Saturday, June 29, 2019

Science news roundup

Science roundup.  Starting with this news from PHYS.ORG:

When an asteroid smacked into the Earth 66 million years ago, it triggered mass extinctions all over the planet. The most famous victims were the dinosaurs, but early birds, insects, and other life forms took a hit too. The collision caused clouds of ash to block the sun and cool the planet's temperature, devastating plant life. But a new study in Scientific Reports shows that while land plants struggled, some kinds of lichens—organisms made of fungi and algae living together—seized the moment and evolved into new forms to take up plants' role in the ecosystem.
"We thought that lichens would be affected negatively, but in the three groups we looked at, they seized the chance and diversified rapidly," says Jen-Pang Huang, the paper's first author, a former postdoctoral researcher at the Field Museum now at Academia Sinica in Taipei. "Some lichens grow sophisticated 3-D structures like plant leaves, and these ones filled the niches of  that died out."


Nasa will fly a drone helicopter mission to cost $1bn (£800m) on Saturn's moon, Titan, in the 2030s.
The rotorcraft will visit dozens of promising locations on Titan to investigate the chemistry that could lead to life.
Titan plays host to many of the chemical processes that could have sparked biology on the early Earth.
The eight-rotor drone will be launched to the Saturnian moon in 2026 and arrive in 2034.

Merrit Kennedy reports for NPR:

Modern crocodiles can trace their lineage back to when dinosaurs roamed the earth. If you picture that crocodile ancestor, way back in the Cretaceous period, what do you imagine it snacking on? Maybe a fish or a bird?
Think again. Scientists say it's more likely it was chomping on prehistoric flowers or other plants. A new study in Current Biology has found these ancient crocodile cousins actually evolved into plant eaters at least three times, and probably more.
It started with a paleontology graduate student at the University of Utah puzzling over some strange-looking teeth of the crocodile cousins (known as crocodyliforms, or crocs for short).
"The fact that so many croc teeth look nothing like anything around today just absolutely fascinated me," Keegan Melstrom tells NPR.


Scientists have discovered how plants create networks of air channels -- the lungs of the leaf -- to transport carbon dioxide (CO2) to their cells.
Botanists have known since the 19th century that leaves have pores -- called stomata -- and contain an intricate internal network of air channels. But until now it wasn't understood how those channels form in the right places in order to provide a steady flow of CO2 to every plant cell.
The new study, led by scientists at the University of Sheffield's Institute for Sustainable Food and published in Nature Communications, used genetic manipulation techniques to reveal that the more stomata a leaf has, the more airspace it forms. The channels act like bronchioles -- the tiny passages that carry air to the exchange surfaces of human and animal lungs.
In collaboration with colleagues at the University of Nottingham and Lancaster University, they showed that the movement of CO2through the pores most likely determines the shape and scale of the air channel network.

"Iraq snapshot" (THE COMMON ILLS):
Friday, June 28, 2019.  The second debate takes place and Joe Biden plays the ghoul.

20 of the 25 candidates seeking the Democratic Party's presidential nomination have participated in Wednesday and Thursday's debates: US House Rep and Iraq War veteran Tulsi Gabbard, former US House Rep Beto O'Rourke, Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Senator Cory Booker, US House Rep Tim Ryan, former US House Rep John Delaney, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, Governor Jay Inslee, former HUD Secretary Julian Castro, former US Senator and Vice President Joe Biden,  Senator Bernie Sanders, Marianne Williamson, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator Kamala Harris, US House Rep Eric Swalwell, Andrew Yang, Senator Michael Bennet, John Hickenlooper and South Ben Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

The clear winners?


All six women demonstrated leadership and spoke to real issues.  Three e-mails felt that 'winners and losers' were in some way lessening the debate.  Yeah, I read the headlines on some of that garbage passed off as 'critiques.'  For those in the press who've apparently suffered head injuries, let's be really clear: A 'debate' that limits the participants to one minute responses and possibly a 30 second follow up is never going to be a debate.  It's speed dating at best.

