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Winamp set to release entirely new version next year

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Computer monitor using Winamp.

Enlarge (credit: Keng Susumpow / Flickr)

Rejoice, llama-whipping fans, a new version of Winamp is set to be released in 2019, according to a Monday report by TechCrunch.

Alexandre Saboundjian, the CEO of Radionomy, said that the upgrade would bring a "complete listening experience."

AudioValley, Radionomy's parent company, did not immediately respond to Ars' request for comment.

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JimB
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It Will Take Millions of Years For Mammals To Recover From Us

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The story of mammals is one of self-destruction. They first arose roughly 200 million years ago, and after eons spent scurrying in the shadow of the dinosaurs, they finally cut loose and evolved into a breathtaking variety of shapes and sizes, including the largest creatures to ever exist. And after all of that, it took barely 100,000 years for one relatively young member of the group—us—to bring everything crashing down.

Throughout our existence, humans and other hominins have hunted other mammals, first for meat, and then for pelts, trophies, trade, and more. Since the last Ice Age, over 300 species have gone extinct, including mammoths, woolly rhinos, and thylacines. A quarter of the remaining 5,500 species are endangered, thanks to one species: us.

A sobering new study by Matt Davis at Aarhus University throws these losses into stark relief. He estimated how long it would take for mammals to evolve enough new species to replace the ones that we have eradicated. And his most realistic answer is somewhere between 3 and 7 million years. That’s at least 10 times longer than we have even existed as a species. We have inflicted such grievous wounds upon our own family tree that the healing process can’t possibly happen “on any kind of time scale that’s relevant to humans,” Davis says.

[ Read: It’s a mistake to focus just on animal extinctions ]

Rather than simply counting the numbers of extinct and endangered species, Davis instead worked out how much evolutionary history they represent. This metric, known as phylogenetic diversity, matters because not all species are equal. Some are particularly unusual and irreplaceable.

The pygmy sloth, for example, may be one of the most threatened mammal species, but it’s also one of the youngest, having diverged from its closest relative 9,000 years ago. The aardvark, by contrast, is the last survivor of a once-large group of mammals that split off from the others 75 million years ago. Losing the pygmy sloth would be like snapping off a tiny twig from the mammalian family tree; losing the aardvark would be like sawing down an entire branch.

To work out the extent of these cuts, Davis and his colleagues first built a family tree for all mammals past and present, going back 130,000 years into the late Pleistocene. By adding up the length of all the missing twigs and branches, they calculated that prehistoric humans robbed mammals of 2 billion years of unique evolutionary history. Since the 16th century, we’ve wiped out another 500 million years of evolutionary history, and we stand to lose a further 1.8 billion years within the next five decades. “It is staggering,” Davis says.

Indeed, our actions have been far more destructive than if we’d just killed off species at random. That’s because, as another group showed earlier this year, we have disproportionately targeted the largest species. There used to be giant ground sloths and car-sized armadillos; they’re all gone. There used to be six species of elephant-like mammals in North America alone; now there are just three left in the entire world.

And “those big things were also the most evolutionary distinct things,” says Davis. “They were often on their own branches of the tree. We don’t see that pattern in previous mass extinctions.” According to him, humans have pulled off something close to the worst-case scenario for mammalian extinctions. We could barely have destroyed more phylogenetic diversity if we’d planned to.

When the past is this grim, the future is, too. Imagine that we instigate a massive, well-funded, global conservation push that effectively saves all existing mammals from extinction. Imagine also that all the survivors produce new species at twice their highest historical rates, on a par with the African cichlid fish that are textbook exemplars of extremely fast evolution. Even in this implausibly optimistic scenario, it would take half a million years for mammalian diversity to bounce back to its Ice Age zenith.

More realistically, given how fast mammals typically evolve, and given that some living species will inevitably go extinct, the full comeback will likely take 3 to 7 million years to stage. “That puts us on the same scale as previous mass extinctions,” says Davis. “What we are going through now could have as big an impact as the asteroid” that killed off most of the dinosaurs.

