SUBJECT: Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter Laudato Si, On care for our common home, (ENC): Respected Academician,
There is a widespread view that the Academicians of The Pontifical Academy of Sciences (PAS) will have had substantial input to the scientific aspects expressed in Papal Encyclical Letters like the ENC and that such encyclicals do reflect the deliberations, views and opinions expressed by the PAS as a whole and by the majority of its individual members. However, this common assumption may be incorrect and, therefore, I have some questions to you which I hope that each of you is willing and able to provide a simple YES or NO answer to.
No doubt you are aware of the significance of the ENC for the future, especially its influence on the development of poorer nations and their people.
My questions are not just out of my personal curiosity but to help the world at large to better understand the ENC and what it means for the people who are presently deprived of many of the energy-driven amenities of the developed countries.
My questions to you:
1. To my knowledge, it is widely considered to be a scientific fact that the trace gas carbon dioxide (CO2) is the basis for all life on earth. Without CO2 in the atmosphere, neither plants or animals, nor human life would exist on earth. DO YOU AGREE?
2. To my knowledge, it is widely considered to be a scientific fact that for most of its 4.5 billion year history, the earth’s atmosphere contained much higher levels of CO2 than today. DO YOU AGREE?
3. To my knowledge, it is widely considered to be a scientific fact that the process of photosynthesis transformed the then-abundant atmospheric CO2 to “organic matter” with commensurate reduction of CO2 in the atmosphere.DO YOU AGREE?
4. To my knowledge, it is widely considered to be a scientific fact that the entire oxygen (O2) in the earth’s atmosphere has been produced from CO2 by the natural photosynthesis process. DO YOU AGREE?
5. To my knowledge, it is widely considered to be a scientific fact that the oceans and most fresh water are alkaline, the opposite of acidic. The same photosynthetic process that converts the CO2 to organic matter also increases the alkaline property of neutral or acidic water. DO YOU AGREE?
Latest explorations of the sea around the Philippines have uncovered a slew of brand new marine life, of which more than 100 species are likely to be new to science.
In the seven-week survey, California Academy of Sciences researchers collected countless marine specimens, including rare and new species of colourful sea slugs, barnacles, and delicate heart urchins.
The expedition, funded by the US National Science Foundation, focused on the biologically diverse Verde Island Passage, nestled between the Philippine islands of Luzon and Mindoro.
While previous expeditions in 2011 and 2014 explored life in the western and northern portions of this narrow passage, the most recent trip took researchers to lesser-known field sites at its southern end.
“The Philippines is jam-packed with diverse and threatened species … it’s one of the most astounding regions of biodiversity on Earth,” says Dr Terry Gosliner, senior curator of invertebrate zoology at the academy and a principal investigator of the expedition.
Effective immediately, the Space and Science Research Corporation (SSRC), a leader in climate prediction, has dropped the US government’s ground based global temperature data from its list of reliable sources.
This significant step has been made by the SSRC after extensive review of the US government’s ground temperature data and its wide divergence from more reliable sources of climate data, namely satellite systems.
The SSRC has found multiple flaws that it says render the US government’s climate data virtually unusable. The SSRC has further observed that the US government and specifically, President Barack Obama, have routinely deceived the people regarding the true status of the Earth’s climate, its causes, and where the global climate is heading.
In the past, the SSRC has used five global temperature data sets, three ground based (NOAA, NASA and HADCRUT) and two satellite data sets (RSS, UAH). These data sets are analyzed and an integrated picture of all five allows the SSRC to produce its semi-annual Global Climate Status Report (GCSR). HADCRUT is a combined set from two UK science groups.
As of today, the SSRC will no longer use the ground based data sets of NASA and NOAA because of serious questions about their credibility and allegations of data manipulation to support President Obama’s climate change policies. Use of HADCRUT will also be suspended on similar grounds.
According to SSRC President, Mr. John L. Casey, “It is clear that during the administration of President Barack Obama, there has developed a culture of scientific corruption permitting the alteration or modification of global temperature data in a way that supports the myth of manmade global warming.
"Modern" European humans and Neanderthals may have interbred in the comparatively recent past, suggest Anthroboffins, with the latter contributing a much higher percentage of their stocky DNA to today's humanity than had been thought.
Detailed in a letter published in Nature, titled An early modern human from Romania with a recent Neanderthal ancestor, scientists from Harvard have found a much more prominent link between modern humans and Neanderthals than originally believed.
The boffins analysed the trace DNA that could be obtained from the specimen of a "modern human" found in Peștera cu Oase (meaning the cave with the bones) in Romania, dating from 35,000-40,000 BCE (Before Common Era).
They found that, while Neanderthals are thought to have disappeared in Europe approximately 39,000-41,000 years ago, and are considered to have "contributed 1-3 per cent of the DNA of present-day people in Eurasia", the genome of the individual found in Peștera cu Oase is derived from Neanderthals on the order of 6-9 per cent, so "more than any other modern human sequenced to date".
