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Guys!

Last

month

was

crazy!

First, NASA sent its last message to the Mars Opportunity rover! THEN scientists said that all the insects are dying but not the human-looking ones in the GOP. As if THAT wasn't enough, some brave pendejos with grandes cojones are going to try and get seafloor creatures from under a giant ice shelf in the ANTARCTIC!

So, yeah, all three of those stories happened last month. Let's cover each in a science lightning round.


1. Opportunity Stops Knocking

Oppy in happier timesNASA

I'm going to start with the sad story so you can cry now and then recover by the end. Already silent since last summer, the little Mars rover that could wasn't expected to reply. The last message it sent was this:

All the feelsNASA, duh

The overall mission was a great success. Originally planned as a 90-day deal, Oppy landed on Mars in 2004 and then went on to work its little ass off for FOURTEEN YEARS! Didn't even ask for overtime. The main goals were to assess if the potential for life on Mars exists (not to find aliens, just to see if life COULD exist), learn about the climate and geology, and set some groundwork for possible crewed (didn't say "manned"!) missions. Opportunity, along with its little buddy Spirit, generated lots of valuable data on all four counts.

Little Oppy covered over 25 miles during its lifetime on Mars which is the off-world record previously held by the moon rover Lunokhod 2. In your FACE, Soviet Russia! In the end, it was a huge dust storm that caused either a major injury to Oppy or simply covered up its solar cells for too long and it died from lack of energy. The last message sent to Oppy by NASA was "I'll Be Seeing You" by Billie Holiday. Stop it! I'm not crying! YOU'RE crying!

2. All the Insects Are Dying Because They Are DONE With This Fucking Place

Free clip art, no credit!

If the last story was sad, then this one is downright depressing. You probably have already heard that scientists believe we are in the middle of the sixth mass extinction. Here's the pisser, the first five weren't our fault. Meteorites, ice ages and volcanoes were the murderers the first five. Guess what? Humanity is the cause this time. Yay us! From pesticide overuse to climate change, we're killing critters with multiple approaches and of course in the end we die too. God, I'm really a Debbie Downer this week!

So, the insects, specifically … Here's a link to the article -- it comes out next month, but was previewed in February. The authors review 73 historical reports and then extrapolate the data to predict some bad shit coming. Not only are species going extinct, but population numbers of those species that have stuck around are dropping, too. Over the next few decades, assuming these trends continue, we can expect 40% of all insect species to disappear. Next few decades, pendejos, not next few centuries. That's in our lifetime.

Some shocking specific examples from the meta-analysis:

  • In Germany, in several PROTECTED areas mind you, they've seen a 76 percent decline in flying insects over a 27-year study.
  • Over 36 years, ground dwelling bugs in the rainforests of Puerto Rico? Down 98 percent. The authors of THAT study found a linked decline in birds, frogs and lizards. It's like if Golden Corral closed nearly all of its stores and you started seeing MAGAs die of starvation!
  • Sweden used to have 269 species of butterflies. In 2004 they couldn't find ANY specimens of 159 of them.

So, "next few decades" means exactly what? Well, the paper comes up with a 2.5 percent annual loss of insects over the 25-30 years they looked at. If we don't do something to reverse this, in 50 years we'll have HALF the insects we have now and in 100 years they'll ALL be gone. This would be bad for humans and for agriculture, what with the old "pollination" thing -- it's what plants really crave.

3. Did You Guys Not Read The Terror Or Watch the Mini-Series?!

Larsen Ice ShelfBy A. J. Cook and D. G. Vaughan, CC BY 3.0

Do you know what an ice shelf is? Surprisingly, it's NOT a place that immigration agents use to display their favorite photos of caged children. Hmmm. What it actually is, is a giant fucking chunk of ice, but don't listen to me, here's the Wikipedia definition: An ice shelf is a thick suspended platform of ice that forms where a glacier or ice sheet flows down to a coastline and onto the ocean surface.

