Swimming on Pluto? Maybe Someday; Maybe Somebody Today.

New evidence shows Pluto may have an ocean under its many mile-thick shell of ice.

In light of its frigid temperature, the non-planet appears to be warm enough, at least to “easily” have a subsurface ocean.

Beneath a 120-mile layer of ice, this said ocean could be 60 to 105 miles thick.

PlutoIf this is the case, Pluto joins a list of outer solar system bodies, such as Saturn’s moons Enceladus and Titan, which are thought to hold liquid water.

If this were the case, Pluto’s heat would come via decaying radioactive nuclides, particularly potassium-40, inside rocks in the dwarf planet’s interior.

While, chances are Pluto’s surface is probably colder than -380°F, there could still be plenty of liquid-preserving heat beneath the ice cap. For an ocean to exist, Pluto’s rocks would have to be concentrated in a rocky core, with water and ice layered on the surface.

The New Horizons spacecraft will reach Pluto in 2015. At that point it will be easy enough to test whether Pluto really has such a subsurface ocean.

If, however, there is no ocean, say, Pluto would be comparatively flattened at its poles, and would contain a “fossil” equatorial bulge left over from early in the planet’s history, when the body was spinning more rapidly, say.

And if indeed there is an ocean on the former-ninth planet, the surface would show cracks made as Pluto gradually lost heat and the ice cap thickened over the course of billions of years.

That is because the freezing ice would have expanded, causing the surface to bulge upward, cracking in the process. If, however, there was only ice, and never an ocean, the cooling of the planet should have contracted the ice rather than expanded it. When formed, ice contracts as it cools, see?

The EPA Is Cleaning Our Water

water from a faucetThe Environmental Protection Agency is changing drinking water standards to impose stricter limits on four specific contaminants which can cause cancer.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said that the agency is developing stricter regulations for: tetrachloroethylene, trichloroethylene, acrylamide and epichlorohydrin.

Trichloroethylene, also known as TCE, and tetrachloroethylene are usually used as industrial solvents and can seep into drinking water from contaminated ground or surface water. The other two compounds are impurities which get introduced into drinking water during the water treatment process.

Jackson says that the EPA will issue new rules on TCE and tetrachloroethylene within the coming year. New rules for the other two compounds will follow.

Jackson called for more collaboration among states and the federal government, as well as development of new technologies to meet the needs of urban, rural and other water-stressed communities.

The new strategy would address contaminants as a group to better the efficiency; develop new technologies to address health risks from a vast array of contaminants; use a combination of state and federal laws to protect drinking water; and form partnerships with states.

TCE is an especially problematic chemical compound. It was used to clean nuclear missiles and was frequently dumped at missile sites. Exposure to high concentrations of this chemical causes nervous system problems, liver and lung damage, abnormal heartbeat, coma and death.

Adding Salt to the Wound

Mountains of salt are spread on snowy roads in North America every winter, despite the fact that environmentalists have been warning against it for years. Well, studies are piling up, indicating indeed that the cost may be too high. Adding Salt to the Wound

Martin Mittelstaedt reports in the Globe and Mail about a new study of Frenchman’s Bay, a lagoon off Lake Ontario by University of Toronto Geologists. The conclusion drawn:

“Our findings are pretty dramatic, and the effects are felt year-round,” said Nick Eyles, a geology professor at the university and the lead researcher on the project.

“We now know that 3,600 tonnes of road salt end up in that small lagoon every winter from direct runoff in creeks and effectively poison it for the rest of the year.”

In the community of Pickering, to the east of Toronto, they apply 7,600 tons of salt. Half of that goes into the groundwater, and the other half goes right into Frenchman’s Bay.

The salt water “knocks out fish,” said Dr. Eyles, adding that in the most contaminated areas, only older fish can survive, while younger ones move to areas of the lagoon closer to Lake Ontario and its fresher water.

A University of Minnesota study recently studied 39 lakes and three major rivers, and they found that 70% of the road salt ended up in the watershed. According to Science Daily:

“Nobody has asked the question of where the salt ultimately goes after the winter season is over…Our study has been concerned with that question in particular.”

The effects of salt include decreases in biodiversity, reduction in fish numbers and types, and higher mortality rates among organisms that rely on marine life for food.

