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Posts

April 14, 2014

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3:14 PM | Can openness make us better? Help us find out!
Last year's Unsolved Problems Unsession (above) identified two openness issues — Less secrecy, more sharing and Free the data — as the greatest unsolved problems in our community. This year, we'll dig into that problem. Here's the blurb: At the Unsolved Problems Unsession last year, this community established that Too much secrecy is one of the top unsolved problems in our industry. This year, we will dig into this problem, and ask what kind of […]
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2:01 PM | Futuristic Iceberg Society, IPCC: 'The Time Is Now,' Jellyfish Toilet Paper?
By Jason Bittel The last word: The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released the third and final part of its massive report yesterday (there won’t be another big one for seven years or so). In the meantime, the latest is chockfull of dire warnings and strongly worded clarion calls. The chief takeaway is that while there’s still time to act against a 2-degree-Celsius rise in global temperatures, that window is closing. “We […]

April 11, 2014

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11:24 PM | Weekend Reads: Big Bird Puppet Masters, Green Jobs for Ex-Cons, Mosquitos: to Kill or Not to Kill?
By Melissa Mahony Reared by PuppetsWhen the California condor population fell to just 22 birds in 1987, conservationists took drastic measures to save the species, collecting every last wild condor and bringing them to the Los Angeles and San Diego zoos for breeding. The birds got to it. Problem is when they released the next generation into the wild, these scavengers had lost their wild ways. You see, instead of their real parents teaching them proper […]
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8:29 PM | 4 Ways To Reduce Your Home Energy Use & Save Money This Summer
Keeping your home cool and your energy consumption low during the torrid months of summer is a challenge. The average household electricity bill for the June-through-August time period last year was a staggering $395, according to the U.S. Energy Information … Continue reading →
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7:20 PM | Study to Determine ‘How Solar Users Think’
Homeowners install solar panels for a variety of reasons, but one UA study is gaining insight into what truly motivates them to go green. Read more »
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5:50 PM | Right-Sizing U.S. Electrical Grid Could Reduce Blackout Risk
David Newman, a physicist at the University of Alaska, believes that smaller grids would reduce the likelihood of severe outages, such as the 2003 Northeast blackout that cut power to 50 million people in the United States and Canada for up to two days. Read more »

Carreras, B., Newman, D. & Dobson, I. (2014). Does size matter?, Chaos: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Nonlinear Science, 24 (2) 23104. DOI:

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4:45 PM | NASA Wants to Replace Battery Technology With Something Better
NASA is seeking proposals for the development of new, more capable, energy storage technologies to replace the battery technology that has long powered America’s space program. Read more »
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3:09 PM | Scientists Suggest Planting Biofuel Crops on Solar Farms
A new model for solar farms that “co-locates” biofuel crops and solar panels could result in a harvest of valuable plants along with solar energy. Read more »

Ravi, S., Lobell, D. & Field, C. (2014). Tradeoffs and Synergies between Biofuel Production and Large Solar Infrastructure in Deserts, Environmental Science & Technology, 48 (5) 3021-3030. DOI:

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1:51 PM | Organic Solar Cell Benefit From Face-On Alignment of Molecules
New research from North Carolina State University and UNC-Chapel Hill reveals that energy is transferred more efficiently inside of complex, three-dimensional organic solar cells when the donor molecules align face-on, rather than edge-on, relative to the acceptor. This finding may aid in the design and manufacture of more efficient and economically viable organic solar cell technology. Read more »

Tumbleston, J., Collins, B., Yang, L., Stuart, A., Gann, E., Ma, W., You, W. & Ade, H. (2014). The influence of molecular orientation on organic bulk heterojunction solar cells, Nature Photonics, DOI:

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1:31 PM | Tumbleweed Takeover, More Oil for Enbridge, Bat Disease on the Move
By Susan Cosier The bat signal: White-nose syndrome, a fungal disease responsible for 5.7 million bat deaths in the United States and eastern Canada (see "The Man Who Loves Bats"), is now in two more states: Wisconsin and Michigan. This brings the total number of states to report the disease to 24. Wisconsin has one of the largest bat populations in the Midwest. In fact, they eat so many bugs there that a 2011 study found bats provide up to $1.5 billion in […]

