Fixing Earth’s ozone layer has other surprising benefits, new study shows

August 16, 2017 by  
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Dozens of nations signed an agreement nearly 30 years ago to stop the expansion of a massive hole in Earth’s ozone layer. Today, thanks to the Montreal Protocol, the hole in the ozone layer has shrunk as countries reduced, then eliminated, the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) and hydrochlorofluorocarbons (HCFCs). A new study from  Geophysical Research Letters  now shows that the agreement not only achieved its stated aim, but has also been one of the most effective tools for fighting climate change in the United States. The recent study confirms what scientists and policymakers have been observing as the Montreal Protocol was enacted, though it focuses primarily on the United States. “This is something that’s been talked about for a while, this dual benefit of the Montreal Protocol limiting damage to the ozone layer, also curtailing climate change,” said Rachel Cleetus, climate policy manager and lead economist with the Climate and Energy program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “It’s because all these ozone depleting substances are also very potent global warming gases.” The regulations enacted to fulfill the Montreal Protocol resulted in greenhouse gas reductions equivalent to approximately half of all other climate regulations between 2008 and 2014. Related: Antarctic ozone layer shows “first fingerprints of healing” The near-total removal of CFCs and steep decline in HCFCs in the United States was made possible by the Clean Air Act , a law that was used by the Obama Administration , as approved by the Supreme Court in Massachusetts v. EPA, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Though CFCs and HCFCs have been replaced by hydroflourocarabons (HFCs), which still contribute to climate change but do not burn a hole in the ozone layer, the signatories to the Montreal Protocol have amended the agreement to reduce HFCs as well in a move that was praised by US Secretary of State John Kerry as the “single most important step” in combating climate change. As the Trump Administration refuses to fulfill its duties under the Clean Air Act to protect public health, the success of the Montreal Protocol is a hopeful reminder of what can be done if dedicated parties work together and take action. Via Gizmodo Lead image via Depositphotos , others via  NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center   and  Rémi Vincent/Flickr

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Fixing Earth’s ozone layer has other surprising benefits, new study shows

Swiss grocery store chain will be the first to sell insect burgers

August 16, 2017 by  
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Would you eat a burger made of mealworms? Coop , the second-largest supermarket chain in Switzerland , will start selling food made with insects . The country will be the first in Europe to allow sales of insect-based food for people, thanks to laws changed in May. Coop will sell insect burgers and balls from Switzerland-based startup Essento . Switzerland’s food safety laws allow sales of food made from mealworms, crickets , or grasshoppers. Coop will be selling Essento Insect Burgers and Essento Insect Balls, both made with mealworms. The burgers also contain rice, vegetables like leeks and celery, and spices like chili and oregano. The balls – which could be eaten inside pita bread, for example – are filled out with chickpeas, garlic, onions, parsley, and coriander. Related: BUG BUG cutlery set might just make you want to eat insects Coop Head of Category Management Silvio Baselgia said they’re Switzerland’s first retailer to sell Essento’s insect products, which the company has been developing for more than two years. Essento co-founder Christian Bärtsch said in a statement, “As food, insects are convincing in many respects: they have a high culinary potential, their production saves resources, and their nutritional profile is high quality. Thus insects are the perfect complement to a modern diet.” According to Essento’s website, mealworms don’t produce as many greenhouse gases as animal food sources like pigs or cows. 80 percent of insects are edible, as compared with 40 percent of cows, and raising insects requires less food and water. Insects are a good source of protein and also contain unsaturated fatty acids, the vitamins A, B, and B12, and minerals like zinc, potassium, calcium, and iron. Essento’s products will be on sale on August 21 in seven Coop stores to start, including branches in Zurich and Geneva. + Essento Via The Guardian and Coop Images via Essento Facebook and Coop

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Swiss grocery store chain will be the first to sell insect burgers

