Scientists Are Making Carbon Fiber From Plants Instead of Petroleum

Carbon fiber is the Superman of materials. Five times stronger than steel and a fraction of the weight, it is used in everything from tennis rackets to golf clubs to bicycles to wind turbine blades to passenger airplanes to Formula One race cars . There’s just one catch: Carbon fiber is made from oil and other costly ingredients, making the end product exceptionally expensive. That’s why carbon fiber shows up in race cars but rarely makes it into minivans. That could change. Scientists say it may soon be possible to make carbon fiber from plants instead of petroleum, driving down costs, making the material more widely available for use in cars, planes and other vehicles. Carbon fiber is made from

With Conservation Burials, Death Gives New Life

By Marlene Cimons Natural burials—where bodies are buried in the soil to allow for a hasty decomposition—have already caught on. But an Australian scientist has proposed that the concept of “dust-unto-dust” go even further. He suggests that natural burials become “conservation” burials, that is, that people use the costs of interring bodies to buy, manage and preserve new land for natural burials, turning them into nature preserves or wilderness areas. Such funds

Displaced Coal Miners Turn to Beekeeping

By Marlene Cimons Mark Lilly, 59, grew up and still lives in West Virginia. He spent three decades as an insurance adjuster, often talking to people struggling through the decline of coal. At the end of some very long days, he would escape to his bee hives. “It was therapeutic,” he said. Life in coal country may no longer be what it once was, but “the bees haven’t changed,” he said. Lilly has since retired from the insurance business, but he still tends to his honeybees. He now is using what he learned from these insects

Here’s How Lakes Could Power the Nation

By Marlene Cimons When the conversation turns to sources of clean renewable energy , evaporation usually isn’t the first thing to come up, if at all. Yet scientists think evaporation from U.S. lakes and reservoirs could generate almost 70 percent of the power the nation produces now. Even better, it could meet demand both day and night, solving the intermittency problems posed by solar and wind. “Evaporation occurs day and night, all year round,” said Ahmet-Hamdi Cavusoglu, a graduate student at Columbia

Sci-Fi Novel Envisions Corporatocracy in a Climate-Changed Future

By Nexus Media, with Tal M. Klein In Tal Klein’s new novel, The Punch Escrow , humans have successfully tackled disease and climate change , but powerful corporations control everything. The book has created a stir among sci-fi fans, and there are already plans to adapt it to the big screen. In this conversation with Nexus Media , Klein shares his perspective on science, technology and the future of our species. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. What’s the premise for The Punch Escrow ? Geek & Sundry It’s the year 2147. The world is neither a utopia

Buzz Kill: Climate Change Threatens Coffee-Pollinating Bees

By Marlene Cimons The best coffee grows in the mountains, where it is cool. It needs low temperatures to thrive, which is why growers often put shade trees in their fields. But the mountains are getting hotter. And the higher you go, the less room there is to grow coffee. This is one reason scientists predict coffee will suffer in a changing climate . New research suggests the fate

Climate Change Is Making Fish Smaller

By Marlene Cimons Seafood lovers be warned. That delectable slab of seared tuna on your plate soon could become a lot smaller—and more scarce—thanks to climate change . As ocean temperatures climb, many species of fish—tuna among them—likely will shrink, decreasing in size by as much as 30 percent, according to a new study published in the journal

How Discarded Orange Peels Transformed a Barren Landscape Into a Lush Forest

By Marlene Cimons Orange isn’t just the new black. It’s also the new green. Twenty years ago, an orange juice producer dumped thousands of tons of orange peels and pulp onto a barren section of a Costa Rican national park, which has since transformed into a lush, vine-laden woodland. The shift is a dramatic illustration of how agricultural waste can regenerate

Gardening the Seas to Save the World’s Corals

As ocean waters warm and acidify , corals across the globe are disappearing. Desperate to prevent the demise of these vital ecosystems, researchers have developed ways to “garden” corals, buying the oceans some much-needed time. University of Miami Rosenstiel School marine biologist Diego Lirman sat down with Josh Chamot of Nexus Media to describe the process and explain what’s at stake. This interview has been edited for length and clarity. What is killing coral? I wish we had an easy, straightforward answer for

Good News for Craft Beer Lovers

By Jeremy Deaton Henry David Thoreau once said that a glass of beer would “naturalize a man at once—which would make him see green, and, if he slept, dream that he heard the wind sough among the pines.” That quote might as well be emblazoned on every IPA in America. Craft brewers across the country are finding innovative ways to guard the water , soil , air and climate on which their businesses depend. “I ride my bike across the bridge every morning to the brewery. Underneath that bridge is the river that

Solar Battle Continues as Duke-Backed Energy Bill Passes North Carolina House

By Molly Taft, Laura A. Shepard and Monika Sharma Alongside Highway 401 in northern North Carolina is a 21st-century twist on a classic rural scene. A few miles outside of Roxboro, sheep graze among 5,000 panels at the Person County Solar Park, keeping the grass tidy on the rural installation. Fields like these aren’t just