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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).
Beyond ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’: Disrupting Narratives about School Quality

[These excerpts are from an article by James Noonan and Jack Schneider in the November 2022 issue of Kappan.]

      …State accountability determinations are portrayed as objective evaluations unrelated to race and social class, even though the indicators they use are virtually guaranteed to rank schools by variables like family income. Thanks to neutral language about “school performance,” state accountability systems imply that families choosing to live in white, wealthy neighborhoods are simply making smart decisions based on data….

      What we are saying is that many of the most egregious inequalities in education are the result of systemic racism and self-segregation, which, in turn, are exacerbated by the current measurement and accountability regime. Acting on what they believe is objective information, privileged families shape not only the schools they choose, but also the ones they don’t. Schools with concentrations of families with economic, social, and political capital tend to have more resources to support students. Schools with concentrations of families from poverty struggle to provide these same resources. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, in which gthe labels assigned by the state drive a sorting process that privileges some schools and disadvantages others….

      Most perniciously, in addition to capturing too little of what matters most, existing measurement systems also capture too much of what they shouldn’t. Specifically, because of the correlation between student test scores and race and family income, measurement systems often indicate more about family background than school quality….

      …summative ratings of schools derived from a narrow range of indicators undermine the aim of school improvement everywhere. If perceptions of schools are driven by something other than quality, then measurement and accountability systems are sending false signals. Even highly rated schools are poorly served by such systems, which paper over their weaknesses and praise them for qualities peripheral to their mission….

Information Pollution

[These excerpts are from an article by Vanessa Glavinskas in the Fall 2022 issue of Solutions.]

      …One study estimated that climate misinformation was viewed up to 1.36 million times every day on Facebook. On Twitter, suspected bots made up 25% of the tweets about climate change – often denying its reality or importance – after President Trump announced he would withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement in 2017….

      In July, the European Parliament passed the Digital Services Act, a new law that requires tevhnology companies to remove illegal and harmful content circulating online or face substantial fines. The act also requires companies that reach more than 45 million users to assess the societal risks (like climate change) that the design of the platforms exacerbate and demands more transparency….

      The law, which goes into effect in 2024, also improves access to tech company data, making it easier for regulators, researchers and advocacy groups to hold social media companies accountable for the risks posed by the dissemination of illegal or harmful content, including disinformation….

      Europe’s law is expected to influence the regulatory debate in other countries, notably the U.S., where lawmaker action has been stymied by industry lobbyists and concerns over infringing on free speech….

Sandy, Ten Years After

[These excerpts are from an article by Shanti Menon in the Fall 2022 issue of Solutions.]

      …By 2050, sea levels in New York and New Jersey, home of 29 million people, are projected to rise by up to 2.5 feet. A quarter of New York City’s land – home to one out of every ten city residents – has a one-in-four chance of flooding over the next 30 years….

      Affordable housing is often located in flood prone areas, due in part to a history of racist housing policies. Low-income communities and communities of color already tend to be hardest hit by disasters and fare far worse in recovery, as many lack insurance and savings. Yet disaster aid tends to flow to white and wealthier communities….

      Ultimately, preparing for hurricanes and flooding will require a comprehensive plan that considers future climate impacts in all government decisions about what to build, how and where….

      No place in the world has hit upon the perfect solution to adapt to a future of more water; resilience will need to take many forms. But whatever solutions are tested in New York and New Jersey will be closely watched by the rest of the world….

A Climate Victory to Celebrate

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

      …The recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act, with its $369 billion in climate and clean energy investments, is the largest, most comprehensive climate legislation Congress has ever passed.

      Independent analyses project that with the added reduction from this law the U.S. could reduce greenhouse emissions some 49% below 2005 levels by 2030 – approaching the president’s goal of halving emissions by 2030. By tackling domestic climate pollution, the U.S. enhances its credibility to lead in international climate negotiations….

      The law will create more than 9 million clean energy and manufacturing jobs, positioning the U.S. economy to compete in a $23 trillion global clean energy market. It will also bolster energy security and it includes the most extensive amendments to the Clean Air Act since 1990, reinforcing the Environmental Protection Agency’s long-standing responsibility to address climate pollution while giving the agency new tools and funding to protect communities….

Louis Pasteur’s Long Legacy

[These excerpts are from an article by Tom Siegfried in the 19 November 2022 issue of Science News.]

      …Pasteur ranked behind only Darwin among the most exceptionL BIOLOGICAl scientists of the 19th century. Pasteur not only made milk safe to drink, but also rescued the beer and wine industry. He established the germ theory of disease, saved the French silkworm population, confronted the scourges of anthrax and rabies, and transformed the curiosity of vaccination against human diseases. He invented microbiology and established the foundations for immunology.

      …Before Pasteur, most experts asserted that fermentation was a natural nonbiological chemical process. Yeast, a necessary ingredient in the fermenting liquid, was supposedly a lifeless chemical acting as a catalyst. Pasteur’s experiments showed yeast to be alive, a peculiar kind of “small plant” (now known to be a fungus) that caused fermentation by biological activity….

      Pasteur also noticed that additional microorganisms present during fermentation could be responsible for the process going awry, a problem threatening the viability of French winemaking and beer brewing. He solved that problem by developing a method of heating that eliminated the bad microorganisms while preserving the quality of the benerages. This methosd, called “pasteurization,” was layter applied to milk, eliminating the threat of illness from drinking milk contaminated by virulent microorganisms. Pasteurization became standard public health ractice in the 20th century….

      Popularly hailed as a hero, Pasteur was also vilified by some hostile doctors, who considered him an uneducated interloper in medicine. Vaccine opponents complained that his vaccine was an untested method that might itself cause death. But of course, critics had also rejected Pasteur’s view of fermentation, the germ theory of disease and his disproof of spontaneous generation….

      As geniuses go, Pasteur was the opposite of Einstein. To get inspiration for his theories, Einstein imagined riding aside a light beam or daydreaming about falling off a ladder. Pasteur stuck to experiments. He typically initiated his experiments with a suspected result in mind, but he was scrupulous in verifying the conclusions he drew from them. Preconcieved ideas, he said, can guide the experimenter’s interrogation of nature but must be abandoned in light of contrary evidence….

Dinosaur Mummies May Not Be Flukes

[These excerpts are from an article by Jake Buehler in the 19 November 2022 issue of Science News.]

      …The creature isn’t a true mummy because its skin has turned into rock. Still, researchers call fossils with preserved skin and other soft tissues mummies….

      But scavenging doen’t fit into the traditional view of mummification, which assumes that burial has to happen soon after death….

      When modern scavangers like raccoons feed on a larger carcass, the scavangers rip open the body. That lets gases and fluids from decomposition escape and allows any remaining tissue to dry out. Burial and fossilization could happen afterwards….

      Fossilization of soft tissues is rare but not unheard of….Mummies originating from common carcass fates could explain this….

Fire Drove Big Cats to Take More Risks

[These excerpts are from an article by Bethany Brookshire in the 19 November 2022 issue of Science News.]

      Mountain lions have no interest in people, or the built-up areas we enjoy. But after a wildfire in California, local lions took more risks, crossing roads more often and moving around more in the daytime….

      Of the 11 collared mountain lions in the area at the time, nine made it to safety during the fire itself….

      No matter how much they moved, the mountain lions avoided people….

      …the lions stuck to unburned areas and continued to avoid people. But they took more risks around human infrastructure, increasing their road crossings from an average of about three times per month to five….

Forever Chemicals’ Health Risks Are Getting Attention

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Nancy Shute in the 19 November 2022 issue of Science News.]

      For decades, scientists, public health officials and citizen advocates have sounded the alarm over perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, commonly known as PFAs. These manufactured chemicals are used to make pans nonstick, clothing waterproof, and furniture and carpets stain resistant.

