Thursday, 10 September 2015

Seabirds ingesting a staggering amount of plastic

From trash bags to party cups, we use and throw away plastic items on a daily basis. If the plastic is properly disposed of, it is recycled or ends up in a landfill. The rest of it can end up in natural habitats, affecting animal and plant life.

Plastic production has steadily risen since the 1950s, as has the concentration of plastics in the ocean. Plastic waste that enters the oceans can be ingested by animals, where it causes a variety of detrimental health effects.

Sadly, the ocean is littered with plastic fragments, reaching concentrations as high as 580,000 pieces per square kilometer. Recent concern has focused on the ingestion of plastics by sea birds, which is extremely common and can result in changes in population growth. Half of all seabird species are currently in decline. Though investigations have explored the influence of coastal pollution on these declining populations, the impact of plastic ingestion has not been explored in detail. Though pollution is thought to be a major cause of ingestion on the coasts, it is rarely considered for ingestion occurring at sea.

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Francesca Liberatore's Superheroes - Fall 2015

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Do you kill it at your job, both in performance and in style? Are you a superheroine? Francesca Liberatore didn't outfit her models in capes, but they did have elements of your favorite comic-book characters.

There was a great print that contained graphic representation of star motifs. Zippers, metallic leather and silver pointed oxfords were a nod to edgier street wear. However, I love that this collection was mostly suitable for work, but pushing the fashion boundaries of office-appropriate just enough to be fun. The "Thor" like star symbol shields reminds everyone they are a superwoman .

Francesca Liberatore got her fashion chops studying at Central St. Martin. She made her mark across Europe working for Viktor & Rolf, Jean-Paul Gaultier in Paris then Brioni in Italy. You can see  the cheekiness of Gaultier and the Italian Craftmanship in her collection. 

So are you ready to run the world? In the air or at your desk, Francesca Liberatore fall 2015 makes it look good.

Photos by David TW Leung 

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An Underground WWII Bomb Shelter in London Has Been Converted Into the World’s Largest Subterranean Hydroponic Farm

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Over 100 feet below the bustling streets of London is a cavernous, abandoned space. Originally built to serve as a bomb shelter during World War II, it was designed to house and protect the lives of nearly 8,000 people. The space remained abandoned for close to 70 years until entrepreneurs Richard Ballard and Steven Dring decided to turn it into the world’s first subterranean farm called Growing Underground. And surprisingly, where the sun doesn’t shine turns out to be an ideal setting for a garden.

The vertically stacked hydroponic beds are best for growing small, leafy greens that have a short growth cycle like watercress, Thai basil and Japanese mizuna. And with a state-of-the-art computer controlling temperature, lighting and nutrients the subterranean farm can deliver consistent produce without sunlight (or pesticides!) and with 70% less water than conventional farms, hence the company’s parent name: Zero Carbon Food.

With the help of chef Michel Roux, the operation is now partnering with local restaurants to deliver farm-to-table produce in under 4 hours. Once fully operational, it’s estimated Growing Underground will be able to produce between 11,000-44,000 pounds of crops annually. (via Bloomberg)

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Schlieren Images Reveal Supersonic Shock Waves

NASA researchers in California are using a modern version of a 150-year-old German photography technique to capture images

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Unravelling the history of galaxies

A team of international scientists, led by astronomers from the School of Physics and Astronomy, has shown for

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The appalling, incoherent selfishness of Chris Christie's vaccine 'choice'

On CBS's Face the Nation last Sunday, Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said he is "very concerned" about the possibility of a massive, sustained outbreak of measles in the United States. A growing number of parents are deciding not to vaccinate their children, resulting in 100 cases of measles in 14 states in the latest outbreak. Frieden argued that it is extremely important to prevent measles from re-establishing itself as an endemic disease, after it was eradicated at great expense and effort around the year 2000.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) chose the very next day to downplay the threat, a reply of sorts to President Obama, who strenuously recommended vaccination in an interview. At a press conference in England, part of a trip that is widely considered to be a rehearsal for a presidential run, Christie said that while he has vaccinated his own children, he did not expressly recommend vaccination for others. Instead, people "should have some measure of choice." (The libertarian Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) went further, saying of vaccines, "Most of them ought to be voluntary.")

After criticism, Christie amended his statement to emphasize that "there is no question kids should be vaccinated," while still maintaining that the danger of vaccine-preventable illnesses should be "balanced" against the supposed risks of vaccines. But it still doesn't wash, given the 2009 letter he wrote saying he would "stand with" vaccine-refusenik parents.

Christie is utterly mistaken on the science. But his comments exemplify a typically American selfishness, one that in this case is not just morally odious, but incoherent.

It's true that an individual case of measles is a lot less threatening than one of Ebola, for which Christie — again acting against the best advice of medical scientists — last year briefly enacted a forcible quarantine for health-care workers who had treated Ebola in Africa. By this reasoning, it is worth curtailing individual liberty for very deadly diseases, but not so with less dangerous ones.

But just because a disease is not as bad as Ebola does not mean it isn't still worth eradicating. Furthermore, the measles vaccine is extremely safe for healthy people: though there is a tiny risk, as there is with every activity, it is far smaller than getting measles itself. Only the very young, and those with compromised immune systems or allergies, have an actual reason to avoid it.

And make no mistake, measles is still a very serious illness. A quarter-million people worldwide got it last year, mostly children in the developing world; more than half died (though that death rate can be reduced to about 1 to 2 out of 1,000 with modern medicine). Long-term complications can include deafness, pneumonia, encephalitis, and a degenerative nerve disease. It's also incredibly contagious, "probably the most contagious infectious disease known to mankind," as a CDC specialist told NPR. Back in the pre-vaccine days, each person who caught it infected 17 new ones — as opposed to less than two for Ebola.

