Science & Nature
Saturday, February 24, 2018 - March 2, 2018
Heavy rain unearths ancient graves in backyard in Gaza
Photo/ Khalil Hamra)
Beit Hanoun, Gaza Strip (AP) -
A Palestinian says he has discovered an ancient burial ground in the
backyard of his house in the Gaza Strip. Abdelkarim al-Kafarna said
Friday he found a tomb consisting of nine burial holes with bones and
some clay pots. Archeologists in Gaza believe the site is about 2,000
years old, dating back to the Roman era, when the territory was part of
the far-flung Roman Empire. But they say further tests are needed to
determine the exact age. Al-Kafarna said he found it by accident after
heavy rains this week unearthed parts of the underground chamber. Gaza,
now ruled by the Islamic militant group Hamas, is on the route between
Egypt and ancient Levantine civilizations. It is packed with ancient
archaeology endangered by urban sprawl, conflict and years of neglect.
Climate change diet: Arctic sea ice thins, so do polar bears
bear wearing a GPS video-camera collar lies on a chunk of sea ice in the
Beaufort Sea. A new study released on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018 shows some
polar bears in the Arctic are shedding pounds during the time they are
supposed to be beefing up. Scientists blame climate change for shrinking
the ice cover on the Arctic Ocean that the polar bears need for hunting.
(Anthony Pagano/USGS via AP)
Seth Borenstein and Mark Thiessen
Anchorage, Alaska (AP) -
Some polar bears in the Arctic are shedding pounds during the time they
should be beefing up, a new study shows. It’s the climate change diet
and scientists say it’s not good.
They blame global warming for the
dwindling ice cover on the Arctic Ocean that bears need for hunting
seals each spring.
For their research, the scientists
spied on the polar bears by equipping nine female white giants with
tracking collars that had video cameras and the bear equivalent of a
Fitbit during three recent springs. The bears also had their blood
monitored and were weighed.
What the scientists found is that
five of the bears lost weight and four of them lost 2.9 to 5.5 pounds
(1.3 to 2.5 kilograms) per day. The average polar bear studied weighed
about 386 pounds (175 kilograms). One bear lost 51 pounds (23 kilograms)
in just nine days.
“You’re talking a pretty amazing
amount of mass to lose,” said U.S. Geological Survey wildlife biologist
Anthony Pagano, lead author of a new study in Thursday’s journal
Researchers studied the bears for
10 days in April, when they are supposed to begin putting on weight so
they can later have cubs, feed the cubs and survive through the harsh
winter. But because the ice is shrinking, the bears are having a harder
time catching seal pups even during prime hunting time, Pagano said. The
United States Fish and Wildlife Service lists polar bears as a
Polar bears hunt from the ice. They
often wait for seals to pop out of holes to get air and at other times
they swim after seals. If there is less sea ice and it is broken apart,
bears have to travel more - often swimming - and that has serious
consequences, such as more energy use, hypothermia and risk of death,
said University of Alberta biology professor Andrew Derocher, who wasn’t
part of the study.
The study found that on the ice,
the polar bears burn up 60 percent more energy than previously thought,
based on these first real-life measurements done on the ice. A few of
the bears travelled more than 155 miles (250 kilometers) in about 10
days off the northern coast of Alaska in the Beaufort Sea, Pagano said.
The average bear female burned about 13,200 calories a day - six times
more than an active human female.
“Just to break even they have to
capture at least one seal every five to 10 days - and that’s just to
break even,” said study co-author George Durner, a USGS research
zoologist. “And if they don’t do that they’re going to lose weight.”
The ice cover in the Arctic grows
in the winter and melts in the summer. Because of climate change, the
ice is shrinking and thinning more and earlier, he said.
As the ice dwindles, “we are
essentially pulling the rug out from underneath the polar bears,” Durner
The bear videos showed researchers
all sorts of usually private aspects of polar bear life, including
courtship and hunting. They recorded dramatic, and at times, bloody seal
hunts from the bear’s perspective.
“You’re seeing everything it is
seeing,” Durner said.
Researchers only tracked female
bears because males can’t keep collars on - their heads are too small
and their necks too big - Pagano said.
Blaine Griffen, a Brigham Young
University biology professor who wasn’t part of the study, praised the
USGS work, noting that past studies have looked at resting polar bears
and polar bears on treadmills in the lab.
In the long run, climate change
“will result in smaller bears that produce fewer cubs and that have
lower survival rates,” Griffen said in an email.
All over the Arctic, scientists
have seen evidence of weakened polar bears, Pagano said. Last month, a
video of a starving polar bear went viral, but it is from a different
part of the Arctic and unlikely to be related to global warming, Durner
“If it’s bad for polar bears, it
might be affecting us in other ways - us being humans,” Durner said.
