World’s fastest bullet train can travel between Beijing and Shanghai in 4.5 hours

September 25, 2017 by  
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Traveling between Shanghai and Beijing can take more than 12 hours by car, or over eight hours on public transportation . But a new bullet train could slash those travel times. China recently launched the fastest bullet train in the world that travels at a speed of 217 miles per hour. This month, China launched the world’s quickest bullet train in Beijing. The service is called Fuxing and will travel the route between the country’s capital and Shanghai – a 777-mile trek – in around four hours and 30 minutes. Related: China takes on the Hyperloop with a supersonic ‘flying train’ This isn’t the first time China has run a 350 kilometer per hour (km/h) bullet train. They first launched a train that travels at that speed in August 2008, but lowered speed limits in 2011 to 186 miles an hour after a two-train crash close to Wenzhou that killed 40 people. A signaling failure caused the crash, according to Al Jazeera. The BBC said Fuxing trains have an improved monitoring system that can slow the trains down and stop them if there’s an emergency. Now the Chinese government is thinking of building more bullet trains, and taking their technology abroad. Experts wonder about the economic benefits of the super fast bullet train – estimates from international think tanks indicate it could cost 90 percent more to construct lines for 217 mph trains than for those that only travel at 155 mph. Economics professor Zhao Jian told Al Jazeera, “The purpose of raising the speed is mainly symbolic. The train is the fastest in the world, which implies the strength of Chinese train technology and science.” According to The Telegraph, the country has laid over 12,400 miles of high-speed rail , and aim to add 6,214 more miles by 2020. Along with looking to take their technology overseas, according to the BBC, China’s rail operator might even be looking into how to upgrade tracks so that trains could travel at speeds close to 250 mph. Via The Telegraph , Al Jazeera , and the BBC Images via screenshot and Pixabay

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World’s fastest bullet train can travel between Beijing and Shanghai in 4.5 hours

Video footage of rare all-white moose in Sweden

August 15, 2017 by  
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The rare appearance of a white moose is being celebrated by animal enthusiasts worldwide, as the majestic animal is estimated to be one of just 100 living in Sweden . Hans Nilsson, who has been tracking the elusive creature for three years, captured the footage on August 11 in the province of Varmland. As soon as it was uploaded, the video went viral. The BBC reports that the white moose is not albino but lacks color due to a genetic mutation. True albino animals are unable to produce melanin and have pink or red eyes. Animals with leucism, on the other hand, have a snowy white coat and dark-colored eyes. Moose are extraordinary animals , standing approximately 6.5 feet high at the shoulder. Some moose can weigh up to 1,800 pounds, and males have massive antlers that can span up to 6 feet end to end. Moose can also run up to 35 miles per hour. Related: Nova Scotia’s Sacred Albino Moose Killed by Visiting Hunters Unicorns sadly remain fictional, but at least white moose are real. Via BBC Images via Hans Nilsson

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Doctor warns falling sperm counts could lead to human extinction

July 26, 2017 by  
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Will our lifestyle lead to our extinction ? New findings from an international team of eight researchers indicate sperm counts in men from North America, New Zealand, Australia, and Europe have halved in under 40 years. Lead author epidemiologist Hagai Levine of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem told the BBC, “If we will not change the ways that we are living and the environment and the chemicals that we are exposed to, I am very worried about what will happen in the future.” Sperm count studies have been controversial in the past. This recent one, published this week in the Oxford Academic journal Human Reproduction Update , is one of the biggest assessments ever undertaken, according to the BBC. Researchers pored over 185 studies between 1973 and 2011. Levine detected a 52.4 percent decline in sperm concentration and 59.3 percent drop in total sperm count in the men from those regions of the world listed above. The rate of decline continues and may even be increasing, according to the researchers. They didn’t see the same decline in men from Africa, Asia, or South America, but said there have been fewer studies from these regions. Related: Alarming new study suggests Zika virus could cause infertility in men Levine told the BBC, “Eventually we may have a problem, and with reproduction in general, and it may be the extinction of the human species.” Skeptics say a large proportion of past studies that have pointed to sperm count drops have been flawed, such as only including men who have gone to fertility clinics, and would be likely to possess low sperm counts. But the researchers involved in the new study said they accounted for some of the flaws. Professor Allan Pacey of Sheffield University told the BBC, “I’ve never been particularly convinced by the many studies published so far claiming that human sperm counts have declined in the recent past. However, the study today by Dr. Levine and his colleagues deals head-on with many of the deficiencies of previous studies.” Other scientists praised the quality of the new study but said it may be too soon to come to the conclusion that humans could be on the path to extinction. Researchers at institutions in Denmark, the United States, and Spain were also part of the research. Via the BBC Images via Wikimedia Commons and Pixabay

