That Hole in the Earth’s Ozone Layer Is Closing

That Hole in the Earth's Ozone Layer Is ClosingThis is great news. It appears that all the efforts to repair that hole discovered in the Earth’s ozone layer located over the Antarctica is working. This is what was discovered in a brand new study that looks directly at the chemicals that have been destroying the ozone layer.

The Earth’s ozone layer is critical as it is protects the surface of our planet from the most harmful rays from the sun. These are the rays which cause cataracts and cancer within human beings, and that damage plant life, as reported by NASA. During In the 1980s, scientists discovered a huge hole located in the ozone layer over the region of the Antarctica. It was determined that this was caused mainly by chemicals that are referred to as chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs) which were produced by humans.

Satellite Confirmations

Prior observations from satellite have witnessed size changes in that ozone hole, taking note that it can shrink and grow from one year to the next. However this new study is the very first to measure changes in the chlorine levels — which the primary CFC byproduct that is responsible for the depletion of the ozone — in the atmosphere which lies above Antarctica. This study has indicated 20% decrease in the depletion of the ozone because of chlorine.

New Ozone Studies

This brand new study examined the ozone data that was collected between the years 2005 and 2016 by an instrument called the Microwave Limb Sounder (MLS) that is onboard the Aura satellite. This instrument is not able to directly detect the atoms of chlorine, rather it detects hydrochloric acid, which will forms whenever methane reacts with chlorine atoms, and then they bond with hydrogen. Whenever Antarctica is exposed to sunlight during the Southern Hemisphere’s long summer, the CFCs will break down and start producing chlorine, which will then bust apart the ozone atoms. However, during the winter months at Antarctica, this chlorine will then bind with methane “once all the ozone has been destroyed” within its vicinity.

“By around mid-October, all the chlorine compounds are conveniently converted into one gas, so by measuring hydrochloric acid, we have a good measurement of the total chlorine,” stated the lead study author Susan Strahan, who is an atmospheric scientist from NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center located in Greenbelt, Maryland.

This MLS instrument has directly observed the ozone hole every day throughout the Southern Hemisphere’s winter.

“During this period, Antarctic temperatures are always very low, so the rate of ozone destruction depends mostly on how much chlorine there is,” Strahan added. “This is when we want to measure ozone loss.”

Since prior studies were dependent upon measurements of the ozone hole’s physical size, the study’s authors claim their research is the very first to show directly that this ozone depletion is lowering because of the decrease in chlorine levels from CFCs. The 20% reduction in the depletion is “very close to what our model predicts we should see for this amount of chlorine decline,” Strahan noted.

“This gives us confidence that the decrease in ozone depletion through mid-September shown by MLS data is due to declining levels of chlorine coming from CFCs,” she added. “But we’re not yet seeing a clear decrease in the size of the ozone hole because that’s controlled mainly by temperature after mid-September, which varies a lot from year to year.”

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Top 7 Inventions from the Twentieth Century

As we look across the span of history, it is easy to see that twentieth century saw a multitude of creations and in developments in every area of society. In fact, there were hundreds, if not thousands of brand new entire fields of study that were created in the last century.

There were more advances and creations that occurred during the twentieth century that all other centuries combined. Let us examine to top 7 inventions that came from the past century.

Top 7 Inventions from the 1900s

nuclear-power-plant1) Nuclear Power – Nuclear power became to the twentieth century exactly steam power was to the nineteenth – which was a game changer. All of a sudden, society had the means to create power that came from a source that was efficient, did not pollute, and was virtually endless. This creation represented an overnight change to the world.

However, on the dark side, this new energy source was also used to build the most destructive war weapons that have ever been seen in the history of the world. In fact, they threaten the survival of all life on the entire planet. In addition, nuclear power plants do not pollute the air, but unless they are properly operated by trained personnel, they have the ability to contaminate an entire region – such as the Chernobyl incident in 1986.

personal home computers2) Personal Home Computers – Today, it is hard to imagine life without our personal computers. Believe it or not, they have actually in existence since World War Two. But those early models were too huge and too expensive to ever be used for a personal computer. And they actually had very little computing power.

