May 5, 2014

Will drones ruin your next national park visit?     Photo: Getty Images/TeodoraDjordjevic

At Yosemite, Drones Give Rise to Moans

UAVs ruining park's natural beauty

Any docent or security guard can tell you that it's a tedious but necessary task to enforce a museum's no-photography policy. Those vigilant souls who guard rooms at the Uffizi or the Guggenheim have it easy, however, compared to park rangers at Yosemite National Park, who now have a very 21st century problem on their hands: the rise in visitor drone use.

As the Los Angeles Times reported on Friday, rangers are increasingly worried that drones are ruining Yosemite's natural beauty and soundscape. A statement from park officials claimed, "Drones have been witnessed filming climbers ascending climbing routes, filming views above treetops, and filming aerial footage of the park."

As personal drones have become (relatively) affordable for the average consumer, they have gained popularity for their ability to take pictures from places that were previously inaccessible. Unsurprisingly, national parks are sought after destinations for those eager to give flight to their unmanned devices.

Although officials at Yosemite have iterated that the park strictly forbids visitors from using drones, Greg McNeal at Forbes has argued that there is nothing in NPS regulations that prohibits guests from using drones.

That is likely to change as more and more people send tiny their aircraft into the skies.

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You won't be lighting this up any time soon.     Photo: Manuel Garcia/Flickr/Creative Commons

Powerade Is No Longer Flame Resistant

Ingredient "BVO" a concern

If you're a regular reader of Outside, chances are you ditched sugary "sports" drinks like Powerade a long time ago. But if you just haven't been able to resist, there's good news. Coca-Cola has announced that it will remove the ingredient BVO, a patented flame retardant, from its entire line of Powerade beverages. The announcement comes more than a year after rival Pepsico said it would do the same for its line of Gatorade drinks.

BVO, or brominated vegetable oil, is used to bind the oil to the other beverage ingredients and prevent them from separating. However, bromine is a halogen and can, over time, displace iodine in the body and interfere with thyroid function. It is not approved for use in Japan or Europe.

The pressure on Coca-Cola began with a Change.org petition by Mississippi teenager Sarah Kavanagh. "Consumers are coming together quickly and efficiently to influence the world's biggest beverage companies in an unprecedented manner," said Pulin Modi, senior campaign manager for Change.org. Although BVO remains approved by the FDA and a part of numerous food and drink products, Kavanagh said she questioned its use specifically in drinks marketed as health conscious and designed for athletes. Her original petition against Gatorade garnered more than 200,000 supporters, while her most recent needed only 60,000 before Coca-Cola saw the writing on the wall.

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New Caledonia calls theirs a "blue economy" for a reason.     Photo: Christophe Robert Hervouet/Flickr

New Protected Area Is World's Largest

Marine park 3x size of Germany

New Caledonia is a small island in the Pacific Ocean with a population that's a tiny fraction of New York City's, but the country just created the world's largest natural protected area.

Le Parc Naturel de la Mer de Corail (the Natural Park of the Coral Sea) was officially created last week. No surprise that New Caledonia wants to protect such a huge swath of ocean, as it's home to the second-longest double-barrier coral reef in the world. The entire marine park is 1.3 million square kilometers in size—that's three times the size of Germany. 

It's already home to 4,500 square kilometers of coral reef and a variety of animals such as nesting birds, sharks, and marine turtles. Some human use will still be allowed in the area. Jean-Christophe Lefeuvre, Conservation International's program director for New Caledonia, said on CI's blog that the park will be divided into different zones depending on what kind of activities will be allowed there. That could include fishing or tourism, two crucial parts of the island's economy that Lefeuvre hopes will remain sustainable under the park's management.

Although this proactive move is great news to environmental organizations, Jean-Louis d'Auzon, the president of the Association for the Protection of Nature in New Caledonia, warned Radio New Zealand that full protection is not yet guaranteed. Especially concerning is the threat posed by nickel mining, which currently is one of the island's main economic activities. "It could be possible in this reserve to have mining and [other] exploitation," he said. "If it is a reserve, it must be protected."

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A team of shrimpers dredged up the second goblin shark ever seen in the Gulf of Mexico—perhaps also, after seeing that face, the contents of their stomachs.     Photo: TomoNews US/YouTube

Reel Big Fish

Rare goblin shark found in Gulf

It doesn't take a master shrimper to pick out which of his red-bodied catches is not like the others. However, Georgia trawler Carl Moore's first appraisal of a rare goblin shark proved a keener eye than most.

