And that could speed up global warming with 'incalculable consequences', says alarming new research. Studies by the blue-chip Woods Hole Research Centre, carried out in Amazonia, have concluded that the forest cannot withstand more than two consecutive years of drought without breaking down. And that process, which would be irreversible, could begin as early as next year.
For those who'd like some perspective, the Amazon rainforest represents half the rainforests in the world. It encompasses 1.2 billion acres, or 1.875 million square miles. That's 3.25% of the planets land mass. That’s a huge chunk of land. So if this report is accurate, it’s far from being insignificant.
The Amazon now appears to be entering its second successive year of drought, raising the possibility that it could start dying next year. The immense forest contains 90 billion tons of carbon, enough in itself to increase the rate of global warming by 50 per cent.
Read more from The Independent (U.K.), July 23, 2006
The brief headache we sometimes get while eating or drinking cold substances is referred to as a brain freeze, ice cream headache, freezie, and frozen brain syndrome. And its occurrence can in fact be described scientifically.
There are varying explanations for the ice cream headache, but most sources agree that cold stimulation of the roof of the mouth and/or the throat stimulates the high concentration of nerves in the area. This results in dilation of blood vessels in the brain, which in turn causes an acute headache.
The pain begins within seconds after the cold item is consumed and reaches its peak after 30-60 seconds. Occasionally these headaches last for 2-5 minutes.
Other Interesting Brain Freeze Facts
Ice cream headaches are more likely to occur in the summer than in the winter.
Some studies have found that people who are more susceptible to migraines are also more likely to get ice cream headaches. One study found that an ice cream headache occurred in 93 percent of regular migraine sufferers, but in only 31 percent of the control group. However, other studies have found that migraine suffers are not more likely to get ice cream headaches.
The most interesting solution I found was to put your tongue on the roof of your mouth to quickly warm the area. I’m not sure how well it works. I’ll have to try it the next time my brain freezes.
Scientists have found a small molecule that can be used to extend the lifespan of mammalian cells. The research reported in the July issue of Nature Chemical Biology showed that the synthetic organic molecule CGK733 blocks the machinery that senses DNA damage. They found that CGK733 could extend the lifetime of cultured cells by about 20 doublings and could actually rescue cells that were already senescent. Senescent cells are cells that can stay alive but have stopped dividing.
Prof. Kim Tae-kook at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology and his associates developed a technology dubbed MAGIC, short for magnetism-based interactive capture. This state-of-the-art magnetic nano-probe technology uses fluorescent materials to check whether any drug can mix with targeted proteins inside the cell.
Read more in The Korea Times or in Nature Chemical Biology press release and abstract.
First noticed in 2002, the dead zone is larger this year than in previous years.
What is a dead zone? It's an large area of water that's very low in oxygen and can't support life. (Scientists call this "hypoxia.") Dead zones are caused by the explosive growth of tiny aquatic plants called phytoplankton. When the phytoplankton die, they are decomposed by bacteria. Massive numbers of bacteria use up the oxygen in the water. Any animals that can swim out of the low-oxygen water--like many fish--do so. Others--some fish, many crabs, and others--suffocate because they can't get enough oxygen to live.
In this case, the phytoplankton blooms are caused when north winds cause upwelling in the water column. The cooler water is rich in nutrients, providing a feast for the phytoplankton. When the wind dies down, the upwelling stops, and many phytoplankton die a natural death. Their decomposition results in water that is deadly because it lacks oxygen needed for life.
This year, the upwelling started in April, stopped in May, and started up again in June. The off-and-on upwelling creates a thick mat of organic material that rots and uses up the oxygen in the water. Then, when a new upwelling occurs, the oxygen-depleted water moves toward shore, killing the plants and animals that can't get out of its way.
So, why the upwelling? Jane Lubchenco, professor of marine ecology at Oregon State University and a member of the Pew Oceans Commission, told the Associated Press:
"We are seeing wild swings from year to year in the timing and duration of the winds that are favorable for upwelling. ... This increased variability in the winds is consistent with what we would expect under climate change."
Global warming is also the suspect in dead zones off Namibia, South Africa, and Peru.
(The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico at the mouth of the Mississippi River is caused by agricultural runoff containing fertilizers. The river carries all those nutrients into the Gulf, creating algal blooms that use up all the oxygen.)
Gill tested blood from 39 duck hunters for antibodies that would prove infection by any of a dozen kinds of bird-based influenza. Several hunters had antibodies to H1, H2, and H3 strains, which have adapted to humans and are now routinely seen in people. But one hunter tested positive for H11N9, which is not seen in humans.
