Could contraception for pigeons be a humane option for population control?

January 19, 2021 by  
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City-dwellers often complain about pigeons, calling them “rats with wings” and condemning them as noisy, messy, disease-carrying feces machines. But they’re really pretty benign. Much of the problem is that pigeons aren’t afraid to colonize areas that people think of as theirs. So can we really justify the usual methods of pigeon control: trapping, shooting or poisoning? Erick Wolf, CEO of Innolytics, thinks not. For 15 years, he’s been developing birth control for pigeons and other birds that people deem pests. OvoControl is the official brand name, though Wolf sometimes calls his business model “Planned Pigeonhood.” The way it works is that a contraceptive chemical called nicarbazin is put into an automatic feeder and set out where a flock of pigeons live. Every morning at the same time, the feeder dumps the feed, and the pigeons flap around, gobbling it up in minutes. Related: Birds are dying mid-air possibly due to climate crisis effects The U.S. Humane Society recommends OvoControl as a kinder alternative to poisoning, and the EPA approved it back in 2010. Wolf spoke with Inhabitat about how he got in the family planning business for birds. [Note: This interview has been edited for space.] Inhabitat: How did you come up with this idea? Wolf: The active ingredient in this stuff, the chemical that interferes with egg fertilization in birds, has been around for 65 years. It was originally developed by Merck for use in chickens . The utility in chickens has nothing to do with egg hatchability, it has something to do with coccidiosis, an enteric disease that chickens get. But it’s got this one unwanted side effect in that it interferes with egg hatchability when fed to the wrong chicken. So we were sitting around the table having a couple of beers one day and said, “If it’s so good for preventing egg hatchability in chickens, why don’t you just feed it to pigeons?” Inhabitat: What’s wrong with the usual ways to control pigeons? Wolf:  The conventional methods for pigeon control is trap, shoot or poison , none of which is very humane. What they’re using in the U.S. to poison the birds is really horrible. You would think that a poison that’s used to kill an animal like that would be fast-acting, you’d give it to them, they’d drop over dead. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. So this stuff that they use commercially takes 20 minutes to 2 hours for the bird to basically convulse to death. It’s awful. If you go out and kill animals like that, you end up with more of them a few months later. You’ve got a site with 100 pigeons at it and you go in and you trap or you shoot or you poison 50 of them, within a few weeks, a few months at the very latest, you have more than 100 pigeons again. They just breed back. So unless you stop the breeding, there’s no point. They’re just coming back. Inhabitat: How do OvoControl’s results compare? Wolf:  It works great, but it’s not an overnight success. It takes time, because you have to wait for the attrition of the population. Pigeons die every day. They die of disease, they die of nutrition, they die of predation. Some of them freeze to death in the winter, some of them roast in the summer. But there’s this constant replenishment going on. Unless you stop that, you’re going to live with the pigeons forever. These are pigeons, so they’re breeding every 6 weeks, two eggs per clutch. So five mating pairs of pigeons will make 400 birds in 2 years. So that’s what you’re up against. I have talked with customers that have killed 10,000 pigeons . They only had 3,000 to begin with. They’re harvesting birds.   People that call us are not ones that have a few pigeons around. I have conversations with people that have thousands of pigeons. And it seems like the more pigeons they’ve got, the more likely they are going to be to try to kill more of them. The more they get, the more they want to murder them. Inhabitat: So your method takes patience? Wolf: We’ll get customers that use it for a month and say, “I didn’t see anything happen.” I say, “You’re not supposed to see anything happen.” Pigeons die every day. But the only way to kill them with OvoControl is to just drop a 30-pound bag of it on them. Then the pigeon’s dead. But other than that, you’re not going to kill any pigeons. So get used to it. We have customers that have been using this stuff for years. After a couple, three years, the management will turn over or something and I stop getting orders. It’s usually about 2 or 3 years later, I’ll get an email: “Send us 10 bags.” (laughs) If you stop, they start breeding again. Inhabitat: Who are your customers? Wolf: Who’s going to pay for it? People have talked to us and they say, “Oh my gosh, cities must be great customers. They’ve got so many pigeons.” And I say yes and no. They’ve got a lot of pigeons but they’re not so interested in putting them on birth control. There’s not a budget in the city maintenance for birth control for birds. The low-hanging fruit for the business is pretty much large industrial sites. Power plants, oil refineries, steel mills, pulp and paper, glass foundries, ports. Not necessarily airports, but seaports. Big places. Places where you can’t stretch a net to keep the pigeons out. Any kind of manufacturing facility that’s got open doors. Hospitals are good. What a hospital has very typically are parking garages and lots of places for pigeons to find cubbies. There’s a lot of heat being produced there. College campuses are good because they’re multi-structure. At a multi-structure facility, the guy will come in there and say, “We’re going to net the physics building because it’s got all the pigeons on it.” So they net the physics building and all the pigeons go over to the chemistry building. They’re resident birds. They’re not leaving campus. That’s where they found food. That’s where their nests are. That’s where they’re going to stay. Inhabitat: Are your clients international? Wolf:  We have registrations now in Canada, Mexico, Costa Rica, Colombia, Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan. We have one pending that looks very promising in Australia , and pending in New Zealand as well. Here in the home market, the U.S., it continues to be a really long, uphill battle. People want tangible and immediate results. When you tell them you’re going to lose half your birds over a year, and then another half over the next year and so on and so forth, the pest controller will say, “Forget it. My customer wants the birds gone today.” + OvoControl Images via Pixabay

