Can bees be trained to sniff out cancer? – Salon.com

Can bees be trained to sniff out cancer? – Salon.com.

nsects offer key advantages over mammals and electronics, however, because of their antennae. For example, electronic nose devices have trouble detecting an odor amid more complicated conditions, like when there’s a greater mixture of gases, as is found in human breath. And studies have revealed that sniffer dogs identify odors correctly only about 71 percent of the time, while also requiring at least three months’ training. Bees, in contrast, have achieved an accuracy rate of 98 percent and can be trained in about 10 minutes.

In developing “Bee’s,” the Portuguese native needed something that enabled the user to easily transport bees into the instrument and safely suck them back out using a vacuum. The source material also had to be malleable enough to shape into a system with well-defined pathways that don’t impede their movement. She eventually settled on glass as the material because of its flexibility and transparency. “To know the results of a breath test, you’d have to see the behavior of the insects,” she says. “Everything is about their behavior.”

Prototypes have undergone field testing, and although it didn’t find any instances of cancer, it did turn up a case of diabetes that was later confirmed. It’s unlikely, though, that the concept will amount to anything beyond being an exhibition curiosity. While there was a brief period in which she felt ambitious enough to reach out to potential collaborators, the process proved so time consuming and unfruitful that she ultimately gave up. The only organizations that seemed even remotely interested in her idea were a handful of charities. So for now, “Bee’s” exists as one of those purely academic exercises to show, as she puts it, the “symbiotic relationship” humans have with nature and how “technology and science can better foster these relationships.”

“I think there’s only four labs in the world doing research into insects for disease screening, which shows you that this approach doesn’t go over well in the western world,” says Soares. “Medical and health technologies are a big business, and the bottom line is they just don’t see how something like this can be profitable.”

Glen C. Rains, an agricultural professor at the University of Georgia, largely concurs, though he adds that there are more complex issues besides economics. The entomologist, as well as licensed beekeeper, has dealt with numerous challenges while developing a similar device called the Wasp Hound, which uses a batch of five wasps to detect the presence of bedbugs. Rains’ system is a bit more elaborate in that it uses a camera to record the wasps’ behavior. The data is then fed into software that analyzes these movements to determine if the bugs actually did indeed detect these unwanted guests. After over a decade of development, Rains has forged a partnership with Bennett Aerospace, an engineering firm, to refine the technology for large-scale real applications.

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How Fossil Fuel Companies Are Aiding Their Own Demise | Alternet

How Fossil Fuel Companies Are Aiding Their Own Demise | Alternet.

 

Interesting that Oregon has stopped coal terminals and gaspipelines, this is so topical in western canda, with proposals to flood the peace river to liquify gas for china, all the while fracking up groundwater wherever they go, not to mention tarsands or enbridge or the vancouver oil terminal!

exerpt:

The debate over coal exports, preceded by the fight against liquified natural gas, has put the former lumber company town of Longview at the center of a regional movement against fossil fuel projects. But Longview isn’t alone. All over the nation, fossil fuel companies are creating pockets of localized backlash. People who never before had a special reason to dislike them now have very good reasons indeed.

The extreme energy attack

From fracking wells, to tar sands pipelines, to shale oil, to coal exports — a barrage of new fossil fuel projects have hit U.S. communities in recent years, many falling under the heading of extreme energy. Although the reasons for the boom are complex, a few key economic, political and historical factors stand out.

One reason fossil fuel companies are focusing on hard-to-reach, low quality North American energy reserves is that private companies’ access to overseas fossil fuels is shrinking. The trend is exacerbated because much of the world’s oil and gas is controlled not by private entities, but by state-owned companies. The world’s biggest oil company isn’t ExxonMobil, it’s Saudi Aramco.

According to Forbes, Exxon is only the fourth largest, with Russia’s Gazprom and the National Iranian Oil Company also outranking it.

