• According to British health chiefs, white is the new black…at least when it comes to keeping your house cool. They’re suggesting that all U.K. homes be painted white to combat global warming—a technique long used in hot Mediterranean countries like Greece.
• Don’t let the economy get you, er, down: Some jobless Americans are now eligible for a free year’s supply of Viagra and other drugs.
• Scientists are using human bile acids to make a replacement for mercury and plastic dental fillings. As if going to the dentist didn’t already leave a bad taste in your mouth.
• And lastly, check out what might be the world’s smallest cat. Itty bitty kitty committee, anyone?
A polar bear is the Brooks School’s new environmental mascot. A virtual one, anyway.
It uses energy monitoring software created by TellEmotion to educate kids about their energy consumption. But instead of graphs or numbers, the polar bear’s well-being visibly changes with the level of energy use. So the bear is happy when energy consumption is low, like early in the mornings, but as it increases—as more computers and other appliances are switched on—the ice begins to melt from under the bear’s paws. If it really climbs, the bear falls into the water and flails around.
• As if a treadmill in space weren’t enough, Stephen Colbert now has a species of diving beetle named after him: Agaporomorphus colberti. The beetle is known for having bristles on the males’ reproductive organs.
• Video of the week: A dancing polar bear and a Daft Punk soundtrack with voiceover by Coolio took first prize at a student environmental film competition in England.
• Shocker of the week: Putting lithium in your water reduces your risk of suicide! And putting Viagra in your water increases your risk of…well, we’ll let you figure it out.
• Greener cooking methods have been quite the craze lately, but the search for the perfect solution will (hopefully) continue until there is one. In Senegal, “green charcoal” is now being produced from agricultural waste materials to replace the black kind that has caused the destruction of so many trees.
• Here’s the bad news first: Dow Chemical is sponsoring a fish festival near a polluted Michigan river where the (toxic) fish that are caught will be donated to the poor. But the good news: If you like SunChips, you can soon rest assured about their packaging—by 2010, it will be fully compostable.
Image: Flickr / kimberlyfaye
• A new music video, “Take Aim at Climate Change,” puts some beats to an earth-inspired message. It was released by Polar-Palooza, a multimedia initiative supported by NASA and the National Science Foundation.
• Thanks to new iPods for the womb, your unborn children can hear your REO Speedwagon playlist.
• A man helped his wife deliver a baby he did not know was coming—he thought her weight gain was related to quitting smoking.
• They’re not on a low-cal diet, red pandas just prefer Sweet’N Low (and other artificial sweeteners) to natural sugar.
• And if you think you had a rough week—at least you’re not 26 and trapped inside a two-year-old‘s body.
Rocks may be environmentalists’ newest best friends, if recent research is brought to real-world fruition. Working with the U.S. Geological Survey, scientists at Columbia University’s Earth Institute found large areas along the east and west coasts of the U.S. that are lined with rocks that may be able to absorb enough carbon dioxide to slow down climate change.
The new research builds on previous knowledge that rocks naturally absorb carbon dioxide by binding it with minerals to form solids such as calcium carbonate. The absorption takes place over thousands of years, during the recrystallization that occurs after the surfaces of rocks are dissolved by natural weathering. To speed up that process, scientists experimented in the lab by crushing a sample of rocks and adding a catalyst to dissolve them. They reformed in minutes and in doing so, absorbed carbon dioxide. Read More
When nitrate is present in water, worms, mussels, freshwater snails and other underwater creatures emit nitrous oxide as a by-product of digestion. The animals obtain their food from soil, which contains bacteria that survive “surprisingly well” in the gut and are thought to convert nitrate in the water into nitrous oxide gas.
While nitrous oxide is known for its use as dentists’ laughing gas, it’s also 310 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Earthworms also emit the gas because of soil rich in both nitrogen and the microbes that convert it, but the new study illustrates that marine mammals may be pumping it out as well.
Humans might be the only species that actually choose to go under the knife to have their sex changed. But sometimes gender switches are a semi-regular occurrence in other species. In Colorado, fish are changing sex at rapid rates, reportedly due to the estrogen dribbling into Boulder’s Wastewater that’s concentrated enough to turn males into females.
Now, we can add sea coral to the list of organisms that are changing sex as a response to environmental factors: Israeli scientists report that Japanese corals change their sex to survive the pressures of climate change.
Zoologist Yossi Loya from Tel Aviv University discovered that female mushroom coral becomes male when the ocean floor gets too hot. Even a shift in a few degrees in temperature can be detrimental to coral, causing it to bleach and even die. In order to cope with the added stress of climate change, female corals adapt by changing their gender.
Is “Don’t Be Evil” Google in fact a sinister pollution-spewing machine? A Sunday Times article cited new research by Harvard physicist Alex Wissner-Gross, claiming that every Google search emits 7 grams of CO2, about half the amount released from boiling a kettle of water (15 grams). It portrays Google as “secretive about its energy consumption and carbon footprint” and refusing to “divulge” the locations of its power-sucking data centers.
When you type in a Google search for, say, “energy saving tips”, your request doesn’t go to just one server. It goes to several competing against each other.
It may even be sent to servers thousands of miles apart. Google’s infrastructure sends you data from whichever produces the answer fastest. The system minimises delays but raises energy consumption. Google has servers in the US, Europe, Japan and China.
The article also implicates other online activities, like Twittering or maintaining an avatar in Second Life (by one estimate, that avatar uses almost as much electricity as the average citizen of Brazil).
Google promptly put out a response on their blog challenging Wissner-Gross’ claims and touting the company’s green credentials. Each search emits a mere 0.2 grams of CO2, says Google. Besides, isn’t online searching greener than driving to the library?