We’re Only 20 Years Out from the End of Life on Earth, According to Computer Models

Mathematically speaking, the world could very well end in our lifetime. According to a study that surfaced in the early 1970s, we may have only 20 years left.

Sound crazy?

The research began with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s innovative methods and blended with, according to the Mother Nature Network, a computer model commissioned by a group of scientists, industrialists, and government officials focused on solving the world’s problems.

The year 2040 sounded like a long way off back when MIT’s research into sustainability first went viral – well, okay, an early 1970s version of viral – when ABC featured a report back in 1973 that revealed findings from Australia’s largest computer. The program was originally devised by MIT scientist Jay Forrester.

Forrester, who died in 2016 at the age of 98, was a pioneer in computer models. His MIT Digital Computer Lab first developed system dynamics in a project for General Electric, and later applied it to global problems, according to MIT archives.

While at MIT “in the 1950s (Forrester) developed the field of system dynamics modeling to help corporations understand the long-term impact of management policies,” a New York Times article wrote after his death. System dynamics, he once wrote, “uses computer simulation to take the knowledge we already have about details in the world around us and to show why our social and physical systems behave the way they do.”

All told, “It shows,” the 1973 video said then, “that Earth cannot sustain the present population and industrial growth for much more than a few decades.”

After the ABC report, the world went on with living. There were gas crises, Watergate, Americans trying to scrape together $175 for the average monthly rent, and having some fun going to see “American Graffiti.”

Now, we’re at the prediction point.

The research program back then, called World1, was admittedly not a precise forecast.

“What it does for the first time in man’s history on the planet,” the 1973 video explained, “is to look at the world as one system … It shows that simply cleaning our car exhaust and making some small effort to limit our families simply isn’t enough.”

The computer simulation examined global behavior since 1900 and where it will lead Earthlings into the future through projections based on behaviors. In the 1973 analysis, “the Q curve,” which marks quality of life, is “represented by the amount of space people have, the amount of money that they have to spend, the amount of food they have to eat. (The Q curve) increases rapidly up to 1940, but from 1940 on the quality of life diminishes, and here we are about the turn of the century, and we come up to the year 2020, and it’s really come right back (to pre-1940 levels).”

Combine this then with diminishing natural resources – the simulation forecasted in 1973 – population increases, and an increase in pollution.

“From 1980 through the year 2020, pollution really takes off,” the 1973 video shows among the data. “This is assuming of course that we don’t do anything about it. So the year 2020, the condition of the planet starts to become highly critical.”

Consider:

— Evidence shows that 2000 to 2009 was hotter than any other decade in at least the past 1,300 years, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). This warming is altering the earth’s climate system, including its land, atmosphere, oceans, and ice, in far-reaching ways, the NRDC concludes.
— Every year since 2000, U.S. wildfires burned an average of 6.9 million acres, according to the Center for Homeland Defense and Security. This figure is nearly double the average annual acreage burned in the 1990s (3.3 million acres).
— 91 percent of the world’s population lives in places where air quality exceeds guideline limits put forth by the World Health Organization (WHO), which reports that 4.2 million deaths occur every year as a result of exposure to ambient (outdoor) air pollution.
— The United Nations reports that while it took hundreds of thousands of years for the world population to grow to 1 billion – in just another 200 years, it grew sevenfold to today’s mark of 7.6 billion.

“If we don’t do anything about it … the quality of life is going to go right back practically to zero,” the 1973 report concluded through its scientific trends analysis then. “Round about the year 2040 or 2050, civilized life as we know it on this planet will cease to exist.”

MIT has been awarded 89 Nobel Prizes to date, and Forrester himself in his lifetime received numerous awards for his research, nine honorary degrees from universities around the world, and the National Medal of Technology,

“Jay developed the first model that treated interactions of population, the economy, natural resources, food, and pollution in the context of the world as a whole,” John Sterman, the Jay W. Forrester professor of management at the MIT Sloan School of Management, said in an interview with The New York Times after the passing of Forrester. “The work was counterintuitive and controversial, and it launched the field of global modeling.”

