Friday, September 28, 2012

Students Built A Cheese Waste-Powered Car And Set A Speed Record

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/students-built-a-cheese-waste-powered-car-and-set-a-speed-record-2012-9

cheese power usu car

Biofuels can be made from just about anything living, so there are a lot of exciting options for those looking to change how future cars are powered.

For a team of students and professors at Utah State University, the best way to get their vehicle on the road was using waste materials produced by some nearby cheese factories.

At the Bonneville Salt Flats this month, a dragster powered by the cheese fuel became the fastest ever vehicle in its class using 100 percent biofuel, hitting 64.37 mph.

The idea was born out of a project by the University's College of Engineering and College of Science to create a yeast or bacteria fuel platform utilizing "waste carbon." Unlike fossil fuels, biofuels are not a limited resource. They are more energy-dense than electric batteries, and can be used in many existing vehicles.

Dr. Brad Wahlen, who worked on the project, explains that there are many cheese processing plants in the region. Among the by-products of their operation is a solution that is protein- and fat-free, and rich in lactose sugar. That combination made it a good fit for the project, and the team thought, "We can take this and turn it into a fuel."

The use of "waste carbon" addresses a major criticism leveled against biodiesel: that the creation of cropland to grow the raw materials for biofuel produces significant carbon emissions. It also avoids using crops that could be eaten, and takes advantage of a material that previously had no purpose.

The team began building the car in early July, pairing chemists, unaccustomed to working on large-scale projects, with engineers, charged with building a car that would maximize the potential of the unusual fuel.

With an ey! e to the future, Wahlen calls this manifestation of the technology "just the beginning platform." It is a model that can be adapted to make fuel from any product that contains sugars. Next year, the team will work with algae and bacteria biofuels.The engineers will continue to improve the dragster itself, to push the speed limit higher.

As for the future of cheese-powered cars, they could play a role in the future of transportation, but not a starring one. According the Wahlen, enough of the waste solution is generated to produce 66,000 tons of fuel every day, but that comes nowhere near matching nationwide demand.

The speed record of 64 mph leaves a lot to be desired, but this was a short-term project that turned the scientific equivalent of dumpster diving into a new record.

Non-fossil fuels are a viable solution to the looming problems of peak oil and climate change, if innovative thinkers are willing to make them work.

Now see 20 states where high gas prices make driving miserable >

Please follow Getting There on Twitter and Facebook.

Join the conversation about this story »



Read More...

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sharp unveils semi-transparent solar panels, lets you see the sun while reaping its benefits

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2012/09/26/sharp-semi-transparent-solar-panels/

Sharp unveils semi-transparent solar panels, lets you see the sun while reaping its benefits

Sharp has announced an unusual photovoltaic panel for the Japanese market that collects energy from the sun while still allowing the light to shine on through. Though it's rated at a lowly 6.8 percent / 98 watt max efficiency, the glass-like properties make it useful as a construction material (as shown in the balcony railing above), with the semi-transparent nature giving occupants privacy, to boot. The energy-producing cells are embedded in a laminated glass structure and an air slot provides a thermal barrier, allowing the panels to also be used as "windows, curtain wall and eaves" according to Sharp's PR. Though the system won't win any potency prizes, it has garnered a design award in Japan, so it won't blight any landscapes. There's no mention of pricing or western availability so far, but you can hit the source for all the technical details.

Filed under:

Sharp unveils semi-transparent solar panels, lets you see the sun while reaping its benefits originally appeared on Engadget on Wed, 26 Sep 2012 05:18:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds! .

Permalink CNET  |  sourceSharp Japan (translated)  | Email this | Comments

Read More...

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Water-Cooled Chip That Concentrates the Sun to Desalinate Water [Science]

Source: http://gizmodo.com/5946148/a-water+cooled-chip-that-concentrates-the-sun-to-desalinate-water

A Water-Cooled Chip That Concentrates the Sun to Desalinate WaterAnyone who's dropped a cellphone in the bath knows that water and microelectronics don't usually mix well. But at IBM's Swiss lab in Zurich, marrying the two is becoming almost commonplace: microprocessors with water coursing through microchannels carved deep inside them are already crunching data in SuperMUC, an IBM supercomputer - with the heat that the water carries away used to warm nearby buildings.

