SciTech Briefs

Humans may face shortage of water

According to “The World’s Water,” the Pacific Institute’s regular report on global water usage, more than 2 million people die each year from preventable waterborne diseases. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the world’s population is expected to exceed 7 billion early next year — more people will need water and more efforts will be required to raise efficiency of water use. “New thinking about solutions and sustainable water planning and management, better data, case studies, and efforts to raise awareness are all needed,” Peter Gleick, a water expert and president of the Pacific Institute for Studies, wrote in the report.

Source: Time magazine

Simplified food label proposed

At the request of Congress, the Institute of Medicine submitted a report on Oct. 20 about establishing a simplified label that would go on the front of food packages to show how many calories the food contains, along with a health rating system of zero to three stars. This rating system would be based only on added sugars, sodium, and saturated or trans fats. According to the report, these types of nutrients are the ones that people tend to over-consume. The report also claims that these nutrients are the ones most associated with major illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Source: The New York Times

Invasive fish is focus of cuisine

The Oyster Recovery Partnership, an Annapolis, Md.-based environmental organization, has been asking people to eat a problematic fish for the sake of the environment. The snakehead, an aggressive predatory fish native to Asia and Africa capable of dominating rivers and lakes, has been found populating parts of Maryland and Florida. Leaders of the initiative hope that convincing commercial fishermen to pursue snakeheads and sell them at fish markets will prove to be more effective than poisoning or draining rivers and lakes, as has been done in the past.

Source: NPR

Japan spends more for decontamination

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda approved $13 billion on Oct. 21 to be put towards cleaning up the areas contaminated by radiation at the Daiichi nuclear power plant in Fukushima, the site of the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Noda claimed that the decontamination was “a prerequisite for people to return to their homelands.” Radiation around the plant has forced nearly 80,000 people to leave their homes. To date, the government has raised $2.9 billion for decontaminating the area and will allocate more funding in the future.

Source: The New York Times

Scientists explain painful sounds

Researchers in Cologne, Germany, have shown that unpleasant sounds such as nails scratching on a chalkboard induce actual physical reactions in listeners, such as increased heart rate, blood pressure, and electrical conductivity of the listeners’ skin. The researchers propose that the ear canal may be to blame, as previous studies have shown that the ear canal amplifies sounds with frequencies very similar to the unpleasant sounds used in this study, inflicting pain in the listeners. Researchers say knowing these details about unpleasant sounds can help engineers know which frequencies to modify when designing such things as vacuum cleaners and factory machinery.

Source: Science

Study confirms climate change

Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley have released an independent climate change study, stating in the report that “global warming is real.” The study shows that, since the mid-1950s, the world’s average land temperature has risen by about 1.8 degrees Fahrenheit. The researchers claim that their statistical analysis of nearly 39,000 land-based temperature stations includes not only more stations than previous studies have used, but that their results are also more transparent and easier for other groups to reproduce and analyze.

Source: Nature