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The Genius of Birds – Jennifer Ackerman

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The Genius of Birds

Jennifer Ackerman

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: April 12, 2016

Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Group (USA) Inc.


An award-winning science writer tours the globe to reveal what makes birds capable of such extraordinary feats of mental prowess   Birds are astonishingly intelligent creatures. According to revolutionary new research, some birds rival primates and even humans in their remarkable forms of intelligence. In The Genius of Birds , acclaimed author Jennifer Ackerman explores their newly discovered brilliance and how it came about. As she travels around the world to the most cutting-edge frontiers of research, Ackerman not only tells the story of the recently uncovered genius of birds but also delves deeply into the latest findings about the bird brain itself that are shifting our view of what it means to be intelligent. At once personal yet scientific, richly informative and beautifully written, The Genius of Birds celebrates the triumphs of these surprising and fiercely intelligent creatures.

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The Genius of Birds – Jennifer Ackerman

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The 3 Holiday Plants You Have to Have

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You don’t have to have a green thumb — or be vegan — to delight in the presence of plants. Gardening and food consumption aside, household plants are pretty miraculous to have around due to their numerous superpowers. And what better time to take advantage than during the holidays, when we could all use as many superpowers as possible.

Health Benefits of Plants

Most of us realize the pluses of incorporating greenery in our indoor environments, including 20 percent less dust, according to a study by Washington State University. Besides magical fairy dusting and beautification of a space, plants can absorb up to 10 percent of carbon dioxide and release oxygen back into the air we breathe. Plants even reduce stress and boost morale when placed in offices, simultaneously reducing airborne bacteria.

Plants Improve Indoor Air Quality

What many people are unaware of is the fact that certain plants do all of the above while also removing toxic gases and chemical vapors commonly found in our indoor environments, according to studies by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Green building today is great for energy efficiency, but it’s not always so great for our health. In 1973, NASA realized that indoor air pollution in tightly sealed structures could present health-related problems. The Clean Air Study, led by Dr. B.C. Wolverton in conjunction with the Associated Landscape Contractors of America, discovered the miraculous benefits of 50 houseplants (three of them being holiday plants) that are exceptional little air scrubbers. These must be potted plants in soil and ideally, one should be placed every 100 feet for maximum air filtration benefits, as advised by NASA.

3 Holiday Plants that Remove Chemicals

Three popular holiday plants — the Poinsettia, the Norfolk Island Pine and the Christmas Cactus — work as natural, mini air purifiers. They provide an affordable defense by absorbing volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as formaldehyde, benzene and ammonia, from the air through the tiny openings in their leaves (stomata) and their root microbes. Let’s take a closer look at each plant.

1. Poinsettia

You’ll recognize this holiday beauty from its bright, vibrant bracts (leaves). Ironically, it’s not the flower of this plant, rather the leaves, that are grown in pink, red, white, speckled or marbled. Discovered by Joel Poinsett in 1830 in Southern Mexico, this plant prefers semi-shade. It’s easy to grow and pretty resistant to insect infestation. Water when the top layer is dry.

2. Norfolk Island Pine

Photo: Adobe Stock

This evergreen often serves as a mini Christmas tree with a similar appeal. One variety, the heterophylla, is suitable for indoors and can grow up to 10 feet high! It was discovered by Captain Cook and botanist Sir Joseph Banks. The Norfolk Island Pine prefers full sun to semi-shade. Use water sparingly in the winter and mist often.

3. Christmas Cactus

Photo: Adobe Stock

This beautiful cactus with bright red buds blooms fully in December. Unlike most plants, this cactus removes CO2 and releases oxygen at night, making it a great plant for the bedroom. It prefers semi-sun and is highly resistant to insect infestation. Allow it to dry between waterings.

There you have it — the perfect holiday or housewarming gift. Your host or hostess will be breathing easier through the hustle and bustle while enjoying a more beautiful and relaxing home.

The 3 Plants Every Home Should Have for Clean Air

How’d you like to be happier, calmer, healthier and oh, …Lisa BeresFebruary 22, 2017

Better Breathing: 6 Of The Best Plants For Indoor Air Quality

The average American spends 90 percent of their time indoors. …Sarah LozanovaFebruary 11, 2016

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Don’t you just love it when you can prove someone …Kimberly ButtonAugust 14, 2015

4 Ways Reducing and Reusing Can Save You Money

When most people think about reducing and reusing, they mainly …Anna JohanssonDecember 1, 2017

The 3 Holiday Plants You Have to Have

You don’t have to have a green thumb — or be …Lisa BeresNovember 30, 2017

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Deciding what to prepare for a dinner party is difficult …Haley ShapleyNovember 29, 2017

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The 3 Holiday Plants You Have to Have

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Upstream – Langdon Cook

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Upstream

Searching for Wild Salmon, from River to Table

Langdon Cook

Genre: Nature

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: May 30, 2017

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC


From the award-winning author of The Mushroom Hunters comes the story of an iconic fish, perhaps the last great wild food: salmon. For some, a salmon evokes the distant wild, thrashing in the jaws of a hungry grizzly bear on TV. For others, it’s the catch of the day on a restaurant menu, or a deep red fillet at the market. For others still, it’s the jolt of adrenaline on a successful fishing trip. Our fascination with these superlative fish is as old as humanity itself. Long a source of sustenance among native peoples, salmon is now more popular than ever. Fish hatcheries and farms serve modern appetites with a domesticated “product”—while wild runs of salmon dwindle across the globe. How has this once-abundant resource reached this point, and what can we do to safeguard wild populations for future generations? Langdon Cook goes in search of the salmon in Upstream, his timely and in-depth look at how these beloved fish have nourished humankind through the ages and why their destiny is so closely tied to our own. Cook journeys up and down salmon country, from the glacial rivers of Alaska to the rainforests of the Pacific Northwest to California’s drought-stricken Central Valley and a wealth of places in between. Reporting from remote coastlines and busy city streets, he follows today’s commercial pipeline from fisherman’s net to corporate seafood vendor to boutique marketplace. At stake is nothing less than an ancient livelihood. But salmon are more than food. They are game fish, wildlife spectacle, sacred totem, and inspiration—and their fate is largely in our hands. Cook introduces us to tribal fishermen handing down an age-old tradition, sport anglers seeking adventure and a renewed connection to the wild, and scientists and activists working tirelessly to restore salmon runs. In sharing their stories, Cook covers all sides of the debate: the legacy of overfishing and industrial development; the conflicts between fishermen, environmentalists, and Native Americans; the modern proliferation of fish hatcheries and farms; and the longstanding battle lines of science versus politics, wilderness versus civilization. This firsthand account—reminiscent of the work of John McPhee and Mark Kurlansky—is filled with the keen insights and observations of the best narrative writing. Cook offers an absorbing portrait of a remarkable fish and the many obstacles it faces, while taking readers on a fast-paced fishing trip through salmon country. Upstream is an essential look at the intersection of man, food, and nature. Praise for Upstream “Invigorating . . . Mr. Cook is a congenial and intrepid companion, happily hiking into hinterlands and snorkeling in headwaters. Along the way we learn about filleting techniques, native cooking methods and self-pollinating almond trees, and his continual curiosity ensures that the narrative unfurls gradually, like a long spey cast. . . . With a pedigree that includes Mark Kurlansky, John McPhee and Roderick Haig-Brown, Mr. Cook’s style is suitably fluent, an occasional phrase flashing like a flank in the current. . . . For all its rehearsal of the perils and vicissitudes facing Pacific salmon, Upstream remains a celebration.” — The Wall Street Journal “Passionate . . . Cook deftly conveys his love of nature, the beauty of the Pacific Northwest, and the delectable eating provided by fresh caught wild salmon.” — Library Journal “Insightful . . . this work is a great place to learn what needs to done—and an entertaining view on the positive and negative connections humans have with the natural environment.” — Publishers Weekly

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Upstream – Langdon Cook

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In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat – John Gribbin

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In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat
Quantum Physics And Reality
John Gribbin

Genre: Physics

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: August 1, 1984

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC


Quantum theory is so shocking that Einstein could not bring himself to accept it. It is so important that it provides the fundamental underpinning of all modern sciences. Without it, we’d have no nuclear power or nuclear weapons, no TV, no computers, no science of molecular biology, no understanding of DNA, no genetic engineering. In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat tells the complete story of quantum mechanics, a truth stranger than any fiction. John Gribbin takes us step by step into an ever more bizarre and fascinating place, requiring only that we approach it with an open mind. He introduces the scientists who developed quantum theory. He investigates the atom, radiation, time travel, the birth of the universe, superconductors and life itself. And in a world full of its own delights, mysteries and surprises, he searches for Schrodinger’s Cat – a search for quantum reality – as he brings every reader to a clear understanding of the most important area of scientific study today – quantum physics. In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat is a fascinating and delightful introduction to the strange world of the quantum – an essential element in understanding today’s world. From the Trade Paperback edition.

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In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat – John Gribbin

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Nebraska’s Keystone XL decision won’t hinge on Thursday’s 210,000-gallon spill.

Nearly two months after Hurricane Maria, public health researchers in Puerto Rico are limited by the same lack of power, clean water, and infrastructure they are there to study.

Puerto Rico–born José Cordero is one such scientist. In the journal Nature, he describes leading a team through the devastated landscape to collect data on how drinking water contamination affects pregnant women. The scientists have to hurry to finish their work everyday, before night falls across the largely powerless island. Limited telephone access makes it difficult to get in touch with subjects.

Cordero’s project started six years ago to focus on water pollution and pre-term births, but this year’s hurricane has changed both the focus and the level of difficulty of the work. Other researchers have been hampered by hospitals that can’t administer routine tests and hurricane-damaged equipment, making it difficult to collect data on how air and water pollution are affecting health.

Still, Cordero’s team has managed to contact several hundred woman and collect samples of groundwater and tap water from homes near flooded Superfund sites. As he told Nature: “The kind of work we’re doing … has to be done now, because a few years from now, it’s too late.”

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Nebraska’s Keystone XL decision won’t hinge on Thursday’s 210,000-gallon spill.

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Security firm TigerSwan was paid to build a conspiracy lawsuit against DAPL protesters.

Nearly two months after Hurricane Maria, public health researchers in Puerto Rico are limited by the same lack of power, clean water, and infrastructure they are there to study.

Puerto Rico–born José Cordero is one such scientist. In the journal Nature, he describes leading a team through the devastated landscape to collect data on how drinking water contamination affects pregnant women. The scientists have to hurry to finish their work everyday, before night falls across the largely powerless island. Limited telephone access makes it difficult to get in touch with subjects.

Cordero’s project started six years ago to focus on water pollution and pre-term births, but this year’s hurricane has changed both the focus and the level of difficulty of the work. Other researchers have been hampered by hospitals that can’t administer routine tests and hurricane-damaged equipment, making it difficult to collect data on how air and water pollution are affecting health.

Still, Cordero’s team has managed to contact several hundred woman and collect samples of groundwater and tap water from homes near flooded Superfund sites. As he told Nature: “The kind of work we’re doing … has to be done now, because a few years from now, it’s too late.”

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Security firm TigerSwan was paid to build a conspiracy lawsuit against DAPL protesters.

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Geoengineering’s unintended consequences: Hurricanes and food shortages

This story was originally published by Wired and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Every country on Earth, save for cough one, has banded together to cut emissions and stop the runaway heating of our only home. That’s nearly 200 countries working to keep the global average temperature from climbing 2 degrees Celsius above pre-Industrial Revolution levels.

Phenomenal. But what if cooperation and emissions reduction aren’t enough? Projections show that even if all those countries hit their Paris Agreement emissions pledges, the world will still get too warm too fast, plunging us into climate chaos. So, if we can’t stop what we’ve set in motion, what if we could just cool the planet off by making it more reflective — more like a disco ball than a baseball?

Actually, we could. It’s called solar geoengineering. Scientists could release materials into the stratosphere that reflect sunlight back into space, kind of like slapping giant sunglasses on Earth. You could theoretically do this with giant space mirrors, but that would require a mountain of R&D and money and materials. More likely, scientists might be able to steal a strategy from Earth itself. When volcanoes erupt, they spew sulfur high in the sky, where the gas turns into an aerosol that blocks sunlight. If scientists added sulfur to the stratosphere manually, that could reflect light away from Earth and help humanity reach its climate goals.

It’s not that simple, though: The massive Tambora eruption of 1815 cooled the Earth so much that Europe suffered the “year without summer,” leading to extreme food shortages. And in a study published Tuesday in the journal Nature, researchers examine a bunch of other ways a blast of sulfur could do more harm than good.

Specifically, the group looked at how sulfur seeding could impact storms in the North Atlantic. They built models showing what would happen if they were to inject sulfur dioxide into the lower stratosphere above either the Northern or Southern Hemisphere, at a rate of 5 million metric tons per year. Sulfur dioxide gas (SO2) is not itself reflective, but up there it reacts with water, picking up oxygen molecules to become sulfate aerosol (SO4) — now that’s reflective. Block out some of the sun, and you block out some of the solar energy.

Now, the Earth’s hemispheres aren’t just divided by a thick line on your globe; they’re actually well-divided by what is essentially a giant updraft. That tends to keep materials like, say, sulfate aerosol, stuck in a given hemisphere. “It goes up and it goes more to the one side where you injected it,” says Simone Tilmes, who studies geoengineering at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and was not involved in the study.

This wall of wind gives you some measure of control. If you were to inject SO2 into the Northern Hemisphere, the models show, you would reduce storm activity in the North Atlantic — probably because the injection would put the tropical jet stream on a collision course with the Atlantic hurricane main development region. Wind shear like that weakens storms as they grow. But inject gas into the Southern Hemisphere and the stream shifts north, increasing storms.

Which all jibes with historical data. In 1912, the Katmai eruption in Alaska spewed 30 cubic kilometers of ash and debris into the atmosphere. What followed was the historical record’s only year without hurricanes.

The potentially good news is that models like these make solar geoengineering a bit more predictable than a volcano eruption. The bad news is not everyone would win. Solar geoengineering in the north would cut precipitation in the semi-arid Sahel in north-central Africa.

What we’re looking at, then, isn’t just a strategy with environmental implications, but humanitarian ones as well. Think about current conflicts over water supplies, especially in the developing world. Now scale that up into conflict over the weather itself. It’s not hard to imagine one part of the world deciding to geoengineer for more water and another part of the world suffering for it. “I therefore think that solar geoengineering is currently too risky to be utilized due to the enormous political friction that it may cause,” says lead author Anthony Jones of the University of Exeter.

What researchers need is way more science, more models, more data, way more of whatever you can get to understand these processes. And they’ll need international guidelines for a technology that could nourish some regions and devastate others — individual nations can’t just make unilateral climate decisions that have global repercussions. “There’s a lot we don’t know and a lot of differences in models,” says Tilmes. “The answer is we really have to look at it more.”

Really, it’s hard to imagine a conundrum of bigger scale. For now, we’ll just have to do what we can with baseball Earth. But perhaps one day we’ll be forced to start building a disco ball, one little mirror at a time.

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Geoengineering’s unintended consequences: Hurricanes and food shortages

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Are you a news buff, justice reporter, or video producer? If so, the Grist fellowship is for you!

Are you an early-career journalist, storyteller, or multimedia wizard who digs what we do? Grist wants you!

We are now accepting applications for the spring 2018 class of the Grist Fellowship Program.

This time around, we’re looking for all-stars in three primary areas: news, environmental justice, and video. You’ll find details on all three fellowship opportunities here.

