‘Plants caused end-Ordovician mass extinction’


This 12 May 2020 video says about itself:

How Plants Caused the First Mass Extinction

In the middle of the Cambrian, life on land was about to get a little more crowded. And those newcomers would end up changing the world. The arrival of plants on land would make the world colder, drain much of the oxygen out of the oceans and eventually, it would help cause a massive extinction event.

COVID-19 disaster in Conservative-ruled Britain


This 11 May 2020 by the Conservative Daily Telegraph in Britain says about itself:

Commuters crowd train platform following UK government guidelines to go back to work | Coronavirus

Boris Johnson‘s call for Britain’s workforce to return to their jobs this morning has descended into chaos and confusion.

The Prime Minister last night urged workers who could not work from home to return today, especially in the construction and manufacturing sectors, but this morning Dominic Raab said the changes came into effect on Wednesday.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 19 April 2020:

Teachers’ union warns against reopening schools as members remain ‘far from convinced’ on safety

THE NASUWT has renewed its warning against ending the closure of schools too early, saying that teachers remained “far from convinced” that it can be done safely.

The teachers’ union called on Education Secretary Gavin Williamson today to provide evidence and information to justify the decision to start reopening schools from June 1.

About 95 per cent of teachers expressed concern and anxiety about the government’s plans, while 93 per cent found them confusing, according to a survey by the union.

By Bethany Rielly in Britain, 19 April 2020:

Anti-racists warn that BAME communities will bear the brunt of ending lockdown early

ANTI-RACIST campaigners warned against a premature end to the Covid-19 lockdown today, warning that black, Asian and minority-ethnic (BAME) communities will bear the brunt of a second wave of the virus.

There is mounting evidence that people from minority-ethnic backgrounds have been disproportionately affected during the coronavirus crisis.

A report by the Intensive Care National Audit & Research Centre published this month found that 33 per cent of critically ill Covid-19 patients were from BAME backgrounds, despite such groups accounting for only about 13 per cent of the British population.

By Robert Stevens and John Stryder, 19 May 2020. Official statistics show that around 10,000 people have died in the UK’s care homes, but the real figure is at least double that.

Belly Mujinga (photo: Family Handout/Belly Mujinga)

UK police question suspect in spitting incident that led to rail worker’s death. By Michael Barnes, 19 May 2020. Belly Mujinga’s death produced a horrified reaction among rail workers and an outpouring of sympathy in the working class, but the deranged character of the attack also solicited an outpouring of crocodile tears from those who are ultimately responsible for creating the conditions that led to her death.

Dinosaur’s anti-predator armour, how strong?


This 19 May 2020 video says about itself:

Mechanical Dinosaur Jaws Vs. Replica Borealopelta Body

Scientists have created powerful mechanical jaws, modeled after the mid-Cretaceous predator known as Acrocanthosaurus. Now it’s time to test it out on a recreation of Borealopelta’s armored body.

COVID-19 infects British Premier League professional footballers


This 4 April 2020 video says about itself:

How a football match in Milan impacted the Covid-19 pandemic

This is the story of how a Champions League football match between Atalanta and Valencia became a “biological bomb” in Italy.

Dutch NOS radio reports today that at least six British Premier League professional footballers are infected with COVID-19. On Saturday, that number may increase when more test results will become known.

The six players play in three clubs. Names have not been published.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain today:

Men’s football PFA: BAME members are concerned about return

Troy Deeney has said he is not returning to training with Premier League club Watford

PLAYERS from ethnic-minority backgrounds have expressed their concerns about returning to action amid the coronavirus pandemic to the Professional Footballers’ Association (PFA).

Data from the Office for National Statistics suggests that black men and women are almost twice as likely to die from Covid-19 compared with non-whites, even when factors such as health, disability, household composition and area deprivation are taken into account.

Director of player welfare at the PFA Michael Bennett said that he has been called by players who are concerned about the risks. The PFA has called on the Premier League to conduct further research into the issue.

Trump-Pompeo Saudi massacres in Yemen scandal


This video from the USA says about itself:

Trump Fires His Fourth Inspector General, This One Investigating Saudi Arms Sales | MSNBC

President Donald Trump has fired the State Department watchdog Steve Linick, at the recommendation of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Linick was investigating Pompeo’s decision to greenlight arms sales to Saudi Arabia, despite bipartisan congressional opposition to doing so. The IG was also investigating whether Pompeo was using a political appointee to perform tasks like walking his dog and making dinner reservations. Commentators say this is yet another strike at government oversight. Aired on 5/18/2020.

