Fire and ice are opposite elements yet both have been found in Antarctica. Beneath a thick layer of ice lies a recently discovered volcano. Whenever the volcano erupts, scientists predict it’ll speed up ice loss and possibly raise global sea levels – that is, when it erupts. Unfortunately, scientists cannot predict when this event might occur. It appears that the millions of years old volcano has erupted before. The volcano sits on top of raised land that scientists determined to be the hardened accumulation of previous eruptions. How many times the volcano has erupted is purely a guessing game. With the aid of radar imaging, the volcano is comparable to the above water Mount Waesche (Antarctica) eruption 8,000 years ago. The Mount Waesche volcano was discovered during the flight of the 1940 United States Antarctic Service Expedition of the US Coast Guard. It was named after the Admiral of the expedition.
On the night of Wednesday, November 6th, residents throughout Central and Southern California started reporting sightings of bright flashes and lights in the sky across Twitter and Facebook social media streams. In fact, the lights were so bright and shocking that drivers pulled over along the freeways and roadways to get a better look at the astonishing lights in the sky. Some residents described it as a fireball, and one resident told the National UFO Center that it “looked like something burning up upon entry into the atmosphere”. Other residents called in their reports to local media sources. One resident quoted only as “Jonathan” told NBC4 that, “I saw the meteor. It was huge and broke into three large pieces.” Another viewer by the name of “George” told NBC4 that the object “burned in the atmosphere with a trail of debris”. By nearly all accounts, the light streaking across the sky was far brighter than anything these California residents were accustomed to seeing in the night sky.
Without much fanfare or news, Earth continues to get showered with an ever-increasing volume of solar radiation caused by a significant increase in large solar flares. This is due to the fact that the sun is currently reaching the peak of its 11 year solar cycle. That peak is known as the “Solar Maximum”. This period marks a major increase in the number of sunspots and solar flares that blast a huge volume of electromagnetic and particle radiation out into space – which of course eventually directly impacts the little blue marble we like to call our home – Earth. For the most part, the only significant effects to our planet are solar storms in the outer atmosphere (lots of charged particles colliding with our magnetosphere and affecting our outer atmosphere), as well as degrading or damaging the sensitive electronic systems in the artificial military and commercial satellites orbiting the planet. (1) With the increase in sun activity last year and this year, satellites have seen the brunt of the negative activity, but not much on the ground itself has been impacted – not yet at least. We’ve covered a lot of stories about the solar maximum in 2013, and more recently about how the sun’s magnetic poles are about to flip, but is it possible that any of this will affect any of us on Earth? Is it already?
Unusual weather patterns may very well affect the price of beef in coming days, after an unanticipated blizzard killed tens of thousands of cattle in South Dakota. The unusual weather across the country last Friday led to meteorologists labeling the day as “Freaky Friday”. The odd weather patterns across the country led to strange warm weather in the East, a tropical storm in the Gulf, and a blizzard in South Dakota that included 40-60 mph winds and dropped heavy, wet snow that took down trees and power lines. Some areas received up to four feet of snow. (1) The snowfall was so dramatic that even snow plows and fire trucks were stuck in the snow. Communities opened up local fire stations as emergency shelters. However, probably the single disaster that will have the longest-lasting effect long after the damage from the storm has been cleared, is the deaths of over 75,000 cattle. The deaths threaten to ravage South Dakota’s $7 billion dollar cattle industry. (2)
While fracking has revitalized many small town economies, a deadly side-effect is being blamed on the fracking process demand for water. The already environmentally controversial gas process is under new attacks as some towns in Texas are on the verge of literally drying up. In this drought-plagued state, some families are witnessing their wells going dry, cattle on ranches are dying from lack of water and farms are becoming little more than dust fields. Suffering from a three-year drought, some Texans believe their prized water supply is being sucked out from underneath their feet. In August 2013, The Guardian reported that people in Barnhart, Texas were finding sand in their toilets instead of water. Many residents believe the water depletion is the direct result of increased fracking demands. The town was without water for several days and unless some measures are taken, most believe it could be permanent. The local fracking operations require massive amounts of water for the process of forcing the gas from shale rocks. (1)
The controversy over LED (Light Emitting Diodes) bulbs is becoming a hot topic of debate, with new scientific studies being conducted on possible health risks for those exposed to them. Of course, anyone who uses a computer, cell phone or watches a television screen can be at risk since LED lights are used for screen backlights. Dr. Celia Sanchez Ramos of Complutense University in Madrid, Spain, believes that the damage LED lights cause will soon become an epidemic. (1) Dr. Ramos conducted a study on the effects that LED lights have to the human retina. The retina is “a light-sensitive layer of tissue, lining the inner surface of the eye”. This tissue serves as a screen for the images transferred to it when light strikes it. These images are then transferred to the brain via the optic nerve. (2) Once the retina is damaged, the body cannot rejuvenate or replace the damaged cells the way it can with the cornea of the eye. This is why researchers, like Dr. Ramos, are concerned about exposure to LED blue light waves. A damaged retina can lead to partial or complete blindness. In Dr. Ramos’s research paper, she reports that exposure to prolonged periods of LED light results in damage to the retina.
