TIME weather

California Imposes First-Ever Mandatory Water Restrictions

Weeds grow in dry cracked earth that used to be the bottom of Lake McClure in La Grange, California on March 24, 2015.
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images Weeds grow in dry cracked earth that used to be the bottom of Lake McClure in La Grange, California on March 24, 2015.

The state is facing a historic drought

California’s governor issued unprecedented mandatory water restrictions for the entire state on Wednesday, in the face of a persistent drought that is growing dire.

Governor Jerry Brown directed the State Water Resources Control Board to cut the state’s water usage by 25% by enacting a series of water-reduction practices, which could translate to savings of about 1.5 million acre-feet of water over the next nine months. The plan would include replacing 50 million sq. ft. of lawns throughout the state with drought-tolerant landscaping, replacing appliances with energy-efficient models and enforcing restricted water use for places like golf courses and cemeteries. Additional measures will address agricultural water use and investment in water-saving technologies.

“Today we are standing on dry grass where there should be five feet of snow. This historic drought demands unprecedented action,” said Brown in a statement referring to the record-low snowpack in the Sierra Nevada. “Therefore, I’m issuing an executive order mandating substantial water reductions across our state. As Californians, we must pull together and save water in every way possible.”

The order also asks local water agencies to implement conservation pricing, which can encourage water reductions and discourage waste. Local water suppliers will be required to report water usage, conservation and enforcement actions every month.

A year ago, Governor Brown declared the drought a state of emergency. The drought has lasted four years so far.

TIME Environment

Indian Army to Climb Everest to Remove Thousands of Pounds of Trash

This picture taken on May 23, 2010 shows
Namgyal Sherpa—AFP/Getty Images This picture taken on May 23, 2010 shows a Nepalese sherpa collecting garbage, left by climbers, at an altitude of 8,000 meters during the Everest clean-up expedition at Mount Everest.

"Sadly, Mount Everest is now also called the world's highest junkyard"

Mountaineers from the Indian Army will scale Mount Everest later this month to clean up trash left behind by past climbers.

The 34 members of the climbing team plan to collect and carry down more than 8,800 lbs. (4,000 kg) of non-biodegradable garbage and equipment that has been dumped by thousands of people who have made the trip over the years, India Today reports.

“Sadly, Mount Everest is now also called the world’s highest junkyard,” said major Ranveer Singh Jamval, the leader of the climb.

“Our aim is to carry forward our prime minister’s dream of cleanliness everywhere,” Jamval added of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who has made a push to clear the country’s roads and public places of trash.

The trip falls on the 50th anniversary of the successful Everest climb by Indian Army mountaineers.

[India Today]

 

TIME animals

Some NYC Ants Like to Eat Junk Food, Study Finds

The study may indicate which ants could help humans clean up trash

Some of the ants crawling around New York City have developed a taste for junk food, according to a new study.

The study in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, which analyzed samples from more than 20 ant species in Manhattan, looked at levels of a type of carbon typically found in processed foods that humans eat.

Ants that lived on the sidewalk and other paved areas in the Big Apple tended to have carbon isotope levels more similar to humans, while ants that lived in parks had lower levels, the study found.

“Human foods clearly make up a significant portion of the diet in urban species,” said study author Clint Penick, a researcher at North Carolina State University, in a press release. “These are the ants eating our garbage, and this may explain why pavement ants are able to achieve such large populations in cities.”

The study may indicate which types of ants that could help humans clean up trash, Penick added.

TIME Research

Level Up! Gamers May Learn Visual Skills More Quickly

HaloFest for Xbox One
Matt Sayles—Invision/AP Xbox fans play games from the popular “Halo” franchise at HaloFest at the Avalon Theatre in Los Angeles on Monday, Nov. 10, 2014

Practice not only makes perfect, it may improve gamers' ability to learn

A small study from Brown University suggests video gamers, who are already known to have a better visual-processing skills, may also be able to improve on those attributes faster than the average person.

