Motherboard feed for https://motherboard.vice.comenSun, 20 Jan 2019 16:25:14 +0000<![CDATA[The Lunar Calendar Is Key to 'True Detective' Season 3's Mystery]]>, 20 Jan 2019 16:25:14 +0000 We’re only two episodes into the third season of True Detective, but so far two things are already clear:

  1. This season is much better than season two. I didn't hate it as much as other people—I thought it was fine—but Mahershala Ali's detective Wayne Hays and his obsession with the kidnapping of Will and Julie Purcell, a young boy and girl, in 1980 Kentucky is already a much more interesting mystery.
  2. The Moon plays an interesting role in this mystery, and has already provided keen viewers with a critical clue about the show.

They show's interesting structure jumps between three different time periods: the time of the kidnapping in 1980, a major development in that case in the 90s, and present day, when Hays is an old man who apparently suffers from some form of dementia, looking back at his past and the case that haunts him. He knows that he caught the case on November 7, 1980, which is easy to remember since it was the same day the famous actor Steve McQueen died.

In the present day, when Hays first sits down to talk to a documentary crew about the case, he tells them there was a “big full Moon that night. I remember the Moon. Steve McQueen had died.” It cuts back to his memory of the night, opening on a shot of the full Moon that then pans down the Hays and his partner talking to the missing children’s father, Tom Purcell.

Halfway through the first episode, as Hays is telling a documentary crew about the case, he explains that he tried to find the kids the first night they went missing. "Everybody went home to wait for daylight, but I didn't go to sleep that first night,” Hays tells the camera crew. “I stayed out trying to find a trail." Hays wanders the neighborhood and there’s a huge shot of a bright full Moon. Later, Hays leans over a puddle and sees the reflection of the Moon. Suddenly, the moon in the puddle disappears, and Hays is drawn back from his memories to the present day, where a Moon-like light has gone out and shrouded his interview in darkness.

We know for a fact that Hays' memory of events is at least partially wrong because there was literally no visible Moon in the sky the night Steve McQueen died. You can check NASA's lunar calendar to see that November 7, 1980 was a New Moon, meaning it wasn't visible.

The Moon is an important motif in the third season of True Detective. Other than the first big tell that Hays’ memory is shoddy, there's also the title of his wife’s book about the case: Life and Death and the Harvest Moon: Murder, a Child Abduction, and the Community It Destroyed (the "harvest moon" is the full moon nearest to the autumnal equinox). The moon is also a theme in the poem his wife reads to her classroom when Hays first meets her. “I could not see them, there being no moon/ And the stars sparse. I heard them,” the poem reads. “Tell me a story. / In this century, and moment, of mania,/ Tell me a story./ Make it a story of great distances, and starlight. The name of the story will be Time.”

Based on these first two episodes, it seems to me that True Detective’s newest mystery isn’t about what happened to the Purcell kids so much as it is about what happened to Hays.

“I was wondering if it would be possible to tell a man’s life story in the form of a detective story,” True Detective writer Nic Pizzolatto told Entertainment Weekly. “What if the detective’s ultimate mystery is: ‘Who am I?’ And: “‘What did my life mean?’”

Clearly, something about Hays' memory of events isn't quite right, but Pizzolatto promised fans ahead of the season premiere that Hays wouldn’t be an unreliable narrator. "If you’re seeing it, it’s reliable,” he told Entertainment Weekly. “I’m not playing those sorts of games with the audience, where you find out what you saw didn’t really happen, or it was a dream within a dream or something."

So either Pizzolatto is playing with the audience or no one at HBO thought to check the lunar calendar.

wjme3xMatthew GaultEmanuel MaibergTrue Detectivetv
<![CDATA[Now the F-35 Is Also an Anti-Nuke Weapon]]>, 18 Jan 2019 21:56:07 +0000 The F-35 is a jet that’s supposed to be all things to all people, an ever-expanding boondoggle soaking the American taxpayer for billions of dollars. Now, the Pentagon wants to strap new missiles to the F-35 and use it to shoot nukes out of the sky.

As first reported by DefenseNews, the 2019 Missile Defense Review, a briefing on what the Pentagon plans to do to keep America and its allies safe from enemy missiles. The review laid out a wide array of plans, including equipping drones with lasers to shoot missiles out of the sky, “space based sensors and interceptors,” and using the F-35 to to knock out nukes before they can enter the upper atmosphere.

