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Rural kids now grow a little taller than urban kids in rich countries



Science has long assumed that urban children grow faster and healthier than rural children, but that trend has reversed over the past three decades, a new study shows. The global study, published on Wednesday at Nature found that the average height urban children and teenagers aged 5 to 19 are now slightly shorter than their peers in rural areas in most countries, especially in wealthy countries such as the US, UK and France.

“While historically we have seen fairly clear benefits from living in cities, those benefits have diminished slightly over time,” says study co-author Honor Bixby, research fellow in population health and epidemiology at the University of Essex in England. “But it can be seen as a positive in that the rural height is really catching up.”

However, researchers are still trying to figure out exactly why this is happening.

Cities have long been associated with better health – researchers call it “urban advantage“. Residents in bustling, developed centers are likely to have better access to quality health care, education, safety, and nutrition, and barriers to these resources can particularly impact critical early childhood growth. “This early stage of life really sets the tone for health in adulthood and later in life,” says Bixby, who worked on the study with more than 1,500 researchers in the Collaboration on Noncommunicable Disease Risk Factors, a worldwide network of scientists and physicians. “We specifically consider height and body mass index (BMI) as anthropometric measures of growth and development because [height and weight are] both nutritional quality and environmental health.” (Some experts and members of the public criticized BMI limitsits overuse as an accurate measure of health and its failure to capture variability between individuals. Bixby says it can still be useful for estimating population-level means and trends.)

The study analyzed data from 71 million participants from 2,325 population-based studies conducted between 1990 and 2020 in 200 countries and territories. In 1990, children living in cities were higher than children in rural areas, although the difference was not significant in most high-income countries. However, by 2020, while overall child height has increased in both urban and rural areas, in most countries children in urban areas have shown smaller growth gains.

“What happened was a brilliant result, especially since the difference in BMI was actually much smaller than the height,” says Bixby. “When we talk about a small urban disadvantage, we mean that the average height of a population living in cities is slightly less than the average height of a person living in a rural area in the same country.”

This change may mean that the gap in health care resources between the two populations is narrowing. But is this due to the deteriorating health of city dwellers, or to the improvement in the health of rural dwellers? It is also difficult to determine whether the changes were driven by socioeconomic factors or population displacement, or a combination of the two, says Mahesh Karraassistant professor of global development policy at Boston University who was not involved in the new study.

Natural migration and urban expansion are factors that can influence who lives in cities today. According to a 2018 United Nations report, 55 percent of the world’s population then lived in cities. “For the first time in human history, the majority of people live in urban areas, but now this is changing the relative composition of those who live in rural versus urban areas,” Carra says. “The composition is also changing because there is a lot of migration from the countryside to the cities. People are much more mobile these days and this is becoming [difficult to] unravel these average effects.”

Bixby says migration may be at the heart of some of the changes, but is likely not a major driver of recent trends. Past migration studies have shown that, over time, newcomers end up acquiring the same health characteristics of the population they move to, she said, because they gain access to the same services. For example, children who move to the city will go to the same schools and use the same services as those who have already lived there. “There is much more to be said about where migrants fit in the socioeconomic distribution and whether they can take full advantage of cities, but this is more about socioeconomic inequality than migration per se,” says Bixby. “It is true that we simply do not have the data to properly assess the role of migration in our study.”

Karra agrees that migration is probably not the main cause of elevation change in cities. “The cynical point of view is that if you imagine sicker people moving from rural areas to urban areas, because they know that urban areas [provide] the best care,” he explains. Theoretically, this could reduce the level of health in cities and reduce the gap between the population. “But that is if urban areas are falling in terms of their development,” Carra adds. “Basically, you see both urban and rural health improving; BMI and height increase over time. But in rural areas it grows faster than in urban areas, and this is where you start to see either better health or better selection of people who continue to stay in the countryside.”

Bixby adds that countries where improvements in rural elevation have been most evident may be seeing economic growth or investment in higher living standards. While the overall increase in height in both rural and urban areas is a positive trend, it highlights that inequalities continue to persist, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, the Pacific, and the Middle East. Boys living in rural areas in these regions did not grow taller, and in some countries in these regions the average height of boys became shorter regardless of where they lived.

