The Global Fool

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Paradoxical Thinking May Lead to Conflict Resolution
Aug04

Paradoxical Thinking May Lead to Conflict Resolution

By Roberta Attanasio Agreeing with people might be the best way for leading them to reconsider their beliefs. A team of scientists from Israel has recently shown that such a strategy may promote long-term conflict resolution — the study included 161 Jewish-Israeli participants, was based on the conflict between Israeli Jews and Palestinians, and was carried out in collaboration with The Fund for Reconciliation, Tolerance, and Peace (an American nongovernment organization). According to the scientists, the Fund “felt that the Israeli–Palestinian peace process was at a dead-end, that both societies were dominated by deep despair, and that there was a need for a new psychological intervention to change the reality”. Thus, the Fund asked the team of scientists to develop an innovative strategy to mobilize public opinion for peace. The strategy used by the researchers is called “paradoxical thinking” — individuals receive information that is consistent with their current beliefs but presented in a way that makes the beliefs appear extreme or irrational. A paradox is something (such as a situation) that is made up of two opposite things and that seems impossible but is actually true or possible. For an almost complete list of paradoxes, you can head here. One of the most known paradoxes is the Catch-22 — a situation in which someone is in need of something that can only be had by not being in need of it. Another one is the Barber Paradox —  a barber (who is a man) shaves all and only those men who do not shave themselves. Does he shave himself? Tony Fang, in his book Chinese Business Negotiating Style, provides an excellent example of a paradox: Western negotiators often complain about Chinese negotiators being very deceptive and very sincere at the same time.  An interesting study published a few years ago shows that the adoption of paradoxical frames — mental templates that encourage individuals to recognize and embrace contradictions — increases creativity. Paradoxical intervention can help people overcome problems using similar templates. Let’s see how paradoxical intervention was used in the study based on the conflict between Israeli Jews and Palestinians (Paradoxical thinking as a new avenue of intervention to promote peace, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on July 29, 2014). The scientists constructed video clips resembling commercials used in political campaigns. According to the scientists, “These clips emphasized how Israeli Jews — who traditionally perceive themselves as striving for peace and viewing the conflict as necessary, despite its negative consequences — construe their identity primarily on their experiences of the conflict.” Each video focused on one core Israeli identity theme — including justice, morality, and unity. The videos ended by arguing that Jewish Israelis cannot afford to terminate the...

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Nuisance Flooding: Climate Change and Increasing Sea Levels on U.S. Coasts
Jul29

Nuisance Flooding: Climate Change and Increasing Sea Levels on U.S. Coasts

By Roberta Attanasio According to a new report released yesterday (July 28, 2014) by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), nuisance flooding — which causes public inconveniences such as frequent road closures, overwhelmed storm drains and compromised infrastructure — is a growing problem along the U.S. coasts. Indeed, nuisance flooding has increased between 300 and 925 percent since the 1960s.   The report (Sea level rise and nuisance flood frequency changes around the United States) points out that eight of the top ten U.S. cities that have seen the increase in nuisance flooding, which is caused by rising sea levels, are on the East Coast, one is in Texas and the other in California.  Annapolis and Baltimore, Maryland, lead the list with an increase in number of flood days of more than 920 percent since 1960. Port Isabel, Texas, along the Gulf coast, showed an increase of 547 percent, and nuisance flood days in San Francisco, California increased 364 percent. “As relative sea level increases, it no longer takes a strong storm or a hurricane to cause flooding,” said William Sweet, Ph.D., oceanographer at NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (CO-OPS) and the report’s lead author. “Flooding now occurs with high tides in many locations due to climate-related sea level rise, land subsidence and the loss of natural barriers. The effects of rising sea levels along most of the continental U.S. coastline are only going to become more noticeable and much more severe in the coming decades, probably more so than any other climate-change related factor.”   The extent of nuisance flooding depends on multiple factors, including topography and land cover. The study defines nuisance flooding as a daily rise in water level above the minor flooding threshold set locally by NOAA’s National Weather Service, and focused on coastal areas at or below these levels that are especially susceptible to flooding. The report concludes that any acceleration in the rise of sea levels (predicted to occur this century) will not only intensify the impacts of nuisance flooding over time, but it will also reduce the time between flood events. Below is the list of the top ten U.S. cities with increasing nuisance flooding: Annapolis, Maryland, 925 percent Baltimore, Maryland, 922 percent Atlantic City, New Jersey, 682 percent Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 650 percent Sandy Hook, New Jersey, 626 percent Port Isabel, Texas, 547 percent Charleston, South Carolina, 409 percent Washington, DC, 373 percent San Francisco, California, 364 percent Norfolk, Virginia, 325 percent The report explains that climate change — by causing thermal expansion of the world’s oceans and melting of glaciers and ice sheets — has contributed to the rise of global sea levels at a...

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Forests: A Map of Global Changes
Dec06

Forests: A Map of Global Changes

By The Editors This map — based on data from the NASA-U.S. Geological Survey Landsat 7 satellite — shows the worldwide forest cover, as well as the loss and gain of forest cover occurring over a period of 12 years (2000 – 2012). During this period, 888,000 square miles (2.3 million square kilometers) of forest were lost, and 309,000 square miles (800,000 square kilometers) were gained. It’s one of the maps resulting from a new study published online in the scientific journal Science on November 14, 2013.  The study is entitled “High-Resolution Global Maps of 21st-Century Forest Cover Change” and involves a team of 15 universities, Google and government researchers. To view the forest cover maps in Google Earth Engine,...

