Averting Beemageddon

Scientists discover what’s killing the bees and it’s worse than you thought.

Quartz reports:

As we’ve written before, the mysterious mass die-off of honey bees that pollinate $30 billion worth of crops in the US has so decimated America’s apis mellifera population that one bad winter could leave fields fallow. Now, a new study has pinpointed some of the probable causes of bee deaths and the rather scary results show that averting beemageddon will be much more difficult than previously thought.

Scientists had struggled to find the trigger for so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that has wiped out an estimated 10 million beehives, worth $2 billion, over the past six years. Suspects have included pesticides, disease-bearing parasites and poor nutrition. But in a first-of-its-kind study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have identified a witch’s brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives. The findings break new ground on why large numbers of bees are dying though they do not identify the specific cause of CCD, where an entire beehive dies at once…

Rest here.



Sistine Chapel Visitors to Pass Through Vacuum System

Still with the Vatican, I see that Sistine Chapel visitors are going to have to pass through a vacuum system.

Millions of tourists flocking to the Sistine Chapel each year will be required to pass through a vacuum system to remove dust, fibres, skin flakes, hair and other tiny particles before viewing the renowned frescoes.


Vatican Museum Director Antonio Paolucci said the new hi-tech vacuum system is designed to ensure that visitors are free of environmental pollutants that might damage the 500-year old artwork that adorns the world’s most famous chapel.

Each visitor will be “dusted, cleaned and chilled,” Mr Paolucci said, adding that there will be a carpet that cleans visitors’ shoes, while side vacuums will suck dust from clothes and cool temperatures to reduce heat and humidity that emanate from their bodies in the hot Rome weather.

The new system is expected to be ready sometime in mid 2013. Vatican officials said they are also working on a “virtual tour” that will allow a close-up view of the Sistine Chapel’s most famous works, which attract 20,000 tourists a day.

“It was something sooner or later we were going to have to address,” Mr Paolucci told the Corriere della Sera. “Dust, temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide are the biggest enemies of paintings.”


Bible Archaeology

Leeches Invade Sea of Galilee

Sad news this.

From Haaretz:

Leeches have invaded Lake Kinneret’s [the Sea of Galilee’s] shores – for the second time in seven years.

Standing in the water for as little as two minutes will cause your legs to be covered in hundreds of leeches. These particular types are not blood-suckers, making them relatively easy to remove once one is out of the water.

They are found on the lakebed, at depths of 0.5 to one meter, at two spots over the last few days: near the Sapir visitors center and along the western coastline. They live off snails and other invertebrates.

The leeches first overran the shores of the lake seven years ago.

Four types of leeches are known to live in the Kinneret, but they are usually present only in small numbers. This year, however, huge quantities have been detected.

The rest of the story suggests some explanations, including human activity and the rapidly changing water level.

Clouds over Sea of Galilee, tb102904607

Sea of Galilee


Watch Out For Falling Space Junk!

In the next couple of weeks. Seriously – that’s if you stay between 57 degrees north and 57 degrees south of the Equator:

A six tonne Nasa satellite is set to fall uncontrolled out of orbit, potentially raining debris over swathes of the planet including Britain, the US space agency has admitted.

The $750 million (£468 million) Upper Atmosphere Research Satellite (UARS) satellite, launched 20 years ago to study climate change, is set to breach the atmosphere within weeks.

In a new alert issued this week, officials warned pieces could land in densely populated areas on six continents including parts of Britain, Europe, North and South America and Asia.

Nasa claimed the risk to public safety from the “dead” satellite – which is orbiting just over 155 miles above the earth with an inclination of 57 degrees – was “extremely small”.

But senior space agency officials admitted they were “concerned” about the risk to billions of people when it starts falling uncontrolled out of orbit at any stage from later this month.

Nasa admitted more than half a tonne of metal from the satellite, which ran out of fuel in 2005, will survive as the majority it will burn up after entering Earth’s atmosphere.

Scientists estimate the debris footprint will be about 500 miles long with a 1-in-3,200 chance a part a satellite part could hit someone.

While Nasa did not know the exact areas it will fall, the projected danger zone has been narrowed to areas between 57 degrees north and 57 degrees south of the Equator.

These areas cover six continents and billions of people and three oceans…

Rest here.