      All nice things, but these molecules are built on strong carbon-fluorine bonds that don’t degrade, hence the nickname “forever chemicals.” PFAs can end up in rivers, soil and air. They’re in our bodies too. That’s not so nice, because these chemicals can increase the risk of a host of health issues, including certain cancers, obesity, pregnancy complications and a weakened immune system….

      The discovery became a huge issue in North Carolina, and subsequent research found that PFAs contamination of drinkibg water, food and air is ubiquitous….

      Manufacturers have stopped using some PFAs, but because of their longevity, those chemicals will linger in people’s bodies for years….

The Death of Knowledge

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Paris Marx in the November/December in the May/June 2022 issue of MIT Technology Review.]

      …For one thing, what we think is permanent isn’t. Digital storage systems can become unreadable in as little as three to five years. Librarians and archivists race to copy things over to newer formats. But entropy is always there, waiting in the wings….

      …For centuries, countless people didn’t have the right culture, gender, or socioeconomic class for their knowledge or work to be discovered, valued, or preserved. But the massive scale of the digital world now presents a unique challenge. According to an estimate last year from the market research firm IDC, the amount of data that companies, governments, and individuals create in the next few years will be twice the total of all the digital data generated previously since the start of the computing age….

      There are never enough people or money to do all the necessary work—and formats are changing and multiplying all the time….

      Unavoidably, ideas, knowledge, and human creations will continue to be lost….

Electric Cars Are Still Cars

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Paris Marx in the November/December in the May/June 2022 issue of MIT Technology Review.]

      …Transportation accounts for 27% of US emissions, more than any other sector, and even though there have been increases in fuel efficiency and EV ownership in recent years, the rise of the SUV has virtually negated their benefits….between 2010 and 2018, growing global demand for SUVs was the second-largest contributor to increasing emissions….

      EVs are often termed “zero-emission” vehicles because they produce no tailpipe emissions. But that desn’t mean they are clean. Their large batteries require a lot of resource extraction from mines around the world, with significant environmental and human consequences that include poisoning water supplies, increasing rates of cancer and lung disease, and even making use of child labor….

      The trend toward larger vehicles has had bad consequences for both road safety and the environment. Continuing it through the transition to electric vehicles means that EVs will require bigger batteries, and thus more minerals will have to be mined to power them….

      As the shift to EVs accelerates and commodity prices increase, there’s good reason to promote smaller cars that cost less, require smaller batteries, are better suited for the trips most people take, and pose less of a threat to pedestrians. Further, governments can help in not just to incentivize EV adoption, but to expand alternatives like public transit and cycling infrastructure in cities across the country so it will be easier for more people to choose not to drive in the years to come….

Humans Aren’t the Only Animals that Give Gifts

[These excerpts are from an article by Rina Kingery in the November/December 2022 issue of Discover.]

      …During sex, male fireflies provide their mates with gift packs of sperm and nutrients called spermatophores. When transferred to the female, the spermatophore fertilizes her eggs and supplies her with proteins and nutrients. Fireflies don’t eat as adults, so the extra nourishment extends her lifespan….

      Meanwhile, perhaps the most gruesome gifts are those given my male great gray shrikes. These songbirds curate grisly exhibitions of their hunting skills by impaling prey on thorns and twigs where females are likely to see them. A female shrike selects a partner based off his macabre collection, and during courtship, the male may offer kills directly to his potential lifelong mate. Larger items like snakes and lizards, of course, score him more points than smaller ones like bees and grasshppers….

      The basic drive behind the gift-giving (to secure a mate or to form a bond) is a good reminder for humans of the true purpose of holiday gifts: to create and strengthen social relationships so our loved ones continue to flourish….

Higher Education for All

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Marcia McNutt in the 11 November 2022 issue of Science.]

      …Currently, 75% of new jobs require a college degree. Yet in the US and Europe, only 40% of young adults attend a 2-year or 4-year college—a ercentage that has either not budged or only moderately risen in more than two decades—despite a college education being one of the proven ways to lift the socioeconomic status of underprivileged populations and boost the wealth of nations….In the near future, workers in low-skill jobs without college degrees are at risk of being replaced by automation….

      A college education in the US is expensive, even at public institutions, and it can take many years, if ever, to recoup the cost through future earnings….The bigger barrier to expansion appears to be the traditional college residential program that requires many young adults to pull up roots and move to a new location to pursue a degree while also working to support a family…

      State universities are leading in experimentation in new formats. Arizona State University has increased its engineering majors by a factor of 5 to more than 30,000 students in the past 10 years, including 8500 online learners. Lab skills are taught during 2-week summer sessions….

      A university education may not be for everyone, but at least we must make it more easily available to those who would benefit without the traditional obstacles to completing a 4-year residential program….

Be the Voice for Scientists in Iran

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Navid Madani in the 11 November 2022 issue of Science.]

      …In the 1980s, Ruhollah Khomeini, founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, described the great danger that university-educated people posed to the regime. This philosophy was incongruous with Iran’s centuries-long history as a beacon of science, philosophy, and medicine. In the 11th century, for example, the Iranoan physician-philosopher Ibn Sina wrote about cancer metastasis for the first time in human history. Subsequent advances in medicine and scienceflourished in the Iranian academic landscape….

      Since the 1979 revolution, Itran’s leadership has increasingly attacked science and critical thinking, making the country’s brain drain among the highest in the world. Pressure to conform to rigid, strictly enforced behavioral constraints falls heaviest on young people, especially women….

      Scientists largely have stood by in silence for decades as Iran’s unique scientific heritage has denigrated. It’s time to speak up.

Reifying Racism in Medicine

[These excerpts are from a book review by Suman Seth in the 4 November 2022 of Science.]

      …medical schools in the US are not doing enough to eradicate widely held, inaccurate ideas concerning putative biological differences between races….this failure might be rooted in medical education’s long tradition of perpetuating and reifying precisely such racial ideologies….

      Anatomical museums rendered pedagogical lessons even more authoritative. At Harvard’s museum, skulls were ordered by race: white skulls on the top shelf, South and East Asian skulls toward the middle, and African skulls at the bottom…

      We have long known that southern medical schools repeatedly made use, without consent, of the bodies of the enslaved for anatomical study….

      Willoughby makes clear that northern schools may have been more circumspect, but physicians in New York and Philadelphia “preyed” on their Black population as well….

Measuring Emissions to Manage Emissions

[This excerpt is from an editorial by Al Gore in the 4 November 2022 issue of Science.]

      …Scientiusts have long known the total amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere. The Keeling Curve—a daily record of of global atmospheric CO2 concentration—leaped from 313 parts per million (ppm) in March 1958 to 2021’s staggering 414.72 ppm global average. Likewise, the component parts of the emissions puzzle are well understood—the burning of fossil fuels, transportation, industry, conventional agriculture, deforestation, and other sources are continuously adding to the accumulation that lingers in the atm osphere….

      …As the eminent physicist Lord Kelvin said nearly 140 years ago, “When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind but you have scarcely, in your thoughts advanced to the stage of science.” Efforts to limit global temperature rise to 1.5oC are currently informed by rough estimates principally derived from self-reported national inventories submitted intermittently to the United Nations (UN). As of last month, no nation has submitted a complete accounting of its emissions for 2021. Indeed, 52 countries have not submitted any emissions inventories covering the past 10 years….

      Lord Kelvin’s dictum is commonly translated in the business world as “you can only manage what you can measure.” Thanks to breakthroughs in AI and other technologies, researchers, governmental officials, and business leaders can now manage emissions with timely, granular, and actionable climate information at their fingertips. With no time left to wait as the world burns and drowns, we can now begin to measure emissions with the precision needed to better manage their reduction—quickly.

