7,000 methane gas bubbles in Siberia on the verge of exploding

March 22, 2017 by  
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Last summer researchers revealed crazy bubbling tundra in Siberia in a surreal video. Scientists believe the weird phenomenon is caused by methane released by melting permafrost . Now around 7,000 of those bubbles are getting ready to explode. The bursts could result in small potholes – or large craters . Researchers uncovered 15 bubbles causing the ground to lurch like a waterbed on Bely Island in Siberia last summer. Then scientists found around 7,000 more bubbles on the Gydan and Yamal peninsulas. Yamal Department for Science and Innovation director Alexey Titovsky recently told The Siberian Times, “With time the bubble explodes, releasing gas. This is how gigantic funnels form.” Related: Insane video shows Siberian ground bubbling like a “wobbling waterbed” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=06Xc3LtZRWo Scientists think the mysterious craters – or funnels – are connected to climate change . They think when permafrost melts, it releases methane, which causes eruptions that then result in craters. That’s the theory, anyway – Titovsky said they’re continuing to research the bubbles. He told The Siberian Times, “We need to know which bumps are dangerous and which are not. Scientists are working on detecting and structuring signs of potential threat, like the maximum height of a bump and pressure that the earth can withstand.” According to The Siberian Times, scientists are making a map of Yamal’s underground gas bubbles, which could threaten infrastructure and transport in what the publication described as a key energy production region. The Russian Academy of Science’s Ural branch also connected thawing permafrost with the phenomenon. A spokesperson told The Siberian Times of the bubbles, “Their appearance at such high latitudes is most likely linked to thawing permafrost which is in turn linked to overall rise of temperature on the north of Eurasia during the last several decades. An abnormally warm summer in 2016 on the Yamal peninsula must have added to the process.” Researchers Dorothee Ehrich and Alexander Sokolov punctured one of the 15 bubbles found last year, and found the air escaping from the bumps included 20 times more carbon dioxide and 200 times more methane than nearby air, according to EcoWatch. Via EcoWatch and The Siberian Times Images via screenshot ( 1 , 2 )

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7,000 methane gas bubbles in Siberia on the verge of exploding

Swedish researchers develop low-cost wood filter to purify water in refugee camps

March 22, 2017 by  
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At least 780 million people in the world lack access to clean water , a dire problem exacerbated by the increasing number of people living in poorly-equipped refugee camps . Researchers from KTH Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden may have come up with a low-cost, low-tech solution: a portable wood filter that doesn’t require a power source to produce clean water. KTH scientists developed a material from wood cellulose that can trap bacteria , and are testing the material for use as a water filter. PhD student Anna Ottenhall said, “Our aim is that we can provide the filter for a portable system that doesn’t need electricity – just gravity – to run raw water through it…The bacteria-trapping material does not leach any toxic chemicals into the water, as many other on-site purification methods do.” Related: Researchers design cheap mercury-free LED foil to purify water https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1NaJ2zRPleQ The wood cellulose fibers utilized are antibacterial, and are dipped in a positively-charged polymer solution to create the material, which works since bacteria and viruses are negatively charged, according to Phys.org. The harmful viruses and bacteria stick to the material, unable to get free or reproduce, and eventually die. Another benefit of this method of purification is that bacteria won’t be able to build up a resistance to it. The Swedish research team envisions their material used as a water filter in places that lack wells or infrastructure, like refugee camps or in emergencies. After use, the material can simply be burned. Bandages, packaging, and plasters could potentially draw on the material as well to dispose of bacteria in ways that don’t put toxins into the environment . KTH researchers are developing several other wood-based materials along with this wood water filter, such as see-through wood, a wood polystyrene alternative, and squishy wood batteries. Via Phys.org Images via KTH Royal Institute of Technology and Wikimedia Commons

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Swedish researchers develop low-cost wood filter to purify water in refugee camps

