Stars create new elements in their cores by squeezing elements together in a process called nuclear fusion. First, stars fuse hydrogen atoms into helium. Helium atoms then fuse to create beryllium, and so on, until fusion in the star’s core hascreated every element up to iron.Jan 13, 2012
A normal human baby, according to psychologists, will cry about two hours over the course of a day.
A notorious human crybaby, according to her older siblings, parents and the building superintendent, will cry for two hours every two hours, refusing to acknowledge any distinction between crying and other basic infant activities, like “being awake” or “breathing.”
Current and former whine enthusiasts, take heart. It turns out that infant crying is not only as natural and justifiable as breathing: The two acts are physically, neurologically, primally intertwined. Scientists have discovered that the small cluster of brain cells in charge of fast, active respiration also grant a baby animal the power to cry.
Reporting in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Carmen Birchmeier and Luis Hernandez-Miranda, of the Max Delbruck Center for Molecular Medicine in Berlin, and their colleagues showed that infant mice stripped of this key node — a mere 17,000 neurons, located in the evolutionarily ancient hindbrain — can breathe slowly and passively, but not vigorously or animatedly.
When they open their mouths to cry, nothing comes out. As a result, their mothers ignore them, and the poorly breathing pups quickly die.
“This was an astonishing finding,” Dr. Birchmeier said. “The mother could see the pups and smell the pups, but if they didn’t vocalize, it was as though they didn’t exist.”
The new study is just one in a series of recent reports that reveal the centrality of crying to infant survival, and how a baby’s bawl punches through a cluttered acoustic landscape to demand immediate adult attention.
The sound of an infant’s cry arouses a far quicker and stronger response in action-oriented parts of the adult brain than do similarly loud or emotionally laden noises, like a dog barking or a neighbor weeping.
Scientists also have shown that the cries of many infant mammals share a number of basic sonic properties.
Susan Lingle, a biologist at the University of Winnipeg, and her co-workers have conducted field studies in which they broadcast through loudspeakers the amplified crèche cries of a panoply of animals, including a baby bat, a baby eland, a sea lion pup, a baby marmot, a kid goat and a domestic kitten.
Sometimes the cry was played as is. Sometimes a single feature — the cry’s pitch — was raised or lowered while everything else remained the same. No matter the infantile source of the S.O.S., the reaction of a mother deer grazing nearby was the same: She would bound at top speed toward the speaker as though to her own fawn in distress.
Deer aren’t the only ones to be bamboozled. At a conference on infant wailing held earlier this summer in Italy, Dr. Lingle played an audio clip of cries from a kid, fawn and baby, and asked the audience which was human.
“The majority got it right,” Dr. Lingle said, “but many admitted they really weren’t sure.”
Not all infant mammals keen with the choir. “When a cheetah cub is separated from its mother, it chirps like a bird,” said Patrick Thomas, curator of mammals at the Bronx Zoo. The cry of a baby kangaroo sounds like a cough.
Researchers are searching for any telltale variations in the cries of human infants that might be used diagnostically to identify conditions like autism long before behavioral symptoms arise.
Stephen Sheinkopf and Barry Lester of Brown University and their colleagues recently showed that environmental factors, too, may subtly shape the sound of a baby’s cry by impinging on a gene involved in an infant’s response to cortisol, a critical stress hormone.
Harried parents might prefer the scientists focus on a simple translation manual. What is my screaming angel trying to tell me?
Mariano Chóliz, a psychologist at the University of Valencia, and his co-workers have made a first-pass attempt to categorize infant cries. In The Spanish Journal of Psychology, the researchers described laboratory studies in which infants were subjected to various unpleasant procedures known to elicit different emotional states. The resulting cries were videotaped and analyzed.
To provoke anger, the investigators pinned down the babies’ hands or feet and prevented them from moving. To arouse fear, the researchers clapped their hands loudly or dropped a book on the floor. A cry of pain followed “the obligatory vaccination,” according to the study.
Dr. Chóliz found that angry babies tended to keep their eyes half-closed, gazing off to the side as they cried. They steadily amped up the volume of vocalized umbrage. Frightened babies, after an initial hesitation and tensing up of the facial muscles, emitted an explosive cry and kept their eyes open and searching the whole time.
