The day before yesterday, we received word by way of a Twitter teaser that Essential was finally planning to release its hotly-anticipated Ocean Depths color. It turns out that Andy Rubin and friends actually had even more in store, with a Stellar Gray and a never-before-seen Copper Black also coming onto the scene. Unfortunately, these will cost $ 599 apiece — a full $ 100 over the price of a Moon Black or Pure White unit.
We’ll have to wait until Thursday before we know exactly what Essential is teasing, but it appears that the company is ready to launch its Ocean Depths color of the Essential Phone. This color has been official since the Essential Phone was first announced, but Essential has never given a solid release date for it.
It’s great to see that Essential may finally be getting this Ocean Depths version of the Essential Phone out. While the new color likely won’t give a huge boost to the Essential Phone’s sales numbers, having more color options is always a good thing, and there are likely some people out there that’ve been waiting for this Ocean Depths model to arrive.
The Essential PH-1 is easily one of the most beautiful smartphones on the market, with its almost-nonexistent bezels and ceramic back. Back in October, the company released a ‘Pure White’ version of the PH-1 that looked fantastic, but white isn’t really a very special color. If you want special, you’ll have to look to the Ocean Depths color, which Essential is now teasing a launch date of February 15th for.
Not only are coral reefs one of the ecosystems most susceptible to climate change, but their complex structure is also vulnerable to an array of other threats, many of which are human made.
Plastic waste is among them, and it’s been found to have a disproportionate impact on corals’ health, by spreading pathogens that cause lethal disease outbreaks. A study published in the journal Science found that when plastic touches corals, the likelihood that they will get sick increases from 4 percent to 89 percent. And according to the the team at Cornell University in the U.S., over a third of the 159 coral reefs they surveyed was contaminated with plastic.
“Corals are under threat from a long list of sources and climate change is one of the major and most publicized ones,” said University of Washington graduate Evan Fiorenza, a co-author, speaking to Futurism. “Our study adds plastic waste to that ever growing list.”
Researchers looked at the Asia-Pacific region, where most global coral reefs are located, and estimated that about 11.1 billion plastic items are currently entangled in the region’s reefs. They project this number to increase by an additional 40 percent by 2025.
Plastic has a range of negative effects on coral reefs. Waste materials dumped on land can transport harmful pathogens out to sea. As scraps lodge in the reef amid the corals, they often scratch their surface, which creates fertile breeding ground for pathogens, much like a cut on the human body can lead to infection. Stress caused by the presence of plastic debris also makes it more difficult for corals to fight off pathogens.
Disease outbreaks among corals are putting at risk the survival of one of the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet, but also the human activities revolving around it. Coral reefs are responsible for yearly $ 375 billion in goods and services related to fishing, tourism, and coastal protection.
Play Your Part
Compared with the elusive impacts of climate change, studies that quantify the role of human waste on coral reefs can be a wake up call not only for the public, but also for local administrations:
“While coral reefs are presented with a lot of different threats, I think that addressing plastic pollution is one of the few things that local managers can actually mitigate,” co-author Courtney S. Couch, researcher at the University of Hawaii, Manoa, told Futurism. “Having everyone reduce their carbon emissions is absolutely necessary, but it’s really hard for local managers to influence our climate. This is one of those tangible things that marine resource managers can certainly work on.”
The good news, the authors say, is that everyone can help tackle the problem through small changes in their lifestyle, such as reducing the use of plastic packaging or single-use plastic items.
“Little things we can do in our daily lives can have a huge impact when looked at collectively,” co-author Lisa Kelly from James Cook University, in Australia, told Futurism. “You might not think the straw in your drink is a big deal, but in reality, over 500 million straws are used daily in the U.S., so little things really add up.” Remembering to bring a reusable bag when going shopping, or a travel mug to the coffee shop are “great ways to reduce plastic consumption with little to no effort,” she said. “Keeping a water bottle handy is also essential, fill it up at a water fountain and avoid buying bottled water.”
While achieving a systemic change in the global packaging industry will not be easy despite citizens’ best efforts, science proves that small behavioral changes can lead to wide scale transformations.
The ocean is crowded. As many as 10 million viruses can be found squirming in a single millilitre of its water, and it turns out they have friends we never even knew about.
Scientists have discovered a previously unknown family of viruses that dominate the ocean and can’t be detected by standard lab tests. Researchers suspect this viral multitude may already exist outside the water — maybe even inside us.
“We don’t think it’s ocean-specific at all,” says environmental microbiologist Martin Polz from MIT.
Polz and his MIT team, together with researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, analysed three months’ worth of ocean water samples collected off the Massachusetts coast.
What they found floating in the water isn’t just remarkable for what it possesses, but for what it doesn’t.
According to the researchers, the most abundant viruses on the entire planet are double-stranded DNA (dsDNA) viruses, of which the ‘tailed’ variety (Caudovirales) are the most well-known to science.
Their mysterious tail-less counterparts are far less understood, chiefly because their biological characteristics aren’t easily picked up by common tests.
But that doesn’t mean they can’t be found. In their new study, the researchers were able to incubate tail-less viruses extracted from the waves lapping Massachusetts’ shores, and sequenced their DNA.
Of 200 viruses infecting a culture of Vibrionaceae(a family of common marine bacteria), 18 turned out to belong to a new family of small, non-tailed dsDNA viruses.
The team calls their discovery Autolykiviridae, after Autolykos (“the wolf itself”): a character from Greek mythology, who as a trickster and thief proved similarly tricky to catch.
But Autolykiviridae has been caught, and now that we know about it, the discovery is helping scientists to fill in a large missing link in virus evolution.
The tail-less viruses look to be representatives of an ancient viral lineage defined by specific types of capsids, the protein shell that encases viral DNA — which we knew commonly infects animals and single-celled organisms, but not bacteria.
The genomes of this new family are very short compared to tailed viruses, composed of about 10,000 bases, instead of the typical 40,000–50,000 for tailed viruses.
In addition, while most viruses prey on just one or two types of bacteria, the tail-less kind looks to be able to infect dozens of different types in a variety of species, suggesting it plays an outsized role in terms of regulating (or killing) bacterial life within the ocean.
And then some. In experiments with over 300 strains of Vibrionaceae, the Autolykiviridae punched well above their weight compared to tailed bacteriophages.
“They caused about 40 percent of the bacterial killing observed, despite comprising just 10 percent of the viruses that we isolated,” explains one of the team, microbiologist Libusha Kelly.
That ruthless efficiency might not be restricted to the deep blue sea.
With the genome in hand, the researchers searched DNA databases to see if evidence of similar, Autolykiviridae-like viruses had already been studied by scientists. Your stomach came up in the results.
“We’ve found related viral sequences in the [human] gut microbiome,” Kelly says, “but we don’t yet know how they influence microbial communities in the gut or how important they are for health.”
There’s a lot more research to be done to understand what the implications of these viruses are – in the ocean, and in ecosystems like the human body too – but it’s already clear the discovery of these elusive parasites is a big catch in itself.
“[This] opens new avenues for furthering our understanding of the roles of viruses in the ocean,” says marine biologist Jed Fuhrman from the University of Southern California, who was not involved in the research.
“In a practical sense, it also shows how we need to alter some commonly used methods in order to capture these kinds of viruses for various studies. I’d say it is an important advance in the field.”