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 Post subject: from current journals as of 2017 07 06
PostPosted: Thu Jul 06, 2017 9:00 pm 
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Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 10:48 am
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Location: Broomfield, Colorado
Scientific American July 2017
Raise Alcohol Taxes, Reduce Violence
The author argues that two thirds of violent attacks are alcohol related, and statistics from states show raising alcohol taxes decreases alcohol consumption. It doesn’t claim those states had a decrease in violence – the states in question were Illinois and Maryland. (It does comment that there was a reduction in gonorrhea cases in both states). The author also notes alcohol taxes are more popular than gun control.
Can plants hear?
Experiments seem to indicate they might be able to; when grown in a tube with two branches, one silent and one with a recording of running water, seedlings grew toward the water (it’s noted, though, when given the choice between the sound of running water and humidity, plants grew toward the moisture). There’s also evidence that the sound of buzzing insects causes pollen release. There’s no mechanism proposed, other than some arm-waving about fine hairs as mechanoreceptors.
Uncharted territory
The search for evidence of the fate of MH370 resulted in vastly improved topographic maps of the Indian Ocean seafloor; an Australian geoscientist remarked “The dataset is unprecedented in terms of the magnitude of the area surveyed…”
Grandma’s Robot Helper
Several “social” robots are under development, that are supposed to assist seniors in socializing; in tests they apparently work. Some include features to monitor heart and breathing rate.
The Science of Health
Probiotics Are No Panacea
The bacterial strains added tend to be those easy to grow, not ones that actually survive digestion and make it into the gut. There is no evidence of benefit to healthy individuals. However, specific bacteria cultures can help people with certain medical conditions – opportunistic infections after antibiotic treatment, enterocolitis (especially in infants), and irritable bowel syndrome.
Graphic Science
The Baby Spike
Graphs of births by minute of day show a huge spike at 8:00 local time – because that’s when Caesarians are scheduled. There’s a second, smaller spike between 12:00 and 13:00, presumably due to scheduled deliveries. By hour and day, Tuesday has the most babies and Sunday the fewest. By day of year, Thanksgiving and the days before and after have the fewest; the most are 9 months after Christmas and New Years.

Science 23 June 2017
News in brief
How cats conquered the world
Genetic studies suggest two waves of cat domestication: one in Anatolia about 6500 ya, and a second in Egypt about 5500 ya. The Egyptian cats seem to dominate, though; it’s possible cats were actually domesticated there independent of the Anatolian ones.
Construction begins on the world’s largest predator-free zone
The Australian Wildlife Conservancy is fencing off a 262 Kha sanctuary near Alice Springs. All feral cats inside will be killed. The fence will be “jump proof”; it’s intended to protect quolls, bandicoots, wallabies, numbats and other small fauna. Some conservationists are skeptical.
News in depth
Drowned wildebeest provide ecological feast
Migrating wildebeest are a staple of nature films. Lots of them (about 6500 each year) drown trying to cross the Mara River; ecologists studied the results, finding the carcasses provided up to 50% of the diet for local fish and add 13 tons of phosphorus, 25 tons of nitrogen, and 107 tons of carbon to the ecosystem. Working with African animals is one of the glamour jobs in science; working among 6500 decomposing wildebeest carcasses under the hot African sun might not be.
Texas signals support for unproven stem cell therapies
Texas is one of several states to enact a “right to try” law, which allows patients access to treatments not approved by the FDA. There are some protections; the treatment must be recommended by a physician, administered in a hospital or similar setting, and must have had some human testing previously. Bioethicists are skeptical.
News features
Trial balloons
Balloons are normally constrained in both flight duration and path; as a balloon is heated during the day it expands, so gas must be valved off and eventually runs out; the path is constrained by winds. NASA has tested “superpressure” balloons with some success; these eliminate the need to valves gas and potentially allow very long flights. Private companies are getting into the act with controllable balloons. These use solar panels to pump air into and out of the balloon, allowing it to change density, take advantage of wind direction in different stratosphere layers, and potentially “hover” (or at least stay in the same general area) for days. The private balloons were originally intended for human scenic rides, but were approached by scientists when it was learned they could fly payloads for an order of magnitude cheaper than NASA balloons (and, of course, are much cheaper than satellites).
Fast exoskeleton optimization
Human-in-the-loop optimization of exoskeleton assistance during walking
Powered exoskeletons have been a staple of science fiction for years; recently engineered have developed devices that actually work. However, calibrating the things took a long time. Now a new algorithm allows a 24% reduction in walking energy use with under an hour of calibration. The devices are expected to be useful for stroke patients and people with respiratory impairment. Note and paper.
Policy Forum
Brains, environments, and policy responses to addiction
The authors, with Stanford and the Veterans Affairs Health System, note – probably not to anyone’s surprise – that political approaches to addiction usually don’t work and are sometimes even worse than useless. It’s noted that treating addiction requires long term intervention, and that approaches that use immediate, small rewards and punishments – examples given are a meal voucher for a negative urine test or a night in jail for drinking – work better than long prison terms in reducing mortality. Studies suggest the brain is most susceptible to addiction in adolescence, which is something everybody probably already knew, but it’s useful to have it verified.