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Could contraception for pigeons be a humane option for population control?

Astronomers are baffled by a newly-discovered galaxy that lacks dark matter

March 29, 2018 by  
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For the first time ever, scientists have identified a galaxy , NGC1052-DF2, that seems to lack the presence of dark matter.  For decades, scientists have believed that dark matter is a major aspect of any galaxy, which makes this discovery completely baffling. In an odd way, the new galaxy’s lack of dark matter may serve as evidence for the existence of it by demonstrating that there is much astronomers do not understand about such vast low-density galaxies. Although scientists have yet to directly observe dark matter, they believe it is out there due to the unusual motion of galaxies, which move as if under a greater gravitational force than that from the presence of regular matter. “These ultra-diffuse galaxies have a huge variety of properties,” study lead author Pieter van Dokkum told Gizmodo . “Some have a lot of dark matter , and some have no dark matter. There’s such an enormous range.” These observations have led scientists to believe that the universe may contain six times as much dark matter as ordinary matter . In a new study published in Nature , astronomers documented their observation that NGC1052-DF2 did not seem to rotate at all, indicating a lack of dark matter. “We could only derive an upper bound to the measured motion because it’s moving so slowly that our instrument couldn’t detect it,” said van Dokkum. Related: Scientists capture first ever image of dark matter web that connects galaxies The team also recently discovered a Dragonfly 44 with a similar structure to NGC1052-DF2, though its rotation suggests that the galaxy is composed of more than 99 percent dark matter. These observations were made possible by the Dragonfly Telephoto Array, a powerful telescope that shines a light on the universe’s secrets. This is exactly the sort of thing the Dragonfly instrument excels at discovering,” astrophysicist Sarah Tuttle told Gizmodo , “and confirming a low-mass galaxy without dark matter is an important step in understanding both galaxy formation and evolution, as well as cosmology.” Via Gizmodo Images via  Pieter van Dokkum and PBS

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Astronomers are baffled by a newly-discovered galaxy that lacks dark matter

ESA launches world’s first mission to explore the "atmospheres of hundreds of planets"

