Doctor warns falling sperm counts could lead to human extinction

July 26, 2017 by  
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Will our lifestyle lead to our extinction ? New findings from an international team of eight researchers indicate sperm counts in men from North America, New Zealand, Australia, and Europe have halved in under 40 years. Lead author epidemiologist Hagai Levine of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem told the BBC, “If we will not change the ways that we are living and the environment and the chemicals that we are exposed to, I am very worried about what will happen in the future.” Sperm count studies have been controversial in the past. This recent one, published this week in the Oxford Academic journal Human Reproduction Update , is one of the biggest assessments ever undertaken, according to the BBC. Researchers pored over 185 studies between 1973 and 2011. Levine detected a 52.4 percent decline in sperm concentration and 59.3 percent drop in total sperm count in the men from those regions of the world listed above. The rate of decline continues and may even be increasing, according to the researchers. They didn’t see the same decline in men from Africa, Asia, or South America, but said there have been fewer studies from these regions. Related: Alarming new study suggests Zika virus could cause infertility in men Levine told the BBC, “Eventually we may have a problem, and with reproduction in general, and it may be the extinction of the human species.” Skeptics say a large proportion of past studies that have pointed to sperm count drops have been flawed, such as only including men who have gone to fertility clinics, and would be likely to possess low sperm counts. But the researchers involved in the new study said they accounted for some of the flaws. Professor Allan Pacey of Sheffield University told the BBC, “I’ve never been particularly convinced by the many studies published so far claiming that human sperm counts have declined in the recent past. However, the study today by Dr. Levine and his colleagues deals head-on with many of the deficiencies of previous studies.” Other scientists praised the quality of the new study but said it may be too soon to come to the conclusion that humans could be on the path to extinction. Researchers at institutions in Denmark, the United States, and Spain were also part of the research. Via the BBC Images via Wikimedia Commons and Pixabay

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Doctor warns falling sperm counts could lead to human extinction

BatBnB unveils line of stylish (scientifically designed) homes for our flying friends

July 26, 2017 by  
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Airbnb disrupted the human housing world, now BatBnB is doing the same for bat housing. We all pretty much know that boxes are a stellar way to attract bats, but let’s be honest, they aren’t exactly good looking. That’s why we’re loving the elegantly designed BatBnB homes, which are attractive enough to display front and center at your home. They’re also designed based on decades of research, so they’re the perfect space for our flying friends. It’s basically like a piece of art for your yard that also boosts conservation efforts. Created by Harrison Broadhurst, architectural designer at Nomi Design and director of customer success at MakeTime   Christoper Rännefors , BatBnB provides a safe place for bats to nest, sleep and stay. Unlike other bat houses, BatBnB is incredibly stylish, so instead of tucking it in some remote corner, you’ll want to display it proudly. There are three style options available in the standard size, plus a mammoth size, so you can find the right one to suit your home. It’s finally the perfect bat house for design lovers. Of course, BatBnB isn’t just snazzy on the outside. It is also thoughtfully designed to be the ultimate space for bats, with grip chambers, proper ventilation and the ideal sizing. It’s so well-designed that it is endorsed by bat experts like executive director of the Organization for Bat Conservation  Rob Mies , who is basically the Beyonce of the bat world. Researchers will also team up with BatBnB owners to collect vital information that will help bats recover from devastating white nose syndrome. Related: 7 Million Bats Killed by White Nose Syndrome: How You Can Help “I’ve studied bats for more than 50 years, led worldwide conservation efforts for bats, and in fact founded the North American Bat House Research Project. With today’s improvements, properly constructed and located bat houses are achieving close to 90% success. I personally helped develop the Bat BnB product line and am delighted to endorse it for its ideal construction and attractive design,” said noted bat expert Merlin Tuttle. Bats are struggling across the US because of habitat loss and  white nose syndrome . It doesn’t help that many people fear bats for being dangerous or diseased, a reputation that is decidedly undeserved. BatBnb is hoping to change that. “We want to help people value bats rather than fear them — those ugly poorly designed models on the market just don’t spark that conversation,” said Rännefors. With climate change making winters shorter, we are seeing more mosquitos all year long, and one of the best ways to naturally control pesky bugs is with predators like bats. Bats are also instrumental in maintaining a healthy environment by helping to fertilize and pollinate plants – in addition to the thousand mosquitoes a single bat can eat every hour . Help BatBnB become a reality, and help change the conversation around bats, by funding the project on Indiegogo . + BatBnB + BatBnB on Indiegogo

