New research links LED streetlights to increased risk of cancer

April 26, 2018 by  
Filed under Business, Eco, Green

Researchers at the University of Exeter and the Barcelona Institute for Global Health have concluded that there is a “strong link” between exposure to LED lighting and increased risk of breast and prostate cancer . The “blue light” emitted by LED lights seems to affect circadian rhythms and sleeping patterns, which then impacts hormone levels. “Humans have evolved to need light during the day and darkness at night,” researcher Alejandro Sánchez de Miguel told The Telegraph . “As towns and cities replace older lighting, we’re all exposed to higher levels of ‘blue’ lights, which can disrupt our biological clocks.” Previous research has documented the carcinogenic risk of night-shift work and artificial light . “We know that depending on its intensity and wave length, artificial light, particularly in the blue spectrum, can decrease melatonin production and secretion,” study co-author Martin Aubé explained to EurekAlert . In addition to regulating sleep cycles, melatonin functions as an anti-inflammatory antioxidant. Blue light, which is also emitted from tablet, phone , computer, and TV screens, is one of the shortest-wavelength, highest-energy forms of light. Related: A glowing glass “lantern” turns this energy-efficient office into a beacon This research comes as many cities are making the switch to LED streetlights, which are more energy-efficient and cheaper than traditional lighting. Published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives , the study included more than 4,000 people in 11 distinct regions of Spain in its analysis. It also incorporated images taken aboard the International Space Station to gain a fuller sense of blue light’s impact on a global scale. Public Health England has recommended further study of the impact of LED lighting before it is more widely adopted, while the American Medical Association has recommended that municipalities and businesses install the lowest-intensity LED lighting, with shading to provide additional protection. + Environmental Health Perspectives Via The Telegraph Images via Depositphotos (1)

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New research links LED streetlights to increased risk of cancer

EPA to consider burning wood a ‘carbon neutral’ energy source

April 25, 2018 by  
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Earlier this week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new policy which will classify the burning of wood as a ‘carbon neutral’ fuel source. EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt unveiled this policy shift to an audience of timber industry leaders in Georgia, who have a vested interest in whether they can market wood-based fuel products as ‘green energy.’ Pruitt supported his decision by claiming that forest regrowth will lead to greater absorption of carbon dioxide and somehow counteract the cumulative greenhouse gas emissions resulting from deforestation and burning wood. Scientists, none of whom were consulted in this policy change, disagree. “Today’s announcement grants America’s foresters much-needed certainty and clarity with respect to the carbon neutrality of forest biomass,” Pruitt said in a  press release . A study published by British think-tank Chatham House concluded that when all emissions and carbon absorption is accounted for, harvesting energy from burning wood produces carbon pollution equivalent to that of coal . Further, using this method of energy to create steam may be 50 percent more carbon intensive than coal. Scientist William Moomaw, who focuses on forests and their role in climate change, told Mashable that the policy was announced with “zero consultation” of agency scientists or the EPA’s Science Advisory Board. “It’s a bad idea because anything that has carbon in it produces carbon dioxide when you burn it,” Moomaw said. “This is horrific.” Related: Iceland is replanting its forests 1,000 years after vikings razed them The EPA’s decision to inaccurately classify burning wood as carbon neutral may have global consequences. “Between this and the Europeans [who constitute the largest market for bioenergy], it means no chance of staying within the 2-degree limit,” Moomaw explained. Even if the forests do grow back to their original state, the damage will already be done. “The carbon dioxide in the air will have warmed the planet. … When the tree regrows, the glacier doesn’t regrow,” Moomaw said. “The climate change effects are irreversible. Carbon neutrality is not climate neutrality.” Via Mashable Images via Depositphotos (1)

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EPA to consider burning wood a ‘carbon neutral’ energy source

