EcoMania - June/July 2014
WHAT A YARN: Knitting enthusiasts around the world have been urged to make sweaters for penguins—both to help the flightless birds affected by oil spills to stay warm and to prevent them from trying to clean the toxic oil with their beaks.
WHAT’S ON MARS: The red planet has two to four percent water and also has the element fluorine. Scientists on earth used the rover Curiosity to discover what’s in the soil and rocks on Mars by zapping them with a laser beam and reading the light that bounces back.
FRACK YOU: Vera Scroggins, 62, is barred from going to her local grocery store, her friends’ homes, schools or even the hospital—because they all sit on property in Pennsylvania owned or leased by a Texas company for gas extraction by fracking, which Scroggins hotly opposes.
A judge granted the request to keep Scroggins off the more than 40 percent of Susquehanna County, where she lives, after her repeated trespassing, such as giving a tour to anti-drilling celebrities and getting footage that was in “Gasland,” an Oscar-nominated documentary.
ONE BIRD FOR ANOTHER: Idaho plans to kill thousands of ravens—even though they are federally protected—to spare the imperiled sage-grouse, whose eggs and chicks are among their prey.
The fate of the sage-grouse, a ground-dwelling bird dependent on sagebrush ecosystems, is tied to oil and ranching operations on millions of acres of mostly federal lands. The Fish and Wildlife Service will decide next year if the sage-grouse must be protected.
ALZHEIMER’S IS PREDICTABLE: The first blood test that predicts Alzheimer’s disease has been developed by Georgetown University, but there still is no cure.
The new test identifies 10 chemicals in the blood associated with the disease—and might be able to predict Alzheimer’s up to decades (yes, decades) earlier, a boon for the 35 million people globally who are living with the disease.
“We may not have any therapy yet,” a spokesman said, “but we can get our financial and legal affairs in order, plan for care and inform the family. And imagine what you could do in your early 40’s to slow the onset of the disease.”
USES FOR CO2? It’s a mistake to bury carbon dioxide when it actually can be a resource, says a New Jersey firm that will use it to make plastic bottles, antifreeze and superglue.
Another company in Illinois is a start-up that will turn carbon dioxide into acetic acid, used to make products like paint and glue.
WHAT TO DO: Grand Canyon rangers are struggling with herds of beefalo, a hybrid of buffalo and domestic cattle, because they are damaging Native American sites, invading habitats reserved for the Mexican spotted owl and wearing away meadows by giving themselves dust baths.
The National Park Service will hold several public meetings before implementing a new strategy by 2016.
SOFT DRINKS TO SURFBOARDS: A surfer in Peru is turning plastic bottles into surfboards for local youths who can’t afford the real thing. Each board is made of 51 bottles.
The project aims not only to teach the kids how to surf, but also underlines the importance of
ORGASMATRON: Although there is mass media interest in a pain-relief implant that could also trigger orgasms in women, it hasn’t translated into a full trial of the technique yet.
Dr. Stuart Meloy in Winston-Salem was using a spinal cord stimulator and was placing the electrodes when the woman started exclaiming emphatically and finally said: ‘You’re going to have to teach my husband how to do that’!” But the full trial would cost at least six
IT’S NOT SCIENCE FICTION: Katia Vega’s “Blinklifier” has false eyelashes and conducting eye shadow that complete a low voltage circuit when she blinks—and she has used the technology to fly a drone.
Vega, a computer scientist in Brazil, says the trick is to only accept exaggerated, voluntary winks longer than half a second because the circuit does not respond to involuntary eye blinks. She hopes cosmetics companies will exploit the idea commercially and is investigating other wearable technologies like false fingernails that can open electric doors.
SNAIL’S PACE: The good news: Ten new snails of the genus Plectostoma have been found.
The bad news: They live solely on limestone hills in Malaysia, Sumatra and Thailand. Since limestone is necessary for cement, the hills—and therefore the snails’—days are numbered. One snail is already extinct and the others are threatened.
NO FISH: The European Union, the world’s biggest importer of seafood, has banned fish from three countries because they failed to set or enforce catch limits or monitor their fishing.
All 28 fisheries ministers of the European Union decreed that their ships may no longer fish off Belize, Cambodia or Guinea, and the EU may not import those countries’ catches.
FOILED: One smart chimp placed a big tree branch against the wall of an enclosure at the Kansas City Zoo and convinced seven other chimps to climb up and escape—but all they managed to do was to get into another enclosure. Then they were lured back by cookies.