This all changed whenever Stephen Jobs and Steve Wozniak created the Apple in year 1976. This eventually changed everything in our society. Because of this invention, we see computers everywhere and we’ve gotten very dependent on them. And our computing power only grows and grows every year. In fact, we are at the dawn of quantum computing – which will take us to exciting new levels.

airplanes3) Airplanes – Our ancestors would roll over in their graves at the thought of travelling from New York to London in a matter of mere hours. This is what airplanes have done for our society. The airplane has made the same kind of impact on the world as the locomotive did during the nineteenth century. Not only do airplanes make our travel safe and quick, airplanes provide other services such as fighting forest fires, crop dusting, and even the overnight delivery of packages. Aircraft have also made a huge mark on the ways we fight wars too.

motor vehicles4) Motor Vehicles – When trying to determine which invention had the biggest impact on our daily lives, it is hard not to consider the creation of automobiles. When automobiles were refined and perfected to the point they were available to everyday people, the entire world changed. All of a sudden, everyone was closer to one another. People could seek employment in places that they couldn’t before, they could visit families more often, and so forth.

antibiotics5) Antibiotics – One creation that could be easily overlooked is that development of antibiotics. No doubt that this invention has saved millions and millions of lives worldwide – all living creatures have benefited from antibiotics. Before penicillin came along during the year 1928, virtually any bug that a person got was possibly fatal. Penicillin immediately reduced mortality rates and increased life spans.

television6) Television – One of the biggest challenges for anyone today would be trying to find a household in the United States that doesn’t have at least one television set. In fact, most homes have multiple television sets. TVs have often been called America’s newest drug as it is where the majority of Americans spend their idle time. When it was created, it quickly became the means of entertainment and big dollar advertising. And it still is today.

the internet7) The Internet – While the personal computer displaced the typewriter and changed the way we write, the internet took computers to the next level. We saw the airplane shrink our planet so that people could travel across the globe within only hours; the internet lets us travel there in only a few seconds. It also allows messages to move in and out of countries that are repressive, it can foment revolutions, and these messages travel literally at the speed of light.

The internet also allows us purchase and sell virtually any product or service imaginable, watch videos from anywhere in the world, and even allows people to find their soulmates. What would we do without the internet?

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Turkey Poop Might Just Save Us From Ourselves

Turkey Poop Might Just Save Us From OurselvesIt seems that Israeli scientists have revealed yet another use for our turkey leftovers. So hold off a second in busting out these leftovers out of your freezer – it not what you think at all. It is actually about their poop. Scientists feel that turkey waste along with other waste from poultry could actually be a source for renewable fuel for electricity and heat.

Say What?!?

“Poultry litter might be a notorious source of pollution, yet has the potential to be an important resource,” claimed Amit Gross, who is the chair at the department of environmental hydrology and microbiology from Ben Gurion University’s Zuckerberg Institute. “The Earth is literally going to be up to its ears in waste, and we’re trying to find a way to use this waste for electricity, for heat, and for cleaner air and water.”

The promise for poultry poop is actually quite large “because huge amounts of it are produced worldwide, and the production will continue to increase as the world population grows and consumes more animal protein,” he continued.

Could Replace Significant Amounts of Carbon Fuels

These researchers claim that treated poultry poop could even take the place of as much as 10% of the coal currently used in electrical generation, which will definitely provide a reduction of carbon pollution—the primary culprit of global warming — as well as provide a great reliable energy source. They recently posted their report in the publication Applied Energy.

“It would be similar to how ethanol is added to gas tanks,” Gross added. “Burning a hypothetical 10 percent less coal in the real world would have a significant effect on carbon emissions, as that is a significant amount.”

Crops that are grown for fuel are placing a great burden on water, land, and even fertilizer, the scientists said. Additionally, the researchers reported that “environmentally safe disposal of poultry excrement has become a significant problem.” They like the idea of getting two birds with only one stone, so to speak, pointing out that “converting poultry waste to solid fuel… is an environmentally superior alternative that also reduces reliance on fossil fuels.”

