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Culturing Science

Cigarette Butts in Nests Deter Bird Parasites

Urban house sparrows nest with cigarette butts.

The sight of cigarette butts delicately woven into birds’ nests sparks an array of reactions, from relief that birds are adapting to urban environments to disgust at the display of human disregard for wildlife. But a new study suggests that some birds may benefit from nesting with cigarette butts. The nicotine lingering in filters may [...]

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Observations

Has the Time Come to Try Geoengineering?

Earth’s average temperature has warmed by 0.8 degree Celsius over the last 100 years or so. The reason is increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases, particularly carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere. The concentration of CO2 has now reached 394 parts-per-million in the air we breathe—and would be even higher, roughly 450 ppm, if the oceans weren’t [...]

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Observations

Royal Society Calls for Redistribution of Wealth and More Birth Control to Save the Planet

earth

During the 352-year life span of the Royal Society, the human population has risen from less than one billion people to seven billion and counting. That boom has been supported by science and technology—Watt’s coal-fired steam engine, Haber and Bosch synthesizing nitrogen fertilizer, Fleming’s discovery of penicillin—and continues today as the world’s population expands at [...]

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Observations

Rise of Humans 2 Million Years Ago Doomed Large Carnivores

lion2

The impact of Homo sapiens on the environment over the past few hundred years has been so profound that some scientists term this chapter of Earth’s history the Anthropocene. But humans may have begun wreaking ecological havoc far, far earlier than that. A new theory suggests that a shift in the technology and diet of [...]

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Observations

If the world is going to hell, why are humans doing so well?

For decades, apocalyptic environmentalists (and others) have warned of humanity’s imminent doom, largely as a result of our unsustainable use of and impact upon the natural systems of the planet. After all, the most recent comprehensive assessment of so-called ecosystem services—benefits provided for free by the natural world, such as clean water and air—found that [...]

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Oscillator

Through the Anthropocene Looking Glass

There’s no doubt that humans have drastically changed the Earth. The global scale impacts of humans on the environment has led many scientists, scholars, and environmentalists to use the term Anthropocene to describe our present geological period. The term is currently in widespread — though still informal — use, and scientists are actively debating whether [...]

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