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We're a little crazy, about science!

Posts tagged “global warming

Sugar gives bees a happy buzz

simpson sugar mound

simpson sugar mound

An unexpected sugary snack can give bees a little buzz and appears to lift their mood, even making them optimistic, according to research that suggests pollinators have feelings, too. Since emotions are subjective and difficult to measure—particularly in animals—researchers looked at how bees’ behavior changed after they were given a sip of sucrose solution.

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The unintended consequences of almond milk on California

almond milk

almond milk

A new study using aerial imagery across the state of California has found that converting land to grow almonds between 2007 and 2014 has led to a 27% annual increase in irrigation demands—despite the state’s historic drought. The expansion of almonds has also consumed 16,000 acres of wetlands and will likely put additional pressure on already stressed honeybee populations.

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Food waste could store solar and wind energy, or there’s the obvious…

sugar alchohols

sugar alchohols

Saving up excess solar and wind energy for times when the sun is down or the air is still requires a storage device. Batteries get the most attention as a promising solution although pumped hydroelectric storage is currently used most often. Now researchers are advancing another potential approach using sugar alcohols—an abundant waste product of the food industry—mixed with carbon nanotubes.

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Cloth masks offer poor protection against air pollution

air pollution china

air pollution china

Results of a new study by environmental health scientists suggest that inexpensive cloth masks worn by people who hope to reduce their exposure to air pollution vary widely in effectiveness and could be giving users a false sense of security, especially in highly polluted areas.

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‘Hydricity’ concept uses solar energy to produce power round-the-clock… really?

'Hydricity' concept uses solar energy to produce power round-the-clock

'Hydricity' concept uses solar energy to produce power round-the-clock

Researchers are proposing a new “hydricity” concept aimed at creating a sustainable economy by not only generating electricity with solar energy but also producing and storing hydrogen from superheated water for round-the-clock power production.

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Mexico City’s air pollution has detrimental impact on Alzheimer’s disease gene

Mexico City's air pollution has detrimental impact on Alzheimer's disease gene

A new study by researchers heightens concerns over the detrimental impact of air pollution on hippocampal metabolites as early markers of neurodegeneration in young urbanites carrying an allele 4 of the apolipoprotein E gene (APOE). This is associated with the risk for Alzheimer disease (AD) and a susceptibility marker for poor outcome in traumatic brain injury (TBI) recovery.

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Artificial ‘plants’ could fuel the future

Artificial 'plants' could fuel the future

This schematic image of Chang’s artificial photosynthesis systems shows its four general components: (1) harvesting solar energy, (2) generating reducing equivalents, (3) reducing CO2 to biosynthetic intermediates and (4) producing value-added chemicals.
Image credit goes to: Berkeley Lab

Imagine creating artificial plants that make gasoline and natural gas using only sunlight. And imagine using those fuels to heat our homes or run our cars without adding any greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. By combining nanoscience and biology, researchers led by scientists at University of California, Berkeley, have taken a big step in that direction.

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How ‘science popularizers’ influence public opinion on religion

darwin fighting jesus

Two prominent scientists with drastically different views on the relationship of science and religion – Richard Dawkins and Francis Collins – have an equally different influence on these views among people who are unfamiliar with their work, according to new research from Rice University and West Virginia University.

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Air pollution is causing your baby problems, but breastfeeding can help

New mother holding her baby

Aitana Lertxundi has conducted her research work within the framework of the INma (Childhood and Environment) programme led by Jesús Ibarluzea of the Department of Health of the Government of the Basque Autonomous Community (region). The aim is to assess how exposure to environmental pollution during pregnancy affects health and also to examine the role of diet in physical and neurobehavioural development in infancy. The study focusses on the repercussions on motor and mental development during the first years of life caused by exposure to the PM2.5 and NO2 atmospheric pollutants.

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GMO beef with the heart benefits of fish, why not?

Double bacon cheeseburger

Sometimes you just want beef, but beef is high in omega-6 fatty acids and low in the omega-3 type. Conversely, different types of fish are high in omega-3, but we all know they don’t compare to that tasty burger flavor. So what’s a beef lover to do, well if you’re in China you might have some options! Chinese scientists have reared beef rich in the beneficial fatty acids associated with fish oils.

