September 02, 2014

5:41 PM | Highlights from EuroSciPy
In July, Agile reported from SciPy in Austin, Texas, one of several annual conferences for people writing scientific software in the Python programming language. I liked it so much I was hungry for more, so at the end of my recent trip to Europe I traveled to the city of Cambridge, UK, to participate in EuroSciPy. The conference was quite a bit smaller than its US parent, but still offered 2 days of tutorials, 2 days of tech talks, and a day of sprints. It all took place in the impressive […]
2:06 PM | Russians Love Their Varmints, Too
By Jason Bittel The first morning after a long weekend is never easy, but things could be worse: you could be stuck in a hole in the middle of the road like this prairie dog in Russia. Perhaps the rodent ate one too many pirozhkis this summer, or maybe a passing car collapsed the burrow, trapping the little p-dog. Either way, two tourists came to the rescue! On this side of the world, prairie dogs could use some help, too. Thanks to habitat destruction and […]

August 29, 2014

8:13 PM | A Trio Of Smart Cities: How Technology Makes Them More Efficient
A smart city is one that is currently testing or regularly using information, communications and technology (ICT) solutions in at least three areas, states IHS. These can include areas like transportation, safety, energy and the physical infrastructure of the city. … Continue reading →
4:07 PM | Weekend Reads: New Jersey Gone Wild, California’s Bivalve Battle, Louisiana’s Disappearing Act
By Jason Bittel The Lion Sleeps TonightBaboons and tigers don’t usually spring to mind when you think of New Jersey, but for a brief period in the 70s, Warner Brothers operated an ill-fated (and ill-conceived) animal theme park there. The park’s problems were myriad, but the fact that one visitor lost an ear to a lion gives you an idea of just how poorly the place was managed. More recently, Jen Miller returned to the ruins of “Jungle […]
3:20 PM | Whale: It’s What’s Not for Dinner. Anywhere.
By Brian Palmer Norwegians killed 729 whales this year, marking the largest catch in two decades. The hunt persists despite a more than 30-year ban on commercial whaling worldwide, making Norway one of only three countries that continue to flout international restrictions. The deputy director of the Norwegian Fishermen's Sales Organisation calls this season’s haul “very good,” though he acknowledges a major problem for the industry: nobody […]
1:34 PM | Toronto Trashes Its Litterbugs
By Jason Bittel Toronto has a new anti-littering campaign that tells it like it is. The ads portray juxtaposed pieces of trash that spell out not-so-nice words above the tagline: “Littering says a lot about you.” (You can see more below or view the whole set here.) According to Livegreen Toronto, the city’s environmental initiative, litterbugs are “lazy, selfish, low-life pigs,” but don’t worry, reform is easy! Just throw […]

August 28, 2014

1:03 PM | Will Logging 'Ghost Trees' Come Back to Haunt Us?
By Jason Bittel The U.S. Forest Service announced yesterday that it will be logging more than 32,000 acres of California forest scorched by last summer's Rim Fire. The agency contends that removing the burned trees will make money and might help prevent another fire. But scientists and conservationists are condemning the plan, arguing that fire is a natural and necessary process and that Stanislaus National Forest has already begun to regenerate. Logging […]
11:24 AM | Burrowing by burning
Most kind of mining are low-yield games. For example, the world's annual gold production would fit in a 55 m2 room. But few mining operations I'm aware of are as low yield as the one that ran in Melle, France, from about 500 till 950 CE, producing silver for the Carolingian empire and Charlemagne's coins. I visited the site on Saturday. The tour made it clear just how hard humans had to work to bring about commerce and industry in the Middle Ages. For a start, of course they had no […]

