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2019-03-29. 66 million-year-old deathbed linked to dinosaur-killing meteor.

posted by Alan Gould   [ updated ]

By Robert Sanders, Berkeley News, UC Berkeley. [https://news.berkeley.edu/2019/03/29/66-million-year-old-deathbed-linked-to-dinosaur-killing-meteor/] For A Changing Cosmos chapter 1 and Life and Climate chapter 9. Excerpt: The beginning of the end started with violent shaking that raised giant waves in the waters of an inland sea in what is now North Dakota. Then, tiny glass beads began to fall like birdshot from the heavens. The rain of glass was so heavy it may have set fire to much of the vegetation on land. In the water, fish struggled to breathe as the beads clogged their gills. The heaving sea turned into a 30-foot wall of water when it reached the mouth of a river, tossing hundreds, if not thousands, of fresh-water fish — sturgeon and paddlefish — onto a sand bar and temporarily reversing the flow of the river. Stranded by the receding water, the fish were pelted by glass beads up to 5 millimeters in diameter, some burying themselves inches deep in the mud. The torrent of rocks, like fine sand, and small glass beads continued for another 10 to 20 minutes before a second large wave inundated the shore and covered the fish with gravel, sand and fine sediment, sealing them from the world for 66 million years. This unique, fossilized graveyard — fish stacked one atop another and mixed in with burned tree trunks, conifer branches, dead mammals, mosasaur bones, insects, the partial carcass of a Triceratops, marine microorganisms called dinoflagellates and snail-like marine cephalopods called ammonites — was unearthed by paleontologist Robert DePalma over the past six years in the Hell Creek Formation, not far from Bowman, North Dakota. The evidence confirms a suspicion that nagged at DePalma in his first digging season during the summer of 2013 — that this was a killing field laid down soon after the asteroid impact that eventually led to the extinction of all ground-dwelling dinosaurs. The impact at the end of the Cretaceous Period, the so-called K-T boundary, exterminated 75 percent of life on Earth.... 

2019-04-19. Sodium batteries are one step closer to saving you from a mobile phone fire.

posted Apr 22, 2019, 12:23 PM by Alan D. GOULD

By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine. [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/04/sodium-batteries-are-one-step-closer-saving-you-mobile-phone-fire] For GSS Energy Use chapter 9. Excerpt: Solid-state batteries, which use solids instead of liquids to ferry ions through their core, are attracting billions in investment, thanks to their potential for reducing battery fires. Now, researchers have created a solid-state sodium battery with a record capacity to store charge and a flexible electrode that allows recharging hundreds of times. What’s more, the battery’s use of sodium instead of expensive lithium could enable the development of cheaper energy storage devices for everything from small wearable electronics to solar and wind farms....  

2019-04-18. To amp up solar cells, scientists ditch silicon.

posted Apr 22, 2019, 12:19 PM by Alan D. GOULD

By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine. [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/04/amp-solar-cells-scientists-ditch-silicon] For GSS Energy Use chapter 10. Excerpt: Silicon dominates the world of solar power. Even the newest solar cell designs, tandem devices that have a silicon solar cell below a cell made of a crystalline material called a perovskite, rely on the material. Now, researchers are doing away with silicon altogether, creating tandems from two of the best yet perovskites, each tailored to absorb a different part of the solar spectrum. Because perovskites are easier to manufacture than silicon cells, the advance could lead to less costly solar power. ...Improvements in technology and manufacturing have dropped the price of [silicon] cells some 88% in the past decade, .... That has prompted, over the same period, a more than 30-fold increase in solar energy deployment around the world to more than 30 billion watts, or 30 gigawatts, of installed capacity, enough to power at least 3.7 million homes. Perovskite solar cells aim to build on these trends. These crystalline materials, typically made from lead, iodine, bromine, and other abundant elements, are cheap to make; unlike silicon, they are easy to process into sunlight-absorbing layers. Their efficiency at converting sunlight into electricity has also risen to near the level of the best silicon solar cells: from just 3.8% to more than 24% over the past decade. Perovskites are also better than silicon at absorbing high-energy blue photons from sunlight. ...can reportedly achieve 28% solar-to-electrical efficiency....  

