I haven’t been posting much the last several months, but nonetheless, I’ve got a Google Reader loaded with discoveries that I’ve been meaning to write posts on. Here’s a round up:
• At last, we know why we yawn! This is one of those things that all my childhood science books had to write off as “we have no idea”, but now some Binghamton University (née SUNY Binghamton) scientists say they have a theory: we yawn to regulate our brain temperature. We yawn more when we’re going to sleep or getting up because our body is making metabolic changes that mess with homeostasis. Anyway, they tested it by making parakeets yawn, which I think we can all agree is nifty. (Thanks Greg)
•The EPA has a most wanted list. Who knew the EPA even had a criminal division? The list includes a freon smuggler, a guy charged with possessing “ozone depleting substances”, a guy who illegally imported cars that do not meet emissions standards, a guy who dug a secret waste pipe to discharge chemicals into the Mississippi River (whiff of Zodiac here), and a bunch of others. We are advised not to try and apprehend these criminals.
• German scientists have devised a way to make liquid wood. They take a waste product from paper making, mix it with wax, and voila, a kind of bio-plastic made with 100% renewable materials.
• Happy people read and socialize. Unhappy people watch TV. A 30 year study concludes that unhappy people take the easy way out by watching television, which requires no planning, dressing up, or organization, and that happy people prefer the interacting with other people. But what about the happy people watching Battlestar Galactica? No explanation.
• The one form of carbon sequestration I find really questionable is tree planting. Trees definitely sequester carbon, but it’s hard to imagine they really offset something like a coal-based power plant. Or at least, I think you’d need a lot of trees. Thankfully, the U.S. Forest Service has ridden to the rescue with a carbon-sequestering calculator. You have to download the software, but you can enter the tree species, local climate, and other factors to get a sense of just how much CO2 a given tree is taking out of the atmosphere.
That’s about all the time I have for now. More another day.