Downplaying the Pace of Arctic Warming

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

      …scientists have long known about how Arctic ice reflects sunlight, redirecting heat away from the planet. But as polar ice melts because of global warming, the Arctic Ocean absorbs more heat, which cause the Arctic to warm even more, which melts more ice, and so on. It should surprise no one, then, that the area is warming fast. Yet scientists have been caught off-guard by just how fast the region is warming up.

      …since 1979, the Arctic has warmed nearly four times faster than Earth as a whole. Few climate models have predicted an effect this large.

      …First, it reminds us that averages can be misleading. Extreme outcomes may be unlikely but do occur and can be crucial in assessing risk. Second, it suggests that climate models may be continuing to underestimate key climate effects….

      If scientists have underestimated Arctic warming, they have likely minimized a methane release as well. And that could be truly dire because the permafrost holds about 1. Billion metric tons of organic carbon, twice as much as now in the atmosphere. Were that carbon to be rapidly released, it could cause a worst-case scenario: a runaway greenhouse effect….

In Schools, Talk about Racism Can Reduce Bias

[These excerpts are from an article by Camille Mutoni and Nicky Sullivan in the November 2022 issue of Scientific American.]

      …The legal language seems, for the most part, protective of children. But the effect is quite the opposite. As psychologists who study how parents and teachers communicate with kids about race, we can attest to an ever growing body of scientific evidence that suggests these laws are failing the children they purport to help….

      When we think about new laws limiting discussion of race in schools, it’s critical to keep in mind how they will impact children of color specifically. The research we;’ve discussed suggests that children will be more likely to develop racially biased views in the absence of explicit lessons. As a result, children of color are likely to face more discrimination, not less. This outcome is clearly at odds with the language of the laws, which explicitly state that children should not be made to view psychological distress because of their race. Yet that is recisely what will happen if children of color face more discrimination….

      The laws passed in Iowa and elsewhere claim to protect kids from forming racist beiefs, but the research suggests they are more likely to do the opposite. When it comes to children’s understanding of racism and the development of racist beliefs, the biggest danger isn’t teaching or talking to children about these topics—it’s stayng quiet.

Gas Stove Worries

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

      …The big surprise in ine new study…was the amount of unberned gas that leaks into kitchens when a stove is off. They found that more than three quarters of methane that escapesfrom a stove does so when it is not in use, most likely through imperfect pipe fittings. Only one out of 53 stoves measured for the study—and many more the team had measured since—did not leak when turned off….Methane is not toxic, but it is a potent greenhouse gas. With 40 million gas stoves across the country, Jackson and his co-authors estimate that the heat-trapping potential of the methane they discharge annually is roughly equivalent to the carbon dioxide released by half a million gas-powered cars.

      The Stanford study also looked at the amount of nitrogen oxides produced when using the stoves. In a matter of minutes, families who do not use their exhaust hoods and who have small, poorly ventilated kitchens can surpass the Environmental Protection Agency’s outdoor exposure limit for nitrogen dioxide of 100 parts per billion (ppb) per hour….

      The second study, conducted in the Greater Boston area, looked at the nonmethane components of unburned gas from stoves. They found trace quantites of 21 chemicals considered hazardous by the EPA, including benzene and other volatile organic compounds (VOCs). The amounts were small, but this understudied issue warrents more attention….

Paper Battery

[These excerpts are from an article by Anna Blaustein in the November 2022 issue of Scientific American.]

      …The paper battery has the same key components as standard batteries but packages them differently. Like a typical chemical battery, it has a positively charged side called a cathose, a negatively charged side called an anode, and a conductive material called an electrolyte between the two….in the new battery, the anode and cathode are inks printed onto the front and back of a piece of paper. That paper is infused with salt, which dissolves when the paper is dampened with water. The resulting saltwater solution acts as the electrolyte….

      When the paper is dry, the battery is shelf-stable. Add just a couple drops of water, however, and the engrained salt dissolves, allowing electrons to flow. Once the paper is moistened, the battery activates within 20 seconds. At that point, if the battery is not connected to an electrical device, it has a consistent voltage of 1.2 volts…The new battery’s operating performance declines as the paper dries. When the scientists rewet the paper during testing, the battery regained functionality and lasted an hour before beginning to dry out again.

      Although the researchers demonstrated that their battery could power an alarm clock, dissolvable paper batteries are unlikely to replace standard AAs on store shelves. Instead Nystrom envisions a future where these batteries are embedded in diagnostic tests and environmental sensors, ideally with other sustainable components such as screens and packaging….

Silky Solution

[These excerpts are from an article by Ysabelle Kempe in the November 2022 issue of Scientific American.]

      …Most environmental microplastics form when larger items degrade. But a smaller yet noticeable portion of the polluting particles is deliberately added to products….These include microcapsules that protect and gradually release active ingredients in products such as cosmetics and agricultural sprays.

      …researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and chemical corporation BASF developed a silk-based, biodegradeable alternative to these capsules. This type of research is urgent for companies that face tightening regulations on deliberate use of microplastics.

      …some sprayed herbicides are released slowly to kill weeds without harming food crops. When tested on corn plants for six days, silk-based microcapsule spray damaged the plants less than an existing commercial roduct.

      Replacing nonbiodegradeable microcapsules with silk might not work in every case, but it already looks promising compared with alternatives BASF has investigated….

50 More Years of Clean Water

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

      …In the 50 years since the Clean Water Act (CWA) became law, the health of U.S. rivers, lakes and streams has improved. On the Cuyahoga, insects, fish and birds that are sensitive to pollution have returned, as have kayakers and recreational fishers….

      Although the Biden administration has proposed rules that would restore protections to small streams and wetlands, a Supreme Court case on the docket for this fall could undermine them. In Sackett v. EPA, the petitioners argue that wetlands on the property—and by extension millions of acres of other wetlands—are not covered by the law. But these wetlands connect with other, navigable waters, and as 12 scientific societies have stated in an amicus brief, that argument “rejects hydrological reality.” Water in a river cannot be adequately protected unless we also protect the many sources that feed into it. The Supreme Court therefore must follow the science and rule in favor of the EPA. This ongoing legal wrangling also underscores the need for Congress to strengthen the CWA using the best available science.

      Congress also must finally confront a long-standing issue: the CWA addresses point sources of pollution, such as factories and sewer systems, but it does not sufficiently tackle pollution from nonpoint sources—the chemicals from parking lots, roadways, fields and lawns that can be washed into waterways by rain or snowmelt. Agricultural and lawn fertilizers contain nitrogen and phosphorus, which have been shown to feed toxic algal blooms from the Gulf of Mexico to the Chesapeake Bay to Lake Erie. Such blooms have contributed to fish die-offs, and the 2014 one rendered the tap water in Toledo, Ohio, unsafe to drink.

      Congress must take stronger action to rein in this pollution, whether by amending the CWA beyond a largely voluntary measure exempting agricultural runoff or through other legislation that targets nonpoint sources. Policy makers should work with farmers, ranchers and scientists to develop strategies tied to clear metrics and provide tangible incentives….

The Court Report

[These excerpts are from a report from Common Cause in the Fall 2022 issue of In Common.]

      …We find ourselves once again headed to the U.S. Supreme Court to defend voters and fight for the equal representation that seems to make Republican lawmakers so afraid….

      The challenge to a February victory in the North Carolina Supreme Court comes from far-right leaders of the state’s General Assembly, who are seeking to give legislatures unchecked power to set elections and voting-related policies. Their latest scheme rests on a fringe legal theory known as the “independent state legislature theory.”

      Across the country, state lawmakers are using this theory to ask federal courts to give them unchecked power to manipulate voting districts and dismantle the freedom to vote. The theory would reverse decades of legal precesent by taking away the ability of state courts to review whether state lawmakers followed the law when it comes to settling election policies.

      Removing the ability of the state judiciary to review decisions regarding our federal elections, from voting maps to whether early voting hours should be extended or curtailed, will give partisan interests more ability to manipulate decisions to their liking….

