Octopus and cuttlefish are my favorite! Check out these marine videos from @jtotheizzoe and @okaytobesmart #BigBlueLive

Awesome videos from Joe Hanson at #BigBlueLive – check out all the awesomeness in the vids below and at the Big Blue Live website here!!

[tweet https://twitter.com/jtotheizzoe/status/638080505234223104]

Author and Neurologist Oliver Sacks died yesterday morning at 82 – Rest in Peace

A sad day for neuroscientists everywhere. Rest In Peace Oliver Sacks! Read the New York Times article summarizing Dr. Sacks impressive life here!

[tweet https://twitter.com/OliverSacks/status/638090548520349697] [tweet https://twitter.com/OliverSacks/status/638090607085395968]

The New York Times also published a moving article by Oliver Sacks about his dwindling health, read the moving piece here.

And now, weak, short of breath, my once-firm muscles melted away by cancer, I find my thoughts, increasingly, not on the supernatural or spiritual, but on what is meant by living a good and worthwhile life — achieving a sense of peace within oneself. I find my thoughts drifting to the Sabbath, the day of rest, the seventh day of the week, and perhaps the seventh day of one’s life as well, when one can feel that one’s work is done, and one may, in good conscience, rest.

Sea levels are rising! – Check out this educational @NASA VIDEO about it! #ClimateChange #EarthRightNow

For over 20 years NASA has been tracking the global surface topography of the ocean in order to understand the important role it plays in our daily lives. Climate change is causing our Ocean to warm and glaciers to melt, resulting in sea level rise. Since 1880, the global sea level has risen 8 inches; By 2100, it is projected to rise another 1 to 4 feet.

Key Indicators: Sea Level
National Climate Assessment: Sea Level Rise
Sea Level Rise: Global Warming’s Yardstick
West Antarctic Glacier Loss Appears Unstoppable
Quiz: Sea Level Rise
What Will Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Mean for Barrier Islands?
Hangout: Sea Level Rise (recorded)

DIY biohackers using CRISPR for complex genome editing not as scary as it sounds #science @NatureNews

Nature has published a news article by Heidi Ledford about the use of CRISPR by recreational biohackers, people who are do-it-yourself biologists for many different reasons (art, fun, culinary). As a genome editing technique, CRIPSR definitely has interesting applications for both good and evil, in terms of biohacking. And the article does a good job exploring these. However, the article implies that CRISPR is feasible for biohackers, only ending with:

But Dan Wright, an environmental lawyer and DIY biohacker in Los Angeles, California, thinks that such a scenario is still beyond the ability of most amateurs. Constructing such a system would surpass the relatively simple tweaks that he and his colleagues are contemplating.

“It’s too difficult,” Wright says. “Just knocking out a gene in one plant is enough of a challenge for a biohacker space at this point.”

As a member of a lab that has used CRISPR for a number of in-depth research applications, I read the whole article with skepticism, and can firmly say that the troubleshooting and time involved in complex uses of CRISPR is definitely beyond most biohackers. At least for the time being. Hopefully the technique will be improved and simplified in the future, for both researchers and biohackers alike.

What have we learned about climate change in the 10 years since Hurricane Katrina – Kerry Emanuel explains @US_Conversation

Climate change and Hurricane Katrina: what have we learned?

Kerry Emanuel, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Three weeks and three days before Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans 10 years ago, a paper of mine appeared in the scientific journal Nature showing that North Atlantic hurricane power was strongly correlated with the temperature of the tropical Atlantic during hurricane season, and that both had been increasing rapidly over the previous 30 years or so. It attributed these increases to a combination of natural climate oscillations and to global warming.

Had Katrina not occurred, this paper and another by an independent team would merely have contributed to the slowly accumulating literature on the relationship between climate and hurricanes.

Instead, the two papers inspired a media firestorm, polarizing popular opinion and, to some extent, scientists themselves, on whether global warming was in some way responsible for Katrina. While the firestorm was mostly destructive, benefiting only the media, it had a silver lining in inspiring a much more concerted effort by atmospheric and climate scientists to understand how hurricanes influence and are influenced by climate.

We have learned much in the intervening years.

Sea level and storm surges

An obvious point is that slowly rising sea levels increase the probability of storm-induced surges even when the statistics of the storms, such as top wind speed, themselves remain stable. Storm surges are physically the same thing as tsunamis but driven by wind and atmospheric pressure rather than the shaking seafloor, and they typically arrive near the peak of the storm’s fury.

