Amazing Science
Find tag "environment"
377.6K views | +20 today
Your new post is loading...
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Starpath: Britain Is Experimenting With The World's First UV Powered Self-Glowing, Self-Aware Bike Path

Starpath: Britain Is Experimenting With The World's First UV Powered Self-Glowing, Self-Aware Bike Path | Amazing Science |
The "Starpath" absorbs sunlight during the day and glows with a supernatural-looking topaz aura at night.


The spectral blue glow emitted from this British bike path looks like it should be pulsing off of magic crystals inside some miles-deep cavern. But if it saves a rider from road rash or fractured bones, then more power to the folks who made it: Let's get even more parts of the cycle infrastructure lit up like Marie Curie's lab table.


The so-called "Starpath" is a type of solar-enhanced liquid and aggregate made by Pro-Teq Surfacing, a company headquartered southwest of London near the awesomely titled town ofStaines-upon-Thames. It's in the prototype phase, with a test path running 460 feet in a Cambridge park called Christ's Pieces. (The British and their delightful names!) The material works by absorbing UV rays during the day and later releasing them as topaz light. In a weird feature, it can somehow adjust its brightness levels similar to the screen of an iPhone; the path gets dimmer on pitch-black nights "almost like it has a mind of its own," says Pro-Teq's owner, Hamish Scott.


The company patented this curious substance to suit the needs of certain thrifty municipalities, which are trying to cut back on their nocturnal electricity bills.


It is certainly a sustainable surface, perfect for cyclist and disabled access and has a high safety margin with its anti-slip properties. It can also help to reduce the risk of collisions between cyclists and pedestrians at night without having to resort to artificial painted centre lines. The aggregate is a non-reflective light source, the lack of any glare off the surface further enhancing its acceptance in more populated areas. (eg: if this product were to be laid on a driveway in a private residence, there would be no adverse impact on neighbouring properties).


Pro-Teq is hoping that governments will embrace its self-aware, supernatural-looking pathway for its energy-saving elements and the ease in which it goes down. The installation is fairly quick (the Cambridge job took about 4 hours), and because it's a resurfacing technique doesn't involve the burdensome disassembly and disposal of existing pathways. "The main bulk of the U.K. path network is tarmac, where perhaps it's coming toward the end of its useful life," says Pro-Teq pitchman Neil Blackmore in the below video. "We can rejuvenate it with our system, creating not only a practical but a decorative finish that's certainly with the Starpath also very, very unique."

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

World’s First Vertical Forest Gets Introduced in Italy

World’s First Vertical Forest Gets Introduced in Italy | Amazing Science |

The Bosco Verticale is a system that optimizes, recuperates, and produces energy. Covered in plant life, the building aids in balancing the microclimate and in filtering the dust particles contained in the urban environment. Milan is one of the most polluted cities in Europe. The diversity of the plants and their characteristics produce humidity, absorb CO2 and dust particles, producing oxygen and protect the building from radiation and acoustic pollution. This not only improves the quality of living spaces, but gives way to dramatic energy savings year round.

Each apartment in the building will have a balcony planted with trees that are able to respond to the city’s weather — shade will be provided within the summer, while also filtering city pollution; and in the winter the bare trees will allow sunlight to permeate through the spaces. Plant irrigation will be supported through the filtering and reuse of the greywater produced by the building. Additionally, Aeolian and photovoltaic energy systems will further promote the tower’s self-sufficiency.

The design of the Bosco Verticale is a response to both urban sprawl and the disappearance of nature from our lives and on the landscape. The architect notes that if the units were to be constructed unstacked as stand-alone units across a single surface, the project would require 50,000 square meters of land, and 10,000 square meters of woodland. Bosco Verticale is the first offer in his proposed BioMilano, which envisions a green belt created around the city to incorporate 60 abandoned farms on the outskirts of the city to be revitalized for community use.

Sieg Holle's curator insight, October 25, 2013 10:43 AM

excellent use of space   for  new vitality -renewal

Eco Installer's curator insight, November 7, 2013 3:42 AM

A perfect way to live in a forest! 

Chris Vilcsak's curator insight, March 29, 9:49 PM

Now THAT's a green building...

Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

The jellyfish plague in the world's oceans

The jellyfish plague in the world's oceans | Amazing Science |

Last week, Sweden’s Oskarshamn nuclear power plant, which supplies 10% of the country’s energy, had to shut down one of its three reactors after a jellyfish invasion clogged the piping of its cooling system. The invader, a creature called a moon jellyfish, is 95% water and has no brain. Not what you might call menacing if you only had to deal with one or two.

En masse, jellyfish are a bigger problem. “The [moon jellyfish swarm] phenomenon…occurs at regular intervals on Sweden’s three nuclear power plants,” says Torbjörn Larsson, a spokesperson for E.ON, which owns Oskarshamn. Larsson wouldn’t say how much revenue the shutdown cost his company, but noted that jellyfish also caused a shutdown in 2005. 

Coastal areas around the world have struggled with similar jellyfish blooms, as these population explosions are known. These blooms are increasing in intensity, frequency, or duration, says Lucas Brotz, a jellyfish expert at the University of British Columbia.


Brotz’s research of 45 major marine ecosystems shows that 62% saw an uptick in blooms (pdf) since 1950. In those areas, surging jellyfish numbers have caused power plant outages, destroyed fisheries and cluttered the beaches of holiday destinations. Scientists can’t be certain that blooms are rising because historical data are too few.