Neil deGrasse Tyson: Trump’s anti-science budget will make America stupid again

March 21, 2017 by  
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President Donald Trump ’s proposed budget eviscerates government funding for basic scientific research and development, taking a sledge hammer to education, health and environmental protection. In a series of Tweets posted on Sunday, astrophysicist and TV host Neil deGrasse Tyson indirectly took on Trump’s budget , writing that making America great won’t happen until we make America smart again by increasing government funding, not by ignoring the scientific consensus on man-made global warming and slashing financial support for important programs that improve the quality of life for American citizens and ensure a livable world. https://twitter.com/neiltyson/status/843510463392616448 https://twitter.com/neiltyson/status/843513652611231744 https://twitter.com/neiltyson/status/843516171748069376 https://twitter.com/neiltyson/status/843518683053940736 https://twitter.com/neiltyson/status/843521200278069248 https://twitter.com/neiltyson/status/843523716977905664 https://twitter.com/neiltyson/status/843525981570662400 https://twitter.com/neiltyson/status/843530014104592384 Trump’s budget boosts Defense, Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs while proposing deep cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency (31.4%), Health and Human Services (16.2%), the State Department (28.7%), Commerce (15.7%), Transportation (12.7%), Labor (20.7%), Education (13.5%), Interior (11.7%), Agriculture (20.7%) and Housing and Urban Development (13.2%). Related: Trump team claims funding climate change is “a waste of your money” The budget would also eliminate or zero out programs including Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E), which funds clean energy research; Global Climate Change Initiative; Great Lakes Restoration Initiative; Chesapeake Bay funding; National Endowment for the Arts; National Endowment for the Humanities; NASA’s Office of Education; and TIGER transportation grants, a program included in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 that funds innovative transit projects. Tyson isn’t the only scientist taking action against Trump’s war on science. The March for Science  is scheduled for Earth Day, April 22nd in Washington, D.C. and cities across the country. The mission statement posted on the March for Science website calls for “robustly funded and publicly communicated science as a pillar of human freedom and prosperity. We unite as a diverse, nonpartisan group to call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest.” Via Huffington Post Image 1 , 2 via Wikimedia

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Neil deGrasse Tyson: Trump’s anti-science budget will make America stupid again

First fluorescent frog in the world found in South America

March 16, 2017 by  
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Scientists found the first fluorescent frog in the world – by accident – in South America . Researchers at Buenos Aires’ Bernardino Rivadavia Natural Sciences Museum stumbled across the discovery while studying pigment in polka dot tree frogs, which are common in the continent. Beneath an ultraviolet (UV) light , the otherwise dull-colored frog glows bright blue and green. Fluorescence – or the ability to take in light at short wavelengths and re-emit it at longer wavelengths – is found in several ocean creatures but is incredibly rare on land. Only some scorpions and parrots were known to possess it until now, and this is the very first amphibian we’ve found that fluoresces. Scientists don’t really know why creatures are fluorescent; they could be communicating, attracting mates, or concealing themselves. Related: Biofluorescent sharks glow bright green in the depths of the sea The scientists initially thought the frog might glow a faint red because it contains the pigment biliverdin, which gives some some insects a slight red fluorescence. But when the researchers shone a UVA flashlight on polka dot tree frogs that came from the Santa Fe, Argentina area, they were amazed to see the brown-green frogs glow bright green and blue instead. The journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published their research on March 13. Study co-author Maria Gabriella Lagoria told Chemistry World, “This is very different from fluorophores found in other vertebrates, which are usually proteins or polyenic chains.” And there could be even more fluorescent frogs that we haven’t discovered yet. Co-author Julián Faivovich told Nature, “I’m really hoping that other colleagues will be very interested in this phenomenon, and they will start carrying a UV flashlight to the field.” He plans to seek fluorescence in 250 other tree frog species that have translucent skin like the polka dot tree frog. Via Nature and The Guardian Images via Carlos Taboada et al

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First fluorescent frog in the world found in South America

Large section of Arctic Ocean is six times more acidic than 20 years ago

March 16, 2017 by  
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Ocean acidification is increasing rapidly in the Arctic Ocean . New research from an international team reveals between the 1990’s and 2010, the area of acidified water expanded northward by around 300 nautical miles from near Alaska nearly up to the North Pole . The depth of acidified waters hiked up too, from around 325 feet to more than 800 feet. 13 scientists from institutions in China, Sweden, and the United States scrutinized data from the 1990’s up through 2010 to see how acidification has escalated in the Arctic Ocean, and they found both area and depth of acidified waters spread. Acidity in the area is six times greater than it was 20 years ago. Paper co-author Wei-Jun Cai of the University of Delaware said in a statement, “The Arctic Ocean is the first ocean where we see such a rapid and large-scale increase in acidification, at least twice as fast as that observed in the Pacific or Atlantic oceans.” The journal Nature Climate Change published their research online in late February. Related: Melting Arctic Seas are Turning into Giant Pools of Acid, Researchers Warn There are a few possible reasons for such rapid acidification. One is the lack of summer sea ice ; water is exposed to the atmosphere for lengthier periods of time now and therefore has more time to absorb acidifying gas like carbon dioxide . Currents in the atmosphere have also sent Pacific Ocean water, which tends to be more acidic, into the Canada Basin. Co-author Richard Feely of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the combination of those two phenomenon likely led to the speedy acidification. Naturally the news isn’t great for marine life. Feely said mussels, clams, and small sea snails may have a hard time maintaining or building their shells in acidified waters. As sea snails in particular are an important source of food in the Arctic food web, sustaining herring and salmon, their decline could impact the rest of the marine ecosystem . Via the University of Delaware and the Toronto Star Images via Pixabay and Tammy Beeson/University of Delaware

