Biology, Green Living, News

Biotech used to build plant tolerance to water shortage – one way to beat California’s worst drought in history

plant resistant drought

Exploiting plants’ natural response to stress caused by drought, researchers have engineered crops that build tolerance and can withstand longer without water, while also extending the point of no return when no amount of water can save the withered plant. This “buy more” time method might hopefully help vulnerable crops fare better during long periods of drought – like the one currently in full swing in California, which is experiencing its worst drought in recorded history – and increase yields.

Environmental Issues, News, World Problems

As Arctic ice goes, so do the polar bears. Study finds land food is inadequate to keep them fed

Ringed seals are the polar bear's primary food source--but a beached whale means a feast! © Daniel J. Cox/Natural Exposures

After carefully calculating the net nutritional gain polar bears have from land-based food like caribou, berries or bird eggs, researchers found this is far from enough to compensate their typical fat-rich diet based on marine mammals. In consequence, as ice retreats and spring hunting season shortens polar bear populations are expected to fall dramatically. According to the study, two-third of the world’s polar bears will disappear by mid-century and by the end of the century the could follow, if the issue is not addressed.

Animals, Biology, News

Awesome tiny birds cross the Atlantic in one go without stopping

The blackpoll warbler (Setophaga striata) in fall plumage. Image: Wikimedia Commons

More than half a century in question, scientists now confirm that the tiny blackpoll warbler flies nonstop over the North Atlantic Ocean each autumn from New England to South America. The trip takes three days, during which the bird foregoes any rest, sleep or meal. It also absorbs its own intestines.

Environment, News, Pollution

How glowing tampons help detect sewer leaks in your freshwater drain

glow in the dark tampon

Ironically enough, one male researcher from England used tampons to detect grey water contamination, or laundry system run off, that might be present in waterways. The tampons absorbed key signature chemicals that glow in the dark, making them easy to use and cheap. Moreover, it’s more reliable than consecrated and expensive methods.

Environment, Feature Post

How NYC Subway trains are thrown in the ocean – and why that’s a good thing

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Usually, whenever I hear about dumping things in the ocean, I just rage! I mean, there are over 5 trillion pieces of plastic in the ocean, some other trillion pieces are trapped in the Artic ice, ocean sediments are basically a cemetery for plastic and there’s a garbage island twice as big as France in the Pacific Ocean! We really should start reducing the amount of garbage we dump in the ocean… and then there’s these guys.

Animals, Biology

Colugo (flying lemur): the most accomplished and cutest mammalian glider

colugo

It seems like us mammals were never meant to fly. Sure, bats can fly, but that’s kind of it. Even so, some mammals have learned alternative means of skipping at an altitude: gliding (feather-tailed possums, sifaka) or parachuting (cats). Yes, cats parachute, but enough of them. Chances have it you’ve seen on average 17 cats already since morning. Today’s post is about a gliding mammal that’s in much more need of attention: the adorable colugos.

News, Renewable Energy

The two-in-one solar cell might harness energy cheaply and efficiently

Test sample of a monolithic perovskite-silicon multijunction solar cell produced by the MIT-Stanford University team. Image: Felice Frankel

A team at Stanford and MIT has devised a novel configuration that combines silicon – the leading solar cell semiconductor – and perovskite – a cheap mineral, only recently exploited for converting solar energy – to form two different layers of sunlight-absorbing material in order to harness energy across a wider spectrum. While performance at this stage is not impressive (it’s equally as good or bad as conventional single-layer silicon cells), researchers believe they have methods at their disposal that could double efficiency. If that were to happen, than these could be the cheap, but efficient solar cells we’ve all been waiting for.

Climate, Feature Post, Great Pics

Repeat Photography From the 1920s and Now Shows Incredible Glacier Retreat

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Repeat photography (or rephotography) is a technique in which photographs are taken repeatedly at a site to see how it evolves. It’s especially useful for glaciers, particularly because other remote ways of estimating glacial mass, depth, and rate of retreat are imperfect. These photos depict how this technique was used at a number of locations in Alaska. Here, we see

Animals, News

Scientists find “punk” shape shifting frog

frog

For the first time, researchers have discovered a vertebrate able to change the texture of its skin from smooth to spiny. The new frog species was found in Ecuador in the plentiful moss surrounding the native forest.

News, Renewable Energy, Technology

New Tesla Battery Could Take Your Home Off The Grid

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Tesla Motors are out to change the world – and they’re doing it fast, and in style. Like many other of their projects, this one seemed to pop up out of nowhere: Tesla have designed a battery that can power your home and even larger utility buildings. In other words – it could take your house out of the grid.