April 10, 2014

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9:37 PM | More AAPG highlights
Here are some of our highlights from the second half of the AAPG Annual Convention in Houston. Conceptual uncertainty in interpretation Fold-thrust belt, offshore Nigeria. Virtual Seismic Atlas.Fold-thrust complex, deepwater Nigeria. Virtual Seismic Atlas.Rob Butler's research is concerned with the kinematic evolution of mountain ranges and fold thrust belts in order to understand the localization of deformation across many scales. Patterns of deformed rocks aren't adequately explained by […]
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8:05 PM | Video Explains ITER Project in Under 6 Minutes
A new video on fusion produced for the Monaco ITER International Fusion Energy Days (MIIFED) conference explains the ITER project in under 6 minutes. Read more »
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7:46 PM | Weekend Reads: Big Bird Puppet Masters, Green Jobs for Ex-Cons, Mosquitos: to Kill or Not to Kill?
By Melissa Mahony Reared by PuppetsWhen the California condor population reached just 22 birds in 1987, conservationists took drastic measures to save the species, collecting every last wild condor and bringing them to the Los Angeles and San Diego zoos for breeding. The birds got to it. Problem is when they released the next generation into the wild, the birds had lost their wild ways. You see, instead of their real parents teaching them proper condor […]
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6:00 PM | Natural Gas, Solar Account for Most of New Generating Capacity in U.S. in 2013
Natural gas-fired power plants accounted for just over 50% of new generating capacity added in 2013. Solar provided nearly 22%, a jump up from less than 6% in 2012. Coal provided 11% and wind nearly 8%. Almost half of all capacity added in 2013 was located in California. In total, a little over 13,500 megawatts (MW) of new generating capacity was added in 2013, less than half the capacity added in 2012. Read more »
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3:56 PM | EU Project to Test Fuel Cells in Private Homes
Over the next four years, fuel cell-based micro CHP (Close Packed Hexagonal) units will be tested in 1,000 private homes as part of the EU project Ene.field. Read more »
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2:40 PM | Study Looks at Fuel Economy Costs of Common Practices
Researchers at the Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory have tested a sport utility vehicle and a compact sedan with various configurations, including underinflated tires, open windows, and rooftop and hitch-mounted cargo. Read more »
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2:25 PM | Smart Car Tipping Is a Thing Now, Fox News by the Numbers, Sea Monsters on Vacation
By Jason Bittel Faux News: According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, climate change coverage by the Fox News Channel in 2013 was only accurate 28 percent of the time. The rest of the time, the network either understated the reality or effects of climate change, misled the debate, or flat-out dissed on climate science. But wait! Before you get too discouraged, you should know that this is actually an improvement for Fox. In 2012, the network’s […]
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1:38 PM | Flexible Plastics Turn Vibrations Into Electrical Energy
Kui Yao and co-workers from the A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering in Singapore have discovered a way to give lightweight polymer vibration harvesters a hundredfold boost in energy output—a finding that may help to eliminate manual battery recharging in microsensors and mobile devices. Read more »

Lei Zhang, ., Oh, S., Ting Chong Wong, ., Chin Yaw Tan, . & Kui Yao, . (2013). Piezoelectric polymer multilayer on flexible substrate for energy harvesting, IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control, 60 (9) 2013-2020. DOI:

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Editor's Pick

April 09, 2014

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10:08 PM | Communicating geoscience
On Day 1 of the AAPG Annual Convention, I spent most of the morning in a special session entitled Communicating Our Science. I thought I'd share some of my thoughts on the subject. Please share yours in the comments! This was primarily a panel discussion, but the convenors took several of questions from the audience of about 40 people. If the room had been smaller, and the audio system better-behaved, we might have had more of a conversation. The panel consisted of three academics, two […]
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9:47 PM | What’s Next OnEarth
By Douglas S. Barasch, Scott Dodd Dear readers, We want to share some important news with you about changes to OnEarth: this fall we’ll be launching an all-digital version of our award-winning publication. That means our summer print issue will be the last delivered to newsstands and mailboxes. We remain committed to publishing powerful, engaging stories in bold new ways that we believe can reach more readers than ever. And we think the most effective […]
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7:12 PM | Scientists Use Trees to Make High-Tech Supercapacitors
Based on a chemical discovery by scientists at Oregon State University (OSU), it appears that trees may soon play a major role in making high-tech supercapacitors for energy storage. Read more »

