Archive by date | February 2008

US officials clarify climate policy – or do they?

Posted on behalf of Jeff Tollefson: Judging by the press coverage, it would appear that the Bush administration just turned green. A flurry of stories has hit the press after James Connaughton, a senior environmental advisor, suggested the White House would be willing to “enter into an international agreement” on climate change, “if other countries do, too.” That’s according to the New York Times. The BBC focused on three words – “binding international obligations” – uttered by Daniel Price, a national security advisor to President George W. Bush. Although it remains unclear what, exactly, this means, it is perhaps telling  … Read more

Elephants: too many to live

Elephants: too many to live

South Africa, which has for years struggled to fit its elephants in amongst all its people, has announced that it will resume culling the animals when their hungry numbers threaten to destroy the enclosed reserves in which they live. Since 1995, when the ban went into effect, numbers of elephants have risen from less than 10,000 to more than 20,000 in that country (The Independent; Washington Post)  … Read more

Butterfly fish… too stupid to live?

Butterfly fish… too stupid to live?

Talk about being a picky eater. It turns out that one species of butterflyfish – the yellow and black striped snorklers’ favourite – would rather starve to death than switch to eating a different sort of coral. This is a problem, since the coral they currently prefer is quite likely to go extinct with climate change.  Read more

Physicists peer deep into standard model; find nothing.

An intriguing paper in Physical Review Letters this week reports on an international team’s efforts to dig deep into the Standard Model of physics. The paper itself (PRL) is very technical (not to be attempted by the faint-hearted). But the Edinburgh University press release on the work (not available online, sorry) gets the quote-of-the-day prize for this succinct summary:  … Read more

Antidepressants ‘no better than placebo’

In all but the most severely depressed patients, there is no evidence that new-generation antidepressants work any better than placebos. So says a large metanalysis that combed through 47 published and unpublished studies on several Selective Serotonin Re-uptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), published in PLoS Medicine yesterday. This class of drugs includes Prozac.  Read more

Solar mission freezes to death

Solar mission freezes to death

After 17 year’s of service, solar mission Ulysses is at its end. The craft, which has been circling the Sun since 1992 tracing solar wind and studying the Sun’s poles, is about to run out of power and fall below a critical temperature of 2 degrees Celsius, at which point its hydrazine fuel will freeze.  Read more

Dead in the water

Dead in the water

Okay, it isn’t really ‘stop-the-presses’ news that global warming, pollution and over-harvesting are threatening the worlds’ fish stocks. But a UN report out last Friday (In Dead Water, pdf) hammers home some statistics on the dangers, and has some good graphics highlighting some of our oceans’ bigger problems.  Read more

Biofuel flight hype

Amid a fair amount of hype, a Virgin Airlines 747 has flown from London to Amsterdam using biofuels (BBC

| AP in USA Today | Bloomberg in the NYT). Not, when it comes down to it, very much biofuel – 20% of the fuel for one of the four engines, which sounds like 5% overall to me. And given that as far as I know Virgin doesn’t normally fly jumbos from Heathrow to Schipol, this ends up sounding like quite a lothttp://www.theregister.co.uk/2008/02/22/virgin_747_biofuel_algae_no_uk_gov_corn_maybe/ of jet fuel being burned for no particularly good reason.