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This is a discussion on interesting science stories within the Science and Technology forums, part of the Topics of Interest category; blogs.discovermagazine.com Next best thing to a hidey-hole box? (Credit: Maggie Villiger, CC BY-ND) Twitter’s been on fire with people amazed ...

  1. #21

    Why Felines Can't Resist the #CatSquare

    blogs.discovermagazine.com
    Next best thing to a hidey-hole box? (Credit: Maggie Villiger, CC BY-ND)

    Twitter’s been on fire with people amazed by cats that seem compelled to park themselves in squares of tape marked out on the floor. These felines appear powerless to resist the call of the #CatSquare.

    This social media fascination is a variation on a question I heard over and over as a panelist on Animal Planet’s “America’s Cutest Pets” series. I was asked to watch video after video of cats climbing into cardboard boxes, suitcases, sinks, plastic storage bins, cupboards and even wide-necked flower vases.

    “That’s so cute … but why do you think she does that?” was always the question. It was as if each climbing or squeezing incident had a completely different explanation.

    It did not. It’s just a fact of life that cats like to squeeze into small spaces where they feel much safer and more secure. Instead of being exposed to the clamor and possible danger of wide open spaces, cats prefer to huddle in smaller, more clearly delineated areas.
    Kittens get securely snuggled by their mothers. (Credit: Shutterstock)

    When young, they used to snuggle with their mom and litter mates, feeling the warmth and soothing contact. Think of it as a kind of swaddling behavior. The close contact with the box’s interior, we believe, releases endorphins – nature’s own morphine-like substances – causing pleasure and reducing stress.

    Along with Temple Grandin, I researched the comforting effect of “lateral side pressure.” We found that the drug naltrexone, which counteracts endorphins, reversed the soporific effect of gentle squeezing of pigs. Hugs, anyone?

    Also remember that cats make nests – small, discrete areas where mother cats give birth and provide sanctuary for their kittens. Note that no behavior is entirely unique to any one particular sex, be they neutered or not. Small spaces are in cats’ behavioral repertoire and are generally good (except for the cat carrier, of course, which has negative connotations – like car rides or a visit to the vet).

    One variation on this theme occurs when the box is so shallow that it does not provide all the creature comforts it might.

    Or then again, the box may have no walls at all but simply be a representation of a box – say a taped-in square on the ground. This virtual box is not as good as the real thing but is at least a representation of what might be – if only there was a real square box to nestle in.
    This virtual box may provide some misplaced sense of security and psychosomatic comfort.
    The cats-in-boxes issue was put to the test by Dutch researchers who gave shelter cats boxes as retreats. According to the study, cats with boxes adapted to their new environment more quickly compared to a control group without boxes: The conclusion was that the cats with boxes were less stressed because they had a cardboard hidey-hole to hunker down in.
    Availability of a cozy box is part of a well-appointed space for a cat. (Credit: Lisa Norwood, CC BY-NC)

    Let this be a lesson to all cat people – cats need boxes or other vessels for environmental enrichment purposes. Hidey-holes in elevated locations are even better: Being high up provides security and a birds’s-eye view of the world, so to speak.

    Without a real box, a square on the ground may be the next best thing for a cat, though it’s a poor substitute for the real thing. Whether a shoe box, shopping bag or a square on the ground, it probably gives a cat a sense of security that open space just can’t provide.
    Nicholas Dodman, Professor Emeritus of Behavioral Pharmacology and Animal Behavior, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University

    This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.




    https://twitter.com/LisaGray_HouTX/t...83119767662597

  2. #22

    Giant Virus Found in Sewage Blurs the Line Between Life and Non-Life

    blogs.discovermagazine.com
    An artist’s rendition of the newly discovered Klosneuvirus (Image: NIH / Ella Maru studio)

    In most biology textbooks, there’s a clear separation between the three domains of cellular organisms – Bacteria, Archaea, and Eukaryotes – and viruses. This fault line is also typically accepted as the divider between life and non-life: since viruses rely on host machinery to enact metabolic transformations and to replicate, they are not self-sufficient, and generally not considered living entities.

