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 Post subject: from current journals as of 2017 08 10
PostPosted: Thu Aug 10, 2017 9:24 pm 
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Sky & Telescope September 2017
News Notes
NASA’s Lunar Orbiter Takes a Hit
A micrometeorite hit the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter; the object is estimated at 0.001 gram and about 0.8 mm across, but moving at 7 k/s. The impact occurred on October 13, 2014 but wasn’t noticed until, when a zigzag line, cause by vibration from the impact, showed up on a picture being scanned at the time.
In Brief
Jupiter Impact Spotted
In another impact related observation, amateur astronomers in Corsica and Germany simultaneously videotaped an impact in Jupiter’s north polar region on May 26. The fireball was about the apparent size of the satellite Europa.

Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute August 2017
Now Hear This
Mine Warfare: Work Dumber, Not Smarter
Every couple of months, there’s an article in this journal noting the USN is grossly underprepared for mine warfare. This article suggests rather than spending on minesweeping ships or helicopters or drones or whatever, the Navy adopt a simple but apparently “dumb” solution; lead convoys with a ship that can take mine hits. Back in 1987, during the “Tanker War” between Iran and Iraq, the US Navy found itself in the embarrassing position of being committed to escort tankers through the Persian Gulf but having no minesweepers, resulting in the humiliating spectacle of US warships forming behind the civilian tanker Bridgeton. The Bridgeton had already taken one mine hit but plowed merrily along to Kuwait with naval vessels trailing behind. The article proposes continuing this idea; for the cost of various failed mine countermeasures programs, the US Navy could buy a whole fleet of surplus tankers, outfit them with additional watertight bulkheads and magnetic coils, and use them to plow through minefields ahead of warships. It’s a superficially attractive idea but probably won’t work with “smart” mines, that can detect the difference between the acoustic signature of a warship and a tanker, or that have counters and don’t detonate until a certain number of ships have passed. I note “counting” mines go all the way back to WWII; they were mentioned in the previously reviewed Battle for Antwerp.
The Coast Guard Can Reduce Risk in the South China Sea
A Global Fish War is Coming
A couple of articles focusing on issues between the US, China, and China’s neighbors. There are a number of islands in the South China Sea (some are actual unarguable islands, others are just shoals or banks that are only exposed at low tide). Nobody cared much about them until the 1980s, when the Law of the Sea Treaty established the concept of “exclusive economic zones” extending outward from national territory. Then they suddenly became important, as possession gave the owning state a big chunk of ocean as an EEZ for fishing, oil extraction, and so forth. Thus, the islands are disputed between Brunei, China, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam. China is the big fish in this ocean and has engaged in some fairly aggressive tactics, including tying groups of fishing boats together to keep a Korean Coast Guard vessel from seizing them for illegal fishing, ramming a Indonesian patrol boat to get it to release a seized Chinese fishing vessel, and escorting a convoy of over 100 unmarked fishing boats through Malaysian water. The US Coast Guard has had Chinese “ride along” fishery enforcement people on some cutters, and they have made some arrests of boats fishing illegally, but it’s noted that the Chinese have a more limited definition of what constitutes “illegal fishing” than US or international law.

Scientific American August 2017
Plastic-Eating Worms
The larvae of the greater wax moth – normally a pest on bee hives – turn out to be able to consume polyethylene. A paste made of the larvae also breaks down polyethylene. It isn’t clear if the larvae themselves are producing the polyethylene-degrading enzyme, or if it’s their gut microbiota. It also isn’t clear if the larvae are actually deriving nutritional value from polyethylene.
Education Report
A Matter of Choice
The subheading for the article is “Studies show that school vouchers lead to lower math and reading scores. So why has the Trump administration embraced them?”. The full article notes that one of the reasons for this is many voucher schools opt out of the standardized test protocols, and teach more subjects – such as art and foreign languages – than those offered in public schools. It’s interesting to note that standardized testing was once hated by “progressives” when George Bush was doing it, but now it’s suddenly a great thing. There’s a couple of other comments – voucher schools have a higher graduation rate than public schools, and students and parents perceive them as safer. The author article is a former senior editor at Newsweek.
Graphic Science
Reactors Reshuffled
The “Graphic Science” page is one of the few things I like about the “new” Scientific American; in this case it’s a graph of commercial nuclear reactors under construction, by reactor type. The US is claimed to have four – a little googling discloses they are all at existing plants. The United Arab Emirates also has four – all being built by South Korea; Russia has five, India has five – and China has 19. The two Japanese reactors under construction are both boiling water, and of the India reactors, two are exotic: one is pressurized heavy water, and one is a fast breeder. All the others are pressurized water.

