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Colder Climates Meant Bigger Bodies For Ancient Humans – KCCU

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Big bodies are good for cold places.

That’s the gist of a foundational rule in ecology, which has been around since the mid-1800s: animals that live in colder places tend to have larger bodies, especially birds and mammals that need to regulate their body temperatures. For example, some of the largest whale and bear species have evolved in the coldest reaches of the planet.

The rule applies broadly to modern humans, too. Populations that evolved in colder places generally have bigger bodies.

That’s also true of human ancestors, a new study finds. The research offers conclusive evidence that human body size and climate are historically connected.

In general, our ancient relatives got much larger as they evolved. “Over the last million years, you see that body size changes by about 50 percent and brain size actually triples, which is a lot,” explains Andrea Manica, an evolutionary ecologist at the University of Cambridge. “And there have been all sorts of theories about what might have underpinned those two big changes in size.”

Manica and a team of paleontologists and climate scientists in Germany and the United Kingdom set out to test one of those theories: that the local climate was driving brain and body growth. They examined about 300 fossils of human ancestors collected in Europe, Asia and Africa, and used the same basic climate data that scientists use to predict future climate change to estimate instead temperature and precipitation over the last million years.

“We reconstructed climate back in time, so we could say what the climate was when that specimen was alive,” Manica says.

The researchers found that human ancestors and Neanderthals living in colder places generally had larger bodies. Past studies suggested this might be true, but didn’t assemble such broad evidence. For one thing, past research often relied on rough, global estimates of the past climate, whereas the new study estimates what each human ancestor would have experienced in their region.

The new findings are “reasonably convincing,” says Mark Collard, who studies human evolution at Simon Fraser University in Canada and was not involved in the study. However, he suspects that the new analysis may overstate the relationship between temperature and body size because of uncertainties in both the fossil record and the climate data.

The authors of the new study also found that the rapid increase in human brain size over the last million years was not strongly correlated with climate. “For brains, you need other explanations,” says Manica, perhaps such as diet or social structures.

For decades, scientists who study human evolution have posited that what our ancestors ate — whether it was cooked or raw, included meat or only vegetables — influenced how our brains evolved. It’s also possible that more complex social structures and group communication are linked to brain growth in human ancestors.

“I suspect that social factors such as group size are more likely to influence brain size,” Collard says.

Modern humans need not worry that the new findings about body size and climate will show up in our daily lives.

The Earth is getting steadily hotter due to human-caused climate change. But human body size will not shrink as a result, at least not in the near future.

That’s because it takes many, many generations for humans to evolve. The average human generation is about 30 years, so it would take hundreds or even thousands of years of sustained warming before human body size changed in reaction to global warming. And, even then, the changes would be very slight — about 1 kilogram per 2 degrees of warming, Manica says.

“We’re not going to shrink tomorrow,” he says. “That’s the good news. But climate change is problematic for many other reasons.”

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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'There is contact!': Russia's new Nauka space module docks with ISS – Ottawa Sun

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MOSCOW — Russia upgraded its capabilities on the International Space Station on Thursday after its new Nauka module, set to serve as a research lab, storage unit and airlock, successfully docked with it after a nervy journey from Earth.

A live broadcast from Russia’s space agency, Roscosmos, showed the module, a multipurpose laboratory named after the Russian word for ‘science’, docking with the ISS at 1329 GMT, a few minutes later than scheduled.

“According to telemetry data and reports from the ISS crew, the onboard systems of the station and the Nauka module are operating normally,” Roscosmos said in a statement.

“There is contact!!!” Dmitry Rogozin, the head of Roscosmos, wrote on Twitter moments after the docking.

Since it launch last week from Kazakhstan’s Baikonur Cosmodrome, the module had suffered a series of glitches that had raised concerns about whether the docking procedure would go smoothly.

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Thursday’s development suggests Russia is interested in maintaining the ISS despite previous comments from Rogozin who last month suggested Moscow would withdraw from it in 2025 unless Washington lifted sanctions on the space sector that he said were hampering Russian satellite launches.

Launched in 1998, the ISS is a multinational project and comprises two segments, a Russian one and another one used by the United States and other space agencies.

“After its commissioning, the Russian segment will receive additional room for arranging workplaces, storing cargo and housing water and oxygen regeneration equipment,” Roscosmos said its statement.

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Russian module knocks International Space Station out of position – Euronews

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A Russian module knocked the International Space Station out of position briefly on Thursday, after it accidentally fired its thrusters.

For 47 minutes, the space station lost control of its orientation when the firing occurred a few hours after docking, pushing the orbiting complex from its normal configuration.

The station’s position is key for getting power from solar panels and or communications. Communications with ground controllers also blipped out twice for a few minutes.

Flight controllers regained control using thrusters on other Russian components at the station to right the ship, and it is now stable and safe, NASA said.

