Sweden passes law to become carbon neutral by 2045

June 22, 2017 by  
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Sweden just took a huge step towards becoming even greener than they already are. A new law passed by the country’s parliament will slash carbon emissions all the way down to zero by 2045. The move makes Sweden the first country to upgrade its carbon goals since the 2015 Paris Agreement . A cross-party committee prepared the law, which then passed with an overwhelming majority, bringing the goal to become carbon neutral from 2050 down to 2045, and puting in place an independent Climate Policy Council. The law calls for an action plan that will be updated every four years. Related: Norway moves up zero emissions target to 2030 According to New Scientist, Sweden already obtains 83 percent of its electricity from hydropower and nuclear energy . They met a goal to obtain 50 percent of energy from renewables eight years before their target. They’ll work to meet this new carbon neutral objective in part by focusing on transportation , such as through increasing use of vehicles powered by electricity or biofuels . Sweden aims to slash domestic emissions by a minimum of 85 percent. And they’ll offset any other emissions by planting trees or investing in sustainable projects in other countries. Femke de Jong, European Union Policy Director at Carbon Market Watch , said Sweden has a high chance of success, and other countries in Europe could follow suit. “With the Trump decision to get out of the Paris Agreement, Europe is more united than ever and wants to show leadership to the world,” de Jong said. Public resistance can be an obstacle to cutting emissions, but according to New Scientist in Sweden there’s an unusually high amount of support for environmentally friendly policies. But de Jong warned the country must also show leadership in forests, not simply emissions. They were recently accused along with France, Finland, and Austria of attempting to weaken rules to obscure emissions from burning wood and deforestation . Via New Scientist Images via Håkan Dahlström on Flickr and Wikimedia Commons

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Sweden passes law to become carbon neutral by 2045

Formerly undiscovered tectonic plates may explain mysterious Vityaz earthquakes

May 26, 2017 by  
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A previously undetected layer of tectonic plates may offer answers to the mysterious Vityaz earthquakes in the Pacific Ocean . Researchers recently presented their preliminary findings on an additional layer of tectonic plates in Earth’s mantle at a joint meeting of the American Geophysical Union and the Japan Geoscience Union in Tokyo. These plates might have moved into the mantle millions of years ago. Scientists have known for over 50 years that continents slowly move around Earth, and the ocean floor rips apart as they do. Magma from the Earth’s mantle fills these gaps. But when tectonic plates converge, subduction, or the process of one plate edge moving down into the mantle, occurs. Scientist Johnny Wu of the University of Houston shared new evidence of a layer of tectonic plates that long ago subducted into the mantle. Related: Newly discovered link between two faults could lead to a much bigger San Francisco earthquake The recently discovered tectonic plates are in the mantle’s so-called transition zone, around 273 to 410 miles under the surface in the Tonga area. The plates move horizontally nearly as fast as plates do at the surface, and breaks and bends in these newly found plates can lead to earthquakes. Seismology advances helped make the find possible. Scientists are now able to make pictures of the interior of the planet utilizing vibrations from natural earthquakes. Wu put it this way: “Think of Hubble . We look out, and the further we look out the more things we discover, not just about the universe – we’re actually looking back in time. And this new seismology is like turning the Hubble to look into the Earth , because as we look deeper and get clearer images, we can see what the Earth might have looked like further and further back in time.” Another scientist from the University of Houston, one from the China Earthquake Administration , and a fourth from the University of Utah were also part of the research , which was presented at the meeting on Tuesday. The findings haven’t been peer reviewed yet, but could change the way scientists look at plate movement. Via The Guardian Images via YXO on Flickr and Nguyen Tan Tin on Flickr

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Formerly undiscovered tectonic plates may explain mysterious Vityaz earthquakes

Why scientists will march in over 400 cities on Earth Day

April 21, 2017 by  
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Even if the president of the United States rejects science , scientists plan to make their voices heard. Tomorrow they’ll march on Washington, D.C. and over 400 locations around the world in the March for Science . While organizers say the march was inspired by the success of the January 21 Women’s March, they also emphasize their event is nonpartisan. Their march will celebrate science and highlight “the need to respect and encourage research that gives us insight into the world.” Tens of thousands of people are expected to show up for the March for Science in Washington, D.C. tomorrow. People will gather at the Washington Monument starting at 8:00 AM, and will participate in teach-ins and a rally program until the march at 2:00 PM. Speakers include Bill Nye and pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha who helped expose Flint , Michigan lead poisoning. Related: Trump inspires 400 scientists to run for office Trump isn’t the only reason for the March for Science. Scientists and academics have been concerned for years now over public distrust of science. The event’s mission page says, “People who value science have remained silent for far too long in the face of policies that ignore scientific evidence and endanger both human life and the future of our world. New policies threaten to further restrict scientists’ ability to research and communicate their findings. We face a possible future where people not only ignore scientific evidence, but seek to eliminate it entirely…We must take science out of the labs and journals and share it with the world.” The American Association for the Advancement of Science , the American Chemical Society , and the American Geophysical Union all support the march. Satellite marches will take place on six different continents. You can register for the march in Washington, D.C. or find a march near you here . If you can’t attend the Earth Day science march, you can march for climate science in the People’s Climate Mobilization on DC on April 29. + March for Science Via The Washington Post Images via Wikimedia Commons and March for Science

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Trump inspires 400 scientists to run for office

January 27, 2017 by  
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It’s been a rough week for the scientific community, with President Donald Trump all but declaring war on evidence-based scholarship. Science is supposed to be nonpartisan, yet the White House has in a matter of days muzzled the National Parks Service , frozen grants at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, purged references to climate change from federal websites, and tapped a virulent anti-vaxxer to head an investigation into vaccine safety . Scientists have responded to this barrage of “alternate facts” and “fake news” with an upcoming march on Washington, D.C., and hundreds are even mulling a run for public office. #ThanksDonald ! That’s where 314 Action comes in. Named after the first three digits of pi, the political action committee is the scientist equivalent of Emily’s List , which encourages pro-choice Democratic women to take on the corridors of power, or Veterans Campaign , which does the same for former members of the military. “314 Action is concerned that STEM education in the United States is falling further and further behind the rest of the world, that our political leaders continue to deny scientific facts, and that Congress fails to fully fund scientific research so we can solve pressing environmental issues like climate change and social problems like gun violence,” reads the nonprofit’s website. Related: Scientists are preparing to march on Washington In the past two weeks, 314 Action has seen more than 400 people express interest in an online information session it’ll be holding for STEM workers who are considering running for office for the first time. If even a fraction of those people eventually get elected, it’ll be the intellectual shot in the arm Congress so desperately needs. Only 10 percent of lawmakers have any kind of post-high school STEM knowledge, according to a 2011 survey from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics . “A lot of scientists traditionally feel that science is above politics but we’re seeing that politics is not above getting involved in science,” 314 Action founder Shaughnessy Naughton told the Atlantic . “We’re losing, and the only way to stop that is to get more people with scientific backgrounds at the table.” + 314 Action Via the Atlantic Photos by Pixabay and Joye

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Scientists turn eggshells into eco-friendly data-storage devices

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

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Scientists turn eggshells into eco-friendly data-storage devices

Aquarium Zebra shark learns how to reproduce without her male partner

January 17, 2017 by  
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A female zebra shark ( Stegostoma fasciatum ) in Australia has learned to live, and reproduce, without a male counterpart. The shark, which lives in an aquarium , is one of only three animals documented that once reproduced sexually – she had a male partner for around 13 years – and then switched to reproducing asexually. Now scientists are now wondering if this phenomenon is more common than we thought. Leonie the zebra shark had a male partner from 1999 to 2012 at a Townsville, Australia aquarium, and they had over two dozen babies. When her partner was moved to a different tank, Leonie spent around four years by herself, until she gave birth to three surprise baby sharks in 2016. She’d lacked contact with any males for those four years. Scientists initially thought perhaps she’d saved sperm from the former male partner, but genetic testing revealed the three babies only had DNA from their mother. Related: Researchers record fish “singing” choruses at the break of dawn in Australia Sharks can reproduce asexually when an adjacent cell called a polar body fertilizes an egg, and it could be that is what happened with Leonie. The mechanism isn’t optimal, as it can lead to inbreeding, but could be employed by sharks when there aren’t any males around. Lead author on a study published by Scientific Reports , Christine Dudgeon of The University of Queensland , told New Scientist, “It’s not a strategy for surviving many generations because it reduces genetic diversity and adaptability. It might be a holding-on mechanism. Mum’s genes get passed down from female to female until there are males available to mate with.” Some species such as other sharks, snakes, rays, turkeys, and Komodo dragons are capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually, but asexual reproduction usually happens in females that have never reproduced sexually. The only other female animals recorded switching from sexual to asexual reproduction are a boa constrictor and an eagle ray; both lived in captivity. But it could be this anomaly actually occurs more frequently than we realized. Dudgeon said perhaps we just haven’t been looking. Via New Scientist Images via Wikimedia Commons ( 1 , 2 )

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Aquarium Zebra shark learns how to reproduce without her male partner

Affordable housing for disabled veterans marries wellness and sustainability in Los Angeles