NASA is hiring a Planetary Protection Officer and the job pays six figures

August 3, 2017 by  
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If you grew up loving Men in Black and Independence Day , we may have found the gig for you. NASA is hiring a “planetary protection officer” to defend Earth from alien contamination, and the job comes with a six-figure salary. The individual chosen for the position will be tasked with ensuring humans in space do not contaminate planets and moons, as well as making sure “alien matter” does not infect Earth. All in all, the ideal candidate can expect to make $187,000 (£141,000) annually with benefits. The NASA job post reads: “Planetary protection is concerned with the avoidance of organic-constituent and biological contamination in human and robotic  space exploration .” It continues, “Nasa maintains policies for planetary protection, applicable to all space flight missions that may intentionally or unintentionally carry Earth organisms and organic constituents to the planets or other solar system bodies, and any mission employing spacecraft , which are intended to return to Earth and its biosphere with samples from extraterrestrial targets of exploration.” Related: NASA video of the aurora borealis from space will make you catch your breath The Independent reports that the three-year-position was created after the United States signed the Outer Space treaty of 1967. The document vowed to “pursue studies of outer space … and conduct exploration of them so as to avoid their harmful contamination and also adverse changes in the environment of the Earth resulting from the introduction of extraterrestrial matter.” Some speculate that the new hire will be part of the upcoming NASA expedition to Europa , a moon of Jupiter. The $2.7bn (slightly over £2bn) mission seeks to map the moon’s surface and analyze whether or not it is habitable. The probe will probably crash-land, but the planetary protection officer will likely be prepared for such an arrival. Though the gig might be a dream job for many, only select individuals may apply. Candidates must have at least one year’s experience as a top-level civilian government employee, as well as an advanced degree in physical science, engineering or mathematics. They must also have “advanced knowledge” of planetary protection, which we assume NASA will supply. Furthermore, the position requires “demonstrated skills in diplomacy that resulted in win-win solutions during extremely difficult and complex multilateral discussions.” Finally, only US citizens or US nationals may apply. + NASA Job Post Via The Independent Images via Pixabay,  USA Jobs

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NASA is hiring a Planetary Protection Officer and the job pays six figures

Colorful tent cathedral in French village billows peacefully in the wind

August 3, 2017 by  
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British studio Neon has created a beautiful cathedral out of multi-colored windsocks that gently sway with the wind. The Tilted Wind Cathedral was built for an open-air art event in the French town of Massif du Sancy. The vibrant, billowy structure is located on a grassy hilltop overlooking the town, and it was built around the village’s beloved Perdue Cross, which marks the death of a local woman who passed away around 200 years ago. Neon installed the cathedral for Horizons – an open-air event that brings large art installations to the town during the summer months. The design studio created the structure with reverence for the site’s origins as well as its serene green-covered mountainous landscape. Related: 700 colorful mirrors bathe a 19th-century cathedral in gorgeous rainbow light Thirty colorful inflatable windsocks mimic the stained glass windows typically found in most cathedrals. The site’s blustery weather also served as an inspiration, prompting the designers to use inflatable panels that are constantly in motion, giving the impression that the cathedral is breathing. + Neon Via Dezeen

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New metal 3D printer is 100x faster, 10x cheaper than existing laser technologies

