20.09.2022
Scientists estimate there are 20 QUADRILLION ants on Earth

Whether it’s how many stars are in the night sky or how many grains of sand are in the Sahara, there are certain questions that seem impossible to answer.

Now, scientists have come incredibly close to finding a solution to one such question – how many ants are there on Earth?

Researchers from the Julius Maximilians University in Wurzberg claim there are a whopping 20 quadrillion ants crawling on our planet.

For comparison, there are currently around 7.8 billion humans on Earth, meaning there are about 2.5 million ants per person!

Sabine Nooten, lead author of the study, said: ‘According to our estimates, the global ant population is 20 x 1015 – that is, 20 quadrillion animals.

‘That is a 20 with 15 zeros, which is hard to grasp and appreciate.’

In the study, the team set out to estimate the total number of ants across the planet.

‘Knowledge on the distribution and abundance of organisms is fundamental to understanding their roles within ecosystems and their ecological importance for other taxa,’ the researchers wrote in their study, published in PNAS.

‘Such knowledge is currently lacking for insects, which have long been regarded as the “little things that run the world”.

‘Even for ubiquitous insects, such as ants, which are of tremendous ecological significance, there is currently neither a reliable estimate of their total number on Earth nor of their abundance in particular biomes or habitats.’

To reach their estimate, the team evaluated 489 previous studies on ants, spanning all continents, major biomes, and habitats.

Their findings suggest that there are 20 quadrillion ants on Earth, with a combined biomass of 12 megatons of dry carbon.

‘That exceeds the combined biomass of wild birds and mammals and corresponds to about 20 per cent of humanity’s biomass,’ said study co-author, Patrick Schultheiss.

With the exception of the poles, ants inhabit almost all habitats on Earth, yet until now, little has been known about their distribution.

The study findings suggest that the tropics have the highest ant density.

And besides the climate zone, local ecosystems also play an important role in the insects’ distribution, according to the researchers.

Forests and arid regions are home to the most specimens, while areas with more humans have fewer ants, the study found.

The researchers hope their findings will encourage further research into the number and distribution of ants around the world.

‘Per hectare, ants move up to 13 tons of soil mass per year,’ said Schultheiss.

‘So they have a great influence on maintaining the nutrient cycle and also play a decisive role in the distribution of plant seeds.’

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  • 11 минут назад 25.09.2022Science
    ‘Win!’ Kwasi unveils new energy lifeline for millions to ‘permanently keep bills down’

    In a speech on Friday at the Commons, Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng unveiled a new Growth Plan, which was a revolutionary package of measures meant to overhaul the British economy and bring growth up to at least 2.5 percent. Described as a “mini-budget”, industry experts told Express.co.uk a key energy saving measure announced by Mr Kwarteng, surrounding home insulation, would prove to a major win for millions of households, helping them keep their costs down “permanently”.

    In a statement, the Government said: “To make homes cheaper to heat, the Government will bring forward legislation to implement new obligations on energy suppliers to help hundreds of thousands of their customers take action to reduce their energy bills, delivering an average saving of around £200 a year.

    “This help will be worth £1billion over the next three years, starting from April 2023. Support will be targeted at those most vulnerable, but will also be available for the least efficient homes in lower council tax bands.”

    Effectively, this means a billion pounds will be spent by energy suppliers over three years to help the most vulnerable households, with much of the money going towards loft insulation, and in some cases, funds being spent on boiler replacements to help Britons save about £200 a year.

    Speaking to Express.co.uk, Mike Foster, CEO of the Energy and Utilities Alliance, a trade body, said: “First of all, It’s clearly good news that money is going to be invested in energy efficiency because homes are crying out high levels of insulation to permanently keep bills down and also save carbon.

    “With reducing our demand for gas and electricity, because of the levels of insulation we have, the more insulation the better, because it reduces the amount of gas we have to buy and minimises the risk and impact of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. So it’s a win on all counts.”

    Meanwhile, Jess Ralston, Senior Analyst at the energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) also hailed the insulation measures saying: “If prices stay high, the Government’s gas subsidy bill would be several times the investment needed to get all 28 million homes in Britain properly insulated.

    “Boosting the ECO scheme could well end up being cost neutral on Treasury with insulation cutting gas demand and so the overall price tag of the bailout.”

    Even though Prime Minister Liz Truss has frozen energy bills at £2,500 per year for households, Citizen’s Advice has warned that energy-inefficient homes will not be shielded by the measure.

    The charity warns homes with an energy performance certificate (EPC) rating of F may have to fork out an extra £500 on top of Ms Truss’ frozen £2,500 cap, costing them £3,000 for their annual bill.

