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Horses can learn from rodeo experience and grow calmer, says U of C study –



Rodeo fans love the thrill of a bronc exploding into the ring, cowboy temporarily aboard. How the horse feels about it hasn’t been so clear.

Newly published research out of the University of Calgary looks at three years of roughstock events from that city’s Stampede in an attempt to peer inside the mind of an animal about to let ‘er buck.

“I try to understand the animal’s perspective,” said Ed Pajor, a professor of veterinary medicine.

“We asked the question whether or not horses find participating in the rodeo to be an adversive experience or not.”

Pajor and his co-authors — Christy Goldhawk from the University of Calgary and well-known animal behaviourist Temple Grandin — studied 116 horses in bareback, novice bareback, saddle bronc and novice saddle bronc events. They looked at animals about to be loaded into a trailer and taken to the ring. They also observed how the horses behaved while in the chute waiting to be unleashed.

Horses have all kinds of ways of showing they’re unhappy, Pajor said. They might move back and forth, chew their lips, swish their tail, defecate, roll their eyes, paw the ground, toss their head, or rear up in protest.

The researchers found that the more people were around them, the more likely the horses were to show unease. That’s probably because they spend most of their time in fields and pastures and aren’t used to the bustle, Pajor said.

Experience matters

The other factor that affected behaviour was experience. If it wasn’t their first rodeo, the horses were much less likely to act up.

“We didn’t see a lot of attempts to escape. We didn’t see a lot of fear-related behaviours at all,” Pajor said. “The animals were pretty calm.

“The animals that had little experience were much more reactive than the animals that had lots of experience.”

There could be different reasons for that, he suggested.

Researcher says horses have all kinds of ways of showing they’re unhappy. (Jeff McIntosh/The Canadian Press)

“We don’t know if that’s because they’re used to the situation or whether that’s because of learned helplessness — they realize there’s nothing they can do and just give up.”

Pajor suspects the former.

“When the cowboys came near the horses, they would certainly react and you wouldn’t really see that if it was learned helplessness.”

The researchers also noted that the horses’ bucking performance, as revealed in the score from the rodeo judges, didn’t seem to be reduced by repeated appearances as it might be if the animals had become apathetic.

That doesn’t necessarily mean the horses are having a good time, said Pajor, who’s also on the Stampede’s animal welfare advisory board. There are a couple of ways of interpreting active behaviour in the chute, he said.

“An animal might be getting excited to perform. Or an animal might be having a fear response.”

“Understanding if animals like to do something is a tricky thing to do.”

Pajor knows there are different camps when it comes to rodeos and animals.

“People have very strong opinions on the use of animals for all kinds of reasons. I think no matter what we’re going to use animals for, we really need to make sure that we treat them humanely.

“My job is to do the research to understand the animals’ perspective.”

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Russian module knocks International Space Station out of position – Euronews



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.


In-depth reporting on the innovation economy from The Logic, brought to you in partnership with the Financial Post.


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Elon Musk's SpaceX saved NASA $500 million – Quartz



The rocket billionaire discourse, heady as it is, can distract from the facts. Here’s one: NASA saved at least $548 million, and perhaps more, thanks to just one contract with Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Last week, the US space agency tapped the company’s Falcon Heavy rocket to launch a space probe to one of Jupiter’s moons, Europa, in 2024. The much-awaited Europa Clipper mission will fly by and assess the evidence of water—and extra-terrestrial life—on the astronomical body. The mission was driven through Congress thanks in large part to the support of one former representative, John Culberson, a Texas Republican who navigated it through the sea of veto points and competing priorities that often stands between scientific hopes and their realization.

One way the mission avoided political pitfalls was a linkage with Boeing’s Space Launch System (SLS) rocket, a huge space vehicle designed to return humans to the moon or Mars. The rocket had just one problem: It was hastily assembled from the remains of a canceled NASA program, and there were no concrete plans for it. A decade ago, the folks behind each project joined forces to justify one another’s work. “Once built, SLS would be a rocket with nowhere to fly,” David W. Brown writes in The Mission, his account of the project. “Europa was a somewhere.”

The delayed SLS has yet to fly. Its first mission is expected around the end of this year. But since the SLS became central to the Trump administration’s Artemis program to return to the moon, NASA auditors have pointed out, in addition to the massive cost, that there would not be enough SLS rockets for both the moon and Europa missions.

In 2019, NASA’s inspector general sounded out the possibilities (pdf), and wasn’t bullish on any of them, particularly on price: Even accounting for the fact that the SLS could get the probe to Jupiter faster (saving money spent on the program back home), the system would cost about $726 million. Two other rockets available for purchase, the United Launch Alliance’s Delta IV and the Falcon Heavy, were forecast to cost $450 million each.

The Europa Clipper wound up with a cheaper ride

The deal NASA eventually made with SpaceX for the Falcon Heavy, however, will cost just $178 million. The drop in cost is directly traceable to SpaceX’s approach to designing reusable rockets, and to the partnership NASA struck with Musk’s space firm in its early days.

Think about that: In just two years, the price of launching a space probe fell by 75%; it’s less than the cost of the rocket that launched the latest Mars rover last year. This will enable NASA to direct more resources to other science programs (as well as getting the SLS off the ground).

“Having that launch capability at that price point just saves so much, particularly for the science part of NASA that just does not have the mega-budgets that human spaceflight does,” says Casey Dreier, a space policy analyst at the Planetary Society. “To see other future missions by NASA able to leverage the lift capability of the Heavy at that price point opens up a significant amount of space access.”

The Falcon Heavy, which didn’t even exist when the Europa mission was being planned, has only flown three times. But it will launch at least five more times, including for a NASA mission to an asteroid called Psyche, before the Europa mission is expected to get underway in late 2024.

This is a transformative period for the maturing space industry, as billionaire funders and new business models increase the capacity of private actors. The egos involved may take up a lot of oxygen, but the goals of the commercial space business are not mutually exclusive with NASA’s scientific pursuits; quite the opposite, in fact: They’re enabling more science than before.

A version of this story originally appeared in Quartz’s Space Business newsletter.

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