And last week, on an unseasonally sunny Zurich rooftop, IBM went public before begoggled journalists with a demo of the technology's newest application: a solar energy-generating microchip array whose waste heat might one day drive desalination systems in arid areas like the Sahara. The firm has long promised this system, and it's still a work in progress, but it has now reached a form that can be demonstrated.

The trick with a concentrated photovoltaic (CPV) system like IBM's is to place a high-performance electricity-generating solar cell array at the focal point of a dish that collects sunlight (unlike a solar concentrator, which focuses a field of sun-tracking mirrors onto a steam generator that drives a turbine). In IBM's CPV system, water gushes through the base of the solar cells, cooling them to a temperature where they convert sunlight to electricity most efficiently. This beats regular solar power in two ways: it guarantees optimum efficiency and creates hot water that can be used for any purpose - with a multi-effect boiling desalination process being IBM's choice.

On IBM's rooftop, I donned ultra-dark goggles to watch Stephen Paredes, Bruno Michel and colleagues demonstrate their dazzling concept. A 1.5-metre mirrored dish concentrated the sun's energy by 150 times onto their prototype CPV chip, which has been engineered to maximise thermal contact with a water-cooled layer. It's fascinating to see their control rig: half of it is electronic but the rest, frankly, is plumbing - an interesting mix of disciplines indeed. Paredes's laptop showed the concentrator dish conversion efficiency to be about 18 per cent - respectable for a prototype, he says.

Their research aim now is to move towards 40 per cent efficiency or more with better-cooled CPV arrays that can cope with solar radiation 5000 times the sun's normal intensity. "We know how to engineer these cooling packages for computers so we're confident we can make this contribution to solar energy," says Michel.


A Water-Cooled Chip That Concentrates the Sun to Desalinate WaterNew Scientist reports, explores and interprets the results of human endeavour set in the context of society and culture, providing comprehensive coverage of science and technology news.

Read More...

Monday, September 24, 2012

Microsoft deliberately wasted energy at data center to avoid fine, says NY Times

Source: http://www.engadget.com/2012/09/24/microsoft-deliberately-wasted-energy-to-avoid-fine/

Microsoft power wasting

Microsoft's desire to avoid a fine combined with a power company's strict electricity usage rules resulted in the software giant deliberately wasting millions of watts of power, according to the New York Times. Redmond's Quincy data center, which houses Bing, Hotmail and other cloud-based servers, had an agreement in place with a Washington state utility containing clauses which imposed penalties for under-consumption of electricity. A $210,000 fine was levied last year, since the facility was well below its power-use target, which prompted Microsoft to deliberately burn $70,000 worth of electricity in three days "in a commercially unproductive manner" to avoid it, according to its own documents. The utility board capitulated and reduced the amend to $60k, but the messy situation seems a far cry from Redmond's pledge to become carbon neutral by this summer.

[Image credit: New York Times]

Filed under: ,

Microsoft deliberately wasted energy at data center to avoid fine, says NY Times originally appeared on Engadget on Mon, 24 Sep 2012 10:44:! 00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds.

Permalink The Verge  |  sourceNew York Times  | Email this | Comments

Read More...

Ocean Pollution Will Lead To A Global Food Crisis: Study

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/ocean-pollution-will-lead-to-a-global-food-crisis-study-2012-9

syria fishing

The Persian Gulf, Libya, and Pakistan are at high risk of food insecurity in coming decades because climate change and ocean acidification are destroying fisheries, according to a report released on Monday.

The report from the campaign group Oceana warns of growing food insecurity, especially for poorer people, from the Faroe Islands in the North Atlantic to the Cook Islands in the South Pacific, Eritrea, Guyana, Indonesia, Kuwait and Singapore.

Some of the countries at highest risk were in oil-rich – and politically volatile – regions.