They’re impressive plans that stretch both the laws of physics and the limits of the human imagination. Naturally, President Trump praised the missile plans in a speech to the Pentagon on January 17.

“Our goal is simple—to ensure that we can detect and destroy any missile launched against the United States anywhere, any time, any place,” the President said.

A lot of the plans included in the 2019 Missile Defense Review are a new spin on old schemes first attempted by President Ronald Reagan. When he wanted to put lasers in space, he called it Star Wars.

Read More: The Trillion-Dollar Stealth Jet the Government Can’t Seem to Finish

Defense against intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) requires weapon systems that detect the launch of the nukes, then knock them out of the air during the boost phase—when rocket boosters are shooting the missile into space, before coming back down to Earth. It’s at this stage that the ICBM is slowest and most vulnerable.

Additional sensors in space to detect nuke launches aren’t a terrible idea, especially with—as the Pentagon noted in the report—the possibility that North Korea will have a functioning nuke in the near future. But America already has robust weapon systems in place across the globe, such as the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system, that are designed to knock missiles out of the sky before they reach their target.

But, still, the Pentagon wants laser drones and F-35s to augment existing missile defenses. It imagines that, in the future, the F-35 “can be equipped with a new or modified interceptor capable of shooting down adversary ballistic missiles in their boost phase.”

This is an incredibly impractical plan. It’s one of those things that’s technically possible, but a practical crapshoot.

For an F-35 to shoot down an ICBM, it’d first need to know where the launch is coming from. Advance knowledge of the launch would help, but ICBMs are most vulnerable and visible during their boost phase. They’re slowest after they first launch, but that speed is still an incredible 6.5km a second.

“An ICBM is accelerating (fast) on the way up, [so] you have to be close enough to avoid a tail chase,” Reuters News Editor Gerry Doyle explained on Twitter. “Your interceptor has to have enough energy to get up and make the kill. So it’s big and you have to have enough advance notice of the launch to be in position when it happens. And you have to avoid getting shot down before launch.”

The F-35 is a stealth jet, but the stealth only works when it’s not carrying munitions on the outside. It has an internal carrying capacity, but none of the pockets on its current designs are big enough to haul a hypothetical ICBM killer.

“Boost-phase missile defense—whether kinetic or directed energy, and whether based on land, sea, air, or in space—is not practical or feasible,” a 2012 report from the National Academy of Sciences said.

A successful interception would also need to happen in an incredibly narrow window of a few minutes, in enemy territory, and with the pilot making all the right moves.

These problems would be similar for any laser-equipped drones. The drone would need a powerful laser to fell an ICBM, but at least it wouldn’t put an American pilot on the firing line.

The point is that much of these plans are fantasies, much like the F-35 itself. The jet is estimated to cost more than $1 trillion over the course of its life cycle, and is supposed to be all things to all military branches. The Marine’s F-35B can do vertical take-off and landing. The Air Force’s base model F-35A doesn’t. The Navy’s F-35C is a carrier-friendly jet with a wider wingspan and greater fuel capacity.

The plan to shoot nukes out of the sky with F-35s relies on the image of a hotshot fighter pilot going toe-to-toe with a nuclear missile and blasting it out of the sky. It’s likely an impossible dream, and similar projects in the past faltered when the Pentagon realized they would cost billions of dollars in research, development, and training to accomplish.

A huge waste of time and taxpayer money.

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j57e9kMatthew GaultEmanuel MaibergJordan PearsonF-35ICBMf35 jetf-35 nuclearf35 nukes
<![CDATA[How to Watch the ‘Super Blood Wolf Moon’ Even If the Weather’s Crappy]]>, 18 Jan 2019 17:19:25 +0000 On Sunday, a special total eclipse of the Moon will be visible over North and South America, and western Europe. Skywatchers with clear skies can catch it starting at 11:41 PM ET on January 20.

Popularly known as the “Super Blood Wolf Moon,” this will be the last total lunar eclipse until May 26, 2021. Though its colorful name may conjure up visions of moonlit werewolf rampages, it actually refers to the characteristics of this rare celestial event.

