Category Archives: Environment

Subtle effects

economist-logoMANGANISM has been known about since the 19th century, when miners exposed to ores containing manganese, a silvery metal, began to totter, slur their speech and behave like someone inebriated. The poisoning was irreversible, and soon ended in psychosis and death. Nowadays, the doses workers are exposed to are far lower and manganism is rare. But new research suggests it could be some way from being eradicated entirely. The metal’s detrimental effects on human health may be subtle but widespread, contributing to diseases known by other names…

This article was first published in the Economist on 24 April 2014. To continue reading, click here.

Mangan_1-crop

Searching for Doggerland

UnknownWHEN signs of a lost world at the bottom of the North Sea first began to appear, no one wanted to believe them. The evidence started to surface a century and a half ago, when fishermen along the Dutch coast widely adopted a technique called beam trawling. They dragged weighted nets across the seafloor and hoisted them up full of sole, plaice, and other bottom fish. But sometimes an enormous tusk would spill out and clatter onto the deck, or the remains of an aurochs, woolly rhino, or other extinct beast. The fishermen were disturbed by these hints that things were not always as they are. What they could not explain, they threw back into the sea…

This article first appeared in National Geographic in December 2012. To continue reading, click here.

Tsunami in Lake Geneva

 

economist-logoIN 563AD a tsunami devastated Geneva. Two accounts of the disaster, one by Gregory of Tours and the other by Marius of Avenches, have survived. What caused the wave, and the extent of the damage that resulted, have been matters of conjecture for centuries. But over the past decade several groups of scientists have pieced together the sequence of events and one of those groups, led by Katrina Kremer of the University of Geneva, has now created a computer model of what happened. Unfortunately for the 1m people who live around the lake’s shore, the conclusion of this research is that something similar could easily happen again.

This article first appeared in the Economist on 3 November 2012. To continue reading click here.

The following is a simulation of something similar that happened on Lake Tahoe 40,000 years ago.

Glacier prayer

titlepieceYOU’VE got to hand it to the Catholic church, sometimes its methods work. In 1678, the inhabitants of Fiesch in the Swiss canton of Valais, exasperated with the glaciers that loomed ever larger over their village, swallowing up their pasturage, inaugurated an annual pilgrimage. The hope was to banish the ice forms with chants, prayers and holy water. Several centuries later, their prayers appeared to have been answered…

This article was first published in the Guardian on 29 July 2012. To continue reading click here.

Aletsch Glacier
Aletsch Glacier

 

Dreampond revisited

page11-nature_logoOLE Seehausen didn’t expect to find much when he dropped his trawling net into Lake Victoria in 1991. The fish he was studying, called cichlids, had been disappearing from the East African lake for years. So he was astounded when he hauled in dozens of them. Close inspection of their coloration and shapes revealed five distinct species. The graduate student couldn’t wait to deliver the news to his supervisor, Frans Witte, at Leiden University in the Netherlands. “The quality of the phone line was so horrible that I wasn’t sure he had understood that we had caught cichlids offshore again,” he recalls…

This article first appeared in Nature on 8 July 2010. To continue reading click here.