"The Persian Gulf is actually expected to be one of the hardest-hit regions. In terms of fish catch they are supposed to lose over 50% of their fisheries," said Matt Huelsenbeck, an Oceana marine scientist and author of the report.

The report put Iran, Libya, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates among the top 10 countries most at risk because of the decline in fish stocks due to climate change.

"There are definitely tens of thousands of artisanal fishermen operating in the Persian Gulf and they will be hardest hit by the impacts," he said.

America is expected to lose about 12% of its catch potential by mid-century, the report said.

The study used climate models created by the University of British Columbia to rank countries' exposure to degradation of the oceans due to climate change and ocean acidification.

Low-income countries, with high levels of malnutrition and rapid population growth, such as Pakistan, were viewed as high risk. So were small island states that depend heavily on coral reef fisheries and on conches, oysters, clams and other shellfish.

About 1 billion people depend on seafood as their main source of protein. But some of those countries most dependent on fishing are expected to lose up to 40% of their fish ca! tch by t he middle of the century.

The changes in ocean chemistry, when sea water absorbs rising levels of carbon dioxide, have upset the balance of marine life. Coral reefs in the Caribbean are on the verge of collapse. Oysters and clams are unable to produce their hard protective shells.

Meanwhile, rising temperatures are driving fish species from the tropics towards deeper and colder waters.

The study looked at potential impacts in mid-century. But the first effects of climate change and the changing ocean chemistry are already evident, however, in Kenya where the loss of coral reefs is pushing down fish stocks and on the US Pacific coast which has seen a die-off of oyster beds in Oregon.

This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk

Please follow Science on Twitter and Facebook.

Join the conversation about this story »



Read More...

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Data Centers Waste a Ridiculously Massive Amount of Energy [Data Centers]

Source: http://gizmodo.com/5945648/data-centers-waste-a-ridiculously-massive-amount-of-energy

Data Centers Waste a Ridiculously Massive Amount of Energy There is a lot of data out there, and more is being created every day. It takes a lot of resources to keep it around, and make sure that you and everyone else can access what they want, when they want, with minimal downtime. Naturally this takes a lot of energy, but the New York Times looked into exactly how much. It's a ridiculous amount.

From the Times:

Most data centers, by design, consume vast amounts of energy in an incongruously wasteful manner, interviews and documents show. Online companies typically run their facilities at maximum capacity around the clock, whatever the demand. As a result, data centers can waste 90 percent or more of the electricity they pull off the grid, The Times found.

Wasting 90 percent of anything is already incredibly inefficient, but it only gets worse when you consider how much electricity these data centers are actually pulling off the grid. In many cases, it's more than a medium-sized town. That's per data center, and we have quite a few of those.

There are ways to make it better, but there are also obstacles to implementing them. For one, data centers are notoriously secretive; not only are their locations often secret, but their hardware can be proprietary and hush-hush too. On top of that, when uptime is priority number one, taking risks on anything new is counter-intuitive. Sure, maybe this new thing could increase energy efficiency, but it also might break.

As the world generates more and more data, and that data continues to migrate to the cloud, data center efficiency is going to become a bigger and bigger problem. You can read more about the harrowing details over at the New York Times. [The New York Times]

Read More...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Colorado Man Awarded $7.2 Million For Injuries Suffered While Eating Popcorn

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/popcorn-lung-man-gets-7-million-2012-9

Wayne Watson popcorn lung

A Colorado man was awarded $7.2 million in damages on Wednesday when a federal court determined he developed "popcorn lung" from inhaling the smell of artificial butter on popcorn, Reuters reported.

The court sided with Wayne Watson in ruling that both the popcorn manufacturer and supermarket chain failed to properly warn customers that the butter flavoring, diacetyl, was dangerous.

"Popcorn lung," a chronic condition, mostly develops in workers who inhale diacetyl at flavoring plants. Its symptoms are similar to those of bronchitis or asthma, according to CBS News.

