Ice, Ice, Baby

It is Summertime in the South…….in my neighborhood it has been over 100 for 10 days……last week it hit 112 and just yesterday it was 107…….so to say that it is hot is a bit of an understatement……all this heat makes one yearn for some coolness……..cool? My ass I want it cold!

And speaking of cold…..I read an article the other day that made me think I could get my wish……and soon……..

In the words of the Starks, winter is coming—and it’s going to be bad. Using a new model to forecast the sun’s activity, scientists predict solar activity will fall by 60% in the 2030s to conditions not seen since a “mini ice age” in 1645. For almost two centuries, scientists have known that the sun’s activity changes on a 10- to 12-year cycle. Each cycle is slightly different, and predicting the sun’s activity has proven difficult thanks to a dynamo caused by fluid deep within the sun. However, after reviewing magnetic field activity over three solar cycles, researchers say they’ve found a second dynamo close to the sun’s surface. “They both have a frequency of approximately 11 years, although this frequency is slightly different,” researcher Valentina Zharkova explains. The new model based on the pair has allowed for “unprecedentedly accurate predictions,” per Science Daily. As if to crush all hope of warmth, Zharkova notes they’re 97% accurate.

That doesn’t mean we’re all going to freeze solid. Zharkova explains that, according to the “double dynamo” theory, two sets of magnetic waves, “originating in two different layers in the sun’s interior,” sway between the sun’s Northern and Southern hemispheres. When they are “in phase … we have strong solar activity.” But when the “two waves exactly mirror each other, peaking at the same time but in opposite hemispheres of the sun,” as is predicted for 2030 to 2040, “their interaction will be disruptive, or they will nearly cancel each other. We predict that this will lead to the properties of a ‘Maunder minimum.'” The Maunder minimum, also known as the Little Ice Age, brought significant temperature drops to the Northern Hemisphere from 1645 to 1715, causing England’s River Thames to freeze during the winter of 1683-84, reports the Telegraph. Haaretz, which puts the dates at 1300 to 1870, reports some countries suffered crop failure and famine. (The sun is already partly to blame for our shortening spring.)

I am sure that there will be a few d/bags that will deny any of this…….there is always a denier hide in the weeds waiting to pop out and spout their crap…….

Personally I look forward to some cold weather…..even if it last for longer than a couple of months….I can not take off enough clothes to be cool ……but I can put enough on to be warm…..

Enjoy the rest of your weekend……..,

Dracula Has Risen

The weekend and I try to find some weird stuff on which to start a conversation……and what better subject to do this than……VAMPIRES?

This surely ranks among the more unexpected studies: Vampires are real, and they have a fear—”of Coming out of the Coffin to Social Workers and Helping Professionals,” as the study’s title reads in part. The study, published in the journal Critical Social Work, isn’t talking about “lifestyle” vampires, who might wear fake fangs or don a black cape, but rather true vampirism, which “centers on claims of needing extra energy”—that would be blood—”regularly in order to sustain health.” DJ Williams, who’s studied self-identified vampires for almost a decade, interviewed 11 individuals from the US and South Africa who say they need to drink others’ blood for this reason, reports Reuters. After quizzing them about their psychiatric backgrounds, careers, and social lives, he found them much like everyone else. Though some have a habit of cutting into the chests of willing donors to ingest a small amount of blood—a non-fatal procedure—they also “work regular jobs and participate in the broader communities in which they live.”

One standout point, Williams says: they’re generally unwilling to visit a therapist or doctor though they may face “stress, various health issues, relationship difficulties,” and other struggles just like the rest of us. Many so-called vampires worry they’ll be labeled a psychopath, or “perhaps wicked, and not competent to perform in typical social roles, such as parenting,” the study notes. Real vampires feel they had no choice about their identity, with some saying they wish they were free of their condition. “Most vampires believe they were born that way; they don’t choose this,” Williams tells Reuters, and his study encourages “helping professionals … to become more aware of their own social and cultural positioning so that these do not unintentionally harm clients whose backgrounds and beliefs differ.” Curious how many vampires walk among us? Williams suspects there are thousands.

How’s that for some weird shit?

Repent! The End Is Near!

Remember back in 2012, December to be exact, when the Maya told us that all would change and you woke up the next day and VIOLA!  Nothing had changed, remember that?

Since some hairy dude living in a cave looked up and saw a comet and knew that the world was ending and it was only a matter of time…….well that prediction has been made over and over and over…..and we are still hear…..waiting.

There have been movie after movie about the “End of Life Event” on Earth….some were better than others…..but in the end…..we are still here…….now ask…..how much longer will we still be here?