Babies pained by a needle prick cried out immediately, at full force, and squeezed shut their eyes. They maintained that expression and volume for the entire crying bout.
The take-home message for parents: If you happen to drop a heavy object on the floor while the pediatrician is pinning down your baby’s leg for a shot, your child will be in therapy for life.
That humans and other infant mammals are painfully dependent on their elders for survival is reflected in the distinctive spectrographic contours of a cry. An infant cry is characterized by a simple, clear, fundamental tone and a relatively long, unbroken “melodic structure,” as it is perversely called, that falls and rises and falls and tails off in unpredictable ways.
“If a stimulus stays the same, it’s easy to tune out,” said Katherine S. Young, a psychologist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “But something that changes over time is very difficult to ignore.”
Police sirens and other alert sounds mimic this pattern of a slow increase and decrease in pitch, said Dr. Young, “because it grabs and holds your attention.”
By the look of it, the adult brain is primed to be buttonholed.
Studying both superfast brain scans of healthy volunteers and direct electrode measurements in adult patients who were undergoing neurosurgery for other reasons, Dr. Young, with Christine E. Parsons of Aarhus University in Denmark, Morten L. Kringelbach of Oxford University and other colleagues, has tracked the brain’s response to the sound of an infant cry.
The researchers found that within 49 thousandths of a second of a recorded cry being played, the periaqueductal gray — an area deep in the midbrain that has long been linked to urgent, do-or-die behaviors — had blazed to attention, twice as fast as it reacted to dozens of other audio clips tested.
The investigators also detected rapid firing in brain regions that check a stimulus for its emotional salience and in motor areas that control movement. Is this sound important? Yes. Should I do something about it? Absolutely.
This spur to caretaking action — this antsy, subliminal desire to solve the dilemma presented by the wailing infant — could explain why a crying infant on an airplane is especially distressing. Passengers want to help; they can’t, and they can’t even run away.
One solution: Break out the video games.
In another study, volunteers were asked to play a lab version of the popular game Whac-a-Mole by pressing down on an ever-shifting target button as rapidly as possible. Subjects then listened to recordings of babies crying, adults crying or birds singing, and played the game again.
“We saw better scores and more effortful pressing after the infant cries,” Dr. Young said.
Candy Crush and a crybaby: sounds like the perfect pair.
10 Big Cats That Didn’t Make It Into the 20th Century
Few creatures on earth are as threatened by extinction today as big cats—lions, tigers and cheetahs, among other breeds. In fact, the past 10,000 years have witnessed the demise of no less than 10 species and subspecies of big cats, and even still-extant lions, tigers and cheetahs are hovering on the brink of extinction, thanks to relentless ecological disruption and loss of habitat.
The American Cheetah
Despite its name, the American Cheetah (genus Miracinonyx) was more closely related to pumas and jaguars than to modern cheetahs; its slim, muscular, cheetah-like body can be chalked up to convergent evolution (the tendency for animals that pursue similar lifestyles and inhabit similar ecosystems—in this case the wide, grassy plains of North America and Africa—to evolve similar body plans). As fast and sleek as it was, the American Cheetah went extinct about 10,000 years ago, shortly after the last Ice Age, possibly as a result of human encroachment on its territory.
The American Lion
As with the American Cheetah (see previous slide), the big-cat affiliations of theAmerican Lion (Panthera leo atrox) are in some doubt: this Pleistocene predator may actually have been more closely related to tigers and jaguars than to modern lions. The amazing thing about the American Lion is that it coexisted, and competed, with bothSmilodon (aka the Saber-Toothed Tiger shown below) and Canis dirus, also known as the Dire Wolf. If it was in fact a subspecies of lion, the American Lion was by far the biggest member of its breed, some pack-alpha males weighing as much as half a ton.