More broadly, this entire argumentative frame misses the greatest benefit of vaccines: herd immunity. A population vaccinated to a high enough level becomes largely impervious to the disease by sheer statistics, and that protects the vulnerable ones who can't be vaccinated, or those whose vaccines didn't take root. Vaccines are not just about preventing personal illness, but stopping them from spreading. Done systematically enough, it can eradicate diseases completely. The elimination of smallpox, which killed something like 300 million people in the 20th century alone, ranks high on the list of human accomplishments.

That is why this is as much a moral issue as a scientific one. The appalling selfishness inherent in the idea of "vaccine choice" was starkly illustrated in a recent CNN story. After the measles outbreak at Disneyland, CNN talked to a family whose 10-month-old baby had contracted the disease. They're terrified he'll pass it on to their 3-year-old daughter, who has leukemia and can't get the vaccine — but might be killed by the disease. Here's the response of a refusenik parent:

CNN asked Wolfson if he could live with himself if his unvaccinated child got another child gravely ill. "I could live with myself easily," he said. "It's an unfortunate thing that people die, but people die. I'm not going to put my child at risk to save another child." [CNN]

In other words, it's okay to cause the death of another child if your kid wants to go to Disneyland. And that's leaving aside the risk to Wolfson's own kids, who are put at risk by his atrocious parenting.

Every person depends on society to function. From public roads to sanitation to clean water to the very economic system itself — your day is made possible by millions of other people doing their small part to maintain our civilization. When it comes to violently contagious diseases, it is not possible to speak meaningfully of choice divorced from the needs of those people.

Herd immunity, like many of the great public goods, is literally an issue of life and death. As such, Christie's parental "choice" is a gross infringement of others' basic rights.

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Intel dropping support for the Science Talent Search

Sad news, junior mathletes and STEM jockeys. Chipmaker Intel has decided to end its long-running sponsorship of the annual Science Talent Search. The competition—organized by Society for Science and the Public—was first held in 1942 and aims to find the brightest and best student scientists in the country each year. Intel had been the title sponsor since 1998 but will end its support after 2017.

The competition is open to students in their final year of high school, and it awards prizes in three categories: basic research, global good, and innovation. First place in each of those three categories won a not-inconsiderable $150,000 in 2015. Noah Golowich (for developing a mathematical proof), Andrew Jin (for a machine-learning algorithm for finding genetic adaptations), and Michael Hoffman Winer (for studying how sound quasi-particles interact with electrons) all took top honors this year.

Intel was only the second-ever sponsor of the competition, which had previously been supported by Westinghouse. According to the New York Times, there are eight nobel laureates among past winners.

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Nautica Women's Swimwear Spring 2016

We are heading into the tail end of summer (boo). Nautica Women's Swimwear gave us a "City Meets Sea" themed evening at New York's Dream Hotel. Models wearing the label's bikinis and swimsuits posed on top of pedestals and giant inflatable swans in the hotel's tiny basin of a pool. The so-called beach club at the hotel was probably the best representation of an urban oasis NYC has to offer.

The swimwear was simple and sporty. The classic Nautica colors of navy, white and black were used. There was one print that was an abstract beach pattern. The City Meets Sea theme explains why the swimwear cuts look like sportswear. The one-shouldered suit could be worn under a skirt and jacket. Bikini separates could be layering pieces. While the V-necked one-piece suits had plunging necklines and high-cut legs, the swimwear looked like it was actually meant for swimming.

It is interesting to note that their male counterparts from New York Fashion Week Men's had a more flamboyant collection. Their swim shorts had a larger variety of graphics, prints and finishing details. Nautica's strength has always been menswear while their women's lines have been launched and re-launched multiple times.

Nautica Women's Swimwear gave my fellow writers and me a nice little escape from the concrete. If you need a momentary escape to the beach just for an hour, you know where to go.
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Artist Nelson Makamo’s Dynamic Portraits of Johannesburg Children


With a dizzying flurry of oil paints, watercolors, silkscreen & monotype printing techniques, charcoal, and ink, artist Nelson Makamo captures the daily life of South African children as reflected in their charismatic faces. Based in Johannesburg, Makamo prefers to refer to himself as a storyteller or narrator of what he encounters everyday. “I document each day visually because for me each day is a blessing, being able to capture movements and feelings of people who live around me.” His portraits depict hopeful faces filled with laughter and confidence, awash in spirited dashes of color. Via Salon Ninety One:

Key themes informing Makamo’s practice include the city of Johannesburg with its dizzying dynamism, portraiture, the narrative of the artist’s personal history – an unpolitical archive of personal experience, as well as themes of migration, urbanization, identity, masquerade and the transition from childhood to adulthood. Makamo ultimately strives to communicate a universal experience, which viewers can relate to and access through his artwork.

Makamo has exhibited in numerous group and solo shows in South Africa, France, Italy, the U.S., The Netherlands and Scotland over the last few years. You can see more of his artwork at Candice Berman Fine Art or follow him on Instagram. And just in case you were wondering, his shoes. (via Lustik)









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The Gas (and Ice) Giant Uranus

Uranus, which takes its name from the Greek God of the sky, is a gas giant and the

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LHC progresses towards higher intensities

As with any particle accelerator designed to explore a new energy frontier, the operators at the Large Hadron

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