    Analysis by Kingfisher has also found that households living in inefficient homes, which have an EPC rating of D or below will face an average energy bill increase of £1,730 a year in October, which is far higher than the £982 per year faced by those living in more efficient properties of EPC rating C or above.

    Director of the Conservative Environment Network (CEN) Sam Hall commented on the Chancellor’s Growth Plan saying: “It is brilliant news that the Chancellor has listened to calls from the Conservative Environment Network for a significant expansion of insulation funding.

    “Renewables and insulation will not only permanently lower bills and accelerate progress towards net zero, but strengthen our energy security and protect the UK from Vladimir Putin’s weaponisation of Russian gas reserves.”

    While the Government has claimed that it is “committed to upgrading” as many homes as possible to Band C by 2030, the average household is currently in Band D.

    But critics say it is doing little to incentivise those who are unwilling to upgrade their homes due to cost issues, as they could cost anywhere from £7,000 to £15,000

    Aside from helping households save on energy bills, a new report has found that green home upgrades like insulation and heat pumps are primed to provide 140,000 new jobs by 2030.

    Analysis by Cambridge Econometrics, commissioned by Greenpeace, also found that such measures, which were already tipped to save bills for millions, could boost the country’s economy by a staggering £7billion a year.

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  • 11 минут назад 25.09.2022Science
    Truss handed masterplan to save UK cash after £450m heat pump scheme torn apart

    Liz Truss’ chancellor has been handed a plan to “save unnecessary expenditure” after the Government’s £450million scheme to accelerate the roll-out of heat pumps was torn apart. It comes after the Government was accused of diverting funds away from areas with high levels of fuel poverty to wealthier parts of the country amid an energy crisis which has seen bills soar for millions of Britons as the price of wholesale gas continues to have a huge knock-on impact on billpayers while a cost of living crisis sends shockwaves through the nation.

    As Prime Minister Liz Truss unveiles a number of costly schemes such as a freeze on energy bills which is set to cost over one hundered billion pounds, the Treasury will need all the funds it can get in order to avoid borrowing in other areas.

    Mike Foster, CEO of the Energy and Utilities Alliance (EUA), a not-for-pofit trade organisation, said the Prime Miniser’s Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng can start by scrapping the £450million Boiler Upgrade Scheme (BUS).

    Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Mr Foster said: “If the Chancellor is looking to save unnecessary expenditure, he might want to start with this scheme. Instead of 90,000 well-off consumers each getting a £5,000 cash bung, he could insulate 850,000 lofts, spread evenly right across the country. The choice is his to make.”

    The Government has pinpointed heat pumps as a low-carbon alternative to gas boilers as it scrambles to replace the carbon-emitting heat providers in order to help reach its net zero target by 2050.

    But one of the biggest obstacles affecting the pace of the rollout was the staggering installation costs of the boiler alternatives, on averaging requiring households to fork out £10,000 to get them in their homes.

    To tackle this, BUS provides £5,000 grants to ease installation costs and encourage people to buy heat pumps. However, the analysis from not-for-pofit trade organisation the Energy and Utilities Alliance has revealed that the grants might not be getting allocated evenly or fairly.

    The EUA conducted its analysis by comparing the regional allocation of funds from the BUS made up to the end of July with the number of properties in each region, revealing the apparent disparity in allocation.

    The analysis also warns that the regions missing out have some of the the highest levels of fuel poverty across the country, which would mean that taxpayers’ money is not going towards those who need it most at such a crucial time.

    The EUA analysis claims that London is set to be the biggest loser from the scheme, missing out on £46million, while the North West will lose £21million

    Meanwhile, the West Midlands will reportedly lose out by £15million and the North East well receive £6million less than others.

    The biggest winner, according the EUA, will be the South West, getting £41million and the South East receiving £16million more than if the money was allocated fairly across all regions in Britain.

    Mr Foster added: “The energy price crisis has not gone away, despite the recent support announced by the new Prime Minister. While we welcome her intent, beneath the surface Whitehall still spends hard-earned taxpayers’ money on schemes that divert money away from where it would do most good.

    “The Boiler Upgrade Scheme is subsidising people who frankly do not need help with their bills. Giving the well-off £5,000 subsidies if they can afford to spend £13,000 on new heating systems just seems perverse when millions will struggle to pay their bills this winter.

    “The upshot is some regions will be losing tens of millions of pounds by the Government trying to meet an arbitrary target set by the previous Prime Minister to subsidise new heating systems for a small minority, when the vast majority struggle to pay their bills.