A total lunar eclipse is known as a “blood Moon” because when Earth casts its shadow on the lunar surface, it appears tinted red to the human eye. The “super” part derives from the eclipse coinciding with a supermoon. Supermoons occur when the Moon is at (or near) its closest point to Earth in its orbit during a Full Moon, which makes it appear larger in the sky than it normally would.

A “Wolf Moon” is just the term for a Full Moon that happens in January, according to Farmer’s Almanac.

No matter what you call it, it’s a great excuse to check out our solar system’s epic dynamics in motion. But as big blizzards roll in across the Northeast US, and clouds and rain obscure views elsewhere, it’s worth having a backup plan for this celestial event.

We’ve put together the below list of livestreams that will be available from various observatories, space networks, and individual photographers across several locations. Happy Moon-gazing.

The Virtual Telescope Project

Founded by Italian astronomer Gianluca Masi and run by Bellatrix Astronomical Observatory, the Virtual Telescope Project pools online livestreams from observatories around the world, including Rome.

Griffith Observatory

Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles is hosting a viewing event on Sunday, which includes a livestream of the eclipse from the top of Mount Hollywood.

The livestream will include commentary from space science communicator Graham Jones.

Space & Universe Network

This large YouTube community for space enthusiasts has its own livestream for the eclipse.

Astronomy Live Stream

Watch the eclipse from Denver, Colorado at this link, which will likely be one of many livestreams filmed by individual astrophotographers, as opposed to observatories or institutions.

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mbzq4yBecky FerreiraEmanuel MaibergLos AngelesweatherBlizzardsSupermoonW.O.L.Ffull moongriffith observatoryskywatchingeclipseslunar eclipseobservatories
<![CDATA[The Pentagon Spent Billions Fighting the War on Drugs Without Even Asking for a Plan]]>, 18 Jan 2019 16:44:17 +0000 For more than 30 years the Pentagon has given money to the states to fight the War on Drugs. Typically, the states submit a plan to the military and the military cuts them a check after it approves the plan. But according to the Government Accountability Office, an independent government watchdog agency, the Pentagon has been handing out cash without seeing a plan for ten years.

“Since 1989, Congress has provided billions of dollars to the Department of Defense to fund the National Guard’s participation in domestic drug interdiction and counterdrug activities,” a new report from the GAO said. “Since at least 2009, DOD has provided funding to the states without first approving state plans for counterdrug activities, as required by statute.”

Typically, the National Guard gives state and local policing agencies directions on how to plan counter-narcotics efforts. This makes the National Guard the agency facilitating communication between the states and the federal government. But the National Guard has apparently been sleeping on this duty for five years. “In 2014, the National Guard rescinded its guidance for states on how to operate and administer the program—and hasn't replaced it yet,” the GAO said.

Because the Pentagon is cutting checks without following up, both the National Guard and the local agencies are using the cash to take anti-drug measures on their own. In an America where cannabis laws are rapidly changing, and opiate deaths are on the rise, some drug warriors are still seeking out pot busts and letting the harder stuff pass them by. As the GAO report put it, “[The Pentagon’s] strategy is out of date and doesn't reflect current drug threats.”

The GAO paints a picture of government agencies working at cross purposes, failing to communicate, and fighting very different battles. For example, the 2017 National Security Strategy, a White House-issued directive outlining what it sees as the important security threats, specifically mentioned the fight against global opiate trafficking. Yet the Pentagon’s Counternarcotics and Global Threats Strategy “does not address the domestic [opiate] epidemic,” the GAO found. Or take the 2016 National Southwest Border Counternarcotics Strategy, which “states that the increased role of Mexican heroin manufacturers and traffickers is altering previously established trafficking patterns,” the GAO said. “While the Counternarcotics and Global Threats Strategy considers the illicit trafficking of cocaine from the Southwest border, it does not consider changes in the heroin threat."

According to the GAO, the National Guard’s Counterdrug program “was originally conceived as a reconnaissance support mission largely focused on marijuana eradication efforts.” Though despite opiate trafficking being the current threat, local cops still go for big weed busts. Police in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, seized a truck and van full of 17,258 pounds of cannabis plants on January 16. The cops thought they’d scored the biggest such bust in state history and arrested the four men transporting the plants. According to the men’s lawyers, the plants are industrial hemp—which is now federally legal. (The load was on its way from a hemp grower in Kentucky to a store in Colorado, and the buyer has the paperwork for the sale.) The men will remain detained while Oklahoma authorities wait to test to see if any of the innocuous plants reach the THC threshold considered dangerous by federal law.

