The Apocalypticon ~ World, Trump, Russia, moles, gnats, Twitter, Facebook, mouths


Nuclear power plants in Europe have been forced to cut back electricity production because of warmer-than-usual seawater. Plants in Finland, Sweden and Germany have been affected by the heat wave that has broken records in Scandinavia and the British Isles and exacerbated deadly wildfires along the Mediterranean.
Common food additives could have ‘lifelong’ health consequences, a US paediatrician group has warned.
US fascist eyes Europe: Steve Bannon built his career on right-wing politics inside the United States but now he’s taking on a new frontier: the European Parliament. He’s optimistic about uniting Europe’s right wing across its national boundaries. [Sorry, is ‘fascist’ too strong? How about Nazi, then, Steve?]
The doom of the ancient Cambodian city of Koh Ker may have been the result of bad engineering – plus some bad karma, baby.

The US — House Speaker Paul Ryan on Tuesday downplayed a threat by President Trump to revoke security clearances for a number intelligence officials who served under President Barack Obama as “trolling” and not a political act. [In this case, clearly, the trolling is a political act.]
Facial recognition technology made by Amazon, which is being used by some police departments and other organizations, incorrectly matched the lawmakers with people who had been arrested for a crime, the American Civil Liberties Union reported.
President Trump resumed acknowledging Russian election interference but said he fears that this year, it will benefit Democrats. [Right, because it’s clearly done wonders for them so far.]
Facebook is reportedly rolling out its ‘downvote’ button to a wider group of users in the United States. The feature began appearing on the service’s mobile app without a formal company announcement. The feature appears to currently be limited to public posts. Should your account be flagged for this week’s test, every comment in a thread will include a numeric value and small up- and down-arrows connected to that number. Other territories, particularly Australia and New Zealand, have seen wider downvote tests since April of this year. [That’s right, Facebook, get the users to do your work for you.]
And here’s new US hobby – destroying the lives of complete strangers. [Trump likes this one too, you know, putting those immigrant kids into cages.]
Gnats spreading disease — A disease spread by sandflies seen as an exotic nuisance in the US might not be solely a traveller’s disease after all. A new study suggests most American cases of leishmaniasis are actually spread by native bugs, not caught while travelling. And thanks to climate change, the parasitic illness may become even more common in the years to come.
Twitter shares fell 21% as the company reported that user growth had turned negative, even as its quarterly results beat Wall Street expectations. The decline was even greater than Facebook’s almost 19% plunge in shares after the social media giant reported disappointing results. [Oh. Gosh. Boohoo. Anyway, it’s something to share and tweet about …]

Russia — Russian hackers have broken into supposedly secure, “air-gapped” or isolated networks owned by US utilities with relative easy by first penetrating the networks of key vendors who had trusted relationships with the power companies,” The Wall Street Journal has reported, citing officials at the Department of Homeland Security.
Maria Butina’s story may point to a Russian effort, years in the making, to give the Kremlin influence in the US by connecting with American gun enthusiasts and religious conservatives, an effort that’s had a ‘surprising degree of success’. [Hardly surprising. But no doubt Trump will try and shoot this theory down.]

And finally, some good news — scientists have figured out how our mouths heal so fast. [Although the voluntary 3-metre wounds sound a little harsh – that was three millimetres, I suspect, Gizmodo copy editor!]

Excerpt from my forthcoming book: “In the present day, we might consider ourselves rugged individualists but we have libraries at our disposal, and we use roads, social services and communications networks all built by combined effort for our mutual benefit.”

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Futurology ~ Star speedster, wetter Moon, battery resource, fly brain, Russian worm, new dinosaurs


Chinese palaeontologists have a new dinosaur species

Star spotted speeding near black hole at centre of Milky Way — Astronomers have observed a star speeding close to the massive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way for the first time. The observations, made using the Very Large Telescope in Chile, tracked a star called S2 as it passed through the extreme gravitational field at the heart of our galaxy. As the star approached its nearest point to the black hole on 19 May, it was accelerated to mind-boggling speeds, causing it to be subject to effects predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
~ This remarkable observation required a telescope powerful enough to see a tennis ball on the moon from Earth. 

Damp Moon — Scientists from Birkbeck, University of London speculate that recent results show that the moon is wetter than scientists have previously thought, increasing the possibility for it to have the necessary conditions for life. “Whether life ever arose on the Moon, or was transported to it from elsewhere, is of course highly speculative and can only be addressed by an aggressive future program of lunar exploration,” they write in the article, published in the journal Astrobiology.
~ Yay, something intrinsic with which to damp down that ‘killer dust‘!

