Archive for the ‘science’ Category

To fight climate misinformation, point to the man behind the curtain

January 18th, 2019
Protest sign from a rally against the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline on Burnaby Mountain, BC.

Enlarge / Protest sign from a rally against the Kinder Morgan oil pipeline on Burnaby Mountain, BC. (credit: flickr user: Mark Klotz)

In 2018, Gallup’s annual environment survey found that overall concern about climate change in the US was roughly stable. But within that stability was a growing divide. The 87 percent of Democrats who reported in 2017 that they believe global warming is a result of human activity bumped up slightly to 89 percent in 2018. Meanwhile, for Republicans, that number dipped from 40 percent in 2017 to 35 percent in 2018.

How can the misinformation campaign driving this divide be fought? Just reporting and reiterating the facts of anthropogenic climate change doesn’t seem to work. A paper in Nature Climate Change this week argues that attempts to counter misinformation need to draw on the research that is illuminating the bad actors behind climate denialism, the money funding them, and how their coordinated campaigns are disrupting the political process.

Facts alone won’t cut it

“It is not enough simply to communicate to the public over and again the scientific consensus on human-caused climate change,” write Justin Farrell, Kathryn McConnell, and Robert Brulle in their paper, because “individuals’ preexisting ideologies and values systems can play a significant role in whether they accept or reject scientific consensus.”

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Posted in climate denialism, Climate science, Psychology, science | Comments (0)

Pharma Spending on Doctors Is Correlated With Opioid Deaths

January 18th, 2019
A new study shows that doctors wrote more prescriptions, and more people overdosed on opioids, in counties where drug companies spent more money.

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The Earth has been experiencing more frequent asteroid strikes

January 18th, 2019
The craters used for this analysis and their locations.

Enlarge / The craters used for this analysis and their locations. (credit: Dr. A. Parker, Southwest Research Institute)

How often does a big rock drop on our planet from space? As we've gotten a better understanding of the impact that did in the dinosaurs, that knowledge has compelled people to take a serious look at how we might detect and divert asteroids that pose a similar threat of planetary extinction. But something even a tenth of the size of the dinosaur-killer could cause catastrophic damage, as you could easily determine by placing a 15km circle over your favorite metropolitan center.

So, what's the risk of having a collision of that nature? It's actually hard to tell. The easiest way to tell is to look for past impact craters and try to figure out the frequency of these impacts, but the Earth has a habit of erasing evidence. So, instead, a group of scientists figured out a clever way of looking at the Moon, which should have a similar level or risk. And they found that the rate of impacts went up about 300 million years ago.

Erasing history

Some impact craters on Earth are pretty obvious, but erosion and infilling with sediments make others much harder to find. We wouldn't have noticed Chicxulub or the Chesapeake Bay Crater were there if we hadn't stumbled across them for other reasons. As we go back in time, plate tectonics can erase evidence of impacts from the sea floor, as the rock they reside in gets subducted back into the mantle. And then, about 550 million years ago, the Great Unconformity wipes off any evidence of impacts that might have been left on land.

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Posted in asteroids, astronomy, impacts, planetary science, science | Comments (0)

The longstanding NASA-Russian partnership in space may be unraveling

January 18th, 2019
Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin is photographed in October, 2018, after the launch failure of a Soyuz-FG rocket.

Enlarge / Roscosmos head Dmitry Rogozin is photographed in October, 2018, after the launch failure of a Soyuz-FG rocket. (credit: Alexei Filippov/TASS via Getty Images)

After an American Apollo and Soviet Soyuz spacecraft docked in orbit during the height of the Cold War, in 1975, the two leading space powers gradually worked more and more together on civil space activities. Over time, they forged a successful and, among astronauts and engineers at least, even a comfortable bond. But of late, that bond is fraying, and long-term it may unravel entirely.

The most immediate issue involves Dmitry Rogozin, appointed to lead the Russian space corporation Roscosmos in May 2018. Overtly political, Rogozin shares Vladimir Putin's antipathy toward the West. Following the Crimean crisis in 2014, Rogozin was one of seven Russian officials sanctioned by the Obama administration. In response, he taunted NASA, which relied then (and still does) on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to reach the International Space Station.

"After analyzing the sanctions against our space industry, I suggest to the USA to bring their astronauts to the International Space Station using a trampoline,” Rogozin, then a deputy prime minister of Russia over defense and space, tweeted in Russian at the time.

