Wind energy had a big year in 2017

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2017 Wind Technologies Market Report, wind power had a big year.

Over 7,000 MW of new capacity was added in the United States, and over 2,000 MW of upgrades to existing wind turbines were completed.  $11 billion was invested in wind energy in the U.S. in 2017.

Over the last 10 years, wind power has constituted 55% and 44% of the electric-generating capacity additions in the Interior and Great Lakes regions of the U.S., respectively.

While the U.S. is second to China in terms of wind power capacity and annual wind/electricity generation, the U.S. remains well down the list compared to other countries in wind energy penetration.  For instance, as of the end of 2017, wind power supplied about 48% of the electricity demand in Denmark; in the U.S., it’s about 7%.

However, on an individual U.S. state basis, Iowa, Kansas, Oklahoma, and South Dakota used wind to supply over 30% of “all in-state electricity generation in 2017.”  And, “14 states exceeded 10% wind energy penetration.”

While wind “is a variable source of energy”, it is very comparable to hydroelectric energy in the percentage of time that electricity is being sent to the grid; each are in the range of 34 to 38% of the time.

Also, the cost of wind energy continues to decline–down to as low as $20 per megawatt-hour (compared to $102 per megawatt-hour for coal).  In addition, improved wind turbine technology (especially larger rotors) allow new wind turbines to produce over 220% more electricity than “turbines built 20 years ago.”

Read the article (Megan Geuss, Ars Technica, August 27, 2018)

For more information about wind energy or wind power, search the Science Primary Literature Database and the Headline Science Database.


Air pollution can cause declines in human intelligence

It’s well-known that high levels of air pollution are linked to various physical and psychological ailments in humans–including premature death (an estimated 7 million deaths per year) especially “in people with mental disorders,” increased risk for dementia, and “increased mental illness in children.”

However, new research links air pollution to a decrease in intelligence as measured by “significant drops in test scores in language and arithmetic, with the average impact equivalent to having lost a year of the person’s education.”

“The effect is worse for the elderly, especially those over 64, and for men, and for those with low education.”  The loss for those people may be as much as ” a few years of education.”  This study was “the first to examine [the impact on] people of all ages and the difference between men and women.”

This study was based in China and looked at 20,000 people between 2010 and 2014; the pollutants analyzed were nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide.  However, the results are relevant world-wide; by some estimates, 95% “of the global population” breaths unsafe air.

The longer people were exposed to air pollution, the larger the damage–language ability and men were more harmed than mathematical ability or women.  “High air pollution can potentially be associated with oxidative stress, neuroinflammation, and neurodegeneration of humans.”

“Air pollution was seen to have a short-term impact on intelligence as well;” a finding that has consequences for students living in highly polluted areas.

“There is no shortcut to solve this issue; governments really need to take concrete measures to reduce air pollution.”

Read the article (Damian Carrington and Lily Kuo, The Guardian, August 27, 2018).

For more information about the impacts of pollution, search the Science Primary Literature Database and the Headline Science Database.

Understand the context of information important to you; reduce the fear and anxiety

Knowledge brings understanding; understanding reduces fear and anxiety.  Understand the value of information that is important to your life; use that understanding to make your own decisions.  Do not let others make important decisions for you!

To gain understanding, to reduce fear, try these guidelines —

Seek information, not affirmation: understand the algorithm-driven thought bubble of social media; social media can surround you with people who share many of your opinions.  That may seem comforting, but true understanding of an issue or topic may require breaking that bubble and going outside your comfort zone.

Source + Motivation = Value:  always go to the original source of the information, if you can.  And, think about the context in which that information was produced; what was the motivation of the people who ultimately created that information–commercial, political, religious, etc.?  You can decide for yourself the real value of that information.

Dig deeper–do not rely on just one source of information:  in order to understand, look for evidence that supports and contradicts a finding, an analysis, an assertion.  Seek opinions other than your own.

See a list of questions to help you think about the value of information important to your life (Kevin Engel, August 27, 2018).

Higher temperatures make trees grow faster, but the wood is weaker and breaks more easily

As climate change pushes overall temperatures higher, trees and other plants “are experiencing longer growing seasons, sometimes as much as 3 extra weeks a year.”  That is helping trees grow faster, but research based in Europe indicates that “higher temperatures–combined with pollution from auto exhaust and farms–are making wood weaker.”  As a result, trees will break more easily in storms and lumber from the trees “is less durable.”  This is occurring at a time when climate change is also playing a role in more frequent extreme weather events–stronger storms.  Plus, trees “may be less efficient at soaking up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.”

The research tested spruce, oak, beech, and pine trees–using core samples and analyzing tree rings.  In all 4 species, “wood density has decreased by 8%-12%.”  The size of the decrease was unexpected.  “Increasing temperatures … probably account for some of the drop.  But another factor … is more nitrogen in the soil from agricultural fertilizer and vehicle exhaust.”  Other studies have also linked “increased fertilizer use to decreased wood density.”

As wood density decreases so does the carbon content of the wood–“by about 50%.”  This means the trees are absorbing less carbon dioxide “from the atmosphere every year.”

Read the article (Lakshmi Supriya, Science, August 22, 2018).

For more information about the impacts of climate change, search the Science Primary Literature Database and the Headline Science Database.

Inadequate sleep leads to big economic losses

According to a study by the Rand Corporation, the United States is suffering an economic loss of up to $411 billion annually due to people not getting enough sleep.  That translates into a loss of 1.23 million working days every year.  “The impact of chronic sleeplessness in the United States far exceeds the costs in other industrialized countries.”

In addition, “sleep deprivation is linked to a higher mortality risk.”  “An individual that sleeps on average less than 6 hours per night has a 10% higher mortality risk than someone sleeping between 7 and 9 hours ” per night.

“Inadequate sleep reduces the safety and productivity of workers.”  “Well-rested employees are more efficient, tend to be healthier, and feel more content.”

People “should be educated about the importance of sleep and sleep hygiene at a young age.”  “Poor sleeping habits in middle age can be traced back to sleep patterns formed in youth.”

Read the article (Bilal Choudhry, New York Times, August 21, 2018).



Concentrated, intensive therapy–a new way of treating anxiety disorders

There is “a new wave of concentrated, intensive therapy programs for psychiatric disorders.”  New research is showing that, for both children and adults, the concentrated therapy that takes place through multiple, longer meetings over one or two weeks (sometimes even just one day) “is generally just as effective, and in some ways more effective, as [standard] treatment that is spread out over several months.”  Standard treatment generally involves a one-hour meeting once a week.

The research found that remission rates were not statistically different for children taking part in intensive, concentrated therapy for anxiety disorders versus those in standard therapy.  Plus, fewer participants dropped out of the concentrated therapy compared to the standard therapy–this has been seen in both children and adults.

Another study from 2015 found that Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder patients who underwent intensive, concentrated therapy “were more improved after treatment ended than those who received traditional weekly or twice-weekly” therapy.  After three months, “both groups were equally improved.”  “The intensive treatments seem to work best for anxiety-related disorders” usually involving cognitive behavioral therapy.

Advantages of the concentrated therapy can include quicker relief from symptoms and delivering treatment to more people (“it’s easier for patients who live in places without access to high-quality therapy to travel for a one- or two-week program” or just “deal with the logistics of weekly therapy”).

While interest in and the popularity of concentrated, intensive therapy is relatively new in the United States, therapists in Europe, especially in Scandinavia, have been developing and using it for a longer period of time.

Read the article (Andrea Petersen, New York Times, August 13, 2018).