Posts Tagged Oil

FIVE SCIENCE STUNNERS

Posted by on Friday, 23 July, 2010

JEEZ! WHAT NEXT?

HANG UP THE OXYGEN HOSE?

The guy in the next cubicle grabs his chest and passes out.  Five long minutes later, the paramedics show up. On goes the oxygen mask. That should help, right?

Not exactly.

An article in the Cochrane Systematic Review lays it out.  387 patients. 14 deaths. The ones on oxygen? Three times as likely to croak.

Dr. Juan Cabello, says it’s amazing that emergency medical personnel have been routinely administering oxygen without proof that it works.

Amazing.

Much more data is needed before the profession changes a “gold standard”. But this information will get ’em thinking.

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 6 .

Startling and intriguing. Larger study needed.

EASY WITH THE UMBILICAL CORD CLAMP

According to Paul Sanberg (Center of Excellence for Aging and Brain Repair) blood keeps circulating in the umbilical cord for a little while after delivery. And that blood contains pluripotent stem cells.

Waiting at least an extra 30 seconds is good. Less intraventricular hemorrhage, sepsis,  and anemia. Less need for  for blood transfusions too.

So, OBVIOUSLY, we should wait, right?  Except those durn stem cells are mighty valuable. If you wait, you may lose them.

What’s the right thing to do?

Dunno.

ScienceAintSoBadRating = GBTYOTO (Get Back To You On This One)

How come everything’s so durn complicated?


MORE COFFEE, LESS BUZZZZ

Neuropsychopharmacology Journal: A study about coffee habituation . Do you get the same buzz, the same “wake up” effect, from a cup of coffe if you’re a heavy coffee drinker?

Wanna guess?

Of COURSE not! It’s like anything else. You build up tolerance. You even get a little hooked. Try going  “cold caffeine” sometime.

YOU GOTTA DIE TO BECOME OIL?

Coal, gas, and oil are hydrocarbons. They start out as living things.  Old reptiles, fish, leaves.

Even poop.

Which gets buried, compressed, and “cooked”.

That’s how it works.  Living things are the raw material. Geological processes take over from there.  That’s where most of our energy comes from.

That’s the official story, anyway.

But there may be a d-e-e-p-e-r explanation. Maybe way down in the earth’s mantle, nature manufactures hydrocarbons direct from the raw materials without requiring the intermediate steps that rely on dead life forms.

Would that mean there’s enough oil for a billion trillion years if we can figure out how to get down to it? Could we, mayhaps, have enough black stuff to TOTALLY cook the atmosphere?

It’s a theory.

We, obviously, know some GREAT ways to drill a couple of miles under the Gulf Of Mexico, but sampling the hydrocarbons 40, 50,  60 miles down’s an awful crimp for the budget of most research labs.

Researchers at Carnegie Institution’s Geophysical Laboratory described (Nature Geoscience) a more convenient way to figure out if there’s anything to this idea.

They had a diamond anvil cell lying around. And a laser. So they thought, “Well, wouldn’t it be fun to see what happens to methane at, say, 20 thousand times atmospheric pressure and at 2240 degrees Fahrenheit?” The same conditions that exist miles and miles down below your feet.

So they did.

The result? According to the article, ethane, propane, butane, hydrogen, and graphite. The process appears to be somewhat reversible too. Ethane to methane.

What’s this got to do with anything?

If deep sources of hydrocarbons migrate, gradually, to the surface of the earth, this may suggest that our nonrenewable  energy sources are likely to endure far longer.

That’s a good thing.

I guess.

ALCOHOL MAKES YOU SNEEZE

Well it does. Alcoholic drinks have histamine in them. That’s the stuff that gets your allergies going.  Anahad O’connor (New York Times) explains.

Twice as bad for women.

KIDS GET HIGH CHOLESTEROL?

Kids don’t have high cholesterol.

Well, hold on; they might (article in the Journal of Pediatrics). In fact, 1 in 3 kids have high levels of “bad” cholesterol.

Which is scary.

But what do you do? You gonna put a kid on cholesterol drugs?  Could be forever.

Would this give them healthier, better, longer lives?

Unless we do put kids on cholesterol reducing drugs, we’ll never know. Should kids be guinea pigs?

Should guinea pigs be guinea pigs?

ScienceAintsoBad‘ll be sure and let you know when they clear this up. For now, the American Academy of Pediatrics has some new guidelines which seem reasonable.

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The Gulf Spill And Oil Eating Microbes

Posted by on Thursday, 13 May, 2010

Not So Hungry?

A BAD THING

If you’re just getting over a coma, first of all, welcome back.  You will be the last to hear this but,  last month, a large oil drilling platform, leased to British Petroleum, exploded and sank,  releasing hundreds of thousands of gallons of crude oil into the Gulf Of Mexico.  As of now, the oil’s still flowing.

You’re right. This isn’t very good for the ecosystem.

THE QUESTION

MISTERScienceAintSoBad wasn’t surprised to receive the following letter.

MisterSASB: How ya doin’, Man? I can’t believe those blankety blank Brits, lettin’ their frigin’ oil contaminate our water like that. I contributed my pantyhose and I pretty much sheared my poodle naked for those new oil booms?But here’s my question. What about bugs? Aren’t there bugs that’ll eat that oil? Why don’t we sprinkle them around? I’ll take my answer off the air. – NoCount19

YES AND NO

Dear NoCount:

Nice of you to ask me the hard ones.

Sure. There are bacteria that  enjoy eating oil. Good thing too. If there weren’t we would REALLY be in a mess since we human are slobs. This Gulf thing’s an extreme example, but, believe me, the oil chompers in nature don’t go long between meals.

It’s true that bacteria have been cooked up in labs just for this purpose but the varieties of bacteria that live in the wild are hard to beat (article in Science Insider). The best  approach seems to be to spread nutrients around the beaches so the microbes that’re already out there will go crazy. They can do a hell of a job in a few months .

But I don’t want to be MISTERPollyanna here . This amount of oil will hurt the crap out of fish and plants and no hungry bugs’re gonna change that reality. Bacteria and sunlight combine to greatly limit the damage from moderate amounts of oil but an article in National Geographic (Christine Dell’Amore) explains the difference between oil (which nature CAN handle somewhat) and thick layered GOBS of oil which truly has the potential to do terrible damage to our fragile world.

THE FUTURE

The future could be brighter. Work at the German Research Center for Biotechnology on alcanivorax borkumensis may get “human introduced” microbes back into the game. Alcanivorax borkumensis really thrives on oil. It shows up, after awhile,  in places that are contaminated. Uninhibited by the fact that much of the nitrogen in oil is inorganic, it can get its nitrogen in any form, organic OR inorganic.  This strange bacterium could give us substantial help in living with the side effects of our energy needs.