JULY 7, 2018
In the last five years, Antarctica has lost ice
nearly three times faster on average than
it did over the previous 20 years — largely
due to climate change, Laurel Hamers
reported in “Antarctic melting is speeding
up” (SN: 7/7/18, p. 6).
“Isn’t there a volcano or multiple volca-
noes recently found under Antarctica
that might also be contributing to the
melting?” asked reader Leslie Hruby.
There are nearly 140 volcanoes
under West Antarctica alone that we
know about, Hamers says. The recent
analysis calculated the rate of ice loss
for the entire continent based on satel-
lite data. Scientists didn’t consider the
volcanoes’ potential contribution.
Whether under-ice volcanoes are
contributing to the ice retreat today is
unclear. However, the volcanoes could
affect future melting in a number of
ways, researchers from the University of
Edinburgh argued in a 2017 study pub-
lished in a Geological Society of London
special report. Among the possibilities:
Multiple eruptions could destabilize
the ice and speed up melting. Increased
melting could also trigger eruptions:
Thinning ice reduces pressure on
Earth’s mantle, promoting the potential
of eruptions, the team proposed.
Greenhouse gas emissions can differ
considerably between low-impact and high-impact producers of various types of food,
Susan Milius reported in “How your food
choices affect climate” (SN: 7/7/18, p. 10).
Although it’s important to consider food
production’s environmental impacts,
online reader Tony Cooley noted that
the researchers did not assess the societal implications of lowering agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.
Scientific research “is an important
component of addressing the climate
change issue, but is necessarily only
one part of the solution,” Cooley wrote.
“And ultimately, getting public ac-
ceptance of any such plan will involve
discussion of the other components,
including the costs of action and the
costs of inaction.”
Still, Cooley thought the research
was a good first step. “To make a mean-
ingful response to the climate crisis, as
a start it is important to nail down the
science and objective factual data so the
discussion is not limited to arm waving,
wishful thinking and uninformed emo-
tional appeals and manipulation.”
Livestock farming alone makes up
14. 5 percent of anthropogenic green-
house gas emissions worldwide, the
United Nations Food and Agriculture
Organization reported in 2013. That
tally includes livestock farming’s share
of fossil fuel emissions, Milius says.
Fusion’s dark side
During the proposed process of dark
fusion, dark matter particles could fuse together and give off energy, Emily Conover
reported in “Fusion may unite dark matter
particles” (SN: 7/7/18, p. 9).
“Could dark fusion be the source of dark
energy?” reader Andrew Benton asked.
No, says physicist Sam McDermott
of Fermilab in Batavia, Ill. The amount
of energy that would be released during dark fusion is not enough to account
for the vast amount of dark energy in
the universe. “Even if every single dark
matter particle undergoes fusion, which
seems unrealistic, we could only extract
approximately 0.03 percent of the
observed dark energy from dark matter
fusion,” he estimates.
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Pigs and birds remain prime suspects
for mixing up the next influenza
virus to cause a pandemic in people.
But dogs also carry flu viruses that
can recombine to make new strains,
making the animals worth keeping an
eye on, Tina Hesman Saey reported
in “Dogs harbor a variety of flu
viruses” (SN: 7/7/18, p. 8). “Welp, time
to become a cat person,” Reddit user