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Comment: Re:One of many potential causes (Score 1) 90

by Rei (#49550329) Attached to: Bees Prefer Nectar Laced With Neonicotinoids

Yep. It's wierd because the symptoms can correspond with many different causes. For example, the climate change thing makes sense because bees can be tricked into thinking it's spring and start foraging or even swarming in the middle of winter when they really should stay in the winter cluster. The occasional warm day is good for them to be able to get out and void themselves, but longer periods of significantly fluctuating weather can be bad.

But it also matches other problems. Diseased or dying hives often lead to "desperate" swarming where bees start abandoning the hive to try to establish a new, safe place. Most of these swarms, however, will die. The behavior could be seen as a general "exteme stress" behavior. It could also be seen as a neurological disorder from pesticide exposure.

In short, it could match almost any possible cause. And probably is a result of many of them.

Comment: Re:The study was flawed (Score 4, Informative) 90

by Rei (#49550295) Attached to: Bees Prefer Nectar Laced With Neonicotinoids

I think it's important to ask questions because there's been literally "dozens" of different things "definitively linked" with CCD. The public likes to seize on neonicotinoids, but they're probably one of the least supported of these many different "definitively linked" reasons. Whole countries have gone so far as to outright ban neonicotinoids, with no effect on CCD. France, for example, banned them. The next year they largely switched to blaming the condition on Asian Hornets when the decline rates didn't decrease.

The problem is that when you ban a certain pesticide, people start using others. And going from neonicotinoids to organophosphates is a massive step backwards in terms of general safety, not just to pollinators, but especially to more complex animals as well. But the biggest problem with the neonicotinoid theory is that neonicotinoids are only used in a small fraction of the areas where CCD exists. Bees can only fly several kilometers from the hive, they're not going cross-country and picking up every pesticide in every farmer's arsenal. It even exists among people who are in places where no pesticides at all are used.

It's easy for the general public to latch onto a particular cause. But once you learn more about beekeeping you realize how incredibly much out there is that can utterly f* up a hive. And which have in history regularly collapsed bee populations, far worse than the collapses we have today. Trachael mites once nearly obliterated beekeeping in Europe, saved mainly by the development of the Buckfast bee. Check out this very inexhaustive list of bee pests and diseases. There's even some really counterintuitive effects in that small levels of some pesticides can actually increase hive survival rates, in that they're deadlier to bee pests like mites than to the bees themselves.

The public also tends to totally understand colony collapse disorder in the first place. Normal winter colony death levels are about 15% in most locations (though where I am it's higher). CCD raised the US average to about 30% at its peak. This is painful and expensive to beekeepers, but it has literally no impact on the ability to sustain bee populations. A new beehive can be started with just a queen and a handful of workers. Hives can be made to produce queens en masse through proper management. Hence people can mail order starter hives, and there's never going to be a threat to the ability to produce these starter hives - a single hive can make many dozens per year. Even normal hives not managed for breeding starter hives will naturally produce several swarms every year; beekeepers try to discourage and/or catch these swarms.

In all likelihood, neonicotinoids are one among many different stressors to bees in the modern era that causes CCD. Modern bees are much more "stressed" than bees in the past. We've created an environment where new bee pests and diseases have spread far and wide to bees that never would have encountered them in the wild. We raise them on corn syrup and sugar water in the winter (good for reducing dysintery and increasing honey yields, but robbing them of certain vitamins and minerals). We transport them on flatbed trucks hundreds or thousands of kilometers (these are animals that get confused if you move their hive a couple meters; their ability to navigate by sight is poor, they're best navigating by the sun and dead reckoning). And countless varieties of poisons, even unintentional ones, affect them every day of their lives. There's so many factors now that weaken hives that any "new" factor to an area can push them over the edge.

Comment: Re:The study was flawed (Score 2) 90

by Rei (#49550221) Attached to: Bees Prefer Nectar Laced With Neonicotinoids

I'd really like to read the paper but unfortunately it's down. But for example, do the neonicotinoids add a UV signature to the liquid not present in the sugar water? That would have little to no influence in the case of flowers in nature (where they're not looking at the nectar, and there's all sorts of other chemicals in the nectar). What other chemicals are in the neonicotinoid solution (they're rarely pure, they usually have all sorts of other chemicals to increase their effect)? What's their cleaning and handling procedure for preparing and filling the sample containers? I want to know how they controlled these experiments against factors that humans can't detect but bees absolutely can.

