Sep 18, 2009 | 12
Runoff from agriculture is the biggest polluter of the country's river and stream water, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and it has been fingered for hypoxic dead zones and toxic red tide algae blooms.
But how much of that runoff makes it into people's drinking water closer to home? In agricultural areas, it can be enough to cause persistent health problems, including diarrhea and other infections, according to a report today in The New York Times.
"Sometimes it smells like a barn coming out of the faucet," Lisa Barnard, a Wisconsin resident told the Times. Barnard's well water tested positive for various contaminants and bacteria, including E. coli—which point not just to any runoff, but that coming from excess manure, according to the Times piece.
Sep 14, 2009 | 8
Norman Borlaug went from a small farm in Iowa to feeding half the world, thanks to a lifelong interest in tinkering with the genetic design of wheat. He passed away on September 12 from cancer at the ripe age of 95 and the question remains: Is the Green Revolution dead, too?
In 1944 Borlaug, trained as a plant pathologist, left the U.S. for Mexico to fight stem rust, a fungus that infects wheat, at the invitation of the Rockefeller Foundation, among others. He and his colleagues spent the next decade crossing thousands of strains of wheat from across the globe, ultimately developing a high-yielding, disease resistant variety. Unfortunately, it couldn't stand, heavy with grain.
So Borlaug crossed it again with Japanese dwarf wheat to produce a so-called semidwarf wheat, both shorter (and therefore not prone to tipping over with all that extra grain at the tip) as well as disease-resistant and amenable to fertilization. Where the variety was planted, yields soared.
Aug 27, 2009 | 5
A team from NASA, the military and academia has developed and tested a simple solid rocket fuel of fine-grained aluminum and water ice that the researchers say could provide a cleaner alternative to propellants now in use.
The propellant, known as ALICE (for aluminum and ice), showed its stuff by shooting a nine-foot test rocket a quarter of a mile into the sky this month, according to NASA.
Mitat Birkan, program manager for space power and propulsion at the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research, one of the agencies working on the fuel, says that ALICE is more environmentally friendly, before and after burning, than conventional fuel. The only by-products of ALICE combustion, Birkan says, are gaseous hydrogen and relatively innocuous aluminum oxide.
Jun 16, 2009 | 9
Venom has now joined violence on Iraq’s danger list.
As the country’s waterways run dry, snakes are moving into human territory, The Independent reported yesterday. Poisonous reptiles—including the saw-scaled viper, desert horned viper and desert cobra—are attacking humans and livestock in southern Iraq at an unprecedented rate.
Snakes that thrived in moist marshes in the country are now fleeing their parched habitats for nearby towns. Six people have been killed and 13 poisoned, along with the losses of countless cows. "I will leave the region if this continues," Jabbar Salleh, a farmer in the southern province of Nasiriyah, told the AFP earlier this month.
May 27, 2009 | 6
You remember the time as a kid when you set an ant on fire. You positioned your dad’s magnifying glass a few inches above the ground, adjusting the angle ever so slightly until the spotlight of refracted rays rested precisely on your target.* Then you waited.
It was innocent fun—except for some of us more sensitive folk—a sort of right-of-passage, backyard science experiment. But would you recall that lesson twenty years later while placing Fido’s clear glass water bowl on your deck?
Investigators of a house fire in Bellevue, Wash., last week are suggesting an elevated 11-inch wide glass bowl of water magnified the sun’s rays onto a wood deck, sparking a blaze that caused more than $200,000 worth of damage. Fortunately, nobody—including the two dogs—was injured.
Apr 2, 2009
Officials in coastal states are worried that the high upkeep of boats in the depressed economy has mariners literally abandoning their ships in droves — a practice that could threaten the environment.
There's no official tally of cast-off boats, but an unusually high number are reportedly being dumped in waters off the coasts of Florida, South Carolina and Washington State; California is mulling a measure that would let owners surrender their vessels to the state, according to the New York Times. Other media reported last summer that more than 200 boats had been left in New York's Jamaica Bay. "Our waters have become dumping grounds," Major Paul Ouellette of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission told the Times. "It's got to the point where something has to be done."
Mar 30, 2009 | 2
Here's something to drink to: easy access to water fountains and a nudge from teachers to use them might help kids stay lean. A new study published today in Pediatrics suggests that installing fountains in elementary schools and pushing students to drink more water may reduce their risk of being plump by as much as a third.
"Drinking fountains won't solve the obesity epidemic, but they could be effective components of the solution," says study co-author Rebecca Muckelbauer, a nutritionist at the Research Institute of Child Nutrition Dortmund in Dortmund, Germany.
Muckelbauer and her colleagues studied the water-drinking habits of nearly 3,000 second and third graders attending schools in the neighboring cities of Dortmund and Essen during the 2006-2007 academic year. At the beginning of the school year, the researchers had water fountains installed in 17 of the schools and worked with teachers to implement educational programs to promote water drinking. (In contrast to U.S. schools, few German schools actually have water fountains, according Muckelbauer). The researchers surveyed the children about their drinking habits and measured their heights and weights at the beginning and end of the school year.
Feb 24, 2009 | 1
As if biodiversity wasn’t under siege already from encroaching human populations and climate change, it is literally under attack, according to a new study showing that most of the last half-century's conflicts were in the most ecologically rich—and threatened—parts of the planet.
One hundred eighteen of 146 of the wars fought between 1950 and 2000 occurred in biodiversity hot spots, according to the study in Conservation Biology. There are 34 of those hot spots—defined as areas with at least half of all known plant species and at least 42 percent of terrestrial vertebrates—on the globe, based on criteria established in 1988 to prioritize conservation goals.
Feb 6, 2009 | 2
A new study suggests that potentially deadly infections in cystic fibrosis (CF) patients might be destroyed by dousing them with a mixture of mostly soybean oil and water. The so-called "nanoemulsion" has so far only been tested in bacteria in the lab, but the researchers say they will now test it in animals and, if successful, conduct clinical trials in people with CF.
"The nanoemulsion inhibited the growth of all 150 [bacterial] strains tested," says John LiPuma, a pediatrician at the University of Michigan (UM) in Ann Arbor and coauthor of the study published recently in the journal Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy. "It was very effective in vitro."
Feb 3, 2009 | 3
Arsenic removal from drinking water is a priority for local water authorities, given that long-term exposure has been linked to a host of serious health problems, including cancer, nervous system damage and atherosclerosis (inflammation) in the arteries leading to the brain. That's why Water Technology Group, Inc., in Harvard, Mass., last week licensed arsenic-trapping technology from the U.S. Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory (INL).
Water Technology Group–an affiliate of Northeast Water Solutions, Inc. in Warwick, R.I.–wants to use INL's Nano-Composite Arsenic Sorbent (N-CAS), a beadlike resin containing high concentrations of microscopic metal oxides, to improve its ability to catch arsenic in contaminated water. The company plans to make the beads available to Northeast Water as well as other water treatment companies doing arsenic remediation.
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