Solar Power Can Now Be Stored In A Molecule For Up To 18 Years

Renewable energy is upon us, in part because if carbon emissions keep up the way they are, it’s possible that many of our favorite coastlines will be underwater before we know it. It’s possible we’ll need masks to breathe in 100 years. However, one thing that has kept renewable energy, like solar and wind power, from mass use is the fact that scientists hadn’t figured out a way to store it. How can we use solar power when the sun isn’t out, for instance?

A World-Altering Discovery Of How To Store Solar Power

A research team from Sweden seems to have found the answer that will create a breakthrough in the use of solar power, which is a molecule with the ability to store energy from the sun for 18 years. Last year, the team published their research with these findings in Energy and Environmental Science.

The molecule that can store solar power consists of carbon, hydrogen, and nitrogen. When sunlight hits it, it is transformed into what is called an “energy-rich isomer.” That isomer contains the same atoms but with differnt bonds, and allows solar energy to be stored for a long, long time, 18 years to be exact. The scientists on the team say extracting the energy for use creates even more warmth than they had anticipated.

Understanding Solar Energy Storage

We may already kind of understand how energy in general can be stored, because we use batteries, which use stored energy. The molecule that can store the sun’s energy is kind of a like a battery then, though it has some key differences from the batteries we have come to know.

One is that Molecular Solar Thermal Energy Storage (MOST), discharges heat when activated through a catalyst, while batteries discharge electricity. Another is that batteries leak energy when not in use, while MOST does not; it only releases energy on demand.

The molecule is actually a specialized solar thermal fluid, and it is perfect for heating residences and commercial buildings, for instance. The liquid would capture the sunlight by way of a solar thermal collector as it sits on the roof of a building. The collector is a reflector with a pipe at its center. It tracks the path of the sun the way a satellite dish does. The sun rays are focused to a specific point on the pipe so it reaches and heats the liquid. Once it reaches the liquid, it is stored at room temperature. This conserves its energy.

The Logistics Of Using Stored Solar Energy

A catalyst is needed to control the release of the energy in the molecule, and the Swedish team says they have developed it. Otherwise, the energy would be used up all at once when enough heat is applied. The catalyst warms the liquid by only a specific amount, 63°C or 113°F. That way, the molecule can be used again. They are aiming to get that number a little higher.

At one point, a flammable chemical called toluene was part of the liquid in MOST, but that has now been eliminated. This is great news, because the molecule went from being potentially dangerous to much safer. Even more, it is an emissions-free process that works 365 days a year. Seeing as one of the pressing reasons to make the switch to renewable energy is the damage emissions do to the planet, this is huge. The only step left is to perfect the system so that it has optimal design and works smoothly. They’re thinking in 10 years, it will be commercially available.

Christmas Trees do Some Serious Recycling Work After the Holidays

Christmas trees have a unique lifespan.

First off, they’re “born” (aka, harvested) at pretty much any age tree-huggers wish.

“Unlike pumpkins – 6 weeks, or people – 53 years, a tree is mature at any age you want it to be which is whenever you need the cash,” Piers Maclaren stated in the New Zealand Tree Grower. “You can produce Douglas-fir Christmas trees at age 3.”

Then, around 30 million or so are harvested by American growers to shine brightly in homes for the holidays. That’s the estimate given by the Pacific Northwest Christmas Tree Association, and they would know. The PNWCTA is the world’s largest producer of Douglas-fir but is also known for its Noble and Grand fir as well as several varieties of pine. Of the estimated 30 million trees harvested for Americans during the Christmas season, more than 8 million come from the farms and natural stands of the Pacific Northwest growers, the PNWCTA notes.

After starring in family rooms worldwide, the trees’ lives aren’t done – not by a long shot.

Trees serve long-term purposes when their post-holiday work begins.

