A Plastic That Recycles Itself

Science – Researchers report that they have designed new plastics that break down upon exposure to light.

Embodying Emotion, Performing Gender

Boston University News Service – “Take your pen, do this.” Nicole Noll said as she reached into her backpack for a pen, and placed it horizontally between her teeth. “Don’t let your lips touch it.”

I did as she demonstrated. Noll and I were in the Harvard Science Center, sitting in the first-floor hallway. As we held our pens in our teeth, two men passed by and gave us puzzled looks.

Time To Face The Thorium

Boston University News Service – Love your smartphone that delivers clear sound and bright colors but still fits in your pocket? Give thanks to neodymium, a rare earth element that makes the magnets in your phone so powerful that it can be as small as it is. Wind turbines and electric cars need the unique magnetic properties of dysprosium, another rare earth element. Virtually every form of clean energy technology today needs rare earth elements to function. But the rare earth elements come with an unavoidable by-product: thorium.

A Farmer’s Best Defense Against Drought

Boston University News Service – In the summer of 2012, during the worst drought in twenty years, Danforth, Illinois, went for six weeks without rain but the corn in Hoekstra Farm grew tall and green. The corn in the neighboring fields was almost a foot shorter. While farmers across the Corn Belt watched their crops shrivel and die, Harold Wilken of Hoekstra Farm made enough money from his crops that summer to pay a bonus rent to his landowner.

Scientists Report First Step Away From Fertilizers

Boston University News Service – Before synthetic nitrogen fertilizers existed, plants and bacteria worked together to return nutrients to the soil. A type of bacteria living in plant roots, called nitrogen-fixing bacteria or Rhizobia, enriches the soil with nitrogen from the atmosphere, making it available to the host plants. But not all plants can host Rhizobia, because the plants’ immune systems repel the bacteria. Scientists have long believed that only legumes, or plants like soybean, pea, and alfalfa, could chemically communicate, and therefore accept, the nitrogen-fixing bacteria.

Hotpot, a shared act of creation

I had a reservation for four at 7 pm on Saturday night. I had reminded the three friends joining me for dinner to be punctual, and we were all at the restaurant as the clock struck seven. Still, we had to wait fifteen minutes before we were finally seated in the crowded restaurant.

Explainer for the question: Can the batteries in your laptop catch on fire?

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration grounded Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner fleet recently because of lithium-ion battery fire incidents. Similar lithium-ion batteries are found in many consumer electronic devices such as laptops, cameras and cellphones. Can the batteries in your laptop catch on fire?

Kopitiam in Boston

As noon approached on a recent Sunday, a line of people began to form outside the multi-purpose room in the M.I.T. Sidney Pacific Graduate Residence. These people were mostly from Singapore, queuing patiently, as Singaporeans are known to do, for good food. The rich aromas of cooking curry mixed with various aromatic spices began to waft from the doors. The chatter grew louder, more animated, until it abruptly fell to an absolute silence as a student came out of the multi-purpose room and calmly began to instruct people what to do once they went in. Then, the line started moving. The kopitiam was open for business.

Take A Mushroom Walk Through Lincoln Woods

Boston University News Service – It was an hour of trekking in the Lincoln woods with George Davis, a retired chemist and president emeritus of the Boston Mycological Club, before I finally spotted our prey: mushrooms. They were right beneath my feet, almost impossible to distinguish from the fallen leaves that covered the ground. Davis quickly classified the bright yellow mushrooms, with rounded caps and rings around their stems, as Amanita, a group of fungi in which many members are known to be poisonous.

    “The planet is, was, and always will be stronger than us. We can't destroy it; if we overstep the mark, the planet will simply erase us from its surface and carry on existing. Why don't they start talking about not letting the planet destroy us?” - Paulo Coelho, The Winner Stands Alone