Two major organizations released climate change reports this month warning of doom and gloom if we stick to our current course and fail to take more aggressive measures. A World Bank report imagines a world 4 degrees warmer, the temperature predicted by century's end barring changes, and says it aims to shock people into action by sharing devastating scenarios of flood, famine, drought and cyclones. Meanwhile, a report from the US National Research Council, commissioned by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other intelligence agencies, says the consequences of climate change--rising sea levels, severe flooding, droughts, fires, and insect infestations--pose threats greater than those from terrorism ranging from massive food shortages to a rise in armed conflicts.
Here are some of the more alarming graphic images from the reports.
Working in the lab for the last few years, three generations of University of Akron polymer scientists say their mutual and passionate curiosity about science has led to their discovery of a first-of-its-kind, easily adaptable biocompatible polymer structure able to fight infection, filter water and perform a host of other functions. Darrell Reneker, 82, distinguished professor of polymer science; Matthew Becker, 37, associate professor of polymer science; and Jukuan Zheng, a 25-year-old graduate student, developed what they call a one-size-fits-all polymer system that can be fabricated and then specialized to perform healing functions ranging from fighting infection to wound healing. The research, "Post-Assembly Derivatization of Electrospun Nanofibers via Strain-Promoted Azide Alkyne Cycloaddition," is published in the Journal of the American Chemical Society. Material can be adapted to the need The researchers devised a way to attach bioactive molecules to an electrospun polymer fiber mat, without compromising their biological functions. The possibilities for application should pique interest among developers and clinicians, say the scientists. Consider, for instance, Teflon-based vascular grafts used for aneurysm surgery since WWII being replaced by a strong, durable polymer structure with surface proteins that function as healthy blood vessels.
Families living in rural areas of China need to conserve every drop of water in order to survive. The scarcity of this precious resource defines the way the people in the northwest do everything from farming, to cooking.
All around the world, from the Himalayas to the Great Plains, fresh water is starting to run low. It’s shaping up to be one of the 21st century’s great environmental and humanitarian challenges: People use water faster than nature can replenish it.
Some people argue that privatization is the answer to the water crisis. But others, including food journalist Frederick Kaufman, say that’s a recipe for disaster. The author of Bet the Farm: How Food Stopped Being Food, published in October by Wiley, Kaufman points to the recent history of food prices as an example of the dangers posed by modern finance.
In the last five years, food prices have gone haywire, rising steadily while spiking three times, causing global food shortages and social unrest. Many economists and some scientists blame food prices on speculation. Once the province of farmers and agriculture industry insiders looking to hedge their risks, food markets were opened in the 1990s to the financial industry. The market soon stopped working like it’s supposed to.
A University of Washington team claimed a $100,000 prize in the first 3D4D Challenge, an international contest to use 3-D printing for social benefit in the developing world.
The three undergraduates won to form a company that will work with partners in Oaxaca, Mexico.
Matthew Rogge, a mechanical engineering grad student, proposed to use giant 3-D printers to create composting latrines that are lightweight and use less energy to manufacture than concrete toilets.
The machine would also make rainwater catchment components that are specifically designed to fit to rain barrels, unlike current systems where joining available plumbing parts cause leaks and frequent failures.
Judges also were impressed by research the students conducted to prove their concept. In July the students printed a boat from more than 250 milk jugs and then entered it in a Seattle race. That proved they could create objects from recycled plastic and was a test run for their custom-built giant printer, also built from salvaged parts.
“With small-scale printers, the extruders can clog easily,” said Brandon Bowman, who also attended the competition. The huge printer that the students built, named “Big Red,” can not only create larger objects, but it also allows them to print with materials that are not perfectly clean.
Researchers have unveiled a new way to use sunlight to produce steam and other vapors without heating an entire container of fluid to the boiling point. The research could lead to inexpensive, compact devices for purification of drinking water, sterilization of medical instruments and sanitizing sewage.
Metallic nanoparticles - so small that 1,000 would fit across the width of a human hair - absorb large amounts of light, resulting in a dramatic rise in their temperature. That ability to generate heat has fostered interest among scientists in using nanoparticles in a range of applications. These include photothermal treatment of certain forms of cancer, laser-induced drug release and nanoparticle-enhanced bioimaging.
In the past, researchers also explored the use of nanoparticles in solar energy applications. However, that research focused mainly on using nanoparticles to improve the ability of fluids to conduct heat. Until now, scientists had not reported on the use of nanoparticles, mixed into fluids, to capture sunlight, heat up and change the fluid into steam or other vapor.
"Our report brings awareness to address the concerns of making production not only commercially viable but environmentally sustainable," says report co-author Joel Cuello. "In my opinion, you can't divorce the two. As a matter of fact, most efforts aiming at lowering the production costs is to make the process more sustainable in terms of energy, water, and nutrient use.”.
The high cost of making biofuel from cellulosic sources is prompting a new strategy.
Calysta Energy, a recently unveiled startup based in Menlo Park, California, plans to make diesel fuel that costs half as much as conventional diesel. It says it has demonstrated, at a small scale, that microorganisms that naturally feed on natural gas can be engineered to make diesel and other chemicals, and it projects that the process will be far cheaper than conventional thermochemical methods for making liquid fuels from natural gas.
A new study co-authored by the Wildlife Conservation Society identifies countries most vulnerable to declining coral reef fisheries from a food-security perspective while providing a framework to plan for alternative protein sources needed to...
Reducing carbon dioxide emissions is tough if you don't know exactly where those gases are coming from. Scientists at Arizona State University have invented a new way to pinpoint those sources — down to individual buildings and highways.
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