All you're going to be able to do with that format is determine whether or not the person appears ready for the White House.

All the women -- Tulsi, Elizabeth, Marianne, Kisten, Amy and Kamala -- passed that test.

Now each one has their own issues and agenda and you may or may not support those.  But in terms of showing presidential merit, all women succeeded.

Why didn't the men?

There were so many failures and they were the men.  With six women participating, that left fourteen men.  There were over twice as many men as women on the stage both nights.  But the bulk of the men were embarrassments.  They didn't just come off poorly, they were embarrassments.

Is Tim Ryan really qualified to be president of the United States if he doesn't know who attacked on 9/11?  Is Tim Ryan really qualified if he doesn't know who al Qaeda is?

That's the sort of mistake that should end a campaign immediately.

Women didn't make that mistake on the stage -- in fact, it was Tulsi who corrected Tim and corrected the record.

Tim Ryan's not the only guy that was an embarrassment.

Enter Joe Biden.

Look, Donald Trump has put us in a horrible situation. We do have enormous income inequality and one thing I agree honestly can make massive cuts in the $1.6 trillion in tax loopholes out there and I would be going about eliminating Donald Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy.

He declared that last night.  He declared that in response to Bernie's

We have a new vision for America and at a time when we have three people in this country owning more wealth than the bottom half of America, while 500,000 people are sleeping out on the streets today we think it is time for change, real change.

(By the way, using NYT transcript.)

Donald Trump put us in that situation?

Most of the transfer took place in the eight years Joe Biden served as vice president.

Were this really a debate, the moderators (if they weren't whores) would have pressed him on that.  They didn't.  On those rare times when he was pressed, it was usually by Eric Swalwell -- although Kamala had her own moment with Joe where enough was enough and she wasn't going to take his spin on immigration.

REUTERS in January 2015:

Barack Obama enters the final two years of his presidency with a blemish on his legacy that looks impossible to erase: the decline of the middle class he has promised to rescue. [. . .] Federal Reserve survey data show families in the middle fifth of the income scale now earn less and their net worth is lower than when Obama took office.

Joe is the past.  He demonstrated that onstage last night.  He has nothing to offer.  But, reality, his past isn't anything America wants to return to.  We deserved better and we may have fallen for 'hope and change' eleven years ago, but why should we today?

He has nothing to offer.  Except being a ghoul.  His third response of the night, supposedly about US healthcare and what was needed, was the following:

Look, this is a very personal to me. When my wife and daughter were killed in an automobile accident my two boys were really very badly injured. I couldn’t imagine what it’d be like had I not had adequate healthcare available immediately. And then when my son came home from Iraq after a year he was diagnosed with terminal cancer and he was given months to live. I can’t fathom what would have happened if, in fact, they said by the way the last six months of your life you’re on your own. We’re cutting off. You’ve used up your time.

First, December 1972.  That's when the car accident was.  What kind of a ghoul is crafting debate promises off their dead spouse and their dead child from 47 years ago?


He only has the past.

More to the point, his answer is total b.s.  The costs of healthcare, he insists, are very personal to him.  Why?  Because he might have been stuck with big bills.  He wasn't, he was already a member of Congress so he had all the insurance anyone would ever need.  But he can relate because if he hadn't been in Congress and had that great insurance, he might have had a big bill.

Might have had.

No, that doesn't say you relate.

It does say that you've grown so pathetic that you will trot out your dead wife from 47 years ago to try to get sympathy.

What else does he have to run on?

Clearly, nothing.

Yes, John was an embarrassment and should have been booed off the stage last night but -- make no mistake -- the biggest idiot on stage was Joe Biden.

Is anyone reviewing Joe's past debate performances?  I have.  Look at 2008 and 2012 and you don't find Joe using his dead relatives as props.  You do find, in 2008, for example, debating Sarah Palin, Joe declaring (Gwen Ifill moderated):

Gwen, I don't know where to start. We don't call a redistribution in my neighborhood Scranton, Claymont, Wilmington, the places I grew up, to give the fair to say that not giving Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) another $4 billion tax cut this year as John calls for and giving it to middle class people to be able to pay to get their kids to college, we don't call that redistribution. We call that fairness number one. Number two fact, 95 percent of the small businesses in America, their owners make less than $250,000 a year. They would not get one single solitary penny increase in taxes, those small businesses. Now, with regard to the -- to the health care plan, you know, it's with one hand you giveth, the other you take it.

