Top Stories

Clean Coal Finally a Reality?

A team of researchers at Ohio State University (OSU) spent the past 2 years developing a clean way of harnessing the power of coal and have recently found great success in their research scale combustion system. The team is now able to harness clean coal energy chemically without combustion with air, while capturing 99% of the carbon dioxide produced from the reaction. With the next stage in testing on the horizon, could this possibly be the future of coal? >> Read the Full Article

Whale Chewing

Whale is the common name for various marine mammals of the order Cetacea. Whales are mammals, but they don’t look like the mammals living around us, as they have a triangular fluke for tail, no hind legs and no body hair. And inside their mouths, their teeth are unfamiliar too – being much simpler and peg like. A multidisciplinary team of researchers have now married together the fossil record and the embryonic development process to investigate how the whale got its teeth. In most mammals there are wedge-shaped incisors, a pointy canine, and premolars and molars with bumps and valleys that fit together like a mortar and pestle when you chew. Not all whales have teeth, but those that do, such as killer whales, have rows of simple peg like teeth, each one looking the same as the next. Whales use this spiked row of teeth to grab prey, but unlike other mammals, whales do not chew. >> Read the Full Article

In the News: Whales to benefit from a reduction in shipping noise

The North Atlantic right whale, along with many other whale species, is set to benefit from work by scientists to reduce the noise levels caused along shipping routes. One of the rarest of the large whales, the North Atlantic right whale is thought to have a population of just 500 individuals, and it is believed that excessive noise along shipping routes is likely to negatively affect this threatened species. The din from commercial ships makes it extremely difficult for the marine mammals to communicate with one another, which in turn means that their ability to locate food and mates, and therefore their ability to sustain a viable population, is greatly diminished. >> Read the Full Article

Over 35,000 march on Washington demanding climate action and rejection of Canada's 'carbon bomb'

Yesterday over 35,000 people rallied in Washington D.C. for urgent action on climate change, which, according to organizers, was the largest climate march in U.S. history. Activists called on the Obama Administration to do much more to tackle climate change, including rejecting the Keystone XL Pipeline, which would bring carbon-heavy tar sands oil from Canada through the U.S. to a world market. >> Read the Full Article

BPA Blood Levels

Bisphenol A (BPA) is an organic compound. It is a colorless solid that is soluble in organic solvents, but poorly soluble in water. Having two phenol functional groups, it is used to make polycarbonate polymers and epoxy resins, along with other materials used to make plastics. It is a controversial component of plastic bottles and canned food linings that have helped make the world's food supply safer. It has the potential to mimic the sex hormone estrogen if blood and tissue levels are high enough. Now, an analysis of almost 150 BPA exposure studies shows that in the general population, people's exposure may be many times too low for BPA to effectively mimic estrogen in the human body. The analysis, presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual meeting by toxicologist Justin Teeguarden of the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, Richland, Wash., shows that BPA in the blood of the general population is many times lower than blood levels that consistently cause toxicity in animals. The result suggests that animal studies might not reflect the human BPA experience appropriately. >> Read the Full Article

Horse "Passports" Proposed in Europe as Meat Scandal Gallops On

As the horsemeat-dressed-as-beef scandal continues to rock Europe's food industry, a number of organizations are calling on stricter European regulation, including an EU-wide horse passport register. The Federation of Veterinarians of Europe (FVE) said creating a centralised record of horse passports would prevent the issuance of duplicate passports, thereby curbing the risk that horses banned from slaughter enter the food chain. There is no evidence that eating horsemeat in itself poses any health risk, but veterinarians give horses drugs which are banned from human consumption. >> Read the Full Article

Economics of Coal Power Shifting

During the presidential campaign last fall, a single message was repeated endlessly in Appalachian coal country: President Barack Obama and his Environmental Protection Agency, critics said, had declared a "war on coal" that was shuttering U.S. coal-fired power plants and putting coal miners out of work. Not so, according to a detailed analysis of coal plant finances and economics presented here yesterday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (which publishes ScienceNOW). Instead, coal is losing its battle with other power sources mostly on its merits. Although the United States has long generated the bulk of its electricity from coal, over the past six years that share has fallen from 50 percent to 38 percent. Plans for more than 150 new coal-fired power plants have been canceled since the mid-2000s, existing plants have been closed, and in 2012, just one new coal-fired power plant went online in the United States. To investigate the reasons for this decline, David Schlissel, an energy economist and founder of the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis in Belmont, Massachusetts, dove deeply into the broader economics of the industry and the detailed finances of individual power plants. >> Read the Full Article

Rapid Expansion of EV Charging Stations Planned

The issue of electric vehicle range anxiety got a thorough airing last week, in the now notorious Tesla vs The New York Times battle. It started when Times reporter John Broder wrote a story about his recent Tesla Model S test drive. While acknowledging that the car itself is a thing of beauty (Motor Trend’s Car of the Year, to be precise) Broder detailed a litany of complaints about the driving experience on a 400-mile trip from Washington D.C. to Boston, primarily focusing on battery life and range. The whole thing ended ingloriously, short of the destination point with a spent battery and a tow truck involved. Of course, taking a 400 mile jaunt (actually more, considering that Broder detoured through New York City) along some of the most heavily traveled arteries in the U.S. during the dead of winter is a dicey proposition under any circumstances, but if Broder set out to demonstrate that electric vehicles are not ready for prime time, he ended up proving something else entirely. >> Read the Full Article

Lead Pollution better, but still an issue

Efforts to reduce lead pollution have paid off in many ways, yet the problem persists and will probably continue to affect the health of people and animals well into the future, according to experts speaking at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) in Boston. "Things have substantially improved with the virtual elimination of leaded gasoline, restrictions on lead paint, and other efforts to limit releases of industrial lead into the environment. But the historic legacy of lead pollution persists, and new inputs of industrial lead are adding to it," said A. Russell Flegal, professor of environmental toxicology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. >> Read the Full Article

Climate Change Responses Need Not be All or Nothing

The dialog about climate change, man's role in causing it, and possible responses to limit it or even reverse it, takes on a crisis tone for many. Is this the best way to look at it, and is it the best way to achieve results? For some, this sort of dialog hardens positions and limits our collective ability to do anything. Is there an explanation for why this seems to be happening? An Ohio State University statistician says that the natural human difficulty with grasping probabilities is preventing Americans from dealing with climate change. In a panel discussion at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting on Feb. 15, Mark Berliner said that an aversion to statistical thinking and probability is a significant reason that we haven’t enacted strategies to deal with climate change right now. >> Read the Full Article