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 Post subject: from current journals as of 2017 03 19
PostPosted: Sun Mar 19, 2017 8:31 pm 
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Location: Broomfield, Colorado
Sky & Telescope April 2017
Focal Point
Let the Stones Stand Again
The Southern Colorado Astronomical Society received a donation of 35 acres near the Spanish Peaks, west of La Veta, Colorado. The group eventually hopes to develop an astronomy park, with several domes, camping, and picnic facilities. In the mean time they took advantage of a donation of “post rock” from Kansas to erect a “Neolithic-style” stone calendar. Details at http://www.skyandtelescope.com/sky-and- ... -calendar/

American Scientist March-April 2017
The Biodiversity Conservation Paradox
The authors spend some time making what should be a fairly obvious point. Species diversity is usually taken as a Good Thing in environmentalism. However, it ain’t necessarily so; the counterexample is New Zealand, which has considerably greater species diversity now than it did before Maori or European colonization. The reason, of course, is colonizers introduced a lot of non-native plants and animals.
Metformin: Out of Backwaters and into the Mainstream
I had read somewhere that metformin is an example of US government over-precaution in response to the thalidomide event; metformin was approved for treatment of Type II diabetes in the UK and France in 1957 and 1958, in Canada in 1972, but not in the US until 1994. This article gives a more nuanced discussion; it’s noted that metformin and phenformin, a similar drug, were introduced simultaneously but phenformin caused fatal lactic acidosis in 4 out of every 1000 patients – this qualifies as a “serious adverse side effect”. There are no details in the article; it’s simply noted that the Canadians could withdraw their approval for phenformin without affecting metformin but “this option was not available to Americans in the 1970s”. It’s still not explained why the US took so long to approve metformin; it was being used in over 80 countries with no adverse side effects for years before it was finally approved.
Risks and Benefits of Radiation
The author, Timothy Jorgensen, is a radiologist; the article is preaching to the choir about exaggeration of radiation risks. Jorgensen’s approach is anecdotal; he cites the example of the Watras family of Pennsylvania, who had the misfortune to live in a house on the Reading Prong, where naturally occurring uranium ore decays to radon which then makes its way into houses through the basements. Jorgenson notes that the Linear No Threshold model for radon exposure during the one year the Watras family had lived in their home increased their lifetime lung cancer risk by a factor of seven and argues that the EPA’s risk calculation methods are counterproductive for overall health; they cause stress in families exposed to natural radiation, like the Watras’, and scare people away from desirable medical procedures using radiation.

GSA Today March-April 2017
Zealandia: Earth’s Hidden Continent
We’ve had some threads about what makes a continent before; the geological consensus is continental crust – granites and similar bedrock. The authors (who, not surprisingly, are all from New Zealand and New Caledonia) propose “Zealandia” as a new continent. The above-sea-level parts of Zealandia consist of New Zealand, New Caledonia, Fiji, Tonga, and some miscellaneous smaller islands. It’s noted all of these have granite cores, there are subsurface granite features connecting them, and Zealandia is separated from Australia (the closest “real” continent) by a deep-water fracture zone. Interesting, but don’t know that it matters too much.

