Local Researchers Find Holy Grail Of Ship Wrecks
In late 2015, the Colombian government announced they had found what could be the world’s most valuable shipwreck. The Spanish galleon ship San Jose sank off the Colombian coast in 1708 during a battle with British ships, and it is believed to hold billions of dollars worth of gold, silver, and emeralds.
An underwater vehicle built and operated by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution played a key role in the search, and now they’ve released new details.
“The Colombian government wanted to get their house in order,” said Rob Munier, vice president for Marine Facilities and Operations at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. “We’ve reached that moment where the Colombian government feels comfortable enough that the whole story can come out.”
At one point, there was a competing claim from a salvage company that said they found the wreck first. And the Colombian government needed to reach an agreement with the Spanish government about the fate of the wreck, since it was originally a Spanish ship.
But Munier says that is all just peripheral for him. He thinks the story is pretty straightforward: the institution used an autonomous underwater vehicle, known as REMUS, to first find the wreck and then take photos that were used to confirm its identity. Dozens of cannons and a dolphin design on the cabin were the key features that archaeologists and historians were looking for.
The same vehicle was used to find an Air France flight that went down off the coast of South America, and in the search for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight. Munier says they are happy to contribute to these important search operations, and the scientists and engineers who built REMUS benefit from the opportunities to develop and test new technologies.
Faith Leaders And Leading Scientists Issue Joint Call For Climate Action
Dozens of Massachusetts faith leaders are partnering with leading climate scientists on a joint call for politicians to take action on climate change.
Phil Duffy, president of Woods Hole Research Center, was key in developing this partnership. He acknowledges that science and faith communities come at the issue of climate change from different world views and may disagree on some points, but he says there is agreement on important fundamentals about the causes and consequences of climate change, and the need for action.
“Somewhat to my surprise, it’s been harder to get the scientists involved than the religious leaders,” Duffy said.
At a press conference announcing the initiative, Cardinal Archbishop Sean O’Malley of the Boston Archdiocese and the Reverend Mariama White-Hammond of Bethel AME Church referred to Pope Francis’ 2015 encyclical, Laudato Si, as inspiration and direction. That letter is, itself, a marriage of science and religion — the first such church document to cite scientific research reports — in which the Pope argues that climate action is an act of stewardship for God’s creation and of care for the poor and future generations.
White-Hammond echoed those themes, focusing on climate change's impact on Massachusetts’ most vulnerable communities.
“Those of us in power have a moral responsibility to our most vulnerable citizens,” she said. “We are using our power as religious and and scientific leaders to ask other leaders in politics, and business, and all other fields, to join us in action.”
It is not yet clear what, exactly, those actions will be. Members of the partnership are meeting this week to begin discussing such details. Duffy says he is hopeful that this initiative can help bridge some of the political divides that have stymied climate policy discussions and build a broader base for climate action.
Forecast Calls for Active Hurricane Season, but Not Like Last Year
Hurricane season officially begins on June 1, and forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are predicting average to above-average storm activity in the Atlantic Ocean.
“We’re expecting a lot of activity this year,” said Gerry Bell, lead hurricane season forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “At this time, it does not look that we will be as active as last year.”
Specifically, Bell says they expect between 10 and 16 named storms, five to nine of which will develop into hurricanes. Up to four of those are expected to reach Category 3 or higher.
And, while NOAA doesn’t forecast where potential future storms might end up, Bell says more storm activity raises the chances of a storm actually hitting land. At this point, he says, everyone should be getting prepared.
Opioid-Related Deaths Down, But Not in All Demographics.
A new report from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health shows that opioid-related deaths are down 5 percent compared to this time last year. And opioid prescriptions have also dropped here in the Commonwealth and nationwide. Still, the opioid epidemic is far from over, and the pace of research on effective pain management seems to be picking up.
Michael Botticelli is the director of the Grayken Center for Addiction Medicine at Boston Medical Center. Before that, he served as the director of national drug control policy at the White House under President Obama. Botticelli says that it's significant that there's been a drop in the number of deaths, especially after years of an increase in deaths.
It means that there's "an indication that some strategies are beginning to take hold," he said.
However, data also shows significant increases in deaths among African Americans. Botticelli says that's "considerable cause” for re-thinking current strategies to make sure they're reaching everyone.
"We know that this is a complex epidemic that's caused by a wide variety of factors," Botticelli said, adding that solutions will have to be in place for years before they have an impact.
One factor is the over-prescribing of opioids by physicians. Botticelli referenced a study that showed that services provided by drug companies can have an impact on how often a doctor prescribes an opioid.
"Even small payments can have an impact on opioid-prescribing behavior," he said.
Botticelli believes that sales representatives should stop providing services to doctors.
"No incentives should support the over-prescribing of opioids," he said. "Even a small meal is no good."
In addition to stopping the over-prescribing of drugs, Botticelli believes that another method can help the epidemic — alternate therapies. Botticelli says that things like acupuncture and physical therapy can ease pain as much as opioids, and in states like Massachusetts, they're often covered by health insurance.
The Hidden Connection Between The Korean War And The Decline Of Frogs Worldwide.
For years, the die-off of frogs and other amphibians around the globe was a mystery. Then, in 1998, scientists pointed a finger not at a chemical, as many had suspected, but at a fungus. In particular, a kind of fungus known as chytrid fungus. Now, 20 years later, researchers say they’ve traced that deadly fungus back to the Korean peninsula.
Mat Fisher is a professor in the school of public health at Imperial College London, and he’s the senior author on the new study published in the journal Science. He says that scientists have known for 20 years that this fungus is killing frogs, but this study highlights its origins.
Fisher says that it matters where the fungus came from because it’s unlikely that this will happen just once.
“There’s the possibility that it could happen again," he said. Once you establish where a “hot zone” is, you can think of new ways to prevent the emergence of diseases, he said.
The paper establishes that amphibians that are in the pet trade are impacted, but there are two are types of fungus: one from Korea, and another from Vietnam.
Fisher says the emergence of the killer fungus dates back to the early 20th century and had its peak in the 1950s. He believes it was moved passively by the 6 million service people who were traveling around the world during the Korean and Vietnam wars. It's conjecture, but, "this is the period that it did expand across the planet," Fisher said.