article in the Spring 2022 issue of the Friends of the Earth Newsmagazine.]

      Canada’s boreal forest is home to treasured wildlife, including billions of songbirds, boreal caribou, and wood bison. Over 600 Indigenous communities have lived and relied on the forest for thousands of years. It is also Earth’s largest terrestrial carbon sink, storing millions of tons of carbon and aiding in our fight against climate change….

      While competitors Trader Joe’s and 365 Bath Tissue have begun using recycled content for toilet paper, P&G continues to insist on sourcing virgin fiber for its products. The company refuses to acknowledge its contribution to the destruction of this crucial forest and its delicate ecosystems….

      In Indonesia, P&G works with suppliers that are trampling on Indigenous Peoples’ rights and territories while causing massive deforestation. Several of the company’s suppliers of palm oil—used in products like Head & Shoulders and Gillette—are linked to human rights abuses. Local farmers have reported rights violations, stolen land, and polluted water, due to the devastating plantation-style business model favored by agribusiness companies….

Animals on the Move

[These excerpts are from an article by David J. Craig in the Spring/Summer 2022 of Columbia.]

      The Alaskan tundra, a vast, windswept, and treeless region at the edge of the Arctic Circle, is a place of stunning natural beauty. In winter, the area is blanketed by darkness, and polar bears, wolves, foxes, and lynx rule the snow-covered landscape. In summer, when the sun floats above the horizon for nearly twenty-four hours a day, temperatures routinely hit the mid-sixties, and the tundra springs to life. Patches of grass, wildflowers, moss, and shrubs emerge from beneath the melting snow; thundering herds of caribou, moose, and musk ox travel north to feast on the lush vegetation; and millions of birds from all over the world, drawn by a bounty of insects, worms, and berries, swoop in to mate and raise families.

      But this pristine landscape, and the intricate web of life that it supports, is under stress. Climate change is warming the Arctic twice as fast as the rest of the planet and is altering the habitats not only of its native species but of the countless migratory wayfarers who summer there….

      Dozens of animal species that survive on the tundra are already known to be endangered — including caribou, foxes, grizzly bears, moose, polar bears, bison, musk ox, red-breasted geese, and spoon-billed sandpipers — but Boelman’s ambitious, big-data approach to ecological research has yielded additional discoveries. She and her colleagues, who include scientists from a half dozen universities and numerous US and Canadian government agencies, have found that because spring now begins here two weeks earlier than it used to, the migration schedules of some birds, including golden eagles, are falling out of sync with the shifting seasons. The researchers fear that this could leave the eagles too little time to raise their young before the summer’s abundant food supplies run out. Warmer temperatures have also brought swarms of bloodthirsty mosquitoes, which are weakening female caribou and causing them to be late getting to their calving grounds. This could endanger their offspring, since calves need time to learn to walk before the first snowfall.

      Wolves and black bears, meanwhile, are growing more lethargic in the summer heat, which may impair their ability to hunt. Such divergence in the behaviors of predators and prey can spell serious trouble for any ecosystem. And problems on the tundra could have cataclysmic ripple effects. Whether migratory birds can successfully breed, for example, is vital for ecosystems worldwide….

The Forest Forecast

[This excerpt is from an article by Fred Pearce in the 20 May 2022 issue of Science.]

      …All around the Arctic Circle, trees are invading as the climate warms. In Norway, birch and pine are marching poleward, eclipsing the tundra. In Alaska, spruce are taking over from moss and lichen. Globally, recent research indicates forests are expanding along two-thirds of Earth’s 12,000-kilometer-long northern tree line—the point where forests give way to tundra—while receding along just 1%....

      But the calculus of forests’ climate effects is far from straightforward, and emerging re-search suggests a more forested world won’t necessarily be a cooler world. New forests could enhance warming in some areas, for example, by reducing the amount of sunlight that is reflected into space. Over time, that could offset any gains in carbon absorption….

      To account for how forests will affect future climate, researchers must not only tally current trends, such as development-driven deforestation, but also forecast how powerful forces such as surges in wildfire and warmer temperatures might affect forests, sometimes helping and sometimes harming their ability to soak up atmospheric carbon….

      But ongoing warming is working against tropical forests, even those that are still intact. An international study that has tracked 300,000 trees in more than 500 plots of intact tropical forests over 30 years finds that even without deforestation, their ability to capture CO2 peaked in the 1990s and has since declined by one-third. The decline began in the Amazon, and since 2010 has extended to tropical Africa….Remote-sensing techniques that assess changes in the total leaf area produced by trees and other plants also suggest many tropical forests are slowing their carbon intake….

      But it turns out forests can warm the planet, too, primarily by changing the reflectivity, or albedo, of land surfaces. Gleaming surfaces such as fresh snow have an albedo of 0.8 to 0.9 (on a scale from zero to one), meaning they bounce a lot of solar energy back into space. In contrast, a continuous canopy of broadleaf trees can have an albedo of just 0.15, meaning the trees absorb solar energy and radiate it in the form of heat. A canopy of conifers can have an even lower albedo: 0.08….

The Court Is Ignoring Science

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Diana Greene Foster in the 20 May 2022 issue of Science.]

      A recently leaked draft opinion indicated that the US Supreme Court is prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade as early as next month in the matter of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In doing so, the Justices won’t just be disregarding decades of precedent. They’ll also be disregarding ample evidence of abortion’s positive impact on patients’ health and well-being.

      In Roe v. Wade (1973), the Court struck down a Texas law criminalizing abortion and held that the Constitution protects the right to decide whether to end a pregnancy. Justice Samuel Alito’s leaked opinion in Dobbs stems from the idea that abortion rights are not mentioned in the Constitution or rooted in US history. But we, as a society, are equipped with more factual information today than the framers of the Constitution were. There is a long history of Supreme Court abortion decisions drawing on evidence. In Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (2016), the Court emphasized the importance of considering data when reviewing abortion restrictions. It is critical now that the Court adhere to precedent and insist that constitutional rights be guided by evidence, not by ideology….

      The research revealed that patients who were able to receive an abortion were more than six times more likely to report aspirational 1-year plans than those who were denied one. They are more likely to have a wanted child later and better able to take care of the children they already have. Because the majority of abortion patients are already parents, this means that being able to obtain an abortion has powerful, multi-generational impacts.

      By contrast, if people are forced to carry a pregnancy to term, they are more likely to experience lasting financial hardships. After being denied an abortion, women had three times greater odds of being unemployed than those who obtained abortions and had four times higher odds of being below the federal poverty level.

      Their physical and mental health are also at risk: Women unable to obtain an abortion said they had more symptoms of anxiety, lower self-esteem, and lower life satisfaction. They were more likely to report “fair or poor” health than those who had received abortions. And, again, their families feel the effects: Patients report more difficulty bonding with their baby, and their older children have worse developmental outcomes and are more likely to live in poverty….

Mammals Grew Big and then Got Smart

[These excerpts are from an article by Carolyn Gramling in the 7 & 21 May 2022 issue of Science News.]

      …Modern mammals have the largest brains in the animal kingdom relative to body size. How and when that brain evolution happened is a mystery. One idea has been that the disappearance of all nonbird dinosaurs following an asteroid impact at the end of the Mesozoic Era 66 million years ago left a vacuum for mammals, particularly in certain sensory mammals to fill….Recent regions, the team reports. discoveries of fossils from the Paleocene — the postextinction epoch spanning 66 million to 56 million years ago — do reveal a flourishing menagerie of weird and wonderful mammal species, many much bigger than their Mesozoic predecessors….It was the dawn of the Age of Mammals….

      What the team found was a shock: Relative to their body sizes, Paleocene mammals had brains that were smaller than those of Mesozoic mammals. It wasn’t until the Eocene that brains began to grow in many different groups of mammals, particularly in certain sensory regions….

      The really big brain changes came in the neocortex, which is responsible for visual processing, memory and motor control, among other skills. Those kinds of changes are metabolically costly….

      So as the world shook off the dust of the mass extinction, brawn was the priority for mammals, helping them swiftly spread out into newly available ecological niches….But after 10 million years or so, the metabolic calculations had changed, and competition within those niches was ramping up. As a result, mammals began to develop new skills that could help them snag hard-to-reach fruit from a branch, escape a predator or catch prey….