    “And paying 20,000 households over the next three years £5,000 a time to do something they would have done anyway, is the very definition of wasting taxpayers’ money. That money could be better spent insulating homes right across every region in the country, permanently reducing both bills and carbon emissions.”

    But the EUA is not the only organisation to have taken aim at the Government’s roll out of heat pumps. Analysis by Cambridge Econometrics, commissioned by environmental campaigners Greenpeace revealed that Britain has been lagging behind other countries, with some of the poorest installations rates in Europe despite offereing £5,000 grants.

    Graham Thompson from Greenpeace UK said: “Government targets for energy-saving upgrades are woefully off track, with home insulation installations falling 50 percent this year and sales of heat pumps per household in the UK the lowest in Europe in 2020.”

    Meanwhile, a recent survey from the Ground Source Heat Pump Association (GSHPA), revealed that th BUS scheme has see demand for heat pumps surge.

    According to the latest Government figures, the BUS received 4,337 voucher applications between May 23rd (which is when it was launched) and the end of July 2022.

    The department for Business and Industrial Strategy has been contacted for comment.

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  • 22 часа, 11 минут назад 24.09.2022Science
    Brexit Britain ‘better than France and Germany’ as space firm plot move to UK

    Since its departure from the European Union, Britain has rapidly expanded its space industry, having purchased the OneWeb satellite constellation to opening the new spaceport Cornwall later this year. While the UK was hit with some setbacks, like being removed from participating in the EU’s Galileo satellite system, space companies have told Express.co.uk the country has become an exciting place to invest in since Brexit.

    Speaking to Express.co.uk, Bryan Dean, the co-founder of Dragonfly Aerospace, hailed Brexit as an opportunity for the UK and added the company is looking to set up a headquarters in Britain.

    Dragonfly is a satellite imaging systems company based in South Africa that makes optical cameras for space, along with satellites that use the technology.

    His firm is looking to use satellites and satellite data to combat climate change, help industries such as agriculture flourish, and to use data to help avoid or overcome humanitarian disasters.

    He noted the company is currently transitioning its business towards imaging data, and said: “There are many advantages in locating that business internationally, and we’re definitely considering locating it in the UK.

    He added that as the company, they see “doing that from the UK as a much better option than doing it from South Africa in terms of where our customers are and in terms of where we believe we can work well with national governments as well.

    “In terms of business obviously, we need to be scaling the business at the moment so there’s access to capital.

    “Private capital in the UK is very useful to us and then in general most successful space companies see good interactions with their national government, and maintaining a good level of business with the national government is a useful foundation for building the commercial business on top of that.

    “So we certainly see the UK Government as a good customer, more so than the French and German governments.”

    With the upcoming opening of the new spaceport in Cornwall this year, Mr Dean noted that provided the economics of the launch are good, the spaceport could be a massive boon to Britain’s space industry.

    He added Brexit allowed the UK to look outside trading with the bloc, helping it work more closely with non EU countries like Australia and the US.

    He said: “When you look in a pre Brexit context, Europe was clearly Britain’s primary trading partner.”

    He admitted that while he wasn’t supportive of Brexit when it happened, “from an economic point of view, international point of view, it marks a transition towards international bilateral collaborations and things like that.

    “I think that probably will be positive, so that’s the one side on the economic level in terms of the trade Britain does.

    “From my point of view as a business owner and a UK citizen, it makes a lot of sense for us to build out a presence for Dragonfly in the UK and ultimately even possibly the dragonfly headquarters being in the UK.”

    While their current base is in South Africa, Mr Dean noted that his firm launched Dragonfly UK last year and are looking to expand their presence.

    In 2021, Britain’s space industry was already valued at £16.4billion, and the Government now has a goal of capturing about 10 percent of the global market, which is at $400billion (£331.3billion).

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  • 22 часа, 11 минут назад 24.09.2022Science
    ‘Jury’s out’: Farmer blows top at ‘flaky’ Truss as PM ‘not supporting’ amid energy crisis

    A North Yorskhire-based farmer has signalled his dismay over the new Prime Minster, who has made “flaky” promises to help the indsutry. Meanwhile, soaring energy costs are hamstringing crop proudction and are dealing a blow to farmers who have been forced to fork out extra cash to keep their machinery running. While Ms Truss has promised to help businesses with an energy support package, John Swiers, 64, has told Express.co.uk the Government is “not supporting” famers, just “hindering them less”.

    Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine and his move to withold crucial supplies to Europe has seen energy prices skyrocket across the country due to the integrated nature of the gas market. This has not only seen household bills skyrocket, threatening fuel poverty for millions of families, it has also put a major strain on businesses’ operations.