A Neurosurgeon’s Climate Fight

[These excerpts are from a book review by Adam R. Aron in the 21 October 2022 issue of Science.]

      …The third part reviews the psychology of habits, behavioral change, and nudges and discusses what kinds of emissions reductions are required and whose behavior must change….

      We need sytem-level policy changes such as ordinances to remove gas lines from new and existing buildings; low-interest loans so that many households can insulate and purchase electrical appliances; mandates ofr public pensions to divert holdings in fossil fuel companies; bans on new, and even existing, oil and gas extraction; clean electricity standards; and regenerative agriculture policy. Such systemic change will only arise as a result of a much wider advocacy movement—a social mobilization—that recognizes not only our individual follies but also the powerful interests engaged in obfuscating, greenwashing, and retarding the transition away from fossil fuels….

      …Approximately 10% of all the greenhouse emissions in the US—along with a good proportion of toxins and wastes—come from the hospital sector, so this is a considerable exercise….

Mystery Fossils Clarify Pterosaur Origins

[These excerpts are from an article by Carolyn Gramling in the 5 November 2022 issue of Science News.]

      …The finding lends support to the idea that pterosaurs – the first vertabrates to master powered flight – evolved from small, speedy, two-legged ancestors….

      Some of the creature’s features, like its disproportionally large head, are similar to those of pterosaurs. Others, like the orientation of the lower jaw, aren’t much like pterosaur features at all. S. taylori didn’t have any identifiable adaptations for flying, jumping or living in trees….

      Pterosaurs, which first appeared in the fossil record about 220 million years ago, had distinct anatomy, including massive heads for their body sizes and super-elongated fourth digits that were part of their wings. S. taylori had the big head, but its hands were small….

There’s Opportunity in the Middle

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Teresa Preston in the October 2022 issue of EDF’s Kappan.]

      It’s something of a truism that middle school is an awkward time. Kids at this age are starting to mature past childhood, but they’re a long way from being reasoning adults. On top of that, because young adolescents develop at different rates and have different life experiences, a single classroom can contain students at all the different stages along the journey….

      All of this is a perfect formula for drama, And drama is the prevailing narrative about middle school….

      Because young adolescence is such fertile ground, middle school needs to provide students with opportunities to explore and grow….

Remember, Do No Harm?

[These excerpts are from an editorial by H. Holden Thorp in the 21 October 2022 issue of EDF’s Science.]

      …Ladapo has tried to imitate a scientific “debate” on Twitter about the study, saying “I love the discussion that we’ve stimulated.” This move is from page 1 of the antiscience playbook. A credentiale scientist from outside the field questions scientific consensus in a public manner that undermines trust in science. Many have played this role during the pandemic, but the pattern reaches back decades to scientists who have, for political purposes, challenges consensus on tobacco, ozone, strategic defense, and climate change….

      It's easy to blame the politicians, right-wing cable TV hosts, and podcast hucksters for spreading misinformation. But is it defensible to blame these folks without also acknowledging that unchallenged members of the scientific community are making it possible for them to sow this doubt? Until the scientific community deals with misinformation from within, it cannot expect to deal with it from without.

Antarctic Marine Life under Pressure

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Bettina Meyer and So Kamaguchi in the 21 October 2022 issue of EDF’s Science.]

      …The Antarctic krill is a pelagic crustacean, endemic in the Southern Ocean. It serves as a direct energy link between the ocean’s primary producers (phytoplankton) and higher trophic levels such as fish, seabirds, penguins, seals, and whales. Krill comprise 300 to 500 million tonnes of biomess, the largest population of a multicellular wild animal species on Earth. Consequently, this species plays a critical role in marine biogeochemical cycles that affect climate and ocean productivity.

      Unfortunately, krill have decined in parts of the Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean since the 1920s. This region, where nearly 70% of krill are located, is also home to the largest krill predator colonies and the largest krill fishing industry in the Southern Ocean. Since 2010, the annual krill catch in the southwest Atlantic sector has been increasing steadily….

      The demand for krill will likely grow, driven by at least two industries: the increasing production of fish through aquaculture, resulting in higher demand for fishmeal, and the increasing demand for high-value pharma- and nutraceutical products from krill oil and krill meal….

      The most pressing questions include determining the proportion of female and juvenile krill that are captured by commercial fishing and its effect on the krill population. Research can only answer gthese questions if there is cooperation with the fishing industry itself. In contrast to research vessels, the new generation of krill fishing vessels operate almost year-round….

Credibility at Stake in Sweden

[This excerpt is from an editorial by Henrik Osterblom and Robert Blasiak in the 28 October 2022 issue of Science.]

      …science makes clear that no country is immune to the interconnected and increasingly evident global sustainability challenges. A healthy biosphere is a foundation for climate resilience and economic development, particularly during turbulent times.

      …The new approach to climate is particularly troubling. A day after the environment ministry was eliminated, for instance, a representative of the far-right party, collaborating with the government in parliament and with political officials in the government offices, claimed that there is insufficient scientific evidence of a climate crisis. And a previous national goal of 100% renewable energy has now morphed into a target of 100% “fossil free” energy, facilitated by construction of nuclear facilities and deregulation aimed at fast-tracking this shift.

      …sustainability should be central to all sectors, including transportation, the built environment, development aid, and more. Reduced political focus on a sustainability transition would not only be harmful to Sweden’s capacity to innovate and accelerate toward a more sustainable future, it would also set back efforts of past generations who worked hard to elevate the environment to a policy priority….

      …The loss is further aggravated by the new government providing little indication that it understands sustainability as fundamentally dependent on the living biosphere, including land, forests, fresh water, and the ocean—issues hardly mentioned to date in existing policy priorities….

Coke vs. Pepsi in the Race to the Refill and Reuse Future

[These excerpts are from an article by Lisa Ramsden in the Fall 2022 issue of Compass.]

      …Coca-Cola states that 16% of its packaging is already refillable and reusable, mostly in Latin America. They’ve got a long way to go before they can be a real leader in the fight against plastic pollution, but they’re currently leaps and bounds ahead of Pepsi. Pepsi’s packaging portfolio currently includes zero reuse and refill….

      The path to a worl with reuse and refill might not be the easiest one—it will require buy-in from customers, refill/reuse infrastructure, policy changes, and even collaboration among big brands like Coke and Pepsi—but we know it is necessary if we are going to stem the tide of single-use plastics flowing into our oceans every day. It might not be the easiest thing to do, but it is necessary. The plastic problem is vast, it impacts all of us, and it is time for the multi-billion dollar corporations who caused this crisis to actually do something to fix it….

More Drilling Hasn’t Protected Us from High Gasoline Prices

[These excerpts are from an article by Tim Donaghy in the Fall 2022 issue of Compass.]

      …Since 2008, oil and gas production in the U.S. has boomed thanks to new technology such as horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking). We are now producing over twice as much crude oil and about 70% more natural gas than in 2008, and in 2019 the United States finally achieved the favorite buzz phrase of politicians: “energy independence.”

      …The first thing to know is that living in an area that produces a lot of oil and gas does not mean that we get a discount on high prices at the pump. Crude oil is traded all around the world and the price is set by the global market. So when Russia invaded Ukraine and many countries responded by refusing to import Russian oil, that sent a price shock through the oil market, directly leading to $6 per gallon gasoline here in the U.S….

      Thanks to these developments, the U.S. oil and gas industry is now fully integrated into the global market. The spike in oil prices due to the Russian invasion has been great news for Big Oil, which is reaping tens of billions in additional wartime profits, but it is putting the pinch on ordinary people, om the pandemic downturn.

      It is a bitter reminder that fossil fuels are among the most expensive and volatile sources of energy we have. Our reliance on fossil fuels is driving up inflation, in addition to fueling wars, driving the climate crisis, and spewing health-damaging air pollution. What’s worse, price spikes from the periodic “boom and bust” cycles of the oil industry are difficult to predict and even harder to protect yourself against….

