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Bio-plastic made from fish scales wins U.K. James Dyson award
Bio-plastics could prove to be a suitable alternative to single-use plastics.
- The flexible bio-plastic, called MarinaTex, breaks down within about four to six weeks.
- One Atlantic cod contains enough waste to produce hundreds of MarinaTex bags.
- More than half of single-use plastics end up in the world's oceans.
Single-use plastics — among them, straws, cutlery, shopping and sandwich bags — are small, but they have a huge impact on the environment. The vast majority of these plastics end up in landfills or the ocean, where they can take hundreds or thousands of years to decompose.
And when you consider that the world consumes about 1 million plastic bottles per minute, the implications of plastics consumption are pretty staggering.
To help offset these environmental costs, University of Sussex graduate Lucy Hughes recently used fish waste to create a compostable alternative to single-use plastic. The translucent material, called MarinaTex, is made from fish scales and skin – materials that break down in food-waste bins within about four to six weeks. MarinaTex is also flexible and durable, showing a higher tensile strength than LDPE (low-density polyethylene), which is the most commonly used material in single-use plastic bags.
"This shows that the sustainable option does not sacrifice quality," said Hughes, who won this year's U.K. James Dyson Award, a prize that promotes young British designers and engineers.
Hughes conducted more than 100 experiments to devise her final design, which uses agar, a gelatinous substance found in the cell walls of red algae, as a binding agent. One Atlantic cod contains enough waste to produce 477 MarinaTex bags, according to Hughes.
"I didn't want to use virgin natural materials so I challenged myself with starting with a waste stream," Hughes said. "For me a good design is something that bridges the gap between behaviors, business and our planet."
Hughes said many people have a disconnect about the world's oceans.
"When you see bits of rubbish in the ocean, or when you see that environment be sort of soiled by waste, it's kind of an eye-opener."
Hughes was awarded about $2,500 for winning the national contest, and she's in the running to win the international award. Last year's winners were Nicolas Orellana and Yaseen Noorani, who created the O-Wind Turbine.
Reducing waste from single-use plastics has recently become more of an environmental priority for individuals (the no-straw movement) and governments alike. In August, India announced plans to soon ban six single-use plastic products: bags, cups, plates, small bottles, straws and types of sachet. The move, which is the nation's most sweeping plastics regulation to date, is expected to reduce India's plastic consumption by 5 to 10 percent.
Some mysteries take generations to unfold.
- In 1959, a group of nine Russian hikers was killed in an overnight incident in the Ural Mountains.
- Conspiracies about their deaths have flourished ever since, including alien invasion, an irate Yeti, and angry tribesmen.
- Researchers have finally confirmed that their deaths were due to a slab avalanche caused by intense winds.
a: Last picture of the Dyatlov group taken before sunset, while making a cut in the slope to install the tent. b: Broken tent covered with snow as it was found during the search 26 days after the event.
Photographs courtesy of the Dyatlov Memorial Foundation.<p>Finally, a <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/s43247-020-00081-8" target="_blank">new study</a>, published in the Nature journal Communications Earth & Environment, has put the case to rest: it was a slab avalanche.</p><p>This theory isn't exactly new either. Researchers have long been skeptical about the avalanche notion, however, due to the grade of the hill. Slab avalanches don't need a steep slope to get started. Crown or flank fractures can quickly release as little as a few centimeters of earth (or snow) sliding down a hill (or mountain). </p><p>As researchers Johan Gaume (Switzerland's WSL Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research SLF) and Alexander Puzrin (Switzerland's Institute for Geotechnical Engineering) write, it was "a combination of irregular topography, a cut made in the slope to install the tent and the subsequent deposition of snow induced by strong katabatic winds contributed after a suitable time to the slab release, which caused severe non-fatal injuries, in agreement with the autopsy results."</p><p>Conspiracy theories abound when evidence is lacking. Twenty-six days after the incident, a team showed up to investigate. They didn't find any obvious sounds of an avalanche; the slope angle was below 30 degrees, ruling out (to them) the possibility of a landslide. Plus, the head injuries suffered were not typical of avalanche victims. Inject doubt and crazy theories will flourish.</p>
Configuration of the Dyatlov tent installed on a flat surface after making a cut in the slope below a small shoulder. Snow deposition above the tent is due to wind transport of snow (with deposition flux Q).
Photo courtesy of Communications Earth & Environment.<p>Add to this Russian leadership's longstanding battle with (or against) the truth. In 2015 the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation decided to reopen this case. Four years later the agency concluded it was indeed a snow avalanche—an assertion immediately challenged within the Russian Federation. The oppositional agency eventually agreed as well. The problem was neither really provided conclusive scientific evidence.</p><p>Gaume and Puzrin went to work. They provided four critical factors that confirmed the avalanche: </p><ul><li>The location of the tent under a shoulder in a locally steeper slope to protect them from the wind </li><li>A buried weak snow layer parallel to the locally steeper terrain, which resulted in an upward-thinning snow slab</li><li>The cut in the snow slab made by the group to install the tent </li><li>Strong katabatic winds that led to progressive snow accumulation due to the local topography (shoulder above the tent) causing a delayed failure</li></ul><p>Case closed? It appears so, though don't expect conspiracy theories to abate. Good research takes time—sometimes generations. We're constantly learning about our environment and then applying those lessons to the past. While we can't expect every skeptic to accept the findings, from the looks of this study, a 62-year-old case is now closed.</p><p> --</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a> and <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Facebook</a>. His most recent book is</em> "<em><a href="https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B08KRVMP2M?pf_rd_r=MDJW43337675SZ0X00FH&pf_rd_p=edaba0ee-c2fe-4124-9f5d-b31d6b1bfbee" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy</a>."</em></p>
As patients approached death, many had dreams and visions of deceased loved ones.
One of the most devastating elements of the coronavirus pandemic has been the inability to personally care for loved ones who have fallen ill.
Research reveals a new evolutionary feature that separates humans from other primates.
- Researchers find a new feature of human evolution.
- Humans have evolved to use less water per day than other primates.
- The nose is one of the factors that allows humans to be water efficient.
A model of water turnover for humans and chimpanzees who have similar fat free mass and body water pools.
Credit: Current Biology
Being skeptical isn't just about being contrarian. It's about asking the right questions of ourselves and others to gain understanding.