(Visited 30 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0 Three ocean creatures have surprised scientists with new discoveries of previously-unknown capabilities.Deep-divers: Devil rays are among the fastest deep-diving swimmers, scientists at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute found (BBC News). Previously thought to be surface dwellers, these members of the Mobula ray family surprised scientists when logging devices were attached to the fish (see photo in the article of a scuba diver attaching one with a polespear: it doesn’t harm the animal, but shows how big they are compared to a man). The devil rays “plunge nearly 2km below the ocean surface, making some of the deepest and fastest dives ever observed in the sea.” Very few fish are known to dive that deep. The record holder is a mammal, the beaked whale, that can dive almost 3km down.How can their brains stay warm at such depths? It’s been known for 3 decades that the brains of devil rays contain specialized tissue called rete mirabile, a sponge-like mesh of large and small arteries. “It was a mystery as to why they had this system, which is a way of keeping brain activity high, even in a cold environment,” one researcher commented. Now they know why; the fish need warmth when they speed down into the icy depths. They’re also impressive migrators. For the 15 months they were monitored, “Devil rays travelled up to 3,800km from the Azores in the North Atlantic” to the coast of Chile.Another stunning photo in the article shows four members of a related ray, the flying bentfin ray, leaping high out of the water as if they are having fun. In another article about rays, UC Santa Barbara described the work of Doug McCauley, who studies the giant manta rays at Palymra Atoll where they congregate in large numbers. “There is very little known scientifically about manta rays,” McCauley said, who, working at UCSB’s Department of Evolution, Ecology and Marine Biology, seemed more focused on their ecology than their evolution.Clam with a flash: Where’s that disco light coming from? It’s the disco clam, Ctenoides ales, featured on Science Daily. A video on Live Science shows it in action, flashing its lights to a supplied beat (or watch a shorter clip on Nature News without the music and ads). Science Daily reports how Lindsey Dougherty, a graduate student at UC Berkeley figured out how it works: “the mirror is actually a highly reflective, densely packed layer of silica spheres a mere 340 nanometers across never before seen in animals.” Nature News agrees that this appears to be unique in nature as a light-flashing technique; it’s not bioluminescence, and it’s not photonic crystals. The silica mirrors allow the clams to reflect the whole visible spectrum as white light. “The researchers do not yet know what purpose the disco clam’s photonics serve.”Whatever its purpose, it could be a trick worth learning. Other ‘animal photonics’ have inspired engineers seeking new ways to manipulate light, and C. ales might do the same. Dougherty is particularly impressed with how well the reflectors work in low light. “There could be biomimicry potential in low-light situations or in environments that are dominated by blue-green wavelengths,” for instance underwater, she says.Octopus genius: An expert on octopuses (that’s the correct plural form) spoke with National Geographic about the eight-tentacled cephalopods. Author of the book Octopus! The Most Mysterious Creature in the Sea, Katherine Harmon Courage is clearly jazzed about her subject. The octopus has a number of amazing traits that seem to defy its evolutionary classification. For one, the octopus shows evidence of tool use. It can solve mazes. It is a master of camouflage. And it has one of the most advanced eyes of any animal.Speaking of the octopus eye, it is similar in many ways to the human eye, though far from any evolutionary relationship. Courage, though, was not cowardly about affirming evolution achieved this unexpected convergence: “Our common ancestor was a sightless marine worm, so it’s fascinating to think that from this ancestor so many different types of vision and eye have evolved—and how our eye and the octopus’s eye are so similar.” Evolution, in fact, is the source of her love for these creatures:I just love that they’re so different from us but seem to be so complex and sophisticated. They have so much to teach us about evolution, about how their brains work, and I think it’s an important exercise for our brains to figure out.She was clearly impressed with all she learned about the creatures. One of her pet octopuses, named Billy, figured out within an hour how to open a child-proof jar. Later, Billy remembered how to do it in minutes, indicating a good working memory. The interviewer noted that some compare octopus brain power to that of dogs. They’re playful and will make eye contact to check you out, Courage said in response. “It has really opened my eyes to the possibilities of evolution.”The previous entries on disco clams and devil rays did not mention evolution at all.Not just slime: Readers of Current