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Scientists are taking steps to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions of the Internet and telecommunications industries? Huh? Who knew doing a Google search produced greenhouse gases, thereby contributing to climate change?


It turns out that the “information communications and technology” (ICT) industry produces more than 830 million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), the main greenhouse gas, annually. That’s about 2 percent of global CO2 emissions — the same proportion as the aviation industry produces. Projections suggest that the ICT sector’s share of greenhouse gases is expected to double by 2020, as these services expand.


A lot of the greenhouse gas comes from electrical use, as most electricity comes from power plants that burn fossil fuels. Generators, systems to keep the electronics cooled or warmed, as well as automobile fuel that technicians use to travel to locations to provide service, all contribute to the problem.


The ICT industry, which delivers Internet, video, voice and other cloud services, knows about this problem. Providers, such as Verizon and Sprint, post information on their websites describing their efforts to reduce emissions.


In a recent paper in ACS’ journal Environmental Science & Technology, researchers from the Centre for Energy-Efficient Telecommunications and Bell Labs note that existing models that help providers and researchers estimate emissions are inaccurate. Controlling the emissions will require more accurate but still feasible models, which would take into account the data traffic, energy use and CO2 production in networks and other elements. So the team set out to develop new approaches that better account for variations in equipment and other factors in the ICT industry.


They describe the development and testing of two new models that better estimate the energy consumption and CO2 emissions of Internet and telecommunications services. They tested the models on a simulated network and on a real network that serves most of the schools in California. Both models delivered better estimates than the current ones.


The researchers suggest, based on their models, that more efficient power usage of facilities, more efficient use of energy-efficient equipment and renewable energy sources are three keys to reducing ICT emissions of CO2.


“Methodologies for Assessing the Use-Phase Power Consumption and Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Telecommunications Network Services,” Environmental Science & Technology


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To some people, it seems, the container is nearly as important as what it contains. Take beer and wine. Some time back, a bottle of a Portuguese rosé wine adorned book shelves across the United States.  The bottle –– it looks something like and upside-down tennis racquet with a round, bulbous bottom and long, thin neck –– has a certain grace to it. They still sell the wine today. And take a look at the champagne bottles. Even the cheapest grade comes in a fancy vessel, wrapped carefully in festive foil.

For beer, these days it’s all in the label. Myriad bright colors, vivid pictures. Everything from animals to bicycles. But the shape of the bottles also varies, with some as big as a bottle of wine.

And speaking of wine again, some vineyards have made another change: They have substituted the traditional cork for a screw top, and some have even turned to cartons as wine containers. These cartons, however, have presented a problem, according to researchers. And it’s not an aesthetic one…

With the changeover to cartons and screw tops at some wineries, the research team decided to see if these changes affect the taste and aroma of wine.
They report that bag-in-box wines are more likely than bottles to acquire unpleasant flavors, aromas and colors when stored at warm temperatures. The compounds in wine interact with oxygen in the air to change the taste and smell and appearance of the wine. These reactions increase as the air gets warmer, says Helene Hopfer and colleagues.

The scientists reported in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that using chemical analysis and a panel of trained tasters, they studied how storing wine for three months in different containers at different temperatures affected unoaked California Chardonnay. They observed wine stored with natural and synthetic corks, screw caps and two kinds of bag-in-box containers. The team reported that temperature had the biggest impact on all of the wines. Bag wine stored at 68 and 104 degrees Fahrenheit aged significantly faster than bottles of wine, growing darker and developing a vinegar flavor. All the wines aged better when stored at 50 degrees F.

Combined Effects of Storage Temperature and Packaging Type on the Sensory and Chemical Properties of Chardonnay,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry




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People have chewed or smoked plants to achieve “highs” almost since time began. Sure, some people use psychoactive substances recreationally to escape the pressures of their lives. But they are also sometimes an important part of religious ceremonies, allowing shamans to experience the spirit world. And sometimes, psychoactive substances, such as the betel leaf and areca nut, are used in cultural ceremonies. For example, a groom might give betel and areca to his bride’s family in a traditional Vietnamese wedding.


The areca nut is the fourth most commonly used psychoactive substance in the world after tobacco, alcohol and caffeine. People chew it alone or in combination with a variety of spices, such as cardamom or saffron, and oftentimes the whole mixture is wrapped in a betel leaf in a concoction known as “betel quid,” or BQ. BQ is popular among people in China, India and other Asian countries, and people of Asian heritage living in other countries.


Commercial forms of BQ have popped up in recent years, especially in India. A version with tobacco is called gutkha, and the version lacking tobacco is called pan masala.


The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) stated in 1985 that chewing BQ with tobacco is carcinogenic. More recently, they went even further and stated that even chewing it without tobacco or chewing the areca nut by itself also can cause cancer.


Scientists have shown that the body can convert substances in the areca nut to those that can cause cancer. But researchers in Taiwan wanted to know if these areca nut substances could cause cancer directly, without the body intervening and making them carcinogenic.


In a report in ACS’ journal Chemical Research in Toxicology, Mu-Rong Chao and Chiung-Wen Hu discovered that compounds in the areca nut can “alkylate” the genetic material DNA, causing changes that increase the risk of cancer. These compounds are present in the ripe and unripe nuts, as well as in gutkha and pan masala. And they’re present in amounts high enough to cause cancer.


“Our study showed that these alkylating agents are present at levels sufficient to cause DNA damage and could potentially have adverse implications to human health, particularly in the case of the development of oral cancer for BQ chewers," say Chao and Hu.


“Direct-Acting DNA Alkylating Agents Present in Aqueous Extracts of Areca Nut and Its Products,” Chemical Research in Toxicology



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