Researchers compared two different processes, both of which converted poultry poop into fuel in order to see which one was most effective. In the first process, the excrement was heated to generate biochar, which is actually a fuel that burns and look just like charcoal. In the second process, they created hydrochar with a process called hydrothermal carbonization that actually mimics the natural formation of coal. In the end, they discovered that the hydrochar process created 24% more energy.

The research team had chosen to examine poultry waste because it contains more nitrogen, which is a fertilizer, than is contained in the poop of other animals. This is actually an added benefit of turning excrement into fuel, it could even recover a portion of that nitrogen and then utilize it for the nourishment of more plants.

There is no question that producing these biofuels are quite expensive, Gross admitted. “However, there is significant monetary and environmental cost as well to disposing an enormous amount of poop from the coop,” he points out. “Crops grown specifically for energy purposes do not represent the best use of resources. However, fuels derived from [poultry excrement] count as a waste-to-fuel.”


These Hairy Flies Can Actually ‘Breathe’ Underwater

These Hairy Flies Can Actually 'Breathe' UnderwaterAll of you are used to seeing flies putter around our house. We particularly see them in the summer time and when we eat outside during picnics and such. But how many times have we seen flies breathe underwater?

In Mono Lake, which is in California, there is a very bizarre hairy alkali fly. Scientists have discovered that these “diving” flies have demonstrated the ability to survive the very alkaline waters of this lake, as they creep right into it to lay their eggs and even feed. The trick is that their body helps to generate air bubbles around them that become an external lung for them.

Amazing Hairy Flies

These studies were performed by Floris van Breugel, who is postdoctoral candidate from the University of Washington. It was The National Geographic Society that funded van Breugel to examine these flies of Mono Lake. It is the very same fly species that the famous Mark Twain described in his book, Roughing It, around 150 years ago—“because they’re really just that entertaining to watch,” noted van Breugel.

The fly population at Mono Lake is pretty impressive. Their density is so vast that an areas equal to the size of a postcard could contain over 2,000 of these flies. van Breugel has estimated that at the peak of the summer season, there could be as many as 100 million of these alkali flies flying around the lake.

But when you take a close look, that is when things get very interesting, “You can start to see them actually crawling underwater in little air bubbles,” he claims.

Solving a Mystery

van Breugel and his research team had a goal of understanding the way that the alkali flies of Mono Lake have been able to crawl into the lake’s water. And this water is about three times saltier and has extremely more alkaline than the Earth’s oceans, and they do not even get wet. The only other known animal that inhabit the lake during the entire year are some photosynthetic algae and some tiny shrimp. This research was reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The researchers constructed a sensor that was capable of measuring small forces and then they dunked these alkali flies into various solutions. They were shocked to discover that the more concentrated the lake water the easier it was for the flies to drown. But when the solutions contained less salt and other mineral content the opposite was true. The main culprit was discovered to be sodium carbonate. Not only is this mineral a great cleaning solution, but it was also used in history to preprocess mummies during ancient times in Egypt.

The sodium carbonate in the water makes it more difficult for the alkali flies to remain dry, since the water flows more easily into spaces between the little hairs on their body. Through evolution the bodies of these hairy alkali flies has produced more hair over time—in fact, they has grown about 36% more hair than  other flies. And these hairs on the bodies of the flies are coated with a special wax that helps them stay dry. It is same as when you wax your car to make it more weather-repellent.

“Because of these tiny adaptations, the alkali flies are able to occupy a niche that very few other animals can tolerate,” van Breugel has noted.


Scorpions Can Adjust Their Venom for Changing Threats

Scorpions Can Adjust Their Venom for Changing ThreatsThere is interesting new research that indicates that there are some scorpions who can adjust their venom depending on the threat at hand. This could take place during the hurting of its very next meal or during times when it is merely protecting itself from predators. This study is marking the very first time that researchers have uncovered the capability of a creature to fine tune the toxicity of their venom based on their needs.

Venom for Each of the Scorpion’s Needs

In order to survive, a scorpion must be able to locate and capture food (which are typically insects), but it also needs to fight off predators such as smaller mammals. The great thing for these arachnids is that their venom is able to conduct double-duty for these critical tasks. However, as Jamie Seymour from James Cook University has pointed out, these scorpions create venom that is specific for attackers and another type that is specific for food. And the fact is that scorpion venom is a very complicated mix of various toxins during any situation.

“Scorpions contain three separate subtypes of toxins that are effective against mammals only, insects only, and both,” claimed Seymour in a recent comment. “The question was whether the ‘recipe’ for this cocktail is fixed or can adapt in response to different environments and predator–prey interactions.”

Recruiting the Right Team for the Study

As they were preparing this study, Seymour assumed repeated exposures to would be attackers and predators ought to cause scorpions to generate larger quantities of their defensive venom as opposed to their offensive venom. In order to test this belief, he put together a crack team of chemists, ecologists, physiologists, along with a hefty group of Australian rainforest scorpions. Also referred to as Hormurus waigiensis, the two to three inch scorpions are very well acclimated to those rainforests of Queensland and also those in New South Wales.

For this evaluation, Seymour’s team exposed these scorpions to one of three specific conditions: exposed to live crickets (prey), exposed to dead crickets (control), and exposed to a taxidermied stuffed mouse (who simulated an attacker). After about six weeks, these scorpions that had been exposed to the simulated attacker created a much different venom than the ones who were not exposed to the stuffed rodent.

“Exposure to a simulated predator appeared to decrease relative production of toxins that would work on insects, while generally increasing the production of a section of the venom profile with activity towards mammalian, e.g. mouse, cells,” commented the ecologist Tobin Northfield who took part in the study.

These results do not necessarily mean that these scorpions can instantly alter the chemistry of venom on the fly. Instead, it simply means that scorpions that are subjected to constant threats from attackers over a prolonged period of time, such as six weeks in this case, they are more than capable of tweaking their venom chemistry as a response. “Our findings provide, to our knowledge, the first evidence for adaptive plasticity in venom composition,” concluded these scientists taking part in this new study.

This is pretty awesome because it is telling us that scorpions possess a natural toxin regulator which serves to re-route internal elements in order to increase or reduce venom production based on need. As they look into the future, researchers should be able to detect similar abilities in other scorpion species, and they should study exactly how they are doing it. As far as using this knowledge for real world applications, the future evaluations might be used enhance the quality of anti-venoms.

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The World Needs Carbon Sucking Technology

The World Needs Carbon Sucking TechnologyAs our society goes about its everyday business, there is one thing that none of us can ignore. And that is our carbon signature. We have to become more carbon aware as time goes on, there is no getting around that fact.

We keep seeing our work on reducing planet warming emissions fall dramatically short of the mark. And now we are left with one important task. We desperately need very large scale projects that can literally suck the carbon dioxide right out of the air and the atmosphere. Experts say that these will need to be in place no later than the 2030s. This is the only to defend our world against climate change.

New Technologies are Forthcoming

The good news is that there are several brand new technologies that are aiming to retrieve and collect carbon emissions, which means they are delivering “negative emissions”. However they are expensive, they are controversial, and are only in the very earliest testing phase.

However “if you’re really concerned about coral reefs, biodiversity and food production in very poor regions, we’re going to have to deploy negative emission technology at scale,” stated Bill Hare from the group called Climate Analytics.

“I don’t think we can have confidence that anything else can do this,” this chief executive from Berlin informed a crowd in London at a climate change conference.

In 2015, several World leaders agreed to attempt to hold global warming to around 1.5C above historical pre-industrial periods. Researchers feel that this is the key in providing protection of small island nations from future dangerous rises in sea level, and will shore up the production of food while helping to prevent extreme weather.

Trying to Prevent More Global Warming

These vital carbon sucking technologies will probably be needed just to hold the Earth to even a less aggressive 2 degrees of warming, scientists from Chatham House have said. Chatham House is a British thinktank. The world is already seeing around one degree of warming on average, they claim.

