Tardigrades, aka Waterbears, aka “Moss Piglets” (I just learned that third term while traveling in Iceland) are usually referred to as basically immortal, since they are pretty much resistant to heat, freezing, radiation, and the vacuum of space. Incredible creature, and cute too, but there’s a perception problem:
Virtually every article you read or video you see about them plays up their indestructibility without recognizing that they’re totally destructible! They’re endoskeletal but with a soft shell, which means they’re basically resistant to everything except the things that would actually kill them. In the real world, tardigrades are eaten by the millions by crabs, shrimps, slugs, snails, mites, spiders, insects, and other waterbears.
The moss piglet species strategy seems to be “Who cares about the short-term survival of most of us, as long as some of us can stick around through WWIII or the next catastrophic asteroid impact?”
Thanks TierZoo (and Milezinator for bringing this to my attention):
Wanted to share the mountain biking route I usually do with Temmo the Dog — this is our three-mile, three-trail loop in the El Cerrito hills (350 ft climb, max speed 20 mph). First couple of minutes are the slower climb, then the real fun starts. Temmo makes a couple of friends along the way, and we both get our ya-yas out. 30 mins edited down to seven. Ride with us!
Spent a couple of days off the grid at Año Nuevo state park with families. The first evening, Amy and I found ourselves trudging across 1/2 mile of dunes to meet the sun just as it kissed the horizon of the sea. With a light haze blowing through the sand and tall grasses, scenery was mystical and perfect. Elephant Seals unfortunately weren’t very active when we were there – just sunbathing blobs, but neat to see anyway. Wrapped up with a hike in the foothills beneath Big Basin. Recharged!
If you want to power your home entirely on renewables, the general recommendation is to include enough battery storage to keep things running for 3-4 days without any input (no sun, no wind). This fascinating blog post looks at a hypothetical scenario where we wanted to scale this pattern up to supply the entire United States with enough battery to back up a 100% renewable grid.
He does the math, and comes up with a battery size of approximately one cubic mile. Size is not a problem (it would be distributed), but the cost would be around $25 trillion – more than the annual U.S. GDP. And we know of no source in the world capable of supplying enough lead (he uses lead batteries in the though experiment because they’re 85% efficient and are the cheapest form of battery). So there’s some problem solving to do there, and there are problems with the hypothetical – for example the whole nation would never experience a lack of sun or wind for four days, and we could share extra juice around on a well-distributed grid, eliminating the need for this much battery storage. Or we could come to a fantastic battery breakthrough that changes everything. Or … Good read.
This Saturday (Apr 22 2017), our family will be hiking 17 miles to help raise funds to complete the Bay Area Ridge Trail – your contributions most welcome!
The vision of the Bay Area Ridge Trail is a 550-mile continuous loop that traces the ridgeline above San Francisco Bay. 370 are currently open for hikers and cyclists. Help us break 400 in the next three years!
In the mid 2000s, a rumor circulated that an unnamed politician in Vietnam had been cured of cancer by consuming powdered rhino horn. Fast forward 17 years, and rhino horn is now worth around $25,000/pound on the black market. That rhino that was shot by poachers and had its horn removed with a chainsaw in the middle of the night at the French zoo a few months ago? Its horn was like a quarter-million-dollar pile of gold sitting out in the open.
Not only is there NO science on the anti-carcinogenic properties of the keratin in rhino horn (chemically the same as your own fingernails), the belief isn’t even derived from ancient Chinese health literature. All of this literally stems from one rumor gone viral, combined with public willingness to buy into rumor as truth. Rhino species are going extinct rapidly, and poaching is a huge part of the reason why.
The Skeptoid podcast is one of our national treasures, as far as I’m concerned. This episode is particularly good.
Just returned from nine days in Iceland – two days of work and seven days of pure exploration. It was winter, so days were short, and it was gray/stormy the whole time, so no Northern Lights for me, but the trip still managed to blow my mind. Misc notes and photos below. For lots more photos, check out my
Iceland driving tip: While it might be tempting to tune in to the Icelandic death metal station while wending your way through miles of snow- and moss-covered lava rock, one notch up on the dial is the “public culture” station, where the only words you can decipher from the lilting Elvish language are “Yoko Ono,” “Steve Reich,” and “John Cage” (and then they play them).
That station works way better with the landscape. No sleep in 36 hours, but made it to the Blue Lagoon, where 464-degree superheated geothermal water from half a mile down in the earth brings up white silica powder which meets cold sea water, creating these gorgeous warm swimming holes; the color of sky refracts off the silica in the water, making it intensely blue in the right conditions (it was more greenish today). Allegedly great for psoriasis sufferers. Exhausted but blissed.
It’s overly simplistic to say that liberals believe in anthropogenic climate change while conservatives don’t. Not true! Large numbers of Republicans are fiscally or socially conservative, but are still willing to let scientists (who are THE experts and professionals in the field) do their jobs. Lately, those experts are ringing very loud alarms. With Democrats holding a House minority, the only hope we have of making critical climate progress over the next four years is in reaching across the aisle and aligning with climate-agreeable conservatives.
Toward that goal, I’ve signed on with Rodney Salvador Reyes to build the web component of Cross the Aisle for Climate, a non-partisan group working to identify climate-related issues that liberals and conservatives can agree on, and work toward bi-partisan decision-making in those areas.
We’ve just launched the first version of the site, which is mostly about outlining the vision – we’re just getting started. For now, please check out the site’s Be Heard tool, which lets users contact their reps via email based on zip code. Lots more to come.