2019-04-13. Central American Farmers Head to the U.S., Fleeing Climate Change.

posted Apr 22, 2019, 12:16 PM by Alan D. GOULD

By Kirk Semple, The New York Times. [https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/13/world/americas/coffee-climate-change-migration.html] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: CORQUÍN, Honduras — The farmer stood in his patch of forlorn coffee plants, their leaves sick and wilted, the next harvest in doubt. Last year, two of his brothers and a sister, desperate to find a better way to survive, abandoned their small coffee farms in this mountainous part of Honduras and migrated north, eventually sneaking into the United States. Then in February, the farmer’s 16-year-old son also headed north, ignoring the family’s pleas to stay. The challenges of agricultural life in Honduras have always been mighty, from poverty and a neglectful government to the swings of international commodity prices. But farmers, agricultural scientists and industry officials say a new threat has been ruining harvests, upending lives and adding to the surge of families migrating to the United States: climate change. ...Central America is among the regions most vulnerable to climate change, scientists say. And because agriculture employs much of the labor force — about 28 percent in Honduras alone, according to the World Bank — the livelihoods of millions of people are at stake. Last year, the bank reported that climate change could lead at least 1.4 million people to flee their homes in Mexico and Central America and migrate during the next three decades....  

2019-04-11. The Ice Nurseries of the Arctic Are Melting.

posted Apr 22, 2019, 12:13 PM by Alan D. GOULD

By Jenessa Duncombe, Eos/AGU. [https://eos.org/articles/the-ice-nurseries-of-the-arctic-are-melting] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: Each winter, a cold, relentless wind blows over the northeastern Russian coast toward the sea. The wind pushes sea ice away from land, opening up pockets for new ice to form. The process repeats endlessly, bringing fresh crops of sea ice out to the Arctic Ocean and feeding a slow migration of ice westward toward Greenland. But a study published in Scientific Reports [https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-41456-y] on 2 April reveals that warming temperatures are melting Russia’s coastal “ice nurseries” faster than before. Some 80% of nursery ice melts before it joins the open ocean, compared to 50% before 2000....  

2019-04-11. How Big Business Is Hedging Against the Apocalypse.

posted Apr 22, 2019, 12:07 PM by Alan D. GOULD

By Jesse Barron, The New York Times. [https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/04/11/magazine/climate-change-exxon-renewable-energy.html] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: Rex Tillerson ...explaining how the world worked...May 2015, in the middle of an oil-price crash, and Exxon Mobil’s earnings had fallen 46 percent compared with the same quarter the year before. But Tillerson, then Exxon’s chief executive, told his shareholders to be confident in the future. Oil and gas furnished billions of people, including the very poor, with cheap, reliable fuel — a fact not easily negated by a weak fiscal quarter. ...Later that morning, a Capuchin Franciscan friar rose to speak. ...Michael Crosby belonged to a tight circle of religious leaders who bought stock in public companies in the hope of exerting a moral influence on them. ...He submitted a motion to appoint a climate-change expert to Exxon’s board, ...he laid into Tillerson for having uttered “not one word or syllable” about climate change. ...Three years later, an Irishman named Declan Flanagan, chief executive of the renewables company Lincoln Clean Energy, was addressing his own shareholders in Copenhagen when he delivered a cryptic announcement. Lincoln, he said, was going to build a solar farm in the Permian Basin — the heart of West Texas oil country — with funding put up by a “blue-chip counterparty.”  ...“That,” he said in his strong Irish accent, “is Exxon Mobil.” ...An unsettling fact of Wall Street today is that some of the same people who accurately predicted the housing bubble are now describing another bubble, whose collapse will make the financial crisis of 2008 look mild. ...Because the global economy depends on hydrocarbons, practically every asset in the world relates in some way to oil and gas. ...not only oil companies’ stock but practically everything else on the market looks falsely inflated....

2019-04-11. What Survival Looks Like After the Oceans Rise.

posted Apr 22, 2019, 12:03 PM by Alan D. GOULD

By Andrea Frazzetta and Jacopo Pasotti, The New York Times. [https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/04/11/magazine/climate-change-bangladesh-scavenging.html] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: Standing sometimes waist-deep in seawater on the shores of the Bay of Bengal in Bangladesh, they work to find bricks, dig them out of the sludge and cart them to the side of the road to sell. The job is new, a result of devastating storm surges a little more than a decade ago. In 2007, and then again in 2009, cyclones battered the coastline just south of Kuakata, destroying homes and structures and drowning entire villages. The storms submerged forests of mangroves and left 99 local residents dead. ...Despite being responsible for only 0.3 percent of the emissions that cause global warming, Bangladesh is near the top of the Global Climate Risk Index, a ranking of 183 countries and territories most vulnerable to climate change. When scientists and researchers predict how global warming will affect populations, they usually use 20- and 50-year trajectories. For Bangladesh, the effects of climate change are happening now. Cyclones are growing stronger as temperatures rise and are occurring with more frequency. Researchers warn that within a few decades, Bangladesh may lose more than 10 percent of its land to sea-level rise, displacing as many as 18 million people. Decisions to leave coastal communities aren’t really decisions at all. Families leave because there are no other options. There is no work. There are no homes. Over the past decade, an average of 700,000 Bangladeshis a year migrated because of natural disasters, moving to Dhaka to live in sprawling slums as climate refugees....  

