Nov 25, 2015
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---- Environmental Health News
Nov 24, 2015
Honeybees could be in for a long, brutal winter, writes Dick Rogers, the principal scientist with the Bayer Bee Care Center in North Carolina. Since 2013, U.S. beekeepers have done a good job of reducing honey bee losses, mostly because of better management of the deadly Varroa mite, a parasite that attacks bees. But during hive evaluations this year, Rogers has found that "the vast majority of hives contained mite infestations well above the threshold level of concern."
Rogers, who said it only takes three Varroa mites per every 100 bees to put the hive in trouble, said a hive of 40,000 bees would have thousands of parasites, "which weaken bees through their feeding and disease transmission activities," he writes. "This year I'm finding at least two-thirds of the hives I've examined contain mite counts above that threshold and many have exceeded seven mites per 100 bees, a level that is almost certain to result in colony failure this winter . . . Recent scientific presentations at bee health conferences indicate that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is finding infestation levels up to eight mites per 100 bees this fall, which agrees with our own assessment. This does not bode well for honey bee colonies going into winter."
Honeybees populations are "responsible for more than $15 billion in increased crop value each year," Daniel Enoch reports for Agri-Pulse. "About one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination, the department says on its website, and commercial production of many specialty crops—like almonds and other tree nuts, berries, fruits and vegetables—depend on pollination by honey bees."
"The Varroa mite is one of several possible factors that scientists blame for Colony Collapse Disorder, a phenomenon that began about a decade ago in which overwintering honey bee populations experienced dramatic die-offs," Enoch writes. "Other possible factors include the increased use of potentially toxic insecticides, called neonicotinoids, as well as habitat loss. From 2006 through 2011, about a third of U.S. honey bee colonies were lost each year, USDA says, with a third of these losses attributed to CCD by beekeepers. The winter of 2011-2012 was an exception, when total losses dropped to 22 percent."
Nov 23, 2015
Nov 19, 2015
HACKTIVISTS THREATEN TO TARGET LAW ENFORCEMENT PERSONNEL AND PUBLIC OFFICIALS
Water is a crucial element for farming: the plants need enough, but not too much. Water is also an increasingly precious resource all over the world. In California, five times as much water is used in agriculture as is used by residential consumers. A 25% reduction in agricultural use, for instance, would entirely offset all urban water use. With this in mind, a number of California farmers are trying to voluntarily reduce their water consumption. But how?
One important development is targeted irrigation. Getting precisely the right amount of water to each plant can reduce the fraction lost to evaporation or runoff. It's a small thing, but it's a very big deal.
Cue Vinduino, a long-running project of "gentleman farmer" and hacker [Reinier van der Lee]. As a system, Vinduino aims to make it easy and relatively inexpensive to measure the amount of water in the soil at different depths, to log this information, and to eventually tailor the farm's water usage to the plants and their environment. We were able to catch up with [Reinier] at the Hackaday SuperConference the day after results were announced. He shared his story of developing Vinduino and recounts how he felt when it was named Best Product:
The product that won Best Product is simple, but very well executed. It's a hand-held soil moisture sensor reader that couples with a DIY soil probe design to create a versatile and inexpensive system. All of the 2015 Best Product Finalists were exceptional. Vinduino's attention to detail, room for expansion, and the potential to help the world pushed this project over the top.
The basic, handheld Vinduino is a calibrated AC resistance meter. An Arduino inside the rugged enclosure sends current first this way, then that, through the moisture sensors and measures the voltage drop across some known resistors. At least half of the development work, however, was focused on the in-ground humidity sensors.
As dirt gets wet, it conducts more easily. You could, in principle, simply measure this resistance. But different soil compositions make calibration difficult, and corrosion of the probes is equally a problem. Finally, the terminals of the probes themselves can create a battery when placed in the soil, vastly complicating the calibration problem by imposing a voltage across the resistance that you'd like to measure.
[Reinier] spent a lot of time getting his DIY gypsum water sensors accurately calibrated, standardized, and compensated for "concentration cell" battery effect. His great documentation of the process makes it replicable on a shoestring budget. Making the sensors robust and cheap is important, because the next step is to drive three (or more) of the sensors into the plants' root zone at varying heights.