The proliferation of jellyfish appears in large part to be related to humans’ impact on the oceans. The toll we take on the seas may augur a new world order of jellyfish disasters, which, in turn, could devastate the global economy.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

World won't cool without substantial geoengineering, report finds

World won't cool without substantial geoengineering, report finds | Amazing Science |
The latest draft of the IPCC climate report says global warming is irreversible without schemes to suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere


Global warming is irreversible without massive geoengineering of the atmosphere's chemistry. This stark warning comes from the draft summary of the latest climate assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.


Delegates from national governments are discussing the draft this week, prior to its release on Friday morning.


According to one of its lead authors, and the latest draft seen by New Scientist, the report will say: "CO2-induced warming is projected to remain approximately constant for many centuries following a complete cessation of emission. A large fraction of climate change is thus irreversible on a human timescale, except if net anthropogenic CO2 emissions were strongly negative over a sustained period."


In other words, even if all the world ran on carbon-free energy and deforestation ceased, the only way of lowering temperatures would be todevise a scheme for sucking hundreds of billions of tonnes of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere.


Much of this week's report, the fifth assessment of the IPCC working group on the physical science of climate change, will reaffirm the findings of the previous four assessments, published regularly since 1990.


It will point out that to limit global warming to 2 °C will require cumulative CO2emissions from all human sources since the start of the industrial revolution to be kept below about a trillion tonnes of carbon. So far, we have emitted about half this. Current emissions are around 10.5 billion tonnes of carbon annually, and rising.


Since the last assessment, published in 2007, the IPCC has almost doubled its estimate of the maximum sea-level rise likely in the coming century to about 1 metre. They also conclude that it is now "virtually certain" that sea levels will continue to rise for many centuries, even if warming ceases, due to the delayed effects of thermal expansion of warming oceans and melting ice sheets.


The draft report says the available evidence now suggests that above a certain threshold of warming, the Greenland ice sheet will almost disappear within approximately 1000 years, which will result in 7 metres of global sea-level rise. It estimates that the threshold may lie between 1 °C and 4 °C of warming, but is not confident of this figure.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

40 years after ban, pesticide DDT is still killing California condors

40 years after ban, pesticide DDT is still killing California condors | Amazing Science |

The U.S. banned the use of DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) back in 1972 after studies linked it to the thinning of eggs in bald eagles, peregrine falcons and other species. The pesticide has also been linked to other health hazards in wildlife and humans. But even though it is no longer employed in this country, DDT persists for a long time in the environment, and its effects are still being felt today.


The Ventana Wildlife Society (VWS), which manages the California condor (Gymnogyps californianus) reintroduction program in the coastal Big Sur region, first began to suspect in 2006 that DDT was affecting the big birds. Two captive-born condors successfully nested in the wild then for the first time in that region. The birds mated and laid eggs, but they soon cracked and the nest failed. An examination revealed that the shells were so thin that they didn’t even resemble normal condor eggs.


Since that time many more eggs have been laid in the region but 12 out of 16 condor nest sites failed between 2007 and 2009. Fragments of shells—all visibly thin—were recovered from those sites. Meanwhile, the condors released 650 kilometers farther south have enjoyed a 70 to 80 percent hatching success rate.


Now, research pending publication in the journal The Condor reveals that the egg fragments recovered in the Big Sur region were 34 percent thinner than eggs laid at the same time in the southern reintroduction zone. Many of the latter shells lacked a normal external crystalline layer. The researchers link the thinness and malformations to DDT and the compound DDE (dichloro diphenyldichloroethylene), which is formed when the pesticide breaks down.


How did the condors end up with DDT and DDE in their systems? The birds in Big Sur have been observed dining on the carcasses of sea lions, sea otters and other marine mammals, animals the inland southern population lacks the opportunity to eat. Previous research into California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) from 1994 to 2006 found high levels of DDT and related compounds in their blubber, especially in the males. The marine mammals live near the 54-hectare Palos Verdes Shelf Superfund site, an underwater region contaminated by an estimated 1,540 metric tons of DDT discharged by the Montrose Chemical Corp. DDT manufacturing plant between the 1950s and 1970s. Earlier this year new tests estimated that the DDT at the site had somehow shrunk to just 12.7 metric tons; it is not yet known what happened to all of those missing chemicals.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Researchers claim satellite data proves global warming caused by humans

Researchers claim satellite data proves global warming caused by humans | Amazing Science |

A team of climatologists with members from the U.S., Australia, Canada and Norway is claiming in a paper they've had published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that they have found proof that global warming is being caused by human influences. They are basing their claims on computer simulations they've run and data obtained from three decades' worth of satellite observations.

Most of the world's scientists agree that our planet is experiencing global warming. Most also generally support the theory that the cause of global warming is due to an increase in greenhouse gasses, primarily carbon dioxide. And while many also support the notion that the increase in greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere is likely due to human emissions, few are willing to go on record claiming that global warming is due directly to human activities. The researchers in this new effort are one such group and they claim they have proof.

Satellites, as most everyone knows, have been hovering over or circling our planet for over half a century. Over that time period they have grown progressively more sophisticated, measuring virtually every conceivable aspect of the planet below—from gas levels in the atmosphere to temperature readings on an averaged global scale, to the impact of natural events such as volcanic eruptions. It's this data the researchers used in their attempt to root out the true source of global warming.


The research team conducted a two stage study. The first involved creating computer models that simulated climate evolution over the past several decades under three different scenarios: a world without human influence, a world with only human influence and a world without human emissions or naturally occurring incidents such as volcanic eruptions. The second stage involved gathering data from satellites and comparing it with what the team had found in creating their simulations. They say patterns emerged that prove that human influence is the cause behind global warming. One example they cite is data that shows that the troposphere (the part of the atmosphere closest to us) has seen a steady rise in temperature over the past several decades, even as the layer just above it, the stratosphere, has cooled slightly.