But phylogenetic diversity is just one way to weigh up the loss of life. One could also look at functional diversity, which focuses on what animals do in their environment. Some play crucial roles as seed-carriers, pollinators, and nutrient-providers. The pygmy sloth might be a young species, but if it “performs a unique function in its ecosystem, its extinction can have dire cascading effects,” says Advait Jukar from the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

These contributions are hard to study and measure, and Davis estimates that it will take even longer to replace them. That is, even after new mammal species evolve, they won’t necessarily step into the ecological vacancies that were created when past ones went extinct. And those vacancies themselves will change as the world warms and the environment shifts.

Regardless of these uncertainties, “it is hard to imagine that a full recovery or either phylogenetic or functional diversity can be achieved within human time-scales,” says Shan Huang from the Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Center. “But by prioritizing conservation for unique and distinctive lineages, we can at least slow down the losses.”

The Zoological Society of London has been saying as much for 10 years. Its EDGE of Existence program has been trying to focus attention on evolutionarily distinct species, including those that conservationists rarely pay attention to. Sure, save pandas and tigers, but also think about Attenborough’s long-beaked echidna, the Hispaniolan solenodon, and the Chinese pangolin. “Integrating evolutionary history into conservation planning will be essential in order to avert the loss of many millions of years of unique evolutionary history and all that entails,” says Nisha Owen, who manages the program.

Jukar adds that conservationists could also “map evolutionary distinctiveness onto our current network of protected areas” to see if they’re efficiently defending hotspots of diversity. “The goal for conservation should be to get the most bang for our (very limited) buck.”

“It’ll probably get worse, in all honesty,” says Davis. To avert the worst-case scenarios in his simulations, “we’re talking about a massive, ambitious global-scale project that everyone will need to be involved in. It comes down to whether politicians have the political will to make this happen.”

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JimB
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Lightroom CC 2.0: What's new, and where is it headed?

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Last year, Adobe shook up its Lightroom ecosystem – and quite a lot of its longtime customers – by announcing Lightroom CC 1.0, a completely new desktop photo management and editing app focused on Creative Cloud integration. The previous version lost its name to the upstart and was rebranded Lightroom Classic CC, leading many people to think, over Adobe’s sudden strenuous objections, that Classic was soon headed for the rejects bin.

Today, Adobe released Lightroom CC 2.0 and Lightroom Classic CC 8.0, both still breathing and both with additional features. In this article I’m specifically looking at what’s new in Lightroom CC and how it fits into the greater Lightroom lineup (which includes mobile versions for iOS and Android), but it’s worth mentioning up front that photographers using Lightroom Classic shouldn’t feel anxious about the immediate future.

Lightroom CC 2.0 Gets More Cloud-y

One of the primary reasons for building a cloud-focused version of Lightroom is to be able to share an entire photo library among multiple devices. Lightroom CC uploads everything to Creative Cloud by default, even Raw files, and from that high perch it can ensure that the images and edits are in sync in Lightroom clients on the desktop, tablets, and phones. (You can also optionally store your photos on a local drive; the cloud isn’t the only repository, but it acts as the master record.)

In Lightroom CC 2.0, Adobe’s Sensei machine-learning technology is responsible for many of the marquee new features

Having a photo library in the cloud opens up possibilities for working with the image data on Adobe’s servers. The company already uses it to deliver better results when clicking the Auto button in Edit mode, and to search for objects and scenes based on visual recognition. In Lightroom CC 2.0, Adobe’s Sensei machine-learning technology is responsible for many of the marquee new features.

People View

Facial recognition is a processor-intensive task, as anyone who’s waited for Lightroom Classic to churn through a local library knows. In the new Lightroom CC People View, the library is indexed and analyzed in data centers instead of your computer. It appears as a category under My Photos, along with the All Photos, Recently Added, and By Date categories.

The People View in Lightroom CC 2.0.
Viewing photos where Lightroom – actually, Adobe Sensei – has identified a person.

Lightroom CC presents a circle for every person it’s identified, so you can assign names; it doesn’t tie into your contacts database or anything outside Lightroom. Since inevitably some photos of the same person don’t get matched, a merge feature lets you combine them. You can also hide people from the list, such as when it pulls unknown individuals out of group shots or public scenes that you don’t want to see all the time.

