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Posts Tagged "Environment"

Absolutely Maybe

Emotional donating: The science and un-science of disaster response

Cartoon of woman stranded by flooding

Disasters are heart-wrenching. The scale of the distress and suffering can be hard to bear even when you’re just watching snug and safe in your unaffected lounge room. Those images send us rushing to donate in droves. That generosity can add up to hundreds of millions of dollars for a massive disaster. Let’s pause right [...]

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@ScientificAmerican

Urban Lore Debunked in New E-Book: Fact or Fiction: Science Tackles 58 Popular Myths

Did NASA really spend millions creating a pen that would write in space? Is chocolate poisonous to dogs? Does stress cause gray hair? These questions are just a sample of the urban lore investigated in our newest eBook, Fact or Fiction: Science Tackles 58 Popular Myths. Drawing from Scientific American’s “Fact or Fiction” and “Strange [...]

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Beautiful Minds

Q & A with Temple Grandin on The Autistic Brain

RW Temple headshot best_0

To many, Temple Grandin is the public face of autism. Grandin’s story has significantly increased autism awareness around the world, and has increased society’s appreciation of the unique and positive characteristics of the autistic mind. But Grandin is much more than just a label: in addition to being an activist, Grandin is also an author, professor, [...]

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Beautiful Minds

Review of The Autistic Brain

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To many, Temple Grandin is the public face of autism. A professor of animal science at Colorado State University, Grandin’s story has significantly increased autism awareness around the world, and has increased society’s appreciation of the unique and positive characteristics of the autistic mind. Therefore, it is with immense respect, enthusiasm, and attention to detail [...]

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Compound Eye

The World’s Most Viewed Landscape, A Decade Later

bliss1f

Anyone who booted up a Windows computer in the early 2000′s is likely familiar with the grassy hillsides and brilliant sky of “Bliss”, a 1996 photograph by California wine country photographer Charles O’Rear. The image is precisely what a basic background should be: clean, bright, airy, inviting. Fittingly, “Bliss” lacks an immediate point of interest, [...]

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Cross-Check

Should Global-Warming Activists Lie to Defend Their Cause?

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When, if ever, is lying justified? I talked about this conundrum this week in a freshmen humanities class, in which we were reading Immanuel Kant on morality. Kant proposed that we judge the rightness or wrongness of an act, such as breaking a promise, by considering what happens if everyone does it. If you don’t [...]

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Culturing Science

Warming Gives Us One More Month of Flowers in the Rockies

Few-flowered shooting star (Dodecatheon pulchellum) has had its whole schedule pushed 12 days earlier—first, peak, and last blooms. Photo by Thayne Tuason. CC BY-NC 2.0

No matter the temperature, I don’t consider it to be really spring until I spot the first spring beauties of the year. These sweet whitish/pinkish mid-Atlantic florets (Claytonia virginica) are among the first to stretch out of the mud and leaf litter to add a spritely touch to an otherwise brown woodscape. When I see [...]

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Doing Good Science

“Forcing” my kids to be vegetarian.

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I’m a vegetarian, which is probably not a total surprise. I study and teach ethics. I’m uneasy with the idea of animals being killed to fulfill a need of mine I know can be fulfilled other ways. In the interests of sharing a world with more than 7 billion other people, and doing so without [...]

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Doing Good Science

Every diet has a body-count: in the garden with the vegetarian killing snails.

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When the demand of my job and my family life allow, I try to take advantage of the fact that I live in California by maintaining a vegetable garden. One of the less pleasant aspects of vegetable gardening is that, every winter and spring, it requires me to embark on a program of snail and [...]

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Doing Good Science

Environmental impacts of what we eat: the difficulty of apples-to-apples comparisons.

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When we think about food, how often do we think about what it’s going to do for us (in terms of nutrition, taste, satiety), and how often do we focus on what was required to get it to our tables? Back when I was a wee chemistry student learning how to solve problems in thermodynamics, [...]