Watson ate two bags of popcorn a day for 10 years. He was diagnosed with the disease at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in 2007, according to CBS.

Jurors found that manufacturer Glister-Mary Lee Corp was liable for 80 percent of damages, and King Soopers supermarket and its parent company, Kroger Co., for 20 percent, according to Reuters.

A spokeswoman for King Soopers and its parent company told Reuters they plan to appeal the decision.

Watson had settled a previous claim against FONA International Inc., a flavor developer, according to the Associated Press.

DON'T MISS: Disabled Man Says Bank Of America Fired Him For Walking Too Slowly >

 

Please follow Law & Order on Twitter and Facebook.

Join the conversation about this story »



Read More...

Monsanto's Roundup And Roundup-Resistant Corn Found To Be Toxic In Rats

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/monsantos-roundup-and-resistant-corn-found-to-be-toxic-2012-9

mice

The first animal feeding trial studying the lifetime effects of exposure to Monsanto Roundup weedkiller and Monsanto's NK603 Roundup-resistant genetically modified corn found that exposure levels currently considered safe can cause tumors, multiple organ damage and premature death in rats.

The study, published Sept 19 in the journal Food and Chemical Toxicity, raises serious concerns not just about the pesticide Roundup, but about the Roundup-ready corn, which comprises 70 percent of the corn grown in the U.S.

The rat has long been used as a surrogate for human toxicity. All new pharmaceutical, agricultural and household substances are, prior to their approval, tested on rats. This is as good an indicator as we can expect that the consumption of [NK603] GM maize and the herbicide Roundup, impacts seriously on human health,” Dr. Antoniou, molecular biologist at King’s College in London, said in a press release.

Monsanto maintains that its Roundup-resistant corn "is as safe as conventional (non-GM-derived) food" and that its 90-day trial prove that, but other studies have challenged the 90-day feeding trials.

Three months is the equivalent of late adolescence in rats, which can live for about two years.

The new research, published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, fed 10 groups of 10 rats a diet conta! ining ei ther NK603 Roundup-resistant GM corn or water containing Roundup at levels permitted in drinking water over a two-year period.

The researchers found that the treated rats died significantly earlier than rats fed on a standard diet.

Specifically, up to 50 percent of males and 70 percent of females died prematurely, compared with only 30 percent and 20 percent in the control group, and treated rats developed 2 to 3 times more large cancers than the control group.

(This type of rat is cancer-prone, so all of the animals developed tumors.)

Furthermore, 50 to 80 percent of females had developed cancers by the beginning of the 24th month, with up to three tumors per animal, while only 30 percent of the controls were affected. Large detectable cancers appeared much earlier in the treated group.

"This is the most thorough research ever published into the health effects of GM food crops and the herbicide Roundup on rats," Antoniou said. "It shows an extraordinary number of tumors developing earlier and more aggressively — particularly in female animals. I am shocked by the extreme negative health impacts." 

Roundup is the world’s best-selling weedkiller. Monsanto introduced this genetically modified corn in 1998. 

SEE ALSO: Walmart Is Going To Sell The Genetically Modified Corn That Its Competitors Rejected >

Please follow Science on Twitter and Facebook.

! Join the conversation about this story »



Read More...

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Monsanto Weedkiller and GM Maize Linked to Tumor Risk [Science]

Source: http://gizmodo.com/5944507/monsanto-weedkiller-and-gm-maize-linked-to-tumor-risk

Monsanto Weedkiller and GM Maize Linked to Tumor RiskA new study suggests that the world's best-selling weedkiller and the GM maize resistant to it are linked to increased risk of tumor growth, multiple organ damage and premature death.

The study, undertaken by a team of researchers at the University of Caen, France, and published in Food and Chemical Toxicology, is the first to investigate the long-term effect of Monsanto's Roundup weedkiller, or the NK603 GM maize resistant to it—for which Monsanto owns the patent.

Ten groups of ten rats were fed varying combination of maize, GM maize and the weedkiller: three were fed diets containing different proportions of Roundup resistant maize at 11, 22 and 33 percent; three were fed water laced with varying quantities of Roundup; three were fed both; and others were fed normal maize as a control. The study ran over a two year period.

