Monthly Archives: May 2014

"Science education should be based on our economy" Wut?

Republican lawmakers and their kin are opposing the acceptance of National Science Standards. Why? Because those standards are based on science. What they prefer is that the standards we use to guide curriculum in America’s public schools be the hobgoblin of the Koch Brothers and the rest of the petroleum industry. Way to ruin the country, man. Civilization too. Nice move.

As Chris Hays points out (see below) the anti-science industry in America is leaving Creationism behind and shifting towards the denigration of Climate Science, much to our detriment.

The following interview from All In covers this, and includes Mary Mazzio, documentary film maker, and Michael Mann, climate scientist. Watch it. Then get mad and do something about it.

While you are at it, have a look at this All In segment on the GOP ordering the Pentagon to ignore climate change. Including the Navy, which will be losing ALL OF ITS BASES if they ignore sea level rise.

500,000 people evacuate massive 2-week long flood; 40+ dead.

Excessive warmth attributable to global warming and a stalled weather system, also attributable to global warming, have caused a weather system in over southeast China to dump rain since May 12th. A million people are in the impacted area, ahlf of them have had to move or have been rescued, and the 2-6 inches of daily rain continues. 25,000 homes have been destroyed.

This area has recieved huge investments over the last few decades, since a huge 1998 storm killed thousands and caused 26 billion dollars in damage. They now fear that the present flooding will be as bad.

Here’s some video (with some out of date information on casualties and damages):

Sources:

Massive, Two Week Long China Flood Sends Half a Million Fleeing, Destroys More Than 25,000 Homes

Half a million evacuated as China braces for more flooding

The Amazing, Impressive, Powerful Amanda

Usually when I make a sentence like that it is about my wife, Amanda. But this time we’re talking about Hurricane Amanda, the first hurricane of the Eastern Pacific hurricane season.

Amanda reached maximum winds of 155 mph on or about 8:00 AM Pacific Daylight Time on Sunday morning. That make Amanda the strongest Eastern Pacific May Hurricane on record. There are usually very few hurricanes in the Eastern Pacific in May, and the few that occur happen late in the months. Here’s the historical distribution of Eastern Pacific hurricanes, form 1966-1996:

East_pacific_tc_climatology

Amanda is the earliest on record Eastern Pacific Category 4 hurricane.

The hurricane date for the Eastern Pacific is not well organized and accessible (without working hard) as far as I can tell. Wikipedia is shamefully badly organized and out of date, and the NWS focuses much more on Atlantic hurricanes because they are far more likely to menace the US (though Eastern Pacific storms of course can end up in Hawaii, and occasionally hit the US West Coast … and one actually slammed into Texas!).

So I can’t say much more about Amanda. The extra intensity and early date is certainly related to enhanced sea surface temperatures in the region, but the relationship between that and the possible coming El Niño can not be established at this time. Putting this another way, we can ask the question, is the Eastern Pacific Hurricane Season going to be affected by El Niño, the answer is clearly: We’ll see.

Amanda has weakened since, and is expected to continue to weaken as she moves north and turns into a tropical storm.

Axon Growth Possible in Central Nervous System

I don’t have time to read the original or make much comment on this, but since this topic has come up here before, I thought I’d pass on the press release from Burke REhabilitation and Research:

Burke Medical Research Institute Scientists Show Axon Growth Possible in Central Nervous System

White Plains, NY – May 21, 2014 –Recent findings by Burke Medical Research Institute scientists could one day pave the way for new treatments for spinal cord injuries. The study, published as a cover story, with commentary, in the current issue of the Journal of Experimental Medicine, found, for the first time, that activating a protein known as B-RAF promotes the regeneration of injured axons in the central nervous system of mice. Until now, it was thought that axons—which conduct signals between neurons—could not re-grow or be restored after an injury in higher animals such as mice, or in humans. Injuries, such as those affecting the spinal cord, can damage these axons, making their regeneration an important first step towards possible recovery.

Since earlier studies found that axon growth can be blocked by disabling B-RAF, the researchers wanted to find out if activating B-RAF could—in contrast—help promote axon growth and regeneration.

