Think for a second how much energy is literally washed down the drain when you take a shower. Not the water itself — just the energy that’s lost when you heat up said water, pump it through a series of pipes to your showerhead, and then let all that warm goodness run straight down your body and into a hole in the floor. By some estimates, 80 to 90 percent of the energy it takes to heat that water ends up going straight to the sewer. Considering the fact that the energy required to heat water is one of the biggest energy expenditures at home (right behind heating/cooling/ventilation), that’s a monumental waste of juice. But not to worry; there’s a new device on the market that could help to recapture some of that wasted energy. Â

It’s called EcoDrain, and while it’s definitely not a new concept, it’s a fresh new take on an old idea, and finally makes waste heat recovery a viable possibility for regular homeowners.

There are many designs for efficient stoves, and gasification is only one way to boost the efficiency of a cooking fire. The wood gas stove in this article is an elegantly simple gasifier design called a TLUD stove (for top-lit updraft), also known as an inverted downdraft stove. If you don’t care how it looks, you can build it with a can opener, a punch, and a big rock. This design, which I’ve adapted from one I first saw on Instructables, is built around a 1-quart paint can. It easily boils enough water for a small pot of tea or a bowl of noodles, using nothing more than a fist-sized charge of scrap wood.

These water issues are clearly major problems that will take decades, new technologies and billions of yen to resolve, but they are a completely different beast from the problems of the accident’s early days. Fukushima’s problems are fodder for debates on broader issues, making it crucial that these latest concerns about leaks and groundwater contamination be neither overblown nor understated. Our goal here is to try to draw a clear and evenhanded picture of the situation at Fukushima Daiichi today and the risks it poses. § [An MSM article refreshingly free of both alarmism and "everything is fine" rhetoric. Only discusses water, though, and not, for example, structural integrity of buildings.]

Scientists had struggled to find the trigger for so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that has wiped out an estimated 10 million beehives, worth $2 billion, over the past six years. Suspects have included pesticides, disease-bearing parasites and poor nutrition. But in a first-of-its-kind study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have identified a witch’s brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives. The findings break new ground on why large numbers of bees are dying though they do not identify the specific cause of CCD, where an entire beehive dies at once.

If you guessed “China,” you were wrong. The answer is Vietnam. The country’s appetite for rhino horn is so great that it now fetches up to $100,000/kg, making it worth more than its weight in gold. (Horns average around 1-3 kg each, depending on the species.)

The velomobile -- a recumbent tricycle with aerodynamic bodywork -- offers a more interesting alternative to the bicycle for longer trips. The bodywork protects the driver (and luggage) from the weather, while the comfortable recumbent seat eases the strain on the body, making it possible to take longer trips without discomfort. Furthermore, a velomobile (even without electric assistance) is much faster than an electric bicycle.

We live on a finite planet and sometimes our impact on it is greater than we realize. The seemingly isolated actions we take every day—from our choice of morning beverage to our choice of business practices—are often links in a chain of unusual connections we would never have imagined.

Using nuclear power in place of fossil-fuel energy sources, such as coal, has prevented some 1.8 million air pollution-related deaths globally and could save millions of more lives in coming decades, concludes a study. The researchers also find that nuclear energy prevents emissions of huge quantities of greenhouse gases. These estimates help make the case that policymakers should continue to rely on and expand nuclear power in place of fossil fuels to mitigate climate change, the authors say (Environ. Sci. Technol., DOI: 10.1021/es3051197).

Hypothetically, switching off the lights for an hour would cut CO2 emissions from power plants around the world. But, even if everyone in the entire world cut all residential lighting, and this translated entirely into CO2 reduction, it would be the equivalent of China pausing its CO2 emissions for less than four minutes. In fact, Earth Hour will cause emissions to increase.

The headline isn't really backed up in the article, but interesting nonetheless:] For our study, recently published in Urban Design International, we analyzed a dozen historically dense, small cities from around the country in which the shares of residents getting to work by automobile range from 43 to 91 percent. We compared the rates of automobile use to the number residents and employees per square mile. We found that cities with higher rates of driving have fewer people – a difference of more than 4,000 people per square mile for each 10 percent change in automobile use. As the Penn model suggests, this has to do with the amount of land used to move and store all those cars. [As I'm always saying to people who complain that Swedish cities aren't sufficiently accessible by car: building more roads makes things worse, not better.

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