But what has the team really convinced that humans are the true source behind global warming, is that they were unable to produce the type of warming we've seen with just natural events—it's only when human emissions are added to models that such a trend can be realistically simulated. That, they say, proves that human practices over the past several decades are responsible for global warming.

Sheridan LeMessurier-Moore's curator insight, July 15, 10:27 PM

With use of satellites, testing and various experiments, scientists are now able to prove that global warming is the cause that has been produced by humans. 

This theory has been proven by a stage two study - involving three satellites measuring the impact from three scenarios , one being without human influence, one with only human influences and one without natural or human emissions. 

With this experiment conducted, it was proven that humans are the cause behind Global Warming. 

Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

NASA: Global warming in one unmistakably compelling chart

NASA: Global warming in one unmistakably compelling chart | Amazing Science |

Produced by NASA, the chart illustrates how temperatures have compared to “normal” (or the 1951-1980 average) from 1880 to present, from pole to pole (-90 latitude to 90 latitude).


From the 1880 to the 1920s, blue and green shades dominate the chart, signaling cooler than normal temperatures in that era.  Then, from the 1930s to the 1970s, warmer yellow, oranges, and reds shades ooze in, balancing the cooler shades.


But since the 1970s, the blue and green shades rapidly erode and oranges and reds take over, dramatically. The rapid warming at the northern high latitudes especially jumps out in recent decades, reflecting “Arctic amplification” or more intense warming in the Arctic.  Although the warming is most pronounced up north, it is apparent at almost every latitude.


Of course, it is widely accepted the Earth has warmed in the last century.  Or, as the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change put it in 2007, the warming of the climate system is “unequivocal.”


But even as the debate has moved on from whether warming has occurred to the effects, there remain some doubters.  Show them this this chart – it packs an incredible amount of data into one tidy, irrefutable visual.


No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

New dimensions on ice: Arctic winter ice continues to decline

New dimensions on ice: Arctic winter ice continues to decline | Amazing Science |
Offering new insights into our fragile polar regions, ESA’s CryoSat mission has provided three consecutive years of Arctic sea-ice thickness measurements, which show that the ice continues to thin.


Although satellites have witnessed a downward trend in the extent of sea ice over the last two decades, it is essential to have accurate information on the mass or volume of ice being lost. This is a more accurate measure of the changes taking place.


Along with observations of ice extent, CryoSat’s measurements of thickness now span from October 2010 to April 2013, allowing scientists to work out the real loss of ice, monitor seasonal change and identify trends. Prof. Andrew Shepherd from the University of Leeds, UK, said, “CryoSat continues to provide clear evidence of diminishing Arctic sea ice.


“From the satellite’s measurements we can see that some parts of the ice pack ice have thinned more rapidly than others, but there has been a decrease in the volume of winter and summer ice over the past three years.

“The volume of the sea ice at the end of last winter was less than 15 000 cubic km, which is lower than any other year going into summer and indicates less winter growth than usual.”


While it seems unlikely that a record minimum of sea-ice extent will be set this September, the thinner ice at the start of summer could mean that the actual volume of ice may reach a new low.


Rachel Tilling, PhD student at University College London, who is working with the CryoSat data stated, “Readings from CryoSat in October, when the ice starts to refreeze, will confirm this either way.”

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Tomorrow's Cities: How may we be living in 2050 - a BBC report

Tomorrow's Cities: How may we be living in 2050 - a BBC report | Amazing Science |

Have you ever wondered where you or your children may be living in 2050? Experts predict that by then three-quarters of the world's population will live in cities. This August and September the BBC is taking a look at how our lives will be changed by the technological innovations being developed for Tomorrow’s Cities.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

A diverse range of life forms exists deep underground, but they survive at an incredibly slow pace

A diverse range of life forms exists deep underground, but they survive at an incredibly slow pace | Amazing Science |

Long-lived bacteria, reproducing only once every 10,000 years, have been found in rocks 2.5km (1.5 miles) below the ocean floor that are as much as 100 million years old. Viruses and fungi have also been found. The discoveries raise questions about how life persists in such extreme conditions.


Scientists from the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program have announced the findings at the Goldschmidt conference, a meeting of more than 4,000 geochemists, in Florence, Italy. Fumio Inagaki of the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology, reported that the microbes exist in very low concentrations, of around 1,000 microbes in every tea spoon full of rock, compared with billions or trillions of bacteria that would typically be found in the same amount of soil at Earth's surface.


Alongside the simple single-celled organisms (prokaryotes) found in the deep rocks, Tom Englehardt of the University of Oldenburg, Germany, showed that viruses are even more abundant, outnumbering microbes by more than 10 to one, with that ratio increasing with depth.


Dr Englehardt said of these viruses: "They are quite stable in these sediments, especially as the metabolic rates of the cells are so low, and they exist in sediments up to 100 million years old." The number of microbes was so low that the distances between them were much greater than those of communities at Earth's surface, so the scientists were surprised to find that they could support a virus' life cycle.


Dr Orcutt continued: "One of the biggest mysteries of life below the sea floor is that although there are microbes down there it's really hard to understand how they have enough energy to live and how incredibly slowly they are growing.


"The deeper we look, the deeper we are still finding cells, and the discussion now is where is the limit? Is it going to be depth, is it going to be temperature? Where is the limit from there being life to there being no life?" 


The long-lived bacteria metabolise at such a slow rate that some even question whether this constitutes life at all. "The other question we have is that even though we are finding cells, is it really true to call it alive when it's doubling every thousands of years? It's almost like a zombie state," Dr Orcutt commented.