January 17, 2017 by  
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Great architecture goes beyond building four walls—it’s about empowering individuals and building communities. That philosophy is embodied in the 2017 AIA award-winning project, Six Affordable Veteran Housing. Designed by Brooks + Scarpa , this beautiful LEED Platinum-certified project offers support services, rehab, and affordable housing to disabled veterans in Los Angeles’ MacArthur Park, an area with one of the highest population densities in the U.S. Unlike traditional shelter models, Six Affordable Veteran Housing was designed primarily around the concept of community by prioritizing large public areas over private spaces. The 42,500-square-foot complex is the first Skid Row Housing Trust project built outside of downtown Los Angeles and takes inspiration from the military term “I’ve got your six,” a phrase that refers to having someone’s back. “The organization of the space is intended to transform the way people live-away from a reclusive, isolating layout towards a community-oriented, interactive space,” say the architects. The SIX comprises 57 units of high-quality sustainable and affordable housing in a neighborhood that’s highly walkable, particularly to service-industry employers, but is typically out of the price range for disabled veterans. The units are stacked into four levels and each has balconies wrapped with a recycled wood screen overlooking the central courtyard. Every unit features ten-foot-high ceilings and large, strategically placed windows that let in ample natural light and cross ventilation. Related: Seattle teens build mobile tiny homes for local homeless community The project’s energy efficient design also sets the facility apart from most conventionally developed projects. The LEED Platinum -certified SIX was constructed using passive design strategies to optimize building performance, such as orienting the building for exposure to prevailing winds and adding windows that maximize day lighting. Concrete floors and walls double as thermal heat sinks, while double-glazed low-E windows minimize heat loss and gain. A large green roof and edible garden top the building and can be seen from below. + Brooks + Scarpa Images by Tara Wujcik

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Affordable housing for disabled veterans marries wellness and sustainability in Los Angeles

Finland may be the first country to completely ban coal

November 25, 2016 by  
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Canada and France both recently announced they plan to stop using coal , but Finland may beat them both to become the first country in the world to ban coal. The Ministry of Employment and the Economy released a statement announcing the country aims to stop using coal during the 2020s. The ultimate goal is to go carbon neutral , maybe even as soon as 2050. Right now, Finland receives 10 percent of its energy from coal and 40 percent from fossil fuels . But the country’s hoping to turn those statistics around. They want to increase energy consumption from renewable energy by 50 percent, ultimately hoping to create an energy system strongly based, according to the statement, on renewables. Related: Canada announces plan to kill coal power by 2030 Finland’s commitment could be more firm than either Canada or France. Peter Lund, Chairman of the Energy Steering Panel at the European Academies Science Advisory Council, told New Scientist that France’s plan to close their coal plants has “more degrees of freedom” than the ban Finland is considering. Similarly, Canada’s plan to close their coal plants includes wiggle room to keep using coal as long as carbon capture technology is used too. Finland’s energy system could still have its flaws, such as burning wood for energy. Finland currently obtains 27 percent of its power from burning wood, which still releases carbon dioxide; if trees aren’t planted in their stead, that CO2 won’t be absorbed. Yet a coal ban from Finland potentially could be good for curbing carbon emissions worldwide. Lund told New Scientist, “The more countries join the coal phase-out club, the better for the climate as this would force the others to follow.” Finland’s Parliament will begin discussing the ambitious energy strategy November 30, 2016. Via Quartz and New Scientist Images via Pixabay and Wikimedia Commons

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Finland may be the first country to completely ban coal

Ancient ocean crust in the Mediterranean Sea may predate supercontinent Pangea

August 17, 2016 by  
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A fascinating new geological study reveals a piece of oceanic crust in the Mediterranean Sea that could predate the supercontinent Pangea . Dated at around 340 million years old , the piece of oceanic crust found by geologist Roi Granot of Ben-Gurion University of the Negev is a promising contender for the oldest oceanic crust in the world.

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Mysterious object near Neptune just made space a lot weirder

August 11, 2016 by  
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With each new space discovery, we realize how much we still don’t know about the solar system . Astronomers recently detected a mysterious object near Neptune that doesn’t move through space as expected. The trans-Neptunian object (TNO) actually moves backwards around the sun, and it has scientists scratching their heads. Using the Panoramic Survey Telescope and Rapid Response System 1 Survey (Pan-STARRS 1) in Hawaii, a team of astronomers discovered the mysterious object. They nicknamed the TNO “Niku,” a Chinese word for ‘rebellious.’ Niku’s odd movement is so weird because angular momentum generally dictates that objects in a planetary system move in the same direction. Astronomer Michele Bannister of Queens University, Belfast told New Scientist, “Angular momentum forces everything to have that one spin direction all the same way. It’s the same thing with a spinning top, every particle is spinning the same direction.” Related: NASA confirms a second mini moon is circling Earth Except, of course, for Niku. Since the TNO is moving backwards, and also upwards, the astronomers think it must have been ” knocked off course .” But we don’t yet know what exactly bumped the TNO. At first the astronomers thought Niku’s abnormal movement could be related to Planet Nine, another baffling object even further away than Neptune. But they’ve tossed that theory out for now, as Niku is ” too close to the solar system ” to really be influenced by Planet Nine. Matthew Holman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics said, “It suggests that there’s more going on in the outer solar system than we’re fully aware of.” Bannister tweeted , “I hope everyone has buckled their seatbelts because the outer solar system just got a lot weirder.” A group of astronomers including Holman and 16 other scientists from institutions in Taiwan, Hawaii, the UK and Germany submitted a paper earlier this month detailing the find, and it has been accepted for publication in the journal ApJ Letters . Via New Scientist Images via Wikimedia Commons and NASA Goddard Space Flight Center on Flickr

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Mysterious object near Neptune just made space a lot weirder

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