Duke Energy, Middle East, San Francisco discussed on Fresh Air
Day of testimony from supreme court nominee Brett Cavanaugh and Christine Blasi Ford who has accused him of sexual assault. Senators next meet to decide whether his nomination will move forward. I don't think he should go ahead. Questions raised today. We have other witnesses take a couple of weeks. We're we're talking about a lifetime appointment the latest this afternoon on all things considered from NPR news. Weekdays starting at four on WNYC. This is science Friday replay coming up the endangered fossil treasures of Utah's newly slimmed-down national monuments. We'll talk about the potential loss of important fossils at grand staircase and bears years. But I there are around one hundred named ages in geology. No all those challenges. My heart goes out to remember all of these. And now a recent proposal wants to add a new one dating around forty two hundred years ago, he'd has sent off a debate between geologists and archaeologists about what the ancient world really was like back then. John me now to talk about that and other selected short subjects in science is Emily new. It's science journalist and book author based in San Francisco, she joins us from K Q E D. Welcome back. Hey, thanks for having me. I know this is one of your favorite subjects. Right. Yes. It is. So what is this debate about what who is saying we need a new geological age and why fill us in on this. So we actually do have a new geological age. It's called the mega land age. It's named after a state in India. And as you said, it starts about forty two hundred years ago, and it goes up into the present. And it's been the source of incredibly bitter debates between geologists and archaeologists because the way the geologists decide that there is a new age on earth is that they have to identify some kind of huge event. That's changed the ecosystems of earth to kind of justify like all right now, we're in a new age here. And so some of these events are things like ice ages, or you know, a meteorite hitting the earth things that we recognize as kind of catastrophic. So for the mega leeann age. What geologists argue is that there was a global drought that affected. The course. Of human civilization. Because remember this is a period when we actually have human cities and writing and people are kind of doing their thing. And what are Kiala GIS are saying is no actually we don't really have evidence that there was a drought that was altering civilization. Wow. So it's like the farmers and the Cowboys should be. So what? So what is today advance that there was a global drought? So most of the evidence really does come from archaeological sources, and so in some ways, the debates around this, and there are many debates I won't even get into here really boil down to how do the physical sciences and the social sciences talk to each other about data. And so what we see our there's evidence in the written record that cities were abandoned in the Middle East and in North Africa during this time, we have evidence for a lot of political instability in a lot of these places and some geologists look at that. And they combine it with evidence from the sort of from earth science records, and they say look this was obviously a civilization changing event. But archaeologists say, no, they say actually, a lot of these written records are poems that were written in the form of lamentations that were just typical of the time. These these. Aren't really people going through a catastrophe? They're just sort of writing poems in ancient Egypt like in the style of like IMO music today. You know, they're just sort of feeling sad. And a lot of these urban abandonments that we see for example in the Middle East weren't really people abandoning civilization. They were just moving they were migrating and so we see civilization transforming. But was it really enough of a catastrophe for us to say that we're living in the mega layin age. Now that's going to continue to be a huge debate. Especially when you add in questions about whether we should be in the anthropic scene, which is a different age where you know, human civilization has changed enough of the earth that we can say all right? Maybe we're in a new age. So that's a whole other debate. And that kinda gets into this as well. But but they're saying that they're across the whole globe. Egypt other places. We're all in this transition at the same time. They so that's what geologists argue and the international commission on strategic. Fyi which is the group of geologists that controls time by making these names, they're saying that that this was all sort of at the same time. They're saying actually know even the written records show that this was really a period of about two hundred years. So we can't really find a causal link between drought and civilizational collapse. It may have just been kind of one of those correlation doesn't equal causation moments that we love and science where just because you have political instability. Doesn't mean it's caused by drought or the environment. Something new besides the planet. Pluto to argue about exactly nothing better than names for our geological time unit. Speaking of names in other ancient history news, I know there's new work on Mayan societies that's kinda interesting. Yes. This is something that I'm super excited about it's one of the biggest discoveries around Maya civilization in the past decade. There was just a lighter. Our survey done in one of the areas of sort of the greatest. The greatest extent of Maya civilization in northern Guatemala. And so what that means that scientists flew over the top of the trees in that area and used light are beaming beaming lasers down onto the planet to look at look through the tree cover and see the remains of things like ancient structures, ancient roads. So they found over six thousand new structures attributed to the Maya during this late classical period, which is about between like the six hundreds and the nine hundred CE. And so what that means is that that the Maya weren't just building fabulous sites like t- call which was actually