• Is the linear dose-response model valid?

    Scientists commonly use the linear dose-response model to estimate the potential health hazards of everything from radiation to asbestos, to toxic organic chemicals. There are some who question this model which usually takes data from extremely high-dose lab experiments with animals and extrapolates the observed effects using a liner line to a zero dose. What is wrong with this approach is that at least for some hazardous substances, there is a dose below which there is not only no adverse effect, there is a positive effect! Think of the metals in your multi-vitamins, for example. So why is the linear no threshold model used? Good question. Some may argue that is is inherently conservative, so it should be used to be sure we are protecting people. In two recently published peer-reviewed articles, toxicologist Edward Calabrese of the University of Massachusetts Amherst describes how regulators came to adopt the linear no threshold (LNT) dose-response approach to ionizing radiation exposure in the 1950s, which was later generalized to chemical carcinogen risk assessment. He also offers further evidence to support his earlier assertions that two geneticists deliberately suppressed evidence to prevent the U.S. National Academy of Sciences (NAS) from considering an alternative, threshold model, for which there was experimental support. Calabrese's articles appear in the July 26 and August 4 issues of Archives of Toxicology. >> Read the Full Article
  • Pesticide risks need more research and regulation

    Developing countries need stronger pesticide regulation and a better understanding of how pesticides behave in tropical climates, according to experts behind a series of articles published in Science today. They also need an international body to carry out regular pesticide safety assessments — ensuring they are used properly by farmers who are given thorough training in their use — and to monitor the safety of chemical levels in food, the experts say. >> Read the Full Article
  • Reducing soot and methane emissions may not make as big of an impact as previously thought

    Carbon dioxide is a heavy hitter when it comes to global climate change. But there are some other big players that contribute to rising temperatures as well including soot and methane. While some scientists have argued to cut these emissions, a new study suggests that targeting these emissions may make much less of an impact than previously thought. Methane, when assessed over the course of a century, warms the planet about 25 times as much as the same mass of carbon dioxide does. During the same time frame, soot boosts warming more than 1000 times as much as the same mass of CO2 does. With this evidence, it appears that these two pollutants contribute just as much as CO2. However, methane and soot don’t stick around for as long as CO2 does (methane lingers around for 12 years and soot usually a couple of weeks). >> Read the Full Article
  • Bacterial Growth Affected By Gravity

    On Earth or in space, microbial communities will undoubtedly follow their human counterparts. In two NASA-funded studies, the bacteria known as Pseudonomas aeruginosa, an opportunistic human pathogen, was cultured both on earth and aboard shuttle Atlantis in 2010 and 2011. The goal was to see if the bacteria behaved differently due to microgravity. >> Read the Full Article
  • China's State Council has announced plans to make green industries central to the economy by 2015

    China is to fast-track expansion and investment in energy saving technologies in an attempt to tackle its worsening pollution problems. China's cabinet, the State Council, recently announced plans to make the energy saving sector a "pillar" of the economy by 2015. In a statement the council said that under the new plan the environmental protection sector will grow by 15% on average annually, reaching an output of 4.5 trillion yuan (£474 billion/$438 billion USD). China's massive economic growth has come at a major cost to its environment and even its environmental ministry has described the country's environmental situation as "grim". >> Read the Full Article
  • Don't Dismiss the Hyperloop Opportunity

    On Monday, Elon Musk, the indomitable Silicon Valley entrepreneur, unveiled his plans for a Hyperloop transportation system. The idea is to build an elevated tube from LA to SF that will transport pods full of people and cars and cargo between the two cities at 800 mph. Simpsons geeks everywhere, from Ogdenville to North Haverbrook, erupted in a derisive chorus of “Monorail." The solar-powered trip will take 30 minutes and cost $20 and that's no joke. It will be cheaper, faster, safer and more environmentally friendly than any existing mode of transportation. What's not to like" To no one's surprise, Musk's plan garnered criticism, cynicism, and outright hatred from those who shroud themselves in pragmatism and an immutable love for incremental change. USA Today says "it won’t work". TIME went way out on a limb and came up with "4 reasons why it could tank". >> Read the Full Article
  • New technology makes "Smart Windows" even smarter

    "Smart windows", made out of "smart glass" allow users to control the amount of light let in and ultimately save costs for heating, air-conditioning, and lighting. Improving on this technology, researchers at the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have designed a new material to make smart windows even smarter by applying a new window coating, which will essentially have a major impact on building energy efficiency. >> Read the Full Article
  • Petroglyphs confirmed to be really old!

    Have you seen petroglyphs in Zion National Park and elsewhere and wondered how old they were? Their ages vary, of course, and some may be of recent origin. Others, however are truly very old. A new high-tech analysis led by a University of Colorado Boulder researcher shows the oldest known petroglyphs in North America, which are cut into several boulders in western Nevada, date to at least 10,500 years ago and perhaps even as far back as 14,800 years ago. The petroglyphs located at the Winnemucca Lake petroglyph site 35 miles northeast of Reno consist of large, deeply carved grooves and dots forming complex designs on several large limestone boulders that have been known about for decades, said CU-Boulder researcher Larry Benson, who led the new effort. Although there are no people, animals or handprint symbols depicted, the petroglyph designs include a series of vertical, chain-like symbols and a number of smaller pits deeply incised with a type of hard rock scraper. >> Read the Full Article
  • Breakthrough technology in diesel combustion results in cleaner engines

    Diesel and gasoline emissions have become some of the leading concerns regarding greenhouse gases and global climate change. While diesel engines are more efficient than gasoline-powered engines, they have serious emissions problems. A breakthrough in diesel combustion technology may soon lead to cleaner diesel engines. >> Read the Full Article
  • Worm Community Contributes to Methane Release in Ocean

    In the waters off the North Island of New Zealand lives a community of polychaetes from the family Ampharetidae. Polychaetes are essentially marine worms that burrow into sediment and create tens of thousands of tunnels in the ocean floor. As a result, these tunnels provide new conduits for methane trapped below the surface to escape. This super-charged methane seep has created its own unique food web, resulting in much more methane escaping from the ocean floor into the water column. >> Read the Full Article