News Article | April 13, 2016
Embryos edited Researchers at Guangzhou Medical University in China have reported editing the genes of non-viable human embryos to try to make them resistant to HIV infection. The team collected a total of 213 fertilized human eggs, donated by 87 patients, that were unsuitable for implantation as part of in vitro fertility therapy because they contained an extra set of chromosomes. The researchers then used the CRISPR–Cas9 genome-editing technique to introduce into some of the embryos a mutation that cripples an immune-cell gene called CCR5. Some people naturally carry this mutation, which alters the CCR5 protein in a way that prevents the HIV virus from entering the cells it tries to infect. Genetic analysis showed that 4 of 26 human embryos targeted were modified with the CCR5 mutation. But in some embryos, not all sets of chromosomes harboured the mutation; some contained the unmodified gene, whereas others had acquired different mutations. In April 2015, a different China-based team announced that it had modified a gene linked to a blood disease in non-viable human embryos, igniting a worldwide storm of ethics concerns. See go.nature.com/igymgu for more. SpaceX rocket touches down at sea SpaceX took a major step towards re-usable rockets when it flawlessly landed the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on an unmanned ship in the Atlantic Ocean, after an 8 April launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida. It was the first successful landing of the rocket at sea, following four attempts that resulted in crashes. The company, based in Hawthorne, California, returned an intact Falcon rocket to land in December last year. The latest flight delivered cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), including an expandable astronaut habitat designed by Bigelow Aerospace of North Las Vegas, Nevada. The previous SpaceX mission to the ISS failed when a Falcon 9 rocket broke apart after launch in June 2015. Kepler scare NASA mission managers were shocked to discover on 7 April that the exoplanet-hunting Kepler space telescope had entered emergency mode. Mission control was able to return it to normal operations three days later, but the cause of the malfunction remained a mystery as Nature went to press. This was the first software glitch in Kepler’s seven years in space, although it previously suffered hardware breakdowns. The spacecraft has lost at least the first several days of a planet-hunting campaign that it was scheduled to begin on 7 April and conduct until 1 July. See go.nature.com/mu7woc for more. China satellite lab China has launched its largest-ever suite of microgravity and life-science experiments into orbit. The country’s Shijian-10 probe left the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu province, northern China, on 7 April. It is carrying 19 experiments that include tests to assess the effects of radiation on genes as well as the influence of microgravity on materials, fluid physics and combustion. The early development of mouse embryos in microgravity will also be examined. After its 15-day mission, the bullet-shaped craft will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere to be recovered from a landing site in Inner Mongolia. Self-driving lorries Six squads of automated lorries successfully arrived in Rotterdam in the Netherlands on 6 April after having driven themselves from Sweden, Belgium and Germany, with one fleet travelling more than 2,000 kilometres from Stockholm. The trial was part of the Dutch-government-led European Truck Platooning Challenge and included lorries from six different manufacturers. ‘Truck platooning’ involves two or more lorries connected by WiFi and driving in a convoy, with the first vehicle determining the speed and route. The technology aims to save fuel by enabling lorries to travel closer together, which reduces air drag. Bank climate plan The World Bank announced a Climate Change Action Plan on 7 April to help countries to meet their commitments under the United Nations climate agreement signed in Paris in December 2015, and to prepare for unavoidable impacts of climate change. Under the plan, the bank will mobilize US$25 billion in private financing for clean energy by 2020. Among other actions, it will quadruple funding for clean transportation programmes and help to bring early-warning systems for natural disasters to 100 million people. Reef catastrophe Huge swathes of coral in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef are undergoing severe bleaching (pictured), according to aerial surveys. Many corals in the northern part of the reef are likely to die, because raised sea temperatures have caused them to expel the symbiotic algae that give them their colour. Researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies in Townsville, Queensland, who are assessing the damage, say that more than 1,200 kilometres of the roughly 2,300-kilometre-long reef have bleached, and that the situation is substantially worse than in the two previous bleaching episodes in 1998 and 2002. See go.nature.com/ys7bau for more. Cambodia tiger loss Tigers are no longer breeding in Cambodia and the population there should be considered “functionally extinct”, the conservation group WWF announced on 6 April in Phnom Penh. The last wild tiger there was seen on a camera trap in 2007 in the Mondulkiri Protected Forest. But the WWF noted that national estimates and data compiled by the International Union for Conservation of Nature suggest that global tiger populations have rebounded to 3,890, from about 3,200 in 2010. Cambodia plans to bring eight young tigers from India into its dry forests in the Eastern Plains by 2019, as part of the global Tx2 initiative aiming to double wild tiger populations by the year 2022. Pharma merger off A marriage between two large pharmaceutical companies has been called off. Pfizer of New York City and Allergan of Dublin announced on 6 April that they had terminated a proposed merger process, which would have enabled the resulting company to take advantage of lower taxes in Ireland. The news came two days after the US Department of the Treasury unveiled stricter rules on companies that seek to move abroad to avoid US taxes. Pfizer pledged to announce by the end of the year whether it will spin off some parts of the company. NASA science chief Former astronaut John Grunsfeld, who has overseen NASA’s science portfolio since 2012, announced his retirement from the space agency on 5 April. The physicist and space-telescope expert flew five times on the space shuttle — including three visits to the Hubble Space Telescope — and was the lead spacewalker on the final flight to maintain and upgrade the telescope in 2009. As associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, he was responsible for more than 100 missions, such as the New Horizons spacecraft that visited Pluto last year. Grunsfeld’s deputy, Geoff Yoder, will take charge until a successor is chosen. Contracts with the International Seabed Authority (ISA), which regulates sea-bed mining in international waters, have picked up in recent years. Although commercial mining operations have not yet started, governments and corporations have signed contracts with the ISA to allow them to explore areas of the world’s oceans for materials including manganese nodules, copper, zinc, cobalt and platinum. Researchers have warned about the environmental impacts, saying that stricter regulation is needed. 16–20 April The American Association for Cancer Research holds its annual meeting in New Orleans, Louisiana. go.nature.com/q1t4fp 17–22 April The American Meteorological Society’s 32nd meeting on hurricanes and tropical meteorology convenes in San Juan, Puerto Rico. go.nature.com/pvszif