According to Brown University press, the study analyzed nine gamers and compared them with nine nongamers during a two-day trial. Researchers required participants to complete two visual tasks, one right after the other. The next day they repeated the exercises (in a random order) and compared how participants improved.

What they found is that the second task interfered with the ability of nongamers to improve on the first — while gamers improved equally well on both exercises.

“We sometimes see that an expert athlete can learn movements very quickly and accurately and a musician can play the piano at the very first sight of the notes very elegantly … maybe [gamers] can learn more efficiently and quickly as a result of training,” senior author Yuka Sasaki said.

The authors admit the findings require more study, conceding that there is no proof that video games caused the learning improvement, since people with quick visual-processing skills could be naturally drawn to gaming.

TIME climate change

White House Outlines Plans to Cut Carbon Emissions By Up to 28%

Coal plant
Getty Images

The plan is the first step toward achieving an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050

The White House reaffirmed a commitment to cut carbon emissions by up to 28% by 2025 in a Tuesday submission to the United Nations that promises new regulations on power plants, new fuel economy standards for some vehicles and rules to address methane emissions.

The plan, the first step toward achieving an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, calls for a dramatic increase in the rate at which the U.S. reduces carbon pollution, from 1.2% per year between 2005 and 2020 to between 2.3% and 2.8% between 2020 and 2025.

“This submission is ambitious and achievable,” said Brian Deese, a senior advisor to the President on climate change, on a conference call. “We know this is good for our economy, good for our health and good for our future.”

The plan, submitted to meet an informal United Nations target date, reaffirms a commitment made by the U.S. in November to cut its carbon emissions by more than a quarter by 2025. At the time, the U.S. and China—the world’s two largest emitters of carbon—made a bilateral commitment to take the lead on the issue, with China agreeing to stop growth in its carbon emissions by 2030.

The commitments of the U.S. and China, along with those of other countries that have submitted plans to the UN, are intended to make a statement that will encourage other countries ahead of a U.N. conference in December intended to produce a binding international agreement on climate change. Leadership aside, the plans already submitted promise to make a dramatic impact on global carbon emissions. Together the U.S., China, the European Union and Mexico, all of which have submitted plans, represent 58% of the world’s carbon emissions.

The U.S. plan, which relies on actions that don’t need Congressional approval, will likely face pushback from Republicans who have already sought to undermine the effort. U.S. officials said Tuesday that proposals are designed to remain in place for years beyond the Obama administration.

“The undoing of the kind of regulation that we’re putting in place is something that’s very tough to do,” said Todd Stern, special envoy for climate change at the State Department, on a conference call.

The plan drew immediate praise in environmental circles. Natural Resources Defense Council president Rhea Suh in a statement that she believes the plan can be “met” and “even exceeded.”

“This important commitment sends a powerful message to the world: Together we can slash dangerous carbon pollution and combat climate change,” she said.

TIME space travel

This Is How Ants React in Space

Catherine Ledner—Getty Images

With surprising agility, study finds

Ants aboard the International Space Station showed a surprising ability to regain their footing as they slipped and tumbled through zero gravity, according to a new study that released an ant colony in space just to see what would happen next.

The ants were ferried on a supply rocket to the International Space Station in 2014, where researchers observed how different species might adapt their search habits to a radically new environment.

“The ants showed an impressive ability to walk on the surface in microgravity, and an even more remarkable capacity to regain their contact with the surface once they were tumbling around in the air,” researchers wrote in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution.

Researchers say the results could offer deeper insights into how ants conduct searches of new terrain without centralized commands, an area of particular interest in robotics, and also an area of comedic interest first explored by a prescient episode of the Simpsons:

TIME animals

Science Has Found Out What Music Your Cat Should Be Chilling to While Being Neutered

156347182
Getty Images

Unsurprisingly, AC/DC is not it

During surgical operations, cats aren’t huge fans of adult contemporary ballads or fist-pumping rocks anthems. In fact, research has found that felines much prefer the lush sound of classical music when going under the knife.

In an experiment detailed this week in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, veterinary clinicians at the University of Lisbon studied how 12 female pet cats responded to different genres of music, while undergoing neutering.