Now, the Larsen Ice Shelf is a crazy big one in Antarctica that's been breaking up since the mid-1990s. With some of the collapses, scientists have discovered some crazy weird life living at great depths in the Antarctic waters. Cool stuff, literally.

Sea demon that will swallow your soul in the dark, dark, loneliness of Antarctic waterNOAA, MBARI, WIKIMEDIA COMMONS (CC-BY-SA 3.0)

And now for what came out last month. An international team of scientists headed out on February 9 to the Larsen Ice Shelf in a FOURTH attempt to hunt weird sea creatures that are now accessible since a Delaware-sized chunk broke off in 2017. Three other expeditions have tried, but it's a pisser to navigate there -- and it was complicated by that giant iceberg that was still looming around. It has moved offshore now, and this fourth expedition has a newer, bigger boat that can handle more extreme weather. Still, there's still only a narrow window when you won't get stuck in sea ice or stranded and attacked by man-eating supernatural polar bears … oh, that's The Terror, again, right. Also, that was the Arctic. Anyone for freaky ghost mythopoetic penguins?

Anyway, super dangerous and old fashioned adventure science in a very harsh environment, so let's wish them well!

[NASA / ScienceDirect / Science News]

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Carlos Sagan

I am a biochemist MexiCAN. I also write screenplays, ever hoping to get one made.

email me at: carlossagan2018@gmail.com

follow me at: @RealCarlosSagan

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Good morning, America! Attorney General Bill Barr is doing a presser at 9:30 AM EDT about the Mueller report, which nobody will be able to see until around noon or after, once Congress gets the redacted report on CDs. Seeing as that is bullshit, there's no reason to watch this thing, as journalists won't be able to ask him questions about a document they haven't seen. So ... go back to bed, everyone!

Ugh, fine, we guess we will do this, and that is because we care, even though we are quite certain HGTV is doing some kind of very important "Property Brothers" marathon that adds much more of value to the national discourse, and also covers it up with shiplap accent walls. Does Bill Barr do cover-ups with shiplap? No, because he doesn't have the good taste for that.

Reportedly, we are going to hear from Barr why certain things were redacted, including why he thinks certain facts are subject to executive privilege, which is funny because he is not the president and therefore cannot invoke executive privilege. But oh whatever! Details! Robert Mueller won't be there and none of his team will be there, which tells you something about how they feel about this whole process. If they felt like this was on the up-and-up, you'd imagine they might show up to present a united front. As that is not happening, assume the entire thing is a bullshit act meant to help Donald Trump set the narrative for what will otherwise be a very bad day for him.

The New York Times reported last night that the White House has already been briefed on significant portions of the report, because Bill Barr is a rightwing scam artist piece of shit who gives the Trump White House reacharounds. The briefings have reportedly been very helpful for the White House in coming up with how to rebut today's report, which is funny because we thought Trump said this report was a full exoneration, NO COLLUSION, NO OBSTRUCTION. (Actually nope on both counts, since Mueller didn't decide the obstruction question, and even according to Barr's mash notes, he took a very limited view of the conspiracy question, focusing on the Russian government's hack and dump WikiLeaks operation.)

Anyway, assuming Trump is right about full exoneration, we guess Rudy Giuliani's rebuttal will state that Trump is guilty, full stop. Because that's what "rebuttal" means, correct?

Committee chairs in the House including Jerry Nadler, Adam Schiff and Maxine Waters have called upon Bill Barr to cancel today's briefing, as it is useless horseshit. Because Barr literally gives zero fucks about his reputation and apparently is OK with going down in history as a fecal stain on our institutions and the rule of law, the show will go on.

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Now What? Wonkagenda For Thurs., April 18, 2019

Bill Barr's book report, the NRA is doomed, and Johnny Cash will watch over the Capitol. Your morning news brief!

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Morning Wonketariat! Here's some of the things we may be talking about today.

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