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Large section of Arctic Ocean is six times more acidic than 20 years ago

Cambridge scientists use light and plants to make cheap, clean hydrogen

March 15, 2017 by  
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Everyone from startups to car companies as big as Toyota have seen the potential of hydrogen as a clean fuel source for vehicles, since its only byproduct is water. But hydrogen is often made with natural gas , which may be less polluting than oil but isn’t exactly clean, so six University of Cambridge scientists developed a way to make the fuel source using sunlight and biomass like leaves. The researchers created clean hydrogen with biomass as a starting point. They suspended biomass in alkaline water and added catalytic nanoparticles. In a laboratory, these components were placed in light mimicking light from the sun , and the nanoparticles got to work, using the light to begin the chemical reactions necessary to produce hydrogen from lignocellulose, part of plant biomass. The university notes the process is both sustainable and relatively cheap. The journal Nature Energy published their research online earlier this week. Related: Startup creates renewable hydrogen energy out of sunlight and water In the past, to turn lignocellulose into hydrogen scientists had to use high temperatures in a gasification process, but the Cambridge scientists say they could simply use sunlight in their method instead. Joint lead author David Wakerley pointed out biomass stores lots of chemical energy, but since it’s unrefined, it’s not feasible to just burn biomass in car engines, for example. He said, “Our system is able to convert the long, messy structures that make up biomass into hydrogen gas, which is much more useful.” The scientists were able to make hydrogen with leaves, paper, and wood. Co-author Erwin Reisner said, “Our sunlight-powered technology is exciting as it enables the production of clean hydrogen from unprocessed biomass under ambient conditions. We see it as a new and viable alternative to high temperature gasification and other renewable means of hydrogen production. Future development can be envisioned at any scale, from small scale devices for off-grid applications to industrial-scale plants.” A United Kingdom patent application has already been filed for the process and thanks to Cambridge Enterprise , which helps academics bring their concepts to market, discussions with a possible commercial partner are ongoing. Via New Atlas and the University of Cambridge Images via Wilerson S Andrade on Flickr and the University of Cambridge Department of Chemistry

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Cambridge scientists use light and plants to make cheap, clean hydrogen

Trump to purge climate change from federal government

March 15, 2017 by  
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Al Gore tried to convince President Donald Trump about the importance of acting on climate change. So did Leonardo DiCaprio . Elon Musk joined Trump’s tech council . German Chancelor Angela Merkel reportedly is going to bring up climate change at her White House meeting with the president. But it all appears to be in vain as the Trump Administration begins to purge the federal government of any association with global warming. The president is expected to sign an executive order possibly as soon as this week that would drop climate change from environmental reviews and rescind other Obama-era climate policies — dramatically reducing the role that climate change plays in government decision-making. The directive will also urge the US Environmental Protection Agency to dismantle the Clean Power Plan , which has yet to be implemented because of legal challenges from conservative states. Regulators will be directed to rescind Obama-era regulations limiting methane emissions — a potent greenhouse gas that escapes into the atmosphere from various points along the natural gas supply chain. Related: Trump tries to keep 21 kids’ climate change lawsuit from going to trial The order will also ask the government to reconsider using the “social cost of carbon” metric when considering new regulations. In what was described by The Daily Beast as the “most historic climate change decision” ever taken by the federal government, for the first time in US history the government put a price on carbon at $36 per ton. Conservatives, including Republican elder statesmen who wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal recently supporting a revenue neutral carbon tax, should be discouraged by the fact that Trump does not want the federal government to factor carbon pollution in the rule-making process. Trump is also determined to revive the dying coal industry that has been replaced by cheap natural gas and renewables such as solar and wind. The president is expected to lift the coal leasing moratorium the Obama Administration put in place January 2016. When he was running for president, Trump pledged to end what he described as a “war on coal” and put coal workers back to work. Last September, Trump said that he would “rescind the coal mining lease moratorium, the excessive Interior Department stream rule, and conduct a top-down review of all anti-coal regulations issued by the Obama Administration.” Via Reuters Image 1 , 2 via Wikimedia

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Rick Perry confirmed as Energy Secretary

March 3, 2017 by  
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With bitter battles over the confirmations of Scott Pruitt as Environmental Protection Agency administrator or Jeff Sessions as Attorney General, perhaps it shouldn’t come as a surprise the Senate confirmed the slightly less controversial Rick Perry . In a 62 to 37 vote, the former Texas governor slid right into his new role as Energy Secretary. He’ll oversee energy policy , 17 national laboratories, and the United States’ arsenal of nuclear weapons . Perry’s views have come a long way from those he touted during his failed campaigns for president, or so it appears. During his 2012 campaign, he called for the elimination of the Department of Energy , but could not remember the department’s name in a debate. During his recent confirmation hearing, he said he regretted that proposal. Related: Rick Perry tapped to run the Department of Energy – which he once promised to shut down According to The New York Times, people close to Perry said he once thought the Energy Department centered around promoting and developing America’s energy resources – a weighty task in its own right, but it was only after the former governor heard about the agency’s other functions he changed his tune. During his confirmation hearing he said after “being briefed on so many of the vital functions of the Department of Energy,” he now supports its goals. For many years Perry showed complete disdain for the science of climate change , but the Energy Department does deal with the issue through research into energy technologies. It appears Perry has changed his mind on that too. He told senators, “I believe the climate is changing. I believe some of it is naturally occurring, but some of it is also caused by man-made activity.” Some of that man-made activity can be linked to oil and gas companies, such as Energy Transfer Partners , where Perry once sat on the board. To his credit, he did resign from the company building the Dakota Access Pipeline after his appointment, according to The Texas Tribune . During his confirmation hearing he also made a poorly phrased but promising claim: “I am going to protect all of the science, whether it’s related to the climate or other aspects of what we’re going to be doing. I am going to protect the men and women of the scientific community from anyone that would attack them, no matter what their reason may be, at the Department of Energy.” Via The New York Times Images via Gage Skidmore on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Rick Perry confirmed as Energy Secretary

New details of feathered dinosaur could elucidate the origins of flight

March 2, 2017 by  
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A small red-crested dinosaur from the Late Jurassic era could help us unlock the origins of flight, now that we have a better idea of what it looked like. Using high-powered lasers, scientists from the University of Hong Kong have illuminated previously invisible soft tissues of the foot-tall Anchiornis , providing, for the first time, a detailed outline of the avian-like creature. The quantitative reconstruction of Anchiornis , which was first discovered in northeastern China in 2009, show that the animal possessed drumstick-shaped legs, long forearms connected by wing-like membranes, foot scales, and a slender tail. “The detail was so well lit that we could see the texture of the skin,” said paleontologist Michael Pittman, who described the discovery in a paper published in Nature Communications this week. These traits, Pittman added, could help us understand how dinosaurs eventually took to the skies as birds. As a field of science, paleontology is riddled with mysteries. The skeletons scientists dig up from the ground are seldom complete, and soft tissues like organs, muscle, or skin almost never survive into the present. On the rare occasion that tissues have endured the test of time, they’re unobservable with the naked eye. Related: Scientist finds dinosaur tail trapped in amber and it is covered with feathers That’s where a technique known as laser-stimulated fluorescence comes in. By bouncing wavelengths of light aimed a fossil sample in a dark room, Pittman and his team were able to manifest high-fidelity features that offer clues to how Anchiornis attempted, or even achieved, aerodynamic flight 160 million years ago. Anchiornis didn’t necessarily fly, of course. Even modern birds with wing folds, like the weka of New Zealand , never escape the pull of gravity. Nevertheless, the research remains vital to our understanding of where birds came from, since they appeared around the same time, Pittman said. “What our work does underscore,” Pittman told National Geographic , “is the broad extent to which bird-like dinosaurs were experimenting with their anatomy and functional capabilities before we had the first unequivocal gliding and flying birds.” + Nature Communications + University of Hong Kong Via National Geographic

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New details of feathered dinosaur could elucidate the origins of flight

Go way, way off grid at this amazing tiny house Airbnb in Oaxaca

March 2, 2017 by  
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Located near Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca, Tiny Casa is an ultra tiny Airbnb cabin perfect for those looking for a completely off-grid getaway . Inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden”, the compact concrete casita is a simple one-bedroom, one-bath retreat surrounded by complete serenity. Raw concrete covers the tiny Airbnb escape on the interior and exterior. Sliding wooden shutters are used to cool the house in the hot summer months, and they open up to stunning panoramic views of the natural surroundings. Related: 8 inspiring tiny Airbnb homes for a taste of living small Although the casita only offers the basics in terms of amenities, it comes with a lovely outdoor pool and is just steps away from a pristine stretch of beach. Visitors can also make use of a pizza oven and read the day away in the swinging hammock . The owner says that the simple, austere ambience of the home, which was inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, is meant to bring people back to the basics of simple living , “Casa Tiny is a place to escape from society. Enjoy a simple life for a couple of days, a week or a month in this minimal, low-impact, isolated abode.” + Casa Tiny Airbnb Via Gardenista  

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