Science Alert (citing Environmental Science & Technology) shows us a new way to think about chucking out all that delicious “non-biodegradable” garbage: Researchers led by Stanford University in US and Beihang University in China found that the mealworm – the larval form of the darkling beetle – can safely subsist on a diet of Styrofoam and other kinds of polystyrene, with bacteria in the worm’s gut biodegrading the plastic as part of its digestive process. … “Our findings have opened a new door to solve the global plastic pollution problem,” co-author Wei-Min Wu, a senior research engineer in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Stanford, said in a statement. In the study, 100 mealworms ate between 34 and 39 milligrams of Styrofoam each day, converting about half into carbon dioxide and the other excreting the bulk of the rest as biodegraded droppings. They remained healthy on the plastic diet, and their droppings appeared […]
This is one of a whole deck of… well, they’re practically a technological tarot, really. They’re playing cards illustrating concepts in engineering. (The two of diamonds is also beautiful, though some might prefer the human figures in cards like the seven of clubs.)
They were originally collected by William Barclay Parsons, the chief engineer of the New York City subway. He was on the library board from 1911 to 1932, when he died. More importantly, he also donated a set of mechanics pla…
The one carries oxygen around, the other keeps the system clean. They’re teeny tiny.
Image from the Electron Microscopy Facility at The National Cancer Institute at Frederick (NCI-Frederick).
SOURCE:Based on “Lasers used to levitate glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum”, Science Daily, 7 Sep 2015, as used in the post “A laser levitating glowing nanodiamonds in a vacuum..”
ABSTRACT: I really wanted to use “A laser levitating nanodiamonds in a vacuum” as a lyric, because it’s got such a great rhythm, but no, it didn’t happen.
Musically, things fell together well – I came up with chords on a guitar, and t…
ARTIST: grant, featuring Sebastian Balfour. (Originally by Harry Nilsson.)
SOURCE: It doesn’t have a research source. It’s a penitential cover of a haunting song by Harry Nilsson that Three Dog Night turned into a prog anthem, which Aimee Mann turned into stunning reclamation project. Nilsson still wins.
ABSTRACT: I’ve been a penitential cover* behind for months and months. I first had the idea of doing this song in something like this way …
I like the desert in Nevada already because of the sense of perspective – such wide, flat spaces (wider and flatter even than Florida’s water-level wet prairies), sometimes flanked by mountains just big enough to provide a frame of reference. This is how small you are. This is how far you have to go.
That’s the ideal landscape for this kind of project. How big are we really? How far away is the place next door?
This far away. …
This is a jellyfish drawn by Philip Henry Gosse, a naturalist and Creationist (!) who gave us the word “aquarium” as a place to see marine creatures. Before Gosse, an aquarium was a place to water cattle.
He built the very first public one as the “Fish House” of the London Zoo in 1853.
A few years later, he published a book trying to prove that fossils couldn’t disprove Genesis because of course the act of creation would make things appear to be older than they are. …
Washington Post spells out the bad news. There are more trees than we thought, but that means there are a *whole lot* less than there used to be: In a blockbuster study released Wednesday in Nature, a team of 38 scientists finds that the planet is home to 3.04 trillion trees, blowing away the previously estimate of 400 billion. That means, the researchers say, that there are 422 trees for every person on Earth. However, in no way do the researchers consider this good news. The study also finds that there are 46 percent fewer trees on Earth than there were before humans started the lengthy, but recently accelerating, process of deforestation. “We can now say that there’s less trees than at any point in human civilization,” says Thomas Crowther, a postdoctoral researcher at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies who is the lead author on the research. “Since the spread of human […]
Nature tries to figure out why we’re not making the headway we should against Lyme, Rocky Mountain spotted fever, and the rest of the tick-borne nasties: [Scott] Williams is testing whether vaccinating mice against Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease in the United States, can reduce the proportion of ticks that are infected. Health officials are looking on with interest. Connecticut has one of the highest rates of human Lyme disease in the country, and June is peak time for transmission. Borrelia burgdorferi infects an estimated 329,000 people in the United States each year, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. And although most people who get prompt treatment recover quickly — Williams has had Lyme three times — up to one in five develops long-term and potentially life-threatening symptoms, including heart, vision or memory problems, or debilitating joint pain. … Even the time-honoured protective strategies […]