Because most oil nations have state-owned extraction companies, access to dwindling reserves of crude is seriously limiting for private companies. Add to that the proliferation of technologies like fracking and political pressure to achieve energy independence, and you get major incentives for oil companies to focus on North America.

The Combustion Engine Refuses to Die – Issue 7: Waste – Nautilus

The Combustion Engine Refuses to Die – Issue 7: Waste – Nautilus.

he gasoline engine is a fast-moving target. In fact, the irony may be that it is moving faster than some of the technologies that are threatening to replace it. Carbon emissions of U.S. autos are on track to decline by 2.1 percent per year, while emissions from power plants are falling at a projected rate of less than 1 percent per year, says DeCicco. It is these plants, two thirds of which use fossil fuels, that power electric cars. In fact, the Union of Concerned Scientists has stated in a report that battery-powered vehicles do not hold a clear greenhouse advantage over the best gasoline or hybrid models in U.S. states that rely heavily on coal-generated electricity.

Even the average gasoline engine may soon approach its electric rival in terms of grams of carbon dioxide released per mile. “With nothing borrowed from Star Trek, we’ve developed a Ford Focus program with carbon dioxide output of 97 grams per kilometer,” Apostolos says of Ricardo. “In the 2040 time frame, we’ll get that to 30 grams, which makes internal combustion engines competitive with electric vehicles.” And then of course there is cost: Batteries need to become 10 times cheaper, and improve their energy density by 100 times, to match gasoline. The Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, for example, carries a 16 kilowatt-hour battery, which accounts for about $8,000 of the car’s cost. It stores the energy equivalent of one gallon of gasoline. “A scalable business case is so far away,” says DeCicco.

 

Which is not to say that electric and hydrogen development programs are not worthwhile—they clearly are. But, in fighting the gasoline engine, they will have to deal with more than just an outstanding performer: They will have to vanquish a true engineering chameleon.

 

 

 

Norman Mayersohn is an editor for the Automobiles section of The New York Times. His transportation fleet includes a Prius hybrid (the family’s seventh Prius), a 1967 Camaro SS350, a well-used Volvo station wagon, and two motorcycles. A former drag racer and organic farmer, he is always fascinated by learning how things work.

For scientists in a democracy, to dissent is to be reasonable | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian

For scientists in a democracy, to dissent is to be reasonable | George Monbiot | Comment is free | The Guardian.

 

Yesterday Boyd’s boss, environment secretary Owen Paterson, told the Conservative party conference not to worry about global warming. “I think we should just accept that the climate has been changing for centuries.” A few weeks ago on Any Questions, he managed to repeat 10 discredited claims about climate change in one short contribution.

His department repeatedly misrepresents science to appease industrial lobbyists. It claimed that its field trials of neonicotinoid pesticides on bees showed that “effects on bees do not occur under normal circumstances“. Hopelessly contaminated, the study was in fact worthless, which is why it was not submitted to a peer-reviewed journal.

Similar distortions surround the department’s refusal to establish meaningful marine reserves, its attempt to cull buzzards on behalf of pheasant shoots, and its determination to allow farmers to start dredging streams again, turning them into featureless gutters.

There’s one consolation: Boyd, in his efforts to establish a tinpot dictatorship, has not yet achieved the control enjoyed by his counterparts in Canada. There, scientists with government grants working on any issue that could affect industrial interests – tar sands, climate change, mining, sewage, salmon farms, water trading – are forbidden to speak freely to the public. They are shadowed by government minders and, when they must present their findings, given scripts to memorise and recite. Dozens of turbulent research programmes and institutes have either been cut to the bone or closed altogether.

In Australia, the new government has chosen not to appoint a science minister. Tony Abbott, who once described man-made climate change as “absolute crap”, has already shut down the government’s climate commission and climate change authority. But at least Australians are fighting back: the climate commission has been reconvened as an NGO, funded by donations. In Britain we allowed the government to shut down the Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution and the Sustainable Development Commission with scarcely a groan of protest.

