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Submission + - Insects as Weapons (failuremag.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Timothy Paine, an entomologist at the University of California-Riverside, recently “committed to the scientific record the idea that California’s eucalyptus trees may have been biologically sabotaged, publishing an article [in the Journal of Economic Entomology] raising the possibility of bioterrorism.” Specifically, Paine argues that foreign insect pests have been deliberately introduced in the Golden State, in hopes of decimating the state’s population of eucalyptus (especially the two species regarded as invasive, which “are particularly susceptible to the pests.”) In California’s Bioterror Mystery, Paine (and scientists who are sceptical) make their arguments. What isn’t in dispute is that the insect pests have already inflicted hundreds of millions of dollars in damage, making the story a cautionary tale about what might happen if a food or crop were intentionally targeted.

Submission + - Glock: The Google of Guns (failuremag.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Glock is synonymous with gun in the same way that “Google” is shorthand for Internet search. But unlike Sergey Brin and Larry Page few people know much about Gaston Glock, a reclusive Austrian who had no experience with guns when he designed his first pistol in the early 1980s. Glock did know a lot about injection-molded industrial plastic, though, and fashioned the frame of his pistols from polymer, making Glocks lighter and more durable than the steel and wood guns of competitors. And because Glocks could fire more rounds without reloading than traditional revolvers, American police departments – and then civilians – began clamoring for the Austrian guns. Ultimately, Gaston Glock became the late twentieth century’s Samuel Colt – “another handgun inventor who had a catchy one-syllable last name and knew how to market a weapon.”

Submission + - How old is HIV? (failuremag.com)

An anonymous reader writes: The news may not have seeped into the public consciousness, but recent research suggests that HIV made the leap from chimpanzees to humans sometime between 1884 and 1924, though conditions weren’t ripe for AIDS to spread widely until decades later. The history of HIV — and how African efforts to combat the epidemic have sometimes been more effective than the efforts of the West — are discussed in a revealing new book called Tinderbox, co-written by the Washington Post’s Craig Timberg and noted epidemiologist/medical anthropologist Daniel Halperin. Timberg places a lot of emphasis on the role of male circumcision in limiting the spread of HIV, noting in this interview that “men who have foreskins are 70-75 percent more likely to get HIV.”
Books

Submission + - Remembering Sealab (failuremag.com) 1

An anonymous reader writes: “Some people remember Sealab as being a classified program, but it was trying not to be,” says Ben Hellwarth, author of the new book Sealab: America’s Forgotten Quest to Live and Work on the Ocean Floor, which aims to “bring some long overdue attention to the marine version of the space program.” In the 1960s, the media largely ignored the efforts of America’s aquanauts, who revolutionized deep-sea diving and paved the way for the underwater construction work being done today on offshore oil platforms. It didn’t help that the public didn’t understand the challenges of saturation diving; in this comical exchange a telephone operator initially refuses to connect a call between President Johnson and Aquanaut Scott Carpenter, (who sounded like a cartoon character, thanks to the helium atmosphere in his pressurized living quarters). But in spite of being remembered as a failure, the final incarnation of Sealab did provide cover for a very successful Cold War spy program.

Submission + - US to become the Saudi Arabia of natural gas? (failuremag.com)

An anonymous reader writes: For those opposed to natural gas drilling in the United States, fracking is a dirty word. But the public needs to have a serious discussion about whether the costs and risks (like methane contamination) outweigh the considerable benefit of reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil and turning the US into an energy exporter. In “The End of Country” Seamus McGraw aims to jump start the debate by examining the issues at ground level, describing what happens when Big Energy comes to small town USA.
Science

Submission + - Studying the Impact of Lost Shipping Containers (failuremag.com) 3

swellconvivialguy writes: Looking at a picture of the world’s largest container ship it’s easy to visualize how 10,000 containers fall overboard from these vessels every year. Now scientists from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute are undertaking the Lost Container Cruise, an attempt to gauge the effects of shipping containers lost at sea by studying a tire-filled container, which marine biologists discovered in the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary. ( The research is being funded by a multi-million dollar settlement with the operators of the Med Taipei, the ship that lost the cargo.) The work is not unlike studying a deep water shipwreck: Use robotic submarine to take pictures and collect sediment samples; repeat.

Submission + - The Search for the Mount Everest of caves (failuremag.com)

NoMeansYes writes: An interview with James Tabor, author of the new best-selling book “Blind Descent,” reveals that it's a pair of accomplished scientists — American Bill Stone and Ukranian geologist Alexander Klimchouk — that are the two most prominent figures in extreme caving, and both have figured prominently in the ongoing quest to discover the deepest cave on earth. Tabor describes what conditions are like inside supercaves like Cheve (-4,869 feet) and Krubera (-7,188 feet), before discussing Stone and his far-reaching technological innovations, which include The Posideon Discovery Rebreather and NASA’s ENDURANCE. Extreme caving probably won't remain underground (so to speak) much longer, however. The article notes that James Cameron is planning to release a 3D film next year about extreme cave divers.

Submission + - Bent Skovmand, the threat of Ug99 (failuremag.com)

swellconvivialguy writes: Bent Skovmand was an under-appreciated scientist—who devoted his life to protecting the world’s food supply (and played a role in the development of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, or “Doomsday Vault”—and deserves wider recognition. That’s the message of Susan Dworkin’s book The Viking in the Wheat Field. But the most compelling aspect of the book—which Dworkin discusses in this interview — is the race to develop wheat resistant to Ug99, a form of stem rust so virulent that the U.S. has a fully developed action plan in the event Ug99 comes to the U.S.

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