Science 3 March 2017
News
Water rule on the chopping block
We’ve had threads on the “Waters of the United States” before. The original concept comes from one of the earliest environmental laws, the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, which forbade dumping so much stuff into the “navigable waters of the United States” that it became a menace to navigation. Things stuck at that level until the Clean Water Act of 1972, when the definition of navigable waters was expanded to include waters that were actually navigable plus anything that flowed into them; thus an intermittent stream that only contained water one year out of every ten counted if it connected to a navigable waterway somehow. The waters that remained exempted were isolated ponds and streams. Then the courts got into the act; in the infamous “glancing goose” case, a court decided that an abandoned gravel pit was protected under the CWA because wildfowl might land in it, and since wildfowl crossed state and national borders they were somehow engaged in interstate commerce. The 2015 update to the CWA that the administration wants to repeal was actually sort of an improvement on the previous situation; because of the patchwork of court orders and agency decisions an activist group could find “waters of the United States” just about anywhere and use the CWA to block development while the lawyers mud-wrestled over it. The 2015 Obama administration rule expanded the definition from the original 1972 rules but pre-empted legal entanglements by putting the burden of proof on the EPA; if there’s a question over whether, say, a golf course water hazard is “waters of the United States” the EPA must prove that there’s some sort of connection to navigable water rather than the country club having to prove that there isn’t. Thus, unless the EPA develops a new rule, the administration role-back might actually make things worse.
Cost of stealing trade secrets
According to a report by bipartisan NGO Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, theft of trade secrets costs the US $800G/yr. China is the primary culprit with biotechnology and quantum communications as the principal targets. The report recommended sanctioning companies that receive stolen intellectual property as a first step, then “…what’s truly required will become clearer”.
Scientists drop U.S. Citizenship
Nobel laureate (Physics, 1957) Yang Chen Ning and A.M. Turing Award winner (2000) Yao Qizhi apparently formally renounced their US citizenship in 2015; this didn’t come to light until recently, when they were inducted into the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Both have been living in Beijing since 2004, Ning is 94 and Qizhi is 70.
News in Depth
Sequencing all life captivates biologists
Chinese entrepreneur Huanming Yang and Smithsonian evolutionary biologist John Kress have announced a project to DNA sequence all 1.5M named eukaryotes. The first step will be to sequence one member from each eukaryote family (around 9000), then to do one from each genus (around 200000) and finally every species. The project is expected to cost around $4.8G; showing the rate of advance, this is about the same as the funding of the Human Genome Project, 30 years ago.
Critics assail India’s attempt to “validate” folk remedy
It is reassuring to find the US is not the only country that has an administration containing people of less than orthodox scientific views. The Indian Science Minister, Harsh Vardan, has announced research to use modern scientific tools to “show to the world the supremacy of Ayurveda”. The particular research target is panchagavya, a drink made of cow urine, cow dung, milk, yogurt, and clarified butter. The truth is panchagavya is “very strong and very powerful”, announced Vardan; it is prescribed by Ayurveda practitioners for a variety of conditions, including autism, diabetes, schizophrenia, and cancer. Critics note there seems to be a presupposition that panchagavya is effective.
Close relative of Neandertals unearthed in China
Reports
Late Pleistocene archaic human crania from Xuchang, China
We had a thread about Denisovans and whether or not they counted as a new species. The problem is Denisovans are known only from DNA sequences from a single finger bone found in a Siberian cave. The species naming rules for zoology do not (yet) allow naming a new species based on DNA (although they do allow naming based on a photograph or drawing, and the rule doesn’t apply to microbiology; there are whole bacterial groups defined solely on the basis of isolated DNA). The finger bone source of DNA was not different enough from other hominin finger bones to base a species name on it, so people have been looking for a more concrete example of a Denisovan. There are now two partial skulls from a Chinese site that just might be Denisovans; the skulls date from 105-125 ka. Unfortunately there’s no DNA to go with them yet, but they’re working on it. Note and full report.

Geology March 2017
Pyritized in situ trilobite eggs from the Ordovician of New York (Lorraine Group): implications for trilobite reproductive biology
This one made the MSM. There are a set of Ordovician black shales in central New York; interbedded are a few very thing beds that are interpreted as turbidity current deposits. A turbidity current is an underwater sediment flow: sediment accumulates on an underwater slope until it becomes unstable; something happens – earthquake, hurricane, just exceeding the angle of repose – and the stuff flows off downhill. In the process it can carry shallow water organisms into deep anoxic water; the lack of oxygen and presence of sulfur metabolizing bacteria can convert organic remains – including soft body parts that don’t normally fossilize - to pyrite. (I stress this happens rarely; there are lots of turbidity deposits in the New York Ordovician shales and only two of them so far show pyritized fossils.
Pyritized fossils previously found in these deposits include the trilobite Triarthrus eatoni, and show the delicate legs and gills.

Image

This time the authors found another pyritized T. eatoni with little ellipsoidal objects in the head region they interpret as egg. The head may seem odd as a place to brood eggs, but it’s noted that horseshoe crabs, which the authors suggest are the closest living relatives of trilobites, have brood pouches in the head region. Unfortunately one of the characteristics of pyrite fossilization is it only affects the surface of the fossil; thus there’s no detectable internal structure in the eggs. I note that John Cisne of Cornell, who literally wrote the book on T. eatoni, is a little skeptical and suggests the purported eggs may just be random pyrite deposits.

Equable end Mesoproterozoic climate in the absence of high CO₂
The faint early Sun again. Quick recap: Astrophysical models put solar output during the Proterozoic at around 82%-95% of current levels. Assuming all else is equal, this should have frozen all the water on the planet; However, there is abundant geological evidence for liquid water (although there are periodic glaciations during the Proterozoic, they aren’t planet encompassing until the very end (Snowball Earth), and there’s some doubt about it even then). There are a variety of explanations for how the Earth stayed warm; the usual one is some sort of atmospheric greenhouse gas. However, straight CO₂ as a greenhouse gas requires unreasonably high levels (30-300x preindustrial levels). Here the authors suggest the other greenhouse gas was methane, produced by bacteria, and use NCAR climate models to show that CO₂ levels only 10x the preindustrial level will work if coupled with methane concentrations around 140 ppmv.

