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Quake hits Iran
per-capita GDP and intensity of land use. The countries with the most recent extinctions were the ones that put the most pressure on their ecosystems in 1900; pressures applied in 2000 had little bearing. This suggests that today’s extinctions are likely the result of damage we did in the early 20th century (PNAS, doi.org/k8c). This “extinction debt” could mean that many endangered species are already doomed. The one hope, says Oliver Wearn of Imperial College London, is that predicting likely extinctions could focus “conservation efforts in areas with the greatest debt”.
37 people. The two quakes occurred on the same tectonic plate but were 1000 kilometres apart, says seismologist Jana Pursley of the US Geological Survey. “I wouldn’t call them related right now,” she says.
SOUTH-EAST Iran was rocked by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on Tuesday, with tremors felt as far away as New Delhi, India. The focus of the quake, which hit at 15:14 local time, was “Tuesday’s earthquake 82 kilometres underground in comes a week after a Sistan and Baluchestan Province, magnitude 6.3 quake a particularly poor and desolate part of Iran. As New Scientist went struck south-west Iran” to press it was unclear how many The earlier quake occurred had been killed or injured. close to Iran’s only nuclear power The quake comes a week after station, but Tehran reported that a magnitude 6.3 quake struck the plant was undamaged and no Bushehr Province in the southradioactive material escaped. west of Iran, killing at least
Antarctic ice melt grows tenfold
Make it fast
IT’S a triumph for malaria ICE melt in parts of Antarctica is at its highest level this millennium, with ice treatment, but bad news for melting 10 times faster each summer farmers. A synthetic version of than it did 600 years ago. What’s the world’s most effective more, most of that increase has antimalarial drug, artemisinin, occurred since the mid-20th century. can now be made in just three Satellite images show Antarctic ice weeks rather than 18 months. is melting, but scientists weren’t sure The advance could help to stem how unusual this was. To find out, the rise of drug-resistant malaria. Nerilie Abram, of the Australian Amyris, a California-based National University in Canberra, and biotech company, has developed colleagues examined a 364-metrea way to get yeast to pump out long ice core spanning 1000 years. artemisinic acid, the precursor The core came from the tip of the to artemisinin, rather than west Antarctic Peninsula, an area extracting it from the sweet that is warming rapidly. It revealed wormwood plant (Nature, doi. layers where snow had thawed and org/k72). Drug firm Sanofi then then refrozen with the seasons, turns the acid into a drug. showing that the coldest period and Despite artemisinin’s success, lowest ice melt in the past millennium the malaria parasite is developing resistance to it. One way to delay resistance is by offering artemisinins combined with other drugs. However, the World Health Organization says 25 countries still allow artemisinin to be sold on its own, with 28 companies manufacturing it. Jay Keasling, co-founder of Amyris says he hopes that the synthetic approach will lower prices, nudging out competitors selling monotherapy artemisinin. Farmers who sell sweet wormwood to manufacturers will be encouraged to switch to food –Getting to the core of the matter– crops, he says.
was 600 years ago. At that time, just 0.5 per cent of snowfall melted and refroze each year. By the start of the 20th century, that figure had doubled and by the end of the century it had increased tenfold (Nature Geoscience, doi.org/k8d). “It’s an example of a system where there’s a potential for rapid changes once you get to a threshold,” says Abram. Each extra degree of warming is causing more ice to melt than in the past. Putting recent trends in a historical context such as this is important to avoid over-interpreting short-term changes, says Matt King from the University of Tasmania. Surface melt is thought to cause sea levels to rise by precipitating the collapse of ice shelves.
Cash-savvy NASA NASA has commissioned inflatable space habitat maker Bigelow Aerospace of Las Vegas, Nevada, to investigate how commercial space companies could help it save cash on moon and Mars missions. One aim, says a Bigelow spokesman, is to find out if NASA could benefit from sharing a moon base built by a lunar mining firm like Moon Express.
Bird flu on the march The H7N9 avian flu virus has spread, with Beijing reporting its first two cases and another discovered in China’s central Henan province. Until now the virus has been restricted to Shanghai and neighbouring regions. There is still no evidence that the virus is spreading between humans.
Fastest. Internet. Ever. Take that, Google. Sony-backed internet service provider So-net Entertainment has launched a 2 gigabits per second net connection in Tokyo, Japan. It is the fastest in the world available to home users and twice the speed of Google’s new Fiber network. Via So-Net, it takes just 3 minutes to download an entire Blu-ray film – though most consumer devices can’t yet realise its potential.
Save the children Nearly all child deaths caused by diarrhoea and pneumonia could be prevented within 20 years by funding 15 interventions, including better sanitation and breastfeeding programmes. This could save 2 million lives annually, and cost just a quarter of the 2012 Olympics budget each year, concludes a series of reviews in The Lancet this week.
Fins to limbs A small step for fish, one giant leap for mankind. By sequencing the genome of the African coelacanth, a living member of an ancient group of fish, researchers have identified key genetic changes that may have allowed our fish ancestors to start walking on land.
20 April 2013 | NewScientist | 5