Three-fourths of sunscreens don’t work as they claim and may contain harmful chemicals

May 23, 2017 by  
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Before heading to the beach, most people make sure to pack a bottle of sunscreen. After all, the ultraviolet rays can be seriously damaging and no one wants to get  skin cancer . But it turns out some ingredients in hundreds of common sunscreens don’t work as well as advertised, according to a new report released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG). Additionally, 73 percent of 880 sunscreens that were tested contain “worrisome” ingredients people may not want to slather on their skin. Authors of the report , which was released on Tuesday, examined the SPF protection, chemical ingredients and overall safety and effectiveness of numerous sunscreens , moisturizers, and lip balms. Then, they compiled a list of the best- and worst-rated products to help consumers make the best – and healthiest – choices when preparing to have fun in the sun. Sonya Lunder, a senior analyst with the environmental advocacy group and lead scientist of the 2017 Sunscreens Guide, said of the findings, “Sunscreens are really mismarketed, and as a result, people who depend on them think they are far more powerful than they really are.” According to dermatologist Dr. Dawn Davis, who did not participate in the report and works at the Mayo Clinic, the SPF is a ratio of how long a person without sunscreen can be in the sun without becoming red. In his own words, “if you’re standing on the equator at high noon and it would usually take your skin one minute without sunscreen to become red and irritated, SPF 15 means you can stand in that same sun exposure for 15 minutes.” Related: Hawaii aims to ban coral reef-killing chemical sunscreens Most sunscreen brands offer products with high SPF, sometimes even over 100. Thought to be beneficial, they are actually misleading, says Lunder. “People who buy high-SPF products are more likely to get burned because they assume they’re getting better and longer-lasting protection,” she said. It is for this reason that she supports the American Academy of Dermatology’s recommendation to choose a sunscreen that is at least SPF 30 (which would block 97% of UVB rays) and suggests one reapply it every few hours. SPF protection can also vary, depending on its age, how it has been stored and lab tests find that SPF levels can vary wildly. There is also something to be said about the questionable ingredients in certain sunscreens. While most chemicals in the product create a barrier to prevent damage from UV rays, other chemicals create damaging effects. Two ingredients, in particular, oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate, consumers should avoid. According to Lunder, oxybenzone “is a hormone disruptor that mimics body hormones and affects reproductive tract and other hormones.” And Retinyl palmitate, a form of vitamin A, has been linked to the development of skin tumors under direct UV light. More research needs to be conducted on the latter, but authors of the report advise consumers to avoid sunscreens that contain both ingredients. All in all, the report recommends sunscreen products that are safe and offer adequate sun protection. The EWG says outdoor enthusiasts should look for three things: an SPF between 30 and 50 to protect from UVB rays, zinc oxide and titanium oxide to ward off UVA rays, and no oxybenzone and retinyl palmitate. + Environmental Working Group Via CNN Images via  Bella Mecia , Pixabay

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Three-fourths of sunscreens don’t work as they claim and may contain harmful chemicals

