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The San Mateo County Mosquito and Vector Control District has detected invasive Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the county. They were most recently found in late January in areas of Menlo Park.

Aedes aegypti is not native to San Mateo County. It is a small, day-biting mosquito that prefers to feed on humans. It is capable of transmitting several viruses, including dengue, chikungunya and yellow fever. While these viruses are not currently transmitted in San Mateo County, they are periodically introduced by international travelers.

In the presence of a large population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, a single case of one of these diseases has the potential to become an epidemic, county health officials say.

The Vector Control District has been actively looking for the mosquito in areas of the county where Aedes aegypti has been detected. These efforts include door-to-door inspection of residential properties for standing water where mosquitoes can breed.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito lays its eggs just above the water surface in small containers, such as flowerpots, plant saucers, pet bowls, bottles and bird baths. As these mosquitoes can breed in amounts of water as small as a bottle cap, residents are reminded to survey their property and immediately eliminate all standing water.

Residents can reduce the chances of being bitten by Aedes aegypti or other mosquitoes by:
• Applying insect repellents that contain DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR 3535 and following label instructions;
• Making sure that doors and windows have tight-fitting screens;
• Eliminating standing water and containers that can hold water from around the home;
• Reporting neglected swimming pools or other water sources;
• Wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors.

Anyone who is being bitten by mosquitoes during the day should report them to the San Mateo County Mosquito and Vector Control District (650) 344-8592 or by visiting www.smcmvcd.org.
 
 
 
First climate change, now penile fracture – polar bears have got it pretty rough. Chemical pollutants may be reducing the density of the bears' penis bones, putting them at risk of breaking this most intimate part of their anatomy.

Various mammals, though not humans, have a penis bone, also known as penile bone or baculum.</b> Its exact function is unclear: it could be just a by-product of evolution, or it may help support the penis or stimulate the female during mating.

Christian Sonne at Aarhus University, Denmark, and colleagues had previously shown that polar bears with high levels of pollutants called organohalogens in their bodies had both smaller testes and a smaller penis bone.
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source: NEw Scientist
 
 
 


If you live in Portland, your lights may now be partly powered by your drinking water. An ingenious new system captures energy as water flows through the city's pipes, creating hydropower without the negative environmental effects of something like a dam.

Small turbines in the pipes spin in the flowing water, and send that energy into a generator.


"It's pretty rare to find a new source of energy where there's no environmental impact," says Gregg Semler, CEO of Lucid Energy, the Portland-based startup that designed the new system. "But this is inside a pipe, so no fish or endangered species are impacted. That's what's exciting."
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source: Fast Company
 
 
 


TRANSCRIPT

JUDY WOODRUFF: Finally tonight: new hope for how to restore dying coral reefs. It involves what could be a new and groundbreaking kind of undersea transplant.

Hari Sreenivasan has our story.

HARI SREENIVASAN: Half a mile off the Florida Keys, a small boat of scientists is confronting a vast underwater crisis.

Biologists David Vaughan, Christopher Page, and Rudiger Bieler are attempting lifesaving transplants for Florida’s coral reefs, which are dying at alarming rates.
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source:PBS newshour
 
 
 
On the outer reaches of our solar system, well past Neptune and Pluto, lurk dozens of asteroids and possible minor planets, dimly lit by the faint glow of our sun. Last week, that strange place got even stranger.

On January 13, scientists from the University of Madrid and the University of Cambridge announced that the eccentricities of some of the farthest objects might be explained by the gravitational pull of two large bodies—in other words, undiscovered planets.

The team faces an uphill battle to add them to our solar system’s familiar roster. David Wilson, writing for Astrobites, urges caution:

The calculations suggesting the existence of unseen planets is based on observations of only 13 KBOs [Kuiper Belt Objects], few enough that the clustering could be down to simple chance. If future observations find many more KBOs that don’t fit the pattern, then the case for missing planets will disappear. If, on the other hand, they do match what has already been seen, then their behaviour could be used to narrow down the locations of the unseen super-Earths, giving future astronomers the information they need to find them.


The authors of the study—who published their results in two papers, one just this month, and an earlier one in September, in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society—agree that their conclusions are limited by a small sample size, but conclude their earlier paper with the argument that “the same trends are found for asteroids and comets,” and their results are unlikely to be due to Neptune’s gravitational pull or to observational bias.

Fortunately, this all may be sorted out by the New Horizons spacecraft, which is scheduled to buzz Pluto this summer. The data it beams back could shed light on these mysterious gravitational forces.

source: NOVA
 
 
 
What started as a measles outbreak among seven people who visited Disneyland in December has spread to more than 26, as an unvaccinated California woman apparently transmitted the virus through airports and the theme park, health officials said.

State health departments in California, Colorado, Utah and Washington and have confirmed cases of the extremely contagious virus, the Los Angeles Times reported on Wednesday. Taken together, the cases would account for almost 12% of the expected measles cases for the entire year (there are 220 cases per year on average, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
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Maaria Koetter squints into the sun and points toward the southeast, surveying Louisville from atop one of its tallest buildings.

“Look at that!” she says.

Sprawled before us are the elements that have shaped this city of 750,000. The Ohio River rolls muddy blue, straddled by bridges and dissected by barges that crawl through the watery thoroughfare that gave life to Louisville as a commercial center. Distant hills lush with fall foliage encircle the city, creating a basin that serves as Louisville’s foundation. Traffic rumbles in the distance on several of the major interstates that cross the city, and two coal-fired power plants belch out smoke in the horizon.

Closer in, a more stark landscape, largely stripped of nature, dominated by the man-made: The city center is marked by mid- and high-rise buildings and wide streets originally built for streetcars, but now functioning as six-lane arteries clogged with cars. Parking lots—dozens of privately-owned, half-empty parking lots—scar the city center. The occasional tree seems to pop out of the pavement and struggles to breathe.

