Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Woman's Water Is Flammable, Which She Says Is Because Of Fracking

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/womans-water-is-flammable-which-she-says-is-because-of-fracking-2012-7

This woman is Sherry Vargson, and in this video she is lighting her water on fire as it comes out of the faucet. The water is flammable because of increased methane levels, which she says are caused by fracking. Science, though, isn't so sure.

The video was posted by the "Gas Drilling Awareness Coalition" whose mission statement on their YouTube channel says: "We educate people on the negative effects of gas drilling," so obviously they have an agenda. But, this isn't the first, only, or most shocking example of people with flammable water.

A study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in May of last year did find a link between fracking and methane contamination of the drinking water supply. The study specifically looked at the Marcellus and Utica shale formations, throughout the northeast, including Pennsylvania, New York, Ohio, and West Virginia. Other studies have come to different conclusions.

The woman (and faucet) in this video are at a farm in Granville Township, which is on the Marcellus shale formation. The video description says that "Chesapeake Energy has drilled one well and installed compressor and metering stations and a gathering pipeline," in the area. "She said her water became contaminated with methane after maintenance activities at the site in June 2010."

She says that before the installations, the methane in the water tested at 0.01 milligrams per liter, and now the water tests as high as 64 milligrams per liter. "Obviously something has changed." The video is a part of "The Marcus Shale Reality Tour."

Basically, science isn't settled about methane contamination. A recent story claimed that "The Whole Fracking Debate Is Based On Bad Science," that both gas companies and opponents twist facts and rely on bad science, sometimes misleading the public. From the story: 

Lubell said the situation, which happens on both sides of a debate, is called "motivated reasoning." Rational people insist on believing things that aren't true, in part because of feedback from other people who share their views, he said.

Vengosh noted the problem of spinning science isn't new, or limited to one side in the gas drilling controversy. For example, industry supporters have claimed that drilling never pollutes water wells, when state regulators have confirmed cases where it has. He says the key point is that science is slow, and research into gas drilling's many possible effects are in the early stages, and much more work remains to be done.

"Everyone takes what they want to see," Vengosh said, adding that he hopes that the fracking debate will become more civilized as scientists obtain more hard data.

So, basically, take this video with a grain of salt.

See Also: The Whole Fracking Debate Is Based On Bad Science >

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Panasonic Photosynthesis System converts carbon dioxide to organic material with plant-like efficiency

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2012/07/31/panasonic-artificial-photosynthesis-system/

Panasonic Artificial Photosynthesis System converts carbon dioxide to organic material with plantlike efficiency

Greenery may fulfill a superficial need to improve the landscape aesthetic, but plants play a much more critical role in regular life function, converting carbon dioxide to oxygen through a process called photosynthesis. Panasonic is among the companies attempting to replicate this natural procedure through artificial means, and it looks like the Japanese electronics maker is well on its way towards a viable solution. Presenting at the International Conference on the Conversion and Storage of Solar Energy this week, Panasonic announced the development of an Artificial Photosynthesis System, which uses a nitride semiconductor to convert water and carbon dioxide -- a byproduct of factories and power plants -- into an organic material called formic acid, which is used in the manufacturing of dyes and fragrances. Covering the planet in formic acid wouldn't necessarily represent progress, but assuming demand isn't exceeded, it certainly beats CO2. Best yet, Panasonic claims that the system converts the substances at plant-like efficiency rates, or 0.2 percent. Hit up the PR after the break for a more granular look at the company's creation.

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Panasonic Photos! ynthesis System converts carbon dioxide to organic material with plant-like efficiency originally appeared on Engadget on Tue, 31 Jul 2012 06:41:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

US launches first commercial tidal power project this summer, Maine to reap moon's gravitational benefits

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2012/07/25/us-tidal-power-project/

US launches first commercial tidal power project this summer, Maine to reap moon's gravitational benefits

Solar may be the green energy source that's been hogging the headlines lately, but there are other fossil-fuel free ways that can help meet society's electrical needs. One of these is tidal power, and the US is set to start harnessing the ocean's electricity-generating potential this summer with the TidGen Cobscook Bay project -- the first such commercial project in the States. Located just off the coast of Eastport, Maine, turbines will be placed in 50-100 feet deep water to take advantage of the 100 billion tons of water that flow in and out of Cobscook Bay each day. When the project goes live, it'll feed into the public power grid and generate enough juice to power between 75 and 100 homes, and the plan is to eventually install enough turbines to generate 3MW of power -- which should cover the needs of over 1,000 homes and businesses. There's more info, plus plenty of political self-congratulation in the source below.

