first_imgST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Center fielder Ramon Laureano hit a tie-breaking grand slam in the eighth inning, lifting the A’s past the Tampa Bay Rays 6-2 and bringing their 10-game trip to a successful conclusion on Wednesday afternoon at Tropicana Field.The A’s (35-34) finished 6-4 in their three-city trip, while taking two of three games against the Rays, who entered the day tied for first place with the New York Yankees in the American League East.The A’s are off Thursday before hosting the …last_img

first_img“We live in interesting times,” grinned David Penny in Nature,1 reporting on how estimates of evolutionary past based on comparative genomics (the molecular clock) is producing confusing results.  Apparently, evolutionary geneticists are going to have to make use of the theory of relativity – i.e., that how fast the clock ticks depends on the viewpoint of the observer.  “An analysis of genetic data sets from primates and birds provides firm evidence that molecular evolution is faster on shorter than on longer timescales,” his subtitle explained.  “The estimated times of various evolutionary events require a rethink” (emphasis added in all quotes).  It’s hard to give up a pet theory, he continued:The relative constancy of the rate at which DNA sequences evolve has been a treasured icon of molecular evolution for nearly 40 years.  The occurrence of such a stochastic ‘molecular clock’ was initially quite unexpected, and was explained by Motoo Kimura by assuming that most changes to amino-acid and nucleotide sequences were neutral – “neither beneficial nor injurious”, in Charles Darwin’s prescient phrase.    However, there have been several inklings that the rate of molecular evolution accelerates when measured over evolutionarily short timescales.  As they report in Molecular Biology and Evolution, Ho and colleagues have now put the evidence together.  Their analyses of primate and bird data sets reveal that there is indeed a decided acceleration of molecular evolution on short timescales.  This is an effect that demands explanation; moreover, estimates for the timing of recent events in population biology will need to be reconsidered.Penny discussed whether the phenomenon is real, whether it can be explained, and why it was not picked up earlier.  Part of the reason is no one was looking:For some reason, the continuum between population heterozygosity and long-term evolution has not been adequately studied.  Although it is a continuum, the techniques required may change as the timescale decreases.  For example, some concepts from long-term evolution (binary evolutionary trees with sequences studied only at the tips) have been extended into populations where trees are no longer binary, and ancestral sequences (at internal nodes) are still present in the population.  There are hints that a formal multiscale study is necessary, because even though the same underlying process is occurring, different features of trees are observed as the timescale changes.Lastly, he asked what are the consequences of this revelation.  Many time estimates will require recalculation – that’s one practical aspect.  “In some cases the constraints are from recent events, and it is the long-term events that require re-analysis,” he explained; “Much more remains to be done.”  The assumption of a single mutation rate is gone; “Even for nucleotides there are many ‘mutation rates’,” he pointed out.  Penny feels the solution is tractable, but the implication is that many former assumptions have been invalidated by the new data – hence his last sentence, “we live in interesting times.”1David Penny, “Evolutionary biology: Relativity for molecular clocks,” Nature 436, 183-184 (14 July 2005) | doi: 10.1038/436183a.Another evolutionary assumption has been overturned by more careful analysis; keep up the good work.  Next time, though, remove the assumption of evolution before making the observations.  Relativity applies to physics, not biology.  An evolutionary tale that requires relativity to keep its plot together has left the science department for the theater class (see 11/29/2004 entry).(Visited 14 times, 1 visits today)FacebookTwitterPinterestSave分享0last_img read more

first_imgQANTAS’ will continue to concentrate on Asia and North America while it waits for new ultra long-range “hub-buster” aircraft to give it the ability to offer unique non-stop services between Australia and markets in Europe.That is the message from the airline’s group chief executive Alan Joyce who is looking to new technology aircraft such as the Boeing 787s it has on order plus either Boeing new 777X or the Airbus A350 to deliver the airline unprecedented non-stop capability.Those non-stops will likely be London to Perth with the 787 followed later by routes such as Paris to Sydney and Rome to Melbourne. The airline looked some years ago at using Jetstar to service destinations in Southern Europe Mr Joyce says the low-cost offshoot won’t be joining Scoot and AirAsia X on the “kangaroo route” to Europe any time soon.“I think Jetstar’s got so many growth opportunities in Asia,’’ Joyce says, pointing to recent announcements that the brand’s Japanese joint venture will grow from 20 to 28 aircraft and Veitnam’s Jetstar Pacific would be adding 10.  “I think we have enough growth in this region and … we have a solution to Europe, which is the Emirates partnership.’’The Emirates partnership gives Qantas 40 destinations in Europe without the need to invest the capital to operate its own services and, says Joyce, gives the Australian carrier a reach it could never have achieved on its own.But that doesn’t mean the flying kangaroo, famed for its ability to convince aircraft manufacturers to help it conquer long distances, doesn’t see opportunities further down the track.Joyce says technology is the airline’s friend and he’s keen to see what opportunities Qantas International’s new fleet of Boeing 787-9s can open up.  The airline is preparing for the arrival of the first of eight B787s at the end of the next year and plans to start selling Dreamliner flights on its existing network before Christmas.The planes will replace five older Boeing 747s and will be fitted with luxury business class seats, roomier economy seats and what the carrier describes as “a revolutionary premium economy that is streets ahead of anything out there’’.Possible new routes include a non-stop service between Perth and London made possible by the 787-9’s 7,635 nm (14,140 km) nominal range.London remains a destination for Qantas because of the size of the market and the traditionally strong links between Australia and the UK.  But with 32 competitors on routes to Europe, Joyce argues the airline currently cannot make other ports on the continent pay, particularly with the one-stop flights that would be required from Australia’s East Coast. “The dilemma you always have with the Qantas Group is that it is out of an Australian cost base, it is a long distance from your home and the costs are a lot higher as a consequence of that,’’ says Joyce“So I think our future is the direct flights.’’The long-term potential is for non-stop premium services to European ports other airlines would struggle to match, including Sydney-London, using planes such as ultra-long range Boeing 777-8X due to enter service at the end of the decade. The 777-8X, which builds on the technological advances made by the 787 program with enhancements such as carbon fibre high-span wings, will be able to carry 350 to 375 passengers up to 8,700 nm (16,110 km) in a wider cabin. “We’re never going to fly to the 40 destinations Emirates has but you could be flying to a few of those top destinations,’’ Joyce says, noting that the combination of direct and indirect services “gives you a very feasible and economic operation in Europe that works very well”.For now, however, China and the US are the main game.“We talk about Europe a lot but people forget how big the US is for Qantas,’’ Joyce says, adding that the airline’s Airbus A380 services to partner American Airlines’ hub in Dallas, Texas, are “booming’’. “We’d love to be able to fly more destinations into the states.’’The 787-9s open up Melbourne-Dallas and Brisbane-Dallas as potential destinations with daily services to cities such as Vancouver also a possibility.“And then eventually with the aircraft in the next decade, you’ll have New York direct and that means Chicago direct,’’ Joyce says. “That means a lot of destinations in the US that have the viability to have direct services start coming on to the radar screen.’’The alliance with American Airlines remains the biggest for Qantas, despite the higher profile of its marriage with Emirates, but that may be set to change.Australia’s competition regulator recently gave an alliance with China Eastern a green light and Joyce believes that rapid tourism growth out of China will ultimately make this the flying kangaroo’s biggest partnership. The airline is also set to benefit from Chinese tourism growth through partnerships with China Southern and Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific.“The stats just blow you away,” Joyce says. “I think we have 1.2 million visitors from China and we get 1 per cent of the worldwide visitor rate of over 100 million that go overseas.“Some estimates have that growing to over 500 million in the next decades. Even if we stay at just 1 per cent, the total of the Chinese visitors (coming) here nearly gets to the 7 million total visitors that we have now.“And when they come to Australia, they typically take an average two domestic sectors when they’re travelling, so the benefits to the domestic network, not only the international one, are quite huge.’’ “So the potential to tap into a hugely different market that benefits the whole tourism economy is massive in the Chinese market and that’s quite exciting.’’While Joyce can see growth in all parts of the business from China, including a Qantas service to Shanghai that now operates from China Eastern’s terminal, he is particularly excited about the price-sensitive end of the market.He sees a big potential in charter services such as the one recently operated by Jetstar between Australia’s Gold Coast and the Chinese city of Wuhan with the Dalian Wanda Group. The year-long Gold Coast deal to sell combined flight and holiday packages ends on October 1 and the parties are working on new services to Australia to begin in time for the Chinese New Year.Working in conjunction with travel groups such as Wanda means Qantas or its Jetstar affiliates do not have to incur the expense of setting up a distribution network in China.“They sell the seats and they actually package it,’’ he says. “So Jetstar Vietnam, Jetstar Singapore and Jetstar Japan all will be participating in that growth as well and they’re all doing various forms of charter activity.’’Another plus out of China for Qantas is, surprisingly, freight. The group has unique freight traffic rights which allow it to fly a triangular Australia-China-US-Australia route using wet leased freighters (aircraft leased with crew) from Atlas Air.  