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Doing Good Science

Building knowledge (and stuff) ethically: the principles of “Green Chemistry”.

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Like other scientific disciplines, chemistry is in the business of building knowledge. In addition to knowledge, chemistry sometimes also builds stuff — molecules which didn’t exist until people figured out ways to make them. Scientists (among others) tend to assume that knowledge is a good thing. There are instances where you might question this assumption [...]

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Expeditions

The South Pacific Islands Survey–Destination: The Cook Islands!

I’ve already been nicknamed Jeffery. Now, Jeffery, I should mention, is the ship’s jack-of-all-trades. In 2009 I sailed with him and Algalita to the Pacific Garbage Patch and Captain Dale decided I just might be as helpful as Jeff. Well, I can tell you right now that I don’t know how to repair a broken [...]

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Expeditions

Deepwater spill survey: Contaminated Gulf kills thousands of sea cucumbers

Texas A&M, sea cucumber, Deepwater

Editor’s Note: A team of researchers led by John Kessler, Texas A&M College of Geosciences chief scientist and assistant oceanography professor, has traveled to the Deepwater Horizon disaster site to study the methane leaking into the Gulf of Mexico (along with tens thousands of barrels of crude oil) daily at the site of the damaged [...]

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Expeditions

Deepwater spill survey: Scientists embark on methane-examining mission

Texas A&M, Deepwater, oil, environment

Editor’s Note: A team of researchers led by John Kessler, Texas A&M College of Geosciences chief scientist and assistant oceanography professor, has traveled to the Deepwater Horizon disaster site to study the methane leaking into the Gulf of Mexico (along with tens thousands of barrels of crude oil) daily at the site of the damaged [...]

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Expeditions

Bookshelf science

Editor’s note: Marine geophysicist Robin Bell is leading an expedition to Antarctica to explore a mysterious mountain range beneath the ice sheet. Following is the sixth of her updates on the effort as part of ScientificAmerican.com‘s In-Depth Report on the "Future of the Poles." McMURDO STATION, ANTARCTICA—For a geologist, Antarctica can be a very frustrating [...]

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Food Matters

Eat Small: Why our Big Fish Problem is leading to big fish problems. (VIDEO)

Screen Shot 2014-01-23 at 1.07.58 AM

We like big fish. And that’s a problem, according to Andy Sharpless, CEO of the ocean conservation organization Oceana, and co-author (along with Suzannah Evans) of the book The Perfect Protein. The book describes how regulations from a small group of countries, and a shift in the way we think about seafood, could ensure a sustainable [...]

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Food Matters

Face Off! A Debate About Eating Anything With A Face

Food_FinalCleanWeb

Is it healthier to be a vegetarian? Or an omnivore? And how much of an environmental impact does livestock really have? These questions can spark a lively debate and that’s exactly what happened last week when Intelligence Squared presented Don’t Eat Anything With A Face. Clinical researcher and author Dr. Neal Barnard and Gene Baur, [...]

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Guest Blog

How Much Nature Do We Have to Use?

It’s so easy to slip into debt, but so hard to dig oneself out. Just ask the typical wage earner—even business and national leaders. People who know better still wait for that next paycheck, assumed pay raise or small miracle to help them catch up. As any accountant will tell you, accumulating debt is not [...]

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Guest Blog

The Environmental Fallout of Greener Buildings

Spray Foam Insulation

Newer homes are remarkably energy tight thanks to superior insulating materials that are in wide circulation today. The energy savings can be substantial – homeowners can use up to 60% less energy in the most efficient green homes. Now, a study published by a team of researchers in Building Research & Information makes it clear [...]

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Guest Blog

How Environmentalists Can Respond to Americans’ Need for Personal Space

While reading about social science and environmental communication, I’ve noticed a gap between how environmentalists in the United States view personal space and how their audiences perceive it. If environmentalists tell audiences not to "say ‘eww’ to thrift stores," avoid public transit, or live in suburbs, they may encounter resistance—not because their audiences are opposed [...]