Earth July-August 2017
A Moving Target: What You Need to Know About Drone Regulations
We’ve had threads about FAA drone regulations before, in particular how the impact scientific researchers. This article summarizes the rule, with special emphasis for geology and with the caveat that the authors are “by no means legal experts”. Drone flyers have a choice of two sets of rules, the “model aircraft” rules and the “unmanned aerial systems” rules. The model aircraft rules apply only to hobby and recreational use, so it would seem that use for geology would come under the stricter UAS rules, which cover “commercial use”; however, the FAA has issued a memo that students may fly drones as recreational users as long as it is for their own research related to degree advancement and doesn’t result in compensation; any other research use is “commercial” and comes under the UAS rules (which require registration of the UAS and a Remote Pilot Certificate). The authors note there is at least one case of a landowner shooting down a drone, and the Oklahoma legislature is considering a bill making it legal to shoot down drones; but the further note that since the FAA now classifies drones as aircraft under its jurisdiction it would seem that shooting one down would draw the same response as shooting down any other aircraft. They express hopes for further clarification – for example, exactly how high above the ground do property rights extend.
Platinum may point to impact theory for Younger Dryas
The Younger Dryas occurred between around 13K-11.5K ybp; it was a sudden and dramatic reversal of the Pleistocene warming trend, followed by an equally sudden and even more dramatic warming (Greenland temperature proxies show warming at about 1°C/year for ten years). So far the consensus explanation has something to do with the draining of Lake Agassiz, which put a layer of fresh water on top of the North Atlantic and interfered with oceanic circulation; a minority theory is a cometary impact over Canada. The cometary theory has been around for a while; advocates claim an atmospheric impact over the Laurentide ice sheet, which is why there is no crater. They also claim various shocked minerals and nanodiamonds in sediments of the correct age – although these are inconsistent with the absence of a crater. Now a number of sites around the US are claimed to show platinum spikes at about the right time. Impact theory proponents say “the evidence keeps mounting”; opponents say the goal posts keep changing, with airbursts or impacts over water or over ice or multiple smaller impacts used to explain some observation or the lack of some evidence.
Nineteenth-century cows muddied Southern California continental shelf
The Clean Water Act apparently requires wastewater agencies from the Los Angeles and San Diego areas to routinely sample seafloor mud from their discharge areas. I wasn’t aware of any such requirement myself but the CWA requires custom permits for all sorts of activities, so it’s perfectly plausible. At any rate, after the CWA requirements have been met, the agencies have been passing the samples on to researchers. It was noted that brachiopods – which require clear water – started declining around 1820 and were completely extirpated by 1910. The authors considered a number of possible explanations but eventually settled on input of sediment from cattle ranching.

Weatherwise July-August 2017
Denver, Colorado – The “Mile High City”
A short discussion of Denver weather. An item of interest to me was Aurora (the suburb east of Denver and the second largest city in Colorado) statistically the most tornado-prone city in the US, due to a phenomenon called the “Denver Convergence Vorticity Zone”. On the plus side, Colorado tornadoes are usually F0-F2, not the F4-F5 city eaters you get in Tornado Alley.
On the job
Mary Ann Cooper
Dr. Cooper specializes in keraunomedicine – the treatment of lightning injuries. She notes the current death rate in the US is about 30/year, down from 90/year 30 years ago. Worldwide, the death rate is 6000-24000/year, mostly in Africa, and exacerbated by the belief that lightning can be persuaded to strike elsewhere by standing on a hilltop and gesturing at the storm.

Science 21 July 2017
Cancer therapy passes milestone
The FDA approved CAR-T cell therapy, which removes a patient’s immune cells, genetically modifies them to destroy cancer cells, and reinfuses them. The therapy is approved for people aged 3 to 25 who have a specific form of leukemia; it has severe side effects but 83% of the people receiving it went into remission. It is the first gene therapy approved for the US market.
News in depth
NIH redefines clinical trials, attracting critics
Behavioral studies – the example given is using an MRI to record brain activity while doing a task – are now counted as “clinical trials” under NIH rules. New requirements are training staff and registering and reporting results at The rule actually went into effect in 2014, but most researchers hadn’t noticed it until now. The Federation of Associations in Behavioral and Brain Science claims this will “bureaucratize science”; however, it’s conceded that the policy might help with the “file drawer” problem.