Social Media Companies Are Failing to Tackle Climate Disinformation

[These excerpts are from an article by Ashley Thomson in the Fall 2022 issue of Compass.]

      Big Tech has a major climate disinformation problem. Social media companies were unprepared for climate deniers, whatabouters, and the Big Oil PR and marketing machine to deploy their tactics of deceit on their platforms.

      On top of that, companies like Facebook and Twitter were happy to benefit from the engagement numbers that the spread of dis- and misinformation brought to the platforms for years. After all, keeping the numbers high attracted investors and advertisers. It was only when the public outcry and federal hearings started to threaten the loss of advertisers, investors, and employees that they began to roll out policies to confront disinformation….

      First, it might be helpful to explain what climate disinformation is and how it differs from misinformation. Put simply, “disinformation” is false or misleading information intentionally spread to deceive others, or to potentially benefit from its spread. This differs from “misinformation,” which is wrong or incorrect information that is spread by mistake, oversight, or naivete. Sometimes, the “climate disinformation”—which has been called out by the scientific community in the IPCC’s latest report as a major threat to meeting our climate goals—is purposefully spreading wrong, deceptive, or misleading information about the climate crisis and its severity or about the technology and solutions we have to combat it.

      For decades, the fossil fuel industry has been using disinformation as a tool to delay climate action by sowing public distrust in climate science and in solutions to confront the crisis….the industry commonly uses greenwashing to mislead the public on what they say they are doing vs. what they are actually doing.

Justice Meets Social Science

[These excerpts are from a book review by James M. Jones in the 14 October 2022 issue of Science.]

      …Those principles—freedom, equality, justice, and humanity—however exalted, have been eroded and undermined by white racism throughout the country’s history….

      Research shows how difficult it is to undo ingrained sereotypes and how beliefs persevere—even when facts clearly demonstrate their untenability. Psychological and cultural beliefs can only be altered when individuals commit to close examination and undertake actions dedicatedto social change. Are people able or willing to do the work that is required? Some are and some are not….

Recycling Plastic Using a Hybrid Process

[These excerpts are from an article by Ning Yan in the 14 October 2022 issue of Science.]

      …Since the early 20th century, plastics have played an ever-increasing role in human society. There is polystyrene, a spongy material widely used in protective packaging, such as styrofoam. There is polyethylene, the most produced plastic today, whose different density variants have been used in everything from plastic bags to poolside furniture. There is also polyethylene terephthalate (PET), which is the main ingredient in many synthetic fibers and water bottles. The numerous advantages offered by these nonbiodegradable plastics, such as versatile physical properties and low manufacturing costs, have yet to be meaningfully challenged by another class of materials in the marketplace. However, the accumulative environmental cost of plastic waste is increasingly becoming an irreversible global catastrophe….

      …At present, plastic recycling is predominantly achieved using mechanical methods. Plastics recycled in this manner lack in quality and thus are often downcycled into lower-value implementations compared with their initial applications. To combat the been exploring chemical and biological processes to develop alternative recycling routes for converting plastic waste into commercially valuable chemicals….

      …To tackle platic mixtures, which exist widely in consumer products, such as electronics and home appliances, additional strategies must be developed to either physically deconstruct multicomponent materials into their constituent plastic polymers…or chemically deconstruct various plastics mixtures into small molecules that are able to be further refined….

      The polymeric structure of plastics is often cited as the main reason that plastics are difficult to degrade; however, their low oxygen content arguably plays an equally important role. This is evident in the naturally occurring oxygen-enriched polymers, such as cellulose, hemicellulose, chitin, and lignin, which are readily degradable. This fact highlights that oxygen-containing functional groups in polymers are beneficial for biological conversion….

Stop Passing the Buck on Intro Science

[These excerpts are from an editorial by H. Holden Thorp in the 14 October 2022 issue of Science.]

      …the vast majority of undergraduates who take organic chemistry are not on their way to becoming chemists. Most of them are taking it as a requirement for medical school or other health sciences….

      …The faculty torture the premeds with material they don’t need….Then the faculty would complain that the administration couldn’t recruit undergraduates who were serious about science, even though their standardized test scores were outstanding and the university was admitting students from the same pool of applicants as that of other comparable institutions. Meanwhile, universities blame the faculty for not being good at teaching. The real problem is that universities are perfectly willing to collect tuition from premeds, but very few of these schools are doing the consensus building ad hard work that are needed to build a relevant program for premeds that doesn’t include the same breadth and depth of topics taught to other science students….

      There’s only one way out. Everyne in this system—the administrators, the faculty, the medical schools, and the medical regulatory bodies—need to state the plain truth that the undergraduate education system that prepares students for medical school is broken….

Beyond Nuclear Deterrence

[These excerpts are from an article by editorial by Stephen Herzog in the 14 October 2022 issue of Science.]

      …Success containing proliferation to just nine countries came about in no small part from the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and subsequent International Atomic Energy Agency inspections. These initiatives were a direct result of the Cuban Missile Crisis, as were US-Soviet/Russian arms control agreements that reduced worldwide nuclear stockpiles from nearly 70,000 warheads in the 1980s to ~12,700 today.

      Unfortunately, nuclear reductions have now been replaced by competition. China, Russia, and the US are modernizing their arsenals, ignoring disarmament commitments in the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty….

      …Adversaries point nuclear-tipped missiles at each other’s population centers in the name of keeping the peace. Ironically, this existential gamble portrays vulnerability as protection. Polls have long shown that most people desire a world free from nuclear fears.

      Still, academics have generally accepted nuclear deterrence as an eternal fact of life. Just as the Cuban Missile Crisis changed nuclear thinking, the war in Ukraine necessitates new research programs….

      The Cuban Missile Crisis may seem distant, but nuclear dangers are not speculative fiction. Thousands of cities are mere minutes away from nuclear destruction by weapons far more powerful than those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki….

An Unsustainable Partnership

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

      …Funding strongly influences what kinds of scientific questions are asked and what kinds of answers are deemed plausible, credible and worthy of further pursuit. Ample scientific evidence demonstrates that the interests of funders influence academic findings, even when researchers strive to be objective. The clearest example is tobacco, where studies funded by the tobacco industry are much less likely to find clear evidence of harm than independent studies. This is why many prominent medical journals do not accept papers with tobacco funding.

      It's not just that individual studies get biased. Entire research programs are framed in ways that are consistent with what funders are interested in and are likely to fund in the future….

      …The fossil-fuel industry and its allies have worked to confuse the American people about the reality and severity of climate change. They have attacked the natural scientists who proved that climate change was caused by carbon pollution and the social scientists who exposed the obstructive role the industry has played. They have fought to preserve fossil-fuel subsidies while claiming to believe in free markets. They have even lobbied against market-based solutions, such as carbon pricing and emissions trading. Their insistence that our economies—both national and household—cannot survive without fossil fuels has been an attempt to limit our thinking about energy.

      The chances that we can solve the climate crisis with more fossiution, mitigated somewhat by carbon capture and storage—a technology that is far from proved and extremely expensive—are low. Yet that is what the industry is pushing and with a few exceptions intends to continue to do: to develop and sell more oil and gas, which will put yet more carbon dioxide and methane in the atmosphere….

Ceramics Cleaner

[These excerpts are from an article by Gary Hartley in the October 2022 issue of Scientific American.]

      “Devilfish” catfish, also called suckermouths, are native to South America but have spread to four other continents. These freshwater invaders overcompete native species and eat their eggs, even damaging fisheries. But…researchers in Mexico showed the pests could be unexpectedly useful: when ground into a paste, they can filter ceramics industry wastewater.