Scientists may have found evidence for a parallel universe

May 19, 2017 by  
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A parallel universe may not just be a quirk of science fiction anymore; scientists think they may have found evidence for the idea of a universe other than our own. It all has to do with a strange Cold Spot, which researchers haven’t had an easy time explaining; some even suggest it could actually be an optical illusion. But new research reveals something far more bizarre may be going on. NASA first discovered the baffling Cold Spot in 2004. The Cold Spot is 1.8 billion light years across and, as you may have guessed, colder than what surrounds it in the universe. Scientists thought perhaps it was colder because it had 10,000 less galaxies than other regions of similar size. They even thought perhaps the Cold Spot was just a trick of the light. Related: ‘Largest-ever’ new map of universe shows 1.2 million galaxies But now an international team of researchers think perhaps the Cold Spot could actually offer evidence for the concept of a multiverse. The Guardian explains an infinite number of universes make up a multiverse; each having its own reality different from ours. These scientists say they’ve ruled out the last-ditch optical illusion idea. Instead, they think our universe may have collided with another in what News.com.au described as something like a car crash; the impact could have pushed energy away from an area of space to result in the Cold Spot. Physicist Tom Shanks of the University of Durham said in a statement , “We can’t entirely rule out that the Spot is caused by an unlikely fluctuation explained by the standard model. But if that isn’t the answer, then there are more exotic explanations. Perhaps the most exciting of these is that the Cold Spot was caused by a collision between our universe and another bubble universe.” If more research backs up this new idea, “…then the Cold Spot might be taken as the first evidence for the multiverse – and billions of other universes may exist like our own.” Eight scientists from institutions in the United Kingdom, Chile, Spain, and the United States collaborated on a study recently published in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society . Via The Independent , News.com.au , and The Guardian Images via Pexels and Pixabay

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3D-printed ovaries let infertile mice give birth

May 18, 2017 by  
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Three-dimensionally printed organs are pretty old hat by now. But while the technology has been applied to everything from artificial ears to replacement brain tissue , working ovaries have been outside the realm of possibility—until now, that is. Scientists from Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine and McCormick School of Engineering have developed “bioprosthetic” ovary structures that allowed infertile mice to not only ovulate but also birth and nurse healthy offspring, according to a paper published this week in the journal Nature Communications . Composed of rapid-prototyped gelatin scaffolds, and primed with immature eggs, the bioprosthetic ovaries successfully boosted the hormone production necessary for restoring fertility in the mice, researchers said. “This research shows these bioprosthetic ovaries have long-term, durable function,” Teresa K. Woodruff, a reproductive scientist and director of the Women’s Health Research Institute at Feinberg, said in a statement. “Using bioengineering, instead of transplanting from a cadaver, to create organ structures that function and restore the health of that tissue for that person, is the holy grail of bioengineering for regenerative medicine.” Related: Organovo’s Bioprinter Technology Could Lead to 3D Printed Human Organs Woodruff and company plan to test the structures in pigs, with an eye toward human trials in the future. The technology could have significant implications for women with fertility issues, particularly cancer patients who often lose their ovarian function after intensive chemotherapy. “What happens with some of our cancer patients is that their ovaries don’t function at a high enough level and they need to use hormone replacement therapies in order to trigger puberty,” said Monica Laronda, co-author of the study and a former post-doctoral fellow in the Woodruff lab. “The purpose of this scaffold is to recapitulate how an ovary would function. We’re thinking big picture, meaning every stage of the girl’s life, so puberty through adulthood to a natural menopause.” + Northwestern University Photo by Duncan Hull

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Extraordinary man builds 25 plastic bottle homes for refugees in Algeria

May 18, 2017 by  
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A Sahrawi refugee in Algeria is rebuilding lives – literally. Born and raised in the refugee camp in Awserd near Tindouf, 27-year-old Tateh Lehbib Breica is constructing disaster resistant homes using discarded plastic bottles – for himself and others. These recycled homes are specifically built to endure harsh desert conditions for an affordable price. It’s no easy feat to construct homes in a climate where temperatures can spike to around 113 degrees Fahrenheit. Sandstorms also prey on refugee shelters in five camps near Tindouf, Algeria, where people live after fleeing violence in the Western Sahara War over 40 years ago. But the area also faces destructive rainstorms – in 2015 heavy rains wrecked thousands of homes. Related: Mayor born in Syria converts abandoned Greek resort into a sanctuary for refugees Breica may have found a solution in old plastic bottles filled with sand. He has a master’s degree in energy efficiency after participating in a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) scholarship program. He’d intended to build a rooftop garden, growing seedlings in the bottles, but the circular shape of the energy efficient home he was building posed a challenge to that idea. He wondered what he could do with the bottles instead and recalled a documentary on building with plastic bottles he’d seen during his time at university. The plastic bottle homes can better withstand storms than adobe , mudbrick, or tent homes, and are water resistant. The homes have thick walls, and partnered with their circular shape, stand up better to sandstorms. Breica built the first bottle home for his grandmother, who was hurt while being carried to a community center to hunker down during a sandstorm. Working with UNHCR, Breica has built 25 homes so far. He’s earned the nickname Crazy with Bottles for his work. Although he’s won awards for his design, he said, “People still see me as the guy obsessed with recycling bottles and building unusual houses.” Via UNCHR Images © UNHCR/Russell Fraser