March 23, 2018 by  
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Behold a brand new era of space exploration. The European Space Agency (ESA) just selected the Atmospheric Remote-sensing Infrared Exoplanet Large-survey (ARIEL) mission from three candidates to launch what Nature describes as the “world’s first space telescope dedicated to studying the atmospheres of exoplanets.” The four-year, $552 million will launch on the Ariane 6 rocket in 2028. The agency said we’ve found thousands of exoplanets with a massive range of sizes, masses, and orbits, but we haven’t uncovered a pattern connecting such characteristics to the parent star’s nature. “In particular, there is a gap in our knowledge of how the planet’s chemistry is linked to the environment where it formed, or whether the type of host star drives the physics and chemistry of the planet’s evolution,” according to ESA. Related: Kepler data reveals 20 potential habitable worlds ESA plans to zero in on hot and warm planets, “ranging from super-Earths to gas giants orbiting close to their parent stars.” Nature said a spectograph will scrutinize light filtering through an exoplanet’s atmosphere while it passes by its host star, “revealing chemical fingerprints of gases that shroud the body.” ARIEL could detect signs of water vapor, methane, and carbon dioxide, and also measure exotic metallic compounds. ESA says such findings could help place an exoplanet in context of a host star’s chemical environment. ESA Director of Science Günther Hasinger said in the statement, “ARIEL is a logical next step in exoplanet science, allowing us to progress on key science questions regarding their formation and evolution, while also helping us to understand Earth’s place in the universe .” + ESA’s Next Space Mission to Focus on Nature of Exoplanets Via Nature Images via ESA/ATG medialab, CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO and NASA Ames/JPL-Caltech

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Stephen Hawking reveals what existed before the Big Bang

March 7, 2018 by  
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In an interview with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson , iconic physicist Stephen Hawking reveals what he believes existed prior to the Big Bang. “Nothing was around,” said Hawking, who fortunately elaborated on this point. “The Euclidean space-time is a closed surface without end, like the surface of the Earth,” said Hawking, referring to the four-dimensional conceptual model that incorporates the three dimensions of space with time. “One can regard imaginary and real time as beginning at the South Pole, which is a smooth point of space-time where the normal laws of physics hold. There is nothing south of the South Pole so there was nothing around before the Big Bang.” At least, there was nothing around that humans can currently experience or conceptualize. Since there is no way to measure time prior to the Big Bang , Hawking concludes that simply nothing existed prior to the Big Bang. In his interview with deGrasse Tyson, Hawking also spoke about the questions he would ask of Sir Isaac Newton, were he able to do so by some twist in space-time. “Is the solar system stable? And what happens to a star that cannot support itself against its own gravity ?” Hawking wondered. The stability of the solar system is of particular interest to residents of Earth. Related: Stephen Hawking: Humans must leave Earth within 100 years to survive Hawking has offered some pessimistic assessments of the near-future of our planet. He predicts that the Earth will become a ball of fire within the next 600 years while also warning humanity that we have less than a century to leave Earth before it becomes uninhabitable. He also warned about the existential dangers of artificial intelligence . “Computers can, in theory, emulate human intelligence, and exceed it,” he said in 2017 . “Success in creating effective AI, could be the biggest event in the history of our civilization. Or the worst. We just don’t know. So we cannot know if we will be infinitely helped by AI, or ignored by it and side-lined, or conceivably destroyed by it.” Via USA Today Images via Star Talk and NASA

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Scientists glimpse most distant supermassive black hole in the known universe

