Archive for the ‘Science’ Category

220px-CatfillerRadioactive SymbolThere are so many surprising aspects to this story including the two salient points that we use kitty litter in nuclear plants and using the wrong kitty litter can cost you half a billion dollars. However, a recent report states that the mismanagement of the kitty litter issue at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) in New Mexico by its private operator, Los Alamos National Security LLC, led not only damage, but the injury of at least 20 workers — and the creation of a type of kitty litter dirty bomb. The concerns of an Al Kitta threat however may be premature. It turns out that you can avoid the risk by selecting clay-based kitty litter over wheat-based kitty litter.

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800px-Polar_Bear_-_AlaskaThe polar bear has become the symbol of the plight of animals in the face of global warming. A new report appears to reaffirm the plight of these incredible animals. A study in the Ecological Applications journal reports that the number of polar bears in eastern Alaska and western Canada has declined by 40%. Perhaps the most unnerving disclosure is that just two of 80 polar bear cubs that the international team tracked between 2003 and 2007 have survived.

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By Mike Appleton, Weekend Contributor

What you going to do when the rain comes?

Are you going to sail on the rising seas like Noah?

What you going to feed your little orphans

When there’s no more fish in the sea forever?”

-Brendan Perry, “The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea,” from Ark (Cooking Vinyl, 2010)

In April of this year the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issued the first part of its Fifth Assessment Report on climate change. Among its conclusions is that “atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide have increased to levels unprecedented in at least the last 800,000 years.” The report also states that it is “extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of the observed warming since the mid-20th century.” In order to limit the increase in global temperature to two degrees Celsius, the panel estimates that it will be necessary to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 40 to 70 percent below 2010 levels by 2050 and to virtually nothing by the end of the century.

The political response was predictable. The House Science, Space and Technology Committee held a short hearing, promptly declaring that the science is not “settled” and accused Democrats of “trying to scare America.” Republican reaction to this week’s announcement of a climate agreement with China was even harsher, with Sen. Mitch McConnell complaining that “these carbon emission regulations are creating havoc in my state and other states across the country.”

Although there are serious scientists who dispute the IPCC findings, the cumulative scientific evidence that anthropogenic activities significantly impact climate change is overwhelming.  So why are the IPCC’s findings so controversial? The answer is that the politics of climate science denial are largely shaped by two forces: the contrived skepticism of the energy industry and the religious skepticism of the evangelical right.

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81581_relCarl Kauffeld image 450 pxFor many years until his death, Carl Kauffeld, the director of the Staten Island Zoo and at the American Museum of Natural History, insisted that he had discovered a new species of frog leaving in New York and New Jersey, but faced widespread dismissals from his colleagues. Kauffeld died in 1974, but this week he received not just vindication but a new species named after him: Rana kauffeldi. The frog was found living in wetlands from Connecticut to North Carolina near I-95.

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300px-F5_tornado_Elie_Manitoba_2007tao-greyThere was much coverage recently about the claim of physicist Rongjia Tao (left) of Temple University that tornados could be curtailed dramatically in the Midwest by the construction of 1,000-foot walls across the middle of the country. Meteorologist Brice Coffer of North Carolina State University says that his research blows away that theory.

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220px-Chocolate02Finally, a study that we can believe in and truly get behind. A study published in Nature Neuroscience found that chocolate has a natural compound from cocoa that can reverse age-related memory loss. The problem is that you have to eat so much that you immediately remember that you have a serious weight problem.

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ICS_Lima.svgebolaThere appears to be a race by politicians to show who is more serious about Ebola by imposing greater and greater restrictions on anyone suspected of being a carrier. It now appears that we may have our first court challenge to these limitations and there are viable claims to be made. The American Civil Liberties Union is acting on behalf of a nurse, Kaci Hickox, who has been under quarantine after she arrived at Newark International Airport. I will be discussing the case on CNN this afternoon with Wolf Blitzer.

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