The Bali Tiger
As you might have surmised from its name, the Bali Tiger (Panthera tigris balica) was native to the Indonesian island of Bali, where the last scattered individuals went extinct a mere 50 or so years ago. For thousands of years, the Bali Tiger coexisted uneasily with the indigenous human settlers of Indonesia; however, it didn’t find itself truly imperiled until the arrival of the first European traders and mercenaries, who mercilessly hunted this tiger to extinction, sometimes simply for sport and sometimes to protect their animals and homesteads.
The Barbary Lion
One of the more fearsome subspecies ofPanthera leo, the Barbary Lion(Panthera leo leo) was a prized possession of medieval British lords who wanted a novel way to intimidate their serfs; a few large, shaggy individuals even made their way from northern Africa to the menagerie of the Tower of London, where countless British aristrocrats were imprisoned and executed. Barbary Lion males possessed especially large manes, and they were among the largest lions of historical times, weighing as much as 500 pounds apiece. It may yet prove possible to reintroduce the Barbary Lion into the wild by selective breedingof its scattered descendants.
The Cape Lion
The Cape Lion, Panthera leo melanochaitus, holds a tenuous position in the big-cat classification books; some naturalists maintain that it shouldn’t count as a Panthera leo subspecies at all, and was in fact a mere geographical offshoot of the still-extant but dwindling Transvaal Lion of South Africa (it can be a tricky matter to distinguish a new species from an isolated population) Whatever the case, the last specimens of this big-maned lion breed expired in the late 19th century, and no convincing sightings have been recorded since (not for lack of trying by dedicated cat-watchers).
The Caspian Tiger
Of all the big cats that have gone extinct over the last 100 years, theCaspian Tiger (Panthera tigris virgata) occupied the largest expanse of territory, ranging from Iran to the Caucasus to the vast, windswept steppes of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. We can thank Imperial Russia, which bordered these regions, for the extinction of this majestic beast; Tsarist officials set a bounty on the Caspian Tiger during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and starving Russian citizens eagerly complied. As with the Barbary Lion, it may yet prove possible to de-extinct the Caspian Tiger via the selective breeding of its descendants.
The Cave Lion
Probably the most famous of all extinct big cats next to the Saber-Tooth Tiger—if only for its close association with theCave Bear, on which it regularly lunched—the Cave Lion (Panthera leo spelaea) was one of the apex predators of Pleistocene Eurasia. Oddly enough, this lion didn’t live in dark grottoes; it earned its name because various individuals were unearthed in dank European caves, which Panthera leo spelaea packs raided in search of bear-sized snacks (an angry, full-grown Cave Bear would have been an even match for an 800-pound Cave Lion male.)
The European Lion
Confusingly, what paleontologists refer to as the European Lion comprised as many as three, rather than just one, subspecies of Panthera leo: Panthera leo europaea, Panthera leo tartaricaand Panthera leo fossilis. What all these big cats shared in common were their relatively large sizes (some males approached 400 pounds, females, as always in the big cat family, being slightly smaller) and their susceptibility to encroachment and capture by representatives of early European “civilization”: for example, European Lions featured in the gruesome arena combats of ancient Rome.
The Javan Tiger
Like its close relative in oblivion, the Bali Tiger, the Javan Tiger (Panthera tigris sondaica) was restricted to a single island in the vast Indonesian archipelago. Unlike the Bali Tiger, though, the Javan Tiger succumbed not to relentless hunting by settlers bent on preserving their livestock, but to relentless encroachment on its territory, as the human population of Java exploded during the 19th and 20th centuries and continues to explode today. The last Javan Tiger was glimpsed a few decades ago; given how crowded the island of Java has become, no one holds out much hope for another sighting.
The Saber-Tooth Tiger
The last big cat on this list is a bit of a ringer: despite its name, the Saber-Tooth Tiger(aka Smilodon) wasn’t technically a tiger, and it went extinct at the cusp of the historical era, about 10,000 years ago. Still, given its enduring place in the popular imagination, Smilodon at least merits a mention: this was one of the most dangerous predators of the Pleistocene epoch, capable of sinking its canines into large megafauna mammals and cruelly waiting nearby as its victims bled to death. As intimidating as it was, though, Smilodon was no match for early Homo sapiens, who hunted it to extinction shortly after the last Ice Age.