    For farmers, this has had a particular damning impact, which coupled with drought over the summer has seen food production plummet by 20 percent in the UK. Higher energy prices have also seen the costs of running machinery on farms go up, hindering profits.

    Mr Swiers runs a farm based in North Yorkshire which has been in his family for generations, specialising in arable crops, including products such as wheat, barley and grape seed oil. While arable crops are not at risk from drought in the same wayx that fruits and vegatables are, Mr Swiers said that soaring energy prices have forced his input costs to go up, making it more difficult to make a profit.

    He told Express.co.uk: “Higher energy prices have increased our input costs. You have to tailor you inputs to maximise your profits. When your inputs go up in price, the equations change and you’ve got to do things slightly differently.”

    And making matters tougher for farmers like Mr Swiers, the price of chemical fertlisers have also gone up as a result of soaring energy costs, given that nitrogen fertiliser is made from gas.

    This has forced a lot of fertiliser plants to close down as it is becoming too expensive for farmers to be incentivised to buy.

    Amid this crisis which is making it difficult for business to make a profit, Prime Minsiter Liz Truss, who has repeatedly argued she wants to incentivise investment, grow the economy and provide more jobs, has pledged to help ease the impacts on firms with a support package.

    The bills support releif scheme will mean that bills for businesses will also be frozen, much like the bills freeze announced for households two weeks before. But while household bills will be frozen at £2,500 for two years, the cap for firms is currently only set to stay in place for two months.

    The Prime Minister has also claimed to be committed to protecting British farmers, arguing in the run up to her leadership campaign that she will make farmers more competitive “freeing them to grow more sustainable and high-quality British food in order to enhance our nation’s food security”.

    She said she wants to protect Britsh farmland from being covered in solar panels. Ms Truss said at a Tory hustings event last month: “Our fields should be filled [with] our fantastic produce…[They] shouldn’t be full of solar panels, and I will change the rules. I will change the rules to make sure…we’re using our high value agricultural land for farming.”

    But Mr Swiers does not appear to be convinved by Ms Truss’ commitments. He also argued that Government help currently given is not really “supporting” farmers, only “hindering them less”. He also urged the Government to avoid making rules that are a form of “political tampering”.

    He told Express.co.uk: “If you look at food crisis’ in history and what has acutally caused them, it has not been the environment or natural disaster, but it is mostly from Government intervention having a negative effect.”

    The Yorkshireman stressed that “populist ideas” and politics should be kept out well out of the way with regard to farming regulations. He said: “They should try and take the politics out of it and the populist ideas like organic and re-widling and go back to basics of letting farmers do their jobs wihtout interfering.”

    But following Ms Truss’ comments over her desire to prevent taking up more farm space, Ms Truss has argualy fused a political issue into the farming space once more.

    And despite ground-mounted solar panels currently cover just 0.1 percent of all land in the UK, Ms Truss has bizarrely said that she thinks “one of the most depressing sights when you’re driving through England is seeing fields that should be full of crops or livestock, full of solar panels.”

    It came after swathes of Conservative MPs recently described solar projects as hazards for rural communities and food supply, which could be an indication the the Prime Minister was attempting to appease Tory voters to win support during her leadership campaign.

    Ben Marlow, chief city commentator of the Telegraph wrote in the publication: “Britain’s culture wars have reached such epically absurd proportions that even the sun is now the enemy.”

    And Mr Sweirs is not convinced that Ms Truss really has farmers’ best interests at heart. He told Express.co.uk: “She’s flaky. She says on the one hand that she is going to deregultate and help farmers and then in the next breath makes those comments about solar panels.

    “That is just the typical example. She gives it the big talk but it does’nt look like will actually do much. I would say that the jury is out.”

    Express.co.uk has contacted Number 10 Downing Street and DEFRA for comment.

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  • 22 часа, 11 минут назад 24.09.2022Science
    POLL: ​​Would you install a heat pump to improve energy efficiency of your home?

    Britons are being encouraged to replace their gas boilers with energy-efficient heat pumps to help save on energy bills. Property designer and presenter of the Channel 4 series Grand Designs Kevin McCloud has called for Britons to install a heat pump to help improve the energy efficiency of their homes. But will you install one? Vote in our poll.

    He told The Telegraph last week: “[Heat pumps] are getting more efficient, but I’d say get one now.

    “They’re still a little expensive but the point is that it’s not complex technology and it’s not really going to change in terms of the offer.

    “All that is going to happen over the next 10 years is that they’ll come down in price because they will be produced in vast volumes.”

    Despite the long-term benefits heat pumps will bring to energy bills, they have a high upfront cost.

    Installation costs between £10,000 and £14,000 which is more than 10 times the average £1,500 gas boiler.

