24 DEC 2013 by ideonexus

 Microbes Rule the World

Microbes make up 80 percent of all biomass, says microbiologist Carl Woese. In one-fifth of a teaspoon of seawater, there are a million bacteria (and 10 million viruses), Craig Venter says, adding, “If you don’t like bacteria, you’re on the wrong planet. This is the planet of the bacteria.” That means that most of the planet’s living metabolism is microbial. When James Lovelock was trying to figure out where the gases come from that make the Earth’s atmosphere such an artifact of ...
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Stewart Brand describes the state of our world, engineered by microbes and ourselves as the vehicles for their propagation in many cases.

24 JUL 2013 by ideonexus

 Potentially 90 Percent of Crime Rate Changes Explained by...

IN 1994, RICK NEVIN WAS A CONSULTANT working for the US Department of Housing and Urban Development on the costs and benefits of removing lead paint from old houses. This has been a topic of intense study because of the growing body of research linking lead exposure in small children with a whole raft of complications later in life, including lower IQ, hyperactivity, behavioral problems, and learning disabilities. But as Nevin was working on that assignment, his client suggested they might b...
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23 years after lead was removed from gasoline, crime rates went up and down dramatically.

21 JUN 2013 by ideonexus

 How Plants and Animals Survive in Their Environment

Plants and animals are separated by about 1.5 billion years of evolutionary history. They have evolved their multicellular organization independently but using the same initial tool kit the set of genes inherited from their common unicellular eucaryotic ancestor. Most of the contrasts in their developmental strategies spring from two basic peculiarities of plants. First, they get their energy from sunlight, not by ingesting other organisms. This dictates a body plan different from that of ani...
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Animals spend energy to maintain an internally consistent state, while plants change their state in response to the environment.

09 JUN 2011 by ideonexus

 The Unique Properties of Ice

By the standard of other substances, the properties of ice are bizarre, yet ice is so perfectly suited to our purpose that if it didn't exist we should have to invent it. With few exceptions, the solid phase of matter is more dense than the liquid phase; water. alone among common substances, violates the rule. As water begins to cool, it first contracts and becomes more dense, in the typical way. But about four degrees above the freezing point, something peculiar happens. It ceases to contrac...
Folksonomies: wonder environment water
Folksonomies: wonder environment water
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Frozen water works so perfectly for life on Earth.

17 MAY 2011 by ideonexus

 Seeing the Species for the Ecosystem

The authors comment that from this perspective, it could be stated that multiccellular beings are also ecosystems. That is, we are formed by different types of cells that cooperate and compete for resources; we are colonized by diverse types of bacteria (in the intestines, in the skin, etc.) whose activity is linked to other processes in our organism: we are invaded by viruses, which can be harmful or can take part in processes that regulate our DNA. "These beings are constantly being changed...
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It is helpful to think of species in the context of the ecosystem in which they live, as they are an part of it, indistinguishable from it in very important ways. Any single species' ecosystem includes all of the other species within it.

03 MAY 2011 by ideonexus

 Environmental Influence on Gender

There are many well-established natural factors that bias the sex ratio of human offspring, proving that it is at least possible. The most famous is the returning-soldier effect. During and immediately after major wars, more sons are born than usual in the belligerent countries as if to replace the men that died. (This would make little sense; the men born after wars will mate with their contemporaries, not with those widowed by the war). Older fathers are more likely to have girls, but older...
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Various environmental stresses that cause pregnancies to produce more females.

11 APR 2011 by ideonexus

 When Science is Debated in the Courtroom

When Rachel Carson made us aware of the dangers arising from the mass application of toxic chemicals, she presented her arguments in the manner of an advocate, not a scientist. In other words, she selected the evidence to prove her case. The chemical industry, seeing its livelihood threatened by her action, responded with an equally selective set of arguments, chosen in defense. This may have been a fine way of achieving justice, and perhaps in this instance it was scientifically excusable; b...
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Rachel Carson and the Chemical Industry presented their selective version of the facts in the debate over the environment, which is not a scientific process and hurts the ultimate understanding of the truth when one side wins.