Friday, September 20, 2013

Let Them Eat Cake and Go To Work

New meaning given to "bully pulpit"
The aliens from the planet Kolob who have set up shop in The House of Reprehensibles are at it once again (NeoCon Planet: The Presidents of Kolob).

Under the jaundiced ayes (217-210) of John "Agent Orange" Boehner and Eric "Wellhead" Cantor, the children of America have been terrorized once again.

The House of Reprehensibles brought the hammer down on lazy tots all around the country, and signaled that it was time for them to go to work.

"Child labor is back in the free market, so, great prosperity and jobs can't be far behind" mused those who think cow farts cause global warming.

The reason I bring up children, in the context of food stamp programs, is that the program the reprehensible neoCons voted to gut ("SNAP"), is a program that primarily ends up benefiting the needy and hungry children:
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the House legislation would deny benefits to 3.8 million Americans next year and save $39 billion over 10 years, or roughly 5 percent of the SNAP program's cost in that time. Enrollment doubled to 47 million in the wake of the Great Recession as incomes plummeted and more Americans qualified for benefits, which average $133 per month. Most beneficiaries are children, elderly or disabled.
(House Votes To Cut Food Stamps By $40 Billion). Note that hungry, healthy American adults also deserve help when needed, even when temporarily out of work.

Even the wealthy Romney family was once on welfare.

Romney family on welfare:

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Ecosystems & Microbes

Deadly lack of focus on sciences
We know that the most prolific life forms on Earth happen to be microbes, but we know too little about them.

Up until now not much has been known about their impact on the global climate system.

The graphic (click to enlarge) map of the U.S. shows the highest paid public officials state by state, which surprisingly are coaches of sports teams rather than scientists --which gives us a clue as to why our science is lacking.

Today let's focus on why that is dangerous.

A group of scientists has taken a look at the impact of microbes on methane, a powerful green house gas that is a part of the global climate system:
A major question in ecology has centered on the role of microbes in regulating ecosystem function. Now, in research published ahead of print in the journal Applied and Environmental Microbiology, Brajesh Singh of the University of Western Sydney, Australia, and collaborators show how changes in the populations of methanotrophic bacteria can have consequences for methane mitigation at ecosystem levels.

“Ecological theories developed for macro-ecology can explain the microbial regulation of the methane cycle,” says Singh.

In the study, as grasslands, bogs, and moors became forested, a group of type II methanotrophic bacterium, known as USC alpha, became dominant on all three land use types, replacing other methanotrophic microbes, and oxidizing, thus mitigating methane, a powerful greenhouse gas, explains Singh. “The change happened because we changed the niches of the microbial community.”

The pre-eminence of USC alpha bacteria in this process demonstrates that the so-called “selection hypothesis” from macro-ecology “explains the changes the investigators saw in the soil functions of their land-use types,” says Singh. The selection hypothesis states that a small number of key species, rather than all species present determine key functions in ecosystems. “This knowledge could provide the basis for incorporation of microbial data into predictive models, as has been done for plant communities,” he says.

“Evidence of microbial regulation of the biogeochemical cycle provides the basis for including microbial data in predictive models studying the effects of global changes,” says Singh.
(Microbial Changes Regulate Function of Entire Ecosystems). Also interesting is the part that viruses, which are also microbes, play in ecosystems:
There are an estimated 1031 viruses on Earth. That is to say: there may be a hundred million times more viruses on Earth than there are stars in the universe. The majority of these viruses infect microbes, including bacteria, archaea, and microeukaryotes, all of which are vital players in the global fixation and cycling of key elements such as carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus. These two facts combined—the sheer number of viruses and their intimate relationship with microbial life—suggest that viruses, too, play a critical role in the planet’s biosphere.
(An Ocean of Viruses). The impact that civilization is having on the ocean is obvious when we consider the mountains of garbage being dumped into it (New Continent Found - Garbage Gyre II - 4).

Less obvious but just as troubling is the impact that the toxic chemicals we are also dumping into the oceans and atmosphere has on microbial life:
Every cubic meter of air holds up to 100 million microorganisms, but the diversity and behavior of these microbes remains masked to microbiologists — until recently, that is ... microbes also help create the intricately beautiful designs in snowflakes and facilitate the formation of clouds ... Recent research published in PNAS suggests that the diversity of microbial life in the air is on par with the soil, at least in urban areas, yet the air remains vastly understudied in comparison.
(Atlas of The Atmosphere). It is possible that the damage air pollution does to microbes may cause genetic mutations in the human microbiome (The "It's In Your Genes" Myth - 2).

Environmental health or the lack thereof impacts civilization directly, so our pollution policies are very dangerous.

Those policies need to be changed forthwith to allow clean energy to take over and allow life to flourish.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

And Then ...

Today we remember some of the music-related videos posted in Dredd Blog System pieces "over time" ...

I'm up on the tight wire

Close your eyes and magnify the concept of love ...

Ok Ok Ok ... a little religion and music ...

I feel like mediaTing ...

Let's face it ... love matters ...

