Five Interesting Things

It’s time once again for my round up of things that you might find: interesting, actionable, or inspirational. Maybe all three!

Seed Vault – You may have heard of the “Doomsday Seed Vault.” If not, you should know that it’s a repository of seeds for important crops that will help us reboot civilization if we should be catastrophically stupid enough to wreck things. Which, if you’ve been paying attention, isn’t exactly outside the realm of possibility. This gives you a look at the interior. You can help similar efforts by contributing to a seed banking initiative in your country.

Moo Power – We need to build more loops in our economy. By that I mean that we should aim to send nothing to landfill, but instead design things to be reused, recycled, or as a last resort, composted. This tractor, which runs on cow manure, is one such loop.

Water Bear – One of the cooler discoveries in recent years has been the presence of extremophile life forms. That is, life that exists in conditions we previously didn’t think capable of supporting life. For example, there are super hot thermal vents deep in the ocean, which spew things like hydrogen sulfide and where there’s no sunlight. Yet we’ve found more than 300 species of critters capable of thriving around them. One of the hardiest creatures we’ve discovered is the water bear or tardigrade, which can survive the vacuum of space. This piece speculates as to how that can happen.

Good people doing good things – Yes, things are iffy, and yes, we have some big problems to fix. Here’s some people trying to do just that. Take heart and soldier on.

Pew, pew – I’m not a nuclear power fan, but not for the usual reasons. Nuclear power plants are expensive to build, take years to build, they’re complicated to run, and they’re expensive to decommission. It’s also not smart, in my opinion, to structure your system around a few large producers (we saw what happened when large producers of critical items got taken out during the pandemic). Advocates suggest that newer designs are smaller and modular, and safer, and will be quicker to deploy. That might be the case, but nuclear waste remains a huge problem. Our best solution to date has been to bury the stuff underground — also expensive! — and in some places “unexpected chemistry” has meant leaks. Buuuuuttt, this process involving lasers may help reduce the lifespan of nuclear waste. Which if nothing else, might help with the several hundred thousand tons we currently have waiting for a home.

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