Food Choices

[These excerpts are from an article by Betsy Ladyzhets in the 7 & 21 May 2022 issue of Science News.]

      …The United States and the European Union are on the list because of heavy meat consumption. In the United States, meat and other animal products contribute the vast majority of food-related emissions….

      Waste is also a huge issue in the United States: More than one-third of food produced never actually gets eaten, according to a 2021 report from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. When food goes uneaten, the resources used to produce, transport and package it are wasted. Plus, the uneaten food goes into landfills, which produce methane, carbon dioxide and other gases as the food decomposes….

      “If we eat 100 calories of grain, like maize or soybeans, we get that 100 calories,” he explains. All the energy from the food is delivered directly to the person who eats it. But if the 100 calories’ worth of grain is instead fed to a cow or a pig, when the animal is killed and processed for food, just one-tenth of the energy from that 100 calories of grain goes to the person eating the animal….

      Developed countries like the United States — which have been heavy meat consumers for decades can have a big impact by changing food choices. Indeed, a paper published in Nature Food in January shows that if the populations of 54 high-income nations switched to a plant-focused diet, annual emissions from these countries’ agricultural production could drop by more than 60 percent.

U.N. Report Calls for Climate Action Now

[These excerpts are from an article by Carolyn Gramling and Nikk Ogasa in the 7 & 21 May 2022 issue of Science News.]

      …Global warming is fueling extreme weather events around the world, and Earth is on track to warm by an average of about 3.2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels by the end of the century….Altering that course and limiting warming to 1.5 degrees or even 2 degrees C means global greenhouse gas emissions should peak no later than 2025, the report states….

      Those tools are strategies that governments, industries and individuals can use to cut emissions immediately in multiple sectors of the global economy, including transportation, energy, urban development, agriculture and forestry. Taking immediate action to reduce emissions in each sector could halve global emissions by 2030, the report states….

      Urban areas contributed 67 to 72 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, the report notes. To cut emissions, buildings in established cities could be retrofitted with systems that capture greenhouse gases and repurposed to make the cities more walkable and public transportation more accessible. Cities that are just getting established could incorporate energy-efficient infrastructure and construct buildings using low- or zero-emissions materials.

      …Reforestation and reduced deforestation are key to flipping the balance between carbon dioxide emissions and removal from the atmosphere. Other strategies at the world’s fingertips include more sustainable management of ecosystems, livestock, crops and soil….

Cellulose Helps Ice Cream Go Down Smooth

[These excerpts are from an article by Anna Gibbs in the 7 & 21 May 2022 issue of Sciencen News.]

      You can never have too much ice cream, but you can have too much ice in your ice cream. Adding plant-based nanocrystals to the frozen treat could help solve the problem….

      Small ice crystals in ice cream grow bigger when temperature fluctuations in freezers cause the crystals to melt and reform. Stabilizers such as guar gum slow crystal growth, but don’t stop it. Once ice crystals hit 50 micrometers across, ice cream takes on a grainy texture.

      Plant-derived cellulose nanocrystals, or CNCs, have properties similar to guar gum. An experiment with a sucrose solution — an ice cream proxy — and CNCs showed that after 24 hours, ice crystals stopped growing and remained at 25 micrometers after a week, well under the graininess threshold. In a test with guar gum, ice crystals grew to over 50 micrometers in just three days….Plant-derived cellulose nanocrystals, or CNCs, have properties similar to guar gum. An experiment with a sucrose solution — an ice cream proxy — and CNCs showed that after 24 hours, ice crystals stopped growing and remained at 25 micrometers after a week, well under the graininess threshold. In a test with guar gum, ice crystals grew to over 50 micrometers in just three days….

The Becoming of the Human Brain

[These excerpts are from a book review by R. Douglas Fields in the 13 May 2022 issue of Science.]

      Nothing in biology is more miraculous than the transformation of a fertilized egg into a complete organism. Contained within this process are all of genetics, the core of cell biology, and the imprints of evolution. The human brain in particular—formed from a teeming ball of embryonic cells—transcends anatomy to generate identity; personality, and comprehension, which make each new life different from all others….

      The narrative then jumps to genetic inheritance and single-cell organisms such as the paramecium to build an argument that “many properties that are characteristic of the brain were already encoded in the DNA of our single-cell ancestors.” A brief tour of comparative neuroanatomy—from jellyfish to humans—comes next. Then the story detours to consider the fate of a single frog egg after fertilization. The remaining portion of the first chapter proceeds through the embryological milestones of forming a blastula, gastrulation, and the rise of the neural plate, which furrows and folds into the neural tube—the forerunner of the brain and spinal cord. Subsequent chapters discuss how the general body plan is formed, the proliferation and differentiation of neurons, and the broader topics of neural plasticity and human brain evolution.

      At this point, Harris confronts a seemingly unfathomable question: How do the roughly 100 billion neurons in the human brain get wired up properly? The specific labeling of each connection is mathematically impossible. Instead, the nervous system wires itself up by refining circuitry on the basis of performance. Countless connections in a baby’s brain are winnowed away, its axons and dendrites pruned, and nubile neurons and nascent synapses that are less competitive in performance are eventually eliminated.

      The final chapter considers the questions of what makes the human brain so different from all others and what makes your brain so different from every other human’s. In large measure, the answer is found at the intersection of biology and society. Our brains continue to develop after birth, guided by the experiences we have in the environment we are born into….

Your Brain on Air Pollution

[These excerpts are from an article by Candace Pearson in the Spring 2022 issue of USC Trojan Family.]

      …Medical science has long recognized the impact of air pollution on the lungs, but now research at USC is helping define the environment’s impact on the brain. Growing evidence links the long-term effects of dirty air to accelerated cognitive decline and dementia….

      The USC Children’s Health Study, launched in 1993 and now involving about 12,000 school-age children, is one of the nation’s largest and longest-running research projects on children's respiratory health. Its researchers have contributed crucial data that have deepened understanding of lung health, including evidence that kids who live in more polluted areas have poorer lung function, reduced lung growth, and more asthma and lung damage than those in less-polluted areas….

      Air pollution wreaks havoc primarily through systemic inflammation, Finch says, and that exposure can lead to the formation of amyloid plaques, the proteins that form between the brain’s nerve cells that are the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s….

      The microscopic particles can pass directly through the nose or lungs and slip through the blood-brain barrier, which is supposed to protect our brains from all invaders….

      Air pollulion also can affect children’s brain development….These pathways are critical because they form the essential brain circuitry that supports future learning and life skills. Lately, she’s focusing on kids 9 to 10, ages at which, she says, brain cells proliferate and prune themselves as kids head into adolescence. Herting’s team has demonstrated that kids exposed to noxious air have smaller areas in their brains associated with cognitive function and larger areas associated with emotion than kids breathing less-polluted air….

The Policy Changes We Need to Get There

[These excerpts are from an article by Linda Darling-Hammond in the May 2022 issue of Kappan.]

      The anatomy of inequality in the United States begins with the highest rates of child poverty in the industrialized world: More than one in five children lives in a family whose income is below the federal poverty line, and 7% live in deep poverty on household incomes of less than $14,000 a year for a family of four. These families — disproportionately Black, Latinx, Pacific Islander, and Native American — experience high and growing rates of homelessness and food insecurity. They are increasingly segregated by race and class in redlined communities where jobs and services are scarce, and where hazards ranging from regular violence to toxic waste sites pose significant health and learning barriers for children and families….

      In short, the belief that only some students are worthy of investment —and that students need to be ranked and sorted according to their potential —is deeply rooted in the organizational design of our schools, our funding priorities, our testing and grading policies, and our systems for tracking and labeling students (into, for example, gifted programs, remedial classes, special education categories, and test rankings indicating whether they perform “above” or “below” the norm)….

      The large urban schools that most low-income students of color attend are often run like huge warehouses, housing 2,000 or more students in a facility focused more on controlling behavior than on developing community. With a locker as their only stable point of contact, young people cycle through as many as six to eight classes per day. Rarely do they get to see a school counselor, who must try to meet the “personal needs” of hundreds of students at once. Most students experience such high schools as uncaring, even adversarial environments where “getting over” becomes the priority and “getting known” is impossible. Indeed, in a large national survey, fewer than 30% of middle and high school students said their school was a caring environment….

