Scientists Suggest an Environmentally Conscious Way to Deal With Land Mines: Blow Them Up

Raul Arboleda, AFP/Getty Images
Raul Arboleda, AFP/Getty Images

Land mines left over from conflicts can have disastrous consequences for the environment. Most of these bombs contain volatile TNT, and when these chemicals are released they contaminate the surrounding soil and water, poisoning the plants and animals that depend on those natural resources [PDF]. A lot of time and money is invested in deactivating leftover land mines in a clean and safe way, but new research published in PLOS ONE suggests that bomb squads may be better off blowing them up.

As Gizmodo reports, the study, conducted by Australian and Scottish researchers, shows that detonating land mines ends up causing less harm to the environment than deactivating them and removing them from the ground. At first this might seem counterintuitive: How can a large explosion do less damage to the environment than a bomb that never goes off? But the violent impact of the bomb is ultimately what allows for cleaner soil.

When a land mine is detonated, that explosion disrupts the surrounding soil, causing it to become loose and porous. The new air pockets in the dirt leave room for bacteria to squirm through and consume pollutants, a process called bioremediation. Researchers found that the site of a detonated land mine had lower levels of TNT after six weeks than the site of a deactivated one, thanks to greater activity from these toxin-munching bacteria.

Previous research had mainly examined the effect of detonation on the exterior of soil aggregates. This study is the first to investigate the effects of landmine blasts on the soil's interior structure, and the findings could lead to better methods of bioremediation in polluted sites, the authors note in the study.

Land mines are a major threat in areas touched by war. There’s still no one technique used by bomb squads to sniff them out (drones and rats are just a couple of the tools currently in play), but when they are located, the new research may change the way these explosives are handled.

[h/t Gizmodo]

The Northern Lights May be Visible in New York, Michigan, and Illinois on Saturday

iStock.com/den-belitsky
iStock.com/den-belitsky

The Northern Lights, a meteorological event most common to areas north of the Arctic Circle, may be visible over parts of America this weekend, Newsweek reports. Due to a solar storm, the light show may appear Saturday night over states in the northern part of the contiguous U.S., including New York, Michigan, Illinois, and Washington state.

Aurora borealis, or the Northern Lights, occur when solar particles react to gases in Earth's atmosphere. Magnetic energy exaggerates this effect, which is why auroras most often appear at the geomagnetic poles where Earth's magnetic field is strongest. Rare circumstances can produce this phenomenon at lower latitudes, which may be the case this weekend.

On Wednesday, March 20, a solar flare sent a blast of solar particles toward Earth. The resulting geomagnetic storm could make for a vibrant and colorful aurora reaching as far south as New York and Wisconsin.

To catch the spectacle, look up at the night sky on Saturday, March 23. People in areas with minimal light pollution have the best chance of seeing the Northern Lights, though cloudy weather may make them hard to see.

[h/t Newsweek]

The "World's Cleanest Garbage Can" Won't Stink Up Your Kitchen

Canbi
Canbi

Modern living has removed a lot of the sights and smells that people find unpleasant. Exhaust fans sweep away cooking odors. Toilets make waste vanish in seconds. But there's still the dreaded plume of stinking garbage that wafts up every time you open the kitchen trash can.

Enter Canbi, a sharp-looking and cleverly engineered kitchen garbage can designed to both reduce odors and improve the entire waste disposal process. The product, which is currently being funded on Kickstarter, uses an environmentally-friendly deodorizer that utilizes baking soda and activated charcoal to reduce smells coming from the can. It also features a "nesting" liner system that keeps bags from collapsing into the opening and eliminates the chore of fumbling with new bags. Pull one out for disposal, and another is already lining the can. The latex liners are also biodegradable, reducing your reliance on plastic bags that clog landfills.

The large and small sizes of the Canbi garbage can are pictured
Canbi

Canbi is designed to be flaunted, not hidden. Unlike most trash receptacles that are made to be stuffed under the sink or behind a cupboard, the sleek can, which comes in two different sizes, is made to be proudly displayed in your kitchen. The customizable accent rings come in three styles—gold, platinum, and rose gold—so that you can match your can to your favored kitchen aesthetic.

Buy it on Kickstarter. The 3-gallon can is available at the $29 donation level, while the 12-gallon version starts at $52. A 25-pack of replacement liners will be available on Canbi's website for roughly $7.49. Replacement deodorizers, which last three months, will run about $3.75. The trash cans are expected to ship in July.

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