Small-scale community recycling programs are well known, well encouraged and well publicized. Residents can leave their dead trees on the curb for pick-up in many communities, which collect them and turn them into valuable mulch to be distributed on public land or given right back out to residents for landscaping. Other trees are ground up into chips for parks and community gardens and such.

Even Rockefeller Center’s famed tree in New York City, a tradition since the 1930s, has a valuable afterlife.

Since 2007, lumber milled from the tree (each plank complete with a “Rockefeller Center” stamp) has been donated to Habitat for Humanity, for which only 2×4 and 2×6 beams are made. The amount of lumber varies based on the size of the tree. The 2018 tree is about 75 years old and weighs an estimated 12 tons.

“Norway spruce lumber is usually creamy white in color and fine-grained,” Rowena Sara, Habitat for Humanity’s senior director of public relations and global communications strategy, described of the Rockefeller Center tree’s regular species of choice. “It’s flexible and durable, which makes it ideal for blocking (the filling, spacing, joining or reinforcing of frames), flooring, furniture, and cabinetry. It is a softer wood, though, so it’s not intended for load-bearing walls.”

Other Christmas tree recycling projects take things up a notch on a wider scale.

For a fifth straight year, the Cape Fear Surfrider Foundation is teaming up with the town of Carolina Beach, North Carolina, to recycle old Christmas trees and put them to good use, according to WWAY TV3 news reports. The Christmas Tree & Dune Recycling Project places 75 disposed of trees along the coast’s dune line in an effort that draws more than 100 volunteers.

Each tree is secured with all natural materials and over time will be buried by sand to rebuild the dunes and prevent beach erosion, WWAY notes. Depending on the weather, the trees will likely not be seen for 6-12 months. The location changes each year and is determined by areas most in need.

Up in Maryland, meanwhile, the Chesapeake Bay Program reports that discarded Christmas trees annually help build waterfowl habitat on Poplar Island, a place where, ten years ago, wildlife habitat had nearly disappeared. In 1997 just 10 acres of the original island remained.

The island today is over 1,100 acres, and the residents of nearby Easton, Maryland, leave their trees on the curb, which are then collected and used as shelter and nesting habitat for black ducks, snowy egrets, red-winged blackbirds, and diamondback terrapins. As a result, chesapeakebay.net reports, wildlife is now “flocking to Poplar Island.”

“Back in 1996, we had ten documented bird species using the island,” U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Chesapeake Bay Field Office biologist Peter McGowan states in the report. “Now we have over 170 species that have been documented and over 26 nesting species.”

And down south in New Orleans, the “Annual Christmas Tree Drop” is just what it sounds like.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service says that Bayou Sauvage is one of the largest urban refuges in the country, and for migratory birds marks an important stop on their hemispheric travels. The wetlands provide wildlife habitat, a place to connect with nature and help to protect New Orleans from storms.

The Crescent City’s recycled Christmas trees are collected and used to establish a wave break in open ponds on the refuge when a helicopter places them into position from above. These tree jetties create new marsh habitat by reducing erosion, trapping sediment, and building up a plantable structure which will eventually support native marsh grasses, Fish & Wildlife states.

As a result, new land is created in these areas. About 175 acres of marsh in Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge has been restored through this project.

Earth’s Lowest Point at Center of Massive Water Plan

The lowest point on Earth is front and center in a battle for the science (and the politics) of water.

While many land areas on Earth sit below current sea level, the lowest land area of them all is the shoreline of the Dead Sea Depression in Israel, Jordan, and Syria. It is approximately 1,355 feet (413 meters) below sea level.

The Dead Sea is not actually a sea but rather an endorheic basin: a lake that doesn’t flow into a river, sea or ocean. Depressions – like the Dead Sea Depression, David K. Lynch of Thule Scientific explains at geology.com – form when converging plates deform or when spreading centers open.

