Giant mystery hole opens up in Siberian permafrost

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A giant sink-hole looking crater has mysteriously opened up in Siberia. Geologists aren’t sure what caused it. The hole could perhaps be related to local natural gas production. Others speculate it could be a result of melting ice or a methane burp triggered by warming. Whatever caused it, this thing is huge. Video and links below the fold. [Read more...]

The spice must flow

Watching Grumpy Grandpa McCain this morning making the rounds, trying to explain how we won the war in Iraq, but somehow failed in Iraq at the same time and now have to go back in and, what, re-win it? Well, it was interesting to watch him try and navigate through that tortured reasoning, even a little bit comical in a dark, cynical way, sort of a crazy neo-con blast from the bloody past. But here’s what sets civil war in Iraq apart from Syria or Libya: [Read more...]

Scientific lies from the pit of Hell!

The abiotic oil idea is geologic nonsense, but it’s found a second life by being highly useful for disarming concerns among the faithful over the finite supply of fossil fuels. As Rachel correctly points out above, this is an outgrowth of young earth creationism aided by wishful thinking and the willful ignorance now in the process of utterly consuming a once relatively normal political party. It becomes a big problem for the rest of us when they put anti-science nutcases in charge of large departments tasked with preventing or mitigating this kind of stuff:

North Carolina health officials are warning residents to steer clear of the Dan River, where a pipe from a nearby power plant is dumping unsafe levels of arsenic. … Arsenic levels in the waste-water are 14 times those considered safe for human contact.“Because the Duke Power-Eden coal ash spill is located in North Carolina’s portion of the Dan River, a potential hazard exists immediately downstream of the release,” health officials said in a statement, recommending that people “avoid recreational contact with water and sediment in the Dan River in North Carolina downstream of the Duke Power-Eden spill site.”

Mars flyby and other links

This was supposed to be a secret until this coming Wednesday, and it was secret, right up until someone spilled the beans almost a week early:

Buzz is building about a planned 2018 private mission to Mars, which may launch the first humans toward the Red Planet. A nonprofit organization called the Inspiration Mars Foundation — which is led by millionaire Dennis Tito, the world’s first space tourist — will hold a news conference on Feb. 27 to announce the 501-day roundtrip mission, which will aim for a January 2018 launch.

Yes, there are many unresolved questions. But these people are not flakes; they are serious veteran space travel professionals. I think they’re really thinking about doing this. There will be more info soon. [Read more...]

Energy from a can

You’ve heard of spray on solar cells, scientists at Rice University have developed paint on batteries:

BBC — The new work, from Rice University in Texas, US, opens up completely new avenues for putting batteries on nearly any surface in a simple and robust way.

Pulickel Ajayan and his colleagues chemically optimised the recipe for each of their five layers, using blends of chemicals common in lithium-ion batteries as well as novel materials including carbon nanotubes – tiny “straws” of carbon with incredible electronic properties.

But for the process to result in a working battery, all five layers must stick together and work in synchrony, and the tricky step was finding a separator material that kept the whole stack in one piece.

When the team hit on using a chemical called poly-methylmethacrylate, they had a structure that would stick even to curved surfaces.