Nature 27 July 2017
Homo zappiens
The editorial takes issue with educational establishment claims that the “digital” generation requires different teaching methods, noting that “Education policy is particularly vulnerable to political whims” and finding that actual evidence doesn’t finds supposed difference between the digital generation and earlier ones is illusory.

Nature 20 July 2017
Internal exile
The editorial notes a number of political jurisdictions promoted Diesel vehicles on the assumption that they generated less pollutants that gasoline (since it’s Nature, I’m translating from “petrol”) ones. This is now being reversed; London is now charging more for Diesel vehicle entrance, Oslo banned Diesel vehicles for a day last January, and Paris, Athens, Madrid, and Mexico City have all announced complete bans on Diesel vehicles by 2025. It’s claimed the 2015 Volkswagen Diesel emission scandal contributed to the change in public perception. The trend is electric and hybrid; Volvo will stop making ICE powered vehicles next year, and France and Germany have pledged to eliminate them by 2040. There’s an ominous note at the end; the UK’s National Grid found vehicle charging will soak up all the power of a nuclear plant by 2030.
World View
The DeepMind debacle demands dialogue on data
I hadn’t heard of this before. Three London hospitals were cited for mishandling of patient data. The hospitals had given patient data to Google subsidiary DeepMind, to develop an application that would search for signs of kidney disease. Regulators ruled this violated patient privacy laws (the ruling went against the hospitals, not DeepMind). The author is executive director of the Royal Statistical Society and notes that there are tremendous opportunities in “big data” but public confidence must be maintained.
Seven Days
New icebreakers
The United States Coast Guard needs four new icebreakers to maintain polar research commitments, according to the NSF. Currently only the 41-year-old Polar Star is considered a “Heavy Icebreaker”; the smaller Healy is a “Medium Icebreaker”, and the Polar Sea is in limbo after a mishandled engine overhaul caused catastrophic failure of four of the five Diesel engines.
News in Focus
Europe fights for ancient forest
The Polish government is fighting the rest of Europe – and environmental activists chaining themselves to trees – over plans to increase logging in the Bialowieża Forest. The Poles argue that logging is necessary to remove dead trees killed by the European spruce bark beetle; the environmentalists argue that beetle kill is a natural process and the forest will regenerate.
News and Views
Early signs of human presence in Australia
Human occupation of northern Australia by 65,000 years ago
In the wake of claims of extremely early human presence in California comes a claim of human presence in Australia at around 65000 ybp (human arrival was previously estimated at around 45000 ybp). The research, at a rockshelter in Madjedbebe, used optically stimulated luminescence to date stone tools in the lowest human occupation layer. Note and full paper.
Large-scale physical activity data reveal worldwide activity inequality
I’m always a little suspicious of articles with “inequality” in the title; consider the widespread complaints of “wealth inequality” in the US; would it be better if anybody would be equally poor? However, all data has its uses. In this case, the authors use cell phone data to measure “activity inequality”; not physical activity directly (although they present data on that as well), but the difference in activity between groups. They note that activity inequality is a better predictor of overall national health than average activity. Of the countries studied, the most active is China, and China also has the lowest activity inequality and lowest obesity. The least active is Saudi Arabia (although the US has higher obesity); Saudi Arabia also has the highest activity inequality (all the Islamic countries studied have high activity inequality; attributed to great differences in physical activity between men and women). There’s a graph of “activity inequality” versus “walkability” for US cites; the authors don’t say how “walkability” is computed; a little googling suggests it has to do with the distance to the nearest amenity in several classes – businesses, theaters, parks, schools, etc. The graph indicates New York is the most walkable city in the US and San Antonio the least; I was surprised to find Los Angeles in the middle, given that city's notoriety for encouraging driving. At any rate, “walkability” correlates strongly with “activity inequality”.
Infant viewing of social scenes is under genetic control and is atypical in autism
The authors took children – they don’t specify the age ranges, but it might be available in the online supplemental data – and tracked their eye movements when they were presented with various targets – faces, “facelike stimuli”, “biological motion” and inanimate objects. Autistic children spent significantly less time looking at faces and parts of faces – eye and mouth – than nonautistic children. What’s more, a number of twins were tested, and the amount of time spent looking at the “social” stimuli is highly correlated in twins (whether they are autistic or not). The authors generalize “looking at faces” to “seeking social information”, which seems reasonable.
CRISPR-Cas encoding of a digital movie into the genomes of a population of living bacteria
We’ve had comments before on how much data you can store in DNA. It’s also known that most DNA is “junk” – not coding for anything – and thus you can mess around with it with impunity. And, finally, there’s the best mad scientist tradition of doing weird stuff just because you can. Thus, the authors used CRISPR-Cas to encode Eadweard Muybridge’s famous movie of a galloping horse into bacterial DNA as a .gif file. Exactly what applications this will have in real life are unclear, but it’s way cool.
Game on
The article discusses board, card, and digital games that teach scientific concepts. There aren’t a lot of actual games listed – presumably so Nature doesn’t get accused of being and advertising venue. Two games described are Xtronaut, about solar system exploration, and Gut Check, about gut microbiota. (It’s noted the original version of that one had a flaw where a player could kill an opponent by multiple plays of the “Fecal Transplant” card; the game designer corrected that by only allowing that card to be used by the owning player. I can’t wait for the role-playing version). At any rate, readers are referred to a web site, where reviews of various games are posted.

