Half-Life

Time goes on and turns our attention, but radioactive isotopes take a long time to decay. On Greg Laden’s Blog, Analiese Miller and Greg update us on the nuclear crisis in Japan. Although the dangers faced at the Fukushima power plant have diminished, the long term consequences have just begun. Greg writes “it has been a while since extensive fission has occurred in the leaking reactor” and “there is real progress in hooking up the plants to outside power sources.” Meanwhile, Ana’s extensive news feed documents irradiated produce, neglected and euthanized livestock, and a widened evacuation zone. On Casaubon’s Book, Sharon Astyk enumerates her first (and only) top ten list, with ways to reduce our dependence on energy. She suggests we stop voting for industrial production with our dollars, buy things used, and cut back on everything from “lumber to underpants.” Going green will take some ingenuity, but it will provide a safer, cleaner, and cooler world for future generations.

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Efficiency: Mould vs. Man

i-0bc6ced0a4f57c48def4f8b1a11424e8-mouldbuzz.jpgRobert Burns wrote that the best laid schemes of mice and men go often askew, but Tokyo railway planners seem to have arranged things just right. Ed Yong on Not Exactly Rocket Science reports that Japanese researchers are exploring “better network design through biological principles,” by setting a “slime mould” cell loose on an in vitro model of the greater Tokyo area. Food sources in the wet dish simulated nearby cities, and slime-repellant light approximated mountains and other natural barriers. As the cell grew, latching onto food sources and refining its connections, it settled into a network nearly identical to the actual Tokyo rail system. So why risk laying schemes when a mindless organism will do it for you? But while efficiency comes naturally to Physarum polycephalum, we humans have to work a little harder for it. Sharon Astyk on Casaubon’s Book writes that it’s easy for people to “get confused about what matters and how much,” and offers ten ways to start doing more with less. And on The World’s Fair, Vince LiCata criticizes the plague of onboard computers that is making fridges and other appliances useless before their time; as Vince says, “some things need computer control, some things really just don’t.”

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The Climate Scandal That Wasn’t

i-9cb1dad898ac903573f92e4f175e89a5-climebuzz.jpgLast week, hackers pulled a data heist on the Climatic Research Unit of the University of East Anglia, releasing thousands of stolen documents and emails that purportedly exposed a scientific conspiracy to fabricate evidence of global warming. Climate change skeptics dug into the data with forks and knives, choosing the choicest morsels as evidence of fraud. But ScienceBloggers are unimpressed by the stunt. On A Few Things Ill Considered, Coby Beck places tongue in cheek, rejoicing that the Greenland ice sheet is now refreezing. On Deltoid, Tim Lambert reports that NASA is being sued by the Competitive Enterprise Institute for scientist Gavin Schmidt’s activities on the RealClimate blog, where he “makes it perfectly clear that the claims of scientific malpractice are without foundation.” On Stoat, William M. Connolley debunks some of the supposed instances of hanky-panky, writing that “everyone with any sense seems to have got the right answer by now.” James Hrynyshyn on The Island of Doubt calls the stolen data “just plain banal” and “bereft of the context required to understand them in any meaningful way.” Hrynyshyn also presents some new projections from The Copenhagen Diagnosis, which show that global carbon dioxide emissions were 40% higher in 2008 than in 1990, and that by 2100, sea levels may rise by as much as two meters.

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