School’s Out! Start Thinking …

May 4, 2012 at 5:03 am Leave a comment

It’s a sad fact: there’s never enough time during the school year to read and think about all of the interesting things that come my way. So when school is finally out, I don’t put the brakes on my brain. I shift up a gear. Two recent issues of Science magazine are loaded with articles on the environment. While some news is bad, scroll all the way down to read up on some really promising developments.

  • Upriver from the Three Gorges Dam (Science, 20 Apr 2012, NewsFocus, p 288) “Trouble on the Yangtze” describes what biologists are learning about the environmental impacts upstream from the gigantic Three Gorges Dam project. A companion article, “Evidence Mounts for Dam-Quake Link”, (p. 291) reports on a geology investigation of possible links between a major earthquake and the filling of a large reservoir behind the 156-meter high Zipingpu Dam.
  • How Much Ice Lies at the Third Pole? (Science, 20 Apr 2012, Review, p. 310) After polar ice, the next largest ice mass on Earth lies in the Himalayas. Melting glaciers at the so-called “third pole” are an important source of water for 800 million people downstream. Scientists know that these glaciers are receding, but they aren’t sure how much ice remains.
  • Clearing the Air with Biofuels (Science, 20 Apr 2012, Meeting Briefs, p. 292) A key source of urban air pollution are the byproducts from gasoline combustion. One wonders, then, would we breathe easier if cars ran on biofuels? The first citywide study of the impact of biofuels suggests that benefits appear only when >26% of vehicles operate on biofuels, but there’s a catch.
  • Outer Space Penguins (Science, 20 Apr 2012, News, p. 281) How many scientists does it take to count the penguins in an Antarctic colony? Only one, but you have to get the scientist to the colony first and that hasn’t been so easy. A new study describes how satellite images can be used to count penguins in remote colonies (special techniques were required to distinguish penguin images from shadows and guano images).
  • Water, Water Everywhere? (Science, 27 Apr 2012, News&Analysis, p. 405) Global warming doesn’t just mean hotter summers. This article describes current thinking on how global warming will also affect the global water cycle.
  • Film: Environment (Science, 27 Apr 2012, Books et al., p. 414-7) This section describes 9 different films that were shown at the 2012 Environmental Film Festival in Washington, DC, last March. Three especially intriguing titles: The Man Who Stopped the Desert (p. 416), Carbon for Water (p. 416), and Biophilic Design: The Architecture of Life (p. 417). Any volunteers out there for organizing a showing of one or more films at Reed next year? Contact Alan or Julie.
  • Climate Change and Infectious Disease (Science, 27 Apr 2012, Policy Forum, p. 418) This article says climate change, globalization, and other drivers have made Europe a “hot spot” for emerging infection diseases. It also looks at what might be done about this.
  • Engaging Undergraduates in Global Health Technology Innovation (Science, 27 Apr 2012, Essay – IBI Series Winner, p. 430) “You don’t learn to swim in the library; you learn to swim in the river.” This bit of Haitian folk-wisdom inspired the authors to create Beyond Traditional Borders, a program that trains undergraduates from all backgrounds to “design novel technology solutions to real-world global health challenges.”

Entry filed under: In the News.

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