The results suggest that rats fed on the GM maize or given water containing Roundup died significantly earlier than rats fed on a standard diet. In terms of hard numbers, 50 percent of male and 70 percent of female rats died prematurely in the exposed groups, compared to just 30 and 20 percent, respectively, in the control group.

Perhaps more importantly, the findings show that NK603 and Roundup cause similar damage to rat health whether they're consumed together or on their own.

GM crops such as NK603 have previously been approved for human consumption based on 90-day animal trials. However, this study hows that mammary tumors and severe liver and kidney damage occurred in the rats from four months on—which wouldn't have been detected in earlier research.

So what does that mean for you? Well, almost 85 percent of maize grown in the US is GM, and Monsanto is one of the biggest global suppliers. Remember that those products don't just go into corn on the cob; they're found in chips, cereals, cooking oil and even booze. This study isn't enough to change that yet of course: after all, it's impossible to try and apply these findings to different crops. It may, however, spark a little more questioning—and that can't be a bad thing. [Food and Chemical Toxicology via The Grocer]

Image by raman..exploring myself.. under Creative Commons license

Read More...

Survival Pod Lets You Ride Out a Tsunami in Relative Comfort [Emergencies]

Source: http://gizmodo.com/5944544/survival-pod-lets-you-ride-out-a-tsunami-in-relative-comfort

Survival Pod Lets You Ride Out a Tsunami in Relative ComfortInspired by the tragic tsunamis that hit Japan last year, Australian houseboat builder Matt Duncan decided to design and construct the ultimate life jacket. What he came up with was the Tsunami Survival Pod, designed to protect up to four passengers from rushing waters and tons of debris.

Made from the same materials he uses in his houseboats—spiral-welded steel, primarily—the pod is capable of enduring up to six tons of weight. But like a car, it also has strategically designed crumple zones to absorb impacts and protect the passengers. A set of rally-style moulded racing seats complete with five-point safety harnesses further prevents those inside from bouncing around, while bulletproof windows let reassuring light in for those who might be claustrophobic.

When completely sealed the pod has enough air inside for two and a half hours of survival, but inward-opening access panels let additional fresh air in as needed. It will set you back almost $8,900, but if you live in a part of the world that experiences tsunamis, that's probably a small price to pay for something that could literally save your life.

Survival Pod Lets You Ride Out a Tsunami in Relative Comfort

[Gold Coast via Popular Science]

Read More...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

6 Reasons Why Evolution Isn't A Sure Thing

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/scientific-weaknesses-of-evolution-2012-9

Evolution

Former children's television host and scientist Bill Nye recently captured national media attention when he blasted Americans who believe in creationism and reject Darwin's theory of evolution.  

The scientific concept of evolution holds that each species on Earth developed from a process of natural selection acting on random genetic mutation.

Obviously there's loads of scientific evidence that supports evolution. But we wanted to understand why some people oppose it.   

First, there are several different varieties of creationists. 

Traditional creationists believe that the universe was created by God.

A separate theory, called Intelligent Design, does not dispute the definition of evolution as "change over time" or, for the most part, that living things are related by common ancestry. However, this group does believe that the natural world is too complex and diverse to have occurred through random processes.

The Discovery Institute, a religious think tank that supports the theory of Intelligent Design, outlines their own findings of scientific weakness in modern evolutionary science.   

Genetics: Random mutations cause harm to organisms and do not build complexity.

"Dar winian evolution relies on random mutations that are preserved by a blind, undirected process of natural selection that has no long-term 'goals.' Such a random and undirected process tends to harm organisms and does not improve them or build complexity. 

In the words of leading geneticist Lynn Margulis, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, has said: 'new mutations don't create new species; they create offspring that are impaired.'

Similarly, past president of the French Academy of Sciences, Pierre-Paul Grasse, contended that '[m]utations have a very limited ‘constructive capacity’' because '[n]o matter how numerous they may be, mutations do not produce any kind of evolution.' 