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Guest Blog

Book Review: The Future of Water

The Future of Water: A Startling Look Ahead, by Steve Maxwell, with Scott Yates, Published in 2011 by the American Water Works Association, Denver Colo., ISBN 978-1-58321-809-9 Full disclosure: I answered an open e-mail solicitation for reviewers of this new book and received a review copy for free in exchange for my promise of a [...]

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Guest Blog

Can we capture all of the world’s carbon emissions?

In 2011, the world will emit more than 35 billion tons of carbon dioxide. Every day of the year, almost a hundred million tons will be released into the atmosphere. Every second more than a thousand tons – two million pounds – of carbon dioxide is emitted from power plants, cars, trucks, ships, planes, factories, [...]

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Guest Blog

Impact of the Japan earthquake and tsunami on animals and environment

On Friday, March 11, Japan was rocked by an earthquake. People were displaced, a nuclear reactor was in trouble, and the world watched as a tsunami flooded Japan, threatened the islands of the Pacific, and ultimately hit the western coasts of North and South America. Chris Rowan pointed out that “Very little of the devastation [...]

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Guest Blog

From fuel to film: The story of energy and movies

On Wednesday March 9, energy and film experts gathered at the original Austin City Limits studio on The University of Texas campus to discuss the role of energy and movies in our lives. The event was hosted by Dr. Michael E. Webber, and featured a panel of energy and film experts: author Sheril Kirshenbaum, producer [...]

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Guest Blog

Can you hear me now? Animals all over the world are finding interesting ways to get around the human din

It’s loud out there. All that banging and driving and dumping and flying and building we do is making the world noisier and noisier. While humans don’t seem to mind the sounds, and when we do we just put in our earplugs – animals are dealing with all the racket we make in interesting ways. [...]

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Guest Blog

The low-carbon diet: One family’s effort to shrink carbon consumption

Part 2: A Little Research Goes a Long Way (see Part 1: Epiphany from up high: Can a suburban family live sustainably?) Tracking down an energy auditor on the cusp of the 2010 deadline for energy efficiency rebates proved tricky. Yet on a frigid morning in early January, David Pocklington and Shane Matteson of Energy [...]

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Guest Blog

Epiphany from up high: Can a suburban family live sustainably?

There we were, racing through the stratosphere on a short flight home from Baltimore to Atlanta (577 miles and approximately 230 pounds of carbon dioxide per person). My husband, Mike, was tuned to his iPod, and me to my book, How, Flat and Crowded 2.0 when a sentence in the section on oil and geopolitics [...]

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Lab Rat

Fighting bacteria with weapons from fungi

Microscopic image of Penicillium sp. which produces Penicillin as a secondary metabolite. Magnification:200

In order to survive, organisms produce small molecules known as ‘primary metabolites’ which help it to grow, develop and reproduce. Examples include nucleic acid used to make DNA, amino acids to make proteins, and simple sugars. Once the organism is established it will often start to produce ‘secondary metabolites’. Secondary metabolites are not vital for [...]

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Lab Rat

The pathogen detectives: sourcing the post-earthquake cholera outbreak in Haiti

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Natural disasters such as earthquakes can have far-reaching effects beyond the damage caused on the day they occur. The 2010 earthquake in Haiti damaged the already limited sanitation systems leading to areas without adequate toilet and washing facilities; perfect for the spread of infection diseases. Sure enough 9 months following the quake there was an [...]

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Lab Rat

From the archives: life at 90°C

Bacteria in a toga! Image (c) me.

I’m on holiday this week so this is an old post that appeared on my previous blog “Life of a Lab Rat” on July 1st 2010. Prokaryotes are by far the most successful superkingdom in terms of both biochemical diversity and the variety of environments conquered. Bacteria can be found living in all kinds of [...]

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Lab Rat

Dawn attack: how plants anticipate pathogen infection

Image credit: James Kremer and Sheng Yang He. Reproduced with permission.