      The ceramic tile sector alone produces at least 16 billion square meters of product a year. Manufacturing facilities go through large quantities of potable water, and a biological cleaning system like this one could allow reuse instead of letting that water drain away.

      Collagen from the fish’s connective tissues, when combined with iron-rich salt, works as a coagulant: the mix destabilizes tiny bits of waste compounds so they amass into bigger globs that can be strained out. The scientists found this process removed 94 percent of solids from industrial ceramics wastewater, and it reduced an indicator of organic materials in the water by 79 percent. The researchers say their fish mix is less toxic than other available coagulents—a toxicity that discorages some manufacturers from filtering ceramic waste at all….

      The mixture is simple to prepare…but getting enough biomass for industrial use might be a limiting factor. Trapping wild devilfish could support modest demand…but to scale up, they might ultimately need to be farmed—carefully….

Mistletoe Sticks Around

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

      Many people today associate mistletoe with holiday kisses. But for centuries the plant was known more for its remarkable stickiness; ancient Greeks and Romans used gooey mistletoe berries for applications ranging from bird traps too skin ulcer ointment. Now biochemists are investigating whether mistletoe’s clinginess can provide a natural alternative to synthetic glues.

      For the parasitic mistletoe plant, stickiness is essential. Inside each berry are seeds coated in a mucuslike substance called viscin. After a bird gobbles up and digests a berry, it expels globs of seeds in strands of the substance, which drape over tree branches and glue the seeds in place. The mistletoe then embeds itself into the tree, siphoning water and nutrients from its host.

      …viscin’s structure sets it apart from other adhesives. Whereas many synthetic gloes start as puddles of sticky chemicals, viscin is n=made of stiff strands of cellulose that help it hold firm. These strands are encased in a humidity-sensitive coating that keeps the substance extremely malleable: Under humid conditions, a viscin thread about a half centimeter long can be stretched to over two meters in length. When it dries, the goo stiffens like cement….

      The researchers found that viscin is strong—it supports weights 50 times heavier than mistletoe seeds—and it is also quite versatile. Viscin is adapted to adhere to bark and feathers, but the team found that it sticks to just about anything, including skin….

‘First, Tell the Truth’

[These excerpts are from an article by Janisse Ray in the Fall 2022 issue of National Parks.]

      …Growing cotton required a huge labor force, and plantation owners were willing to enslave, exploit and terrorize people for personal gain. Effective Jan. 1, 1808, however, the U.S. had banned the importation of people in captivity. It had not banned slavery itself. Therefore, until passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865, enslaved people continued to be trafficked domestically….

      Natchez was a major hub of America’s domestic slave trade….The majority…were marched down Old Natchez Trace in coffles guarded by overseers with whips and guns: the Slave Trail of Tears. This roughly three-month journey sometimes covered more than 1,000 miles; enslaved people walked 20 miles a day, slept on hard ground, and were fed hard tack and salt pork purchased along the way….

      After the Civil War ended, a brief period of Reconstruction in Mississippi quickly gave way to Jim Crow’s lynchings, segregation and vilence. For generations, Natchez effectively ignored its history of enslavement….

Lizards on the Lam

[These excerpts are from an article by Jacob Baynham in the Fall 2022 issue of National Parks.]

      …Native to Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uraguay, these 4-foot-long omnivorous lizards somehow found themselves in the wilds of the Sunshine State, where they’ve thrived. No one can prove how it happened – possible culprits range from individualpet releases to unscrupulous importers to breeding facilities damaged by hurricanes – but by 2008 it was clear that Miami-Dade County had a self-sustaining wild population of Argentine black-and-white tegus. By 2017, the first tegu was documented in Everglades National Park, and a hatchling was discovered there in 2020….

      All ground-nesting birds and reptiles in the Everglades are at risk….Tegus have been documented eating alligator and gopher tortoise eggs and hatchlings. Other species, such as the Eastern indigo snake, the Cape Sable seaside sparrow and the Eastern black rail, are also vulnerable….

      The Everglades ecosystem already faces plenty of adversity, notably from climate change and the resulting sea-level rise. Invasive plants, such as Australian pine and Brazilian pepper, outcompete endemic foliage and reduce valuable habitat. Burmese pythons, which also arrived via the exotic pet trade, have devastated several mammal populations in the Everglades.

      …Last year, 844 tegus were trapped in and around the park, but the tegu population shows no sign of declining – and a tegu’s lifespan can reach 20 years….

Partisanship and the Pandemic

[These excerpts are from a book review by Matthew S. Levendusky in the 7 October 2022 issue of Science.]

      …The pandemic has been deadlier, and more contentious than it otherwise would have been, they argue, because it became a political issue, beyond just a public health emergency.

      …Democrats and Republicans, they note, took sharply divergent positions on nearly all aspects of the pandemic, from masking, to stay-at-home orders, to concern about the virus, to views of the economy, to vaccines. They show that partisanship—more so than other any variable—best explains pandemic attitudes.

      The authors argue that the pandemic partisan polarization stems from the action of one man: Donald Trump. Trump’s actions throughout the pandemic consistently signaled that it was not a serious threat: He called to reopen the economy in the spring of 2020, he publicly disputed Anthony Fauci and other scientific experts, he held large in-person campaign rallies without requiring masks or social distancing, and he even downplayed the virus after it sent him to the hospital. This stood in stark contrast with the attitudes and behaviors of Joe Biden and other Democratic politicians, giving citizens a clear signal about how pandemic attitudes mapped onto partisanship and leading to the polarization the authors so carefully document….

Protect Wildlife from Livestock Diseases

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Thijs Kulken and Ruth Cromie in the 7 October 2022 issue of Science.]

      …The burgeoning worldwide production and trade of farmed animals poses an increasing threat of infectious disease for wildlife. Gloabally, over the past 50 years, the population of poultry has grown 6.1-fold, from 5.71 to 35.07 billion; of pigs, 1.7-fold from 547.17 to 952.63 million; and of cattle, 1.4-fold from 1.08 to 1.53 billion. These large livestock populations, which are connected through trade, form reservoirs where infectious diseases can evolve and spill over into wildlife, occasionally with devastating consequences. In 2016-2017, peste-despetits-ruminants virus spread from livestock to saiga antelope, killing ~80% of this critically endangered species in Mongolia. Since 2007, African swine fever virus has spread across Europe and Asia through trade of pigs and pigment products, spilling over into wild boar and threatening endangered species of wild suids in Southeast Asia. Other spillovers include Mycoplasma gallisepticus bacteria from poultry to house finches and other songbirds in North America, and Mycobacterium bovis bacteria from cattle to wild mammals worldwide.

      Livestock diseases are seen mainly as an economic problem for the agricultural sector (as well as a concern for human health if they can potentially pass from animals to humans), and are managed as such by nations. However, given the high frequency with which these diseases spill over into wildlife, and their potential impact, they are clearly a major threat to the conservation of biodiversity. This pressure comes on to of the stresses of habitat degradation, pollution, and climate change on wildlife.

      …More consideration must be given to the risk of future spillovers from livestock to wildlife in proposed fundamental reorganization of the food sector. Government departments responsible for wildlife protection must develop policies that prevent such spillovers and, in case this fails, have multi-agency and multi-stakeholder plans and mitigation strategies to control disease spread….

      …In middle- and hidh-income countries, these efforts must be complemented by a transition from animal- to plant-based proteins in the human diet so that reduced livestock production is mirrored by an equivalent reduction in demand for meat, dairy, and eggs….

Let’s Take another Look at Homework

[These excerpts are from an article by Katherine A. James in the September 2022 issue of Kappan.]

      …First, let’s ask, “What is the purpose of homework?” I see it as having a two-fold purpose: 1) to reinforce learning from the classroom and determine whether the student “can fly the plane solo” and practice what they’ve learned without the teacher present, and 2) to provide opportunities for the learner to reach beyond what they learned in the classroom and grow both intellectually and creatively.