December 7, 2017 by  
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A team of scientists has discovered the known universe’s most distant supermassive black hole . The black hole is so far from Earth, it has taken over 13 billion years for light from the object to reach our planet. Given the universe’s age of approximately 13.8 billion years, observations of this newly discovered black hole offer scientists a glimpse into a much younger universe. “This is the only object we have observed from this era,” Robert Simcoe, the Francis L. Friedman Professor of Physics in MIT ‘s Kavli Institute for Astrophysics and Space Research, told Phys.org . “It has an extremely high mass, and yet the universe is so young that this thing shouldn’t exist. The universe was just not old enough to make a black hole that big. It’s very puzzling.” Approximately 800 times larger than our sun , the supermassive black hole, also known as a quasar, was first discovered by Eduardo Bañados, an astronomer at Carnegie Institution for Science, while browsing through maps of the distant universe. Bañados was specifically in search of quasars, among the brightest objects in the universe , which are composed of a supermassive black hole orbited by swirling, accumulating matter. “Something is causing gas within the quasar to move around at very high speed, and the only phenomenon we know that achieves such speeds is orbit around a supermassive black hole,” said Simcoe. The research team, which includes scientists from MIT and whose work was published in the journal Nature ,  used the object’s “redshift,” the phenomenon in which objects farther away emit light that is closer to the infrared end of the light spectrum, to identify its mass and age. Related: Scientists find a massive black hole swirling in the Milky Way The supermassive black hole seems to have formed at a pivotal time in the universe’s formation. “What we have found is that the universe was about 50/50—it’s a moment when the first galaxies emerged from their cocoons of neutral gas and started to shine their way out,” said Simcoe. “This is the most accurate measurement of that time, and a real indication of when the first stars turned on.” While the supermassive black hole has offered some insight into the early universe, how such an object formed in those conditions remains a mystery. “If you start with a seed like a big star, and let it grow at the maximum possible rate, and start at the moment of the Big Bang, you could never make something with 800 million solar masses—it’s unrealistic,” said Simcoe. “So there must be another way that it formed. And how exactly that happens, nobody knows.” Via Phys.org Images via  Robin Dienel/Carnegie Institution for Science

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Scientists glimpse most distant supermassive black hole in the known universe

Newly discovered property of graphene could lead to infinite clean energy

November 30, 2017 by  
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Physicists at the University of Arkansas have discovered a new property of graphene that could be exploited to generate endless, clean energy . While investigating the simple phenomenon of graphene’s ability to ripple and shake, physicist Paul Thibado and a group of graduate students uncovered a previously unknown behavior in which the wonder material buckles and twists in small, random fluctuations, potentially allowing graphene to be used as an ambient power source. When two electrodes are added on either side of a subtly shaking sheet of graphene, a small shifting voltage is produced, one that can could be magnified for practical use through layering. This new discovery was made over the course of a fairly mundane exploration of graphene’s known tendency to jiggle. It is this random movement of atoms that allows the nearly 2D graphene to function as a 3D material. To study this behavior, students laid sheets of graphene on a copper grid and observed the atomic movement through a scanning tunneling microscope . “The students felt we weren’t going to learn anything useful,” said Thibado , “but I wondered if we were asking too simple a question.” The students then searched for a pattern in graphene’s movement. “Looking at large-scale averages hid the different patterns. Each region of a single image, when viewed over time, produced a more meaningful pattern,” said Thibado. Related: New graphene sieve can remove even small salts from seawater This meaningful pattern of small, random fluctuations that result in dramatic shifts is known as a Lévy flight. Although the phenomenon had been previously observed in biology and climate studies , this marks the first instance in which it was observed on an atomic level. These movements allowed for the production of a small voltage within the graphene. Thibado estimates that a single ten micron by ten micron piece of graphene may produce ten microwatts of power. While this may not seem like much, graphene’s ability to be layered heavily even in a small space could result in a practical electrical charge, one that may be used to power bioimplants. Thibado is working with the US Naval Research Laboratory to further investigate and develop the concept. Via Futurism Images via Depositphotos   (1)

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Groundbreaking quark fusion generates 10 time as much energy as nuclear fusion