    But several discoveries of giant viruses over the last decade have blurred this distinction. Some viruses are even larger and contain more genes than typical microbes like E. coli. Ultra-small bacteria detected in filtered groundwater from Rifle, Colorado are moving the goalposts from the opposite end, leading to a virus-microbe continuum in which distinguishing one from the other isn’t so straightforward. Among the alluring interpretations: giant viruses could be indicative of a fourth domain of life.

    A recent study led by Frederik Schulz at the Department of Energy’s Joint Genome Institute blurs the virus-microbe line even further. While assembling a metagenome from sewage sludge in Klosterneuburg, Austria, Schulz found several genes that all mapped back to the same unknown virus, genes that until now have only been associated with free-living cells.

    The particle – named Klosneuvirus – is still a virus, given its other genes and outer coat, but its 1.57 million-base genome allows a greater degree of autonomy than many of its viral relatives. Most notably, they have a relatively complete complement of protein-making machinery, which would reduce the dependence on host cells to do their bidding. For example, most viruses lack aminoacyl tRNA synthetase enzymes, which shuttle amino acids onto transfer RNA molecules; these in turn make their way to the ribosome, dropping off their cargo to build proteins from the chains of amino acids. While some previously discovered giant viruses have seven of the 20 aminoacyl tRNA synthetases, Klosneuvirus has 19, making it almost entirely independent of host involvement in protein synthesis. (It’s also worth noting that autonomy is not a requirement for cellular life, either: many microbes are “auxotrophic,” meaning they depend on external input of organics – often amino acids – in order to survive.)

    So could this sophisticated, rule-breaking giant virus indeed be a sign of the mythical fourth domain? To find out, the team compared Klosneuvirus’s aminoacyl tRNA synthetase sequences with other forms of the enzymes across the tree of life. The results were all over the place, with each synthetase showing closest similarity to a different organism (mostly algae). In the ever hyperbolic language of scientific journalese, Schulz notes that “these findings are incompatible with the fourth domain hypothesis…and instead imply piecemeal acquisition of these genes by giant viruses.” The synthetases don’t seem to have evolved together, from the same branch point and within the same organism; rather, they were scooped up by an opportunisitc virus and incorporated into an increasingly mature metabolic network.

    As suggested by previous revelations of giant viruses, Klosneuvirus is likely just the beginning of a more thorough reconfiguration of the tree of life. After the intriguing result from the sewage treatment plant in Austria, Schulz looked for genomes of similar viruses, lurking in previously obtained metagenomes from around the world. He found three more – enough to propose a new subfamily, the Klosneuvirinae – the latest links in the chain connecting viruses and the three domains of cellular life.

  3. #23

    Scientists have worked out how dung beetles use the Milky Way to hold their course

    theconversation.com

    James Foster

    Insects navigate in much the same way that ancient humans did: using the sky. Their primary cue is the position of the sun, but insects can also detect properties of skylight (the blue light scattered by the upper atmosphere) that give them indirect information about the sun’s position. Skylight cues include gradients in brightness and colour across the sky and the way light is polarised by the atmosphere. Together, these sky “compass cues” allow many insect species to hold a stable course.

    At night, as visual cues become harder to detect, this process becomes more challenging. Some can use the light of the moon but one insect, the nocturnal dung beetle Scarabaeus satyrus, uses light from the Milky Way to orient itself. To find out exactly how this process works, my colleagues and I constructed an artificial Milky Way, using LEDs, to test the beetles’ abilities. We found that they rely on the difference in brightness between different parts of the Milky Way to work out which way to go.

    Scarabaeus satyrus holds its course with apparent ease every night. They take to the air at dusk in the African Savanna, in search of the fresh animal droppings on which they feed. But they are not alone and, to escape competition from other dung beetles, they construct a piece of dung into a ball and roll it a few meters away from the dung pile before burying and consuming it.
    Where am I supposed to take this thing? Shutterstock To avoid returning to their starting point, they maintain a straight path while rolling their ball. Scientists discovered that the beetles could do this even on moonless clear nights. So in 2009, a group of researchers took some beetles on a trip to the planetarium in Johannesburg, and watched them try to orient themselves under different star patterns.

