Saturday, Dec. 30, 2017 - Jan. 5, 2018
Good night, night: Light pollution increasing around globe
photo combo of images provided by NASA’s Earth Observatory/Kyba, GFZ
shows photographs of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, taken from the
International Space Station on Dec. 23, 2010, left, where residential
areas are mainly lit by orange sodium lamps; and on Nov. 27, 2015,
right, where many areas on the outskirts are newly lit compared to 2010,
and many neighborhoods have switched from orange sodium lamps to white
LED lamps. (NASA’s Earth Observatory/Kyba, GFZ via AP)
Fla. (AP) - The world’s nights are getting
alarmingly brighter - bad news for all sorts of creatures, humans
A German-led team
reported Wednesday that light pollution is threatening darkness almost
everywhere. Satellite observations during five Octobers show Earth’s
artificially lit outdoor area grew by 2 percent a year from 2012 to
2016. So did nighttime brightness.
Light pollution is
actually worse than that, according to the researchers. Their
measurements coincide with the outdoor switch to energy-efficient and
cost-saving light-emitting diodes, or LEDs. Because the imaging sensor
on the polar-orbiting weather satellite can’t detect the LED-generated
color blue, some light is missed.
for example, indicate stable levels of night light in the United States,
Netherlands, Spain and Italy. But light pollution is almost certainly on
the rise in those countries given this elusive blue light, said
Christopher Kyba of the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences and
lead author of the study published in Science Advances.
Also on the rise is
the spread of light into the hinterlands and overall increased use. The
findings shatter the long-held notion that more energy efficient
lighting would decrease usage on the global - or at least a national -
“Honestly, I had
thought and assumed and hoped that with LEDs we were turning the corner.
There’s also a lot more awareness of light pollution,” he told reporters
by phone from Potsdam. “It is quite disappointing.”
impact from surging artificial light is also significant, according to
People’s sleep can
be marred, which in turn can affect their health. The migration and
reproduction of birds, fish, amphibians, insects and bats can be
disrupted. Plants can have abnormally extended growing periods. And
forget about seeing stars or the Milky Way, if the trend continues.
About the only
places with dramatic declines in night light were in areas of conflict
like Syria and Yemen, the researchers found. Australia also reported a
noticeable drop, but that’s because wildfires were raging early in the
study. Researchers were unable to filter out the bright burning light.
Asia, Africa and
South America, for the most part, saw a surge in artificial night
More and more
places are installing outdoor lighting given its low cost and the
overall growth in communities’ wealth, the scientists noted. Urban
sprawl is also moving towns farther out. The outskirts of major cities
in developing nations are brightening quite rapidly, in fact, Kyba said.
bright hot spots: sprawling greenhouses in the Netherlands and
Photos taken by
astronauts aboard the International Space Station also illuminate the
Franz Holker of the
Leibniz Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries in Berlin,
a co-author, said things are at the critical point.
“Many people are
using light at night without really thinking about the cost,” Holker
said. Not just the economic cost, “but also the cost that you have to
pay from an ecological, environmental perspective.”
Kyba and his
colleagues recommend avoiding glaring lamps whenever possible - choosing
amber over so-called white LEDs - and using more efficient ways to
illuminate places like parking lots or city streets. For example, dim,
closely spaced lights tend to provide better visibility than bright
lights that are more spread out.
Dark-Sky Association, based in Tucson, Arizona, has been highlighting
the hazards of artificial night light for decades.
“We hope that the
results further sound the alarm about the many unintended consequences
of the unchecked use of artificial light at night,” Director J. Scott
Feierabend said in a statement.
An instrument on
the 2011-launched U.S. weather satellite, Suomi, provided the
observations for this study. A second such instrument - known as the
Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite, or VIIRS - was launched on a
new satellite Saturday by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration. This latest VIIRS will join the continuing night light
Saturday, Dec. 23 - Dec. 29, 2017
New dinosaur looks like odd mix of duck, croc, ostrich, swan
This illustration provided by Lukas
Panzarin, with Andrea Cau for scientific supervision, shows a
Halszkaraptor escuilliei dinosaur. The creature, about 18 inches (45
centimeters) tall, had a bill like a duck but teeth like a croc’s, a
swan-like neck and killer claws. (Lukas Panzarin via AP)
Washington (AP) - With a
bill like a duck but teeth like a croc’s, a swanlike neck and killer
claws, a new dinosaur species uncovered by scientists looks like
something Dr. Seuss could have dreamed up.
It also had flippers like a
penguin, and while it walked like an ostrich it could also swim. That’s
the first time swimming ability has been shown for a two-legged,
The tiny creature, only about 18
inches (45 centimeters) tall, roamed 75 million years ago in what is now
Mongolia. Its full curled-up skeleton was found in a sandstone rock.
“It’s such a peculiar animal,” said
Dennis Voeten, a paleontology researcher at Palacky University in the
Czech Republic. “It combines different parts we knew from other groups
into this one small animal.”
In a study released Wednesday by
the journal Nature, Voeten and coauthors named it Halszkaraptor
escuilliei (HAHL-shka-rap-tor ES-key-lay-ee) or “Halszka” after the late
Polish paleontologist Halszka Osmolska.
Paleontologist Kristi Curry Rogers
of Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota, who didn’t participate in
the study, called it “a pretty crazy chimera: a swan neck and dinosaur
body, but with a mouthful of tiny teeth and hands and feet that look
like they might be good for swimming.”
Its mashup body let it run and hunt
on the ground and fish in fresh water, said study co-author Paul
Tafforeau. He’s a paleontologist at the ESRF, known as the European
Synchrotron in Grenoble, France, a powerful X-ray generator where
numerous tests were made on the fossil.
Lead author Andrea Cau, a
paleontologist at the Geological Museum Capellini in Bologna, Italy,
said he was at first highly suspicious about the fossil’s authenticity,
both because of its appearance and the fact that the rock containing the
skeleton had been smuggled out of Mongolia and left in a private
“I asked myself, ‘Is this a real,
natural skeleton, or an artifact, a chimera? If this is a fake, how
could I demonstrate it?’” Cau said in an email. “Assuming it was a fake
instead of starting assuming that the fossil is genuine was the most
appropriate way to start the investigation of such a bizarre fossil.”
So researchers used the Synchrotron
to create three-dimensional images of the fossil, which showed the
creature was indeed a single animal and not a concoction built up from
several sources. For example, an arm hidden in the rock perfectly
matched the visible left arm, and lines indicating growth matched up
across the bones.
Even though the creature wasn’t
dreamed up by Dr. Seuss, it got a blessing from a Dr. Sues.
Hans Sues, a paleontologist at the
Smithsonian Institution who wasn’t part of the research, praised the
work and said it “shows again how amazingly diverse dinosaurs were.”
Archaeologists may have
discovered St. Nick’s bones
(AP) - Turkish archaeologists believe they
may have discovered the remains of St. Nicholas - from whom the legend
of Santa Claus emerged - beneath a church at his birthplace in southern
Turkey, an official said Thursday, Oct 5.
St. Nicholas was
born and served as a bishop of what is now the Turkish Mediterranean
town of Demre, near Antalya, in the 4th century. He was buried in the
area formerly known as Myra, but his bones were believed to have been
stolen and taken to the southern Italian town of Bari.
however, have recently discovered what they think is a temple below the
church and now believe his remains may be lying there, Cemil Karabayram,
the head of Antalya’s Reliefs and Monuments authority, told The
Associated Press by telephone.
looking for a way into the temple without harming the 11th-century
Church of St. Nicholas, Karabayram said.
Karabayram said the
temple was discovered through geo-radar surveys of the church that were
conducted as part of a restoration project.
“It is a temple
that is intact, has not been touched but may have been affected by an
earthquake,” he said.
“This is an
important find both culturally and for Turkey’s tourism,” Karabayram
St. Nicholas was
known for his generosity. His legend spread around the world and became
interwoven with mythical stories of the gift-giving Santa Claus.
that the bones that were smuggled to Bari may have been the remains of
Saturday, Dec. 16 - Dec. 22, 2017
Reporter’s Notebook: Fukushima face-lift masks morass inside
This combination of photos shows the Unit 3
building of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power
plant, top in Feb. 28, 2012 and bottom in Aug. 2, 2017, at Okuma town in
Fukushima prefecture, northeastern Japan. The tsunami-hit Fukushima
Dai-ichi nuclear power plant has had a major face-lift since the 2011
meltdowns, at least above ground. Inside and underground, it remains
largely a morass. (AP Photo)
(AP) - Above ground, the tsunami-hit
Fukushima nuclear power plant has had a major face-lift since the 2011
disaster. Inside and underground remains largely a morass.
A stylish new
office building was the first thing that came into view during a tour
for foreign media last month. Another building has a cafeteria and a
convenience store. It’s easy to forget you’re in the official no-go
zone, where access is restricted.
We first went
through automated security checks and radiation measurement at the new
building, where 1,000 employees of Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s
decommissioning unit work. A sign prohibits games such as Pokemon Go.
Visitors no longer
must put on hazmat suits and full-face charcoal-filter masks, or plastic
shoe covers, unless they are going to the most contaminated areas. We
donned the gear for low-dose areas: a helmet, double socks, cotton
gloves, surgical mask, goggles, and a vest with a personal dosimeter.
There was little
reminder of the devastation from 6 ˝ years earlier. The highly
contaminated debris and mangled vehicles are gone. The feeble-looking
plastic hoses mended with tape and the outdoor power switchboard that
rats got into, once causing a blackout, have been replaced with proper
A new curved cover
has been built over the Unit 3 reactor, whose roof was blown off,
leaving a mess of girders, concrete and cables. A horizontal smudge high
up on a nearby waste-storage building marks the height of the tsunami:
17 meters, or 56 feet.
The 900 huge tanks
built to store a growing volume of radioactive water tower over
visitors. A water management team monitored the contaminated water at
what was once the crisis command center. Strings of good-luck,
folded-paper cranes still hang in the hallway.
underscore the challenges that remain, in the basements of the reactor
buildings, where the water collects, and deep inside the three reactors
that had meltdowns.
robots provided a limited view of the melted fuel earlier this year, in
areas where it is too dangerous for humans to go. The exact location of
the fuel remains largely unknown. It was an early step in the
still-uncertain, decades long plan to decommission the plant.
Saturday, Dec. 9 - Dec. 15, 2017
Thanksgiving tribe reclaims language lost to colonization
Oct. 12, 2017 photo a child in a combined pre-kindergarten and
kindergarten Wampanoag language immersion class removes kernels from an
ear of corn at the Wampanoag Tribe Community and Government Center, in
Mashpee, Mass. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
In this Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017, photo
Massachusetts Institute of Technology archivist Nora Murphy places a
second edition of the Eliot Indian Bible on a table at the MIT rare book
collection, in Cambridge, Mass. The second edition of the Eliot Indian
Bible, translated into Wampanoag, is dated 1685. Experts have relied on
extensive written records in Wampanoag to reclaim the language,
including 17th century phonetic translations of the King James Bible.
(AP Photo/Steven Senne)
(AP) - The Massachusetts tribe whose
ancestors shared a Thanksgiving meal with the Pilgrims nearly 400 years
ago is reclaiming its long-lost language, one schoolchild at a time.
mahkusunash,” says teacher Siobhan Brown, using the Wampanoag phrase for
“yellow shoes” as she reads to a preschool class from Sandra Boynton’s
popular children’s book “Blue Hat, Green Hat.”
Weekuw - or “Children’s House” - is an immersion school launched by the
Cape Cod-based Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, whose ancestors hosted a harvest
celebration with the Pilgrims in 1621 that helped form the basis for the
country’s Thanksgiving tradition.
The 19 children
from Wampanoag households that Brown and other teachers instruct are
being taught exclusively in Wopanaotooaok, a language that had not been
spoken for at least a century until the tribe started an effort to
reclaim it more than two decades ago.
brought to the English lexicon words like pumpkin (spelled pohpukun in
Wopanaotooaok), moccasin (mahkus), skunk (sukok), powwow (pawaw) and
Massachusetts (masachoosut), but, like hundreds of other native tongues,
fell victim to the erosion of indigenous culture through centuries of
“From having had no
speakers for six generations to having 500 students attend some sort of
class in the last 25 years? It’s more than I could have ever expected in
my lifetime,” says Jessie “Little Doe” Baird, the tribe’s vice
chairwoman, who is almost singularly responsible for the rebirth of the
language, which tribal members refer to simply as Wampanoag (pronounced
Now in its second
year, the immersion school is a key milestone in Baird’s legacy, but
it’s not the only way the tribe is ensuring its language is never lost
At the public high
school, seven students are enrolled in the district’s first Wampanoag
language class, which is funded and staffed by the tribe.