Nature 22 June 2017
Track batteries degrading in real time
The authors note that electrode degradation is a major problem with lithium batteries, but nobody knows quite how and why this happens. They note that opening the battery to look at the electrodes changes them, thus there needs to be a way to monitor electrodes in real time.

Nature 15 June 2017
This Week
Not-so-open data
The editorial notes that everybody seems to agree that scientific data sharing is a good idea but no one wants to do anything about it. Part of the problem seems to be data sharing is expensive – it’s mentioned that the US preprint server arXiv costs about $1.3M/year to run, and the UK Data Archive about £5.5M/year. While there are commercial, for-profit data servers out there, many granting agencies prohibit their use, which Nature calls “misguided”.
World View
Let Trump claim a better deal on climate
The author is with the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions. He notes a fundamental feature of the Paris Accords is the individual contributions are “nationally determined”; thus the US could return to the accords with a lower contribution, which would (according to the editorial) make him look like he knows how to “deal”. It’s noted the “…greater obstacle may be our own visceral aversion to letting Trump ‘get his way’”.
News feature
Venice gets a time machine
The State Archives of Venice fill 80 kilometers of shelves in former Franciscan friary. The documents go back more than 1000 years and include maps, monographs, manuscripts, sheet music, medical records, notary records, death registers, architectural plans, and ambassador’s reports, handwritten in Latin or Venetian dialect. There’s now an effort underway to scan them all, with automated scanners and even a machine that used CAT-scan technology to read books without opening them.

Scientific American June 2017
Robo Pizzaiolo
The University of Naples has built a robot that makes pizza, from kneading the dough to tossing it into the air to stretch it. The machine will debut at the 2018 Naples Pizza Festival.
The Science of Health
Revenge of the Super Lice
About two-thirds to three-quarters of lice in the US are immune to pyrethroids. There is now a national chain of manual delousers because pesticide treatments are no longer effective. In Europe, lice can be treated with silicone oil, which suffocates them; this has not yet been approved in the US. Some years back I was doing a site assessment on an abandoned building; in one of the back corners I came across an olive drab one-gallon can labeled “DDT”. I thought about scooping it up and taking it home, just in case I ever needed it; but I didn’t. Maybe I’ll regret that someday. Perhaps not, though; according to the article DDT and pyrethroids have similar mechanisms – interfering with cellular sodium channels – so immunity to one “jump starts” immunity to the other.