Search Improvements

When you type within the Search bar, Lightroom presents possible metadata matches as you type, including camera, lens, and shooting data. Each term you add stands on its own, so to find boats at sunset, you’d type “boat,” press Return, and type “sunset” and press Return again. However, there’s no AND/OR/NOT logic to the field; typing “boat” and “sunset” brings up images of boats and images of sunsets, not necessarily boats at sunset. Oddly, folks you’ve identified in the People view are not included in text searches, but a new People filter presents named people as a way to narrow the results.

A search for "boat" and "sunset" has brought up photos that include one or both terms. Or maybe Lightroom assumes a boat owner lurks somewhere in that forest at the top right.

Tying search to Sensei, however, means there’s no local search capability. If your laptop is offline, the Search field doesn’t even work (but the Filter options do). Or, if you do have Internet access, but you’ve paused the sync feature, the search feature won’t pick up any photos you’ve imported that aren’t yet copied to Creative Cloud.

Share Tab

The web component of Lightroom at lightroom.adobe.com lets you view and edit your library in any web browser. It’s also the heart of Lightroom’s options for sharing albums or individual photos via a link, versus transmitting image files themselves. The new Share tab collects shared items in one central place.

The Share tab collects the albums and individual images you've shared via the web. At lightroom.adobe.com, you can also apply filters (such as showing only photos marked three stars and higher, for example) and preview the display of the page before it's shared.

On the Mac and Windows versions of Lightroom CC 2.0, a new Connections feature is the foundation for sharing photos to third-party services. Right now the only option is to tie Lightroom to an Adobe Portfolio site, but the company hopes to add vendors such as photo labs or photo book printers.

One annoyance with the Share tab is that its button is an icon that looks like two people, which is where folks are going to click when attempting to open the People view. I've been using the beta for a while and I still do it.

Apple Photos Migration

If you’ve decided that the Lightroom CC ecosystem is the way forward, and you use a Mac, a new Apple Photos Migration tool can copy the contents of an Apple Photos library into Lightroom. It applies only to the system library, not any separate libraries you may have created. Any photos stored in iCloud Photo Library that aren’t on the local disk when the migration happens are not included; for example, if Photos is set to optimize the library, some images are deleted and replaced with proxies to free up disk space until the originals are needed again.

The People view, search improvements, and Share tab features also appear in the iOS, Android and Chrome OS versions of Lightroom.

Thoughts on Lightroom CC a Year On

When Lightroom CC first appeared, I used it almost exclusively for several months because I was writing a book about it. Since then, I’ve stuck with it, for a few reasons:

  • I like having my photo library available on my iPad Pro and iPhone. I find myself often making edits or culling photos on the iPad when I don’t want to bring out my laptop. It’s also convenient to edit photos and share them directly to Instagram or Facebook. Although I still use Lightroom Classic as well, it’s not designed for sharing among devices as well. When you import photos into Lightroom CC, the originals are uploaded to Creative Cloud to sync to other devices. If you import into Lightroom Classic, you must specify which collections will sync, and then the images are converted to lower-resolution Smart Previews before being uploaded. In terms of image quality and making edits, Smart Previews are perfectly workable: edits are synced back to the original images in Lightroom Classic. However, if you’re editing them in Lightroom CC and export the shots to Photoshop for any extra adjustment work (the retouching tools, for instance, are still better in Photoshop), you’re starting with a lower-resolution copy to work with.

  • The performance of Lightroom Classic has improved over the year, but working in Lightroom CC is faster, plain and simple. For some people, this is reason enough to switch.

  • One of my favorite features of Lightroom CC is how it handles images on disk. My MacBook Pro doesn’t have enough storage for my entire library, so Lightroom invisibly removes older originals to conserve disk space, and downloads them on demand from the cloud when needed. But I also save original copies of each image to an external drive in my office. When that disk is not connected, newly-imported photos are kept on the laptop’s storage; as soon as I connect that external drive, Lightroom automatically moves the files from the MacBook Pro to the external. In Lightroom Classic, you have to manually move and copy images. Lightroom CC also supports storing your library on a NAS (network-attached storage) device.

That said, a year on, Lightroom CC 2.0 still presents some significant hurdles for some people.

  • It’s still missing features from Lightroom Classic that I pine for on occasion, such as creating HDR images and panoramas. You can send images to Photoshop for those tasks, but the tools in Lightroom Classic are faster and more straightforward. There’s no option for printing or making books, so if that’s important, you want to stick with Classic. And the metadata support is still bare-bones, with just a basic keywords field and most IPTC fields hidden from view.