August 1, 2017 by  
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3D-metal printing could very easily become the go-to method for manufacturing around the world. Developed by Desktop Metal , it is reportedly faster, safer and cheaper than existing systems. Indeed, the company claims it can produce reliable metal printing up to 100 times faster than conventional manufacturing techniques with materials that cost 20 times less than existing laser technologies on the market. They also claim they can bring down costs to 10 times lower than normal. 3D printing has been a hot topic for years now, but the Massachusetts company is presenting something new — something capable of revolutionizing the manufacturing industry. Because of the new technology’s speed and efficiency, it’s even better than NASA and Boeing’s slow laser-melted metal printer and beats small design studios’ desktop 3D printers. Capable of using a variety of metal options — essentially, anything one can use in a Metal Injection Molding (MIM) system, it stands apart from other competitors. The engineering-driven startup was founded by several MIT professors and Emanuel Sachs, who holds patents in 3D printing dating back to 1989. Over the last few months, Desktop Metal raised more than $115 million (USD) and received backing from big players, including Google Ventures. Presently, the company is investing efforts in producing two systems: a studio system geared toward developing a rapid, cheap metal prototyping for engineering groups, and a production system for mass manufacture. According to New Atlas , the Studio printer “runs around and prints parts into layers of bound metal.” Then, the parts go into a “de-binding bath” that separates a substantial portion of the binding polymer. The parts then go into a sintering furnace. When the product is heated to just below the melting point, the binding agent burns off and a highly dense, sintered metal is produced. The system automatically manages the timing and temperature, depending on the design and the metals used. Support sections can be poked out with a screwdriver when the process is completed. Just don’t be surprised when the finished product is 15 percent smaller. The 3D-metal printer is 10 times cheaper than equivalent laser systems and is also less hazardous. Because there are no metal powders to deal with or dangerous lasers, they can easily — and safely — be installed in a home or office. In addition, it is very low-maintenance and does not require special support equipment or staff. All in all, the entire integrated system and the partnered software cost approximately $120,000 (USD). Though that price might seem steep, an equivalent laser system will run one more than $1 million (USD). And, that doesn’t take into account the safety and materials handling costs. The mass production system is built for speed and definitely delivers. It is faster than machining, casting, forging or other techniques, and each production printer can produce up to 500 cubic inches of complex parts per hour. As noted above, that is 100 times faster than a laser-based alternative — zero tools required. Related: MIT is 3D printing functional robots that could walk right off the printer To reach production speed with the mass system, a business would need four furnaces per printer. In contrast to the studio printer, the production machine uses powders which are bonded together during printing by spray-jetted droplets of a binder solution. They are low-cost in contrast to other systems (retail is estimated to be $360,000 USD) and are easily available — another advantage to the 3D-metal printing system. In fact, material costs are estimated to be 20 percent lower than other variations. As a result, printed metal parts may finally be economical enough to compete with traditional manufacturing processes. Though Desktop Metal is just getting started, many are predicting a 3D-metal printing revolution. The effects this technology will have on the economy will be revealed in time. + Desktop Metal Via New Atlas Images via Desktop Metal

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New metal 3D printer is 100x faster, 10x cheaper than existing laser technologies

Scientists discover ingredient for life on Saturns moon

July 31, 2017 by  
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Will Titan, one of Saturn’s moons, be the next rock humans aspire to reach after visiting Mars ? According to new research published today in Science Advances , possibly so. This is because researchers have found a complex molecule in the atmosphere of the moon that could very well lead to the formation of life. The molecule is vinyl cyanide and researchers believe it could be the key to developing cell membranes in Titan’s environment . Unlike Earth, Titan’s atmosphere is extremely cold. As a result, lipids can’t form and create cell membranes as is common on this planet. However, vinyl cyanide mixed with liquid methane — a substance Titan has lakes of — could very well foster the development of those essential cell membranes. The discovery was made by NASA’s Cassini probe, which has been exploring the Saturn system for 13 years. According to The Verge , evidence of the molecule was found on Titan but the probe wasn’t able to provide any conclusive measurements. To circumvent this, researchers used data collected from the Atacama Large Millimeter Array in Chile . Scientists were able to read the radio waves emitted by different types of frequencies which result from various gas molecules jumping back and forth from one level of energy to another to determine that similar to Earth , Titan has periodic rainfalls. Of course, unlike showers of water, rainfall on Titan is liquid methane. Because of this fact, it was concluded there is a likely chance vinyl cyanide can also be found in the moon’s methane lakes. While no evidence yet exists that there are cell membrane-like structures forming on Titan , the researchers discovered at the minimum that it is possible for life to develop on the moon. As a result, scientists feel encouraged to continue studying it. Related: Saturn’s biggest moon has enough energy to power a US-sized space colony Said Martin Cordiner, co-author of the study, ”This is a far cry from saying [life] definitely happens on Titan and these cells are involved in some kind of primitive life . But it gives us a starting point in that discussion. If there was going to be life in Titan’s oceans, then it’s plausible vinyl cyanide could be a component of that.” + Science Advances Via The Verge Images via NASA  and Deposit Photos

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New discovery suggests large quantities of water hidden inside the Moon

