Thursday, April 26, 2018
Perspective

A Little Perspective: Where the jobs will be and why fish get depressed

A decade from now, the U.S. economy could look much the way it does today ó only more so. More dominated by the service sector amid the continued erosion of manufacturing jobs. More polarized in both earnings and geography. More tilted toward jobs that require at least a bachelorís degree.

That is the future foreseen by experts at the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Last week, the federal agency released its projections of what the U.S. employment picture will look like in 2026. (The estimates are based on long-term trends, not the short-term strength or weakness of the economy.)

The projections reflect some familiar patterns. Jobs in health care and clean energy will continue to grow rapidly. Manufacturing jobs will shrink, as will occupations involving data entry or other tasks that are increasingly being done by machines or algorithms. Continuing a decade-old trend, many job categories in the middle of the pay spectrum are growing slowly or disappearing.

Those trends donít matter just to economists. The governmentís projections, released every two years, are used by school guidance counselors to advise students, by colleges to design curriculums and by workforce development agencies to direct displaced workers into training programs.

The nationís geographic divides are likewise expected to become wider. The fastest-growing categories are concentrated in large urban areas, especially on the coasts. Small-town America will most likely continue to struggle.

Ben Casselman, New York Times

Can a fish be depressed? This question has been floating around my head ever since I spent a night in a hotel across from an excruciatingly sad-looking Siamese fighting fish. The bettaís name was Bruce Lee, according to a sign beneath his little bowl.

When I sought answers from scientists, I assumed that they would find the question preposterous. But they did not. Not at all. It turns out that not only can our gilled friends become depressed, but some scientists consider fish to be a promising animal model for developing antidepressants. New research, I would learn, has been radically shifting the way that scientists think about fish cognition, building a case that pet and owner are not nearly as different as many assume.

"The neurochemistry is so similar that itís scary," said Julian Pittman, a professor at the Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences at Troy University in Alabama, where he is working to develop new medications to treat depression, with the help of tiny zebrafish.

We tend to think of them as simple organisms, "but there is a lot we donít give fish credit for."

Pittman likes working with fish, in part, because they are so obvious about their depression. He can reliably test the effectiveness of antidepressants with something called the "novel tank test." A zebrafish gets dropped in a new tank. If after five minutes it is hanging out in the lower half, itís depressed. If itís swimming up top ó its usual inclination when exploring a new environment ó then itís not. The severity of the depression, he says, can be measured by quantity of time at the top vs. the bottom, all of which seemed to confirm my suspicions about Bruce Lee.

There is a heated debate in the fish research community about whether anxious or depressed is a more appropriate term. But what has convinced Pittman, and others, over the past 10 years is watching the way the zebrafish lose interest in just about everything: food, toys, exploration ó just like clinically depressed people.

The trigger for most domestic fish depression is probably lack of stimulation. "One of the things weíre finding that fish are naturally curious and seek novel things out," said Victoria Braithwaite, a professor at Penn State University who studies fish intelligence and fish preferences. In other words, your goldfish is probably bored. To help ward off depression, she urges introducing new objects to the tank or switching up the location of items.

Heather Murphy, New York Times

Gun shows in a state with weak gun restrictions increase the short-term risk for firearm-related injuries, a new analysis has found. Researchers studied deaths, emergency department visits and hospitalizations related to firearms before and after 915 gun shows in California and Nevada from 2005 to 2013. California has laws requiring background checks, waiting periods, documentation and Department of Justice surveillance at gun shows. Nevada has no regulations pertaining explicitly to gun shows.

When gun shows were held in California, there was no difference between rates of firearm incidents in the two weeks before and the two weeks after the shows. But after Nevada shows, incident rates rose 69 percent in regions of California within two hoursí driving distance. The study is in the Annals of Internal Medicine.

"Weíre seeing a pattern that suggests that Californiaís strict gun regulations may be effective in preventing short-term increases in firearm injuries after gun shows," said the lead author, Ellicott C. Matthay, a doctoral candidate at the University of California at Berkeley. "Also, travel to less restrictive states may threaten the effectiveness of firearm laws in California."

Still, she said, "This study is not definitive. Policy differences are one of many possible explanations ó there might be other factors operating that could explain the findings. Weíd need more studies to figure out the impact of gun shows and the policies that regulate them."

Nicholas Bakalar, New York Times

In a new study, researchers in Britain monitored dogsí facial expressions ó particularly the muscle that raises the inner part of the eyebrows and makes their eyes look bigger ó while a person was either paying attention to them or turned away, sometimes holding food and sometimes not.

The dogs were much more expressive when the person was paying attention, but food didnít seem to make a difference, according to the study, published in the journal Scientific Reports. The dogs also stuck out their tongues and barked more when they got attention, compared with when they were being ignored or given food.

"This simply shows that dogs produce more (but not different) facial movements when someone is looking at them," Juliane Kaminski, the studyís lead researcher and a senior lecturer at the University of Portsmouth in England, said via email.

This should be good news for any dog lover who fears that Fido only cares because heís being fed, said Brian Hare, a professor and director of the canine cognition center at Duke University who was not involved in the study.

Hare said the study should also serve as a reminder that humans respond involuntarily to the actions of their pets. Physical features, like the length of their noses and making eye contact, influence how we feel about dogs, he said. "It really mirrors how our interactions occur with our own species."

That kind of information can be useful, for instance, for screening would-be service dogs and in making decisions about adopting a puppy, he added.

Karen Weintraub, New York Times

Alaskaís Gates of the Arctic National Park is so vast that it stretches across an area bigger than Vermont, Rhode Island and Delaware combined. Karupa Lake, tucked off in its northern corner, is so remote that reaching it takes a four-hour skiplane flight from Fairbanks. And itís so quiet ó a day alone there could leave you thinking humans no longer existed.

Scientists recently set up audio recording equipment at Karupa Lake as part of a larger effort to document the changing soundscapes of our national parks. They retrieved the equipment months later. It was destroyed. They then salvaged the recordings, and found a surprise: Footsteps, sniffs, huffs, a series of clattering crunches, then silence. Bear versus sound recorder. Bear wins.

As the number of people visiting Alaska and national parks breaks records, acoustic measurements of quietude or wilderness-ness are becoming more important to employees of the National Park Service who view sound as part of the ecosystem. The 20-some members of the Natural Sounds and Night Skies Division are creating long-term recordings across the parks to determine if and how humans and their sounds may be altering park experiences of both visitors and wildlife.

"Old-timers say the one thing thatís gotten worse, or changed, is how much noisier itís gotten," said Davyd Betchkal, an ecologist who works in Alaska for the division. But there are still places he can go for 24 hours without hearing the sound of a combustion engine. "If I ever have kids, I want them to be able to come to Alaska and have experiences similar to the ones Iíve had," he said.

Joanna Klein, New York Times

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