Despite being very slow-living and slow-acting, Earth scientists have also suggested that the existence of microbial communities deep in Earth's rocks could be changing the chemistry of the rocks, the deeper Earth, and the planet itself.


By locking up and using carbon within the rocks, these deep organisms could be modifying the carbon cycle on Earth, and could ultimately have some impact on the rates of release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere from volcanoes over Earth's history.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

WIRED: 170 Years of the World's Hurricane Tracks on One Dark and Stormy Map

WIRED: 170 Years of the World's Hurricane Tracks on One Dark and Stormy Map | Amazing Science |

This map shows the paths of every hurricane and cyclone detected since 1842. Nearly 12,000 tropical cyclones have been tracked and recorded, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration keeps them all in a single database. Long-term datasets can be really interesting and scientifically valuable, and this one is undoubtedly both.


In the image above, you can clearly see that more storm tracks have overlapped in the western Pacific ocean and northern Indian ocean. This is largely because of the length of the typhoon season, which basically never stops in the warmer waters there.


The tracks of the earliest storms are based on mariner’s logs and storm records, collected from various countries, agencies and other sources. Reconciling data from these different entities was tough. Most international agencies had their own set of codes for cyclone intensity, and only recorded this information once per day. India was even using different wind thresholds to designate cyclone stages.


Somehow, NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center managed to wrangle all these various reports. Originally, at the dawn of the mainframe computer age, much of this data was stored in the form of decks of punch cards, sometimes with just one position and intensity measurement for one storm recorded on each card. Later systems used 80-column cards to boost this to four measurements per card. A similar tracking system is still in use today, of course without the physical cards.


Many storms were surely missed in the early days of tracking. But since the advent of geostationary satellites, and in particular NOAA’s GOES series of weather-tracking satellites which was first launched in 2001, the data has gotten better and more complete. The entire globe gets a look every few minutes, and no storm goes unreported.


All of this data, nearly 170 years’ worth, is kept by NOAA in a single database called IBTrACS, and as a result, we have these beautiful maps from the NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory (and a whole bunch of science and other maps and stuff). The data is freely available to anyone.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Should Fukushima's radioactive water be dumped at sea or buried at salt mines?

Should Fukushima's radioactive water be dumped at sea or buried at salt mines? | Amazing Science |

Japan's Nuclear Regulation Authority has upgraded the severity of the situation at Fukushima, reopening questions about how to deal with the radioactivity?


The contaminated water problem at Fukushima comes from the mountains. Every day, 400 tonnes of groundwater flows down from peaks overlooking the complex, invades the stricken reactor halls and is contaminated. At present, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), which runs the plant, redirects the water over the reactor cores to keep them cool. After filtering to remove radioactive caesium, the water is stored in tanks. Huge volumes are being placed in 1060 tanks, each holding up to 1000 tonnes.


Tepco has drilled wells in the mountains to pump out and divert groundwater before it reaches Fukushima. It is even considering creating an "ice wall" around the complex by freezing water in soil.


More prosaically, in March, the company installed new filtering equipment. The advanced liquid processing system (ALPS) filters out caesium and 60 other isotopes. The IAEA says such filtering offers the best hope for cleaning water to a standard fit for dumping at sea. The tanks would then be used for more concentrated waste.


But Tepco halted tests on ALPS this month after corrosion holes developed in an associated tank. It says tests won't resume until December.


"Anything they can do to remove the more dangerous compounds and dilute the others is almost the only solution," says Ken Buesseler of Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts. Ken says the Kanda estimate is probably the best he is aware of, and closely matches figures released on 21 August by Tepco, of 0.1 to 0.6 TBq per month for caesium-137 and 0.1 to 0.3 for strontium.


He points out that the north Pacific contains an estimated 100,000 TBq of caesium-137 from H-bomb testing in the 1960s, so the fallout from Fukushima is adding only a fraction of that. Total discharges from the Sellafield nuclear plant in the UK released 39,000 TBq over 40 years, he says.


Buesseler says that during his own sampling survey in waters 30 to 600 kilometres from Fukushima in June 2011, three months after the meltdown, the highest levels he found were 3 Bq of caesium-137 per litre of seawater. By comparison, the natural weathering of rocks results in about 10 Bq of radioactive potassium-40 making it into each litre of seawater.


On an international level, even if all the waste from Fukushima was dumped neat into the Pacific, dilution would eliminate any radiation risks to distant countries like the US, says Simon Boxall of the National Oceanography Centre in Southampton, UK.

Patrick Williams's curator insight, September 9, 2013 11:01 AM

Wow! That's kinda scaVery this topic. Has a lot of interests to me!

Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Mysterious Giant Crater-like Structures Found near New-Zealand

Mysterious Giant Crater-like Structures Found near New-Zealand | Amazing Science |

Three giant pockmarks – crater-like structures on the seabed – found by the team are possibly twice the size of the largest pockmarks ever recorded.


Scientists believe they are the ancient remnants of vigorous degassing from under the seafloor into the ocean. The structures (the largest being 6.8 miles by 3.7 miles in diameter and 328 feet deep) are at water depths of about 0.6 miles and there is currently no sign of gas being emitted from them.


The team investigated the larger seafloor structures on the German research ship Sonne. Their aim was to determine the geological origin of the structures, which were first noted in 2007.

“Some of the pockmarks are huge compared to similar structures observed elsewhere in the world,” Dr Davy said. “It’s most unusual for scientists to encounter seafloor structures of this size and complexity. They are big enough to enclose the Wellington city urban area, or lower Manhattan.”