Oklahoma, of course, is one of the many states that received Pentagon money to help fight the drug war. A war increasingly fought with an open budget, no plan, and no end in sight.

nexj5qMatthew GaultJason KoeblerBrian AndersonDrugsMILITARYWar on DrugsPentagon
<![CDATA[Why Did YouTube Mass Recommend That People Watch News Footage of the 9/11 Attacks?]]>, 18 Jan 2019 16:31:57 +0000 If you’re not careful on YouTube, you can be endlessly served a conveyor belt of content curated specifically for you based off of your viewing habits. You like cooking vids? Game playthroughs? Late night show segments? There’s literally millions of those, one after another reliably waiting for you to get lost in.

But YouTube’s recommendation algorithm is broken. For example, researchers believe it plays a role in radicalizing people, by showing them more extreme content over time. And then there’s the just plain weird anomalies that sometimes happen with the algorithm.

Earlier this month, a two-hour newscast from CNN on the morning of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks started showing up in the recommended section of many users’ feeds, prompting people to question, “What did I watch for this to be recommended to me?” The video itself was uploaded more than five years ago by an account exclusively full of other videos from Sept. 11, 2001 and news coverage of the attacks from that day.

Thousands of users have poured into the video’s comments section in the past week, many questioning why the video had been recommended:


Last week, people on Reddit began complaining about “weird shit” in their YouTube’s recommendations section (though not this video in particular.) It caught the attention of a YouTube community manager, who responded, “Just confirming that YouTube is aware of this thread and looking into it—we do think something weird is up.” The manager later confirmed that the issue was “fixed.” According to reporting from The Verge, YouTube declined to provide more information about what caused the issue.

A Google spokesperson also declined to provide more information to Motherboard, but said in an email that the 9/11 video was not related to the glitch from last week.

We don’t know for sure why this video keeps getting recommended, but its newfound popularity is probably feeding on itself. The thousands of comments from just the last few days and views on the video—which is now at 1.5 million, far more than most of the other videos on the channel—probably played a big role in it being recommended to more users. The mystery remains.

9kp9m3Rob DozierJason KoeblerYouTube9/11algorithmsrecommendation algorithm
<![CDATA[Senator Wyden Hammers T-Mobile For Empty Promises on Sale of Cell Phone Location Data]]>, 18 Jan 2019 16:14:02 +0000Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden has expressed “disappointment” and “disbelief” at T-Mobile’s failed promise to end the collection and sale of user location data to dubious intermediaries. Wyden on Thursday also began to apply some additional pressure on other wireless carriers he claims have been negligent and secretive when it comes to treatment of this data.

T-Mobile’s failed promises were unearthed when a recent Motherboard investigation showcased how such data is routinely abused by a wide variety of sketchy third parties. The scale of the problem has been percussively highlighted by a series of scandals showcasing how this data is routinely being abused by everyone from law enforcement to bail bondsmen.

In a letter sent to T-Mobile CEO John Legere (embedded below), Wyden notes that T-Mobile CEO John Legere promised last June to end the sale of such data to “shady middlemen,” yet clearly failed to live up to his promise.

“I write you today to express my disappointment and disbelief regarding T-Mobile’s continued partnership with companies that have enabled spying on Americans without their knowledge and consent,” the Senator said. “Your company’s continued sale of customer location data to these so-called ‘location aggregators’ is in direct contradiction to your ‘personal evaluation’ of the issue six months ago.”

In the wake of Motherboard’s reporting, numerous wireless carriers have promised to discontinue the sale of such data to third party aggregators and data brokers. Legere has subsequently promised to end the practice entirely by March. The problem: the lack of carrier transparency and government apathy traditionally makes verification difficult.

Wyden said he was “shocked” by the Motherboard investigation showcasing how the CEO had yet to take meaningful action on this front. By the time T-Mobile acts, the Senator complained, it will have been nine months since Legere’s original Twitter promise.

“T-Mobile calls itself the ‘Uncarrier,’” Wyden said. “To that end I urge you to immediately ‘uncarry’ the ability of stalkers and middlemen to purchase your customers location information.”