Packs of robot dogs — By July of next year, Boston Dynamics will be producing the SpotMini robot dog at the rate of around 1000 units per year. The broader goal is to create a flexible platform for a variety of applications. According to Raibert, SpotMini is currently being tested for use in construction, delivery, security, and home assistance applications. The SpotMini moves with the same weirdly smooth confidence as previous experimental Boston Dynamics robots with names like Cheetah, BigDog, and Spot.
~ As long as they also build robot owners to pick up the robot dog pooh, I’m good with it. 

Lithium-in battery recycling — Zheng Chen, a 31-year-old nanoengineer at UC San Diego, says he has developed a way to recycle used cathodes from spent lithium-ion batteries and restore them to a like-new condition. The cathodes in some lithium-ion batteries are made of metal oxides that contain cobalt, a metal found in finite supplies and concentrated in one of the world’s more precarious countries. The Los Angeles Times reports it works works by regenerating the degraded particles.
~ Talking ’bout regeneration! Hope I get reused before I get old …

Nano-sliced fruit fly brain — Two high-speed electron microscopes, 7062 brain slices, 21 million images. For a team of scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus in Ashburn, Virginia, these numbers add up to a technical first: a high-resolution digital snapshot of the adult fruit fly brain. Researchers can now trace the path of any one neuron to any other neuron throughout the whole brain, says neuroscientist Davi Bock, a group leader at Janelia who reported the work along with his colleagues on July 19 in the journal Cell.
~ OK, now teach it not to ruin the wine. 

Russian scientists claim to have resurrected 40,000-year-old worms buried in ice — They apparently discovered ancient nematode worms that were able to resurrect themselves after spending at least 32,000 years buried in permafrost.
~ Now they will have to learn all about the internet and everything. 

‘New’ dinosaurs from China — The gigantic, long-necked sauropods are an iconic group of dinosaurs – and it seems scientists have discovered a new one. Palaeontologists were able to define the new species, known as Lingwulong shenqi, using seven to 10 partial skeletons from four separate dig sites in China. The new fossils date back to 174 million years ago, making Lingwulong the earliest known neosauropod.
~ Well, I’m no expert, but they look a lot like all the other ones to me.  

The Apocalypticon ~ hackers hack, the rich make money, morals don’t matter, NZ and Norwegian glimmers


Lots of people really admire people who are smart and greedy enough to make themselves mega-rich. I fit, needless to say, neither of those categories. Elon Musk — maker of a mini-sub that never got used, hypothetical saviour of the Flint, Michigan water crisis, general over-promiser and under-deliverer — has been one of the biggest donors to a political action committee with the primary goal of maintaining Republican control in the US House of Representatives. He’s been giving to Republicans for years including to accused child sex abuser Dennis Hastert and Dana Rohrabacher, a man who believes it is ok to refuse to sell your home to a gay person. (To be fair he has also given money to Democrats)
The bottom line is, he supports those he thinks will support his own aspirations. However, he has signed (along with Australian scientists) a pledge against killer robots.
Speaking of rich twits who can’t seem to align morals with business, after a rough week of criticism over Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s shoddy explanation for why he won’t ban conspiracy site Infowars — including a very awkward tangent into apparently believing Holocaust deniers are not “intentionally getting it wrong” — the social media giant has announced it will begin removing misinformation that provokes real-world violence. According to The New York Times, the new policy is largely a response to episodes in Sri Lanka, Myanmar and India where rumours spread rapidly on Facebook, leading to targeted attacks on ethnic minorities.

Google — Yeah you knew it was coming … Commenting on the record $5 billion fine on Google by the European Commission, privacy focused search engine DuckDuckGo said it welcomes the decision as it has “felt [Google’s] effects first hand for many years and has led directly to us having less market share on Android vs iOS and in general mobile vs desktop.”
Up until just last year, it was impossible to add DuckDuckGo to Chrome on Android, and it is still impossible on Chrome on iOS [of for goodness sake, is there anyone on iOS still using Chrome? JUST DON’T!]. We are also not included in the default list of search options like we are in Safari, even though we are among the top search engines in many countries. The Google search widget is featured prominently on most Android builds and is impossible to change the search provider. For a long time it was also impossible to even remove this widget without installing a launcher that effectively changed the whole way the OS works. “Their anti-competitive search behavior isn’t limited to Android. Every time we update our Chrome browser extension, all of our users are faced with an official-looking dialogue asking them if they’d like to revert their search settings and disable the entire extension”. Google also owns http://duck.com and points it directly at Google search, which consistently confuses DuckDuckGo users. [DuckDuckGo is an untraceable search engine with a focus on privacy – Apple users can default it over Google as Safari’s search engine.]