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Biofuel, good for the environment if you’re eating less

ethanol gas from corn

When the government first changed policy to require ethanol in gasoline, we were told it would reduce our carbon footprint. Then food prices rose significantly and corn in particular saw the largest price rise. This was because corn is a staple in production of almost any other food from eggs to beef, but the policy made environmental sense. Well it made sense, until you found out that the new policy also took into account people eating less.

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Move over oil, new pretreatment could cut biofuel costs by 30 percent or more

biofuels

Alternative fuels have a few large problems making them horrible options over oil (which is already a horrible choice). However, researchers may have finally eliminated one of those problems, cost. The team has invented a novel pretreatment technology that could cut the cost of biofuels production by about 30 percent or more by dramatically reducing the amount of enzymes needed to breakdown the raw materials that form biofuels.

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Study shows rise in mass die-offs

fish die off

You really don’t hear much about mass die-offs from mainstream news outlets; this might make you think they don’t happen that often. However, an analysis of 727 mass die-offs of nearly 2,500 animal species from the past 70 years has found that such events are increasing among birds, fish, and marine invertebrates. At the same time, the number of individuals killed appears to be decreasing for reptiles and amphibians, and is unchanged for mammals.

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Move over solar pannels, introducing spray-on solar cells

spray paint solar cell

Solar panels, they are big, heavy, cannot flex, and are still very inefficient. While efficiency isn’t the big issue, flexibility has relegated solar panels to rooftops and solar farms. Well that is until now, researchers have just invented a new way to spray solar cells onto flexible surfaces using miniscule light-sensitive materials known as colloidal quantum dots (CQDs)—a major step toward making spray-on solar cells easy and cheap to manufacture.

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Finding the real cost of climate change

 

climate change

How much does global warming really cost the world? Determining the Social Cost of Carbon helps put a actual dollar value on the climate damages per ton of CO2 released, and is used by — among others — policymakers to help determine the costs and benefits of climate policies. Remember, even on a global scale, the bottom line will always be profit. But now a group of economists and lawyers urge several improvements to the government’s Social Cost of Carbon figure that would impose a regular, transparent and peer-reviewed process to ensure the figure is reliable and well-supported by the latest facts.

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Our increased carbon dioxide output causes global warming and now we have proof

global warming

Global warming, it’s a bigger deal than some people seem to realize. For years science has pointed to the increased carbon dioxide output as the main reason for man-made global warming. However, there has been no evidence to directly link CO2 output to global warming, well until now. Research has identified, for the first time, how global warming is related to the amount of carbon emitted.

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Even more bad global warming news

global warming

While everyone (but seemingly the media) is on basically the same page with the fact that global warming is a human caused problem — and one we need to fix the effects of this change are still coming to light. Human-induced changes to Earth’s carbon cycle – for example, rising atmospheric carbon dioxide and ocean acidification – have been observed for decades. However, a new study showed human activities, in particular industrial and agricultural processes, have also had significant impacts on the upper ocean nitrogen cycle.

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Blu-ray solar power

 

bluray

So here’s something you don’t see everyday. Blu-ray disks, you know the stuff we use for video games or DVDs also improve the performance of solar cells—suggesting a second use for unwanted discs—according to new research from Northwestern University. As surprising as this was, there is even better news, we know why they improve performance.

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A new way to look at Global Warming

global-warming

Global warming, nothing new with that and it’s here to stay for now. But while computer models churn out bleak forecasts for the planet’s future, we also have a more conceptual understanding of what is happening as humans pump carbon dioxide into the air. Unfortunately the traditional conceptual understanding of carbon dioxide wrapping the planet in a sort of blanket that traps more heat is not quite right.

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A Big Break for Bio-Gasoline

algae biofuel

While the world waits for a better battery (and a energy grid system that doesn’t require constant power making), scientists are hard at work trying to teach old fuels a new trick. Thankfully an international team of bioengineers has boosted the ability of bacteria to produce isopentenol, a compound with desirable gasoline properties. The finding, if it is not obvious, is a significant step toward developing a bacterial strain that can yield industrial quantities of renewable bio-gasoline.

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The Oceans Link to Climate Change

An estimated 35,000 walruses are resting on land because the sea ice has melted Photo credit goes to: Corey Accardo NOAA/NMFS/AFSC/ANML.