The route has given Qantas Freight about 5 per cent of the China-Us freight market and Joyce says it has been participating well in growth over time.Australia-China has always been its weakest leg but Joyce says a free trade agreement between the two countries is starting to see this improve with a range of new products.Of course, Qantas isn’t the only airline with Chinese aspirations.Virgin Australia’s John Borghetti also sees a big growth potential from the world’s most populous nation and now has two major Chinese groups, Nanshan and Hainan, as major shareholders.Joyce is unfazed by Virgin’s new shareholders and says he’s happy with Qantas’s position and its partnership with two carriers enjoying strong growth and support.“I think it’s such a huge market that there’s plenty for everybody on it,’’ he says “ And you know I’d say with the China market I’d rather have the big players as well. I think China Southern for example just reached 700 aircraft, which makes it the fourth largest airline in the world.’’Another point Joyce makes is that Qantas is a different organisation from the one it was a few years ago.The airline made a net profit of more than $1 billion in the year ended June 30, 2016, with a 60 per cent rise in underlying pre-tax profit, the best result in the airline’s 95-year history.It declared its first shareholder dividend since 2009 and saw record earnings from all business units – except freight.The result was partly driven by a $664 million benefit from lower global fuel prices but also by a transformation program that has unlocked $1.66 billion in permanent cost and revenue benefits since 2014 and expects to see that rise to $2.1 billion by next June.One result of the changes, according to Joyce, is that airline group well-placed to cope with the often quickly changing aviation environment.“What’s great, I think, about where you see Qantas today compared to where it was when it had its previous record earnings back in 2007 is they are coming from a bigger variety of things,’’ he says.“We have a lot bigger frequent flyer program than we had back then, which is making over $300 million. Jetstar made over $400 million, a record profit for Jetstar, but what’s great in the results is that Qantas International and Qantas Domestic also had a record profit.Joyce is particularly pleased with a billion-dollar turnaround in the international business that prompted the airline to invest in the long-awaited B787s.“Every business has earned the right to grow and we are now in an enviable position of figuring out what’s the growth opportunities for the businesses going forward — where do we invest the capital, how do we grow to take advantage of the really solid position each of the businesses are in?’’ he says“And that’s very different from where we were in the past, where usually it’s one component of the business that contributes all the profits and some of the others were underperforming.’’However, he also acknowledges that low fuel prices have been accompanied by international fares at historic lows in some markets and a global economy that is at best mixed.He observes that the Australian economy is also going through a transition which saw Qantas drop more than $250m in resource sector revenue, although it managed to redeploy aircraft to the East Coast to take advantage of the property boom and leisure routes have been going well..“So you’ve definitely got a mixed environment and what I think we’ve changed in our culture here is the ability to be agile and to move things around to take advantage of that,’’ he says.With the 787s and Airbus A320 neos on the way for Jetstar, the group has a sizeable commitment to new planes but Joyce says it will continue to take a cautious view on capital management.Investments such as new lounges, new seats on existing aircraft and, increasingly, information technology all clamour for a slice of what will be a $4.5 billion capital expenditure pie over the next three years.“It’s a lot of money but there are lot demands for growth, there are a lot of demands for new businesses, there are a lot of demands for new seats,’’ he says. “And we have a prioritisation within the organisation for that capital demand and that it’s allocated to the right things.“I think Qantas is a lot better at doing that than it did before so everything gets done. The pace at which it gets done has to fit into our capital program and the ability, like any business would have, of the business to be able to pay for it.’’The airline has 15 options and 30 purchase orders for the Dreamliner and Joyce says he wants to see how they perform before ordering more.  Even if that happens, further orders are likely to be incremental and Joyce says it could be as little as one at a time under the agreement the airline has with Boeing.Qantas has yet to determine whether it will order the new Boeing 777-8X as a replacement for its 12 still relatively young A380 superjumbos.  When the time comes, it will run a competition between the new Boeing widebody and Airbus’s A350-1000.