“The shoreline of the Dead Sea is the lowest dry land on Earth … However, this elevation is constantly changing,” Lynch notes. “The surface of the Dead Sea rises and falls as precipitation, evaporation, irrigation, salt production and other natural and human activities consume the water of the Jordan River, the Dead Sea, and its tributaries.”

The Dead Sea Depression has no real competition at the moment for the title of the lowest point on Earth. The next closest, the shoreline of Lake Assal, the lowest point in Africa, is about 250 meters “higher” than the Dead Sea’s lowest point.

(Technically we realize that the Challenger Deep, in the Mariana Trench within the Pacific Ocean, is the deepest known point in the Earth’s seabed at a depth of almost 36,000 feet, which is deeper than Mount Everest is tall. We’re examining the planet’s lowest point not covered by water or ice.)

The Dead Sea is hardly just for trivia questions about elevation these days.

The Dead Sea’s water (which is almost ten times saltier than the ocean’s) level is sinking, Todd Pitock of the Natural Resource Defense Council, at nrdc.org, reported in 2017. The water’s retreat is allowing fresh groundwater to well up and dissolve the layer of salt within the land’s subsurface, the report continues, adding that the sinkholes to this point have swallowed palm trees, some trailers at a resort, and at least one car. The deepest pit could fit an eight-story building.

“Please don’t write that the Dead Sea is dying,” Ittai Gavrieli, a geologist with the Geological Survey of Israel, the government department responsible for monitoring the region, told Pitock, who notes that, while the situation is deteriorating, the Dead Sea is not going to disappear. Its water table will just keep sinking.

“It’ll continue to sink and will probably stabilize another 100 or so meters below its current level,” Gavrieli added.

Enter the Red Sea-Dead Sea Water Project, dubbed “Red-Dead.”

The $900 million Red-Dead plan, agreed upon in 2013, aims to boost water supplies for Israel, the Palestinians, and Jordan, by diverting water from the Red Sea. They plan to turn some of it into fresh water, and pump the excess from the desalination process through a pipeline over the 120 miles separating the bodies of water into the Dead Sea, Dalia Hatuqa of Al Jazeera reported in 2017. The project’s goal is to replenish the Dead Sea’s dwindling levels and the resulting environmental impacts.

The report indicates that the Dead Sea’s water levels have been falling by about one meter per year. The NRDC notes that the project has a proposed finish date of 2019.

Dead Sea or no Dead Sea, the project “is primarily a massive water exchange between Israel and Jordan,” Pitock writes.

Critics, meanwhile, claim the agreement is less about water cooperation and more about water control.

In 2012, accused Israeli settlements and companies of “pillaging” the natural resources of the Dead Sea.

“The presence of settlers who directly utilize and profit from the Dead Sea wealth has severely exacerbated this situation and contributed to the overexploitation of the area, resulting in severe environmental damage,” Hatuqa wrote of the Palestinian human rights organization al-Haq’s report.

Israel counters criticism by pointing out that accords in place show it has full control over the area that includes the Dead Sea shore.

The Israeli-Palestinian Joint Water Committee continues to examine the situation.

NOW OR NEVER: The Dead Sea, Venice, Kilimanjaro’s ice cap, and eight other iconic destinations that will be all but gone by the end of this century.

China Is Launching Artificial Moons To Light Up The Night Sky

Officials at the private aerospace institute are planning to launch a fake moon over China by 2020. Scientists say it will be bright enough to illuminate an entire city, without the aid of street lights.

China Is Launching Artificial Moons

The city of Chengdu, capital of the Sichuan province in Southern China, is hoping to unveil the world’s first artificial moon within the next two years.

The Chengdu Aerospace Science and Technology Microelectronics System Research Institute Company (the main contractor for China’s space program) is taking the reigns on the groundbreaking project. Although details are unclear, representative say tests have been going on for years and the technology is ready.

According to the Chinese newspaper the People’s Daily, the idea was inspired by a French artist “who imagined hanging a necklace made of mirrors above the Earth, which could reflect sunshine through the streets of Paris all year round.”

