Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Explanation Behind Four-Leaf Clovers

Four-leaf clovers are supposed to be a lucky find for those who come upon them. People are always happy to get one. It's rare, but why do some clovers have four leaves? Science has the answer. Four-leaf clovers are actually the result of a genetic mutation of the trifolium clover plant which has over 300 species. Each leaf of the trifolium clover has three leaflets, as the name already suggests. but there are instances when there are more. St. Patrick supposedly used the three leaflets to symbolize the Holy Trinity.This could also have helped promote the clover as a lucky charm.

According to biologist Kenneth Olsen, clover leaves can have more than three leaflets as the plant is already genetically-inclined to sport such an anomaly. In fact, the record of the most clover leaf leaflets ever found is fifteen! If you ever find such a clover "leaf" you must really, really be lucky! The fiteen-leaf clover was found by was found by Shigeo Obara of Japan in May of 2002 and now he's famous.

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Organic Wastes to Fertilizer and Clean Coal

We've seen it and smelled them before - organic and other biological wastes that go to drains and ditches by the roadside or dumped in places where you'd least expect them. They are out of sight for the most part, but you know they are around and give a revolting experience, nevertheless, when you smell them.
Cities, municipalities, and even corporations have this problem of disposing organic wastes from houses, establishments, and such industries as farming and livestock.

Organic wastes generally get mixed with garbage and leach into the soil contaminating groundwater. If there is no effective treatment method, the wastes only serve to contaminate the environment. It's a big problem, but few people are aware that there is a way to deal with them and allow municipalities and private establishments to benefit and protect the environment at the same time. It involves the use of special waste to energy technologies to process and disinfect municipal organic wastes - practically changing them into useful reusable products that enrich the soil. A company that provides such a solution is N-Viro International.

N-Viro International uses a patented process that takes municipal bio-solids and mixes them with lime and mineral-rich byproducts from the coal combustion, electric generation, cement, and lime industries. These wastes function to pasteurize, immobilize, and change sludge material and other organic wastes into useful and clean bio-mineral agricultural soil-enrichment products - fertilizers that make good produce! From useless environmental refuse, the process produces something of value that can create money, generate jobs, and help make the world a better place with less waste. The technology is now licensed in the United States and internationally and is currently serving satisfied clients. The system has already proven it's worth in the state of Florida in the US, successfully serving municipalities in the central area with a facility in Daytona that converts municipal bio-solids into what is called N-Viro Soil.

Apart from this natural soil-enrichment product, N-Viro International is also making use of organic wastes for the creation of fuel products in its waste to energy N-Viro Fuel technology program. The products are either a combination of bio solids or manure and coal to produce two blended fuels that compete with standard coal and conform with current emission standards - having been tested and proven that particulates produced are well below the regulation limits. The products have been successfully tested at the Michigan State University coal-fired power plant. The products have generally been dubbed clean coal and the positive response to them have made them into opportunity fuels of this age that's in dire need of alternative energy sources and/or renewable energy products.

With this kind of technology handy and accessible to the world's cities, people will have less to deal with the problem of organic waste disposal and everything to gain from the new products from materials that used to be nothing but repugnant waste. There are lots of benefits from this green technology from the likes of companies like N-Viro as this will lessen the financial burden of local governments and private companies when it comes to waste disposal. Since the initial public offering of N-Viro in 1993, underwritten by Robertson Stephens, Raymond James, Oppenheimer & Co., and Paine Webber, the company has already had sales amounting to $40 million.

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

China Succumbs to the Creeping Desert

China is a big country, but it appears that its size and power cannot keep mother nature at bay as the western desert from the Mongolian region and the north seems to be starting a campaign against the country, claiming areas to the east as far as the coast, with dust and sand storms that grow in intensity near the spring season. The volume of dust is so great that the particles circle the globe and affect the quality of air in places as far as the United States! The dust makes for beautiful sunsets, but it's really a big problem.