Science 14 July 2017
Tesla to build huge battery
In response to South Australia’s power troubles, Tesla is building a 100-Mw Li-ion battery that will “smooth out the variability inherent in sustainable power generation schemes”. To be installed at the Hornsdale Wind Farm.
News in depth
CubeSat networks hasten shift to commercial weather data
We’ve had threads about CubeSats before. A new application is GPS-RO – GPS radio occultation. GPS satellites are constantly transmitting positioning data; atmospheric temperature, pressure, and humidity affect the passage of the signal slightly. If a satellite is receiving the signal from another satellite just at the “horizon”, the signal changes in a way that allows measurement of the properties of the intervening atmosphere; the techniques was originally developed for planetary missions measuring the atmospheres of Mars and Venus. Lots of cheap CubeSats can do lots of measurements. There are the usual questions on if and how the data will be publicly available.
Policy forum
When early adopters don’t adopt
Its noted that “natural early adopters” (NEAs) strongly influence the diffusion of new technology to the general public; it behooves entrepreneurs to initially release a new technology to a “select” few rather than the mainstream market. The idea was tested at MIT in 2014, where each undergraduate was given $100 in bitcoin and instructions on how to use it; however, recipients had to sign up for a waiting list, answer a detailed survey and create a digital wallet. The sign-up order was assumed to identify NEAs. Then 50% of the students were given a two-week delay before receiving their bitcoin. Among the students who were identified as NEAs from the waiting list and survey, twice as many cashed out their bitcoin in the first two weeks if delayed, suggesting they derived value from being early adopters. The effect was much larger in dorms than with students living off campus, and larger still in small dorms versus large dorms.
Reconciling solar and stellar magnetic cycles with nonlinear dynamo simulations
The Sun undergoes a roughly 11-year cycle in magnetic field strength and polarity. While other stars have such cycles, they didn’t seem to match the Sun very well, leading to the suggestion that the Sun was not a “solar-type” star. Simulations show the cycles depend on stellar rotation and luminosity, and the period is inversely proportional to the star’s Rossby number, which quantifies the relation between rotation and turbulent convection. When this is accounted for the Sun’s magnetic phenomena are compatible with other similar stars and the Sun is a “solar-type” star after all.

Nature 13 July 2016
This Week
AI love you
The editorial notes that robots are being programmed to act as human companions, but that there is little discussion of them as sex objects. The editorial claims that sex-doll brothels exist, and quick googling suggests this is the case. It’s noted that academic research on the subject is difficult, and a conference on robot sex was asked to move from its original venue in London when the site found the topic “uncomfortable”. It’s noted that it may be possible to hack sex robots; I find the possible outcomes of that funny but unsettling.
Seven days
Modified moth
The USDA has approved the release of genetically modified diamondback moths in New York. The moths are fluorescent, allowing them to be easily tracked, and their female offspring never mature. The idea is to reduce the wild population. Moth larvae feed on broccoli and cauliflower.