David Cameron’s government claimed that the tiny savings it made were required to reduce the deficit. Yet somehow it manages to fund a lavish range of planet-wrecking programmes. The latest is the Centre for Doctoral Training in Oil and Gas, just launched by the Natural Environment Research Council. Its aim is “to support the oil and gas sector” by providing “focused training” in fracking, in exploiting tar deposits, and in searching for oil in polar regions. In other words, it is subsidising fossil fuel companies while promoting climate change. How many people believe this is a good use of public money?

To be reasonable, when a government is manipulating and misrepresenting scientific findings, is to dissent. To be reasonable, when it is helping to destroy human life and the natural world, is to dissent. As Julien Benda argued in La Trahison des Clercs, democracy and civilisation depend on intellectuals resisting conformity and power.

A world in which scientists speak only through minders and in which dissent is considered the antithesis of reason is a world shorn of meaningful democratic choices. You can judge a government by its treatment of inconvenient facts and the people who expose them. This one does not emerge well.

Twitter: @georgemonbiot A fully referenced version of this article can be found at monbiot.com

Why the Idea of a “Free Market” Is Total BS | Alternet

Why the Idea of a “Free Market” Is Total BS | Alternet.

 

In reality, the “free market” is a bunch of rules about (1) what can be owned and traded (the genome? slaves? nuclear materials? babies? votes?); (2) on what terms (equal access to the internet? the right to organize unions? corporate monopolies? the length of patent protections? ); (3) under what conditions (poisonous drugs? unsafe foods? deceptive Ponzi schemes? uninsured derivatives? dangerous workplaces?) (4) what’s private and what’s public (police? roads? clean air and clean water? healthcare? good schools? parks and playgrounds?); (5) how to pay for what (taxes, user fees, individual pricing?). And so on.

These rules don’t exist in nature; they are human creations. Governments don’t “intrude” on free markets; governments organize and maintain them. Markets aren’t “free” of rules; the rules define them.

The interesting question is what the rules should seek to achieve. They can be designed to maximize efficiency (given the current distribution of resources), or growth (depending on what we’re willing to sacrifice to obtain that growth), or fairness (depending on our ideas about a decent society). Or some combination of all three — which aren’t necessarily in competition with one another. Evidence suggests, for example, that if prosperity were more widely shared, we’d have faster growth.

The rules can even be designed to entrench and enhance the wealth of a few at the top, and keep almost everyone else comparatively poor and economically insecure.

Which brings us to the central political question: Who should decide on the rules, and their major purpose? If our democracy was working as it should, presumably our elected representatives, agency heads, and courts would be making the rules roughly according to what most of us want the rules to be. The economy would be working for us; we wouldn’t be working for the economy.

Instead, the rules are being made mainly by those with the power and resources to buy the politicians, regulatory heads, and even the courts (and the lawyers who appear before them). As income and wealth have concentrated at the top, so has political clout. And the most important clout is determining the rules of the game.

Not incidentally, these are the same people who want you and most others to believe in the fiction of an immutable “free market.”

If we want to reduce the savage inequalities and insecurities that are now undermining our economy and democracy, we shouldn’t be deterred by the myth of the “free market.” We can make the economy work for us, rather than the other way around. But in order to change the rules, we must exert the power that is supposed to be ours.

The oceans are acidifying at the fastest rate in 300 million years. How worried should we be?

The oceans are acidifying at the fastest rate in 300 million years. How worried should we be?.

 

There’s reason for alarm here: Studies have found that acidifying seawater can chew away at coral reefs and kill oysters by making it harder to form protective shells. The process can also interfere with the food supply for key species like Alaska’s salmon.

But it’s not fully clear what this all adds up to. What happens if the oceans keep acidifying and water temperatures keep rising as a result of global warming? Are those stresses going to wipe out coral reefs and fisheries around the globe, costing us trillions (as one paper suggested)? Or is there a chance that some ecosystems might remain surprisingly resilient?