    They found the beetles could hold their course well when the planetarium displayed just the Milky Way, the streak of light across the night sky produced by the disc-shaped arrangement of the stars in our galaxy. But the beetles became disoriented when only the brightest stars in the sky were shown.

    What was still unclear was exactly what kind of compass cue the beetles extracted from the Milky Way. We knew, for example, that night-migrating birds learn the constellations surrounding the sky’s northern centre of rotation, much as sailors did before the advent of modern navigation systems. These constellations remain in the northern part of the sky as the Earth rotates, and so are a reliable reference for north–south journeys.

    The planetarium experiments had shown that the beetles don’t use constellations of bright stars, but perhaps they could learn patterns within the Milky Way instead. My colleagues and I then proposed that the beetles might perform a brightness comparison, identifying either the brightest point in the Milky Way or a brightness gradient across the sky that is influenced by the Milky Way.

    We used our artificial night sky to test this theory, constructing a simplified Milky Way streak that simulated different patterns of stars and brightness gradients. We found that the beetles became lost when given a pattern of stars within the artificial Milky Way. The beetles only maintained their heading when the two sides of the steak differed in brightness.

    This suggests nocturnal beetles do not use the intricate star patterns within the Milky Way as their compass cue, but instead identify a brightness difference across the night sky to set their heading. This is similar to what their day-active relatives do when the sun is not visible but instead orient themselves using the brightness gradient of the daytime sky.
    Night-time compass. Shutterstock This brightness-comparison strategy may be less sophisticated than the way birds and human sailors identify specific constellations, but it’s an efficient solution to interpreting the complex information present in the starry sky—given how small the beetles’ eyes and brains are. In this way, they overcome the limited bandwidth of their information processing systems and do more with less, just as humans have learnt to do with technology.

    This straightforward brightness comparison strategy is particularly effective over short distances. So although Scarabaeus satyrus is the only species known to hold its course in this way, the technique may also be used by many other nocturnal animals that perform short journeys at night.

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  5. #24
  6. #25

    from the citizen science files:

    bbc.com Aurora photographers find new night sky lights and call them Steve

    Image copyright ESA A group of aurora enthusiasts have found a new type of light in the night sky and named it Steve.

    Eric Donovan from the University of Calgary in Canada spotted the feature in photos shared on a Facebook group.

    He did not recognise it as a catalogued phenomenon and although the group were calling it a proton arc, he knew proton auroras were not visible.

    Testing showed it appeared to be a hot stream of fast-flowing gas in the higher reaches of the atmosphere.
    The European Space Agency (ESA) sent electric field instruments to measure it 300km (190 miles) above the surface of the Earth and found the temperature of the air was 3,000C (5,400F) hotter inside the gas stream than outside it.

    Inside, the 25km-wide ribbon of gas was flowing at 6 km/s (13,000mph), 600 times faster than the air on either side.

    Relatively little else is known about the big purple light as yet but it appears it is not an aurora as it does not stem from the interaction of solar particles with the Earth's magnetic field.

    There are reports that the group called it Steve in homage to a 2006 children's film, Over the Hedge, where the characters give the name to a creature they have not seen before.

    Roger Haagmans of the ESA said: "It is amazing how a beautiful natural phenomenon, seen by observant citizens, can trigger scientists' curiosity.

    "It turns out that Steve is actually remarkably common, but we hadn't noticed it before. "It's thanks to ground-based observations, satellites, today's explosion of access to data and an army of citizen scientists joining forces to document it."
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  7. #26

    The Atlantic


    Portraits of the Earth-Moon System



    The Earth and its moon almost form a binary planet system. The moon is enormous—relative to the size of its planet—compared with the rest of the solar system. Since the 1960s, spacecraft and astronauts have been able to “step back” far enough to capture combined portraits of the Earth and its moon, separated by some 240,000 miles. Gathered below are some of the best of these portraits, some from as far away as 100 million miles.






