Wednesday, 20 November 2019

No Shit!

It has been reported that US scientists have developed a mega-slippery spray for toilet pans that might well lead to the disappearance of the toilet brush (https://www.theguardian.com/science/2019/nov/18/scientists-develop-slippery-toilet-coating-stop-poo-sticking). More importantly, the spray which has to be periodically re-applied, should greatly reduce the amount of water needed for flushing. This is important, as enormous quantities of this scarce resource for used for this purpose. I presume that they will test that the material sprayed does not create any environmental problems?

Tuesday, 19 November 2019

The End of Reason?

A change of the state laws in Ohio (https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/ohio-school-religion-answers/) seemingly has the power to require teachers not to mark down students for giving answers (on evolution or the flatness of the Earth?) that are scientifically wrong, so long as they are rooted in religious (all religions or just Christianity?) teaching. This seems very suspect to me, as the point of science teaching is to gain an understanding of the scientific method (where you make observations, come up with a testable hypothesis and do tests on that explanation that can be independently confirmed by other scientists). There is nothing wrong with people having religions (if they want one) but this aspect of life is not scientifically testable. Surely students can be required to give an accurate account of the scientific thinking behind ideas even when it differs from their internalised beliefs?

Monday, 18 November 2019

Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Hitting it on the Head?

It has now been demonstrated that  nanoparticles (generated especially in diesel exhausts but also resulting from tyre wear and the braking systems of cars) can carry carcinogens into the human brain (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/13/air-pollution-particles-linked-to-brain-cancer-in-new-research). This strongly suggests that this air pollution (which often exceeds legal limits in UK cities), will increase the rates of brain cancers. It is somewhat concerning that many schools in urban areas are near busy roads and problems can be exacerbated by idling cars doing the 'school run'. The brains of children may be especially vulnerable.

Insecticide/Homicide?

Scientists reckon that around 400,000 species of insect are currently threatened with extinction largely by the overuse of man-made insecticides (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/13/insect-apocalypse-poses-risk-to-all-life-on-earth-conservationists-warn). Even worse, they are of the opinion that the loss of these important pollinators and food items will challenge the existence of many other species including we humans.

Monday, 11 November 2019

Putting a Tortoise in the Tank?

The air transport industry's attempt to burnish its 'green' credentials have not been helped by reports of widespread tinkering (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-50365362). In this process, the plane's tanks are filled with excess fuel in locations where it is cheap, thus saving the airline money. The increased weight, however, results in more greenhouse gases being emitted than would otherwise be produced on a trip of that distance. It seems, to some people, that the airlines are more concerned about their bottom line than about their effects on climate change. All this at a time when the very concept of regular air travel is being challenged.

Sunday, 10 November 2019

Faking to Conserve?

In an interesting variant, there is a report that scientists hope to flood the illegal market with a fake rhino horn made from compacted horse hair (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/nov/08/scientists-plan-to-flood-black-market-with-fake-rhino-horn-to-reduce-poaching). The product is said to be convincing, even when viewed under a microscope and it is actually made from the same material (keratin) as the real horn that is used in Chinese medicine. The hope is that the introduction of faux rhinoceros horn will, by substantially driving down the price, make poaching much less rewarding. It would, of course, also be useful to confirm that rhinoceros horn has no medical benefits.

No Shit!

It has been reported that US scientists have developed a mega-slippery spray for toilet pans that might well lead to the disappearance of...