August 27, 2014

9:20 PM | Dump the Bucket, Hold the Water
By Chris Tackett Forget the obsession with the song of the summer. We might have to start picking a social media meme of the summer, and this year's title definitely belongs to the "Ice Bucket Challenge," which has raised (at last count) more than $94 million in research money for ALS, a fatal neurological disease.But it has also faced some backlash for using water when part of the country is in the midst of a terrible drought. So let's give extra points to […]
8:41 PM | Cut Carbon, Breathe Easier, Live Longer
By Brian Palmer What if I offered you an investment that would make us all healthier, save thousands of lives, and pay for itself? It would be hard to turn down a deal like that. According to a new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, there is such an investment, and it’s called cap and trade—the market-based plan to reduce carbon pollution that is still somehow controversial, despite the benefits it offers to human health, the […]
2:30 PM | The Only Photos You Need to Understand Just How Dry California Is Right Now
By Jason Bittel I could explain how bad the California drought is by citing meteorological records, water table levels, or degrees of snowpack, but who needs numbers when you’ve got pictures like these? These two photographs (and there's more like them) of Bidwell Marina—taken by Paul Hames and Justin Sullivan, respectively—are worth 1,000 tables and graphs. The top image is from the summer of 2011. The bottom is the marina last week.Other […]
11:29 AM | Poverty eradication and climate change: Is there a conflict?
Many people associate raising living standards in developing countries with increases in greenhouse gas emissions. New research by IIASA's Narasimha Rao shows that may not be the case. Continue reading →

August 26, 2014

5:04 PM | The Jargonaut: Why Is There GRAS in My Food?
By Brian Palmer Editor’s note: If you follow environmental science and policy (or just dip a toe in every once in a while), you’re bound to encounter obscure terms and wonky jargon. OnEarth is here to explain them to you, in this new feature we call The Jargonaut. Many of the things you eat and drink have never been formally tested, because, as the Washington Post just highlighted in a major front-page story, the U.S. Food and Drug […]
3:46 PM | Climate change from an investor’s perspective
Useful angle to think about climate change from an investor’s perspective. Investors are always balancing risk and maybe this is a great way to think about climate change. As this article demonstrates, when you look at global temperature means … Continue reading →
2:18 PM | Doesn't Take a True Detective to Spot an Industrial Wasteland
By Jason Bittel HBO’s True Detective took home an Emmy last night for best directing in a drama series. If you haven’t watched the show yet, we highly recommend you marathon it. As you can see from this gritty intro, True Detective is about the environmental devastation wrought on Louisiana by an unfettered oil and gas industry—a dark allegiance of greed and smoke and ruin. Just kidding! It’s about two detectives (bad-ass versions of […]

August 25, 2014

8:47 PM | Fight My Fire
By Brian Palmer We ought to rename the U.S. Forest Service the “Forest Fire Service,” because pretty soon fighting fires is all that the agency will be able to do. Since 1995, the proportion of its budget spent on fire suppression has risen from 16 to 42 percent, according to an Agriculture Department analysis released last week. If you include secondary costs related to firefighting (such as fire suppression research), the agency now spends the […]
2:23 PM | The Early Grouper Gets the Shark
By Jason Bittel As you may have guessed from its name, the goliath grouper can grow to massive proportions—up to eight feet and 800 pounds. Unfortunately, we nearly caught, speared, and ate the species into extinction in the 1980s. This, um, photogenic fish has rebounded a bit since then, but the Atlantic goliath remains on the Endangered Species List. Why am I yammering on about big groupers? Oh, because one just gulped down a four-foot shark like […]
7:19 AM | The hack is back: An invitation to get creative
We're organizing another hackathon! It's free, and it's for everyone — not just programmers. So mark your calendar for the weekend of 25 and 26 October, sign up with a frie, and come to Denver for the most creative 48 hours you'll spend this year. Then stay for the annual geophysics fest that is the SEG Annual Meeting! First things first: what is a hackathon? Don't worry, it's not illegal, and it has nothing to do with security. It has to do with ideas and collaborative tool […]