Feeling upbeat? Enough of that: Planet Earth is undergoing a sixth mass extinction that will likely annihilate the human race unless we can curb the trend, scientists say. According to a new paper, the current rate of species extinction outpaces the natural rate far more than anyone knew, NBC News reports. The analysis “employed better knowledge” of Earth’s natural extinction rate, the Guardian reports, upping the number from one extinction per million species annually to two extinctions. It then compared that to a current extinction rate that study authors consider conservative. Presto, they got a rate since 1900 that’s eight to 100 times worse than the natural one. “We were very surprised to see how bad it is,” says study leader Gerardo Ceballos. “This is very depressing.”

“If it is allowed to continue, life would take millions of years to recover, and our species itself would disappear early on,” says Ceballos. But nations can reverse the crisis—which has been linked to deforestation, industrialization, and other human factors—by conserving threatened species and lowering pressures on their populations, the paper says. So far critics seem to buy the paper’s basic math but doubt that species extinction will continue at this high rate for centuries. “It is likely the problem will decline rapidly because most countries will be rich and care much for the natural world,” writes one environmentalist. Earth has seen five other mass extinctions, including one 443 million years ago that killed off 83% of sea life, and the most recent, which wiped out the dinosaurs 66 million years ago, the Telegraph notes.

This planet is slowly dying and whether you blame climate change or Obama……makes no difference……when it is gone it will be gone and it will matter not how we got there……

Why Do Men Exist?

I will confess that back during the ERA days I was pretty much a macho dick…….but I have seen the error of my ways……..I cannot imagine a country that would do everything possible to make women second class citizens……but unfortunately this country is going in that direction…….sorry I digress.

During those feminist days there were many questions asked……but one that persisted was…..why do men exist?

Well that question has been answered for those women still wondering…….

Scientists have long wondered why men exist. Sex between males and females is simply not nearly as efficient as asexual reproduction. But now a group out of the UK is reporting in the journal Nature that, after looking at several years of lab-controlled procreation of the Tribolium flour beetle, they’ve found that sexual selection—the process by which males compete for females—helps species become fitter and more resilient to disease. “Competition among males for reproduction provides a really important benefit, because it improves the genetic health of populations,” the lead researcher at the University of East Anglia says in a press release. “Sexual selection achieves this by acting as a filter to remove harmful genetic mutations, helping populations to flourish.”

Such a question can be tested on this particular beetle (a pest in many a flour bag) because aside from their genes, the males don’t help raise offspring, reports NBC News. In the lab, the scientists controlled the beetle’s environments such that the only difference between populations was the strength of sexual selection, which ranged from intense—with 90 males competing for 10 females—to no sexual selection at all, where females were limited to one monogamous partner and thus males didn’t have to compete. Seven years (and 50 generations) later, the beetles that resulted from the strongest sexual selection were in the best health and were the least likely to go extinct when inbred, Reuters reports. (Speaking of evolution, a third of Americans don’t believe it exists.)

And there you have it!

Please Pay Attention!

For years I have been complaining about the loss of attention by the American people…..they cannot seem to focus on one subject for very long….this is why most of my post are between 300 to 500 words….studies have shown that any longer than that and the reader losses all concentration.  Americans have the attention span of a puppy in a toy store.

My concern seems to be well founded, though I did not know that some were actually studying this phenom……..

Your attention span is, uh… well… whatever, but it probably can’t beat that of your average goldfish, a new study says. Microsoft reached this conclusion after surveying more than 2,000 Canadians and monitoring the brain activity of 112 people, Yahoo! Canada reports. In our age of buzzing phones and 140-character news items, they say, the Canadian attention span has dropped from an average of 12 seconds in 2000 to the jittery low of eight seconds today. The average goldfish, it’s believed, can concentrate for nine, researchers say. “Canadians with more digital lifestyles … struggle to focus in environments where prolonged attention is needed,” the study says. More specifically, 44% of survey respondents say they struggle to focus on tasks and 37% say their inability to use time well forces them to work late or on weekends, the National Post reports.

In the brain-activity phase, participants performed “game-like tasks” designed to measure attention span while researchers measured their brainwaves with electroencephalography (EEG), the Globe and Mail reports. The upshot: Digitally savvy consumers start with powerful attention and fade, while others are less engaged at first but can concentrate for longer. The findings held true for young and old alike, by the way. Microsoft conducted the study in part to help marketing firms reach modern-day audiences: “We wanted to understand how [digital life is] affecting the way that Canadians see and interact with the world,” a consumer expert at Microsoft tells the Ottawa Citizen. “It’s our new ‘newsfeed reality,’ as I like to put it.” (“Wasting time on the Internet” is now an Ivy League class.)

Worse than a goldfish?  I weep for society!

On The Road To Designer Babies?

Finally!  The weekend and I can kick back and do something religious….like sleep.