HOUSE DEMS: OUSTED WATCHDOG WAS PROBING SAUDI ARMS SALE The State Department inspector general fired by Trump was reportedly investigating why Pompeo fast-tracked more than $8 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia and its allies and whether Pompeo made a staffer run personal errands for him. Steve Linick was reportedly probing the arms deal because of lawmakers’ frustration that it was carried out without normal congressional oversight. [HuffPost]

From daily The Morning Star in Britain, 19 May 2020:

Pompeo denies politically motivated sacking over Saudi arms probe

A US INSPECTOR general who was abruptly sacked on Friday was investigating Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s approval of Saudi arms sales against the will of Congress, it has emerged.

It is the second investigation by State Department official Steve Linick to have been made public since he was removed from his post by President Donald Trump.

POMPEO ASKED TRUMP TO FIRE INSPECTOR GENERAL Secretary of State Mike Pompeo asked Trump to fire State Department Inspector General Steve Linick, Trump acknowledged. Pompeo said he had made the request because Linick’s work was “undermining” the department’s mission. “I never even heard of him,” Trump said, adding that Pompeo should have fired Linick a long time ago, since “he’s an Obama appointment, and he had some difficulty.” [HuffPost]

TRUMP WANTS POMPEO TO WORK, NOT ‘WASH DISHES’ IF HIS WIFE ISN’T AROUND Trump apparently expects Mike Pompeo’s wife to wash the dishes in the Pompeo household. And when his family isn’t around, it’s apparently OK for Pompeo to use taxpayer-funded federal employees — including the Secret Service — to do his domestic chores, Trump said. “I’d rather have him [Pompeo] on the phone with some world leader than have him wash dishes because maybe his wife isn’t there or his kids aren’t there … it’s so stupid,” Trump said. [HuffPost]

New fungus species discovered on Twitter


This 16 May 2020 video says about itself:

Scientist Discovers New Fungus on Twitter, called Troglomyces twitteri

New species of fungus that pierces its host to suck nutrients is discovered on TWITTER after biologists spot an image of an American millipede with bizarre red dots in a tweet.

From the University of Copenhagen in Denmark:

Bizarre new species discovered… on Twitter

May 15, 2020

Summary: A new species of fungus has been discovered via Twitter and christened accordingly — Troglomyces twitteri. This unique fungal parasite grows around the reproductive organs of millipedes.

While many of us use social media to be tickled silly by cat videos or wowed by delectable cakes, others use them to discover new species. Included in the latter group are researchers from the University of Copenhagen’s Natural History Museum of Denmark. Indeed, they just found a new type of parasitic fungus via Twitter.

It all began as biologist and associate professor Ana Sofia Reboleira of the National Natural History Museum was scrolling though Twitter. There, she stumbled upon a photo of a North American millipede shared by her US colleague Derek Hennen of Virginia Tech. She spotted a few tiny dots that struck her well-trained eyes.

“I could see something looking like fungi on the surface of the millipede. Until then, these fungi had never been found on American millipedes. So, I went to my colleague and showed him the image. That’s when we ran down to the museum’s collections and began digging,” explains Ana Sofia Reboleira.

Together with colleague Henrik Enghoff, she discovered several specimens of the same fungus on a few of the American millipedes in the Natural History Museum’s enormous collection — fungi that had never before been documented. This confirmed the existence of a previously unknown species of Laboulbeniales — an order of tiny, bizarre and largely unknown fungal parasites that attack insects and millipedes.

The newly discovered parasitic fungus has now been given its official Latin name, Troglomyces twitteri.

SoMe meets museum

Ana Sofia Reboleira points out that the discovery is an example of how sharing information on social media can result in completely unexpected results:

“As far as we know, this is the first time that a new species has been discovered on Twitter. It highlights the importance of these platforms for sharing research — and thereby being able to achieve new results. I hope that it will motivate professional and amateur researchers to share more data via social media. This is something that has been increasingly obvious during the coronavirus crisis, a time when so many are prevented from getting into the field or laboratories.”

Reboleira believes that social media is generally playing a larger and larger role in research.