  • This is perhaps one of the biggest limiters for many people: To really take advantage of Lightroom CC, you need a robust, always-on Internet connection. If you’re on a low-bandwidth connection, it’s impractical to upload gigabytes of data in any reasonable amount of time; and some service providers limit the amount of data you can transfer every month. And although it is possible to use Lightroom CC without syncing, many features rely on Sensei. If your library isn’t synced to Creative Cloud, you miss out.

  • Even if you do have a good Internet connection, Adobe charges for additional cloud storage. The Creative Cloud Photography plan starts at $9.99 per month, which includes 20 GB of storage. That plan, which includes Lightroom CC, Lightroom Classic CC, and Photoshop CC, goes up to $19.99 per month for 1 TB of storage. Beyond 1 TB, there are 2 TB, 5 TB, and 10 TB upgrades that cost an extra $9.99 per month per terabyte. So, moving up to 2 TB of storage ends up costing about $30 per month, and 10 TB costs about $120 per month. (There’s also an option to get just Lightroom CC and 1 TB of storage for $9.99 per month.) And to reiterate a common complaint, those are subscription prices to rent digital storage, an approach many people don’t like.

  • To dovetail with the topic of being online, as I mentioned earlier, you must be connected to use some features. The one that gets me every time is the lack of local search: it’s unacceptable that my laptop needs to be connected to the Internet to perform even a keyword search of the photos in my library. Even recently-imported photos aren’t searchable until they’ve been uploaded and indexed by Creative Cloud.

The Future of Lightroom CC

Last year I said that I believe Lightroom CC is the future of Lightroom, and that at some point, but not soon, Classic will be replaced by CC. Predictably, some people thought this meant Classic is on its last legs, and the software they’ve invested large numbers of photos and hours was about to pull a swift disappearing act. The photographers who use Lightroom Classic saw what happened when Apple dropped Aperture, and were no doubt aware of Apple’s even more abrupt abandonment of Final Cut Pro in favor of the dramatically redesigned Final Cut Pro X. Those are actions that continue to reverberate among the people who were impacted by them.

Will Lightroom CC ultimately become the one true Lightroom in the future? I believe so, but Adobe doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to get there

Adobe is wisely undertaking a more gradual transition, continuing to develop both Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic simultaneously without an apparent rush to supplant the latter. In fact, the inclusion of the People view, and not the tools for working with HDR and panorama images – which Adobe representatives confirmed last year were on the roadmap for Lightroom CC updates – points to a measured approach to the software’s development.

Will Lightroom CC ultimately become the one true Lightroom in the future? I believe so, but Adobe doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to get there yet. In the meantime, I think Lightroom CC is becoming more compelling, but Lightroom Classic photographers, especially if they rely on Classic-only features, will continue to watch for it to get more interesting.

Disclosure: Jeff Carlson has done contract work for Adobe in the past.

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JimB
14 hours ago
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I'll leave lightroom if they remove classic.
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Which? testing reveals 'unsafe' child stair gates

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Consumer group Which? urges parents not to use three models of stair gates, saying they could be unsafe.
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JimB
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Neanderthals’ Very Human Trick to Surviving Hunting Accidents and War Wounds

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Neanderthals suffered many gruesome injuries in their day. The precious remains of our ancient-human relatives reveal crushed limbs, fractured skulls, and broken ribs—relics from hunting accidents and warfare. That’s not to mention severe tooth abscesses and broken teeth that would have contributed to severe chronic pain.

Behind these gory details, however, lies the fact that many of these individuals appear to have survived for months or even years after their injuries. They lived to fight another day. This is at odds with some common assumptions about Neanderthals: Compared to modern humans, they are often thought to have lacked the necessary compassion or cognitive abilities to look after the sick. “We can infer from the fact that they survived that they must have been helped by others—and in some cases that help must have been knowledgeable and quite well planned,” says Penny Spikins, an archaeologist at the University of York in the United Kingdom. Their survival would have only been possible, in other words, if they had sophisticated health care.

In a recent paper in Quaternary Science Reviews, Spikins concludes that Neanderthals’ medical skills were remarkably similar to our own ancestors’ methods, and included wound dressing, fever management, midwifery, and a budding pharmacopeia of herbal remedies. Developing these abilities, she hypothesizes, might have even changed the course of their evolution.

