This is Good News Friday, where we find some good economic, energy, and environmental news and share it with PP readers. Please send any positive news to [email protected] with subject header “Good News Friday.” We will save and post weekly. Enjoy!
Nonfarm payrolls increased by 312,000 in December, easily topping all forecasts, after an upwardly revised 176,000 gain the prior month, a Labor Department report showed Friday. Average hourly earnings rose 3.2 percent from a year earlier, more than projected and matching the fastest pace since 2009. Meanwhile, the jobless rate rose from a five-decade low to 3.9 percent, reflecting more people actively seeking work.
“23 years ago, from a refugee camp in Kenya, my father and I arrived at an airport in Washington DC,” Ilhan wrote on Twitter Wednesday night. “Today, we return to that same airport on the eve of my swearing in as the first Somali-American in Congress.”
Images taken during the spacecraft’s approach — which brought New Horizons to within just 2,200 miles (3,500 kilometers) of Ultima at 12:33 a.m. EST — revealed that the Kuiper Belt object may have a shape similar to a bowling pin, spinning end over end, with dimensions of approximately 20 by 10 miles (32 by 16 kilometers). Another possibility is Ultima could be two objects orbiting each other. Flyby data have already solved one of Ultima’s mysteries, showing that the Kuiper Belt object is spinning like a propeller with the axis pointing approximately toward New Horizons. This explains why, in earlier images taken before Ultima was resolved, its brightness didn’t appear to vary as it rotated. The team has still not determined the rotation period.
Germany has made considerable strides to add renewable energy to its electricity sector, but as in most countries, heating and transportation are the most difficult sectors of the economy to decarbonize. Germany introduced the world’s first hydrogen-powered train earlier this year, but electric vehicles still only make up a small percentage of the country’s vehicles. November, however, saw electric vehicle registrations account for nearly 2 percent of all registrations.
It is hoped that the new system, which has been officially consecrated, willpurify around 450,000 litres every seven hours when fully operational without any need for human intervention.
The abbey in the Dutch village of Berkel-Enschot, in Noord-Brabant, also produces 43% of its electricity from solar panels, and the monks – who also make a popular cheese – drive electric cars when they need to leave the monastery.
Pollinator connection: Bee the change (Suzie G.)
Sherri Morgan, of Morning Gardens Landscape Design, recently told me that she is now working only with clients who want to focus on native plants. When I asked her why, she said, “Because we need to support our native insects and the ecosystem they create — they provide food for birds and other wildlife. Insect populations have decreased drastically everywhere (did you read “Insect Apocalypse”?) and it is our responsibility as gardeners to support the ecosystem we are part of — and planting native plants is one easy way to do that.”
The team propose that the plants could be enclosed in a “bio-filter”, with air forced through the device by a fan. “If you just have one of these plants sitting over in the corner, it is not going to have enough contact with the home air to do any good,” said Strand, adding the device would look a bit like a miniature greenhouse, about the size of a sash window, and would need about 5-10kg of plants to clean the home’s air. It could also have a particle filter incorporated. “There aren’t any devices presently on the market for dealing with these [volatile chemicals] so what we are proposing here is a technology that can fill that gap.”
If this is such a useful pathway and at least one of the genes was already around in pumpkins, why don’t plants already have this in place? Part of it could simply be the luck of history; for whatever reasons, chance never favored the right genes coming together for evolution to do its thing. But energetic considerations might play a role, as the researchers indicate the pathway currently used by these plants should burn through less of the ATP that cells use to power most basic functions. That may be a significant consideration on evolutionary time scales in a natural environment.
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