“We always run a competition on every aircraft type and there are no certainties on these things,’’ says Joyce. “But what I think is always the case in the airline industry is that you’re always continuously monitoring what’s your potential replacement. So the minute you get a new aircraft you’re thinking about what’s going to be in the future the aircraft that has to replace it.’’Qantas will not exercise options to take an eight additional A380s but Joyce says the existing fleet has worked well for Qantas on Los Angeles,  Dallas, London and, on occasion,  Hong Kong.Asked how the 380s stack up against the new planes, Joyce says they work well on high volume, long distance routes to hub cities.Qantas has five services that depart Los Angeles within a small window and Joyce says flying smaller aircraft would not be as cost-effective and would mean too many frequencies.“So you’ve got the A380 which is a very, big efficient vehicle – and it depends on oil prices as well.,’’ he says. “Today the 380s look a lot better than they did with oil prices over $US100 .’’ He adds that oil prices also determine the roll-over or replacement case for aircraft but declines to predict what will happen in that arena, describing picking fuel trends as a “fool’s game’’.“We always hedge and we are hedging and we’ve communicated our hedging for financial year 17 and we’re hedging into 18,’’ he says. “And the idea is to give you time to cope with whatever the fuel price is and not try to put a bet on where fuel’s going to be.’’last_img read more

first_imgShare Facebook Twitter Google + LinkedIn Pinterest The pattern of warmer- and wetter-than-usual weather this past winter has changed in recent months, but hopes for a warm, dry, early spring have faded. Corn growers are concerned about the amount of fall-applied nitrogen that might have been lost through the winter and how this might change nitrogen management this spring.Emerson Nafziger, University of Illinois crop scientist and Dan Schaefer of the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association sampled soil around Illinois in winter and early spring to measure the amount of nitrogen that has disappeared from the top two feet of soil as a result of the winter conditions.A sample of eight fields in Vermilion County showed little change in soil nitrogen between December and February, though there was some loss of nitrate between the January and February samples. The percentage of recovered nitrogen that was in the ammonium form — the form that is safe from immediate loss due to binding with negative charges in the soil — actually went up.Nafziger also sampled fields in Urbana and Monmouth and found a considerable drop in soil nitrogen between early January and late February in both locations. Using N-Serve made little difference in the amount of nitrogen recovered or in the percentage of recovered nitrogen that was still in the ammonium form.N-Serve, a Dow nitrogen stabilizing product applied with ammonia in the fall, was applied in two neighboring fields in Champaign county. In January, 70% of the recovered nitrogen in the field with N-Serve was in the form of ammonium, compared to 53% ammonium in the field without N-Serve. By mid-March, 73% of the recovered nitrogen in the field with N-Serve was ammonium, compared with only 39% in the field without N-Serve.“We need to be cautious because this is from only a few samples, but in this case it looks like nitrapyrin (the active ingredient in N-Serve) did what it is supposed to do: keep ammonium from converting to nitrate, thereby reducing the amount of nitrogen subject to loss. Whether or not that will make a difference in how much nitrogen is available to the corn crop depends entirely on what sort of weather, soil, and crop conditions we have up to the time nitrogen uptake starts,” Nafziger explains.Overall, results were mixed across the sites and sampling times, ranging from disappearance of more than half of the nitrogen from the top two feet of soil to only small changes. The percentages of soil nitrogen present as ammonium were lower than expected, which could mean considerable potential for loss if wet weather returns.“We have little previous experience looking at soil nitrogen from fall to spring, so there’s no reason to panic at this point, or to order more fertilizer to replace what might have disappeared,” Nafziger said. “Our best strategy now is to assume that most of the nitrogen we applied last fall is still in the soil, to get the crop planted as conditions allow, and to both monitor the crop and stay tuned as we continue to monitor soil nitrogen up to the time that the crop is taking up nitrogen rapidly.”Nafziger adds that if warm and dry weather returns, there will be little N loss in the coming months If the opposite happens, producers would still have time to manage nitrogen for good yields while minimizing further loss.last_img read more

first_imgWhen to save old windowsOne of the most wonderful aspects of our local architecture is its historic windows with their characteristic divided lite panes and historic glass. They are not only visually appealing, but their design and craftsmanship make them worthy of preservation. Unfortunately, because they are single-glazed and often in disrepair, they are also one of the largest sources of heat loss in winter and a major source of heat gain in the summer. The windows alone can be responsible for 25 to 50 percent of the energy used to heat and cool homes!