Spikins has previously researched the motives of Neanderthal health care. In an attempt to debunk the myth that Neanderthals lacked the compassion of modern Homo sapiens, for instance, she describes one individual found in Shanidar Cave in Iraq who survived for a decade or more despite a withered arm and head injuries that would have probably resulted in sight and hearing loss. His survival would almost certainly have been impossible unless other group members had not provided him with food, water, and shelter—a level of altruism not typically associated with the Neanderthal mind, Spikins says. She has now charted many other examples of individuals who could not have lived through their illnesses without the help of others.

Her latest paper builds on this analysis by examining some of the specific medical skills involved in such a level of care. In the vast array of bones that archaeologists have uncovered, the fractures often had healed without significant deformities, suggesting that they had been set with a primitive splint. Many of these wounds, such as the severe head traumas and broken ribs, would have probably resulted in significant blood loss and increased risk of infection, yet the injured individuals survived long enough for the bones to heal, and their remains lack signs of severe infection—which, Spikins says, would be apparent in lumps and bumps on the bone edges.

[Read: The mystery of how neanderthals got fire]

All of this suggests that Neanderthals had some means of dressing wounds. Spikins doesn’t know exactly what those methods were, but she points out that bandages can be made from animal parts. Some Inuit groups today, for instance, use lemming skins to dress wounds and boils, since it is said to be particularly good at adhering to human flesh. It’s feasible that Neanderthals would have also come across similar methods to stem the blood flow and to keep the wound (relatively) hygienic, Spikins says.

Neanderthals may have even been in command of some natural drugs to speed their recovery. One of the other individuals in the Shanidar Cave was found to be buried with numerous plants that are believed to have medicinal properties, including yarrow, a natural antibacterial and anti-inflammatory agent that appears to accelerate wound healing. As a common folk cure, it is also said to reduce fevers and alleviate the symptoms of viral infections such as influenza, and to reduce flatulence and stomach cramps. Perhaps this was a sign of the health care he had received during his lifetime.

Supporting this hypothesis, Karen Hardy, of the Catalan Institution for Research and Advanced Studies and the Autonomous University of Barcelona, has spent the past six years analyzing the calcified plaque left on Neanderthal teeth, which can carry tiny traces of the foods they ate. In the first of these experiments, Hardy found the chemical signatures of yarrow and chamomile, which is also thought to be an anti-inflammatory agent. Since these plants taste extremely bitter, and have little nutritional value by themselves, she hypothesizes that they were instead used for self-medication.

One of Hardy’s later plaque analyses of another Neanderthal individual revealed traces of poplar, which contains the natural painkiller salicylic acid, and the mold penicillium, the source of one of our most successful antibiotics. While we can’t be sure that Neanderthals deliberately ingested these substances for medicinal purposes, it’s telling that that this individual suffered from a severe tooth abscess. Within the plaque, Hardy also found traces of microsporidia parasites, which cause acute diarrhea in humans. “The best guess is that it had to do with one or both of these infections,” she told me.

At least one form of Neanderthal health care seems more certain: midwifery. Skeletal remains demonstrate that, like anatomically modern humans, the size and shape of a Neanderthal baby’s head and the mother’s pelvis would have made unassisted childbirth dangerous. “The only way those heads could have got out of the birth canal is with that characteristic ‘twist’ which happens with modern humans at birth,” says Spikins—a maneuver that presents a high risk without assistance. From this, we can be fairly certain that they had developed some kind of midwifery to reduce the mortality rates, she says.

These findings don’t just sketch out a new branch to the history of medicine, showing that Neanderthal health care was remarkably similar to our own ancestors’ strategies; the research might also help us to better understand Neanderthals’ long-term adaptations to their environment. Many Neanderthals lived in colder and more arid regions across Western and Central Europe and some parts of Asia, where they ventured as far north as the Altai Mountains in Siberia. In the more northern areas, the main food source would have been hulking great creatures such as mammoths and woolly rhinos, the hides of which were so thick that they could only be hunted with spears at a dangerously close range. In southern regions such as modern-day Spain, meanwhile, Neanderthals appear to have chased ibex over mountainous terrains, which came with a serious risk of falls. That’s not to mention the many predators—including hyenas and saber-toothed cats—in these regions—that posed their own dangers.