Three chromosomal segments of Neanderthal ancestry are over 50 centimorgans in size, indicating that this individual had a Neanderthal ancestor as recently as four to six generations back.
Officially published scientific evidence proves that climate sensitivity to carbon dioxide (CO2) is not as strong as predicted. Thus alarmist claims about man-made global warming have no basis in fact.
The climate sensitivity due to CO2 is expressed as the temperature change in °C associated with a doubling of the concentration of carbon dioxide in Earth’s atmosphere. The equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS) refers to the equilibrium change in global mean near-surface air temperature that would result from a sustained doubling of the atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration.
The transient climate response (TCR) is defined as the average temperature response over a twenty-year period centered at CO2doubling in a transient simulation with CO2 increasing at 1% per year. The transient response is lower than the equilibrium sensitivity, due to the “inertia” of ocean heat uptake.
Scientists made numerous estimates of climate sensitivity over the last few decades and have yet to determine the correct value. The figure shows the change in published climate sensitivity measurements over the past 15 years (from here). The ECS and TCR estimates have both declined in the last 15 years, with the ECS declining from 6C to less than 2C. While one cannot extrapolate from past results, it is likely that the true figure is below 2C, and may continue to decline. Based on this historic pattern we should reject the studies that falsely exaggerated the climate sensitivity in the past and remember that global warming is not the most serious issue facing the world today.
Unravelling the mysteries of carbonic acid: Researchers peeling back veil on a critical but short-lived molecule
Despite its short life, however, carbonic acid imparts a lasting impact on Earth's atmosphere and geology, as well as on the human body.
However, because of its short lifespan, the detailed chemistry of carbonic acid has long been veiled in mystery. Researchers with Berkeley Lab and the University of California (UC) Berkeley are helping to lift this veil through a series of unique experiments. In their latest study, they've shown how gaseous carbon dioxide molecules are solvated by water to initiate the proton transfer chemistry that produces carbonic acid and bicarbonate.
'Through a combination of X-ray absorption spectroscopy (XAS), theoretical modeling and computational simulations, we're able to report the first detailed characterization of the hydration structure of carbon dioxide gas dissolved in water,' says Richard Saykally, a chemist with Berkeley Lab's Chemical Sciences Division and professor of chemistry at UC Berkeley who leads this research. 'Our results will help improve future theoretical modeling of this crucial chemistry by characterizing the initial state of the proton transfer reactions that occur in water.
A professor famous for predicting the imminent demise of the human race at regular intervals since the 1970s has predicted the imminent demise of the human race.
Paul Ehrlich, who is the Bing Professor of Population Studies at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, says it's definitely on this time. In a tinned statement issued on Friday, the arm-waving prof lays it on the line:
There is no longer any doubt: We are entering a mass extinction that threatens humanity's existence ... the window of opportunity is rapidly closing ...
"[The study] shows without any significant doubt that we are now entering the sixth great mass extinction event," Ehrlich said ...
"If it is allowed to continue, life would take many millions of years to recover, and our species itself would likely disappear early on," said lead author Gerardo Ceballos.
The idea is that humanity is causing lots of species of animals, plants etc to become extinct and this will develop into a runaway death snowball in which we ourselves will disappear - for example, because crops are no longer being fertilised by bees, or similar.
The doom scenario is laid out in a paper by Ehrlich, Ceballos and their colleagues in the journal Science Advances. You can read it for free.
If we do all die off reasonably soon in a runaway biodiversity loss doom event, it will be good news for Professor Ehrlich's credibility.
The planet was known to have an active volcanic history but this is the best evidence yet for ongoing eruptions.
Four "hotspots" in a rift region of the planet's northern hemisphere were seen to rise and fall dramatically in temperature over several days in 2008, suggesting an active lava flow.
The observations were collected by the Venus Express probe.
Lines of evidence
This European Space Agency mission arrived at the planet in 2006 and its findings had already hinted in 2010 that Venus might still be volcanically active.
That evidence was compiled from infrared measurements, because the planet's surface is shrouded by a thick and swirling atmosphere. A distinct dark region towards the planet's south pole suggested lava deposits that were less than 2.5 million years old.
Then in 2012 Venus Express researchers reported a spike in the sulphur dioxide content of the Venusian atmosphere, which happened in 2006-7 and declined gradually afterwards.
On February 28, Roof was arrested for drug possession at a mall in Columbia, where he was searched by officers after storekeepers complained that he was acting unusually and asking questions about opening hours and the number of staff on the premises. The Wall Street Journal reports a police incident document said Roof was found to have strips of Suboxone, a pain drug sometimes used to treat opiate addiction. He did not have a prescription for the drug, which is commonly sold illegally on the street.
(Source: The Daily Beast)
Suboxone is a powerful psychoactive drug which is utilized in breaking heroin and narcotic pain reliever addictions. Just like methadone*, suboxone has it downside risks and adverse side effects. It is a medication which contains two primary ingredients — buprenorphine and naloxone. Buprenorphine is a synthetic opiate; naloxone is drug that blocks feelings of euphoria.
