Interesting Science Bits

These are all from “Science Daily”. I was wandering through it a few days ago and these just kind of had some “wow” factor for me.

Dachshund Gene and Cancer

Now I have no idea why the gene is named “Dachshund” but it is what it is. The interesting thing is it seems to turn cancer cells back to normal. Find a way to turn it on, cure cancer.

‘Dachshund’ Gene Reverts Cancer Genes To Normal, Predicts Breast Cancer Prognosis

Date: November 1, 2006
Source:Thomas Jefferson University

Scientists have shown that the activity of a gene that commandeers other cancer-causing genes, returning them to normal, can predict the prognosis of an individual with breast cancer. They looked at cancer cells from more than 2,000 breast cancer patients and found that this commandeering or “organizing” ability is increasingly lost in cancer cells and associated with the progression of disease. The more the gene is expressed in breast cancer, the better the patient did.
The gene, Dachshund, normally regulates eye development and development of other tissues, in essence playing a role in determining the fate of some types of cells. Richard Pestell, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Kimmel Cancer Center at Jefferson and professor and chair of cancer biology at Jefferson Medical College, and co-workers looked at cancer cells from more than 2,000 breast cancer patients and found that this commandeering or “organizing” ability is increasingly lost in cancer cells and associated with the progression of disease. The more the gene is expressed in breast cancer, the researchers saw, the better the patient did. The scientists report their findings in October in the journal Molecular and Cellular Biology.

“This is a new type of gene in cancer that commandeers the cancerous genes and returns them to normal,” says Dr. Pestell. “The standard cancer treatment strategy has been to block the proliferation of cancer cells or cause them to die. This is quite different. We’ve shown that the Dachshund gene reverts the cancerous phenotype and turns the cell back to a pre-malignant state. Cells don’t die, but rather, they revert.

IF that can be turned into a treatment by locking that gene on with a genetic trigger drug, the world of cancer will change dramatically.

Spinal Cord Repair

It might just be one guy, or it might be that this is the start of generic repair of catastrophic spinal cord damage even years after paralysis. In any case, at least one guy is now standing and moving limbs after years stuck in a chair.

Individual with complete spinal cord injury regains voluntary motor function

Extended activity-based training with epidural stimulation resulted in ability to stand and move without stimulation

Date:October 26, 2017
Source:University of Louisville

A man with a complete spinal cord injury, who had lost motor function below the level of the injury, has regained the ability to move his legs voluntarily and stand six years after his injury.

The “trick” seems to be adding “trying” to the electrical stimulation of the damaged spinal cord. Something about signals going down to the broken spot added to the general electrical field causes the nerves to reconnect. Golly.

A research participant at the University of Louisville with a complete spinal cord injury, who had lost motor function below the level of the injury, has regained the ability to move his legs voluntarily and stand six years after his injury.

A study published today in Scientific Reports describes the recovery of motor function in a research participant who previously had received long-term activity-based training along with spinal cord epidural stimulation (scES). In the article, senior author Susan Harkema, Ph.D., professor and associate director of the Kentucky Spinal Cord Injury Research Center (KSCIRC) at the University of Louisville, and her colleagues report that over the course of 34.5 months following the original training, the participant recovered substantial voluntary lower-limb motor control and the ability to stand independently without the use of scES.

“Activity-dependent plasticity can re-establish voluntary control of movement and standing after complete paralysis in humans even years after injury,” Harkema said. “This should open up new opportunities for recovery-based rehabilitation as an agent for recovery, not just learning how to function with compensatory strategies, even for those with the most severe injuries.”

Ice Age Glacial Period Farming

Looks like agriculture to some degree started during the last ice age glacial period, not just in the last few thousand years.

In general, wild plants want to disburse their seeds so see heads ‘shatter’. We want them to stay stuck together through harvesting, so select for plants that don’t have seed shatter (either deliberately or just via those being the seeds we get to keep and plant).

Gene age says that happened a long time ago… So maybe civilization started a lot earlier to? Maybe?

Crops evolving ten millennia before experts thought

Date:October 23, 2017
Source:University of Warwick

Ancient hunter-gatherers began to systemically affect the evolution of crops up to thirty thousand years ago — around ten millennia before experts previously thought — according to new research.

Like maybe 10,000 years earlier…

Professor Robin Allaby, in Warwick’s School of Life Sciences, has discovered that human crop gathering was so extensive, as long ago as the last Ice Age, that it started to have an effect on the evolution of rice, wheat and barley — triggering the process which turned these plants from wild to domesticated.