November 8, 2017 by  
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Physicists at Tel Aviv University and University of Chicago have discovered that quark fusion, involving the tiny particles known as quarks of which protons and neutrons are made, is an even more potentially energy-packed reaction than much-touted nuclear fusion . Although the scientists were originally concerned about quark fusion’s potential destructive power and had considered keeping the discovery secret, they came to learn that the process, still theoretical, would most likely be safe for civilian use. The newly identified kind of reaction, which could yield up to ten times as much energy as nuclear fusion, could be the answer to endless clean energy someday. A fusion reaction, whether nuclear or quark, occurs when two or more atomic nuclei are close enough to each other to form at least one different atomic nuclei and subatomic particles. In fusing, the involved reactants and products release an enormous amount of energy, which could theoretically be harvested as nearly-infinite clean energy , the holy grail of renewable technology. A quark reaction, which could yield up to ten times as much energy as nuclear fusion, involves the fusion of bottom quarks, subsequently resulting in a larger subatomic particle, a spare particle known as a nucleon, and an enormous output of energy.  It’s reaction is so potent that it is potentially more powerful than the reaction at the center of an exploding hydrogen bomb. Related: These mini spherical reactors could help scale fusion energy by 2030 “I must admit that when I first realized that such a reaction was possible, I was scared,” said Marek Karliner, quark fusion co-researcher at Tel Aviv University, “but, luckily, it is a one-trick pony.” Nuclear explosions in hydrogen bombs gain their destructive power from chain reactions. Quark fusion, it seems, could not possibly be dangerous because bottom quarks disappear only a picosecond (1/1,000,000,000,000 of a second) after they form. There simply is not enough time for these subatomic particles to form a chain reaction. “If I thought for a microsecond that this had any military applications , I would not have published it,” Karliner said, according to Live Science. Although quark fusion remains in the theoretical stage, the researchers state that it could be achieved at the Large Haldron Collider, the world’s largest and most powerful particle collider located in France . Via Live Science / Engadget Images via CERN , lead image via Deposit Photos

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Groundbreaking quark fusion generates 10 time as much energy as nuclear fusion

Scientists witnessed a neutron star mashup for the first time – and it transformed our understanding of the universe

October 16, 2017 by  
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For the first time, scientists have detected gravitational waves stemming from the crash of two ultra-dense neutron stars – and the event has spawned a new era of astronomy known as “multi-messenger astronomy.” It is believed that cataclysmic events such as these generated at least half of the gold in the Universe. Though astronomers have witnessed ripples in the fabric of space in time before (created by objects moving in the Universe), this is the first time in history the event was detectable by regular light telescopes. As a result, researchers have gained new insight into massive cosmic collisions. A neutron star is the burnt-out core of a massive star that ran out of fuel , blew up and died. Typically 20 kilometers (12 miles) in diameter, a neutron star is radioactive and has a mass slightly more dense than the sun in our solar system. Reportedly, a handful of neutron star material weighs as much as Mount Everest ! When two neutron stars combine, they spiral around each other, growing closer and closer over time. The spinning intensifies until the two objects revolve around each other several times per second. Then, a forceful impact takes place and a gargantuan gravitational wave is emitted into the Universe at the speed of light. On August 18th, astronomers witnessed the remains of a neutron star mash-up, which traveled 130 million light years before it was seen by Earthly detectors. The phenomena resulted in dozens of scientific papers being published in top academic journals. As Phys.org reports, the observation also solved several physics riddles – including how much of the universe’s gold , platinum, mercury and other heavy elements were formed. Related: Einstein’s gravitational wave theory proven by the sound of two black holes colliding Said co-discoverer Benoit Mours of France’s CNRS research institute, “We witnessed history unfolding in front of our eyes: two neutron stars drawing closer, closer… turning faster and faster around each other, then colliding and scattering debris all over the place.” Days before the highly-anticipated event, three different gravitational wave observatories based around the world picked up gravitational waves. Astronomers worked together to locate the area where the merger occurred. After narrowing it down to a very small patch in the southern sky, the US-based Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) mobilized the rest of the astronomy community, reports The Verge. Within hours, thousands of astronomers searched the sky , eventually spotting the explosive leftovers of the neutron star mashup. Telescopes witnessed newly-forged material in the fallout. This confirmed that “maybe half, maybe more, of the heavy elements in the Universe are actually produced by this kind of collision,” said physicist Patrick Sutton, a member of LIGO. “This is a revolution in astronomy, of having thousands of astronomers focus on one source for weeks and having this collaboration unravel in seconds, in hours, then days, and weeks,” said Vicky Kalogera, an astrophysicist at Northwestern University and a LIGO collaborator. “For us, that’s the Holy Grail.” The development comes two years after the first gravitational wave was detected (also by LIGO). For the past century, astronomers have been trying to figure out how to detect the ripples, which were predicted by Albert Einstein in his theory of general relativity . Via Phys , The Verge Images via Robin Dienel/Carnegie Institution for Science , NSF LIGO Sonoma State University / A. Simonnet , Tony Piro, Carnegie Institution for Science