The geological processes that led to the formation of the larger structures were still unclear.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Amazon Rainforest is ‘at Higher Risk of Tree Loss’ than ever before due to Global Warming

Amazon Rainforest is ‘at Higher Risk of Tree Loss’ than ever before due to Global Warming | Amazing Science |
Part of the Amazon rainforest may be more vulnerable to the effects of climate change than first thought, say researchers.


Findings showed that since 1979, the dry season lasted about a week longer in each decade. At the same time, the annual fire seasons have become longer. The most likely explanation for the increasingly longer dry seasons is global warming.

If the damage is severe enough, they say the loss of rainforest could cause the release of large volumes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and could also disrupt plant and animal communities in one of the world’s most biodiversity-rich regions, as outlined in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).


The team used ground-based rainfall measurements from the past three decades. Findings showed that since 1979, the dry season in southern Amazonia lasted about a week longer in each decade.

Professor Fu and her colleagues say the water stored in the forest soil at the end of each wet season is all that the trees have to last them through the dry months. The longer that lasts – regardless of how wet the wet season was – the more stressed the trees become and the more susceptible they are to forest fires.

They say the most likely explanation for the lengthening dry season in recent decades is human-caused greenhouse warming, which inhibits rainfall in two ways: It makes it harder for warm, dry air near the surface to rise and freely mix with cool, moist air above; and it blocks incursions by cold weather fronts from outside the tropics which could trigger rainfall.

Sydney Huang's curator insight, November 21, 2013 3:58 PM

I.D. The amazon rainforest may be losing trees due to dry seasons.


S.D. It was shown that in 1979, the dry season lasted about a week londer in each deacade.

S.D. The most likely explanation for these dry seasons is global warming.


Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Air Pollution Is One of the Leading Causes of Cancer

Air Pollution Is One of the Leading Causes of Cancer | Amazing Science |

The air we breathe is laced with cancer-causing substances and is being officially classified as carcinogenic to humans, the World Health Organization's cancer agency said on Thursday.


The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) cited data indicating that in 2010, 223,000 deaths from lung cancer worldwide resulted from air pollution, and said there was also convincing evidence it increases the risk of bladder cancer.


Depending on the level of exposure in different parts of the world, the risk was found to be similar to that of breathing in second-hand tobacco smoke, Kurt Straif, head of the agency's section that ranks carcinogens, told reporters in Geneva.


"Our task was to evaluate the air everyone breathes rather than focus on specific air pollutants," deputy head Dana Loomis said in a statement. "The results from the reviewed studies point in the same direction: the risk of developing lung cancer is significantly increased in people exposed to air pollution."


Air pollution, mostly caused by transport, power generation, industrial or agricultural emissions and residential heating and cooking, is already known to raise risks for a wide range of illnesses including respiratory and heart diseases.


Research suggests that exposure levels have risen significantly in some parts of the world, particularly countries with large populations going through rapid industrialization, such as China.


IARC reviewed thousands of studies on air pollution tracking populations over decades and other research such as those in which mice exposed to polluted air experienced increased numbers of lung tumors.


In a statement released after reviewing the literature, the Lyon-based agency said both air pollution and "particulate matter" - a major component of it - would now be classified among its Group 1 human carcinogens.


That ranks them alongside more than 100 other known cancer-causing substances in IARC's Group 1, including asbestos, plutonium, silica dust, ultraviolet radiation and tobacco smoke.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Health of the Oceans Declining Fast, Risk of Mass Extinction

Health of the Oceans Declining Fast, Risk of Mass Extinction | Amazing Science |
The health of the world’s oceans is deteriorating even faster than had previously been thought, a report says.


A review from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO) warns that the oceans are facing multiple threats. They are being heated by climate change, turned slowly less alkaline by absorbing CO2, and suffering from overfishing and pollution.

The report warns that dead zones formed by fertiliser run-off are a problem. It says conditions are ripe for the sort of mass extinction event that has afflicted the oceans in the past.

Olivia Maloney's curator insight, October 9, 2013 9:12 PM

This is so sad, how we didn't even realize how fast the ocean's health is declining. We should try to fix it, before it becomes out of control and starts to cause even bigger problems. If this causes a mass extinction, a lot of people could become very mad, and start protesting different labs and other places. I really hope that scientists can get this under contol before it's too late. 

Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Wind and rain belts to shift north as planet warms, research study says

Wind and rain belts to shift north as planet warms, research study says | Amazing Science |

As humans continue to heat the planet, a northward shift of Earth's wind and rain belts could make a broad swath of regions drier, including the Middle East, American West and Amazonia, while making Monsoon Asia and equatorial Africa wetter, says a new study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


The study authors base their prediction on the warming that brought Earth out of the last ice age, some 15,000 years ago. As the North Atlantic Ocean began to churn more vigorously, it melted Arctic sea ice, setting up a temperature contrast with the southern hemisphere where sea ice was expanding around Antarctica. The temperature gradient between the poles appears to have pushed the tropical rain belt and mid-latitude jet stream north, redistributing water in two bands around the planet.


Today, with Arctic sea ice again in retreat, and the northern hemisphere heating up faster than the south, history could repeat itself. "If the kinds of changes we saw during the deglaciation were to occur today that would have a very big impact," said the study's lead author, Wallace Broecker, a climate scientist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.


Marshaling climate data collected from around the world, from tree-rings, polar ice cores, cave formations, and lake and ocean sediments, Broecker and study coauthor, Aaron Putnam, a climate scientist at Lamont-Doherty, hypothesize that the wind and rain belts shifted north from about 14,600 years ago to 12,700 years ago as the northern hemisphere was heating up.