In Tell Qaramel, an area of modern day northern Syria, the research demonstrates evidence of einkorn being affected up to thirty thousand years ago, and rice has been shown to be affected more than thirteen thousand years ago in South, East and South-East Asia.

Furthermore, emmer wheat is proved to have been affected twenty-five thousand years ago in the Southern Levant — and barley in the same geographical region over twenty-one thousand years ago.

The researchers traced the timeline of crop evolution in these areas by analysing the evolving gene frequencies of archaeologically uncovered plant remains.

Wild plants contain a gene which enables them to spread or shatter their seeds widely. When a plant begins to be gathered on a large scale, human activity alters its evolution, changing this gene and causing the plant to retain its seeds instead of spreading them — thus adapting it to the human environment, and eventually agriculture.

Professor Allaby and his colleagues made calculations from archaeobotanical remains of crops mentioned above that contained ‘non-shattering’ genes — the genes which caused them to retain their seeds — and found that human gathering had already started to alter their evolution millennia before previously accepted dates.

The study shows that crop plants adapted to domestication exponentially around eight thousand years ago, with the emergence of sickle farming technology, but also that selection changed over time. It pinpoints the origins of the selective pressures leading to crop domestication much earlier, and in geological eras considered inhospitable to farming.

Or maybe 30,000 years ago…

Now this may not be full on farming. Just hunter gatherers giving a bit of a boost to where they wanted to gather more… but it’s the start of farming. Which implies settlements and land rights. Way earlier than the Consensus History said.

Clear Transparent Solar Cells?

Sounds like an impossible thing, what with the light going through by definition not making power, but these guys are making multi-layer multiple band gap semiconductors that use near infra-red and UV but let the visible bit go through. Neat trick, that.

It would let you use windows for solar collectors. Or having the bezel covering your cell phone not just let the display be seen, but gather sunlight to power it too.

Transparent solar technology represents ‘wave of the future’

Date:October 23, 2017
Source:Michigan State University

See-through solar materials that can be applied to windows represent a massive source of untapped energy and could harvest as much power as bigger, bulkier rooftop solar units, scientists report.

See-through solar materials that can be applied to windows represent a massive source of untapped energy and could harvest as much power as bigger, bulkier rooftop solar units, scientists report in Nature Energy.

Led by engineering researchers at Michigan State University, the authors argue that widespread use of such highly transparent solar applications, together with the rooftop units, could nearly meet U.S. electricity demand and drastically reduce the use of fossil fuels.

“Highly transparent solar cells represent the wave of the future for new solar applications,” said Richard Lunt, the Johansen Crosby Endowed Associate Professor of Chemical Engineering and Materials Science at MSU. “We analyzed their potential and show that by harvesting only invisible light, these devices can provide a similar electricity-generation potential as rooftop solar while providing additional functionality to enhance the efficiency of buildings, automobiles and mobile electronics.”

Lunt and colleagues at MSU pioneered the development of a transparent luminescent solar concentrator that when placed on a window creates solar energy without disrupting the view. The thin, plastic-like material can be used on buildings, car windows, cell phones or other devices with a clear surface.

The solar-harvesting system uses organic molecules developed by Lunt and his team to absorb invisible wavelengths of sunlight. The researchers can “tune” these materials to pick up just the ultraviolet and the near-infrared wavelengths that then convert this energy into electricity.

Fine Grain Temperture Record & Yellowstone Double Tap

What I find most interesting in this one is the fine grain old sea surface temperature record it provides. They find it neat as it let them show Yellowstone did a “double tap” last super eruption. While I do find that interesting, it’s the broader use of this sediment record that has me thinking.

Yellowstone spawned twin super-eruptions that altered global climate

Date: October 26, 2017
Source: Geological Society of America

A new geological record of the Yellowstone supervolcano’s last catastrophic eruption is rewriting the story of what happened 630,000 years ago and how it affected Earth’s climate. This eruption formed the vast Yellowstone caldera observed today, the second largest on Earth.
A new geological record of the Yellowstone supervolcano’s last catastrophic eruption is rewriting the story of what happened 630,000 years ago and how it affected Earth’s climate. This eruption formed the vast Yellowstone caldera observed today, the second largest on Earth.

Two layers of volcanic ash bearing the unique chemical fingerprint of Yellowstone’s most recent super-eruption have been found in seafloor sediments in the Santa Barbara Basin, off the coast of Southern California. These layers of ash, or tephra, are sandwiched among sediments that contain a remarkably detailed record of ocean and climate change. Together, both the ash and sediments reveal that the last eruption was not a single event, but two closely spaced eruptions that tapped the brakes on a natural global-warming trend that eventually led the planet out of a major ice age.