Luo, W., Wang, B., Heron, C., Allen, M., Morre, J., Maier, C., Stickle, W. & Ji, X. (2014). Pyrolysis of Cellulose under Ammonia Leads to Nitrogen-Doped Nanoporous Carbon Generated through Methane Formation, Nano Letters, 2147483647. DOI:

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6:04 PM | GWEC Expects 47 GW of Wind Capacity to Be Installed in 2014
The Global Wind Energy Council launched its Global Wind Report – Annual Market Update (pdf) today, updating the status of the global industry, along with market projections for the years 2014-2018. Read more »
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4:51 PM | Gamesa Launches Anti-Icing Paint for Wind Turbines
Gamesa, a Spanish wind turbine manufacturer, has developed an anti-icing paint that prevents ice formation on wind turbine blades. Read more »
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3:39 PM | Silver Nanoparticles Help Solar Cells Absorb More Light
Nanostructures could enable more light to be directed into the active layer of solar cells, increasing their efficiency. Read more »

Schmid, M., Grandidier, J. & Atwater, H. (2013). Scanning near-field optical microscopy on dense random assemblies of metal nanoparticles, Journal of Optics, 15 (12) 125001. DOI:

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2:46 PM | Dashboard Helps Reduce Energy Use in Office Buildings
A team at Carnegie Mellon University’s School of Architecture has developed a dashboard that helps people to see how much energy they use at work and how to reduce this use to help the environment. Read more »
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1:34 PM | The Atmosphere’s New Hole, Sailors Sue Tepco, 402 PPM and Rising
By Jason Bittel Oops, we did it again: Nine miles up in the sky, scientists just discovered an invisible, several thousand square mile long hole in the Earth’s innermost atmospheric layer, the troposphere. We don’t know what’s causing the hole yet, but scientists say it’s a big deal because the troposphere typically acts as a “washing machine” layer, which breaks down harmful substances and sending them back down into the […]
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1:30 PM | Uncertainty in an emissions-constrained world
By Matthias Jonas, IIASA, and  Gregg Marland, Appalachian State University Greenhouse gas emissions are seldom measured directly. They must be estimated from data such as on energy use and changes in land use. That means that estimates of greenhouse gas emissions from human sources are inherently uncertain. In a new study with colleagues at IIASA … Continue reading →
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1:03 AM | An unexpected actor: role of arid environments in terrestrial carbon uptake
Anthropogenic climate change has become a household phrase, spreading throughout our culture as more and more research documents the effect of fossil fuel emissions on CO2 levels in the atmosphere and average global surface temperatures.  But our society’s CO2 emissions … Continue reading →

Evans, R., Koyama, A., Sonderegger, D., Charlet, T., Newingham, B., Fenstermaker, L., Harlow, B., Jin, V., Ogle, K., Smith, S. & Nowak, R. (2014). Greater ecosystem carbon in the Mojave Desert after ten years exposure to elevated CO2, Nature Climate Change, DOI:

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April 08, 2014

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8:44 PM | Dynamic geology at AAPG
Brad Moorman stands next to his 48 inch (122 cm) Omni Globe spherical projection system on the AAPG exhibition floor, greeting passers by drawn in by its cycling animations of dynamic plate reconstructions. His map-lamp projects evolutionary visions of geologic processes like a beacon of inspiration for petroleum explorers. I've attended several themed sessions over the first day and a half at AAPG and the ones that have stood out for me have had this same appeal. Computational […]
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8:21 PM | Study Reveals Causes of Dye-Sensitized Solar Cell Degradation
Researchers at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology (OIST) have made a surprising discovery about the degradation of dye-sensitized solar cells that could help pave the way to prolonging the lifetime of these cells. Read more »

Ono, L., Schulz, P., Endres, J., Nikiforov, G., Kato, Y., Kahn, A. & Qi, Y. (2014). Air-Exposure-Induced Gas-Molecule Incorporation into Spiro-MeOTAD Films, The Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, 1374-1379. DOI:

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