Friday, June 28, 2013

More Earth-like Planets Found

Recently, GJ667C, a low-luminosity “M-dwarf” star about 1/3 the mass of our Sun and part of a triple-sun system around 22 light-years from Earth (one light-year = ~5.9 trillion miles) was part of an ongoing international star study.

Scientists had previously found evidence of the existence of two "super Earths" (less than ten times larger than Earth) and the possibility of a third, when they discovered a total of 6-7 worlds circling the star at a distance that would allow life.

U.S. lead author, University of Washington astronomer Rory Barnes, describes emerging evidence of more M-dwarf stars that have more low-mass planets in habitable zones along with the rest of an international team. 

“These planets are good candidates to have a solid surface and maybe an atmosphere like the Earth’s, not something like Jupiter,” Barnes said.

Using doppler spectroscopy, astronomers are able to see farther and clearer. Who knows how many other potentially habitable planets are circling suns in our galactic neighborhood? I can wait to find out!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Reduce, Reuse & Recycle are known as the 3 Rs, but another important R has been part of my life for a long time: REPAIR. 

Growing up in the country, my family had a "fix-it" mind set that I've carried to my adult life. I almost always tinker with things that break, but many people don't. In fact, some people look at me funny when they learn I replaced a Krups  heating coil instead of tossing the entire coffee pot and buying the latest cool technology. (Actually, I was amazed how simple it was and only cost ~$3)

But the 4th R isn't just a matter of changing a mind set, many products are not built to be fixed by their owners. In fact, electronics' warranties are often invalidated if the products are opened. 

So what can a person who is green-minded do? Simple stuff. Watch for the availability of replacement parts, be willing to pay more for good quality products that are able to be repaired and avoid buying products with warranties that are voided if you attempt to fix them. 

I look upon successful repairs as a fun way to save our dwindling global resources. Try it and share your successes! 

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Oysters and Ocean Acidification

As the world's oceans become increasingly out-of-balance, more and more ecosystems and species are being impacted.

Today, the species of the day is the oyster. A recent National Science Foundation sponsored study looked at ocean acidification on the formation of oyster shells.

"The failure of oyster seed production in Northwest Pacific coastal waters is one of the most graphic examples of ocean acidification effects on important commercial shellfish," said Dave Garrison, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Ocean Sciences.

It turns out that oyster larvae shell formation is in direct competition with the development of the feeding organs. The young oysters must use the energy from the egg to develop both. Since high carbon dioxide levels slow shell formation, there is a survival sprint for the shell to form (in the first 2 days of life) before the larvae runs out of stored energy in the egg. This becomes a losing race as ocean carbon dioxide levels get higher and higher.

Fortunately, ocean hatcheries such as the Whiskey Creek Hatchery and Taylor Shellfish Farms in Washington state have started "buffering" the water for larvae in order to balance acidity. This allows oyster larvae a more natural start. 

So the next time you talk oysters with friends, you'll have the latest scoop. Balanced is better.

Go science!

Monday, June 10, 2013

The Tiny World of Sand

The world at the nanoscale is so interesting. It never ceases to amaze me. I recently came across several TED videos on nano and other small members of our planet. Check out the variety of life in our unseen world. The biological and geological record of life on this planet is all there. It will change the way you think of materials, physics, and even environmentalism. This video shows many components within sand (even sand on the moon). Amazing.