July 24, 2017 by  
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For years, scientists have assumed that the interior of the Moon is dry. However, a new study of satellite data has located numerous volcanic deposits around the moon – which could indicate large quantities of water trapped beneath its surface. The study, published in Nature Geoscience , explains that the ancient deposits are believed to be glass beads formed by the explosive eruption of magma from the deep lunar interior. As a result of this discovery, scientists are formulating a new opinion that the lunar mantle is actually water-rich. The study was led by Ralph Milliken, an associate professor in Brown University’s Department of Earth, Environmental and Planetary Sciences . He said of the findings, “The key question is whether those Apollo samples represent the bulk conditions of the lunar interior or instead represent unusual or perhaps anomalous water-rich regions within an otherwise ‘dry’ mantle. By looking at the orbital data, we can examine the large pyroclastic deposits on the Moon that were never sampled by the Apollo or Luna missions. The fact that nearly all of them exhibit signatures of water suggests that the Apollo samples are not anomalous, so it may be that the bulk interior of the Moon is wet.” To detect the water content of the lunar volcanic deposits , scientists used orbital spectrometers to measure the light that bounces off a planetary surface. After collecting that data, they took into account the wavelengths of light which are absorbed or reflected by the surface to get an idea of which minerals and other compounds may be found in the rock’s interior. One challenge was taking into account the rising surface temperatures over the course of a day. Using the new thermal correction, the scientists were able to find evidence of water in almost all of the pyroclastic deposits that had been previously mapped across the Moon’s surface. Such deposits include the Apollo 15 and 17 landing sites. “The distribution of these water-rich deposits is the key thing,” said Milliken. “They’re spread across the surface, which tells us that the water found in the Apollo samples isn’t a one-off. Lunar pyroclastics seem to be universally water-rich, which suggests the same may be true of the mantle .” Now that evidence has been obtained suggesting that the interior of the Moon is water-rich, theories about its formation are evolving. Scientists presently believe the moon formed from debris left behind after an object about the size of Mars slammed into the Earth early in the solar system’s history. However, the original theory assumes that the Moon’s interior was dry. “The growing evidence for water inside the Moon suggest that water did somehow survive, or that it was brought in shortly after the impact by asteroids or comets before the Moon had completely solidified,” said co-author Shuai Li, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Hawaii and a recent Brown Ph.D. graduate. “The exact origin of water in the lunar interior is still a big question.” The finding has huge implications for future lunar exploration . The volcanic beads don’t contain a lot of water, but the deposits are large, meaning the H2O could be extracted. Said Li, “Anything that helps save future lunar explorers from having to bring lots of water from home is a big step forward, and our results suggest a new alternative.” + Nature Geoscience Via Phys Images via Depositphotos , Wikimedia , Pixabay

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New discovery suggests large quantities of water hidden inside the Moon

Scientists discover the Amazon forest sets off its own rainy season

July 21, 2017 by  
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Scientists have been stumped for years over why the southern Amazon rainforest ‘s rainy season begins two to three months earlier than they’d expect. But now an international team that includes researchers from NASA and Google has discovered the forest actually triggers its own rainy season, thanks to water vapor off plant leaves. The finding points to one disastrous consequence of deforestation in this part of the world: as trees are cut down, it appears there’s actually less rainfall. Monsoon winds and the Intertropical Convergence Zone, which NASA describes as a belt of converging trade winds that shifts depending on the seasons, control when the rainy season begins in many tropical locations, and the southern Amazon experiences both factors. But they don’t kick in until December or January, while the southern Amazon’s rainy season typically begins in the middle of October. Related: Scientists warn Amazon jungle faces “death spiral” To try and find out why, the team of scientists led by Jonathon Wright of Tsinghua University scrutinized data on water vapor from NASA’s Tropospheric Emission Spectrometer, aboard the agency’s Aura satellite , together with other satellite measurements, to discover clouds in the southern Amazon at the dry season’s close form via water rising from the rainforest. But the southern Amazon’s rainy season already begins nearly a month later than it did back in the 1970’s. Evidence indicates if the region’s dry season stretches longer than five to seven months, there won’t be enough rain for the rainforest to remain a rainforest – it could transition to grassy plains. But the dry season is already a few weeks shorter on average than that benchmark in parts of the southern Amazon. The new study, published by the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America , bolsters the idea that deforestation is partly to blame for the delayed start of the rainy season. The rainforest’s capacity to develop clouds dwindles as trees are chopped down. And if deforestation harms the forest to the point where it can’t trigger its own rainy season, the southern Amazon’s rainy season likely wouldn’t commence until December or January. Such changes could have far-reaching impacts. According to NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, “The loss of a major Amazonian forest ecosystem could increase Brazilian droughts and potentially disrupt rainfall patterns as far away as Texas.” Via NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Images via Center for International Forestry Research and Jay on Flickr