News Article | November 25, 2016
In the late evening of Nov. 23, people from Key West to the Florida Panhandle observed a massive fireball streaking across the sky. Most of the people who observed the strange occurrence panicked, thinking that it may be a bright meteor or even an extraterrestrial ship landing on Earth. The fireball was spotted mainly in Florida, but residents from Georgia and Alabama reported the event as well. The American Meteorological Society as well as different police departments from the affected areas received dozens of reports from people who witnessed the bizarre phenomenon around 11 p.m. local time. The phenomenon was confirmed by dashboard cameras belonging to the North Point Police Department in West Florida. As reported by Bill Cooke of Marshall Space Flight Center, the meteor began 46 miles above the Gulf of Mexico and 8 miles from Sarasota. According to the reports, the object was most likely traveling from northwest into the sea of Anna Maria Island, near the coast of Manatee County, Florida. The same report cites that the fireball must have been the size of a baseball, moving with roughly 40,000 miles per hour. The object was classified as a bolide, not a superbolide, and it produced no damage in the areas where it was seen. A number of approximately 500,000 fireballs pass around our planet every year, which makes the phenomenon not that uncommon. However, since most of the fireballs are smaller and some occur during the daytime, many of them go unnoticed. This meteor vaporized into a fireball illumination due to the interaction of frozen water and carbon dioxide heating the object. If you're interested in observing as many of these phenomena as possible, try using a telescope. Regardless of how common these occurrences are, people got scared and began writing on social media about their experiences. After the police department uploaded the video on their Facebook page, comments begun to flow. "It looked like a flare last night. I was driving on I-75 north at about 11:20 and the thing came right above me and just disappeared slowly," said Victor Rath on the Facebook post of the North Port Police Department. Another commenter thought that the phenomenon may have been something different. "That is definitely what I saw the other night. At the time I wondered [i]f it were an electrical transformer or something," Donna Launonen wrote on the same Facebook post. The video now has around 80,000 views, over 600 likes and more than 1,600 shares. The strange event sparked the interest of the city's residents as well as people worldwide. © 2017 Tech Times, All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.
News Article | October 3, 2016
Almost as elusive as the mythological creatures who share their name, lighting sprites are rarely seen and even more rarely photographed. But as hurricane Matthew was busy growing into a Category 5 just north of Colombia, the system bore some extra fireworks – upper atmospheric lightning strikes, also known as lightning sprites. As described by weather.com, far above Matthew's devastating winds and gargantuan waves, “Lightning was electrifying the skies for hundreds of miles around Matthew's eyewall and eastern feederbands.” But along with the ol’ forks that descend from the heavens as if Zeus were having a tantrum, there were the sprites unleashed above the high thunderstorm cloud tops. The American Meteorological Society defines sprites as usually weak bursts of energy that are released directly over an active thunderstorm cloud with cloud-to-ground lightning below. They are usually red in color, but can tend towards blue or other hues. And as weather.com notes, they can extend their impish selves some 55 miles into the atmosphere. But with their extraordinary height and brevity – they live for only a few milliseconds – they are very hard to see and even more difficult to photograph, making them a rarity for mere mortals like us to see. The sprites shown above and in the video below were doing their impish dance high above hurricane Matthew near Aruba and Colombia, as seen from 400 miles away in Puerto Rico. They are phenomenal – and in reminding us of the wrath and fury of Mother Nature, they are nothing short of magic. Weather.com reports on the sprites in the video below.
Higgins P.A.T.,The American Meteorological Society
Energy Policy | Year: 2013
Four cost-effective frameworks for pricing greenhouse gas emissions currently receive widespread attention: cap-and-trade, emission fees, and hybrid cap-and-trade approaches that include upper or lower limits on permit prices (price ceilings or floors). This paper develops a fifth framework that uses an emission fee with an upper limit on the quantity of emissions-a quantity ceiling-and compares the impact of each framework on emission prices and quantities. Cap-and-trade with a price ceiling minimizes price increases for emitting activities in all cases whereas an emission fee with a quantity ceiling maximizes emissions reductions. Thus, the choice of framework influences policy outcomes because each framework is more or less suited to particular policy goals. Whether pursuing one potential policy goal serves society's interests best depends on the eventual consequences of climate damage and emissions pricing, which are uncertain when policy choices are made. Policy updating over time may reduce but likely cannot entirely eliminate the differences in outcome that arise due to framework choice. Therefore, the "best" framework for emissions pricing depends on subjective preferences regarding the relative importance of different policy objectives, most notably whether one is more risk averse to climate damages or emissions price increases. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.