Amazing: Plants Adapting to Increased CO2

The CSIRO has found that plants around the world are absorbing more CO2 and doing it more efficiently than ever before. As the concentration of CO2 rises in the atmosphere all kinds of plants are growing faster, but using relatively less water to do so.

This confirms the satellite images showing that the world is greening.

Rising carbon dioxide is making the world’s plants more water-wise

Land plants are absorbing 17% more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere now than 30 years ago, our research published today shows. Equally extraordinarily, our study also shows that the vegetation is hardly using any extra water to do it, suggesting that global change is causing the world’s plants to grow in a more water-efficient way.

Water is the most precious resource needed for plants to grow, and our research suggests that vegetation is becoming much better at using it in a world in which CO₂ levels continue to rise.

The ratio of carbon uptake to water loss by ecosystems is what we call “water use efficiency”, and it is one of the most important variables when studying these ecosystems.

Our confirmation of a global trend of increasing water use efficiency is a rare piece of good news when it comes to the consequences of global environmental change. It will strengthen plants’ vital role as global carbon sinks, improve food production, and might boost water availability for the well-being of society and the natural world.

Read the full article here

Mind Blown

So apparently if you add up all the positive integers 1+2+3+4+5….. the answer is -1/12


I missed this bit in Uni, despite doing advanced pure maths in both 1st and 2nd Year. I would say that this is obviously a mistake, except it turns up in physics.


Hal G.P. Colebatch: The prophets of eco-doom: a perfect record of failure

The prophets of eco-doom: a perfect record of failure

by Hal G.P. Colebatch

News Weekly, June 3, 2017

Environmentalism, or at least its deep-green variety, has, by the clownishly failed predictions of its gurus and prophets, confirmed its place as a leader among those “sciences” in which a complete lack of factual accuracy bears not the slightest relationship to its proponents’ reputations or careers.

“Earth Day” was conceived 47 years ago, time enough for any catastrophic threats to the Earth forecast then to have materialised. At that time the late George Wald, a Nobel Laureate and professor of Biology at Harvard, predicted: “Civilisation will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”

It didn’t.

The problems facing civilisation come chiefly from uncivilised men who denude landscapes by chopping down trees for fuel. Civilised men have available safe, clean nuclear energy, and if they live in a country like Australia, the means to quiet superstitious fears by building reactors in deserts.

At the same time as Professor Wald’s predictions of universal doom, Professor Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University boosted his bank account with the best seller, The Population Bomb. This declared that the world’s population would soon outstrip food supplies. He stated that the “battle to feed humanity” was lost. In 1969 he told Britain’s Institute of Biology: “If I were a gambler, I would take even money that England will not exist in the year 2000.”

The ludicrous nature of this doom mongering, looked back at from 2017, should speak for itself. Ehrlich was peddling a sort of doom pornography.

If anyone had taken it seriously, rather than as a subject for a cheap thrill, they would have been laying down stocks of food, guns and ammunition, and, like some American “survivalists” (whose fears came from a different direction), preparing refuges in the Outback against the coming Armageddon. On that first Earth Day, Ehrlich warned: “In 10 years, all important animal life in the sea will be extinct.”

Instead of being sacked from his chair, or being offered a job as a circus clown, since then, showing the limitless human appetite for flim-flam, Ehrlich has won no fewer than 16 awards, including the 1990 Crafoord Prize, the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences’ highest award. As that well-known social philosopher Charles Manson put it: “You can convince anyone of anything if you push it to them all the time.”

In an article for The Progressive, Ehrlich predicted: “The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next 10 years.”

Of course, the first influential proponent of ecological doom was Thomas Malthus, the first edition of whose Essay on the Principle of Population was published in 1798. Neither Malthus nor Karl Marx, with the Theory of Increasing Misery, foresaw that improved agricultural and industrial production and technology would lead to the Earth being able to support populations many times larger and at a much higher level than they imagined.

Thus, with the “green revolution” allowing at least countries with good governments to feed themselves, a new hobgoblin was called for. How many of us remember that in the 1970s the existential threat hanging over mankind was not global warming but global cooling?

