First ever red alert for pollution in Beijing #climate

While everyone is in Paris working on climate talks, Beijing has issued their first ever “red alert” due to smog in the city.  This heightened level of pollution has forced school closings, factory closings, and limited car usage. From the BBC:

The alert, the highest possible warning level, was issued late Monday and will last until midday on Thursday.

Limits have been placed on car use and some factories have been ordered to stop operations.

It comes as China, the world’s worst polluter, takes part in talks on carbon emissions in Paris.

It is the first time China has declared a red alert under the four-tier alert system, which was adopted a little over two years ago, although pollution levels were far from the city’s worst.

At 07:00 local time on Tuesday (23:00 GMT on Monday), when the alert came into effect, the US Embassy’s air pollution monitor in Beijing reported that the intensity of the tiny particles known as PM 2.5 was at 291 micrograms per cubic metre.

By 11:00 it had dropped very slightly to 250 – still a level it described as “very unhealthy”. Levels of the poisonous particles in the suburbs were reported at several times that number.

The World Health Organization recommends 25 micrograms per cubic metre as the maximum safe level.

Not only is this scary, but it’s a huge warning to those in Paris that something serious needs to be done in order to curb climate change.


Healthy eating, not exercise, should be the main argument to fight obesity

From the BBC, doctors are saying that physical activity has little role in tackling obesity – and instead public health messages should squarely focus on unhealthy eating.

In an editorial in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, three international experts said it was time to “bust the myth” about exercise.

They said while activity was a key part of staving off diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and dementia, its impact on obesity was minimal.

Instead excess sugar and carbohydrates were key.

The experts, including London cardiologist Dr Aseem Malhotra, blamed the food industry for encouraging the belief that exercise could counteract the impact of unhealthy eating.

Dr Malhotra said: “An obese person does not need to do one iota of exercise to lose weight, they just need to eat less. My biggest concern is that the messaging that is coming to the public suggests you can eat what you like as long as you exercise.

“That is unscientific and wrong. You cannot outrun a bad diet.”

Read the full article here.

Awesome BBC infographic on absolute zero to ‘absolute hot’ – and a lot of stuff in between. @BBC_Future

Check out this awesome temperature infographic from BBC!!

A billion degrees of separation.

How cold can it get on Earth? How hot can hot truly get? And, perhaps more importantly, what’s the ideal temperature a hazelnut souffle should be cooked at?

New paper reports multiple incidents of fur seals sexually harassing penguins. #science


A new paper published in the Journal of Polar Biology reports a disturbing behavior of male Antarctic fur seals. The sexual harassment of penguins by seals…. multiple times. Check out the paper if you have access, or check out this great BBC summary of the paper. The BBC summary also has videos… some of which are graphic. It turns out that young male seals are attempting to copulate with king penguins. While the authors are unsure why this is happening, they offer a number of possible reasons and that they believe it could be a learned behavior that is on the rise. Another example of nature that makes me reconsider how bad humans are. hahaha.

Queen knights (dames) group of scientists. Does the Sir go before or after the Dr??? #britishscienceproblems


BBC reports that the Queen has knighted two of the scientists that helped discover the Higgs Boson, but were overlooked for the Nobel Prize. SIR Tom Kibble and SIR Tejinder Jim Virdee were both part of the team that, along with Peter Higgs, led the way to the discovery of the Higgs Boson, an elementary particle in physics. Other prominent scientists were also knighted, or damed!

Both he and Prof Kibble become knights. They are joined by other distinguished scientists including Prof John Bernard Pethica of the National Physical Laboratory, and Prof Colin Blakemore of the University of London, former head of the Medical Research Council.

Prof Jessica Corner, dean of health sciences at the University of Southampton, is made a dame.

The timing of Prof Kibble’s award is particularly poignant – after he was controversially overlooked for the Nobel Prize in Physics last year.

The Nobel Committee chose to honour Peter Higgs and Francois Englert, but not the other three living physicists who first developed the theory – Gerald Guralnik, Carl Hagen and Tom Kibble.

Meta-analysis shows mobile phones could hurt sperm #GoodScienceReporting

 A meta-analysis of studies looking at sperm quality and mobile phone exposure suggests that more research should be done to make sure our phones aren’t making us infertile. The study, published by Fiona Matthews and colleagues in Environment International, is certainly provocative. However, a BBC article by James Gallagher and the authors themselves are sure to not overstate the meaning of their results (how refreshing!).

Matthews added: “The studies are coming out with a consistent message that sperm motility declines with exposure to mobile telephones… I think for your average man there’s certainly no need to panic, if you already know you have a potential fertility issue then it might be an additional thing to consider – just as you might change your diet – you might want to change where you keep your phone.” She acknowledged criticisms from other scientists about the quality of the evidence saying she “absolutely calls for more research“.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said of a Science World Report article titled, “Cell phones can impact men’s fertility.” Womp Womp.

This is actually the second meta-analysis suggesting a link between mobile phones and sperm, as last year M Narayana Bhat published similar findings. As someone who keeps my phone in my front pocket, I will definitely be paying attention to see if more research is done in this area… although perhaps it is already too late.

Dr Mathews concluded: “This is interesting, but we’re obviously not saying that everyone who carries a phone in their pocket is going to become infertile.”