… There is a point when the condition of the window clearly indicates that a replacement is necessary. When considering replacement windows, it is important to not only consider their energy efficiency, but also their appearance in terms of the pattern of the proportions of their frame and sash, the configuration of the window panes, muntin profiles, types of wood and characteristics of the glass. Search for a replacement that retains as much of the character of the historic window as possible. Juli MacDonald is an architect and accredited LEED professional who worked in Chicago for 20 years before relocating to the East Coast and eventually opening her own firm in Amesbury, Massachusetts, in 2007.Later that year she started writing the GreenBridge blog. It’s named after her firm, which concentrates on residential additions and remodels.GreenBridge Blog is a mix of project descriptions, “sustainability and efficiency” entries, which covers such topics as insulation, home office planning and green roofs, and a shorter travelogue section that details places she’s visited or conferences she’s attended.There’s nothing stiff or pedantic about the entries. MacDonald writes just enough about herself and her family to provide personal context, but does not wander so far afield we wish she’s get back on topic.The project list isn’t huge, but there are some interesting entries, including one called the “Garbage Garage.” The handsome building looks conventional, until you get into the details and find out its lower walls are rammed-earth tires, and that light in the upper gable ends comes from glass bottles laid up like cordwood and mortared in place. A visiting team from Guatemala called Long Way Home took part in the project.Another is Lamorna Cottage after a 1880s farmhouse that MacDonald and her family seem to have bought this past summer in Rockland, Maine. We’ll be traveling along as they bring the house back into livable shape.There also are links to companies that might be of interest to anyone building in New England, including Andros Energy (renewable energy systems), the Green Cocoon (insulation), and JF Jewett Farms & Co. (cabinetmakers).Here are a few excerpts: Why we should talk about toiletsWhen I first started working as an architectural intern in Rockford, Illinois, Larry, the curmudgeonly head draftsman, loved teasing me about my main job of drawing toilet rooms. He didn’t let me say ‘bathroom,’ insisting that I say ‘toilet.’ He was right – we were working on commercial toilet rooms and nobody was taking baths there… Well, it’s been a lot of years, and now I’ve got a lot to say about toilets – Do you want your toilet in a separate room? Do you like an elongated bowl for comfort? What do you think of the water-saving dual-flush models? Do you have young sons?Discussing the toilet still isn’t my favorite part of the bath design process, but it’s important, because habits and details make all the difference in a successful bathroom. I resolveOn December 12th [2009], my family lost my Grandmother, Eleanor Phillips, who lived in Fort Dodge, Iowa. I was lucky enough to be able to spend some precious time with her during her last days in the hospital. During part of that time, my cousins and I pored over Grandma’s various journals, letters and photos, and we got a wonderful sense of the fullness of her life and the way she lived and adapted throughout her 88 years.In one letter to her sister written in the 50s, she talked about ripping down discarded clothing to make braided rugs. Her journals and autobiographies described her huge love of gardening and enjoyment of the harvests. She was a farmer’s daughter, one of 6 children who knew what sharing and making-do meant, and who also knew to not leave the table without asking one sibling or parent to guard her plate. Her fondest memories of her mother included her ability to whip up the most amazing donuts for the family and to make a dress for my grandmother the night before she wore it to a dance.It was clear that she had a happy childhood – she carried a 80-year-old snapshot of a family Sunday picnic in her wallet, and in her writing she often described her many memories of her parents hugging and kissing, and her father’s desolation when her mother died at a very young age. She remembered her and her siblings’ excitement at seeing their single gift and one orange next to their plates Christmas morning.So, my resolution? To continue to carry my grandma and her lessons with me. Embrace simple and good living, enjoy family and seek happiness in the smallest things. She didn’t live her life with the intent of being ‘green’ or ‘sustainable,’ but her way of life was what so many of us strive for today. Reuse and salvageOne of my fondest memories of living in Chicago was ‘shopping’ in the alleys. My quickest walk to the train was down our 3 block alley: on one side were condo buildings and the on the other were single-family homes. It worked this way – if you didn’t want something anymore, you left it in the alley, NEXT to the garbage, sometimes with a note, and it was usually gone in a few hours. Through the years I collected a great variety of treasures. Among them: lamps, a desk, many, many chairs, my now favorite cookbook. My goal wasn’t to be green, but it really was an efficient (cheap!) and practical system.Now I use Freecycle. If you haven’t checked them out, give them a try – it is basically a local list-serve where members post items they want to give away or items they’d like to receive. It works similarly to shopping in the Chicago alley, but is a bit more civilized.In construction, the act of restoring or remodeling a home is a form of reuse and salvage. Preservation instead of demolition and new construction saves in energy and materials consumption and reduces demolition landfill. There is a great opportunity in salvaging and reusing materials for remodeling and even new construction projects, if you are aware and know where to look.last_img read more