Radioactive Birds Sing More; Flatulence-Powered Cars Work Fine

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Discovered in Green: The effects of nuclear fallout on bird sex, cars powered by the human bowels (sort of), how your meat-eating habits are destroying the earth and a sad story about oysters.

  • Radioactive birds sing more. A somewhat unnerving study of birds living in the contaminated area around Chernobyl offers some curious facts about the aftermath of a nuclear meltdown. The area is still pretty radioactive and will be for years to come. This is not good for life. The demographics of the birds near Chernobyl, a team of researchers found, skewed unusually young—meaning, the majority of the birds were yearlings. Females also tended to die at a younger age near contaminated areas, and so the male yearlings would sing more often than normal because they couldn't find a mate in the radioactive forest. [Mother Jones]

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  • The flatulence-powered car is a reality. This is a good question: If methane gas is flammable and our bodies release methane gas naturally, why can't we use that gas as fuel? Well, ladies and gentleman, not only are we able to we use flatulence as fuel, a team of scientists at the University of California-Irvine have been doing it for six months. Using methane pulled from sewage, the scientists are producing hydrogen fuel cells powerful enough to make an automobile go. And because it's hydrogen, the fuel burns cleanly and doesn't even smell! Jake Brouwer, one of the projects leaders, has high hopes for the future of this somewhat gross but highly effective energy source. "I don't see people in their own backyards using their own waste to produce their own fuel," he said. "But communities that are large enough, that have a large enough flow of waste, could have a chance to do this with their waste streams." [Fast Company]
  • Your daily cheeseburger is making global warming worse. Nowadays it seems like everything is causing climate change. You drive a car -- you're killing the planet. You turn on the lights on your house -- you're melting the ice caps. You call your mom -- you're making sea levels rise. (Okay, maybe that last one isn't so bad.) Now, eating meat is a crime against the properly regulated climate, scientists say. This isn't a new idea, but the latest study about food production and climate change provides a timeline for a solution. It says that people living in the developed world need to cut their meat consumption in half by 2050. Whether you're a cheesburger a day kind of person or a bucket of fried chicken a week kind of person, dividing your meat consumption in half is ambitious. Get over it, says the study's author. "I think there are huge challenges in convincing people in the west to reduce portion sizes or the frequency of eating meat," Eric Davidson, director of the Woods Hole Research Centre in Massachusetts. "That is part of our culture right now." Anyways, eating cheeseburgers is so 20th Century. [The Guardian]
  • Greenhouse gases are killing things under the sea as well. They're relentless! Not only is carbon dioxide contributing to the melting of the polar ice caps, it's also killing off the ocean's supply of delicious oysters. A new study in the journal Limnology and Oceanography looks at oyster populations off the coast of Oregon and Washington and found that they'd declined over 80 percent in the past few years due to elevated carbon dioxide that led to ocean acidification. Since the water absorbs the CO2 from the air, the researchers warn that we need to get a grip on greenhouse gas emissions not only to protect what's above the water but also what's below it. "I think that the clear take-home message from this research is that for the oceans, the Pacific Oyster larvae are the ‘canaries in the coal mines’ for ocean acidification," said co-author Richard A. Feely. "When the CO2 levels in the ocean are too high, they die; when we lower the CO2 levels, they live." [The New York Times]

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