      Educators and policy makers have sought to reform this model countless times in the last century. Some have tried to perfect it: At the turn of the 21st century, for instance, the federal government required states to adopt high-stakes annual standardized testing as the lever for change. Though intended to drive more equitable outcomes, the tests were not accompanied by greater resources, and their focus on low-level multiple-choice questions reduced attention to higher-order thinking skills, often leading to a prescriptive curriculum that required teachers to ignore children’s needs and modes of learning….

A Chronicle of Kappan’s Coverage of the Reading Wars

[These excerpts are from an article by Teresa Preston in the May 2022 issue of Kappan.]

      …Although the popularity of phonics instruction has waxed and waned since then, most educators have viewed it as a major way to teach reading (if not necessarily the major way). And researchers have continued to seek evidence of its efficacy….

      …studied 10 approaches to reading instruction, five of which used what they called the analytic method, in which children begin by learning whole words, and five of which used the synthetic method, in which children begin by learning letter-sound relationships and how to combine letters into words. They analyzed how well students being taught with each program performed on assessments of word reading, paragraph meaning, vocabulary, spelling, and word study skills and found that, for the most part, results favored the more phonics-based synthetic method. When analytic methods performed better, they observed, the differences were small….

      In February 1992, Frank Smith…suggested that the debate over methods was missing the point. The real argument about reading instruction had to do with different philosophies about how people learn. Is it formal and deliberate, which would align with phonics, or informal and spontaneous, which would align with a whole language approach? Smith favored a more spontaneous model, but he expressed concern that whole language approaches were being implemented in systems that were too structured….

      However, Richard Allington…urged readers to remember that research has limits: “I think everyone can agree that children differ. Therein lies what worries me about “evidence-based” policy making in education. Good teaching, effective teaching, is not just about using whatever science says "usually" works best. It is all about finding out what works best for the individual child and the group of children in front of you….”

Discrimination Unearthed

[These excerpts are from an article by Joanna Foster in the Spring 2022 issue of EDF’s Solutions.]

      …Lead, a powerful neurotoxin known to cause irreversible organ and cognitive damage in children and adults, leaches from lead pipes into drinking water.

      With an estimated 27,500 full or partial lead service lines — the pipes that bring water from the water main in the street to a home — in its service area, you'd think Providence Water would be in a hurry to eliminate the risk. It is not.

      In common with many other utilities, when Providence Water performs work on water mains, it replaces the portion of the lead service line on public property, but leaves the part from the curb to the residence unless the customer pays for its replacement. At a cost of up to $4,500, the result is that low-income residents and many renters, the majority of whom are people of color in Rhode Island, are often left with sections of lead pipes….

      With the Biden administration committed to replacing all lead pipes, and $15 billion already set aside in the bipartisan infrastructure law to get the work started, public health advocates say it has never been more important to make sure that states use these federal dollars to replace pipes equitably….

Fishing for a Future

[These excerpts are from an article by Tom Clynes in the Spring 2022 issue of EDF’s Solutions.]

      …many of the estimated 820 million people who depend on marine foods for their livelihoods are seeing catches and incomes plummet. A combination of destructive harvesting, pollution, climate change and coastal development is degrading already stressed ocean ecosystems and reducing fishery yields. For the past three decades, the human demand for wild fish has far outpaced what the world’s waters can reproduce. Today, more than one-third of fish stocks are below biologically sustainable levels.

      The tropics have been hit especially hard, as waters overheated by climate change cause prized species to migrate poleward to the cooler waters they prefer. The smaller, nutrient-rich fish that remain are increasingly scooped up by high-volume fishing op6rations to sell in faraway countries. Without drastic action, many tropical developing nations could see catches fall another 40% by the 2050s.

      By then, the planet’s population is projected to have grown by more than 25%, making declining catches a food-security c’ncern as well as an economic and environmental one. More than 3 billion people rely on seafood as a vital source of protein in their diets, and billions more depend on it for essential nutrients such as omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and iron….

      Despite the dire outlook, many experts believe that foods captured or cultivated from the ocean or other waterways —sometimes called blue foods — could be the most promising way to sustainably feed growing populations while adapting to, and even slowing, climate change….

      Peruvian anchovy, for instance, is rich in iron and protein and has some of the highest concentrations of certain fatty acids of any fish species. But when it’s sold overseas these nutrients are unavailable to the 21% of Peruvian women who suffer from anemia. In West Africa, where one-third of children under five years of age are stunted due to malnutrition, the local catch could meet the nutritional needs of people living near the ocean — and yet the global demand for fish meal has pushed the price of locally caught fish beyond the reach of many families….

Forgotten but Not Gone

[These excerpts are from an article by Shanti Menon in the Spring 2022 issue of EDF’s Solutions.]

      …Across the country, states have documented the location of more than 130,000 “orphan” wells — abandoned, unsealed wells whose owners went bust, vanished or were never recorded. Documentation is so poor, in fact, that experts estimate the actual number of orphans is far greater — likely more than 1 million across the country. They exist anywhere that anyone ever drilled for oil, from urban Los Angeles to suburban Pennsylvania, from Texas oil fields to the woods of upstate New York. They’ve been found under schools, near homes and in gardens.

      Unsealed, abandoned wells can leak oil, gas, super-salty brine and harmful chemicals into the soil and water and emit climate-warming methane into the atmosphere. Methane leaks from forgotten wells have even caused explosions, such as a 2021 blast that leveled three buildings in downtown Wheatley, Ontario, injuring 20 people. At least 9 million Americans live within a mile of a known orphan well.

      This spring, for the first time, the federal government will start disbursing $4.7 billion to states to plug orphan wells….

      In truth, the $4.7 billion from Washington is just a downpayment. The cost of plugging documented orphans alone could exceed $8 billion, according to state estimates….

      The federal package will reward states that come up with stronger regulations to prevent future orphans — like ensuring that oil and gas companies put more money into the system for plugging….

The Changing Story of Seafood

[This excerpt is from a book review by Olaf P. Jensen in the 6 May 2022 issue of Science.]

      …In the book’s first section, he recounts the transition of wild-capture fisheries in New England from a lawless coastal version of the Wild West to the highly regulated system in place today. Until the mid-1990s, fishing operations competed in a “race to fish” free-for-all: the more you caught, the more you earned, and if you did not catch a fish, someone else would. Fish populations suffered the consequences.

      Today, all aspects of a US fishing trip are tightly circumscribed. When, where, and how to fish are governed by regulation. Fishing operations must call in to let fishery managers know that they are starting a trip and then file reports on what they caught. The cowboys have been reined in by paperwork, and the outlaws—Sullivan focuses on the colorful “Codfather” Carlos Rafael, who bought up much of the New Bedford fishing fleet with proceeds from illegal cod—have been brought to justice.

      A whole ecosystem of businesses connecting fish catchers to fish eaters has recently sprung up. Sullivan tells the stories of numerous entrepreneurs who have found a niche, marketing seafood to discerning buyers—both restaurants and retailers—who want their fish to be not only fresh but also sustainable and local….

      It is not until the end of this section that Sullivan gets to the root of what has kept US aquaculture small: the lack of an efficient permitting process. Here, he quotes Scott Flood, an ocean engineer and lawyer, on the limitations of bluewater aquaculture: “It’s all in the permitting, as the technology is pretty well understood....”

Faculty Must Lead Inclusion

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Freeman A. Hrabowski III in the 6 May 2022 issue of Science.]

      …ultimately, it is the commitment of professors and teaching staff that determines whether students—all students—can pursue their interests and achieve their goals. It takes high expectations for both students and educators….

      For university leaders to achieve long-term sustainable change in diversity and inclusion, they need to bring faculty into this work as allies in a “high expectation” strategy. Staff members offer crucial support, providing advice, professional development, and programming. Faculty create an empowering culture in which students find a sense of community and help each other study and learn. Because of this, university leaders want faculty to rethink the way they teach, redesigning courses to emphasize active and team-based learning, for example….

      …Working with faculty, leaders can discuss information to understand problems, brainstorm solutions, and agree on a plan. Educators who have had success with underrepresented minority students should be invited to speak with the faculty. They can provide insight and inspire faculty members to become allies and champions by taking a lead in changing STEM education. Minority students can be invited to speak about their experiences as well….

