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July 30, 2009

Catastrophic climate change kills 20,000 arctic oxen

When Rain Falls On Snow, Arctic Animals May Starve : NPR It's like the worst game of Orgeon Trail ever.
"Long story short, about 20,000 musk oxen starved to death because of this event," says geologist Jaakko Putkonen. It was a "humongous event" that took place in the fall of 2003. Putkonen, who is a professor at the University of North Dakota, has since discovered a few anecdotal accounts of big rain-on-snow events that killed reindeer in the Arctic and in Scandinavia. What happens is this: Unusually warm weather drops rain on top of snowpack. The rain either pools at the surface or trickles down to the soil below the snowpack, then freezes into a sheet of ice. Musk oxen, which are shaggy, cow-sized animals that weigh hundreds of pounds, can't break through the ice to browse on plants underneath the snow. Sooner or later, they starve.

Jellyfish are the air conditioners of the sea

BBC NEWS | Science & Environment | Jellyfish help to stir the ocean
Jellyfish help to stir up the ocean as they move, researchers have found. Using a green dye, scientists showed how the animals' umbrella-shaped bodies were a key factor in this mixing. The distribution of heat, nutrients and chemicals helps maintain the marine environment and has an important influence on global climate. Reporting in the journal Nature, the researchers said that marine animals of many shapes and sizes contributed to ocean turbulence. Charles Darwin, grandson of the famous British naturalist, first discovered that animals stir up the oceans more than 50 years ago.

The 10 Worst Evolutionary Designs

10 Worst Evolutionary Designs
1 Sea mammal blowhole. Any animal that spends appreciable time in the ocean should be able to extract oxygen from water via gills. Enlarging the lungs and moving a nostril to the back of the head is a poor work-around. 2 Hyena clitoris. When engorged, this "pseudopenis," which doubles as the birth canal, becomes so hard it can crush babies to death during exit. . . . 10 Narwhal tusk. The unicorn-like protuberance on a male narwhal's head is actually a tooth that erupts through the front of the jaw and keeps on growing, up to 9 feet. Narwhal: "Doc, I have a toothache." Dentist: "Indeed."

July 29, 2009

Science! Tanning beds as cancerous as smoking

Study: Sunbeds as harmful as cigarettes - CNN.com
However, the agency is now recommending that tanning machines should be moved to "the highest cancer risk category" and be labeled as "carcinogenic to humans". It followed a review of research that concluded that the risk of melanoma -- the most deadly form of skin cancer -- was increased by 75 percent in people who started using sunbeds regularly before the age of 30. The IARC also says there is evidence of a link between melanoma of the eye and the use of sunbeds.

Science: Children can't remember colors

Why children paint trees blue - life - 29 July 2009 - New Scientist
YOUNG children may colour trees blue or grass red because their memories can't "bind" together the colour and shape of an object. Because the brain stores colour and shape in different groups of neurons, Vanessa Simmering at the University of Wisconsin in Madison suspected that young children have not yet developed the ability to link the information stored in each. To test her hypothesis, she asked 28 four-year-olds and 28 five-year-olds to view images of up to three shapes on a computer screen for a short time. Immediately afterwards, the children were shown a new image, and asked whether it was the same as the previous image or had subtly changed. Although the four-year-olds could detect when a new colour had been introduced, they did not seem to notice if two of the shapes had just swapped their original colours, performing no better than chance on those trials. The five-year-olds had no such problem, suggesting that the ability to combine the different types of visual information develops after the child's fifth year.

July 27, 2009

Obama administration reveals evidence of global warming kept secret under Bush

Think Progress -- Obama administration reveals evidence of global warming kept secret under Bush.
The Obama administration has “released more than a thousand intelligence images of Arctic ice,” following a declassification request by the National Academy of Sciences. These high-resolution spy photos of rapid sea ice loss off the northern coast of Alaska, kept classified by the Bush administration, show “the devastating impact of global warming in the Arctic” . . .

July 26, 2009

How DNA copies itself

How DNA copies itself