She stresses that the result was possible because of her access to one of the world’s largest biological collections.

“Because of our vast museum collection, it was relatively easy to confirm that we were indeed looking at an entirely new species for science. This demonstrates how valuable museum collections are. There is much more hiding in these collections than we know,” says Ana Sofia Reboleira.

Underappreciated parasitic fungus

Laboulbeniales-fungi look like tiny larvae. The fungi are in a class of their own because they live on the outside of host organisms, and even on specific parts of bodies — in this case, on the reproductive organs of millipedes. The fungus sucks nutrition from its host animal by piercing the host’s outer shell using a special suction structure, while the other half of the fungus protrudes.

Approximately 30 different species of parasitic Laboulbeniales-fungi attack millipedes. The vast majority of these were only discovered after 2014. According to Reboleira, there are most likely a great number remaining to be discovered. Research in the area of Laboulbeniales remains extremely scarce.

Nor is much known about their own biology, says Reboleira, who researches these fungi on a daily basis. She believes that these fungi can not only teach us about the insects upon which they live, but also about the mechanisms behind parasitism itself — that is, the relationship between parasites and their hosts. She hopes that the research will also provide useful knowledge about the parasites that attack and can be harmful to human health.

FACTS:

  • The new species Troglomyces twitteri belongs to the order of microscopic parasitic fungi known as Laboulbeniales. These fungi live on insects, arachnids and millipedes, and rely on their host organisms to survive.
  • The research was conducted by: Sergi Santamaria of the Departament de Biologia Animal, de Biologia Vegetal i d’Ecologia, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain; and Henrik Enghoff & Ana Sofia Reboleira from the Natural History Museum of Denmark at the University of Copenhagen.
  • Millipede specimens from the Muséum national d’Histoire naturelle (MNHN) in Paris helped confirm the discovery of the new species of fungus.
  • The Natural History Museum of Denmark’s entomological collection is one of the world’s largest, housing more than 3.5 million pin-mounted insects and at least as many alcohol-preserved insect and land animal specimens. About 100,000 known species are represented (out of a total number of over one million species)

COVID-19 tragedy in Donald Trump’s USA


This 1 June 2020 video is called Asian-Americans, harassed over coronavirus, push back on streets and social media.

A 19 May 2020 video from the USA, censored by YouTube, used to say about itself:

How to Combat Anti-Asian Racism During COVID-19 | NowThis

In US news and current events today, reports of anti-Asian harassment and hate crimes have spiked amid COVID-19 — here’s how Carmelyn P. Malalis, the leader of the New York City Commission on Human Rights is fighting back

Carmelyn Malalis, the leader of New York City’s Commission on Human Rights is fighting back against anti-Asian discrimination. Reports of anti-Asian harassment and hate crimes have spiked around the world amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The STOP AAPI HATE reporting center found 1,500 incidents of discrimination between March 19, 2020 and April 15, 2020 against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across the U.S.

TRUMP CLAIMS HE TAKES HYDROXYCHLOROQUINE, FOX NEWS HOST WARNS ‘IT COULD KILL YOU’ President Donald Trump said he’s been taking hydroxychloroquine, the anti-malaria drug he’s been touting as a potential coronavirus cure, for a couple of weeks. Not only is there is no known evidence that the drug works against COVID-19, but it has potentially serious side effects, including the possibility that it may alter heartbeat in a way that could lead to sudden death. Fox News host Neil Cavuto warned viewers that the drug could “kill you,” referencing research studies that concluded the drug shows no real benefit for treating the coronavirus and may be harmful. [HuffPost]

PELOSI CONCERNED ‘MORBIDLY OBESE’ TRUMP TAKING UNPROVEN DRUG House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she was concerned after Trump claimed he’s been taking an unproven anti-malaria drug for weeks in the hopes of preventing COVID-19. “He’s our president, and I would rather he not be taking something that has not been approved by the scientists,” Pelosi told CNN’s Anderson Cooper, adding: “Especially in his age group, and in his, shall we say, weight group, that is morbidly obese, they say.” [HuffPost]

LAWMAKERS CALL OUT HIGHER RISK TO PEOPLE OF COLOR AS STATES REOPEN Democratic Reps. Karen Bass (Calif.) and Ruben Gallego (Ariz.) are joining activists and journalists of color drawing attention to how states reopening businesses too soon amid the coronavirus pandemic are likely placing workers of color at disproportionate risk. During a virtual town hall on the need for more federal funding during the coronavirus crisis, Bass noted the disproportionately high death rates from COVID-19 among Black and Latinx people. [HuffPost]

A ‘cuckoo’ graph with no sense of time or place shows how Georgia bungled coronavirus data as it reopens: here.