Experts have told Motherboard that ending the collection and unauthorized sale of such data could be easily done by existing FCC and FTC authority, without the passage of a new privacy law. Instead, the government has largely ignored the practice, despite a steady increase in scandals clearly highlighting the scope of the problem.

Wyden on Thursday also fired off a second letter to the CEOs of Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint, demanding additional information on the volume of user location data they collect and sell, accusing the companies of being less than forthcoming to Wyden’s past requests.

“None of you provided complete answers to these questions,” Wyden complained. “Your companies continue to refuse to identify the companies with whom you shared your customers’ private data, citing contractual commitments to protect the privacy of those companies.”

“It is telling that you and your lawyers seem to prioritize corporate secrecy over transparency about how your customers’ information has been shared without their knowledge,” Wyden added. “You should end this profiteering immediately and own up to your mistake at having let it go on for this long.”

Experts have told Motherboard that Legere’s failure to live up to his promise could technically violate the FTC Act. And while FCC authority (and its proposed privacy rules) have been methodically stripped away by wireless carrier lobbyists, the FCC still has the authority to police this behavior under authority granted to it by Section 222 of the Communications Act.

Whether Congress, the FCC or FTC will actually take concrete action remains uncertain, but as the frequency and scale of these scandals continues to grow, so does the public pressure for carriers and government alike to finally do something about it.

d3mgkvKarl BodeJason Koeblerbounty Huntersron wydenT-Mobilebig telecomcell phone location dataData Aggregators
<![CDATA[Dead Tardigrade Found Buried 3,200 feet-Deep in Antarctica Lake]]>, 18 Jan 2019 15:57:42 +0000On December 26, scientists drilling near an underground lake by the South Pole found the remains of a dead tardigrade, a microbial animal that lives in extreme conditions, more than 3,200 feet underground, according to a report published Friday in Nature. David Harwood, one of the micro-palaeontologists involved with the research, called the findings “fully unexpected.”

It’s extremely rare for scientists to find evidence of life in Antarctic subglacial lakes, never mind finding life buried a whole kilometer underground. The last time scientists found evidence of life in a subglacial Antarctic lake was back in 2013, when scientists found 20 cultures of bacteria in Lake Hodgson, which is 305 feet underground.

Right now, it’s unclear whether the animal lived in Antarctica ocean water that froze over on the surface, or if subglacial rivers moved the tardigrade carcass from Antarctic mountains into the nearby valley. Scientists will know more once they sequence the tardigrade DNA and determine what type of environment they would have thrived in.

But if this tardigrade did indeed live underground, the implications would be huge. In many ways, the Antarctic environment resembles the polar landscapes on planets like Mars, which have ice caps. Finding evidence of life under the ice strengthens a possibility that scientists have long postulated: that Mars may have once been home to life.

This particular research is a part of the Subglacial Antarctic Lakes Scientific Access (SALSA) program, which involves using a hot water drill to bore into an ice sheet in Western Antarctica, the most rapidly melting region of the frozen continent.

According to Nature, the researchers believe that the tardigrade lived in ancient glacial meltwater from interglacial periods, which are warm periods between Ice Ages. This means the tardigrade was most likely alive either the early Holocene (50,000 years ago) or the Eemian (120,000 years ago) period. They won’t have an answer until they use radiocarbon dating on the carcasses and sequence their DNA.

The tardigrade actually resembles species that are native to damp soil and lived among plants and fungi that were also native to land, according to Nature. Scientists won’t know if the tardigrade was terrestrial or aquatic until they sequence the creature’s DNA.

The borehole from the SALSA program that lead to the tardigrade carcass was sealed off on January 5, according to Nature, and the SALSA researchers will now be focusing on analyzing the samples that they’ve collected from the subglacial environment.

Correction, January 18, 11:28 AM: This article previously said that multiple tardigrade carcasses were found in an underground lake by the South Pole. Only one tardigrade carcass was found. Motherboard regrets the error.

wjmeb9Caroline HaskinsEmanuel MaibergScienceLifeantarcticatardigradesextremophiles
<![CDATA[The Government’s Secret UFO Program Funded Research on Wormholes and Extra Dimensions]]>, 17 Jan 2019 22:49:08 +0000The Department of Defense funded research on wormholes, invisibility cloaking, and “the manipulation of extra dimensions” under its shadowy Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, first described in 2017 by the New York Times and the Washington Post.

