It’s no secret that warming temperatures are transforming landscapes in extreme northern regions. In Alaska, where wildfires have burned through many old-growth spruce forests in the past half decade, deciduous trees—such as aspen and birch—are starting to take over. But little is known about the impact these changes will have on how much carbon the forests release and store.
To find out, researchers trudged through the Alaskan taiga, seeking out wildfire sites where spruce once dominated. They mined these sites for information on carbon and nitrogen stores and forest turnover over time. What they found surprised them: In the long run, their estimates suggest that intensifying heat and more wildfires may lead to more carbon sequestration in Alaskan forests, they report today in Science. It’s impossible to know for sure that the flames will subside, but it’s a bit of good news as the fires burn out the old growth and bring in the new.
Read the research: https://scim.ag/3soUc4e
Host Sarah Crespi talks with Staff Writer Adrian Cho about a new measurement of the magnetism of the muon—an unstable cousin of the electron. This latest measurement and an earlier one both differ from predictions based on the standard model of particle physics. The increased certainty that there is a muon magnetism mismatch could be a field day for theoretical physicists looking to add new particles or forces to the standard model.
Also on this week’s show, Charles Marshall, director of the University of California Museum of Paleontology and professor of integrative biology, joins Sarah to talk about his team’s calculation for the total number of Tyrannosaurus rex that ever lived. In a sponsored segment from the Science/AAAS Custom Publishing Office, Sean Sanders interviews Imre Berger, professor of biochemistry at the University of Bristol, about his Science paper on finding a druggable pocket on the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 and how the work was accelerated by intensive cloud computing. This segment is sponsored by Oracle for Research.
The risk of dying from COVID is much higher than getting a blood clot from a vaccine. But even more concerning is a new report from Oxford University that shows catching the coronavirus puts you at even more risk of a deadly blood clot. Each delay puts more lives at risk, as the coronavirus spreads. It’s a balancing act between speed and caution in the fight against COVID-19.
The lack of adequate sanitation in parts of the rural US, and physicists reassess muons’ magnetism.
In this episode:
00:45 How failing sanitation infrastructure is causing a US public health crisis
In the US, huge numbers of people live without access to adequate sanitation. Environmental-health advocate Catherine Coleman Flowers tells us about her new book looking at the roots and consequences of this crisis, focusing on Lowndes County, Alabama, an area inhabited largely by poor Black people, where an estimated 90% of households have failing or inadequate waste-water systems.
Book review: Toilets – what will it take to fix them?
07:56 Research Highlights
Why adding new members to the team can spark ideas, and how manta rays remember the best spots for pampering.
Research Highlight: What manta rays remember: the best spots to get spruced up
10:13 Reassessing muons’ magnetic moment
A decade ago, physicists measured the ‘magnetic moment’ of the subatomic muon, and found their value did not match what theory suggested. This puzzled researchers, and hinted at the existence of new physics. Now, a team has used a different method to recalculate the theoretical result and see if this discrepancy remains.
Research Article: Fodor et al.
If you’re looking to find some black holes, it’s always helpful to know exactly what you’re looking for!
To get started on your black hole hunt, first watch this handy video to learn the basics about these strange cosmic objects.
Music: “Perfect Little Monsters” from Universal Production Music Video credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center Chris Smith (USRA): Lead Producer Chris Smith (USRA): Lead Animator Chris Smith (USRA): Lead Writer Jeanette Kazmierczak (University of Maryland College Park): Lead Science Writer Scott Noble (NASA/GSFC): Scientist John G. Baker (NASA/GSFC): Scientist Bernard J. Kelly (UMBC): Scientist
Host Sarah Crespi talks with Contributing Correspondent Joshua Sokol about magnetars—highly magnetized neutron stars. A recent intense outburst of gamma rays from a nearby galaxy has given astronomers a whole new view on these mysterious magnetic monsters.
Also on this week’s show, Christoph Zollikofer, a professor of anthropology at the University of Zurich, talks about the evolution of humanlike brains. His team’s work with brain-case fossils suggests the complex brains we carry around today were not present in the early hominins to leave Africa, but later developed in the cousins they left behind.