Climate Change, Now A Witch Hunt!

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton has come to Exxon’s defense — again. AP Photo/Eric Gay, File.

Climate change, why it’s a witch hunt, it is, for real and true! What this is actually about is protecting Exxon, with republicans going full court testerical over the issue, claiming the usual excuse, freeze peach.

Citing Exxon Mobil’s right to “free speech,” 11 state attorneys general — all Republicans — filed in court this week to stop an investigation into the oil and gas giant’s decades-long history of climate denial.

The attorneys general — from Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Nebraska, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Wisconsin — filed a brief to support Exxon’s request to stop the so-called “Exxon Knew” investigation, arguing that there is a “public policy debate” over climate change and that the investigation is an “unconstitutional abuse” of power.

“The Constitution was written to protect citizens from government witch-hunts such as this one, where officials use their authority and the threat of criminal prosecution to try and suppress speech on a viewpoint they disagree with,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement.

This isn’t the first time Texas has intervened in the investigation on behalf of the state’s largest company. Paxton and his counterpart from Arkansas filed on behalf of Exxon in May of last year when it challenged a Virgin Islands subpoena. Paxton has said the investigations are “ridiculous.”

Think Progress has the full story.

Also see:

The Earth just passed another carbon threshold.

Climate change will fuel terrorism, report warns.

Dow Chemical gave $1 million to Trump’s inauguration, now wants pesticide risk study buried.

Naked Mole Rats: Surviving Oxygen Deprivation.

Rats, ever extraordinary!

Deprived of oxygen, naked mole-rats can survive by metabolizing fructose just as plants do, researchers report this week in the journal Science.

Understanding how the animals do this could lead to treatments for patients suffering crises of oxygen deprivation, as in heart attacks and strokes.

“This is just the latest remarkable discovery about the naked mole-rat — a cold-blooded mammal that lives decades longer than other rodents, rarely gets cancer, and doesn’t feel many types of pain,” says Thomas Park, professor of biological sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago, who led an international team of researchers from UIC, the Max Delbrück Institute in Berlin and the University of Pretoria in South Africa on the study.

In humans, laboratory mice, and all other known mammals, when brain cells are starved of oxygen they run out of energy and begin to die.

But naked mole-rats have a backup: their brain cells start burning fructose, which produces energy anaerobically through a metabolic pathway that is only used by plants – or so scientists thought.

The full story is here.

Cool Stuff Friday: Octobot!

Harvard University Octobot.

Researchers at Harvard University have designed a soft 3D-printed robot that can move on its own, powered by a chemical reaction, instead of electricity or batteries.

Shaped like a cartoon octopus, the Octobot contains no electronics or other hard parts, relying instead on a silicone body that houses a fluid-filled circuit.

Previously, soft-bodied robots had needed to rely on rigid components for power. But the Octobot uses hydrogen peroxide as fuel.

The liquid flows around a network of pre-printed hollows in the robot’s body, and creates a reaction as it passes over platinum embedded inside. This produces gas that inflates and moves the arms, to propel the robot through water.

You can read and watch more here. Do I need to say I want one? I want one.

No-To-Scale Studio.

Malaysian design office No-To-Scale Studio has issued a satirical proposal to President Trump, suggesting a radical means of representing the US-Mexico border: a 1,954 mile-long dining table.

Citing “logistical, financial and nationality” limitations, the studio’s design claims to be cost-effective in taking a domestic item and scaling it to massive proportions.

While the proposed slab of “continuous polished marble” may prove costly, diners will bring their own chairs in order to participate.

You can see and read more here.

Neri Oxman, Lazarus Mask.

Neri Oxman and the MIT Mediated Matter group have unveiled their latest collection of 3D-printed death masks, designed to contain the wearer’s last breath.

The Lazarus masks, described by Oxman as “air urns”, are modelled on the facial features of the deceased individual.

Each 3D-printed structure encompasses colourful swirling patterns that have been informed by the physical flow of air emitted from their last breath.

“Traditionally made of a single material, such as wax or plaster, the death mask originated as a means of capturing a person’s visage, keeping the deceased alive through memory,” said the team.

You can read and see more here.

Fucking Magnets, Right? Right!