In International Wildlife of July 1975, one Nigel Calder warned: “The threat of a new ice age must now stand alongside nuclear war as a likely source of wholesale death and misery for mankind.” In Science News the same year, C.C. Wallen of the World Meteorological Organisation is reported as saying: “The cooling since 1940 has been large enough and consistent enough that it will not soon be reversed.”

In 2000, climate researcher David Viner told The Independent that within “a few years”, snowfalls would become “a very rare and exciting event” in Britain. “Children just aren’t going to know what snow is,” he said. “Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past.” In the following years, Britain saw some of its largest snowfalls and lowest temperatures since records started being kept in 1914.

In 1970, ecologist Kenneth Watt told a Swarthmore College audience: “The world has been chilling sharply for about 20 years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990 but 11 degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.”

2000 has come and gone, and there is no ice age in sight.

Also in 1970, Senator Gaylord Nelson wrote in Look magazine: “Dr S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian, believes that in 25 years [ie, by 1995], somewhere between 75 and 80 per cent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.”

A chart in Scientific American that year estimated that mankind would run out of copper shortly after 2000. Lead, zinc, tin, gold and silver would disappear before 1990. In 1974 the U.S. Geological Survey said that the U.S. had only a 10-year supply of natural gas.

Third Gravitational Wave Detected

From the ABC:

Third gravitational wave detection puts new spin on black holes

For the third time, physicists have detected a gravitational wave: a tiny ripple in the fabric of space-time.

Like the two previous detections, it comes from two colliding black holes, but this pair is much further away and may have been spinning in different directions.

Key points

  • Third confirmed gravitational wave detected on January 4, 2017
  • Wave produced by two black holes 3 billion light-years away — twice the distance of previous discoveries
  • Search is now on to find gravitational waves from other sources

The discovery, reported today in the journal Physical Review Letters, has important implications for our understanding of black holes, dark matter and the early Universe.

It was made on January 4 this year, when an international research team picked up the infinitesimal wobble produced by two black holes, 3 billion light-years away, spiralling towards each other and eventually merging to form a bigger black hole 50 times the mass of the Sun.

Study co-author Professor Susan Scott said the signal offered fresh and intriguing insights.

“The black holes are not necessarily lined up,” said Professor Scott, of the Australian National University, one of several Australian universities involved in the research.

In a binary system like this, the two black holes each rotate on their own axis, as well as circling each other in space.

According to Professor Scott, the new findings offer the first evidence that those individual spins might not always be aligned.

She said the discovery was “a very significant advancement” because it provided some insight into how double black hole systems evolved.

“It’s also interesting because black holes of the types of masses that we’ve found could actually be black holes from the very early Universe and contribute significantly to the dark matter in the Universe,” she said.

The gravitational wave was detected using the LIGO observatories 3,000 kilometres apart in Livingston, Louisiana and Hanford, Washington.

Each instrument uses laser beams to constantly measure the lengths of two perpendicular 4km pipes, with stunning accuracy; tiny, fleeting changes in length can reveal a passing gravitational wave.

In 2015 the same 1,000-strong team of scientists detected gravitational waves from black holes 1.3 billion and 1.4 billion light-years away. Those historic discoveries were confirmed and reported in 2016.

At 3 billion light-years, the new discovery is more than twice as distant.

Click here for the rest of the article

The Amazing Wax Worm Eats Plastic!

This is amazing!

From the ABC

Wax worms biodegrade plastic bags at ‘uniquely high speeds’, study finds

Posted about 3 hours ago

Scientist and amateur beekeeper Federica Bertocchini picked parasitic wax worms from the honeycomb of her beehives and left them sitting in a plastic bag.

When she returned to the bag, it was riddled with holes and many of the worms had escaped.

It was that chance discovery that led her to collaborate with scientists at the University of Cambridge in England to unearth the possibility of using worms to munch through the world’s plastic problem.

The team discovered the wax worm, a caterpillar commercially bred for fishing bait, has the ability to biodegrade polyethylene — a type of plastic used to make shopping bags — at uniquely high speeds.

The degradation rate was extremely fast compared to other discoveries, like plastic-eating bacteria, the study published in Current Biology found.

