Signs of change in the air

Will the consequences of human-generated climate change be worse than expected?  That is the dire forecast according to an article covering severall ways that the IPCC reports have been — if anything — too conservative by far.  Interestingly, this insight is being circulated by many of the folks whom I call “awakened conservatives” (ACs), who oppose the recent plunge of the Republican Party into bottomless hatred of science. (As evidenced by the ongoing howler-GlobalWarmingantics of all GOP members of the U.S. House Science Committee, and by their recent blocking of the creation of a harmless-inspiring-unpaid post of “U.S. Science Laureate.” Said one of them – “It would give scientists an opportunity to pontificate, and we’re opposed to it.” Yes, he actually said that.)

This should be a matter for internal struggle and redemption within conservatism, whose principles ought to be in no way compatible with a War on Science. Lifelong conservatives such as Gregory Benford and Jerry Pournelle fear that conservatism in general will suffer an irrecoverable blow to its reputation, if 99% of scientists and nearly all the evidence prove to be right and civilization starts suffering from devastating climate shifts.  If Rupert Murdoch’s hidden purpose had been to undermine a sound, fiscally prudent conservatism, by associating with with anti-science mania, he could not have done a better job.

== Science forges on ==

The interstellar winds streaming through our solar system have changed directions over the last forty years, flowing from a different direction than previously observed. This may give astronomers insight into the dynamics and structure of the galaxy and interstellar clouds.

This year’s solar maximum is shaping up to be the weakest in 100 years and the next one could be even more quiescent.  “It’s the smallest maximum we’ve seen in the Space Age.” About every 11 years, the sun goes through a cycle defined by an increasing and then decreasing number of sunspots. Solar Cycle 24 has been underway since 2011 and its peak was expected in 2013, but there have been fewer sunspots observed this year compared with the maximums of the last several cycles. A small Cycle 24 also fits in with a 100-year pattern of building and waning solar cycles. Scientists don’t know exactly what causes this trend, but there were weak solar cycles in the beginning of the 19th and 20th centuries.

UNIVERSEFAKEPhysicists to test if universe is a computer simulation. Are there signatures that we could detect?

So cool. JPL aimed the Curiosity rover’s MAST camera at the sun just in time to catch the moon Phobos performing an annular solar eclipse. (The only kind on Mars; but still it’s terrific.)

NuSTAR, NASA’s black hole hunter, catches its first ten supermassive black holes.

==Uplift and Evolution==

Did long lives — and the advent of grandparents  —  make humans human? An article in Slate takes a look at the stunning changes that occurred in the Upper Paleolithic 30,000 years ago, when a significant fraction of humans began living past thirty years. A revolution that (by the way) is discussed in Existence.

EvolveBiggerBrainsAnimals have to be really smart to survive in the rapidly changing world humans have wrought upon them. And in fact, a new study from the University of Minnesota found, some species appear to be evolving bigger brains to keep up.  University of Minnesota biologist, Emilie C. Snell-Rood, offers evidence suggesting that humans may indeed be driving evolution. As we alter the places where animals live, we may be fueling the evolution of larger animal brains.  They predicted – and found — that urban populations would show greater cranial capacity than rural populations — and that cranial capacity would increase over time in urban populations.

Related to my recent scientific articles in the volume PATHOLOGICAL ALTRUISM… A Brazilian stroke victim can’t stop helping others after developing pathological generosity. Related to my short story, The Giving Plague (free on Kindle).

A comprehensive compendium lists mutational processes that drive tumor development in 30 of the most common cancer types.

A major cause of sickness among people already hospitalized? Malnutrition! Giving nutritional supplements was shown to decrease hospitalization length by 21%. A simple procedure could save billions of lives, reports Kurzweil’s Accelerating Intelligence.

RetiefsWarAnimals with GEARS!  I’m getting lots of emails comparing this to my g’Kek creatures in BRIGHTNESS REEF. But of course Keith Laumer in RETIEF’S WAR showed us a world where most life used wheels and gears but in nature such things are very rare above bacteria. But this little critter has a cool partial gear arrangement!

==Miscellaneous==

Mass hysteria  is blamed for the symptoms shared by teenage girls that helped stoke the Salem Witch Trials.  In fact, it happens more often than you might think. An article in The Atlantic, What Witchcraft is Facebook? suggests there are signs that social media can make these events worse.

Adam Spencer on Why I Fell in Love with Monster Primes: an inspiring TED talk by a handsome fellow who has an enthralling riff on BIG prime numbers.

The poetry of James Clerk Maxwell (really!)  

And finally, Japanese ingenuity changes plastic into oil.  This video is in Japanese with subtitles.  I could use more facts and details. I would wager that the process is more difficult than he makes it out to be… but still. Watch and be inspired to help make it so.

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