That’s one of the big outstanding questions on climate change. “We understand the physics of simple things like how oceans become acidic,” said Richard Norris, a paleobiologist at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego. “But when it comes to how ecosystems might react, that’s big and complex and messy, with all these interactions going on, both physiological and how organisms interact with each other.”

How to study acidification’s effects

Broadly speaking, there are two ways that scientists can try to study the effects of ocean acidification — and both have limitations. First, they can examine various species in laboratories or in the field and see how corals and molluscs and fish respond to changes in ocean pH levels. The downside is that it’s hard to see how these species might adapt (or not) over the longer run.

Another approach is to examine the fossil record. There have been multiple periods in the Earth’s history where atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose sharply (for natural reasons) and the oceans became warmer and more acidic. That includes the Paleocene–Eocene Thermal Maximum, an era 55 million years ago with greenhouse-gas concentrations in the atmosphere roughly comparable to what the Earth could soon face.

In a recent paper for Science, Norris and his co-authors found that this ancient world had few coral reefs, a poorly oxygenated ocean, and drastically different food chains that had difficulty sustaining large predators like sharks and whales. On the flip side, “the extinction of species was remarkably light, other than a mass extinction in the rapidly warming deep ocean.” So that’s one possible glimpse into our future:

Monsanto Insiders Dump Stock as the Truth about GMOs Spreads across Wall Street | REALfarmacy.com | Healthy News and Information

Monsanto Insiders Dump Stock as the Truth about GMOs Spreads across Wall Street | REALfarmacy.com | Healthy News and Information.

 

Just the fact that Monsanto’s GE wheat trials got out of control and contaminated a wheat field in Oregon — causing Japan and South Korea to ban U.S. wheat imports — has resulted in 150 groups now demanding the USDA keep a tighter lid on Monsanto’s GMO experiments. These groups are fed up with seeing the market value of their crops destroyed by sloppy “open field” experiments being conducted by Monsanto that spread genetic pollution across the country and contaminate non-GMO crops. (Monsanto goes even further and actually sues the farmers whose fields they contaminated!)

Hedge funds dumping Monsanto

As InsiderMonkey.com reports, Monsanto “has experienced declining interest from the entirety of the hedge funds we track.”

The report goes on to say:

At the top of the heap, Jeffrey Vinik’s Vinik Asset Management said goodbye to the largest stake of the 450+ funds we monitor, totaling close to $100.8 million in [Monsanto] stock. Sean Cullinan’s fund, Point State Capital, also dropped its [Monsanto] stock, about $54.7 million worth.

These sales leave Stephen Mandel’s Lone Pine Capital with the largest holdings of Monsanto, over $613 million worth of the company’s stock. Natural News urges all investors to ditch Lone Pine Capital and take your money somewhere else that doesn’t invest in “the world’s most evil corporation.”

Blue Ridge Capital also owns over $320 million in Monsanto stock and should be immediately abandoned by all investors.

Monsanto share prices plummeting ever since the March Against Monsanto

So far this year, Monsanto (MON) share prices have plummeted from a high of $109 to a current trading range around $95. That’s a drop of nearly 13%, and the bad news for Monsanto just keeps coming.

For one, the European Union’s new food safety guidelines affirm the methodology and findings of the Seralini GM corn rat study. As much as the biotech industry and all its pimped-out science trolls have attempted to attack the study, the secret is already out: GM corn causes cancer tumors and consumers accurately see GM corn as equivalent to a “poison” symbol on foods.

The Seralini study, by the way, found that:

• Up to 50% of males and 70% of females suffered premature death.

• Rats that drank trace amounts of Roundup (at levels legally allowed in the water supply) had a 200% to 300% increase in large tumors.

• Rats fed GM corn and traces of Roundup suffered severe organ damage including liver damage and kidney damage.

• The study fed these rats NK603, the Monsanto variety of GM corn that’s grown across North America and widely fed to animals and humans. This is the same corn that’s in your corn-based breakfast cereal, corn tortillas and corn snack chips.

Anyone who is still investing in Monsanto is investing in this: