This is an interesting moving graphic complements of Ezra Klein of The Washington Post. All the data is from NASA.
This is an interesting moving graphic complements of Ezra Klein of The Washington Post. All the data is from NASA.
Knew or should have known, a standard often applied in a myriad of legal context, could soon be the one applied to attorneys who ignore the risks associated with communicating with clients using modern technologies (i.e., text messaging, emails, telephone calls, and voice-mail) without appreciating the risk. “Ignorance is Bliss,” is a dangerous proposition in the practice of law when it comes to ignoring current technologies. What obligations require attorneys to protect their client communications, and what practical steps can be taken to meet statutory and ethical obligations related to confidentiality? Is there a real risk, or is the risk limited to action movies?
Want to read more? For Part 1, go to: http://www.lexisnexis.com/legalnewsroom/litigation/b/litigation-blog/archive/2013/07/23/ignorance-is-risk-impact-of-nsa-monitoring-technologies-on-attorney-client-communications-part-1.aspx
For Part 2 go to: http://www.lexisnexis.com/legalnewsroom/litigation/b/litigation-blog/archive/2013/07/24/ignorance-is-risk-response-options-to-nsa-monitoring-of-attorney-client-communications-part-2.aspx
Sometimes a piece of research changes the way one looks at ecosystems.
Evaporation from tiny pores in the leaves of trees pulls water up from the roots through thousands of slim tubes, called xylem tissue. When water is scarce, these tubes can develop microscopic air bubbles which block these tubes. Too many of these bubbles across the xylem kills the tree.
To judge the state of forests, researchers studied 81 sites spanning from wet tropics to arib shrublands. The study gauged water transport in various tree species, and sought to assess the point at which each species dies from lack of water being delivered to its tissues.
The researchers concluded that 70% of 226 woody species in forests around the world routinely function near the point at which a serious drought would stop sufficient water transport from their roots to their leaves. Even trees in moist, "lush" places operate with slim margins. Flowering tree species (e.g., maples, oaks) are more vulnerable overall to dry conditions than conifers.
What drives this marginal state? Over time, trees have evolved to make a tradeoff between water lost and the capture of carbon dioxide, which is needed for metabolism and growth. When a tree opens its pores, it loses approximately 400 water molecules for each molecule of carbon that is captured. The reseachers thus conclude that trees are maximizing their carbon capture "for food" even though it puts their existence near the margin in terms of water.
The research can be found at: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v491/n7426/full/nature11688.html.
An interesting two-piece assessment has been published by KQED, the San Francisco PBS radio and television station. They are succinct and informative.
Links to the two articles can be found at:
OEHHA, the State regulatory agency overseeing the administration of Propositon 65, has announced its intent to list "emissions from the combustion of coal" as a carcinogen. See http://www.oehha.ca.gov/prop65/CRNR_notices/admin_listing/intent_to_list/noil060713coal.html. The emissions at issue are both from industrial facilities and residential settings. According to the American Lung Association, these emissions include acid gases (hydrogen chloride, hydrogen fluoride, Dioxins & Furans (e.g., 2,3,7,8-TCDD), methylmercury, metals (arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, nickel, selenium, manganese, lead), Polynuclear Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH's), radioisotopes (radium, uranium), and volative organic compounds (e.g., benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, xylene, aldehydes [including formaldehyde]). See http://www.lung.org/assets/documents/healthy-air/coal-fired-plant-hazards.pdf.
OEHHA is citing to the "authoritative bodies" listing mechanism for the listing. [For a discussion of Prop. 65 and the various listing mechanisms, see http://www.rmkb.com/tasks/sites/rmkb/assets/image/253.pdf as well as prior posts discussing the mechanism.] The authoritative body is IARC, as manifest in its 2010 Publication Household Use of Solid Fuels and High Temperature Frying. See http://apps.who.int/bookorders/anglais/detart1.jsp?sesslan=1&codlan=1&codcol=72&codcch=95, pp. 225, 226, 303, and 307. The monograph notes that "[t]here is sufficient evidence in experimental animals for the carcinogenicity of emissions from combustion of coal."
OEHHA sent out requests for information relevant to the possible listing on March 26, 2013. Input was requested by May 14, 2013. There were no responses.
OEHHA is providing a second opportunity to provide relevant information on the possible listing. Comments are due by 5 PM on July 8, 2013. See http://www.oehha.ca.gov/prop65/CRNR_notices/admin_listing/intent_to_list/noil060713coal.html.
The timeline related to when the genus homo used spears has been recently elucidated. Human ancestors were killing game about 3/4 of a million years ago in the Middle East, as evidenced by butchered deer carcasses. Until now, the earliest stone spear tips were found at a Neandertal site in France and dated from 300 to 200 thousand years ago. Wooden spears have been found among the remains of butchered horses in Germany and dated to 400,000 years ago.
Researchers in South Africa have now unearthed stone spear tips made by a common ancestor of Neandertals and Homo sapiens around 500,000 years ago. The spears were either thrusting spears or thrown at close range. The time frame was determined using soil analysis in which the spear tips were buried, a common dating technique. [Recently stone arrow tips have been dated to 71,000 years ago, which pushes back these hunting tools by several thousand years.]
The stone spear tips were made from silcrete [see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Silcrete] that were heated to make the stone easier to chip. The tips were found among sediments spanning a period of 11,000 years. Two fascinating conclusions flow from these facts. First, it shows that complicated instructions for building multipart tools could be passed over hundreds of generations. Second, it shows that Neandertals and Homo sapiens shared, through a common ancestor, whatever mental abilities were needed for hafted stone-tool technology [stone tools with a handle or hilt].
It was not until much later that Stone Age humans learned to make devices like spear-throwers that could hurl spears farther, harder, and more accurately. [Since Neandertals apparently did not develop such technology, it is thought by some researchers that this gave Homo sapiens a significant survival advantage, and may explain(at least in part) the demise of Neandertals, especially as climate change decreased the forested areas in which their thrusting-spear strategy for hunting was effective.]
Research reports on this topic can be found at: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v491/n7425/full/nature11660.html; http://www.sciencemag.org/content/338/6109/942.abstract.
When viewing evolution over time, scientists generally favor parsimony, that is, lineages radiating from a common ancestor share most of the ancestor's features. This also means that animals at the bottom have simple features, which may grow more complex or which may become more specialized as other animals evolve from this common base. So, in ocean animals, sponges branch off from the common ancestor first; they are multicellular animals without much specialization. Jellyfish, sea anemones, and corals come later, each have multiple cell types; further, there are some cells in an outer layer surrounding the body and an inner tissue layer lining the gut. An animal with all these features plus nerve cells, a rudiamentary brain, and a middle tissue layer that forms muscles is thought to have given rise to comb jellies and the rest of animals.
So, transitions to new species create innovations, not only in body structures but in shared molecular processes. For example, many of the same proteins stick cells together and communicate messages between cells in all living animals. The same hold trues for muscles and CNS, which consist of multiple distinct parts built by networks of proteins encoded by genes [prior blogs have noted that this statement is a tad simplistic, but I am describing generalities for now].
Scientists expected animal genomes to mirror this pattern. It was thought that humans with 22,000 genes would mean that sponges, sea anemones, and comb jellies would have less. In 2007 this view was questioned when the starlet sea anemone was found to have nearly as many genes as humans [and of course, as noted in prior posts, genes are only part of the picture; there is so much more complexity that this type of number counting]. So the potential for complexity may have existed much earlier than thought.
Then the comb jellies upset the apple carts. An evolutionary tree built according to similarities in stretches of DNA, rather than shared anatomical traits, places comb jellies below the brainless sponges. Comb jellies are gelatinous like jellyfish, but they are so much more. In body plan they resemble sea anemones, corals, and other cnidarians [see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cnidaria], a group dating back 550 million years [and you were wondering when I would get to the Cambrian non-explosion]. Cnidarians have nerve cells that form a loose network in their bodies, but comb jellies have a seemingly more sophisticated nervous system with a rudimentary brain and synapses also found in flies, humans, and most other animals.
But, examination of the genomes of two species of comb jellies suggests they are primitive animals, and not part of the sea aneomes or corals, as originally believed. It is possible that comb jellies evolved before the brainless, gutless, muscle-less sea sponges. Though only a small fraction of animals, comb jellies threaten what was the accepted wisdow regarding the origin and evolution of animals.
So, this leads to a number of fascinating possibilities. Radical Thought #1, Comb jellies evolved nerves, muscles, and other complex features which sort of resemble that of humans, but independent of the ancestor that lead to most animals.
Radical Thought #2. The last common ancestor of all animals possessed complex features that remained in the comb jellies, but were lost without a trace in sponges, jellyfish etc. Multifaceted features are not suppose to be created and then vanish over evolutionary time.
One group of researchers decided to tackle the issue by assessing an entire comb jelly genome. They chose Mnemiopsis leidyi, present in quantity off Cape Cod and easily reared in the lab. Now here is where the tools of science show their rough edges. One mathematical model that compared the comb jelly genome with other organisms lead to the conclusion that comb jellies belong at the base of the tree of life, even with all their advanced features. How did this happen? Well comb jellies lack all sorts of components for encoding proteins; signaling pathways involved in cell growth and metabolism are also missing in comb jellies and sponges. Comb jellies lack microRNA and the molecular machinery to make them. One theory that then arises is that the mising genes evolved in other animals after comb jellies branched off from the ancestor of all other animals. Other researchers using different techniques came to a similar conclusion.
Yet, this seems absurd given that comb jellies have a brain (of sorts), a nervous system, and complex reactions. Some species of comb jellies chase prey, while others use their tentacles like fishing nets. There is another possibility then, one that has been mentioned in prior posts questioning if the Cambrian explosion was really an explosion, or merely an artifact of what survives as fossils, with the soft body creatures that existed before being rare in the fossil record and creating the illusion of an explosion once hard-bodied animals began to be present.