“It’s not that we’ve closed the gaps, it’s just that we’re seeing convergence. And this I think is pretty important. [distinction] say, says Carra. In low-income countries, “rural children may still be a little behind and so there is still scope to keep thinking about targeting vulnerable populations where resources can be used more efficiently. It also brings us back to the fact that we have to dig a little deeper to understand who exactly are the kids who are falling behind.”

Bixby and her colleagues are also working to better understand and focus on where the poorest live and how to support them. She hopes that this data will help to understand where to implement policies and programs that support growth and development.

“Even in rich countries, the inequality that we see in cities can be very large,” she says. “This is not surprising, but while cities can offer many opportunities for good health, these opportunities do not seem to be available to everyone. Those who miss these opportunities are often the most disadvantaged people. I think that’s what’s showing up in the data and it’s kind of a warning sign for growing urban inequality.”

Editor’s note (03/29/23): This story was edited after publication to correct the number of decades covered in the study.

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British scientists have found one of the largest black holes ever discovered



British astronomers have discovered one of the largest black holes ever discovered.

A team led by Durham University used gravitational lensing to find a supermassive black hole.

Gravitational lensing occurs when a celestial object has such a massive gravitational pull that it bends time and space around it, bending light from a more distant object and magnifying it.

They also used supercomputer simulations on the DiRAC integrated supercomputer facility, which allowed the researchers to study how light is bent by a black hole inside a galaxy hundreds of millions of light-years away.


Artist’s impression of a black hole, where the black hole’s strong gravitational field distorts the space around it. This distorts the background light images almost directly behind it into sharp, circular rings. This gravitational “lensing” effect offers an observational method to infer the presence of black holes and measure their mass based on how large the deflection of light is. The Hubble Space Telescope is targeting distant galaxies whose light travels very close to the centers of intermediate foreground galaxies, which are expected to host supermassive black holes a billion times the mass of the Sun. (ESA/Hubble, Digitized Sky Survey, Nick Reisinger (, N. Bartmann)

A university release says the group has simulated light traveling through the universe hundreds of thousands of times, with each simulation involving a black hole of a different mass that changes the light’s path to Earth.

By including a supermassive black hole in one of their simulations, they found that the path traveled by light from the galaxy to Earth matches what is seen in real images taken by the Hubble Space Telescope.

They discovered a supermassive black hole in the foreground galaxy, an object with a mass more than 30 billion times that of the Sun.


Astronaut aboard a spaceship

An astronaut aboard the Atlantis spacecraft took this image from the Hubble Space Telescope on May 19, 2009. (NASA)

Durham University said it was the first black hole discovered using gravitational lensing. Durham University astronomer Professor Alastair Edge first noticed the giant arc of the gravitational lens while looking through images of the galaxy in 2004.

“Most of the largest black holes we know of are in an active state, when matter pulled close to the black hole heats up and releases energy in the form of light, X-rays and other radiation,” says lead author Dr. This is stated in a statement by James Nightingale.

Massive galaxy cluster RX J2129 is captured in this observation by the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope.  Due to gravitational lensing, this observation contains three different images of the same supernova galaxy, which you can see here in more detail.  Gravitational lensing occurs when a massive celestial body causes enough space-time curvature to bend the path of light passing by or through it, almost like an enormous lens.  Gravitational lensing can cause background objects to appear strangely distorted, as seen in the concentric arcs of light in the upper right corner of this image.

Massive galaxy cluster RX J2129 is captured in this observation by the NASA/ESA/CSA James Webb Space Telescope. Due to gravitational lensing, this observation contains three different images of the same supernova galaxy, which you can see here in more detail. Gravitational lensing occurs when a massive celestial body causes enough space-time curvature to bend the path of light passing by or through it, almost like an enormous lens. Gravitational lensing can cause background objects to appear strangely distorted, as seen in the concentric arcs of light in the upper right corner of this image. (ESA/Webb, NASA & CSA, P Kelly)

“However, gravitational lensing makes it possible to study inactive black holes, which is currently not possible in distant galaxies. This approach could allow us to detect many more black holes outside of our local universe and show how these exotic objects have evolved in cosmic time.” — said the professor of the physics department.


The results were published in a study also involving the Max Planck Institute in Germany, in a journal. Royal Astronomical Society Monthly Notices.

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US can meet climate targets by 2030, but much remains to be done



CLIMATE WIRE | A couple of new laws, combined with new climate regulations, give the United States a shot at meeting its 2030 emissions targets under the Paris Climate Agreement. But before 2030, a lot could go wrong.

