This video accompanies National Geographic's terrific reporting on the global plastic waste crisis. it shows how America became a plastic-addicted throwaway culture, and how the earth is now paying for humanity's short-sighted sin. Read the rest
There are 500,000 pieces of space junk orbiting the earth, many of which significantly endanger satellites and crewed space missions.
Now there's a fascinating experiment underway to test various techniques of collecting and disposing of space junk: Orbital garbage collection!
A European consortium launched the RemoveDEBRIS satellite last week, and it's already in space ready to be deployed for its tests in May. The satellite will test a couple of ways of capturing space junk, including firing a net around a junk satellite (producing enough drag so the junk begins spiraling towards Earthbound destruction), and -- more dramatically -- firing a harpoon at a target, to test whether space junk could be collected using space harpoons.
To repeat: Space harpoons.
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In the first test, a CubeSat released from the main spacecraft will maneuver to a distance of more than 20 feet, where it will unfurl a balloon (to provide a bigger target). A net similar to the kind used in commercial fishing will then be deployed from the main spacecraft to capture the CubeSat. Atmospheric drag should cause the netted CubeSat to burn up in the atmosphere in a matter of weeks, according to Guglielmo Aglietti, Director of the Surrey Space Centre at the University of Surrey, and the principal investigator for RemoveDEBRIS.
For the second test, another CubeSat will be released to fly at a distance from the main spacecraft, where a camera and LIDAR will observe it to assess how well future trash-collecting satellites could judge the position and speed of a piece of debris.
Just in time for Earth Day. Read the rest
In Louisville, KY today, a Southwest Airlines plane that had not yet left the ground was evacuated on the runway, after one passenger’s Samsung smartphone caught fire. No injuries were reported. Read the rest
The L.A. Times reports that L.A. County Judge Edmund W. Clarke Jr. was admonished after abusive remarks to prospective jurors in a 2014 murder trial. His "misconduct demonstrates a pattern of discourteous and undignified treatment of jurors," wrote The Commission of Judicial Performance, in a 34-page report that details several examples of belittling people in his courtroom who were too poor or Spanish for his tastes.
... [two] jurors wrote how much money they had in the bank and each amount was less than $50.
“It’s an impressive and convincing figure,” Clarke told one of the jurors, according to the commission.
“Thank you for not sharing it,” the juror replied.
“Well, every one of these lawyers spent more than that on lunch today,” he said.
“Great,” the juror sarcastically replied.
As soon as the juror exited the courtroom, the judge announced that she had listed her bank account balance as $25
It's not the first rodeo in Clarke's courtroom: he was disciplined in 2013 for misconduct toward a defendant, and the Commission adds that he "has shown a very limited appreciation of the impropriety of his conduct." Read the rest
More than 48 tons of trash were left by fans of Kenny Chesney attending a concert this week in Pittsburgh—something of a tradition for the country singer. The piles are staggering, the smell appalling: an aftermath so disgusting it has some speculating on how it's even possible to generate so much trash in such a short amount of time. It's almost as if it was trucked in and left there to make a point...
As the concert let out around 10:30 p.m. and cars began to clear from the parking lots, a reeking, hulking mass of garbage leftover from the day’s earlier festivities began to appear behind the exodus of country music fans.
Pickup trucks crunched glass bottles underneath tires; fluid from portable toilets overflowed into the street; people covered their noses with their shirts to escape the stench.
"You're just walking around on a carpet of garbage." Dozens of drunks were hospitalized and several people arrested, reports the Post-Gazette.
You can hear the pickup trucks exploding the glass bottles on the way out of Heinz Field lots after Chesney show. pic.twitter.com/uQNhuxv8o6
— Scott Mervis (@scottmervis_pg) July 3, 2016
Country concert chaos! Kenny Chesney fans leave massive mess outside Heinz Field in Pittsburghhttps://t.co/ca1Z62tNN0
— FOX & Friends (@foxandfriends) July 4, 2016
Researchers calculate that as many as 9 out of 10 seabirds have plastic garbage in their intestines. So sad. Read the rest
"Tiny Worlds" is a delightful trilogy of short films about imaginary miniature city services dealing with the small trash littering the streets and sidewalks of London. The series was created by Rushes, a Soho video production house. Above is "Tiny Worlds: Bulldozer." Below, "Tiny Worlds: Submarine" and "Tiny Worlds" Logging Truck." (via Laughing Squid) Read the rest
Nicotine is one of nature's bug zappers. Seriously. Lots of plants have evolved to produce bug-repelling chemicals as part of their defense mechanisms and tobacco happens to be one of those plants.
So when city-dwelling birds use the fluffy, nicotine-soaked material from discarded cigarette butts to build their nests it might not be the unmitigated ecological disaster that most of us imagine when we hear that "birds are building nests out of discarded cigarette butts". Researchers at Mexico’s Autonomous University of Tlaxcala think the nicotine in the cigarettes might help keep chicks healthy — essentially serving as an urban substitute for the parasite-repelling plants the birds would have used in the wild.
At Culturing Science, Hannah Waters explains the idea...
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But birds are actually quite fond of the chemicals found in some smelly plants, otherwise known as aromatics, from which “essential oils” are derived. Aromatic plants produce these chemicals to defend themselves against insects and other animals that would take them for food—but birds have their own use for them. Some nest-building species, including starlings and blue tits, regularly replenish their nests with fresh aromatics, and scientists hypothesize that the birds use these chemicals as parenting tools.
How would plant-derived chemicals help birds raise their chicks? It’s possible that the chemicals boost the immune systems or development of the chicks so that they survive better after they leave the nest; this is known as the “drug hypothesis.” Alternatively, the “nest protection” hypothesis suggests that the plant chemicals act as insecticides, driving parasites and other harmful insects from the nest.