Like animals, plants are susceptible to infections from bacteria, viruses and fungi. While animals have a wide variety of immune cells and in some cases an interconnected immune system plants must rely on other methods to fight infection. A recent news bulletin from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute lists a range of exciting ways plants [...]

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Lab Rat

Cleaning up toxic waste: directed evolution vs. designed machines

The Berkeley Pit, a former copper mine in the USA. The water is highly acidic (pH 2.5!) and filled with toxic metals. Image from NASA source link below.

Some heavy metals are required in trace amounts for the survival of living organisms, however at higher concentrations these metals can be incredibly toxic. In Europe, the elements of highest concern are arsenic, cadmium, cobalt, chromium, copper, mercury, manganese, nickel, lead, tin, and thallium, all of which can be produced as by-products of industrial processes or [...]

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Lab Rat

Butterfly Watch: The Wall Butterfly

A male wall butterfly, photo by Jörg Hempel via wikimedia commons. Credit link below.

I’ve been on holiday for the last few days, so haven’t had much time to read papers about bacteria. What I have been doing, however, is looking at butterflies. Since my sudden and unexpected discovery that I was obsessed with them I have since bought a butterfly field guide and now try to identify them [...]

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Lab Rat

Fungi that steal genes from bacteria

A tree in Sicily covered in different types of lichen, credit below

In order to survive in complex and interesting environments in the wild, bacteria have a whole arsenal of chemical products that they make within the cell. These chemicals are used for signalling, defence and communication between bacterial cells. One particular group of these chemicals is called the polyketide group, which I have a particular fondness [...]

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Lab Rat

Underground Communities: The plant roots that collect bacteria

A fluorescent micrograph capturing the presence of bacteria (shown as green) on the surface of an emerging Arabidopsis lateral root (plant nuclei shown in blue). Image created by Sarah Lebeis and reposted here with permission. Credit below.

The soil is not just a single environment. To human eyes it may look like a brown layer of plant mush that fits into the rocks, but for a living environment it is highly complex. Not only must the bacteria that live within it share their space with small animals, protozoa, and fungi, but they [...]

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Lab Rat

The origin of breathing: how bacteria learnt to use oxygen

abiogenesis

Thursday 26th July saw the launch of SciLogs.com, a new English language science blog network. SciLogs.com, the brand-new home for Nature Network bloggers, forms part of the SciLogs international collection of blogs which already exist in German, Spanish and Dutch. To celebrate this addition to the NPG science blogging family, some of the NPG blogs are publishing posts focusing on “Beginnings”. Participating in this cross-network blogging festival is nature.com’s Soapbox Science blog, Scitable’s Student [...]

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Lab Rat

The bacteria that help sheep eat grass

Unless you get food poisoning. In which case - curse bacteria! Photo by Jon Sullivan, credit link below.

There’s been a lot of focus on the human microbiome recently, and while I’m obviously thrilled at anything which makes people think more about bacteria it’s easy to forget that it isn’t just humans who provide internal living space for bugs. Bacteria are everywhere, inside and among every living creature, and some of them form [...]

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Observations

The Life Cycle of Your Reusable Trash

green arrows forming a triangle to suggest recycling and reusing materials

Check out this Earth Day video featuring LeVar Burton (Geordi La Forge from Star Trek: The Next Generation and Cofounder and Curator-in-Chief of the award-winning Reading Rainbow app and host of the original PBS series). From paper to plastics to metals, the video shows the journey of recycled materials from curbside to paper soup and plastic chips [...]

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Observations

“Team Climate” Gets Sochi Athletes All Abuzz about Climate Change

Members of Team Climate pose with American Olympian Kyle Tress Credit: Courtesy Taylor Rees / Team Climate

This blog appears in the In-Depth Report Science at the Sochi Olympics Climate change poses a well-documented threat to ecosystems and human populations worldwide. But as the inexorable warming trend continues, it’s also endangering the future of winter sports. In a new report published in January by the University of Waterloo, researchers analyzed the suitability [...]