From the satellite images shown here, you can see how much dust is being sent by the prevailing winds from the west. It forms a cyclone shape just below Beijing. You can see from the Google Maps screen-capture how big the whirling dust is. Beijing is the circular gray area in the middle of the picture near the top.

The encroachment of the desert has been a problem for years, with the government having spent a lot of money, time, and effort in planting trees to keep the desert from advancing. But apparently, the efforts are not enough and the dust that billows into the cities have caused problems. In Beijing, as well as other parts of China, travel has been limited due to poor visibility and of course, people now have to deal with dust in invading their respiratory system. People claim the dust gets on everything and because it mixes with industrial air pollution, it's become sticky.

It's not certain how long the dust will be coming in from the desert. But this invasion is likely to continue if the efforts in greening the desert fails. Thousands of years ago, the Sahara also experienced an expansion that caused much of the green areas to retreat, together with the animals and people that once lived there. Is the same phenomenon happening in China? Is it turning into a big desert like the Sahara is now? If that's the case, what will be the consequences? How will people adapt? 

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Monday, March 8, 2010

Oxygen Levels in Earth's Ocean Getting Lower - Marine Life Dying

Oxygen levels in the Earth's oceans are apparently getting lower. Years after year, scientists have seen how certain deep areas of the seas, which normally have low oxygen, are getting bigger and moving into areas that are not known to suffer from hypoxia (lack of oxygen). The change is very evident in the Pacific Northwest coast. Already, in areas off the Washington and Oregon coast, an almost complete lack of oxygen in the water has left marine life, mostly crabs, dead with their carcasses littering the ocean floor. Such mass kills include fish in other areas of the world. Scientists believe the changes are part of the global climate change.

The "dead" hypoxic water in oceans usually lie deep and far from the continental shelf. But now, they are moving closer to shore and getting nearer the surface, where marine plants and animals typically thrive. Oceanographer Gregory Johnson, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Seattle, describes the depletion of oxygen levels in the oceans as striking. Scientists estimate the decline of oxygen in certain areas of the world to be at least one-third of what used to be the levels used to be 50 years ago. 

Marine scientist Francis Chan says the Earth's oceans can expect to experience more depletion if the planet continues to warm up. Warmer waters ted to stay put near the surface and prevents the usual temperature-difference circulation of water from the deep ocean to the surface. It's like water in an aquarium that's not agitated by bubbles. The less agitation, the less oxygen is dissolved in the water. In the opinion of some people, not much can be done about the depletion since the affected areas are too widespread and there's no control over the marine life that can come into contact with them. 

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Tuesday, March 2, 2010

2010 Chile Earthquake Nudged Earth's Figure Axis

A lot of things can happen to the Earth as it ages. Earthquakes change the landscape, but if powerful enough, they can even have an impact on the whole planet. Such was the case of the seventh most powerful earthquake ever recorded in history. The Chile earthquake in February, 2010 registered at 8.8 magnitude. As of this writing, over 700 were confirmed dead. The resulting tsunami from the upheaval reached as far as Japan. Indeed strong earthquakes like that are rare but when they happen, they can have a lasting global effect.

The Chile earthquake was the result of the movement of a deep and steep fault. According to Richard Gross (left) at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Jet Propulsion Laboratory, it had likely nudged the Earth's figure axis by 3 inches (final data pending). The figure axis is the axis around which the Earth's mass is balanced. It is different and offset from the North-South axis.

Gross said that because of the steepness of the source fault, the Chile quake had a strong effect in shifting the Earth's mass vertically and shifting the figure axis. The Earth is like a top that spins at around 1,000 miles per second. Depending on the distribution of its mass (whether near or far to the figure axis), it's spin and angle are determined. As of this writing, Gross and his team are still gathering data on the earthquake which will fine-tune their measurements. What follows are before and after NASA satellite images of the 2010 Chile quake zone.

RIGHT BEFORE the quake:
RIGHT AFTER the quake:
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