Pig farmers: cold hearted or caring?
One might often hear a farmer talking about that which he raises to ultimately kill, in an endearing way. Most farmers claim that they love their animals, even though they are raising them for slaughter. Was is the truth of this contradition? Researchers at Scotland’s Rural College wondered this as well. This question, better described as ‘the meat paradox’, looks at the phenomenon where people quickly claim to love animals, such as pigs, but are often just as quick to have them on their dinner plate. It is thought that one tactic used to void the paradox is to reduce the animals ability to suffer. You may often have heard the saying ‘Fish don’t feel pain, they’re cold blooded’. This might make one feel less guilty when catching fish, and consuming other types of meat. In this instance, the researchers wondered what pig farmers thought about their pigs’ ability to suffer. They found that pig farmers did not try to reduce their animals’ capacity to suffer, and in fact noted that they are particularly sensitive to hunger. Also included in the sample group were animal science students. They too considered pigs’ ability to suffer significant. So it would seem that although some farmers make their money from raising and killing their pigs, they are still able to care about their livestock, and so they themselves face the meat paradox. What psychological effects this has on farmers remains unknown at this time.
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Artifical Neural Networks
Science has propelled the modern world further than we could have imagined in recent years, but this decade might see one of the greatest innovations yet. Students from Chennai, India have used artificial intelligence, specifically what is known as ‘Artificial Neural Networks’, to predict the energy needs in India, and used what is called an ‘Optimized Energy Allocation Model’ (OEAM) to calculate what percentage of each source of power would be needed in order to match the energy demand in 2020. This model, which ran countless trials, produced what would be the most efficient model, that is, the optimal scenario, for energy production. This model accounted for things like production costs, emissions, tax and other variables to try and portray the most realistic scenario. This model predicted that as much as 32% of India’s power would come from renewable sources, to the amount of roughly 317Gwh, or 317 Giga Watts/hour. In comparison, this is more than 5 times the mean of Switserland’s electricity consumption in 2019.
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Corona…no not the beverage
On the 31stof December 2019, the World Health Organization received the first to-be cases of Corona Virus. Symptoms to the likes of pneumonia were being reported, without positive causation. Through the next 36 hours, a further 44 cases were reported of a similar description. Following further investigation, by the 12th of January 2020, the cases had been traced back to common location, a seafood market in Wuhan City, Hubei Province. Chinese authorities by this time had
confirmed the presence of a new strand of the Corona virus, coined ‘Covid-19’, after the abbreviated ‘Corona’ the Latin term for crown, ‘Virus’, ‘Disease’, which first presented in 2019, with the word ‘Corona’ coming from the shape of the glycoprotein protruding from the cell’s surface. Shortly after this, Chinese geneticists had mapped the genetic sequence and shared it with the global scientific community in the hope of developing methods with which to combat the virus. By the 20th
of January 2020, the first reported case in a foreign country had occurred, in the Republic of Korea.
Currently, there have been over 51 800 reported cases of Covid-19 infection, with roughly 51 100 of those from China. Affected countries now include Australia, Canada, the United States of America, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France, Spain, Egypt, and several South Asian countries. The exact source of the virus is not yet known however there is confidence that the disease was initially passed over to humans from wildlife, the species of which are not yet known. By increased contact with live animals or mutations in the virus itself, Covid-19 has recently managed to bridge the gap to humans. Amongst humans it is thought to spread through mucous membranes by means of direct contact or aerosol. So, what are the symptoms?
Symptoms range from mild to severe, from fevers, coughing, sneezing and shortness of breath to pneumonia, kidney failure and death. The exact mortality rate is not yet known. Diagnosis of affected patients is most accurately done by ‘PCR’, or polymerase
chain reaction. For prevention, WHO currently recommends general hygiene, such
as covering one’s mouth when coughing and sneezing, avoiding close contact with
suspected patients and wearing masks and protective clothing in a healthcare setting,
and lastly washing hands often and thoroughly. Treatment currently includes
supportive care and no vaccine exists; however, vaccines are in development.
Read more here – https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/situation-reports/
Did you know?
Acmella nana, a recently discovered species of the Acmella genus, is so small that, when first discovered, scientists could barely see it with the naked eye. ZooKeys, a journal on ecology, posted an article in 2015 describing the discovery of several additions to the total snail population of Borneo. The smallest thereof, had a shell width of no more than 0.37 millimetres!
Poo, and koala sustainability
Ever seen your dog eat their sibling’s faeces? Gross right? Well it appears that faecal matter might play a role in nature conservation. Researchers at Queen’s University studied the gastrointestinal microbiomes of koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus), where they observed that some wild koalas would only eat one type of eucalyptus plant, specifically the manna gum type (Eucalyptus viminalis) and avoided the variant termed messmate (Eucalyptus obliqua) sometimes to the point of starvation. The researchers wondered if this fussiness was simply just, well, fussiness, or if it was something of more importance.
Wild koalas were brought into captivity where their GI flora compositions were assessed and were then given faecal inoculations to see whether or not this could alter the gut environment enough to allow the ingestion of messmate in manna gum eating individuals, and vise versa.
They found that the GI microbiomes of fussy, mana eating individuals indeed differed from others eating messmate. They also found that after introduction, inoculations altered microbiomes in a number of individuals. They concluded that, if altering a GI microbiome in itself is enough to change an individual’s dietary tolerance, then previously manna gum only eating individuals would potentially have a lot more forest to call ‘home’, increasing their spread and thus sustainability.
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