Agent Orange Wants to Drop Climate Change from Environmental Reviews

More infuriating shit from, of all places, Bloomberg

President Donald Trump is set to sign a sweeping directive to dramatically shrink the role climate change plays in decisions across the government, ranging from appliance standards to pipeline approvals, according to a person familiar with the administration’s plan.

The order, which could be signed this week, goes far beyond a targeted assault on Obama-era measures blocking coal leasing and throttling greenhouse gas emissions from power plants that has been discussed for weeks. Some of the changes could happen immediately; others could take years to implement.

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Scott Pruitt Is a Climate Change Denier… and in Other News, Water is Wet

In perhaps the most Captain Obvious moment on the first week of March, we learn that Scott Pruitt, current head of the Environmental Protection Agency, denies climate change…

From the New York Times

Scott Pruitt, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency, said on Thursday that carbon dioxide was not a primary contributor to global warming, a statement at odds with the established scientific consensus on climate change.

Asked his views on the role of carbon dioxide, the heat-trapping gas produced by burning fossil fuels, in increasing global warming, Mr. Pruitt said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that “I think that measuring with precision human activity on the climate is something very challenging to do and there’s tremendous disagreement about the degree of impact, so, no, I would not agree that it’s a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

“But we don’t know that yet,” he added. “We need to continue the debate and continue the review and the analysis.”

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Self Care: Astronomy Picture(/News) of the Week – NASA Finds a New Solar System with 3 Habitable Planets

Okay okay… potentially habitable planets… the title was already long enough…

(Thanks to Rob Grigjanis for alerting me to this…)

Allowing for the fact that NASA is known for its sensationalism (routinely mocked, actually, by some astronomy podcasts I listen to, like Awesome Astronomy), this is actually really intriguing. From Vox

TRAPPIST-1 System... planets e, f, and g are the potentially habitable planets

TRAPPIST-1 System… planets e, f, and g are the potentially habitable planets

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Self Care – What Was the First Life on Earth?

This is a really cool article, written by Stephanie Pappas for LiveScience…

The earliest evidence for life on Earth arises among the oldest rocks still preserved on the planet.

Earth is about 4.5 billion years old, but the oldest rocks still in existence date back to just 4 billion years ago. Not long after that rock record begins, tantalizing evidence of life emerges: A set of filament-like fossils from Australia, reported in the journal Astrobiology in 2013, may be the remains of a microbial mat that might have been extracting energy from sunlight some 3.5 billion years ago. Another contender for world’s oldest life is a set of rocks in Greenland that may hold the fossils of 3.7-billion-year-old colonies of cyanobacteria, which form layered structures called stromatolites.

Some scientists have claimed to see evidence of life in 3.8-billion-year-old rocks from Akilia Island, Greenland. The researchers first reported in 1996 in the journal Nature that isotopes (forms of an element with different numbers of neutrons) in those rocks might indicate ancient metabolic activity by some mystery microbe. Those findings have been hotly debated ever since — as, in fact, have all claims of early life.

Still, the fact that suggestive evidence of life arises right as the rock record begins raises a question, said University of California, Los Angeles, geochemist Elizabeth Bell in a SETI Talk in February 2016: Is the timing a coincidence, or were there earlier forms of life whose remnants disappeared with the planet’s most ancient rocks?

Head on over and read the whole thing! It’s fascinating…

Self Care – Astronomy Picture of the Week: The Heart and Soul Nebula

Yeah yeah… I know Valentine’s Day was yesterday… but Astronomy Picture of the Week is on Wednesdays, so get over it.

This is an infrared mosaic known as “Heart and Soul“… two nebulae captured by NASA’s Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE. As usual, click on the image for the .tif download…

Heart (right) and Soul (left) Nebulae

Heart (right) and Soul (left) Nebulae

I would say “Happy Valentine’s Day from the Universe!” but… you know… day late, and all…

Self Care – Astronomy Picture(s and Video) of the Week: Quasars Help Find That Universe is Expanding Faster Than Originally Thought

(There are 5 images and a video here…)

This is a pretty awesome story…

Basically, 5 quasars were studied to figure out the expansion rate of the universe, and the results were… interesting:

When astronomer Edwin Hubble discovered nearly 100 years ago that the universe was uniformly expanding in all directions, the finding was a big surprise. Then, in the mid-1990s, another shocker occurred: astronomers found that the expansion rate was accelerating perhaps due to a repulsive property called “dark energy.” Now, the latest measurements of our runaway universe suggest that it is expanding faster than astronomers thought. The consequences could be very significant for our understanding of the shadowy contents of our unruly universe. It may mean that dark energy is shoving galaxies away from each other with even greater – or growing – strength. Or, the early cosmos may contain a new type of subatomic particle referred to as “dark radiation.” A third possibility is that “dark matter,” an invisible form of matter that makes up the bulk of our universe, possesses some weird, unexpected characteristics. Finally, Einstein’s theory of gravity may be incomplete.

These unnerving scenarios are based on the research of a team led by Nobel Laureate Adam Riess, who began a quest in 2005 to measure the universe’s expansion rate to unprecedented accuracy with new, innovative observing techniques. The new measurement reduces the rate of expansion to an uncertainty of only 2.4 percent. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it does not agree with expansion measurements derived from probing the fireball relic radiation from the big bang. So it seems like something’s amiss – possibly sending cosmologists back to the drawing board.

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