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CTDL 220: Pile of Links again

Pile of excerpts and links from BBC articles I didn’t get around to making their own posts. Enjoy.

In January, the Brazilian government announced that the rate of deforestation in the Amazon jungle had soared in the last half of 2007, just months after officials had celebrated three years of steep falls.
It was an embarrassing admission for Brazil’s president, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who had said his government’s efforts to control illegal logging and introduce better certification of land ownership were working.

[From BBC NEWS | Americas | Amazon's future in delicate balance]

The 2008 Bird Red List warns that long-term droughts and extreme weather puts additional stress on key habitats.
The assessment lists 1,226 species as threatened with extinction – one-in-eight of all bird species.
The list, reviewed every four years, is compiled by conservation charity BirdLife International.
“It is very hard to precisely attribute particular changes in specific species to climate change,” said Stuart Butchart, BirdLife’s global research and indicators co-ordinator.
“But there is now a whole suite of species that are clearly becoming threatened by extreme weather events and droughts.”
In the revised Red List, eight species have been added to the “critically endangered” category.

[From BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Climate 'accelerating bird loss']

Small-scale biomass power plants can have a greater environmental impact than other renewables, a study says.
UK researchers found that although the facilities offered carbon savings, they produced more pollutants per unit of electricity than larger biomass plants.
They suggested the way the feedstock was transported produced proportionally more pollutants than larger sites.
The findings challenged the view that such schemes offer an green alternative to grid-based electricity, they added.
Supporters of community biomass schemes say the power plants are sustainable because the fuel, such as wood chips, can be sourced from the local area.

[From BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Concern over small biomass option]

Scientists have long wondered why early primates inhabited forest canopies, given that climbing appears to consume more energy than walking.
US researchers studied primates climbing and walking on treadmills.
They say there was no difference in energy consumption for small primates, giving clues to how their ancestors entered the trees 65 million years ago.

[From BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Ancestors had leg-up to trees]

Between a quarter and a third of the world’s wildlife has been lost since 1970, according to data compiled by the Zoological Society of London.
Populations of land-based species fell by 25%, marine by 28% and freshwater by 29%, it says.
Humans are wiping out about 1% of all other species every year, and one of the “great extinction episodes” in the Earth’s history is under way, it says.
Pollution, farming and urban expansion, over-fishing and hunting are blamed.

[From BBC NEWS | UK | Wildlife populations 'plummeting']

This NYT article on global food wastage is timely — just as the food riots have begun to break out around the world — and shocking.

[From US wastes "27% of food available for consumption" - Boing Boing]

Astronomers have been able to capture and record the first moments when a massive star blows itself apart.
After decades of searching, researchers have used the world’s top telescopes to observe the remarkable event.
Previously, scientists had only been able to study these “supernovas” several days after the event.

[From BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Exploding star caught in the act]

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Posted By: Charles

CTDL 219: Fallafel or insulin, you decide

Falafel wins every time. Interestingly enough this is largely the diet espoused by the Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy book which based most of its information on the harvard medical school nutritional findings. Note they talk about it as a Mediterranean diet, but it’s really just a healthy one.

Sticking to a diet which includes fruit, vegetables, fibre and healthier fats could protect against type two diabetes, a study suggests.
More than 14,000 Spanish volunteers were quizzed about eating habits, then checked over four years to see who developed the condition.
The results pointed to an 83% lower risk for those who followed the diet, the British Medical Journal reported.
But UK experts said the study was not conclusive.

[From BBC NEWS | Health | Med diet 'helps prevent diabetes']

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Posted By: Charles

CTDL 218: Cancer Cells and cloning

Good use of cloning here (no midichlorians were harmed I’m sure), hopefully this is a treatment that pans out.

US researchers, reports the New England Journal of Medicine, took cancer-fighting immune cells, made five billion copies, then put them all back.

[From BBC NEWS | Health | Clone cell cancer 'cure' hailed]

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Posted By: Charles

CTDL 217: Ocean Temps again

Quick follow up on CTDL 208 with a bit less information, from the BBC of course.

Global temperatures did not dip sharply in the 1940s as the conventional graph shows, scientists believe.
They say an abrupt dip of 0.3C in 1945 actually reflects a change in how temperatures were measured at sea.
Until 1945, most readings were taken by US ships; but after the war, UK vessels resumed measurements, and they took the sea’s temperature differently.

