Every month, I spend about a week with an ear to the news, specifically sifting for ideas for this column. I like to plan around something that resonates with me. This month, I’m sick at heart about the catastrophic oil spill. It feels like death. But there are already a lot of people writing about it. Besides, it would make me sad to research it extensively. So I turned my attention to the oceans in general. I was surprised to find out how much they feel the same as the oil spill. But I’m going to write about them anyway. I normally hope you’ll enjoy my column, but in this case, I think I just hope you read it. It’s tough to feel enjoy news about our oceans right now. Continue reading A Most Fundamental Substance: Oil and Oceans
If you’re struggling to lift your spirits out of the Monday slump, maybe a kick-in-the-pants for your imagination will help. So try this for size: Uranus and Neptune may be home to vast oceans of liquid diamond, upon which may be floating icebergs of the same material in its solid phase. Straight out of a space opera, ain’t it? [via NextBigFuture]
And for the sf-geek-audiophiles among you, BoingBoing picked up an enjoyable listen: did you know that the sounds of cracking ice sheets recorded underwater sound remarkably like laser blaster battles from skiffy movies? Well, they do. So turn it up loud, and crab-run around your office wearing a colander on your head while pretending to take out the cat with a well-timed headshot…[audio:http://futurismic.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/01/frost-pattern.mp3]
… ah, I knew there had to be an upside to this working-from-home thing. 🙂
…as we were, here is news of the first incursion into the collossal garbage patch that has collected in the Pacific Ocean:
Scientists surveyed plastic distribution and abundance, taking samples for analysis in the lab and assessing the impacts of debris on marine life.
Before this research, little was known about the size of the “garbage patch” and the threats it poses to marine life and the gyre’s biological environment.
On August 11th, the researchers encountered a large net entwined with plastic and various marine organisms; they also recovered several plastic bottles covered with ocean animals, including large barnacles.
“Finding so much plastic there was shocking,” said Goldstein. “How could there be this much plastic floating in a random patch of ocean–a thousand miles from land?”
This reminds me of the great junk armada depicted in Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.
The Oil Drum Australia has a great post this week about tidal power construction all across the world, including the attractive ‘Energy Island’ concept pictured. The article talks about tidal, ocean current and wave projects from the UK, US, New Zealand, Taiwan and Canada, amongst many others. The UK could potentially derive 25% of its power just from wave energy, not to mention its huge resources of tidal power in the Severn Estuary and on the coasts of Scotland. Also discussed is OTEC (Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion), which creates power from the heat differential between warm surface water and cold deep water.
In other news, Oil has never been higher priced in history than it is today, at $102.08 a barrel. Looks like we’re going to need a lot of this alternative energy supply. One of the projects mentioned at the bottom of the Oil Drum article is for floating islands of power generation producing hydrogen to fuel passing ships. Neat.
The oceans are nature’s way of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere – it’s estimated that one third of human-generated CO2 has been absorbed by the sea. But with the seas becoming more acidic, the rate of CO2 absorption is reduced. But what happens if they become more alkaline? Some Harvard researchers predict we could increase CO2 absorption by speeding up the natural release of basic solutions into the ocean, thus reducing the rate of release of CO2 in the atmosphere, helping corals and sea life affected by more acidic seas, and giving us cake.
There are some downsides, however, including localized pollution (the alkalines would be concentrated around the production plants, thus harming local sea life), price ($100 for every ton or CO2 removed), and energy – if the process were powered by coal, the net effect would be addition of CO2. Renewable energy, like geothermal, is one possibility around this, and in such a case could be more beneficial (CO2-wise) than replacing an entire coal plant.
See here for the abstract, it’s worth it just to read the title.
(article & image via Environmental Science & Technology Online)