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Extraordinary man builds 25 plastic bottle homes for refugees in Algeria

These mini spherical reactors could help scale fusion energy by 2030

May 16, 2017 by  
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Scientists have long sought to replicate with fusion reactors the sun’s ability to produce energy through nuclear fusion . But it’s taking too long for Tokamak Energy , a UK-based company that wants to speed up the progress with mini reactors. Their small Spherical Tokamaks makes it possible to accelerate tests, which is difficult in other laboratories because of the specific conditions required; they hope to provide commercially-available fusion energy as soon as 2030. Nuclear fusion is difficult to replicate on Earth because it requires extremely high temperatures and pressures. Scientists have broken records on the path to fusion energy for all, but there’s still a long way to go; a recent record hit only 70 seconds of high-performance plasma operation , and that was still an exciting milestone. But Tokamak Energy thinks they could accelerate us closer to fusion energy with their mini tokamaks. Related: Germany’s massive nuclear fusion reactor is actually working Spherical Tokamaks can “achieve a much higher plasma pressure for a given magnetic field than conventional tokamaks,” according to the company, which they say means their smaller reactors are more efficient. The tokamaks’ small size also offers an advantage in contrast to other fusion reactors being developed around the world, which have cost billions of dollars. At the end of April this year, Tokamak Energy switched on their third reactor in five years. They hope the ST40 will hit 100 million degrees Kelvin – seven times hotter than the Sun’s center and required for controlled fusion – next year. The company is working to be the first to offer commercially viable fusion, in just a little over 10 years. When his company turned on the ST40, Tokamak Energy CEO David Kingham said, “We will still need significant investment, many academic and industrial collaborations, dedicated and creative engineers and scientists , and an excellent supply chain. Our approach continues to be to break the journey down into a series of engineering challenges, raising additional investment on reaching each new milestone. We are already halfway to the goal of fusion energy, with hard work we will deliver fusion power at commercial scale by 2030.” Via the BBC and Tokamak Energy ( 1 , 2 ) Images via screenshot

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Richard Branson’s new supersonic jet will fly 2X faster than the speed of sound

May 12, 2017 by  
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Would you like to travel between New York City and London in just 3 hours and 15 minutes? In a few years, that could be possible. Richard Branson of Virgin Galactic and startup Boom Technology have partnered to build a supersonic aircraft capable of zipping through the skies faster than the speed of sound. Live Science reports that the passenger aircraft would be capable of traveling through the skies faster than the Concorde jet or any other commercial aircraft today. The plane won’t be the first aircraft to fly faster than the speed of sound, but it will be the first modern, supersonic passenger jet that travels at Mach 2.2. In case you’re wondering, that is twice the speed of sound, or 1,451 mph (2,335 km/h). The now-retired Concorde was capable of flying at speeds of about 1,350 mph (2,180 km/h). At Mach 2.2, passengers could travel between San Francisco and Tokyo in 5.5 hours, or between Los Angeles and Sydney in less than 6 hours and 45 minutes. In a blog post , CEO and founder of Boom Technology Blake Scholl said that one of the startup’s goals is to set a new speed record for civil aircraft. “Building a supersonic airplane is not easy — but it is important,” Scholl wrote. “While we love the hard engineering and technical challenges, what really drives us is the enormous human benefit of faster travel . Related: Sir Richard Branson urges prime minister David Cameron to back renewable energy Reportedly, Scholl is most excited about the positive implications supersonic commercial travel may bring, as it will make the farthest regions of the planet more accessible. “Imagine traveling across the Atlantic [Ocean], getting business done [in Europe] and being home to tuck your children into bed,” Scholl wrote, “or saving two whole days of a typical round-trip itinerary to Asia. … When time is no longer a limit, where will you vacation? Where will you do business?” Having raised $33 million in funding to develop the startup’s first supersonic passenger jet , the company will begin constructing the “Baby Boom” prototype. Then, a prototype of the eventual full-size Boom aircraft, which will carry 55 passengers in all-business-class configuration, will be built. Air Transport World (ATW) reports that the Baby Boom’s first test flight is scheduled for 2018, and the full-size Boom for 2020. Certification from the Federal Aviation Administration is expected to follow shortly afterward. Via Live Science Images via FighterSweep , Forbes