Science 7 July 2017
News Features
How algorithms can analyze the mood of the masses
From a special issue on AI in science. The University of Pennsylvania looked at Twitter for words related to anger and negative relationships, the correlated them to county-wide heart disease mortality rates. The social media predictions matched actual mortality rates better than traditional predictors like smoking and diabetes. You can play around with maps by US county for various things at
How to beat the traffic
Research reports
Citywide effects of high-occupancy vehicle restrictions: Evidence from “three-in-one” in Jakarta
Jakarta is supposed to have the worst traffic congestion in the world; to combat this the city had introduced HOV lanes. These proved very unpopular; among criticisms were than lanes went unused, enforcement was lax, and people hired themselves out as passengers to allow drivers to use the 3+ lanes. In response to the allegations the city eliminated the HOV lanes in March 2016. Studies indicated the HOV lanes had worked, as traffic delays went up by 40% in the morning and 70% in the evening. However, congestion had receded by the summer – although not to levels before the HOV policy was dropped. It’s suggested that drivers may have adopted strategies that made sense in the long run but not the short run, that there were seasonal changes, or some other factor. Note and paper.
Research Article
Cognitive science in the field: A preschool intervention durably enhances intuitive but not formal mathematics
The study tested the idea that preschool children interacting with adults will improve their later school and life performance. The authors note “The idea is intuitively appealing and has received considerable support from both academics and policy makers”; however they also note numerous studies show the Head Start program in the US provides only small and short-term effects; they suggest this is “…perhaps because Head Start may not be much better than the alternative preschool choices available to poor U.S. children.”. In this study, the target population was preschool children in India and the test involved adults playing mathematical games. The conclusion was the games improved “nonsymbolic mathematics performance” but not “formal mathematics”. Examples of “nonsymbolic” abilities that were improved were the ability to recognize a dissimilar shape among a group of shapes and the ability to approximate numbers (an example given is a group of red dots and a group of blue dots, and the subject is asked to estimate which group is larger without actually counting dots.

Nature 23 March 2017
(An older issue that got put in the wrong stack)
Seven Days
Weedkiller ruling
The European Chemicals Agency concluded glyphosate is not a carcinogen. It is noted a “heated debate” is expected over reauthorizing glyphosate.
News in focus
Warped worlds in virtual reality
Topologist Henry Segerman at Oklahoma State University is working with physicist Elisabetta Matsumoto at Georgia Tech to develop a hyperbolic space VR headset. Right now all you can do in the hyperbolic space is explore tilings with solid shapes, but the teams plans to build hyperbolic streets and houses, and eventually allow users to play non-Euclidian basketball.
News and Views
Dividing the dinosaurs
A new hypothesis of dinosaur relationships and early dinosaur evolution
For years the taxonomic division of Dinosauria was into Ornithischia (“bird-hipped”; the ischium points backwards) and Saurischia (“lizard-hipped”, the ischium points down). Ornithischia were hadrosaurs (“duckbills”), ceratopsians (Triceratops) and stegosaurs; Saurischia were sauropods and theropods (ironically birds are descended from theropods, which are saurischians). There were a couple of groups that didn’t fit into this scheme, like the Herrerasauridae. The new classification does not depend on hip structure, and groups ornithischians with theropods and sauropods with herrerasaurs. Note and technical paper.
Science 24 February 2017
News from the 2017 annual meeting
Guilt plays a role in altruism
In a standard economic game, one party gets a reward, and can optionally share some of it with a partner. Most of the time people will split evenly. In this version, one party gets an award as usual, but the partner is told it was much less. Does the winner share half of his actual winnings or half of what his partner thought he got? Apparently there are distinct patterns of brain activity associated with the two options.
News in depth
Publication ban upends NIH lab, collaborators
Last year the NIH fired veteran neurologist Allen Braun from his lab at the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communications Disorders (NIDCD). The cause was supposedly widespread but minor violations of experimental protocol, involving prescreening and vetting of volunteers for brain imaging and other experiments. Braun reported the violations himself. The NIH responded by deciding that all data from the studies, back to 1992, were unusable and could not be published. The collateral damage to people working with Braun is “staggering”; in one case cited two graduate students had to shift thesis topics and an undergraduate couldn’t publish a paper. Other scientists expressed puzzlement with the decision, noting that there was nothing that would impact the validity of the data; a patient advocacy group wrote the NIH asking them to reconsider, but the NIH is standing by its decision.

 Post subject: Re: from current journals as of 2017 08 10
PostPosted: Sun Aug 13, 2017 1:16 pm 

Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 10:45 am
Posts: 3576
Location: Toronto
Thanks Set. I think I've read something about half of these subjects on Facebook, but none were anywhere near as illuminating or correct as your summaries.

Winter is coming.

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