The team, led by Jian Zhong, Ph.D., director of the Molecular Regeneration and Neuroimaging Laboratory at the Burke Medical Research Institute in White Plains and assistant professor of neurology and neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, found that axon growth was promoted in three distinct scenarios. These were: in a developing mouse embryo that didn’t have an important normal axon growth signal, in injured sensory neurons whose axons grow into the central nervous system, and then in an injured optic nerve, which is part of the central nervous system.

“Not very long ago, we were not sure if neurons in the mammalian central nervous system could ever regrow axons to any useful lengths at all,” said Dr. Zhong. “Now, we see that by activating the B-RAF protein, the possibility is there. And that possibility could lead to exciting progress in the field of spinal cord injury treatment and rehabilitation.”
While there is no conclusive data on spinal cord injury at the moment, the optic nerve data makes it very likely that the B-RAF activation will also stimulate regeneration after spinal cord injury—though additional research needs to be done, said Dr. Zhong.

“These significant findings represent the importance of basic research for rehabilitation and the effects it will continue to have on how we approach treatment and help patients with various injuries, including those to the spinal cord,” says Rajiv R. Ratan, M.D., Ph.D, executive director of Burke Medical Research Institute and professor of neurology and neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medical College.

Scientists from the Burke Medical Research Institute included Dr. Zhong as well as Kevin J. O’Donovan, Ph.D., Kaijie Ma, B.M., and Hengchang Guo, Ph.D. Also contributing to the study were scientists from Harvard Medical School, Temple University School of Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, and Centre Hospitalier Universitaire de Quebec in Canada. The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Whitehall Foundation and the Burke Foundation.

A Call To Arms about Climate Change

Tens of millions of red blooded Americans, Tea Partiers, were called to Washington DC the other day to overthrow the government. A few hundreds or so showed up.

Now, Bill McKibben, of 350.org, is calling Americans to New York City, not to overthrow the government but to talk some sense into it. I’ll bet more than a few hundred people show up!

McKibben wrote an item for Rolling Stones that you should read HERE.

This is an invitation, an invitation to come to New York City. An invitation to anyone who’d like to prove to themselves, and to their children, that they give a damn about the biggest crisis our civilization has ever faced.

My guess is people will come by the tens of thousands, and it will be the largest demonstration yet of human resolve in the face of climate change. Sure, some of it will be exciting – who doesn’t like the chance to march and sing and carry a clever sign through the canyons of Manhattan? But this is dead-serious business, a signal moment in the gathering fight of human beings to do something about global warming before it’s too late to do anything but watch. You’ll tell your grandchildren, assuming we win. So circle September 20th and 21st on your calendar, and then I’ll explain.

350.org has a page devoted to the march, HERE. Please click through and get busy!

The Facebook Page is HERE.


The image above is from an earlier march, details here.

Forum: Science, Democracy, and a Healthy Food Policy

I recently wrote a post called “Did you ever wonder how you are going to die?” which was my response to a forum at the Humphrey Center, University of Minnesota, organized by the Union of Concerned Scientists called “Science, Democracy, and a Healthy Food Policy: How Citizens, Scientists, and Public Health Advocates Can Partner to Forge a Better Future“.

It was a great forum, with sessions moderated by my friend Don Shelby, and including an absolutely excellent group of speakers and discussants. Every single one of the talks was excellent, and the panel discussions were amazing.

It is a little long, 2 hours and 47 minutes, but it is worth watching every bit of it. The Surgeon General couldn’t be there but he beamed himself in via satellite, and gave a great big-picture talk on the effect of food systems and the public’s health. Richard Salvador, director of the UCS Food and Environment program (30:20) gave a great talk in which he made a very important point about the recent evolution of our food supply system, and touched on points I often make when teaching about the evolution of human diet. I plan to use his talk in class in the future. RT Rybak, (53:30) Mayor of Minneapolis until the last election (he did not run for re-election) is one of the best mayors anyone ever had anywhere, and while he was in office spent considerable effort supporting and developing local food growing programs. Following his talk, during the session and later on during post-forum conversations at the reception and dinner, it was often re-stated that “the first thing you need to do as a city concerned with healthy food supplies is to get a mayor like RT Rybak.”

