Climate-driven permafrost thaw

In bitter cold regions like northwestern Canada, permafrost has preserved relict ground-ice and vast glacial sedimentary stores in a quasi-stable state. These landscapes therefore retain a high potential for climate-driven transformation, say researchers.

Redescription of Potamonautes sidneyi (Rathbun, 1904) (Decapoda, Potamonautidae) and description of a new congeneric species from KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

ZooKeys 657: 1-28

DOI: 10.3897/zookeys.657.11623

Authors: Nasreen Peer, Gavin Gouws, Eric Lazo-Wasem, Renzo Perissinotto, Nelson A.F. Miranda


A new species of freshwater crab, Potamonautes danielsi sp. n., is described from the southern region of the KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa. Potamonautes danielsi most closely resembles P. sidneyi which is re-described here, but can be distinguished by a suite of key morphological characters including carapace shape and width, slim pereopods, inflated propodi of the chelipeds, and the shape and terminal segment length:subterminal segment length ratio of the 1st gonopod. In a previous study (Gouws et al. 2015), a 9.2–11.8 % divergence was found in the mitochondrial COI and 16S genes of the P. sidneyi clade, allowing for the delineation of a new species. Despite the clear molecular distinction between the two species, it is difficult to separate them based on individual morphological characters, as there is a great deal of overlap even among key features. The new species is found in slow-moving mountain streams and pools at high altitudes between Umhlanga and Mtamvuna, in KwaZulu-Natal.




Materials science: Organic analogues of graphene

Chemists have long aspired to synthesize two-dimensional polymers that are fully conjugated — an attribute that imparts potentially useful properties. Just such a material has been prepared using a solid-state polymerization reaction.

Nature doi: 10.1038/nature21503

When genome mapper Craig Venter made clear he doubted universal common descent…


We’d heard about Craig Venter’s dissent before but you should read the whole story: From Tom Bethell in Darwin’s House of Cards: A Journalist’s Odyssey Through the Darwin Debates,

This was publicized in a science forum held at Arizona State University in February 2011, a little over a year after Dawkins’s Greatest Show
was published. The physicist Paul Davies and others, including two Nobel Prize winners, participated in the event, which was videotaped. Richard Dawkins himself was on the panel. The forum addressed the question, “What is life?”

Image result

Venter, 2007/Liza Gross, PLOS

Most of the panelists accepted that all organisms on Earth represent a single kind of life because they believed that the genetic code is universal. The NASA scientist and panelist Chris McKay made the case that this single form of life—a “sample of one”—should encourage us to further explore Mars and other planets for signs of life.

Craig Venter then disputed the premise. He challenged the claim “that there’s only one life form on this planet.” We have “a lot of different types of metabolism, different organisms,” he said. He turned to Paul Davies and added: “I wouldn’t call you the same life form as the one we have that lives in pH 12 base. That would dissolve your skin if we dropped you in it.” (pp. 53–54)

Venter went on to doubt that there is a single “tree of life” and evolutionary bioinformatics specialist W. Ford Doolittle noted that “the history of life cannot properly be represented as a tree.”

Guy to watch. In a world where so many people are defending themselves from shadows and rumours, he wants to look at reality. He should be banished from pop science coverage as a bad influence.

What if it turns out that there are multiple streams of life arising from a single era? How would that change the picture of the origin of life?

See also: Venter: We are missing a third of essential biology


Craig Venter’s minimal cell is a parasite

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Trump’s FCC pick wastes no time in his plan to ruin the internet

As appointments associated with President Trump begin to make their mark on public life, it was almost inevitable that the FCC would be no different. During his first two weeks at its helm, Ajit Pai has done what most expected, and many feared, he would do.

A former Verizon lawyer, Pai is a stated opponent of net neutrality. Not long before taking over at the FCC, he said that “We need to fire up the weed whacker and remove those rules that are holding back investment, innovation, and job creation.”

This, of course, was music to the telecommunication industry’s ears.

Beginning to undermine net neutrality (the principle that all data be treated equally) right off the bat, he declared on January 27th that he was “pleased to announce that I have circulated to my colleagues an order that would waive for five years the enhanced transparency reporting requirements for small businesses with no more than 250,000 subscribers.”

There also appears to be no chance of Pai favoring local competition in helping cities or states to offer their own high-speed internet services, known as municipal broadband, and it seems he will instead to defer to the private sector.

Revoking Lifeline licenses

Also potentially for the chop (before it even started) is AllVid, which would have required cable companies to offer apps for third-party smart TV devices, excusing consumers from the obligation to rent a cable box from their provider and opening the possibility to use Roku, Chromecast, Apple, or Fire TV in its place.

Under Pai’s predecessor, Tom Wheeler, the FCC was at loggerheads with AT&T and Verizon, arguing that the internet as a free marketplace was threatened by their DirecTV Now and Go90 services respectively. Both were marked as “zero-rated” services, meaning they don’t count against a consumer’s mobile data cap.

Pai, however, has canceled the FCC’s investigation into zero rating, claiming that free data plans are “popular with consumers” and have “enhanced competition in the wireless marketplace.”

He added that the FCC would “not focus on denying Americans free data,” but rather would “concentrate on expanding broadband deployment.”

All of the issues mentioned above are subject to opinion and debate, of course. But Pai gave opponents a brush with which to paint him as a villain when he revoked the licenses of nine companies Wheeler had approved under the Lifeline program. The program aimed to get some of the poorest people in the US online, and one of the licenses revoked was that of  a company offering educational broadband to children in 41 states.

Pai’s reason for holding back on the licenses was that the move was required to prevent fraud.


Image credit: Bloomberg

Source: Engadget


The post Trump’s FCC pick wastes no time in his plan to ruin the internet appeared first on Redorbit.

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