Nature reports that, in the face of extinction, frogs have a way to adapt to pesticides – a little: Several species of frogs can quickly switch on genetic resistance to a group of commonly used pesticides. In one case, wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) were able to deploy such defences in just one generation after exposure to contaminated environments, scientists reported last week at a conference of the Ecological Society of America in Baltimore, Maryland. This is the first-known example of a vertebrate species developing pesticide resistance through a process called phenotypic plasticity, in which the expression of some genes changes in response to environmental pressure. It does not involve changes to the genes themselves, which often take many generations to evolve. … In 2013, [Rick] Relyea [of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute] and his team discovered that L. sylvaticus frogs living near agricultural land in northwest Pennsylvania were resistant to the pesticide carbaryl. Laboratory tests revealed […]
National Geographic reveals an ecosystem my 10-year-old son might have dreamed up. It’s all lava, acid and sharks. Inside the cauldron of Kavachi is a “sharkcano”: “Absolutely, we were scared,” says [Brennan] Phillips, a National Geographic Society/Waitt Grants Program grantee. “But one of the ways you can tell that Kavachi is erupting is that you can actually hear it—both on the surface and underwater. Anywhere within 10 miles even, you can hear it rumbling in your ears and in your body.” No one heard rumbling, so they prepared to go right to the rim of the crater. … Even without such theatrics it’s a dangerous place though. “Divers who have gotten close to the outer edge of the volcano have had to back away because of how hot it is or because they were getting mild skin burns from the acid water.” So the team strategically deployed their instruments—including disposable robots, underwater cameras, and National […]
PeerJ has a study revealing how one the planet’s most invasive species has wormed its way into – of course – Florida: The land planarian Platydemus manokwari de Beauchamp, 1963 or “New Guinea flatworm” is a highly invasive species, mainly in the Pacific area, and recently in Europe (France). We report specimens from six additional countries and territories: New Caledonia (including mainland and two of the Loyalty Islands, Lifou and Maré), Wallis and Futuna Islands, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Puerto Rico, and Florida, USA. … The new reports from Florida and Puerto Rico are firsts for the USA, for the American continent, and the Caribbean. P. manokwari is a known threat for endemic terrestrial molluscs and its presence is a matter of concern. While most of the infected territories reported until now were islands, the newly reported presence of the species in mainland US in Florida should be considered a potential major threat to the whole […]
The Guardian has more on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s official extinction verdict: The agency said on Tuesday the four-year review, which included information from 21 states and eastern Canadian provinces and hundreds of reports of sightings dating as far back as 1900, showed cougars are seen every so often in the US east, but they are likely Florida panthers or mountain lions that have wandered from the western United States, or which have been released or escaped from captivity. Eastern cougars were declared endangered in 1973, even though the last known records were tied to one killed by a hunter in Maine in 1938 and another in New Brunswick, Canada, in 1932. Government wildlife managers believe the bulk of eastern cougars – which averaged from 6ft to 8ft long (1.8m to 2.4m) and weighed from 105 to 140 pounds (48kg to 63.5kg) – disappeared in the 1800s with the arrival of European immigrants […]
Nature surveys the plastic in the seas, expects to see things like detergent bottles and Barbies breaking up into tiny “microplastic” particles, and doesn’t. So the question becomes… where does the plastic go?: More than 5 trillion plastic pieces, with a combined mass of more than 250,000 tonnes, are floating in the ocean, researchers reported on 10 December in PLoS ONE. On its face, the estimate is shockingly high — but it is still much lower than expected, amounting to less than 1% of the annual global production of plastic, says study co-author Hank Carson, a marine biologist at the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife in Olympia. A team led by Marcus Eriksen, research director at the Five Gyres Institute in Los Angeles, California, took samples with fine-mesh nets and visually counted pieces of trash on 24 expeditions through all five subtropical gyres — areas of rotating ocean currents where plastic collects — as […]
It’s taken quite a while, but AP can finally report that blue whales off the coast of California have finally reached pre-whaling-industry levels: Researchers previously assumed that the pre-whaling population was higher than that. However, the study using historical data to estimate the number of whales caught between 1905 and 1971 — when whaling became illegal — estimates the current population is 97 percent as large as it was before 1905.
