“In the outside world…”

“In the outside world, the problem isn’t that plants are suddenly getting more light: It’s that for years, they’ve been getting more carbon dioxide. Plants rely on both light and carbon dioxide to grow. If shining more light results in faster-growing, less nutritious algae—junk-food algae whose ratio of sugar to nutrients was out of whack—then it seemed logical to assume that ramping up carbon dioxide might do the same. And it could also be playing out in plants all over the planet. What might that mean for the plants that people eat?


“What Loladze found is that scientists simply didn’t know. It was already well documented that CO2levels were rising in the atmosphere, but he was astonished at how little research had been done on how it affected the quality of the plants we eat. For the next 17 years, as he pursued his math career, Loladze scoured the scientific literature for any studies and data he could find. The results, as he collected them, all seemed to point in the same direction: The junk-food effect he had learned about in that Arizona lab also appeared to be occurring in fields and forests around the world. “Every leaf and every grass blade on earth makes more and more sugars as CO2 levels keep rising,” Loladze said. “We are witnessing the greatest injection of carbohydrates into the biosphere in human history―[an] injection that dilutes other nutrients in our food supply.”

“He published those findings just a few years ago, adding to the concerns of a small but increasingly worried group of researchers who are raising unsettling questions about the future of our food supply. Could carbon dioxide have an effect on human health we haven’t accounted for yet? The answer appears to be yes—and along the way, it has steered Loladze and other scientists, directly into some of the thorniest questions in their profession…”

Text: The Great Nutrient Collapse, Politico.

Pic: Soylent Green, 1973.


A Matter of Time


“As Iraqi forces continue their military operation to take Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), another equally important battle to save the Mosul Dam, located 60km north of Mosul, is under way. After six months of frantic security and logistical preparations, an Italian company has kicked off the repair works to beef up the dam, under the protection of five hundred Italian soldiers and Kurdish Peshmerga forces.

“The Italian company,TREVI, will have about 18 months to prevent the foundations of the dam from plunging deeper underground, averting an impending catastrophe. Experts warn that if the dam collapses, up to 11.11 billion cubic-metres of water known as Lake Dahuk, will submerge Mosul and create an inundation that will affect the lives of millionsof people living along the banks of the Tigris river.

“I don’t know if it’s a race against time, but we have the know-how and the technology to make the dam safe for the time-being,” said a company source on the phone, on condition of anonymity for security reasons…


“But scientists say the repairs are just a temporary solution and that the Iraqi population should get ready to evacuate the Tigris’ banks. “No matter how much grouting and maintenance the company will do, it may expand the life span of the dam, but it is just going to delay the disaster,” said Nadhir al-Ansari, professor of water resources and environmental engineering at Lulea University in Sweden and a published expert on the Mosul Dam.

“Speaking to Al Jazeera, Ansari said the 3.4km-long dam, the fourth largest in the Middle East, is built on unstable grounds and its collapse is inevitable. “It is just a matter of time. It will be worse than throwing a nuclear bomb on Iraq,” Ansari said.”

Text: Mosul Dam collapse ‘will be worse than a nuclear bomb’, Al Jazeera.

Image: Thomas Hart Benton, Flood Disaster, 1951

Self Organising Plants



“The enigmatic circles of sand – burnt orange, almost impeccably round and rimmed by a fringe of tall grass – are spaced at surprisingly regular intervals across the otherwise barren landscape. Over the course of decades, they appear, expand and then fade, almost as if they had a life cycle of their own.

“And, viewed from above, they seem so perfect and improbable their existence can only be ascribed to something not of this world. Perhaps they are the footprints of a god, as the Himba bushmen who live in the Namib desert have long believed. Or maybe the bare patches have been poisoned by the breath of a malicious dragon that dwells underground.

“Or else they’re the work of aliens who thought it might be fun to mess with the Earthlings by scratching out some circles in the grass and leaving us to puzzle over them for centuries. Hardly less fanciful- though far more grounded in fact – was this suggestion from a German scientist in 2013: After finding sand termites in every “fairy circle” he sampled, he concluded that the industrious insects might be geoengineering their harsh environment, burrowing out bare spots in ever-broader concentric circles in order to capture some of the desert’s scarce water for themselves.

“Whatever their cause, the fairy circles have brought countless scientists, mystics and conspiracy theorists to remote swath of southern African desert that was long thought to be the only place they could be seen.

“Those people didn’t know about Newman, Australia.

“Unbeknownst to almost anyone outside the small mining town, the same strange phenomenon that so captivated people in the Namib also occurs in Australia’s outback. Not only that, but a comparison of the two types of fairy circles could help solve the centuries-old mystery of what’s creating them.

“It’s not gods, scientists said on Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and it’s not dragons or bugs.

“It’s the plants themselves. They’ve self-organised.”

Text: ‘Fairy Circles Found in Western Australia May Have Solved an Old Mystery’, Sydney Morning Herald. 

Pic: “Self-organizing social behavior in the so-called plant-animal, a ‘solar-powered’ species of marine flat worm that gains all its energy from the algae within its own body, has been demonstrated by researchers from the University of Bristol, UK. Commonly known as the ‘mint-sauce worm’ due to its bright-green color, S. roscoffensis is found in shallow water on sheltered sand beaches at certain sites on the Atlantic Coast.Phys.org