Magnetic Putty Magic (Extended Cut) | Shanks FX | PBS Digital Studios from Joey Shanks on Vimeo.

I have got to get some of this stuff. What a cool toy. And if that’s not enough, let’s visit some more wonderfully psychedelic ferrofluid art:

I recommend watching that full screen.

The combination of microscopes and magnetic ferrofluid produces results that indistinguishable from magic—and stunning CGI—in this new short from chemist-turned macro photographer Linden Gledhill and Concept Zero founder Nikola Ilic. The only added ingredient Ferrofluid Magnified needs is a big bowl of something psychoactive, and you’re off to never neverland.

Gledhill is known for his stunning, pearlescent images of objects that are unexpectedly beautiful under a microscope, such as DNA and butterfly wings. He mixed ferrofluids, which are full of nanoscopic magnets, with solvents, gels, paints, flowers, and LED lighting for added trippiness. Prints on canvas from the film, which will fund the duo’s next collaboration, are available here.

You can see and read more about magnetic putty here, and about the ferrofluid art here.

National Parks: WPA to 2050.

What America’s National Parks will look like by 2050 if we fail to act against climate change.

Hannah Rothstein has taken some of the iconic WPA (Works Progress Administration) National Parks Posters, from 1938 to 1941, and updated them to 2050 and a catastrophic future if we do not act on climate change. It’s a striking and effective way to get the message across, because the art and legacy of these posters is so well known, and they are beloved by many people. The WPA posters were a message and invitation to weary, beaten down people dealing with the Depression, that there were wonders, come and see! They were a promise of hope, of a better future. Now we have too many people who are actively denying climate change, or apathetic about it, little realizing that yes, it will most certainly impact them, and not in a good way. These re-worked posters are as brilliant as the originals, reminding people that if we choose to not act, we are inviting the harbingers of doom. These are a call to action, and I hope they start popping up all over the place.

You can see all of the posters, and purchase an original or fine art print here.

Via Raw Story.

American Atheists: In The Closet?

A study suggests many non-believers may uncomfortable telling a pollster they don’t believe in God. elenabsl / Shutterstock.

A new study suggests that the number of atheists in uStates is considerably higher than the numbers shown by traditional polls by Pew and Gallup. The study is flawed, and the authors cheerfully admit this and are working on better ways to conduct their poll, and they remain convinced there are more atheists than assumed. I don’t find that terribly difficult to believe, as atheism in this country carries a high stigma, and in a number of states, could cost people their jobs and turn goodwill towards them cold. Politics here are inextricably linked with religion, and a politician who states they are an atheist aren’t going to find themselves very popular, to say the least. Even when a lot of atheists are willing to admit it, they quickly follow it up with making nice noises about religious people, or point out that they aren’t against religion, it’s just not their thing.

I remember when atheists at large were utterly thrilled when President Obama acknowledged the existence of atheists in America. He was soundly condemned for that mention by theists. We were thrilled because that simple acknowledgement was a large risk to take. It’s a stark illustration of just how much atheism is considered to be a dirty little secret here, and in the minds of many, it remains linked with being a dirty commie.

Here’s a simple question: How many Americans don’t believe in God?

Pew and Gallup — two of the most reputable polling firms in America — both come to a similar figure. About 10 percent of Americans say they do not believe in God, and this figure has been slowly creeping up over the decades.

But maybe this isn’t the whole story. University of Kentucky psychologists Will Gervais and Maxine Najle have long suspected that a lot of atheists aren’t showing up in these polls. The reason: Even in our increasingly secular society, there’s still a lot of stigma around not believing in God. So when a stranger conducting a poll calls and asks the question, it may be uncomfortable for many to answer truthfully.

Gervais and Najle recently conducted a new analysis on the prevalence of atheists in America. And they conclude the number of people who do not believe in God may be even double that counted by these polling firms.

“There’s a lot of atheists in the closet,” Gervais says. “And … if they knew there are lots of people just like them out there, that could potentially promote more tolerance.”

Vox has the full story.

Mother Jones also has this story, but with a different perspective: the new study showed that not one single republican identified as an atheist. I don’t find that surprising at all.

Dakota Access Allowed to Keep Risks Secret.

© Marty Two Bulls.