*Methodone is such a dangerous drug that dedicated clinics were set up around the country because patients could not be trusted with more than one day’s dose at a time; hence, the daily visit to the methadone clinic. Methadone is actually more dangerous than all prescribed narcotic painkillers and can threaten a patient’s life with each dose. As a matter of fact, a methadone user doesn’t have to be addicted to methadone to die from it—the very first dose can kill, unlike both heroin and morphine (this last claim has been legitimately questioned by some).
These two ingredients — buprenorphine and naloxone –work in tandem assisting the addicted drug user in their intention to break a very strong habit. Like any drug that can successfully replace heroin, it is quite powerful and has some serious side effects.
Electric cars are quick and quiet, with a range more than long enough for most commutes. If you want a car with extremely fast acceleration, the Tesla Model S is hard to beat. And, of course, electric vehicles avoid the pollution associated with conventional cars, including emissions of carbon dioxide from burning gasoline. Yet they account for a tiny fraction of automotive sales, mainly because the batteries that propel them are expensive and need to be recharged frequently.
A better battery could change everything. But while countless breakthroughs have been announced over the last decade, time and again these advances have failed to translate into commercial batteries with anything like the promised improvements in cost and energy storage. Some well-funded startups, most notably A123 Systems, began with bold claims but failed to deliver (see “What Happened to A123?”).
The Powerhouse, a new book by journalist Steve LeVine, chronicles the story behind one of the most dramatic battery announcements of recent years and explains how it came to nothing (see “The Sad Story of the Battery Breakthrough that Proved Too Good to Be True”).
The announcement was made in February 2012, at a conference in Washington, D.C., where a crowd of researchers, entrepreneurs, and investors had come to hear the likes of Bill Gates and Bill Clinton expound on the importance of new energy technology—and also to tap into one of the newest funding sources in Washington, the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy, or ARPA-E.
Founded in 2009, ARPA-E had been tasked with identifying potentially transformational research. The head of that agency, Arun Majumdar, was ready to unveil one of its first major successes: a battery cell, developed by the startup Envia, that could store twice as much energy as a conventional one. The cost of a battery that could take a car from Washington to New York without recharging, Majumdar said, would fall from $30,000 to $15,000. Electric cars would become far more affordable and practical (see “A Big Jump in Battery Capacity”).
Within months, GM licensed the technology and signed an agreement to support its development, gaining the right to use any resulting batteries. The deal was potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars to Envia, LeVine writes. But soon Envia was getting frustrated messages from GM engineers who couldn’t reproduce the startup’s results. The year after the announcement, the deal was scuttled. Envia’s impressive battery had been a fluke.
On March 24, Mark Maslin, like the other members of Scientific Reports’ editorial board, received an email with huge ramifications. The message—from the academic journal’s publisher, Nature Publishing Group—told Maslin that his publication was doing a pilot project for a new article-evaluation process. For $750, authors could now fast-track papers through peer review and get a yay-or-nay verdict from a paid pool of third-party reviewers within three weeks.
Maslin, a climatology professor at University College London, was taken aback, not because of the short time span—peer review, an anonymous and voluntary inevitability of academic life, is a notoriously protracted procedure—but for its implications.
“This wasn’t how I thought the journal, or any journal, should operate,” he says, arguing that fast-tracking would exacerbate existing inequality: Well-funded labs could buy their way into the express lane to get published sooner (and, with more titles to their names, increase their odds of securing funding and grants), while cash-strapped universities and poorer researchers in low-income countries, particularly in Asia, would have to wait. Moreover, Maslin thought that tapping a limited group of reviewers—rather than being able to seek out the most qualiﬁed people worldwide—would diminish the quality of the review. So, he quit.
Then, roughly 150 other Scientific Reports editors threatened to do the same (the journal has more than 2,700 editorial board members) if concerns were not addressed. Two followed through. The month-long pilot, now complete, had intended to fast-track just 40 biology papers. Instead, it ignited a firestorm.
A former senior scientist from the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been speaking out against GMOs, but his voice is especially noteworthy among the many scientists who talk about genetically modified organisms. Why? Because he studied the impacts of altered crops on the environment. Read on to find out what this expert has to say about a genetically modified world and the ‘pesticide treadmill’ that biotech has us all running on.
Dr. Ramon Seidler’s credentials are nothing to sneeze at. He was a professor of microbiology at Oregon State University for 16 years before he worked at the EPA. He holds many honors, too, including being listed by the International Biographical Centre of Cambridge, England as one of the 2,000 outstanding World Scientists of the 20th Century.
During Seidler’s tenure at the EPA, he (along with other scientists) conducted GMO experiments that were contained in indoor environments. The experiments were meant to mimic what happens outside, just as if a farmer had planted a GM crop in Idaho, Michigan, or California. The gene transfer capabilities and survival rates of genetically modified seed were observed. He also observed transgenic DNA and Bt toxin products in agricultural ecosystems.
What he and his scientific peers found was that GE bacteria survived for years in soil, even after it was removed from the plants.