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Author: Prachi Patel

Description: “More than 20 billion tons of concrete is produced around the world every year”–to fuel the building boom in cities as more and more people globally move to urban areas. But, all that concrete has a large environmental cost. “Cement, the main ingredient in concrete, creates 5% of global carbon emissions.” Concrete is “sand and gravel held together with cement.” Now, engineers have created a new material that could replace cement in the production of concrete. They have used fly ash as a binder; the new material may provide a low-cost, more environmentally-friendly binder for future building. Plus, the use of fly ash reduces waste from coal-fired power plants.

Title: Engineers have created a cement alternative to reduce concrete’s carbon footprint

Year: 2018

Publication: Quartz

Full text: https://qz.com/1314754/engineers-have-created-a-cement-alternative-to-reduce-concretes-carbon-footprint/

Dig deeper: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/jace.15873

Serial Number: 10
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Author: Rebecca Voelker

Description: 100 years ago–in 1918–a global influenza pandemic killed 20 to 50 million people worldwide; perhaps 20 to 33% of all people living at that time were infected. 100 years later, medical science has advanced tremendously and we have regular flu vaccines. However, despite all that, “we are much more vulnerable today to a catastrophic influenza pandemic than we were in 1918.” Compared to 1918, the global population has increased by at least 3 times. For the vast majority of the world, crowded living conditions are worse. The effectiveness of the flu vaccines we have today is limited. Plus, much of the world has no quick access to flu vaccines. Also, “we are extremely vulnerable today to any disruption in international trade in lifesaving medicines and medical devices.” “The vast majority of drugs that we use in [the United States] come from China.” “There are no stockpiles [of drugs] anywhere.” If China was affected by a pandemic or other disaster and this trade was impacted, “the collateral damage from people dying of all kinds of medical conditions will far exceed even the first months’ mortality associated with the flu."

Title: Vulnerability to Pandemic Flu Could Be Greater Today Than a Century Ago

Year: 2018

Publication: JAMA

Full text: https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2705303

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Serial Number: 60
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Author: Recycling

Description: Very little plastic is actually recycled. “The vast majority ends up being dumped, most of it in landfills.” Much plastic also ends up washing out to sea. The vast amount of plastic fouling the oceans is well-documented. Bitumen is a substance that is used to make asphalt; asphalt is used to build and repair roads. Plastic and bitumen are similar polymers produced from petrochemicals. Plastics are strong and last a long time–features also useful for roads. Recycled plastic is now beginning to be used for road building. “Prefabricated plastic roads should last 2 to 3 times longer than conventional roads and cost less … mainly because construction times would be reduced by almost two-thirds.” The plastic road sections could then also be recycled. Current projects have involved recycled plastic being used for bicycle tracks, roads, car parks, and airport runways in the Netherlands, California, Britain, India, and Australia. “Cleaning and sorting plastic made out of multiple polymers can be relatively expensive,” but using this plastic for road building “is cost-effective.” Plus, plastic used for roads is that much less going into landfills.

Title: Road makers turn to recycled plastic for tougher surfaces: On the plastic highway

Year: 2018

Publication: The Economist

Full text: https://www.economist.com/science-and-technology/2018/09/15/road-makers-turn-to-recycled-plastic-for-tougher-surfaces

Dig deeper: https://www.strategian.com/2018/06/21/171/

Serial Number: 54
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Author: Robert F. Service

Description: “Houses and office buildings account for 75% of electricity use in the United States, and 40% of its energy use overall.” And, the windows in these buildings can be a problem–letting in heat or cold while leaking cooling or heating energy. Research teams are working on ways to solve this problem.
Newer solar window technologies “absorb almost exclusively invisible ultraviolet (UV) or infrared light.” That leaves the glass clear–a major step forward–while blocking the UV and infrared radiation that normally leaks through it. By cutting heat gain while generating some power, these solar windows can reduce energy use while also supplying some of the building’s energy needs–plus, they are a step up aesthetically from older solar windows that are more opaque and can have a reddish or brownish tint. Challenges remain; but, “it’s a safe bet to expect that future buildings won’t draw all their power from the grid. They will generate it, too."

Title: Skyscrapers could soon generate their own power, thanks to see-through solar cells

Year: 2018

Publication: Science

Full text: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/06/skyscrapers-could-soon-generate-their-own-power-thanks-see-through-solar-cells

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Serial Number: 12
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Author: Robert F. Service

Description: A team from the Univ. of Colorado “has developed a passive radiative cooling plastic film.” This new material, applied as paint to an existing outdoor surface, “could drop cooling costs by up to 15% in some climates.” Air conditioning accounts for 17% of all residential electricity use in the U.S.; using this film to reduce surface temperatures and lessening the need for air conditioning could mean substantial savings. The new materials “reflect nearly all the sun’s incoming rays” and also deal with near-IR and UV light as well (up to 99.6% overall). The materials reflect the heat “without warming the surrounding air.” The new cooling paint appears to solve an additional challenge as well–applying these new materials to existing buildings. The paint has been successfully tested in the heat of Phoenix, Arizona where “painted surfaces remained 6 degrees C cooler than the surrounding air."

