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Climate change and warming rivers may have caused the mass death of salmon in parts of Alaska, scientists say.Large numbers of salmon died prematurely in some Alaskan rivers in July according to local reports, and scientists believe the cause could be the unprecedented heatwave that gripped the state last month.“Climate change is here in Alaska. We are seeing it. We are feeling it. And our salmon are dying because of it,” said Stephanie Quinn-Davidson, a biologist specialising in salmon and the director of the Yukon Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, in a Facebook post.> 200 miles of river. Dead chum consistently along entire stretch. None had spawned. 850 counted, many more missed. Likely ruled out mining, disease/parasites. All signs point to heat stress. Sad to see. Hoping this is not the new normal. climatechange salmon yukonriver alaska pic.twitter.com/zAHWSgy3pg> > — Steph Quinn-Davidson (@SalmonStephAK) > > July 29, 2019
Did Russia’s nuclear-powered cruise missile just blow up? Or was it something else that spewed a radioactive cloud and triggered radiation alarms? An accident at a military test site in northern Russia has sparked speculation of a mishap with the 9M730 Burevestnik ("Petrel"), an intercontinental cruise missile powered by a nuclear reactor. Russia has confirmed an explosion during an August 8 test at Nyonoksa, a military testing base on the White Sea. The explosion killed employees of Rosatom, Russia’s state-owned nuclear energy corporation. “Five Rosatom staff members died and a further three people were injured in a tragic accident that took place during tests on a liquid propulsion system involving isotopes at a military facility in Arkhangelsk region,” stated a brief Rosatom announcement. After Russian media reports that radiation in the area had spiked to 200 times normal background levels, Russian news agency TASS hastened to claim that the dose was less than that of a medical X-ray—though the village near the explosion has been ordered to evacuate, raising memories of the Chernobyl incident. The fact that the accident involved rocket propulsion and radioactive isotopes immediately led to speculation that the Burevestnik (NATO code name SSC-X-9 Skyfall) was involved. In fact, President Donald Trump went on Twitter to announce that “we have similar, though more advanced, technology. The Russian ‘Skyfall’ explosion has people worried about the air around the facility, and far beyond. Not good!” But Edward Geist, an expert on Russian nuclear history at the RAND Corp. think tank, cautioned that it is premature to assume that the Petrel was the culprit. “The case that this may be associated with the nuclear cruise missile is pretty circumstantial,” Geist told The National Interest. For example, the site of the accident is a closed Russian military town that is “associated with the testing of all kinds of missiles.” Perhaps there was an accident involving Petrel. Or, perhaps there was an accident involving another weapon that damaged a Petrel. Or, maybe Russia was testing some other system: among Putin’s much-touted wonder weapons is the nuclear-powered Poseidon robotic torpedo. In other words, something happened, and that something involved fatalities and release of radiation. But we can’t be sure, and the Russian government isn’t likely to tell us. Nonetheless, Geist suspects that Russia is expanding on Cold War-era Soviet research into nuclear aircraft propulsion. During that era, both the U.S. and the Soviet Union explored nuclear-powered manned aircraft. They also explored nuclear-powered missiles, such as the notorious 1950s U.S. Project Pluto, a nuclear-powered, low-altitude, supersonic ramjet missile that would have dropped atomic bombs over the Soviet Union—and poisoned the Russian countryside with radioactive exhaust from its reactor. While the United States abandoned those projects by the 1960s, Soviet research continued into the 1970s, according to Guest. It is more than possible that Petrel is based on those old nuclear ramjet designs. The problem isn’t with nuclear power per se. NASA uses Radioisotope Power Systems—fueled by plutonium—for its spacecraft exploring Mars, Saturn, Pluto and the Voyager probes that have journeyed beyond our solar system. Operating so far from the Sun, solar power isn’t an option. Despite some public fears about launching a plutonium device through the atmosphere aboard a rocket, the system has so far worked safely. But these spacecraft spend almost all of their lives far, far from Earth. Not only are there technical challenges to powering a missile or aircraft with a nuclear reactor (especially if the aircraft is manned), but the Petrel will fly inside the atmosphere. Nor is it clear why Russia needs a nuclear-powered cruise missile in the first place. Russia claims that because such a weapon has unlimited range, it can evade U.S. missile defenses