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April 24, 2010

Oh look, there's a new fatal airborne fungus in Oregon poised to spread across the world

Deadly airborne fungus in Oregon set to spread - Infectious diseases- msnbc.com
A deadly, airborne new strain of fungus has emerged in Oregon. It has killed nearly one out of four known affected people so far and might also attack animals ranging from dogs to dolphins. And it is likely to spread, researchers now warn. The new strain known as VGIIc of the fungus Cryptococcus gattii not only targets humans but has also proven capable of infecting dogs, cats, alpacas, sheep and elk. Other strains have even infected porpoises. Although it can spread to mammals, it does not jump from animal to animal. Instead, people and other animals get it from inhaling spores released by samples of the fungus that infect trees.

April 23, 2010

This is what the surface of the sun looks like in high-def

New, High-Definition footage of the surface of the sun

April 22, 2010

Study Suggests More People Willing to Believe in ESP When Told It's Been Scientifically Disproven

Ha ha hah. We are dumb. Study Suggests More People Willing to Believe in ESP When Told It's Been Scientifically Disproven | Investigations | AlterNet
“We found relatively strong evidence that individuals are more likely to accept paranormal claims as true when they believe such claims have popular support,” the researchers write. However, “We found no effects indicating that science rejecting a claim led individuals to be less likely to believe the claim. “In fact, when participants believed that science rejected a claim, they moved in the direction of being more likely to accept the clam as true. This finding ran counter to our expectations, but is consistent with findings that trust in science is decreasing.” To put it another way: Those told ESP had widespread popular support were likely to express agreement with that consensus, regardless of the scientific consensus. But among those who were informed that only one-quarter of the population believed in the phenomenon, support was actually higher when science gave it a thumbs-down. That collective gulp was from the climatologist community, which has every right to worry whether its warnings of the consequences of global warming are not only being tuned out, but actively discounted by a cynical public. Perhaps a study of paranormal beliefs is too specific to indicate a widespread distrust of lab-coated authority figures, but perhaps that’s precisely what it suggests.

April 21, 2010

Science! Humans bred with other species twice

Short Sharp Science: Early humans may have bred with other species – twice
Human evolution is looking more tangled than ever. A new genetic study of nearly two thousand people from around the world suggests that some of our ancestors bred with other species of humans, such as Neanderthals, at least twice. "The researchers suggest the interbreeding happened about 60,000 years ago in the eastern Mediterranean and, more recently, about 45,000 years ago in eastern Asia," Nature News reports from the annual meeting of the American Society of Physical Anthropologists in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That conclusion is based on a study of over 600 genetic markers, called microsatellites, sequenced in nearly 100 different populations.

Bacterial mat the size of Greece found on Pacific floor

Bacterial mat the size of Greece found on Pacific floor - life - 21 April 2010 - New Scientist
JUST off the coast of the world's driest desert, the lifeless Atacama in northern Chile, lies one of the largest and densest masses of life anywhere on Earth. The vast tangled mat of white "hair", the size of Greece, was recently mapped as part of the first comprehensive Census of Marine Life. The ghostly submarine prairie is made of wispy strings of giant bacteria, says Victor Gallardo, a marine biologist at Chile's University of Concepci�n. The bug thrives in water almost devoid of oxygen by extracting energy from hydrogen sulphide in sediments on the seabed, and feeds on nutrients dispersed by fish in the waters of the cold, fertile Humboldt current above. Gallardo says the wispy bacteria resemble fossilised bacterial mats dating back 2.5 billion years. In total, he and his colleagues estimate that the mat contains hundreds of millions of tonnes of bacteria, and that the whole system regenerates every 10 weeks. Individual bacteria can reach 7 centimetres long.

April 18, 2010

Did melting glaciers cause the eruption of Eyjafjallajokull?

This is just the beginning, warn scientists - Times Online That certainly seems to be implied by the end of this story. Global warming causes volcanic eruptions.
Hooper warned that the eruption may be only a taste of the future if climate change causes ice sheets to melt further. As the last ice age ended, volcanic activity in Iceland increased 30-fold because of reduced pressure on the earth’s mantle. “Since the 19th century the ice caps in Iceland have been shrinking yet further,” said Hooper. “This will lead to additional magma generation, so we should expect more frequent voluminous eruptions in the future.”