Around the world — Hackers account for 90% of of e-commerce sites’ global login traffic, according to a report by cyber security firm Shape Security. They reportedly use programs to apply stolen data acquired on the dark web in an effort to login to websites and grab something of value like cash, airline points, or merchandise.
A bill just passed in Egypt that empowers the government to block users on social media for spreading “fake news” if they have over 5000 followers. President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi still needed to ratify the legislation into law, which he is expected to do given his government’s unmerited crackdowns on journalists and critics.
China: A prestigious college in Beijing reportedly tried to bar a student because his father was on a government blacklist and it’s causing huge controversy in China. According to state media reports, a high school student with the surname Rao in the eastern city of Wenzhou, in Zhejiang province, was accepted on the back of his score in China’s fiendishly difficult and incredibly competitive national college entrance exam. But before his family could enjoy Rao’s accomplishments, the college notified them he may not be able to attend because of his father’s poor credit standing …
Chinese police are reportedly testing waste water for the presence of illegal substances, using the data to find illegal drug manufacturers in the country. As drugs pass through people’s bodies, they may be leaving a trail for police to follow.
Chinese government reading iCloud data: Six months ago Apple caused controversy by announcing its intentions to move Chinese users’ iCloud keys out of the US and into China, in order to comply with Chinese law. Now, that data, which includes emails, text messages and pictures, is being looked after by government-owned mobile operator China Telecom, so users and human rights activists alike have big concerns.
The New Zealand company behind a landmark trial of a four-day working week has concluded it was an unmitigated success, with 78% of employees feeling they were able to successfully manage their work-life balance, an increase of 24 percentage points. Job and life satisfaction increased on all levels across the home and work front, with employees performing better in their jobs and enjoying them more than before the experiment.
Rich Norwegian millennials — Best known for its Viking history, snow sports and jaw-dropping fjords, Norway is making a new name for itself as the only major economy in Europe where young people are getting markedly richer. [Neo Liberals, you let this country escape your clutches!] People in their early thirties in Norway have an average annual disposable household income of around 460,000 kroner (around US$56,200). Young Norwegians have enjoyed a 13% rise in disposable household income in real terms compared to Generation X (those born between 1966 and 1980) when they were the same age. These startling figures come from the largest comparative wealth data set in the world, the Luxembourg Income Database, and were analysed in a recent report on generational incomes for the UK Think Tank The Resolution Foundation.

Futurology ~ New moons, asteroid duo, 3D-printing space parts, robot art, Rolls-Royce cockroaches, time capsule, lost society


Robots are painting ‘art’ now – but cockroach jobs are still safe.

12 new moons have been found orbiting Jupiter and one is on collision course with the others — Researchers in the US stumbled upon the new moons while hunting for the mysterious ninth planet that is postulated to lurk far beyond the orbit of Neptune, the most distant planet in the solar system. The team first glimpsed the moons in March last year from the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile, but needed more than a year to confirm that the bodies were locked in orbit around the gas giant. The fresh haul of moons brings the total number of Jovian moons to 79, more than are known to circle any other planet in our cosmic neighbourhood.
~ A head-on collision would create a crash visible from earth.

Odd asteroid duo — An asteroid discovered late last year is actually two gravitationally-bound objects in orbit around each other. But this particular duo, dubbed 2017 YE5, belongs to an exceptionally rare class of near-Earth objects. In June, the object made the closest approach it will make to Earth for the next 170 years, allowing scientists to take a closer look.
~ These self-orbiting rocks are as dark as charcoal, so they’re hard to spot.

3D-printing space parts — Lockheed Martin has finished quality control tests for its largest 3D-printed space part to date: an enormous titanium dome meant to serve as caps for satellite fuel tanks. The component measures 1.22 metres (4 feet) in diameter.