So, in 2008, Joe was all on board, he was going to address income inequality and he was going to ensure "fairness."  But that never happened.  Eight years he was Vice President and it never happened.


So why the hell should anyone believe a single thing he promises on stage these days?

He's either a liar or a failure.  Actually he could be both.  But what is clear is that his past debate promises never came to life and, past as predictor, the current ones won't either.

Last night, Eric Swalwell offered what should be the chant against Joe:

And I’ve seen the anxiety across America where the manufacturing floors go from 1,000 to 100 to one. So, we have to modernize our schools, value the teachers who prepare our kids, wipe the student debt from any teacher that goes into a community that needs it. Invest in America’s communities, especially where places where the best exports are people who move away to get skills. But, Jose, I was six years old when a presidential candidate came to the California Democratic Convention and said, it’s time to pass the torch to a new generation of Americans. That candidate was then Senator Joe Biden. Joe Biden was right when he said it was time to the pass the torch to a new generation of Americans 32 years ago.
He’s still right today. If we’re going to solve the issues of automation (PH), pass the torch. If we’re going to solve the issues of climate chaos, pass the torch. If we’re going to solve the issue of student loan debt, pass the torch. If we’re going to end gun violence for families who are fearful of sending their kids to school, pass the torch.

"Pass the torch, Joe, pass the torch!"

Joe is the man who, in the 2012 debate with US House Rep Paul Ryan, declared of Bib Netanyahu, "Now, with regard to Bibi, he's been my friend for 39 years."

Joe needs to be called out on Iraq.  The press hasn't done that.  He's actually got a very public moment that everyone's either ignoring or has missed.  An e-mail asked when I was going to go into that and not just hint about it?  Not ahead of a debate with one minute responses.  I doubt seriously that the press will run with it.  They didn't in real time.  It was a Committee hearing and I don't remember one reporter being present.  We covered it in a snapshot and noted it was an important hearing.  We mainly highlighted someone no longer in the US Senate.  But we did note Joe and his comments.

And the press should have noted Joe.  But they ignored it.

We'll cover it here and it will probably be ignored by the press as it was back then.  But it would be stupidity to bring it up ahead of the one minute response debate.

Joe's past is out there and it didn't play well in real time but it plays even worse in retrospect.

Reviewing his past debate claims and promises this morning, it's really obvious how quickly the press moved on to different topics and turned their eyes.  Do none of Joe's comments have consequences?  That claim should be front and center today.  But everyone acts like it never happened.  Crazy Joe friends for 39 years with a War Criminal.

Joe has had decades -- not years, decades -- to change things.  He has nothing to point to with pride.  So he lies and pretends there were no deportation issues/crimes under Barack and he gets away with lying for the most part.

America deserved better than the eight years of Barack and Joe.  And Joe's promise to return us to that period is apparently an offer to leave us hanging from the cliff.

Marianne Williamson was the clear winner of the debate last night.

  • Millions of American children live in chronic trauma and we should be rescuing them no differently than if they were victims of a natural disaster.Millions go to school every day hungry, in schools that don’t even have adequate school supplies to teach a child to read.

    We are going to turn from a dirty economy to a clean economy, we’re going to have a Green New Deal. We’re going to create millions of jobs. We’re going to do this within the next twelve years because I’m not interested in just winning the next election.

    Marianne Williamson did not speak for the first 27 minutes of . But when she finally did, everything she said was awesome.

    I have had a career harnessing the inspiration and the motivation and the excitement of people - masses of people.

    " has said that she wants New Zealand to be the country that is the best country in the world for a child to grow up. And I want to call her and say girlfriend you are on because I want the United States to be that too."