      Second, let’s rename it: How about “opportunities at home?” This phrase captures that homework is not meant to keep students busy but to help them practice and grow in their learning at home, on their own….

      Must there be homework, or opportunities at home, every night? I say yes, but the activity’s ability to inspire learning is more important than the time spent….

Defying the Gravitational Pull of Education Politics

[These excerpts are from an article by Jonathan E. Collins in the September 2022 issue of Kappan.]

      …Essentially, a massive geophysical force constantly pulls our poor and/or Black and brown students to the bottom. It’s so omnipresent that they feel the tugs on their legs as soon as their educational journey begins….The explicit political organizing around the maintainence of racial and class advantages has been acting like quicksand to our children….

      …As a result of COVID-19 learning loss, experts have placed some of our children on a trajectory to earn less as adults, and the racial and economic earning and wage gaps are likely to worsen. A major educational crisis, with the power to drastically increase inequity, is staring us right in the face. Yet, our public discourse is ignoring it.

      …Unfortunately, this situation is not new. During the Jim Crow era in the U.S. South, we had the White Citizens Council, whose ideology was white supremacy and whose main political objectives were preventing Black Americans from voting and attending school with white children….

      …Violence is erupting at school boatrd meetings across the country over mask mandates, book selections, and critical race theory. Meanwhile, as was the case before, the political division and vitriol are distracting us from ensuring that our most vulnerable children are getting needed academic support. There continues to be more political organizing around preserving the power of whiteness than around helping our students become scientists, engineers, or the next generation of activists who could find solutions to our most pressing societal problems….

Public Schools, Religion, and Equality after Carson v. Makin

[These excerpts are from an article by Robert Kim in the September 2022 2021 issue of Kappan.]

      …Then there’s the issue of religiously motivated discrimination. The plaintiff schools in Carson had admissions policies that allowed them to deny enrollment to students based on gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and religion. The schools also required their teachers to be born-again Christians. Other sectarian schools have similar policies.

      So we’ve reached an unsettling prospect in which taxpayer funds can be directed to religious schools that a) seek to instill values considered discriminatory outside that religion and b) refuse to admit or employ students and educators whose identity or beliefs are inconsistent with those values….

      To be clear, the concern is not whether non-state-funded religious schools and employers can discriminate. Rather, the issue is whether state and local governments will be required to tolerate discriminatory practices at taxpeyers’ expenses….

      As Carson makes clear, a majority of justices on the current Supreme Court believes that states that subsidize private nonsectarian schools must also subsidize private religious schools. It also likely believes that, in many if not most circumstances, the First Amendment protects religious entities from having to comply with antidiscrimination laws that conflict with their religion. These positions may well result in more teachers and students working in or attending schools with a doctrinal commitment to treating children or employees unequally at taxpayers’ expenses….

Why Teachers Are Leaving and What We Can Do about It

[These excerpts are from an article by David T. Marshall, Time Pressley, Natalie M. Neugebauer & David M. SHannon in the September 2022 issue of Kappan.]

      Teaching has always been a demanding profession, and over the past two years, the demands have only increased. When school buildings closed for the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, teachers were asked to work under conditions for which they were not prepared….And when the 2020-21 school year began, some schools reopened entirely in person, with guidelines in place for masking and physical distancing; some schools opted for remote learning for the entire year; and others switched between in-person hybrid, and remote learning throughout the school year….

      The challenge of teacher retention has always existed, especially in schools in urban, rural, and/or high-poverty settings…and in subjects like math and science…, as well as in special education….But the problem of retaining teachers has gotten worse during the pandemic….

      Additional contributions to teachers’ declining mental health and well-being that are specific to the pandemic are the lack of connection to students and the challenges associated with inline teaching….Remote learning has made it more difficult for teachers to build meaningful relationships with their students, posing a significant barrier to both students’ and teachers’ personal development….Teachers also have reported high levels of burnout and stress, as well as low levels of job satisfaction, due to the challenges of teaching during the pandemic….

      The teachers who felt respected and trusted to make decisions about their teaching and who felt supported by parents and their school leadership were more satisfied with their jobs and less likely to pursue employment outside education….

      Additionally, parents need to remember that teachers often are just the messengers implementing requirements from school leaders and policy makers. Taking their frustrations about school policies or testing requirements to school leaders will more likely be more effective than blaming teachers for issues beyond their control, and it won’t add to teachers’ streaa. In most caases, the best way for parents to support their children is to work with teachers rather than against them….

It’s Time to Listen to Educators

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

      …And it was still the hardest job I’ve ever had. My two years inn the classroom tired me out in ways I’d never experienced and left me with even more respect for teachers than I’d had before.

      I’ve been thinking about my short teaching career a lot over the past two years, when teaching had become even more difficult than before. Every decision that teachers, administrators, and district leaders made has been fraught. Keep everyone safe from COVID by teaching remotely and risk leaving behind students who need in-person engagement. Bring students back to the classroom and scramble to keep the school open when large numbers of your faculty and staff come down with COVID. For many educators, there seem to be no good choices.

      All of these choices are being made in a climate where some community members are riled up and using school board meetings to air their frustrations in anger, without stopping to listen and understand what is happening….

      It’s no wonder that more and more teachers are considering leaving….

Donkeys Were Domesticated in Africa

[These excerpts are from an article by Freda Kreier in the 8 & 22 October 2022 issue of Science News.]

      …The general instruction books of over 200 donkeys from countries around the world show that these beasts of burden were domesticated in one fell swoop about 7,000 years ago in East Africa….

      Today, donkeys are found all over the globe. In Asia and Africa, dwindling numbers of wild asses – the closest wild relatives of donkeys – pointed toward one of these continents as the likely donkey homeland. Archeological evidence, including a 5,000-year-old Egyptian tablet depicting marching asses, zeroed in on Africa as the most probable contender….

      By comparing the genomes with those of wild asses, the team traced the lineage of all donkeys to a single domestication event in East Africa around 5000 B.C. From there, donkeys spread across Africa and into Europe, Asia and elsewhere….

Not All Camouflage Is Equally Effective

[These excerpts are from an article by Jake Buehler in the 8 & 22 October 2022 issue of Science News.]

      …Comparisons between differenc=t camouflage methods show that masquerading as specific objects in the environment is the best way to go unseen….

      …Camouflage tactics include “background matching,” where the animal matches the color and patterning of the environment, and “masquerading,” where the prey mimics a particular object uninteresting to predators, such as a twig leaf, bird droppings or even shed tarantula skin….

      The masquerade strategy was especially effective at helping prey elude preators, increasing search time by nearly 300 percent. One of the most striking examples of this…are caterpillars that disguise themselves as twigs….

      The team thinks masquerading is so effective because it’s so specialized. Prey that masquerade benefit from predators mistaking them for real objects, not just failing to detect them in the environment….

Test, Quizzes, Exams … Oh My!

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

      …Reading studets’ nonverbal language is one of the most powerful tools we have as educators. Furrowed brows. Gazing outside the window. Hiding under hoodies. Lack of eye contact. Hunched shoulders. All of these send us critical information about what our students are thinking, what they are contemplating, what they are confused by, and what they are tuning out. If we ignore their nonverbal signals, we miss a wealth of information on how our students are doing in our science courses.

      …We are looking for signs of curiosity, wonder, understanding, and the infamous “light bulb” that goes off when we see a struggling student finally grasp a phenomenon or difficult concept. What a feeling it is for both us and the student when the “light” goes on….

      We need students directly in the eyes when posing a question provides a moment-to-moment interaction with a particular student that affirms their knowledge base….Our body language transfers our feelings and impressions to our students in ways more powerful than we can imagine….

      Doodling has long been seen as an unproductive, off-task behavior. Recent research indicates that when students doodle, they are actually more in tune with what is happening in the classroom. Creativity and outside-the-box thinking can occur when this behavior occurs….

