Sea urchins reveal surprising carbon capture method

Carbon capture and sequestration in underground reservoirs isn’t the most practical or cost effective way to reduce atmospheric CO2 levels. It would be much simpler if CO2 could be quickly and cheaply converted into a harmless, solid mineral before it is released into the atmosphere. A team from the U.K.’s Newcastle University may have stumbled across a way to achieve this thanks to the humble sea urchin.

As part of their research into what happens when CO2 reacts with water – known as the carbonic acid reaction – the researchers were looking for a catalyst to speed up the process. By chance, Dr Lidija Šiller, a physicist and Reader in Nanoscale Technology at Newcastle University, was looking at the way in which organisms absorb CO2 into their skeletons at the same time.

Dr Šiller was looking specifically at the sea urchin, which converts CO2 into calcium carbonate to form its endoskeleton. “When we analyzed the surface of the urchin larvae we found a high concentration of nickel on their exoskeleton,” says Dr Šiller. “Taking nickel nanoparticles which have a large surface area, we added them to our carbonic acid test and the result was the complete removal of CO2…”

The research team developed a process to capture CO2 from waste gas by passing it directly from a chimney top through a water column rich in nickel nanoparticles. The solid calcium carbonate can then be recovered at the bottom of the column.

The researchers say their discovery could provide big CO2 emitters, such as power stations and chemical processing plants, with a cheap way to capture and store their waste CO2 before it is released into the atmosphere. Since calcium carbonate is already used to make cement and other building materials, the material can also be put to good use.

“Our process would not work in every situation – it couldn’t be fitted to the back of a car, for example – but it is an effective, cheap solution that could be available world-wide to some of our most polluting industries and have a significant impact on the reduction of atmospheric CO2,” said Dr Šiller.

Bravo! Some universities – I imagine and hope more often than my experience tells me – seem to mind the course of experimentation and research the way the original Hewlett-Packard did. Management by wandering around. Encouraging those who study and seek to cross intellectual paths with their peers regardless of discipline.

I have a couple of favorites. Only because they take the time to keep a public journal, so to speak, of how some projects lead to results like this one. We all should be grateful.

So, um, what’s the Venture Capital scene like in Newcastle, anyway?

Gay marriage an important step forward, says British Prime Minister — House of Commons agrees

MPs have approved same-sex marriage in England and Wales in a key Commons vote, despite the opposition of almost half the Conservative MPs.

The Commons voted in favour of the Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill, by 400 to 175, a majority of 225, at the end of a full day’s debate on the bill.

Prime Minister David Cameron has described the move as “an important step forward” that strengthens society…

Junior justice minister Helen Grant said: “As Tories we do differ at times. We have squabbles – we’re like any other family.”

But she described the legislation as “a major step forward for equality and justice”…

Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg said: “I genuinely believe that we will look back on today as a landmark for equality in Britain.

“Tonight’s vote shows Parliament is very strongly in favour of equal marriage.

“No matter who you are and who you love, we are all equal. Marriage is about love and commitment, and it should no longer be denied to people just because they are gay…

MPs were given a free vote on the bill, meaning they were not ordered to vote a particular way by party whips…

Opposition leader Ed Miliband said: “This is a proud day and an important step forward in the fight for equality in Britain.

“The overwhelming majority of Labour MPs supported this change to make sure marriage reflects the value we place on long-term, loving relationships whoever you love.

Anyone care to venture how much success a Center-Right coalition would have in passing such a vote through the United States Congress?

Even more important, I guess, is that this is an expression of the whole House of Commons. Each party will have the opportunity to claim leadership and dedication to civil rights and they should. And that, too, takes me back to what Congress, nowadays, seems to lack.

Diaper wars leave Norwegian baby bottoms uncovered

Southern Norway is in the midst of a diaper shortage after a supermarket price war lured enterprising bulk shoppers from eastern Europe who have cleaned out the shelves…

Norway is one of the world’s most expensive countries. However, supermarkets in the south trying to lure local customers by undercutting rivals on the price of “nappies” inadvertently made it profitable enough for residents of nearby countries to start trading in them.

“They buy every last diaper, I mean everything we have on the shelves, throw it in the back of their car and take them home, where they sell it for a nice profit,” says Terje Ragnar Hansen, a regional director for retail chain Rema 1000.

It’s not stealing and it’s not even criminal but it’s a big problem, … they leave nothing for our regular customers…”

Customers come into Norway from Sweden, drive along the coast to fill their cars, then take a ferry back to the continent, said Helge Breilid, the chief of customs in Kristiansand on Norway’s southern coast.

Some have been stopped with diapers worth up to 50,000 crowns, roughly 80,000 diapers, a legal shipment even though Norway is not part of the European Union.

“They told us that the only reason they came to Norway was to drive around and buy diapers to bring back home and resell,” Breilid said.

All’s fair in love and war – some people say. Apparently, that includes baby’s bottoms. Turning Norway into a diaper drive-through.

Marine Corps says Camp Lejeune water was never tested – in violation of Corps own regulations

Died at the age of 9

The Marine Corps has repeatedly argued federal law didn’t regulate the cancer-causing pollutants that fouled the drinking water at Camp Lejeune until long after the contamination was discovered.

But the Corps’ own regulations, starting in 1963, required water testing at the North Carolina base and other Marine bases using a method that some say could have provided a warning about tainted water, according to documents and interviews…

The Marine Corps’ regulations mandated such testing annually, or every two years if water quality was “stable.”

But no record of CCE testing at Camp Lejeune can be found in the thousands of pages of documents detailing what some believe to be the worst drinking-water contamination in U.S. history…

To critics of the Marine Corps, the test was a lost opportunity to catch a public health disaster in its early years. Today, more than 185,000 people who drank, cooked and bathed in the polluted water from 1953 to 1987 have signed up for a health registry…

“They created these rules to protect their people,” said former Marine drill instructor Jerry Ensminger, who served at Lejeune. His 9-year-old daughter, Janey, conceived at the base, died of leukemia in 1985. “They didn’t have the discretion to ignore them.”

The Janey Ensminger Act, which provides health care to veterans and family exposed to Lejeune’s polluted water, was signed into law by President Barack Obama last year in the Oval Office as Ensminger looked on. Camp Lejeune again grabbed the political spotlight last week as Chuck Hagel, Obama’s nominee as defense secretary, said during his Senate confirmation hearing he was committed to getting answers about the polluted water at Lejeune.

Chemical contamination in drinking water at Camp Lejeune came from numerous sources, scientists say. They include a dry cleaner adjacent to the base and industrial solvents discarded by Marine personnel.

One of the worst sources of pollution was a fuel depot on base that may have leaked more than a million gallons of gasoline since the base opened in the 1940s, records show.

That our vaunted military avoided their own regulations comes as no surprise to anyone living near an old American military base.

There is a small civilian community next to the old bombing practice range at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico with a truly unique problem. Anyone who leaves the community or wishes to switch over to bottled pure water must do so via an authorized withdrawal regimen.

There were so many practice bombs dropped near their community going back in time to World War 2 that an underground plume of nitroglycerin has infiltrated their water supply for decades. If anyone stops drinking the water cold turkey they run the risk of dying from nitro withdrawal.

No one tested their water until someone did a study on their unique heart problems a few years ago. For decades, our military ignored responsibility in the way Congress has more recently adopted.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad wants to be the first Iranian in space

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has declared that he is ready to be the first Iranian in space.

The news follows Iran’s announcement last week that it had successfully launched a monkey into space and retrieved it alive.

Officials hailed the launch as a major step towards their goal of sending humans into space, although the idea of putting the President himself into orbit surely comes as something of a surprise.

I am ready to be the first human to be sent to space by Iranian scientists,” Ahmadinejad said on the sidelines of an exhibition of space achievements in Tehran, according to the Mehr news agency.

“Sending living things into space is the result of Iranian efforts and the dedication of thousands of Iranian scientists…”

Iran’s monkey launch added to Western concerns about the country’s space programme because the same rocket technology could potentially be used to deliver a nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile.

The last sentence is worth including if for nothing else than to point out what hypocrites the real military giants on this planet always are. You can carry that all the way down to the most dangerous country in the Middle East. You know, the one with hundreds of atomic weapons.