June 11, 2013

Sperm Bank Could Help Save Bees – The Daily Orbit

Scientists cashing in on a bee bank?

Crazy ants are driving us crazy!

How can we say bye-bye to rising carbon dioxide levels?

And predicting the face of humanity on the Daily Orbit!

Hello and welcome to the Daily Orbit. I’m Emerald Robinson.

Not long ago we talked about the massive die out of honeybees. Well, scientists have come up with a rather interesting solution—a sperm bank for bees. Using liquid nitrogen to preserve samples, scientists at Washington State University will begin to collect bee semen from colonies across the US and Europe. They will either freeze the samples, or use them to inseminate queens. Not only do they plan to bump up the numbers, but they also plan to use these samples to create a more diverse and resilient bee species. This “beastly” bee will be more resistant to the effects of a limited diet, as well as to deadly mites. The scientists plan to import three different subspecies of bees to the US to meet demands of beekeepers in different parts of the country. Well, I give this Plan B an “A” for ingenuity!

And here’s an insect scientists are NOT looking to breed and save—crazy ants. We’ve talked about them before, but they’re becoming more than just a nuisance; they’re causing millions of dollars worth of damage. These omnivorous little invaders are taking over the US’s southeast and pesticides don’t cause them to kick the bucket. They love and destroy electrical wiring and components, eat other species, and monopolize food resources putting everything from cattle to songbirds at risk. In one year alone, they’ve caused over $146 million worth of damage in Texas. They are completely eliminating the indigenous fire ant population, which is messing up the entire ecosystem. Interestingly, these ants don’t quickly travel on their own. They require a little human transportation to spread. So scientists are saying “humans be mindful when you travel” that you don’t have any unwanted passengers.

And it’s actually been a while since we’ve given the low-down on CO2, so here goes! Last year, worldwide emissions reached a record high of 31.6 billion tons even though the U.S. and Europe have record low numbers. China, on the other hand, had a 3.8% growth in emissions. Thanks China! Just kidding. The International Energy Agency warns that if we continue on this rising path, the global temperature could rise over 2 degrees C, which would create irreversible damage across the globe. The IEA is recommending energy efficiency improvement, cutting the use of coal-fired power plants, reducing the release of methane from oil and gas power plants, and gradually reducing fossil fuel subsidies to cut emissions by 2020.

And speaking of the “unwanted”, who wants inflammation? Not I and, well, researchers say vegetable oil doesn’t cause it. They say veggie oil which is high linoleic acid can be part of a heart healthy diet. Previous animal studies have shown it to promote inflammation. But, the new study argues that animals aren’t people and we respond differently. Researchers say that using soybean, canola, corn and sunflower oil instead of animal-based fats when cooking can be good for your heart. So no fatback and lard? They looked at 15 different trials to come to their conclusion that vegetable oil is not a cause of inflammation. So there you have it!

And looking even farther into the future—ever thought about what we humans might look like in 100,000 years? Hmm…well scientists have and here’s what they think. They say as genetic engineering becomes the ‘norm,’ we’ll have more control over what we look like. We’ll need an ever-expanding forehead to fit our growing brain. Our eyes will get bigger to accommodate for dimmer environments of off-world colonies, resembling the tarsier monkey. Our skin will have a deeper pigment to protect it from stronger UV rays. We’ll have larger nostrils for lower oxygen environments and a more pronounced brow for lower gravity. The scientists say it is just speculation based on reason. Hmm. Let’s speculate what I might look like.

And that’s your Daily Orbit. See you tomorrow!

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