US launches first commercial tidal power project this summer, Maine to reap moon's gravitational benefits originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 25 Jul 2012 23:10:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Red Tide Is Even Deadlier Than We Thought

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/red-tide-is-deadlier-than-we-thought-2012-7

Red tide.

The plankton species responsible for some types of the toxic "red tide" that washes up in coastal areas could be more dangerous than we thought. These toxins can enter the food supply and kill humans.

New research into this plankton species, named Alexandrium tamarense, shows that it sends out multiple types of chemical weapons to kill its rivals. One of these toxins is deadly to larger organisms and the other is deadly to small organisms.

The study was published online in the journal Aquatic Microbial Ecology. Their findings could impact the entire marine food chain. "If it's killing multicellular animals with one toxin and small protists with another, it could be the killer of the ocean world," study researcher Hans Dam, from the University of Connecticut, said in a statement from the university.

Red tides are sometimes natural, but are also often caused by run off from populations centers near the coast, usually fertilizer run off from agriculture.

When A. tamarense blooms out of control, like during a red tide event, it could destroy the local marine food web — like it did in the Northeastern coast in 2005 near Cape Cod. When toxins from red tide make their way into the food web shellfish like lobsters, clams and even fish become toxic, too, causing human illness and death.

"This toxin blocks sodium channels in anything that has a well-developed nervous system," Dam says. This can cause paralysis or even death. "But most of the organisms in the ocean are not those kinds of organisms. They're single-celled, similar to the algae themselves, and they don't have a well-developed nervous system."

The new research found that these single-celled organisms were being attacked by a separate toxin from the plankton bloom — one that kills them directly. This would also have a large impact on the food web, since these small organisms are food for the larger ones.

"The amazing thing is, when you look at these algae under a microscope, they're so beautiful — but they're so deadly," says Dam. "We call them the beautiful assassins."

Check out some incredible videos of crazy natural phenomenas>

Red Tide

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Monday, July 23, 2012

40 Years Of Earth's Changing Landscape From Space

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/landsats-40th-anniversary-satellite-pictures-2012-7


The Landsat satellites have been beaming back stunning pictures of Earth from space for 40 years.

The joint program between NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey is the world's longest-running record of Earth observations from space.  

The first satellite was launched on July 23, 1972. The seventh and youngest satellite took flight in 1999.  

The detailed images allow scientists to analyze changes in Earth's landscape and monitor weather events, natural phenomenons, and man-made changes.  

NASA has pulled together some of the best pictures, posted to Flickr, to celebrate the milestone. But there are countless more visually stunning images available on the Landsat website.  

Countless lakes, sloughs, and ponds reminiscent of blood vessels are scattered throughout the Yukon Delta in southwest Alaska. It's one of the largest river deltas in the world.

Landsat captured this image of inundated patches of Lake Eyre in Australia in 2006. Lake Eyre is the country's largest lake when it's full, which has only happened three times in the last 150 years.

An image acquired on June 1, 2011, shows part of a tornado track and damage in Sturbridge, Massachusetts.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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Tour The Epic Sustainable Home That California Is About To Demolish

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/tour-david-hoffmans-sustainable-home-before-its-demolished-2012-7


David Hoffman, 67, spent the last 40 years transforming his Lagunitas, Calif. home into a model for modern day sustainability.

The epic renovation included a 30-foot hand-dug well, an earthworm-powered plumbing system, a fully-equipped tea house and dozens of other structures designed and built by Hoffman himself. 

There was just one problem with his vision––he never got the proper building permits.

After a decades-long battle, county officials have given Hoffman until Aug. 1 to level everything down to the bricks and pay a $226,000 fine. 

"I never felt like I owned this property," he told Business Insider. "What I'm building, what my motivation was didn't really involve me as much as a showcase or model of sustainability."

We caught up with Hoffman and asked him to take us on a virtual tour of the home that's stirring up so much controversy. 

Here's a bird's eye view of the property, which Hoffman bought in 1973 for a mere $38,000. "Back then, you had your choice of house," he recalls. "I bought a half acre from next door for $500. That person had gotten it for free." On the left is his prize tea house. On the right, the home where he and his wife, Bee, live. His workshop is underneath.