The EPA wants to limit what science can be used to create regulations

April 25, 2018 by  
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Just weeks after this year’s March for Science ,  Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) administrator Scott Pruitt is taking a shot at science — “secret science,” in his words . Pruitt recently proposed a rule that would limit the kinds of research the agency could draw on in crafting regulations. Reuters described the move as “an apparent concession to big business” which has angled for the restrictions for a long time. Pruitt’s proposal would mean the EPA wouldn’t be able to use scientific research based on confidential data. That means the agency would only be able to draw on studies that make all their data publicly available for everyone to scrutinize, according to NPR . The administrator said in a statement, “The era of secret science at EPA is coming to an end. The ability to test, authenticate, and reproduce scientific findings is vital for the integrity of rulemaking process. Americans deserve to assess the legitimacy of the science underpinning EPA decisions that may impact their lives.” The EPA’s statement said the proposal is consistent with scientific journals like Nature and Science ‘s data access requirements. Related: Leaked memo shows that EPA staffers were told to downplay the reliability of climate science But some scientists are worried — the move could place crucial data off limits. NPR quoted Sean Gallagher, the American Association for the Advancement of Science ‘s senior government relations officer, as saying, “Our concern with this is they are quite literally limiting the best available science that can be used by the EPA.” Epidemiological studies are often utilized in the agency’s regulatory decisions, and Gallagher said, “Those studies involve people like you and me, signing confidentiality agreements that the scientists doing the studies won’t reveal my personal health information, like my vital statistics, or my death certificate, if I die during the course of the study. This is the kind of science that the EPA relies on, whether it looks at chemicals or particulates and their mortality or health effects. It involves private data.” The proposal won’t enter into force yet; Reuters said there will be a 30-day comment period and the proposal would need to be finalized. + Environmental Protection Agency Via Reuters and NPR Images via Gage Skidmore on Flickr and NRDC pix on Flickr

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The EPA wants to limit what science can be used to create regulations

Cows could one day be the largest land mammals left because of human activity

April 24, 2018 by  
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The world’s biggest land mammal is the African bush elephant , which can be up to 13 feet tall and 24 feet long. But this elephant — and giraffes, hippos and other large animals — could go extinct because of human activity, leaving the domestic cow as the biggest terrestrial mammal in a couple centuries. In a recent study, researchers scrutinized large mammal extinction as humans spread, and their study is, according to the University of New Mexico , “the first to quantitatively show … that size selective extinction is a hallmark of human activities and not the norm in mammal evolution.” Thousands of years ago, the spread of archaic humans from Africa coincided with extinction of megafauna, or large mammals, like sabre-toothed tigers and mammoths, The Guardian reported. “One of the most surprising finds was that 125,000 years ago, the average body size of mammals on Africa was already 50 percent smaller than on other continents,” said Felisa Smith, professor at the University of New Mexico and lead author of the study. “We suspect this means that archaic humans and other hominins had already influenced mammal diversity and body size in the late-Pleistocene.” Related: The world’s last male northern white rhino has died in Kenya The researchers compiled extensive data around mammal body size, geographic location, climate and extinction status in the past 125,000 years and modeled diversity and body size distributions for the next 200 years. The study also found that in 65 million years, climate changes didn’t lead to more extinctions. “We suspect that in the past, shifts in climate led to adaptation and movement of animals, not extinction,” said co-author Jonathan Payne of Stanford University . “Of course, today ongoing climate change may result in extinction since most megafauna are limited in how far they can move.” Smith said we’re really just starting to appreciate megafauna’s crucial roles in ecosystems. “For example, as they walk, their massive size compacts the soil, which can lead to changes in gas exchange or water tables. … We are not entirely sure what the potential loss of these ‘ecosystem engineers’ could lead to,” he said. “I hope we never find out.” The journal Science published the research this month. Scientists from the University of California, San Diego and University of Nebraska-Lincoln also contributed. + University of New Mexico + Science Via The Guardian Images via Michael Pujals on Unsplash and the University of New Mexico

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Cows could one day be the largest land mammals left because of human activity

California’s wild extremes of flooding and drought will only get worse as the planet warms

April 24, 2018 by  
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Between 2011 and 2017, California suffered through one of the worst droughts in its history. After the drought broke last year in what would be California’s wettest winter in a century, extreme flooding caused severe damage and killed several people. In a study recently published in the journal Nature Climate Change , researchers predict that similar patterns of polarized weather will continue to define California’s climate well into the 21st century, particularly if greenhouse gas emissions are not immediately and significantly reduced. If emissions continue to grow until 2100, the drastic wet-dry weather patterns could double in frequency, wreaking havoc in the state. California is not unfamiliar with bouts of strong drought and flooding . In 1862, what is known as the Great Flood devastated California in a weather event that has not be repeated since. Much of the state has a Mediterranean climate, which is conducive to dry summers, wet winters, and powerful shifts between those two extremes. However, as with much of the extreme weather expected from climate change, the frequency and intensity of such weather events are increasing. As the weather becomes more destructive, the authors predict that California could face serious challenges, particularly in water storage/access and flood control. Related: Federal court orders first hearing on the science of climate change In order to prepare for a more hostile climate, California must upgrade its infrastructure. “Few of the dams, levees and canals that currently protect millions living in California’s flood plains and facilitate the movement of water from Sierra Nevada watersheds to coastal cities have been tested by a deluge as severe” as the Great Flood of 1862, wrote the researchers.  On the other side of the world, Europe faces a drier future, with another study predicting that the percentage of drought-prone area will double if global average temperatures continue to rise beyond a 3 degrees Celsius increase. Even if the goals of the Paris agreement are met, which at the moment seems doubtful , Africa is still expected to endure potentially destabilizing extreme weather as a result of foregone climate change .   Via Phys.org Images via Wikimedia (1) (2)

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California’s wild extremes of flooding and drought will only get worse as the planet warms

Finland’s two-year universal basic income experiment is coming to an end

April 19, 2018 by  
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The Finnish government is planning to conclude its much-touted universal basic income experiment at the end of a two-year study period instead of extending it. Since early 2017, the Finnish government gave 2,000 unemployed Finns between the ages of 25 and 58 an unconditional monthly payment of 560 euros, or $690. “Right now, the government is making changes that are taking the system further away from a basic income,” Kela researcher Miska Simanainen told Svenska Dagbladet . Though there had been plans to include workers in the basic income experiment starting in early 2018, this did not happen. Because workers were not included, researchers are limited in their ability to analyze the impact of universal basic income in promoting career changes or job training. “Two years is too short a time frame to be able to draw extensive conclusions from such a vast experiment,” basic income expert Olli Kangas told YLE . “We ought to have been given additional time and more money to achieve reliable results.” While Finland’s experiment is wrapping up with potentially disappointing results, basic income is an increasingly popular social policy among tech sector leaders, such as Elon Musk , Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and futurist Ray Kurzweil. Related: Stockton, California is launching the first basic income experiment in the US Finland’s government seems less enthused about basic income. The Finnish government recently passed a bill that requires unemployed people to work at least 18 hours over three months or risk losing their benefits. “When the basic income experiment ends this year, we should launch a universal credit trial,” Finnish Finance Minister Petteri Orpo told Hufvudstadsbladet . Such a trial could be modeled on the United Kingdom ‘s system, which combines various benefits and tax credits into a single account. More comprehensive results from Finland’s basic income experiment will be available after the trial’s conclusion at the end of 2018. Via Business Insider Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia

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Finland’s two-year universal basic income experiment is coming to an end

This amazing underwater hotel room lets you sleep while surrounded by marine life

April 19, 2018 by  
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Putting a positive new spin on the expression “sleeping with the fishes,” a new hotel suite at the Conrad Maldives Rangali Island in the Maldives lets guests sleep underwater. The first-of-its-kind hotel suite – called the Muraka – is a two-level residence that has an underwater living and sleeping area. Guests can experience being surrounded by the beautiful ocean waters and get a firsthand glimpse of the marine wildlife. However if the thought of sharks floating around you while you sleep doesn’t give you a heart attack, the price tag might: the Muraka starts at $50,000 a night. The undersea villas – which are expected to open in November 2018 – will be the first of their kind in the world. While other hotels have underwater suites , the Muraka (which means “coral” in Dhivehi, the local language in the Maldives) will be the first one to be set in real ocean waters instead of man-made aquariums. The luxury suite spans two floors, with the upper floor floating on the waters and the ground floor submerged more than 16 feet below the ocean surface. Related: Underwater Hotel Gets Green Light to be Constructed in the Maldives The suite was designed by the same team behind the resort’s underwater restaurant, Ithaa . Crown Company director Ahmed Saleem and engineer Mike Murphy thought of everything on their latest hotel venture , including open air decks on either side of the suite to offer a chance to enjoy both the sunrise and the sunset. The dual-level suite can sleep up to nine guests and includes a gym, butler’s quarters, and a bar. There are two bedrooms and large living areas on the top floor, and a large bathtub in the master bedroom faces the ocean. On the lower level, guests can marvel at the surrounding ocean world from their undersea bedroom , living area and bathroom. “Driven by our inspiration to deliver innovative and transformative experiences to our global travelers, the world’s first undersea residence encourages guests to explore the Maldives from an entirely new perspective below the surface of the sea,” said Saleem in a press statement. + Conrad Maldives Rangali Island Via Architectural Digest Images via Conrad Maldives Rangali Island  

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This amazing underwater hotel room lets you sleep while surrounded by marine life

The UK just went for a record 55 hours without using coal

April 19, 2018 by  
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Coal fueled the world for more than 100 years, but now it’s being pushed out of the market. Recent evidence for that can be found in the United Kingdom , which just set a new record by going nearly 55 hours sans coal. The UKs energy sector went from 10:25 p.m. on Monday to 5:10 a.m. on Thursday without utilizing coal for power generation. Grid data put together by Bloomberg revealed the United Kingdom’s power plants didn’t use coal to help generate electricity for close to 55 hours — the longest stretch of time in recent history. The Independent said this is the first time the UK has been powered without coal for this length of time since the first public-use, coal-fired power plant in the world opened in 1882 in London. The UK set its previous record in October when the nation went without coal for 40 hours. Related: 104% of Portugal’s electricity consumption in March came from renewable energy Wind turbines helped provide energy for the UK during this time; solar panels also helped meet demand. On Tuesday, the country obtained more than 60 percent of electricity from low- or zero-carbon sources: 33.7 percent from wind, 20.1 percent from nuclear , five percent from biomass , 3.3 percent from solar and 0.9 percent from hydro . The numbers were similar on Wednesday. Bloomberg said Britain has installed more offshore wind turbines than any other country, and they described the UK as an early adopter of renewable energy. Traditional power plants in the country are closing permanently, and the UK government aims to turn off all coal power plants by 2025. The UK set a new record of 54 hours and 50mins without #coal fired generation in the UK electricity mix this week https://t.co/knjFLPms2p Expect more records to be broken this summer as coal continues its rapid decline https://t.co/pQdDnipSJ0 pic.twitter.com/hgTP4eEJF5 — Carbon Tracker (@CarbonBubble) April 19, 2018 According to a March 2018 article from Carbon Brief, “Coal now accounts for only 5.3 percent of total primary energy consumed in the UK, down from 22 percent in 1995.” The country’s total carbon dioxide emissions are “as low as emissions were back in 1890.” Via Bloomberg , The Independent and Carbon Brief Images via Depositphotos and Wikimedia Commons

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The UK just went for a record 55 hours without using coal

Scientists just learned what makes Yellowstone’s supervolcano tick

April 18, 2018 by  
Filed under Green

We all know about the supervolcano boiling underneath Yellowstone – but, until now, we didn’t know what was fueling the cauldron. This week, scientists revealed that they were able to model the behavior of two magma chambers underground by using supercomputer technology. At one point, these two magma lakes almost meet, forming a slab of pressure-trapping rock. That rock could be the powder keg that fuels the volcano. University of Oregon geologist Ilya Bindeman and his team ran simulations based on research from the University of Utah , which had determined that two gigantic magma chambers lay underneath Yellowstone. Bindeman’s simulations showed how those magma chambers formed over the course of 7 million years. ? Using these models, researchers determined that a cooler magma shelf is crushed between the two magma bodies about six miles below the surface. This so-called “gabbro rock” is found in other supervolcanoes around the world. Someday, scientists will be able to use this information to help shed a little light on how and when the Yellowstone volcano might blow, as well as what feeds it. Related: NASA considers puncturing Yellowstone supervolcano to save life on Earth “This is the nursery, a geological and petrological match with eruptive products. We think that this structure is what causes the rhyolite-basalt volcanism throughout the Yellowstone hotspot, including supervolcanic eruptions,” said Bindeman. The study was published this week in Geophysical Research Letters . + Geophysical Research Letters Via Science Alert Images via Deposit Photos and GRL

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Scientists just learned what makes Yellowstone’s supervolcano tick

MIT just discovered a way to mass produce graphene in large sheets

April 18, 2018 by  
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Scientists used to make graphene -based membranes in small batches in a laboratory. But a new breakthrough at MIT enables researchers to roll out large sheets of high-quality graphene. The continuous manufacturing process can produce five centimeters of high-quality graphene per minute. The longest run was nearly four hours, and it generated around 10 meters of continuous graphene. MIT is calling the development “the first demonstration of an industrial, scalable method for manufacturing high-quality graphene that is tailored for use in membranes that filter a variety of molecules.” These membranes could be utilized in biological separation or desalination , for example. The researchers drew from the common industrial roll-to-roll approach blended with chemical vapor deposition, a common graphene-fabrication technique. Related: Newly discovered property of graphene could lead to infinite clean energy Their system is comprised of two spools linked by a conveyor belt, which runs through a furnace. According to MIT, here’s how it works: “The first spool unfurls a long strip of copper foil, less than one centimeter wide. When it enters the furnace, the foil is fed through first one tube and then another, in a ‘split-zone’ design. While the foil rolls through the first tube, it heats up to a certain ideal temperature, at which point it is ready to roll through the second tube, where the scientists pump in a specified ratio of methane and hydrogen gas, which are deposited onto the heated foil to produce graphene.” MIT associate professor of mechanical engineering John Hart said, “In the end-to-end process, we would need to integrate more operations into the manufacturing line. For now, we’ve demonstrated that this process can be scaled up, and we hope this increases confidence and interest in graphene-based membrane technologies, and provides a pathway to commercialization.” The journal Applied Materials and Interfaces recently published the work; scientists from Vanderbilt University , the California Institute of Technology and the National University of Singapore contributed. + MIT News + Applied Materials and Interfaces Images via Christine Daniloff, MIT and courtesy of the researchers

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MIT just discovered a way to mass produce graphene in large sheets

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