Climate Change Causes Deadly Record Heatwaves and Floods

[These excerpts are from an article by Olivia Nater in the September 2022 issue of Population Connection.]

      Temperatures across Europe, from Spain to the British Isles, soared this summer, causing record-breaking droughts and fires. The United Kingdom declared a national emergency when parts of its runways melted in the heatwave, while Portugal recorded more than 1,000 deathes due to extreme temperatures. French authorities battled wildfires and implemented water use restrictionas as more than 100 municipalities ran out of drinking water and required water truck supplies.

      Brutal heatwaves also hit India earlier this year, with temperatures reaching 100-year records. Aside from the direct threat to humannlives and livelihoods, heatwaves have been estimated to cost India’s economy 101 billion hours ofnlost labor annually due to outdoor work, such as agriculture and construction, becoming increasingly unmanageable.

      Deadly floods in Bangladesh have left millions of children homeless, hungry, and lacking health care, safe water, and education….

      A report published in May by the World Meterological Organization (WMO) reveal that four critical climate records were broken in 2021: atmospheric greenhouse gas levels, sea level rise, ocean warming, and ocean acidification. It also showed that the past seven years have been the warmest seven years on record….

The Sound of Silence

[These excerpts are from an article by Michael Shapiro in the Fall 2022 issue of Sierra]

      …Fallows quickly uncovered gas leaf blowers’ dirty secrets. Their primitive two-stroke engines emit dangerouspollutants, and the noise often causes substantial and irreversible hearing losses in those who operate them….

      …operating a commercial leaf blower for just one hour emits smog-forming pollution comparable to driving a new passenger car about 1,100 miles.

      …making it illegal to operate a gas-powered leaf blower in the nation’s capital and giving gardening companies more tha three years to prepare for the ban, which took effect last January. Electric blowers, which are much cleaner and less noisy, remain legal….

      …It’s aastounding but true: Gas leaf blowers, generators, and lawnblowers emit more air pollutants statewide than California’s 14 million cars….

The Climate and the Straw

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

      In a fractures America, here’s one thing most of us can agree on: Disposable plastic sucks. Eight in 10 voters support policies to reduce single-use plastics, and two-thirds of US residents say they’ll pay more for everyday materials that don’t contain plastic. Picking up plastic litter remains the go-to Earth Day activity, and “Is This Recyclable?” might as well be the latest environmental parlor game.

      The concerns about plastic make perfect sense. While carbon dioxide and methane are invisible—and extinction is an actual disappearing act—plastic is all too tangible. The cookie packages and water bottles, single-use baggies and flimsy cheese wrappers are inescapable. They are the emblam of wanton waste, the signature of a throwaway society….

      Most maddening is how truly unnecessary all of it is. The plastics boon is a classic case of big business manufacturing a demand for the needless. Awash in a glut of oil and gas from the fracking fields and facing decreasing enthusiasm for their products as renewable energies and electric vehicles increase in market share, the fossil fuel giants are looking to plastic to sustain their revenues….

      Disposable plastic is the ultimate false need: We can find ways to live without it. The fossil fuel giants’ profit margin can’t.

Better Data, Less Gun Violence

[These excerpts are from an editorial by Andrew R. Morral and Rosanna Smart in the 30 September 2022 issue of Science.]

      …The new opportunities this funding creates to understand and prevent firearm violence come at a critical moment. Firearm violence began increasing in 2015, with a sharp rise between 2019 and 2020, and again in 2021, resulting in firearm homicide rates not seen in the US since the end of the crack cocaine epidemic of the early 1990s. Although these increases occurred for nearly every demographic and geographic subgroup in the nation, they are highly concentrated among people who are Black, a group already facing firearm homicide rates 10 times greater than those of white people. Similarly, firearm suicides and suicides generally have soared in recent years, with preliminary 2021 counts showing a firearm suicide rate in the US greater than at any point in the past 43 years….

      Effective firearm violence prevention strategies require better understanding of the people, places, conditions, and antecedents of firearm violence, a line of research hampered by substandard federal data collection and laws that prohibit the federal government from sharing data with researchers….Furthermore, although the federal government has strong systems for counting the number of people killed by firearms, it fails at measuring nonfatal firearm injuries and crimes, which constitute the majority of firearm violence. There is no system that tracks hospitalization for firearm injuries in every state and over time. The federal government does not produce estimates of all police shootings, mass shootings, or intimate partner violence….Without high-quality measures of nonfatal firearm injuries and crimes, the prevalence and costs of interpersonal firearm violence are underreported….

      …However, amendments to the Justice Department’s appropriation bills (the Tiahrt Amendments) now prohibit the Bureau from sharing trace data with researchers. Other provisions of these amendments prohibit the federal government from retaining records verifying whether individuals passed federal background checks that are required to purchase a firearm….

Going after the Big Four

[These excerpts are from an article by Yet-Ming Chian and Bilge Yildiz in the September/October 2022 issue of MIT News.]

      …The products are, of course, ubiquitous. Steel is used in buildings and cars, and cement in buildings and infrastructure. Ammonia is the feedstock for fertilizer, and ethylene is a building block for some types of plastics….

      But in many cases they’re made through high-temperature processes powered by fossil fuels, and in others fossil fuels provide the raw material that goes into the end product. Coal typically powers cement kilns and steel plants; ammonia is synthesized with hydrogen, which comes from fossil-fuel feedstocks, including coal and oil; and ethylene is made largely from natural gas.

      The processes underlying these industries are so old, embedded, and entrenched in society and the economy that it’s almost impossible to conceive of changing them. And because the four products are commodities in which manufacturers have invested a great deal of capital and infrastructure, there has been little incentive to invest in developing cleaner processes….

      Shifting to electrochemical breakdown and reconstruction of chemical bonds would also make the production of ammonia and ethylene much cleaner….

Sugar Rush

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

      A tiny fuel cell developed by engineers at MIT and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) converts glucose, the fuel that powers every cell in our bodies, directly into electricity that could power implanted medical devices such as pacemakers….

      …The anode reacts with glucose in bodily fluids, releasing a pair of protons and a pair of electrons that are separated in the electrolyte. They flow in the cathose, where the protons combine with oxygen to form water that flows away with the body’s fluids, leaving the electrons to go through an external circuit.

      The idea of a glucose fuel cell is not new, but the researchers improved on previous designs by replacing the conventional polymer electrolyte with one made from a biocompatible ceramic, which retains its electrochemical properties at much higher temperatures and smaller scales than polymers do. The new device measures just 400 nanometers thick, and it can withstand temperatures up to 600 oC, so it can be sterilized for use in medical implants. It generates about 43 microwatts of electricity per square centimeter, achieving the highest power density of any abiotic glucose fuel cell to date under ambient conditions.

      The team sandwiched the electrolyte with an anode and cathode made of platinum, a stable material that readily reacts with glucose….

How Do Strong Muscles Keep Your Brain Healthy?

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

      We’ve often thought about muscles as a thing that exists separately from intellect—and perhaps that is even oppositional to it, one taking resources from the other. The truth is, our brains and muscles are in constant conversation with each other, sending electrochemical signals back and forth. In a very tangible way, our lifelong brain health depends on keeping our muscles moving.

      Skeletal muscle is the type of muscle that allows you to move your body around; it is one of the biggest organs in the human body. It is also an endocrine tissue, which means it releases signaling molecules that travel to other parts of your body to tell them to do things….

      Even moderate exercise can increase metabolism in brain regions important for learning and memory in older adults. And the brain itself has been found to respond to exercise in strikingly physical ways. The hippocampus, a brain structure that plays a major role in learning and memory, shrinks in late adulthood; this can result in an increased risk for dementia. Exercise training has been shown to increase the size of the hippocampus, even late in life, protecting against age-related loss and improving spatial memory….

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.

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