As a result of these challenges, injury rates were extraordinarily high, with one estimate suggesting that between 79 and 94 percent of Neanderthals sustained at least one traumatic injury in their lifetime. Spikins believes it simply would not have been possible for them to have adapted and spread so widely in these areas if they had not found the means to treat serious injuries. “As primates, we’re not naturally adapted to hunting large animals,” she explains of Neanderthals and Homo sapiens alike. “But health care allowed groups to sustain much higher rates of injury than they would otherwise be able to sustain, so they move into an ecological niche that they weren’t really well-suited for.”

[Read: Neanderthal dental plaque shows what a paleo diet really looks like]

Spikins hypothesizes that—as with modern humans—Neanderthal health care could have also allowed greater cultural complexity to flourish, by enabling the older generation to share their knowledge with younger members of the group. “The whole population structure changes with health care, so you have more members who are older,” she says; that cumulative knowledge might have allowed them to develop more sophisticated ways of hunting, for instance. She would also be interested to investigate whether midwifery allowed for the continued evolution of the brain. “We’d really hope that this study could prompt further thoughts about the ways these cultural practices can impact on our biological evolution,” she says.

Other archaeologists that I spoke to were intrigued by Spikins’s paper, although they caution that we shouldn’t yet draw firm conclusions from the available evidence, which is still somewhat circumstantial. We can only infer so much from the way their bones healed, rather than material artifacts demonstrating the specific practices involved, and it is impossible to know for certain why those Neanderthals were ingesting those bitter-tasting plants.

“There is little hard evidence—most of it is presumed,” says April Nowell, of the University of Victoria in Canada. She points out that many other animals have been known to self-medicate to a limited degree—and so it makes perfect sense that Neanderthals would be “equally if not more knowledgeable” of the medicinal benefits of plants. But she would have preferred more direct comparisons with anatomically modern humans and other primates to see whether the health-care adaptations differed between groups. It would have also been interesting to see whether the specific injuries, and the potential treatments, depended on the location and the particular challenges that it presented, and whether they changed over time. Did the Neanderthals in the north suffer from different maladies compared to those in Southern Europe?

In principle, however, the existence of more sophisticated health care chimes with the burgeoning recognition of Neanderthal intelligence. “It is totally in line with Neanderthal cognitive abilities, which there is no reason to suspect were very different from our own, and which would have allowed them to survive in their challenging environment,” says Francis Wenban-Smith, of the University of Southampton. It is one more reason, he says, to recognize our cousins’ “capabilities as members of the human family, rather than presuming them to be the simple-minded brutes of popular folklore.”

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Beer lovers, beware: Warmer climate could lead to severe barley shortages

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Barley grain used in the production of beer at the Asahi Kanagawa Brewery in Japan

Enlarge / Barley grain used in the production of beer at the Asahi Kanagawa Brewery in Japan (credit: Tomohiro Ohsumi/Bloomberg/Getty Images)

There's nothing quite like putting your feet up after a long, hot summer day and enjoying a refreshing cold brew if you're a beer lover. But a warming climate could give rise to global barley shortages, with a resulting shortage of beer. That's the conclusion of a new study just published in Nature Plants.

Beer brewers account for roughly 17 percent of the barley consumption worldwide, although it varies from region to region, with the vast majority of crops harvested as feed for livestock. If barley becomes too scarce, more of it will be funneled to livestock, since beer is technically a luxury good. The shortage of barley will give rise to steep price hikes and corresponding decreases in global consumption. While the most affluent beer lovers will still be able to indulge in a pint or two, "Future climate and pricing conditions could put beer out of reach for hundreds of millions of people around the world," says study co-author Steven Davis of the University of California, Irvine.

Davis himself is a beer aficionado and home brewer, who frequently travels to China for research collaborations. During one such trip a couple of years ago, he spoke with a scientist at the Chinese Agricultural Academy of Sciences, who was studying the global supply of beer. (China is currently the largest consumer of beer and thus would be hit hard by a severe barley shortage.) They decided to collaborate on a study investigating the impact of climate change on beer, partnering with other researchers in the United Kingdom and Mexico.

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