“It’s part of a larger picture.”
February 17, 2018 - February 23, 2018
Recording-setting spacewalk ends with antenna in wrong spot
Jan. 31, 2018 photo made available by NASA shows cosmonauts Alexander
Misurkin, left, and Anton Shkaplerov in their Russian Orlan spacesuits
during a fit check inside the International Space Station. On Friday,
Feb. 2, 2018, the two removed an old electronics box as part of an
antenna upgrade at the ISS, then tossed it overboard as a piece of junk.
(NASA via AP)
Cape Canaveral, Fla. (AP) -
A record-setting Russian spacewalk ended with a critical antenna in the
wrong position Friday outside the International Space Station.
NASA's Mission Control reported
that the antenna was still working. Nevertheless, Russian space
officials were convening a special team to see whether further action
would be necessary. The antenna is used for communications with Russia's
Mission Control outside Moscow.
The trouble arose toward the end of
the more than 8 hour spacewalk - the longest ever by Russians and the
fifth longest overall - after Commander Alexander Misurkin and Anton
Shkaplerov successfully replaced an electronics box to upgrade the
The pair watched in dismay as the
antenna got hung up on the Russian side of the complex and could not be
extended properly. The antenna - a long boom with a 4-foot dish at the
end - had been folded up before the repair work.
Misurkin and Shkaplerov pushed, as
flight controllers tried repeatedly, via remote commanding, to rotate
the antenna into the right position. Finally, someone shouted in
Russian, "It's moving. It's in place."
NASA Mission Control said from
Houston that the antenna wound up in a position 180 degrees farther than
The spacewalk dragged on so long -
lasting 8 hours and 13 minutes - that Misurkin and Shkaplerov ended up
surpassing the previous Russian record of 8 hours and 7 minutes, set in
2013. It was supposed to last 6 ½ hours.
"Are you kidding us?" one of them
asked when they heard about the record.
NASA still holds the world record,
with a spacewalk just shy of nine hours back in 2001.
Misurkin and Shkaplerov also asked
flight controllers whether the antenna was operating "or have we just
wasted our time?" The response: It's being evaluated.
It was the second spacewalk in as
many weeks. On Jan. 23, two U.S. astronauts went out to give a new hand
to the station's big robotic arm. NASA had planned another spacewalk
this week, but bumped it to mid-February because engineers needed extra
time to get the mechanical hand working.
After removing the old, obsolete
electronics box from the antenna - an original part, launched in 2000 -
Misurkin shoved it away from the space station. The bundle tumbled
harmlessly away, 250 miles above the North Atlantic.
The 60-pound box - measuring just a
couple of feet, or less than a meter - was hurled in a direction that
will not intersect with the space station, according to NASA officials.
While the Russians routinely toss
old equipment and used towels overboard during spacewalks, NASA prefers
to secure no-longer-needed items or, if possible, bring them inside.
Except for SpaceX's cargo ships, empty supply capsules are filled with
trash and set loose to burn up in the atmosphere. The discarded
electronics box will re-enter and burn up, too; Mission Control said it
did not know when that will occur.
Misurkin will return to Earth at
the end of this month with two NASA crewmates.
The space station is home to two
Russians, three Americans and one Japanese.
Update February 10, 2018 - February 16, 2018
AP Fact Check: Data melt Trump’s cooling, ice claims
In this Aug. 3, 2017 file photo, icebergs
float in a fjord after calving off from glaciers on the Greenland ice
sheet in southeastern Greenland. President Donald Trump seems to be
describing another planet’s climate because the Earth he described
doesn’t quite match what data shows and scientists say. In an interview
with Piers Morgan airing Sunday, Jan. 28, 2018, on Britain’s ITV News,
the president said the world was cooling and warming at the same time
and that claims of melting ice caps haven’t come true. (AP Photo/David
Washington (AP) - President
Donald Trump’s description of the climate on planet Earth doesn’t quite
match what data show and scientists say.
In an interview with Piers Morgan
airing Sunday on Britain’s ITV News, the president said the world was
cooling and warming at the same time and that claims of melting ice caps
haven’t come true.
Trump: “There is a cooling,
and there’s a heating. I mean, look, it used to not be climate change,
it used to be global warming. That wasn’t working too well because it
was getting too cold all over the place.”
Ten different climate scientists
contacted by The Associated Press said the president was not accurate
about climate change. Rutgers University climate scientist Jennifer
Francis responded in an email: “Clearly President Trump is relying on
alternative facts to inform his views on climate change. Ice on the
ocean and on land are both disappearing rapidly, and we know why:
increasing greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels that trap more
heat and melt the ice. “
The Facts: The world hasn’t
had a cooler than average year since 1976 and hasn’t had a cooler than
normal month since the end of 1985, according to more than 135 years of
temperature records kept by NASA and the National Oceanic and
The last four years have been the
four hottest years on record globally, with 2010 the fifth hottest year,
according to NOAA. Every year in the 21st century has been at least
three quarters of a degree (0.4 degrees Celsius) warmer than the 20th
century average and in the top 25 hottest years on record, NOAA records
And while a good chunk of the
United States had a frigid snap recently, most of the rest of the world
was far warmer than normal, according to temperature records.
