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You’ve surely heard about Thursday’s incident at a Con Edison substation in New York City that knocked out power at LaGuardia airport and set the night skies glowing with an eerie aquamarine. We wondered: What made it so BLUE?
Two deaths were attributed to severe weather in the US Midwest as heavy snow and high winds snarled air and ground transportation during a busy holiday travel period. More than 450 flight cancelations and 2,900 delays were reported as of Friday morning as the winter storm blanketed areas from the north central plains and the Midwest with eight to 12 inches of snow.
The elephant in the room has been, for a very long time, Moore’s Law—or really, its eventual end game. Intel co-founder Gordon Moore predicted in a 1965 paper that the number of transistors on a chip would double each year. More transistors mean more speed, and that steady increase has fueled decades of computer progress. It is the traditional way CPU makers make their CPUs faster. But those advances in transistors are showing signs of slowing down. “That’s running out of steam,” said Natalie Jerger, a professor of electrical and computer engineering at the University of Toronto.
German carmaker Volkswagen has revealed a first glimpse of its mobile quick charging station for electric vehicles (EVs), which will go into production in 2020. With this first glimpse, Volkswagen has demonstrated that it's possible to provide temporary charging facilities, which will open up new avenues for the future expansion of recharging networks. The goal is to be able, for example, to set up charging points at large-scale events, or on company premises.
It's like 'being shot in the head': 3 women share the painful toll of chronic migraines
With the end of 2018 comes the near-certain reality that some critters, after millions of years of existence on Earth, are gone for good. There's little question that humanity's continued exploitation of wild animals and the depletion of their habitats have left many species either clinging to existence, or at worst, extinct. Today's extinctions are happening 100 to 1000 times faster than the expected, natural rate of die-offs. It's grim. "The topic gets a hold of people in a way that few things do," Sea McKeon, a biology professor at St. Mary's College of Maryland and co-host of "The Naturalist Podcast," said in an interview. 2017 saw the extinctions of multiple lizard species and a bat. This year, scientists brought news that three bird species that were thought potentially extinct, have gone completely extinct. Using a novel analysis, biologists at the conservation group BirdLife International published research concluding that Hawaii's insect-eating forest-bird, the poʻouli, is now extinct, along with two Brazilian songbirds: the Cryptic Treehunter and the Alagoas Foliage-gleaner. The Poʻo-uli.Image: Paul E. Baker/U.S. Fish and Wildlife ServiceA charismatic blue parrot, however, was perhaps the year's most publicized extinction. The Spix’s Macaw — a notable character in Disney's animated film Rio — is now believed to be extinct in the wild. Some 50 of the talkative birds, unable to persist in the wilderness, are kept alive in captivity. But it's often the lesser known or rarely-heard-of species — like the Cryptic Treehunter — that bite the dust. "The reality of extinction is the disappearances that nobody notices," said McKeon. Famous or not, declaring any species extinct or likely extinct is a difficult endeavor. "It is very challenging to know whether a species has truly gone extinct," Trond Larsen, an ecologist at the environmental organization Conservation International, said over email. SEE ALSO: Judge halts grizzly hunting because Yellowstone bears need to find more diverse sex partners "For example, if we spend weeks or even months searching for individuals in the last known location of a species, what does it mean if we don’t find any?" added Larsen, who spends considerable time assessing species in deep rainforest environments. So when an extinction is finally declared, it's not something scientists — who are typically hesitant to make such indisputable claims — do lightly. "It butts against scientific conservatism," said McKeon. The bad news beyond extinction 2018 also saw species that may go extinct at any moment. Of note is the vaquita, the dolphin-like porpoise that lives in the Sea of Cortez. The vaquita, only discovered in the late 1950s, is the smallest marine mammal on Earth. And there are less than 30 wild vaquita left. "We’re about to lose it," said McKeon. At this point, he said, there's not much conservationists can do, but watch. Catching such wild marine creatures and trying to keep them alive in a captive setting isn't just hugely expensive, it might hasten the species' demise. A total extinction — stoked by illegal fishing practices wherein the small vaquita are unintentionally caught in nets — may soon be this endearing critter's fate. "That could come next year . "It could be this year. At some point it becomes a dice roll," said McKeon. On land, the northern white rhino — a subspecies of the white rhinos — are similarly imperiled. The last male died at the heavily-guarded Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya this year. Now, just two females remain. Progressive embryonic scientists, however, are developing experimental, unprecedented means of saving the rhino subspecies. This year, scientists successfully made a rhino embryo using the sperm from long-dead males. But achieving a live birth through a surrogate rhino mother is a whole other laudable, though ambitious, challenge. Resurrecting