The hunter was a healthy, 39-year-old man who'd been hunting since he was 8 and kills or handles hundreds of birds a year. He'd never shown any symptoms of illness.
Also, Gill found H11N9 antibodies in the blood of two Iowa Department of Natural Resources workers. Both had been banding ducks for years.
None of the infected men had any history of working with domesticated birds--an established source of bird flu transmission to humans. Instead, these cases appear to be the first documented of humans getting viruses from wild birds.
Minnesota has recorded its first fatality from the West Nile virus. A Minneapolis woman in her 70s died in early July from the disease, which is primarily carried by mosquitoes.
As the Science Buzz’s resident expert on mosquitoes (see the recent posting “That Really Bites”), I’m here to open a discussion about whether or not West Nile is something to be feared. For several summers now we’ve been receiving media reports about West Nile and its deadly consequences.
But last year, there were only 45 recorded cases of West Nile disease in Minnesota and just three reported deaths. Is this something we should really be freaking out about? What do you think? Personally, I'm more afraid of surviving my drive home than being bitten by a mosquito.
According to information from the Minnesota Department of Health, we’re now moving into the highest risk time period for West Nile – mid-July through September. That’s when the mosquitoes most likely to carry West Nile will be hatched and feeding. But this year’s dry weather conditions have made for less standing water, the prime hatching grounds for mosquitoes.
The health department does share these tips to help lower your West Nile risk:
The state health department also is gearing down its alarms about West Nile. It added that most people bitten by an infected mosquito will experience a less severe form of the disease or no symptoms at all. Fewer than one out of every 150 people who become infected will become severely ill with encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain. The elderly are at greatest risk of developing encephalitis from a West Nile infection. The fatality rate for those who develop encephalitis is around 10 percent.
Symptoms of the illness usually show up two to 15 days after being bitten. They can include headache, high fever, muscle weakness, stiff neck, disorientation, tremors, convulsions, paralysis and coma. People who suspect that they may have West Nile should see a physician.
For more information on West Nile and other forms of mosquito-related encephalitis visit the Health Department website or call 651-201-5414 in the Twin Cities area, or 1-877-676-5414 in greater Minnesota, between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Researchers have discovered a new cricket genus in the Grand Canyon-Parashant National Monument. Within the new cricket genus, four new cricket species have also been identified from caves on a remote strip of land on the Utah-Arizona border. A notable characteristic on the newly found crickets include pincers on their hind ends.
This new cricket discovery got me thinking. Is it true a cricket’s chirp can tell the temperature? The answer is YES!
Crickets vary chirping frequencies depending on temperature. The more chirps, the warmer the temperature. To get a rough temperature estimate in degrees Fahrenheit, count the number of chirps in fifteen seconds and add thirty-seven. This number approximately equals the outside temperature. The National Weather Service Forecast Office also has a cricket chirp converter where chirp totals (in fifteen seconds) are entered and the temperature is computed.
Why do crickets chirp?
There are several postulated reasons of why crickets chirp. Four are listed below courtesy of the Library of Congress:
How do crickets chirp?
Males are usually the noisemakers. Male crickets create a chirp by rubbing their wings together. One wing, the scraper, has a sharp ridge and the other wing has a series of wrinkles or “flies.” Tone differentiation depends on wrinkle distance.
Try this out! Pay attention to cricket chirps and see if you can determine the temperature by listening.
I bet you have never heard or seen anything like this! A fisherman from Maine caught a lobster that "appeared" half raw and half cooked. The fisherman donated the unusual lobster to Maine’s Mount Desert Oceanarium. The Oceanarium has only received three two-toned lobsters in the past 35 years.
Maria McNamara of University College Dublin, and colleagues in the UK, Spain, and US, have recovered bone marrow from 10-million-year-old fossilized bones of frogs and salamanders found in Spain.
The marrow was preserved in 3D, and still has its original texture and color. Scientists think they may be able to extract traces of protein and DNA.
Even more interestingly, the fossils prove that ancient salamanders produced blood cells in their bone marrow. Modern salamanders, on the other hand, produce blood cells in their spleens.
Last year, US scientists recovered some tissue resembling blood vessels from a 65-million-year-old Tyrannosaurus rex fossil. They also found traces of what appeared to be red blood cells. (More on the T. rex find.)
And now that they're looking, scientists think they may find examples of preserved bone marrow in many fossils, raising the possibility of analyzing the proteins and DNA of lots of long-extinct organisms.