Raquel Loreto is a zombie hunter, and a good one. But traipsing through dried leaves in a hot forest in Sanda, at the southern end of Japan, she needed a guide. Just a few months before, she’d been on the internet and come across the work of artist Shigeo Ootak, whose fantastical images depict humans with curious protrusions erupting from their heads. She got in touch, and he invited her to Japan for a hike to find his inspiration.
Ootak knew precisely where to look: six feet off the ground. And there in a sparse forest, that’s where they found it: the zombie ant, an entrancing species with two long hooks coming out of its back. By now you may have heard its famous tale. A parasitic fungus, known as Ophiocordyceps, invades an ant’s body, growing through its tissues and soaking up nutrients. Then it somehow orders its host to march out of the nest and up a tree above the colony’s trails. The fungus commands the ant to bite onto the vein of a leaf, then kills the thing and grows as a stalk out of the back of its head, turning it into a showerhead raining spores onto victims down below.
That’s how it all goes down in South American forests, where Loreto had already spent plenty of time. But the zombie she found on her hike in Japan was different. First of all, the fungus had driven it higher up a tree. And two, it hadn’t bitten onto a leaf, but had wrapped itself around a twig, hanging upside down.
See, in the tropics, leaves stay on trees all year—but in Japan, they wither and fall. Same goes for zombie ants in the southern United States. By ordering the ant to lock onto a twig, the fungus helps ensure it can stay perched long enough to mature and rain death on more ants. In a study out today in the journal Evolution, Loreto and her colleagues show that divergence between leaf-biting and twig-biting seems to have been a consequence of ancient climate change. So who knows, modern climate change may also do interesting things to the evolution of the parasite.
Come back in time with me 47 million years to an unrecognizable Germany. It’s much hotter and wetter. As such, evergreen forests grow not only up through Europe, but all the way up to the arctic circle. One day, a zombie ant wanders up a tree and bites onto the vein of a leaf, which conveniently enough gets fossilized. Time goes on. The climate cools, and Germany’s wet forests turn temperate.
Almost a decade ago, Penn State entomologist David Hughes looked at that fossil leaf and noticed the tell-tale bite marks of a zombie ant. “Given the fossil evidence in Germany, we know leaf biting occurred then,” say Hughes, a coauthor on the paper. “We suspect that it was also present in North America, and as those populations responded to climate change and the cooling temperature, we see a shift from biting leaves to dying on twigs.”
As vegetation changed from evergreen to deciduous, the fungus found itself in a pickle. But evolution loves a pickle. Ophio adapted independently in Japan and North America to order the ant to seek out twigs, which provided a more reliable, longer-term perch. The fungus grows much slower.
Loreto and Hughes know this thanks to the work of Kim Fleming, a citizen scientist who discovered zombie ant graveyards on her property in South Carolina. She’s been collecting meticulous data for the researchers, scouring the forest for the zombies and marking them with colored tape. “I made a map for myself so I wouldn’t get lost and leave some out,” says Fleming. (For her efforts, she’s now got a species of her very own: Ophiocordyceps kimflemingiae.)
What Fleming helped discover is that while in the tropics the fungus reaches full maturity in one or two months, in temperate climes like hers, the fungus sets up its zombie ant on a twig in June, but doesn’t reach maturity until the next year. In fact, the fungi may actually freeze over the winter. If it were attached to a leaf, it’d tumble to the ground in the fall.
“So it’s almost as if they’ve decided that nothing is going to happen this year, I’m just going to have to sit around because I don’t have time to mature and get spores out,” says Hughes. Plus, the ants hibernate in the winter anyway. Even if the fungus shot spores, there’d be no ants to infect—they’ll all chilling underground in their nest.
Opting for twigs does come with a downside, though: It’s really tough to get good purchase. Until, that is, the fungus initiates a second behavior, ordering the ant to wrap its limbs around the twig, sometimes crossing the legs on the other side of the twig for extra strength. “The hyphae of the fungus growing out of the legs works as glue on the twig as well,” says Loreto. “Sometimes they would even slide down the twig, but they wouldn’t fall.”
It’s hard to imagine how a fungus with no brain could figure this all out, but that’s the power of evolution. And it goes further: In June in temperate climes, the forest is still full of both twigs and leaves, yet the fungus directs zombie ants to lock onto twigs exclusively. And in the Amazon, where it’s lush all year round, they only ever lock onto leaves. “How in the name of … whoever … does the fungus inside the body know what the difference between the leaf and the twig is?” Hughes asks. It always has both options, yet only ever “chooses” one—the best strategy for its particular surroundings.