      It takes broad institutional commitment to produce scientists. Leaders set the tone, staff provide support, and faculty lead in the classroom and in the lab….

Hunt for Color

[These excerpts are from an article by Nico McCarty in the May 2022 issue of Scientific American.]

      …Tracking 1.3 million mosquito trajectories, his team found that the insects are drawn to red and orange light (which human skin prominently reflects, regardless of race) and avoid most greens and blues—but only in the presence of CO2….

      When Aedes aegypti mosquitoes were released into the tunnel, they did not investigate objects colored to match human skin until carbon dioxide was added. When it was, the mosquitoes flocked to the objects. Filtering out orange and red light halted the attraction. In another experiment, the researchers introduced mutations in the mosquitoes’ photoreceptors to suppress their vision for Ionger light wavelengths like red. This also stopped their swarming toward human skin tones, as did mutating a CO2-sensing receptor….

      Other insects also use smell to cue visual preference. Female Asian swallowtail butterflies, for instance, “make color choices depending on the odor,” Kelber says. In a laboratory setting without scents, they preferentially land on blue objects. But when swallowtails smell a larval host plant to lay eggs on, she adds, they move toward green. Smelling oranges or lilies shifts their preference to red….

Catching Wind

[These excerpts are from an article by Jennifer Bell in the May/June 2022 issue of Discover.]

      …Construction began in November, with expectations that the 800-megawatt Vineyard Wind farm will be producing electricity by 2023. And this past February, the U.S. hosted an auction for six wind leases off the coast of New York and New Jersey. The opportunity attracted more than a dozen bidders and the plots finally went for more than $4.3 billion, signaling exceptional appetite for U.S. offshore wind….

      Hitting the 2030 goal will create approximately 80,000 jobs in the U.S. and offset 86 million tons of carbon dioxide….

      In terms of the environment and social impact, offshore wind is actually easier to develop than land-bound projects….

      The U.S. seems to be coming around to the offshore wind advantage. In 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy declared a goal of achieving 20 percent wind energy by 2030. As of 2020, the country was at 8.4 percent, with nearly 100 percent of that coming from landbound systems….

      If determining the ecological cost proves difficult, pinpointing the economic cost is perhaps more so….Factors to consider include wind speed (higher winds generate more power), financing and capital costs for structure foundations and cables, often buried under the seafloor. In an area with high wind speeds, it may take just under 10 years to pay off the investment. But…it can range from roughly five to 15 years to reach profitability….

The State of Our Environment

[These excerpts are from an article by David Holahan in the April 2022 issue of Connecticut Magazine.]

      …Or take lobsters, which were once so abundant in Long Island Sound they would wash ashore in piles 2 feet high. But what was so easily obtained was little valued —Native Americans gathered lobsters to fertilize their crops and bait their fishhooks, while colonists deemed them as fodder for the help: indentured servants and enslaved people, and for children and prisoners, too. Today, lobsters largely have departed from Connecticut waters. The commercial harvest declined 97 percent from 1998 to 2019, according to the Connecticut Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ). Long Island Sound is steadily warming, and commercially viable lobster populations are now found elsewhere in New England, at least for the time being….

      Katharine Hepburn, who narrated the 1965 documentary The Long Tidal River, described the Connecticut River as “the world’s most beautifully landscaped cesspool.” It had served for more than a century—like virtually all of the state’s waterways—as a convenient repository for industrial, agricultural and human waste. In the previous century, Mark Twain had dubbed the smallish Park River near his Hartford home as “the meandering slime….”

      Today the Connecticut River heads an impressive list of waterways that are largely safe for fishing and swimming, and that support healthy and growing populations of fish-eating raptors, such as osprey and bald eagles, along with shorebirds like egrets and herons. Dozens of fish species ply the state’s rivers, including native trout, American shad and the prehistoric-looking shortnose sturgeon….

      With Connecticut’s population qua-drupling since 1900, from less than a million to 3.6 million residents, the persistent question is how such a densely settled state can conserve its heritage of land, waters and wildlife for future generations….

Rethinking the “Western” Revolution in Science

[These excerpts are from a book review by Jorge Canizares-Esguerra in the 29 April 2022 issue of Science.]

      …The fall of Constantinople in 1453 triggered an influx of texts, exiles, and learned captives into Europe, and Copernicus drew on these resources when formulating his heliocentric theory of the Universe. It was therefore, in Poskett’s estimation, the combined effort of many scholars, rather than the work of a lone genius, that led to the demise of Aristotelian and Ptolemaic geocentric models.

      Similarly, Poskett demonstrates how all the key evidence Isaac Newton relied on to revitalize physics came from comparative studies conducted in equatorial and Arctic locations. To reach isolated islands in the Pacific to obtain such data, nations needed considerable seafaring capabilities. Ultimately, Poskett argues, it was the Atlantic slave trade that made the accumulation of evidence for Newtonian physics possible….

      It was the pursuit of communication in scattered imperial polities that led to breakthroughs in telegraphy and radio, particularly in Russia, Japan, and China, argues Poskett. The rush to industrialization in the 19th century, in turn, sparked much research in chemistry. During this period, the Russian chemist Dmitri Mendeleev spearheaded inquiries into the periodic table, and the Japanese physicist Hantaro Nagaoka headed up efforts that led to the first model of the atom….

      Poskett’s main contribution with this book is to demonstrate that “European” knowledge has long been the result of global efforts and that science is intimately attached to colonialism, capitalism, slavery, industrialization, and geopolitical conflict. Poskett offers countless examples of non-European scientists whose research changed the sciences in radical new ways….

The Voices We Need to Hear

[These excerpts are from an article by Joshua P. Starr in the April 2022 issue of Kappan.]

      …the many difficulties of the last two years have landed on the very people who are doing hard and heroic work in our schools every day, leaving our schools with fewer and fewer people who want to do the job (a trend we’re already seeing and that could have far-reaching implications)….

      …educators rare feeling the collective stress and anxiety that is tearing our country apart. They’re being blamed for the failures of local, state, and national leadership. It’s not the fault of a superintendent or school board members that they’re getting mixed messages and guidance, or even silence, from public health officials. It’s not the fault of principals and teachers that students are acting out and employees are absent due to illness or childcare issues. It is, though, the responsibility of leaders at the highest level to speak clearly and truthfully about what educators on the ground are facing. When educators see their work come under fire, whether from parents angry about COVID-mitigation policies or politicians objecting to equity initiatives, they need more than aspirational statements about what we can achieve when we work together. They need their leaders to tell their story.

      Leaders at the highest levels need to start forcefully arguing that schools alone are neither the cause of the problems we’re facing nor the sole solution. Many of the problems our public schools face are the manifestations of multiple decisions that have been made throughout our collective history, largely by white men. The choices to fund schools through property taxes, to prevent poor kids from attending schools in affluent neighborhoods, and to keep teacher salaries low were all made because of specific assumptions about how society should work, and those assumptions are now so deeply embedded in our system that efforts to make change are easily stymied….

      …Debates over COVID mitigation strategies have exposed the fault lines that have always run through our society. Leaders have had to balance the need to protect all children, especially those whose disabilities put them at risk, with some parents’ desire to keep their children free from masks….At the same tithe, legislators are muzzling educators who want to teach our children the truth about our history because it might make a few children (or their parents) uncomfortable, and books are being banned because a few people object to the messages within them. Never mind how many children have been made uncomfortable by sanitized history lessons and how many have benefited from the messages in books others would take away from them….

Coming to Terms with the Power of Teaching

[These excerpts are from an article by Deborah Loewenberg Ball in the April 2022 issue of Kappan.]

      …Imagining teaching toward a more just society entails confronting why ordinary teaching so effectively conserves and reproduces what is “normal.”…These aims were reinforced by the development of “normal schools,” aptly named institutions dedicated to training teachers, whose purpose was to align teaching with societal needs and values, explicitly those of a white supremacist and Christian society.