On Wednesday, the Defense Intelligence Agency released a list of 38 research titles pursued by the program in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request by Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists’ Project on Government Secrecy.

The list provides one of the best looks at the Pentagon’s covert UFO operation or study of “anomalous aerospace threats.” According to Aftergood’s FOIA request, the document marked “For Official Use Only” was sent to Congress on January 2018.

FOIA document released by the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Screenshot of the FOIA release.

One such research topic, “Traversable Wormholes, Stargates, and Negative Energy,” was led by Eric W. Davis of EarthTech International Inc, which describes itself as a facility “exploring the forefront reaches of science and engineering,” with an interest in theories of spacetime, studies of the quantum vacuum, and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence.

Another project called “Invisibility Cloaking” was helmed by German scientist Ulf Leonhardt, a professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel. Leonhardt’s research pertains to theoretical quantum optics, and in 2006 his work on theoretically creating “an invisible ‘hole’ in space, inside which objects can be hidden” was cited by Nature.

Yet another title, “Warp Drive, Dark Energy, and the Manipulation of Extra Dimensions,” was attributed to theoretical physicist Richard Obousy, director of the nonprofit Icarus Interstellar, which claims to be “researching technologies that will enable breakthroughs in interstellar travel.” Obousy was credited by Gizmodo in 2009 for creating “a scientifically accurate warpship design” that could hypothetically be propelled through space by manipulating dark energy.

“The list of research papers tells us something more than previous reporting did about this odd program,” Aftergood told Motherboard in an email. “Now we have a better idea of exactly what the Defense Intelligence Agency was up to, and what it produced.”

Other items are tantalizingly vague since we only have one-line descriptions of their scope. One that states “Metallic Glasses” could refer to an experimental type of flexible metallic alloy, while the topic “Biomaterials” could mirror NASA-funded research into biotechnology in low-gravity environments.

The Pentagon document however, while full of speculative ideas that seem better suited for science fiction, suggests the program was more than just chasing UFOs.

The Department of Defense had not publicly acknowledged the program’s existence until it was revealed by media reports. It was was “largely funded at the request of Harry Reid,” then Senate majority leader, to the tune of $22 million between 2007 and 2012.

We don't know how the program selected which projects to fund.

“I think anyone who looks at these titles will scratch their heads and wonder what on earth the Defense Intelligence Agency was thinking,” Aftergood said. “These are the kinds of topics you pursue when you have more money than you know what to do with.”

According to the New York Times, much of its budget went to the Nevada-based Bigelow Aerospace, a company belonging to Reid’s longtime friend and UFO hunter, Robert Bigelow—also a protagonist of the documentary Hunt for the Skinwalker about the billionaire entrepreneur’s famed extraterrestrial hotbed, Skinwalker Ranch.

The first hints about the program’s existence can be credited to Luis Elizondo, a military intelligence official who managed the operation for seven years. When Elizondo resigned, he requested that footage of UFO encounters with fighter jets be made public—videos that were subsequently published by the New York Times and the Washington Post. At the time, Reid sought to tighten security around the program’s discoveries.

The agency claims the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program shut down due to a lack of funding, though Elizondo said it continued to investigate UFO sightings.

In a 2009 Pentagon briefing summary, the program’s then-director stated that “what was considered science fiction is now science fact.”

“I loved science fiction when I was younger,” Aftergood said. “Today I love good government. So I was not especially amused.”

3kg8v5Sarah EmersonEmanuel MaibergUFOSALIENSPentagonUFOextraterrestrialsDepartment of DefenseBigelow AerospaceFOIAaerospaceDefense Intelligence AgencyFederation of American ScientistsAdvanced Aerospace Threat Identification Programrobert bigelo
<![CDATA[The Earth's #10YearChallenge Is Grim]]>, 17 Jan 2019 19:47:51 +0000 What happens when the #10YearChallenge meme is applied to Earth? Rather than glowing up, before-and-after photos remind us how dramatically the health of our planet has declined.

The meme has existed for several years now in various forms, BuzzFeed’s deputy global news director Ryan Broderick pointed out. At its simplest, the #10YearChallenge is a socially acceptable excuse to post your most flattering selfies as evidence of how much hotter you’ve grown with age (or not).