Scientific American lauds the state long linked with oil money for breaking wind power production records: The Lone Star State hit “peak wind” at 8:48 p.m. on March 26, when the state’s wind farms produced 10,296 megawatts of electricity. At that moment, wind turbines provided enough electricity to supply power for 29 percent of the total electricity load of the state’s main power grid. … Though the March 26 wind power output record supplied 29 percent of ERCOT’s load at that moment, wind power has provided for a larger share — up to 38.43 percent — of the load at times of low demand, EIA industry economist April Lee said. “Texas leads the nation in wind capacity, more than double the next state (California), so it’s safe to say that no other state has come close so far,” Lee said via email. “The recent peak is generally indicative of the increasing amount of wind capacity […]
That, National Geographic has come out and said, is the sorry state of our oceans, as the ongoing search for Malaysian Airlines 370 has tragically demonstrated: “This is the first time the whole world is watching, and so it’s a good time for people to understand that our oceans are garbage dumps,” says Kathleen Dohan, a scientist at Earth and Space Research in Seattle, Washington, who maps ocean surface currents. “This is a problem in every ocean basin.” Dohan plotted the movement of debris in a time-lapse video that shows where objects dropped into the ocean will end up in ten years. The objects migrate to regions known as garbage patches. The Pacific and Atlantic Oceans have two patches each, north and south. The Indian Ocean’s garbage patch is centered roughly halfway between Africa and Australia. … Because of its remoteness, the Indian Ocean garbage patch remains more of a mystery. It was discovered in […]
Ecowatch reveals how our cities act as killing machines, with a new study that’s determined that buildings kill nearly one billion birds every year: In the most comprehensive study of its kind, involving the review and analysis of almost two dozen studies and more than 92,000 records, federal scientists have found that between 365 and 988 million birds are likely killed in the U.S. each year as a result of collisions with buildings. The study, Bird–Building Collisions in the U.S.: Estimates of Annual Mortality and Species Vulnerability was published in a peer-reviewed journal, The Condor: Ornithological Applications in Jan. 2014. It was authored by Scott R. Loss, Sara S. Loss, and Peter P. Marra of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and Tom Will of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. “Our analysis indicates that building collisions are among the top anthropogenic threats to birds and, furthermore, that the several bird species that are disproportionately vulnerable […]
I’m pretty sure Nature is blazing a new B-movie trail with this report on hormone-disrupting chemicals “rising from the dead”: Environmental scientists have discovered that although these compounds are often broken down by sunlight, they can regenerate at night, returning to life like zombies. “The assumption is that if it’s gone, we don’t have to worry about it,” says environmental engineer Edward Kolodziej of the University of Nevada in Reno, joint leader of the study. “But we’re under-predicting their environmental persistence.” … He and his colleague David Cwiertny, an environmental engineer at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, decided to find out whether the breakdown products of endocrine disruptors could be boosting their environmental impact. Their team focused on trenbolone acetate, a synthetic anabolic steroid used as a growth promoter in more than 20 million cattle in the United States each year (this practice is banned in the European Union). Cattle metabolize the steroid […]
Those questions were raised in, of all publications, Astrobiology Magazine. Why are astrobiologists so concerned about human culture? Because if civilizations can really die out, that affects how many alien civilizations are likely to be out there somewhere: The longevity of our civilization was the topic of a symposium recently held in Washington DC. The symposium was organized and led by the holder of the NASA/ Library of Congress Astrobiology chair David Grinspoon, in an ornate room that would not have been out of place in ancient Pompeii — before that city was destroyed by an enormous volcanic eruption. The complexity of answering the question of our longevity was evidenced by the far-ranging discussion that ensued among the panelists and the audience. Beyond science and technology, they discussed the current state of economics and politics, the fate of the environment, and even McDonald’s plastic cups, which were designed to be used for 20 minutes but […]
French beekeepers, Russia Today tells us, were mystified when their hives started producing rainbow-colored honey – but were even more concerned when they found out the not-so-sweet reason why: The bees around the town of Ribeauville in the Alsace region have been carrying an unidentified colored substance back to their hives since August. The keepers have done a bit of sleuthing and think the Agrivolar biogas plant around 4 kilometers away is to blame. The enterprise has been processing waste from a Mars factory producing the colored M&M’s. The waste products have been stored in open containers and the bees could easily access the contents. “We discovered the problem at the same time they did. We quickly put in place a procedure to stop it,” Reuters quotes Agrivalor manager Philippe Meinrad as saying. The plant said they would now store waste indoors and in tightly closed containers. The beekeepers have already suffered high bee mortality […]