Monthly Archives: December 2011

Viking Found Organics on Mars, Experiment Confirms

Using Mars-like soil taken from Atacama Desert, a study confirms Mars has organics, and Viking found them.

THE GIST

  • A reanalysis of Mars Viking experiments shows the probes did find organics.
  • The result was not initially understood due to the strong oxidation effects of a salt in the Mars soil known as perchlorate.
  •  A follow-up study on perchlorate-enhanced soil similar to what’s found on Mars revealed fingerprints of combusted organics.

The Viking 1 Lander, illustrated in this model, touched down on the western slope of Mars' Chryse Planitia (the Plains of Gold) on July 20, 1976.

More than 30 years after NASA’s Viking landers found no evidence for organic materials on Mars, scientists say a new experiment on Mars-like soil shows Viking did, in fact, hit pay dirt.

The new study was prompted by the August 2008 discovery of powerful oxygen-busting compounds known as perchlorates at the landing site of another Mars probe called Phoenix.

Scientists repeated a key Viking experiment using perchlorate-enhanced soil from Chile’s Atacama Desert, which is considered one of the driest and most Mars-like places on Earth, and found telltale fingerprints of combusted organics – the same chemicals Viking scientists dismissed as contaminants from Earth.

“Contrary to 30 years of perceived wisdom, Viking did detect organic materials on Mars,” planetary scientist Christopher McKay, with NASA’s Ames Research Center in California, told Discovery News. “It’s like a 30-year-old cold case suddenly solved with new facts.”

“If the Viking team had said ‘Well, maybe there’s perchlorate in the soil,’ everybody would have said they’re crazy — why would there be perchlorates in the soil? It was only by having it pushed on us by Phoenix where we had no alternative but to conclude that there was perchlorate in the soil … Once you realize it’s there, then everything makes sense,” McKay added.

The Viking team’s verdict that Mars lacked organics was the lynchpin argument against another Viking experiment that looked for signs of microbial life. In the experiment, a bit of nutrient-laced water was added to a sample of Martian soil.

The air above the soil was then monitored for signs that the nutrients had been metabolized. The instrument detected tracer gases the first time the experiment was done, but subsequent runs did not. The results were considered inconclusive and remain contested.

New evidence for organics on Mars does not mean Viking found life, cautions McKay.

“Finding organics is not evidence of life or evidence of past life. It’s just evidence for organics,” he said.

But if NASA had realized there were organics on Mars, there might not have been a 20-year hiatus in sending landers for follow-up studies, said Rafael Navarro-González, with the Institute of Nuclear Science at the National Autonomous University in Mexico.

“We might have had continuing missions,” Navarro-González told Discovery News.

NASA plans to launch a follow-up mission to look for organics on Mars in November.

Article excerpted from www.news.discovery.com

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5 Surprising Fashion Brands Going Organic

Organic cotton t-shirt from H&M;, photo via Nitrolicious

Most of us, when looking for organic, eco-friendly clothes, know enough to skip the mall; sustainable materials and mass-produced clothes with commercial appeal hardly ever overlap. But we guarantee you’ll know these five companies, who have enough recognition and reputation to do whatever they want and yet are choosing to incorporate organic materials and sustainable practices into their most popular items. Who knows? You may even have one (or all) of these stores at your local mall.

1. Victoria’s Secret

Photo via Victoria’s Secret

Victoria’s Secret has never been an especially green company, with the tons of catalogs sent out every month and the synthetic fiber blends. But over the last few years, in addition to greening the mass mailings, the brand has also introduced beauty products made with organic ingredients from mint to coffee beans—and now offers camisoles, pajama pants, thongs, and panties made from organic cotton. While the organic products are still just a teeny-tiny part of the overall VS empire, they are a step in the right direction.

2. Target

Photo via Target

Chain stores that try to be all things to all people—selling clothes, shoes, groceries, electronics, home goods, outdoor gear, sports equipment, and anything else you can think of—generally don’t have the motivation to offer green products, especially if it means raising the prices. But at Target, organic products show up everywhere, from bedsheets to baby clothes. And with their selection of women’s cropped pants, pajama pants, tank tops, and tees, you can choose eco-friendly impulse buys.