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BatBnB unveils line of stylish (scientifically designed) homes for our flying friends

We’ve made enough plastic trash to bury Manhattan under 2-miles of the stuff

July 21, 2017 by  
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Whether you get an iced latte to-go in the morning, your restaurant leftovers in a plastic takeaway container, or forget to take a reusable bags to the store, there are numerous ways  disposable plastic  adds up –   and that is a huge problem. According to the first global analysis of the production of plastics, humans now produce more plastic than anything else and, as a result, have created 8.3 billion tonnes of the stuff since the 1950s. If the trend continues, humans will eventually bury the planet in plastics, which require hundreds — if not thousands — of years to decompose. The study was published in Science Advances and unearthed some dizzying facts. For instance, around 79 percent of the plastic produced ends up in landfills, where it is simply buried and forgotten. Additionally, a large percentage of this waste goes into the oceans where it contaminates the environment , often times poisons or chokes wildlife, and breaks down into tiny pieces, which later collect in giant convergences such as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch . The study also found that only 9 percent of all plastics are recycled, and a further 12 percent are incinerated. “The only way to permanently eliminate plastic waste” is to burn or melt it down, the authors wrote . “Thus, near-permanent contamination of the natural environment with plastic waste is a growing concern.” For the study, the researchers looked at various kinds of plastics, from resin to fibers. They deduced that production has increased from around 2 million tonnes (2.2 m tons) a year in 1950 to an astonishing 400 million tonnes (440 m tons) in 2015. Plastic is now the most produced man-made material, with the exception of items such as steel and cement. However, unlike those two industrial materials which are put to use for decades, plastic is single-use, therefore, is most often discarded right away. The researchers make it clear that while it is not plausible to completely eliminate plastic from the modern world, production and use needs to decrease dramatically to benefit the ecosystem as a whole. “Most plastics don’t biodegrade in any meaningful sense, so the plastic waste humans have generated could be with us for hundreds or even thousands of years,” said Jenna Jambeck, who co-authored the study. “Our estimates underscore the need to think critically about the materials we use and our waste management practices.” The advice is spot-on, considering a recent paper found the micro plastics were present in every marine animal which was sampled in Australia — even those thought to be inaccessible. Related: Scotland bans plastic bags, spares landfill 650 million bags in just one year To reduce your dependence on plastic, you can buy whole, unprocessed foods and biodegradable soaps in bulk and keep them in mason jars at home, remember to take your reusable bags to the grocery store and farmer’s market and take advantage of thrift store offerings (or similar apps which connect you with second-hand goods) to reduce waste and needless packaging. Making this effort will help reduce the amount of plastic in the environment and, as a result, ensure a habitable environment exists for future generations. + Science Advances Via LA Times Images via Depositphotos and   Pixabay

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We’ve made enough plastic trash to bury Manhattan under 2-miles of the stuff