My wealthiest customers are begging for plastic surgery in quarantine.

Little grebes, frogs and flowers


Little grebe, 19 May 2020

After yesterday, we went again to the sand dunes nature reserve on 19 May 2020. We saw this little grebe.

As we started our walk, a nightingale sang.

A lesser black-backed gull flying.

Four stock doves.

Great spotted woodpecker sound.

A chiffchaff sings. A great cormorant flies.

A robin. A whitethroat on a bush.

Swifts flying.

We reach the hide.

Little grebe, on 19 May 2020

In the lake behind the hide, coots and two little grebes swim.

Little grebe, Egmond, 19 May 2020

Little grebe with food, 19 May 2020

One of the little grebes finds some food: a leech.

A great tit calls.

As we leave, a speckled wood butterfly.

We walk on. We arrive at the lakelet of the white water-crowfoot flowers.

White water-crowfoot and edible frog, 19 May 2020

The flowers are still there, and so is this edible frog.

How Italian renaissance domes were built


This 2014 video says about itself:

How an Amateur Built the World’s Biggest Dome

In 1418, Filippo Brunelleschi was tasked with building the largest dome ever seen at the time. He had no formal architecture training. Yet experts still don’t fully understand the brilliant methods he used in contructing the dome, which tops the Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral in Florence, Italy.

From Princeton University, Engineering School in the USA:

Double helix of masonry: Researchers discover the secret of Italian renaissance domes

May 18, 2020

Summary: Researchers found that the masonry of Italian renaissance domes, such as the duomo in Florence, use a double-helix structure that is self-supporting during and after construction. Their study is the first to quantitatively prove the forces at work in such masonry domes, which may lead to advances in modern drone construction techniques.

In a collaborative study in this month’s issue of Engineering Structures, researchers at Princeton University and the University of Bergamo revealed the engineering techniques behind self-supporting masonry domes inherent to the Italian renaissance. Researchers analyzed how cupolas like the famous duomo, part of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, were built as self-supporting, without the use of shoring or forms typically required.

Sigrid Adriaenssens, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Princeton, collaborated on the analysis with graduate student Vittorio Paris and Attilio Pizzigoni, professor engineering and applied sciences, both of the University of Bergamo. Their study is the first ever to quantitatively prove the physics at work in Italian renaissance domes and to explain the forces which allow such structures to have been built without formwork typically required, even for modern construction. Previously, there were only hypotheses in the field about how forces flowed through such edifices, and it was unknown how they were built without the use of temporary structures to hold them up during construction.

For Adriaenssens, the project advances two significant questions. “How can mankind construct such a large and beautiful structure without any formwork — mechanically, what’s the innovation?” she asked. Secondly, “What can we learn?” Is there some “forgotten technology that we can use today?”

The detailed computer analysis accounts for the forces at work down to the individual brick, explaining how equilibrium is leveraged. The technique called discrete element modelling (DEM) analyzed the structure at several layers and stages of construction. A limit state analysis determined the overall equilibrium state, or stability, of the completed structure. Not only do these tests verify the mechanics of the structures, but they also make it possible to recreate the techniques for modern construction.

Applying their findings to modern construction, the researchers anticipate that this study could have practical applications for developing construction techniques deploying aerial drones and robots. Using these unmanned machines for construction would increase worker safety, as well as enhance construction speed and reduce building costs.

Another advantage of unearthing new building techniques from ancient sources is that it can yield environmental benefits. “The construction industry is one of the most wasteful ones, so that means if we don’t change anything, there will be a lot more construction waste,” said Adriaenssens, who is interested in using drone techniques for building very large span roofs that are self-supporting and require no shoring or formwork.

“Overall, this project speaks to an ancient narrative that tells of stones finding their equilibrium in the wonder of reason,” said Pizzigoni, “from Brunelleschi’s dome to the mechanical arms of modern-day robotics where technology is performative of spaces and its social use.”