To gauge the animals’ responses, the clinicians recorded their respiratory rates and pupil diameters, which are an indication of their depth of anesthesia.

During the experiment, the cats were fitted with headphones and then exposed to two minutes of silence — as a control — before listening to portions of Barber’s “Adagio for Strings (Opus 11),” Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” and AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck.”

“The results showed that the cats were in a more relaxed state (as determined by their lower values for respiratory rate and pupil diameter) under the influence of classical music, with the pop music producing intermediate values,” reports Science Daily.

And perhaps unsurprisingly, listening to AC/DC while being spayed induced “a more stressful situation.”

[Science Daily]

TIME Research

Can You Draw the Apple Logo From Memory?

In one study, only 1 out of 85 participants could

Corporate logos are designed to be not only recognizable but also memorable. So why is it that so few people are able to accurately reproduce logos when put to the test?

Researchers say it’s most likely because memories are recorded in broad strokes, while details are often forgotten, according to a new study published in the Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology.

Over the course of the study, 85 UCLA undergraduates were asked to reproduce an Apple logo from memory. Only one was able to draw the image correctly.

Here are some of the versions they came up with. Only one is correct — can you tell which one?

“There was a striking discrepancy between participants’ confidence prior to drawing the logo and how well they performed on the task,” said Alan Castel, a senior author of the study. “People’s memory, even for extremely common objects, is much poorer than they believe it to be.”

Try it for yourself.

[Science Daily]

TIME animals

Young Male Monkeys Prefer Spending Time With Daddy, Study Says

A rhesus macaque monkey grooms another on Cayo Santiago, known as Monkey Island off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico, Tuesday, July 29, 2008.
Brennan Linsley—AP A rhesus macaque monkey grooms another on Cayo Santiago, known as Monkey Island off the eastern coast of Puerto Rico, on July 29, 2008

Turns out quality father-son time is not just a human phenomenon

Male rhesus macaque monkeys prefer the company of their fathers, according to a new study, marking one of the first times gender partiality has been exhibited in primates before they leave the colony.

Rhesus macaques are generally found in Asia, but by studying a colony on the small Puerto Rican island of Cayo Santiago the team was able to identify individual moneys and document socialization patterns, according to the BBC, citing a report in the American Journal of Primatology.

Researchers discovered that infants and juveniles spent more time with their mothers, but as they developed into adulthood the role of the father (and his relatives) becomes increasingly important.

Scientists think this is because male monkeys eventually leave the colony, so young adults spend more time with their fathers to help them prepare for the challenges of a nomadic lifestyle.

While gender preference had been observed in primates before, the new study shows that parental bias begins before the males go off on their own — a departure from the previous idea that favoritism is the result of females forming strong bonds with their relatives by remaining in the group when the males leave.

[BBC]

TIME climate change

Antarctica May Have Just Set a Record for Its Hottest Day Ever

Antarctica
Getty Images Emperor penguins on an ice edge in Antarctica.

The continent appears to have hit 63.5 F for the first time thanks to global warming

You may want to consider balmy Antarctica for your next Spring Break. Weather bloggers at Weather Underground report that the continent likely hit a record-breaking high of 63.5 F (17.5 C) on Tuesday.

Antarctica has been heating up in recent years, thanks to global warming. The region’s temperature has risen an average of about 5 F (2.8 C) in the last half century, according to the British Antarctic Survey. Studies have also documented melting ice along Antarctica’s coasts.

Tuesday’s record is all the more impressive considering that it was set just one day after Antarctica had reached a new high of 63.3 F (17.4 C) on Monday. Prior to those two record-setting days, the hottest the continent had ever gotten was 62.8 F (17.1 C) on April 24, 1961.

But the record is not yet official. The reading was logged on the northern tip of the Antarctic Peninsula, which may not be considered part of the continent in weather record keeping. The World Meteorological Organization is expected to examine whether the area was indeed in Antarctica or whether it is technically located in Argentina.

Read Next: The Antarctic’s Floating Ice Shelves Are Melting At an Alarming Rate

[Weather Underground]

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