Not only did coffee make the concrete 30% stronger but the already used grounds did not end up in a landfill, a significant savings since the world’s coffee drinkers create 10 billion kg (11 million tons!) of spent coffee every year.
If the idea catches on, coffee waste will reduce the need for sand in concrete …
… which will reduce the need to mine so much sand, a finite resource.
Will piles of sand at concrete plants be replaced by piles of biochar coffee? Imagine what it would smell like at a cement plant, like this one along the Parkway East near Uptown, satellite view below.
The mosaic is made of cells in the woody stem of a one year old tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera), sliced thin and magnified 100 times. The colors and shapes are specific to the species and its age. The description indicates that things change at lot in a one year old tulip tree.
The mosaic slice was photographed in 2014 at Berkshire Community College in Pittsfield, MA from a sapling that probably grew in Western Massachusetts.
When a tulip tree grows up it has leaves and flowers like this.
Still beautiful and intricate even when not magnified.
For more information on the mosaic image see the description of the image here. It is so technical that I need a glossary to figure out what it means.
We’ve been paying attention to air quality this summer as Canadian wildfire smoke blows into town. The smoke that reaches us, called smog or soot in the chart below, is labelled PM2.5 by air monitors (the particles are less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter). As you can see there’s a lot of other stuff in the air that the monitors are not analyzing — but they could. In the past few years scientists have discovered that we can check the air for DNA.
In 2021 Mark Johnson, a graduate student at Texas Tech, realized that pollen and plant fragments are such a big component of air quality that he decided to compare manual plant surveys to eDNA measurements at Texas Tech University’s Native Rangeland.
The two methods complemented each other. Manual surveys detected 80 species while eDNA found 91 using the devices pictured below. According to Science Magazine, “eDNA was better at finding easily overlooked species with small flowers, such as weakleaf bur ragweed. But people were better at spotting plants too rare to release much eDNA, particularly when they had showy flowers, such as the chocolate daisy.”
It was only a matter of time before similar air monitoring was used to detect animals.
Two recent studies — one in the UK, the other in Copenhagen — collected and analyzed air samples for animal DNA. And they found it. To prove their equipment, each study located air samplers near a zoo and both found zoo animal DNA. According to NPR, the Copenhagen study “picked up 49 animal species including rhinos, giraffes and elephants. ‘We even detected the guppy that was living in the pond in the rainforest house.'”
And so we’ve come full circle from detecting fish DNA in water to detecting it in the air.
Ever since we became a group of united states on 4 July 1776 we’ve grappled with the interplay of national versus state laws and culture. We even have national and state birds.
The bald eagle takes center stage today on the Fourth of July but our national bird is celebrated all year long. Meanwhile state birds are rarely mentioned. This map from VividMaps shows who they are, though Alaska’s willow ptarmigan and Hawaii’s nene are not pictured.
Many states have designated the same bird:
7 states chose northern cardinals from Illinois to North Carolina
6 states chose western meadowlarks from Oregon to Kansas
5 states chose northern mockingbirds from Texas to Tennessee to Florida.
Half the states have unique birds including:
Pennsylvania: Ruffed grouse
California: California quail
Oklahoma: Scissor-tailed flycatcher
Maryland: Baltimore oriole
South Dakota: ring-necked pheasant (imported from Eurasia)
… and 20 more states
Why isn’t the peregrine falcon pictured for Idaho? The peregrine is Idaho’s State Raptor. So there are more than 51 Birds of State in the U.S.
Compared to the size of our planet we humans aren’t particularly large but with billions of us pumping groundwater we have changed the tilt of the Earth. Slightly.
The angle of Earth’s axial tilt varies over a period of 26,000 years (precession) from 22.1 to 24.5 degrees, but within that it wobbles due to sloshing liquids like molten lava, ocean currents, and massive air currents such as hurricanes.
This very short video shows the North Pole wandering as the axis wobbles.