We may finally understand why tropical plants have huge leaves
By Alice Klein
Why do plants’ leaves shrink the further from the equator they grow? It may all be to do with maintaining a comfortable temperature.
Leaves vary greatly in size, from less than 1 square millimetre to almost 1 square metre. Large-leaved plants likebananas and palms tend to live in the tropics, while small-leaved plants like heather and clover are found closer to the poles.
Botanists first noticed this latitude trend in the 19th century, but nobody has convincingly explained it. One idea is that leaf size is important for preventing overheating. But large leaves absorb more of the sun’s heat and get hotter than small ones, suggesting they should be found in cold regions, not the tropics.
To solve this puzzle, Ian Wright at Macquarie University in Sydney and his colleagues studied the leaves of 7670 plant species found at different latitudes. The team looked at the relationship between leaf size and various aspects of climate, including day and night temperatures, rainfall and humidity.
They found that avoiding night-time freezing is just as important for plants as avoiding daytime heat stress.
Not too hot, not too cold
Wright and his team showed that this balancing act depends on two main factors. The first is how much water the leaf has available to cool itself down via transpiration – a process similar to sweating. The second is the boundary layer: a pocket of still air that surrounds each leaf and acts as an insulator.
Large leaves have thicker boundary layers, making them more susceptible to extremes of temperature. The extra insulation makes it harder for the leaf to extract heat from the surroundings at night.
It is this that leads to large leaves being less favoured at high latitudes, says Wright. Their thick boundary layers make it hard to stay warm during cold nights, increasing the risk of frost damage.
Large leaves are also unfavourable in hot desert-like climates, because their thick boundary layers make them overheat during the day.
But large leaves can cope in hot, wet, tropical climates because they counteract the daytime heat-trapping effect using transpiration – something desert plants cannot do because they cannot afford to lose that much water.
“It’s basically a trade-off between how much they heat up and how much water they have available to cool themselves down,” says Wright. “This new knowledge helps us to understand a fundamental aspect of how plants do business.”
Andrew Lowe at the University of Adelaide in Australia says it’s a “nice explanation”.
It may also help to predict how climate change is likely to alter plant distribution, Lowe says. “For example, if a particular region becomes warmer and drier, you may see smaller-leaf species replacing larger-leaf species because they’re better adapted to the new climatic conditions.”
Lowe has previously shown that the leaves of the Australian shrub Dodonaea viscosa have narrowed by 2 millimetres, or 40 per cent, over the last century, possibly in response to rising temperatures. “It seems that leaves are already changing,” he says.
The calls started flooding in from hundreds of irate North Carolina voters just after 7 a.m. on Election Day last November.
Dozens were told they were ineligible to vote and were turned away at the polls, even when they displayed current registration cards. Others were sent from one polling place to another, only to be rejected. Scores of voters were incorrectly told they had cast ballots days earlier. In one precinct, voting halted for two hours.
Susan Greenhalgh, a troubleshooter at a nonpartisan election monitoring group, was alarmed. Most of the complaints came from Durham, a blue-leaning county in a swing state. The problems involved electronic poll books— tablets and laptops, loaded with check-in software, that have increasingly replaced the thick binders of paper used to verify voters’ identities and registration status. She knew that the company that provided Durham’s software, VR Systems, had been penetrated by Russian hackers months before.
“It felt like tampering, or some kind of cyberattack,” Ms. Greenhalgh said about the voting troubles in Durham.
There are plenty of other reasons for such breakdowns — local officials blamed human error and software malfunctions — and no clear-cut evidence of digital sabotage has emerged, much less a Russian role in it. Despite the disruptions, a record number of votes were cast in Durham, following a pattern there of overwhelming support for Democratic presidential candidates, this time Hillary Clinton.
But months later, for Ms. Greenhalgh, other election security experts and some state officials, questions still linger about what happened that day in Durham as well as other counties in North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and Arizona.
After a presidential campaign scarred by Russian meddling, local, state and federal agencies have conducted little of the type of digital forensic investigation required to assess the impact, if any, on voting in at least 21 states whose election systems were targeted by Russian hackers, according to interviews with nearly two dozen national security and state officials and election technology specialists.
