Author Archives: scienceisherenow

About scienceisherenow

About me
interested in useful and beautiful science. I work in a lab but I believe you find more interesting science while on the streets, at a local park, when talking with friends or during a trip.

Plastics in labs: from waste management to management of resources

posted on July 29, 2014

The use of plastics in laboratories is often regarded as a factor contributing to pollution-derived damages in natural environments; the reasons pointed are the inefficient current disposable methods and the difficulties associated with effective recycling of a wide variety of consumables, some of which contaminated. Critics say it is ironic that research performed to better understand and protect nature and living beings can lead to such negative impact on ecosystems. Pollution originated form laboratories has finally become a serious matter of debate and new solutions for sustainable use of consumables and correct waste disposal are required. The MIT‘s initiative Working Green at MIT – Green Your Lab is one such example and it is highly significant that most Institutes, Hospitals and Universities share the same concerns. The Health and Safety Offices are usually the places to go for more information on the waste disposal policies of Science-oriented Institutions.

But can we go as far as to turn plastics into assets? The future is now and the answer is definitely yes. Old plastics can turn into new and valuable materials. It’s not recycling as we know it; these processes resemble re-making. Below I have compiled a list of companies – only a few examples, it is not a comprehensive list at all –  that are expected to contribute with bright solutions to a more eco-friendly use of plastics. Or at least so they are claiming (you can decide by yourself if you believe those approaches are the way forward; then please share your thoughts with us!). The new solutions are clever, technologically advanced, and… based on research performed in labs. More irony: it seems as if plastic has contributed to refinements in its own life cycle.

If the near future can bring Green lab consumables, these will lead to Green research, which can then be oriented towards Green discoveries.

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Plastics in labs can be a source of pollution or become a source of energy through the use of newly developed “recycling” strategies. Credits: http://instagram.com/scienceisherenow

A FEW COMPANIES:

Agilyx –  this company is expected to have” a significant impact in the reduction of the disposal of non-recyclable waste plastics, while creating a new source of domestic energy” by “converting previously non-recyclable and low value waste plastics into crude oil”;

Cynar – contributing to the European Union’s objective to achieve Zero Plastics to Landfill by 2020, Cynar claims that the “conversion of waste plastics to useable fuels” is the “alternative and complementary technology to existing waste management technologies”;

RES Polyflow – focusing on renewable energy, this company “makes energy products from difficult to recycle polymer and rubber waste that is destined for landfills or incineration” using “patented fuel conversion equipments” so that landfilled “plastic waste is reduced significantly”;

NIKE – yes, the sports giant has used state-of-the-art recycling technology in its bottles-to-T-shirts operation: for the just finished 2014 World Cup “An average of 9 recycled bottles emerged as a 2014 National Team Jersey”.

Marine Litter – video contest

posted on July 17, 2014

The MARLISCO project and its aim – to stop marine litter together –  was the reason for my last post, which you can read here. One important aspect of the project was the short video competition: youngsters were asked to catch marine litter on film.

In total, more than 2000 students contributed to 379 videos. By participations in the video contest, students became part of the discussion concerning the future of marine ecosystems; at school, they explored various aspects of the problem, including the responsibility of the society towards stoping marine litter and the series of actions that can be taken to minimize the consequences of human action.

Each country selected their best video and the 14 national winners were announced recently. The video above is a compilation of the winning videos (you can also find it here). Some countries have also made their list of videos available on Youtube, such as the UK, with the finalist project entries here.

Marine Litter and MARLISCO

posted on July 15, 2014

Many of us have been or will go on vacation soon and beach destinations around the globe will always be amongst the top destinations. But are we aware of the impact we have on sea ecosystems? The MARLISCO project aims to increase social awareness and co-responsibility.

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Marine environments are threatened by human activities. The european MARLISCO project aims to raise social awareness and co-reponsibility. Credits: http://instagram.com/scienceisherenow

From MARLISCO’s website to be found here:

WHY IS MARINE LITTER A PROBLEM?

Marine Litter – any persistent manufactured or processed solid material that is discarded, disposed or abandoned in the marine and coastal environment – is globally recognised as an emerging threat to the environment, human health and safety, as well as livelihoods.

The project is European and aims to promote responsibility amongst communities and decision-makers through a series of actions. For example, one important activity of MARLISCO is to inform and empower the society, specially in coastal countries; also, a collection of best practices concerning the use of the seas was prepared to be presented to the general public and the institutions interested; exhibitions, workshops, festivals and clean-ups are currently taking place around the European coastline.

Another interesting activity that has taken place was a video contest for youngsters. Students were asked to “collect their visions on the issue of marine litter” and make short videos on the subject. Soon I will be dedicating a post to the award winning videos, so stay in touch!

One major component of marine litter is plastic. Plastics are part of our everyday lives and it would be very difficult to stop using plastic products altogether. In laboratories, plastics are a big part of the waste generated – think about all the tubes, plates, flasks, containers, etc, that are used on a daily basis! So, the proper disposal of laboratory plastic consumables should be a concern of the scientific community. Keep following the blog because there will be more on this subject soon and please share your ideas on this subject in the comments section.

 

 

World Population Day – Solar Decathlon

This post is part of the World Population Day series. You can find the other stories here and here.

Urban Population boom is a challenge all over the world. The United Nations Population Division estimates that two-thirds of the population will be living in cities by the year 2050. In particular, rapid urbanization will take place in Africa and Asia, which can be regarded as an opportunity for improving life conditions in many countries.

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Urban population is increasing fast. Massive changes are on the way regarding the way people live and cities evolve. New sustainable developments are required in the near future. Credits: http://instagram.com/scienceisherenow

To deal with the demand for new and sustainable developments, a very interesting building competition took place in the US some yers ago and has now a new edition, this time on the outskirts of Paris: The Solar Decathlon. Universities from all over the world have built full-scale solar-powered houses to be presented to juries and the public. The 2014 Solar Decathlon competition is taking place in Verasilles, France, with a focus on six different issues concerning sustainability: density, mobility, sobriety, innovation, affordability and local context. The competition section open to the public started on the 28th of June and will end on the 14th of July (tomorrow); meanwhile, winning teams have been announced for each of the ten awards, which include for example “Urban Design, Transportation and Affordability”, “Energy Efficiency” or “Comfort Conditions”, amongst others. For the final decisions, the juries had to bear in mind that renewable energy supplies are required, but more importantly that the demand for energy should be controlled and limited. Also, the rules of the contest point to the need for affordability, which should “remain the key issue for applicable sustainable urban solutions”. Check the video below with a report from this year’s Solar Decathlon Competition:


 

 

 

World Population Day – Food Safety

Today is World Population Day. This post is part of the World Population Day series

FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the corporate charity of the world’s biggest news and information providers Thomson Reuters, have joined efforts to provide global information on issues related with food production, food security, food waste, agriculture, land use, and malnutrition. To improve awareness on hunger is also one of the main purposes. The initiative aims to launch an online food security information service later in the year. You can find more details here.

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Food -related issues, such as food production, food security, food waste, agriculture, land use, malnutrition, hunger will be the focus of this initiative. Image credits: http://instagram.com/scienceisherenow.

Because information is the basis for good decision making, the partnership now established commits to provide “accurate, updated and helpful information about hunger, nutrition and food production challenges”. The Thomson Reuters Foundation website will be the repository of such information and also the place to look for underreported stories that will be available for the general public. For how journalism can impact on people’s live, watch the interview with the Thomson Reuters Foundation Editor-in-Chief, Belinda Goldsmith, on Youtube.

Popular hashtags: #wpd2014, #WorldPopDay, #worldpopulationday, #food, #foodsafety

World Population Day – Every Newborn

This post is part of the World Population Day Series. (11th of July 2014) 

The Lancet medical journal has dedicated a special series of articles to the theme of newborn health around the globe.

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Every Newborn. Credits: http://instagram.com/scienceisherenow #worldpopday

The Every Newborn series,  published on the 20th of May, provides a comprehensive depiction of the progresses concerning the attempts to increase newborn survival. The numbers speak for themselves: every year 2.9 million newborns die and 2.6 million babies are stillborn. The areas of the world where most of the fatalities occur are south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Now, the five papers on Lancet have highlighted that the progress to prevent newborn mortality has been slow and that many child deaths are preventable. In particular, the day of birth was found to be the most dangerous for mother and child survival, and researchers have concluded that special health care measures should be concentrated on the days around birth.

An important aspect concerning these documents: The Executive Summary contains an Action Plan with milestones to end preventable newborn deaths and stillbirths by 2035.

For more information I do recommend The press conference for the Every Newborn series. It was Filmed May 20, 2014, in New York, Kim Eva Dickson, UNICEF Senior Adviser of Maternal and Newborn Health, and Joy Lawn of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine field questions at the Every Newborn press conference. 

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World Population Day Series

On the 11th of July we will celebrate The World Population Day. I am starting here a series of posts on population growth and associated aspects. Expect more on the days to come. Meanwhile, check here for information concerning this important day.

The World Population Day is an annual event. “Whether we can live together equitably on a healthy planet will depend on the choices and decisions we make now” can be read in the UN website Greening the Blue.

 

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World Population Day: 11th of July of 2014. Around the world as the World population increases. Building homes and feeding the ever growing population will remain a challenge. In addition, resources are not unlimited. #worldpopday

Word of the year 2013: Not “selfie” but also starting with S…

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Science the top 1 word of 2013 according to Merriam-Webster dictionaries.

While Oxford Dictionaries have chosen selfie as the word of the year, the Merriam-Webster dictionaries used quite different criteria to establish their 2013 word top and the winner is science. Why so many of us were interested in science during the past year has been a matter of intense discussion in the past couple of days. But one of the major distinguishing traits of science is that it is future-focused above all; so should we have even higher expectations for 2014?

 

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Synthetic DNA fossils

Synthetic DNA fossils have been created but what can we expect from this new tool?

IMG_2354Protocols are for researchers what cookbooks are for Chefs: for some, scratchy notes; for others, the Bible. Just like a Chef who expects to end up with a great desert when following his favorite Creme Brulee recipe, scientists perform protocols with particular aims in mind. Except for… – what can a protocol for making synthetic DNA fossils be used for?

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Age: No more lying

No more lying about your age: your DNA chemistry will let the world know exactly how old your cells are.

IMG_2348One scientist has put together an enormous amount of available bioinformatic information to conclude that the modifications of methylation in each cell’s DNA, which are part of the epigenetics of the cell, can be used as predictors of age.

Steve Horvath, from the University of California Los Angeles (UCLA) has published a paper in the open access journal Genome Biology with a new approach to the information already published by different laboratories in the past years. Importantly, he collected and analyzed large databases of DNA sequences, that were independently compiled in the past, but that could all be compared because they were obtained using the same DNA sequencing technology. The author acknowledges the “ generosity of hundreds of researchers” that provided the “unprecedented collection of DNA methylation data” in publicly available databases.

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