    • The Earth straddling the limb of the moon, as seen from above Compton crater by NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter on October 12, 2015. The large tan area in the upper right is the Sahara desert, and just beyond is Saudi Arabia. The Atlantic and Pacific coasts of South America are visible to the left. #
      NASA / GSFC / Arizona State University



    • An image of Earth and the moon, acquired on October 3, 2007, by the HiRISE camera orbiting Mars on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. At the time the image was taken, Earth was 142 million kilometers (88 million miles) from Mars. The phase angle is 98 degrees, which means that less than half of the disk of the Earth and the disk of the moon have direct illumination. We could image Earth and moon at full disk illumination only when they are on the opposite side of the sun from Mars, but then the range would be much greater and the image would show less detail. #
      JPL-Caltech / University of Arizona / NASA



    • Observing the moon from Earth orbit, aboard the International Space Station over the western Atlantic, on September 26, 2007. #
      NASA



    • A crew member aboard the International Space Station took this image of the northern Mediterranean Sea, centered on the island of Elba, with city lights of the Italian towns of Piombino and Punta Ala image right. Shooting towards the reflection of the moon on the sea surface, moonglint reveals the highly complex patterns on the sea surface—in the night equivalent of sunglint. The strongest reflection is near the center of the moon’s disc, which brightens the sea surface around the island of Elba. But in the complex patterns seen from space, the dark areas of the sea surface even make the islands like Elba, Montecristo (lower left) and Pianosa (left) more difficult to see. Photographed on October 17, 2013. #
      NASA



    • Long before man journeyed to the moon and looked back at the tiny, fragile planet that houses humanity, remote orbiters were sending back pictures of home. Sent to scope out potential landing sites on the moon, NASA's series of five Lunar Orbiters also sent back the earliest views of Earth from another celestial body. This image, taken in 1966 by Lunar Orbiter 1, is among the first views of Earth from the moon. When the orbiter sent back the data in 1966, the technology did not exist to produce a full-resolution image. For decades, the image existed as a grainy black-and-white photo. More than forty years later, NASA recreated the image from the original data, producing for the first time a high-resolution view of the moon and Earth from the Lunar Orbiter Missions. The image was released on November 13, 2008. #
      NASA / Lunar Orbiter Image Recovery Project at NASA Ames Research Center



    • Earth and the far side of the moon on July 5, 2016, also featuring Typhoon Nepartak over the Pacific Ocean, imaged by NASA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite, about 1.5 million km (930,000 mi) from Earth,. #
      NASA



    • Young people look at the rare sight of the setting sun appearing as crescent as the moon moves in alignment between the Sun and the Earth during a partial solar eclipse, as seen from Manila Bay on January 26, 2009. #
      Gil Nartea / AFP / Getty



    • Earth viewed over the lunar horizon, as seen from Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's SELENE lunar orbiter, on October 7, 2016. #
      JAXA / NHK



    • On December 16, 1992, 8 days after its encounter with Earth, the Galileo spacecraft looked back from a distance of about 6.2 million kilometers (3.9 million miles) to capture this remarkable view of the moon in orbit about Earth. The moon is in the foreground; its orbital path is from left to right. Brightly colored Earth contrasts strongly with the moon, which reacts only about one-third as much sunlight as our world. #
      JPL / NASA



    • This distorted view of a full moon seen through the Earth's atmosphere was photographed by an Expedition 14 crew member aboard the International Space Station on December 4, 2006. Visible at bottom center, the Jade Dragon Snow Mountain massif in southwestern China. #
      JSC / NASA



    • In the lower left portion of this image, the Earth can be seen, as well as the much smaller moon to Earth's right, on May 6, 2010. When the MESSENGER spacecraft took this image, a distance of 183 million kilometers (114 million miles) separated the spacecraft and Earth. To provide context for this distance, the average separation between the Earth and the Sun is about 150 million kilometers (93 million miles). Though it is a beautiful, thought-provoking picture, viewing our planet from far away was not the main reason that the mission team planned the collection of this image. Instead, this image was acquired as part of MESSENGER's campaign to search for vulcanoids, small rocky objects that have been postulated to exist in orbits between Mercury and the Sun. #
      NASA / Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory / Carnegie Institution of Washington