Photo: David Lee Hoffman


The property's surrounded by Douglas-fir trees, many of which were used for lumber. "When I first moved here, it was very rustic," he says. "Half the houses were empty and you could pretty much do whatever you wanted out here as long as you weren't bothering anyone."

Photo by David Briggs

There are some 30 structures on site, including a hand dug well that uses a solar powered pump to refill itself; a solar-powered shower; a rainwater pond; and an outdoor toilet.

Photo: David Lee Hoffman

See the rest of the story at Business Insider

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GEOLOGIST: Here Are 5 Truths About Fracking That Are Not Up For Debate (UNG, USO)

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/fracking-facts-safety-chemicals-shale-2012-7


The debate over the safety of fracking reached a new, bizarre dimension last night, when the AP published a story with the headline, "Experts: Some fracking critics use bad science."

We've tried to remain objective on the subject of fracking, so it was hard not to be baffled by this: How do we know the "critics" aren't experts, and how do we know the "experts" aren't also using bad science?

At our wits end, we reached out to Dr. Steven Marshak at the University of Illinois to help lay out for us once and for all what we know and do not know about fracking.

Why Dr. Marshak? First, he's an expert in structural geology — a subject on which all energy industry scientists must know chapter and verse. He also writes geology textbooks. 

We also wanted to speak with him precisely because he does not research the effects of fracking, and thus would not provoke the suspicion of you guys that he somehow had a hidden agenda or had been bought off by either side of the debate. Plus he's in Illinois, a state that relies on coal and nuclear for much of its energy.

To review, hydrofracking (which comes from the phrase "hydraulic fracturing") involves pumping water, sand and a viscous fluid down into shale rock to create fissures that release hydrocarbons, which are then pumped to the surface.

Here are the five settled facts on fracking:

  1. There's definitely some weird stuff in fracking fluid
    • "What is in these fracking fluids? Probably organic chemicals like diesel fuel, antifreeze, soap, things designed to make [the rocks] slipperier. "These things are not things you want to be dumping into drinking water."
  2. But as long as it's done deep enough, the fracking process should not affect sources of drinking water 
    • "The layer of black shale is down in the subsurface several thousand feet. If you can drill down to that level, the hydrofracturing cracks do not extend more than 1000 feet or so; the ends of the cracks are still going to be several thousand feet below the surface [where wells and aquifers sit]."
  3. Natural gas can leak up to the surface, but it's often the result of natural processes
  4. But a lot can still go wrong with the fracking process
    • "There are some real problems. If the shale horizon is too close to surface...it probably shouldn't be hydrofracked so you avoid contaminating water. You also need to make sure you're inspecting well sites, that you don't have middle of night dumping of excess fluid into streams, that retention pits are properly sealed." The process also does cause measurable but small earthquakes, he said.
  5. Bottom line: similar to off-shore drilling for oil, it's possible for something to go wrong, but it's not inherently unsafe. The debate needs to catch up with this reality.
    • "It's worth looking more closely at it. My sense is, you end up with two sides that are pretty far apart and not really listening to each other. The public is overreacting to certain things, but there are other things the industry is underplaying." 

SEE ALSO: NATURAL GAS: An Investor's Guide To The Most Promising Commodity In The World >

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Sunday, July 22, 2012

UCLA creates transparent solar cell, dreams of current generating windows

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2012/07/22/ucla-creates-transparent-solar-cell/

UCLA creates transparent solar cell, dreams of current generating windows

Transparent photovoltaics have yet to grace the face of your smartphone, but don't give up hope -- UCLA researchers are working on a new see-through solar cell that's showing potential. Using a new type of polymer solar cell, the team has been able to build a device that converts infrared light into electrical current. Current prototypes boast 4 percent energy conversion efficiency at 66 percent transparency -- not crystal clear, but certainly clean enough to peer through. According to a study in ACS Nano, the technology could be used in "building-integrated photovoltaics or integrated photovoltaic chargers for portable electronics." Translation? It could one day be used to build solar windows or better sun collecting smartphones. Don't get too excited though, the technology still has a ways to go before any of these dreams come to fruition. Still, feel free to head past the break for the team's official press release, or skip to the source to take in the full academic study.

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UCLA creates transparent solar cell, dreams of current generating windows originally appeared on Engadget on Sun, 22 Jul 2012 03:16:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Millions Of Mysterious Tiny Purple Creatures Invade A Hawaii Beach

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/purple-creatures-invade-a-hawaii-beach-2012-7

Purple creature

In the second news of the day of things turning up on beaches where they normally shouldn't be, millions of strange creatures have washed up on the south shore of O'ahu in Hawaii, KHON 2's Brianne Randle reports. 