And on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, people are now using the hashtag to share side-by-side comparisons of Amazon deforestation, melting glaciers, polluted waterways, and other environmental woes.

It’s worth noting that not all of the photos are a decade apart or scientifically accurate evidence of climate change.

One popular image comes from the NASA Earth Observatory and depicts clearcutting of the Amazon rainforest in the Brazilian state of Rondônia between 1975 and 2012.

Greenpeace shared an iconic image from Swedish photojournalist Christian Åslund of glacier retreat in the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard between the early 1900s and 2002.

And beware posts that may be misrepresentative.

For example, an infamous photo from 2015 of a heartbreakingly thin polar bear is again making the rounds. But, as Mashable reported at the time, the bear may have been old, injured, or sick, and not starving due to the effects of climate change on prey availability.

Another image claims to shows before-and-after deforestation between 2009 and 2019 in an unnamed forest. However, as one Reddit user pointed out, the original photo—a royalty-free image from Shutterstock—has been manipulated and misattributed to the World Wildlife Fund by use of its watermark.

Palm oil deforestation in Borneo.
Image: Shutterstock

The trend follows a recent series of increasingly grim climate studies. One found that hotter ocean temperatures are making waves stronger and deadlier. Another revealed that Antarctica is losing six times as much ice mass as it was 40 years ago. And a third announced that 2017 was the ocean’s warmest year on record.

So consider the challenge a warning. We may not be able to change the past, but that doesn’t mean we can’t control our future.

qvydvmSarah EmersonEmanuel MaibergenvironmentInstagramFacebookTwitterclimate changeSocial MediarainforestGlaciersmeme#10YearChallenge10 year challenge
<![CDATA[More Than Half of Wild Coffee Species Are at Risk of Extinction ]]>, 17 Jan 2019 19:36:36 +0000 Drinking coffee is a cherished daily ritual for millions of people across the planet, including over half of Americans. Plus, the crop provides livelihoods for 125 million people.

But our dependence on java is threatened by climate change and deforestation. These anthropogenic pressures have put 60 percent of wild coffee species at risk of extinction, according to a study published Wednesday in Science Advances.

Just two varieties, Arabica and Rustica, dominate the modern global market for coffee, but 124 coffee species have been documented by scientists. Most grow naturally in tropical regions of Africa, Asia, and Australasia.

Researchers led by Aaron Davis, a coffee expert at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, spent two decades cataloging coffee species and assessing their extinction risk. The efforts revealed that 35 strains grow solely in unprotected habitats, while 75 meet the standards of the IUCN “red list” for threatened species. The team also found that 45 percent of wild coffee species are not saved in seed banks.

Though they are not normally harvested for consumption, wild coffees could be crucial for the survival of their cultivated cousins, especially in the age of climate change.

“These species have useful traits for coffee development such as climatic tolerance and especially drought tolerance, pest and disease resistance, low or zero caffeine content, and sensory (taste) amelioration,” wrote the team.

In other words, wild coffee species have evolved a wide variety of adaptations that could be selectively bred into farmed strains that could benefit from them. Even if a wild species is vulnerable to extinction from drought or deforestation, it might also be more resilient to certain pests or diseases, and those specific traits could be integrated into cultivated varieties.

Climate change is already diminishing coffee yields by disrupting pollinators, facilitating the spread of pests, and causing both short-term extreme weather events and long-term environmental change. Warmer temperatures may render half of all land used for high-quality coffee production unproductive by 2050, according to a 2015 study in Climatic Change.

Read More: Inside the World’s Most Advanced Coffee Laboratory

Wild coffee adaptations could bolster the genetic resilience of farmed species in the face of these challenges, but only if they are protected and preserved.

“Ultimately, we need to conserve existing wild coffee species in situ to ensure the preservation of remaining genetic diversity,” the team concluded. “At a time when so much focus is on addressing food security and livelihood income shortfalls for farmers, it is of great concern that the raw materials for possible solutions are highly threatened.”

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59xm9qBecky FerreiraEmanuel Maibergafricacoffeewildclimate changeÁsiadeforestationGenetic Diversityseed bankcropsarábicacoffee farmRustica