Archaeological excavations in Istanbul, Turkey have shed new light on the history of marine architecture. Wrecks from the fifth to eleventh centuries have been unearthed in a former port of what was then Constantinople. Scientists have been intrigued to find that the technology used in building the ships was more advanced than expected. Both sail-powered craft and galleys were discovered, the latter being, “notably the first shipwrecks of this type discovered from the Byzantine period.” You can learn more at Live Science: http://www.livescience.com/49272-byzantine-shipwrecks-turkey-shipbuilding-history.html
Just in time for the New Year the endangered Orcas which frequent Puget Sound have added a new calf to their number. This comes in the wake of the sad news, earlier this month, that a 19-year old female from one of the three families which frequent the sound had died while carrying a baby. The Oregonian reports: http://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/index.ssf/2014/12/baby_orca_born_to_endangered_w.html#incart_river
Populations of the iconic monarch butterfly are suffering in both the U.S. and Mexico. Their once large numbers have been decimated in recent years. In 1996 an estimated 1 billion of the butterflies migrated to Mexico; just 35 million made the journey last year. In the U.S. native milkweed, necessary to the insects’ life cycle, has been devastated by herbicides and intensified agriculture. Now the Xerces Society has petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to give the monarch protection under the Endangered Species Act. The FWS has said the petition from the Xerces Society, “presents substantial information indicating that listing may be warranted.” Reuters has more: http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/12/30/us-usa-butterflies-idUSKBN0K800Y20141230
Nitrates and phosphates from fertilizers, as well as pesticides have fouled many streams which drain our nation’s farmlands. Nowhere is this more evident than in California’s Salinas Valley. Known as “the salad bowl of America,” some 60 percent of the nation’s lettuce is grown there. With a climate that allows as many as three crops to be grown on the same land in a single year, the use of fertilizers, to replenish soil sapped of its nutrients, is prodigious. In turn, this has led to toxic waterways, as well as some groundwater, all the way into the Monterey Bay. Now scientists are fighting this toxic stew with a simple, natural weapon: wetlands. Although much research remains to be done to maximize the benefit, and much political and economic wrangling to implement a widespread and effective solution, the results so far are promising. Al Jazeera America has more: http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/12/25/kale-and-hearty-thesaladbowlofamericaturnstoxic.html
Arie van ’t Riet creates unique artworks which expose the delicate inner workings of nature, its creatures and its flora. Van ‘t Riet is both an artist and a medical physicist. He brings those two passions together to create singular images of plants and animals using x-rays, tastefully enhanced with color. With a masterful eye for composition and fine command of his tools, van ‘t Riet produces artwork which defies description – you have to see it. You can do that at BBC Earth: http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20140904-life-in-x-ray
Stephanie Hazen sent a link to a page describing a unique wildlife rehabilitation project involving a snowy owl with a dislocated wing joint. Repairing such a debilitating injury had not been tried before, so the outlook wasn’t too favorable. Good fortune smiled, however, and Delaware the snowy owl is now back in the wild. The detailed story of her rescue and recovery is both fascinating and heartwarming. You can find it here: http://www.projectsnowstorm.org/posts/delaware/
Evidence is mounting that most e-readers and tablets, those with backlights, interfere with sleep. Several studies have found a correlation between exposure to blue wavelengths of light and subjects having trouble going to sleep. Data also point to blue light exposure altering the circadian rhythms that set the body’s clock. To be fair, this has also been voiced as a concern regarding high-Kelvin fluorescent lights, which also emit significant amounts of blue light. It has generally been cautioned that exposure to such wavelengths should be limited after sunset.
It should also be noted that some e-readers, such as some models of Kindle, do not have backlights. It is not thought that these create a problem, because the light they have been found to reflect is redder, (though one might presume this is at least somewhat dependent on the light source in use).
Ars Technica has a nice summary of the latest data: http://arstechnica.com/science/2014/12/e-readers-and-tablets-really-do-seem-to-alter-your-sleep-schedule/
It seems a paradox that the artifacts of war could benefit wildlife. That, however, is the conclusion some have derived from studying the Zagros Mountains, on the Iran-Iraq border, and the DMZ between North and South Korea. The former was seeded with mines during the Iran-Iraq war, and the latter needs no introduction. From the Persian leopard to numerous endangered species in the Koreas, wildlife is gaining a backhanded benefit from human inhumanity. The Smithsonian elaborates: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/keeping-poachers-out-mine-fields-give-endangered-animals-somewhere-hide-180953702/
It should come as little surprise that human activities have had an impact on our nation’s oldest National Park. It might come as a surprise that those impacts extend to even changing the color of the natural thermal springs in the park. Now researchers from Montana State University and Brandenburg University of Applied Sciences have used computer modelling to create images of what some pools probably looked like before human interference. Phys.org has the scoop: http://phys.org/news/2014-12-yellowstone-thermal-springstheir-unveiled.html
A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests your bones may be weaker than those of your forebears because of the sedentary life brought about by civilization. By analyzing fossil bones of early Homo sapiens, as well as earlier hominids and chimpanzees, researchers have come to the conclusion that as we came more to depend on technology for our food, the less active life this led to fostered a loss of bone density. PNAS has an abstract and the original article, here: http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2014/12/17/1411696112.abstract?sid=1eb53c48-09a5-4e9f-a554-68e4620d4eff
The Oregonian has a less technical take on the ramifications, here: http://www.oregonlive.com/health/index.ssf/2014/12/obesity_paradox_protects_heart.html#incart_river
Of course, it has been known for some time that exercise helps prevent the loss of bone density, particularly that associated with ageing. This just puts that into a larger context. Also, it is unclear whether the researchers studied folks such as these, before coming to their conclusions: http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-30500591