      These roots of contemporary public schooling have been durable and have foundationally shaped the practice of teaching. Designed for white children, the common schools employed white teachers, mostly women, themselves raised in the values that teaching sought to promote….Emphatically normalizing white supremacy and Christianity, white educators enforced separate systems for Black and Indigenous children. In the case of Native children, white reformers brutally removed them from their families, effecting mass assimilation and destruction of Indigenous knowledge, language, and centuries-old community traditions for raising young humans…

      These traditions that rooted the work of Black educators and that might have enriched “normal” practice in desegregated schools were lost in the aftermath of the 1954 Brown v. Board Supreme Court decision. This ruling promised a more just future for the education of Black children by uprooting the “separate but equal” logic of racial segregation….Instead, when schools were consolidated and desegregated, white school officials fired many thousands of Black educators, while retaining their white counterparts, which resulted in increased segregation, decimation of the Black teaching force, and a dramatic loss of Black principals….Black children were now taught by white teachers who lacked knowledge of Black families and communities and did not embody the pedagogical orientations held and enacted by Black teachers. And further, the collective knowledge of the overwhelmingly white teaching profession crucially lacked the wisdom and practice of the Black educators who lost their jobs. Norms of whiteness, including valued forms of behavior and creativity, forms of language, and control, were taken for granted as good and underscored deficit views of communities of color. In the aftermath of Brown, whiteness was reinforced….

      Baldwin points out that the goal of developing people who think critically and independently, who question and create, is, in fact, at odds with the perpet-uation of the social order: “What societies really, ideally, want is a citizenry which will simply obey the rules of society.” He argues that this goal of compliance to the existing order yields a “schizophrenic” identity for Black children. On one hand, they are educated as Americans, pledging allegiance to an ideal of “liberty and justice for all.” On the other hand, their education perpetuates myths about Black people, erases their culture and achievements, and distorts the nation’s history with respect to Black people and Indigenous nations and lands…. Despite rhetoric to the contrary, the education of Black and Brown children in white schooling has never been a liberatory or progressive project….

      One clear lesson is that we must prioritize the development of a diverse teaching force with the qualities needed to help children thrive. Almost half of Americans identify as people of color, as do more than half of children in school. Yet more than 80% of current teachers are white people, a consequence of the Brown v. Board decision. Black and Brown children are thus extremely unlikely to have teachers with whom they identify or who understand and share their experience. This is critical. For Black children, having even one same-race teacher across their K-12 experience significantly increases the probability of graduating from high school and enrolling in college….Further, the lack of role models means that students of color are less likely to see themselves as teachers, and less likely to become teachers, thus compounding and perpetuating the whiteness of the teaching force….White students, too, rarely have teachers of color, which leaves them without opportunities to learn from their experience and expertise. That the teaching force is so disproportionately white has consequences, too, for professional knowledge. That knowledge base continues to lack the contributions, wisdom, experience, and perspectives that would come from having a greater concentration of Black teachers and other teachers of color….

Evolving Views on Parental Engagement in Schools

[These excerpts are from an article by Teresa Preston in the April 2022 issue of Kappan.]

      …in December 1949, E.T. McSwain…pointed out that schools needed the support of parents to address a host of problems….but they could also play a part simply by helping their children with their schoolwork and encouraging them to develop good work habits….

      Similarly, in February 1981, Cy Rowell…urged educators to take a proactive approach to communicating with parents about what is happening in schools. Parents should not have to quiz their children to know what’s going on, and they should have opportunities to share in decision making….

      …In the April 2015 Kappan…Erin McNamara Horvat and David Baugh…pointed out that schools expect more and more from parents, and not all families have been able to meet the new demands….teachers sometimes assume that a lack of participation on the part of parents is a sign that they don’t care about their kids’ education. But, too often, the problem is that school-centered approaches to parent engagement fail to show care for families….

Paths to a Less Silent Spring

[These excerpts are from an article by Naomi Oreskes in the April 2022 issue of Scientific American.]

      …In 2019 a major study…showed that 29 percent of North American birds have vanished since 1970. The study was notable because of its sweep: it integrated data across scores of species and the different biomes birds live in, and it used a variety of approaches to validate its counts; an article published by the Audubon Society called the result “a sobering picture” of wide-spread avian decline. Grasslands were the hardest hit, with a documented loss of more than 700 million breeding individuals—a decline of more than 50 percent. But major declines occurred in every biome save one and in nearly every species. The net toll amounted to nearly three billion individual birds….

      …more than a third of all marine mammals are threatened. In all, biologists estimate that more than a million species are at risk. This also endangers human well-being….

      Still, the 2019 bird study, despite its grim results, also suggests 1 that protecting biodiversity (and thereby ourselves) is not a lost cause. One important exception in the otherwise bleak picture its scientists painted is wetlands (and the waterfowl that inhabit them). There bird abundance increased 13 percent. What distinguishes wetlands from other ecological areas? One answer is that wetlands have been especially shielded from excessive industrial activity for a long time. The areas have been under a host of legal protections on the federal, state and tribal level….

      The other encouraging exception in the bird study was raptors, a group that includes the majestic bald eagle. Raptor numbers have increased by 15 million individuals. Bald eagles were on the verge of extinction at the time Carson wrote, but they recovered in large part as a result of the ban on DDT….

Creek Revival

[These excerpts are from an article by Erica Gies in the April 20issue of Scientific American.]

      …For a large river the hyporheic zone can be dozens of feet deep and can extend up to a mile laterally beyond the banks. It keeps the waterway healthy by regulating critical physical, biological and chemical processes, including riverbed aeration, water oxygenation, temperature moderation, pollution cleanup and food creation. Some biologists compare the hyporheic zone to the human gut, complete with a microbiome. Others call it the liver of the river.

      A healthy hyporheic zone is full of life. Crustaceans, worms and aquatic insects constantly move between the zone and surface flow. Nematodes, copepods, rotifers and tardigrades also dig up and down, creating spaces for water to mix underground. Microbes proliferate throughout the zone. Water welling up from below brings oxygen to salmon eggs laid in the riverbed….

      The scientists sampled water packets before they entered the stretches of hyporheic and after they emerged and compared them with water flowing downstream above the stretches. The surface flow reduced the concentration of about 17 percent of the chemicals by at least half. The seven-foot stretch of the hyporheic reduced the concentration of 59 percent of the chemicals by at least half, and the 15-foot stretch reduced the concentration of 78 percent of the chemicals by at least half. Because water spent so little time in those short hyporheic stretches, the team thinks the pollutants mostly got stuck on sediments or biofflms rather than being broken down immediately by microbes, although that decomposition is common over longer time periods….

      The Thornton Creek findings are encouraging. The neighborhoods around the creek have not flooded since the restorations were finished in 2015, even during large storms. The stream’s temperature and flow are more consistent year-round. The city needs to dredge less often, saving money, and neighbors love spending time in the expanded green space. Yet the work also reveals how complex nature’s systems are and how difficult it can be to restore them once damaged….

      Still, small restorations cannot fully compensate for insults to long streams and rivers. “Stormwater runoff, biodiversity, flooding—these are watershed-scale problems….”

Let Oceans Breathe

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Nathalie Goodkin and Julie Pullen in the April 2022 issue of Scientific American.]

      …Much of the conversation around our climate crisis highlights the emission of greenhouse gases and their effect on warming, precipitation, sea-level rise and ocean acidification. We hear little about the effect of climate change on oxygen levels, particularly in oceans and lakes. But water without adequate oxygen cannot support life, and for the three billion people who depend on coastal fisheries for income, declining ocean oxygen levels are catastrophic….

      As the amount of carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere, not only does it warm air by trapping radiation, it warms water. The interplay between oceans and the atmosphere is complex, but to put it simply, oceans have taken up about 90 percent of the excess heat created by climate change during the Anthropocene….warmer water holds less oxygen. This decrease in oxygen content, coupled with a large-scale die-off of oxygen-generating phytoplankton resulting not just from climate change but from plastic pollution and industrial runoff, compromises ecosystems, asphyxiating marine life and leading to further die-offs. Large swaths of the oceans have lost 10 to 40 percent of their oxygen, and that loss is expected to accelerate with climate change….

      As the financial world invests in climate change solutions, possibly including future geoengineering efforts such as iron fertilization, we run the risk of exacerbating oxygen loss. We need to evaluate potential unintended consequences of climate solutions for the full life-support system….

