Posted on April 26, 2017 Comments (0)
In this webcast The Brain Scoop takes an interesting look at the homes of eusocial animals and other insects. The video includes many interesting details including that adult weaver ants can’t produce the silk used to weave leaves together so they pick up their larva and use them like a glue stick.
Related: For Many Crops Ants Can Provide Pest Protection Superior or Equal to Chemicals at a Much Lower Cost – Why Don’t All Ant Species Replace Queens in the Colony, Since Some Do – Symbiotic relationship between ants and bacteria – Huge Termite Mound in Nigeria
We are Not Us Without The Microbes Within Us
Posted on April 16, 2017 Comments (1)
I Contain Multitudes is a wonderful book by Ed Young on the microbes within us.
This is another book exploring the wonders of biology and the complexity of the interaction between animals and microbes.
The complex interactions within us are constantly at work helping us and occasionally causing problems. This obviously creates enormous challenges in health care and research on human health. See related posts: Introduction to Fractional Factorial Designed Experiments, “Grapefruit Juice Bugs” – A New Term for a Surprisingly Common Type of Surprising Bugs and 200,000 People Die Every Year in Europe from Adverse Drug Effects – How Can We Improve?.
Avoiding bacteria is not feasible. Our bodies have evolved with this constant interaction with bacteria for millions of years. When we are healthy bacteria have footholds that make it difficult for other bacteria to gain a foothold (as does our immune system fighting off those bacteria it doesn’t recognize or that it recognized as something to fight).
A few pages later he discusses the problem of hospital rooms that were constantly cleaned to kill bacteria and largely sealed to reduce airflow. What happened is those bacteria the sick people had in them were the bacteria that were flourishing (the number of other bacteria to compete for space was small). Opening the windows to welcome the outside air resulted in better results.
Human health is a fascinating topic. It is true antibiotics have provided us great tools in the service of human health. But we have resorted to that “hammer” far too often. And the consequences of doing so is not understood. We need those scientists exploring the complex interactions we contain to continue there great work.
Solar Storm Could Do $2 Trillion in Damage
Posted on April 9, 2017 Comments (0)
I read an interesting article from NASA recently, Near Miss: The Solar Superstorm of July 2012
By extrapolating the frequency of ordinary storms to the extreme, he calculated the odds that a Carrington-class storm would hit Earth in the next ten years.
The answer: 12%.
Our high technology is far more at risk than most people appreciate. I don’t understand why the odds are so high (given that the last such event was in 1859 but I would guess there are sensible reasons for them to calculate such high odds. Others (in a quick web search) offer lower odds, but still 7 or 8% of such an event in the next 10 years.
The 2012 event would have done a great deal of damage. Luckily it was directed away from the sun in a direction away from where the earth was at the time. NASA has satellites arrayed around the sun (even where the earth isn’t) and one of those was able to capture data on the event.
There is also disagreement about how much damage such a solar storm would cause on earth. The main direct damage is expected to be done to the power system (of the USA and the rest of the world).
NASA explored this idea in a webcast:
Using Scientific Knowledge to Drive Policies that Create a Better World
Posted on April 2, 2017 Comments (1)
I have written about the problems of overfishing in the past: Add Over-Fishing to the Huge Government Debt as Examples of How We Are Consuming Beyond Our Means (2012) – Fishless Future (2006) – North American Fish Threatened (2008) – The State of the Oceans is Not Good (2011) – European Eels in Crisis After 95% Decline in Last 25 years (2009). This is not a complicated problem. If you just pay attention to the science and make wise decisions with an understanding of systems we can improve the situation.
And the USA has done so. The USA has more work to do, but by taking sensible steps based on an understanding of science we have made significant progress.
One year after President Clinton declared the New England ground fishery a federal disaster, congress met in Washington to amend and renew the 20-year-old Fishery Conservation and Management Act. The result was the Magnuson-Stevens Act, a major bipartisan commitment to end overfishing in US waters and promote fish stock recovery.
The goal of the Magnuson-Stevens Act was to create a framework for rebuilding overfished stocks in as short a time as possible. The timeframe for rebuilding a fish stock under the act is typically ten years or less.
To accomplish such a goal, scientists established fishery management plans for each overfished stock and instituted annual catch limits to control overfishing.
By the end of 2015, 89% of fisheries with annual catch limits in place had halted overfishing.
While 64% of the fish stocks managed by the Magnuson-Stevens Act are now rebuilt or recovering, success hasn’t been universal. Certain regional fisheries, such as those in the Gulf of Mexico and New England, have struggled to control overfishing under existing regulations. The act also does a poor job of protecting highly migratory species, such as tuna, swordfish, and sharks, which move freely between different regulatory areas.
We need to build on our successful use of scientific knowledge to make wise decisions and implement wise government policy. Sadly there is an alarming lack of appropriate thinking by many of those we elect to office, in the USA and around the globe. We can’t afford to elect people that don’t have an understanding of how to make wise decisions and how to ensure scientific knowledge forms the basis of policy when it should, such as: overfishing, pollution, global warming, the health care benefits vaccines provide when they are used properly, the dangers of abusing antibiotics, etc..