Blog Archive for the ‘Long News’ Category

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The next mass extinction

Posted on Monday, December 14th, 02009 by Kirk Citron
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The Long News: stories that might still matter fifty, or a hundred, or ten thousand years from now.

Hollywood notwithstanding, it seems fairly unlikely that mankind will be wiped out in 02012. But unfortunately, tales of mass extinction turn out to have some basis in reality; some even say we are already in the midst of a sixth great planetary catastrophe. The difference this time is that the culprit isn’t an asteroid, or a volcanic eruption: it’s us.

Some recent news stories about threats to biodiversity:

1. The most dangerous animal is man:
It’s nature’s law: when people arrive, animals vanish
More than 800 wildlife species now extinct
Species census reveals extinction threat
New list highlights animals threatened by climate change
Loss of top predators causing surge in smaller predators, ecosystem collapse
Mankind using Earth’s resources at alarming rate

2. On the other hand, maybe things will turn around:
New findings show a quick rebound from marine mass extinction event
Antarctica served as climatic refuge in Earth’s greatest extinction event
Australian dust storms feed life explosion

3. Why we might care:
Animal biodiversity keeps people healthy

4. Not to worry, evolution will make more:
Study catches two bird populations as they split into separate species

We invite you to submit Long News story suggestions here.

Water wars

Posted on Monday, November 30th, 02009 by Kirk Citron
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The Long News: stories that might still matter fifty, or a hundred, or ten thousand years from now.

The discovery of water on the moon is almost certainly the biggest Long News story of the year; it will make it much easier to build moon colonies, and it provides cheap fuel for travel to the rest of the solar system.

But Liz Brooking suggests we also look at water issues here on earth: three hundred million school children don’t have access to clean water today, and according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, 47% of the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress by the year 02030.

Some recent news stories about water:

1. What water on the moon might mean:
The wet side of the moon
New aluminum-water rocket propellant promising for future space missions
Moon potential goldmine of natural resources

2. Back down to earth:
Water scarcity will create global security concerns
New report on the economics of water scarcity

3. The politics of water:
Arab experts predict Mideast water wars
China enters Central Eurasia’s water wars
UN study advises caution over dams
India faces water crisis as temperatures rise
Africa must act to tackle water crisis
Devastation on a ‘biblical’ scale

4. Some possible solutions:
Carbon nanotubes capture greenhouse gases, desalinate water
The high rise urban farms of the future

We invite you to submit Long News story suggestions here.

Our daily bread

Posted on Tuesday, November 3rd, 02009 by Kirk Citron
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The Long News: stories that might still matter fifty, or a hundred, or ten thousand years from now.

There may be more than nine billion humans by 2050, which begs the question: how will they all get fed? Particularly when you consider that we’re having trouble feeding the six billion who are already here.

Some recent news stories about food:

1. The scope of the problem:
1.02 billion people hungry: one sixth of humanity undernourished, more than ever before
Climate change is worsening food insecurity, experts say

2. Food instability breeds other kinds of instability:
Refugees protest food disruption in Uganda
Fight against hunger key to security: Clinton

3. It’s not just the developing world that’s at risk:
Britain will starve without GM crops, says major report
US crop yields could wilt in heat
Methane’s impact on global warming far higher than previously thought

4. Can farmers save us?
Prairie pioneer seeks to reinvent the way we farm (thanks to Shane Runquist for the pointer)
Bill Gates bets a billion on ag research

5. We truly are what we eat:
Rats on a junk food diet behave like drug addicts
Mediterranean diet associated with reduced risk of depression

We invite you to submit Long News story suggestions here.

Invasion of the nanobees

Posted on Wednesday, October 14th, 02009 by Kirk Citron
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The Long News: stories that might still matter fifty, or a hundred, or ten thousand years from now.

At a recent conference, Ray Kurzweil spoke about a future when tiny robots will swarm through our bloodstreams, repairing damage and curing disease. Well, the truth is, that future is already here — if you’re a mouse.

A sampling of recent news stories of tiny treatments:

1. Ouch: Nanobees zap tumors with real bee venom

2. Nanotherapies from many different labs:
Nanotech gene therapy kills ovarian cancer in mice
Researchers effectively treat tumors with use of nanotubes
Gel heals injured brain and bone

3. More fun with magnets:
Nanomagnets guide stem cells to damaged tissue
Using magnetism to turn drugs on and off

4. It’s not just for mice: Robot can crawl through human body

5.  Ouch, again: Mosquito bites used to deliver malaria “vaccine”

6. And further speculation from Dr. Kurzweil: Nanotech could make humans immortal by 2040

We invite you to submit Long News story suggestions here.

A mental health break

Posted on Saturday, September 26th, 02009 by Kirk Citron
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The Long News: stories that might still matter fifty, or a hundred, or ten thousand years from now.

Roy McDonald writes: “For the long news I’d suggest almost anything on mental health. My thesis is that we are in the stone age in understanding mental illness, minor and major and that it’s something we’re capable of making great progress on in the next century. If we improve mental health globally seems like we could reduce a lot of violence, social tension and international conflict as well as improve economic productivity.”

Here are some recent stories on the topic:

1. First, the bad news: Common mental disorders may be more common than we think

2. The scale of the problem:
More Americans taking drugs for mental illness
U.S. spends $9 billion on child mental illness
100 million in China suffer from mental illness

3. You can’t get away from your problems, no matter how far you go: Feeling low up high: the lonely astronaut

4. An interesting blog post: Are artificial intelligence and robots the future of mental health?

5. Some hope: UCLA researchers develop biomarker for rapid relief of major depression

6. And a prescription: Groups are key to good health

We invite you to submit Long News story suggestions here.