Nature 25 May 2017
News in focus
Plankton-boosting project in Chile sparks controversy
Years ago we had a thread about a “rogue” geoengineering project involving dumping iron into the Pacific as a plankton fertilizer. This article adds some details to that. The Oceanos Marine Research Foundation is a nonprofit operating out of Vancouver BC. It seems to be an arm of Oceanos Environmental Solutions, a for-profit company which holds a number of patents on iron fertilization technology. The UN put a moratorium on iron fertilization experiments in 2008, except “small ones in national waters”. In 2012, US based entrepreneur convinced a Haida Nation village to sponsor an iron fertilization experiment; the Nature article doesn’t say so explicitly but apparently the Haida count as a “nation” and the waters involved “national waters” under the UN rules. Supposedly the Haida were told the experiment would boost salmon production and that they could claim carbon-sequestration credits for it. An Oceanos executive read about the Haida experiment and hired one of the organizers. Now Oceanos – the non-profit arm – wants to do a similar experiment in Chilean waters. The usual parties are outraged.
CRISPR editing seeks the perfect tomato
Years ago, attempts to introduce the “Flavr-Savr” tomatoes started the woowoo war on GMOs. Now those evil mad scientists are at it again. The situation is interesting and ironical because genetic engineering is proposed to undo a deleterious effect introduced by conventional breeding. In the 1950s, botanists found a tomato breed on the Galapagos Islands that lacked the weakened joint at the base of the fruit. In wild tomatoes, this joint allows the fruit to fall off the vine easily for seed dispersal, but this trait made things difficult for mechanical tomato harvesters. The Galapagos strain was bred with other tomato varieties to strengthen the joint. Unfortunately, the crossbreed introduced a deleterious trait; the plants developed many extra flowers, which acted as a strain on development and diminished the number and size of fruit. Now botanists have tracked down the genes that cause this and want to use CRISPR to eliminate them. No woowoos have complained as yet.
Decline in Zika throws trials into doubt
Zika was poised to be the next plague as cases shot up precipitously in early 2016. Now they have dropped; not quite a precipitous and not quite back to zero, but so low that scientists are having trouble locating enough cases to do drug trials. Nobody is quite sure why; epidemiologists speculate that most Zika cases don’t cause any symptoms and by now enough people in the affected areas have contracted the disease and developed immunity. This is, of course, good news and bad news; clearly good in that there won’t be macrocephalic babies in bunches but bad in that there’s no guarantee a different strain of the virus won’t crop up and start things all over again.
The environment needs cryptogovernance
The technical details here are beyond me. The author, a Swedish ecology professor, explains the “blockchain” technology used by Bitcoin, but not quite well enough for me to figure it out. The gist, though, is blockchains are absolutely trustworthy and cannot be manipulated by governments, organizations, or individuals; and that they could be used to verify not only financial transactions but other transactions – resources, carbon credits, fish catches, etc. It’s noted a startup in London is using blockchain to track gems (and thereby preventing “conflict diamonds”) and Walmart is using it in China to track pork production, including source farms and storage temperatures. Even in the financial sector, it’s claimed blockchain could provide banking services to billions of Third World people who lack them, without any fear of money being siphoned off or embezzled. Problems are noted: existing governments and institutions will fiercely resist blockchain (but, according to the author, it’s “too late to ban Bitcoin”); it requires a network of high-powered servers to make it work – Bitcoin consumes 10.4T watt/hour/year, “equivalent to whole cities”; people will find it difficult to understand; and if you lose the cryptographic key to your Bitcoin storage there is absolutely no way to recover it (if there were, it wouldn’t have the security it does). I don’t know; seems too good to be true. Will have to do more research.
The concurrent emergence and causes of double volcanic hotspot tracks on the Pacific Plate
As noted in previous threads, there’s some debate about the reality of hotspots. The authors here don’t get into that; instead they note that careful examination of the Hawaii hotspot tracks actually discloses two subparallel traces: the “Loa” track and the “Kea” track. The tracks diverge just east of O’ahu; the Penguin Bank (underwater), Lana’i, Kaho’olawe, Mahukona (underwater), Hualalal (Hawaii), Mauna Loa (Hawaii), and Lo’ihi (underwater) are on the “Loa” track, and Moloka’I, Maui, Kohala (Hawaii), Mauna Kea (Hawaii), and Kilauea (Hawaii) are on the “Kea” track. (Spelling is the authors). The lavas produced on the two tracks are mineralogically and isotopically distinct. The authors explain this by proposing the “Loa” type lavas are produced by lower pressure melts and “Kea” type lavas by higher pressure melts. The hotspot plume is stretched in the direction of plate motion; the lower pressure “Loa” lavas come from further west in the plume (where it is closer to the surface and therefore lower pressure) and the “Kea” lavas from further east. The divergence of the two tracks results from a change in Pacific Plate motion.

