Innovation for whom? Innovation for what? The Impact of Ableism

By Gregor Wolbring

A guest blog in the Alternative Perspectives on Technology Innovation series
First let me thank Andrew for inviting me to write a piece for his blog. Andrew states that his blog is about “how technology innovation should contribute to living in the 21st century" and about “providing a clear ...

See original: 2020 Science Innovation for whom? Innovation for what? The Impact of Ableism

Climategate: "withold funding... until appropriate action is taken" [Dynamics of Cats]

"The controversy over "Climategate" continues to heighten as some Pennsylvania legislators question the continuation of Penn State's current research grants -- and possibly even the appropriations the university has been waiting on since July."

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Also check out the featured ScienceBlog of the week: Guilty Planet

See original: ScienceBlogs Select Climategate: "withold funding... until appropriate action is taken" [Dynamics of Cats]

@ostephens I saw that, but was scared to touch it. Don't know what proprietary extensions they've made to citation data format.

mrgunn: @ostephens I saw that, but was scared to touch it. Don't know what proprietary extensions they've made to citation data format.

See original: Twitter @ostephens I saw that, but was scared to touch it. Don't know what proprietary extensions they've made to citation data format.

@communicating Nice. I appreciate my mutt for this, as well.

mrgunn: @communicating Nice. I appreciate my mutt for this, as well.

See original: Twitter @communicating Nice. I appreciate my mutt for this, as well.

@onetruecathal I used to do that all the time...and isolations take so long with the centrifuge steps, too.

mrgunn: @onetruecathal I used to do that all the time...and isolations take so long with the centrifuge steps, too.

See original: Twitter @onetruecathal I used to do that all the time...and isolations take so long with the centrifuge steps, too.

An Environmental, Social and Economic Race Against Time

From the very first day here in Copenhagen, as the parties laid out their opening positions, there has been a palpable feeling of urgency. Every one you talk to in the halls of this rambling post-modern conference centre echoes a similar thought: we are running out of time. Climate change is a race – against our own innate scepticism, against our fear of change, but ultimately it is a race against the clock. Can we find a way to stabilise the planet’s climate before the Earth itself takes control, and removes the matter entirely from our hands.

Environmentally, it now clear that planet is reacting to the rising concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere far faster than previously anticipated. Data from around the globe, much of it collected since the last IPCC report, point to accelerating effects within almost every natural system, from the polar ice caps, to coral reefs, to the migration and nesting patterns of birds. The longer we wait to make serious and substantive cuts in emissions, the closer we drift to irreversible tipping points in the climate system, and the more quickly we will have to act once we finally wake from our collective slumber.

Socially, the damage is also starting to accumulate. From drought stricken farmers in the Sahel, to the fire-ravaged communities of Australia, to the indigenous peoples of the Arctic who are watching the fabric of their culture unravel, to the Pacific islanders who are already doomed to become refugees as their homelands sink beneath the Ocean. These are the first to feel the scourge of man-made climate change. Rapid, merciless, self-reinforcing, it cannot be reasoned with, and is not swayed by public opinion. No military force is powerful enough to stop it once unleashed. The longer we delay, the more people will be affected, the more society will be strained, and the closer we stray to the dangerous edge of social disruption on a massive scale.

This is also fundamentally an economic question. There is no question that fighting climate change to an uneasy truce, stabilising the concentrations of greenhouse gases to limit the global rise in temperature to 2 degrees C or less, is going to cost a lot of money. In its just released Energy Outlook 2009, the OECD and the International Energy Agency (IEA) state that each year we delay major action to cut emissions will add $500 billion to the cost of making the necessary changes to our energy system, and that a delay of just a few years will put the goal of preventing dangerous climate change out of reach. We would simply have lost the race, and be left only with trying to adapt, which will cost our economy many times more, and impoverish us all immeasurably through the loss of valued places, ecosystems, species, cultures, traditions and ways of life. The lady with the placard at the Copenhagen climate march had it right: “there is no planet B.”

The overall environmental, social and economic case for climate stabilisation is clear. To win the race, we need the courage to make the kinds of cuts that Mr Gorbachev’s Climate Task Force is calling for – deep and quick. The less developed countries need financial help, access to capital and financing, and technology transfer from the developed world. Without these things, they will not be able to help in the mitigation effort, move to cleaner energy, keep their forests standing, or even adapt to the changes that climate change is already bringing. The rich countries are the only ones that have the necessary technical capability, know-how, and capital to lead the world’s drive towards a healthy climate. They must lead the effort, not only because they are responsible for most of the problem, but because it is in their own best interest. In this race against time, we either begin the hard work now and stand together on firm economic ground, or deny, defer and delay until we sink under the rising seas of planet Earth.

See original: Climate Change Task Force An Environmental, Social and Economic Race Against Time

Octopus snatches coconut and runs

Scientists have been surprised to see octopuses carrying coconuts under water

See original: Earth | Earth News Octopus snatches coconut and runs

Octopus carries around coconut shells as suits of armour [Not Exactly Rocket Science]

VeinedOctopus_coconut.jpg

Octopuses are masters of camouflage that can change their shape, colour and texture to perfectly blend into their environment. But the soft bodies that make them such excellent con artists also make them incredibly vulnerable, should they be spotted. Some species have solved that problem with their fierce intellect, which allows them to make use of other materials that are much harder. The veined octopus, for example, dons a suit of armour made of coconut shells.

The veined octopus (Amphioctus marginatus) lives in sandy, exposed habitats that have little in the way of cover. To protect itself, it hides among the hollow husks of coconuts. It even carries its armour around with it, tucking the shell under its body, sitting on it like a bowl, and moving around on tip-tentacles.

These cumbersome hikes can last for up to 20 metres and they make the octopus look like an eight-legged stilt-walker. The octopus can even carry two shells, stacked inside each other. If danger threatens, it can quickly assemble the two halves into a protective sphere, holding them in place with its suckers.

The new discovery comes from Julian Finn, Tom Tregenza and Mark Norman, the same terrific trio who brought us the first report of the mimic octopus's amazing shape-changing abilities. They spent over 500 hours of diving across ten years, studying the behaviour of veined octopuses in Indonesian waters.

The veined octopus has hit the headlines before for coconut-related reasons. As part of its portfolio of disguises, it will often stroll across the ocean floor on two tentacles, while wrapping the other six around its head in a tight bundle. To a passing fish, it would strongly resemble a rolling coconut.

Originally, Finn suspects that the octopuses used the empty shells of dead shellfish as defence. There's no way for an octopus to crack a coconut on its own, but it has no need to do this. Coastal human settlements often use coconuts and discard the split shells. In doing so, they have provided the veined octopus with even tougher shields.

The trio suggest that the octopus uses coconut shells as bona fide tools. Many invertebrates, such as hermit crabs, shelter in shells but they do so permanently. The octopus, however, gains no protection from its shells whatsoever when it carries them around in the stilt-walking fashion. The shells' benefits lie in the fact that they can be quickly deployed as a makeshift fortress. The fact that the octopus picks up the coconuts for later use suggests a more complicated intellect at work. As Finn writes: 

"The discovery of this octopus tiptoeing across the sea floor with its prized coconut shells suggests that even marine invertebrates engage in behaviours that we once thought the preserve of humans.

Reference: Current Biology in press

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See original: ScienceBlogs Select Octopus carries around coconut shells as suits of armour [Not Exactly Rocket Science]