So, you might be wondering, why Santa Barbara? Are there not sediments everywhere?

“We discovered here that there are two ash-forming super-eruptions 170 years apart and each cooled the ocean by about 3 degrees Celsius,” said U.C. Santa Barbara geologist Jim Kennett, who will be presenting a poster about the work on Wednesday, 25 Oct., at the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America in Seattle. Attaining the resolution to detect the separate eruptions and their climate effects is due to several special conditions found in the Santa Barbara Basin, Kennett said.

One condition is the steady supply of sediment to the basin from land — about one millimeter per year. Then there is the highly productive ocean in the area, fed by upwelling nutrients from the deep ocean. This produced abundant tiny shells of foraminifera that sank to the seafloor where they were buried and preserved in the sediment. These shells contain temperature-dependent oxygen isotopes that reveal the sea surface temperatures in which they lived.

But none of this would be much use, said Kennett, if it not for the fact that oxygen levels at the seafloor in the basin are so low as to preclude burrowing marine animals that mix the sediments and degrade details of the climate record. As a result, Kennett and his colleagues can resolve the climate with decadal resolution.

So, want a nice climate record with decadal resolution going back a million years? Go to Santa Barbara…

But get there quick, before NASA and UEA start a dredging program…

Oh, and from the unsettling Settled Science department:

But each time, the cooling lasted longer than it should have, according to simple climate models, he said. “We see planetary cooling of sufficient magnitude and duration that there had to be other feedbacks involved.” These feedbacks might include increased sunlight-reflecting sea ice and snow cover or a change in ocean circulation that would cool the planet for a longer time.

Gee, Climate Models running hot, who knew ;-)

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About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
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29 Responses to Interesting Science Bits

  1. Larry Ledwick says:

    I believe one of the “tricks” used to enhance high efficiency solar cells is to have multiple layers which respond to different light frequencies, so it more completely uses the available light.

    Natural sun light has maximum intensity at the yellow green band (where human eyes are most sensitive to color) but a great deal of solar energy falls outside the visible band we normally use for vision, especially in the high energy UV range. Since high temperature is the enemy of solar cell efficiency it would probably be good to preferentially absorb the IR band and convert it to something other than heat.

  2. E.M.Smith says:

    Yes. But typically you absorb them in a given order as a given band gap absorbs the tuned frequency and all of, IIRC, the shorter wavelength but wastes the excess of the shorter vs band gap. Now this thing claims to absorb both sides but not the middle. Seems like they have some magic figured out… (likely some kind of limit on how far out of band gets absorbed).

  3. cdquarles says:

    @ Larry, yes indeed. That’s one of the reasons why I *hate* that normalized emission curve with solar emission and Earth emission combined. It is misleading. If the sun/stars didn’t emit very long wave EM radiation, IR/microwave/radio astronomy isn’t possible.

    That’s right, not only does the Earth’s surface get down welling radiation from the atmosphere at night, it also gets incoming charged particles and EM radiation covering all wavelengths from the distant stars. It might not be much compared to daytime solar; but it is still infinitely ;p more than zero. Oh, there’s still bulk kinetic transport, too.

  4. Larry Ledwick says:

    Your link is broken llanfar, need to remove the characters after the 20/20

    [Reply: I fixed it. Thanks. E.M.Smith ]

  5. Peak power for sunlight is around yellow-green, so outside the visible spectrum there’s less than half the power total that’s in the visible spectrum. Added to that, organics PVs tend to deteriorate pretty quickly and these ones are around 5% efficient as opposed to 20% efficient, and you find that instead of getting around 200W/m² for opaque cells you’re getting around a tenth of that for transparent ones, and you’ll need to replace them each year rather than every 20 years or so. As such, I don’t see the transparent cells being that useful – there’s not a lot of power and it costs too much. If you’re thinking about covering phone screens, it’s worth noting that in order to actually see the screen you don’t want it in direct sunlight….

    The main problem with sunlight is the wide spectrum, and that the band-gap in the semiconductors takes precisely that energy from the incoming photons with any excess being effectively converted to heat, so multiple junctions need to be stacked (with the largest band-gap on top) in order to get maximum energy-yield. Logically it’s better to thermalise all incoming radiation (use a good black material) and then convert the heat to electricity, relying on the natural replacement of the section of spectrum you convert to electricity. It should then be possible to achieve around 1kW/m² output power, and so you’d need far less area for the solar collector. By now I’m fairly close to getting a proof of concept for this idea, and we’ll be able to see if it’s as efficient as theory says. Once you can change photons at 30-100meV into electricity, then you can keep the phone in a pocket and it will still charge itself.