Bats Issue 2 2017
Seeking answers in the wind
We’ve had some threads before on the deleterious effects of wind turbines on bats. They turn out to be especially hard on hoary bats (Lasiurus cinereus); most bats hibernate for the winter but hoary bats migrate. With fairly well know figures for wind turbine mortality (128K/year) and reasonable assumptions for hoary bat population and wind energy growth, the species will experience a 50-90% decline in the next 50 years. Hoary bats are small, even for bats – about 12 grams – which has made it hard to attach tracking devices; infrared video cameras have helped studies somewhat. So far the best approach seems to be attaching ultrasonic noisemakers to the blades to make the area “acoustically uncomfortable” for bats.

Scientific American April 2017
Science Agenda
A Better Reckoning
The editorial notes that inconsistent death certificates distort health statistics. For example, a certificate might say “lung cancer” even though the disease had metastasized from the ovaries. Some standardized forms don’t have check boxes for “suicide” or “drug resistant infection”. Alcohol-related traffic deaths are claimed to be underreported by a factor of seven, based on comparing death certificates with traffic safety records. A few years ago, New York City claimed heart attack deaths 1.7 times the national average; improved doctor training in filling out death certificates dropped the number to average. And there’s a longstanding dispute over medical errors; the CDC claims they are underreported because of concerns over litigation and reluctance to admit wrongdoing, while a BMJ article claims the underreporting is due to weak coding on death certificate forms (it’s interesting to note both parties agree on the underreporting). Suggested fixes are increased training in medical school and electronic reporting, to allow AI to intervene in case of (for example) cancer that may have metastasized from elsewhere. There are some post threads about “apples and oranges” statistics, particularly those from totalitarian countries and countries with national health programs that might want to make them appear more effective than they actually are.
Stay out of scientist’s emails
A classic example of the law of unintended consequences and political hypocrisy. The framers of the FOIA doubtless thought it would be used to make government transparent; instead it’s used to harass scientists. I note supporters of both political parties seem equally guilty, with the left going after supporters of GMO crops while the right harasses climate scientists; the editorial only mentions climate science, though.
Inside the echo chamber
Another example of the law of unintended consequences. The Internet was supposed to revolutionize human intelligence; instead we have people convinced NASA is operating child slave colonies on Mars so Barack Obama can import magic Martian water. The authors of this article are Italian social scientists and therefore studied Italian web sites; the research confirmed what was probably already suspected: conspiracy pages get three times the attention of real science pages; conspiracy believers tend to share news much more widely; conspiracy believers exclude those who do not have their worldview; debunking reinforces belief in conspiracy; believers in one conspiracy actively seek out other conspiracies to believe in. The authors are pessimistic and do not offer any suggestions, other than proposing “Information Age” should be changed to “Credulity Age”.
Time to worry about anthrax again
A fairly detailed analysis of the 1979 anthrax release in Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinaburg). The US didn’t file a formal complaint against the USSR for violating the 1972 Biological Weapons Convention; the USSR claimed the outbreak was due to gastrointestinal anthrax, caused by contaminated sausage. In 1992 Boris Yeltsin admitted that the USSR had been conducting a bioweapons program and ordered it shut down. The article claims the Russian military concealed what remained of the program from political leadership; in 1999 Vladimir Putin reversed Yeltsin’s position, saying neither the USSR or the successor Russian government had ever undertaken an offensive bioweapons program, instead they had only developed defensive measures allowed by the treaty. There were various rumors that the USSR had developed an especially infective anthrax strain; samples from the Sverdlovsk release were finally sequenced in 2015 and turned out to be a previously known Eurasian strain. It’s noted that international scientists still have not been allowed to visit three military and five civilian “defensive” bioweapons facilities in Russia.