The assaults on the vast back-end election apparatus — voter-registration operations, state and local election databases, e-poll books and other equipment — have received far less attention than other aspects of the Russian interference, such as the hacking of Democratic emails and spreading of false or damaging information about Mrs. Clinton. Yet the hacking of electoral systems was more extensive than previously disclosed, The New York Times found.
Beyond VR Systems, hackers breached at least two other providers of critical election services well ahead of the 2016 voting, said current and former intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because the information is classified. The officials would not disclose the names of the companies.
Intelligence officials in January reassured Americans that there was no indication that Russian hackers had altered the vote count on Election Day, the bottom-line outcome. But the assurances stopped there.
Government officials said that they intentionally did not address the security of the back-end election systems, whose disruption could prevent voters from even casting ballots.
That’s partly because states control elections; they have fewer resources than the federal government but have long been loath to allow even cursory federal intrusions into the voting process.
That, along with legal constraints on intelligence agencies’ involvement in domestic issues, has hobbled any broad examination of Russian efforts to compromise American election systems. Those attempts include combing through voter databases, scanning for vulnerabilities or seeking to alter data, which have been identified in multiple states. Current congressional inquiries and the special counsel’s Russia investigation have not focused on the matter.
“We don’t know if any of the problems were an accident, or the random problems you get with computer systems, or whether it was a local hacker, or actual malfeasance by a sovereign nation-state,” said Michael Daniel, who served as the cybersecurity coordinator in the Obama White House. “If you really want to know what happened, you’d have to do a lot of forensics, a lot of research and investigation, and you may not find out even then.”
In interviews, academic and private election security experts acknowledged the challenges of such diagnostics but argued that the effort is necessary. They warned about what could come, perhaps as soon as next year’s midterm elections, if the existing mix of outdated voting equipment, haphazard election-verification procedures and array of outside vendors is not improved to build an effective defense against Russian or other hackers.
In Durham, a local firm with limited digital forensics or software engineering expertise produced a confidential report, much of it involving interviews with poll workers, on the county’s election problems. The report was obtained by The Times, and election technology specialists who reviewed it at the Times’ request said the firm had not conducted any malware analysis or checked to see if any of the e-poll book software was altered, adding that the report produced more questions than answers.
Neither VR Systems — which operates in seven states beyond North Carolina — nor local officials were warned before Election Day that Russian hackers could have compromised their software. After problems arose, Durham County rebuffed help from the Department of Homeland Security and Free & Fair, a team of digital election-forensics experts who volunteered to conduct a free autopsy. The same was true elsewhere across the country.
“I always got stonewalled,” said Joe Kiniry, the chief executive and chief scientist at Free & Fair.
Still, some of the incidents reported in North Carolina occur in every election, said Charles Stewart III, a political scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and an expert on election administration.
“Election officials and advocates and reporters who were watching most closely came away saying this was an amazingly quiet election,” he said, playing down the notion of tampering. He added, though, that the problems in Durham and elsewhere raise questions about the auditing of e-poll books and security of small election vendors.
Ms. Greenhalgh shares those concerns. “We still don’t know if Russian hackers did this,” she said about what happened in North Carolina. “But we still don’t know that they didn’t.”
Disorder at the Polls
North Carolina went for Donald J. Trump in a close election. But in Durham County, Hillary Clinton won 78 percent of the 156,000 votes, winning by a larger margin than President Barack Obama had against Mitt Romney four years earlier.
While only a fraction of voters were turned away because of the e-poll book difficulties — more than half of the county cast their ballots days earlier — plenty of others were affected when the state mandated that the entire county revert to paper rolls on Election Day. People steamed as everything slowed. Voters gave up and left polling places in droves — there’s no way of knowing the numbers, but they include more than a hundred North Carolina Central University students facing four-hour delays.
At a call center operated by the monitoring group Election Protection, Ms. Greenhalgh was fielding technical complaints from voters in Mississippi, Texas and North Carolina. Only a handful came from the first two states.