Driving multiple sensors into the ground allows the farmer to target his plants exact water needs. Measuring how wet the soil is at the surface, in the root zone, and then just below the roots makes it possible to figure out the net water flow, and water the roots only when they get dry, not when the ground on top of the roots is dry.
The handheld unit connects up to these water sensors and makes measuring the soil moisture at these different levels as easy as walking around the vineyard with a log-book. And because the handheld unit's firmware is open source, nothing stops the farmer from using different soil humidity sensors that require different calibration curves, or from using the same setup to measure soil salinity.
But [Reinier] has a whole system in mind, and it's one that doesn't involve walking around the fields taking measurements. He's already built up prototypes of a networked, permanent version of the handheld unit that can stay in the field and record continuous moisture data. The next steps are fully-automatic watering control, by combining the control of irrigation valves and water pressure dataloggers.
Optimal, minimal water use in agriculture is an idea that can help save water on a large scale. By making the measurements easy and cheap, Vinduino helps farmers take the first step. By making it all open source, modular, and accessible, much more likely to have an impact. So far, [Reinier] estimates that he's cut his water consumption down by 25%, and by further developing his system, he's making it possible for others. Good luck with Vinduino and congratulations!
The 10 Best Product Finalists
There were 10 projects named as Best Product Finalists during the 2015 Hackaday Prize. Enjoy the recap video which touches on each of these, and dig into the lists of entries to learn more.
The 2015 Hackaday Prize is sponsored by:
Filed under: cons, Featured, slider, The Hackaday Prize
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Nov 17, 2015
Web MD - Over 30 years, nonsmokers who drank three to five cups of coffee a day were 15 percent less likely to die of any cause, versus nondrinkers.. . . None of that proves coffee, itself, extends people's lives or directly protects against certain diseases. . . Other factors might explain the connection.
Please continue reading from: JSOnline.com NewsWatch
A plant that recycles plastics for use in bottles, carpet, drainpipes and other products has opened in Dundalk and expects to employ 60 people on three shifts when it reaches full capacity in January.
The joint venture between St. Louis-based QRS Recycling and Canusa-Hershman Recycling buys plastics...Please continue reading from: // B'More Green - Baltimore Sun
Nov 16, 2015
Researchers are turning to technology to help safeguard the global food supply.
Scientists have used satellites to collect agricultural data since 1972, when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) pioneered the practice of using the color – or "greenness" – of reflected sunlight to map plant cover over the entire globe.
"This was an amazing breakthrough that fundamentally changed the way we view our planet," said Joe Berry, professor of global ecology at the Carnegie Institution for Science and a co-author of the study. "However, these vegetation maps are not ideal predictors of crop productivity. What we need to know is growth rate rather than greenness."
The growth rate can tell researchers what size yield to expect from crops by the end of the growing season. The higher the growth rate of a soybean plant or stalk of corn, for instance, the greater the harvest from a mature plant.
"What we need to measure is flux – the carbon dioxide that is exchanged between plants and the atmosphere – to understand photosynthesis and plant growth," Guan said. "How do you use color to infer flux? That's a big gap."
Recently, researchers at NASA and several European institutes discovered how to measure this flux, called solar-induced fluorescence, from satellites that were originally designed for measuring ozone and other gases in the atmosphere.
A plant uses most of the energy it absorbs from the sun to grow via photosynthesis, and dissipates unused energy as heat. It also passively releases between 1 and 2 percent of the original solar energy absorbed by the plant back into the atmosphere as fluorescent light. Guan's team worked out how to distinguish the tiny flow of specific fluorescence from the abundance of reflected sunlight that also arrives at the satellite.
Global Change Biology - Improving the monitoring of crop productivity using spaceborne solar-induced fluorescence
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Nov 13, 2015
How home energy use is changing: less heating, more appliances
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In 2006, the world used a cubic mile of oil. In total the energy the world used was equal to about 3.1 cubic miles of oil when we convert the other energy to be equal amounts of oil.
Read more » at // Next Big Future
Nov 12, 2015
Nov 11, 2015
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// 1Environmental Health News
Last month 16 Wisconsin residents petitioned the Environmental Protection Agency "to revoke Wisconsin's authority to issue pollution discharge permits under the Clean Water Act if the Department of Natural Resources does not correct deficiencies," Seely writes. "The discharge permits are a key mechanism by which Wisconsin limits pollutants, including manure from large farms, that reach the sources of Wisconsin's drinking water."
"Kimberlee Wright, executive director of Midwest Environmental Advocates, the Madison law firm representing the residents, said Wisconsin lacks an adequate regulatory program to protect water, including what flows from residents' taps," Seely writes. DNR spokesman Jim Dick told Seely that the DNR "takes its responsibility to protect Wisconsin's waters seriously and does enforce the Clean Water Act. We are working within the confines of current state and federal laws and rules to do just that." (Read more)
NASA has agreed to pay $50,660 to settle environmental violations at its Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore, the Environmental Protection Agency said Tuesday.
EPA cited NASA for several seemingly minor violations of federal hazardous waste and clean-air regulations at Wallops,... Please continue reading from: B'More Green - Baltimore Sun
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Nov 10, 2015
Via: The Atlantic:
Over the past decade, nearly all large U.S. airlines have shifted heavy maintenance work on their airplanes to repair shops thousands of miles away, in developing countries, where the mechanics who take the planes apart (completely) and put them back together (or almost) may not even be able to read or speak English. US Airways and Southwest fly planes to a maintenance facility in El Salvador. Delta sends planes to Mexico. United uses a shop in China. American still does much of its most intensive maintenance in-house in the U.S., but that is likely to change in the aftermath of the company's merger with US Airways.
The airlines are shipping this maintenance work offshore for the reason you'd expect: to cut labor costs. Mechanics in El Salvador, Mexico, China, and elsewhere earn a fraction of what mechanics in the U.S. do. In part because of this offshoring, the number of maintenance jobs at U.S. carriers has plummeted, from 72,000 in the year 2000 to fewer than 50,000 today.
Nov 9, 2015
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Nov 3, 2015
Fire is raging across the 5,000km length of Indonesia. It is hard to convey the scale of this inferno, but here's a comparison that might help: it is currently producing more carbon dioxide than the US economy. And in three weeks the fires have released more CO2 than the annual emissions of Germany.
It's not just the trees that are burning. It is the land itself. Much of the forest sits on great domes of peat. When the fires penetrate the earth, they smoulder for weeks, sometimes months, releasing clouds of methane, carbon monoxide, ozone and exotic gases such as ammonium cyanide. The plumes extend for hundreds of miles, causing diplomatic conflicts with neighbouring countries.
Why is this happening? Indonesia's forests have been fragmented for decades by timber and farming companies. Canals have been cut through the peat to drain and dry it. Plantation companies move in to destroy what remains of the forest to plant monocultures of pulpwood, timber and palm oil. The easiest way to clear the land is to torch it.
Last big fire in Indonesia
1997 and 1998 – Unprecedented forest fires in Kalimantan and East Sumatra. 97,000 km2 (37,000 sq mi) of forest were destroyed, more than 2.6 gigatonnes of CO2 was released to the atmosphere. The underground smouldering fire on the peat bogs continue to burn and ignite new forest fire each year during dry season. There are other forest fires in Java and Sulawesi on the same year. 15,000 children were missing after the 1997 fire.
Children are being prepared for evacuation in warships already some have choked to death. Species are going up in smoke at an untold rate.' Photograph: Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images
Read more »// Next Big Future
Nov 2, 2015
Researchers at Cambridge University demonstrated their latest version of what is being called the Lithium-Air battery. It can be more accurately referred to as a Lithium-Oxygen but Air sounds cooler.
The early estimates look pretty impressive with the energy density being 93% efficient which could be up to 10 times the energy density of Lithium-Ion and claims to be rechargeable up to 2,000 times. Recent improvements toward Lithium-Air batteries include a graphene contact and using lithium hydroxide in place of lithium peroxide which increased both stability and efficiency.
Here's the rub: Lithium-Air batteries are still years away from being ready for commercial use. There are still problems with the battery's ability to charge and discharge (kind of a deal breaker if the battery won't charge or discharge right?) There are still issues with safety, performance, efficiency, and the all too apparent need for pure oxygen.
The black horse of nuclear reactors
How a nuclear reactor works----
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