The project aims to reduce energy usage and cut down costs on lighting China’s busy city streets. Officials say that by lighting up just 31 square miles or Chengdu’s night sky, the artificial moon could save the city an estimated 1.2 billion yuan (equal to $174 million U.S. dollars) every year.

Plans are in the works to launch three additional moons by 2022—potentially covering much more ground. The three satellites will take turns providing illumination and, working together, they should be able to light 2,000 to 4,000 square miles for up to 24 hours.

How Will They Work?

The “moons” will actually be satellites with a special coating that will reflect the light of the sun onto the city at night. Scientists say the first satellite will launch from the Xichange Satellite Launch Center, and will orbit about 300 miles above the Earth.

In theory, the light reflected off the satellite will be bright enough to replace street lamps, illuminating an area with a diameter of 6-50 miles. Officials say that both the location and brightness of the moon can be changed and that it can be completely shut off if necessary. And, because the moon is mobile, it can be moved to light other areas (like disaster sites) if necessary.

Potential Pitfalls

The project has been openly mocked by some and questioned by others. Many are afraid that the artificial light could have negative impacts on both humans and animals alike. Bright light at night could affect human’s sleep-wake cycles, or confuse nocturnal animals.

John Barentine, director of Public Policy at the International Dark Sky Association, says, “The moon would significantly increase the night-time brightness of an already light-polluted city, creating problems for Chengdu’s residents who are unable to screen out the unwanted light.”

Officials in charge of the project, however, think adverse effects will be minimal. According to Kang Weimin of the Harbin Institute of Technology, the moon’s light would create nothing more than a “dusk-like glow.”

For now, researchers say, “We will only conduct our tests in an uninhabited desert, so our light beams will not interfere with any people or Earth-based space observation equipment.”

MORE: 7 facts you probably didn’t know about the Moon

The Reason Why The Earth Is “Eating” The Oceans

We have heard recent stories of the Earth slowly losing its oceans. We could blame global warming, oil spills, and pollution, while others disagree with the theories. But a recent scientific study reports that the Earth is eating its own oceans. So what’s the cause of this destruction?

Earthquakes.

An Increase In Earthquakes

You frequently hear about earthquakes in the news. High magnitude earthquakes have destroyed entire cities and nations, including Haiti, Chile, Indonesia, and more. On an average, there are about 15 major earthquakes every year with a magnitude of 7 or greater.

As it turns out, water beneath the Earth’s surface could be a contributor to the frequent earthquakes. More water underneath the surface contributes to developing more magma which lubricates fault lines. This is bound to increase earthquake activity, according to marine geology and geophysics researcher Donna Shillington.

Thanks To Earthquakes

According to a recent study, researchers studied the Mariana Trench zones of the western Pacific Ocean. They studied the earthquake-prone subduction area, where the Pacific plate is currently sliding beneath the Philippine plate in recent earthquakes. Their predictions were correct. With each earthquake, water is incorporated into the rocks deep below the surface, trapping it indefinitely.

This was exactly what scientists predicted, as many knew water was carried down and incorporated into the rocks during each earthquake. But study leader Chen Cai said, “They just didn’t know how much water.”

So, how much water is being lost and “eaten” by the Earth?

A Lot Of Missing Water

It wasn’t an easy task to study the water at the deepest point on Earth. Researchers had to study the central part of the Mariana Trench, approximately seven miles below sea level. Then, they observed the water levels deep into the Earth’s crust, some 18 miles below the surface.

This was a long and complicated experiment. But when they finally discovered how much water is in the subduction zones, they were amazed at the large amount of missing water.

Researchers calculated that the zones pull three billion teragrams of water in the Earth’s crust every million years (a teragram is one billion grams). This might not mean much to you now, but the news shouldn’t be taken lightly. Trapped water is never a good sign, especially since researchers were unsure of just how much water is stored beneath the Earth’s surface.