Fly me to the moon

Posted on Tuesday, September 1st, 02009 by Kirk Citron
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The Long News: stories that might still matter fifty, or a hundred, or ten thousand years from now.

NASA is rethinking its mission. A few lucky space tourists are taking $20 million roller-coaster rides. But at this point, it’s unclear how soon, or whether, humans will return to the moon — and Mars seems even further away. To infinity and beyond? Well, maybe not quite yet.

Here are some recent stories about the final frontier:

1. Some new ideas in space transportation:
Inflatable tower promises easy access to outer space
Ion engine could one day power 39-day trip to Mars

2. If we can’t visit space, we can explore it by computer:
New findings on the birth of the solar system
Mock supernova created by supercomputer

3. Or by telescope: China, US may cooperate on world’s biggest telescope

4. Danger, Will Robinson: Earth could be blindsided by asteroids, panel warns

5. But there’s good news: Comets probably won’t cause the end of life

6. In fact, comets might have caused the beginning: Comet holds building block for life

7. Or maybe life was started by: Death rays from space

8. Sadly: Martian life appears less likely

We invite you to submit Long News story suggestions here.

The Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch

Posted on Thursday, August 6th, 02009 by Kirk Citron
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The Long News: stories that might still matter fifty, or a hundred, or ten thousand years from now.

According to the most recent reports, we’re melting the icebergs. We’ve endangered fifty percent of the ocean’s coral species. And we’ve damaged sixty-three percent of the world’s fisheries. It seems we’re well on our way to destroying the two-thirds of the planet where we don’t even live.

Some recent news stories about the oceans:

1. A summary of what scientists are telling Congress: Global warming has already changed oceans

2. The latest from Greenland: Sea level rise: it’s worse than we thought

3. You know those fish stories? They’re getting smaller: Fish shrink due to climate change

4. The jellyfish are taking over: Jellyfish threaten to ‘dominate’ ocean

5. There’s so much trash floating off the coast of California, it even has a name: Students spearhead study on Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch

6. On the other hand, maybe it’s not all bad news: World fisheries collapse can be averted

7. And maybe we don’t really need to worry as much as the news reports say we do: Media tend to doomsay when addressing environment

We invite you to submit Long News story suggestions here.

Tinkering with our own brains

Posted on Thursday, July 23rd, 02009 by Kirk Citron
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The Long News: stories that might still matter fifty, or a hundred, or ten thousand years from now.

The brain has been called the most complicated machine ever built. But that doesn’t seem to be stopping those who are working to understand it, repair it, or improve it. Then again, what could go wrong? It’s not rocket science, it’s just brain surgery.

Recent stories from the brain sciences:

1. Does every emotion have its own map? We’re beginning to find out: Neuroscientists locate where fear is stored in the brain

2. There are many non-traditional ways to promote learning. For example, fun with magnets: Magnetic brain stimulation improves skill learning

3. New visualization techniques to help us see inside the brain: Reading the surface of the brain, Breakthrough in 3-D mapping enables removal of fist-sized tumor

4. Discovery of a protein that might protect against Alzheimer’s: Key protein might shield brain cells

5. Some things you might already be doing right: Caffeine reverses memory impairment in Alzheimer’s mice, Regular moderate alcohol intake has congitive benefits in older adults

6. A good summary of what brain enhancement might mean: Will designer brains divide humanity?

7. Finally, who better to sum it all up than Stephen Hawking? “Humans have entered a new stage of evolution” (thanks to Bob Citron for the pointer.)

We invite you to submit Long News story suggestions here.

The age of discovery

Posted on Friday, July 10th, 02009 by Kirk Citron
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The Long News: stories that might still matter fifty, or a hundred, or ten thousand years from now.

We may have Google-mapped every last nook and cranny of our planet, but we’re still finding ways to push back the limits of what we know. A few recent discoveries:

1. Could Mars have sustained life? New images show evidence of ancient Martian lake

2. Further into outer space: Black hole is most massive known

3. Closer to home: Sub explores ocean’s deepest trench

4. Pushing back our understanding of our own history (it seems the gatherers, not the hunters, invented agriculture): Food storage began well before farming

5. The invention of food storage on a smaller scale: Chinese pottery may be earliest discovered

6. And this story (found by Will Hill) of a species almost as successful as we are: Ant mega-colony takes over world

We invite you to submit Long News story suggestions here.

The resilience of life

Posted on Wednesday, June 17th, 02009 by Kirk Citron
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The Long News: stories that might still matter fifty, or a hundred, or ten thousand years from now.


Life can survive at the bottom of the oceans; inside volcanic vents; in radioactive wastelands. So even if humans don’t make it through the coming centuries, it’s a good bet that in some form or other, life will go on.

A few recent stories about the resilience of life:

1. Microbe Wakes Up After 120,000 Years

2. Life could have survived earth’s early bombardment

3. A counter-example to the previous story (though, obviously, sea life later recovered): Ancient eruption ‘killed off world’s sea life’

4. Trying to understand the essential elements for life: Could life be 12 billion years old?

5. Making “life” in a test-tube: Simple chemical system created that mimics DNA

6. With or without us, life can survive on this planet a while longer: Earth gets billion-year life extension

We invite you to submit Long News story suggestions here.