NOTE: Christie selected the sequence of videos among the previously posted music selections on Dredd Blog exclusively.
It should be noted here that Christie is an accomplished music anthologist.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

The "It's In Your Genes" Myth - 2

Humans Have Multiple Genomes
There have been many posts in the Dredd Blog System which cover the recent discoveries about the human genome and the human microbiome.

These posts cover a lot of different issues.

They range anywhere from One Man's Junk Gene Is Another Man's Treasure Gene? and Microbial Hermeneutics - 3 to The Human Microbiome Congress, but the gist of these types of posts has been to point out that human genes make up only about 2% of the human microbiome, while microbial genes make up about 98%.

Today let's talk about a new twist, which is that there may be even more uncertainty about our genetic identity:
From biology class to “C.S.I.,” we are told again and again that our genome is at the heart of our identity. Read the sequences in the chromosomes of a single cell, and learn everything about a person’s genetic information — or, as 23andme, a prominent genetic testing company, says on its Web site, “The more you know about your DNA, the more you know about yourself.”

But scientists are discovering that — to a surprising degree — we contain genetic multitudes. Not long ago, researchers had thought it was rare for the cells in a single healthy person to differ genetically in a significant way. But scientists are finding that it’s quite common for an individual to have multiple genomes. Some people, for example, have groups of cells with mutations that are not found in the rest of the body. Some have genomes that came from other people.
(DNA Double Take). That immediately makes we wonder if any people have been falsely convicted or falsely freed because of the scientific assumptions that are now being questioned:
Medical researchers aren’t the only scientists interested in our multitudes of personal genomes. So are forensic scientists. When they attempt to identify criminals or murder victims by matching DNA, they want to avoid being misled by the variety of genomes inside a single person.

Last year, for example, forensic scientists at the Washington State Patrol Crime Laboratory Division described how a saliva sample and a sperm sample from the same suspect in a sexual assault case didn’t match.
(ibid, "DNA Double Take"). That is all our troubled judiciary needs, thousands of cases up in the air.

Two other studies offer a potential source dynamic for the observations of forensic and medical scientists studying the human genome.

The first one indicates a lot of genetic mutation has taken place in the human genome in recent times:
The human genome has been busy over the past 5,000 years. Human populations have grown exponentially, and new genetic mutations arise with each generation. Humans now have a vast abundance of rare genetic variants in the protein-encoding sections of the genome.
(Nature, "Past 5,000 years prolific for changes to human genome"). The second paper indicates that one heavily resisted scientific discovery, which adds context to this picture, is now confirmed:
A team of scientists from the University of Maryland School of Medicine has found the strongest evidence yet that bacteria occasionally transfer their genes into human genomes, finding bacterial DNA sequences in about a third of healthy human genomes.
The trillions of bacteria in our bodies regularly exchange DNA with each other, but the idea that their genes could end up in human DNA has been very controversial.
Although her team has since found several cases of LGT between bacteria and invertebrates, “it’s still difficult to convince people that it may be happening in the human genome,” she said.
Danchin agrees that the results need to be validated but said, “I am personally convinced what they have found by screening the different databases is true. I think LGT happens much more frequently than we imagine but, most of the time, is just not detectable.”
(The Scientist). The variation in the individual human microbiome increases the likelihood of genetic variation within any individual (see e.g. The Human Microbiome Congress and Weekend Rebel Science Excursion - 21).

The world of genetics sometimes has controversies raging, however, that is more common everywhere in science at the edge, where new discoveries are made, rather than at the core (see e.g. State Crimes Against Democracy).

Anyway, you might want to consider the Dredd Blog tongue-in-cheek adage about buying stocks in science textbook publishing companies (see e.g. Textbooks Take Another Hit - 2 and The Appendix of Vestigial Textbooks - 4).

Happy Constitution Day!

The previous post in this series is here.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Will This Float Your Boat? - 2

Climate Change divides America
In the first post of this series we took a look at the overly "cautious" or overly "conservative" outlook scientists have traditionally had regarding the Eastern Antarctica Ice Sheet.

Why we need to take another look at it is twofold.

First, the dogma about that ice sheet has consistently been that it is solid as rock and is as immovable as the Rock of Gibraltar.

Second, since a new scientific paper came out very recently in the journal Nature --which indicates that the ice sheet is not as stable as once indicated --I thought we should revisit the dogma and reconsider the ramifications.

The abstract ends on this note:
We find that glacier change along the Pacific coast [of East Antarctica] is consistent with a rapid and coherent response to air temperature and sea-ice trends, linked through the dominant mode of atmospheric variability (the Southern Annular Mode). We conclude that parts of the world’s largest ice sheet may be more vulnerable to external forcing than recognized previously.
(Nature, emphasis added).  Other information concerning the Eastern Antarctic Ice Sheet picture can be read about here, here, here, and here.

And on the opposite pole, melt is increasing while volume is decreasing (Arctic Ice Sheet Lowest Volume Ever).

I would point out that when "science can divide a country" intellectually, that country was already divided to begin with (see e.g. Agnotology: The Surge and The Failure of Applied American Epistemology).

The next post in this series is here, the previous post in this series is here.