The forum discussion started around 1:10, and there is too much there for me to summarize. Paula Daniels said some stuff that compelled me to hunter her down and ask more questions after the event. Pakau Hang was the audience’s favorite, with her discussion of dealing with the food supply from the point of view of a community that provides much of our locally grown food in the Twin Cities. Edward Ehlinger, the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Public Health blew me and everyone else away with his high level of discussion and clear and present inspirational competence. Shawn Otto, who was not part of the forum but with whom I was sitting, noted later in conversation that Governor Mark Dayton had done an excellent job putting truly outstanding people in important positions in the Minnesota government, Ehlinger being an example of that. But it was all good, just watch it. Andrew Rosenberg, Director of the Center for Science and Democracy (UCS) gave a great summary at the end.

I also enjoyed meeting my internet friend Michael Halpern, and having a long and engaging conversation with UCS senior analyst Pallavi Phartiyal.

Background information on the forum is HERE. A video of the entire thing is at that site as well as below, watch it!

Then, GO HERE and join or donate to the Union of Concerned Scientists!

Wheel of Fortune #Fail UPDATED TWICE

You have probably already seen the cringworthy Youtube Video of the famous Wheel of Fortune Fail in which a college student makes three awful blunders and loses the game. Well, I’m here to tell you about another Wheel of Fortune Fail that is even worse. Pat Sajak, the famous host of the long running game show, turns out to be a rabid Climate Change Science Denialist.

Here’s a recent tweet by Pat:

Here’s a screenshot of the same tweet showing some of Pat’s loyal followers telling you, dear reader, what they think of you:

Screen Shot 2014-05-20 at 10.37.18 AM

Apparently, Sajak is well known (to everyone but me, until just now, apparently) as a science denialist. Get Energy Smart has some coverage of this, including references to blog posts Sajak has written about climate change. For example (see GESN’s post for context):

  • Is it just me, or is it warm in here? which focuses on the old canard that global cooling was predicted 30 years ago so why should we trust scientists about Global Warming along with arguments that it’s all natural. (For ammo to shoot this down,Grist’s quick Sajak slapdown references two items of their great Skeptics’ Guide: Global Cooling and natural cycle arguments.)
  • Global Warming: What Are You Willing to Do? In this, with a lot of arrogance and disdain, Sajak actually strongly states an ethical and moral dilemma that faces all who believe in Global Warming. More on this one below.
  • Sajak has taken down these posts.

    No more Wheel of Fortune in my house, I can tell you that. Unless it is to watch the show to see who advertises on it. So I can not buy their products!

    WheelOfFortuneClimateChangeMEME

    UPDATE:

    Here is a petition to sign from Forecast the Facts.

    _____

    Other posts of interest:

    Also of interest: In Search of Sungudogo: A novel of adventure and mystery, which is also an alternative history of the Skeptics Movement.

    April 2014 tied April 2010 as Warmest April on Record

    A few days ago I noted that April 2014 was one of the warmest Aprils on record. This morning, NOAA has released its data showing that April was actually a bit warmer than I had suggested.

    NOAA has already stated that “The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces was the fourth highest for March on record, at 0.71°C (1.28°F) above the 20th century average of 12.3°C (54.1°F)” and “The combined global land and ocean average surface temperature for the January–March period (year-to-date) was 0.60°C (1.08°F) above the 20th century average of 12.3°C (54.1°F), the seventh warmest such period on record.”

    Moments ago, NOAA stated: “The combined average temperature over global land and ocean surfaces for April 2014 tied with 2010 as the highest on record for the month, at 0.77°C (1.39°F) above the 20th century average of 13.7°C (56.7°F).”

    And, it has been tweeted:

    So, 2014 is turning out to be quite a warm year, and this is before the effects of a very likely El Ninño have kicked in (see also this for more on El Niño). Should the El Niño develop to a high level of intensity, as many think may happen, 2014 may end up being the warmest year in the instrumental record (going back to the late 19th century).

    Jeff Masters has more here on Wunderblog.