Nature 23 February 2017
This Week
Legal limbo
Nature calls for the European Union to stop “dragging its feet” on regulating products created by CRISPR methods. After several environmental groups and trade unions in France brought lawsuits, the issue was referred to the European Court of Justice, which expects to produce a decision by 2018. Sweden and Finland have told scientists they can go ahead with CRISPR plants. Nature notes the ECJ has a history of “confused” verdicts on biological issues; in 2011 it ruled that basic research on human embryonic stem cells was “immoral” and the same year “upended” the European honey market with a ruling on honey with detectable pollen from GM maize.
News in Focus
Salmonella suspected in Aztec decline
The native population of Mexico was estimated at 25M when Cortes arrived in 1519; in 1619 it was estimated at 1M. Imported European diseases are blamed – probably correctly – but which diseases were involved is unknown. One of the epidemics was known as cocoliztli; analysis of skeletons from people believed to have died from cocoliztli showed DNA from Salmonella enterica strain Paratyphi C. Some are unconvinced, noting that if the people had died from a virus disease the methods wouldn’t have picked it up.
News and Views
Earth’s seven sisters
Letter
Seven temperate terrestrial planets around the nearby ultracool dwarf star TRAPPIST-1
This made the MSM. TRAPPIST stands for Transiting Planets and Planetesimals Small Telescope; the star is very small, only slightly larger than Jupiter. The planets occupy roughly the same orbital distance as the Galilean satellites of Jupiter (Io to Callisto), are all Earth to Mars size, and are all in the zone around the star where liquid water could exist. Science fiction writers should have fun with the system.

Nature 16 February 2017
Seven Days]
Homeopathy blow
The Russian Academy of Sciences has officially declared homeopathy “unscientific and ineffective”.
News in Focus
Long-sought maths proof could shake up seismology
Riemannian manifolds are generalized curved space. The degree of curvature and the number of dimensions determines the shortest distance between two points in a Riemannian manifold. The “boundary-rigidity conjecture” suggested the process could be reversed; given the shortest distance between two points in a Riemannian manifold, could you work out its shape. As it turns out, according to a recent proof by mathematicians at Purdue, you can. Then, since the seismic wave travel time between two points establishes the shortest distance, seismic travel times can be used to map the Earth’s internal structure. It’s noted it may take a while for actual practical applications.
News & Views
Pulsating ice sheet
Letter
Heinrich events triggered by ocean forcing and modulated by isostatic adjustment
“Heinrich events” are periodic “outbursts” of icebergs into the North Atlantic. The events are detected in sediment cores by a sudden increase in glacially-derived sediment. You might expect an outbreak of icebergs to correlate with global warming, but, paradoxically, Heinrich events correlate with Dansgaard-Oeschgar events, which are periods of global cooling. Several explanations have been proposed but so far all have been unsatisfactory; the model proposed here seems to work. (1) A continental ice sheet ends at a bedrock sill that prevents contact with ocean water. (2) Eventually the weight of the ice depresses the sill (3) During a Dansgaard-Oeschgar event, oceanic circulation changes and warmer, deep waters make it to the surface. (4) This causes the ice sheet rapidly melt back and calve off an armada of icebergs. (5) Isostatic rebound causes the sill to rise again, cutting off contact with ocean water (6) The ice sheet advances to the sill again. Note and full paper.


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 Post subject: Re: from current journals as of 2017 03 19
PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2017 9:34 am 
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Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 11:22 am
Posts: 1020
Quote:
Cost of stealing trade secrets
According to a report by bipartisan NGO Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, theft of trade secrets costs the US $800G/yr. ...

:o

And according to the RIAA, the U.S. economy loses $12.5 billion in total output annually as a consequence of music theft.

IOW, sometime a salt-lick is required. :lol:


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 Post subject: Re: from current journals as of 2017 03 19
PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2017 9:58 am 
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Location: California-prev Texas Montreal Virginia
The Jorgensen reference on radiation from American Scientist is said to be excerpted from his book Strange Glow. https://www.amazon.com/Strange-Glow-Rad ... op?ie=UTF8


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 Post subject: Re: from current journals as of 2017 03 19
PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2017 10:03 am 
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entropy wrote:
The Jorgensen reference on radiation from American Scientist is said to be excerpted from his book Strange Glow. https://www.amazon.com/Strange-Glow-Rad ... op?ie=UTF8


Can we quietly slip that in near the top of Set's reading list? I want a decent review before I invest.