    The UK Government launched the Boiler Upgrade Scheme in March which provides £5,000 subsidy to support Britons in replacing their gas boilers with heat pumps.

    The aim is to make heat pumps more affordable and allow them to compete with traditional boilers.

    Heat pumps operate like a refrigeration system in reverse by transferring the cold air outside to heat your home.

    They run on electricity and can make a substantial contribution to reducing emissions if powered by renewable sources.

    However, environmentalists have been critical of the three-year scheme which is costing £450million.

    This means that of the 22 million gas-heated properties in the UK, only 90,000 would be able to benefit.

    Speaking about the scheme in October 2021, Mike Childs from Friends of the Earth said: “£450million pounds delivered via individual £5,000 grants means 90,000 heat pump installations over three years.

    “That just isn’t very much, and won’t meet the prime minister’s ambition of 600,000 a year by 2028.”

    Octopus Energy has pledged to support Britons by driving the prices of heat pumps down further.

    Octopus Energy CEO Greg Jackson told Express.co.uk earlier this month: “Heat pumps are the most efficient way to heat your home…they are three or four times more energy efficient (than gas boilers).”

    He added: “Octopus is going to be driving this, and already to the right homes, we are installing heat pumps for a cost of about £2,500 after you have received your Government grant.

    “Our plan is to keep driving down the cost so as the market grows, they will ultimately be a price that is not dissimilar to a gas boiler.”

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  • 1 день, 4 часа назад 24.09.2022Science
    Heat pump horror: Britons facing ‘significant jump’ as gas alternative to cost £2,000 more

    Britons looking to instal heat pumps to save on bills could be in for a shock as industry experts warn soaring energy prices for businesses have made heat pumps more expensive. As the spiralling cost of wholesale gas is passed onto customers in their energy bills, many Britons have been looking towards installing heat pumps, which use electricity, which has seen a relatively less sharp increase in prices.

    While the energy bills for households have been softened slightly through measures like the price cap, and the various discounts rolled out by the Government, businesses and industries have until recently had no such protections from the volatile fossil fuel prices.

    As a result, soaring energy bills have pushed inflation to record levels, which industry experts warn is now also affecting the costs of installing energy-efficient heat pumps.

    Speaking to Express.co.uk, Jon Bonnar, the Director of Cotswold Energy group, which installs heat pumps for households, said: “We’ve seen some price rises.

    “We install 500 heat pumps a year, give or take, and what we’ve seen is that some prices have increased. What we’re seeing is that our cost base has increased by about probably 15-20 percent in the last 18 months.

    “What that’s meant for the customer is that their cost has gone up less than that, maybe 5-10 percent.

    “In the last three years, the average sale price to consumers has gone up from 12,000 to 14,000. Over three years, it’s been a significant jump.”

    He noted there have been a number of reasons why prices have been rising over the past few years, noting: “Covid made the supply chain more difficult and as a result, prices went up. Prices went up because of Covid, and then prices went up because of the war in Ukraine, inflation and other factors.”

    However, he noted that while the upfront costs of heat pumps were increasing, he found that for many who could afford the installation, the soaring of gas meant that they were finding the heat pump more affordable.

    He added: “But where the energy prices have gone up as well, it’s making heat pumps more affordable for people because what we’re seeing is that the gas prices are increasing and the alternative is to use heat pumps that run on electricity.

    “I think it’s more sense for customers now, whereas before it used to be a marginal difference in terms of running costs.

    “The running costs are becoming more affordable right now because what you can do is you can pair a heat pump with solar PV for example, while solar panels won’t pay for all the heat pumps, they will pay for some of it.”

    Heat pumps generally have a high upfront cost, which the Government has looked to mitigate through the Boiler Upgrade Schemee, that offers households up to £5,000 in subsidies to install a heat pump in place of a boiler.

    However, Mr Bonnar noted the £5,000 subsidy will bring the average heat pump price down to around £7,000-£8,000, which could still be unaffordable for many Britons.

    He continued: “The key thing about the Boiler Upgrade Scheme is that the 5000 is a useful contribution to a system installation cost, but it still relies on the homeowner having a spare £7-8000 to invest in a system, and just not everybody is having that kind of money lying around.

    “It’s a difficult conundrum for everyday people who are hit by the cost of living crisis, and rising energy bills. What the Government really needs to do is to increase the BUS from 5k-10,000. I think if they did that, it would be a much more meaningful effort and contribution to getting to net zero.

    “I think if you raise the BUS to 10,000, it would make the opportunity to instal heat pumps much more realistic for everyday people.”

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Science Scientists estimate there are 20 QUADRILLION ants on Earth