What Goes Down Must Come Back Up

Researchers have more and more questions after their experiment. The new information is mind-boggling, but it also raises concern.

For example, the water deep beneath the Earth’s surface must eventually come back up, and this usually occurs during volcanic eruptions. But the recent estimate of how much water is beneath the surface doesn’t estimate to how much is being emitted by volcanoes.

Does this mean more volcanic eruptions will occur? Or, does it mean that something is happening beneath the surface that scientists don’t know about?

As always with science, there are more questions that need to be answered. Back to the drawing board.

Speaking of disappearing, these eleven locations will be all but gone by the end of this century.

World’s Most Endangered Sea Turtle Finds Life in Big Apple

The New York City borough of Queens has all the metropolitan buzz of the big city; everything from museums to the New York Mets to 18 stations along the subway’s Flushing Line.

It’s hardly all concrete, though. In fact, the Rockaway Peninsula, within the Gateway Recreation Area and part of the National Park Service, has some of the more unusual nature findings around. From way back in history straight through to today, it’s tucked into (or, overlooked, in the midst of the Big Apple’s hustle and bustle) the spot that thrives today as an oceanside escape for New Yorkers.

The Rockaway peninsula in Queens is the newest home for the world’s most endangered sea turtle.

This, after all, is the spot of nature that gave – and subsequently took – Hog Island. Despite conflicting accounts ranging somewhere between urban legend and verifiable claims, the former Rockaways island “rose up in a single night,” according to a New York Times report in the late 1860s, only to be overcome in a storm and reclaimed by the sea by the early 20th century.

The location also boasts a fleet of Good Humor ice cream trucks underwater just off the Rockaways coast that were put in to be an artificial reef – and apparently have worked as exactly that, creating a home for sea life.

So, unlikely natural happenings in the landscape within sight of the Manhattan skyline are nothing new.

The Manhattan skyline viewed from Rockaway, Queens

The beachside peninsula is also home, for at least a week each year, to the world’s most endangered sea turtle.

“Their perilous situation is attributed primarily to the over-harvesting of their eggs during the last century,” National Geographic notes of the reptiles that have a 50-year lifespan in the wild and grow to about two feet long. “And though their nesting grounds are protected, and many commercial fishing fleets now use turtle excluder devices in their nets, these turtles have not been able to rebound.”

Which is, of course, where Queens, New York, comes in.

 

A newborn Kemp’s ridley sea turtle.

According to the National Park Service, 96 hatchlings of Kemp’s ridley – the smallest of all sea turtles and critically endangered – crawled out to sea in the summer of 2018 on West Beach on the Rockaway Peninsula, about an hour drive from Times Square.

While these sea turtles are found primarily in the Gulf of Mexico, says the Park Service, and juveniles, probably carried by currents, can be found as far north as Nova Scotia along the Atlantic Coast. This is the first recorded case of a Kemp’s ridley nesting and depositing eggs in New York State, according to Maxine Montello, rescue program director, Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation.

The Park Service described the improbable scene:

“On July 12, 2018, beachgoers observed a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle exiting the water and crawling up the beach and excavating a nest, according to Patti Rafferty, chief of resource stewardship for Gateway. NPS later excavated the nest to save the nest from extreme high tides. Staff were able to save and incubate 110 eggs. Hatchlings were later released back at West Beach.”

A Kemp’s ridley sea turtle crawling along a beach.

It almost seems as if the spectacle was a perfect fit for the city that never sleeps.

“Their nesting processions, called ‘arribadas,’ make for especially high drama,” NatGeo explains. “During an arribada, females take over entire portions of beaches, lugging their big bodies through the sand with their flippers until they find a satisfying spot to lay their eggs. Even more riveting is the later struggle to the ocean of each tiny, vulnerable hatchling. Beset by predators, hatchlings make this journey at night, breaking out of their shells using their caruncle, a single temporary tooth grown just for this purpose.”