Biology’s primer on Algae might be surprised to find out that the term “algae” is not strictly-defined group, but a catch-all category for any “organism carrying out oxygen-producing (oxygenic) photosynthesis that is not a ‘higher plant’.” Given that broad definition, the diversity of algae is astonishing: everything from cyanobacteria (less than a micrometer) to diatoms (200,000 species) to kelp forests 60 meters long with 14 cell types. Algae can be colored red, green, blue-green, brown, black, or transparent. Dinoflagellates are considered algae. So are the abundant foraminifera that leave shells in vast numbers. Some use sexual reproduction; others are asexual. Most grow in water, but some can survive in soil, and the algae that form symbiotic colonies with fungi can grow in the most harsh deserts. Given this diversity, the word “algae” seems more a lumping term of convenience than a real taxon.Algae deserve better than the slimy reputation they get, John A. Raven and Mario Giordano hasten to tell us:Algae frequently get a bad press. Pond slime is a problem in garden pools, algal blooms can produce toxins that incapacitate or kill animals and humans and even the term seaweed is pejorative — a weed being a plant growing in what humans consider to be the wrong place. Positive aspects of algae are generally less newsworthy — they are the basis of marine food webs, supporting fisheries and charismatic marine megafauna from albatrosses to whales, as well as consuming carbon dioxide and producing oxygen.We use algae for soil conditioning, Petri dish culture, and a source of vitamin supplements. Algae are being studied as alternative energy sources. Given that “half of global primary productivity (carbon dioxide assimilation and oxygen production)” comes via algae, we should respect them more. And surely, anything that can create food from sunlight using the complex process of photosynthesis is really a champion in the global economy.Philip Ball began Nature’s article began in just-so story format, “How the disco clam got its flash,” but failed to deliver a Darwinian tale. Instead, he inquired “what purpose the disco clam’s photonics serve.” Didn’t Darwin try to ban teleology from science?The octopus lady didn’t explain how her evolved brain could figure out anything. Did she ever consider that the thing an octopus “could teach us about evolution” is that evolution is wrong? “It has really opened my eyes to the possibilities of evolution,” she said. That’s what Darwin divination does. It’s like LSD, a mind-expanding, imagination-promoting, escape from reason that causes brain damage.
Share Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest High pressure over the state this morning moves off to the east and will allow for light south winds to warm us slightly over what we saw yesterday. We should be dry statewide with a mix of clouds and sun. Clouds will start to increase overnight tonight.Tomorrow, minor low pressure tracks across the eastern corn belt. This will bring plenty of clouds and a few scattered showers. We expect a few hundredths to no more than .3” of precipitation but are boosting coverage to 80%. This will be a relatively quick moving system. The best rains in the upper part of the range will be in over the northern half of Ohio.We are unchanged this morning in our outlook for the second half of the week, expecting dry weather with partly to mostly sunny skies Thursday through Saturday with warmer air pushing up from the south. We expect above normal temps to finish the week.Clouds develop on Sunday, but we are less concerned with precipitation at this point. While we won’t rule out an isolated shower through the day, we think most of Sunday will be precipitation free. This is not a huge change, and we still see significant moisture coming for the first part of next week. That will be where the bigger rains move in. For Monday and Tuesday, we expect showers and thunderstorms that can trigger rains of .5”-1.5” with windy conditions. However, it will take the thunderstorms to get in to the upper end of the range the way we see it right now. The expectation is for the best rains still to be in central and southern Ohio. The map at right shows rain totals through midnight next Tuesday (which includes the action of tomorrow, remember). We should turn partly sunny behind the system for Wednesday afternoon the 27th and to start Thursday the 28th.The extended period remains very active in our forecast and we are not stepping away from the potential for excessive precipitation. From Thursday the night of the 28th through Sunday the 31st, we have rain and thunderstorms coming in several waves. The heaviest action will be in central and southern Ohio. We will leave Four day rain totals at 1 to 3 inches for now, with coverage at 100% of the state. After 2 dry days to start April on the 1st and 2nd, another front brings. 25”-1” rain potential for the 3rd. A couple of models tried to back off of the heavy rains yesterday, but we are seeing no consensus that this goes away, and we want to watch to see just how everything evolves at this point.
PACE financing has friends and foesProponents of PACE financing point to billions of dollars worth of energy efficiency improvements it has made possible. In a guest blog published last year, Jim Barrett of the American Council for an Energy-Efficiency Economy said PACE loans have paid for $3.3 billion in energy upgrades since the program began in 2009.Barrett was responding to an article critical of the program published in The Wall Street Journal, which, he said, compared PACE to the subprime mortgage crisis that led to a crippling recession in 2008.“To date, not a single home has been put into foreclosure because of unpaid PACE assessments,” Barrett wrote. “And less than 1% of homes with PACE assessments have gone into foreclosure for any other reason, a lower rate than the market average. There is not even a shadow of the subprime crisis to be seen.”PACE loans, however, have raised concerns with both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, which insure residential mortgages. The Mortgage Bankers Association also has sought changes in the program, and last December, the Federal Housing Administration said it would stop insuring new mortgages on homes with PACE loans because of concerns of inadequate consumer protections for borrowers. Los Angeles County and two private lending partners have been sued by attorneys representing homeowners who say they were talked into taking out loans for energy upgrades but can’t afford them and now risk losing their homes to foreclosure. The Los Angeles Times says the loans were used to pay for solar panels and other efficiency improvements under the Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, program. Loans are repaid with an assessment added to property tax bills, but here the lawsuits claim both the county and the lenders charged inflated interest rates and ignored rules designed to protect borrowers from predatory lending.The two lenders are Renew Financial, which didn’t offer a comment, and Renovate America, which said it found no merit to the complaints. Los Angeles County didn’t respond to a request for comment.The report didn’t say how many separate claims have been filed, but the complaints say the loans amount to financial elder abuse. Borrowers are “living hand-to-mouth to hold onto their homes, fearful of what is yet to come,” the lawsuits allege. Many borrowers have low incomes, are older, or don’t have English as their native language. Rules were toughened in CaliforniaLenders said they checked whether borrowers had previous bankruptcies on file, or missed mortgage payments in the past, but based loans mostly on home equity without checking on how much income borrowers had. Lenders are now required to ask about income and make an effort to confirm that borrowers would be able to repay the loans.Lenders also are now required to talk with homeowners by phone before they sign the loan to make sure they understand the terms.But some homeowners say those protections were not in place when they decided to borrow. The newspaper interviewed Reginald Nemore, described as a disabled, 58-year-old former bus driver who took out a loan from Renovate America for solar panels and attic insulation two years ago. Nemore claims that the contractor who did the work got him to sign for the loan with a smartphone, did not explain how much he would have to repay, and promised a $7,000 government check that never materialized.“If they had let me know from Day One this is what [you are] going to get into … there is no way I would have signed,” he said.Nor did Nemore apparently understand that failing to make payments could lead to foreclosure. Income for Nemore and his wife totals $2,475 in Social Security disability a month, while payments on his PACE loan are $240 a month for 25 years.Although foreclosure is a possibility, both of the lenders named in the suits have said in the past they have never foreclosed on a borrower for non-payment of a PACE loan. Lawyers want class-action status for borrowers who took loans in a three-year period ending last month. The complaints ask that loans be canceled and that any money homeowners have paid on the loans be returned.“We can’t keep up with the number of complaints about this program,” Jennifer H. Sperling, an attorney with Bet Tzedek, told The Times. “This is a systemic problem.” RELATED ARTICLES Congress Weighs Changes to Rules on PACE LoansWhat the Wall Street Journal Got Wrong About PACESetting the PACE for Consumer ProtectionThe FHA Problem with PACETransforming the Real Estate Market
Hours after a controversy broke out when Trinamool Congress (TMC) Minister Arup Biswas used a red beacon on his vehicle, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said on Monday that he had “not done anything wrong” as the State government is yet to pass any law in this regard.Earlier in the day, Mr. Biswas was seen using a red beacon on his vehicle in the Darjeeling district. The Centre from May 1 has banned the use of a red beacon on any vehicle.“Arup Biswas has not done anything wrong. We are yet to pass any law [regarding the use of a red beacon],” Ms. Banerjee told journalists at Nabanna, the State secretariat. She further accused the Centre of “imposing” restrictions on the use of a red beacon, which comes under the Concurrent List. “We have written to the Centre in this regard but are yet to receive any response,” said Ms. Banerjee.Pointing out that she does not use a red beacon on her vehicle in Kolkata and adjoining areas, Ms. Banerjee argued that the State’s ministers and bureaucrats have to use the red beacon while travelling on National Highways because of security reasons. “Earlier, it sufficed to have a red beacon but now, as a result of the Centre’s decision, an escort vehicle along with security personnel will be required. This will increase the government’s expenditure,” the Chief Minister said.‘No consultation’She further criticised the Centre for neither discussing the matter with State governments nor giving them any time to figure out an alternative to the red beacon. “The order [banning the red beacon] was passed without any hearing [consultation with State governments],” said Ms. Banerjee.Earlier in the day, Mr. Biswas said that the “State government has not banned it [red beacon on vehicles].”In April, the Centre announced that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had decided to scrap a rule that allowed the Central and State governments to select dignitaries who would be allowed to use a red beacon to on their vehicles. The authority of the State governments to decide who could use flashing blue lights on their vehicles was also taken away.
Terming the axing of trees in Aarey Colony as “shameful and disgusting”, Shiv Sena leader Aaditya Thackeray on Saturday tweeted that the Mumbai Metro 3 officials should be posted in Pakistan Occupied Kashmir (PoK) to destroy terror camps rather than trees. In a series of tweets, he also said that several environmentalists and even local Shiv Sena members tried to stop the tree felling. The Yuva Sena chief went on to say that with the increased police presence and deforestation, Mumbai Metro 3 is destroying everything that India had said at the United Nations (UN). He said Shiv Sena leaders Sheetal Mhatre, Shubha Raul and MLA Sunil Prabhu have been standing up in support of the citizens. “Wonder why Mumbai Metro is treating Mumbaikars like criminals and not listening to their sensible demand of sustainable development,” Mr. Thackeray said. The Central government ministry of climate change doesn’t need to exist or speak about plastic pollution, when Mumbai Metro 3 is senselessly destroying Aarey, Mumbai’s green lung, he added. “This ego battle taken up by Metro 3 is destroying the purpose of making it,” the 29-year-old leader, who is contesting the Assembly election from Worli constituency in Mumbai, said. “The vigour with which the Mumbai Metro 3 is slyly and swiftly cutting down an ecosystem in Aarey is shameful and disgusting. How about posting these officials in POK giving them charge to destroy terror camps rather than trees,” Mr. Thackeray tweeted. “A project that should be executed with pride, the Metro 3, Mumbai Metro 3 had to do it in the cover of the night, with shame, slyness and heavy cop cover. The project supposed to get Mumbai clean air, is hacking a forest with a leopard, rusty spotted cat and more,” he said in another tweet. The Mumbai Metro Rail Corporation Ltd (MMRCL) started cutting trees from Friday evening to make way for its car shed, hours after the Bombay High Court dismissed four petitions filed by NGOs and activists challenging the decision to allow felling of trees in the prime green lung of the city.