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Scientists witnessed a neutron star mashup for the first time – and it transformed our understanding of the universe

Harvard scientists claim they’ve made Earth’s first metallic hydrogen

January 27, 2017 by  
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For 80 long years, scientists have attempted in vain to produce a metal from hydrogen . A super substance thought to be present on other planets , metallic hydrogen could generate a rocket propellant around four times more powerful than what we possess now, allowing us to make advanced technologies like super-fast computers. Now two scientists at Harvard University say they have achieved the near miraculous. But other scientists are skeptical – the sensational discovery may just be too good to be true. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1qitm5fteL0 Ranga Dias and Isaac Silvera of Harvard University say they’ve been able to create metallic hydrogen in the laboratory by squeezing hydrogen between diamonds inside a cryostat, at a pressure even greater than that at the Earth’s center. The journal Science published their astonishing findings this week. In a Harvard press release, Silvera said, “This is the Holy Grail of high-pressure physics . It’s the first-ever sample of metallic hydrogen on Earth, so when you’re looking at it, you’re looking at something that’s never existed before.” Related: MIT’s new carbon-free supercapacitor could revolutionize the way we store power But other scientists aren’t so sure. A string of failed tries, from scientists around the world, precede the Harvard news. One physicist from France’s Atomic Energy Commission even said, “I don’t think the paper is convincing at all.” The Harvard scientists maintain they were able to polish the diamonds better, to remove any potentially damaging irregularities, and were able to crush the hydrogen gas at pressures greater than others have. Silvera said they produced a “lustry, reflective sample, which you can only believe is a metal .” But that shiny substance could be nothing more than alumina (aluminium oxide), according to geophysicist Alexander Goncharov from the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C. That material coats the diamonds’ tips, and could act differently under the pressure. Silvera said they wanted to break the news before starting confirmation tests, which could ruin their sample. Now that their paper is out, they plan to perform more experiments. Stay tuned. Via Scientific American and The Independent Images via screenshot and Isaac Silvera/Harvard University

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Scientists turn eggshells into eco-friendly data-storage devices

January 23, 2017 by  
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Walk on eggshells? Not these scientists. A team from Guizhou Institute of Technology is working on a way to turn ground-up bits of the breakfast byproduct into a data-storage device that could pave the way for eco-friendlier computers. The device itself uses something called resistive random-access memory , ReRAM for short, a type of non-volatile, high-density yet energy-sipping memory system that could soon supplant your flash drive as a data silo. Instead of storing a charge, like conventional memory does, ReRAM works by creating electrical resistance across a dielectric solid-state material that transmits voltage without conducting it, essentially serving as an insulator. As it turns out, eggshells have a “large resistive-switching memory,” as the scientists noted in the February 2017 issue of Current Applied Physics , where they published their findings. But don’t start sticking eggs in your USB port just yet. To create the device, they first pulverized the shells for hours into an ultra-fine, nanoscale powder, which they then dissolved in solution. Related: Scientists invent the world’s first microchip powered by biological systems The resulting paste, coated onto a substrate, became the electrolyte portion of a memory chip, that is, the part that carries the electrical charge. Whatever they did worked. The eggshell-based device was able to write 100 bits of binary code into its memory before it broke down. It’ll take some tinkering before the device can stack up against materials that can manage billions of cycles, but the promise is there. “This discovery provides for the possibility of an environmentally friendly, low-cost and sustainable material application in the next-generation nonvolatile date storage device,” the scientists said. Egg -citing. Via New Scientist Photos by Kullez and Bruce Guenter

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