According to the research of University of Wisconsin biologist Ralph Seelke, mutations can break features in bacteria but they cannot put even modestly complex features back together. Likewise, biochemist Michael Behe and physicist David Snoke have published research in the journal Protein Science showing that even simple biochemical features like protein-protein interactions cannot be built by random mutation."

Source: Discovery Institute



Biochemistry: Random and undirected processes do not seem capable of producing cellular complexity.

"Our cells contain incredible complexity, like miniature factories using machine technology but dwarfing the complexity and efficiency of anything produced by humans. Cells use miniature circuits, motors, feedback loops, encoded language, and even error-checking machinery to decode and repair our DNA. Darwinian evolution struggles to build this type of integrated complexity. As biochemist Franklin Harold admits: 'there are presentl! y no det ailed Darwinian accounts of the evolution of any biochemical or cellular system, only a variety of wishful speculations.'

Biochemist Michael Behe has found that Darwinian evolution tends to break molecular functions rather than building new ones. Likewise, biochemical engineer Douglas Axe has published work in the Journal of Molecular Biology and elsewhere showing that amino acid sequences which yield functional protein folds are too rare to be produced by Darwinian processes."

Source: Discovery Institute



Paleontology: The fossil record shows abrupt appearance and generally lacks intermediate fossils.

"The fossil record’s overall pattern is one of abrupt explosions of new biological forms, and possible candidates for evolutionary transitions are the exception, not the rule.

This has been recognized by many paleontologists such as Ernst Mayr who explained in 2000 that '[n]ew species usually appear in the fossil record suddenly, not connected with their ancestors by a series of intermediates.'

Similarly, a zoology textbook observed that 'Many species remain virtually unchanged for millions of years, then suddenly disappear to be replaced by a quite different, but related, form. Moreover, most major groups of animals appear abruptly in the fossil record, fully formed, and with no fossils yet discovered that form a transition from their parent group.' This pattern is contrary to what would be expected from Darwinian evolution."

Source: Discovery Institute



See the rest of the story at Business Insider

Please follow Science on Twitter and Facebook.



Read More...

Friday, September 14, 2012

How Engineers Can Help Prevent Water Wars

Source: http://www.popsci.com/technology/article/2012-08/how-engineers-can-help-prevent-water-wars

Projects like Turkey's Ilisu Dam can heighten political tension. But there are ways to bring it down a notch

Somewhere around 2014, if all goes according to plan, Turkey will complete the Ilisu Dam, a major component of one of the world's most ambitious—​and controversial—​hydro-engineering projects. The dam is the latest addition to the $32-billion Southeastern Anatolia Project (known by its Turkish acronym, GAP). Along with 21 other dams, Ilisu will lock up the entire Tigris and Euphrates watershed, creating 7,476 megawatts of hydroelectric capacity and irrigating a parched farm region nearly the size of New Jersey. Ilisu's reservoir, however, will also flood the ancient city of Hasankeyf, uproot as many as 70,000 members of Turkey's struggling Kurdish minority, and give Turkish engineers an alarming degree of control over the fate of their downstream neighbors in Iraq.

Many nations depend on rivers that flow across borders, but none so much as Iraq, which gets its water from only two sources: the Tigris and the Euphrates. When Turkey filled another GAP reservoir in 1990, it shut down the Euphrates for a month, and the two nations nearly went to war. Once Ilisu is complete, Turkey will be able to shut down the Tigris, too.

GAP is perhaps the starkest demonstration to date of how engineers can exacerbate longstanding water conflicts. Fortunately, there are ways engineers can also help ratchet tensions back down.

First, they can provide better data about how much water there is to share. Researchers at the University of California at Irvine are using NASA Gravity Recovery and Climate Experi! ment (GR ACE) satellites to measure tiny changes in the gravity of aquiferous regions in order to determine how much water has been removed over time. "When it comes time to negotiate treaties, people are going to think 'Well, we really can't hide stuff from our neighbors,' " says Michael Campana, a hydrogeologist at Orgeon State University who studies water-resource management.

