Browsing Archive: January, 2015

Two New Articles on Urban Farming

Posted by Antonio Chaves on Wednesday, January 28, 2015, In : environmental news 
On average, OECD inhabitants of cities live more sustainably than those who live in suburbs and rural areas. This is not necessarily so in less developed countries where a large portion of the rural population relies mostly on manual labor and subsistence farming. Since standards of living are rising in most of the world, we must look to the role of urbanization in minimizing the trade-offs between economic development and protection of natural resources. While Curitiba often gets much attent...
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Genetically Engineered Bacteria Relies on Synthetic Amino Acid

Posted by Antonio Chaves on Sunday, January 25, 2015, In : environmental news 

Some of you may recall the book/movie Jurassic Park, where biotechnologists cloned dinosaurs from DNA samples extracted from ancient mosquitoes preserved in amber. In order to prevent their products from endangering the outside world, they incorporated a mutation that made them highly dependent on the lysine supplements provided by the park staff. Since lysine is a naturally occurring amino acid, this strategy was not very effective when they did escape (this was not in the m...


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Update on Measuring Work Efficiency Video

Posted by Antonio Chaves on Thursday, January 22, 2015, In : lab procedure explanations 

I just made a significant update for this video on measuring work efficiency. To keep it low budget, I just included the option of using a power drill for measurement of work involving rotary motion. Since this option is barely described in the lab manual I decided to include it in the video. Most of you who teach environmental science may never use this activity because it seems more appropriate for physics or engineering. Nonetheless, I always use this activity when I teach...


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Algae Culture Update

Posted by Antonio Chaves on Tuesday, January 20, 2015, In : lab procedure explanations 
Here is an update on a post from December 9 based on this procedure where I applied different doses of carbon dioxide to pond water confined to plastic bottles. Note that after 14 weeks, the strongest color is found in the bottle with the highest dose of carbon dioxide. This is not at all evident in the early weeks because the high dose of CO2 seems to have an inhibitory effect on algae. However in the long run, I seems that this dose results on the highest algae density because the other bot...
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IKEA Applies Its Innovative “Flat Packaging” Concept to Refugee Shelters

Posted by Antonio Chaves on Saturday, January 17, 2015, In : environmental news 

I generally hate shopping, but I like going to IKEA. There’s something about the way they arrange the space that makes strolling through their store much more interesting than being in a mall. Predictably, nearly all the furniture in our house is from IKEA. My first exposure to the elegant minimalist style of Northern European furniture was a small store I knew as a teenager called “Scan” (short for “Scandinavia”). This store near our house is long gone, and I was i...


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Generating Electricity from Living Plants

Posted by Antonio Chaves on Thursday, January 15, 2015, In : environmental news 
This video was produced by a private company that found a way to generate electricity from plants without harming them. From what I gathered in the description, they accomplish this by placing electrodes in the soil in locations that have differing voltage potentials. This electrical gradient can be attributed to the the breakdown of photosynthetic products released from the plants' roots. Much like a hydrogen fuel cell, the product of this electrochemical reaction is water. I do not know how...
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100-Fold Increase in the Rate of Soil Erosion

Posted by Antonio Chaves on Tuesday, January 13, 2015, In : environmental news 

According to this article human activity has increased the rate of erosion about 100-fold. This is not surprising to me. I recall my agronomy instructor about 35 years ago using the last day of class to give a slide show to discuss the erosive effects of plowing and building construction. This is also why I have always been strongly against using land to grow biofuels. In this article I wrote a few years ago, I reference other research suggesting that biofuels may have played...


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Highly Readable and Informative Chart on Radiation Exposure

Posted by Antonio Chaves on Sunday, January 11, 2015, In : environmental news 
I abhor getting X-rayed, and every time a doctor or dentist requests one for myself or a family member I always ask myself: Is this necessary or is he/she just practicing defensive medicine? In one event, I refused to be X-rayed for a routine dental appointment and had to sign a waiver acknowledging my refusal. In another event, my son was rushed to the emergency room for an asthma attack and the doctor persuaded me to allow him to get a chest X-ray in case he had pneumonia. In retrospect I s...
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Favorable Mention of My Lab Manual

Posted by Antonio Chaves on Saturday, January 10, 2015, In : environmental news 
While fishing around the internet for mention of my lab manual, I was very pleased to see this favorable comment by Andrew Friedland (see the November 13 entry). Based on the discussion threads I have read on the College Board environmental science forum, I know the textbook who co-wrote with Rick Relaya is very widely used. Now they are putting out a new edition which is thoroughly described in this video.

I met Andrew Friedland at the AP Conference in 2010(?) shortly before he published the ...
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"Free" Community College

Posted by Antonio Chaves on Friday, January 9, 2015, In : education news 
The Obama administration proposed a new program whereby students pay nothing to attend the first two years of any community college. For people (like myself) whose employment depends on enrollment, this may seem like a good thing, but unless you have no qualms about inflating grades or do not mind playing "hatchet man" to a disproportionate number of students, you should not be celebrating: This is little more than gimmick to shore up the youth vote for his party. It also ties in with the idi...
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Tree-Like Wind Energy Structure with Turbine "Leaves"

Posted by Antonio Chaves on Thursday, January 8, 2015, In : environmental news 
This tree-like structure produced in France replaces leaves with mini-turbines that produce electricity. It is quieter and more aesthetically pleasing than standard wind turbines. It also manages to generate electricity even when subjected to light breezes. I would think that this design is also much less likely to kill birds and bats. Maybe this information is not yet available. According to the designers, this "pays for itself" in only two years. I would be more satisfied knowing how much e...
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Floating Greenhouse Also Purifies Water

Posted by Antonio Chaves on Sunday, January 4, 2015, In : environmental news 
This floating greenhouse could make densely-populated port cities much more self-sufficient and sustainable. Using only energy from the sun, these hydroponic farms can purify all the water they need from bodies of water that are either to salty or polluted for human consumption. Given the high labor intensity of hydroponics, this innovation may not be cost-effective in the U.S., but it may work out in developing countries where labor costs are relatively low. Having experienced the pollution,...
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Dumpster House

Posted by Antonio Chaves on Thursday, January 1, 2015, In : environmental news 
While homes built from shipping containers have gotten much attention as a means for building sustainable housing, this house takes minimalism to its extreme. What makes this project particularly interesting is that it is being carried out not by an instructor or architecture or engineering, but someone who teaches environmental science. Having lived in Texas for over 10 years, I think he will have to put an open canopy over it during the summer to avoid getting cooked!

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About this blog

This blog was originally created in January 2013 to serve as a means for providing updates on science activities from the environmental science lab manual Ecology, Development, and Sustainability. I have now expanded its purpose to include other items of interest to science teachers. 

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