Scientists discover plants have ‘brains’ that decide when to sprout

June 8, 2017 by  
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Researchers are quickly learning that plants are far more complex than once thought. Not only has it been determined that plants are capable of sensing and preparing for drought conditions, a team from the University of Birmingham recently learned that a cluster of cells in seeds act like a brain that decide when they should germinate. As a result of this finding, crop yields may be improved. The study, published in the journal  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) , explains that the researchers worked with a species called thale cress to determine whether or not plants have human-like “brains.” After locating the group of cells in the seed that are responsible for controlling decision-making processes, they discovered something interesting. Reportedly, the group of cells is made up of two competing types: one promotes germination and the other promotes dormancy. The scientists describe the relationship as a “tug of war” match, as hormones are swapped back and forth in a process that’s very similar to mechanisms in the human brain when someone decides whether or not to move. The team says the separate competing cells are key to the decision-making process in both humans and plants . The mechanism serves an important purpose in vegetation, because germinating too early may result in death due to frost. Alternatively, germinating too late will result in growing complications due to the wrong climate conditions. Said George Bassel, lead author of the study, “Our work reveals a crucial separation between the components within a plant decision-making center. In the human brain , this separation is thought to introduce a time delay, smoothing out noisy signals from the environment and increasing the accuracy with which we make decisions. The separation of these parts in the seed ‘brain’ also appears to be central to how it functions.” Related: Seed-Planting Tumbleweed Robot Draws From Nature to Fight Desertification After creating a mathematical model of how the separate cells work to control how sensitive the plant is to its environment , the researchers concluded that the more variation there is in environmental conditions, the more seeds will sprout. This sounds counter-intuitive, but the results were confirmed when the team tested it in a laboratory. “Our work has important implications for understanding how crops and weeds grow,” said Bassel. “There is now potential to apply this knowledge to commercial plants in order to enhance and synchronize germination, increasing crop yields and decreasing herbicide use.” + Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) Via New Atlas Images via Pixabay

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Powerful new Penn State battery turns waste CO2 into electricity

February 14, 2017 by  
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With so much excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, researchers from every corner of the globe are working on innovative ways to soak it up. Penn State University scientists have gone a step further with a powerful new battery that not only soaks up CO2, but also repurposes it to make more energy . Their pH-gradient flow cell battery is not the first of its kind, but it is the most powerful – take a closer look after the jump. In an article published by Environmental Science and Technology Letters , the Penn State researchers note the discrepancy between CO2 concentrations in regular air and exhaust gases created by fossil fuel combustion results in an “untapped energy source for producing electricity.” “One method of capturing this energy is dissolving CO2 gas into water and then converting the produced chemical potential energy into electrical power using an electrochemical system,” they write. While previous attempts to convert CO2 into electricity have been successful, the researchers say power densities were limited, and ion-exchange technology expensive. They said their ph-gradient flow cell battery is considerably more powerful. Related: Plants are keeping atmospheric CO2 levels stable, but it won’t last forever “In this approach, two identical supercapacitive manganese oxide electrodes were separated by a nonselective membrane and exposed to an aqueous buffer solution sparged with either CO2 gas or air,” they write. “This pH-gradient flow cell produced an average power density of 0.82 W/m2, which was nearly 200 times higher than values reported using previous approaches.” Engadget breaks this down for lay readers: “As ions are exchanged between the denser CO2 solution and normal air solution, the voltage changes at the manganese oxide electrodes in either tank. This stimulates the flow of electrons between the two connected electrodes and voilà: electricity.” They also report that the process can essentially be reversed to recharge the battery, and that Penn State was able to repeat this process 50 times without losing performance. For now, the researchers aren’t ready to scale their technology, but when they do, they envision it embedded in power plants, diverting atmospheric CO2, and slowly chipping away at one of the most epic challenges humans have ever faced: climate change . Via Engadget Images via Environmental Science and Technology Letters, Pexels

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Historic San Francisco church creatively reborn as loft apartments

February 14, 2017 by  
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Just across the street from San Francisco ‘s iconic Dolores Park is a striking dome-topped building with bold white columns lined up along its entrance. The imposing Neoclassical structure doesn’t look much like an apartment building, and for good reason: the building served as the Second Church of Christ, Scientist for the past one hundred years. A century later, the structure has been remodeled and creatively repurposed into a series of unusual and stunning private residences by developer Siamak Akhavan in partnership with HC Engineering and Modifyer . The original church was designed by architect William Crim in 1915 , who was also responsible for several other civic buildings that are still used in San Francisco today – including churches, temples, banks, and restaurants. The design for the Second Church of Christ, Scientist is Neoclassical, with traditional elements including large columns flanking the portico and a distinctive dome topping the building. Many major public buildings from this time period were constructed in the then-popular Neoclassical and Beaux Arts styles, featuring inspiration from the Greek and Roman period with additional aesthetic flourishes such as decorated columns, carved molding, and arched windows. ®Open Homes Photography By the early 2000s, the church’s congregation had been dwindling for years, making the cost and management of such a monumental property unsustainable. Several years prior to the residential conversation, the church had considered razing the historic building to build a few townhouses, which would have also financed the construction of a much smaller church. However, these plans never came to pass, and the property was sold by the church and subsequently permitted for conversion into a residence by 2013. ®Open Homes Photography The church looks much the same from the outside, retaining its historical significance to the neighborhood. However, the “Second Church of Christ, Scientist” lettering was removed and replaced with the building’s new name: ” The Lighthouse “. San Francisco Department of Planning The remodel includes several high-end three-bedroom townhouse units up for sale . Not for sale is the unusual penthouse suite , which hovers directly underneath the former church’s giant dome. In order to create living space and light, the dome was actually sliced off and then elevated several feet higher. The uppermost unit is set to be occupied by Siamak Akhavan, managing partner of The Lighthouse development team, and one of its principal designers. ®Open Homes Photography The units feature large, open floor plans with unique elements such as exposed brick walls and skylights that highlight original construction elements. ®Open Homes Photography The remodel made sensitive re-use of existing elements and incorporated materials from the original church building, including walnut paneling, entry doors, and brass chandeliers – plus original wooden church pews as seating. ®Open Homes Photography The remodel creatively works around the original steel frame structure by showcasing it in various rooms throughout the units. Because of its former life as a place of worship, the building features unusually high ceilings – up to 15-30 feet high in the living areas. + HC Structural Engineering, Inc. + The Lighthouse ®Open Homes Photography

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Historic San Francisco church creatively reborn as loft apartments

Scientists hatch crazy $500 billion plan to refreeze the Arctic

February 14, 2017 by  
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As governments make slow progress towards alleviating climate change and denial marks the Trump Administration’s approach to the global crisis, scientists have hatched a crazy $500 billion scheme to refreeze the Arctic . Led by physicist Steven Desch of Arizona State University , a team of 14 scientists concocted a plan to replenish Arctic sea ice using ten million wind-powered pumps. The strategy involves deploying millions of renewably-powered pumps to send water onto the surface of Arctic ice during the winter. In theory, that water would then freeze, thickening the ice before summer. Desch said the pumps could add around three feet to the current layer of sea ice . If the ice is thicker, he argued, it would last longer and reduce the danger of sea ice vanishing completely during the summer. Related: Total sea ice levels on Earth lower than ever before recorded The paper’s abstract states that the Arctic could be utterly devoid of summer sea ice by the year 2030. If that occurs, the ocean would absorb the sunlight it once reflected – so replenishing sea ice now is an imperative. The paper goes on to state that the 2015 Paris agreement won’t be enough to halt the consequences of global warming . Desch told the Observer, “Our only strategy at present seems to be to tell people to stop burning fossil fuels . It’s a good idea but it is going to need a lot more than that to stop the Arctic’s sea ice from disappearing.” The American Geophysical Union ‘s journal Earth’s Future published their study in late January. Via The Guardian Images via Pixabay ( 1 , 2 )

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We might be descended from this horrifying sea creature with no anus

February 1, 2017 by  
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If you’re looking for new nightmare fuel beyond, oh we don’t know, the dissolution of democracy as we know it, meet Saccorhytus , a tiny H.R. Giger-esque monstrosity that scientists say could be our earliest-known ancestor. Going back some 540 million years, it’s also believed to be the most primitive example we have to date of a deuterostome — a member of a broad category of animals that includes everything from sea urchins to vertebrates like us. The species, which comprised an elliptical body no more than a millimeter long, a large mouth, and apparently no anus, is new to science. We were only made aware of this lurking horror in our evolutionary past because a group of academics unearthed about 45 microfossils in central China’s Shaanxi Province. While the original finds, which look like they’re frozen in mid-scream, are pretty horrifying in and of themselves, the artist’s reconstruction is the gift that keeps on giving. “We think that as an early deuterostome this may represent the primitive beginnings of a very diverse range of species, including ourselves,” Simon Conway Morris, a professor of evolutionary palaeobiology at the University of Cambridge and a member of the team, said in a statement. “To the naked eye, the fossils we studied look like tiny black grains, but under the microscope the level of detail is jaw-dropping. All deuterostomes had a common ancestor, and we think that is what we are looking at here.” Related: Four-legged prehistoric snake offers clues about the reptile’s evolution Saccorhytus , the researchers speculate in the journal Nature , lived in what would have been a shallow sea during the early Cambrian period. It was so small that it probably lived between individual grains of sediment on the sea bed, where it hoovered up food with its capacious maw. Cone-shaped spouts on its body may have allowed it to disgorge any water it swallowed, much like gills on the fish we see today. If the creature had an anus, the scientists were unable to find it. Conceivably, Saccorhytus’s mouth went both ways. “If that was the case, then any waste material would simply have been taken out back through the mouth, which from our perspective sounds rather unappealing,” Conway Morris said. As long as it doesn’t show up to any family reunions, we’ll be OK. + University of Cambridge

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We might be descended from this horrifying sea creature with no anus

Smog-fighting music academy proposal uses an air purifier system as effective as 33,000 trees

February 1, 2017 by  
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The Polish city of Krakow has some of the worst air pollution in the world. In hopes of improving the city’s air quality, FAAB Architektura proposed a smog-fighting music academy fitted with a German air purification system that they say works effectively as 33,000 city trees. The music academy was designed as part of a larger “Krakow Music City” masterplan that envisions a largely car-free and environmentally friendly development atop a former military base. Located between Krakow and the Vistula River, the proposed masterplan is designed to blend into the natural landscape with its vernacular wooden lap panel cladding and use of energy-efficient technologies. Around 1,300 square meters of a Green City Solutions -developed air purification product would be embedded in the music academy’s moss-covered rooftops. The special moss culture converts air pollutants into biomass. Related: China’s crazy smog-sucking vacuum tower might actually be working The green-roofed buildings comprise an education wing, concert hall, and small guest building carefully placed around existing trees and designed to immerse students and visitors in nature. Ground heat exchangers would be used to reduce energy use. Rainwater would also be collected in an underground tank and reused wherever possible. FAAB Architektura submitted their proposal to a design competition hosted by Akademia Muzyczna w Krakowie , which will reveal the winning entry on March 31, 2017. + FAAB Architektura Via ArchDaily Images via FAAB Architektura

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Smog-fighting music academy proposal uses an air purifier system as effective as 33,000 trees

The last time Earth was this hot was 125,000 years ago

January 23, 2017 by  
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Proving once more that climate change is a runaway problem, scientists just revealed that the earth is the hottest it’s been in 125,000 years. The last time global temperatures were this high, sea levels completely covered the land on which New Orleans currently sits. According to a new report in Science Magazine , today’s ocean surface temperatures are comparable to those dating back 125,000 years. Jeremy Hoffman and colleagues at Oregon State University studied chemical clues in 104 seafloor sediment samples taken from areas around the world. By comparing the samples, they were able to create a picture of what the climate actually looked like 125,000 years ago. Related; Scientists warn rapidly melting glacier in West Antarctica could cause serious global havoc Scientists regularly look to the last interglacial period to model how Earth’s rising temperature will affect sea levels. Sea levels rose 20 to 30 feet above their current levels, and the average global sea surface temperatures at that time were almost identical to the 1995 to 2014 average temperatures, according to the researchers. According to Science News, this new information will help scientists improve predictions about how our oceans will respond to climate change. + Science Magazine Via Science News Images via NPS Climate Change Response , Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade , and NASA

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The last time Earth was this hot was 125,000 years ago

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