Second, they can provide more to share. Many municipalities are exploring artificial recharge systems for storing water in aquifers (rather than in open reservoirs), substantially reducing evaporation. Engi­neers on a pilot project in Gujarat, India, meanwhile, have covered a half mile of irrigation canal with solar panels, preventing nearly a quarter-million gallons' worth of evaporation annually.

Finally, engineers can provide other things to share in place of water. "Hydro­electric energy is a nonconsumptive use of water," says Jonathan Lautze, a researcher at the International Water Management Institute. "There is potential for both water and energy to be shared." Iraq has struggled for decades to build its electrical capacity. And so Turkey, by running high-voltage lines south, could share something Iraq wants almost as much as water: It could share the GAP itself.

Luke Mitchell (luke.mitchell@popsci.com) is the magazine's Ideas Editor



Read More...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

This Is the Shiniest Living Thing on the Planet [Science]

Source: http://gizmodo.com/5942182/this-is-the-shiniest-living-thing-on-the-planet

This Is the Shiniest Living Thing on the PlanetHidden away, deep within a forest in central Africa, is something quite special. But the Pollia berry's name doesn't quite do it justice, because this thing is shiny. Damn shiny. In fact, it's the shiniest living thing in the world.

These fruits, which look a bit like something you might hang on a Christmas tree, owe the title to their microscopic physical structure. In fact, it might shock you to hear that they contain no blue pigment whatsoever.

The surface of the berries is actually made of four layers of thick-walled cells, each layer itself containing more layers made of cellulose fibers. All those fibers run parallel in their own layer, but crucially the layers are all slightly rotated relative to each other, forming a spiral when you look from the top down.

That means that when light hits the structure, some light is reflected by each layer of fibers in such a way that the light bouncing back is amplified—a concept known as constructive interference—to produce remarkably strong colours. The result is very shiny—shinier than any other living thing on the planet. Just don't bother eating them: apparently they contain virtually no nutritional content whatsoever. [PNAS via Not Exactly Rocket Science]

Read More...

World water crisis must be top UN priority: report

Source: http://phys.org/news/2012-09-world-crisis-priority.html

A rapidly worsening water shortage threatens to destabilize the planet and should be a top priority for the UN Security Council and world leaders, a panel of experts said in a report Monday.

Read More...

The Earth Has Enough Wind Energy Potential To Power All Of Civilization

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/the-earth-has-enough-wind-energy-potential-to-power-all-of-civilization-2012-9

Moon Wind Turbine Green Energy Industrial Production

WASHINGTON (AP) — Earth has more than enough wind to power the entire world, at least technically, two new studies find.

But the research looks only at physics, not finances. Other experts note it would be too costly to put up all the necessary wind turbines and build a system that could transmit energy to all consumers.

The studies are by two different U.S. science teams and were published in separate journals on Sunday and Monday. They calculate that existing wind turbine technology could produce hundreds of trillions of watts of power. That's more than 10 times what the world now consumes.

Wind power doesn't emit heat-trapping gases like burning coal, oil and natural gas. But there have been questions, raised in earlier studies, about whether physical limits would prevent the world from being powered by wind.

The new studies, done independently, showed potential wind energy limits wouldn't be an issue.

Money would be.

"It's really a question about economics and engineering and not a question of fundamental resource availability," said Ken Caldeira, a climate scientist at the Palo Alto, Calif., campus of the Washington-based Carnegie Institution for Science. He is a co-author of one of the studies; that one appeared Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change.

Caldeira's study finds wind has the potential to produce more than 20 times the amount of energy the world now consumes. Right now, wind accounts for just a tiny fraction of the energy the world consumes. So to get to the levels these studies say is possible, wind production would have to increase dramatically.

If there were 100 new wind turbines for every existing one, that could do the trick says, Mark Jacobson, a Stanford University professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Jacobson wrote the other study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. It shows a slightly lower potential in the amount of wind power than Caldeira's study. But he said it still would amount to far more power than the world now uses is or is likely to use in the near future.