When the team exposed about 100 wax worms to a plastic shopping bag, holes started to appear after 40 minutes, with a reduction of 92mg after 12 hours.

To compare: plastic-eating bacteria biodegraded plastic at a rate of 0.13mg a day, and it takes 100 to 400 years to degrade polyethylene in landfill.

Analysis showed the wax worms transformed the polyethylene into ethylene glycol, a chemical used to make polyester and anti-freeze.

The team of three scientists said the discovery could lead to a biotechnological approach to plastic pollution.

People around the world use about 1 trillion plastic bags each year, the study said, and more than 45 million tonnes of polyethylene plastics are produced annually.

“The caterpillar produces something that breaks the chemical bond, perhaps in its salivary glands or a symbiotic bacteria in its gut,” said Cambridge University’s Paolo Bombelli said.

“If a single enzyme is responsible for this chemical process, its reproduction on a large scale using biotechnological methods should be achievable.”

Wax has similar chemical structure to plastic

Wax moths lay their eggs inside hives where the wax worms grow on beeswax.

The worms are known for living like parasites in bee colonies and damaging hives by eating their wax comb.

Researchers said breaking down plastic and beeswax required similar types of chemical bonds.

“Wax is a polymer, a sort of natural plastic, and has a chemical structure not dissimilar to polyethylene,” Ms Bertocchini, from the Spanish National Research Council, said.

When the team mashed up the worms and smeared them into plastic they had similar degradation results to when the caterpillar “ate through” the plastic.

“The caterpillars are not just eating the plastic without modifying its chemical make-up. We showed that the polymer chains in polyethylene plastic are actually broken by the wax worms,” Mr Bombelli said.

“The next steps for us will be to try and identify the molecular processes in this reaction and see if we can isolate the enzyme responsible.”

Creationists Rebutting Flat Earthers

Creationists are often accused of being in the same category as flat earthers. Here is an interesting article from aiming to falsify one implication of the flat earth theory.


A direct test of the flat earth model: flight times

More data supporting a spherical earth


Published: 6 December 2016 (GMT+10)

Flat Earth Society, with annotations by RC


Figure 1: “Flat earth” map obtained from the Flat Earth Society website. The locations of the cities used in this study are marked (blue dots), as are the straight-line distances from Johannesburg to each city (red lines). I also added a black flag at the approximate position of the north pole. Originally, the city locations were marked in pen on a printed copy of this map, using various geographic hints from the map itself, but the data are recreated here for the sake of the reader.

After receiving such a surprising number of negative comments on our flat-earth rebuttal, I decided to perform a numerical analysis of the flat-earth model compared to the traditional spherical-earth model.

Science is about testing hypotheses, so let us set up an experiment to test these alternative views. For this, I enlisted the help of two of my children, ages 13 and 11. It made for a fun homeschoolproject.

The basic problem is the distance between longitude lines in the flat-earth model. In a spherical earth, the longitude lines start from one pole and converge on the other pole, and the distances get wider the closer they are to the equator. But in the northern-hemisphere–biased flat-earth model, the longitude lines start from the north pole and radiate outwards to the supposed ‘encircling southern polar ring’ like spokes on a wheel.

This means that the distances become greater the further south they go. This suggests an easy test of the two models: compare distances to travel times for distant places in the southern hemisphere.

The normalized data revealed a tight correlation between the spherical earth model and flight time.

The goal of this simple study was to compare reported airline flight time data with two distance measures, the ‘great circle’ distance of spherical-earth theory and the ‘straight-line’ distance of flat-earth theory.

The driving hypothesis is that the flat-earth map is distorted and so the flight times will not match the calculated distances. This, of course, assumes there is no great conspiracy among the millions of people working for the airline industry or the tens of millions of people who fly on their airplanes annually, which seems reasonable. I am also assuming airplanes on a flat earth would use the rule we all learned in geometry that ‘the shortest distance between any two points on a [standard, Euclidean] plane is a straight line’.

This assumption was in favor of the flat earth model for, as we will see, any curved line would only exacerbate the noticeable distortion with increasing flight time and distance from the source.


Read the rest here