  6. philjourdan says:

    Re: Dachshund Gene – I would like to believe the name comes from its ability to “turn around” (these weiner dogs can bite their own tales in mid stride), but I suspect it was due to one of the researchers love of the breed. :-)

    On the Santa Barbara sediment, yes it is interesting to find such a good proxy. However, what I was told (learned) about the Yellowstone caldera does not fit into a double tap. So I am more curious in how they fit that into a new model to explain it.

    At least science marches on in some areas. Thank god for that.

  7. Steven Fraser says:

    A quick Google search returns this: The dachshund (dac) gene was initially described as a mutant phenotype in flies featuring extremely short legs relative to their body length.

  8. dai davies says:

    The bionic lens article was of particular interest to me. I had my lenses replaced two years ago and am still getting used to having no focussing ability. I have graded focus reading glasses, which I had before, but now I need to be far more precise with getting the distance/tilt of head right to avoid eye strain.

    Lenses that adjust to your focussing muscles is a BIG breakthrough. Having greater than 20/20 vision is good but not so useful. I was stunned by the hyper-acuity but lost it within a week or so. No problem. I can see properly again.


  9. E.M.Smith says:

    I found the spinal cord repair and the ice age glacial start for agriculture most interesting, with the Yosemite / Santa Barbara sediments as climate record useful now as a way to sanity check assertions about the past (like Roman Optimum and LIA).

    IF (and it’s still a big if) the spinal cord repair is a general method and not just one quirk and if it can be improved (highly likely for any new tech); then we’re looking at a whole lot fewer folks in wheel chairs and with incontinence problems; and a likely ability to repair other nerve damage for things like limb paralysis and / or facial nerves damaged in dentistry. It just could improve so much quality of life for so many.

    Then the notion that we can show crop selection starting 30,000 years ago… That lends a very real and verifiable bit of evidence for the hints we have that there were civilizations prior to the Egyptians and Babylonians. We have some Vedas, and the Solon stories retelling the Egyptian statement that “many are the destructions of mankind” and claiming prior civilizations, but those are tepid at best. Gobekli Tepi is a stand alone quirk / mystery (but moves back the horizon to the start of the Holocene). Now we’ve got clue that folks were at a minimum doing rough seeding and collecting of crops during the last Ice Age Glacial. Makes those Vedas and Egyptian stories look a lot more credible. (They found a city off the coast of India – or at least the foundations and some bits of rubble – that had to be during the Ice Age Glacial due to sea level depth; but to the best of my knowledge, nobody has gone down to dive the site and do formal archeology on it.) Taken all together, this strongly implies our known history of about 5,000 years is about 20,000 years short. That’s a big deal.

  10. dai davies says:

    Lens replacement isn’t new, of course. It’s almost as old as me. But millions of people per year have their eyesight restored. This latest advance is probably not much more than a tweak if you’re not reading through tired eyes.

    Objectively, nerve repair would top the list for me. But as you suggest, it may not travel far.

    Intellectually, the grain discovery is big if it stacks up. I touch on the early nomad/settler boundary in my writing from the nomad perspective, but refrained from suggesting a date. There’s a lot that’s assumed and probably wrong in prehistory. Academics have a strong tendency to jump to premature consensus.


  11. Steve C says:

    There was also an interesting “bodily” item on Principia Scientific a week or two ago. Research on owls indicates that owls, when they age, do not suffer from hearing deterioration like humans do. Get that one working for us, and I’ll have my youthful hearing back yesterday, thanks!

    A more worrying bit of observational science: early this summer, a visiting friend commented to me on the silence outside the house, with no small songbirds twittering in the trees like there used to be. He was quite right, as I realised at once. A couple of weeks later, he reported meeting a girl in a local park (think two people wandering about, both obviously listening for something! ;) who commented on exactly the same thing.

    A quick check online proved that this was no imagining – once-common UK species, like starlings and sparrows, are simply vanishing at a worrying rate. And now today I read on DW that, in Germany, there are about 76 percent fewer insects than 27 years ago. Wow.

    How are things on your side of the pond? There doesn’t seem much point in plants growing more efficiently in higher CO2 if there aren’t going to be any damn insects around to pollinate them.