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Richard Branson’s new supersonic jet will fly 2X faster than the speed of sound

Milan’s striking wooden UniCredit building is powered by the sun

May 12, 2017 by  
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You wouldn’t expect it, but this radical solar-powered building in Milan is actually owned by a bank. aMDL Michele De Lucchi Studio designed the LEED-certified UniCredit building to house the bank’s general meetings, but also to enrich public life with multipurpose community spaces. Its open structure of curved laminated wood ribs gives it a sense of accessibility and protection. The pavilion has no foundations–it was constructed on a reinforced concrete podium above a parking facility. Inspired by the shape of a seed, the design of the building combines lamellar larch beams with glass. The open structure accentuates accessibility, strengthened by two large wings equipped with monitors for events open to the general public. Related: Floating timber pavilion transforms a Swiss lake into an exciting new public square A 700-seat, multipurpose auditorium situated on the ground floor adapts to different configurations and events, while the overhead walkways that runs along the outer edge of the building can function as a temporary exhibition space . The first floor houses a nursery for 50 toddlers, while the top level features a lounge used for corporate events. Thanks to its strong focus on environmental sustainability and environmental sustainability, the LEED Gold-certified project has won first prize at this year’s WT SmartCity Award competition. + aMDL Michele De Lucchi Studio Via WT SmartCity Award Photos by Tom Vack

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90-million-year-old embryo from ‘exceedingly rare’ Gigantoraptor discovered

May 10, 2017 by  
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Twenty-five years ago, a mysterious egg was discovered. For a good portion of that time, the unknown specimen that failed to hatch has been studied by paleontologists of the University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada. Finally, the dinosaur embryo has been identified and given a scientific name, and researchers say the discovery is more profound than they once thought. The study, published on May 9 in the journal Nature Communications , was co-led by researcher Darla Zelenitsky, an assistant professor of paleontology. She told Live Science in an email, “This is the first embryo known for a giant oviraptorosaur, dinosaurs that are exceedingly rare.” Additionally, it is the second known giant oviraptorosaur (B. sinensis) on record. 15 inches in length (38 centimeters), the embryo would have developed into a gigantic bird-like dinosaur with a toothless beak and a crest on top of its head. Another name for the dinosaur is Gigantoraptor, as it was a beast that stood as tall as 16 ft (5 meters). Reportedly, the two-legged dinosaurs look like modern-day cassowaries – large, flightless birds that live in Australia. Researchers believe B. sinensis measured up to 26 feet long from its snout to the end of its tail and weighed up to 6,600 lbs (3,000 kg) by the age of 11. This means it would have been 9 lbs by the time it hatched. The fossilized embryo was discovered by a Chinese farmer in Henan Province in 1992. One year later, it was exported to the U.S. by The Stone Co., a Colorado firm that sells fossils and rocks. After word spread that the embryo had been discovered, National Geographic featured it on a magazine cover in 1996. Related: World’s largest dinosaur footprint found in Australia’s “Jurassic Park” Enthralled by the discovery, people began calling the dinosaur embryo “Baby Louie.” The embryo representing a new species was eventually repatriated to China (2013) and put on display at the Henan Geological Museum. There, researchers flocked to study the intriguing discovery. After years of speculation and research, the 90-million-year-old embryo has finally been identified. + Nature Communications Via Live Science