It’s not enough that the pipeline went through, and once again, drinking water is threatened (which is fine, of course, because Indians), but ETP can now keep risk information to themselves. Just keeps getting worse. And to those people who think they are helping through vandalism? You aren’t, so fucking stop it.

Despite concerns that the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline could threaten the primary source of drinking water for the Standing Rock Sioux, a federal judge ruled that the pipeline’s developer can keep some information about spill risks secret from the public.

The ruling — which would permit Energy Transfer Partners, the developer of the pipeline, to keep information about spill risks at certain points along the pipeline shielded from the public — comes after unknown protesters used a torch to burn holes in empty above-ground segments of the pipeline. The Standing Rock Sioux and Cheyenne River Sioux tribes had argued that information about spill risks could potentially strengthen their case for more environmental review of the project.

U.S. District Judge James Boasberg rejected that argument, saying that shielding the information from public view would prevent vandalism of the pipeline.

“The asserted interest in limiting intentionally inflicted harm outweighs the tribes’ generalized interests in public disclosure and scrutiny,” Boasberg said in his ruling.

[…]

Pipeline spills in North Dakota are not uncommon — according to analysis from the Center for Biological Diversity, North Dakota has averaged four pipeline spills a year since 1996, costing more than $40 million in property damage.

Under the Trump administration’s proposed budget, the Environmental Protection Agency would face sharp cuts in its enforcement programs, limiting its ability to enforce and penalize companies that violate environmental laws. When pipeline operators, for instance, violate laws like the Clean Water Act by spilling pollutants into waterways, the EPA is normally the agency that imposes fines on those operators. Last week, for instance, the EPA and the Department of Justice issued a fine against a pipeline operator in Ohio that violated the Clean Water Act by discharging approximately 1,950 barrels of gasoline from a pipeline into nearby waterways.

Think Progress has the full story.

The War Over the Blackest Black.

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^That is Vantablack, a ferocious matte black which absorbs 99.96% of the light that hits it, and no matter what’s underneath Vantablack, it looks flat and completely empty. Vantablack was extremely exciting in artist’s circles when the news first broke, but it had barely broken before Anish Kapoor brokered an exclusivity deal. That didn’t go down well among artists. The world’s blackest black, and only available to one artist? Stuart Semple, another British artist, fought back with the World’s Pinkest Pink, and the Most Glittery Glitter, available to everyone except Kapoor. Now Semple has come out with Black 2.0, his answer to Vantablack 2.0:

1490980996634-black-20

Before anyone starts scratching their heads over this, wondering WTF, yes, artists are rather obsessed with black, and in particular, a matte black which will eat light. It’s a thing, what can I say?
Black 2.0 is available to all, except Kapoor.

Now, with the recent release of Vantablack 2.0, which is the world’s newest blackest black, Semple has released his own newest blackest black. Called Black 2.0, Semple calls it “the most pigmented, flattest, mattest, black acrylic paint in the world.” Much like Vantablack, it’s able to turn 3D surfaces into flat-looking holes, but it’s not quite got the staring-into-the-abyss qualities of the original. (Or the laser-eating capabilities of Vantablack 2.0, which the researchers at NanoSystem have said is “so black that our spectrometers can’t measure it!”)

You can read all about the blackest of black wars here.

Badger Buries Cow Carcass.

Warning: If you don’t want bad Benny Hill skits in your head, mute video immediately. Badger buries cow.

After scientists set up cameras to keep tabs on the behavior of scavenger animals in Utah, they were surprised to discover a badger buried a small cow carcass, according to a new study published Friday.

While badgers, which are small, omnivorous mammals, were known to scavenge and store small food items underground, this was the first evidence of the critter storing an animal carcass larger than itself, according to the study, which was led by undergraduate students from the University of Utah.

You can read all about it here.

Killing Ourselves Harshly.

(Brian Gratwicke, Fickr).

(Brian Gratwicke, Fickr).