Robots that paint — CloudPainter creates evocative portraits featuring varying degrees of abstraction. One of its images was created by a team of neural networks, AI algorithms, and robots. Robotart’s founder, Andrew Conru, told MIT Technology Review that this year’s entries have shown refined brushstrokes and composition.
~ Yes, it’s really in how you read ‘Robotart’…

Rolls-Royce ‘cockroach’ robots — Rolls-Royce has announced it is teaming up with robotics experts at Harvard University and the University of Nottingham to develop tiny ‘cockroach’ robots that can crawl inside aircraft engines to spot and fix problems. These robots will be able to speed up inspections and eliminate the need to remove an engine from an aircraft for repair work to take place. The next step is to mount cameras on the robots and scale them down to a 15-milimetre size.
~ Yes, but will they spread pestilence? No! No real cockroaches will keep their jobs. 

WWII-era Time Capsule requires internet sleuths’ help — Do you know WWII veteran Richard Silagy or his family? Silagy lived in Cleveland, Ohio, sometime after World War II and hid a time capsule filled with personal items in his home. The time capsule was discovered underneath stairs in the basement of the house, and includes photos, yearbooks, his hat from World War II, and even a munitions shell dated 1944 that looks as though it was fired.
The time capsule was recently discovered by a housing contractor doing improvements on the house, but a search online for Silagy or any living relatives has been a failure so the contractor is turning to the public for help.
~ I don’t know him. 

Traces of lost society found in ‘pristine’ cloud forest — Deep in Ecuador’s lush Quijos Valley, a society thrived, then disappeared. But a lake preserved its story. In the 1850s, a team of botanists venturing into the cloud forest in the Quijos Valley of eastern Ecuador hacked their way through vegetation so thick they could barely make their way forward. This, they thought, was the heart of the pristine forest, a place where people had never gone. But they were very wrong. Indigenous Quijo groups had developed sophisticated agricultural settlements across the region, settlements that had been decimated with the arrival of Spanish explorers in the 1500s. In their absence, the forest sprung back. This process of societal collapse and forest reclamation is described in a new study published today in Nature Ecology and Evolution.
~ This shows the capacity of these forests to recover after they’ve been influenced by humans, which is a relief if you ask me. 

The Apocalypticon ~ The rich will eat us, facial recognition, surveillance, Google, Facebook, jobs, data breaches, all-time heat records


Yes, hello, I’m back from a  three-week holiday, sorry about that folks, but sometimes I just have to have a break. Still, the world keeps churning …
The wealthy are plotting to leave us behind, writes Douglas Rushkoff, describing what he learned from a high-paying speaking gig about the future of technology for “five super-wealthy guys…from the upper echelon of the hedge fund world.”The Event was their euphemism for the environmental collapse, social unrest, nuclear explosion, unstoppable virus or Mr Robot that takes everything down. They knew armed guards would be required to protect their compounds from the angry mobs. But how would they pay the guards once money was worthless? What would stop the guards from choosing their own leader…? This is the possible Survival of the Richest.
A new paper from the Center for Global Development says we are spending too much time discussing whether robots can take your job and not enough time discussing what happens next
Facial recognition ad surveillance — After all the concern, British Police have admitted no one was arrested during a trial of controversial facial recognition technology, which sparked privacy and human rights concerns.
But you can beat it. Die-hard fans of the rap group Insane Clown Posse have become accidental heroes for people concerned about facial recognition tech: according to Twitter user @tahkion, a computer science blogger for WonderHowTo, Juggalo makeup outmatches the machine learning algorithms that govern facial recognition technology.
One of many futuristic ideas Walmart has sought to patent is worker surveillance tech that ‘listens’ to them. There’s no guarantee that Walmart will ever build this technology, but the patent shows the company is thinking about using tech not just to facilitate deliveries or make its warehouses more efficient, but also to manage its workforce, which is the largest in the United States. [I prefer to call it ‘Apallmart, myself.]
Two privacy-focused organizations have accused German police of carrying out raids at their offices and members’ private homes on some pretty shoddy reasoning that makes no sense and hints at the police’s abuse of power. [Police abusing over? N-e-v-e-r…]

Jobs — Microsoft may move jobs abroad since Trump’s policies stop it finding the right workers: The Trump Administration’s tough stance on immigration has attracted a lot of criticism from big technology firms, which rely heavily on skilled foreign workers from around the world. Smith previously spoke out against efforts to stop the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program – an Obama-era policy that provides legal protection for young immigrants brought to the US illegally as children. Microsoft has advocated the protection of DACA and more broadly supported immigration as a way to make sure US companies are hiring talented people. [The problem with DACA is simply Obama’s touch as far as the sensitive bully that Trump is concerned – but worthiness has never been a sop to him cutting off his orange nose to spite his orange face.]

