Archives for March 2017

Elon Musk Isn't the Only One Trying to Computerize Your Brain

Elon Musk wants to merge the computer with the human brain, build a “neural lace,” create a “direct cortical interface,” whatever that might look like. In recent months, the founder of Tesla, SpaceX, and OpenAI has repeatedly hinted at these ambitions, and then, earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Musk has now launched a company called Neuralink that aims to implant tiny electrodes in the brain “that may one day upload and download thoughts.”

ENN: Top Stories

Saving the Venezuelan Amazon: mega-nature reserve? Or mega-mining frontier?

Venezuela is set to hand over 12% of the nation’s territory in the upper headwaters of the Amazon to mining corporations, writes Lucio Marcello, with 150 companies from 35 countries poised to devastate the army-controlled ‘special economic zone’. But resistance is growing, and a counter-proposal aims to protect the area’s precious biodiversity, indigenous cultures and water resources in a new South Orinoco Mega Reserve.
Environment news & analysis, climate change reports –
The Ecologist

Ubiquitous Marine Organism Co-evolved With Other Microbes, Promoting More Complex Ecosystems

Ocean Leadership ~

Vibrio alginolyticus. (Credit: Dr. Gary Gaugler/Visuals Unlimited, Inc.)

(Click to enlarge) A new study shows a tiny bacterium’s metabolic evolution holds clues to the evolution of large, complex ecosystems. Photo: Vibrio alginolyticus. (Credit: Dr. Gary Gaugler/Visuals Unlimited, Inc.)

William Blake may have seen a world in a grain of sand, but for scientists at MIT the smallest of all photosynthetic bacteria holds clues to the evolution of entire ecosystems, and perhaps even the whole biosphere.

(From / by David L. Chandler) — The key is a tiny bacterium called Prochlorococcus, which is the most abundant photosynthetic life form in the oceans. New research shows that this diminutive creature’s metabolism has evolved in a way that may have helped trigger the rise of other organisms, to form a more complex marine ecosystem. Its evolution may even have helped to drive global changes that made possible the development of Earth’s more complex organisms.

The research also suggests that the co-evolution of Prochlorococcus and its interdependent co-organisms can be seen as a microcosm of the metabolic processes that take place inside the cells of much more complex organisms.

The new analysis is published this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, in a paper by postdoc Rogier Braakman, Professor Michael Follows, and Institute Professor Sallie (Penny) Chisholm, who was part of the team that discovered this tiny organism and its outsized influence.

“We have all these different strains that have been isolated from all over the world’s oceans, that have different genomes and different genetic capacity, but they’re all one species by traditional measures,” Chisholm explains. “So there’s this extraordinary genetic diversity within this single species that allows it to dominate such vast swaths of the Earth’s oceans.”

Because Prochlorococcus is both so abundant and so well-studied, Braakman says it was an ideal subject for trying to figure out “within all this diversity, how do the metabolic networks change? What drives that, and what are the consequences of that?”

They found a great amount of variation in the bacteria’s “metabolic network,” which refers to the ways that materials and energy pass in and out of the organism, along its phylogeny. The fact that such significant changes have taken place over the course of Prochlorococcus evolution “tells you something quite dramatic,” he says, because these metabolic processes are so fundamental to the organism’s survival that “it’s like the engine of the system. So imagine trying to change the engine of your car while you’re driving. It’s not easily done, so if something is changing, it’s telling you something significant.”

The variations form a kind of layered structure, with more ancestral variants living deeper in the water column and more recent variants living near the surface. The team found that as Prochlorococcus started out living in the top layers of the ocean, where light is abundant but food is relatively scarce, it developed a higher and higher rate of metabolism. It took in more solar energy and used that to power a stronger uptake of scarce nutrients from the water—in effect, creating a more powerful vacuum cleaner but in the process also generating more waste, Braakman says.

Read the full article here:

The post Ubiquitous Marine Organism Co-evolved With Other Microbes, Promoting More Complex Ecosystems appeared on Consortium for Ocean Leadership.

Consortium for Ocean Leadership

Satellite galaxies at edge of Milky Way coexist with dark matter, says RIT study Paper to publish in “Monthly Notices for the Royal Astronomical Society”

Research conducted by scientists at Rochester Institute of Technology rules out a challenge to the accepted standard model of the universe and theory of how galaxies form by shedding new light on a problematic structure.

ENN: Top Stories

Green groups sue Trump administration for approving Keystone pipeline

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Six environmental groups filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration on Thursday to challenge its decision to approve construction of the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Reuters: Environment

USGS and Partners Team Up to Track Down Nonnative and Invasive Fishes in South Florida

U.S. Geological Survey scientists teamed up with government, nonprofit, and university partners in South Florida's Big Cypress National Preserve to hold a scientific scavenger hunt for nonnative and invasive freshwater fish species.

ENN: Top Stories

EU says China, EU must show joint leadership on climate as U.S. pulls back

BEIJING (Reuters) – China and the European Union need to show joint leadership on climate change and cannot expect the “same leadership” from the new administration in the United States, European climate commissioner Miguel Arias Canete said in Beijing on Thursday.

Reuters: Environment

A climate stress-test of the financial system

The financial system will be impacted by climate policies. Network analysis of the exposures of financial actors to climate-relevant sectors in the Euro Area shows early implementation of climate policy is needed to avoid adverse systemic consequences.

Nature Climate Change doi: 10.1038/nclimate3255

Nature Climate Change – AOP – science feeds

Managed retreat as a response to natural hazard risk

Managed retreat is a potentially important climate change adaptation option. In this article the drivers and outcomes of, and barriers to, 27 recent cases of managed retreat—involving the resettlement of approximately 1.3 million people—are evaluated.

Nature Climate Change doi: 10.1038/nclimate3252

Nature Climate Change – AOP – science feeds

Australia to begin evacuating cyclone-hit island resorts

SYDNEY (Reuters) – Emergency services plan to evacuate thousands of people stranded on resort islands with water supplies running low in Australia’s tropical northeast on Thursday, two days after Cyclone Debbie tore through the region.

Reuters: Environment