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Observations

Could Your Texts, Tweets and Selfies Be Funding War in Africa?

intel,africa

Hard to believe that our mundane social media banter could have an impact on the civil war raging in the Democratic Republic of Congo for more than a decade. The problem isn’t the content of these messages, it’s the devices used to send them. Smartphones, tablets, PCs and other devices often have electrical components made [...]

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Observations

Why the Moon Looks Different in Winter [Video]

As we steel ourselves against the cold and curse the polar vortex for bringing these bitter winds upon us, it’s helpful to remember that winter can also be a magical time of fluttering snowflakes and beautiful evening skies. This Minute Physics video explains how the earth’s tilted axis makes winter the best season for viewing [...]

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Observations

Solar-Powered Ford Aims to Drive Off-Grid

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Solar-powered cars have been little more than a novelty to date, experimental vehicles resembling photovoltaic-laden surfboards designed mostly for racing across deserts. Expensive batteries, relatively inefficient PV energy conversion and the lack of intense sunlight in many places have made sun-powered passenger vehicles impractical. Ford is looking to change that with a version of its [...]

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Observations

The FDA’s Action on Agricultural Antibiotics Is Overdue—and Utterly Insufficient

Image: iStock/Thinkstock

Most of the meat on our dinner plates comes from cows and chickens treated with a battery of drugs that helped them grow quickly in dismal, cramped conditions that would otherwise make them sick.  The drugs are blended into their food and water without any requirement for a veterinary prescription. The U.S. Food and Drug [...]

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Observations

Fact Check: New Girl Episode Is All Fun and Games until Someone Gets Legionnaires’ Disease?

Image: Genevieve/Wikimedia Commons

The popular Fox television show “New Girl” provides laughs each week, but last night it veered a bit off course with its Thanksgiving episode. [Spoiler alert ahead – stop reading if you haven’t seen the episode yet and plan to do so.] When Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and the gang decide to spend a “back to [...]

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Observations

What Do China’s New Policies Mean for the Environment?

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BEIJING—A Chinese high speed train whispers into the station, before finally engaging the brakes and coming to a stop with a sound like the tinkling of breaking glass. Five years ago, such trains hardly existed. In the span of one Communist-style planning period, China has built a high-speed train network that now crosses the entire [...]

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Observations

Dengue Fever Reemerges in Texas

Image: Wikimedia Commons/USDA

Late last week Texas public health officials confirmed a new wave of dengue fever has cropped up in the southernmost tip of Texas, marking the first outbreak the state has seen since 2005. The news came on the heels of reporting in Scientific American about how scientists are trying to uncover why the mosquito-borne infection [...]

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Observations

Hospital-Based Infections Could Be Moving to Doctors’ Offices

MRSA Image: Janice Haney Carr, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention/WIkimedia Commons

When patients check into a hospital, they expect doctors there to fix what ails them, but one in 20 patients seeking care at hospitals contract a health care–based infection. Those infections escalate care costs to the tune of billions of dollars. And many of them–one in five–are part of the scary alphabet soup of superbugs [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

How Did a Giant Octopus Lose the Battle of Seattle?

http://cuteoverload.com/2013/10/19/life-in-the-slow-lane/

This time last year, one unlucky Seattle octopus was reportedly beaten to death by a local diver and then brought home to be eaten for dinner. The story riled cephalopod fans near and far and has been covered extensively in the press, including a feature story this past weekend in The New York Times Magazine. [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Happy International Octopus Day!

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October 8 is International Octopus day (naturally)—and kicks off International Cephalopod Awareness Days. Perhaps I am a little biased, having written a book about them, but I think these animals deserve at least one day of celebration. Octopuses have some remarkable assets, including eight semi-autonomous arms, thousands of smart suckers, cold-adapted blue blood, three beating [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

8 Awesome Octopus Facts for World Oceans Day

octopus facts world oceans day

Octopuses are amazing. In honor of World Oceans Day, here are eight facts about these incredible creatures. 8. Octopuses are masters of camouflage. However, research suggests that octopuses don’t try to blend into their entire environment—to look like coral, sand and seaweed all at once. A study published last year  found that octopuses, instead, picked [...]