Her account of the troubles matches complaints logged in the Election Incident Reporting System, a tracking tool created by nonprofit groups. As the problems mounted, The Charlotte Observer reported that Durham’s e-poll book vendor was Florida-based VR Systems, which Ms. Greenhalgh knew from a CNN report had been hacked earlier by Russians. “Chills went through my spine,” she recalled.
The vendor does not make the touch-screen equipment used to cast or tally votes and does not manage county data. But without the information needed to verify voters’ identities and eligibility, which county officials load onto VR’s poll books, voters cannot cast ballots at all.
Details of the breach did not emerge until June, in a classified National Security Agency report leaked to The Intercept, a national security news site. That report found that hackers from Russia’s military intelligence agency, the G.R.U., had penetrated the company’s computer systems as early as August 2016, then sent “spear-phishing” emails from a fake VR Systems account to 122 state and local election jurisdictions. The emails sought to trick election officials into downloading malicious software to take over their computers.
The N.S.A. analysis did not say whether the hackers had sabotaged voter data. “It is unknown,” the agency concluded, whether Russian phishing “successfully compromised the intended victims, and what potential data could have been accessed.”
VR Systems’ chief operating officer, Ben Martin, said he did not believe Russian hackers were successful. He acknowledged that the vendor was a “juicy target,” given that its systems are used in battleground states including North Carolina, Florida and Virginia. But he said that the company blocked access from its systems to local databases, and employs security protocols to bar intruders and digital triggers that sound alerts if its software is manipulated.
On Election Day, as the e-poll book problems continued, Ms. Greenhalgh urged an Election Protection colleague in North Carolina to warn the state Board of Elections of a cyberattack and suggest that it call in the F.B.I. and Department of Homeland Security. In an email, she also warned a Homeland Security election specialist of the problems. Later, the specialist told her Durham County had rejected the agency’s help.
When Ms. Greenhalgh, who works at Verified Voting, a nonprofit dedicated to election integrity, followed up with the North Carolina colleague, he reported that state officials said they would not require federal help.
“He said: ‘The state does not view this as a problem. There’s nothing we can do, so we’ve moved on to other things,’” Ms. Greenhalgh recalled. “Meanwhile, I’m thinking, ‘What could be more important to move on to?’”
An Interference Campaign
The idea of subverting the American vote by hacking election systems is not new. In an assessment of Russian cyberattacks released in January, intelligence agencies said Kremlin spy services had been collecting information on election processes, technology and equipment in the United States since early 2014.
The Russians shied away from measures that might alter the “tallying” of votes, the report added, a conclusion drawn from American spying and intercepts of Russian officials’ communications and an analysis by the Department of Homeland Security, according to the current and former government officials.
The most obvious way to rig an election — controlling hundreds or thousands of decentralized voting machines — is also the most difficult. During a conference of computer hackers last month in Las Vegas, participants had direct access and quickly took over more than 30 voting machines. But remotely infiltrating machines of different makes and models and then covertly changing the vote count is far more challenging.
Beginning in 2015, the American officials said, Russian hackers focused instead on other internet-accessible targets: computers at the Democratic National Committee, state and local voter databases, election websites, e-poll book vendors and other back-end election services.
Apart from the Russian influence campaign intended to undermine Mrs. Clinton and other Democratic officials, the impact of the quieter Russian hacking efforts at the state and county level has not been widely studied. Federal officials have been so tight-lipped that not even many election officials in the 21 states the hackers assaulted know whether their systems were compromised, in part because they have not been granted security clearances to examine the classified evidence.
The January intelligence assessment implied that the Russian hackers had achieved broader access than has been assumed. Without elaborating, the report said the Russians had “obtained and maintained access to multiple U.S. state and local election boards.”
Two previously acknowledged strikes in June 2016 hint at Russian ambitions. In Arizona, Russian hackers successfully stole a username and password for an election official in Gila County. And in Illinois, Russian hackers inserted a malicious program into the Illinois State Board of Elections’ database. According to Ken Menzel, the board’s general counsel, the program tried unsuccessfully “to alter things other than voter data” — he declined to be more specific — and managed to illegally download registration files for 90,000 voters before being detected.