    • On September 13, 2015, as NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, or SDO, kept up its constant watch on the sun, its view was photobombed not once, but twice. Just as the moon came into SDO's field of view on a path to cross the sun, Earth entered the picture, blocking SDO's view completely. When SDO's orbit finally emerged from behind Earth, the moon was just completing its journey across the sun's face. Earth's outline looks fuzzy, while the moon's is crystal-clear. This is because-while the planet itself completely blocks the sun's light-Earth's atmosphere is an incomplete barrier, blocking different amounts of light at different altitudes. #
      NASA / GSFC / Solar Dynamics Observatory



    • Crowds look on as the super moon rises behind the Fremantle War Memorial at Monument Hill on November 14, 2016 in Fremantle, Australia. #
      Paul Kane / Getty



    • Texas at night. This wide-angle, nighttime image was taken by astronauts looking from the International Space Station out southeastward over the Gulf of Mexico on February 11, 2015. Moonlight reflects diffusely off the waters of the gulf (image center left) making the largest illuminated area in the image. The sharp edge of light patterns of coastal cities trace out the long curve of the gulf shoreline¡ªfrom New Orleans at the mouth of the Mississippi River, to Houston (both image left), to Brownsville (image center) in the westernmost gulf. #
      NASA



    • The Apollo 11 Lunar Module (LM) ascent stage, with astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin Jr. onboard, is photographed from the Command and Services Modules (CSM) in lunar orbit on July 21, 1969. This view is looking west with the Earth rising above the lunar horizon. #
      NASA



    • Eclipsed by the silhouetted horizon of the moon, the crescent Earth appears in the shape of a pair of horns in this unusual Apollo 17 photograph made on December 19, 1972. The three astronauts--Eugene A. Cernan, Ronald E. Evans and Harrison H. Schmitt--were just about to begin their journey homeward following the successful lunar landing phase of their mission. #
      JSC / NASA



    • The moon, viewed from the International Space Station, over a cloudy western Pacific Ocean, on August 5, 2003. #
      NASA



    • This picture of a crescent-shaped Earth and Moon was recorded on September 18, 1977, by NASA's Voyager 1 when it was 7.25 million miles (11.66 million kilometers) from Earth. The moon is at the top of the picture and beyond the Earth as viewed by Voyager. In the picture are eastern Asia, the western Pacific Ocean and part of the Arctic. Voyager 1 was directly above Mt. Everest (on the night side of the planet at 25 degrees north latitude) when the picture was taken. #

      JPL / NASA




    • An Indian man rides a horse past people watching the 'supermoon' rise at Marina Beach in Chennai on November 14, 2016. #

      Arun Sankar / AFP / Getty



    • Backdropped by the blackness of space and Earth's horizon, the Harmony node in Space Shuttle Discovery's payload bay, vertical stabilizer and orbital maneuvering system pods are featured in this image photographed by a STS-120 crewmember on October 24, 2007. Earth's moon is also visible at center. #

      JSC / NASA



    • This July 1969 view from the Apollo 11 spacecraft shows the Earth rising above the moon's horizon. The lunar terrain pictured is in the area of Smyth's Sea on the nearside. #

      NASA


  8. #27

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  9. #28

    Dog Family Tree Reveals Hidden History of Canine Diversity

    scientificamerican.com

    Erin Ross,Nature magazine


    A new family tree of dogs containing more than 160 breeds reveals the hidden history of man’s best friend, and even shows how studying canine genomes might help with research into human disease.

    In a study published on April 25 in Cell Reports, scientists examined the genomes of 1,346 dogs to create one of the most diverse maps produced so far tracing the relationship between breeds. The map shows the types of dog that people crossed to create modern breeds and reveals that canines bred to perform similar functions, such as working and herding dogs, don't necessarily share the same origins. The analysis even hints at an ancient type of dog that could have come over to the Americas with people thousands of years before Christopher Columbus arrived in the New World.

