Global warming has been a hot-button issue for decades now, and one of the major causes of it is the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide or C02. Six billion metric tons of carbon dioxide are released into the atmosphere annually. However French biochemist Pierre Calleja believes he has devised a method to reduce these ever increasing amounts. For years, he has been experimenting with algae. Suspended in water, these algae are allowed to carry out photosynthesis. This process is required in the survival of the organism and as expected, uses up carbon dioxide from the air. However, these tanks have the secondary effect of producing light during this process. This lends them to application as lamps which instead of generating a greenhouse gas by consuming energy, actually capture and filter 1 ton of Carbon Dioxide per Liter of solution. One of these algae lamps has already been installed into a commercial parking garage, and if they prove feasible, may be installed along high-ways, inside parks, and in other public places.
Beth Buczynski, 2012, Algae Street Lamp Suck Up C02, But How Exactly?, Earth Techling,
Written by Arden Tran.
Most people experience five taste senses; sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and savory. The sense of taste for bitter could have been developed to warn humans of poisonous or rancid foods. However, it may also have another effect on a completely different part of the human body; the lungs.
Humans with asthma have to deal with bronco dilation, when their airways contract and make it very hard for them to breathe. Inhalers with medicine usually do the trick in relaxing the muscles, but now scientists have found that bitter tasting substances also help in relaxing the contracted muscles in the lungs. The receptors on the plasma membrane of the cells, when they receive the bitter substances, close the calcium channels, thus allowing for the cell and muscles to relax.
This could lead to more natural remedies for asthma; instead of manufactured medicines, they could use extracts from bitter melon or other bitter vegetables and fruits.
Written by Sonia Chakladar
Global Warming is still an issue prevalent in the present, though the initial hype about it has worn off. Also, because of incorrect recording of data, people misinterpreted the data that was collected from the ice glaciers. Air bubbles in the glaciers show carbon dioxide emissions and climate change has been tightly coupled, and that carbon dioxide emissions do elevate the temperature. Dr. Parrenin’s paper compiled a record of global temperature since the last Ice Age, and the rise in carbon dioxide preceded the rise in temperature. People had thought that temperature increases lead to the increase in carbon dioxide, but in fact, it is the other way around, as shown by Dr. Parrenin’s records and papers.
The levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has jumped 41 percent due to technological advancements, since the Industrial Revolution began in the 18th century and also because of the growth of the human population, and unless the emissions are controlled better, it could double or triple, further raising the temperature and disrupting the climate.
Although the initial panic and frenzy about Global Warming has worn off, it is still an issue that needs to be dealt with to preserve the planet as it is, as climate change affects all the organisms living on planet Earth, not just humans.
By Sonia Chakladar
Just as Alice fell down the rabbit hole and found herself in another land with many a strange creature, scientists currently believe that deep below Earth’s surface is another world teeming with miniscule worms and microbes. First, however, let us take a look at the above-ground bacterial world. While the world human population is estimated to be just about six billion or so right now, the world bacteria population is over five million trillion trillion individuals. And that is a statistic from 1998. This number includes the bacteria that exist in the environment and the bacteria that reside inside organisms, such as the Escherichia coli that have taken up residence inside our large intestines. As a review, bacteria are prokaryotic, meaning that unlike eukaryotes, their DNA is not enclosed in a nucleus, and they have no organelles. More than half of the life on Earth is composed of bacteria.
Now, back to these underworld bacteria: Robert Hazen, of the Deep Carbon Observatory, says that these bacteria could be residing in locations about six to twenty miles beneath the Earth’s surface. For example, in China, microbes have been found six kilometers below the Songliao basin. Researchers have also found worms one kilometer below the surface in South Africa. The question then arises about how in the world these organisms could survive in such adverse conditions like being in an environment sans oxygen. Well, the newly found bacteria can survive without oxygen and archaea can depend on ammonia or sulphur for nutrients.
Not only are these creatures found in these subterranean places, but researchers currently speculate that they may be millions of years old, remaining in a non-dividing state for so long that they seem as if they are dead! Such creatures could go millions of years without undergoing division. How incredible–a world seemingly stuck in time. Hazen is also considering an alternative view of how life began, believing that life, rather than springing up on the surface, has subterranean roots due to the evidence that this sort of environment has the components for life: energy, water, and carbon. Hazen even takes this hypothesis so far as to say that it could be possible that life on Earth came from Martian life in that life forms living on asteroids (an environment similar to underground Earth) from Mars could have immigrated to Earth post asteroid collisions. Further research into such a hypothesis could bring about dramatic shifts in the current ideas about the evolution of Earth and its life.
Written by Aishwarya Vishwanath.
We have only presumed that to mess with Amazon’s rainforest is to mess with uncountable things: 2.5 million insect species, 40,000 plant species and 1,300 species of birds. A recent study conducted by a group of researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry adds another to this vast list: the Amazonian clouds themselves. The researchers traveled to Brazil to collect the rainforest air and to figure out the chemical compositions of the particles, they brought the sample to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. The result indicated the potassium salts among the carbon compounds which served as the glue between the carbon compounds. The size of the cluster was proportional to the amount of potassium. What amazed the researchers the most was the source of the potassium. Fungi are known to spray out a potassium rich fluid when shooting out their spores. This is fostered by the fact that a third of the Earth’s land surface is covered with microscopic fungi. But the researchers are yet to find whether the Amazonian fungi actually release potassium in the air. Another remaining question is whether Amazon is the only rainforest that gets the potassium cycle going. But they are sure that the rainforest is dependent on the sky and the sky is dependent on the forest.
Written by Taeyil Son.
Humans’ and songbirds’ brains are affected in similar ways by genes relating to speaking and singing. New research by Duke University Medical Center neurobiologist Erich Jarvis and colleagues suggests that gene activity in about 80 genes is comparable between humans and songbirds. Birds that cannot produce mimicked sound do not have this brain activity.
Songbirds learn their “language” much as infant humans do. They are not born knowing how to sing their species’ song; they must learn it by observing and imitating adult birds. Because the common ancestor for birds and humans existed some 300 million years ago, Jarvis believes that the two groups experienced convergent evolution, and their brain structure similarities are analogous.
Jarvis and colleagues examined tissue from the brains of humans, in addition to tissue from the brains of song-producing and non-song-producing birds. Genes in analogous regions Area X in birds and the anterior striatum at the base of the forebrain in humans share a similar function, helping enable the organism to imitate sounds. Gene similarities were also found in the robust nucleus of the acropallium in birds, and the laryngeal motor cortex in humans. These areas are responsible for speech and song production.
Scientists hope that further research in this area will help us understand how human language involved, and how speech orders arise.
Written by Alice Metz.
In New Zealand, two beaked whales had been found dead at a place called Opape Beach. They were identified as an adult female measuring about 5.3m and a juvenile male measuring about 3.5m. But this wasn’t the first time these spade-toothed beaked whales were to be encountered by the humans. Over the course of 140 years, there were instances when several bone fragments washed up but it had never been seen in the flesh before. Since 1872, there was enough evidence to confirm the existence of the spade-toothed and even DNA analysis was done in 1986. But there were limitations to get an insight about what the species actually looked like. But now with the beached pair, the researchers are now gaining insight into the elusive creature’s familial relationships. The ultimate goal, they say, is to see the creature alive in the ocean. It appears, though, that the species’ environment is very remote deep under water and they seem to live submerged underwater for the most of their lives – says Scott Baker, a marine biologist at Oregon State University.
Written by Taeyil Son.