An estimated 35,000 walruses are resting on land because the sea ice has melted
Photo credit goes to: Corey Accardo NOAA/NMFS/AFSC/ANML.

Hold on to your hats folks, we can all agree that most of the concerns about climate change have focused on the amount of greenhouse gases that have been released into the atmosphere. But in a new study a group of researchers have found that circulation of the ocean plays an equally important role in regulating the earth’s climate. Keep in mind this doesn’t mean global warming isn’t a man-made problem, please.

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A look at Air Pollution and Your Body

CHINA-ENVIRONMENT-POLLUTION-HEALTH

We have all probably seen stories from China on the horrid air pollution there. Accompanying those reports of course are the statistics for air pollution that deaths have caused. For the record, the World Health Organization estimated that ambient air pollution caused 3.7 million premature deaths (worldwide) in 2012 alone – yet what exactly happens to your body when it encounters pollutants?

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Solar Panel Hybrid is Cheap and Super Efficient

Solar Power

Solar cells are inefficient, it’s a sad fact. With todays technology they boast about a 10-15% efficiency, compare that to todays gas engine at roughly 20-25% and you can see it’s not quite up to par. Well that could all change very soon thanks to a new method for transferring energy from organic to inorganic semiconductors. This could boost the efficiency of widely used inorganic solar cells to as close as 100% efficiency as they can get.

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Swamp Thing and Plant Communication

swamp thing

Maybe I’m dating myself here, but ever see the swamp thing movie, television show, or even the comic? Call me picky, after all we are talking about a human/plant hybrid, but he never needed to talk. I know, some of you are probably rolling your eyes at me given it’s a comic, movie or tv show [depending on your level of geek], but come on, this is science!

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Saving the Rainforest and the Consequences

rainforest

The road to hell is paved with good intentions. This seems even more true when a new study came out that shows, when it comes to fixing deforestation and forest degradation, even good intentions can lead to bad outcomes. I hate to sound like a broken record when it comes to this whole “climate change” stuff, but it really needs to be addressed sometime…

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A Startling New Climate Change Revelation!

climate change

Call out the troops, call the Marines, we need tanks, lots of tanks. Well okay, maybe not. Brute force won’t stop global warming and thanks to a new study on the subject it turns out, not much else will either. Oh there is of course the obvious lower CO2 emissions, but that’s not a big deal. I don’t know why it takes scientific studies to tell us this, but the greenhouse gas CO2 that we pump out in millions of  tons — roughly 88 million tons, US of course since metric tonnes has to be different, or maybe that’s our fault — is bad for the environment.

I know we tend to think of ourselves as intelligent and generally I won’t argue otherwise, but let me just say… really?

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Finally, a Better Battery!

That's the million dollar question.

That’s the million dollar question.

You know what technology hasn’t been able to keep pace with us? Well besides whatever tech the DMV uses, it’s batteries. Think about it, they are nasty, make a mess, are hazzardous, hard to recycle and weigh a freaking ton compared to the energy stored. Current battery technology is my number one problem with electric cars as it stands now. Between the weight, the resources, and the waste, electric cars are almost a wash. Not quite mind you, but almost.

That’s about to change, maybe not for the electric car, but for the energy grid. Right now power is pumped out as fast as it’s being used. There is no real storage anywhere for surplus power so it is made on demand for people to use it as it’s being produced. This use as you make it system has proven to be the bane of solar and wind, the two major renewable energy technologies we have. This problem combined with the lobbyists for oil and gas companies and you can see why we don’t have more solar or wind power plants.

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Global Warming doesn’t actually benefit Plants

Global warming signs

Things are heating up. It’s no secret that the mercury is rising and we are to blame. Sure, there is a lot of uncertainty, for example how long we have until we simply cannot reverse global warming, or worse, how long we have before we cannot survive on the planet. That would be a good question to answer; maybe it will get the people who can actually do something to fix it, to make a change.

The planet works in sometimes-unforeseen ways, sometimes that is good and sometimes that is bad. The hope was that global warming might be offset – if only for a short time – by the increased energy in the system [meaning longer warm periods], which would increase the growing season. It is unfortunate then, that this turns out not to be the case.