Just the very act of hooking electrodes up to bee neurons I'd have concerns about. Is there any induced electric field involved, or even rubbing against the bee hairs? Bees transfer information to one another via dances, such as the waggle dance. Bees build up an electrostatic charge on their body, and a waggling bee imposes an electrostatic force on the antennae and hairs of all adjacent bees, causing them to feel dance over a short distance. Their stereoscopic sense of the dance lets them know the direction, and that combined with the time allows them to work out a direction to a food source relative to the (moving) direction of the sun. It functions like transferring a memory from one be to another. There's also "negation" behaviors, by other bees who don't like the information giving out; they have a different frequency buzz to say "don't go there", and sometimes different bees may even fight with each other over what's good and what's bad information.

Also note that the linked articles refer to a second study published simultaneously which showed no effect on honeybees next to rapeseed fields sprayed with neonicotinoids versus an altogether unsprayed field. Which is pretty remarkable, because you expect almost *any* pesticide next to your hive to have a profoundly negative effect on it.

Comment: Re:The study was flawed (Score 1) 90

by Rei (#49550205) Attached to: Bees Prefer Nectar Laced With Neonicotinoids

I'm sorry, but calling flagging a "troll" because they misread an article is beyond the pale. None of their behavior was "trollish". Saying that a study is flawed is in no way shape or form engaging in "fraudulent research", aka, deliberately falsifying data to push an agenda.

The Nature article appears to be down. But I have to caution, studying bee behavior is very difficult. Many of our senses, bees lack or have only at low resolution. But they have a number of senses that we don't. They see UV. They see polarized light. They sense electric fields. They're sensitive to a lot of chemicals that we cannot detect. And so forth. It's very, very easy to accidentally give bees signals, which will alter their behavior, that you didn't realize you were giving. I'd like how they attempted to control for all of this, but unfortunately that's not possible now.

Comment: Re:Awesome! (Score 1) 40

by Rei (#49519659) Attached to: NASA's Rocket Maker To Begin 3D Printing Flight-Ready Components

The first patent (which had no attempt to commercialize) was in 1979. Most early research, with largely failed attempts to come up with a commercially viable product, were in the mid 1980s. The tech has slowly advanced since then, and nowadays is becoming rather mature.

I don't know why this is seen as a way to diss 3d printing. Some people's hatred of makerbots and their ilk is so great that they can't accept that 3d printing broadly has developed into actually useful production processes in some fields. Rocketry is a great example. It's just silly to have to make (and warehouse) moulds or stamps for parts that you only need a couple dozen of and which you may revise after just a couple launches. Now that 3d printing technologies have advanced enough to produce high quality metal parts, it's properly taking of. It even pairs nicely with CNC, there's now hybrid 3d printing / CNC machines out there. CNC gets you the coarse, primary shape and 3d printing adds in the intricate and/or jutting out components.

3d printing is a very useful technology for low volume or rapidly evolving part runs. No need to play it down just because Makerbots exist.

Comment: Re:My B.S. Detector is Going Off (Score 2) 76

by Bruce Perens (#49515639) Attached to: Old Marconi Patent Inspires Tiny New Gigahertz Antenna

If the end of the coil that is hanging is grounded (earthed), it becomes an autotransformer. As it's shown, it's a variable inductor and the disconnected end is irrelevant and has no meaningful physical effect at the frequency a spark transmitter could have reached.

This comment seems to get closer to what they actually mean in their scientific paper. But the article about it is garble and the paper might suffer from second-language issues, and a lack of familiarity with the terms used in RF engineering.

Comment: Re:Hmm, I guess I invented this as well... (Score 1) 76

by Bruce Perens (#49513567) Attached to: Old Marconi Patent Inspires Tiny New Gigahertz Antenna

Damn, I wish I would have patented that and all its quantum magic...

I noticed that my vertical transmitting antenna often works better if I connect a horizontal wire about the same length as the antenna to ground at its base! The wire isn't connected to the transmitting side of the circuit at all! And how well it works varies depending on the length! Obviously there is some deus ex machina at work here...

Comment: Re:My B.S. Detector is Going Off (Score 1) 76

by Bruce Perens (#49513517) Attached to: Old Marconi Patent Inspires Tiny New Gigahertz Antenna

Clearly you missed the bit where they invoked quantum mechanics, surely that explains away all the inaccuracies, like the fact you can already buy chip scale dielectric antennas

The thing that I really hate about Innovation Stories is that the reporter invariably doesn't understand what's going on, and invariably is easily convinced that The Obviiously Very Technical People have some very valuable invention.

Science is to computer science as hydrodynamics is to plumbing.