This summer has seen China reaching scorching temperatures. In fact, Shanghai experienced the hottest summer the city has seen since weather records began more than 140 years ago. The extreme weather in China this summer is thought to be a possible cause of unusually severe hornet attacks in central China. Twenty-eight people have died and hundreds have been injured due to a wave of attacks by giant-sized hornets in the Shaanxi province. (1) The majority of the attacks have occurred in the rural, wooded regions of southern Shaanxi. The vicious attacks have not, however, been confined to the rural areas. In the city of Ankang alone, 18 people have died from the giant hornets. The cities of Shangluo and Hanzhong have also seen people stung and badly injured by the insects. The guilty insect is known as the Vespa Mandarinia – the Asian giant hornet – which can grow up to two inches in length and can reach speeds of 25 miles per hour. The Vespa Velutina Nigrithorax – the smaller Asian hornet – is another offender. The killer bugs’ stings are highly toxic, containing potent neurotoxin venom which can cause anaphylactic shock and kidney failure. Their stings have been described as being like “a hot nail through the leg”. (2)
It’s been over two years since the Fukushima Daiichi power facility in Japan was hit by an earthquake and ensuing tsunami. The power plant has limped along ever since with repairs still in process and radiation still leaking into the Pacific Ocean. Further stress was added to the crippled plant on September 15, 2013 when a typhoon and another earthquake struck Japan. The earthquake doesn’t appear to have done any damage to the facility. The 5.3 magnitude earthquake was 13 miles beneath Fukushima but the typhoon reportedly dumped enough water to swamp the enclosure walls that encase the clusters of water tanks that store toxic water used in the cooling of the damaged reactors from the tsunami. It was reported by the AP (Associated Press) that the plant pumped over 1,100 tons of rainwater away from the tanks into other holding tanks. (1) It was stated that no damage was sustained by the reactors at the plant from the typhoon or the earthquake.
In 2011, Japan was rattled by a powerful earthquake and tsunami. One of the biggest calamities of the disaster was that the Fukushima nuclear plant became damaged, resulting in a series of explosions. Despite the passing time, Japan remains far from recovered from the devastating natural disaster. Reports have emerged that contaminated water with dangerously high levels of radiation is leaking from a storage tank at Fukushima nuclear plant. In the last two and a half years, the crippled nuclear plant has been besieged with problems and leaks, but the latest leak is said to be worse. According to the Nuclear Regulation Authority, 300 tons of contaminated water has already seeped from the storage tank. The authority also said that the incident could rank as a “level three” classification on an international eight-point scale. (1) At a press conference, Tokyo Electric Power said that it had discovered a leak in one of the tanks used to cool uranium fuel rods. A puddle was formed that emitted 100 millisieverts an hour of radiation, which is about 350,000 times higher than natural background levels. (1)
It’s called “cultured meat”. The first beef burger grown in a Petri dish was cooked before an audience of news media and academics on August 5, 2013. The media event was held in London and featured the cooking of the first cultured beef burger by Chef Richard McGeown of Couch’s Great House Restaurant in Cornwall. The stem cell created burger is the brainchild of Professor Mark Post of Maastricht University in the Netherlands. His idea for sustainable and ethical meat production is backed by Google co-founder Sergey Brin. Professor Post’s burger was created using the same stem cell culturing techniques of the medical community. The chef was asked to compare the burger to a traditional burger and stated that it was slightly paler. In cooking the burger, he used sunflower oil to ensure a hot cooking temperature and butter to seal the beef. There was no salt or pepper added or any condiments. Those chosen for the tasting were Post, Josh Schonwald, known food writer and nutritional researcher Hanni Rützler. Much to the disappointment of the audience, the patty wasn’t big enough to give a sampling to them. The conclusion of the tasters? “Close to [beef] meat”. The scientists enhanced the color with red beet juice and saffron. Bread crumbs were added for a binder. Rützler stated she couldn’t taste these ingredients. (1) While meat is muscle from an animal, the flavor comes from fat within the meat. Adding fat cells is the next step Dr. Post and his team will be focusing on. The goal is to ultimately produce meat that’s exactly like the cow in the field; it could take 10 to 20 more years to perfect.