the northern white rhinos is an even greater leap. A pair of vaquita spotted in 2008.Image: noaaRhinos and other charismatic beasts, however significant, often overshadow today's tiny, troubled critters, particularly those with exoskeletons. Insects populations, a foundation of the planet's food chain, continue to plummet over vast swathes of the world's forests. They have been notably impacted by climate change. And as temperatures are expected to continue rising, they will become increasingly susceptible to widespread environmental change — changes too fast for species to naturally adapt to. "Over the past twenty years, I have observed rapid declines and local extinctions of insects in the Andes-Amazon region," said Larson. "Many species are moving up mountains where temperatures are cooler, but eventually there is nowhere left for them to go." The insects' plight is compounded by the direct destruction of their homes. "I will confidently say that the destruction of high-quality tropical forest is hurting our tropical insect population more than we know," Robin Verble, associate professor of biological sciences at Missouri University of Science and Technology, said in an interview. "We're seeing up to 75 percent declines in some places," added McKeon, noting that insect declines are happening beyond the tropics, in places like Europe. This makes spotting declining or nearly extinct species problematic because biologists aren't nearly finished identifying the world's critters. "We’re still actively cataloging and describing species," said Verble. Amid the dark extinction news, though, there are encouraging developments. Larson cites the new 2 million acre swath of Amazon rainforest in Peru's Yaguas National Park, a place "where the world’s highest biodiversity is concentrated," he said. The Yaguas River flowing through Yaguas National Park.Image: nasaIt's in these vast, uninterrupted chunks of preserved land that many wild species can continue to thrive, largely free of human influence. "One 10 acre preserve is better than 10 one acre preserves," noted Verble. Critically endangered species have also shown signs of rebounding. The great, black California condor — which was only saved by drastic conservation measures — showed gradual signs of resiliency in the wild this year. For the first time in decades, a wild-born condor left its nest and flew into the wide California sky. "That's been a success story," said McKeon. In the world of conservation, little victories can mean a lot. But beyond heroic efforts to stymie the end of some species lies major population losses — the precursors to extinction. And unfortunately, it's now hitting the bottom of the food web. "Insects power the world in a real way — they make the world work," said McKeon. "We're dropping those numbers radically." "That should scare people." WATCH: This strange-looking tube is actually a giant sea worm — Sharp Science
Toyota’s got big plans for robots, Elon Musk’s Twitter feed might finally be reined in, and Palladium is “this year’s hottest metal.” All that and more on The Morning Shift for Friday, December 28th, 2018.
Britain's Royal Mail apologized on Friday after historians pointed out that a stamp design it planned to issue to commemorate the D-Day landings in France in fact showed U.S. troops going ashore thousands of miles away weeks earlier. The stamp, part of a series of 11 to mark the 75th anniversary of the June 1944 landings, was part of a special program for 2019 to showcase the "Best of British". "The stamp issue will be a timely commemoration of all those who participated and will use images from the day itself," the Royal Mail said before the blunder was revealed.
Germany on Friday cleared away legal hurdles for carmakers to upgrade exhaust emissions filtering systems on older diesel cars as a way to avoid vehicle bans, but failed to quell doubts among manufacturers and suppliers over the effectiveness of retrofits. Carmakers have been forced to consider upgrading exhaust treatment systems on older cars after German cities started banning heavily polluting diesel vehicles to cut pollution from fine particulate matter and toxic nitrogen oxides. The fight over refits is the latest fallout from an emissions cheating scandal triggered by Volkswagen in 2015 after it admitted systematically hiding illegal pollution levels from regulators.
A petition launched by French environmental groups calling for legal action against the state for failing to act to curb climate change has received unprecedented public support after weeks of fuel-price protests. It also dwarfs the 1.17 million supporters of a demand by one of France's "yellow vest" protesters calling for lower petrol and diesel prices at the pump, launched in May. "It's not just a petition, but also a call for legal action," said Jean-Francois Julliard, CEO of Greenpeace France, one of the groups behind the initiative.
NIH Funding Opportunities
- Guidance on Salary Limitation for Grants and Cooperative Agreements FY 2019
- Limited Competition: Interdisciplinary Complementary and Integrative Health Clinical Research Training (T90/R90 Independent Clinical Trial Not Allowed)
- NEI Notice of Participation in PAR-19-134, "Research Enhancement Award Program (REAP) for Health Professional Schools and Graduate Schools (R15 Clinical Trial Not Allowed)"
- NEI Notice of Participation in PAR-19-135, "Research Enhancement Award Program (REAP) for Health Professional Schools and Graduate Schools (R15 Clinical Trial Required)"
- Notice of Correction to NOT-RM-19-001 Request for Information (RFI): Institutional Accountability to Promote Inclusive Excellence