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Pence vows America will put boots on the face of Mars in near future

July 7, 2017 by  
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During a speech at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, Vice President Pence made a bold promise that in the near future, the United States of America will send astronauts to both the moon and Mars. Now the chair of the National Space Council — which was revived this last Friday – Pence explained that new, ambitious goals will ensure America becomes a leader in space exploration  once again. “Here from this bridge to space, our nation will return to the moon and we will put American boots on the face of Mars,” said Pence. He then applauded the space organization’s efforts to make “science fiction ‘science fact.” Pence made sure to pay homage to Donald Trump, as well, who he referred to as a “champion” who will “usher in a new era” of American space leadership. According to CNN , Pence then noted the importance of space exploration for American national security interests. He also reaffirmed President Trump’s desire, which was revealed during his inaugural address in January, for the US to “unlock the mysteries of space.” He said, “I can assure you that under President Donald Trump , American security will be as dominant in the heavens as we are here on Earth.” Plans to reconvene the National Space Council before the end of summer were also shared. Reportedly, the Council will be comprised of many experts who are sourced from government agencies, such as the military , private industries, and academic institutions to enhance the present space policy. Related: NASA unveils 6 prototypical deep space human habitats for Mars and beyond Originally established in 1989 by President George H.W. Bush, the National Space Council was discontinued in 1993. One individual pleased with President Trump’s executive order to revive the Council is NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot. Said Lightfoot, “The establishment of the council is another demonstration of the Trump administration’s deep interest in our work, and a testament to the importance of space exploration to our economy, our nation, and the planet as a whole.” Support from the White House is undoubtedly a positive achievement for the NASA, which already has plans to send humans — specifically teachers, farmers, and engineers — to Mars by 2030. With the revival of the National Space Council and a renewed vigor to investigate the “final frontier,” America may very well become a leader in space exploration. Via CNN Images via  Schriever Air Force Base , Pixabay

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NASA identifies 219 new planet candidates – and 10 potential ‘Earths’

June 20, 2017 by  
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Our knowledge of the galaxy just expanded significantly, thanks to NASA’s Kepler space telescope. The exoplanet -finding machine allowed the agency to add 219 new planet candidates to their growing list. 10 of those planets are around the size of Earth and are around the range away from a star where water might pool on their surface. This new list of 219 candidate exoplanets is the most comprehensive and detailed from the first four years of Kepler data, according to NASA . It will also be the last catalog from Kepler’s view of a piece of sky in the Cygnus constellation. And it includes a planet National Geographic said could be the most like Earth we’ve found yet: KOI 7711.01. Related: 7 NASA discoveries that will blow your mind KOI 7711.01 is only about 30 percent bigger than Earth. It orbits a star 1,700 light-years away that’s quite like our sun, and receives the correct amount of solar warmth necessary for liquid water. Kepler research scientist Susan Thompson of the SETI Institute told National Geographic, “It gets approximately the same amount of heat that we get from our own star.” But there are still a lot of questions surrounding KOI 7711.01. Thompson said, “It’s hard to say whether it’s really an Earth twin – we need to know more about its atmosphere , whether there’s water on the planet.” After the release this week of the catalog, Kepler has identified 4,034 planet candidates total, according to NASA. 2,335 of those have been verified as exoplanets. The space telescope has also identified around 50 potentially habitable candidates around the size of Earth, with over 30 having been verified. Thompson said they’re now able to shift the focus away from simply finding new individual systems, and onto learning more about the worlds we think may be like Earth. This research has also allowed scientists to better classify planets. According to NASA, Kepler data has allowed scientists to discover a division between the sizes of rocky planets around the size of Earth and gaseous planets that are smaller than Neptune. They didn’t find many planets between those two groups. Scientist Benjamin Fulton of the University of Hawaii in Manoa said in a statement, “We like to think of this study as classifying planets in the same way that biologists identify new species of animals. Finding two distinct groups of exoplanets is like discovering mammals and lizards make up distinct branches of a family tree.” Via National Geographic and NASA Images via NASA/JPL-Caltech and NASA/Ames Research Center/Wendy Stenzel

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