Tag Archives: scientific

Our carbon sinks are absorbing twice as much carbon dioxide as they used to

The term ‘carbon sink’ is becoming more common as we all gain the scientific education needed to deal with climate change and global warming.

According to Wikipedia, carbon sinks can be both natural and artificial. Both involve the process of absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, which is called carbon sequestration.

The main natural carbon sinks are the oceans and plants, and with our planet covered in so much water, the oceans are the biggest sinks on Earth. The main artificial ones are landfills and the various carbon capture projects.

In those countries that follow the Kyoto Protocol, the use of artificial carbon sinks can serve as a way to offset other carbon use.

Of course, as we are pumping more carbon into the atmosphere our natural carbon sinks are ingesting more carbon dioxide:

Nature has her own way of dealing with excess carbon dioxide. When human activities spew CO2 into the atmosphere, plants absorb more of it than usual, leading to profuse growth. The ocean, too, swallows more than it otherwise would. Many scientists fret that these so-called carbon sinks risk getting clogged up. Some even suggest that this has already started happening. - The Economist

Some even estimate that the amount of CO2 absorbed by the oceans and plants has doubled. Nobody knows what this means, maybe it can continue and alleviate some of our carbon problems, or there could be a backlash effect.

For more on this, check out The Economist article, That Sinking Feeling.


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An angry math blog sparked a scientific revolution

It began with a frustrated blogpost by a distinguished mathematician. Tim Gowers and his colleagues had been grumbling among themselves for several years about the rising costs of academic journals.

They, like many other academics, were upset that the work produced by their peers, and funded largely by taxpayers, sat behind the paywalls of private publishing houses that charged UK universities hundreds of millions of pounds a year for the privilege of access.

So, in January this year, Gowers wrote an article on his blog declaring that he would henceforth decline to submit to or review papers for any academic journal published by Elsevier, the largest publisher of scientific journals in the world.

He was not expecting what happened next. Thousands of people read the post and hundreds left supportive comments. Within a day, one of his readers had set up a website, The Cost of Knowledge, which allowed academics to register their protest against Elsevier.

The site now has almost 9,000 signatories, all of whom have committed themselves to refuse to either peer review, submit to or undertake editorial work for Elsevier journals. “I wasn’t expecting it to make such a splash,” says Gowers. “At first I was taken aback by how quickly this thing blew up.”

keep readingAcademic spring: how an angry maths blog sparked a scientific revolution

Video of Sicily’s Mount Etna erupting with lava flows and steam sprays

April 13, 2012 – Europe’s highest active volcano, Italy’s Mount Etna, erupted again this week. The eruption, which spewed blood-red molten lava and grey and white ash into the air, is the 24th in a series that started in January 2011.


A decade ago the volcano was at it again, this time more serious. Several thousands residents were forced to evacuate. Tom Pfeiffer was there, 800 meters away in February 2000, during one of the eruptions and described it for us.

From Scientific American:

After a few minutes, the first red spots began dancing above the crater, rising and falling back into it. The explosions grew stronger, first slowly, then with breathtaking speed, throwing bombs more than 1,000 meters above the rim. Soon the volcanic cone surrounding the crater was covered with glowing rocks. At the same time, a fountain of lava started to rise from a fracture on the flank of the cone. Several other fountains rose from the crater and formed a roaring, golden curtain that illuminated the scene like daylight. Some larger lava bombs crashed into the snow not far from us, but we felt secure in our viewing position. The fountain was nearly vertical, and a strong wind carried the mass of glowing lapilli and ash gently away from us.


// Thx to Seth Goldstein