Cow may be biggest mammal if humans keep up extinctions


Humans apparently targeted big species for meat, while smaller creatures such as rodents escaped, according the report examining trends over 125,000 years.

In North America, for instance, the mean body mass of land-based mammals has shrunk to 7.6 kg (17 lbs) from 98.0 after humans arrived.

Source: Cow may be biggest mammal if humans keep up extinctions: study

Growing pains: how Oregon wound up with way more pot than it can smoke | The Guardian


Flooded with supply, prices are dropping so much that some dispensaries in the Portland area are selling the drug for $4 a gram. That’s less than half the cost of a bargain-basement batch in other US cities where marijuana is legal, like Denver and Seattle.

But 1,824 marijuana-related business licenses have already been issued, including 981 production operations. Another 967 production licenses are in various stages of approval by the state and could come online later this year.

Source: Growing pains: how Oregon wound up with way more pot than it can smoke | Society | The Guardian

America’s nuclear headache: old plutonium with nowhere to go


The United States has a vast amount of deadly plutonium, which terrorists would love to get their hands on. Under another agreement, Washington and Moscow each are required to render unusable for weapons 34 metric tons of plutonium. The purpose is twofold: keep the material out of the hands of bad guys, and eliminate the possibility of the two countries themselves using it again for weapons.

An Energy Department website says the two countries combined have 68 metric tons designated for destruction – enough to make 17,000 nuclear weapons. But the United States has no permanent plan for what to do with its share.

Plutonium must be made permanently inaccessible because it has a radioactive half-life of 24,000 years.

Source: America’s nuclear headache: old plutonium with nowhere to go

The Inside Story of the BICEP2 Experiment


For more than 30 years, inflation remained frustratingly unproven. Some said it couldn’t be proven. But everyone agreed on one thing: If cosmologists could detect a unique pattern in the cosmos’s earliest light, light known as the cosmic microwave background (CMB), a ticket to Stockholm was inevitable.

Imagine finding out the entire IRS is obsessed with your tax return. Not just one rogue auditor, but everyone, from the Secretary of the Treasury on down, fixated on your Form 1040! It was petrifying.

Source: The Inside Story of the BICEP2 Experiment

You thought quantum mechanics was weird: check out entangled time | Aeon Ideas


The problem is that entanglement violates how the world ought to work. Information can’t travel faster than the speed of light, for one.

But in a 1935 paper, Einstein and his co-authors showed how entanglement leads to what’s now called quantum nonlocality, the eerie link that appears to exist between entangled particles.

If two quantum systems meet and then separate, even across a distance of thousands of lightyears, it becomes impossible to measure the features of one system (such as its position, momentum and polarity) without instantly steering the other into a corresponding state.

Source: You thought quantum mechanics was weird: check out entangled time | Aeon Ideas

A New Tradition: Inside An All-Female Coffee Growers’ Cooperative in Honduras | Pacific Standard


“Agroforestry is a way to increase food security: the diversity of the crops on these lands allows an increase in production of fruit and vegetables that could be [traded] with other members of the community, or [provide] surplus sold to the market,” says Marcos Morales of the National Agricultural University in Olancho, who advises the agroforestry project.

“Forest coverage and biodiversity increased: we observed animals such as opossum, snakes, hares, armadillos, squirrels, and coyotes. Also, it is a way to counteract drought because soils retain more humidity.”

Source: A New Tradition: Inside An All-Female Coffee Growers’ Cooperative in Honduras – Pacific Standard

Some Republicans in Congress Are Worried About Asteroids Crashing Into Earth—but Not About Climate Change | Pacific Standard


Why would lawmakers, who seem prepared to think about long-term dangers to Americans, nevertheless deny that climate change is an important risk?

We cannot speak for the congressmen, but we quizzed everyone we talked to for this story. They came up with some interesting possibilities to explain a worldview that cares about asteroids, but is unconcerned about climate.

Eric Wolff, an Earth scientist at the University of Cambridge, notes that asteroids could come for anyone—regardless of socioeconomic status. With climate change, however, the wealthy—particularly those living in developed nations—have far more resources to move or adapt to a warmed world. D.C. politicians might not be inclined to worry too much about it.

Source: Some Republicans in Congress Are Worried About Asteroids Crashing Into Earth—but Not About Climate Change – Pacific Standard

How city birds evolved to be smarter than rural birds | Aeon Essays


It was here that, in 1975, the local carrion crows (Corvus corone) discovered how to use cars as nutcrackers. The crows have a predilection for the Japanese walnut (Juglans ailantifolia) that grows abundantly in the city.

The pretty nuts (a bit smaller than commercial walnuts, and with a handsome heart-shaped interior) are too tough for the crows to crack with their beaks, so for time immemorial they have been dropping them from the air onto rocks to open them.

Everywhere in the city, you find parking lots strewn with the empty nutshells: the crows either drop them in flight or carry them to the tops of adjoining buildings and then throw them over the edge onto the asphalt below.

Source: How city birds evolved to be smarter than rural birds | Aeon Essays

Retreating Arctic Ice Has Shifted Shipping Routes 180 Miles Closer to the North Pole – Pacific Standard


The average Arctic ship route has moved more than 180 miles closer to the North Pole in just seven years, a new analysis finds. The change is a result, in part, of just how much sea ice in the region has disappeared because of climate change.

With some year-to-year variation, Arctic sea ice has been retreating steadily since 1979, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center.

Source: Retreating Arctic Ice Has Shifted Shipping Routes 180 Miles Closer to the North Pole – Pacific Standard

What is the Commonwealth if not the British Empire 2.0? | The Guardian


In all seriousness, who else other than the heir to the British throne, after all, could be better qualified to lead the contemporary manifestation of the British empire?

It would just be so much easier if all concerned simply admitted this reality: the Commonwealth is a vessel of former colonies with the former imperial master at its helm. Or, as I like to call it, Empire 2.0.

This is not a question of conjecture, but of fact. Take Britain’s relationship with the African continent, for example. At present, British companies control more than $1 trillion worth of Africa’s key resources: gold, diamonds, gas and oil, and an area of land roughly to four times the size of the UK.

All countries use diplomacy to lobby in their own interests – there is nothing wrong with that. In Britain’s case, the Commonwealth has served very nicely to advocate its particular shopping list: liberalized, extractor-friendly regimes, low corporate tax rates, and a creative system of tax havens predominantly located in – you guessed it – other Commonwealth countries.

As a result, Africa loses £30bn more each year than it receives in aid, loans and remittances.

Source: What is the Commonwealth if not the British Empire 2.0? | Afua Hirsch | Opinion | The Guardian