Midway through an April fishing trip off Key West, Moore's team muscled the second goblin shark ever seen in the Gulf of Mexico onto his boat—floundering but alive. Moore remarked that the deep-sea shark, allegedly 15 feet long and named for a mythical Japanese demon, looked "prehistoric." And in a way, he was right. 

First documented in 1898 off the coast of Japan, the goblin shark is the only living member of the family Mitsukurinidae, which dates back 125 million years. Scientists know how long goblin sharks live, how quickly they grow, and how they use electric fields to detect prey, but better understanding deep-sea fauna (in this case, between 900 and 4,500 feet below sea level) has been a task.

Though rarely seen by humans, and mostly near Japan, goblin sharks fall under the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species' Least Concern list, as their population is expected to be quite large.

Thanks to some quick photography work from Moore, however, shark expert John Carlson and colleagues are pooling new knowledge into a paper about these elusive creatures. Moore, who's been shrimping in the Gulf for half a century, only recently started photographing his finds; he wants to show his three-year-old grandson what goes into the shrimping process.

Apart from the photo and first-person accounts, Moore doesn't have proof of the catch of his career—it's his practice to throw back anything still breathing.

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    Photo: Getty Images

Young Blood Reverses Aging in Mice

Certain protein key to youth

New research shows that injecting elderly mice with blood from younger mice rejuvenates their brains and muscles and reverses some signs of aging. The older mice, once sluggish, were found to navigate mazes faster and run longer on treadmills once the younger blood containing the protein GDF11 was added to their bodies.

Scientists first made these findings by conjoining two mice—one young, one old—and studying the changes in muscle tissue and neuron production for four weeks following. Later, when old mice were injected with GDF11, they easily outperformed their control group. The Washington Post reports:

"The studies started with a Frankenstein-like setup called parabiosis. Small flaps of skin from the sides of two genetically identical mice are cut and sewn together. As the wounds heal, their tissue begins to fuse. The mice, now conjoined, share a single blood supply. Pairing old and young mice, or heterochronic parabiosis, has become an unexpectedly insightful tool for age research."

But will this translate well to humans? Could a simple blood transfusion be the fountain of youth for aging people?

Scientists predict that they will need years of additional research before attempting any human experiments. Though humans get blood transfusions all the time, donors are anonymous, so there has been no tracking of effects of donor age.

Let's hope no humans will consider conjoining with younger people anytime soon.

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Cyclists inside the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York for the fifth annual Blessing of the Bicycles.     Photo: Associated Press/Tina Fineberg

Bikes Blessed at NYC Ride

City tour "prays for safety, fun"

On Saturday, at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, dozens of cyclists gathered for the 16th annual Blessing of the Bikes ahead of the Five Boro Bike Tour. The tour, which is essentially a traffic-free bike marathon around the city, took place yesterday.

Cyclists brought bikes of all shapes and sizes, and Rev. Canon Julia Whitworth led the procession with an excerpt from the Old Testament's Book of Ezekiel that talks about wheels. "To pray—for those of us who are people of prayer—pray for safety and joy and fun and appreciation for being in God's creation," she said during the service.

Riders didn't only pray for safety during the bike tour; they also prayed for cyclists who have been killed riding NYC's often dangerous streets. "I don't know if the blessings are helping, but they might," cyclist Debbie Friedman told NPR, noting that she has attended the service multiple times and has never been hit by a car.

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Maybe hold the salt this year.     Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto/igorr1

Sober Up for Cinco de Mayo

Alcohol and salt are health risk

The first study to look at the effects of reducing global risk factors for noncommunicable diseases—cardiovascular, chronic respiratory, cancer, and diabetes—was published in the Lancet this weekend.

The research determined that if we can reduce six risk factors (tobacco and alcohol use, salt intake, obesity, and high blood pressure and glucose levels) over the next 15 years, we could stall 37 million premature deaths around the world. The study aligns with the UN's 25x'25 initiative to reduce premature deaths from noncommunicable diseases by 25 percent between 2010 and 2025.

So what happens if we don't reach that goal? The world is at risk of seeing 38.8 million deaths from these diseases in 2025 (relative to 28.3 million in 2010).

On top of a global lime shortage, this proposed alcohol and salt cutback is more bad news for all of our friends celebrating Cinco de Mayo hoy.

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