      Putting oxygen into the climate story motivates us to do the work to understand the deep systemic changes happening in our complex atmospheric and oceanic systems….Roughly 40 percent of the world’s people depend on the ocean for their livelihoods. If we do not save marine life from oxygen starvation, we starve ourselves.

How Life Recovered after ‘Earth’s Worst Day’

[These excerpts are from a book review by Sid Perkins in the 23 April 2022 issue of Science News.]

      Some 66 million years ago, give or take several millennia, a 10-kilometer-wide asteroid slammed into our planet. The impact blasted out an enormous crater and heaved large amounts of material into the atmosphere. Some of the sulfur-rich debris poisoned the sky, unleashing downpours of acid rain. Heat generated by ejecta falling back to Earth ignited wildfires worldwide that blazed for months, if not years. In the wake of the event, as many as 75 percent of all species were wiped out….

      …the largest part of Black’s book recounts how life rebounded in the 1 million years after the impact. Forest floors served as natural seed banks to feed surviving insects, birds and small mammals. These seeds, some of which had previously evolved to withstand wildfires, were also the sources of forests that grew back. Those initial forests were stubby and dominated by ferns for years. Some ecosystems— especially freshwater lakes and rivers whose waters were chemically buffered from acid rain by dissolved carbonates derived from limestones — emerged relatively unscathed and so species persisted there.

      Evolution is usually driven by gradual change, Black notes. But the dinosaur-killing impact was so abrupt and caused such extreme environmental changes that most species couldn’t adapt….

      Yet in devastation lay opportunities: Ecological roles that had been occupied by dinosaurs for at least 100 million years were suddenly available, setting the stage for the slow but steady rise of mammals and the world we inhabit today….

Forests Cool Earth in Multiple Ways

[These excerpts are from an article by Nikk Ogasa in the 23 April 2022 issue of Science News.]

      …Tropical forests help cool the average global temperature by about 1.5 degrees Celsius….The effect stems largely from forests’ capacity to capture and store atmospheric carbon. But about one-third of that tropical cooling effect comes from several other processes, such as the release of water vapor and aerosols….

      Researchers already knew that forests influence their local climates through various physical and chemical processes. Trees release water vapor through pores in their leaves — a process called evapotranspiration — and, like human sweating, this cools the trees and their surroundings. Uneven forest canopies can also have a cooling effect, as they provide an undulating surface that can bump hot, overpassing fronts of air upward and away. What’s more, trees generate aerosols that can lower temperatures by reflecting sunlight and seeding clouds.

      …Tropical forests, located from 30° N to 30° S, provided alternative benefits that cool the planet by about 0.5 degrees, about half as much cooling as carbon sequestration provided. About 0.2 degrees of that cooling came from forests in the core of the tropics (within 10° of the equator). Canopy topography generally provided the greatest cooling, followed by evapotranspiration and then aerosols.

      Forests in the far north, beyond 50° N, however, appear to have a net warming effect. Clearing the boreal forests in Canada, Alaska, Russia and Scandinavia would expose more snow cover during winter. This would decrease ground-level temperatures because snow reflects much of the incoming sunlight back into the sky. Still, looking at the world’s forests collectively, their net effect is to cool the global average temperature by about 0.5 degrees….

Inside the Dinosaurs’ Demise

[These excerpts are from a book review by Victoria Arbour in the 22 April 2022 issue of Science.]

      …Starting just a few days before the asteroid impact, Black centers the story on the animals present in the Hell Creek Formation of the western United States, a geological unit that has been extensively studied for more than 100 years and that provides the best window we have into the time before and after the mass extinction. Through the eyes of the inhabitants of Hell Creek, readers pass through the moment of impact and then the first hour, day, month, and year of the Cenozoic era.

      The story continues with chapters set one hundred, one thousand, one hundred thousand, and one million years after the asteroid impact, charting the slow but steady reshaping of the world. The final chapter includes a visit to a geological site preserving markers of the impact itself and reflections on the nature of mass extinction and what lessons humanity can take away from this singular event. Each chapter ends with a detour to somewhere else on the planet—Antarctica, India, and the Atlantic Ocean, for example—providing a global balance to this otherwise tightly focused narrative.

      Unlike the other mass extinctions recorded in the fossil record, extinction for most species at the end of the Cretaceous probably happened within a few hours or days after the asteroid impact….

      Many of the main players in the book’s first few chapters—Tyrannosaurus, Triceratops, and Ankylosaurus, to name a few—will be familiar to most readers. But the animals often overshadowed (metaphorically and literally) by dinosaurs are given some much-deserved attention here, too. Black recounts stories of lucky survivors whose descendants will be familiar to many readers—frogs, snakes, turtles, and crocodiles—and organisms that rarely get a mention in dinosaur stories, such as the planktonic coccoliths and coil-shelled ammonites. And of course, as the nonavian dinosaurs pass into history, we see the changes that happen to the ancestors of today's mammals, who evolved into new forms in the empty spaces created by the asteroid’s aftermath….

Animal Agriculturists

[These excerpts are from a book review by Julio C. Postigo and Joan E. Strassmann in the 22 April 2022issue of Science.]

      …Some insects have been agriculturalists for tens of millions of years longer than humans. It is therefore possible that we can learn from their agricultural practices to both improve our own and to see what our future might hold….

      …Agriculture itself they expected to be preceded by cultivation and domestication, where the former simply facilitates growth and proliferation of the crop, be it animal or plant, and the latter requires some form of genetic change that makes the crop more suitable for the farmer and less able to proliferate on its own.

      …its focus is on the relationship between macrotermitine termites and Termitomyces fungi more than 24 million years ago and the relationship between attine ants and their fungi more than 55 million years ago. In each of 4these cases, domestication of the fungus arose only once and caused their hosts to proliferate, making them dominant in their ecosystems….

      Perhaps the difference between these symbioses and those relationships we call agriculture lies only in that agriculture requires deliberate action and behavior and the other symbioses arise from processes that occur at the physiological or cellular level. But is this really a meaningful difference? If ants and termites cultivated plants rather than fungi, they would not have to perform the behavior of bringing in food, because plants and dinoflagellates grab their carbon from the air….

Pterosaurs Were Clad in Colorful Plummage

[These excerpts are from an article by Rodrigo Perez Ortega in the 22 April 2022 issue of Science.]

      The idea that dinosaurs sported colorful feathers, once outlandish, has become conventional wisdom. Now, a new study of a Brazilian fossil suggests that pterosaurs—leathery winged, flying reptiles only distantly related to dinosaurs—were also clad in tiny feathers of varying hues. The finding suggests feathers may have evolved more than 150 million years before the heyday of the dinosaurs, probably for display….

      How feathers arose has been a big question in paleontology for more than 150 years, since the first Archaeopteryx—a feathered dinosaur once thought to be the first bird—was found in Germany. Many researchers think feathers arose for insulation and were co-opted only much later for flight and other uses, such as courtship displays. As for pterosaurs, researchers had previously reported their bodies were covered in pycnofibers, single-stranded structures that formed a “fuzz,” presumably for warmth.

      Then in 2018, McNamara and her colleagues reported that two well-preserved Chinese pterosaurs showed what seemed to be a defining feature of feathers: a central shaft with branches….

      …Under the scanning electron microscope, both skin and feathers had melanosomes, intracellular structures containing melanin that give pigment to skin, feathers, and fur in living animals, with differently shaped melanosomes conferring different colors. The pterosaur’s melanosomes had diverse shapes—ovid, spherical, and elongated—something until now only seen in mammalian fur and dino-saur and bird feathers….

Confronting Climate Injustice

[These excerpts are from a book review by Miriam Aczel in the 15 April 2022 issue of Science.]

      …Chomsky argues that scientific interventions are not sufficient to combat global warming. Our current economic paradigm, she argues, relies on “extracting and consuming the earth’s resources in ever-increasing quantities, and turning them into waste,” and such a system is incompatible with a healthy planet.

      Moreover, she posits, the approach to development that has intensified since the Industrial Revolution is fundamentally unfair. Groups that have historically maintained control of fossil fuels have achieved greater growth and and prosperity than others, often at the disadvantaged groups’ expense. Many from the latter groups argue that they are due a piece of the development pie, but Earth’s resources are inherently limited.

