To Desalinate or Not To Desalinate?

With incidents of severe water scarcity expected to rise substantially as the global population grows and fresh water supplies diminish, scientists are scrambling to come up with effective solutions to the pressing problem of increasingly limited fresh drinking water.

Over the past few decades, desalination has been all the rage. The most common method of desalination utilized today is reverse osmosis. Salt water is filtered through a semipermeable plastic membrane, which separates the ion particles (like salt) from the water, leaving potable water flowing out the other side. The problem is, reverse osmosis is costly and presents environmental concerns of its own—namely, what do you do with the leftover salt created during the process?

If you release the salt back into the water, you risk disrupting delicate aquatic ecosystems because of increased salinity. You could bury the leftover salt, but that's not a great idea, either. And while desalination plants produce fresh water, we have to burn a lot of energy to reap those rewards.

As part of a series of reports on global water issues, National Geographic explores some possible answers to these problems. Although modern desalination techniques are more energy efficient than older ones (boiling massive quantities of salt water and harvesting the steam for fresh water wasted tremendous amounts of energy), better solutions remain undiscovered. The article presents three potential alternatives to reverse osmosis, but a panacea eludes modern science.

With 1.8 billion people expected to live in areas of extreme water scarcity by 2025, and desalination plants expected to double their rate of output by 2016, we're on our way to figuring this out, but need to redouble our efforts nonetheless. Anyone have any groundbreaking ideas? Let's put this issue to bed.

Evidence suggests there is water on Mars. Maybe we can just zip up there and grab some?

Image credit: James Grellier

The Simple Way to Reheat Your French Fries and Not Have Them Turn Into a Soggy Mess

Some restaurant dishes are made to be doggy-bagged and reheated in the microwave the next day. Not French fries: The more crispy and delectable they are when they first arrive on your table, the more of a soggy disappointment they’ll be when you try to revive them at home. But as The Kitchn recently shared, there’s a secret to making leftover fries you’ll actually enjoy eating.

The key is to avoid the microwave altogether. Much of the appeal of fries comes from their crunchy, golden-brown exterior and their creamy potato center. This texture contrast is achieved by deep-frying, and all it takes is a few rotations around a microwave to melt it away. As the fries heat up, they create moisture, transforming all those lovely crispy parts into a flabby mess.

If you want your fries to maintain their crunch, you need to recreate the conditions they were cooked in initially. Set a large pan filled with about 2 tablespoons of oil for every 1 cup of fries you want to cook over medium-high heat. When you see the oil start to shimmer, add the fries in a single layer. After about a minute, flip them over and allow them to cook for half a minute to a minute longer.

By heating up fries with oil in a skillet, you produce something called the Maillard Reaction: This happens when high heat transforms proteins and sugars in food, creating the browning effect that gives fried foods their sought-after color, texture, and taste.

After your fries are nice and crisp, pull them out of the pan with tongs or a spatula, set them on a paper towel to absorb excess oil, and sprinkle them with salt. Now all you need is a perfect burger to feel like you’re eating a restaurant-quality meal at home.

[h/t The Kitchn]

Bone Collector


More from mental floss studios