Sep 15 at 3:03pm by Aileen
As the Excitement of the national party conventions fades and we move into the debate phase, Republican Presidential candidate John McCain has submitted his responses to the 14 questions posed by the crew at Science Debate 2008. Democrat Barack Obama submitted his responses previously, and the SD08 website now has the two candidate’s responses listed side by side for easy comparison.
It would be great to see some of these questions come up in the debates, so that follow-ups to the positions could be explored.
Aug 30 at 11:11pm by Aileen
Democratic Presidential candidate Barack Obama has submitted his Answers to the Top 14 Science Questions facing America. Drawing on the expertise of a squadron of science, economic, foreign policy and educational advisors that includes several committed Nobel Laureates, many will be happy to get the religious and political ideology out of the way and really start addressing these issues.
Please go to the ScienceDebate 2008 website, take a hard look at Obama’s answers for our future, and don’t forget to drop the crew a dime (or ten) on your way out. These folks have been hard at it since November of last year, and have gathered some very impressive institutional support. The future is important to all of us – and our children – and the future needs the very best science we can possibly field to meet it head-on.
May 5 at 4:04pm by Aileen
A declaration of commercial fishery failure by Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez has paved the way for Congress to allot funds for alleviating financial hardship among the West Coast’s commercial Chinook salmon fishing industry off California and Oregon. The crisis has been building steadily every year since 2000, culminating in this latest action – the commercial salmon fishing industry has essentially been shut down.
National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA] researchers suggest that changes in ocean conditions – possibly due to global warming – are to blame, along with loss of freshwater habitat for salmon spawning, a chronic problem.
There will be some coho salmon fishing allowed off the coast of Washington and northern Oregon, but there will be financial hardship in that industry as well due to strict limits. This crisis has been building for years, attempts along the way to mitigate it have proven to exacerbate the situation, such as the introduction of farmed salmon. Fish stock collapses in traditionally abundant fisheries off both coasts and elsewhere in the world bode ill for the seafood component of the human food supply, just as the worldwide food crisis heats up around the world for staple crops like corn and wheat and rice.
We could be beyond a tipping point right now, and things could get a bit more than just ‘interesting’ over the next months. Will science be able to come to the rescue, or will it remain helpless to mitigate the collapse of world food supplies? Stay tuned…
“Fishery Failure” Declared for West Coast Salmon Fishery
Hatchery Controversy Takes on New Significance as Wild Chinook Populations Crash
Escaped Farmed Salmon Infiltrate Fitter Wild Populations
Dramatic Declines in Wild Salmon Populations Linked to Farmed Salmon
Apr 14 at 2:02pm by Aileen
Over the last ten days scientists at Oregon State University [Hatfield Marine Science Center] have recorded more than 600 earthquakes emanating from offshore, several of which registered 5.0 or higher. The puzzling aspect of this quake swarm is that they’re not located at the edge of the region’s tectonic plate boundaries, but in the middle of the Juan de Fuca plate itself.
Using hydrophones left over from submarine surveillance during the Cold War, the researchers admit they do not understand what’s happening to cause this seismic activity. The quakes originate about 150 nautical miles southwest of Newport, Oregon in a basin between two subsurface faults where previous earthquake clusters have been recorded.
As magma gets injected into the crust to push the plates apart, quake swarms are fairly common and sometimes lava breaks through onto the sea floor. What sort of tectonic process is causing this swarm in the middle of the plate is unknown, but researchers will be keeping a close eye on it in hopes of finding out.
Mar 15 at 5:05pm by Aileen
The National Research Council has identified and reported on Ten Questions that will shape 21st century earth science. Some may be a little surprised that these questions are still unanswered, having been told in no uncertain terms in science classes in the last century that science already had definitive answers to questions like how the earth and other planets in our solar system formed. Live and learn. Here’s a bare list of the identified questions…
1. How did earth and other planets form?
Scientists still do not know enough about how our planet got its elements to understand its evolution, or why other planets in our system are very different.
2. What happened during the first 500 million years?
Current scientific belief is that another planet collided with ours during the late formation stage, creating the moon and melting this planet all the way to its core. Yet unknown is how (and when) the Earth developed its atmosphere and oceans.
3. How did life begin?
Scientists hope to obtain evidence from rocks and minerals, as well as investigations of Mars and other members of our system.
Jan 25 at 4:04pm by Aileen
Where ecological footprints fall. The environmental impacts of high- (red), middle- (blue) and low- (yellow) income nations fall on other income tiers, as indicated by the footprints. The numbers are in trillions of 2005 international dollars. (Credit: Thara Srinivasan/UC Berkeley)
Rich Nations’ Environmental Footprints Tread Heavily on Poor Countries offers a study led by former UC-Berkeley Thara Srinivasan that examined the impacts of intensive agricultural expansion, deforestation, overfishing. loss of mangrove swamps and forests, ozone depletion and climate change between 1961 and 2000.
For the 3-year project Srinivasan teamed up with Richard B. Norgaard, an ecological economist and professor of energy and resources at UC-Berkeley. This allowed the team to evaluate economic impacts as well as ecological footprints.
Not surprisingly, the team noticed that poor nations are much more adversely impacted than rich nations. The calculation of “ecological footprints” of low, middle and high income nations demonstrated graphically that the large ecological footprints of rich nations unfairly impact poor nations whose footprints are small.
Economically speaking, the impact on poor nations is greater than the entire debt of those nations, about which Srinivasan said, “The ecological debt could more than offset the financial debt of low-income nations.” And middle-income nations had impacts on poor nations equivalent to the rich nations.
Oct 12 at 5:05pm by Aileen
The dramatic breakup of the northern ice sheet has tended to confirm global warming, and there are other indications that things are worse than we thought. Turns out that North America’s Northernmost Lake is showing signs of climate change too.
An international research team reports that a core sample of lake bed sediment indicates a drastic change in algae and diatom concentrations in the lake over the last 200 years, but not in the 8,000 years prior – when the lake was permanently frozen. This tends to support the hypothesis that human industrialization has contributed to the warming.
Even if we stopped releasing greenhouse gases today we’d still have to deal with the effects of climate change, and this has been a concern for important ecosystems’ stability. Good news is that researchers have discovered Forests of Endangered Tropical Kelp surviving just fine in the deep waters off the Galapagos Islands.
Oct 6 at 10:10pm by Aileen
Power from the seas
In this era of “peak oil” and ever more environmentally damaging methods of extracting (and using) coal, innovative R&D on alternatives and renewables have been moving forward with vigor even without massive subsidies or continued contributions to global warming.
We already know that our planet receives more energy from the sun every day than all the life forms (and human industries) could ever use, but humans haven’t yet figured out how to harvest those electrons efficiently enough to even begin to compete with green plants and their direct conversion via photosynthesis. We also know that the sun powers our atmospheric wind patterns, and have developed means of extracting electricity from that source as well. Though again, not enough.
There’s another source of power that nature provides to our planet, and which entrepreneurs and engineers have developed and are still developing. This is the immense power of gravity, and it manifests itself in regular cycles in all the oceans and seas that cover the majority of our planet. These are the tides. Tidal generators are located beneath the surface of the water, and have to deal with both the corrosive effects of salt and other minerals in the water as well as various other contaminates, including forms of sea life. Still, the French have been generating about 600 million kilowatt hours of tidal power annually at Rance for more than 30 years. So far the moon hasn’t stopped exerting its gravitational energy on the earth!