    The new work could come as a surprise to owners and breeders who are familiar with how dogs are grouped into categories. “You would think that all working dogs or all herding dogs are related, but that isn’t the case,” says Heidi Parker, a biologist at the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, and a study author.

    When geneticists tried to map out herding-dog lineages in the past, they couldn’t do so accurately. Parker and Elaine Ostrander, also a biologist at the NIH and a study author, say that this was because herding dogs emerged through selective breeding at multiple times and in many different places.

    “In retrospect, that makes sense,” says Ostrander. “What qualities you’d want in a dog that herds bison are different from mountain goats, which are different from sheep, and so on.”
    Most of the breeds in the study arose from dog groups that originated in Europe and Asia. But domestic dogs came to the Americas thousands of years ago, when people crossed the Bering land bridge linking Alaska and Siberia. These New World dogs later disappeared when European and Asian dogs arrived in the Americas. Researchers have looked for the genetic legacy of these ancient canines in the DNA of modern American breeds, but have found little evidence until now.

    The way that two South American breeds, the Peruvian hairless dog and the xoloitzcuintli, clustered together on the family tree suggested to Ostrander and Parker that those animals could share genes not found in any of the other breeds in their analysis. Parker thinks that those genes could have come from dogs that were present in the Americas before Columbus’s arrival.

    “I think our view of the formation of modern dog breeds has historically been one-dimensional,” says Bob Wayne, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “We didn’t consider that the process has a deep historical legacy.”
    That extends to what was probably the first period of domestication for canines in hunter-gatherer times. Ostrander and Parker think that dog breeds underwent two major periods of diversification. Thousands of years ago, dogs were selected for their skills, whereas a few hundred years ago, the animals were bred for physical traits.

    “You would never be able to find something like this with cows or cats,” says Wayne, “We haven’t done this kind of intense deliberate breeding with anything but dogs.”

    Although the latest study can help researchers to better understand the history of the domestic dog, there are several practical reasons for creating a database such as that produced by Ostrander, Parker and their colleagues. One reason is that it can help in diagnosing illnesses in domestic dogs. Another is that it can aid the study of human diseases.

    Dogs and people can suffer from similar conditions, such as epilepsy. In humans, there might be hundreds of genes that can influence that illness. However, because dog breeds are relatively genetically isolated, each breed might carry only one or two of the genes involved in epilepsy, says Ostrander. “By studying dogs, we can we look at each [gene] individually. It’s much more efficient.”

    This article is reproduced with permission and was first published on April 25, 2017.

  10. #29

    Rising Sea Levels Will Hit California Harder Than Other Places

    scientificamerican.com

    Anne C. Mulkern,E&E News


    Melting ice sheets in Antarctica will wallop California with greater sea-level rise than the world average, threatening the state's iconic beaches and important infrastructure, according to a report issued yesterday.

    The latest science shows that the rate of ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica is increasing. That soon will become the primary contributor to global sea-level rise, overtaking ocean expansion from warming waters and the melting of mountain glaciers and ice caps, said the study, submitted to the California Ocean Protection Council.

    That ice loss causes higher sea-level rise in California, it said, due to how the Earth rotates and gravitational pull on the waters. If the ice melt is from West Antarctica, impacts extend further.

    “For California, there is no worse place for land ice to be lost than from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet,” the study said. “For every foot of global sea-level rise caused by the loss of ice on West Antarctica, sea-level will rise approximately 1.25 feet along the California coast.”
    Melting in Antarctica puts the California coast essentially “in the bull's-eye” of the magnified sea-level rise, said Dan Cayan, director of the Climate Research Division at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.

    Cayan was one of seven authors of the report, produced by a working group of the California Ocean Protection Council Science Advisory Team. The council asked for an update on a similar report done in 2010 and updated in 2013. Another one was needed because of newer science and projections on sea-level rise, said John Laird, council chairman and California Natural Resources Agency secretary.

