Water findings (apologies to Harper’s magazine)

findingsThe last page of every issue of the indispensable Harper’s Magazine—often referred to (by me) as the chronicle of the slow-motion apocalypse—features “Findings,” a disturbing presentation of scores of recent scientific discoveries. Deviously disguised as a quotidian article with sentences organized in paragraphs, it is really an artful and jarring arrangement of one- or two-sentence summaries of frightening, mind-boggling, and disorienting revelations, inventions, and breakthroughs. A small excerpt from the last issue:

Asia’s pangolins and Florida’s turtles were under threat from Chinese demand for pangolin fetuses and turtle parts. It was determined that every year 100,000 sleeping Bangladeshis are bitten by snakes. Ninety percent of the oysters in France and fifty Irish swans in the Lough of Cork died mysteriously. Body-temperature regulation was found responsible for the flamingo’s one-legged stance and the toucan’s giant beak. Most tomcats are southpaws. Engineers created a “95 percent accurate” thought-controlled wheelchair, a tongue-controlled wheelchair, and a dune buggy for the blind.

Hey, it’s a crazy, wonderful, terrifying, insane, mysterious universe, ain’t it?

The editorial staff of Waterblogged.info (myself and a team of what my therapist has convinced me are largely imaginary minions) have decided to create a water-oriented homage to “Findings.” While I can’t promise to recreate the subtle and surreal sophistication achieved each month by author Rafil Kroll-Zaidi, I can almost guarantee wonder, terror, and a deep desire to protect our dwindling water resources. And, links! Here goes:

A survey of the drinking water for more than 28 million Americans revealed widespread but low-level presence of pharmaceuticals and hormonally active chemicals, including Atrazine, an herbicide banned in the EU but used widely in the US, and psychotropics such as Carbamazepine, a mood-stabilizer prescribed for bipolar disorder. A study published by The British Journal of Psychiatry announced that a study of Japan’s Oita Prefecture shows that cities with higher levels of lithium in their drinking water experienced lower rates of suicide. Drinking heavy water may counter aging.

A bacteria was used to remove between 88 and 94 per cent of the salt from various salt-water solutions, including one that approximated sea water. New findings suggest that small amounts of frozen water permeate minerals across the moon’s surface and that there is liquid water on Mars. Synthetic trees could one day produce water in arid regions and counter climate change by absorbing CO2 1,000 times faster than their biologic counterparts. German engineers have created bionic penguins, and work has begun on bionic octopi.

Belgium scientists have levitated water, and UK researchers showed that spinning water droplets behave like black holes. Belgium has the dirtiest water in the world. Drought-plagued China plans to slash water consumption by 60 percent. Jets of water vapor are shooting at supersonic speed from Saturn’s moon Enceladus; smog is interrupting the Earth’s water cycle. A common artificial sweetener is helping Swiss engineers track the flow of waste water. A pair of U.S. and Indian researchers have developed an on-board hydrogen generator, suggesting that water may one day fuel zero emission automobiles. Physicists have only recently learned how water boils.

Until recently, the Starbuck’s chain had been wasting 23 million liters (6,076,000 gallons) of water daily. New data suggests that drip irrigation may use more water than conventional methods, and physicists have created a tiny boat that moves by taking advantage of water’s surface tension. Scientists are demystifying “dead water,” which significantly slows down ocean-going vessels. Oil and water may mix after all.

Marine mammals such as whales and dolphins do not drink water, and a troop of chacma baboons in the Namid Game Reserve have been observed going without water for 26 days. Challenging a commonly held belief, research by French scientists suggests that herds of African elephants apparently dominating water holes may be protecting rather than harming other thirsty herbivore species. Hydrothermal vents at the ocean floor spew the hottest water on Earth, measured at temperatures up to 464 degrees C. “It’s water,” says a geochemist, “but not as we know it.” Water-powered jetpacks will soon be available, starting at $145,000.


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