“I think you could probably go to a tall building in many cities and see a boundary where you’re going from the dense urban core to a more residential area,” says Koetter, who is Louisville’s first director of sustainability. What Koetter is describing are the physical conditions that give rise to a phenomenon known as an urban heat island, where a city’s center experiences significantly hotter temperatures than its less-developed surroundings. Here’s how it works: During the hottest times of year, dark or paved areas—whether on roofs or on the ground—soak up and store heat. These surfaces continue to release this heat throughout the day and night, preventing the area from cooling down after sunset. Patchy urban tree canopies struggle to clean the air and keep temperatures down. The urban heat islands don’t cause air pollution, but make the effects of pollution worse.
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source: Politico has slide show and video
 
 
 
Why does time seem to move forward? It’s a riddle that’s puzzled physicists for well over a century, and they’ve come up with numerous theories to explain time’s arrow. The latest, though, suggests that while time moves forward in our universe, it may run backwards in another, mirror universe that was created on the “other side” of the Big Bang.

Two leading theories propose to explain the direction of time by way of the relatively uniform conditions of the Big Bang. At the very start, what is now the universe was homogeneously hot, so much so that matter didn’t really exist. It was all just a superheated soup. But as the universe expanded and cooled, stars, galaxies, planets, and other celestial bodies formed, birthing the universe’s irregular structure and raising its entropy.

In a mirror universe, from our perspective, time may run backwards from the Big Bang.
One theory, proposed in 2004 by Sean Carroll, now a professor at Cal Tech, and Jennifer Chen, then his graduate student, says that time moves forward because of the contrast in entropy between then and now, with an emphasis on the fact that the future universe will so much more disordered than the past. That movement toward high entropy gives time its direction.

The new theory says a low entropy early universe is inevitable because of gravity, and ultimately that’s what gives time its arrow.
To test the idea, the theory’s proponents assembled a simple model with nothing more than 1,000 particles and the physics of Newtonian gravity. Here’s Lee Billings, reporting for Scientific American:

The system’s complexity is at its lowest when all the particles come together in a densely packed cloud, a state of minimum size and maximum uniformity roughly analogous to the big bang. The team’s analysis showed that essentially every configuration of particles, regardless of their number and scale, would evolve into this low-complexity state. Thus, the sheer force of gravity sets the stage for the system’s expansion and the origin of time’s arrow, all without any delicate fine-tuning to first establish a low-entropy initial condition.


But here’s the twist: The expansion after the simulated Big Bang didn’t just happen in one direction, but two. The simple Big Bang they modeled produced two universes, one a mirror of the other. In one universe, time appears to run forwards. In the other, time runs backwards, at least from our perspective.

Here’s Billings again, interviewing lead author Julian Barbour from the University of Oxford:

“If they were complicated enough, both sides could sustain observers who would perceive time going in opposite directions. Any intelligent beings there would define their arrow of time as moving away from this central state. They would think we now live in their deepest past.”


From that perspective, maybe George Lucas’s Star Wars didn’t take place a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, but in the far future—our deepest past—of our mirror universe.

source: NOVA next
 
 
 
A scientific study by Maggie Simpson, Edna Krabappel, and Kim Jong Fun has been accepted by two journals.

Of course, none of these fictional characters actually wrote the paper, titled "Fuzzy, Homogeneous Configurations." Rather, it's a nonsensical text, submitted by engineer Alex Smolyanitsky in an effort to expose a pair of scientific journals — the Journal of Computational Intelligence and Electronic Systems and the comic sans-loving Aperito Journal of NanoScience Technology.

These outlets both belong to a world of predatory journals that spam thousands of scientists, offering to publish their work — whatever it is — for a fee, without actually conducting peer review.
When Smolyanitsky was contacted by them, he submitted the paper, which has a totally incoherent, science-esque text written by SCIgen, a random text generator. (Example sentence: "we removed a 8-petabyte tape drive from our peer-to-peer cluster to prove provably "fuzzy" symmetries’s influence on the work of Japanese mad scientist Karthik Lakshminarayanan.")

Then, he thought up the authors, along with a nonexistent affiliation ("Belford University") for them. "I wanted first and foremost to come up with something that gives out the fake immediately," he says. "My only regret is that the second author isn't Ralph Wiggum."
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source: Vox
 
 
 

Forget commentaries or deleted scenes; a new special feature found within Blu-ray discs unleashes the power to harness the sun.

Researchers from Northwestern University, in a study published in the journal Nature Communications, found that the way data was written to Blu-ray discs — a high-definition format for movies, television and other video — made it perfect for improving solar cell technology. Using a Blu-ray copy of the 1992 Jackie Chan film “Police Story 3: Supercop,” the team was able to increase the efficiency of how much energy solar panels can absorb.

Solar panels perform more efficiently when sunlight is spread evenly over the cells’ surface, allowing for more equal exposure. Normally, expensive, pre-made fabrications using “quasi-random nanostructures” are used to diffuse the sunlight to achieve maximum efficiency. However, upon study, the surface of the Blu-ray disc, burned with islands and pits containing binary data — ones and zeroes — were found to be a more optimal pattern for achieving this effect.

And it’s not just Jackie Chan movies that work — imprinting solar cells with the patterns from any Blu-ray disc can increase the efficiency.

“We had a hunch that Blu-ray discs might work for improving solar cells, and, to our delight, we found the existing patterns are already very good,” said Jiaxing Huang, lead author of the study. “It’s as if electrical engineers and computer scientists developing the Blu-ray technology have been subconsciously doing our jobs, too.”

source: PBS NEWSHOUR