    The council will hold workshops this spring and summer on the research, take comments and issue a draft proposal for how to turn it into policy this fall. That could be approved by January.

    Sea-level rise already is affecting coastal California, the study said. It's causing more extensive coastal flooding during storms, periodic tidal flooding and increased coastal erosion. Over the short term, the state faces higher sea levels from phenomena like El Niño, during which the central Pacific Ocean warms. El Niño also can trigger stronger storms, which, when combined with sea-level rise, can trigger mudslides, floods and avalanches in the mountains.
    Rising seas will worsen, although exact amounts depend on a number of factors, including whether countries successfully curb greenhouse gas emissions and limit temperature rise, it said.

    Until 2050, there are minor differences in sea-level rise projections based on greenhouse gas pollution scenarios. They diverge significantly past midcentury, the study said. It gave possible sea-level rise amounts looking at three California locations where there are tide gauges: Crescent City in northern California, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and La Jolla in San Diego.

    By the turn of the century in San Francisco under the lowest estimate, the sea would rise 1 foot. It could climb as much as 6.9 feet. In La Jolla, the ocean would lift 1.1 feet under the lowest estimate or as much as 7.1 feet.

    Crescent City faces a range of 1.2 inches under the lowest estimate to as much as 5.9 feet.
    The report also said those estimates might fall far below what actually transpires, however. They might underestimate “the likelihood of extreme sea-level rise,” particularly under high greenhouse gas emissions scenarios. It describes one that could bring a 10-foot rise to California by the turn of the century.

    “The probability of this scenario is currently unknown, but its consideration is important, particularly for high-stakes, long-term decisions,” the report said.

    Some speakers at the meeting, including a California Coastal Commission representative, expressed concern that the low estimates in the report could mislead some people.

    “The probability information as currently presented could have the unintended consequence of reducing or reversing the progress that is being made in planning for sea-level rise,” said Madeline Cavalieri, coastal planner at the California Coastal Commission. The low scenarios don't account for the latest science on ice sheet loss, she said.

    Some people “may use the tables to select sea-level rise projections that are lower than what is recommended by the current state guidance,” she said.

    Cavalieri praised the report for including the extreme scenario with the possible 10-feet scenario, saying it is important for planning to protect critical infrastructure. Coastal Commission staff members currently are working on adaptation blueprints with more than 30 cities out of 76 local governments located in the sea-level rise zone, she said.

    David Behar, climate program director at the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission, cautioned that the state needs to be “more transparent and clear about where 10-foot number comes from.”

    “That's the biggest number that I've seen in any of the reports, including in the NOAA report ... so we need to understand where that number came from and help people understand how to use it, ” he said. His agency likely will increase rates to fund adaptation, he said, so clarity is essential.
    Gavin Newsom, California lieutenant governor and chairman of the State Lands Commission, at the meeting expressed frustration with how to deal with the study results.

    “This is all interesting, but what the hell do we do about it,” outside of the state maintaining its actions to cut greenhouse gas emissions and limit climate change, Newsom said.

    There are planning issues the state needs to think about, not just on the coast but in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, the system that provides a large share of the state's drinking water, Cayan said. The delta has leveed islands. If those are overtopped, he said, the circulation and the salinity gradient would change.

    California also is considering a massive project installing tunnels beneath the delta to carry water to Southern California instead of the current pumping system. The state might need to carefully study the design and the height of the pipes that would draw the water, Cayan said, to make sure they are high enough.

    “California really has to be a leader because this is such an important problem, both from direct impacts but geopolitically, with a lot of populations that are in harm's way,” Cayan said.
    There's also the issue of social justice, he said, as “some of the folks that are least able to build a sea wall, or whatever it is, are maybe more exposed.”

    Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from E&E News. E&E provides daily coverage of essential energy and environmental news at www.eenews.net.

  11. #30

    The first true-color images of Saturn taken during Cassini's close encounter

    blogs.discovermagazine.com



    A processed, true-color image of Saturn’s polar vortex based on photos taken by Cassini on April 26, 2017 during the spacecraft’s first dive between the planet and its rings. (Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Sophia Nasr)

    We’ve already been treated to spectacular black and white closeup images of Saturn, beamed home to Earth by the Cassini spacecraft after it dove between the planet and its rings. Now, we’re getting to see what things look like in true color.

