Archive for February, 2008

Future of the Earth's Oceans.

Washington Post science writer Juliet Eilperin took part in a debate on the occasion of the future of the earth’s oceans and answered some interesting questions.

Eastern Market, D.C.: Juliet,
Having just seen “An Inconvenient Truth,” I am more than ever convinced that the unprecedented (and therefore unpredictable) melting of the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps present a clear and present (“present” here means possible within a decade, or a year!) danger to the world’s coastal cities. I would like to find out more on this, specifically on the models used to predict the sea level rise and the way it would actually play out on the continental margins. What’s a good, succinct source?

Juliet Eilperin: One of the scientists I talk to regularly who has studied this question is Michael Oppenheimer at Princeton University-he has written on the West Antarctic ice sheet and I’m sure you can find his work at www.princeton.edu. Konrad Steffan at the University of Colorado at Boulder is a Greenland ice sheet expert, so you can google him to look at his research. And you’re right, both these ice sheets could transform the planet if they melted.

Washington, D.C.: The announcement of the new “preserve” in the Pacific is tempered by the fact that the pro-whaling nations seem about to win their 20-year battle to reopen commercial whaling (scientific and small- to mid-scale commercial whaling were never banned). The “whales are plentiful” argument which Japan, Norway and Iceland have advanced seems to have been purchased with grant-payments to smaller countries in the Whaling Commission. Two questions:

1. Why has there been no press attention to the agonizing inhumanity of whaling (i.e., the animal takes several hours to die, during which time it is live-butchered, fully conscious), as opposed to mere availability statistics?

2. Will Japan, Norway and Iceland win?

Juliet Eilperin: So far we’ve seen a mixed message out of the International Whaling Commission: they voted against a move to secret ballots (which would have helped the pro-whaling camp) and in favor of a declaration backing the idea of returning the commission to the idea of a body that regulates commercial whaling. So stay tuned this week and I can give you a better idea in a couple of days of what’s happening on this.

Washington, D.C.: What do you believe are the most serious short-term threats to the ocean’s health and what, if anything, can the average person do about them?

Juliet Eilperin: Overfishing is the most serious short-term threat to the oceans. Boris Worm, a professor at Canada’s Dalhousie University, recently published a paper with several other researchers in which he wrote about the “roving banditry” of commerical fishing fleets, which rely on modern technology to just fish a population to collapse and then move onto the next target. This is not to say all commercial fishermen are irresponsible: many care about sustaining their livelihoods over the long term. The industry in Alaska, for example, has done a much better job of regulating itself than the New England fishing industry. So that’s the most serious immediate problem (global warming is the most serious long-term threat). And the best thing ordinary consumers can do is eat fish that’s sustainably caught, or get involved in the legislation that’s currently pending before Congress, the reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Act. This is the law that regulates fishing in the United States.

Bio-Electromagnetic Weapons.

At the beginning of February the U.S. Navy test fired an incredibly powerful new big gun designed to replace conventional weaponry aboard ships. New weapon uses electromagnetic energy instead of explosive chemical propellants to fire a projectile farther and faster. The railgun, as it is called, will ultimately fire a projectile more than 230 miles (370 kilometers) with a muzzle velocity seven times the speed of sound (Mach 7) and a velocity of Mach 5 at impact.
The test-firing, captured on video, took place Jan. 31 in Dahlgren, Va., and Navy officials called it the “world’s most powerful electromagnetic railgun.”

“I never ever want to see a Sailor or Marine in a fair fight. I always want them to have the advantage,” said Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Gary Roughead. “We should never lose sight of always looking for the next big thing, always looking to make our capability better, more effective than what anyone else can put on the battlefield.”

What is Bio-electromagnetic Weapons?
This is an ultimate weapon system that operates at the speed of light; they can kill, torture and enslave; but the public are largely unaware that they exist, because these weapons operate by stealth and leave no physical evidence. Electromagnetic weapons have been tested on human beings since 1976 and according to “Science in Society” this weapon was being deployed in Iraq.

There is only one electromagnetic spectrum. Nuclear weapons release a great deal of ionizing radiation in the high frequency range above visible light, where the energy of the radiation is capable of breaking chemical bonds. The beginning of working up started in 1959 when Saul B. Sells, a professor of social psychology at a minor US university submitted a proposal to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to build for them the most sophisticated electroencephalography machine that would have an integral computational capacity to analyze and, hopefully, make sense of the brain waves it recorded. In other words, the professor proposed to make a machine that could tell the CIA what a person was thinking, whether or not the person wished to disclose that information. In 1973, Joseph C. Sharp, an experimental psychologist at Walter Reed Army Institute of Research performed an experiment that was pivotal to the development of the torture equipment being shipped to Iraq today. He had James Lin set up equipment in his laboratory which converted the shape of sound waves into microwave radiation that enabled him to hear himself vocalize the names of the numbers from one to ten in his head, by-passing the mechanism of his own ears. This particular experiment was never published but is mentioned in Lin’s book, Microwave Auditory Effects and Applications, published in 1978.

