Can Organic Food Feed the World?
Conventional farming practices favor corporate agriculture and are widely considered environmentally unsustainable, but can organic farming feed a world with nine billion people?
What's the Latest Development?
As world population heads toward 9 billion by 2050, the environmental impacts of conventional farming are becoming more serious. From staple foods and animal feed to clothes and vehicle fuel, we demand more agricultural output than ever. "Farming is the leading cause of deforestation in the tropics and one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions...and a perennial source of nonrenewable groundwater mining and water pollution." To combat these negative environmental impacts, some farmers are turning to organic techniques which do not use synthetic fertilizers, pesticides or hormone treatments for livestock.
What's the Big Idea?
Organic farming is a knowledge-intensive pursuit, so depending on the farm, output can vary widely. But in general, conventional methods produce about a quarter more food when it comes to staple crops like wheat. Unfortunately, the synthetic nitrogen fertilizer which takes most of the credit for conventional crop yields creates 'dead zones' when it runs off into local rivers and streams. Global nutrition is also a question of distribution. The world currently produces 22 trillion calories annually, enough for every person to receive 3,000 calories per day. Yet in the U.S. alone, 215 meals per person go to waste annually.
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Here's the science of black holes, from supermassive monsters to ones the size of ping-pong balls.
- There's more than one way to make a black hole, says NASA's Michelle Thaller. They're not always formed from dead stars. For example, there are teeny tiny black holes all around us, the result of high-energy cosmic rays slamming into our atmosphere with enough force to cram matter together so densely that no light can escape.
- CERN is trying to create artificial black holes right now, but don't worry, it's not dangerous. Scientists there are attempting to smash two particles together with such intensity that it creates a black hole that would live for just a millionth of a second.
- Thaller uses a brilliant analogy involving a rubber sheet, a marble, and an elephant to explain why different black holes have varying densities. Watch and learn!
- Bonus fact: If the Earth became a black hole, it would be crushed to the size of a ping-pong ball.
Protected animals are feared to be headed for the black market.
In a breakthrough for nuclear fusion research, scientists at China's Experimental Advanced Superconducting Tokamak (EAST) reactor have produced temperatures necessary for nuclear fusion on Earth.
- The EAST reactor was able to heat hydrogen to temperatures exceeding 100 million degrees Celsius.
- Nuclear fusion could someday provide the planet with a virtually limitless supply of clean energy.
- Still, scientists have many other obstacles to pass before fusion technology becomes a viable energy source.
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