Fluke Discovery of Ancient Farming Technique Could Stabilize Crop Yields : ScienceAlert


While studying food diversity in 2011, environmental scientist Morgan Ruelle, now at Clark University, accidentally stumbled across one possible technique that could help stabilize dipping crop yields.

The once widespread practice is now only used by small farms in places like Caucasus, Greek Islands, and the Horn of Africa. Despite being incredibly simple, most of the agroecology community weren’t aware of it.

Yet farmers have been using this technique for more than 3,000 years across at least 27 countries. It may have even been what gave rise to agriculture in the first place.

The method is planting maslins – a combined mix of cereals that can include rice, millet, wheat, rye, barley and more – and harvesting them all together to be separated or used as a single product.

In Ethiopia, for example, where Ruelle discovered the existence of maslins, duragna contains multiple species and varieties of barley and wheat, all grown together. The locals consider the mix to be one crop, using it to make bread, beer and traditional savories with it.

Local farmers reported this mix ensures at least some yield under unfavorable conditions, and now researchers have the experimental trials to back up these claims. Working at Cornell University, Ruelle and colleagues conducted a review of previous work, demonstrating maslins yielded higher stability under changing conditions. By shifting species composition each season, farmers could hedge against climate impacts without the need for additional intervention.

Monkey Experiment Reveals a Brain Switch That Could Be Useful For Space Travel : ScienceAlert

For humans to ever venture out among the stars, we will have to solve some hefty logistical problems.

Not the least of these is the travel time involved. Space is so large, and human technology so limited, that the time it would take to travel to another star presents a significant barrier.

The Voyager 1 probe, for instance, would take 73,000 years to reach Proxima Centauri, the nearest star to the Sun, at its current speed.

Voyager launched more than 40 years ago, and more recent spacecraft might be expected to travel faster; even so, the journey would still take thousands of years with our current technology.

One potential solution would be generation ships, which would see multiple generations of space travelers live and die before reaching the final destination. Another would be artificial hibernation, if it could be successfully implemented.

This is what scientists from the Shenzhen Institute of Advanced Technology (SIAT) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences have started to investigate; not in humans, but in monkeys, by chemically triggering a state of hypothermia.

“Here, we show that activating a subpopulation of preoptic area (POA) neurons by a chemogenetic strategy reliably induces hypothermia in anesthetized and freely moving macaques,” the researchers write in their paper.

“Altogether, our findings demonstrate the central regulation of body temperature in primates and pave the way for future application in clinical practice.”

Hibernation and its slightly less comatose state, torpor, are physiological states that allow animals to withstand adverse conditions, like extreme cold and low oxygen.

The body temperature lowers, and metabolism slows to a crawl, keeping the body in a bare-bones ‘maintenance mode’ – the bare minimum to stay alive while preventing atrophy.

This can be found across several animals, including warm-blooded mammals, but very few primates. Neuroscientists Wang Hong and Dai Ji of SIAT wanted to see if they could artificially induce a state of hypometabolism, or even hibernation, in primates by chemically manipulating neurons in the hypothalamus responsible for sleep and thermoregulation processes – the preoptic neurons.

The research was performed on three young male crab-eating monkeys (Macaca fascicularis). In both anesthetized and non-anesthetized states, the researchers applied drugs designed to activate specific modified receptors in the brain, known as Designer Receptors Exclusively Activated by Designer Drugs, or DREADDs.

Then, the scientists studied the results using functional magnetic resonance imaging, behavioral changes, and physiological and biochemical changes.

An illustration showing the role preoptic neurons play in hypothermia. (SIAT)

“To investigate the brain-wide network as a consequence of preoptic area (POA) activation, we performed fMRI scans and identified multiple regions involved in thermoregulation and interoception,” Dai says.

“This is the first fMRI study to investigate the brain-wide functional connections revealed by chemogenetic activation.”

The researchers found that a synthetic drug called Clozapine N-oxide (CNO) reliably induced hypothermia in both the anesthetized and awake states in the macaques.

However, in anesthetized monkeys, the CNO-induced hypothermia resulted in a drop in core body temperature, preventing external heating. The researchers say that this demonstrates the critical role POA neurons play in primate thermoregulation.