“We haven’t noticed any damage,” space station program manager Joel Montalbano said in a late afternoon press conference.

“There was no immediate danger at any time to the crew.”

Montalbano said the crew didn’t really feel any movement or any shaking. NASA said the station moved 45 degrees out of attitude, about one-eighth of a complete circle.

The complex was never spinning, NASA spokesman Bob Jacobs said.

NASA’s human spaceflight chief Kathy Lueders called it “a pretty exciting hour.”

The incident caused NASA to postpone a repeat test flight for Boeing’s crew capsule that had been set for Friday afternoon from Florida.

It will be Boeing’s second attempt to reach the 250-mile-high station before putting astronauts on board; software problems botched the first test.

Russia’s long-delayed 22-ton (20-metric-ton) lab called Nauka arrived earlier on Thursday, eight days after it launched from the Russian launch facility in Baikonur, Kazakhstan.

The launch of Nauka, which will provide more room for scientific experiments and space for the crew, had been repeatedly delayed because of technical problems. It was initially scheduled to go up in 2007.

In 2013, experts found contamination in its fuel system, resulting in a long and costly replacement. Other Nauka systems also underwent modernization or repairs.

Stretching 43 feet (13 meters) long, Nauka became the first new compartment for the Russian segment of the outpost since 2010.

On Monday, one of the older Russian units, the Pirs spacewalking compartment, undocked from the station to free up room for the new lab.

Nauka will require many maneuvers, including up to 11 spacewalks beginning in early September, to prepare it for operation.

The space station is currently operated by NASA astronauts Mark Vande Hei, Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur; Oleg Novitsky and Pyotr Dubrov of Russia’s Roscosmos space corporation; Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and European Space Agency astronaut Thomas Pesquet.

In 1998, Russia launched the station’s first compartment, Zarya, which was followed in 2000 by another big piece, Zvezda, and three smaller modules in the following years. The last of them, Rassvet, arrived at the station in 2010.

Russian space officials downplayed the incident with Dmitry Rogozin, head of Roscosmos, tweeting: “All in order at the ISS. The crew is resting, which is what I advise you to do as well.”

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Warming Planet Means 83 Million Face Death From Heat This Century – Financial Post

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(Bloomberg) — A population equivalent to that of Germany — 83 million people — could be killed this century because of rising temperatures caused by greenhouse-gas emissions, according to a new study that might influence how markets price carbon pollution.

The research from Columbia University’s Earth Institute introduces a new metric to help companies and governments assess damages wrought by climate change. Accounting for the “mortality cost of carbon” could give polluters new reasons to clean up by dramatically raising the cost of emissions.

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“Based on the decisions made by individuals, businesses or governments, this tells you how many lives will be lost or saved,” said Columbia’s Daniel Bressler, whose research was published Thursday in the journal Nature Communications. “It quantifies the mortality impact of those decisions” by reducing questions down “to a more personal, understandable level.”

Read more: How Biden Is Putting a Number on Carbon’s True Cost: QuickTake 

Adapting models developed by Yale climate economist and Nobel Prize winner William Nordhaus, Bressler calculated the number of direct heat deaths that will be caused by current global-warming trajectories. His calculations don’t include the number of people who might die from rising seas, superstorms, crop failures or changing disease patterns affected by atmospheric warming. That means that the estimated deaths — which approximates the number of people killed in World War 2 — could still be a “vast underestimate,” Bressler said.

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Every 4,434 tons of carbon spewed in 2020 into the Earth’s atmosphere will kill one person this century, according to the peer-reviewed calculations that see the planet warming 4.1 degrees Celsius by 2100. So far the planet has warmed about 1.1 degrees Celsius, compared to pre-industrial times. 

The volume of pollution emitted over the lifetime of three average U.S. residents is estimated to contribute to the death of another person. Bressler said the highest mortality rates can be expected in Earth’s hottest and poorest regions in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia.

Read more: Life and Death in Our Hot Future Will be Shaped by Today’s Income Inequality

The new metric could significantly affect how economies calculate the so-called social cost of carbon, which U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration set at $51 a ton in February. That price on pollution, which complements carbon markets like the European Union’s Emissions Trading System, helps governments set policy by accounting for future damages. But the scale revealed by Bressler’s research suggests the social cost of carbon should be significantly higher, at about $258 a ton, if the world’s economies want to reduce deaths caused by global warming.

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A higher cost on carbon pollution could immediately induce larger emission cuts, which in turn could save lives. Capping global average temperature increase to 2.4 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, compared with modest emissions reductions that would warm the planet 3.4 degrees Celsius, could save 74 million people from dying of heat.

“People shouldn’t take their per-person mortality emissions too personally,” said Bressler. Governments need to mobilize “large-scale policies such as carbon pricing, cap and trade and investments in low carbon technologies and energy storage.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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