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Space Billboards Are Just the Latest Orbital Stunt

January 18th, 2019
A company that wants to slap logos on the night sky is raising tricky questions about what belongs in space.

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Rocket Report: Iranian booster failure, SpaceX cuts, Vulcan near final design

January 18th, 2019
A Falcon 9 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Enlarge / A Falcon 9 rocket launches from Vandenberg Air Force Base. (credit: Aurich Lawson/SpaceX)

Welcome to Edition 1.32 of the Rocket Report! As we get deeper into the new year, the launch business is starting to heat up, especially among the smaller rockets. Companies are eyeing launch sites, securing launch contracts, and scrambling on development of their rockets. This is simply going to be a huge year for small-sat launchers, and we're going to do our best to stay on top of everything.

As always, we welcome reader submissions, and if you don't want to miss an issue, please subscribe using the box below (the form will not appear on AMP-enabled versions of the site). Each report will include information on small-, medium-, and heavy-lift rockets as well as a quick look ahead at the next three launches on the calendar.

Relativity Space to launch from historic Florida site. The company that aspires to 3D print almost the entirety of its rockets has reached an agreement with the US Air Force to launch from historic facilities at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Relativity Space said Thursday it has a multiyear contract to build and operate its own rocket launch facilities at Launch Complex 16, Ars reported.

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If Edible Insects Are the Future, We Should Talk About Poop

January 18th, 2019
Insects are touted as a major new source of protein, but scaling up Big Cricket could mean new problems—such as what to do with all their "frass."

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For teens, digital technology is good. Or bad. Or maybe neutral?

January 18th, 2019
For teens, digital technology is good. Or bad. Or maybe neutral?

Enlarge (credit: SimpleTexting.com)

In South Korea, people under the age of 16 can’t play online games between midnight and 6am. The UK Parliament has launched an official inquiry into “the impact of social media and screen use on young people’s health.” Meanwhile in the United States, the Wait Until 8th campaign asks parents to delay giving their children a smartphone until they’re in eighth grade. Worry about kids and technology is rampant—so have smartphones, in fact, destroyed a generation?

A paper published in Nature Human Behaviour this week answers that question, often differently, thousands and thousands of times. Researchers Amy Orben and Andrew Przybylski took three huge datasets and threw every possible meaningful question at them. In part, their analysis is an illustration of how different researchers can get wildly different answers from the same data. But cumulatively, the answers they came up with indicate that tech use correlates with a teeny-tiny dent in adolescent well-being—and that there’s a big problem with big data.

High numbers don’t necessarily mean high quality

Studying small numbers of people, or rats, or trees can be a problem for scientists. Comparisons between small groups of subjects might miss a real finding or luck out and find something that looks like a pattern but is actually just noise. And it’s always tricky to generalize from a small group to a whole population. Sometimes small is the only sort of data that’s available, but some research disciplines have had the recent(-ish) boon of gigantic, rich datasets to work with.

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Posted in Behavioral science, Biology, science, statistics | Comments (0)

Watching the Super Blood Wolf Moon? What to Know About This Lunar Phenomenon

January 17th, 2019
A total lunar eclipse known by any other name ... is still a total lunar eclipse.

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Oil from humble saltwater plant blended with jet fuel on Etihad Airways flight

January 17th, 2019
One type of salicornia plant.

Enlarge / Glasswort bush (Salicornia europaea), Chenopodiaceae. (credit: De Agostini/Getty Images)

On Wednesday, an Etihad Airways Boeing 787 in Abu Dhabi embarked on a roughly seven-hour flight to Amsterdam with its tank full of a mixture of jet fuel and biofuel. The biofuel was derived from oil pressed out of Salicornia plants, which require saltwater to grow.

Gulf News reported that a full 50 percent of the jet fuel needed to take the plane to its destination was biofuel, which is an extraordinarily high ratio of biofuel to jet fuel, if this report is correct. Ars contacted Etihad Airways to confirm this number, and we will update the story when we receive a response.

Previous notable flights using biofuel have included a Qantas flight that used a 10-percent blend of mustard seed oil, a Virgin Atlantic flight that used a 5-percent blend of fuel made from industrial waste gas, an Alaska Airlines flight that used a 20-percent blend of fuel made from waste wood from Pacific Northwest timber harvests, and a series of United Airlines flights that used a 30-percent blend of biofuel from various sources.

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Posted in airplanes, biofuel, Biz & IT, Energy, FLIGHT, jet fuel, science | Comments (0)