Essays, news, and open questions

Oct 232017
 

Cueillette Urbaine, meaning « Urban gathering » in French, is a society commited to turn green the cities, by producing local organic food on the available buildings roofs.
Cueillette Urbaine also aims to associate local urban production and restoration in the same space, where customers could gather and choose their own fruits and vegetables to be cooked afterwards. Thus, it removes the environment costs of the transport, but it also enables to recycle organic food waste, to improve the biodiversity in the cities, to manage rainwaters, etc…

Cueillette Urbaine belongs to the new wave of urban farming. Nonetheless, growing out of the soil and creating new ecosystems in the core of the cities is a real urban challenge. Therefore, scientific research work is needed to develop new cultivation technologies, to assure a high quality production. Indeed, bringing soils from elsewhere is not a sustainable solution, as transport environmental costs could be higher than carrying food from the rural areas to the cities. Therefore, developing hydroponics, aquaponics or like Cueillette Urbaine new cultivate substrates is essential for sustainable food production in the cities. For instance, Cueillette Urbaine is leading a research and development project to evaluate the effects of different types of substrates (coffee ground, lawn cuts, compost…) on the plant growth. Secondly we focus our research on vegetal association benefice in particular to avoid diseases, ameliorate the pollination and finally to create an equilibrate ecosystem. Finally, we work on wicking systems to avoid hydric stress.

Growth pots (©Cueillette Urbaine)

Besides, during the past 10 years, policy and science have worked in pairs in order to develop urban agriculture. There is a current need to define a proper institutional frame for urban agriculture, and this requires the collaborative research work of different types of scientists: geographers, economists, agronomists, urbanists, sociologists, etc. Cueillette Urbaine chooses to foster urban agriculture development by doing action-oriented research, which means combining research and practical work. Transforming practice into knowledge is also a way to close the gap between policies and urban farming by providing the policy makers information based on evidence. Thanks to these encouraging results and all the proved benefits of urban farming, city administrations pay increasing attention to urban agriculture development. For instance, Paris city aims at enhancing its urban food production area to 120 ha by 2020!

Harvested vegetables (©Ceuillette Urbaine)

During many years urban agriculture has emerged as a fashion effect. Today, the massive use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides has made a lot of land infertile, in addition to that the expansion of cities causing the disappearance of arable land. We believe that a production of fruit and vegetables in the city will not replace the conventional agriculture but it is a necessity to supply local and fresh products to the city dwellers without any transport.

— By courtesy of Urban gathering compagny. Edited by Adrien Thurotte.

Contact: info@cueilletteurbaine.com
Website: www.cueilletteurbaine.com

Oct 232017
 

Samantha Jakuboski graduated as Bachelor of Science at Columbia University (Barnard College) in cellular and molecular biology. She dedicated much time during her studies promoting eco-friendly acting and explaining major climate issues on blogs like Nature Journal Scitable [1] and EcoPlum [2].

JUnQ: You started to write for Green Science Nature blog six years ago, in ninth-grade. This is pretty uncommon to have such a sensibility about climate and green science at that age. Why did you start writing?

Samantha: I believe that climate change is a major global threat and that action must be taken to mitigate its effects. But, in order to act, we must first educate. This is why I decided to start writing. I wanted to create a source where people my own age, the next generation of leaders, could go to learn about climate change. So, I wrote a blog proposal to Nature Journal detailing my plans, and they accepted it!
As a ninth-grader, I was by no means an expert on climate change. In fact, I was learning about climate change through my research for the blog posts. In a way, I believe that this naivety worked to my advantage. Since I was learning as I was going along, I first had to explain concepts to myself before explaining them to my readers. As a result, I had a sense of what worked and didn’t work when explaining a concept to someone who is not very familiar on the topic. By writing at a level that was easy to understand, I hoped that students my age, as well as people of all background and ages, would be able to read my posts with ease, learn about climate change, and hopefully take steps to lead greener lives.

JUnQ: According to data cited in a blog article that you published in EcoPlum, 64% of American people believe that the earth is warming, and among then, only 52\% agreed that the warning is caused by human activity. Do you have the feeling of being left alone struggling to convince people or that the word does not start being spread out?

