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New residential water heater concept promises high efficiency, lower cost

A team of scientists from the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Florida has developed a novel method that could yield lower-cost, higher-efficiency systems for water heating in residential buildings.The theory behind the newly termed “semi-open” natural gas-fired design, explained in an ORNL-led paper published in Renewable Energy: An International Journal, reduces the cost and complexity of traditional closed gas-fired systems by streamlining, and even eliminating, certain components.

Trees' surprising role in the boreal water cycle quantified

Approximately 25 to 50 percent of a living tree is made up of water, depending on the species and time of year. The water stored in trees has previously been considered just a minor part of the water cycle, but a new study by University of Alaska Fairbanks scientists shows otherwise.Research published this week in Nature Scientific Reports is the first to show that the uptake of snowmelt water by deciduous trees represents a large and previously overlooked aspect of the water balance in boreal watersheds. The study was led by Jessica Young-Robertson, who worked with other scientists from the National Weather Service and UAF's International Arctic Research Center and Geophysical Institute.

Provisional names announced for super heavy elements 113, 115, 117, and 118

The International Union of Pure and Applied Chemistry (IUPAC) Inorganic Chemistry Division has published a Provisional Recommendation for the names and symbols of the recently discovered superheavy elements 113, 115, 117, and 118.The provisional names for 115, 117 and 118 — originally proposed by the discovering team from the Joint Institute for Nuclear Research, Dubna, Russia; the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Oak Ridge, Tennessee, and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Livermore, California; and Vanderbilt University, Nashville, Tennessee — will now undergo a statutory period for public review before the names and symbols can be finally approved by the IUPAC Council.

Illegal gold mining in Brazil exposing indigenous peoples to high levels of mercury

Illegal gold mining in the Amazon has a devastating effect on indigenous peoples, writes Sarina Kidd. First the miners bring disease, deforestation and even murder. Then long after they have gone, communities are left to suffer deadly mercury poisoning. Now the UN has been called on to intervene.In Brazil, new statistics reveal alarming rates of mercury poisoning amongst the Yanomami and Yekuana. 90% of Indians in one community are severely affected, with levels far above that recommended by the WHO.Mercury poisoning is devastating tribal peoples across Amazonia, Survival International has warned. 

Low-energy sweetners do help reduce calorie intake

Use of low energy sweeteners (LES) in place of sugar, in children and adults, leads to reduced calorie intake and body weight – and possibly also when comparing LES beverages to water – according to a review led by researchers at the University of Bristol published in the International Journal of Obesity today.For the first time, all available science was integrated into a single review to evaluate the real impact of LES, such as saccharin, aspartame, sucralose and stevia, on energy intake (EI) and body weight (BW) over the short- and long-term.  A considerable weight of evidence confirmed that consuming LES instead of sugar helps reduce relative energy intake and body weight. 

United Nations warns on pesticides

The UN's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) said Friday (20 March) that three pesticides, including the popular weed killer Roundup, were “probably” carcinogenic and two others, which have already been outlawed or restricted, were “possibly” so.IARC classified the herbicide glyphosate – the active ingredient in Roundup – and the insecticides malathion and diazinon as “probably carcinogenic” on the basis of “limited evidence” of cancer among humans.

China bans carved ivory imports

China has established a one-year ban on imports of carved African elephant ivory. Conservationists say the move, effective immediately, sends an important signal, but alone won't be enough to slow elephant poaching. “This announcement is an encouraging signal that the Chinese government is ratcheting down the import of African elephant ivory into the country,” said Iris Ho, director of wildlife for Humane Society International, in a statement. “We are hopeful that more meaningful actions are being considered by the leadership and relevant government agencies of China that will further strengthen the country’s efforts on combating the elephant poaching and ivory trafficking crisis.”

The Yukon Quest International Sled Dog race and climate change

For more than 30 years, the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest International Sled Dog race, which begins Saturday, has followed the Yukon River between Whitehorse, Canada, and Fairbanks, Alaska.A little open water along the Yukon Quest trail is nothing new, but in recent years, long unfrozen stretches of the Yukon River have shaken even the toughest mushers.Last year, musher Hank DeBruin of Ontario had stopped along the Yukon River to rest his dog team in the middle of the night, when the ice started to break up.

New report finds bamboo may help mitigate climate change, reduce fossil fuel use, protect forests

Restoring degraded land and forests with the world’s fastest growing plant, bamboo, can contribute to major carbon emission reductions. This is according to a new report released at the COP20 in Lima by the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) that discusses the massive potential of bamboo in fighting global warming, with bamboo forests projected to store more than one million tons of carbon by 2050 in China alone. 

New report finds bamboo may help mitigate climate change, reduce fossil fuel use, protect forests

Restoring degraded land and forests with the world’s fastest growing plant, bamboo, can contribute to major carbon emission reductions. This is according to a new report released at the COP20 in Lima by the International Network for Bamboo and Rattan (INBAR) that discusses the massive potential of bamboo in fighting global warming, with bamboo forests projected to store more than one million tons of carbon by 2050 in China alone.