AGRICULTURE SHOCK: New Energy Secretary Steven Chu painted a bleak picture of California's future in an interview with the Los Angeles Times this week, his first since taking office last month. The physicist, who won the Nobel prize in 1997, warned that the nation's most productive agricultural state could lose all its farms and vineyards by 2100 if too little is done to stem greenhouse gas emissions. Temperature changes and low water supplies are expected to threaten crops under many climate models, and Chu added that the Sierra Nevada snowpack — a major source of California's water for drinking and irrigation — could dwindle by 90 percent. "I don't think the American public has gripped in its gut what could happen," Chu told the paper. (Source: LA Times)

REAPING WITH THE FISHES: The honor system hasn't worked for the world's fishermen, with more than 40 percent of global fishing being conducted unsustainably, according to a study published in tomorrow's issue of the journal Nature. Scientists from Canada, Brazil and Switzerland graded the 53 major fishing nations, which account for 96 percent of the global haul. Norway tops the list with 60 percent compliance, followed by the United States, Canada, Australia and Iceland. (Source: The Guardian)

EYE-IN-THE-SEA: That's the name of a new submarine Webcam recently deployed off the California coast by the Monterey Accelerated Research Station. The camera, which streams live video of its adventures online, is part of the new research station's multifaceted campaign to study the Pacific Ocean and how rising temperatures and acidity are affecting it. (Sources: Associated Press, Monterey Accelerated Research Station)

SNAKE SIZE: Scientists have discovered fossils of a previously undiscovered ancient snake, which, at about 45 feet long and 1.25 tons, would be the largest ever known by science. "Titanoboa" was reportedly as big as a school bus, and dominated ancient Colombia's tropical ecosystems 65 million years ago, shortly following the demise of the dinosaurs. (Source: ScienceDaily)

A NEANDERTHAL ORDER: German anthropologists have completed a "rough draft" of the Neanderthal's genome, a major step toward mapping the ancient human relative's DNA. While the team has sequenced about 3 billion DNA letters — amounting to reading half the genome's letters once — its work is far from done, since human and animal genomes are usually sequenced several times for accuracy's sake. Age and damage are complicating the difficulty of teasing meaning from the 38,000-year-old bone, but some details are already emerging, such as this particular Neanderthal's lactose intolerance. One key nugget the scientists hope to determine is whether humans and Neanderthals ever interbred. (Source: New Scientist)

Russell McLendon

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