    Among the first of these images is the one above, processed by Sophia Nasr, an astro-particle physicist working on dark matter. She will begin her PhD studies in physics at UC Irvine in September 2017. (For her full bio, see the end of this post.) I first spotted Nasr’s image on Twitter, where she may be posting more. You can find her here: https://twitter.com/Pharaoness

    SEE ALSO: Cassini shoots through the gap between Saturn and its rings, returning the closest views ever of the planet

    That striking, sky-blue feature is the eye of a persistent hurricane at Saturn’s north pole. The feature is 1,200 miles across, about 20 times larger than the average hurricane eye on Earth. And clouds are swirling around it as fast as 330 miles per hour.
    The striking cerulean color is not at all false. It comes from scattering of sunlight, the same phenomenon that produces a blue sky here on Earth.

    To produce the image, Nasr used Photoshop to combine three photographs taken using blue, green and red filters. With a little additional tweaking of contrast and other factors, Nasr produced something akin to what the scene would look like to our eyes if we were hitching a ride on Cassini.

    Just as an aside, I actually dreamed last night that I was doing just that. It was quite the wild ride (considering that we were moving at 77,000 miles per hour — Cassini’s actual speed as it zoomed between Saturn and its innermost ring). But in my dream, the eye was blood red, probably because I had seen false-color images of it before (shot in near-infrared wavelengths). So when I woke up and found Nasr’s image on Twitter, I was amazed.
    Here’s an animation of the images Nasr used — red, green, blue — and concluding with the natural color result:
    Images: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Sophia Nasr. Animation: Tom Yulsman

    Each filter tends to bring out different features in the clouds and gas swirling around the eye. To learn how to do this kind of processing in Photoshop, see this tutorial at the Planetary Society.

    Sophia Nasr isn’t the only person to produce a true-color view of the hurricane eye. Here’s another one, created by Jason Major, a graphic designer and space buff:

    Processed color composite of Saturn's north polar vortex from @CassiniSaturn's pass on April 26, 2017 pic.twitter.com/58pyMjKx42
    — Jason Major (@JPMajor) April 28, 2017

    Outstanding!

    The hurricane eye on Saturn is part of a much bigger feature, called the Hexagon.
    Source: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI

    This false color animation is also from the Cassini spacecraft. When it was first produced by NASA in 2013, it was the highest-resolution view of the feature up until that point. You can see the eye of the storm swirling at the center.
    And here’s a broader view:
    Saturn’s north pole Hexagon. (Source: NASA)

    The Hexagon is produced by a six-sided jet stream pattern at Saturn’s north pole. It has been observed ever since the Voyager 1 and 2 spacecraft passed by in 1980 and 1981. For a detailed explanation of what sustains it, see this post by Emily Lakdawalla at the Planetary Society (who also did the Photoshop tutorial).

    In coming days I’m sure we’ll be treated to yet more beautiful, color imagery acquired by Cassini during its daring, swooping dive. And remember this is just the first of 22 dives, part of what NASA is calling the “Grand Finale.”

    This is the final chapter in Cassini’s epic journey. The spacecraft will loop around Saturn approximately once per week, plunging 22 times between the rings and the planet. And then on September 15, 2017, the spacecraft is scheduled to dive into Saturn’s atmosphere, putting an end to the mission.

    To conclude, here’s that full bio Sophia Nasr sent me:

    Sophia is an astro-particle physicist who researches dark matter, and will begin her PhD studies in physics at UC Irvine in September 2017. While astrophysics, particle physics, and cosmology are her passions, she also revels in planetary science and space missions that uncover mysteries of the planets in our solar system. Sophia is heavily involved in scientific outreach, using her social media reach to not only help people learn about science, but learn to love it.
    I can say that I love it even more after seeing her imagery! And I’m looking forward to more.


     
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