Letters to the Editor
Life signs09/26/2018 - 07:00 Planetary Science, Pollution, Technology
Scientists estimate that there are roughly 10 billion liters of liquid water beneath a polar glacier on Mars, Lisa Grossman reported in “Mars (probably) has a lake of liquid water” (SN: 8/18/18 & 9/1/18, p. 6).
Some online readers wondered what the detection meant for the possibility of life on the Red Planet.
Grossman wrote about the lake’s implications for life...
The Science Life
Mayflies swarming a central Pennsylvania bridge over the Susquehanna River are a good thing, and a bad thing. Before the 1972 Clean Water Act, the river was too polluted to support the primitive aquatic insects. So their comeback is a sign that the water is healthier, says forensic entomologist John Wallace of nearby Millersville University.
But those swarms have become a nighttime...
The days of the great Pacific garbage patch may be numbered.
A highly anticipated project to scoop up plastic from the massive pool of ocean debris is poised to launch its first phase from Alameda, Calif., on September 8. The creators of the project, called the Ocean Cleanup, say their system can remove 90 percent of the plastic in the patch by 2040.
First proposed in a 2012 TED...
Breathing dirty air exacts a price — specifically, months, or even years, off of life.
On average worldwide, air pollution shaves a year off of human life expectancy, scientists report August 22 in Environmental Science & Technology Letters. In more polluted regions of Asia and Africa, lives are shortened by 1.5 to two years on average.
The study, using 2016 country data from...
The northwestern United States has become an air pollution hot spot — literally.
Air quality in states from Nevada to Montana is worse than it was 30 years ago on the days with the most extreme air pollution. Bigger and more frequent wildfires that spew plumes of fine particulate matter into the sky are largely to blame, researchers report July 16 in Proceedings of the National Academy...
Air pollution caused 3.2 million new cases of diabetes worldwide in 2016, according to a new estimate.
Fine particulate matter, belched out by cars and factories and generated through chemical reactions in the atmosphere, hang around as haze and make air hard to breathe. Air pollution has been linked to chronic conditions such as heart disease and diabetes (SN: 9/30/17, p. 18), but this...
Sunlight shapes oil spills’ long-term legacies.
In the days and weeks after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, sunlight hit the oil slicks on the surface of the water. That triggered chemical reactions that added oxygen to oil molecules that once were just chains of carbon and hydrogen atoms. These oxygenated hydrocarbons are still sticking around eight years...
Each year, finding and extracting oil and gas for energy produces hundreds of billions of gallons of wastewater in the United States. When recycled and spread on roads, the wastewater can leak its contaminants, including salt, radioactive elements and chemicals that interfere with hormones, into groundwater and surface water, researchers report May 30 in Environmental Science and Technology....
There’s a great future in plastics.
A new kind of plastic can, when exposed to the right chemicals, break down into the same basic building blocks that it came from and be rebuilt again and again. The recyclable material is more durable than previous attempts to create reusable plastics, researchers report inthe April 27 Science.
Designing plastics that can be easily reused is one...
Just a few tweaks to a bacterial enzyme make it a lean, mean plastic-destroying machine.
One type of plastic, polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, is widely used in polyester clothing and disposable bottles and is notoriously persistent in landfills. In 2016, Japanese scientists identified a new species of bacteria, Ideonella sakaiensis, which has a specialized enzyme that can naturally...