As with Katrina and Sandy, they are often the most destructive aspects of hurricanes. Had Sandy struck New York a century ago, there would have been substantially less flooding, as sea level was then roughly a foot lower. As sea level increases at an accelerating pace, we can expect more devastating coastal flooding from storms.

Potential intensity

What about the storms themselves? Hurricanes are giant heat engines driven by the thermodynamic disequilibrium between the tropical oceans and atmosphere. This disequilibrium drives a strong flow of heat from the ocean to the atmosphere and is a direct consequence of the greenhouse effect: the tropical atmosphere is so opaque to infrared radiation that the sea surface cannot cool very much by directly radiating heat to space. Instead, it cools mostly by the evaporation of water, the same mechanism by which our sweaty bodies cool on a hot day.

To maintain this evaporation, the sea and atmosphere must be in a state of thermodynamic disequilibrium. As we add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, this thermodynamic disequilibrium must increase so that cooling by evaporation can compensate the loss of direct infrared cooling to space.

The theory of the hurricane heat engine places an upper limit on hurricane wind speeds. Called the “potential intensity,” it is directly proportional to this disequilibrium. Virtually every study that has been done, dating back to 1987, shows increasing potential intensity in most places as our climate continues to warm; the average trend is about 10 miles per hour (mph) for every degree centigrade of tropical sea surface temperature increase, or roughly 20 mph for each doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentration.

100-year events

Twenty miles per hour might not seem like all that much, but economists and engineers tell us that damage from windstorms increases very rapidly with wind speed.

The actual situation is much more interesting than one might at first suspect. Human society is well adapted to common events. In Boston, a 50 mph wind will not do much damage because it occurs quite frequently and infrastructure is well adapted to it. But a 70 mph wind, which is far rarer, will cause quite a bit of damage.

As a loose rule of thumb, societies are well-adapted to events that occur, on average, once every generation or two. In many places this is codified in building codes, insurance contracts and other policies that are based on or insist on resistance to 100-year events; that is, events with an annual probability of 1%. But to keep costs down, a structure engineered to survive a 100-year wind speed of 100 mph may very well fail at 110 mph.

Typhoon Haiyan is a case in point. The Philippines are regularly hammered by Category 5 typhoons, but it is rare that we hear about these because they seldom do much damage. In the region near Tacloban, the 100-year storm will have a landfalling peak wind speed of about 170 mph.

But Haiyan, probably the strongest hurricane or typhoon ever to be recorded at landfall, had wind speeds upwards of 190 mph, accompanied by a phenomenal storm surge. The difference between 170 mph and 190 mph in this case was more than 6,300 deaths and almost total devastation. This is what happens when events start to fall outside generational experience.

Theory and computer models show that the incidence of the strongest hurricanes – those that come closest to achieving their potential intensity – will increase as the climate warms, and there is some indication that this is happening. But these most destructive, high-category storms constitute only around 12% of the world’s tropical cyclones; the great majority do little damage but occur far more often.

Both theory and most models predict that, ironically, the frequency of such weaker storms should decline as the climate warms. Satellite data also show that storms are reaching their peak at higher latitudes, consistent with theories and models. This may portend reduced risk in some of the deep tropics but increased risk in middle latitudes.

In general, systematic changes in hurricane formation regions and tracks are of as much concern to us as changes in the overall statistics of storm frequency and intensity. So too is the expected large increase in hurricane rainfall, which drives hurricane freshwater flooding, the second deadliest consequence of these storms after flooding from storm surges.

Little time to adapt

Global warming is occurring far too fast for effective human adaptation. The next ice age, like the last one, may very well put a mile of ice on top of New York City, but it will take so long for that to happen that most of us will not even notice our collective adaptation.

In contrast, adapting to the myriad changes expected over the next 100 years is such a horrendous prospect that otherwise intelligent people rebel against the idea even to the extent of denying the very existence of the risk. This recalcitrance, coupled with rising sea levels, subsiding land and increased incidence of strong hurricanes, all but guarantees that New Orleans will have moved or have been abandoned by the next century.

The Conversation

Kerry Emanuel is Professor of Atmospheric Science at Massachusetts Institute of Technology

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

How to Stay Awake (Without Caffeine) – Video from @ACSReactions #chemistrylifehacks

You’re tired and you need an energy boost, but you don’t want the jitters from caffeine. What to do? In this week’s video, we give you some chemistry-backed tips — one of which involves cats — to boost your productivity and stay awake without refilling the coffee cup.