April 8, 2014

U.S. scientists have developed a technology to extract CO2 and hydrogen simultaneously from saltwater.     Photo: Stocktrek/Thinkstock

Navy Makes Fuel from Seawater

No need for tankers

After years of research, the U.S. Navy has finally developed the technology to make fuel from seawater, deeming the liquid hydrocarbon fuel a "game changer." Ships will ultimately be able to produce fuel at sea.

Beyond the obvious benefits of not relying on oil, with its fluctuations in cost and availability, this new tech has major military benefits as well. Most ships in the U.S. naval fleet have to find a tanker to refuel. Usually going off course or halting a mission, the ships pull parallel to one another as the fleet ship draws fuel from the tanker.

"We are in very challenging times where we really do have to think in pretty innovative ways to look at how we create energy, how we value energy, and how we consume it," Vice Admiral Philip Cullom acknowledged. "We need to challenge the results of the assumptions that are the result of the last six decades of constant access to cheap, unlimited amounts of fuel."

The science behind the new development extracts carbon dioxide and hydrogen gas from saltwater, which is then transformed from gas to liquid using a catalytic converter. Many improvements and tweaks still need to made, but one major advantage is that the new hydrocarbon fuel can be used in existing engines of the ships and aircraft.

This new technology puts the estimated cost of jet fuel at between $3 and $6 per gallon. The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory has already completed successful model plane test flights with the new fuel. The ability to produce fuel onboard is reportedly still 10 years away.

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Istanbul, Turkey, was named the world's best destination.     Photo: Tatiana Popova/Getty Images/iStockphoto

And the World's Best Destination Is…

TripAdvisor releases Travelers' Choice Awards

Istanbul is the world's best destination, according to a list released Tuesday by TripAdvisor.

The website's sixth annual Travelers' Choice awards pulled user reviews and ratings from the past year to determine the best places to visit. Istanbul snagged the top global spot this year, followed by Rome and London in second and third place, respectively.

"I think what really appeals to people about Istanbul is this great combination of wonderful culture and amazingly beautiful architecture there and great shopping. And if you're a U.S. traveler, the exchange rate is pretty good," Brooke Ferencsik, director of communications at TripAdvisor, told CNN 

New York, Chicago, and San Francisco ranked in the top 25 world destinations. If you're still planning a spring break trip, make sure to check out TripAdvisor's list of the best beaches in the U.S. Picturesque beaches in Hawaii took the top two spots, followed by Florida's Siesta Key in third.

And compare TripAdvisor's with Outside's 2014 Travel Awards. Who do you think sends you to the most amazing destinations?

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    Photo: Getty Images

Bike Share Prescriptions Fight Obesity

Talk to your doctor today

Riding your bike might be just what the doctor ordered. That is, if you're struggling with obesity and poverty in Boston. As of this week, Boston Medical Center doctors can write low-income patients prescriptions for a $5 subsidized one-year membership to the Hubway bike-share system—a program that normally costs $85 a year. 

The annual subscription allows qualifying patients to use Hubway's 1,100 bikes at 130 locations, the Boston Globe reports. Plus, users get a free helmet.

"There is no other program like this in the country," Mayor Marty Walsh told Boston Magazine. "Prescribe-a-Bike makes the link between health and transportation and ensures that more residents can access the Hubway bike-share system."

So far about 900 Boston residents are enrolled in an existing subsidized Hubway membership. Local officials hope the program will rack up at least 1,000 additional memberships.

To get a prescription, users must be 16 years and older and enrolled in some form of public assistance, or have a household income of no more than four times the poverty level. 

The problem is, only about 14 percent of Hubway bike-share stations are in low-income neighborhoods. Here's hoping that changes with an increased demand from prescription users.

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Shoes were left at the finish line to honor those injured in the Boston Marathon bombing.     Photo: josefkubes/Thinkstock

Marathon Memorial at Boston Public Library

More than 600 pairs of shoes

When nearly 5,000 runners' dreams of finishing the 2013 Boston Marathon ended with a bomb blast, survivors left thousands of objects at the Boylston Street finish line to honor the injured and pay their respects. Many makeshift memorials fade in memory and physical space, but a curated collection of these objects is now on display at the Boston Public Library until May 11.

Curator Rainey Tisdale dug through boxes of small tokens to create the display, titled "Dear Boston: Messages from the Marathon Memorial."  Of all the mementos­—T-shirts, posters, flowers, hats, and more—Tisdale was uniquely moved by the donation of more than 600 pairs of running shoes. Each shoe's story and significance, she notes, is readily visible.

"They've got all sorts of wear marks on the soles from each runner's tread. And there's all the ways each runner has adapted the shoe so that they would get them through all those miles," Tisdale said in an interview with National Public Radio. "They have messages for the people they were running for. Maybe they're running for a cancer survivor. They have their little tags from their charity team."

Of the 1,200 shoes she received, Tisdale chose 150 pairs for the display. The shoes are arranged in pairs densely crowded into a square, evoking the image of a pack of runners. 

Tisdale says the shoes embody hope as well as healing. For the 36,000 Boston Marathon qualifiers running on April 21, that's plenty of incentive to keep going.

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Black-bellied plover among soiled birds in the bay.     Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto/PaulRee

Birds Threatened by Coastal Bend Oil Spill

100,000 gallons of heavy fuel and two weeks later

Texas's Coastal Bend bird population can barely flap its wings after a barge and ship collided in Galveston Bay two weeks ago, coating the bay and its birds in 100,000 gallons of heavy fuel.

The Coast Guard has recovered more than 300 oiled birds—an overwhelming majority of them dead—from the bay thus far. Coastal Bend Bay research scientist David Newstead spotted 500 more soiled birds on Mustang Island (just southwest of the initial spill site) this week.

NOAA forecasts strong winds and high seas shifting northwest later tonight, which could be detrimental to Mustang Island's bird population—especially the local piping plover, which is classified as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

"Particularly troubling [is] the ecologically sensitive area in which the birds have already been in peril from human activity," Newstead told the Texas Tribune. Officials say residents, fisherman, and wildlife still have "at least several weeks" before the spill is entirely contained.

The Houston Ship Channel is open, and fishermen have gone back to work, but shrimpers continue to pull entire catches covered in oil.

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