  12. catweazle666 says:

    There are plenty of both birds and insects up here in the Yorkshire Dales, and when I was down in Pembrokeshire recently, there were plenty there too.
    There is some annual variation which is clearly related to the quality of the summer weather and how long winter lasted, but I have lived round here for over 60 years and I have not noticed any significant decrease of late.

  13. dai davies says:

    We had a decade or so of silent spring here in inner Canberra, but small birds are back in numbers and variety over the last few years. Great to hear again. Larger birds – magpies, currawong, ravens, and plovers – remained but relative populations have varied widely.


  14. Larry Ledwick says:

    In the middle of the Rocky Mountain west we also had a quiet period when bird flu practically wiped out starlings a few years ago, but it was just a temporary shift. This spring lots of swifts chasing bugs, hawks circling, even a few bald eagles, meadow larks singing etc. Could be lots of things that are entirely natural. Bad timing of a cold snap killing a bug hatch the birds depend on, regional changes in wind flow due to major storms etc. Last couple winters lots and lots of canadian geese and other water fowl on the lakes and quiet waters. LIke fish moving to more favorable waters to follow a hatch of prey fish, birds have the advantage of a very large range they could be knee deep just a few miles away and you’d never know.

  15. E.M.Smith says:

    The ubiquitous use of systemic nicotinoids and GMO Bt Toxin means damn near every farm plant out there is toxic to insects from roots to shoots and drifting pollen. Then we wonder why overall insects are down 75% and insectivores are dying out.

    How about the millions (or is it billions) of tons per year of insecticides spread everywhere…

    Oh, and those two are relatively persistent too…

    There is likely also some natural preditor / prey oscillation going on too. Typically that happens. Prey get eaten to excess, predators starve and reproduce less, next cycle more prey survive, so the following cycle preditors thrive, that then eat prey to excess causing a new cycle. IIRC, coyote rodent cycle time is near 3 years per cycle.

  16. jdseanjd says:

    Mucho interesting news, thanks.

    Re the earlier than conventional history farming, award winning journalist Jim Marrs’ book is worth a read: Our Occulted History do the global elite conceal ancient aliens?
    Occulted is in the sense of deliberately obscured/hidden.

    Book posits an alien presence ~ 430,000 years ago, ie through 4 glacial periods, who came to mine Earth, probably for gold. A rebellion of the working class miner aliens ~ 300,000 years ago led to the creation of a class of slave workers, us.
    Intense debates amongst the aliens agreed that they were not usurping rights they did not possess by creating life: they were merely “improving the breed” of already existing Earth hominids.

    Darwin’s missing link explained?

    I’ll not spoil an interesting read by further revelations.
    Well referenced & indexed, it’s well worth the time & money IMHO.
    All based on our earliest recorded history the Sumerian baked clay tablets, which of ~500,000 found only ~100,000 have been translated. The Smithsonian seems to have a heavy role in the suppression of both history & science unwelcome to our 1%s.

    Any feedback welcomed.

  17. p.g.sharrow says:

    @EMSmith; Your article on grain, farming and genetics, made me consider my training and experience in farming. In particular small grains and their grass cousins. Educated people that have little experience in real in the dirt conditions seem to come up with all the wrong answers. Genes are in constant change, 99.99% of the changes are detrimental to survival and are lost, but a few are beneficial for the niche and are multiplied. In the case of grasses to small grains human hands are involved in the more recent era but environment is the primary key to change downy seeds of grass to heavy seed of small grains.

    Grass seeds do best in a long damp winter conditions. They grow slowly from their tiny germ and then build their crown. The longer their growing season the greater their crown size. The greater the crown size the more tillers that it can support. As the season progresses and the weather turns hot and dry they tiller up to bloom and make large numbers of light seed. If soil moisture is totally depleted the plants die. The seeds waiting for the next rainy season.

    Small grains, cousins of grasses, are specialists that create a large heavy seed because they are suited to grow in areas that have dry, cold winter conditions with damp warm short growing seasons that require a large germ to create a large plant quickly that can make more heavy seeds.

    For grasses, cold and dry is a real killer as their living crowns are shallow rooted in the soil surface rarely extending more then 16 inches deep. Only a few perennial grasses extend their roots down several feet to tap deep soil moisture like trees and brush do.

    All grasses evolved under wild fire threat, in fact they require wild fires to clear encroaching brush and trees from their habitat areas. Humans first involvement was likely set fires to drive game from it’s cover, which in time would expand the range of all grasses. Humans set fires to clear the land for planting of select plants or to encourage selected fast growing plants.