August 22, 2014

5:50 PM | Change The Little Things For A Greener Planet
Nearly everyday there are stories out there about greenhouse gases, carbon emissions and environmental challenges. The issue most of us face is how to combat these startling statistics and help create a better future. Do the Little Things There are … Continue reading →
3:57 PM | Weekend Reads: Pizzly Bears and Wolfyotes?, Ancient Volcano Forests, the Truth about Caveman Diets
By Jason Bittel Seeds of DoubtFighting Monsanto and genetically modified foods has made Vandana Shiva a world famous activist. But as Michael Specter reveals in this wide-reaching profile, many of Shiva’s firmly held beliefs don’t hold up to scientific scrutiny. What follows is not only a probe into the arguments against GMOs, but also an attempt to answer a very pressing question: How are we going to feed Earth’s people—all 7 […]
2:29 PM | A Jellyfish Jamboree
By Jason Bittel Most people do their best to keep a safe distance from jellyfish and their cousins, the Portuguese man-of-war, but U.S. Navy combat photographer Aaron Ansarov isn't afraid of a little sting. He gets up close to these cnidarians in order to capture some seriously stunning footage. Getting to know these creatures may be a good idea since climate change is going to bring a whole lot more of them. (In possibly related news, billions of little […]

August 21, 2014

9:05 PM | Leaching Lake Superior
By Rocky Kistner You've probably never heard of Wisconsin's Penokee Hills, a.k.a. "the Everglades of the North." But just as in Alaska's Bristol Bay and the Mexican state of Sonora (where 10 millions gallons of acid spilled and closed 88 schools this week), the people of the Penokee Hills are fighting to protect their watershed from a giant mining project. As seen in this video produced by Midwest Environmental Advocates, a non-profit legal group, those […]
7:04 PM | Laser Helps Channel Electricity Through Air
Researchers at the University of Arizona have created a column of plasma in the air between two electrodes using a femtosecond laser.
5:51 PM | JRC Releases Overview of Nuclear Safety and Security Research
The European Commission’s own research body, the Joint Research Center (JRC), has released a new report presenting an overview of its research on nuclear safety and security.
4:15 PM | U.S. DOE Invests $67 Million in Nuclear Energy Research
The Energy Department announced nearly $67 million in nuclear energy research and infrastructure enhancement awards.
2:30 PM | Bionic Liquids to Improve Biofuel Production
So-called bionic liquids derived from lignin and hemicellulose show remarkable performance in the biomass pretreatment process.
2:24 PM | Blowing Off Steam
By Brian Palmer It’s not quite a sharknado, but the possible impending eruption of a mile-high volcano under Iceland’s largest glacier represents a fascinating example of a real-life natural disaster combo—quite literally fire and ice. Seismologists have detected some 3,000 tremors in the vicinity of Bárðarbunga since Saturday, a sign that the mountain might just be ready to blow.Four years ago, the eruption of […]
2:13 PM | Sea Wolf Wake-Up
By Jason Bittel You have to get up pretty early in the morning if you want to record Alaska’s wild sounds with author Hank Lentfer and his audio partner Richard Nelson. (I mean, who eats breakfast at 3:30 a.m.?) But when you hear the result—a wolf’s long, solemn howl by the seashore—you’ll be wide awake. The experience feels like you’re being transported to the mist-wrapped forests of humanity’s dawn. Shivers. […]
12:33 PM | At home with Leonardo
Well, OK, Leonardo da Vinci wasn't actually there, having been dead 495 years, but on Tuesday morning I visited the house at which he spent the last three years of his life. I say house, it's more of a mansion — the Château du Clos Lucé is a large 15th century manoir near the centre of the small market town of Amboise in the Loire valley of northern France. The town was once the royal seat of France, and the medieval grandeur still shows.  Leonardo was invited to […]
11:55 AM | Innovating to address climate change
How can we innovate successfully to address climate change? A new book by IIASA researchers shows the way through a historical investigation of past energy innovations. By Charlie Wilson and Arnulf Grubler. Continue reading →
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