Sunday, March 27, 2016

Homeschoolers new volume on Island crafts: The Hawai`iana Project.

A Big Island school project has led to fascinating book on Hawaiian crafts, The Hawai`iana Project.

The authors are seven homeschooled children who were aged 11 to 14 at the time the work was done in the 2012-2013 school year. They did the work as part of a writing and newspaper class taught by Susan Kilbride.

Their assignment was to write three or more articles on Hawaiian culture, on topics “that had a hands-on element in them,” Kilbride wrote.

Much of the work was not from book research, but from talking to people still carrying out the ancient crafts of the Islands.

“My students and I have spent the last year going to every Hawai`ian festival that we could find, meeting with people on field trips, taking classes, and doing everything we could to learn more about the Hawaiian culture,” Kilbride wrote.

The result is a book on making kukui nut oil, crafting bamboo and gourd instruments, tying Hawaiian fishhooks, lei making, stringing Niihau shell jewelry, featherwork, weaving, kapa making and more.

It is written in straightforward language, with ample black and white photography to explains steps in making projects.

The authors are Charlee Brown, Pearl Dickson, Dylan Kilbride, Hope Mashburn, Emily Risley, Molly Russell and Teah Van Bergen. Kilbride is the editor.

There are lots of books on Hawaiian crafts, led by Arts and Crafts of Hawaii, the multi-volume set of scholarly pamphlets published by Bishop Museum Press and written by Te Rangi Hiroa. And there are whole books on many of the individual topics in The Hawai`iana Project. But the new book serves as a fine sampler, and with its instruction, you’ll be able to try your hand at some of the projects it presents.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2016

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Human CO2 release 10X higher than any time since dinosaurs: UH researcher

We are dumping carbon dioxide into the atmosphere faster today than at any time since the dinosaurs.

And not just by a little. By a lot. Ten times more, according to a new paper by University of Hawai`i researcher Richard Zeebe and collaborators.

(Image: Deep ocean sediment cores provide clues about climate going back more than 60 million years. Credit: James Zachos.)

What that means is serious uncertainty about climate change. We don’t know how fast change will come, but we know there will be a lot of it, they said.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Geoscience, the team, which included Zeebe, and co-authors Andy Ridgwell  of the University of Bristol and University of California, and James Zachos  of the University of California, described studying deep ocean sediments to make determinations about ancient climate.

The last time the planet faced a massive pulse of carbon dioxide, it was during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, 56 million years ago. The climate got hot back then, despite the fact that that big pulse contained far less carbon dioxide than we’re releasing today.

“Carbon release rates from human sources reached a record high in 2014 of about 37 billion metric tons of CO2. The researchers estimated the maximum sustained carbon release rate during the PETM had to be less than 4 billion metric tons of CO2 per year – about one-tenth the current rate,” said a press release from the University of Hawai`i.

“Because our carbon release rate is unprecedented over such a long time period in Earth’s history, it also means that we have effectively entered a 'no-analogue' state. This represents a big challenge for projecting future climate changes because we have no good comparison from the past,” said Zeebe.

The impacts of the dramatic increase in the release of greenhouse gas, since it’s unlike anything experienced in the history of our species, will be remarkably difficult to model

“If you kick a system very fast, it usually responds differently than if you nudge it slowly but steadily," said Zeebe.

He suggested that while our grandkids will experience significant changes in climate, it’s our great-great grandkids who may suffer far more from issues like acid oceans, risen sea levels and warming atmosphere..

“Everyone is focused on what happens by 2100. But that’s only two generations from today. It’s like: If the world ends in 2100 we’re probably OK. But it’s very clear that over a longer timescale there will be much bigger changes,” Zeebe said.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2016

Friday, March 18, 2016

Zika: forget conspiracies, birth defects clearly linked to the virus

Zika virus continues to rampage through South and Central America and the Caribbean, and new data is clarifying its link to severe birth defects in the children of women infected during pregnancy.

Zika, born in Africa, has spread through the Pacific, and in the last few years into South America. Most recently the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention placed travel restrictions on two small Caribbean islands, Aruba, Bonaire. With those, Zika is now known to have affected 28 areas through the continent. 

There has been considerable discussion about birth defects like malformed brains and tiny heads having been caused by something other than Zika—including some of the mosquito control technologies that have been used to attempt to control the mosquito-borne virus.

This blog previously discussed Zika six weeks ago here.

As we wrote then, “And there are all sorts of conspiracy theories running around already, as there were about AIDS and Ebola. One of them is that genetically modified mosquitoes are somehow involved in transmission.”

Most of the latest data is discounting other causes and more and more clearly targeting Zika as the direct cause of the birth defects. Indeed, the correlation between Zika and microcephaly  dates back to before the South American outbreak.

The journal The Lancet today (March 19, 2016) reports that microcephaly is quite clearly linked to a 2013 to 2014 outbreak of Zika in French Polynesia—the biggest outbreak in the world before the current South American panic.

The study found a spike in microcephaly cases among the children of women who had been infected with Zika during the first trimester of their pregnancies.

“Our analysis strongly supports the hypothesis that infection in the first trimester of pregnancy is associated with an increased risk of microcephaly,” wrote Dr. Simon Cauchemez, of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, and co-authors.

The data could not prove a link among women who were infected after the first trimester: “We could not rule out an increased risk of microcephaly from infection in other trimesters, but models that excluded the first trimester were not supported by the data.”

The French Polynesian study found that the actual risk of having a child with microcephaly is comparatively low—about 1 percent—among mothers in the first trimester. However, since the percentage of people who get infected by Zika can be very high—in French Polynesia, two-thirds of the people were infected—it can still be a significant public health hazard.

“Our findings support the need for a strong and prompt response to protect, inform, and monitor pregnant women and to provide strong research agendas to clarify the causal link between Zika virus and microcephaly and develop effective treatments and vaccines,” the authors wrote.

Zika virus has been found in the amniotic fluid of two pregnant women who had been infected with Zika, according to a Feb. 11, 2016 paper in the journal of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. 

A March 10, 2016, paper in the New England Journal of Medicine, said researchers had recovered Zika virus DNA from the brain of a microcephalic fetus. The mother was living in Brazil, and she reported Zika-like symptoms during that period.

A number of conspiracy theories have suggested microcephaly might be caused by genetically modified mosquitoes that were released to control Zika, or by a pesticide, pyriproxifen, released to control the mosquitoes, or that it was caused by vaccines. 

A study published March 8, 2016, by the New England Complex Systems Institute, downplayed either possibility.

The study said the argument for any other causes than Zika is weakened by the presence of increased microcephaly in French Polynesia, where genetically engineered mosquitoes, pyriroxifen and the implicated vaccine were not widely used.

© Jan TenBruggencate 2016