    Hand gleaning would favor big tight heads over over the less desirable ones but shatter would favor natural reseeding of the growing area. For thousands of years humans collected the grains from these favored places but did not “farm” them. Humans did on occasion reseed burned or over grazed areas to aid in reestablish their favorite varieties.

    Humans have been farming for a very long time , BUT, grains were gleaned from favored places not farmed. Farming by hand is TOO much hard work to justify it for grain production and it is unnecessary for small grains in most conditions of early civilization.

    Once draft animals were available, Farming to support them and humans by farming small grains became possible…pg.

  18. p.g.sharrow says:

    One must point out that for most of the last 100,000 years the sea level was 300 to 500 feet lower then it has been for the last 5000 years, The Great Flood drowned most of the richest soils and most favorable climate areas of human existence. Humans were driven out of their low land paradise up onto the poorer mountainsides and into higher and less habitable inland areas.

    AGW the first religion, God taking revenge on sinful humans! Repent! Humans are causing the destruction of the world and must be eliminated.

  19. Larry Ledwick says:

    An example of “accidental” genetic manipulation, is the Lincoln bromegrass that became popular as a soil fixing and drought resistant grass during the depression years. It is derived from a Hungarian grass which was introduced in 1884 and the progeny of that grass strain around Lincoln Nebraska adapted and developed traits which were superior to other grasses under the drought conditions of that dust bowl period. When cultivated mixed with a nitrogen fixing plant like alfalfa is can produce high quality hay.

  20. Larry Ledwick says:

    The Great Flood drowned most of the richest soils and most favorable climate areas of human existence.

    Interesting observation, that as the ice build up begins to dramatically lower sea level you get two net benefits for both humans and wild life.

    You open up the great continental shelf plains of deep soils accumulated over 12,000 years of submergence by the ocean, and due to the drop in elevation the average temperatures in those coastal areas would increase by about 2 deg F just due to the lapse rate and reduced elevation.

  21. p.g.sharrow says:

    Larry, very true. Most superior cultivars are discovered, not created. GOD is very good at creating GMOs for man to take advantage of…pg

  22. Larry Ledwick says:

    File this one under medical procedures which cost a lot and do very little to improve patient symptoms.
    Inserting stents to reduce chest pain and improve blood flow to the heart apparently work no better than placebos.

  23. R. de Haan says:

    The claim is made that solar has the potential to meet US electricity demand. It never will. Solar power is part time power. Wind power isn’t any better. Take Germany 2016. During the summer period Germany was forced to export wind and solar generated power but during the winter period the total contribution of wind and solar dropped to only 3%. This means that German wind and solar need an almost 100% back-up capacity. Burning coal, gas and nuclear still is the way to go.

  24. R. de Haan says:

    Another science bit related to our sun: Where comes the ice age dust measured in the ice cores comes from?

  25. Steve C says:

    Thanks all for a little reassurance on the lack (or not) of birdies – particularly to Catweazle666, as all our observations werre made “nearly next door” to Yorkshire, in the Nottingham area. I’ve had a look at the Defra figures too, which suggest that bird numbers are declining overall but only slightly, though some species are (as mentioned) quite worrying. Grey partridges are down by 92%, corn bunting 90%, even sparrows down 80%. That’s a lot lost over 30 – 40 years.

    Agreed EM about the poisons we spread so liberally around our/the birds’ food sources these days – that was at the front of my mind in asking the original question. The Gov, of course, don’t publish insect numbers, but I’m inclined to infer that they’re down too, if only round here. From that, in turn, I’ve also started worrying about bats, having recently bought a bat detector kit and started following the little beggars as they flit about: on a Council-run “Bat Walk” a few weeks ago we were told that each bat needs 2000 – 3000 insects per night to live. According to the Bat Conservation Trust, bat numbers are a bit like bird numbers – some species up, some down.

    (The detector kit I got is very cheeky – it builds into the cardboard box it comes in! Having said which, it works a lot better than the £25 price suggests, and on the walk was indistinguishable (operationally – it’s still only in a cardboard box … ;-) from commercial ones costing 3x the price. Made by Franzis, if anyone else is interested.)

  26. cdquarles says:

    @ Larry,
    Hmm, color me not surprised. Still, 200 patients is a small study and there are always confounding factors. Now I have to find that paper and scrutinize it.

  27. cdquarles says:

    Hmm, published in The Lancet, so strike one. It is behind a pay wall, so strike two; pending going to the nearest medical library to see if I can get access to it.

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