These are the conclusions Thursday report The Rhodium Group, which is exploring America’s path to achieving its goal under the Paris Agreement.

The report says the United States is in a significantly better position to pursue its climate ambitions following the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act last year and a bipartisan infrastructure deal in 2021. .

To achieve the goal, new pollution standards must be adopted, most of which have not been finalized by the Biden administration. Resolving transmission fights and bottlenecks can derail clean energy projects. Supply chain restrictions could drive up the price of renewables, electric vehicles and technology needed for green factories, slowing down their rollout. And the victory of a candidate in the 2024 presidential race who does not consider climate a priority could lead to the fact that the implementation of new climate incentives in the country will stall.

“It’s not as easy as passing a bill by Congress at the moment,” said Ben King, an analyst at Rhodium who helped write the report. “This is work that is being done through the federal government, with a lot of rulemaking across multiple agencies. This is work that is being done in a wide variety of states that are pursuing aggressive climate protection policies.”

The long to-do list is responsible for the wide range of rhodium emissions.

In a climate-best-case scenario, U.S. emissions will be 51% lower than 2005 levels by the end of the decade. This would satisfy the 50-52% reduction in emissions stipulated by the Paris Agreement. However, achieving this goal will require the effective implementation of new laws, a set of rules designed to limit pollution from cars, power plants and factories, and reduce clean energy costs.

However, emissions cuts could fall as little as 32 percent if implementation of the legislation fails and new pollution rules are crushed in court or left on agency drawing boards. In this case, low fossil fuel prices will also increase energy consumption and emissions.

A number of federal regulations will be particularly important in determining whether the United States is meeting its climate goals, King said. New EPA regulations on everything from mercury and greenhouse gas emissions from power plants to vehicle emission standards and methane limits for the oil and gas industry could cut greenhouse gas levels by 6 percent, rhodium has found.

The Inflation Reduction Act and the bipartisan infrastructure agreement provide economic incentives to green the economy, but there are no requirements under these laws that companies must comply with. That’s why the new federal pollution standards are so important, King said.

“Ambitious federal action in these areas is a prerequisite for achieving the Paris climate goal,” he said. “A lot of things can go wrong that could keep us at the bottom of that range. But a lot can go wrong.”

Reprinted from News from Europe and Europe with permission from POLITICO, LLC. Copyright 2023. E&E News provides important news for energy and environmental professionals.

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A Mississippi tornado scoured the ground so hard it left a scar visible from space



These days we are used to seeing very high resolution satellite imagery showing the horrific effects of extreme weather. Below I give a particularly impressive example: the before and after images of the devastation caused by the tornado are one of at least 20 during an outbreak in the south that devastated Rolling Fork, Mississippi on March 24, 2023.

But what struck me even more was the wider perspective in the image above, released by NASA. Instead of a relatively close view of homes and businesses torn to shreds, the Landsat 9 image shows a scar carved into the landscape by one of the March 24 tornadoes. The tornado trail seen in the image is just over eight miles long.

Here’s an even wider view showing the entire 29-mile tornado track:

A wider view of the area around Winona, Mississippi taken on March 24, 2023 by Landsat 9. Almost the entirety of the 29-mile tornado scar is visible as a brownish scar embedded in the landscape. (The box in the upper right corner shows part of the scene visible in the image at the top of the article. Credit: NASA Earth Observatory)

It first landed in a wooded area near Black Hawk, Mississippi, in the lower left corner of the image. With winds reaching 155 miles per hour, it broke and uprooted trees, overturned vehicles and destroyed homes and other structures. Three people tragically died.

Before and after satellite imagery shows the extent of damage done to homes and businesses by tornadoes that swept through Rolling Fork, Mississippi on March 24, 2023. To: December 27, 2022. After: March 26, 2023. (Source: Maxar Technologies) via twitter)

An even stronger tornado touched down about 70 miles to the southwest. During its almost 60-mile journey lasting over an hour, this twister winds reached at least 170 mph.

The tornado that swept through Rolling Fork left much of the tiny town in ruins, as tragically shown in high-resolution before and after satellite images.

At least 21 in Mississippi and one in Alabama lost their lives as powerful thunderstorms caused a tornado outbreak across a wide swath of the Deep South. In Sharkey County alone in western Mississippi, 13 people out of a total population of 3,700 died during the hurricanes.

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