Author Archives: phenomenica

Felling of tropical trees has soared, satellite shows, not slowed

Washington DC (SPX) Feb 26, 2015

The rate at which tropical forests were cut, burned or otherwise lost from the 1990s through the 2000s accelerated by 62 percent, according to a new study which dramatically reverses a previous estimate of a 25 percent slowdown over the same period.

That previous estimate, from the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Forest Resource Assessment, was based on a collection of rep —> Read More Here

Africa, From a CATS Point of View

Greenbelt MD (SPX) Feb 27, 2015

From Saharan dust storms to icy clouds to smoke on the opposite side of the continent, the first image from NASA’s newest cloud- and aerosol-measuring instrument provides a profile of the atmosphere above Africa.

The Cloud-Aerosol Transport System instrument (CATS), was launched Jan. 10 aboard a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft, and was installed on the International Space Station on Jan. 22. From —> Read More Here

3-D Views of February Snow Storms from GPM

Greenbelt MD (SPX) Feb 27, 2015

The Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) Core Observatory captured a 3-D image of a winter storm on Feb. 17, 2015, that left 6 to 12 inches of snow over much of Kentucky, southwestern West Virginia and northwestern North Carolina.

The shades of blue indicate rates of snowfall, with more intense snowfall shown in darker blue. Intense rainfall is shown in red. The imagery shows great varia —> Read More Here

In Pursuit of Illegal Loggers in India

Unknown Logger.

In India in a rural area along the border with Bangladesh, Tripp Burwell of the Society for Conservation Biology was helping local villagers learn about forest conservation when they heard the sounds of illegal loggers at work. Pursuit of the poachers resulted in an opportunity to apprehend and talk with the interlopers from a neighboring village, and a lesson in understanding the economic forces that drive people to harvest protected trees.

BAGHMARA, Meghalaya, India–“No, no. You go first,” I exhaled as I hauled myself up another knife-sharp limestone boulder.

An Indian Forest Officer, carrying a loaded gun, stumbled, and then heaved himself up and around me.

“Thwunk! Thwunk! Thwunk!”

We had started at dawn with all the male villagers in Kosi Gittim (“Kosi Village” in the local Garo tongue) – a few dozen men in total.

“Thwunk! Thwunk! Thwunk!”

They looked to me. Shrugging, I simply pointed towards the noise rippling through the forest on the edge of Balpakram National Park.

“Thwunk! Thwunk! Thwunk!”

Peering around bus-size boulders, we saw only empty forest.

“Thwunk! Thwunk! Thwunk!”

Cut logs, ready for floating down river to Bangladesh, lined the path.

First one man, then another, turned back from a hilltop.


The men of Kosi shouted.


There was no third axe stroke this time, only —> Read More Here

The Science Behind Anti-Depressants May Be Completely ‘Backwards’

Anti-depressants are the most commonly-prescribed medication in the U.S., with one in 10 Americans currently taking pills like Zoloft and Lexapro to treat depression. But these pharmaceuticals are only effective less than 30 percent of the time, and often come with troublesome side effects.

In a controversial new paper published in the journal Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, psychologist Paul Andrews of McMaster University in Ontario argues that this failure of medication may be based in a misunderstanding of the underlying chemistry related to depression.

Andrews surveyed 50 years’ worth of research supporting the serotonin theory of depression, which suggests that the disease is caused by low levels of the “happiness” neurotransmitter, serotonin.

But Andrews argues that depression may actually be caused by elevated levels of serotonin. And this fundamental misunderstanding may be responsible for inappropriate treatment: The most common form of antidepressants are selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which operate by targeting serotonin receptors in the brain in an effort to amplify serotonin production.

Currently, scientists are unable to measure precisely how the brain releases and uses serotonin, because it can’t be safely observed in a human brain. But Andrews —> Read More Here

Sorry, But Your Dog Can’t Remember That Fun Game Of Fetch

Sorry to break it to you, but your dog probably has no recollection of that fun game of fetch the two of you played yesterday. And that yummy treat you gave him just minutes ago? Even that has probably gone poof!

The truth is, a dog’s memory just isn’t very good. And a new study suggests that the same is true for 25 other animal species, from bees and birds to big mammals. Their recall of specific events disappears within minutes or even seconds.

“When it comes to short-term memory, it seems to work almost the same for all animals,” Dr. Johan Lind, a professor of ethology ethology at Stockholm University in Sweden and the study’s lead author, said in a written statement. “It’s a bit surprising that apes do not remember better than rats, but the results are clear. Human memory stands out because it is so susceptible, anything seems to stick in the memory for a very long time.”

For their study, a “meta-analysis” of previous research, Lind and his colleagues analyzed nearly 100 studies in which captive animals performed a short-term memory test. In the first part of the test, an animal is briefly exposed —> Read More Here

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