Tag Archive | "MIT"

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Will We Use an Agreement to Save the Bees?

Posted on 23 August 2016 by Jerry

Scientists report good news about the closing of the ozone hole at the South Pole. Fortunately the human species banned chlorofluorocarbons with the Montreal Protocol that was signed September 16, 1987, almost 30 years ago by 25 nations. Over 165 nations are now a party to the agreement. A couple of recent articles in this blog cite progress made by the US with China and India (see http://iamaguardian.com/1849/u-s-and-india-to-reduce-use-of-hydrofluorocarbons/ and http://iamaguardian.com/1542/the-more-we-understand-ozone-the-less-we-know/ ).

Susan Solomon of MIT led the team that evaluated the ozone hole in Septembers of multiple years. As reported by National Geographic in June of this year, “Solomon’s team found that, in recent years, the hole is not eclipsing the 12-million-square-kilometer threshold until later in the southern spring, which indicates that the September hole is shrinking. In fact, the researchers believe the ozone hole has shrunk by more than 4 million square kilometers. Furthermore, the hole is not as deep as it used to be.”

Human beings have used their chemicals and banned some of them to right ozone wrongs they committed. Can we, will we do it again to save the bees? Can we convince or mandate through law that select businesses will no longer use banned chemicals to hurt the bees? Can we ban or severely limit the use of neonicotinoid insecticides (insecticides based upon the use of a chemical similar to nicotine)?

An article appeared in the New Scientist in July of 2016. It said, “Exposure to neonicotinoids, a type of pesticide widely used on crops, reduced the percentage of viable sperm in male honeybees (drones) and also shortened the insects’ lifespans, according to a study published today (July 27) in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.” The study observes that the queens of the colony collect sperm from the drones and store it for future fertilization. If the sperm is bad the future reproduction is compromised.

Shell and Bayer both developed these insecticides. Chemical companies around the globe now sell them. In addition, as of 2011, Bayer, Syngenta, Sumitomo Chemical, Nippon Soda, and Mitsui Chemical made derivatives of these products. These products are now widely used for instance in the U.S. where they are used on 95% of corn and canola crops, most cotton, sorghum, sugar beats and about half of all soybeans. In addition they are used on the majority of all fruits, vegetables and nuts.

An article in Nature magazine was published online in August of this year said as follows, “In 2013, the European Union imposed a 2-year moratorium on the use of neonicotinoids to protect both domesticated and wild bees. This moratorium is scheduled to be formally reviewed in 2016, although exemptions to this ban have already been implemented in the UK.”

In addition the article continued, “Our results provide the first evidence that sub-lethal impacts of neonicotinoid exposure can be linked to large-scale population extinctions of wild bee species, with these effects being strongest for species that are known to forage on oilseed rape crops. These results support the findings of previous studies on commercially bred pollinators that have identified the underlying mechanisms affecting mortality. This study extends existing evidence from a limited number of model species to the wider community of bees found in agricultural landscapes. These findings provide an important contribution to the evidence base underpinning the current moratorium on the use of this insecticide in the European Union.”

In an article on this blog last year (see http://iamaguardian.com//?s=bees&x=0&y=0 ) we described the value of bees to all of us. We said, “Feral bees, or the other 3,999 species in the U.S., are dying.  Feral bees are the large majority of bees.  They are often solitary, stingless and ground nesting.  Estimates place the annual value of all bees in the U.S. Economy at between $14,000,000,000 and $20,000,000,000.”

We continued, “This is because they are a key pollinator of hundreds of plants we depend upon.  These include beans, tomatoes, onions, carrots, oilseeds, sunflowers, fruits and plants such as clover that our livestock are dependent upon.  Another way to estimate the value is to recognize that one out of every three bites of food you take has some dependence on bees.”

So the question is should we seriously restrict or ban entirely the neonicotinoid pesticides? Should this be another Montreal Protocol? Should we find the countries beyond the European Union to support a worldwide ban? The answer is yes!

We should begin our quest to save the bees and ourselves by banning production of the offending chemicals. We should write to our president or presidential candidates to have them initiate the international cooperation to save our bees and ourselves. We should insist that this effort be taken in our name to save the future agriculture needed to feed the world.

Use the following links to access additional information or articles used to prepare this article.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/06/antarctic-ozone-hole-healing-fingerprints/

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-36674996

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/353/6296/269

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/despite-volcanic-setback-antarctic-ozone-hole-healing

http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/46652/title/Pesticides-Reduce-Male-Honeybee-Fertility–Study/

http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/283/1835/20160506

http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms12459

http://e360.yale.edu/feature/bee_collapse_co2_climate_change_agriculture/2991/

http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/283/1835/20160506

 

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Bright Idea

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Mixing Oil to Get Water

Posted on 21 February 2013 by Jerry

He was taking his Ph.D. qualifying exam at MIT and his interviewers were intrigued when he described the effect of soybean oil on glycerol.  This launched Anurg Bajpayee’s investigation of how we could use oils to remove impurities from water.  An article in the December 2012 Scientific American entitled “World Changing Ideas 2012” listed his work as one of “10 innovations that are radical enough to alter our lives”.

When soybean oil is heated to as little as 40° C it can absorb water and leave behind contaminant molecules which can be skimmed away.  Once the oil is allowed to cool, cleansed water flows back into the container.  While it is clear that you would have to use more soybean oil than is cost effective, Anurg felt the basic principle was sound if he could only find the right substance.  He was looking for a directional solvent to replace the oil.

This “directional solvent extraction or molecular desalination” served as the raison d’être of a new company, GreenTree Building Energy (P) Ltd.  Anurg Bajpayee co-founded the company in his home country of India targeting this and other water treatment technologies.  An article in MIT’s MechE News quotes Bajpayee as stating, “It’s called an extraction method because we’re extracting water from other things, as opposed to targeting a particular contaminant. It doesn’t involve membranes, boiling, or complex machinery.”

The article further states that in desalination “Contaminated water is added to a solvent, the mixture is heated up, and the water is dissolved into the solvent. The contaminants are rejected and removed, and upon cooling, the pure water precipitates out and is collected. The solvent is reused.”

Conventional water treatment involves large facilities which use reverse osmosis, requiring filtering membranes, distillation, which is energy intensive, and putting the output water back into the water table by pumping it into a disposal well.  Bajpayee’s process works even better on saltier brines such as those that are produced as a result of water that flows back into oil and gas wells.  Given all of these different water treatment needs, GreenTree sees a bright future for itself.

Earlier blog articles have identified a shortage of clean drinking water as a major problem looming in the future.  This shortage will be the result of increasing populations making greater and greater demands on an area’s natural resources and diminishing water sources as a result of climate change.  This technology, and others mentioned previously, will be essential if we are to reuse the water we do have much more cost effectively.

Use the following links to obtain more information:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=world-changing-ideas-2012-innovations-radical-enough-alter-lives

http://meche.mit.edu//news/mechenews/index.html?id=170

http://www.greentree-india.com/

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