Zeke Hausfather of the Berkeley
Earth temperature monitoring program - initially funded by
non-scientists who doubt that the world is warming - said in an email:
“The world has been warming steadily over the past 50 years, with 17 of
the past 18 years being the warmest since records began in the 1850s. It
is not accurate to say that the climate has been ‘cooling as well as
Trump: “The ice caps were
going to melt, they were going to be gone by now, but now they’re
setting records. They’re at a record level.”
The Facts: It is a bit more
nuanced, but not quite right.
While a small number of experts a
decade ago had predicted that Arctic would be free of summer sea ice by
now, most mainstream scientists and the United Nations’
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change did not, instead they said
Arctic sea ice would shrink, which it has, said Pennsylvania State
University ice scientist Richard Alley. Most scientists, including the
director of the National Snow and Ice Data Center, are predicting that
the Arctic will be free of summer sea ice sometime around the 2040s.
The Arctic set a record for the
lowest amount of sea ice in the winter, when sea ice usually grows to
its maximum levels, in March 2017. In 2012, the Arctic set a record for
lowest sea ice levels. Sea ice recovered slightly from that record and
in 2017 in September, the annual low was only the eighth lowest on
record, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. But the 10
lowest years of sea ice have been all in the last 11 years. Arctic sea
ice is declining at a rate of 13.2 percent per decade, according to
Princeton University climate
scientist Michael Oppenheimer said the Antarctic sea ice pack, less
directly influenced by global climate change, varies from year to year.
Antarctica hit a record low for sea ice in March 2017, the same month
the Arctic hit a record winter low. Antarctic sea ice also reached a
record high in 2014.
“Both of the large ice sheets of
Greenland and Antarctica are losing hundreds of billions of tons of ice
per year. Sea ice continues to decline significantly in the Arctic
decade by decade, and the thickness of Arctic ice is now less than 50
percent of what it was 40 years ago,” National Snow and Ice Data Center
scientist Ted Scambos said in an email.
Update February 3, 2018 - February 9, 2018
Melted nuclear fuel seen inside second Fukushima reactor
taken by a robotic probe provided by the International Research Institute
for Nuclear Decommissioning, Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, shows a part of what is
believed to be the handle of the fuel rods container and melted fuel in
small lumps scattered on a structure below the Fukushima reactor core.
(International Research Institute for Nuclear Decommissioning via AP)
Tokyo (AP) -
The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima nuclear plant said Friday that a
long telescopic probe successfully captured images of what is most likely
melted fuel inside one of its three damaged reactors, providing limited but
crucial information for its cleanup.
Tokyo Electric Power
Co. said the fishing rod-like device carrying a camera went deep into the
plant’s Unit 2 primary containment vessel. The images indicated that at
least part of the fuel had breached the core, falling to the vessel’s floor,
TEPCO spokesman Takahiro Kimoto said.
“There is so much that
we still haven’t seen,” Kimoto told reporters. “But we were able to obtain
important information that we need in order to determine the right method
for removing the melted fuel debris.”
A massive earthquake
and tsunami in 2011 caused three reactors at the Fukushima plant to melt.
The plant’s decommissioning is expected to take decades.
Melted fuel has
previously only been documented inside Unit 3, where an underwater probe
captured images of large amounts of melted fuel debris that looked like
molten lava mixed with broken parts of equipment and structures on the
investigation, the device - developed by Toshiba Corp. and the International
Research Institute for Decommissioning, a government-funded organization of
nuclear companies - found deposits in the shape of pebbles, clay and other
forms, Kimoto said.
location of the melted fuel is crucial in planning for its removal, the
hardest process in the plant’s decommissioning.
The government and
TEPCO plan to determine the methods and start removing melted fuel from one
of the three reactors in 2021. But experts say a lack of data is delaying
the development of the precise type of technology and robots.
The images from
Friday’s probe show was what is believed to be a stainless steel handle of a
case containing bundles of fuel rods sitting on a pile of pebble-shaped and
clayish substances, in a sign the rods melted and breached the bottom of the
core. The deposits seemed to be scattered in a wide area around the
pedestal, the main structure that sits underneath the core.
Experts say they
believe part of the fuel still remains inside the core of the Unit 2
reactor, while almost all of the fuel rods in Unit 1 and 3 melted and fell
to the bottom of the primary containment chambers.