Samantha: Since this 2014 poll was taken, the numbers have shifted upward only slightly. According to the May 2017 “Climate Change in the American Mind” survey conducted by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication, 70% of Americans believe in climate change, with 58% of Americans believing that is it caused by human activity.
As someone who writes about climate change in the hope of raising awareness, I do find the 58% statistic to be low and a bit discouraging. However, I think it is also important to realize that we are making progress; 58% is the highest percentage recorded since the Yale survey was started in 2008.

JUnQ: Position of President Trump on climate change is to deny it. Immediately, governors, mayors, etc. rose up against it, and promise to fulfill engagement that the climate would benefit. Do you think that these engagements would compensate, at least, or overbalance the bad things Trump’s politic about climate could/will engender?

Samantha: While President Trump has accepted that climate change is indeed happening, he still, unfortunately, does not believe it is rooted in man-made activity. As a result of his weak stance, I definitely think that climate change believers on both the individual and corporate level are now more vocal, as evidenced by the We are Still In [3] Paris climate agreement coalition, and the People’s Climate March on Trump’s 100th day in office.
While our president may refuse to accept the anthropogenic roots of climate change, I think that if states, local governments, and businesses, establish and work toward individual green goals, our nation can continue to make strides toward the 26-28% reduction in national greenhouse gases by 2025 that we pledged in the Paris Peace Accords.

JUnQ: Does being aware mean acting toward climate change for everyday life of an American people (e.g. garbage sorting, water and/or energy saving, ecological cars, eat less to eat better)?

Samantha: Absolutely. If one is truly aware and educated, I don’t see how they can not incorporate little acts of “greenness” into their daily lives.

JUnQ: How to live green as U.S. citizen, what has been done and what remains to be done at personal point of view?

Samantha: In my household, we recycle, use LED light-bulbs and energy efficient appliances, compost, and try to reduce the amount of disposable paper and plastic items we purchase. We also unplug appliances, such as phone chargers and TVs, when we are not using them, since they can contribute to “vampire energy”— energy that is consumed even when the devices are not in use. Further, I love to run, and my father enjoys riding his bike, so rather than hopping in our car and driving, we take a more active approach when we need to get places (I guess it helps that we also live in New York City, where everything is so close!) While these little life-style changes are small, they do allow us to reduce our individual and household carbon footprints. When people ask me what they can do to live greener lives, I name these examples and tell them that small actions do add up and make a difference. However, there is still a lot of work that needs to be done in motivating people to make these easy daily changes. Some people I know still don’t recycle!

JUnQ: And at a larger scale (cities, companies, state)?

Samantha: It is now up to businesses and local governments to lead the charge against climate change. And already, over 1,200 governors, mayors, colleges, businesses, and investors have signed the We Are Still In [3] agreement to ensure that the United States continues to reduce its carbon emissions.
Further, I think that our colleges and universities must prepare our students, especially business school students, to deal with the consequences of climate change so that our future leaders can realize their corporate social responsibility and make smart eco-friendly business decisions.

JUnQ: Among all the consequences of climate change, which one is the most unexpected and worrying?

Samantha: While few people may link climate change to conflict and terrorism, it appears that there may be some direct correlations. One of my friends at Barnard College recently wrote a dissertation on climate change as a precursor to conflict– specifically on how anthropogenic climate change and drought induced the Syrian Civil War. As resources, such as water, become scarcer, and agriculture becomes depressed due to drought and rising temperatures, the prospect of future conflict does worry me.
Another unexpected consequence of climate change is the economic impact. When people think of climate change, they think of numbers such as the rise in temperatures or ocean levels. However, climate change will also affect the finances of future generations. In September, I wrote a post for EcoPlum called “Pay Up, Millenials.” In this post, I explained that people are less productive at extreme temperatures, thus causing a decrease in national GDP. Furthermore, as extreme weather caused by climate change continues to wreck havoc and cause billions of dollars in damage, taxpayers can expect to face higher taxes to pay for these costs. As a result of both lower GDP and increased taxes, a Demos and NexGen Climate analysis found that if no action is taken to combat climate change, a 21-year-old 2015 college graduate earning a median income can expect their lifetime income and wealth to decrease by $126,000 and $187,000, respectively. The predicted loss in wealth jumps to $764,000 for a college graduate born in 2015 earning a median income. Ouch.

JUnQ: Thank you very much for this interview!

— Adrien Thurotte

 

References
[1] https://www.nature.com/scitable/blog/green-science
[2] https://shop.ecoplum.com/blogs/sustainable-living/
[3] http://wearestillin.com
Oct 232017
 

Even though I left the JUnQ Editorial Board over a year ago and am very busy in my job in industry, the desire for experiment never left me. The reason for experimenting in in my current job differs from academia – you need to earn money and usually do not publish your results. But one thing always remains the same: You get your fair share of failure!

Test of new colored ink in fountain and rollerball pens leaking (©Andreas Neidlinger)

When I heard about the photo contest JUnQ organized, I thought to myself: Why not submit a picture of my current experiments to provide proof that you will always have the same fun, even when your studies are over? What you see is no fancy laboratory equipment and no grandiose new discovery elegantly captured for the posterity. It is just some quality check and product development for the writing instruments industry. The outcome might not fulfil the customer’s needs and at first it caused a big laugh. Later, it meant more work. Just like in academia.
Some things never change
— Andreas Neidlinger

Oct 232017
 

During the last months we have received a lot of funny pictures from our readers. Unbelievable how much inspiration you can find in labs and offices! Luckily, we did not have to choose since the winning picture was drawn by lot.
And here it is:

“Be happy if your laboratory experiment works! Bright smile :D”
– ©Esther Vogel

The winner is Esther Vogel with her photo of a magnified vascular bundle. If you look at it even more closely you might recognize a big-eyed, bearded smiley. Lucky are those, whose experiments smile back.
Esther is not only rewarded with the publication of her photo but also with an amazon coupon. Congratulations!
We thank all the participants and wish them good luck for the future.

Apr 152017
 

The pursuit of the unobserved and the unfathomable in scientific research often affords the scientist glimpses of unrivaled visual experiences. The Princeton University Art of Science exhibition provides an avenue where scientists have the opportunity to present their images obtained during their research. The exhibition helps to spread awareness of the scientific technique and the artistic brilliance that research is replete with, to artists as well as to the common demographic. The exhibition attempts to forge a strong connection between Art and Science. The exchange with artists reveals a different way for scientists to visualize and contemplate their own research.

Read more about the exhibition here: Princeton Art of Science Exhibition

Apr 152017
 

Tatjana Daenzer

JUnQ, 7, 1, XIV–XV, 2017

Is it possible to know everything in every discipline? Surely not, especially not in modern times in which it is increasingly important to have experts of an explicit field of knowledge. We all remember some real whiz kids from our school years but only a very few of us can be outstanding experts in widely varied fields. Just imagine the time you would need to learn all of it.

Read the full article here: Scholars Then and Now

Apr 142017
 

Soham Roy

JUnQ, 7, 1, X–XIII, 2017

Science fair demonstrations are something that I always look forward to. I was there this other day at one such fair for gifted youngsters. I was demonstrating an experiment on densities. The experiment was quite a familiar one. The one where liquids with different densities do not mix. And where liquids with a lower value of density stay on top of liquids with larger densities, as distinct layers. To make it more vivid and interesting for the kids, I added a different color to each layer. A young boy came up to me after the demonstration and said…“It would be so boring if we did not invent colors to begin with”. His observation struck me and got me thinking. With our academic training in Science, we take a lot of stuff for granted. We rarely stop to wonder at the beauty and artistry inherent in the everyday experiments that we do and in the things that are around us.

Read the full article here: A Tale of Art and Science

Apr 142017
 

Tyler Thrasher is an artist using many different techniques to express himself. He is a musician, a painter, an illustrator, a photographer and, not least, to some extent a scientist. For one of his current projects, he grows crystal clusters on collected, inanimate objects, like dead insects and skulls. By transforming deceased creatures into something beautiful, often mystical, he attempts to follow the approach of alchemists. Nevertheless, his art builds on “hard science” and follows the physical rules of crystallization. His results offer a different, inspiring view on a well-known method and teach not only science but also the inherent beauty of their studied objects.

Find the Interview here: Insect Alchemy