The Grist Fellowship Program is a paid opportunity to hone your journalistic chops at a national news outlet, deepen your knowledge of environmental issues, and experiment with storytelling. We get to teach you, learn from you, and bring your work to our audience. The fellowship lasts six months.

For fellowships that begin in March 2018, please submit applications by December 29, 2017. Full application instructions here.

Good luck!

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Are you a news buff, justice reporter, or video producer? If so, the Grist fellowship is for you!

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How Language Began: The Story of Humanity’s Greatest Invention – Daniel L. Everett

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How Language Began: The Story of Humanity’s Greatest Invention

Daniel L. Everett

Genre: Life Sciences

Price: $14.99

Publish Date: November 7, 2017

Publisher: Liveright

Seller: W. W. Norton


How Language Began revolutionizes our understanding of the one tool that has allowed us to become the "lords of the planet." Mankind has a distinct advantage over other terrestrial species: we talk to one another. But how did we acquire the most advanced form of communication on Earth? Daniel L. Everett, a “bombshell” linguist and “instant folk hero” (Tom Wolfe, Harper’s), provides in this sweeping history a comprehensive examination of the evolutionary story of language, from the earliest speaking attempts by hominids to the more than seven thousand languages that exist today. Although fossil hunters and linguists have brought us closer to unearthing the true origins of language, Daniel Everett’s discoveries have upended the contemporary linguistic world, reverberating far beyond academic circles. While conducting field research in the Amazonian rainforest, Everett came across an age-old language nestled amongst a tribe of hunter-gatherers. Challenging long-standing principles in the field, Everett now builds on the theory that language was not intrinsic to our species. In order to truly understand its origins, a more interdisciplinary approach is needed—one that accounts as much for our propensity for culture as it does our biological makeup. Language began, Everett theorizes, with Homo Erectus, who catalyzed words through culturally invented symbols. Early humans, as their brains grew larger, incorporated gestures and voice intonations to communicate, all of which built on each other for 60,000 generations. Tracing crucial shifts and developments across the ages, Everett breaks down every component of speech, from harnessing control of more than a hundred respiratory muscles in the larynx and diaphragm, to mastering the use of the tongue. Moving on from biology to execution, Everett explores why elements such as grammar and storytelling are not nearly as critical to language as one might suspect. In the book’s final section, Cultural Evolution of Language, Everett takes the ever-debated “language gap” to task, delving into the chasm that separates “us” from “the animals.” He approaches the subject from various disciplines, including anthropology, neuroscience, and archaeology, to reveal that it was social complexity, as well as cultural, physiological, and neurological superiority, that allowed humans—with our clawless hands, breakable bones, and soft skin—to become the apex predator. How Language Began ultimately explains what we know, what we’d like to know, and what we likely never will know about how humans went from mere communication to language. Based on nearly forty years of fieldwork, Everett debunks long-held theories by some of history’s greatest thinkers, from Plato to Chomsky. The result is an invaluable study of what makes us human.

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How Language Began: The Story of Humanity’s Greatest Invention – Daniel L. Everett

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Warped Passages – Lisa Randall

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Warped Passages

Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions

Lisa Randall

Genre: Physics

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: November 10, 2009

Publisher: HarperCollins e-books

Seller: HarperCollins


The universe has many secrets. It may hide additional dimensions of space other than the familier three we recognize. There might even be another universe adjacent to ours, invisible and unattainable . . . for now. Warped Passages is a brilliantly readable and altogether exhilarating journey that tracks the arc of discovery from early twentieth-century physics to the razor's edge of modern scientific theory. One of the world's leading theoretical physicists, Lisa Randall provides astonishing scientific possibilities that, until recently, were restricted to the realm of science fiction. Unraveling the twisted threads of the most current debates on relativity, quantum mechanics, and gravity, she explores some of the most fundamental questions posed by Nature—taking us into the warped, hidden dimensions underpinning the universe we live in, demystifying the science of the myriad worlds that may exist just beyond our own.

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Warped Passages – Lisa Randall

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