[From BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Ships rewrite temperature record]

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Posted By: Charles

CTDL 216: Drugstore economics

Not JUST to prove I find other things besides the BBC Science section, but at least partly that, today we’ve got a nice little bit on saving some cash using the drugstore (CVS, Walgreens, et al) and their promotional discounts.

The Drugstore Game involves combining manufacturer and store coupons, and taking advantage of a store’s best deals. When played at the highest level, the Drugstore Game requires only a couple of dollars out of pocket each week to keep you and your family stocked on necessities like toiletries, paper goods and even groceries.

[From How to Save Hundreds by Playing the Drugstore Game ∞ Get Rich Slowly]

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Posted By: Charles

CTDL 215: Maybe all those sloth comparisons aren’t insults?

Rather than snoozing for more than 16 hours a day, as observed in captivity, sloths in the wild doze for less than 10 hours, research suggests.
Scientists caught sloths living in the rainforest of Panama and fitted them with a device that monitors sleep.
The findings, published in a Royal Society journal, may help shed light on human sleep disorders, they say.

[From BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Sloth's lazy image 'a myth']

Maybe not… I don’t guess they move much faster in the wild, they just sleep a bit less.

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Posted By: Charles

CTDL 214: Un-Farming in the UK

How should Europe’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) respond to the “food crisis”? Our environment analyst Roger Harrabin examines how worries about food are stimulating a debate about the long-term future of the CAP.
The Common Agricultural Policy – the vast system that costs Europe’s taxpayers more than £30bn pounds a year – will be spruced up on Tuesday.
The European Commission will introduce a series of proposals aimed at making farmers more responsive to the market and distancing the CAP from the old system in which farmers were paid to produce food.
The Commission wants to get rid of almost all direct payments to farmers for production.
It wants to scrap controversial set-aside policies in which farmers are paid to leave land fallow; to remove quotas on producing things like milk; and to shift more farm support into a broader rural development fund.

[From BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Europe's farming future debated]

Is it just me, or does this sound like Europe is going free market in the farming realm?

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Posted By: Charles

CTDL 213: Tasmanian Park

Michael Crichton is rolling over in his grave… or not.

A fragment of DNA from the Tasmanian tiger has been brought back to life.
Australian scientists extracted genetic material from a 100-year-old museum specimen, and put it into a mouse embryo to study how it worked.
It is the first time DNA of an extinct species has been used in this way, says a University of Melbourne team.
The study, published online by the Public Library of Science (PLoS), suggests the marsupial’s genetic biodiversity may not be lost.
Dr Andrew Pask, of the Department of Zoology, who led the research, said it was the first time that DNA from an extinct species had been used to carry out a function in a living organism.
“As more and more species of animals become extinct, we are continuing to lose critical knowledge of gene function and its potential,” he said.
“Up until now we have only been able to examine gene sequences from extinct animals. This research was developed to go one step further to examine extinct gene function in a whole organism.”

[From BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Tasmanian tiger DNA 'resurrected']

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Posted By: Charles

CTDL 212: If only we could make fuel from Kudzu

Good advice here, don’t bring in some new species of crop just to deal with new energy needs.

Nations should avoid planting biofuel crops that have a high risk of becoming invasive species, a report warns.
A study by the Global Invasive Species Programme (GISP) said only a few countries have systems in place to assess the risk or contain an outbreak.
It has listed all the crops used to produce biofuels, and urged governments to only select low-risk varieties.
The global cost of tackling invasive species costs $1.4 trillion (£700bn) each year, the report estimates.
“Many countries are currently looking at growing high-yielding crops for the production of biofuels to address imminent energy shortages and reduce the impact of climate change,” the report’s authors wrote.

[From BBC NEWS | Science/Nature | Fuel crops 'pose invasion risk']

Which brings up the best challenge… how to make fuel of some form, from Kudzu.

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Posted By: Charles

CTDL 211: Crazy sleep deprived parents!

Have you ever thought of your new-parent friends as being a bit off? Well apparently you were right.

Scientists have shown relying on the sleep deprived-brain to perform well is potentially fraught with danger.
They found that even after sleep deprivation, people have periods of near normal brain function in which they can finish tasks quickly.
However, this is mixed with periods of slow response and severe drops in visual processing and attention.

[From BBC NEWS | Health | No sleep 'renders brain erratic']

So while you can perform well after some sleep deprivation, it’s unlikely you’ll know when or if it’s this time that you’re not quite up to snuff.

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Posted By: Charles