3. H&M;

Photo via Nitrolicious

Last year, H&M; used 1,500 tons of organic cotton for its spring line—this year, the company hopes to increase that amount by 50%. While you might not expect eco-friendly pieces at the retailer’s rock-bottom prices, the change makes sense: H&M; tends toward knockoffs of the season’s biggest trends, and with green more popular than ever, we’re glad to see them jumping on board.

4. Banana Republic

Photo via Banana Republic

The other brands owned by its parent company—Gap, Old Navy, and online shoe store Piperlime—haven’t been driving forces in the green movement, but that doesn’t mean that Banana Republic—the most luxurious of the four—can’t do its part. Boxes and bags include as much as 50% recycled material; stores are putting in place energy saving measures that cut usage by 41% last year; and 100% organic offerings include denim pants and cotton hoodies. A quick scan of the site showed plenty of products made with a small percentage of organic cotton (about 5%) alongside more conventional cotton (in as much as 90%). In the future, we hope the store continues to increase the organic component and set a standard for its sibling companies.

5. Nike

Photo via Nike

Although they got a bad reputation with the use of sweatshops, these days Nike has been doing more for the planet than you might think. In addition to the Reuse-a-Shoe program, which turns old sneakers into playground turf, and Nike Considered, an attempt to trim waste from production and switch to sustainable materials, the company offers 100% organic tees and hoodies, and aims to use at least 5% organic cotton in all its products by next year.

Article excerpted from www.treehugger.com

Green Honeymoon Ideas

With increased awareness of environmental issues, many people are putting more of an effort into choosing green lifestyle options; this includes where to go and what to do on honeymoon.

It’s no longer popular to lie basking in the sun being waited on hand and foot, although plenty still class that as the ultimate luxury. Now honeymooners, keen to leave less impact on the planet and have more of an experience on their trip, are looking at various ecotourism projects, resorts or lodges in which to consummate their union… or just have a nice wee break if the union’s long been consummated! Well, it’s the rules of getting married isn’t it? Get married, have honeymoon. It’s the only reason people go through with it, right?

Eco-friendly Honeymoons Ideas

  1. Put some thought into the destination – do you really need to travel to the other side of the world when you haven’t explored what’s on your doorstep yet? There are ecotourism options practically everywhere so check out your own backyard (not literally) before booking a trip further afield. You may get an unexpected surprise.
  2. Make a list of all the places you’d like to go and then investigate them thoroughly. Maybe you could do a two centre holiday? Some people like to get involved in a community ecotourism project for one week and chill the next. Choose something that suits you both and book through a good eco travel company.

  3. Many popular honeymoon destinations have questionable practices. They build without any regard to the environment, pay pittance wages and treat staff with little respect yet they still manage to provide 5 star treatment to holidaymakers. So give a little something back by venturing out of your holiday haven and spending money in local communities rather than ploughing it all into an already wealthy resort.

  4. Book tours through locals when you get to your destination, not through your holiday rep. That way you know the local community will benefit directly from the money and you won’t have to sit on a bus with 50 other touros singing round choruses of Una Paloma Blanca when all you want to do is experience things first-hand.

  5. Use local transport to get around and use a local guide to explore; after all they will know the area better than someone employed through a company back home. If you do have a wonderful guide, spread the word about their services, leave info on websites for other honeymooners looking for similar experiences, that way you’ll be generating more work for your guide and potentially other guides too.

  6. Eco doesn’t always mean hippy, there are a number of luxurious eco escapes worldwide that have been built sustainably and employ responsible tourism principles so you can have your cake and eat it.

  7. As with any eco-friendly holiday, check the hotel or resort’s green credentials. It’s sometimes difficult to know whether the vacation you fancy is genuinely green or tainted with greenwashing tactics, so read up a few tips from Ecotourism Logue before you book.

  8. Dare to be different!

Article excerpted from www.ecotourismlogue.com

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