    "Mr. President, if you're listening, I want you to hear me, please. You have harnessed fear for political purposes and only love can cast that out." Watch Marianne Williamson's message to President Trump in her closing statement

    Thanks to you I was on stage tonight. Help qualify me for the next debates & join me in a great revolution of consciousness, by which we achieve historic changes and make the world a better place.

    And that gets back into not just Big Pharma, not just health insurance companies, it has to do with chemical policies, it has to do with environmental policies, it has to do with food policies, it has to do with drug policies..

  • So I, sir, I have a feeling you know what you’re doing. I’m going to harness love for political purposes, I will meet you on that field, and sir, love will win.

  • This man has reached into the psyche of the American people and he has harnessed fear for political purposes. So, Mr. President, if you’re listening, I want you to hear me please. You have harnessed fear for political purposes and only love can cast that out.

  • I have an idea about Donald Trump. Donald Trump is not going to be beaten just by insider politics talk. He is not going to be beaten just by somebody who has plans. He is going to be beaten by somebody who has an idea of what this man has done.

  • We just wait ‘til somebody gets sick and then we talk about who’s going to pay for the treatment and how they’re going to be treated. What we need to talk about is why so many Americans have unnecessary chronic illnesses, so many more compared to other countries.

  • If you think we’re going to beat Donald Trump by just having all these plans, you’ve got another thing coming.

    Decades of failed United States intervention in Latin America from Guatemala to Honduras and more has created the conditions that spur migrants to come to our border. If we don’t deal with the root causes we can’t expect the pressure on our southern border to change.

    And the Democratic Party should be on the side of reparations for slavery for this very reason. I do not believe that the average American is a racist, but the average American is woefully under-educated about the history of race in the United States.

    Child advocacy is not being addressed with the attention and care it deserves. Sign our petition now to stand for our future.

    All of these issues are extremely important, but they are specifics, they are symptoms. And the underlying cause has to do with deep, deep, deep realms of racial injustice. Both in our criminal justice system and in our economic system.

    We need reparations. We have not yet done all that it is morally incumbent upon us to do in order to heal the ugly wound of slavery.

  • And what President Trump has done is not only attack these children, not only demonize these immigrants, he is attacking a basic principle of America’s moral core. We open our hearts to the stranger.

    I propose a $200-$500 billion plan of reparations, with the money to be disbursed by a council of esteemed African American leaders over a period of twenty years.

  • Both of those things are a crime, and if your government does it, that doesn’t make it less of a crime. These are state-sponsored crimes.

    Marianne Williamson nailed it when drew the connection between health policy and environmental policies. Our issues are connected and we need a .

    If you forcibly take a child from their parents’ arms, you are kidnapping them. And if you take a lot of children and put them in a detainment center, thus inflicting chronic trauma upon them, that’s called child abuse. This is collective child abuse.

    All three women last night did a better job than any of the men.  Eric was the best of the men.  Pete needs to grasp that the world may love a lover but we don't necessarily elect one as president.  In other words, congratulations on your marriage, now please find another topic.  Hint, it's not a dead relative.  Pete is proof that the debates of this style won't deal with reality.  The racism in his leadership as mayor was briefly and softly touched on by Rachel and he was allowed to spin like crazy.

    But the moderators biggest problem?

    Sexism.  Male or female, why did they let the men continue?  Kirsten was repeatedly told to pipe down.  But if you didn't pipe down, if you were Joe Biden, for example, you were rewarded for that.  You were called on to speak or just allowed to.

    There was a moment in the debate where Kamala was attempting to speak and yet again the moderators allow a man -- and it wasn't his turn -- to speak.  And the look on her face as she registered that was priceless.

    Time and again, when a vocal 'scuffle' emerged, they might chastise a man but they went with them, they let them speak.

    Women really had to fight to be heard.  Kirsten and Kamala fought hard and I'm not sure how that looks to the viewers.  Marianne did what she does best, draw the attention away from nonsense.  By being a steady figure, she draws your attention and doesn't have to enter the fray to get it.

    The following sites updated -- and community sites offer their takes on the debate: