Newsletter 208


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Newsletter 208

  1. 1. SOUTH AMERICA ENVIRONMENT, SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, AND HEALTH NEWSLETTER208 t h issue, October 1st, 2012 ENERGY: Could Helium-3 Really Solve Earth’s Energy Problems? In this issue:  ENERGY: Could Helium-3 If you watched the movie Moon, you remember Helium-3 as the substance Sam Bell was sending Really Solve Earth’s Energy back to Earth, during his onerous three year tenure on the Sarang lunar base. Helium-3 is not a Problems? piece of science fiction, but an isotope of helium that really could provide for all of our energy  CONSERVATION: Bycatch Researchers Work With needs in the future. With absolutely no pollution. Fishers.  BOLIVIA: A Law to Protect Helium-3 is slightly different than the gas that fills birthday balloons. Rather, Helium-3 is a stable Dolphins. isotope of helium that is missing a neutron, with this missing neutron allowing for the production of  BRAZIL: Soy Rally Sends clean energy. The moon holds a tremendous supply of Helium-3 on its surface, but will Helium-3 South American Growers Into Pastures. really be the answer to our energy problems on Earth?  HEALTH: Snake Venom Could Be Used to Treat Two types of fusion reactions make use of Helium-3 to produce clean energy. The first uses Cancer and Diabetes. deuterium (deuterium is hydrogen with a neutron) reacting with Helium-3, to produce helium and a  SPACE: Cosmic proton. The second type of reactions uses two atoms of helium-3 to create helium and two protons. Magnifying Lens Unveils Oldest Galaxy. The protons created during the reaction are the crown jewel of Helium-3 fusion.  CHILE: Pacific Paradise Endangered by Goats, One of the best parts of the proposed Helium-3 reaction is the complete lack of radioactive Cats. byproducts. No neutrons are emitted, and no isotopes are left as products that could radioactively  ENERGY: Successful Test decay. The proton is a particularly nice side product, since clean energy can be harnessed from this of Important Fusion Reactor Component. stray proton by manipulating it in an electrostatic field. Next events: Traditional nuclear fission reactions create heat, which is then used to heat water. The boiling October 1, 2012 water forces turbines to spin and generate World Habitat Day energy. In the Helium-3 fusion process, energy is October 15, 2012 created via the reaction itself, with no nasty Global Handwashing Day radioactive material for future generations to October 31-November3, monitor. 2012, Maryland-U.S. Summit on the Science of The Helium-3 fusion process is not simply Eliminating Health Disparities, U.S.A. theoretical — the University of Wisconsin- Madison Fusion Technology Institute successfully October, 2012 performed fusion experiments combining two COBER molecules of Helium-3. Estimates place the November 12-15, 2012, Israel efficiency of Helium-3 fusion reactions at seventy Fourth International Conference on Drylands, percent, out-pacing coal and natural gas Deserts and Desertification: electricity generation by twenty percent. Implementing Rio+20 for Drylands and Desertification Read more at: really-solve-earths-energy-problems Photo by Steve Jurvetson. Under Creative Commons License. The information contained herein was gathered from news sources from across the region, and the views expressed below do not necessarily reflect those of the Regional Environmental HUB Office or of our constituent posts. Addressees interested in sharing any ESTH-related events of USG interest are welcome to do so. For questions or comments, please contact us at * Free translation prepared by REO staff.
  2. 2. CONSERVATION: Bycatch Researchers Work With Fishers in Asia and South America Purse seine tuna fishers around the world are getting a real-time update on best prac- tices to avoid bycatch thanks to a series of workshops facilitated by the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF). The science-based tuna conservation coalition held its latest round of seminars in sup- port of fleets flagged to Southeast Asian and South American countries. Jefferson Murua, a scientific marine researcher from Spain’s AZTI-Tecnalia, and David Itano, from the University of Hawaii, began a month-long tour of outreach in General Santos City, Philippines earlier this month. They met with 26 purse seine skippers be- fore leaving for the Indonesian cities of Bitung and Jakarta for additional workshops. Next week, Mr Murua will meet with fishers in Manta, Ecuador, where a high turnout is also expected. “Learning from the Filipino and Indonesian captains how their fishery operates is es-Photo by hitthatswitch (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License. sential to design the best bycatch solutions for their region. For example these twofleets are unique because they fish exclusively on payaos (anchored FADs) with no netting, instead using attractors such as coconutleaves and light sources to lure tuna.” said Mr Murua. “Both captains and fisheries officials welcomed the skippers’ workshops andencouraged future collaborations with ISSF to build on purse seine sustainable practices.”The workshops focus primarily on bycatch mitigation techniques that protect marine turtles, sharks, small tuna and other fish. Ses-sions are designed to operate dynamically, with a two-way conversation between the fishery and bycatch scientists holding thesessions, and the skippers and fishermen in attendance who have experience fishing around FADs. New practices and techniquesdiscovered during at-sea research are continuously incorporated into the workshop material.Read more: President Approved a Law to Protect Bolivian Dolphins*On August 15, Bolivian President Evo Morales approved a law declaring Bolivias fresh water pink dolphins (Inia boliviensis, calledlocally “bufeo”) part of the “natural heritage of Bolivia." The law gives priority to the protection and conservation of the aquaticmammals, and will allow the Government of Bolivia to implement protective measures and policies for the threatened species.The pink dolphins are found in the Mamore River tributaries, located in the departments of Santa Cruz, Beni, Pando, and Cocha-bamba. The majority of the dolphins live in the Beni region, which is where President Morales signed the law during a ceremonyhighlighting the importance of the vulnerable animals.During the ceremony, President Morales highlighted the rich fauna of the Bolivian jungle and pointed out that it is essential thatthe national and regional governments coordinate to prioritize the protection and conservation of the dolphins and their habitat.President Morales included comments that it was imperative for the army to help with these conservation efforts.Mariana Escobar, a biologist at Noel Kempff Museum of Natural History in Santa Cruz,said that there is no official record on the number of pink dolphins in existence, butstated that the species, though not endangered, is very vulnerable and needs strongprotections.Two years ago, 26 dolphins were trapped in the Pailas River when it was clogged bymud and waste from deforestation. Authorities in Santa Cruz rescued 19 of the mam-mals and transported them to other rivers.Each dolphin is between 1.80—2.80m long and weighs up to 200kg.Read more at: Photo by Peter Harrison (flickr user). Under Creative Commons License.delfines-bolivianos
  3. 3. BRAZIL: Soy Rally Sends South American Growers Into Pastures By Matt Craze / Mario Sergio LimaLeonildo Bares, a soybean grower near the Amazon farming frontier town of Sinop, said he’s so confident prices for the commoditywill stay near record highs that he’ll extend his crop to neighbors’ boggy cattle pastures.Confined by Brazil’s crackdown on logging in the Amazon, the farmer talked his neighbors into growing soybeans on their clearedland and sharing the profit. Bares, whose 420-hectare (1,038-acre) farm in the center-western state of Mato Grosso extends onwhat was untouched rainforest in the 1970s, plans to boost planting to 650 hectares. About 1 million hectares of the state’s pas-tures, an area the size of Jamaica, probably will be converted to soybean crops in coming years, he predicts.“The pastures of Mato Grosso can be turned into soybean plantations and probably will,” Bares, who’s also the president of Sinop’sfarmers association, said in a telephone interview from the city. “Anyone with the knowledge and money who’s willing to comehere and do it, can do it.”South American farmers like Bares have become the counterpoint to the worst drought in the U.S. Midwest in 76 years as they sowrecord crops during a global shortage of the oilseed used as animal feed in Asia. Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia and Uruguaywill boost output by 34 million metric tons to 148.5 million in the 2012-2013 season, more than offsetting a decline of about 11.5million tons to 71.7 million in the U.S., the Department of Agriculture said yesterday.“Everyone is hoping that the South Americans in general have a bumper harvest,” Sal Gilberte, who helps manage more than $100million at Brattleboro, Vermont-based Teucrium Trading LLC, said in a phone interview. “They are going to plant every square inchwith soybeans.”Futures Rally. Soybeans futures have jumped 45 percent this year on the Chicago Board of Trade, reaching a record $17.89 abushel on Sept. 4, as the U.S. drought triggered concern that China-led demand will outpace supplies.Brazil, which will surpass the U.S. as the top producer for the first time, is leading the South American soybean boom as growersnext month start planting a record 81-million-ton crop, a 23 percent jump from the previous harvest, the USDA said. Most harvest-ing in Brazil starts in February.Cargill Inc., the biggest U.S. agriculture company, built its $20 million Santarem grains loader on the Amazon River to receive ship-ments from places such as Bares’s home city of Sinop, a clearing in the Amazon that lies 1,600 kilometers (994 miles) from SaoPaulo.In Argentina, where drought damaged the past harvest, soybean growers are also expanding into pastures as soil benefits from raincaused by the El Nino weather pattern this year. The country, which is the biggest producer after the U.S. and Brazil, is set to in-crease output 34 percent to a record 55 million tons, the USDA said.‘More Dependent’. “The world has become more dependent on Brazil and Argentina to raise soybeans,” said Douglas Carper, theprincipal of Omaha, Nebraska-based DEC Capital Inc., a commodity trading adviser and hedge-fund consultant.Soybean growers in Paraguay, a country the size of Texas located southwest of Brazil, will turn vast cattle ranches in the country’scentral region into crops, said Luis Cubilla, a researcher for growers association Capeco. The country’s next soybean harvest willdouble to 8.1 million tons, according to the USDA estimates. Neighboring Uruguay’s will climb 19 percent to 1.9 million tons. Bolivian farmers, who don’t have to contend with Brazil’s stricter forestry laws, have been slashing trees to cash in on the soybean boom, Tito Choque, a farmer and represen- tative of growers association Anapo, said in a telephone interview from San Pedro, an Amazonian town in the country’s southeast. The drive means output will rise 4.5 percent to 2.3 million tons, according to the USDA estimates. Read more: pasturesPhoto by Macomb Paynes (flickr user). Under Creative CommonsLicense.
  4. 4. HEALTH: CHANGE: World Bank Unveils 10-Year Environmental StrategyCLIMATE Snake Venom Could Be Used to Treat Cancer, Diabetes By Lisa Friedman Snakes are able to convert their venom back into harmless molecules that scientists say could help find a cancer cure. A joint British-Australian study of venom and tissue gene sequences in snakes showed that venom not only evolved from regular cells but could be turned back into harmless proteins. Gavin Huttley, from the Australian team, said it was the first time snakes venom had been shown to evolve back into regular tissues and was a significant finding for the development of drugs for conditions like cancer or diabetes. Snake venom typically targets the same physiological pathways as many human diseases and Huttley said understanding how the venom molecule changed form could help scientists develop new drugPhoto by Tony Alter (flickr). Under cures.Creative Commons License. Some snake venoms, for example, cause the cells that line blood vessels to separate and die, includingthe kinds that feed cancerous tumors, and Huttley said mapping how that worked could lead to more effective cancer treatments."It highlights that venom molecules, these things that actually kill us, in fact are just derivatives of normal proteins," said Huttley,from the Australian National University."By studying the molecular events you get an idea about what it takes to make a protein to target those specific physiological func-tions," he said. Huttley described a snakes venom gland as "like a small drug company, running huge numbers of experiments onevolutionary timescales with new molecules and seeing what works".The scientists had essentially "piggybacked" on the snakes internal research to try and map the amino acid changes involved in theevolution of regular cells into venom and back again, he said.Read more: Cosmic Magnifying Lens Unveils Oldest Galaxy By Irene KlotzScientists have discovered the strongest evidence yet for a 13.2-billion-year old galaxy, afinding that provides a key piece of information about the universes early childhood."This is the most distant (galaxy) identified with high confidence," astronomer WeiZheng, with Johns Hopkins University, told Discovery News. "If our current universe is aman of 70 years of age, we have reached an infant of 2.5-years young," Zheng wrote inan email. "It is like an archaeologist finding an oldest piece in history."From the cosmic microwave background radiation, scientists figure that the universe be-gan about 13.7 billion years ago. It evolved quickly. By the time the universe was 1.4 bil-lion years old, it not only was filled with galaxies, but the hydrogen gas between the gal-axies had become highly ionized. Photo by NASA.This Hubble Space Telescope image shows distantThe universes baby steps to reach this stage are largely missing from the picture, primar- galaxies brought into view by a cosmic magnifier, the galaxy clusterily because telescopes to image objects back that far in time are still in the planning Abell distant Astronomers used enlarge this image.image an even more 2218. galaxy. Click to another cluster to NASA/Spacestages. But Zheng and colleagues found another way. Objects with extremely powerful Telescope Science Institutegravity, such as a cluster of galaxies, will bend and sometimes magnify light from a moredistant object, relative to Earths line of sight. Occasionally, the warped space will bring into focus a more distant object, a phe-nomenon known as gravitational lensing. That is what Zheng and colleagues counted on when they used the Hubble Space Tele-scope to search for magnified galaxies behind some massive nearby clusters.They found one, magnified by a factor of 15 times, that is believed to date back to just 500 million years after the Big Bang. Themagnifier, a massive galaxy cluster known as MACS1149+2223, is one of the most powerful gravitational lenses in the sky, with amass of 2 million billion suns. "Even with the deepest images yet obtained by Hubbles infrared camera, it has proved extremelydifficult to break through to the first 500 million years of cosmic time," noted University of Arizona astronomer Daniel Stark.Read full article at:
  5. 5. CHILE: Pacific Paradise Endangered by Goats, Cats By Eva VergaraIts still a natural paradise far out in the Pacific, with thick jungles and stunningly steep andverdant slopes climbing out of the sea. But much of the splendor in the tiny Chilean is-lands that likely inspired Daniel Defoes "Robinson Crusoe" castaway novel is being eatenaway.Nearly four centuries of human contact have left many slopes denuded, their trees andplants lost to logging and fires, or devoured by imported goats and rabbits. Jungles re-main, but invasive species are crowding out the unique native plants and birds thatevolved during more than a million years of splendid isolation. "Its a textbook example ofhow to degrade an ecosystem," said Cristian Estades of the University of Chile, an expert Photo by d_robichaud (flickr). Under Creative Commonson the islands birds. License.A handful of biologists, environmentalists, teachers and Chilean government officials are working with islanders on projects to saveendangered species by eliminating non-native plants and animals. In a world full of daunting environmental challenges, they saythis one can be solved with enough time, effort and money, in part because the three islands are so remote — 416 miles (670 kilo-meters) west of the Chilean mainland.Chile has a $12 million plan to keep more outside species from reaching the Juan Fernandez archipelago and control whats alreadyhere. Island Conservation and other nonprofit groups say $20 million is needed just to start, by baiting the jungles with poison andflying hunters in on helicopters to eliminate animals that dont belong. Millions more would then be needed to keep invaders outand restore the natives.Neither plan is fully funded, however, and at this point the scientists involved can do little more than document whats disappear-ing. The islands were declared a world biosphere reserve by the United Nations in 1977. For their size, a total of just 38 squaremiles (100 square kilometers), they are 61 times richer in plant diversity and 13 times richer in bird life than the Galapagos, accord-ing to Island Conservation.They still have 137 plants and a handful of bird species found nowhere else in the world, including a brilliant red hummingbird andthe Dendroseris gigantea, a species so rare that until a few years ago, there was only a single tree left alive.Read more at: Successful Test of Important Fusion Reactor ComponentNuclear fusion is one of the hottest energy topics, both literally and figuratively, because it couldsupply the world with prodigious amounts of power from relatively small amounts of fuel andwith little waste. There are different approaches to this technology though, such as the tokomakdesign of ITER and the inertial design being developed at Sandia National Laboratories. The iner-tial design us powerful magnetic fields to suddenly collapse heated fuel to the critical point ofnuclear fusion, and a recent test at Sandia suggests they may achieve the break-even point in thenear future.That Magnetized Liner Inertial Fusion (MagLIF) concept being developed at Sandia has as one ofits components a cylindrical container that holds the fuel before the fusion reactor. This containeris subject to amazingly powerful magnetic fields that cause the container to collapse, but theyalso induce a current that vaporizes the outer layers of the cylinder. If the cylinder is too thin, thecurrent will cause it to fall apart before fusion occurs, but if it is too thick then energy will bewasted crushing it. Theoretical models predicted what an optimal thickness and the researchershave just successfully tested it as the container did survive the magnetic fields. Photo by mk30 (flickr user) . Under CreativeThis is a more positive sign than just a successful test because the models that determined the Commons License.thickness also predict the break-even point for this reactor design. While there is certainly moreconfidence in the model, it will not be until next year that the fully integrated reactor will be tested against it.Read more at: