Climate, News

The coal industry is tanking, while execs are getting a raise

coal-execs

Right now the coal business is arguably living through its most dire days ever. Nearly 300 mines have closed in the past five years, 200 coal-powered plants have been scheduled for closure, and coal corporations are basically ruined. For instance Peabody Energy, the world’s biggest coal company, sold stocks below $1 when it used to be $72 in 2011. And it could get worse. Alpha Natural Resources, the second biggest coal company in the US, filled for bankruptcy along with other smaller firms. Basically, investors wouldn’t touch coal nowadays not even with a ten foot pole. Winter is coming, but apparently coal companies execs aren’t all that stressed. While their employees have had their pays cut and thousands fired, managers and CEO have actually substantially increased their salaries. When the ship sinks, might as well grab what you can, I guess.

Environment, News

Japanese company starts building world’s largest vertical farm

Similar vertical farming techniques in use by Vancouver-based VertiCrop. PHOTO: Valcenteu, via Wikimedia Commons

Recently, I’ve become quite a fan of vertical farms. The principle is simple: instead of growing things in fields, you cultivate plant life within a skyscraper greenhouse or on vertically inclined surfaces. There are several advantages to this: they’re more productive for the space they use (about 100 times more productive), take 40% less power, 80% less food waste and 99% less water usage than

Biology, News

Scientists have discovered the first new human prion in 50 years

Buildup in brain cells of the protein alpha-synuclein (dark spots) occurs in the neurodegenerative disorder Multiple System Atrophy (MSA).Jensflorian/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

In a new study published August 31 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers claim to have discovered a new type of prion – the first one after 50 years. Their work strengthens the idea that degenerative diseases are caused by prions. Prions are misfolded proteins that multiply themselves by causing other proteins to misfold. It is this form of

Health & Medicine, News

Man excretes polio virus for nearly three decades despite being vaccinated

A simulated virus particle shows some of the changes in surface regions (red) that interact with human immune proteins and elsewhere (blue). Image: PLOS

Doctors found that a British man has been excreting live polio virus for nearly 28 years, despite being vaccinated. These sort of cases aren’t unique, but this is by far the longest cases seen thus far. Moreover, the immune deficiency has allowed the virus to mutate and replicate inside the man’s body. Doctors say, however, that there are no health hazards involved since the man lives in a immunized community.

Climate, News

El Niño shaping up in the Pacific: might be strongest since 1950

El Nino, which is Spanish for "the little boy" or "the Christ child," refers to a type of weather pattern which occurs in some years and usually peaks during the winter months of the northern hemisphere.

According to the World Meteorological Organisation (WMO), there’s now a mature El Niño present in the Pacific Ocean. As is the case with such events, the biggest sign of an El Niño shaping up is rising surface water temperatures. Right now, the east-central tropical Pacific Ocean waters are likely to exceed 2° Celsius above average, which suggests this could be one of the strongest since 1950, placing it along similar events like 1972-73, 1982-83 or 1997-98.

Biology, Geology, News

Rare dolphin fossil might show why dolphins left rivers

3D printed reconstruction of the dolphin's head. Image via Smithsonian.

Scientists from the Smithsonian have a surprising fossil dating about 6 million years old. The fossil seems to have been an ancestor of modern dolphins and might explain why dolphins left rivers and set out for the ocean. Today, there are almost 40 species of dolphins, and all of them are intriguing animals. For starters, all dolphins are marine mammals,

Environment, News, Nutrition, Science ABC

Is organic food actually good? Here’s what the science says

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It happens to all of us. You’re in the supermarket, you’re buying vegetables and produce, and you’re faced with the inevitable choice: regular or organic? It’s a surprisingly complex question, that carries a different significance for different people. For some, organic means healthier, or more nutritious. For others, it means eco-friendly, or tastier. It can mean clean, good, or just…

Animals, Climate, News, Videos

Alaskan shore overrun by thousands of walruses – here’s why

A walrus, closeup; Shutterstock ID 111808100; PO: website animals; Job: Hillary Leo; Client: website

Thousands upon thousands of Pacific walrus were captured by photographer Gary Braasch as they came ashore on the northwest coast of Alaska last week, in an event believed to be triggered by global warming.

News, Science

Ancient six foot-long sea scorpion was an apex predator 460 million years ago

Eurypterid systematics. Source: Lamsdell & Braddy (2010).

This bizarre creature looks like a cross between a scorpion and a boat, which is pretty accurate considering it was actually as big as a boat. Pentecopterus decorahensis, named after the ancient Greek warship, likely dominated the Ordovician ocean waters some 460 to 248 million years ago, paleontologists say. Sporting a thick head shield, a paddle for a tail, large grasping limbs and 1.7 meters in length (5.5 feet), this sea beast was a force to be reckoned with.

Climate, Design, News

Stunning condominium in Italy is what you’d call an ‘urban tree-house’

urban-tree-house

Littered with over 150 trees and boasting a stunning asymmetrical architecture, 25 Verde – an apartment complex in Turin, Italy – is not your typical residence. Though its roots may be made of steel and concrete, this apartment building rises like a forest or urban oasis.