Well, don’t you know, the sad part of this story is that salt is completely unnecessary. It only works within a few degrees of the freezing point so where it is really really cold, people must learn to drive properly in the winter with properly equipped cars.

Road salt destroys roads, shortens the lives of cars, kills vegetation and now, we KNOW that it harms watersheds. Some alternatives are reducing speed limits in winter, making snow tires mandatory as they do in Quebec, and provide better public transit and other alternatives to driving, instead of destroying the environment to satisfy the need for speed.

Israel, Leaders in Water Technology

Israel has begun to look beyond its lack of natural resources and has decided to take the lead in water technology. A growing number of Israeli firms have their eyes on overseas markets, offering their expertise in such forums as desalination technology, sewage-eating bacteria and wastewater treatment.

“Israel is definitely one of the leaders, if not the leader, when it comes to water. … I think of Israel as the Silicon Valley of water,”

said Shawn Lesser, president of Sustainable World Capital, an Atlanta investment firm which focuses on clean energy and water technology companies.
Israel’s emphasis on exporting high-tech innovations in areas like water technology helped them rebound before most other nations from the world’s worst recession in decades.

“When you check the breakdown, the only market segment where the level of exports is higher than pre-crisis levels is in the high-tech sector,”

said Amit Friedman, head of the macroeconomic research department at the Bank of Israel.

Aqwise was Israel’s fastest growing technology company this year. They are a water treatment company that uses small, bacteria-dispensing plastic cubes to break down sewage, thereby increasing treatment efficiency and capacity.
Aqwise’s vice president of business and development, Udi Leshem, said the firm has increased its sales by 50% this year by looking to markets overseas.
He said:

“The main growth engine of the company has been growing into foreign markets, starting in Israel as a base and then exporting to Europe, the United states and other places…Once we did that, growth accelerated.”

Aqwise while Israel’s water leader, is not alone in the game.

“This technology is important. You have an enormous advantage if you can quickly know and can monitor where the leaks are coming from and fix them,”

said Raphael Semiat, a water technology expert at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology in Haifa.

Please Don’t Poison My Water

For years, the energy industry has argued to the nation’s courts and Congress that the federal law which protects drinking water shouldn’t be applied to hydraulic fracturing, the industrial practice which is essential to extracting the nation’s vast natural gas reserves. In 2005 Congress finally passed a law prohibiting such regulation.

Now it has been discovered that part of the argument: most of the millions of gallons of toxic chemicals which drillers inject underground are removed for safe disposal, and aren’t discarded inside the earth, doesn’t apply to drilling in many of the nation’s booming new gas fields.

drilling As much as 85 percent of the fluids used during hydraulic fracturing is being left underground after wells are drilled in the Marcellus Shale, the massive gas deposit which stretches from New York to Tennessee. Problem.

So for each modern gas well drilled in the Marcellus and places like it, more than three million gallons of chemically tainted wastewater get left in the ground forever. Drilling companies say that chemicals make up less than 1 percent of that fluid. But by volume, these chemicals still amount to 34,000 gallons in a typical well. Problem.

These facts raise questions as to why the Safe Drinking Water Act should not be applied to hydraulic fracturing.
Congress is considering a bill that would repeal the exemption, and has directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to consider a fresh study of how hydraulic fracturing may affect drinking water supplies.

For Those Who Don’t Give a Crap

Sometimes it takes a little retro-active research to complete the picture. I do not know how we here at NaturalBuy.com missed this, but as a note for next year, we’ll stick it in now. November 19th was World Toilet Day.

sewageOn this day we remind ourselves that 2.5 billion people around the globe do not have access to a toilet – one of those home appliances that we all too often take shamefully for granted. According to the World Toilet Organization (WTO), poor sanitation kills 1.8 million people a year, mostly children and due to diarrhea diseases.

In 2005 President George W. Bush signed into law the Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act, which makes a strategic focus for U.S. foreign aid, water, sanitation, and hygiene. In the last fiscal year of 2008-2009, Congress earmarked $300 million to support these projects. So your tax dollars do work towards solving this international crisis.

According to a Center for Strategic & International Studies September 2009 report on “Enhancing U.S. Leadership on Drinking Water and Sanitation,” 61% of Americans put improved access to safe drinking water at the head of the list of issues.

