Chemistry, Green Living, News, Renewable Energy

New insights on photosynthesis bring us one step closer to solar fuels

Scientists have determined the exact structure of an important photosynthesis complex at a crucial stage. Photo: Shutterstock

For billions of years, nature has been harnessing the energy from the sun through photosynthesis. This way, plants, algae and cyanobacteria use sunlight to split water and produce energy-rich chemical compounds from carbon dioxide (CO2). This energy is then transferred to animal that eat these plants, and animals that eat plant-eating animals, including us humans. It’s clear that without photosynthesis, there would be no life as we know it.  A photosynthesis dream Society today is highly dependent on energy, so why not profit from a process that’s been evolutionary refined for billions of years? Synthetic photosynthesis is a hot trend in biotech right now, but while scientists have known the basic…

Environmental Issues, Geology, News

California issued rights for five times the water it actually has

How bad is California's drought? Just look above. Photo: Wiki

California is facing one of its direst drought streaks, and only last year it came out of its warmest winter on record. Clearly, things aren’t looking that good and the most vulnerable resource to these conditions is at the same time the most valuable: water. Desperate times, call for desperate measures, and this means in some instances policymakers need to cut the chord. But where should regulators first stop water access given California has allocated five times more surface water than the state actually has? Ted Grantham and Joshua Viers of UC Davis  explored the state’s water-rights database only to come to this confusing and disheartening conclusion. To be more exact, water-rights allocations…

Animals, Health & Medicine, News

Pig heart grafted to baboon abdomen survives for more than a year

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While most of the hype is centered around biotech efforts that try to engineer human organs from scratch in the lab, a better idea might be to grow human-compatible organs in foreign hosts. Researchers at the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) of the National Institutes of Health genetically modified pig hearts with some human genes then grafted these to the abdomens of baboons. The baboon still kept their original hearts, while the pig heart would only sag by their abdomen. So, we’re not yet seeing a primate functioning with a pig heart, but that’s the next obvious step. What’s important is that the pig organ wasn’t rejected and if…

News, Renewable Energy, World Problems

Chinese coal consumption just fell for first time this century

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We’re used to reporting year after year how China’s coal consumption is increasing and how they are polluting more and more. But this is the first year in over 2 decades when the number hasn’t increased. Could China’s coal boom be over? While positive signs have been emerging from China for well over a year, it appears the ‘war on pollution‘ is not just talk. To make things even more interesting, even though the coal consumption didn’t rise any more, the GDP continued to grow (though slower) – that means that coal consumption and GDP appear to have finally decoupled. The growth of coal imports (mostly from the US) almost…

Environment, Great Pics, News

Antarctica from Pole to coast, captured in stunning detail

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A mosaic of more than 3,150 high-resolution satellite images creates the best continent-wide view since 1997. The result is the one you see below: The over three thousand pictures were taken in the Southern Hemisphere’s autumn of 2008, and tiled together into a coast-to-coast view of the entire continent with its coastal waters. The result is not only lovely to look at, but it’s also very useful – enabling researchers to better study the ice changes that occurred in Antarctica, says Ellsworth LeDrew, director of the Canadian Cryospheric Information Network and a professor at University of Waterloo. This will enable a better understanding of how climate change affects Antarctic ice, and will…

Climate, News, World Problems

Today, we have finished all the natural resources for the entire year. The rest is environmental debt

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The world has reached what is called ‘World Overshoot Day‘ – the point in the year when humans have exhausted supplies such as land, trees and fish and outstripped the planet’s annual capacity to absorb waste products including carbon dioxide. But that’s not half of it – things are actually getting worse, with the planet slipping into ecological debt sooner and sooner. In 2000, the Overshoot Day was in October, and now, it’s in mid-August. Back in the 1960s,, humans used only around three-quarters of the capacity Earth has for generating food, timber, fish and absorbing greenhouse gases. Back then, only a few countries consumed more than they produce, and…

Animals, Videos

Meet an awesome blonde penguin

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Seafarers on a 2012 National Geographic-Lindblad expedition to Antarctica found this amazing and rare “blond” penguin on a colony on Aitcho Island. < The penguin actually suffers from a condition called isabellinism or leucism – not albinism.Though technically separate conditions, isabellinism and leucism are used interchangeably In albinism, there is a complete or partial lack of the skin pigment called melanin (responsible for the color black). In leucism however, there is a reduction in all types of skin pigment, not just melanin. A further difference between albinism and leucism is in eye colour. Due to the lack of melanin production, albino animals and humans often have red eyes – while in…

Green Living, News, Pollution

People in Beijing can pay for public transportation in recycling

Image via PangeaToday

People from Beijing can now use one of the city’s 34 newly installed facilities which allows them to pay for public transportation or charge their phone credit with empty plastic bottles. China is the world’s biggest polluter, and will likely stay so for years and years to come. The growth of their economy has been fueled by coal consumption, which is the dirtiest type of energy out there, and the Chinese smog (which could be seen from outer space) is already well known and documented. But we have to give credit where credit is due – not because of the size of the initiative (34 plastic recyclers are not that…

Animals, News

100,000 elephants killed in Africa between 2010 and 2012, study finds

Elephant numbers are dwindling, with over 100.000 elephants being killed in Africa between 2010 and 2012. Image via AP.

Most societies in Africa are leading an uphill battle in their attempt to ensure safety, good health and food security. But for African animals, it’s even worse. Poachers alone killed an estimated 100,000 elephants across Africa between 2010 and 2012, raising new concerns about the species’ survival. Poaching in Africa is huge – the term ‘crisis’ has rarely been used more appropriately. The unprecedented spike in illegal wildlife trade, threatens to overturn what conservation efforts were slowly starting to achieve in the past decades. For example, although there is no scientific proof of its medical value, rhino horn is highly prized in traditional Asian medicine, and due to this, rhinos…

News, Renewable Energy

One single scrap car battery could be turned into solar cells that power 30 homes

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Lead-acid car batteries used to be the norm, but luckily we’re seeing a massive shift towards more efficient and environmentally friendly alternatives like lithium-ion. Still, there are fleets of hundreds of millions of cars that still employ these archaic and toxic batteries. Typically, manufacturers try to have car owners bring their old lead-acid batteries, which are then converted into more environmentally friendly new batteries. The vast majority of them go into landfills, tough. Researchers at MIT present a remarkable alternative: using old car batteries to power a new generation of dirt cheap and efficient solar cells, based on perovskite. One single used battery could be employed as a prime material…