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Climate Engineering: We can’t Build it Better after all

View from the international space station

View from the international space station

We have the technology: we can rebuild you, better, stronger, faster. Well we may have been able to build the six million dollar man better than before, but as it turns out, we can’t do the same for the environment.

For anyone actually listening to science [and I really hope you all are] it isn’t getting any cooler. Thanks to the rising CO2 levels in the world it’s only going to get hotter and with it, the weather more extreme. Yet some people out there — and unfortunately for us, the people with the power to actually make a change– simply don’t care. To them, even if it gets hotter, we can fix it. After all we have the technology.

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Will genetically engineer bacteria for Biofuel

Homeless

This is pretty much how biofuel technology is being funded right now…

Utter the word biofuel in the wrong circles and someone is likely to be stabbed. Let’s just say that the topic can be polarizing, but for good reason. Biofuel offers a [potentially] carbon neutral and sustainable way to wean ourselves off our oil addiction. At the same time, the hurdles in the cost of production coupled with the technological problems have all but stalled the biofuel fantasy [can you see why someone may get stabbed yet?].

Well there is good news, while we are waiting for our solar roadways and other [much better] alternatives to just a carbon neutral solution, we can at the very least, move away from oil. This all thanks to a new breakthrough that will allow a carbon neutral biofuel to be produced cheaply.

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In Science We Trust

in science we trust

in science we trust

Sure, I could do a poll right now, how many of you are science fans? I figure if you are reading my blog then the answer is most [if not all] of you are. Unfortunately, that result isn’t the norm. Whether you blame it on lack of education, or just simply because it is “cool” to be ignorant; science is most definitely not as mainstream as it could be.

Why do more people know about the latest celebrity gossip, than the latest scientific advancements is beyond me. Sometimes it feels like pseudoscience has more of a following than actual science. Frustrating when I see my insurance covers things like acupuncture –which does not work– but not root canals — which do, in fact, serve a purpose.

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Solar Freakin’ Roadways- 5 Concerns Analyzed

solarroad

solarroad

Solar Roadways, I know most people have been in support of the new blossoming technology and I’m happy to be a part of that [at least in support]. However, no matter where I turn there are a handful of common concerns that are brought up against the technology. Well today I wanted to go over five of the main concerns. I also wanted to take a peek into what the future could look like, with solar roads.

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Land of the Free, Home of the Afraid?

smartphone science

Let’s take a Loony quiz! Do you believe any of these statements are true? Global warming isn’t real. GMO food is the devil. Organic and all natural are better. Science is just a belief like religion. Evolution is just a theory, so other theories should be taught along side. Vaccines do — or can– cause serious health concerns. If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you might be suffering from a lack of scientific understanding, but don’t worry you’re not alone.

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Solar Freakin’ Roadways!

Artist's rendition of downtown Sandpoint, Idaho - Home of Solar Roadways
Graphic design by Sam Cornett
Artist's rendition of downtown Sandpoint, Idaho - Home of Solar Roadways Graphic design by Sam Cornett

Artist’s rendition of downtown Sandpoint, Idaho – Home of Solar Roadways
Graphic design by Sam Cornett

America loves it’s oil. Screw renewables, right? Because let’s face it, the world can be cleaned by someone else. As easily upset pretentious apes, us humans have few comforts in the changing world like fossil fuels. Our old friends coal, gas, and oil, they would never hurt us; they kick started the industrial revolution!

Let’s face it folks, global warming isn’t coming… it’s already here. We have study after study showing the effects. It’s time to ditch the medieval technology and move toward the future. Solar has been a good option, wind being another good choice. Both have drawbacks of course, no one likes wind farms and the solar farms don’t fare too much better.

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Climate Talks and Game Theory: A better Approach

climate change

Pretty much this…

Climate change talks, it’s like yelling at a wall and hoping it becomes a window. For over two decades, members of the United Nations have tried to forge an agreement to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Thankfully a new paper published offers a different approach to the problem using game theoretical modeling. (more…)


Cheaper, Cleaner Biofuel: A Temporary Fix to a Big Problem

biomaterials

Algae, the other, other biofuel

Biofuels seem to be all the rage these days, not a bad thing since that whole global warming thing [that people are scared to admit is real] is going on. It is then, very unfortunate that every biofuel or even “green alternative” has an achilles heel the size of Texas keeping it from becoming our fossil fuel replacement.