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Global Reforestation: How Likely Is It?
Oct15

Global Reforestation: How Likely Is It?

By The Editors Forests are plant communities dominated by trees and, because of their nature, rely on dynamic associations of living organisms that undergo constant change – deforestation may be easily followed by reforestation, either natural or man-driven. How likely is it that global reforestation will occur? According to a recently published study entitled “Outlook on a worldwide forest transition“, it is not likely. Results of the study indicate that — unless we substantially boost agricultural production or we consume less food — the forest cover of the planet will continue to decline over the next two centuries until it stabilizes at 22% of global land cover and 1.4% of wild pasture. In other words,  just 22% of the land surface of the planet will remain forested. Our planet is experiencing a serious global decline in forests. Indeed, over 70 million hectares of forest have been lost during the last two decades — an area greater than France, or about 0.5% of global land area — mostly because of the expansion of agricultural land needed to feed a growing population. The long-term challenge is feeding the human population while still conserving the natural habitat and reversing global deforestation. To predict future global forest trends, the authors of the study (Chris Pagnutti, Chris T. Bauch, and Madhur Anand) used data on the global use of land encompassing hundreds of years – data provided by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other sources. They incorporated the data into a mathematical model designed to capture how transitions in land use, including deforestation and reforestation, are driven by three key factors: agricultural yield, per capita food consumption, and world population change over time. The historical trends show that food consumption is rising faster than agricultural productivity. Thus, as mentioned above, the global forest cover is predicted to further decline. Unless new technological advances lead to increasing agricultural yields, or strategies to decrease food consumption are introduced over the next century, a switch to global reforestation remains unlikely. Under an alternative scenario, in which food production and consumption stabilize, reforestation could increase the global forest cover to about 35% — if stabilization occurs within the next 70 years. The researchers suggest that equal effort should be directed towards finding ways to boost agricultural yield, disseminate those technologies to developing countries, and decrease per capita consumption. Anand, one of the investigators, elaborates, “What is new here is the provision of a set of quantitative guidelines (the mathematical model outputs) that demonstrate exactly how much improvements to agricultural yield or decreases in consumption will affect forest cover dynamics in time.” Whether or not it will be possible to reverse the decline in forests...

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Cosmetics: A Full Ban on Animal Testing in the European Union Encourages Research on Alternative Methods
Oct13

Cosmetics: A Full Ban on Animal Testing in the European Union Encourages Research on Alternative Methods

By The Editors On March 11, 2013, a full ban of animal testing for cosmetics entered into force in the European Union. In addition, as of March 11, 2013, cosmetics tested on animals cannot be marketed in the European Union. The day of the announcement, the European Commissioner in charge of Health & Consumer Policy, Tonio Borg, stated: “Today’s entry into force of the full marketing ban gives an important signal on the value that Europe attaches to animal welfare. The Commission is committed to continue supporting the development of alternative methods and to engage with third countries to follow our European approach. This is a great opportunity for Europe to set an example of responsible innovation in cosmetics without any compromise on consumer safety.” Because the European legislation requires proof of safety of consumer products on the European markets, alternative methods to animal testing based on the ‘three Rs’ concept (Reduce, Refine and Replace) are highly emphasized for safety and risk assessment. Thus, the European Commission launched a research initiative to fill current gaps in scientific knowledge and accelerate the development of methods that do not require animal testing. The research initiative is dubbed SEURAT-1 (Safety Evaluation Ultimately Replacing Animal Testing) and is supported by the European Commission and by the Cosmetics Europe industry for a total of 50 million EUR (Cosmetics Europe matched the funds made available by the European Commission). The replacement of animal testing for systemic, repeated dose and long term toxicity in humans is a major challenge. This challenge can only be tackled by using an integrated multifaceted platform using an integrated strategy that includes, among others, a systems biology approach, in silico methods and powerful bioinformatic tools. Accordingly, the SEURAT-1 research Initiative is composed of six research projects, which started on January 1, 2011, and will run for a total of five years. These projects will closely cooperate with a common goal and combine the research efforts of over 70 European universities, public research institutes and companies. The six research projects are: SCR&Tox, “Stem Cells for Relevant Efficient Extended and Normalized Toxicology” HeMiBio, “Hepatic Microfluidic Bioreactor” DETECTIVE, “Detection of endpoints and biomarkers of repeated dose toxicity using in vitro systems” COSMOS, “Integrated In Silico Models for the Prediction of Human Repeated Dose Toxicity of COSMetics to Optimise Safety” NOTOX, “Predicting long-term toxic effects using computer models based onsystems characterization of organotypic cultures “ ToxBank, “Supporting Integrated Data Analysis and Servicing of Alternative Testing Methods in Toxicology” The collaboration between these six research projects, the dissemination of results, the cooperation with other international research teams, and the continuous updating on research priorities will be facilitated by the coordination and support action project...

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