      …Cripps argues that we all share a responsibility to combat the effects of a changing climate that is disproportionately affecting those who have done the least to cause it. She presents clear and compelling evidence of the burden borne by disadvantaged populations, maintaining that climate change is, above all, “about privilege.”

      Ten countries, Cripps notes, are responsible for 60% of greenhouse gas emissions—a major driver of climate change—and while the impacts of climate change are global and include severe winter storms in Texas, wildfires in Australia, and floods in Europe, the Global South has suffered the most devastating consequences. Between 2008 and 2016, she writes, roughly 22 million people were displaced in the Global South each year. The consequences of such displacements include child marriages, loss of schooling and employment opportunities, food insecurity, and more….

      We are facing a global existential threat that is exacerbated by the accelerating impacts of a changing climate and environmental destruction. How we respond will determine the future of life on Earth. As both Chomsky and Cripps show, addressing climate change is not just about devising technical or scientific solutions, it also requires acknowledging and addressing social, racial, and economic injustices that have played a role in the crisis….

Thermal Batteries Could Back Up Green Power

[These excerpts are from an article by Robert F. Service in the 15 April 2022 2021 issue of Science.]

      …Another strategy is to use surplus energy to heat a large mass of material to ultrahigh temperatures, then tap the energy as needed. This week, researchers report a major improvement in a key part of that scheme: a device for turning the stored heat back into electricity.

      A team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory achieved a nearly 30% jump in the efficiency of a thermophotovoltaic (TPV), a semiconductor structure that converts photons emitted from a heat source to electricity, just as a solar cell transforms sunlight into power….

      The idea is to feed surplus wind or solar electricity to a heating element, which boosts the temperature of a liquid metal bath or a graphite block to several thousand degrees. The heat can be turned back into electricity by making steam that drives a turbine, but there are trade-offs. High temperatures raise the conversion efficiency, but turbine materials begin to break down at about 1500°C. TPVs offer an alternative: Funnel the stored heat to a metal film or filament, setting it aglow like the tungsten wire in an incandescent light bulb, then use TPVs to absorb the emitted light and turn it to electricity….

Rewilding Iowa

[These excerpts are from an article by Stephen Robert Miller in the Spring 2022 issue of Sierra.]

      …According to the Department of Natural Resources, the water in more than half the state’s lakes and rivers is unsuitable for swimming, fishing, or drinking.

      …in the early 2000s—when the federal government mandated that ethanol be added to gasoline to produce cleaner emissions—farmers took on powering it too. Today, about 40 percent of Iowa's corn becomes ethanol fuel, and this new market’s potential has encouraged intensive planting on every available acre.

      …In an extension of political anxieties around the threat of eminent domain, the Republican legislature has been working to block the state’s Department of Natural Resources from buying land at auction from farmers who are ready to hang up their hats.

      …By attracting carrion and keeping herbivores on the move, predators play a central role in a web of relationships and feedback loops that create ecosystem resilience. They pave paths for the migratory trickle of animals driven on by rising temperatures and shifting seasons….

The Trickle-Down Effect

[These excerpts are from an article by Charlie Hope-D’Anieri in the Spring 2022 issue of Sierra.]

      …When nitrate levels get too high, and there are no other feasible water sources, Water Works runs state-of-the-art nitrate-removal equipment at a cost of $10,000 per day. In 2015, 177 days of removal cost $1.4 million. But the system is overburdened by a cascade of contaminants, and Water Works is scrambling to shore up its response, spending $30 million to build new wells that draw shallower, safer groundwater, expanding capacity for winter storage, and beefing up treatment capacity in new plants….

      After World War II, synthetic fertilizers became widely available and affordable, and farmers began liberally applying them to their fields. Excess phosphorus and nitrogen seeped into groundwater and flowed through the drainage pipes into streams, setting in motion the disruption of the largest watershed in North America….

      In 1974, the EPA set a standard for nitrate concentration in drinking water at 10 milligrams per liter….Since then, increasing evidence has pointed to serious health issues related to nitrate levels far lower than the EPA standard. Levels below 10 mg/1 have been shown to lower blood oxygen in adults and increase the risk of miscarriages, low birthweight, preterm birth, and birth defects. Numerous cancers have also been linked to low levels of nitrate exposure.

      …Farmers have used manure as fertilizer for thousands of years, but with concentrated livestock populations, the sheer volume of waste overwhelms ecosystems. Widespread mismanagement—including spreading manure on frozen ground, where it sits until spring rains wash it into the nearest stream—is common….

      The United States has one of the most lax regulatory regimes for agricultural chemicals in the world. European companies such as Bayer and Syngenta export compounds that are banned in the EU and sell them to America’s farmers. In a typical year, fertilizer and crop-chemical sales in Iowa exceed $3 billion….

      …Since 2013, 400,000 acres of wetlands have been restored, and farmers have reduced tillage on millions of acres. So far, though, these efforts have only reduced nitrogen runoff by 1.6 percent. Furthermore, during this same period of “progress,” enough land was converted from pasture and hay to cornfields that it increased the amount of nitrogen runoff overall….

      There is one voluntary practice that could make a meaningful difference in the effort to repair Iowa’s water quality. It involves planting an area of vegetation known as a saturated buffer between fields and waterways. A water control box is installed with pipes to channel water draining from the field to vegetation that absorbs excess nitrogen. Once installed for a maximum cost of $5,000, the saturated buffer can last for 50 years….

Bitcoal Mining

[These excerpts are from an article by Kate Morgan in the Spring 2022 issue of Sierra.]

      The Scrubgrass Generating Plant in Venango County, Pennsylvania…burns 600,000 tons of coal a year. The resulting electricity goes no farther than the 2,000 computers in nearby shipping containers. They run day and night, powering the energy-intensive work of mining for Bitcoin.

      Since 2021, when new laws in China devastated cryptocurrency mining there, the United States has become the sector’s global hub—not least because it has lots of idled fossil-fuel-powered plants. Purchasing and reviving them is an efficient way for crypto entrepreneurs to make millions. But environmentalists are aghast at the lifeline being thrown to these dirty power plants.

      …Scientists have consistently put forward a picture of themselves as highly objective automatons governed solely by their data, when in reality; science is a messy, human process subject to all features of human frailty. Scientists are expected to balance this reality with the fact that their every word and action, when it comes to the pandemic, is under intense scrutiny.

      …over the next 30 years, Bitcoin’s growth could produce enough carbon dioxide emissions on its own to raise global temperatures by 3.6°F.

      …Waste coal is the dirtiest coal because of its high levels of mercury, sulfur, chromium, and lead. In a circulating fluidized bed, more refuse is needed to produce the same amount of energy as regular coal, so the toxic byprod-ucts are multiplied….

Greener Acres

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Jason Mark in the Spring 2022 issue of Sierra.]

      …In recent years, environmental groups have coalesced around the idea of protecting 30 percent of global lands and waters by 2030, as a sort of midway goal on the way to Half-Earth. The Sierra Club is busy promoting the 30x30 goal, philanthropists are committed to funding it, and the Biden administration has released a preliminary blueprint for reaching 30x30 within the United States. An international summit later this year will consider advancing the 30x30 goal globally under the auspices of the Convention on Biological Diversity.

      Reaching 30x30 will rest, in part, on the old-fashioned conservation strategy of sparing large swaths of intact ecosystems from human domination (though not necessarily a human presence, as Indigenous cultures are proven stewards of many landscapes). We’ll have to provide new protections for still-wild woods, shorelines, and grasslands; here in the United States, the 50 million acres of national forest roadless areas are prime candidates for stronger protection via wilderness designations. At the same time, we will have to do a better job of sharing landscapes with other creatures. And that will require, above all, a rethinking of our agricultural systems.

      …Grassroots groups have mapped some 12 million acres that would be ideal for ecosystem connectivity. As they seek to buy up conservation parcels piecemeal, those visionaries are also doing small-scale work to restore riparian zones and return fire to the landscape. Their ultimate goal is to reintroduce carnivores like cougars, wolves, and bears to the Hawkeye State.

      That’s exactly the kind of experimentation that we’ll need to get to 30x30. Protecting what remains of the planet’s biodiversity will demand new forms of conservation, much of it focused in places that may seem like unlikely candidates for ecosystem protection. Just imagine it: biodiverse carbon sinks in place of monocultures, flyways in place of dead zones, clean water for people to drink. Maybe, just maybe, we can discover ways to feed ourselves and leave space for other species to thrive as well.