Up the road,
volunteers host free language learning sessions for families each Friday
at the Mashpee Wampanoag Indian Museum.
And within the
tribe’s government building - one floor up from the immersion school -
tribal elders gather twice a week for an hour-long lesson before lunch.
“Sometimes it goes
in one ear and out the other,” confesses Pauline Peters, a 78-year-old
Hyannis resident who has been attending the informal sessions for about
three years. “It takes us elders a while to get things. The kids at the
immersion school correct us all the time.”
The movement to
revitalize native American languages started gaining traction in the
1990s and today, most of country’s more than 550 tribes are engaged in
some form of language preservation work, says Diana Cournoyer, of the
National Indian Education Association.
But the Mashpee
Wampanoag stand out because they’re one of the few tribes to have
brought back their language despite not having any surviving adult
speakers, says Teresa McCarty, a cultural anthropologist and applied
linguist at the University of California Los Angeles.
to speak, read, and write a language that you have never heard spoken
and for which no oral records exist,” she says. “It’s a human act of
brilliance, faith, courage, commitment and hope.”
Jessie Baird was in
her 20s, had no college degree and zero training in linguistics when a
dream inspired her to start learning Wampanoag in the early 1990s.
linguistic experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and
other tribal members, Baird developed a dictionary of Wampanoag and a
She and others drew
on historical documents written in Wampanoag - including personal
diaries of tribal members, Colonial-era land claims and a version of the
King James Bible printed in 1663 that is considered one of the oldest
ever printed in the Western hemisphere.
To fill in the
gaps, they turned to words, pronunciations and other auditory cues from
related Algonquian languages still spoken today.
The work landed
Baird at MIT, where she earned a graduate degree in linguistics in 2000
and a prestigious MacArthur Foundation genius grant in 2010.
decades on, the tribe is still in need of more adults fluent in the
language to continue expanding its immersion school and other
youth-focused language efforts - the keys to ensuring the language’s
survival, says Jennifer Weston, director of the tribe’s language
currently enrolls pre-K and kindergarten-age children but hopes to ramp
up to middle school within five years.
“The goal is really
to have bilingual speakers emerge from our school,” Weston says. “And
we’ve seen from other tribal communities that if you want children to
retain the language, you have to invest in elementary education.
Otherwise the gains just disappear.”
Update Saturday, Dec. 2 - Dec. 8, 2017
Ocean meeting raises over
$7 billion for marine protection
This undated file photo provided by NOAA shows a
humpback whale entangled in fishing line, ropes, buoys and anchors in the
Pacific Ocean off Crescent City, Calif. (Bryant Anderson/NOAA Fisheries
MMHSRP Permit# 18786-01 via AP, File)
Brussels (AP) -
A global conference to better protect marine life has raised more than $7
billion and won commitments to protect huge swathes of the Earth’s oceans.
The European Union,
which organized the Our Ocean conference in the Maltese capital of Valletta,
its 28 member states and its EIB investment bank gave almost half those
financial commitments, about $3.4 billion.
businesses, almost 100 countries and others pushed the total up to the
The conference focused
on funding and leading projects as varied as combating plastics pollution to
countering illegal fishing and looking at the effects of climate change.
The Our Ocean
conference has accumulated some 8.7 billion euros ($10.2 billion) since it
started in 2014 but the efforts in 2017 exceeded expectations.
“We are beginning to
see leaders in government, civil society and the private sector standing up
to be counted to make tangible commitments to conservation, which is most
encouraging,” said Demetres Karavellas, head of the delegation for the WWF
On top of the financial
commitments, nations also promised to add new Marine Protected Areas
spanning more than 2.5 million square kilometers, which the EU said
translates to over half its territory.
The efforts to better
protect marine life came in in all shapes. Five top global insurance
industry companies committed to refuse insurance to vessels internationally
blacklisted for illegal or unregulated fishing.
“Today is a major
breakthrough, with leading insurers committing to deny a financial lifeline
to pirate-fishing vessels,” said Lasse Gustavsson, the executive director of
The mission to protect
marine life is urgent, said the Vatican, pointing to the rapid decay in
important sites like the Great Barrier Reef in Australia.
“We witness a marvelous
marine world being transformed into an underwater cemetery, bereft of color
and life,” said Vatican Secretary of State Piero Cardinal Parolin.