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90-million-year-old embryo from ‘exceedingly rare’ Gigantoraptor discovered

4.4 billion years ago Earth had no mountains and was covered with water, say scientists

May 10, 2017 by  
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Tiny zircon crystals have allowed scientists at Australian National University (ANU) to paint a portrait of what Earth looked like over four billion years ago. Their scrutiny of the mineral grains – the oldest fragments of the planet we’ve ever uncovered – led them to think our world was a much different place back then. They say the planet, which was barren, had no mountains, and probably only a few islands poked up above the water blanketing the rest of the planet. Zircon crystals preserved inside sandstone rocks in the Jack Hills of Western Australia provided clues to our planet’s history – billions of years before humans ever showed up. Lead researcher Antony Burnham said the zircon samples were collected over multiple decades, and his team also drew on chemical analyses from an ANU research group two decades ago. He likened zircon grains to skin cells at a crime scene. Related: World’s largest dinosaur footprint found in Australia’s “Jurassic Park” “The history of the Earth is like a book with its first chapter ripped out with no surviving rocks from the very early period, but we’ve used these trace elements of zircon to build a profile of the world at that time,” he said in a statement. “Our research indicates there were no mountains and continental collisions during the Earth’s first 700 million years or more of existence – it was a much more quiet and dull place.” The zircon formed from melting older igneous rocks, instead of sediment melting, which is typical in continental collisions. And it appears it took a long time for the planet to change from the flat landscape into the Earth we inhabit now. “Our findings also showed that there are strong similarities with zircon from the types of rocks that predominated for the following 1.5 billion years, suggesting that it took the Earth a long time to evolve into the planet that we know today,” Burnham said. The journal Nature Geoscience published the research online yesterday. Via Australian National University Images via Stuart Hay, ANU

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4.4 billion years ago Earth had no mountains and was covered with water, say scientists

Light-powered device can purify air and generate clean energy

May 10, 2017 by  
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5.5 million people died prematurely because of air pollution back in 2013 – and half of those people lived in India or China. Air pollution continues to plague people around the world today, but now researchers from KU Leuven and the University of Antwerp have found a way to transform that dirty air into energy . They designed an air purifying device able to fit in a person’s hand that only needs light to work. The groundbreaking device houses two small chambers divided by a membrane. In one chamber air is purified; in the other hydrogen gas is generated. Nanomaterials in the device act as catalysts to both break down pollution and produce the gas. Scientist Sammy Verbruggen of both institutions, who’s lead author on a study published recently about the device in ChemSusChem , said the hydrogen gas can be stored and used as fuel in the future. Related: 9-year-old girl sues Indian government for climate change inaction According to KU Leuven, the processes underlying the device are akin to the workings of solar panels: “The difference here is that electricity is not generated directly, but rather that air is purified while the generated power is stored as hydrogen gas.” The higher the concentration of pollutants in the air, the stronger the electrical currents, according to the researchers, which means cities like Los Angeles, Beijing, and Delhi could really benefit from the technology . Verbruggen emphasized to Mic their device is just first proof of the concept, but could open up options in the future. Verbruggen told Mic, “There’s still a lot of work to do to make this applicable to daily life. It’s not like we discovered the holy grail yet. But this is a new field of opportunities.” The scientists are working to scale up their device and improve their materials to draw on sunlight more efficiently to set off the reactions. Via Mic and KU Leuven Images © UAntwerpen and KU Leuven and via Pixabay

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Light-powered device can purify air and generate clean energy

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