And so a parasitic manipulation that already defied human credulity grows ever more incredible, far beyond any work of zombie fiction. Your move, Hollywood.
I’m a baseball fan. When I lived in the Bay Area, I was a season ticket holder to the San Francisco Giants. And every baseball fan knows about Pete Rose, the preternaturally talented player who scandalized his sport when it was revealed he bet on baseball, including games involving his own team. Now, no one is contemplating allowing players or managers to bet on games in their own sport. But the Pete Rose story serves as a grim reminder of what can happen with sports gambling.
The trouble is that sports gambling is fun! The thrill of making some dough on your team just adds to the excitement of the sport. It’s also hugely profitable for business and government. So when the Supreme Court of the United States released their decision on Murphy vs. NCAA last week, the gambling-loving world rejoiced. SCOTUS determined that the 1992 federal law called Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PAPSA) violated the Constitution’s anti-commandeering clause, thus striking down the law.
Mark Conrad is a professor of law and ethics at Fordham University, where he has taught in the School of Law and in the Gabelli School of Business. He’s also the director of Gabelli’s Sports Business Concentration, and is the author of The Business of Sports -; Off the Field, In the Office, On the News. Professor Conrad was kind enough to share with me some of his thoughts on this landmark decision.
1. Nothing’s Actually Changed…Yet.
The Court’s decision caused an avalanche of news and commentary, but, “At the moment, not much has changed,” says Conrad. The decision opened the door to huge change, but nothing is actually different yet. Conrad explains, “The court declared unconstitutional the Federal law that prohibits sports gambling. It did not sanction or permit sports gambling.” So what happens now? Conrad says no one really knows: “It is now up to the states, or the federal government, to decide.” Here’s where it get interesting!
2. The Devil Is in the Details.
“This story is only beginning,” says Conrad, who also has a degree from Columbia’s School of Journalism. “No state has enact a gambling scheme, although New Jersey may soon,” he says. The question is what happens next. For starters, Conrad asks, “Will states legalize it? And if so, which ones, and when?” Next comes the what. Conrad wants to know, “Will it apply to all sports or just pro sports?” And finally, the how. Conrad ponders: “What will be the license fees for companies wishing to do business in the state? Taxes? Anti-corruption measures?” The potential complexities are endless.
3. Congress May Not Be Done.
The Court may have struck down Congress’ PAPSA law, but that doesn’t mean Congress can’t still have the final word. Conrad explains, “The problem with PAPSA was it prevented states from exercising their powers. The law did not mandate a ban on sports gambling – rather, it told the states they were not allowed to enact laws ‘authorizing’ such gambling schemes.” The problem was the way this law was structured, but not the idea behind the law. In fact, Conrad says, “The decision did state that Congress has the power to enact a ban on gambling.” It’s possible Congress could throw some very cold water on all the excitement.
4. Integrity May Be an Issue…Or May Not.
The potential implications for the integrity of sport are fascinating. As with any gambling, there’s risk of corruption. Conrad recalls, “It has occurred in the past, notably in point-shaving in college sports.” But cheating isn’t a given. “In fact, the risk of corruption may decrease with a properly regulated integrity oversight,” Conrad explains. There are examples the US could look to for inspiration. Conrad says, “The UK model has worked well. The betting companies engage in analytics and metric systems to police suspicious gambling patterns and report these anomalies.” The key is not to over-regulate or over-tax it, which may push otherwise legal gambling underground.
5. This Decision Could Have Major Implications for State Versus Federal Authority.
“This is the underlying constitutional issue in this ruling,” Conrad explains. “Ultimately, it is a constitutional law case regarding state powers under the Tenth Amendment.” Here’s his plain-English explanation of the finer constitutional points: “PAPSA was problematic because it ‘commandeered’ states rights. Instead of banning sports gambling, it said could not enact laws authorizing gambling. It’s a subtle difference, but a constitutionally defective one.” This is an important decision in part of a greater shift. According to Conrad, “It continues a trend to give greater deference to state sovereignty.” It will be fascinating to watch as the complexities continue to develop.
LONDON (Reuters) – WhatsApp, the popular messaging service owned by Facebook Inc (FB.O), is raising its minimum age from 13 to 16 in Europe to help it comply with new data privacy rules coming into force next month.
FILE PHOTO: The WhatsApp app logo is seen on a smartphone in this picture illustration taken September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo
It is not clear how or if the age limit will be checked given the limited data requested and held by the service.
Facebook, which has a separate data policy, is taking a different approach to teens aged between 13 and 15 in order to comply with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) law.
It is asking them to nominate a parent or guardian to give permission for them to share information on the platform, otherwise they will not see a fully personalized version of the social media platform.