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 Post subject: Re: from current journals as of 2017 03 19
PostPosted: Mon Mar 20, 2017 12:31 pm 
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Posts: 8222
setnahkt wrote:
Sky & Telescope April 2017
Metformin: Out of Backwaters and into the Mainstream
I had read somewhere that metformin is an example of US government over-precaution in response to the thalidomide event; metformin was approved for treatment of Type II diabetes in the UK and France in 1957 and 1958, in Canada in 1972, but not in the US until 1994. This article gives a more nuanced discussion; it’s noted that metformin and phenformin, a similar drug, were introduced simultaneously but phenformin caused fatal lactic acidosis in 4 out of every 1000 patients – this qualifies as a “serious adverse side effect”. There are no details in the article; it’s simply noted that the Canadians could withdraw their approval for phenformin without affecting metformin but “this option was not available to Americans in the 1970s”. It’s still not explained why the US took so long to approve metformin; it was being used in over 80 countries with no adverse side effects for years before it was finally approved.\


Been taking a gram a day of the stuff for seven years now. It's the closest thing to a wonder drug for Type II diabetes: Cheap as dirt (because it's a very small molecule), impressive safety record, its long term side effects appear to be mostly benign or actually beneficial, and effective.

Quote:
Risks and Benefits of Radiation
The author, Timothy Jorgensen, is a radiologist; the article is preaching to the choir about exaggeration of radiation risks. Jorgensen’s approach is anecdotal; he cites the example of the Watras family of Pennsylvania, who had the misfortune to live in a house on the Reading Prong, where naturally occurring uranium ore decays to radon which then makes its way into houses through the basements. Jorgenson notes that the Linear No Threshold model for radon exposure during the one year the Watras family had lived in their home increased their lifetime lung cancer risk by a factor of seven and argues that the EPA’s risk calculation methods are counterproductive for overall health; they cause stress in families exposed to natural radiation, like the Watras’, and scare people away from desirable medical procedures using radiation.


Does he have anything to say about hysteresis?

The LNT model is so obviously flawed I'm surprised anyone takes it seriously. But then, there appear to be groups that have a vested interest in the model.

Quote:
Science 3 March 2017
News
Water rule on the chopping block
We’ve had threads on the “Waters of the United States” before. The original concept comes from one of the earliest environmental laws, the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899, which forbade dumping so much stuff into the “navigable waters of the United States” that it became a menace to navigation. Things stuck at that level until the Clean Water Act of 1972, when the definition of navigable waters was expanded to include waters that were actually navigable plus anything that flowed into them; thus an intermittent stream that only contained water one year out of every ten counted if it connected to a navigable waterway somehow. The waters that remained exempted were isolated ponds and streams. Then the courts got into the act; in the infamous “glancing goose” case, a court decided that an abandoned gravel pit was protected under the CWA because wildfowl might land in it, and since wildfowl crossed state and national borders they were somehow engaged in interstate commerce. The 2015 update to the CWA that the administration wants to repeal was actually sort of an improvement on the previous situation; because of the patchwork of court orders and agency decisions an activist group could find “waters of the United States” just about anywhere and use the CWA to block development while the lawyers mud-wrestled over it. The 2015 Obama administration rule expanded the definition from the original 1972 rules but pre-empted legal entanglements by putting the burden of proof on the EPA; if there’s a question over whether, say, a golf course water hazard is “waters of the United States” the EPA must prove that there’s some sort of connection to navigable water rather than the country club having to prove that there isn’t. Thus, unless the EPA develops a new rule, the administration role-back might actually make things worse.


Yeah, I think I've launched some of those threads. There is an arroyo running through the high desert town I live in that contains water only during the heaviest rain. While serving on a local planning board, I was startled to learn that the Army Corps of Engineers asserted a right to review and possibly veto any plans we made that impacted the arroyo, because of the "navigable waters of the United States" thing. It's hard to imagine a more blatant power grab.

Quote:
Salmonella suspected in Aztec decline


Montezuma's Revenge?

Quote:
Nature 16 February 2017
Seven Days]
Homeopathy blow
The Russian Academy of Sciences has officially declared homeopathy “unscientific and ineffective”.


It's rather depressing when what really amounts to a third-world country is more sensible on this than we are.

Quote:
News in Focus
Long-sought maths proof could shake up seismology
Riemannian manifolds are generalized curved space. The degree of curvature and the number of dimensions determines the shortest distance between two points in a Riemannian manifold. The “boundary-rigidity conjecture” suggested the process could be reversed; given the shortest distance between two points in a Riemannian manifold, could you work out its shape. As it turns out, according to a recent proof by mathematicians at Purdue, you can. Then, since the seismic wave travel time between two points establishes the shortest distance, seismic travel times can be used to map the Earth’s internal structure. It’s noted it may take a while for actual practical applications.


I had the impression that tomography already pretty much did this?


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