The Park Service also noted that the hatchlings’ successful journey at The Rockaways was made possible through the cooperation of several agencies and environmental groups. Along with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Padre Island National Seashore, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation, as well as the Silver Gull Beach Club, an NPS concessioner, assisted Gateway in the protection of the Kemp’s ridley nest.

A loggerhead sea turtle escaping a fishing net thanks to a turtle excluder device

The decline of Kemp’s ridley and other sea turtles has been due primarily to human activities such as harvest of adults and eggs and capture in commercial fishing gear, the Park Service reports. Coastal development decreases habitat for shore nesting species, such as sea turtles and shorebirds. Lights associated with development are also a particular problem. Female turtles will avoid well-lit beaches, and lights disorient hatchlings.

They prefer shallow waters, where they dive to the bottom to feed on crabs, which are their favorite food, and other shellfish. They also eat jellyfish, and occasionally munch on seaweed and sargassum.

In other bizarre sea turtle news: Why are 99% of sea turtles being born female? Hint: It’s got something to do with temperature.

Researchers Discover Earliest Species of Birds

Researchers from the University of Manchester believe they’ve discovered the earliest known bird species. In a paper published in the Journal of Historical Biology, the team re-examined one of 12 fossils belonging to the specimen, Archaeopteryx. 

Known as the ‘missing link’ between dinosaurs and birds, Archaeopteryx, lived approximately 150 million years ago during the Late Jurassic period. The 12 fossil specimens are believed to be the intermediate between dinosaurs and birds, but now, after a second look, the team believes one of them is a new species entirely, Archaeopteryx albersdoerferi.

“Whenever a missing link is discovered, this merely creates two further missing links – what came before, and what came after! What came before was discovered in 1996 with the feathered dinosaurs in China. Our new species is what came after,” said John Nudds, a co-author of the study.

According to the researchers, what drew their attention to the fossil in question were the distinct differences they observed. Of this, Nudds said, “we found that this specimen differed from all of the others. It possessed skeletal adaptations which would have resulted in much more efficient flight. In a nutshell, we have discovered what Archaeopteryx lithographica evolved into – i.e., a more advanced bird.” One such observation was that the bones in the wrist were fused together, much like modern birds.

Scientists have now identified both the before and after of Archaeopteryx; the feathered dinosaur and the earliest bird. This newly discovered bird lived in what is now modern Germany back when Europe was mostly a group of islands. The size of the bird ranged from that of a Magie to the size of a Raven.

Of the 12 fossils examined, the 8th fossil is the youngest at approximately half a million years old. From the oldest to the youngest the researchers observed an adaptation in the skeleton that would improve flight ability.

Click here to read about this recently discovered ancient sea sponge

America’s Most Roach-Infested City Is…

Cockroaches do have some positive things going for them. We’ll talk about those in a minute. At the same time, you don’t necessarily want them in your house.

Tasked with the creepy crawler number-crunching to determine which U.S. cities are the most roach infested are those with the American Housing Survey. Sponsored by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau, the survey is the most comprehensive national housing survey in the country.

Before revealing which city is the crawliest, focus for a second on the conditions that best support roaches. The little guys thrive in hot temperatures with high humidity.

All that being said, according to the survey’s most recent numbers available, New Orleans is the undisputed king of the cockroach. In the Crescent City, 41 percent of households reported roaches, which is higher than any other region in the United States.

Louisiana’s next-door neighbor, Texas, is also in the hot zone. Texas has the dubious distinction of putting two cities among the survey’s top eight (#2, Houston and #8 Dallas). Rounding out the top five overall are #3 Miami, #4 Atlanta and #5 Phoenix. Nine of the top 10 are in the South.

Okay, let’s give roaches a break for a minute. Cockroaches do provide some ecological benefits outside of homes, like their ability to eat just about anything including dead plants and animals and animal waste, in their effort to keep our environment on the clean side basically as nature’s garbage men. And roaches also are an important food source for some birds and small animals, as they keep up their end of the food chain bargain.