Title: Cooling paint drops the temperature of any surface

Year: 2018

Publication: Science

Full text: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/09/cooling-paint-drops-temperature-any-surface

Dig deeper: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/early/2018/09/26/science.aat9513

Serial Number: 58
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Author: Roni Caryn Rabin

Description: Guidelines issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics add to the scientific evidence indicating that certain chemicals that enter foods may interfere with the body’s natural hormones in ways that may affect long-term growth and development. Chemicals of concern include nitrates and nitrites, phthalates, bisphenols, PFCs, and perchlorates. Many of these chemicals disrupt normal hormone function and can affect brain and sex organ development and normal metabolic function. Developmental disorders in children (like learning disabilities, ADHD, and autism) have increased significantly since 1997. Childhood obesity and diabetes are also on the rise. The AAP recommends consuming fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables rather than canned, avoiding processed meats, not microwaving food or beverages in plastic containers, avoiding plastics with recycling codes 3, 6, and 7, and more.

Title: Chemicals in Food May Harm Children, Pediatricians’ Group Says

Year: 2018

Publication: New York Times

Full text: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/23/well/chemicals-food-children-health.html

Dig deeper: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2018/07/19/peds.2018-1408

Serial Number: 1
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Author: Roni Dengler

Description: How and when does an established viewpoint of a society change? What does it take for a society (a very large group of people) to alter its collective opinion? Is there a "tipping point" for public opinion? A recent study using a naming game discovered that when a minority viewpoint became held by "at least 25% of the population," that viewpoint "was likely to rapidly become the majority viewpoint." In the naming game, "all participants participated as equals, similar to the way anonymous individuals interact online" through social media. A small minority of people can become powerful/influential by "pure, unwavering commitment to an idea."

Title: How minority viewpoints become majority ones

Year: 2018

Publication: Science

Full text: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/06/how-minority-viewpoints-become-majority-ones

Dig deeper: http://science.sciencemag.org/content/360/6393/1116

Serial Number: 25
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Author: Sara Gorman and Jack M. Gorman

Description: It’s Thanksgiving, your family is gathered around the turkey, and your uncle is loudly lecturing you about why climate change is a complete myth perpetuated by socialist radicals. You, in turn, present a well-reasoned response complete with hard facts and clear examples showing the scientific consensus that climate change is, in fact, happening right now (as torrential rain pours down outside). Your uncle is unmoved; why won’t he change his mind?
“Addiction specialists figured out a long time ago that lecturing an addict about all the terrible things drugs and alcohol can do is unlikely to work” … unlikely to “scare them into taking action to curb their addiction.” Why? And, what has this to do with your uncle and his opinion about climate change? People do not abuse drugs or alcohol “because of rational thought processes, the reward value of substances for addicts is overwhelming and the suffering from substance withdrawal is intolerable.” The brain regions involved “are the basis for habit and emotion, not reason.”
“It turns out that holding onto an irrational idea that is the basis for membership in a group functions much in the same way as an addictive drug.” Agreeing with the group brings reward (increased dopamine release). Defying the group “stimulates many of the same brain regions that fire during drug withdrawal.” So, even though evidence piles up against a belief–and a rational response would be to reconsider an opinion–it can be very hard for an individual to change their mind, or for another person to cause that to happen. But, there are techniques that have worked “to help addicts change their behavior” and may work to convince people to change their minds.

Title: Why Is It So Hard to Change Minds? Pioneering psychological research points to a better way of inciting change.

Year: 2017

Publication: Psychology Today

Full text: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/denying-the-grave/201711/why-is-it-so-hard-change-minds

Dig deeper: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/add.12693

Serial Number: 63
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Author: Sid Perkins

Description: A new study reports that tourism accounted for about 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions in 2013. This is significantly higher than previously thought. Air travel, which had been considered the greatest contributor, actually accounted for only 12% of tourism's total. Greater contributors include construction and maintenance of hotels and airports as well as the provision and purchase of food, beverages, and souvenirs by tourists. Tourism is currently a significantly growing part of the world economy especially in high-income countries. The rapid growth of tourism is overwhelming the efforts of the industry to lower carbon emissions. By 2025, "the carbon footprint of global tourism will expand more than 40%."

Title: Tourism is four times worse for the planet than previously believed

Year: 2018

Publication: Science

Full text: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/05/tourism-four-times-worse-planet-previously-believed?utm_campaign=news_daily_2018-05-07

Dig deeper: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41558-018-0141-x

Serial Number: 38
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Author: Sid Perkins

Description: New research indicates “that any particular place on the globe gets half its annual rainfall–on average–in just 12 days” out of the year. Which particular days varies, of course, but the pattern holds worldwide. In the study, daily rainfall from 1999 to 2014 at 185 sites located worldwide was analyzed. The research also used 36 climate models to “assess how rainfall trends might change in the future” especially between the years 2085 to 2100. Based on the continued inaction by many today, it will very likely be an even warmer world by 2100 with the atmospheric concentrations of CO2 likely doubling or more from today’s levels. Under that scenario–between 2085-2100–the prediction is that “any particular locale can expect half a year’s rainfall to occur in just 11 days”. Plus, future rainfall is likely to be even more uneven than rainfall today–more periods of little or no rain (more drought) interspersed with a few instances of even more extreme rain leading to flooding, mudslides, and more. Half of the increase in rainfall will happen in the wettest 6 days each year. Today and especially by 2085 to 2100, “society needs to take measures to deal with little change most of the time and a handful of events with much more rain.” All of this makes sense–a warmer world holds more moisture in the atmosphere and, thus, our extreme rainfall events of today will likely become “even more extreme."

Title: In just 12 days, the world gets half of its annual rainfall

Year: 2018

Publication: Science

Full text: http://www.sciencemag.org/news/2018/11/just-12-days-world-gets-half-its-annual-rainfall

Dig deeper: https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2018GL080298

Serial Number: 67





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