Editor’s Note

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Marian Starkey in the March 2022 issue of Population Connection.]

      The right to abortion across the United States is likely in its final season, after a half-century of being established precedent. In June of this year, the Supreme Court is expected to rule in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, the case that could overturn Roe v. Wade or degrade it to the point that it might as well be overturned….

      While countries around the world (e.g., Argentina, Benin, Colombia, Ireland, Mexico, Thailand) are decriminalizing abortion and expanding the circumstances under which the procedure is legal, affirming the right to bodily autonomy, the United States is going backward and removing that right….

      Eight in 10 Americans believe abortion should be legal in at least some circumstances, according to a 2021 Gallup poll, and yet here we find ourselves, facing the most ominous challenge to reproductive rights since 1973….

President’s Note

[These excerpts are from an editorial by John Seager in the March 2022 issue of Population Connection.]

      …The right to abortion is critical. And we know the best way to reduce the need for abortion is to ensure universal access to all forms of modern contraception. Smashing barriers to reproductive health care also results in smaller families. And fewer people leads to lower greenhouse gas emissions. The climate fight should put the sexual and reproductive rights of women front-and- center.

      So it pains me to note that most leading voices on climate adamantly refuse even to mention the vital connections between population growth and climate change. They fail to acknowledge that one of the best ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is by promoting family planning and unfettered access to reproductive health care….

      Peer-reviewed research finds that we can get between 37 and 41 percent of needed emissions reductions by moving toward population stabilization. Many of those most at risk around the world as the climate crisis deepens are women and girls in less developed nations. While climate advocates support mitigation measures to avert impacts such as those resulting from severe weather, most flatly refuse to acknowledge that population growth plays a major role in the climate crisis.

      It’s time to end this glaring omission about the links between population growth and climate-altering emissions. It's time to stop ignoring the fact that reproductive autonomy leads to smaller families and that smaller families are key to meeting the climate challenge….

Fighting for Fair Representation

[These excerpts are from an article by Jay A. Fernandez in the Spring 2022 issue of ACLU Magazine]

      …Rife with political gamesmanship and gerrymandering, especially in the Southern states, the manipulated maps undermine the bedrock principle of equal representation. In the heated run-up to the November midterms, the ACLU is fighting for fair representation to make sure that voters are choosing their politicians and not the other way around.

      Congressional and state legislative district maps determine the allocation of not-only political power but also community resources. The threat to underrepresented communities of color is especially acute, as corrupt redistricting can further dilute voting power and thwart efforts to block legislation that sustains inequality….

      The stakes are high, and the timeline crunched, since the census data used in redistricting was released four months late, and the 2022 primaries and general elections are fast approaching….

      …Voting access is a civil rights issue, and the preservation of civil liberties depends on fair representation….

Sex Traps Trick ‘Murder Hornets’

[These excerpts are from an article by Erin Garcia de Jesus in the 9 April 2022 issue of Science News.]

      …scientists identified three chemicals in the sex pheromone of Asian giant hornet queens. When traps with those chemicals were placed near the hornets’ nests in southern China — part of their native range — the traps ensnared thousands of males but no other insects….

      Starting in 2019, nests housing Asian giant hornets (Vespa mandarinia) — nicknamed “murder hornets” for their habit of feeding honeybees to their young—have popped up in a few places in western North America….

      The male hornets had a clear preference for the queen extracts, though the isolated chemicals and mixes of the three trapped many hornets as well. In one test. for example, extracts from just one gland trapped about 500 male hornets — more than twice the number trapped by full concentrations of the three-chemical cocktail, which itself performed on par with two of the undiluted isolated chemicals. Control traps lacking the extracts or pure chemicals attracted few males.

      Because male Asian giant hornets were most attracted to the pheromone gland chemicals compared with the individual acids or the mix, there are probably other compounds in the pheromone that could make traps even more effective….

Deep-sea ‘Octomoms’ Seek the Heat

[These excerpts are from an article by Katherine Kornei in the 9 April 2022 issue of Science News.]

      …Off the coast of central California in 2018, scientists discovered thousands of deep-sea octopuses (Muusoctopus robustus) congregated on the seafloor about 3,200 meters below the surface. Many of the grapefruit-sized animals were females brooding eggs, leading researchers to dub the site the Octopus Garden.

      With water temperatures hovering around 1.6° Celsius, growth in this garden was predicted to be leisurely. In octopuses, embryonic development tends to slow down at low temperatures….

      The record for the longest brood period of any animal, just over four years, is held by a different species of octopus living in warmer water….M. robustus was therefore a serious contender to snatch that title, Barry says. “If you look at its predicted brood period at 1.6° C, it’s over 12 years.”

      …Relatively warm water, up to 10.5° C, bathed the egg clutches. Females preferentially lay eggs in streams of geothermally heated water, which is much warmer than the ambient water, the team realized….

      There’s an evolutionary advantage tom octopus moms seeking out warmer water: Shorter brood periods mean fewer eggs are likely to be gobbled up by predators….

Lithium Mining Puts Flamingos at Risk

[These excerpts are from an article by Jake Buehler in the 9 April 2022 issue of Science News.]

      …One of the world’s richest deposits of lithium spans parts of Chile, Bolivia and Argentina, an area dubbed the “lithium triangle.” The region is also home to the Atacama Desert and a series of shallow, salt flat lake ecosystems, known as salars, that depend on the area's limited water supply. These ecologically sensitive salars nourish the cyanobacteria and algae eaten by three types of flamingos, half of the world’s flamingo species.

      This ecosystem is in an existential conflict because lithium refinement ponds and other industrial mining processes use a vast amount of water — an estimated 400,000 liters per ton of lithium….

      Since 1984, the five salars have shrunk by more than 30 percent in surface area, the researchers found. The decline is partially due to increased evaporation, which is influenced by climatic factors. Water levels also varied greatly across years. Those fluctuations appear to strongly dictate the number of flamingos present in a given year by determining the availability of food….

      …As mining ponds in the salar grew, nearby James’ and Andean flamingo populations dwindled. Water loss from new mining activity may be a major culprit. Between 1986 and 2018, groundwater pumping for lithium production increased from zero to an average rate of 1.8 cubic meters per second, and the salar lost about five football fields’ worth of surface water area every winter….

Gender, Biology, and Behavior

[These excerpts are from a book review by Barbara J. King in the 8 April 2022 issue of Science.]

      …De Waal embraces gender variability even as he describes evolutionary influences on gender by comparing humans to our closest living relatives, chimpanzees and bonobos….

      …de Waal offers solid evidence to show that across primates—including our own species—physical violence is associated with males far more often than with females, and attraction to infants with females far more often than males, in alignment with evolutionary pressures that differ by sex. Along the way, he effectively deploys anecdotes from primate research to emphasize how far biology is from determinist….

      Moving into the realm of gender identity, a person who is assigned female at birth may be assumed by others to be a woman on the basis of external cues, whereas in fact they may identify not as a woman but as non-binary and agender. Similarly, transgender people may not inevitably feel that they “belong to the opposite sex.” Such language fails to recognize people who identify, for example, as both man and woman, or neither….

Investing in what Matters Most

[These excerpts are from a book review by Steven Mana’oakamai Johnson in the 8 April 2022 issue of Science.]

      …a globe-trotting adventure to fight for the future of coral reefs—a world of million-dollar prizes for ecosystem-saving breakthroughs and where a trillion dollars could potentially save one-tenth of Earth’s reefs….Corals and their endosymbionts provide each other with the ecological and evolutionary ingredients for success. This partnership, rooted in cooperation and coordination, is so beneficial to both parties that it is responsible for the most biodiverse ecosystem on the planet….

      The leading cause of coral bleaching is elevated ocean temperatures. Climate change is increasing the frequency of severe bleaching events, and the long-term projections are bleak: Annual bleaching is expected to occur in nearly every coral reef by 2050….

      …What would it look like to overcome the legacies of colonialism that persist in the form of capitalism and climate change? Can we pair the technological advancements of the 21st century with Indigenous worldviews that continue to be cast out and marginalized?...

  Website by Avi Ornstein, "The Blue Dragon" – 2009 All Rights Reserved