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Doctor warns falling sperm counts could lead to human extinction

BatBnB unveils line of stylish (scientifically designed) homes for our flying friends

July 26, 2017 by  
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Airbnb disrupted the human housing world, now BatBnB is doing the same for bat housing. We all pretty much know that boxes are a stellar way to attract bats, but let’s be honest, they aren’t exactly good looking. That’s why we’re loving the elegantly designed BatBnB homes, which are attractive enough to display front and center at your home. They’re also designed based on decades of research, so they’re the perfect space for our flying friends. It’s basically like a piece of art for your yard that also boosts conservation efforts. Created by Harrison Broadhurst, architectural designer at Nomi Design and director of customer success at MakeTime   Christoper Rännefors , BatBnB provides a safe place for bats to nest, sleep and stay. Unlike other bat houses, BatBnB is incredibly stylish, so instead of tucking it in some remote corner, you’ll want to display it proudly. There are three style options available in the standard size, plus a mammoth size, so you can find the right one to suit your home. It’s finally the perfect bat house for design lovers. Of course, BatBnB isn’t just snazzy on the outside. It is also thoughtfully designed to be the ultimate space for bats, with grip chambers, proper ventilation and the ideal sizing. It’s so well-designed that it is endorsed by bat experts like executive director of the Organization for Bat Conservation  Rob Mies , who is basically the Beyonce of the bat world. Researchers will also team up with BatBnB owners to collect vital information that will help bats recover from devastating white nose syndrome. Related: 7 Million Bats Killed by White Nose Syndrome: How You Can Help “I’ve studied bats for more than 50 years, led worldwide conservation efforts for bats, and in fact founded the North American Bat House Research Project. With today’s improvements, properly constructed and located bat houses are achieving close to 90% success. I personally helped develop the Bat BnB product line and am delighted to endorse it for its ideal construction and attractive design,” said noted bat expert Merlin Tuttle. Bats are struggling across the US because of habitat loss and  white nose syndrome . It doesn’t help that many people fear bats for being dangerous or diseased, a reputation that is decidedly undeserved. BatBnb is hoping to change that. “We want to help people value bats rather than fear them — those ugly poorly designed models on the market just don’t spark that conversation,” said Rännefors. With climate change making winters shorter, we are seeing more mosquitos all year long, and one of the best ways to naturally control pesky bugs is with predators like bats. Bats are also instrumental in maintaining a healthy environment by helping to fertilize and pollinate plants – in addition to the thousand mosquitoes a single bat can eat every hour . Help BatBnB become a reality, and help change the conversation around bats, by funding the project on Indiegogo . + BatBnB + BatBnB on Indiegogo

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BatBnB unveils line of stylish (scientifically designed) homes for our flying friends

Scientists warn thawing soil could suddenly unleash deadly pathogens unseen in centuries

May 8, 2017 by  
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Humans have fought viruses for centuries. We struck a temporary winning blow with the discovery of penicillin, but now we’re watching bacteria develop antibiotic resistance . But what if we were exposed to viruses that have been dormant for millennia? As climate change melts permafrost , the frozen soil could suddenly release ancient, deadly bacteria and viruses that humanity hasn’t had to deal with for thousands of years. 2016 saw a case of an illness trapped inside ice being released to harm people . A 12-year-old boy died and around 20 people were hospitalized with anthrax in August 2016 in the Siberian tundra. Researchers think the anthrax came from a reindeer that died more than 75 years ago and was trapped under permafrost, but when that permafrost thawed in a 2016 heat wave, the anthrax was released. And researchers fear this may not be the last time such an event occurs. Related: Dramatic disintegration of Canada permafrost threatens huge carbon release Jean-Michel Claverie, an evolutionary biologist at France’s Aix-Marseille University, told the BBC, “Permafrost is a very good preserver of microbes and viruses, because it is cold, there is no oxygen, and it is dark. Pathogenic viruses that can infect humans or animals might be preserved in old permafrost layers, including some that have caused global epidemics in the past.” Over a million reindeer perished due to anthrax in the early 20th century. Most of their carcasses rest near the surface in 7,000 burial grounds in Russia. But even more than the anthrax, researchers fear other diseases that might be lurking in the permafrost. Scientists found pieces of RNA from the Spanish flu in bodies buried in the Alaskan tundra in mass graves. They think the bubonic plague and smallpox could hide in Siberian permafrost. But some bacteria won’t come back to life. So some people argue we should be more concerned about threats we know for sure climate change will unleash. Claverie says there’s a non-zero probability dormant microbes could come back to life and harm us. He told the BBC, “How likely that is is not known, but it’s a possibility. It could be bacteria that are curable with antibiotics, or resistant bacteria, or a virus. If the pathogen hasn’t been in contact with humans for a long time, then our immune system would not be prepared.” Via the BBC Images via NPS Climate Change Response on Flickr and Pixabay

