Breaching a “carbon threshold” could lead to mass extinction

Study finds that carbon dioxide emissions may trigger a reflex in the carbon cycle, with devastating consequences.

In the brain, when neurons fire off electrical signals to their neighbors, this happens through an "all-or-none" response. The signal only happens once conditions in the cell breach a certain threshold.

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Surprising Science

How oceanic evolution took a left turn 170 million years ago

New research reveals a major shift in what pressures life used to face.

Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash
  • For the vast majority of the evolutionary history of ocean life, sudden changes in climate and oceanic chemistry had a huge impact on what life could flourish and what life could not.
  • But about 170 million years ago, this changed. The ocean became more stable, and things like predator-prey relationships started to dominate how life evolved.
  • The reason for this sudden change? Calcifying plankton came to dominate the oceans.
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Surprising Science

Why failing to preserve biodiversity is a profound disrespect

Here are just two of the practical and philosophical crises surrounding biodiversity breakdown.

  • A loss of biodiversity limits the ways we can use biodiversity to make our world better. Hockfield reminds us that biodiversity is a "bank account" of natural assistance.
  • For example, it is key in producing better crops to feed growing populations. How will we double food productivity (which we must do to survive) when we lose the wild plants we crossbreed agricultural crops with?
  • There is much more to lose than this bank account, however. It is a deep philosophical dilemma that humans have and will continue to wipe out organisms that have struggled their way into existence over the course of 5 billion years.
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Videos

Honeybees just had a record winter die-off

2018's winter was particularly harsh on U.S. honeybees. What's causing bee populations to plummet, and what can we do about it?

Photo credit: Damien TUPINIER on Unsplash
  • Since 2006, the Bee Informed Partnership has conducted a survey on U.S. beekeepers. The most recent survey shows that the 2018 winter resulted in the biggest die-off since the survey began, with a loss of 37.7 percent.
  • This die-off is part of a larger trend. Bee populations have been falling for decades.
  • The reasons why are multifaceted and compound on one another.
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Surprising Science

Are these 100 people killing the planet?

Controversial map names CEOs of 100 companies producing 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gas emissions.

Image: Jordan Engel, reused via Decolonial Media License 0.1
  • Just 100 companies produce 71 percent of the world's greenhouse gases.
  • This map lists their names and locations, and their CEOs.
  • The climate crisis may be too complex for these 100 people to solve, but naming and shaming them is a good start.
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Strange Maps