Once more into the (data) breach – and hacks: The information operatives who worked out of the Internet Research Agency in Saint Petersburg, Russia did not stop at posing as American social media users or spreading false information from purported news sources, according to new details. They also created a number of Twitter accounts that posed as sources for Americans’ hometown headlines.
And another for the curse that is Google: According to The Wall Street Journal, hundreds of app developers have access to millions of inboxes belonging to Gmail users. The developers reportedly receive access to messages from Gmail users who signed up for things like price-comparison services or automated travel-itinerary planners. Some of these companies train software to scan the email, while others enable their workers to pore over private messages. [Honestly, Gmail users, do you need any more reasons not to use Google services? OK, here’s another …]
A user on Medium named Punch a Server says you should not use Google Cloud due to the no-warnings-given, abrupt way the plug is pulled on your entire system if they (or the machines) believe something is wrong. The user has a project running in production on Google Cloud (GCP) that is used to monitor hundreds of wind turbines and scores of solar plants scattered across 8 countries.
Apple is more secure, you know? And the free iCloud email that every Apple user can have FOR FREE is end-to-end encrypted by default. Apple just released iOS 11.4.1, and while most of us are already looking ahead to all the new stuff coming in iOS 12, this small update contains an important new security feature: USB Restricted Mode. Apple has added protections against the USB devices being used by law enforcement and private companies that connect over Lightning to crack an iPhone’s passcode and evade Apple’s usual encryption safeguards.

IBM and the cost of data breaches — IBM Security has released a report examining the costs and impact associated with data breaches. The findings paint a grim portrait of what the clean up is like for companies whose data becomes exposed – particularly for larger corporations that suffer so-called mega breaches, a costly exposure involving potentially tens of millions of private records.
Fracking companies use Facebook to ban protests — Facebook is being used by oil and gas companies to clamp-down on protest. Three companies are currently seeking injunctions against protesters: British chemical giant INEOS, which has the largest number of shale gas drilling licenses in the UK; and small UK outfits UK Oil and Gas (UKOG), and Europa Oil and Gas. Among the thousands of pages of documents submitted to British courts by these companies are hundreds of Facebook and Twitter posts from anti-fracking protesters and campaign groups, uncovered by Motherboard in partnership with investigative journalists at DeSmog UK. They show how fracking companies are using social media surveillance carried out by a private firm to strengthen their cases in court by discrediting activists using personal information to justify banning their protests.

All-time heat records have been set all over the world during the past week — So reports the Washington Post in the article Red-Hot Planet which was updated throughout the week with new all-time heat records.
From the normally mild summer climes of Ireland, Scotland and Canada to the scorching Middle East to Southern California, numerous locations in the Northern Hemisphere have witnessed their hottest weather ever recorded over the past week… [I know, as I was just in Canada – over 30°C for seven days in a row, who would have thought?]

And the good news? I had a break! A real break! But I’m back! (But goodness, isn’t it cold in New Zealand?!)

Futurology ~ Mars dunes, Welsh sites, underwater jetpack, caffeine genes, electric spider flight, NZ colour x-ray, rats kill coral, multiple human origins


Ghost dunes at Noctis Labyrinthus. Boxes B and C show close-ups. (MacKenzie Day & David Catling/AGU)

Mars’ ghost dunes — In a recent study in the Journal of Geophysical Research, planetary geomorphologist Mackenzie Day and astrobiologist David Catling announced their discovery of about 800 “ghost dunes” – the imprints of ancient sand piles – clustered in two different locations on Mars. Examining these former dunes can tell us more about the red planet’s historic climate, and might contain more surprises as well.
~ I always wanted to be a planetary geomorphologist … OK, not really. So, what can we possible ‘Tel’ from these dunes? 

Hidden cropmarks revealed by the drought in Wales — Elusive ‘cropmarks’ now reveal the sites of long hidden ruins. From above, these cropmarks stand out starkly from the landscape—unmistakable squares and circles that outline settlements from as far back as the Bronze Age. In the past weeks, Driver has captured cropmarks across the Welsh countryside, including those made by a previously undiscovered medieval cemetery, a rare type of monument in this area, but they stand out much ore than usual thanks to the current unprecedented heat in the northern hemisphere.
~ Let’s hope Driver captures a load of these images so age old mysteries can be solved. 

