A billion head of cattle roam Earth – burping out methane

Cows, you see, have a serious emissions problem. To digest tough plant material, their cavernous stomachs act as fermentation vats. They’re teeming with methanogens, microbes that process cellulose to make volatile fatty acids, which the cows turn into meat and milk. But those methanogens also produce methane, a particularly nasty greenhouse gas that is 80 times more potent than carbon dioxide, thanks to the way its molecules vibrate to absorb infrared radiation. These gases capture heat, and that means more global warming…

Now multiply those burps by the world’s huge cattle population. To satisfy humanity’s bottomless appetite for beef and milk, a billion head of cattle now roam the planet. A paper published in September in the journal Nature Food by an international team of researchers found that the global food system generates a staggering 35 percent of total greenhouse gas emissions. Beef is responsible for a quarter of those food emissions, with another 8 percent coming from milk production…

If scientists can figure out how to get cows to stop belching so much, that would make a big dent in emissions, and we’d see the climate effects almost immediately. So Mitloehner and other researchers are experimenting with food additives like seaweed, garlic, and even essential oils derived from plants like coriander seed, which tweak the animals’ gut environment in different ways, for instance by disrupting the enzymes that produce methane.

RTFA. Lots about hows and whys of the difficulties coming up with a solution to the problem. Beaucoup detail about the inventive constructs researchers come up with to measure the methane output…and what they’ve tried, so far, in attempts to mitigate that production.

Cloud formation affected by bacteria farts in the ocean

Meteorologists have known for almost 50 years that the proverbial flapping of a butterfly’s wings can trigger a hurricane in a completely different location…The chaos theorist Edward Norton Lorenz coined the term “butterfly effect” in 1972 to describe the understanding that minimal changes in initial conditions can have a large effect on the later development of dynamic systems…

Results from the new research suggest that, in the future, meteorologists will have to pay attention not only to butterflies but also, and above all, to bacteria living in oceans.

“We have shown the circumstances under which these bacteria release a gas that plays a central role in the formation of clouds,” says Roman Stocker of the Institute of Environmental Engineering at ETH Zurich.

Really interesting article. Research that strikes a responsive chord in my heart. Growing up on the New England coast in a boom-or-bust industrial city, our family could always count on the sea to feed us.

An emerging area of medical science we’ve only known about for a century or so

Professor Coffey

❝ A University of Limerick, Ireland, professor has identified an emerging area of science having reclassified part of the digestive system as an organ.

The mesentery, which connects the intestine to the abdomen, had for hundreds of years been considered a fragmented structure made up of multiple separate parts. However, research by Professor of Surgery…J Calvin Coffey found the mesentery is one, continuous structure.

❝ In a review published in the November issue of one of the top medical journals…Professor Coffey outlined the evidence for categorising the mesentery as an organ…“In the paper, which has been peer reviewed and assessed, we are now saying we have an organ in the body which hasn’t been acknowledged as such to date,”…

❝ Better understanding and further scientific study of the mesentery could lead to less invasive surgeries, fewer complications, faster patient recovery and lower overall costs…

“…Up to now there was no such field as mesenteric science. Now we have established anatomy and the structure. The next step is the function. If you understand the function you can identify abnormal function, and then you have disease. Put them all together and you have the field of mesenteric science…the basis for a whole new area of science,” he said.

“During the initial research, we noticed in particular that the mesentery, which connects the gut to the body, was one continuous organ. Up to that it was regarded as fragmented, present here, absent elsewhere and a very complex structure. The anatomic description that had been laid down over 100 years of anatomy was incorrect. This organ is far from fragmented and complex. It is simply one continuous structure,” Professor Coffey explained.

So cool, the publishers of Gray’s Anatomy have already included the research as an update to their classic.

Thanks, UrsaRodinia and others

Everyone farts — Surprising facts you may not know

Navy jet fart

Whether you try to hide it or not, you fart. Everybody does.

But even though it’s such a routine activity — the average person farts between 10 and 20 times per day — there’s a lot about farting that you might not know…

1) You produce about 500 to 1500 milliliters of gas per day, and expel it in 10 to 20 farts

This might be more than you’d expect, but it’s been measured in controlled studies. The surprisingly hefty amount is the result of bacteria that live in your colon and feed on most of the food you eat…

A huge variety of foods contain these complex carbs that we can’t fully digest: virtually all beans, most vegetables, and anything with whole grains. For most people, this leads to somewhere between 500 to 1500 milliliters of gas daily — the equivalent of half a two-liter bottle of soda, every single day.

2) 99 percent of the gas you produce does not smell

One of the reasons that we produce so much more gas than we realize is that nearly all of it is odorless…

4) Farting is the result of a healthy, complex ecosystem in your intestines

Modern society views flatulence as a negative. This is unfortunate, because in most cases, it’s the byproduct of a beautiful thing — the intricate ecosystem of bacteria living in your intestines…

6) Yes, you can light a fart on fire

Because flatulence is partly composed of flammable gases like methane and hydrogen, it can be briefly set on fire.

We don’t recommend it…a backfire can be very dangerous!

RTFA for more facts. It’s good to learn. Farting is good, too.

Thanks, Mike