The researchers recorded behavioral changes in the awake monkeys and compared them to those of mice with induced hypothermia. Typically, mice decrease activity, and their heart rate lowers in an attempt to conserve heat.

The monkeys, by contrast, showed an increased heart rate and activity level and, in addition, started shivering. This suggests that thermoregulation in primates is more complex than in mice; hibernation in humans (if it can be done at all) will need to take this into account.

“This work provides the first successful demonstration of hypothermia in a primate based on targeted neuronal manipulation,” Wang says.

“With the growing passion for human spaceflight, this hypothermic monkey model is a milestone on the long path toward artificial hibernation.”

The research has been published in The Innovation.

Source: Monkey Experiment Reveals a Brain Switch That Could Be Useful For Space Travel : ScienceAlert

Safety in space: Synthetic hibernation could provide protection from cosmic radiation — ScienceDaily

It is still a glimpse into the future: Astronauts could be put into artificial hibernation and in this state be better protected from cosmic radiation. At present, there are already promising approaches to follow up such considerations. An international research team now has found decisive indications of the possible benefits of artificial hibernation for radiation resistance.

Source: Safety in space: Synthetic hibernation could provide protection from cosmic radiation — ScienceDaily

The Ants Have Not Read Kant: Pëtr Kropotkin and Mutual Aid – Areo

[He is] that beautiful white Christ which seems to be coming out of Russia … [One] of the most perfect lives I have come across in my own experience.—Oscar Wilde…View Post

Source: The Ants Have Not Read Kant: Pëtr Kropotkin and Mutual Aid – Areo

Kropotkin’s observations in Siberia had drawn him to a startling and dramatic conclusion: mutual aid was not only common, but “of the greatest importance for the maintenance of life, the preservation of each species, and its further evolution.” Soon, he would be describing mutual aid as a biological law, particularily after he read a lecture on mutual aid that Karl Kessler, dean of the University of Saint Petersburg, had presented to the Congress of Naturalists.
Kropotkin’s time in Siberia turned him into not only an evolutionary biologist but also a full-fledged anarchist. “I lost in Siberia,” he would write, “whatever faith in state discipline I had cherished before. I was prepared to become an anarchist.” Kropotkin’s anarchist philosophy developed naturally from his work on evolution and mutual aid in animals. Anarchism argues that no centralized government is necessary for people to lead happy, just and equitable lives. The mutual aid that Kropotkin saw among the animals of Siberia led him to that same conclusion. He came to believe that mutual aid had deep biological roots because animals engaged in it despite the absence of anything remotely like a government. The process of natural selection had favoured mutual aid in animal populations: anarchy, Kropotkin writes, was “a mere summing-up of … the next phase of evolution. It is no longer a matter of faith; it is a matter for scientific discussion.” And since animals cooperated in the absence of government, it seemed to Kropotkin impossible that humans could not find a way to break free of government shackles.

Lee Bontacou–RIP at age 91

Lee Bontecou, Untitled, 1966, welded steel, canvas, epoxy, leather, and wire and light, © MCA Chicago, © Lee Bontecou

I fell in love with Bontacou’s work in 2004 when I saw a retrospective at MOMA. She died yesterday at age 91. What a life she had. Some quotes from a couple of nice articles about her below.

And though, Bontecou’s art may have directly referenced the world as she saw it around her, she never wanted to strictly define what it was about. That was up to the viewer. As she told the Chicago Reader when asked, “Do people ever ask you, ‘What does this mean?’ What do you say?”, she coolly replied, “I don’t answer at all. It’s what you see in it. What I see in it is something else. I don’t get caught up in that.”
Although Bontecou generally avoided discussing the meaning of her images, in a rare statement for the catalogue of the Museum of Modern Art exhibition “Americans 1963,” she suggested that her goal was to “build things that express our relation to this countryto other coun­triesto this world-to other worlds-in terms of myself.”5 The precise meaning of this relationship was explained only years later when Bontecou admitted that the iconography of these early projects was in part political, a response to the menacing specter of war and global destruction that she felt in the early ’60s.6