So fear not, your money isn’t going to waste – it’s going to waste management – human waste management!

Enjoy this vid…

Water Purifier Uses Less Power than a Hairdryer

dean kamen slingshot
Dean Kamen, the inventor of the admittedly dorky, yet somehow cool Segway, is at it again. This time, he has invented the Slingshot. “We believe the world needs a slingshot to take care of its Goliath of a problem in water. So we decided to build a small machine and give it to the little Davids.” How Biblical and quaint.

SegwayKamen has been working on the Slingshot for over a decade. He has now perfected it to be able to turn raw sewage into drinkable water. Sounds tasty. Basically, it can turn anything wet into water by simply removing everything else.
What makes it work is a “vapor compression distiller”, which, by the sound of it, smushes water vapor back into water after it boils. How this takes less electricity that a hair dryer I have yet to understand. That’s why he’s an inventor, whereas I just write about it.

The only problem is that producing one of these machines costs Kamen’s company several hundred thousand dollars. He needs to first engineer it in a way that lowers costs, and find partner to help him do this. Partners, perhaps, that would have a vested interest in investing in clean water technology. His goal is to get the cost down to about $2,000 per unit, and then to distribute it to the developing world.

Each machine can produce about 250 gallons a day. I think I speak for all of us when I say…that could make a lot of lemonade. 

Using Bacteria to Purify Water & Produce Electricity

While we’re all freaking out about swine flu and other bacterial microbes that have the potential to make us seriously ill or worse, the scientific community has figuring out how to use bacteria to purify salt water into drinkable fresh water. Sounds crazy? It is. The world is crazy, and don’t expect it to slow down.

bacteria electricityThe idea is based on the concept of a microbial fuel cell. “The idea of a microbial fuel cell is based on taking organic waste and turning it into a source of energy,” said Bruce Logan, a scientist at Penn State and co-author of a paper in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
“In this newest discovery, we figured we would desalinate water by modifying the electricity generated by the bacteria.”

Here’s how it works. You start with a cup of water from any natural source. That water has bacteria. Some of the bacteria in that water, and scientists know exactly which ones, will naturally produce electrons and protons inside their cells and transport them outside themselves. Electrons and protons are charged particles. Other bacteria scavenge those free electrons and protons and use them to create hydrogen, methane, or other energetic chemicals.

So it’s as simple as this: Instead of letting other bacteria suck up the electrons these bacteria spit out, put two thin pieces of plastic that harness the electrons and gases produced, and draw them to a cathode and an anode to create an electric current.

It’s so simple it’s beautiful. The electricity produced heats up the water, which gets filtered and purified. But here’s the REALLY exciting part: Using the apparatus requires almost ZERO energy. The energy is already present in the water you’re trying to purify! Energy could even be PRODUCED in the process. That means free purified water.
Humanity is advancing people.

Let’s cheer it on!

Wet, Wet Air – Time to Take Out the Water

EWA SivanWorried by drought? Well, stop it. Put it this way. Have you ever noticed that when you put an ice-filled glass outside on a humid day, water starts appearing on the outside? This is humidity from the air condensing on the glass. There are countless gallons of water wisping around the air even in the driest of climates, let alone those cities that make you drown helplessly in sweat like a hairless ape.

An Israeli Company appropriately named EWA (Extraction of Water from Air) has engineered a creation that sucks out gallons of water a day at 85% energy efficiency. This means most of the energy used in the cycle is reused in the next cycle, making it extremely efficient.

Since the condensation of high energy water vapor into lower energy liquid water means the extra energy has to go somewhere, it’s simply reused in the form of heat to power the machine itself. Hence the energy efficiency.

EWA’s earnings have skyrocketing from a mere $100,000 when it started to a predicted thousand times more at $100 million this year.

Their CEO Dr. Etan Bar explains, “One cubic kilometer of air contains 10 to 40 thousand tons of water — enough to supply at least 100 thousand people with all their water needs, or enough ‘safe’ drinking water for two million.” EWA’s device will produce anywhere from a few hundred liters of water per day to 1,000 cubic meters of water in a single plant.

We’re waiting…and in the mean time, we’ll take quick showers.