“The Moscow laboratory operated for the protection of “The Moscow laboratory operated for the protection of doped Russian athletes within a state-dictated failsafe system,” McLaren said. “The Sochi laboratory operated a unique sample swapping methodology to enable doped Russian athletes to compete at the Winter Olympic Games,” he added. McLaren did not make any recommendations on sanctions. But the call by WADA is likely to followed up by the United States and Canadian anti-doping agencies. Both had said before the reports release that a blanket ban on Russia from Rio, which starts August 5, should be considered if the evidence was damning. “The Ministry of Sport directed, controlled and oversaw the manipulation of athletes analytical results or sample swapping and the active participation and assistance of the FSB (Russian Federal Security Service), CSP (Center of Sports Preparation for Russian athletes) and both Moscow and Sochi laboratories,” McLaren said. WADA mandated McLaren to investigate allegations made by former Moscow anti-doping laboratory director Grigory Rodchenkov in May. Rodchenkov is now in hiding in the United States and wanted by Russian authorities. McLaren called the Rodchenkov “a credible and truthful person” despite admitting to concocting doping cocktails for Russian athletes. “I realize there are other aspects of his life that are not appropriate,” McLaren said. “I didnt need to get into that.” McLaren dismissed any notion that having less than two months to conduct the investigation or the reluctance of some witnesses to come forward compromised the results. “Im supremely confident in our findings,” McLaren said. “Weve had a very intense 57 days.” McLaren said his report was handed over to WADA on Saturday and had not been leaked in advance. He said a US-Canadian letter pushing for a total ban on Russian competitors at Rio was based on “rampant speculation” about the findings. “I dont think it has any impact whatsoever on the report and I pay no attention to it,” McLaren said. “Im positive the report was not leaked. What others did was all speculation.” (MORE) AFP KHS KHSadvertisement
Save the Children and other leading humanitarian agencies have published an open letter calling on the parties to the Syrian conflict meeting in Geneva to urgently focus on the plight of children.The 14 signatories also include Antonio Gutteres, UN High Commissioner for Refugees; Archbishop Desmond Tutu; David Miliband, President of the International Rescue Committee; Valerie Amos, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Anthony Lake, Executive Director, UNICEF.The letter marks the first time top humanitarian agencies have come together to publicly call on all sides to take measures to allow lifesaving aid to reach children trapped inside Syria and prevent them from being targets of violence.More than 11,000 children have died in this conflict already, 71 percent of them killed indiscriminately by explosive weapons used in towns and cities.“With the parties in Syria’s conflict meeting in Geneva tomorrow, we believe the time has come to urgently focus on the plight of children. Over 11,000 Syrian children have already lost their lives,” reads the letter. “From the shelling of residential areas to attacks on schools and hospitals, children are being targeted. More than 4 million children have been forced to flee their homes, including over a million who have fled the country altogether. Many are traumatized, hungry, and in urgent need of shelter and protection. Scandalously, aid cannot reach the children who need it the most. Hundreds of thousands of children are trapped in conflict zones and are receiving little or no humanitarian assistance at all.“Every child in Syria who is hurt, or killed, or loses a loved one, represents yet another failure by the international community. We hereby commit to becoming champions for Syria’s children, speaking out for their rights at every opportunity. An entire generation is being lost to violence. All of us bear a responsibility to save these children.”Save the Children, the world’s leading independent organization focused on the needs of children, wants the Geneva II participants to make protecting children the first item on their agenda. It called on all parties to commit to the following:• Allow lifesaving aid to reach children inside Syria • Protect schools and health facilities • Prevent the use of explosive weapons in populated areas“Children in Syria are experiencing an unrelenting brutality of war. Four million children have been forced to leave their homes and children are frequent victims of violence that leaves them severely injured or dead. This tragedy is man-made, and it is within the power of the warring parties to stop it,” said Save the Children President & CEO Carolyn Miles.“The first item on the agenda at Geneva II must be protecting children,” Miles added. “The parties have already demonstrated the power of political will when they began moving chemical weapons out of Syria. We need to see the same political will to ensure that even if the fighting continues, children and other civilians are no longer targeted.”“Save the Children’s three-point plan to protect the children of Syria is about ending the appalling situation that places the most vulnerable directly in harm’s way. If parties to the talks come together to make these three things happen, fewer children will die. It is that simple,” Miles said.Save the Children has reached 900,000 people through its regional response to the Syrian crisis, including more than 300,000 within Syria Itself. The agency’s response includes supporting mothers to ensure babies are kept healthy and fed, preventing malnutrition and providing communities with food, safe water, medicine and shelter.Save the Children is also working to help children overcome their traumatic experiences through emotional support and play therapy, and helping them to return to getting an education.The agency said that approximately 4.5 million children inside Syria need assistance.