Did anyone see the movie Gattaca?  I believe it was about choosing what your baby will look like…a designer baby…..I am sure there have been a dozen or more movies that touch on this type of DNA manipulation…….looks like life is about to mimic art…….

Advances in DNA research are fairly common these days, but a new study out of China seems to qualify for bombshell status: Scientists there edited the genes of human embryos for the first time, reports Nature. This gets into controversial and “ethically charged” territory, notes the MIT Technology Review, because if a mistake is made at the embryonic level, the mutation could get passed on to future generations. It also raises a whole new set of concerns about “designer babies.” To dampen the controversy, the researchers out of Sun Yat-sen University did not use embryos capable of developing into babies. As they explain in Protein & Cell, they used a new gene-editing technique called CRISPR/Cas9 on 86 embryos to try to modify a gene responsible for a blood disorder. Things did not go well.

“Only 28 had the defective sequence removed, and an even tinier fraction of those ended up with the ‘pasted-in’ healthy genetic sequence,” reports Quartz. Worse, mutations were introduced elsewhere. Researchers stopped the experiment, calling the technique “too immature.” Critics not only agree, they want a moratorium on all such work. “There needs to be careful consideration not only of the safety but also of the social and ethical implications of applying this technology to alter our germ lines,” a Harvard researcher tells NPR. At National Geographic, Carl Zimmer compares the controversy to the early days of human cloning and suspects “this week will go down as a pivotal moment in the history of medicine.” This particular experiment may have tanked, but it’s not a “deal-breaker” for the technology, he writes. But, as with cloning, society may now have to make some decisions about what’s appropriate. (Read more about why some scientists want to halt gene editing in humans.)

I kinda have a problem with this…….I understand the medical side of it but this is one of those things that will quickly become a money making enterprise…….does Khan come to mind here?

The Need To Know

It is the weekend and I have found a wealth of absolute BS to fill the next couple of days…..I have said in the past that there has got to be a way to get on the list for the grant money they pass out.  I have seen some amazingly stupid research that was probably paid for by the tax payer…..stuff we really needed to know……

And then there are these studies that I was so worried that I would die before an answer was discovered…..,…

The human chin is something of a mystery to scientists. How, exactly, did we end up with a seemingly useless structure at the bottom of our face? One theory, as Smithsonian reported in 2012, is that they offer some support as we chew. Small amounts of stress can break down bone, allowing it to grow back tougher, which many thought could explain why our chins are much less pronounced as children than as adults. But new research out of the University of Iowa rejects that idea. Researchers followed a group of almost 40 subjects as they grew from age three to adulthood. Turns out those whose jaws endured the most wear and tear actually had the smallest chins, io9 reports.

So if it’s not stress on the jaw, how do we explain our chins? The researchers suggest that it could actually be the result of our faces getting smaller as we evolved. Neanderthals didn’t have chins—but they did have bigger heads than we do. While our heads shrunk over time, as male testosterone levels decreased, the chin may have remained as a sort of facial leftover. Other researchers have also pointed to sex hormones in explaining our chins, Smithsonian notes: Women may be attracted to guys with larger chins because it signals good genes, whereas smaller chins may be linked to higher estrogen, perhaps making them an attractive feature in women. No definitive answers yet, but it’s something to chew on. (Meanwhile, an injection could be available soon to fix a different kind of chin.)

Did that help explain Jay Leno’s chin?

Now that mystery has been solved there is one that has plagued me for years…..why do my knuckles pop?

Scientists equipped with an MRI scanner, a finger-pulling device, and a man they call the “Wayne Gretzky of knuckle-cracking” say they have cracked the mystery of that popping sound your knuckles make when cracked. In a University of Alberta press release, the team says their video reveals that the sound is caused by the formation of a gas-filled bubble created by a drop in pressure when the joints are separated. “We call it the ‘pull my finger study’—and actually pulled on someone’s finger and filmed what happens in the MRI,” the lead researcher says. “When you do that, you can actually see very clearly what is happening inside the joint.” The study was published in the journal PLoS One.

The bubble comes from the fluid that lubricates the joints, the lead researcher says. “If you’ve ever washed up glass plates, you’ll know they can be hard to separate when they are wet,” he tells the Guardian. “The film of water between them creates a tension that needs to be overcome. It’s similar with joints. When you pull on them, they resist at first, and then suddenly give way.” He says he started the study after a local chiropractor—who served as their champion knuckle-cracker—approached him with the theory. The researcher, an expert in spinal structure, says the findings could help explain the cause of joint problems and help doctors stop them before they begin. (Other researchers have discovered a new body part in the knee.)

Whew!  Another mystery solved before I crap out…….

Now aren’t you glad you stopped by today?