The world is now facing the worst bird flu outbreak in history, with more than 140 million domestic birds killed since October 2021. In the UK alone, over 4 million farmed birds have been destroyed and around 50,000 wild birds have died.
The true number of wild bird deaths is likely to be much higher, as many die at sea on an island with a vast range of seabirds such as England and their carcasses are never found.
There are fears that the UK’s world-famous sea lion population could be irretrievably reduced. Since 1986, local populations of breeding seabirds have declined by nearly a quarter, and they are already under tremendous pressure from overfishing, habitat loss and climate change.
QUEEN’S PARK — Ontario Greens leader and MPP for Guelph Mike Schreiner released the following statement as the Ford government prepares to pass legislation that will expand the practice of penned dog hunting in Ontario.
“Ontario Greens are deeply disturbed about the Ford government’s proposal to allow new licences and transfers for penned dog hunting facilities, or ‘train and trial’ areas, in Ontario.
A previous PC government began to phase out new train and trial areas in 1997 – for good reason.
Twenty-five years later, the Ford government’s move to grant licences for new train and trial spaces, and to allow existing licences to be…
ROCK SPRINGS—A Boulder resident was placed on probation after he let a bobcat out of a legal trap back in November of 2022.
Adam Roich, 40, pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor charge of unlawful release/removal of a furbearer/predator from a trap in the Circuit Court of Judge John Prokos last week.
Roich was given a 180 day suspended jail sentence with credit given for 3 days served and was placed on six months unsupervised probation. He was also ordered to pay $1,000 in fines, $61.15 in restitution, and $70 in court costs and fees. As part of his probationary conditions, Roich was ordered not to go near any legally set traps or monitors and to stay at least 500 yards from them at all times.
The current dominant theory holds thatHomo sapiensevolved from a single, local population of a previous species of the genusHomosomewhere in Africa, between roughly 300,000 and 100,000 years ago. According to this scenario, the new species then spread widely, eventually replacing the other existing species of genusHomo. However, the relatively small number of human fossils known from Africa and the lack of ancient DNA during that time period have made a more precise tracing of the evolution of modern humans problematic. The new interpretation, based primarily on detailed genetic studies of recent populations, posits thatHomo sapiensemerged from the…
BMI currently does not see enough progress on the decarbonization of the power mix, emissions reduction, or adoption of low carbon technology to reach net zero emissions by 2050.
That’s what Thomas van Lanschot, BMI’s Head of Power and Low Carbon Energy Research, told Rigzone, adding that BMI views the current spread of renewable targets and pledges to not reduce the share of high emitters significantly enough in multiple sectors, “leaving a substantial demand for mitigating emissions from sources such as coal”.
“We view the next decade as critical as the development of key technologies will need to be accelerated to have a meaningful impact over that time frame,” Lanschot said.
“These include commercializing and scaling up low carbon gas (such as hydrogen)…
A new study suggests that one-third of the planets orbiting common dwarf stars in the Milky Way could potentially harbor life. Dwarf stars are the most common type of stars in the galaxy and billions of planets orbit them.
University of Florida astronomers find that hundreds of millions of planets orbiting dwarf stars in the Milky Way could potentially harbor life, occupying a ‘Goldilocks’ orbit that allows them to withstand extreme tidal forces and retain liquid water, according to data from NASA’s Kepler and Gaia telescopes.
Our familiar, warm, yellow sun is a relative rarity in the Milky Way. By far the most common stars are considerably smaller and cooler, sporting just half the mass of our sun at most. Billions of planets orbit these common dwarf stars in our galaxy.
To capture enough warmth to be habitable, these planets would need to huddle very close to their small stars, which leaves them susceptible to extreme tidal forces.
In a new analysis based on the latest telescope data, University of Florida astronomers have discovered that two-thirds of the planets around these ubiquitous small stars could be roasted by these tidal extremes, sterilizing them. But that leaves one-third of the planets – hundreds of millions across the galaxy – that could be in a Goldilocks orbit close enough, and gentle enough, to hold onto liquid water and possibly harbor life.
UF astronomy professor Sarah Ballard and doctoral student Sheila Sagear published their findings the week of May 29 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Ballard and Sagear have long studied exoplanets, those worlds that orbit stars other than the sun.
“I think this result is really important for the next decade of exoplanet research, because eyes are shifting toward this population of stars,” Sagear said. “These stars are excellent targets to look for small planets in an orbit where it’s conceivable that water might be liquid and therefore the planet might be habitable.”
Sagear and Ballard measured the eccentricity of a sample of more than 150 planets around these M dwarf stars, which are about the size of Jupiter. The more oval shaped an orbit, the more eccentric it is. If a planet orbits close enough to its star, at about the distance that Mercury orbits the sun, an eccentric orbit can subject it to a process known as tidal heating. As the planet is stretched and deformed by changing gravitational forces on its irregular orbit, friction heats it up. At the extreme end, this could bake the planet, removing all chance for liquid water.
“It’s only for these small stars that the zone of habitability is close enough for these tidal forces to be relevant,” Ballard said.