“It’s something you don’t want to talk about very much but it’s an unaccountable truth: we will need geoengineering by the mid-2030s to have a chance at the 1.5C goal,” Hare stated, as he referred to the efforts of cooling the Earth via engineering.

The most promising of these ideas include planting new forests across large regions that will absorb carbon, and then harvest that wood for its energy and then pump all those emissions underground – an interesting process which is likely to be featured in a future Climate Change.

There is also the idea of developing machines that can collect carbon dioxide right out of the air and direct it underground to be neutralized.

The only problem is that so far the effort to store carbon underground has not shown very much progress. In fact, some even claim they are taking backward steps. But the underground storage of carbon is heavily promoted mostly by the United States in order to create “clean coal” technologies.

And of course, planting more forests does not come without complications either. This approach raises all sorts of issue regarding land rights and food security, researchers have said. But is most likely a requirements to reach a level of zero emissions as current lands do not support the proposed models.

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Low Oxygen Dead Zones in the Pacific Ocean are Growing

Low Oxygen Dead Zones in the Pacific Ocean are GrowingEvery year, we see wildfires wreak havoc on large regions of the West United States, and each year scientists attempt to forecast exactly how bad the upcoming fire season is going to be by assessing things like weather, moisture levels, and a bevy of different factors. Unfortunately, now the fire season is not the lone annual environmental occurrence that poses potential catastrophic effects—we also have the tornado and hurricane seasons, just as an example. Well now a new one can be added to the list and that is hypoxia season, thanks to the same culprit that has most likely been helping cause the fire seasons.

Evidence of More Low Oxygen Dead Zones

On the Western Coast, there have been low-oxygen levels forming in the ocean at the bottom layers. These are called hypoxia and are becoming a huge concern for fishers and scientists alike—everyone know that crabs and fish are critical to research, ecosystems and the whole industry. “We’re always on the lookout to see, is this going to be a bad year?” claimed Francis Chan, who is a marine ecologist from Oregon State University that examines ocean chemistry. And by every account, the year 2017 has been a very bad year.

Researchers originally received reports of dying crabs in pots located off the coast of Oregon in year 2002. Ever since that time, there have been years when oxygen levels in a few areas have dropped to zero and even remain at that level for weeks and possibly even months. Many marine animals are pretty resilient, but whenever the oxygen level gets low and stays there for a while, like they did in the year 2006, claims Chan, “very few things make it.” This summer, we have seen a dreadful hypoxia season which appears to have begun in July, when scientists started noticing crabs had died inside a research pot. Cameras that were trained on this pot “caught the low-oxygen zone red-handed.” Scientists began collecting samples of juvenile fish and could hardly catch anything at all. It was not until the middle of September, after a sea storm had stirred the ocean layers, before oxygen levels returned to normal.

The thing is that the low oxygen levels are not occurring out in open waters. “Right past where the waves are breaking, that’s where it starts,” Chan pointed out. Even though these effects are primarily seen next to the shoreline, hypoxia is believed to be tied to water chemistry changes that are occurring   in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. “Our coastal ocean is connected to the global ocean in a very intimate way,” he stated.

In order to monitor ocean oxygen and chemistry levels, researchers began placing sensors that are capable of measuring oxygen levels, currents, and temperatures. “This gives us a good idea of how things are evolving,” noted Chan. They are also taking note of what is reported by fishers and crabbers. “We don’t have sensors everywhere,” he claims, thus, whenever they hear of dead crabs this can quickly inform them exactly where low oxygen pockets are located.

Only One Reason for Low Oxygen Dead Zones

So when the fire seasons get more intense and become more widespread every year, hypoxic conditions become more and more common and last longer. The one thing that Chan notices when he studies water data that were taken in the 1950s and 1960s, he notes, “I can’t find the low oxygen values that we’re seeing today on a regular basis.” The fact is that ocean water is becoming warmer and therefore, holds less oxygen. Shifting weather patterns are influencing the way that ocean layers mix, and determining exactly where low oxygen pockets will form. In the end, Chan claim that there is really just one reason for all this: “The culprit we point to is a changing climate.”

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