On Election Day last year, a number of counties reported problems similar to those in Durham. In North Carolina, e-poll book incidents occurred in the counties that are home to the state’s largest cities, including Raleigh, Winston-Salem, Fayetteville and Charlotte. Three of Virginia’s most populous counties — Prince William, Loudoun, and Henrico — as well as Fulton County, Georgia, which includes Atlanta, and Maricopa County, Arizona, which includes Phoenix, also reported difficulties. All were attributed to software glitches.
Senator Mark Warner, Democrat of Virginia and vice chairman of the Senate intelligence committee, argued for more scrutiny of suspicious incidents. “We must harden our cyber defenses, and thoroughly educate the American public about the danger posed” by attacks,” he said in an email. “In other words: we are not making our elections any safer by withholding information about the scope and scale of the threat.”
In Durham County, officials have rejected any notion that an intruder sought to alter the election outcome. “We do not believe, and evidence does not suggest, that hacking occurred on Election Day,” Derek Bowens, the election director, said in a recent email.
But last month, after inquiries from reporters and the North Carolina State Board of Elections and Ethics Enforcement, Durham county officials voted to turn over laptops and other devices to the board for further analysis. It was not clear which government agency or private forensics firm, would conduct the investigation.
Ms. Greenhalgh will be watching closely. “What people focus on is, ‘Did someone mess with the vote totals?’” she said. “What they don’t realize is that messing with the e-poll books to keep people from voting is just as effective.’”
In 1932, William Beebe wedged his lanky body into a cramped submersible and became the first scientist to descend into the sea’s inky darkness. A tiny window let him gaze out. Later, he described an unfamiliar world of dancing lights, pale glows and beguiling shimmers.
“It seemed to explode,” he said of one luminous creature. Nothing, he added in his book, “Half Mile Down,” had prepared him for the spectacular displays. The colors included pale greens, blues, reds and especially blue-greens, which by nature can travel far in seawater.
Over the decades, biologists learned that the creatures of the deep sea use light much as animals on land use sound — to lure, intimidate, stun, mislead and find mates.
The living lights emanated from tiny fish with needlelike fangs, and gelatinous brutes with thousands of feeding tentacles. The sheer variety suggested that bioluminescence was fairly common, but no scientist came up with a measurement of the phenomenon.
Now, 85 years after Dr. Beebe’s pioneering dive, scientists have succeeded in gauging the actual extent of bioluminescence in the deep ocean.
During 240 research dives in the Pacific, they recorded every occurrence and kind of glowing sea creature — more than 500 types living down as deep as two miles. Then, the researchers merged the results into a comprehensive survey.
The result? Most of the creatures — a stunning 76 percent — made their own light, vastly outnumbering the ranks of the unlit, such as dolphins.
“People think bioluminescence is some kind of exotic characteristic,” said Séverine Martini, a marine biologist and lead author of the study,published this year in Scientific Reports. “Even oceanographers don’t realize that it’s common.”
Her own awakening came one night in a sailboat off Africa. “I was looking at the stars and learning about constellations,” she recalled, and then suddenly began “seeing things that were glowing in the waves.”
The vampire squid, Vampyroteuthis infernalis, can cloak itself in a glowing blue cloud.Steven Haddock/Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Deiopea, a comb jelly. These colors are produced by the diffraction of light on hair-like cilia.Steven Haddock/Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Sternoptyx, a marine hatchetfish whose lower body can glow blue, perhaps to elude predators.Steven Haddock/Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Beroe forskalii, a comb jelly, can produce waves of light in the deep sea.Steven Haddock/Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Chaenophryne longiceps, an anglerfish, uses a bright lure to attract prey.Steven Haddock/Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Atolla, a jellyfish, shines bright blue when threatened.Steven Haddock/Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Helicocranchia, a genus of tiny transparent squids. Some have light-emitting cells near their eyes.Steven Haddock/Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Tomopteris, a genus of sea worms, emits blue light, but one species can produce yellow.Steven Haddock/Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
As the deep sea is the planet’s largest habitat, the new findings confirm bioluminescence to be one of the earth’s dominant ecological traits, despite its unfamiliarity, according to Dr. Martini and her co-author, Steven H. D. Haddock, both of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California.