But WhatsApp, which had more than 1.5 billion users in January according to Facebook, said in a blog post it was not asking for any new rights to collect personal information in the agreement it has created for the European Union.
“Our goal is simply to explain how we use and protect the limited information we have about you,” it said.
WhatsApp, founded in 2009, has come under pressure from some European governments in recent years because of its end-to-end encrypted messaging system and its plan to share more data with its parent, Facebook.
Facebook itself is under scrutiny from regulators and lawmakers around the world since disclosing last month that the personal information of millions of users wrongly ended up in the hands of political consultancy Cambridge Analytica, setting off wider concerns about how it handles user data.
WhatsApp’s minimum age of use will remain 13 years in the rest of the world, in line with its parent.
GDPR is the biggest overhaul of online privacy since the birth of the internet, giving Europeans the right to know what data is stored on them and the right to have it deleted.
Apple Inc (AAPL.O) and some other tech firms have said they plan to give people in the United States and elsewhere the same protections and rights that Europeans will gain.
European regulators have already disrupted a move by WhatsApp to change its policies to allow it to share users’ phone numbers and other information with Facebook to help improve the product and more effectively target ads.
WhatsApp suspended the change in Europe after widespread regulatory scrutiny. It said on Tuesday it still wanted to share the data at some point.
“As we have said in the past, we want to work closer with other Facebook companies in the future and we will keep you updated as we develop our plans,” it said.
Other changes announced by WhatsApp on Tuesday include allowing users to download a report detailing the data it holds on them, such as the make and model of the device they used, their contacts and groups and any blocked numbers.
“This feature will be rolling out to all users around the world on the newest version of the app,” it said.
The blog post also points to safety tips on the service, such as the ability to block unwanted users, and delete and report spam.
The New Year is a beginning and an opportunity to get quiet, slow down and be intentional about what you want your next 365 days to be like. As an entrepreneur, you probably do this for your business, but do you do this for your life?
One year ago I created a tool to help me make sense of where I was and where I wanted to go. It was a wonderful experience and so now I’m excited to share it with you.
Filling out this one sheet of paper was incredibly clarifying for me. Once I finished it, I set it on my desk where I would see it every day. Within 3 months, all of my goals for the year were accomplished – even “the big intimidating one” that I was scared to name.
But here’s the thing – it wasn’t work – instead it felt like magic.
The act of writing things down helps us own our path. Our words and our thoughts are powerful things, and this tool can put those to work for you. Here’s what this process is designed to do:
Clarify and understand what guides you
Create an inventory of your life (today as it is now)
Set your intentions for what you want to create (in the future)
Get honest about what challenges you face
This is not a difficult process – but it can be. It can be joyful or it can be painful. It is different for everyone. No matter what, I hope this tool brings you clarify and for you. Feel free to share with others. And I hope you enjoy the journey.
Yet another fear among scientists and climate activists has become reality in the era of Trump.
Years of research and data about carbon emissions, other greenhouse gases, and more was hidden from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency website by the Trump administration Friday as the climate change webpage goes under “review.”
Climate change activists have been wringing their hands ever since Inauguration Day, fearing that the new administration would do something just like this. The EPA has been chipping away at climate change mentions on its website since January, but Friday’s takedown seems to be the biggest step yet. Read more…
By the year 2030, artificial intelligence (A.I.) will have changed the way we travel to work and to parties, how we take care of our health and how our kids are educated.
That’s the consensus from a panel of academic and technology experts taking part in Stanford University’s One Hundred Year Study on Artificial Intelligence.
Focused on trying to foresee the advances coming to A.I., as well as the ethical challenges they’ll bring, the panel yesterday released its first study.
The 28,000-word report, “Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030,” looks at eight categories — from employment to healthcare, security, entertainment, education, service robots, transportation and poor communities — and tries to predict how smart technologies will affect urban life.
One of the key benefits of leveraging Office 365 for your SharePoint solutions is that you will be able to take advantage of all of the latest and greatest advances in the platform as they are launched. This means that you don’t have to worry about managing upgrades and fixes – and this should save time and resources associated with platform management. But, it also means that you have less control over when changes happen in your environment – and that means you need to stay on top of what Microsoft is planning. Successful change management is a lot about managing expectations. When people are fully informed and aware of changes to the software they use every day, the changes can be easier to accept – especially if you have evaluated the impact of these changes in advance. To ensure that your continuously evolving Office 365 environment is not disruptive to your users, you need to monitor what is happening with the platform with a multi-faceted “lens” – looking at upcoming changes from multiple perspectives. For that, it takes a village.