[Useless Loony Fact: I shudder every time I have to use the word “Green” referring to anything other than the color. Oh and Jesus roundhouse kicks a panda in the face, so save the pandas and stop using the word green for anything but the color]

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Deepwater Horizon Oil spill: The Environmental Impact

oil spill

It was a disaster that ended up as one of the worst oil spills in modern history, the Deepwater Horizon didn’t just leak, it gushed. The depth of the well made the spill extremely difficult to repair and it required an incredible engineering feat to solve the problem.

Unfortunately, the problem was not immediately resolved when the leak was stopped. Between 492,000 – 627,000 tonnes of oil were dumped into the ocean, but it wasn’t just oil that was dumped, 500,000 tons of natural gas was also dumped into the Gulf of Mexico offshore waters over during the period of 84 days.

With the seemingly insurmountable cleanup effort, many were probably breathing a sigh of relief over the reports following the disaster that naturally-occurring microbes had consumed much of the gas and oil.

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Genetically Modified Food: Myth and Legend

genetically-modified-food

genetically-modified-food

Vermont, not quite the armpit of the United States, but not a place I would live [personally speaking of course]. Still, looking at history Vermont was the first to ban slavery [good], but now they are the first to do something else too, they are looking to ban all food that is genetically modified if it is not properly labeled [bad].

This bill is set to start a wildfire across the US with food scares, like any science scare, is easy to start and hard to stop [if at all]. Genetically modified food has helped cushion the ever growing population and the need to feed that population. People will [undoubtedly] argue otherwise, but all food is genetically modified one way or another.

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Dear Science, I’m so sorry…

child-scientists

child-scientists

Dear America,

It’s a sad fact that being intelligent is now the “uncool” thing to do. Wanting to participate in learning and actually knowing how the world works can mean being bullied or worse. The backlash of this movement [I assumed] would be felt strongly starting with my generation [as an 80’s child]. I was unfortunately incorrect with this assumption, maybe it started a lot earlier. (more…)


Is being a human conservationist selfish?

Earth-Day-2014

Earth-Day-2014

Earth day, it’s a lot like new years. You make resolutions that you will never follow, promise yourself you will attempt to do things you really don’t want to, and try to do without that thing you know you can live without, but can’t seem to do it.

Yesterday was Earth day, so happy belated earth day, I guess… So how about the state of the planet then? It’s the only one we have, it is the place we call home, and unless you want to deal with chest bursting aliens [hey, I’ve seen the movies] then we are stuck here.

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Biofuels better for Nature? Maybe not!

Food or Fuel? The great debate, but ethanol from corn is not the savior it was thought to be.

Food or Fuel? The great debate, but ethanol from corn is not the savior it was thought to be.

Depending where you are in the world you might notice signs touting the 5% ethanol in the gasoline you are buying. The idea is that biofuels [currently primarily made from corn] are better for the environment. As it turns out that might not be the case.

A new study in the journal Nature Climate Change suggests that one particular source of biofuel, corn residue [the stuff left over from corn production], should not and cannot be used to meet the new US federal mandate to ramp up ethanol production and [ideally] lower greenhouse gas emissions.

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Global Warming Natural? Don’t bet on it.

global warming

Analyzing the temperature data as far back as 1500 almost completely rules out the idea that global warming is a natural phenomena and that human intervention plays no role. That is the punch line to a new study that was recently released.

The study, published April 6th in the journal Climate Dynamics, offers a new approach to finding a solution to the question of whether global warming is natural, or if it is caused by man. Instead of looking complex computer models of greenhouse gases in order to estimate the effect, McGill University physics professor, Shaun Lovejoy examined historical data as a statistical model to assess the competing hypothesis: that warming over the past century is due to natural long-term variations in temperature.

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Tired of the weather? Blame the jet stream.

queens_new_york_city

Polar vortexes, snow storms and hurricanes, oh my!

Who’s tired of the crazy weather that most of the US and the UK are dealing with? I suspect that most are, in fact I don’t remember the last time I heard someone talk excitedly about being snowed in.

There is good news and bad news though, and like a true gentleman I will give the good news first. We know what is causing the weather changes we’ve seen.

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