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World officials entreat Trump to stay in Paris agreement

May 8, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump’s policies don’t just impact the United States. As climate change grows increasingly dangerous, executive orders on the Clean Power Plan and fossil fuel development in a top greenhouse gas-producing country have consequences for other countries as well. The Guardian spoke with world leaders, some of whom were involved in the 2015 Paris climate deal , who agree it would be disastrous if Trump were to pull America out of the historic agreement. Trump threatened to pull out of the Paris agreement on the campaign trail, and has yet to follow through. But he’s taken shots at the environment anyway, by rolling back pollution rules including Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan. He could make a decision on the agreement as soon as this week, and former Brazilian environment minister Izabella Teixeira, instrumental in Paris, said the situation reminds her of when George W. Bush pulled away from Kyoto protocol. Related: ExxonMobil exhorts White House to keep Paris agreement Former head of climate policy in Uruguay Ramón Méndez, who was present in Paris in 2015, said it was an extraordinarily strong shock to hear of Trump rolling back the Clean Power Plan. He said of all the policies the president has pursued, this one holds the worst consequences for the rest of the world. He also told The Guardian if the U.S. leaves the Paris agreement, “it will make it harder for other countries to maintain their ambitions.” Trump advisers reportedly can’t decide if pulling out of the agreement would be worth the diplomatic fallout sure to follow. But United Nations environment chief Erik Solheim pointed to an economic fallout as well. He told Reuters , “The future is green. Obviously if you are not a party to the Paris agreement, you will lose out. And the main losers of course will be the people of the United States itself because all the interesting, fascinating new green jobs would go to China and to the other parts of the world that are investing heavily in this.” Even if Trump doesn’t back out of the agreement, he still needs to take action. Peking University expert Zhang Haibin told The Guardian the president could pursue a semi-withdrawal instead: “I think the greater likelihood is that Trump will end up not pulling out of the pact but instead adopting a passive approach towards it [and] meeting none of its commitments.” Via The Guardian Images via Wikimedia Commons and Michael Vadon on Flickr

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Massive iceberg draws tourists to tiny Canadian town

April 19, 2017 by  
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A new natural attraction drew scores of tourists to a small town of around 500 people in Newfoundland, Canada over Easter weekend. A massive iceberg appeared near the coast, and photographers dashed to the area to snap pictures. The Southern shore highway close to Ferryland filled with traffic over the weekend as tourists came to view the impressive iceberg. The Newfoundland coast area is commonly called iceberg alley due to the ice blocks that float down during the spring from the Arctic , but this particular huge iceberg might stay right where it is, according to Ferryland Mayor Adrian Kavanagh, who told The Canadian Press it’s the biggest one he’s ever seen in the area. Related: Naturally striped Antarctic icebergs are almost too beautiful to be real Usually just the tip of an iceberg is visible, with the rest of the mass beneath the waves, so many run aground when they float near the coast. Local Don Costello told CBC News the iceberg probably won’t be moving unless winds keep blowing because it’s stuck on shallow ground. He estimated the iceberg’s highest point is roughly 150 feet. The BBC reported more icebergs are drifting through iceberg alley than is normal for this point in the year, with hundreds of icebergs in the Atlantic. This particular iceberg has moved around some and broken apart, but it appears it’ll stick around for a while. That’s good for tourism – a tour operator told CBC News they’re happy when the icebergs are grounded, and his company is receiving dozens of online bookings every day. Iceberg tourism season technically hasn’t even started – there are a few weeks to go. Costello told CBC News, “I met a couple of people and they were looking for somewhere to get a bowl of soup or a sandwich or something, and there’s only two places here…and they don’t open until the 24th of May.” Via the BBC and CBC News Images via Randy Wheeler on Facebook , Fantasy RV Tours on Facebook , and Alison Thorne on Facebook

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At least 60 dead in Ethiopian garbage "landslide"