Data came from NASA’s Kepler telescope, which captures information about exoplanets as they move in front of their host stars. To measure the planets’ orbits, Ballard and Sagear focused especially on how long the planets took to move across the face of the stars. Their study also relied on new data from the Gaia telescope, which measured the distance to billions of stars in the galaxy.
“The distance is really the key piece of information we were missing before that allows us to do this analysis now,” Sagear said.
Sagear and Ballard found that stars with multiple planets were the most likely to have the kind of circular orbits that allow them to retain liquid water. Stars with only one planet were the most likely to see tidal extremes that would sterilize the surface.
Since one-third of the planets in this small sample had gentle enough orbits to potentially host liquid water, that likely means that the Milky Way has hundreds of millions of promising targets to probe for signs of life outside our solar system.
Reference: “The orbital eccentricity distribution of planets orbiting M dwarfs” 29 May 2023, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2217398120
Parrots can get a lot out of video calls with their feathered friends just like we can from Zoom meetings with our favorite humans.
Findings from a recent study by researchers from Northeastern University and MIT Media Lab in the US and the University of Glasgow in the UK could point to ways to better look after the tens of millions of parrots around the world kept domestically as pets.
The research involved 15 parrots voluntarily initiating calls to a selection of other parrots on smart phones and tablets. The birds typically used as much calling time as they were allowed, and showed increased movement, preening, singing, and play while the calls were happening.
Friendships were formed too, with the birds showing strong preferences for which parrot to call when given a choice. The most popular parrots were also the ones that initiated the most calls, hinting at some level of social reciprocity.
“Video-calling technology helped a lot of people through the early days of the COVID pandemic where self-isolation was vital to slowing the spread of the virus,” says computer scientist Ilyena Hirskyj-Douglas from the University of Glasgow in the UK.
“There are 20 million parrots living in people’s homes in the US, and we wanted to explore whether those birds might benefit from video-calling too. If we gave them the opportunity to call other parrots, would they choose to do so, and would the experience benefit the parrots and their caregivers?”
Parrots are some of the smartest animals around, making them perfect for this study. As well as having vision that’s good enough to interpret movements on a screen in front of them, they happen to be very vocal.
In an initial two-week training period, the parrots were taught to ring a bell to prompt their caregiver to bring them a tablet for making a video call. The bell gave the birds a way to initiate a call voluntarily, which could last as long as five minutes or end sooner at any sign of stress, disengagement, or simply by leaving the space.
The parrot owners reported increased bonding with their pets too, and some parrots even formed attachments to the humans on the other end of the video call. The birds seemed to enjoy the extra attention they were getting from people as well as parrots.
Over the next two months, 147 calls were logged in a series of calls described by some of the owners as “transformative”.
“We saw some really encouraging results from the study,” says computer scientist Jennifer Cunha, from Northeastern University in Massachusetts. “The parrots seemed to grasp that they were truly engaging with other birds on screen and their behavior often mirrored what we would expect from real-life interactions between these types of birds.”
“We saw birds learn to forage for the first time, and one caregiver reported that their bird flew for the first time after making a call. All the participants in the study said they valued the experience, and would want to continue using the system with their parrots in the future.”
Parrots live in large flocks in the wild, but are obviously much more isolated when kept domestically – which isn’t helped by various transmissible diseases that makes it unsafe for parrot owners to meet up locally with their birds.
Isolation and boredom can lead to psychological problems for parrots, which manifest in a variety of ways: they might chew the bars of their cages for example, or pluck their own feathers, or rock excessively on their perches.
The researchers say that they noticed the birds engaging in the same call-and-response activities that they would in the wild, suggesting that these video chats can help give them something they’re missing.
While the researchers advise against anyone trying this at home for the time being, without the training and necessary monitoring, there’s a lot of promise here based on some of the great stories that came out of the study.
One such story involves two elderly and rather sickly macaws, who formed a deep bond during their video calls. Prior to the study, the birds barely interacted with others of their kind. They would dance and sing together, and even call “Hi! Come here! Hello!” when their partner would move out of the video frame.
“It really speaks to how cognitively complex these birds are and how much ability they have to express themselves,” says Hirskyj-Douglas. “It was really beautiful, those two birds, for me.”
The research was presented at the 2023 ACM CHI Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems and can be found online.
Artificial intelligence could pose a “risk of extinction” to humanity on the scale of nuclear war or pandemics, and mitigating that risk should be a “global priority,” according to anopen lettersigned by AI leaders such as Sam Altman of OpenAI as well as Geoffrey Hinton, known as the “godfather” of AI.
The one-sentence open letter, issued by the nonprofit Center for AI Safety, is both brief and ominous, without extrapolating how the more than 300 signees foresee AI developing into an existential threat to humanity.
In an email to CBS MoneyWatch, Dan Hendrycks, the director of the Center for AI Safety, wrote that there are “numerous pathways to societal-scale risks from AI.”
“For example, AIs could be used by malicious actors to design novel bioweapons more lethal than natural pandemics,” Hendrycks wrote. “Alternatively, malicious actors could…