2019-04-10. Climate Chaos Is Coming — and the Pinkertons Are Ready.

posted Apr 22, 2019, 12:00 PM by Alan D. GOULD

By Noah Gallagher Shannon, The New York Times. [https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/04/10/magazine/climate-change-pinkertons.html] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: ...According to the World Bank, by 2050 some 140 million people may be displaced by sea-level rise and extreme weather, driving escalations in crime, political unrest and resource conflict. Even if the most conservative predictions about our climate future prove overstated, a 1.5-degree Celsius rise in temperature during the next century will almost certainly provoke chaos, in what experts call climate change’s “threat multiplier”: Displacement begets desperation begets disorder. ...it wasn’t difficult to see why a company might consider enhancing its security protocols. ...Allan Pinkerton organized his agency in response to the lawlessness of the frontier. ...in the early 1850s, a majority of the territories west of the Mississippi remained ungoverned; few towns offered policing, and fewer still had the means to investigate crimes after the fact. Overnight, Pinkerton’s novel methods of “crime detection,” which included infiltrating gangs and developing networks of informants, became the standards of investigation, and his company became a sort of de facto national police force. ...for Pinkerton ...there’s no real material difference between climate change and any other conflict — as the world grows more predictably dangerous, tactical know-how will simply be more in demand than ever....  

2019-04-09. The Problem With Putting a Price on the End of the World.

posted Apr 22, 2019, 11:55 AM by Alan D. GOULD

By David Leonhardt, The New York Times. [https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/04/09/magazine/climate-change-politics-economics.html] For GSS Climate Change chapter 8. Excerpt: On a Saturday afternoon in early December, inside a soaring auditorium on the campus of Stockholm University, William Nordhaus gave the crowning lecture of his half-century career as an economist. The occasion was his acceptance of the Nobel Prize in economics, .... The title of the lecture was “Climate Change: The Ultimate Challenge for Economics.” ...The Nobel was a tribute to the originality and influence of his work developing economic models that help people think about how to slow climate change. ...Climate change is a threat like no other. Fatal heat waves, droughts, wildfires and severe hurricanes are all becoming more common, and they are almost certain to accelerate. Avoiding horrific damage, as a United Nations panel of scientists recently concluded, will require changes in human behavior that have “no documented historic precedent.” In his speech, Nordhaus explained that people use too much dirty energy because they don’t have to pay the true costs it imposes on the world: pollution-related health problems in the short term and climate change in the long term. Economists refer to these costs as externalities, because they are not naturally part of the market system. “We have a climate problem,” Nordhaus said, “because markets fail, and fail badly, in the energy sector.” The only solution, he argued, was for governments to raise the price of emissions. Economists and other policy experts have long focused on this idea of carbon pricing. ...But if the idea’s straightforwardness is its great economic advantage, it has also proved to be its political flaw. ...across the industrialized world, the middle class and the poor have been struggling with slow income growth. As Nordhaus acknowledged in his speech, curbing dirty energy by raising its price “may be good for nature, but it’s not actually all that attractive to voters to reduce their income.”....  

2019-04-10. Marrying two types of solar cells draws more power from the sun.

posted Apr 13, 2019, 4:52 PM by Alan Gould

By Robert F. Service, Science Magazine. [https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2019/04/marrying-two-types-solar-cells-draws-more-power-sun] For GSS Energy Use chapter 10. Excerpt: ORLANDO, FLORIDA—The promising solar cell materials called perovskites need a partner. Researchers marry a layer of perovskite, which absorbs high-energy blue photons in sunlight, with standard silicon, which gobbles up lower-energy light. In theory, such tandem cells should deliver a double dose of power, with electricity coming from both layers. But building two complete solar cells, one atop the other, adds cost and other challenges. Last week, a team reported advancing a potentially simpler, cheaper way to make a tandem. The team's perovskite converts light instead of generating current, transforming blue photons to near-infrared (near-IR) photons, which the silicon cell below then turns into electricity. The researchers say the design could boost the efficiency of silicon solar cells by nearly 20%. ...Silicon dominates the solar industry not because it's the best solar converter, but because it's serviceable and relatively cheap. Still, manufacturers must use expensive clean rooms to purify and prepare it. Perovskites, in contrast, are easy to coax into a thin, powerfully light-absorbing layer. Most perovskites are best at absorbing blue light, so they must be paired with other materials to snag the full solar spectrum. The solar industry is racing to commercialize perovskites by placing them atop conventional silicon modules, which discard much of the energy in bluer light photons, releasing it as heat rather than electric current....  

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