Today after the weapon test we can definitely say that the inevitable has occurred! But what is in store for us in future? I don’t thing it will be something good. Any weapon wants to be used.

Blue Eyes

“Blue eyes
Baby’s got blue eyes
Like a deep blue sea
On a blue blue day
Blue eyes”
It appears that beautiful blue eyes is the result of a genetic mutation that likely occurred between 6,000 and 10,000 years ago, researchers say. Scientists believe they have tracked down the cause of the eye colour of all blue-eyed humans on the planet today.

“Originally, we all had brown eyes”, said Prof Hans Eiberg from the University of Copenhagen, who led the team. Blue eye colour most likely originated from the near east area or northwest part of the Black Sea region, where the great agriculture migration to the northern part of Europe took place in the Neolithic periods about six–10,000 years ago.
“That is my best guess,” he said. “It could be the northern part of Afghanistan.”

The mutation affected a gene called OCA2 and “literally ‘turned off’ the ability to produce brown eyes”, he says. OCA2 is involved in the production of melanin, the pigment that gives colour to hair, eyes and skin. The mutation in the adjacent gene does not switch off the OCA gene entirely but limits its action, reducing the production of melanin in the iris of the eye – “diluting” brown eyes to blue.

If the OCA2 gene had been completely turned off, those who inherited this mutation would be without melanin in their hair, eyes or skin colour – albino. For the study, Prof Eiberg’s team examined DNA in blue-eyed individuals in countries as diverse as Jordan, India, Denmark and Turkey.

His findings are the latest in a decade of genetic research, which began in 1996, when Prof Eiberg first implicated the OCA2 gene as being one of those responsible for eye colour.
“They have all inherited the same switch at exactly the same spot in their DNA. From this we can conclude that all blue-eyed individuals are linked to the same ancestor,” said Prof Eiberg, who reports the work in the journal Human Genetics.

Do We Have a Future?

Recent scientific researches argued that a new epoch in the planet’s geologic history has begun. It seams that we have to say goodbye to the 10,000-year-old Holocene Epoch and hello to the Anthropocene. Our world is in trouble.
Among the major changes heralding this two-century-old man-made epoch:
Vastly altered sediment erosion and deposition patterns.
Major disturbances to the carbon cycle and global temperature.
Wholesale changes in biology, from altered flowering times to new migration patterns.
Acidification of the ocean, which threatens tiny marine life that forms the bottom of the food chain.
In the February issue of the journal GSA Today, a publication of the Geological Society of America, Jan Zalasiewicz and Mark Williams of the University of Leicester and colleagues at the Geological Society of London argue that industrialization has wrought changes that usher in a new epoch, livescience.com. reports. Scientists of the future will have no trouble deciding if the proposal was timely. All they’ll need to do is dig into the planet and examine its stratigraphic layers, which reveal a chronology of the changing conditions that existed as each layer is created. Layers can reflect volcanic upheaval, ice ages or mass extinctions.
“Sufficient evidence has emerged of stratigraphically significant change (both elapsed and imminent) for recognition of the Anthropocene — currently a vivid yet informal metaphor of global environmental change — as a new geological epoch to be considered for formalization by international discussion,” Zalasiewicz’s team writes.
Up to half of Earth’s land has been transformed by human activity, wrote Crutzen and Eugene F. Stoermer of the University of Michigan. They also noted the dramatic increase in greenhouse gases and other chemicals and pollutants humans have introduced into global ecosystems.

As early as the late 1800s scientists were writing about man’s wholesale impact on the planet and the possibility of an “anthropozoic era” having begun, according to Crutzen, who is credited with coining the term Anthropocene (anthropo = human; cene = new) back in 2000. That year, Crutzen and a colleague wrote in the scientific newsletter International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme about some of the dramatic changes:
“Urbanization has … increased tenfold in the past century. In a few generations mankind is exhausting the fossil fuels that were generated over several hundred million years.”
Up to half of Earth’s land has been transformed by human activity, wrote Crutzen and Eugene F. Stoermer of the University of Michigan. They also noted the dramatic increase in greenhouse gases and other chemicals and pollutants humans have introduced into global ecosystems.
The epochal idea has merit, according to geologist Richard Alley of Pennsylvania State University.
“In land, water, air, ice, and ecosystems, the human impact is clear, large, and growing,”Alley told ScienceNow, an online publication of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. “A geologist from the far distant future almost surely would draw a new line, and begin using a new name, where and when our impacts show up.”

Calling things by their right the main and only cause of dramatic change is a critical mass of humanity that influences change at a global scale. What is the solution?