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Feb 17, 2008 04:30 AM
Roughly 10,000 folk of a scientific bent gathered in Boston on Friday for the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Micro sends these reports.
When there isn't enough oxygen in some patch of the ocean, everything there has to move or die.
Usually these dead zones are caused by nutrient pollution, as in the Gulf of Mexico. They're not supposed to appear in productive areas where currents churn the water from below, a process called upwelling.
But since 2002, large parts of the upwelling waters off the Pacific coast of Oregon and Washington have been either oxygen-starved ("hypoxic") or devoid of oxygen ("anoxic").
A review of historic oxygen levels, released here at the AAAS's annual meeting, showed such deprivation had not happened over the past five decades, as far back as the records go. "Consistent with predicted effects of global warming" was the scientific verdict.
Marine biologist Jane Lubchenco of Oregon State University told Micro that oxygen levels have likely also dropped in the waters off southern B.C. Shouldn't somebody check that out?
The world premiere of a stunning Canadian initiative to turn more young people on to science, especially modern physics, took place here yesterday.
Most Canadians escape 12 years of primary and secondary school without ever being excited by topics such as black holes, relativity, quantum physics or dark matter, the mysterious stuff that accounts for 80 per cent of the universe.
Way too much of the curriculum is instead devoted to classical Newtonian physics, and many high school teachers feel ill equipped to teach modern physics.
The Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo has been quietly trying to change this, offering summer camps for the brightest high school students and intense two-week sessions for the most interested teachers. Now Perimeter is kicking the whole effort up several notches.
A new outreach program, called Perimeter Explorations, will initially reach 125,000 students in grades 11 and 12 across Canada and could eventually expand to three times that number.
Explorations will provide 2,500 teachers with a tailor-made, 25-minute video covering six hot areas of modern physics, starting with dark matter.
Accompanying it is a teacher's guide that includes classroom demonstrations and student worksheets, which can be customized. Perimeter stands ready to crank out another 5,000 kits if there's enough demand.
For the whole six-topic program, the bill will be close to $1 million. No one has ever spent that much money in Canada to help young people grasp the excitement of modern physics. Maybe nowhere else in the world, either.
The Canadian unveiling will take place March 27 at Bloor Collegiate Institute in Toronto.
Nobel laureate and retiring AAAS president David Baltimore sighed when asked about the prospects for an HIV vaccine.
He recalled the heady optimism in the mid-1980s when HIV was first identified as the virus responsible for AIDS, and prominent scientists were predicting a vaccine was just around the corner.
Baltimore, a renowned cell biologist, soon began saying an HIV vaccine was at least 10 years off. He told a press breakfast here that he's been making that same forecast for 20 years.
Baltimore still considers himself an optimist. Many researchers in the field now say that they doubt they'll see a vaccine against HIV in their lifetimes.
Yet Baltimore's lab at the California Institute of Technology is investigating a novel AIDS therapy based on reprogramming the body's immune system.
"Anyone with Internet access can become an environmental witness," declared John Amos, who co-founded and runs the advocacy group Skytruth.
He proved his point with photos showing bottom trawlers caught in the act of destroying vast swaths of the ocean floor. The trawlers scoop up shrimp, fish and anything else unfortunate enough to lie in the path of their sea-floor-scrapping metal gates, which span 30 to 40 metres.
The operation throws up a sediment plume, which eventually coats ocean life outside the trawler's direct path, damaging or killing along the way.
Though this has been happening in the ocean for decades, it has been taking place largely out of sight.
But last year the University of British Columbia's Daniel Pauly demonstrated that Google Earth featured satellite images with high enough resolution to clearly show trawlers trailing an immense sediment plume behind them on the ocean surface. It remains visible for hours, like the marine version of a jet contrail.
Amos has added bottom trawling as a new category of environmental desecration on the crusading Skytruth website (click on "Galleries" near the top of the page).
Here at the AAAS, he issued a plea to the 2 million users of Google Earth: Submit more bookmarks to help construct "a compelling visual record."
Ladies and gentlemen, start your (search) engines.