Jacobson said startup costs and fossil fuel subsidies prevent wind from taking off. The cheap price of natural gas, for one thing, hurts wind development, he added.

Henry Lee, a Harvard University environment and energy professor who used to be energy chief for the state of Massachusetts, said there a few problems with the idea of wind powering the world. The first is the cost is too high.

Furthermore, all the necessary wind turbines would take up too much land and require dramatic increases in power transmission lines, he said.

Jerry Taylor, an energy and environmental analyst at the conservative Cato Institute, said the lack of economic reality in the studies made them "utterly irrelevant."

Caldeira acknowledged that the world would need to change dramatically to shift to wind.

"To power civilization with wind turbines, I think you're talking about a couple wind turbines every square mile," Caldeira said. "It's not a small undertaking."

___

Online:

The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences: http://www.pnas.org

Nature Climate Change: http://www.nature.com/nclimate

___

Seth Borenstein can be followed at http://twitter.com/borenbears

Please follow Science on Twitter and Face book.

Join the conversation about this story »



Read More...

Monday, September 10, 2012

Caribbean Coral Reefs Are On The Verge Of Collapse

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/caribbean-coral-reefs-are-on-the-verge-of-collapse-2012-9

Coral Reefs

Caribbean coral reefs – which make up one of the world's most colourful, vivid and productive ecosystems – are on the verge of collapse, with less than 10% of the reef area showing live coral cover.

With so little growth left, the reefs are in danger of utter devastation unless urgent action is taken, conservationists warned. They said the drastic loss was the result of severe environmental problems, including over-exploitation, pollution from agricultural run-off and other sources, and climate change.

The decline of the reefs has been rapid: in the 1970s, more than 50% showed live coral cover, compared with 8% in the newly completed survey. The scientists who carried it out warned there was no sign of the rate of coral death slowing.

Coral reefs are a particularly valuable part of the marine ecosystem because they act as nurseries for younger fish, providing food sources and protection from predators until the fish have grown large enough to fend better for themselves. They are also a source of revenue from tourism and leisure.

Carl Gustaf Lundin, director of the global marine and polar programme at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), which published the research, said: "The major causes of coral decline are well known and include overfishing, pollution, disease and bleaching caused by rising temperatures resulting from the burning of fossil fuels. Looking forward, there is an urgent need to immediately and drastically reduce all human impacts [in the area] if coral reefs and the vitally important fisheries that depend on them are to survive in the decades to come."

Warnings over the poor state of the world's coral reefs have become more frequent in the past decades as pollution, increasing pressure on fish stocks, and the effects of global warming on the marine environment – i! n the fo rm of higher sea temperatures and slightly elevated levels of acidity in the ocean – have taken their toll.

Last year, scientists estimated that 75% of the Caribbean's coral reefs were in danger, along with 95% of those in south-east Asia. That research, from the World Resources Institute, predicted that by 2050 virtually all of the world's coral reefs would be in danger.

This decline is likely to have severe impacts on coastal villages, particularly in developing countries, where many people depend on the reefs for fishing and tourism. Globally, about 275 million people live within 19 miles of a reef.

IUCN, which is holding its quadrennial World Conservation Congress on Jeju island in South Korea this week, said swift action was vital. The organisation called for catch quotas to limit fishing, more marine-protected areas where fishing would be banned, and measures that would halt the run-off of fertilisers from farmland around the coast. To save reefs around the world, moves to stave off global warming would also be needed, the group said.

On a few of the more remote Caribbean reefs, the situation is less dire. In the Netherlands Antilles, Cayman Islands and a few other places, the die-off has been slower, with up to 30% coverage of live coral still remaining. The scientists noted that these reefs were in areas less exposed to human impact from fishing and pollution, as well as to natural disasters such as hurricanes.

The report – compiled by 36 scientists from 18 countries – was the work of the IUCN-coordinated Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network.

This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk

Please follow Science on Twitter and Facebook.

Join the conversation about this story »



Read More...