“A lot of these questions are centuries old,” Dr. Haddock said. “You see sparks in the water and have no idea what they represent.”
Over the decades, scientists have traced the evolutionary roots of the living oceanic lights to primal seas hundreds of millions of years ago, long before the age of dinosaurs.
By contrast, terrestrial bioluminescence is relatively new. And the land creatures that light up, unlike their undersea kin, constitute a tiny minority. The ranks include not only fireflies but also some beetles, millipedes and earthworms.
The research institute — in Moss Landing, Calif., at the midpoint of the Monterey Bay shoreline — is a pioneer of deep ocean exploration. It was established in 1987 by David Packard, the billionaire co-founder of Hewlett-Packard and a creator of Silicon Valley.
Dr. Haddock is a world authority on bioluminescence who has published dozens of scientific papers on luminescent ocean life. A decade ago, he set up the Bioluminescence Web Page, which offers detailed information about deep creatures, including dozens of dramatic images. It is required reading at some universities.
The 240 dives used to perform this survey were all research trips he had conducted personally since arriving in 1999 at the institute. Sailing out from Moss Landing, the cruises ranged up to 180 miles offshore and covered an area roughly the size of Ireland.
The sea floor off Monterey Bay, 60 miles south of San Francisco, drops off sharply, unlike the shallow continental shelves on most coasts. That makes it easy for research vessels to quickly reach and access deep environments.
For years, Dr. Haddock and his colleagues lowered robots on long tethers to explore the icy darkness. Sensitive cameras on the vehicles let the scientists conduct wide visual hunts. In all, the researchers made more than 350,000 sightings of deep-sea life.
Their finds included anglerfish, a famous example of bioluminescence. These skilled hunters lure prey by dangling lines tipped with glowing lures in front of large mouths full of daggerlike teeth.
A rare sighting was Vampyroteuthis infernalis — Latin for “vampire squid from hell.” The odd creature has blue eyes, a dark red body and cloaklike webbing over its arms. The tips glow.
Dr. Haddock and his colleagues have discovered that the squids also emit luminous blue particles that can form a glowing cloud around the animal, apparently to distract predators so the squid can vanish into darkness.
Many of the dives found swarms of gelatinous animals known as siphonophores. The otherworldly creatures have long bodies ringed by pulsing bells for propulsion, and up to thousands of elastic tentacles for catching and drawing in prey.
Most siphonophores light up brightly. Scientists judge their startling brilliance to be a way to scare off predators. Dr. Haddock and his colleagues uncovered another reason while studying a creature known as Erenna.
The ends of its tentacles turned out to bear twitching red lights, apparently for drawing prey into waiting stingers and its stomach. “It opened my eyes,” Dr. Haddock said.
On land, Dr. Martini took the lead in compiling the numbers, comparing the sea creatures seen during the dives with a list of animals known to be luminescent.
This comprehensive list was based on a review of previous scientific reports, as well as the firsthand observations that Dr. Haddock and other scientists have made over the years.
In the conclusion to their study, the scientists at the institute acknowledged that all their expeditions and efforts at summarization have produced no more than a rough estimate of the phenomenon’s true dimensions.
“The full extent of bioluminescence capability is yet to be established, especially in the deep sea where continued discoveries await,” Dr. Martini and Dr. Haddock said in their report.
For decades, the human eye worked far better than any video camera at recording the subtle lights of the deep life. But in recent years, Dr. Haddock said, camera sensitivity has begun to rival that of the human eye and will eventually surpass it.
He said the advances would let scientists document lights previously seen only fleetingly, as well as discover new kinds of luminous displays. Continued progress, he added, will be a living memorial to Dr. Beebe and the hidden world he discovered of glows, flares and shimmers in the sunless depths.
“We’re still addressing the kinds of observations he was making,” Dr. Haddock said. “There’s still a lot to learn.”
CORRECTION August 22, 2017
A picture caption in an earlier version of this article incorrectly gave the name of a jellyfish. It is Atolla, not Biolum atolla.
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