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Octopus Chronicles

Unusual Offshore Octopods: Telescope Octopus Has Totally Tubular Eyes

telescope octopus

Big eyes can be a big benefit—allowing an animal to see potential prey and predators coming from a wider field. For the octopus, this is especially important in the open ocean, where knowing what is around—or above or below—you is crucial for survival. One type of octopus has taken a different approach to wide-angle vision. [...]

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Plugged In

Liberals May be More Morally Invested on Climate, but Conservatives Are More Likely to be Energy Efficient at Home

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Over at Mother Jones, Chris has a piece about the moral motivations of liberals and conservatives. He points to a new political psychology study led by Linda Skitka of the University of Illinois-Chicago considering the differing moral investments of individuals at both ends of the political spectrum. Skitka and her team report that conservatives feel [...]

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Plugged In

Reign of Error, Part Whatever

You’ve heard us regularly crying for help here in North Carolina as our legislature has tried to turn science on its head. So, committed to keeping you posted, we here at the Plugged In Reign of Error desk thought you’d want to know what’s up. For a moment, anyhow, our governor and his vetoproof Republican [...]

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Plugged In

Et Tu, Virginia? Again with the Sea Level Rise

At the risk of becoming Plugged-In’s “Those crazies are at it again” correspondent, I would like to bring your attention to two noteworthy developments regarding sea level and politics, and then I hope to wash my hands of the topic — with higher sea levels making hand-washing especially convenient, of course. The first concerns the [...]

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Plugged In

The Wrong Time for This

An open letter to the knuckleheads at the International Telecommunication Union: Dear Knuckleheads: I’m hearing that you guys are considering dropping the Leap Second – the second added every year or so to Coordinated Universal Time to make sure CUT, kept by incredibly accurate and complex atomic clocks, squares as closely as possible with astronomical [...]

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The Scicurious Brain

Did Your Daddy Raise You to Sing Like That?

800px-Taeniopygia_guttata_-Bird_Kingdom,_Niagara_Falls,_Ontario,_Canada_-pair-8a

When most of us hear birds twittering away in the trees, we hear it as background noise. It’s often hard to separate out one bird from another. But when you can, you begin to hear just how complex birdsong can be, a complex way of male signaling to a female how THEY are the best, [...]

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Streams of Consciousness

Star Filmmakers Found in Unlikely Spot

Two kids in lab coats and goggles apparently doing an experiment.

In Tyson Schoeber’s class at Nootka Elementary School in Vancouver, 15 fourth through seventh graders struggle to read, write or do math at a level near that of their peers in other classes. Ten-year-olds have entered Schoeber’s program, called THRIVE, virtually unable to read independently (see “One Man’s Mission to Save Struggling Students”). Yet Schoeber [...]

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Symbiartic

Conservation Conversation in Clay

"Quiet as a mouse" by Kate MacDowell, 2011

One of the most fascinating aspects of art is that two artists can use the same exact materials and create vastly different works. Last week, I posted an interview with Heather Knight, an artist who creates abstract porcelain tiles inspired by nature’s patterns and textures. Today, I introduce Kate MacDowell, another artist working in unglazed [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Whale Poop

ResearchBlogging.org

Earlier this week we talked about how to use whale snot for science. I especially enjoyed blog bff Scicurious‘s take on the study: Budgetary requirement: $5000 for series of expensive remote control helicopters. Source: Toys R Us. Justification: Need something that can fly close to a whale and collect snot for measurement. Also, this is [...]

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The Thoughtful Animal

Conservation Psychology: Think You’re Green? Think Again!

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Happy Earth Day, everyone! In honor of the day, here’s a modified re-post of piece I wrote recently for LAist. Figure 1: Photo by poloroid-girl via LAist Featured Photos on Flickr. The great philosopher Kermit the Frog once said, “It’s not that easy being green.” Maybe he was on to something. You can’t walk three [...]

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