designed to stop ballistic missiles descending from space rather than low-flying cruise missiles. Yet even if the Petrel was hard to detect and intercept, it would be too slow as a first-strike weapon. It would be more useful as a retaliatory weapon. But as always with the nuclear Balance of Terror, it would be simpler to just build more ICBMs, armed with multiple warheads, to overwhelm anti-missile defenses. An ICBM can also reach its target within 30 minutes, compared to a cruise missile that would take hours. Unlike an ICBM, a nuclear-powered cruise missile could potentially stay aloft indefinitely. But over whose territory would the radiation-spewing missile orbit? For how long? And why would anyone want a nuclear missile orbiting over their heads 24/7? Michael Peck is a contributing writer for the National Interest. He can be found on Twitter and Facebook.Image: Reuters
An 8-month-old dugong nurtured by marine experts after it was found lost near a beach in southern Thailand has died of what biologists believe was a combination of shock and ingesting plastic waste, officials said Saturday. The female dugong — a large ocean mammal — was named "Marium" and became a hit in Thailand after images of biologists embracing and feeding her with milk and seagrass spread across social media. Veterinarians and volunteers had set out in canoes to feed Marium up to 15 times a day while also giving her health checks.
From guitars to traditional medicines and from tusk to tail, mankind's exploitation of the planet's fauna and flora is putting some of them at risk of extinction. Representatives of some 180 nations are meeting in Geneva to agree on protections for vulnerable species, taking up issues including the trade in ivory and the demand for shark fin soup. The World Wildlife Conference on trade in endangered species, known as CITES, which takes place every three years, aims to make sure that global trade in specimens of wild animals and plants doesn't jeopardize their survival.
During a reporting fellowship in Rhode Island five years ago, I was taken to a beach in Narragansett. Not for beach play and swimming, but to see how the area was losing its beach to rising seas and catastrophic storms, as well as settling of the Earth. In other words, Rhode Island, which already had a low shoreline, is slowly sinking while the waters adjacent to it are rising at a more rapid pace.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine announced today that Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama will take the lead role in developing the vehicles for landing astronauts on the moon – which could be good news for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin space venture, but definitely came as bad news for Texas lawmakers. To be fair, Texas is getting a piece of the action in NASA's Artemis moon program as well: NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston will continue to take the lead role in human spaceflight – and in the development of the ascent module for the human landing system.… Read More
Gov. Tony Evers issued an executive order Friday creating a new office to help his administration achieve his goal of 100% carbon-free electricity in Wisconsin by 2050 after Republicans killed the proposal in the state budget. The governor issued an executive order creating the Office of Sustainability and Clean Energy within the state Department of Administration. The order requires the office to work with other state agencies and utilities to achieve the goal of ensuring all electricity used within the state is generated from sources that don't emit carbon dioxide as coal and natural gas do.
NASA picked Alabama's "Rocket City" on Friday to lead development of the next moon lander for astronauts. Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville beat out Johnson Space Center in Houston, which managed the Apollo lunar lander a half-century ago. The new lunar lander — not yet built or even designed — is meant to carry an American woman and a man to the moon's south pole by 2024.
NIH Funding Opportunities
- Immune Tolerance Network (UM1 Clinical Trial Required)
- Notice to Withdraw the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a Participating Organization from PAR-19-334 entitled "SBIR/STTR Commercialization Readiness Pilot (CRP) Program Technical Assistance (SB1, R44) Clinical Trial Not Allowed"
- Notice of Special Interest (NOSI): Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) Fellowship Awards to Support Training in Research Related to Down Syndrome as Part of the INCLUDE Project
- Notice of Special Interest (NOSI): Mentored Career Development Awards to Foster the Careers of Investigators Pursuing Research Related to Down syndrome as Part of the INCLUDE Project
- Reminder of application instructions and policies impacting SBIR/STTR Commercialization Readiness Pilot (CRP) Program Technical Assistance PAR-19-333, PAR-19-334, and PAR-19-335