Student 3D-prints a marine jetpack — A product design student in the UK created a safer way to travel under water with a jetpack that can propel a swimmer at speeds of up to 13kph.
Archie O’Brien says it took him a year to design and build a functional prototype of his CUDA jetpack, after learning that similar underwater propulsion devices can cost as much as new cars. Forty-five 3D-printed components could be quickly modified and reprinted as the engineering of the CUDA was continually refined.
~ You may be able to buy one as early as 2019, but I want to know ‘is it quiet?’ As man, do I ever hate on f___king jet skis! Way touring everyone’s summers, you jet-skiing a-holes!

Caffeine gene-control — A team led by Martin Fussenegger of ETH Zurich in Basel has shown that caffeine can be used as a trigger for synthetic genetic circuitry, which can then in turn do useful things for us – even correct or treat medical conditions. For a buzz-worthy proof of concept, the team engineered a system to treat type 2 diabetes in mice with sips of coffee, specifically Nespresso Volluto coffee. Essentially, when the animals drink the coffee (or any other caffeinated beverage), a synthetic genetic system in cells implanted in their abdomens switches on. This leads to the production of a hormone that increases insulin production and lowers blood sugar levels – thus successfully treating their diabetes after a simple morning brew.
~ Wait till they try decent coffee, then, I guess. 

Darwin’s theory of electric spider flight is finally proven — On Halloween in 1832, the naturalist Charles Darwin was onboard the HMS Beagle. He marveled at spiders that had landed on the ship after floating across huge ocean distances. “I caught some of the Aeronaut spiders which must have come at least 60 miles,” he noted in his diary. “How inexplicable is the cause which induces these small insects, as it now appears in both hemispheres, to undertake their aerial excursions.” Small spiders achieve flight by aiming their butts at the sky and releasing tendrils of silk to generate lift.
Darwin thought electricity might be involved when he noticed that spider silk stands seemed to repel each other with electrostatic force, but many scientists assumed that the arachnids, known as ‘ballooning’ spiders, were simply sailing on the wind like a paraglider. The wind power explanation has thus far been unable to account for observations of spiders rapidly launching into the air, even when winds are low, however. Now, these aerial excursions have been empirically determined to be largely powered by electricity, according to new research published Thursday in Current Biology. The study settles a longstanding debate about whether wind energy or electrostatic forces are responsible for spider ballooning locomotion.
~ It’s both, of course. 

New Zealand colour X-Ray breakthrough — A New-Zealand company has scanned, for the first time, a human body using a breakthrough colour medical scanner based on the Medipix3 technology developed at CERN. Father and son scientists Professors Phil and Anthony Butler from Canterbury and Otago Universities spent a decade building and refining their product, which enables high-resolution, high-contrast, very reliable images, making it unique for imaging applications in particular in the medical field.
~ Awesome!

Viruses may call Alzheimers — For decades, the idea that a bacteria or virus could help cause Alzheimer’s disease was dismissed as fringe theory. Not so much any more: a team of researchers from Harvard Medical School reported in the journal Neuron the latest evidence suggesting herpes viruses can spark the cascade of events that lead to Alzheimer’s disease, a fatal form of dementia that afflicts up to 80% of Australia’s 425,000 dementia patients.
~ Let’s hope a solution is possible. 

Rats also affect coral reefs — The much maligned rat is not a creature many would associate with coral reefs. But scientists studying reefs on tropical islands say the animals directly threaten the survival of these ecosystems. From a report:
A team working on the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean found that invasive rats on the islands are a big problem for coral reefs. Rats decimate seabird populations, in turn decimating the volume of bird droppings which acts as natural coral fertiliser. Scientists now advocate eradicating rats from all of the islands to protect these delicate marine habitats.
~ Of course, we’re not off the hook, as the rats were introduced by humans.

Humans did not originate from a single species — In the 1980s, scientists decided that all humans living today are descended from one woman dubbed Mitochondrial Eve, who lived in Africa between 150,000 to 200,000 years ago. This discovery, along with other evidence, suggested humans evolved from a single ancestral population, but this interpretation is not standing the test of time. The story of human evolution, as the latest research suggests, is more complicated than that.
By looking at some of the latest archaeological, fossil, genetic and environmental evidence, a team of international experts led by Eleanor Scerri from Oxford’s School of Archaeology have presented an alternative story of human evolution, one showing that our species emerged from isolated populations scattered across Africa, who occasionally came together to interbreed.
~ Humans emerged within a complex set of populations scattered across Africa. Take that, stupid white supremacists.