More Trees Means Less Death

Forest

In the cold of winter you might not be thinking of the nice hot summer days as a negative thing. In the winter when temperatures get really low people suffer from hypothermia or worse, whereas in heat they can suffer from heat stroke or worse. When it comes to the heat there’s a nice and simple solution of planting trees.

In urban environments tree coverage can literally save lives by having a minium of 30% of urban space shaded by trees. Not only will the trees reduce heat in their immediate area they will provide cleaners air and a nicer place to be.

We found substantial variation in UHI death rates across European cities. In 2015, Gothenburg in Sweden recorded no premature UHI deaths, while urban heat was responsible for 32 premature deaths per 100,000 people in the Romanian city Cluj-Napoca.

The cities with the highest UHI death rates were in southern and eastern Europe. Most of these cities generally had low tree coverage and recorded the highest UHI effect.

Just 3.3% of Thessaloniki in Greece is covered by trees, resulting in urban temperatures 2.8? higher than the surrounding area. By contrast, 27% of Gothenburg is covered by trees, delivering an UHI effect of just 0.4?.

Overall, southern European cities will benefit most from increasing their tree cover. Our model estimates that Barcelona could reduce its UHI death rate by 60% by meeting the 30% tree coverage target.

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Judo Falls for the Elderly

When old people fall the results are likely to be far worse than when younger people hit the floor. There’s a long history of technology assistance for elderly individuals who fall from the infamous “I’ve fallen and can’t get up” device to the modern smartwatch with fall detection. As always, the best solution is prevention.

In Quebec an organization has popped up to help teach people how to fall so they don’t injure themselves. Yes, that’s right to prevent falls and help people deal with them is to get them to fall in the first place.

One of the principal lessons is to encourage suppleness and to teach students to not be afraid of falling, says Jean-François Marceau, executive director of Judo Quebec.

As part of the courses, students are taught the basics of how to drop down to — and then get up from — the floor.

“When you go back to that basic thing then you become less afraid of the floor,” said Marceau. “Of course you don’t learn to fall in one lesson and then it’s acquired for life. You have to practise for several weeks … It keeps the reflex on your body and your mind.”

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Thanks to Lindsay!

Catching Illegal Fishers

Many people reduce their meat intake (which is good!) by swapping it with another animal protein source of fish. The problem here lies in how fishing is done around the world and the crimes committed by too many fishers. Indeed, crime on the high seas is alive and well with fishing vessels partaking in swaths of illicit behaviour. This all sounds bad, but the good news comes down to preventing it.

Indeed, researchers have published the results of a large effort to track when, where, and sometimes why fishing vessels turn off their tracking systems known as AIS. This is fantastic because it will help nations enforce the rules of the ocean by stopping illegal maritime activities.

AIS disabling is also strongly correlated with transshipment events – exchanging catch, personnel and supplies between fishing vessels and refrigerated cargo vessels, or “reefers,” at sea. Reefers also have AIS transponders, and researchers can use their data to identify loitering events, when reefers are in one place long enough to receive cargo from a fishing vessel.

It’s not unusual to see fishing vessels disable their AIS transponders near loitering reefers, which suggests that they want to hide these transfers from oversight. While transferring people or cargo can be legal, when it is poorly monitored it can become a means of laundering illegal catch. It has been linked to forced labor and human trafficking.

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Pigeons Outperform Radiologists

birds

Radiology is very complex and even doctors with years of training and experience can make misdiagnoses. So far AI systems haven’t been competitive with humans; however, pigeons are. Researchers trained pigeons to identify cancers in radiology images and concluded that the birds are just as good, if not better, than human observers. With the increasing costs of healthcare maybe paying workers in birdseed is a potential solution.

We report here that pigeons (Columba livia)—which share many visual system properties with humans—can serve as promising surrogate observers of medical images, a capability not previously documented. The birds proved to have a remarkable ability to distinguish benign from malignant human breast histopathology after training with differential food reinforcement; even more importantly, the pigeons were able to generalize what they had learned when confronted with novel image sets. The birds’ histological accuracy, like that of humans, was modestly affected by the presence or absence of color as well as by degrees of image compression, but these impacts could be ameliorated with further training. Turning to radiology, the birds proved to be similarly capable of detecting cancer-relevant microcalcifications on mammogram images.

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Radical Idea: Libraries

maps

If the idea of a library was purposed today it simply would be laughed out of existence because a library embodies an idea that is often ignored: that people, no matter their status, should be given a chance at no cost. In fact, libraries are free for all and generate no profit. What’s more they let people use the same shared resource over and over again – anathema in a post-Napster internet. Take a moment and marvel in the fact that despite the commodification and finalization of all aspects of our life that the simple library still stands.

The majesty of library buildings is matched only by the nobility of their purpose. The public library does not make anyone money; it does not understand its patrons as mere consumers, or as a revenue base. Instead, it aspires to encounter people as minds. The public library exists to grant access to information, to facilitate curiosity, education, and inquiry for their own sake. It is a place where the people can go to pursue their aspirations and their whims, to uncover histories or investigate new scientific discoveries.

And it is available, crucially, to everyone. It costs nothing to enter, nothing to borrow – in New York, and in many other cities, the public library system has even eliminated late fees. All the knowledge and artistry of its collection is available to the public at will, and it is a privilege made available, without prejudice, to rich and poor alike.

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