The unknown animals are tiny (about the size of a pea), purple and look like little crabs.  

It's really incredible because scientists have never seen anything like this before. 

A local biologist told the news station that the mysterious critter was likely a crab in the larvae stage, but he doesn't know the name of the species.  

A few discerning beach-goers also took a stab at identifying the small purply things:

“It’s really weird, it looks like you want to eat it like a little berry,” said one woman. 

"When something washes up like this you don't know what to expect, maybe Tsunami stuff," said another curious fellow. 

Hopefully the experts will have some answers soon.  

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Monday, July 9, 2012

MIT researchers develop chip that can harvest energy from multiple sources

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2012/07/09/mit-researchers-develop-chip-that-can-harvest-energy-from-multip/

MIT researchers develop chip that can harvest energy from multiple sources

We've seen a number of different devices that can harvest energy from various sources, but none quite like this new chip developed by a team of MIT researchers. It's able to harvest energy from three different sources simultaneously: light, heat and vibrations. The key to that is a sophisticated control system that's able to rapidly switch between the three sources at all times to prevent any of that energy from going to waste (and not draw too much power itself), with energy from the secondary sources stored in capacitors to be picked up later -- as opposed to existing systems that simply switch between sources based on what's most plentiful. As doctoral student Saurav Bandyopadhyay explains, efficiently managing those disparate sources could be a "big advantage since many of these sources are intermittent and unpredictable," and it could in turn lead to the chip being used in a range of different applications where batteries or existing energy harvesting methods just aren't enough: everything from environmental sensors in remote locations to biomedical devices.

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MIT researchers develop chip that can harvest energy from multiple sources originally appeared on Engadget on Mon, 09 Jul 2012 15:06:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of fee! ds.< /p>

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Friday, July 6, 2012

New Pipe Design Turns Taking a Shower into an Energy-Generating Activity [Video]

Source: http://gizmodo.com/5923819/new-pipe-design-turns-taking-a-shower-into-an-energy+generating-activity

New Pipe Design Turns Taking a Shower into an Energy-Generating ActivityThe ES Pipe Waterwheel, designed by Korean innovator Ryan Jongwoo Choi, is a simple plumbing accessory that turns simple workaday activities—running a bath, washing your hands, hosing off the dog—into hydroelectricity generative tasks.

New Pipe Design Turns Taking a Shower into an Energy-Generating ActivityThe ES Pipe Waterwheel can be attached to most any standard water piping, simply by screwing it into place between any piping juncture. Once attached, generating energy is as simple as turning on the tap.

As water churns through the ES Pipe's interior waterwheels, hydroelectric energy accumulates and is stored in the removable bulbs that fit into the top of the pipe. When needed, the bulbs can be removed and used for light.

New Pipe Design Turns Taking a Shower into an Energy-Generating ActivityWhile developing the product, Choi researched certain African countries where access to a running water supply network is disproportionate to electricity. The ES Pipe Waterwheel is one proposed solution for energy saving in countries that need it. It has been named a finalist in the Industrial Designers Society of America's 2012 International Design Excellence Awards and is currently being pitched to product manufacturers for production. [Yanko Design via Inhabitat]


Scientists Still Have No Idea What The Heck Causes Fairy Circles

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/mystery-fairy-circles-walter-tschinkel2012-7

The cause of "fairy circles," the name given to bare patches of soil that seem to form randomly across African grasslands, continues to baffle scientists.   

While their origin remains a mystery, new research has provided some insight about their stages of formation. 

In a study published in PLoS ONE, Walter Tschinkel of Florida State University went to the Southwestern Africa region of Namibia to explore these mysterious circles further.

According to the study, the circles appear in their semi-circular shape, expanding slightly to reach between 16 and 40 feet in diameter over the course of their lives, which range from 24 to 75 years. Vegetation then once again fills in the bare spots.

Previously, Tschinkel hypothesized that the bare patches were made by termite nests or toxic vapors from the ground, according to Stephanie Pappas of LiveScience.

Those theories have since been ruled out and the cause of fairy circles remains a mystery.  

Regardless of their origin, these circles are still pretty cool to look at, so we've rounded up a few images for your enjoyment:

Fairy Circles

Fairy Circles

Fairy Circles

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