My personal favorite, I admit, reflects the reorientation of time and evolution. Just like it was once thought that DNA came first, then RNA, it now seems much more likely that RNA preceded DNA. So, back we travel to the Ediacaran Period (635 to 542 million years ago). See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ediacaran. This is the period before the Cambrian. Animal life in this period, before most modern lineages arose, was strange. Shapes and features were weird, given what we have come to believe is what life looked like as reflected in the Cambrian. Many Ediacaran creatures cannot be assessed using modern classifications.
Where does this take us? We know that life has cycled through time on Earth, with destruction on a global scale often destroying most life, and a few species surviving to differentiate and thrive. We humans owe our existence to at least one such global disaster. We forget that even after we came to be homo sapiens we came seriously close to extinction as a species "just" before expanding out of Africa. So, could comb jellies be the sole survivor of what existed during the Ediacaran? Given the development of the common lineage leading to animals as we generally conceive of them, it makes more sense than trying to twist and distort evolutionary theory and all the hard evidence in support of it to accomodate a single animal type, comb jellies.
In Darwin's day the contrarians said complexity could not evolve without a creator, an argument mirrored in many pseudo-scientific theories that are really reflections of one view of Christian faith. Now, scientists argue that complex systems may evolve, but not often. Why not? A billion years is a long time. Why is it not possible that complex systems have developed more than once, and the comb jellies are the survivor of an earlier experiment in the Ediacaran? No twists, no contortions. Science has always favored the least complex explanation, and this may be it.
Articles on this topic can be found at: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v452/n7188/full/nature06614.html; http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2164/13/714; http://www.evodevojournal.com/content/1/1/9; http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0024152; http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0033261; http://www.biomedcentral.com/1741-7007/10/107; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20029182; http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22116879.
As noted in prior posts, the understanding of human social and cultural development has changed radically over the last decade, if not last five years. For example, humans lived in huts (albeit temporarily) even before they were farmers. Thus, as frequently is the case, there is not a sudden change, but over time a gradual metaphorasis from one state of being to another. First, housing; now, cooking.
Residues in ceramic pottery indicates that humans were cooking thousands of years before farming communities began heating their food. Researchers in Japan found that hunter-gatherers living between 15,300 and 11,200 years ago cooked freshwater or marine animals in ceramic vessels. More than 3/4 of the vessels tested displayed the chemical signatures of freshwater or marine animals.
Discoveries have shown that hunter-gatherers across East Asia made pottery at least 20,000 years ago in China. But, until this recent study, none had been connected with cooking. Researchers now plan to test these for cooked food residues.
Another implication of the research findings is that East Asian hunter-gatherers may have introduced pottery making into Europe rather than Middle Eastern farmers, as has been currently believed.
As with all things human, how we developed as a species and a social animal is more complex and fascinating than believed even five years ago.
The report can be found at: http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v496/n7445/full/nature12109.html.
Prior posts have noted the great Atlantic and Pacific garbage patches. [See, for example, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Pacific_garbage_patch; http://www.mnn.com/earth-matters/translating-uncle-sam/stories/what-is-the-great-pacific-ocean-garbage-patch; &, http://news.discovery.com/earth/oceans/atlantic-garbage-patch.htm.]
Researchers sampled the Great Lakes’ waters for microplastics — pieces up to 5 millimeters across [BB pellet size]. When bigger pieces of plastic trash are battered by waves and baked by the sun, they break down into tiny bits. The researchers found that these microplastics make up about 80% of total plastic samples collected in Lake Erie. Chemical analysis of the microplastic samples found varying levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons [PAH's] and polychlorinated biphenyls [PCB's]. The PAH's and PCB's did not originate with the "mother" plastic; the microplastics readily absorbed pollutants from the surrounding environment.
The researchers note that it is uncertain if the microplastic pollutants might affect fish or birds that eat the particles; the pollutants might stay locked up in the plastic rather than leaching out into the water supply or wildlife. These uncertainties certainly suggest a fertile area for future research.
The report can be found at: http://abstracts.acs.org/chem/245nm/program/view.php?obj_id=176594&terms=.
For additional articles on this topic, see: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X11003055http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X11003055; http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es201811s; http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X1000336Xhttp://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X1000336X; & http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X1100316X.
A prior post noted the very substantial problems with AB 227. If it was meant to be a universal cure, it was woefully inadequate.
However, it now appears that its scope has been limited substantially, which makes it somewhat more reasonable as a solution to the tactics used by some plaintiffs to "shakedown" small business owners.
At the initial hearing on the bill before the Assembly Environmental Safety and Toxic Materials Committee on April 16, 2013, the bill was opposed by various plaintiff groups. Assemblyman Gatto noted that his intent was to prevent certain "shakedown" practices and that he would amend accordingly. With that understanding, the bill passed out of Committee.
The next hearing was in the Assembly Judiciary Committee. Apparently Gatto and the opponents struck a deal because there was no opposition that appeared at the hearing. The changes have now become manifest:
The bill only applies to
In order for the target of the Prop. 65 notice to be able to render the issue moot, it must:
AB 227 also contains the following new provisions:
The history of the legislation, it changes in wording, and the votes as it moves through the legislative process can be found at: http://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/billNavClient.xhtml?bill_id=201320140AB227&search_keywords=