Top Story: August 20, 2010

Plastics, Oil and the Brain

atlantic-fig2-273x300

Plastics, Oil and the Brain: here are a few headlines that follow-up previous stories or ones that we missed this week.

Where’s the Plastic?

While there’s been much coverage of plastic in the Pacific Ocean, the actual amount of garbage in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch remains a mystery. In addition, we’ve heard little of the garbage in the Atlantic. This week researchers published an article in Science quantifying the amount of plastic garbage in the Atlantic. And their results were surprising. From New Scientist:

The amount of floating plastic trapped in a north Atlantic current system hasn't got any bigger in 22 years, despite more and more plastic being thrown away.

(New Scientist also has a great video on the process of collecting the plastics.)

So where is it? That seems to be a mystery, even to the researchers. An article in Science reports:

That suggests that either people are keeping their trash on land or plastic is going to some unknown destination in the sea.

It may also just be too small to catch.

Where’s the Oil? Still There

Not surprisingly, scientists are reporting that despite a NOAA report saying that almost three-quarters of the oil released in the Gulf is gone, the oil actually still exists.

In late June, scientists followed a plume of oil that was a mile long and 650 feet thick as it traveled southwest of the blown well. It was average as these plumes go, but, as Wired reports so well:

its behavior may give some indication of what is happening elsewhere…

…the results suggest that lots of oil is still in the Gulf, and will be there for a long time.

Their study, focusing on the microbes breaking down the oil, was also published in Science. Other researchers from the University of Georgia are also stating that the oil is still there.

Athletic Brain

Ever since Malcolm Gladwell published his great article about brain damage in football players in the New Yorker last fall, there’s been a lot to read and watch on the subject. This week the New York Times reported that Lou Gehrig may not have had Lou Gehrig’s disease (!)—but perhaps his illness was a result of concussions (and other brain trauma), much like the football players who receive hit after hit to the head.

Also, writing in Discover this week, one of our favorite science writers, Carl Zimmer, went inside the brain to find out what happens to the neurons of a linebacker.

Happy reading. Let us know what other science news sparked your interest this week.

comments

Previous Top Stories

 

About Science Today

Science Today is the California Academy of Sciences’ channel for current stories on cutting-edge technologies, life, Earth, space and sustainability. Content is produced in-house and is distributed throughout the museum, on the internet and through various partners. Please share your comments on what you find important in the changing world of science.