But, still. Roaches, amirite?

“Cockroaches have been long despised by homeowners due to their creepy appearance,” pestworld.org states. “Cockroaches are known to cause allergic reactions and trigger asthma attacks, especially in children. They also spread nearly 33 kinds of bacteria including E. coli and Salmonella.”

Orkin Pest Control shares cringy news that “there are thousands of species throughout the world.” But wait, it gets worse. As omnivores that eat plants and meat, Orkin adds that the little buggers “have been recorded to eat human flesh of both the living and the dead, although they are more likely to take a bite of fingernails, eyelashes, feet, and hands. The bites may cause irritation, lesions, and swelling. Some have suffered from minor wound infections.”

The good news – especially for the 393,000 New Orleanians – is that cockroaches are not likely to bite living humans, except perhaps in cases of extreme infestations where cockroach populations are large, or especially when food becomes limited. In most situations, cockroaches would not bite humans if there are other food sources such as in garbage cans or exposed food.

And they’re not going anywhere. Reproduction-wise, newborn German cockroaches become adults in as little as 36 days. Cockroaches are famously durable, with all-too-true survival skills, perhaps the most amazing of which is their ability to survive up to a week without their heads.

“The common American cockroach can withstand forces up to 900 times greater than its own body weight, can squeeze through an opening just 3 millimeters thin, and can last a full month without food,” P.F. Harris, a manufacturer of do-it-yourself pest control products, including the USA’s oldest EPA-registered product, notes. “These facts, along with their quick reproduction abilities, are just a few of many reasons why roaches are so hard to eliminate.”

There is some good news for other cities on the list of cockroach infestations. Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Washington DC noted declining incidences for roaches. Houston, meanwhile, moved up the list with an 11 percent increase.

Cockroaches suck, but I’d take a million roaches any day over this parasite that literally eats human brains.

11 Dead as Venice Suffers Worst Flooding in a Decade

The ‘floating city of Venice’ is now underwater thanks for record flooding across the lagoon. Reported to be the highest levels of flooding since December of 2008, on Monday, more than three-quarters of the city was under water.

Flooding Fallout

Venice is accustomed to flooding whenever strong winds push water in from the outland waters, but Monday’s flooding was exceptionally high, peaking at over 5 feet high.

Venice mayor Luigi Brugnaro stated that the barriers being erected around the city would have been enough to prevent the mass flooding. However, due to cost overruns and a corruption scandal, the plan, named ‘Project Moses’ was never completed.

Local shops and restaurants flooded as door barriers broke, failing to keep water out. Various news outlets have also reported that a failure to maintain the country’s river beds also contributed to the flooding, particularly in the town squares.

While tides shot up to 61 inches, the water levels are still well below the record set in 1966 of 73 inches, or just over 6 feet.

Rome and other cities hit by storms

Throughout Italy, cities are experiencing heavy rainstorms which have inflicted significant amounts of damage. Officials in Rome have closed tourist sites such as the Coliseum indefinitely. In Rome and elsewhere, small tornados ripped roofs off of homes, and strong winds equivalent to that of a category 3 hurricane swept through.

St. Mark’s Basilica Permanently Damaged?

According to The Guardian, Venice’s famous St. Mark square suffered two consecutive days of flooding, some of which crept into St. Mark’s Basilica, causing significant damage. Furthermore, per the church’s chief administrator, Carlo Tesserin, the floor of the baptistry was completely flooded and some of the damage may be irreparable. “The basilica has aged 20 years in just one day … It is becoming ever more difficult for us and indeed could become impossible for us to repair the damage, especially in an age of climate change,” Tesserin said.

Thus far 11 deaths in total have been reported as Venice and other parts of Italy look to recover from the damage this recent string of storms has caused.

In addition to Venice, click here to check out 10 other places that will disappear by 2100.

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