March 14, 2017 by  
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At least 60 people are dead after a mountain of trash collapsed at a dump in Ethiopia on Saturday night. The “landslide” at Koshe Garbage Landfill, which lies just outside the country’s capital of Addis Ababa, claimed mostly women and children, according to officials . With dozens still reportedly still missing, the final death toll could be even higher, they added. Around 150 people were present when the landslide occurred, a resident told the Associated Press . Several makeshift houses, inhabited by some of the landfill’s permanent residents, are now submerged under tons of refuse. Many of those who live at the 50-year-old landfill are scavengers who sort through the dross for items to sell. Others are there because it’s all they can afford. “My mother and three of my sisters were there when the landslide happened. Now I don’t know the fate of all of them.” Tebeju Asres, who lived at the site, told AP. Koshe, which means “dirty” in the local Amharic language, has experienced smaller collapses that killed two or three people, but nothing on this scale. Related: Ethiopia announces plans to build massive 1000MW geothermal power plant About 300,000 tons of waste from the capital’s 4 million people are deposited every year at Koshe, officials say. The city has been working to turn the garbage into a source of clean energy since 2013, when it began construction on what will be Africa’s first waste-to-energy plant when completed. The Koshe waste-to-energy center, which has $120 million invested in it, is expected to generate 50 megawatts of electricity. “In the long run, we will conduct a resettling program to relocate people who live in and around the landfill,” Diriba Kuma, mayor of Addis Ababa, told AP. Via BBC News Photo by Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Australia Aid

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At least 60 dead in Ethiopian garbage "landslide"

SpaceX is sending two private citizens to the moon next year

February 28, 2017 by  
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Since humans first walked on the moon in 1969, many people have gazed up at the night sky and longed to do the same. Leave it to SpaceX CEO Elon Musk to make those dreams reality. SpaceX announced yesterday they’ll be sending two tourists, who have reportedly paid the company quite a bit of money up front, to the moon. The groundbreaking mission could happen as soon as 2018. SpaceX didn’t say who the two private citizens are, although, according to Musk, they aren’t Hollywood celebrities. The two unnamed travelers will start with fitness and health tests, and commence training this year. According to SpaceX, “…these individuals will travel into space carrying the hopes and dreams of all humankind, driven by the universal human spirit of exploration.” Related: Watch Elon Musk’s emotional rollercoaster during successful SpaceX Falcon 9 landing They’ll be aboard a Crew Dragon, or Dragon Version 2, which has not yet ventured to space. Dragon capsules have made their way to the International Space Station (ISS), but the crew version of the vessel, with life-support equipment, won’t blast off until the end of this year, in an unmanned demonstration mission to the ISS. A manned mission could come early in 2018, before the tourists journey to the moon from the exact launch pad Apollo missions utilized near Cape Canaveral. According to the BBC, the moon trip could be at least six to seven days long. SpaceX said in a statement, “This presents an opportunity for humans to return to deep space for the first time in 45 years and they will travel faster and further into the Solar System than any before them.” This historic trip will also serve as a stepping stone for the company on their target of sending humans to Mars . NASA released a statement on SpaceX’s announcement, saying they commend their “industry partners for reaching higher.” Musk and SpaceX said the moon mission wouldn’t be possible without the agency. Via SpaceX and the BBC Images via SpaceX on Flickr ( 1 , 2 )

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Ancient microbes survive inside massive cave crystals for 50,000 years

February 20, 2017 by  
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Scientists have found strange, ancient microbes in Mexico’s Naica crystal caves that could be around 50,000 years old. Although the caves are so hot they’ve been described as hell – while also being so magical they’ve been described as Fairyland – the microbes have survived for thousands of years trapped in crystals . A biologist who studied the microbes referred to them as super life. Scientists discovered 40 different microbe strains and some viruses in the caves. The microbes are so bizarre that even their closest relatives are genetically 10 percent different, which is about as far away as mushrooms and humans, according to NASA Astrobiology Institute director Penelope Boston, who recently presented the research. The dormant microbes survived on minerals like manganese and iron. Related: Researchers discover that architecture has an impact on which microbes thrive around you The Naica caves are a great example of an extreme environment. Found by miners only around 100 years ago, the caves were isolated from the rest of the world for centuries until a mining company commenced drilling. According to Phys.org, some of the caves are as colossal as cathedrals , and are covered in crystals. But the magnificent caves are so sweltering the researchers could work for just about 20 minutes before retreating to a cool room around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. They wore inexpensive space suits and kept ice packs on their bodies. The find doesn’t claim the prize for oldest extreme life – years ago scientists wrote about living microbes trapped in salt and ice that may be around half a million years old. But Boston told the BBC the microbes her team found are extraordinary because “they are not very closely related to anything in the known genetic databases” and scientists can add the recently found microbes “to this atlas of possibilities that we can apply to different planetary settings.” The findings draw on nine years of research, but have not yet been published in a journal. Boston aims to run more genetic tests on the microbes, but did present the find at the recent American Association for the Advancement of Science conference in Boston, Massachusetts late last week. Via the BBC and Phys.org Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Ancient microbes survive inside massive cave crystals for 50,000 years

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