Earth March-April 2017
Shale boom could fuel batteries
The authors portray lithium economics. Global lithium prices doubled in 2015 (I should say, Chinese lithium prices doubled, because that’s where most of it comes from). The authors seem perplexed why prices are increasing even though lithium demand is a small fraction of world lithium reserves (32500 tonnes demand versus 14M tonnes known reserve and 40M tonnes inferred reserve). They also note as demand for hybrid and electric cars rises; for example, Tesla’s new “Gigafactory” in Nevada expects to consume 4000 tonnes/year. They suggest produced water from fracking could provide lithium, noting the Marcellus Shale produced water lithium concentration ranges from 80 to 200 mg/l, and a years’ produced water from the Marcellus contains 545 tonnes of lithium. It’s also noted current lithium production generally comes from subsurface brine “pools”, so perhaps the technology to extract it from produced water is already there.

Nature 16 March 2017
This Week
Transparency upgrade for Nature journals
Nature has dropped length limits on online methods description; has introduced “registered” reports in Nature Human Behavior, where papers are accepted based on the significance of the question and robustness of results rather than outcome; and has adopted Transparency Openness Promotion guidelines for all Nature journals.
News in focus
Data contest sparks controversy
The New England Journal of Medicine sponsored a contest for researchers to study a huge database from a blood-pressure trial to look for new findings; the researchers who collected the data are annoyed, saying as many as 50 papers have been “scooped” by the contest. However, since the research was funded under contract by the NIH they had no say in the matter. While “a lot of interesting ideas have come from this”, it’s noted that the “return on investment” for the original investigators was dramatically reduced. (The study, Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT)), was intended to see if lowering blood pressure below the current recommended limits had health benefits).

Earth January- February 2017
Seabird feces cools Arctic slightly
Ammonia released from seabird guano contributes to particulates that act to nucleate clouds and reduce Arctic warming.
Burning grass releases more nitrogen pollution than burning wood
The University of Colorado at Boulder is investigating biomass burning. Among other phenomena noted is crop and grass fires emit 10 times as much acetonitrile as wood fires; this is significant for Colorado since acetonitrile concentrations are commonly used to estimate the contribution of wood burning to air emissions. The study authors note the small amounts of acetonitrile emitted by wood burning will require recalculation of many biomass burning models, and suggest substituting furfural as a wood-burning marker compound.
Music: The Sounds of the Sea
The Wave Organ in San Francisco uses an assortment of PVC pipes to make sound as waves change the air volume. It’s on a jetty in San Francisco bay; the organ is most active at high tide. The Morske Orgulje is a similar instrument in Zadar, Croatia; in this case the organ is a series of perforated marble steps that channel air to a central resonating chamber. The material came from buildings destroyed in WWII. The High Tide Organ in Blackpool, England is the most recent and most conspicuous instrument; it stands 15 meters tall with a series of buried pipes that extend to the ocean. Another geological instrument is the Stalacpipe Organ in Luray Caverns, Virginia; this has a keyboard that allows a player to trigger rubber mallets that strike stalactites scattered around the cavern.

 Post subject: Re: from current journals as of 2017 07 06
PostPosted: Sat Jul 08, 2017 12:21 pm 
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Joined: Fri Apr 04, 2008 12:20 pm
Posts: 848
Location: Tantalizingly close to Colorado
One nit to pick...produced water is produced water, regardless of whether hydraulic fracturing was involved.

Not sure how the Chinese do it, but brine pools are how the Chileans mine lithium in the Atacama desert.

Fun fact: The oil industry produces more water than oil. Dealing with it is a large expense, and often the cheapest thing to do is reinje::ct it in disposal wells, or clean it up just enough to use in a waterflood to sweep more oil out of a reservoir. And it is often quite briney, up to 400,000ppm in some fields.
Maybe in a place with a lot of oil development and infrastructure and an arid climate, such as the Permian Basin, some startup could have a go at lithium extraction?

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