That is a Striped Blenny, a popular aquarium fish. Also known as a Fang Blenny. There are a number of different types, and they have exploded into a different kind of popularity, outside of aquarist circles. Blennies defend themselves with a venomous bite. The venom doesn’t kill, but it does get the potential predator woozed out on opiones, so the Blenny can make a quick get away. The venom has intrigued medical researchers, particularly those who want to come up with a painkiller which actually works, and doesn’t have such heavy addiction potential. Sounds good so far, right? There’s something of a problem though – the natural home of Blennies is The Great Barrier Reef, which is dying an all too rapid death from bleaching. This is a reminder of just how little we actually know of our planet, or of all the potential benefits to ourselves are out there, right now, but we’re very busy killing off so many different types of habitats, we are killing ourselves.

So the fang blenny’s potential isn’t just blue-sky thinking; there’s a very real and somewhat straight path for studying this opioid to make it useable as a pharmaceutical.

The number one hurdle is the health of the Great Barrier Reef, where these fish live. There’s an immense amount of unknown diversity in ecosystems around the world disappearing at unprecedented rates due to climate change, and the GBR is fragile among these. Current policies of both the Australian and American governments don’t bode well for slowing climate change and preserving nature to its full potential to help us.

Here’s the key thing: a better opioid is worth tens of billions of dollars. The best source of inspiration for new pharmaceuticals is nature, and that’s what we are destroying for a few million or even hundred million in the short term.

The reality is that the economic argument for conservation vastly outweighs the economic argument for destruction.The fang benny populations are declining as the reef gets bleached and destroyed, and with it goes millions of years of perfecting potentially life-savings drugs for our use.

Full story here.

Also see: Putin thinks Russia will benefit from climate change and communities will ‘adjust’.

“I haven’t been in a science class in a long time, but…”

Republican Pennsylvania State Senator Scott Wagner.

Republican Pennsylvania State Senator Scott Wagner.

We open today’s can of stupid with Pennsylvania, and Sen. Scott Wagner. Wagner is all for  opening up state forests to drilling for natural gas. Why, we don’t need forests, what are they good for? Just full of trees and animals and stuff, they aren’t important at all. Yesterday, we had the tin cap idiocy of Lord Monckton, and today the climate change theories of Wagner:

NPR reports that Pennsylvania State Senator Scott Wagner on Tuesday gave a talk in favor of conducting natural gas drilling in state forests — and he justified his position by using a scientifically incorrect analysis of climate change.

Specifically, Wagner said he wasn’t worried about carbon emissions leading to a warming planet because the change in the planet’s temperature was more likely caused by the Earth getting closer to the sun every year.

“I haven’t been in a science class in a long time, but the earth moves closer to the sun every year–you know the rotation of the earth,” Wagner said. “We’re moving closer to the sun.”

I don’t believe you. I don’t think you have ever been in a science class. That said, why are you relying on your own ignorance? There is a ton of information, clear, concise, evidence-backed, and easily understood, even by people like yourself, available. Information which would point out the idiocy of destroying state forests.

Wagner also suggested that climate change could be caused by the heat emitted from human bodies.

“We have more people,” he said. “You know, humans have warm bodies. So is heat coming off? Things are changing, but I think we are, as a society, doing the best we can.”

Oh ffs. Climate change is driven by humans, but not in that way. If this is how you did in school, I am absolutely amazed you graduated. Via Raw Story.

Tin Cap Time.

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The Heartland Institute recently had their “Fuck the Planet!” conference, attended by the Mercers, and all those others who have some sort of vested interest in killing off everyone and everything. I guess they’ll bug out to Mars with Musk when life becomes unsustainable.

The atmosphere was buoyant at a conference held by the conservative Heartland Institute last week at a downtown Washington hotel, where speakers denounced climate science as rigged and jubilantly touted deep cuts President Trump is seeking to make to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Front and center during the two-day gathering were New York hedge fund executive Robert Mercer and his daughter Rebekah Mercer, Republican mega-donors who with their former political adviser Stephen K. Bannon helped finance an alternative media ecosystem that amplified Trump’s populist themes during last year’s campaign.

The Mercers’ attendance at the two-day Heartland conference offered a telling sign of the low-profile family’s priorities: With Trump in office, the influential financiers appear intent on putting muscle behind the fight to roll back environmental regulations, a central focus of the new administration.

The Washington Post has a full run down on the conference.

I’ll just focus here on the batshit element of such conferences, this time, embodied by ever loony Lord Christopher Monckton:

Raw Story has a rundown of his 5 main points, so click on over if you prefer to read.