Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Monsanto planning for climate change

Don Shelby reports on the crops research done by Monsanto to assure food production remains stable if predictions about climate change come to pass.  Crop production is expected to increase through 2050 and then higher temperatures with more heavy rainfall events is expected to reduce yields for the rest of the century.

Problems with insects and plant pathogens are expected to be more prevalent as these tend to do better in warmer climates. 


Saturday, February 25, 2012

Common mold question

Transworld News has a news article that answers the question:  Are all black molds toxic?
The short answer is no.  Some black molds produce mycotoxins and some don't.  Molds with other colors produce mycotoxins.  The mycotoxins are there to help the mold compete with other organisms for real estate in a competitive environment. 

In the general media, Stachybotrys spp. has been referred to as toxic black mold.  Various strains of Stachybotrys spp. can produce mycotoxins.  Depending on the strain they can produce a variety of effects.  There is considerable controversy about the ability of people to breath in enough spores for an effect.  Ingestions of aflatoxin produced by Aspergillus flavus does have well known health effects as noted in this article from Cornell University.

Aspergillus flavus in culture - photo - N. Carlson

Stachybotrys spp. growth on culture 40x - photo N. Carlson

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Carbon monoxide problems

According to the Star Tribune, there have been several, nonfatal carbon monoxide related hospital admissions in Minnesota.  An improperly running apartment boiler, an idling car in a garage and poorly operating furnaces were the causes. 

Carbon monoxide is an odorless colorless gas that is the product of incomplete combustion.  When a carbon based fuel is burned in an oxygen deficient atmosphere carbon monoxide is produced instead of carbon dioxide. 

In the blood, carbon monoxide binds to the hemoglobin molecule and replaces oxygen.  The carbon monoxide molecule binds more than 700x more efficiently that oxygen.  Symptoms of exposure include cherry red lips, headache, nausea and loss of consciousness.  As a child, I  suffered overexposure while riding in back of a car pulling a camper.  A leaking exhaust pipe allowed the gas into the car.  I had a headache and was nauseated. 

Treatment for overexposure includes fresh air and oxygen sometimes provided with a hyperbaric chamber.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Climate Science and Engineering at Intellectual Ventures

Intellectual Ventures Lab is mentioned prominently in the book SuperFreakonomics. According to the book's authors the lab generates or acquires five hundred patents a year.  The areas of research vary from malaria, energy to climate science.  They have proposed an ocean cooling system to reduce the strength of hurricanes.  They also have several innovative geoengineering solutions for climate change.  The also have job openings.

The Salter Sink is designed to take warm surface water and mix with cooler deep ocean water and lower the surface temperature.  It also helps to oxygenate the water at the surface.  
Laser targeting of female mosquitoes -  The beat frequency of the female mosquito is lower than the males and can be used as a signal for laser targeting.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Fungal tease tape and contact agar sampling

I've added audio to the previous video on tease tape and contact agar sampling.

Further information on tease tape sampling is available here.

Electric charging

As reported by News 10 in Sacramento, California, Researchers at Stanford University have developed a remote charging system for electric cars that can be placed on a highway.  The system uses a magnetic field to move electrons between two points.  A battery can be charged if it is in between the two coils resonating at the same frequency.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Tease tape and contact agar sampling for fungi

Fungal decay on Halloween Pumpkin - N. Carlson
One of the most useful methods for determining fungal contamination is the use of tease tape sampling combined with contact agar sampling.  The tease tape sample helps determine if there is fungal  growth or fungal spore deposition on surface.  The contact agar is used to determine the number of culturable fungi in a defined area that will grow on a particular growth medium.  This video  below shows the proper sampling technique.

Additional tease tape sampling data is available here

Friday, February 3, 2012

Predicting caldera volcanic eruptions

USA Today reports that scientists are making some progress in predicting when a caldera volcano may erupt.  Scientists report in Nature magazine about the 1600 BC Santorini volcano in Greece.  Analysis of the feldspar crystals suggest that the magma chamber increased by as much as 10% in the decades before the eruption.  These changes can be detected by satellite images.  Scientists are asking for additional monitoring of less well known caldera volcanoes such as the Ubehebe crater in Death Valley, California.   Neil Bowdler from BBC news reports that scientists are hoping to get months to decades notice before a super volcano erupts. 
Galapagos island Caldera Volcano

Artist Rendering of a Supervolcano eruption
One of the more difficult challenges would be to find a way to slowly release the built up pressure to minimize the impact of a caldera eruption.  Unfortunately, it probably is one on the forces of nature too powerful to be controlled  through an engineering solution designed to limit local devastation and subsequent climate disruption.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Possible cause of the little ice age

According to a report from Richard Black from the BBC, An international research team has suggested that a series of volcanic eruptions starting in 1250 through 1300 caused the little ice age that significantly lowered temperatures in Europe from the 1300's through 1500's.  Global temperatures also dropped but to a lesser degree than Europe.   The little ice age was one of the contributing factors to the destruction of the Norse culture on greenland.   Looking at the chart below it would be interesting to research what caused the Medieval Warm Period.

NASA global map of temperatures from 1880's to 2011

NASA produced a video of the yearly average temperature map from the 1880's to 2011.  The 1930's and 1940's were a warm period and the 1990s to the present were also even warmer.  It is very good visual representation of the temperature changes at different spots in the world.  The colors match a scale often used in infrared photography.  It would be interesting to do a similar reconstruction of the past 2,000 years averaging out each decade.

Richard Muller from UC Berkley has two physics books on the topic with one on the physics of climate change published in 2012.