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Searching for Solutions to a Crisis Decades in the Making

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Enlarge (credit: Makiko Tanigawa / Getty Images)

Island Press is “the nation’s leading publisher on environmental issues.” In its latest release, Thicker than Water, Erica Cirino, a photojournalist and licensed wildlife rehabilitator, explores what becomes of plastic—all 8 billion or so tons of it that humans have manufactured in the last seventy-ish years. 

Plastic’s greatest strength is also its greatest flaw: It takes eons to break down. It breaks apart, into smaller and smaller micro- and nano-sized particles. But unlike natural materials like wood and glass, plastic doesn’t break down into its constituent chemicals. Those micro- and nano-sized particles are still plastic. According to Alice Zhu, a graduate student studying plastics at the University of Toronto, this is because the carbon-carbon bonds that form the backbone of most plastic polymers require an immense amount of energy to break apart. And because these bonds are in synthetic arrangements, there are no microorganisms that can break most of them down (yet).

The big asymmetry

There is a marked disconnect between how long plastic sticks around and how long we get utility from it. Many single-use items, like straws and cutlery, are used for only minutes; thin plastic bags, like those needlessly wrapped around produce and almost everything we order online (and even plastic cutlery), are immediately thrown away. This thin plastic is made of low density polyethylene, which is the most difficult kind to recycle and emits more climate-warming methane and ethylene when exposed to sunlight than other, harder types of plastic. It is also one of the most commonly produced.

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Article: arstechnica.com

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Russia Threatens Criminal Charges Against a NASA Astronaut

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Enlarge / Image of the hole in Soyuz MS-09 vehicle docked to the International Space Station in 2018. (credit: NASA TV)

The Russian space corporation, Roscosmos, said it has completed an investigation into a “hole” found in a Soyuz spacecraft when the vehicle was docked to the International Space Station in 2018.

Moreover, Roscosmos told the Russian publication RIA Novosti that it has sent the results of the investigation to law enforcement officials. “All results of the investigation regarding the hole in the habitation module of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft were transmitted to Law Enforcement officials,” Roscosmos said. No further details were provided.

In Russia, the results of such an investigation are sent to law enforcement to allow officials to decide whether or not to initiate a criminal case, which would be akin to issuing an indictment. Russia does not have a grand jury system like in the United States, where investigators hand over their evidence to prosecutors, who decide whether to press charges.

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Original Post: arstechnica.com

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This 3D Printer Ink Is Alive

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Enlarge (credit: A. Duraj-Thatte, A. Manjula-Basvanna et. al./Nature)

3D printing has already been put to use in many interesting applications, from large-scale homebuilding to robot hands that are good at Super Mario Bros.—and even creepy materials that can shape-shift into a human face. But researchers Anna M. Duraj-Thatte and Avinash Manjula-Basavanna have something more lively in mind. A new type of 3D printer ink with self-assembling properties may play a role in the future of renewable building materials and even ink that grows itself.

Researchers from Harvard University and Harvard Medical School, among others, reported their findings in a paper published Tuesday in Nature Communications. As reported by Phys.org on Saturday, the paper details ink made of Escherichia coli (E. coli) cells bioengineered to make nanofibers.

Despite 3D printing’s advances, creating arbitrary shapes and patterns is still challenging, the paper explains. So the researchers set out to create what they call “microbial ink” made “entirely from genetically engineered microbial cells, programmed to perform a bottom-up, hierarchical self-assembly of protein monomers into nanofibers, and further into nanofiber networks that comprise extrudable hydrogels.”

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Source Here: arstechnica.com

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Seattle Humane: a Foster Volunteer’s Perspective

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Re: “Seattle Humane not living up to promises made in $30 million campaign for new complex” [Nov. 7, Local News]: I have volunteered at Seattle Humane for a total of about six years, nearly five-and-a-half years as a cat foster parent. I cannot address what was said in the article, but I want to give […]

Article: seattletimes.com

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