At the southern edge of the tropical rain belt, the great ancient Lake Tauca in the Bolivian Andes nearly dried up at this time while rivers in eastern Brazil slowed to a trickle and rain-fed stalagmites in the same region stopped growing. In the middle latitudes, the northward advance of the jet stream may have caused Lake Lisan, a precursor to the Dead Sea in Jordan's Rift Valley, to shrink, along with several prehistoric lakes in the western U.S., including Lake Bonneville in present day Utah.


Meanwhile, a northward shift of the tropical rains recharged the rivers that drain Venezuela's Cariaco Basin and East Africa's Lake Victoria and Lake Tanganyika. Stalagmites in China's Hulu Cave grew bigger. Evidence for a stronger Asian monsoon during this time also shows up in the Greenland ice cores.

The process worked in reverse from about 1300 to 1850, the study authors hypothesize, as northern Europe transitioned from the relatively warm medieval era to a colder period known as the Little Ice Age. Ocean circulation slowed, and sea ice in the North Atlantic Ocean expanded, the climate record shows. At the same time, rainfall declined in Monsoon Asia, leading to a series of droughts that have been linked to the decline of Cambodia's ancient Khmer civilization, China's Ming dynasty and the collapse of kingdoms in present day Vietnam, Myanmar and Thailand.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Better droplet condensation could boost worldwide production of electricity and clean water

Better droplet condensation could boost worldwide production of electricity and clean water | Amazing Science |

Steam condensation is key to the worldwide production of electricity and clean water: It is part of the power cycle that drives 85 percent of all electricity-generating plants and about half of all desalination plants globally, according to the United Nations and International Energy Agency. So anything that improves the efficiency of this process could have enormous impact on global energy use.

It has been known for years that making steam-condenser surfaces hydrophobic—that is, getting them to repel water—could improve the efficiency of condensation by causing the water to quickly form droplets. But most hydrophobic materials have limited durability, especially in steamy industrial settings. The new approach to coating condenser surfaces should overcome that problem, the MIT researchers say.

The findings are reported this week in the journal Advanced Materials by MIT professors Karen Gleason and Kripa Varanasi, graduate student Adam Paxson and postdoc Jose Yagüe. Tests of metal surfaces coated using the team's process show "a stark difference," Paxson says. In the tests, the material stood up well even when exposed to steam at 100 degrees Celsius in an accelerated endurance test. Typically, the steam in power-plant condensers would only be about 40 degrees Celsius, Varanasi says.

When materials currently used to make surfaces hydrophobic are exposed to 100 degrees Celsius steam, "after one minute, you start to see them degrade," Paxson says: The condensing water becomes "a film that covers the surface. It kills the hydrophobic surface, and degrades heat transfer by a factor of seven." By contrast, the new material shows no change in performance after prolonged endurance tests.


Varanasi and Paxson were part of a team that published research earlier this year on a different kind of durable hydrophobic material, a rare-earth ceramic. Varanasi says that the two approaches will likely both find useful applications, but in different situations: The ceramic material can withstand even higher temperatures, while the new coating should be less expensive and appropriate for use in existing power plants, he says. "Before, we had nothing, and we have two possible systems now," he says.


The new coating can easily be applied to conventional condenser materials—typically titanium, steel, copper or aluminum—in existing facilities, using a process called initiated chemical vapor deposition (iCVD).


Another advantage of the new coating is that it can be extremely thin—just one-thousandth of the thickness of conventional hydrophobic coatings. That means other properties of the underlying surface, such as its electrical or thermal conductivity, are hardly affected. "You can create ultrathin films, with no effect on thermal conductivity," Varanasi says, "so you're getting the best of all worlds here."

Elizabeth Oneil's comment, September 20, 2013 1:44 PM
VVX cool
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Nitrogen fixing trees help to quicken the pace of reforestation

Nitrogen fixing trees help to quicken the pace of reforestation | Amazing Science |

Researchers have discovered that trees can switch on their ability to fix Nitrogen from the atmosphere with a little help from the Rhizobium bacteria. This finding has a huge implication on the ongoing projects of reforestation on denuded lands.


A study was carried out on a square mile area of the Panama Canal watershed where the forest was recovering after clearing activities. Different land use options were studied and the carbon storage, runoff and biodiversity were carefully monitored. A comparison was made between mature tropical forests, native trees in forest restoration plots and abandoned pastureland.

Jefferson Hall, one of the researchers, said, “This is the first solid case showing how nitrogen fixation by tropical trees directly affects the rate of carbon recovery after agricultural fields are abandoned. Trees turn nitrogen fixation on and off according to the need for nitrogen in the system.”


It was observed that trees which were able to fix the atmospheric nitrogen were also able to add carbon nine times quicker than ordinary trees. In fact Nitrogen fixing trees were able to add 50,000 kilograms of carbon per hectare during the first 12 years of growth.


Tropical forests act as carbon sinks drawing away carbon from the air. As the scourge of the Global warming increases it is important that freed land which has been denuded by industrial or agricultural use be quickly repaired and reforested. Nitrogen fixing trees will help to quicken the pace of reforestation.

No comment yet.
Rescooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald from Science and Global Education Trends!

Rising Seas - Interactive: Explore the Coast Lines If All The Ice Melted

Rising Seas - Interactive: Explore the Coast Lines If All The Ice Melted | Amazing Science |

The maps here show the world as it is now, with only one difference: All the ice on land has melted and drained into the sea, raising it 216 feet and creating new shorelines for our continents and inland seas.

There are more than five million cubic miles of ice on Earth, and some scientists say it would take more than 5,000 years to melt it all. If we continue adding carbon to the atmosphere, we’ll very likely create an ice-free planet, with an average temperature of perhaps 80 degrees Fahrenheit instead of the current 58.

Via Kathy Bosiak
Amy Odlum's curator insight, September 21, 2013 4:32 PM

Year 8 Geog - Climate Change

Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Dallol - The World's Weirdest Volcanic Crater

Dallol - The World's Weirdest Volcanic Crater | Amazing Science |

In the North East of Ethiopia lies the Danokil Desert.  At its heart is a volcanic crater, Dallol, little known and seldom visited but quite extraordinary.  

Surrounding the volcano are acidic hot springs, mountains of sulphur, pillars of salt, small gas geysers and pools of acid isolated by salt ridges. It makes for one of the most bizarre landscapes on planet Earth.

Dallol is effectively a volcanic explosion crater. It was formed when basaltic magma intruded in to salt deposits and water. This subsequently caused a huge phreatic eruption.  The rising magma made contact with the ground water. As magma is so extremely hot the water evaporated immediately.  The result was a huge explosion of rock, ash, water and steam – not to mention volcanic bombs (molten rock which cools and solidifies before it hits the ground).

The volcano last erupted in 1926 and gained some attention then but it had been known to Europeans for about two hundred years. Yet the site remained effectively unknown to most until recently – simply because of the hostile nature of the environment, the almost unbearable heat of the area and the very present danger from toxic fumes.

The volcano is surrounded by a huge saline area, the edges of which are studded with a multitude of fairy chimneys where gases have broken through. The sulphuric hot springs bubble at boiling point. The salt of the Danokil Depression, 136.8 meters below sea level, mixes with volcanic minerals such as sulfur, to create terraces and unique, other worldly concretions. Geysers and chimneys adorn the site throughout.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Scientists are trying to control the weather with strong lasers to create clouds, rain and trigger lightning

Scientists are trying to control the weather with strong lasers to create clouds, rain and trigger lightning | Amazing Science |

Experts from around the world are to gather at the World Meteorological Organisation next month to discuss how powerful laser pulses can be used to generate changes in the atmosphere that influence the weather.


Their experiments have shown that intense pulses of light can cause ice to form and water to condense, leading to the formation of clouds.


The scientists have now begun testing their equipment outside for the first time with extremely short pulses of laser light were fired into the sky.


Researchers have also proved that lightning discharges can be triggered and channelled through the air using laser pulses. They hope the technology could allow lightning during thunderstorms to be guided away from sensitive buildings such as power plants or airports. 


It could also be used to manipulate the weather by creating clouds and triggering rainfall ahead of major public events.


Professor Jean-Pierre Wolf and Dr Jerome Kasparian, both biophotonics experts at the University of Geneva, have now organized a conference at the WMO next month in an attempt to find ways of speeding up research on the topic. They said: “Ultra-short lasers launched into the atmosphere have emerged as a promising prospective tool for weather modulation and climate studies.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

How Many Microbes Are Hiding In Our Different Environments? Single Cell Genomics Sorts Them Out

How Many Microbes Are Hiding In Our Different Environments? Single Cell Genomics Sorts Them Out | Amazing Science |

Microbes are everywhere—even inside us. But because so many of these bugs won't grow in the lab, scientists have had a tough time figuring out just who they are and how they live. That may soon change. By sequencing the DNA in individual cells, researchers have gotten to know 200 new microbes—and they may be able to characterize many more. The more researchers are able to fill out the microbial tree of life, the better able they will be to understand the role that microbes play in the environment and to harness microbial proteins for practical applications.


The approach "steps off into a whole world that up to now has been pretty inaccessible," says Norman Pace, a microbiologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, who was not involved with the work. "It's a world we knew was there but we couldn't get to it."


Almost 400 years ago, the microscope opened a new vista on invisible life. Yet only in the 20th century did researchers become aware of how diverse the microbial world is. At that time, molecular biology made it possible for researchers to compare the same piece of DNA in a variety of organisms. That DNA, which coded for a piece of the ribosome, the cell's protein-producing factory, revealed vast differences in microbes and led researchers to divide them into two groups, bacteria and archaea, which includes organisms that live in extreme environments such as hot springs. Once researchers began sampling this piece of DNA from many different environments, they were shocked by just how many kinds of microbes existed. It seems that every time researchers test samples from the soil, the ocean, or even the bodies of organisms, they detect dozens if not hundreds of unknown microbes.


Yet, learning more about these microbes proved impossible because so few could be grown in the lab, mainly because researchers don't know what conditions are required for their survival. These hard-to-know organisms became known as "microbial dark matter" because they were as difficult to get a handle on as the dark matter in the universe. Only with great effort have a few microbes been investigated. The microbial family tree highlights the extent of this dark matter. Of the 100 major branches, or phyla, of microbes, less than one-third have any described species, Pace says. The rest of the phyla are uncharted. This is in stark contrast to animals, which consist of about 40 phyla, all of which contain multiple species. It's been too hard to come up with bacterial species identities to fill out their phyla.


Three years ago, Tanja Woyke, a microbiologist at the Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, California, and colleagues decided to head into this uncharted territory by applying a newly developed sequencing approach to bacteria and archaea. Until recently, determining a genome's makeup required many copies of the DNA, and thus only microbes grown in the lab could be sequenced. But the new technique can decipher DNA from a single cell.

Woyke's collaborators collected water and sediment samples from nine habitats, including ocean hydrothermal vents and the inside of a reactor used to degrade plastic byproducts. They picked these locations to sample because previous genetic surveys had shown many unknown microbes there. The team then isolated and sorted the microbes, singled out 201 cells from 29 largely uncharted phyla, and sequenced those cells' DNA.


With the genomes in hand, the researchers were able to build a better family tree for the microbes and determine which ones were more closely related. The repertoire of genes in each cell indicated what the microbe ate and how it survived in its environment. Many of the microbes used hydrogen as a source of food, and a few relied on sulfur for energy, Woyke's team reports online today in Nature. The researchers named 18 phyla and were able to group some of them into larger categories called superphyla. Groups called SAR406, EM19, or OP8—initials representing the locations of the collections—took on names like Marinimicrobia, Omnitrophica, or Gracilibacteria.


By filling out the family tree, the study makes it easier for researchers to make sense of DNA collected from the environment, because they now have more reference DNA to compare it to, Woyke says. Her team's tests indicate that such analyses will be improved by up to 20% because researchers will be able to associate more unknown genes with genes already in a database.


"The paper is a landmark," says microbial ecologist Jack Gilbert of the University of Chicago in Illinois who was not involved with the work. He develops computer models that describe how microbial communities respond to different conditions. Having a better idea of the nature of various microbes and how they are related to one another "is very important."

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Acidification of world's oceans is 10 times faster than ever in Earth's history

Acidification of world's oceans is 10 times faster than ever in Earth's history | Amazing Science |

Rapidly rising carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are causing a potential catastrophe in our oceans as they become more acidic, scientists have warned.


Hans Poertner, professor of marine biology at the Alfred Wegener Institute in Germany, and co-author of a new study of the phenomenon, told the Guardian: "The current rate of change is likely to be more than 10 times faster than it has been in any of the evolutionary crises in the earth's history."


Seawater is naturally slightly alkaline, but as oceans absorb CO2 from the air, their pH level falls gradually. Under the rapid escalation of greenhouse gas emissions, ocean acidification is gathering pace and many forms of marine life – especially species that build calcium-based shells – are under threat.


Poertner said that if emissions continue to rise at "business as usual" rates, this would be potentially catastrophic for some species. Acidification is just one of a broader range of the problems facing the oceans and the combination of different effects is increasing the threat. Poertner said: "We are already seeing warm water coral reefs on a downslide due to a combination of various stressors, including rising temperature. Ocean acidification is still early in the process but it will exacerbate these effects as it develops and we will see more calcifying species suffering."


However, the process of acidification takes decades and the worst effects on some species could still be avoided if emissions are urgently reduced. "The ocean is changing already, mostly due to temperature – acidification will exacerbate those effects," Poertner said.


Evidence from prehistoric ocean life provides a comparison. "The effects observed among invertebrates resembles those seen during the Permian Triassic extinctions 250m years ago, when carbon dioxide was also involved. The carbon dioxide range at which we see this sensitivity [to acidification] kicking in are the ones expected for the later part of this century and beyond."

Oceans are one of the biggest areas of focus for current climate change research.


The gradual warming of the deep oceans, as warmer water from the surface circulates gradually to lower depths, is thought to be a significant factor in the earth's climate. New science suggests that the absorption of heat by the oceans is probably one of the reasons that the observed warming in the last 15 years has been at a slightly slower pace than previously, and this is likely to form an important part of next month's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report.

No comment yet.
Scooped by Dr. Stefan Gruenwald!

Network analysis suggests that US electrical grid on the edge of failure

Network analysis suggests that US electrical grid on the edge of failure | Amazing Science |

Network analysis suggests geography makes grid inherently unstable. Facebook can lose a few users and remain a perfectly stable network, but where the national grid is concerned simple geography dictates that it is always just a few transmission lines from collapse.


That is according to a mathematical study of spatial networks by physicists in Israel and the United States. Study co-author Shlomo Havlin of Bar-Ilan University in Ramat-Gan, Israel, says that the research builds on earlier work by incorporating a more explicit analysis of how the spatial nature of physical networks affects their fundamental stability. The upshot, published today in Nature Physics, is that spatial networks are necessarily dependent on any number of critical nodes whose failure can lead to abrupt — and unpredictable — collapse.


The electric grid, which operates as a series of networks that are defined by geography, is a prime example, says Havlin. “Whenever you have such dependencies in the system, failure in one place leads to failure in another place, which cascades into collapse.”


The warning comes ten years after a blackout that crippled parts of the midwest and northeastern United States and parts of Canada. In that case, a series of errors resulted in the loss of three transmission lines in Ohio over the course of about an hour. Once the third line went down, the outage cascaded towards the coast, cutting power to some 50 million people. Havlin says that this outage is an example of the inherent instability his study describes, but others question whether the team’s conclusions can really be extrapolated to the real world.


“I suppose I should be open-minded to new research, but I'm not convinced,” says Jeff Dagle, an electrical engineer at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington, who served on the government task force that investigated the 2003 outage. “The problem is that this doesn’t reflect the physics of how the power grid operates.”

Jacob Crowell's curator insight, October 15, 12:46 PM

The United States electrical grid has been based on geography for so long that as geographic shifts occur more rapidly, the population is at risk of loosing power. With shifting climate change, increased population growth, and unpredictable natural disasters, the US will be forced to adapt their electrical infrastructure to better suit their consumers needs. Furthermore, the need for electricity is so great that doing nothing will have catastrophic consequences. Hospitals, Stock Markets, Schools, Homes, basically every important aspect of the daily lives of Americans relies on our electrical infrastructure working properly. This study has shined a light on the instability and vulnerability of our current electrical grids, construction. Grids based on the electrical needs and geography of the 1950s will no longer cut it today.