Environment

Stanford stops investing in coal companies

David J. Philip/AP

Following a recommendation of Stanford’s Advisory Panel on Investment Responsibility and Licensing, the Board of Trustees announced that Stanford will not make direct investments in companies which have coal mining as their principal activity. Put your money where your research is Major Universities are very active in terms of investments – which makes a lot of sense. If you have some of…

Animals, Biology

Dogs follow human voice direction to find hidden food

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Dogs and puppies are really good at interpreting human vocal and visual cues, with previous studies already showing they can pick up even subtle hints, finding hidden food with just a slight look from a human. Researchers of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, have now studied for the first time whether dogs can locate hidden food based…

Climate, News

Rising CO2 poses significant threat to human nutrition

Image via Harvard University.

If current trends continue, by 2050, the elevated levels of CO2 in the atmosphere will cause many crops around the world to produce a reduced amount of nutrients, especially zinc and iron. Considering that about almost 1 in 3 people in the world (2 billion people) suffer from iron or zinc deficiencies resulting in a loss of 63 million life years annually…

Environment

Not just honeybees – wildbees, butterflies and moths are also in trouble

Bumblebees on ironweed. Photo: Brandon Keim/WIRED

By now, you really should be aware of the honeybee problems that are plaguing populations throughout the world – their numbers are dwindling, and this poses a huge threat not just for the bees themselves, but for humans as well. Now, a new study has shown that it’s not just bees who are in trouble, but also other pollinators, like…

Animals

Desert spider flic-flacs through the sand like a gymnast

The Moroccan flic-flac spider, Cebrennus rechenbergi. Image credit: Ingo Rechenberg.

A most peculiar spider has been discovered by entomologists in the sandy dunes of Morocco’s southeastern desert, Erg Chebbi. Called Cebrennus rechenbergi, the spider can perform flic-flac jumps at almost 2 m/sec, allowing it to swiftly cross the desert. In fact, the common name of the species is the Moroccan flic-flac spider. “Like a gymnast, it propels itself off the ground, followed…

Nanotechnology, News, Renewable Energy

Excition fission model could vastly improve solar cell efficiency

Troy Van Voorhis, professor of chemistry (left), and Marc Baldo, professor of electrical engineering (right). Photo: MIT

The most basic principle of a solar cell is that it works by transferring the energy from an incoming photon (light) to a molecule, which causes one or more electrons to become displaced until an electrical current is formed. That’s the absolute gist of it, only besides electricity, some of the incoming photon energy gets lost as waste heat. Oddly…

Animals, Genetics

How humans and squids came to have similar eyes

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Humans and squids are not exactly close relatives – as a matter of fact, we’re really different from squids, so how come we came to have surprisingly similar eyes? The answer, as usually, is in our genes. Eyes are complicated things – and like all organs, they rely on many genes working together, keeping everything fit and tight. Most of the…

Animals, Environment, News

China Officially Outlaws Eating Endangered Animals

Asiatic-black-bear-cubs-used-to-provide-bile-from-gall-bladder

China has finally clarified the legislation regarding the consumption of endangered species. It remains to be seen if the law will be enforced, but at least, it’s clear for everybody that it is illegal to eat endangered animals or take their body parts for trophies. Poaching, cruelty and endangered animals The phrasing of the legislation was pretty strange, with some…

Green Living, News, Pollution

Bioplastic made from shrimp shell could help curb plastic pollution

The Wyss Institute researchers molded a series of chess pieces made of their chitosan bioplastic, demonstrating a new way towards mass-manufacturing large 3D objects with complex shapes made of fully compostable materials. Credit: Harvard's Wyss Institute

In the US alone, some 34 million tons of plastic waste is generated every year, of which only seven percent gets recycled. The good thing about plastic is that it’s sturdy, cheap and easy to make – these are also its biggest downsides. Plastic is so well built that it can last up to 1,000 years in landslides without degrading, affecting…

Environment, Environmental Issues, News, Research

Tree rings reveal worst droughts in the West’s history happened during Christopher Columbus’ lifetime

Professor Bekker and a student extract a core sample from a dead tree in Provo canyon

Modern climate tracking and water flow records go back only 100 years, but to prepare for the worse, scientists and policy makers alike need to understand how the weather was like in the world many more years prior. A solution is to study the tree rings of certain tree species which bear telltale signs of water levels hundreds of years past,…