Steel is one of those industries that generates more than its fair share of greenhouse gases -- 5 percent of the world total. But now an MIT scientist has figured out how to make steel without any greenhouse gas emissions whatsoever.
The easiest way to do this would be to make it on the moon. MIT explains:
[MIT professor Donald] Sadoway found that a process called molten oxide electrolysis could use iron oxide from the lunar soil to make oxygen in abundance, with no special chemistry. He tested the process using lunar-like soil from Meteor Crater in Arizona -- which contains iron oxide from an asteroid impact thousands of years ago -- finding that it produced steel as a byproduct.
Sadoway’s method used an iridium anode, but since iridium is expensive and supplies are limited, that’s not a viable approach for bulk steel production on Earth.
There's a reason why Sadoway started out with moon soil: He was working on a grant meant to help figure out how to provide oxygen for future lunar settlers to breathe. And then, while fiddling with that problem -- poof! -- he made steel.
Plants talk to each other. They don't use their words, like our moms and dads taught us to do instead of making faces and grumping around. But when they need to -- particularly when they're under threat -- they let each other know. Scientists have known for a while that plants will send out chemical signals in the air as a warning system, but now they've discovered that plants have a secret underground network of communication, too.
Many plants grow in partnership with mycorrhizal fungi, and, as the BBC reports, a new study found for the first time that those fungal systems transmit messages for the plants whose roots they grow on. When aphids attack one plant in the network, the fungi let the other plants know, and those plants start mounting their defenses.
It works just like any alliance, explains the BBC. Each party gets something out of it:
The good news just keeps flowing -- like electricity from a renewables-infused grid -- for electric-auto maker Tesla Motors.
Consumer Reports just gave the Tesla Model S Sedan its highest-ever score for an automobile. The glowing review and sky-high score of 99 out of 100 came in the same week that the 10-year-old auto manufacturer enjoyed its first profitable quarter.
This electric luxury sports car, built by a small automaker based in Palo Alto, Calif., is brimming with innovation, delivers world-class performance, and is interwoven throughout with impressive attention to detail. It’s what Marty McFly might have brought back in place of his DeLorean in “Back to the Future.” The sum total of that effort has earned the Model S the highest score in our Ratings: 99 out of 100. That is far ahead of such direct competitors as the gas-powered Porsche Panamera (84) and the Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid (57).
Here is what Subaru thinks of the subway: It's smelly, full of (horrors) people, and slow. You don't even want to know what the car company has to say about subway commuters. But it's willing to tell you. While you're on the subway.
A Streetsblog reader alerted fellow transit nuts to this ad that the car company ran in Metro, that free newspaper you're handed while headed into the station each morning:
It promises an “odour free ride to work," the end of “obligatory transit conversations with coworkers," and “half off arbitrary and inexplicable transit delays.” Or, as the ad puts it:
While you’re sitting on public transit, just imagine your commute in a new Subaru Impreza. No weird smells, no overhearing awful music, and nobody asking you for spare change.
Back in 1998, a little-known climate scientist named Michael Mann and two colleagues published a paper [PDF] that sought to reconstruct the planet's past temperatures going back half a millennium before the era of thermometers -- thereby showing just how out of whack recent warming has been. The finding: Recent Northern Hemisphere temperatures had been "warmer than any other year since (at least) AD 1400." The graph depicting this result looked rather like a hockey stick: After a long period of relatively minor temperature variations (the "shaft"), it showed a sharp mercury upswing during the last century or so ("the blade").
The report moved quickly through climate science circles. Mann and a colleague soon lengthened the shaft [PDF] of the hockey stick back to the year 1000 AD -- and then, in 2001, the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change prominently featured the hockey stick in its Third Assessment Report. Based on this evidence, the IPCC proclaimed that "the increase in temperature in the 20th century is likely to have been the largest of any century during the past 1,000 years."
Should the federal government regulate where oil dispersants can be used and how much can be dumped into waterways following oil spills?
“Nah,” says the EPA.
Environmental groups filed suit last year seeking to force the agency to improve its oversight of the use of dispersants. But a federal judge this week tossed out the lawsuit after oil industry attorneys helped EPA win on a technicality.
Workers on a strawberry farm in Southern California were fired last week when they became worried about smoke from a nearby wildfire and left mid-shift. After a media backlash, the farm offered the workers their jobs back, but the workers said, essentially, "Screw you."
The strawberry pickers had taken shelter inside from choking smoke and falling ashes from the Springs Fire, defying an order from a foreman who told them to suck it up and keep on picking. From NBC4:
The ashes were falling on top of us, one of them explained, adding “it was hard to breathe.”
Vineyards won't be the only things flourishing when the sun shines on the fertile city of Sebastopol, Calif., in Sonoma wine country. The liberal stronghold of fewer than 8,000 residents this week became California's second city to require that new homes be outfitted with panels to produce solar energy.
A vote by the City Council on Tuesday evening came less than two months after a similar program was approved in Lancaster, Calif., a conservative desert city with 150,000 residents nearly 400 miles away.
Bumblebee biologist Dave Goulson might be the pesticide industry's worst enemy -- and therefore a bee's best friend. A professor at Scotland's University of Stirling, he was part of the team whose 2012 Science paper called out the effects of neonicotinoid pesticides, which pose a considerable threat to fauna large and small. They've proven especially lethal to bees.
Exposure to the chemicals reduces the production of queen bees and thus reduces a colony’s chances of surviving the winter (queens are the only bees alive in that season, and they birth a new team of workers when spring arrives). Bumblebees, like honeybees, are critically important to modern agriculture, pollinating everything from canola to watermelon, but their population throughout most of the world has plummeted in recent years.
The ideas pollinated by Goulson and other neonicotinoid researchers recently bore fruit, in the form of a two-year partial ban on the pesticides by the European Union. Having recently released A Sting in the Tale, an autobiographical history of his own research, Goulson spoke with Grist about nature writing, the implications of the E.U. ban, and why farmers keep using pesticides despite the lack of evidence in their favor.
Q.You spend much of the book discussing how you became a researcher, and various adventures you’ve undergone in the name of science. Why write a work of half-memoir, half-biology in the first place?
A. In Britain, scientists are spectacularly poorly understood. People -- even our own students at university -- don’t always know how science really happens, or what academic work actually looks like. So I tried to explain what I do.
Q.And you discuss your failed experiments as well! I don’t see that in many science books.
A. Of course, that’s mostly how it goes! People don’t really understand the process of designing experiments, or that you’ll be horribly wrong the first time, perhaps the second and third time as well. I tried to humanize scientists a bit; we’re often seen as these eccentric people wearing white coats and doing dark magic in a lab somewhere, when we’re really just ordinary bumblers like everyone else.
Q.There was a concerted effort by agrochemical companies to stop the E.U.’s neonicotinoid ban, and even the U.K.’s chief scientific adviser came out against it. How did it succeed despite all that?
A. As far as I can tell, the first major influence was the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) coming out against [neonicotinoids] a few years ago. They were asked by the European Commission to assess the safety of neonicotinoids with regard to bees, and they came to the conclusion, quite clearly, that neonicotinoids posed a whole host of clearly quantified risks. They didn’t come out and say they should be banned, but that was the clear message.
Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee refused to show up for work Thursday morning, basically because they really don't like the EPA.
The committee was scheduled to vote on the nomination of Gina McCarthy, President Obama's pick to head the EPA. The vote had already been delayed three weeks to accommodate grumbling Republicans, according to committee chair Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). Then, this morning, right before the scheduled committee hearing, the eight GOP members sent a letter saying they were going to boycott.