Earth’s spin axis wobbles, its North Pole tracing out a roughly 10-meter-wide circle every year or so. The center of this wobble also drifts over the long term; lately, it has been tilting in the direction of Iceland by about 9 centimeters per year. …
Now, scientists have found that a significant amount of the polar drift results from human activity: pumping groundwater for drinking and irrigation.
To find out what affected Earth’s axial tilt, Clark R. Wilson at the University of Texas at Austin and his colleagues built a model of polar wander factoring in all the sloshing over time, including changes to surface water. But the model was missing something.
When the researchers also put in 2150 gigatons of groundwater that hydrologic models estimate were pumped between 1993 and 2010, the predicted polar motion aligned much more closely with observations. Wilson and his colleagues conclude that the redistribution of that water weight to the world’s oceans has caused Earth’s poles to shift nearly 80 centimeters during that time, reported Thursday in Geophysical Research Letters.
Just because black bears don’t have thumbs doesn’t mean they can’t get into cars and trucks. If there’s food inside a vehicle they have a big incentive to open it, even if it means breaking the glass and bending metal, as shown above in California.
This week in Evergreen, Colorado a bear smelled dog food inside a truck in a driveway. Since the truck was unlocked he didn’t have to break the windows and doors to get in.
See what happened next in this tweet from Colorado Parks and Wildlife — Northeast Region (@CPW_NE).
Dog food + unlocked truck = bear trapped in your truck
?up to listen our wildlife officer free the bear and scare it from the area. Good lesson to bring in food from your vehicles! Bears can smell it and learn how to open doors. pic.twitter.com/hKkgfwrXoH
Whenever I go birding I make a list — on paper — of the birds I see using the four-letter code for each species. When I get home I type the paper list into eBird. This paper list became this checklist.
Why don’t I just enter the birds directly into the eBird app on my phone? Unfortunately I learned long ago that if I look at my phone in the woods I start to read email, respond to text messages, check the news … and suddenly I’m not birding anymore and I’ve got a whole new set of Things To Do that I didn’t need to trouble with yet. So to keep myself focused I write a paper list.
The codes are easy to remember (see the rules here) except where the rules resolve to the same thing for two or more birds. The overlap codes are the ones I forget:
Bay-breasted warbler (should be BBWA, I wrote BAYB)
Blackpoll warbler (should be BLPW, I wrote BLKPOLL) and
Blackburnian warbler (should be BLBW, I wrote BLKBUR).
I remembered these, though:
BAOR = Baltimore oriole
CHSP = Chipping sparrow
MAWA = Magnolia warbler
My list should have been:
Where did the codes come from? If you’ve read this far you might be curious.
Geneticist Kathleen Morrill compared Balto’s DNA with more than 600 genomes of wolves, coyotes, and dogs of different breeds including modern sled dog breeds such as Siberian huskies, more physically and genetically isolated sled dogs in Greenland, and “village dogs”— ownerless canines that live in Africa, South America, and Asia and make up 80% of the world’s dogs.
Being from a place where free-ranging dogs are rare because they’re collected by Animal Control, I was amazed to learn that more than three quarters of the dogs on Earth are “village” or “street” dogs.
I had a taste of this on my trip to Ecuador in February. I saw many, many free-ranging dogs in the cities, villages and the rural countryside.
The dogs in Quito understood busy streets and the ebb and flow of traffic. They jaywalked when the street was clear to feast on the garbage bags placed on the median for collection. This was obviously a problem in rural places where people built raised platforms for their trash bags.
Not all of the dogs were on the street. I saw them perched on balconies …
… and on roofs.
At first I thought the street dogs were ownerless strays but then I noticed some had collars.
Veterinarian Nancy Kay visited Ecuador in 2016 and asked questions about the street dogs. She learned that most had owners but the owner-dog relationship is different than we’re used to in the States. Her insights include (paraphrased from her The Street Dogs of Ecuador blog):
“Much like ravens and crows, these street dogs always managed to get out of the way [of vehicles] just in the nick of time.
For the most part the dogs are owned solely for the purpose of property protection.
While the dogs go home at night, most of their daylight hours are spent out on the streets.
Most receive a modicum of food from their owners, so must rely on food found on the streets to sustain themselves.”