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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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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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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No more squeaky voices: We're running out of helium

Its scarcity could impact scientific research as well as the high-tech industry.

Photo by Luca Upper on Unsplash
  • Although it's commonly used to make balloons float, helium is actually a precious, non-renewable resource.
  • Without helium, a great deal of scientific research can not be conducted, and technology like MRI machines won't work.
  • The demand for helium is enormous and growing; there is no way to create artificial helium economically and no way for the Earth's helium stores to sustain the demand.
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Photo credit: Iswanto Arif on Unsplash
  • Asian elephants often leave protected areas to feed and come into conflict with humans.
  • The elephants, it turns out, can recognize the largest quantities of food by smell.
  • This insight could lead to keeping Asian elephants out of harm's way via redirection using olfactory cues.
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