in this slide. Our survey these sort of isolated cities that we've heard about from my history, they actually were spending a lot of time living in what amounted to suburbs. They were living outside the cities, and they were engaging in incredibly sophisticated intensive agriculture outside the cities, which were linked by a massive network of roads that were also uncovered through this light our survey. So now, we have a picture of the Maya as not these people who kind of hunkered down in these walled cities. But actually, a lot of them lived out in the suburbs and were farming. And and we're not necessarily part of these intensive city states in the way that we once though. So this is like a modern Meg megalopolis Baltimore-Washington. Maybe they had their own beltway. Yes, they they may have it was basically a big sprawl. And you know, we've seen novels and we've seen people, you know, the city of Z that kind of stuff where they went looking for giants civilizations. Because of rumors maybe they really existed. Yeah. Or maybe they really should have been thinking about where to find the suburbs. And where to find these farms instead of looking for lost cities, look for lost suburbs in northern Guatemala, and you learn a lot more about the Maya civilization. I'm going to quote, you on that occasion. Let's for lost suburb. Thank you. Yes. Thank you so much channel new. It's science journalist and book author based in San Francisco, she was joining us. Now, it's time to check in on the state of science. This is WWE St Louis public radio public radio news local science stories of national significance. Hurricane florence. And it's and it's ather man aftermath brought to widespread flooding to the Carolinas in beyond, and you know, all about that. And adding to the heartbreak of all that water was the potential release of wastes. A flood of coal ash into the Cape. Fear. River was the fear and the coal ash isn't quite like the harmless white ash from your charcoal grill. It contains elevated levels of arsenic, and other heavy metals. Ends to be contained joining me now to talk about. This is Jason Bruin. He's a data reporter at UNC he stationed in Durham, North Carolina. Welcome to the program. Ira nice to be with you. Hey, nice to have you. What is called lash? Where is it? What is the story about? Well, you said it at the top. It's not like the charcoal assets. You might find in your grill. But in fact, contains quite toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, and of course, we need to burn coal to create electricity. That's one of the great advances over the past maybe half century or so, but we didn't realize that it came with this quite dangerous byproducts. And so now, we're dealing with that. And so what happened in this case? So we don't know exactly what happened to Cape fear yet in on a molecular level, but what we do know is that flood waters from hurricane Florence. Basically barraged these two holding ponds that hold back ashen, and then also sort of retaining pawn. That's next to it to protect the Ashburton from the Cape. Fear river with all these heavy flood waters that we got. There was a breach. I into that first berm that holds back sort of the cooling water and then later into the second berm that holds back the waters for the coal ash pond. And so with all that water running in from the Cape. Fear river, you had all the waters mixing together. And then, of course, exiting out the bottom end. And obviously, obviously the fear. There is that coal ash, then mixed with the lake water and then mixed alternately with the river water downstream. So so do we have any evidence that the ash did get released into the river? So what we know is that Duke Energy has done its tests and has said that it's tests are conclusive that there were not elevated levels of arsenic in the water. Now, of course, environmentalists like with the Waterkeeper alliance have been out on the water, and they say that they have seen ash in the water. Now actually went out with them on on Saturday. And I was in a in a little boat with them on the river. And and also saw what to my eye. Looks to be like coal ash. They've taken water samples they meaning the the Waterkeeper they've taken water samples, but they are still waiting on those results don't have those back yet. And of course, also we're still waiting for state regulators who also took samples again don't have those results back yet, though, it could have affected any other river this coal ash. Well, it's interesting that you should ask that because just a few literally about an hour and a half ago, we got word from the Waterkeeper alliance that in fact, there are elevated levels of arsenic in a different river in the news river, that's also here North Carolina and near a little town of Goldsboro. So that is near a different Duke Energy plant and the sim- similar situation. Duke Energy said that it's tests were conclusive that there were not elevated levels of arsenic. But now, we do have water tests back from the Waterkeeper alliance where they say that in fact, there are elevated levels of arsenic. In fact, eighteen times, what is allowable now, there's some discussion about where tests were taken where tests were you know, what labs they were studied at. Of course, Duke is is throwing water while pardon the pun is saying that the that the tests from the Waterkeeper a biased, of course, the Waterkeeper says the test from Duke or biased here, again, even though we do have tests from the from. Environmentalists. We don't have tests yet back from a state regulators through the department of environmental quality still waiting on those of course, if they were in Duke with might be liable for that action near and we'll keep watching potentially could be Jason. Thanks very much. You're welcome data report public radio station. W UNC we're gonna take a break. We're gonna come back. The story is not over for Utah's whittled down national monuments. But paleontologists want to save from potential mining and drilling in those national monuments toward some of them myself last week. We'll we'll talk about it after this break. Stay with us..