Science Sunday 07-30-17

Tesla Model 3

Well, it’s finally “almost” here, the Tesla Model 3 all electric sedan and sportscar, that promises to be affordable to the masses, and be practical to use.

Over a half million blokes have put down a deposit of $1,000 to purchase what has to be the iPhone of cars.  Although 30 cars have been produced thus far, they were released only to Tesla employees to try out and report bugs.

Although Elon Musk, the founder of Tesla (and Space X) asserts that you will be able to buy one of these pups for “only” 35 grand, a base model is more likely to run you $42,000.

The base model will have a reported range of 220 miles per charge, but for extra money, you can buy a battery upgrade and enjoy an extended range of 310 miles.

The vehicle has no dedicated instrumentation, instead relying exclusively on a tri-partitioned touch screen that shows gauge information, map information, and apps controls.  Even the glove box opens via a button on the touch screen.

The base model and the more expensive souped up models are quite peppy, doing 0 to 60 mph in under 6 seconds.

Musk is “betting the farm” on economies of scale, in particular building the world’s largest factory for batteries (or anything else) in Nevada.

While the first production models will have a single rear wheel drive motor, later versions of the Model 3 will sport all wheel drive.

For a European perspective on this blockbuster announcement, watch this video:


Plastic bottles – The Inquiry

Last week, I wrote about the environmental dangers of plastics, especially one-time-use plastic bottles.  So it was refreshing to hear in detail about that same subject on the (soon to be one of my favorite) podcasts from the BBC called The Inquiry.

The July 23rd episode addresses the question of whether it is time to ban the plastic bottle.  As is the case with all Inquiry podcasts, four experts hold forth of the subject being investigated, and this episode did not disappoint me.

I learned that currently every second of every day, 20 thousand one-time-use plastic water bottles are sold world-wide.  That works out to one million non-biodegradable bottles sold per minute.

The first expert, a Captain Charles Moore, credited with discovering the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the late 1990s, said that the amount of plastic waste floating in gyres in the oceans of the world has increased 60 fold since his initial discovery.  He estimates that if humanity does nothing to curtail plastic waste, then by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans.

Other experts on the podcast talk about government banning of plastic bottles, the need to improve recycling of plastics, the need to create biodegradable plastics, and the need to give users a monetary incentive to recycle disposable plastics, or to not use them in the first place.

The podcast goes on to report that in Europe, consumers of shell fish ingest an average of 11,000 very small pieces of plastic per fish.  The plastic used in bottled water, PETE, is now under investigation as a source of endocrine disruptors, chemicals that can affect human fertility.


Sperm Down For the Count

A recent study in the journal Human Reproduction Update reports that human sperm count has declined by about 60% in the last 40 years in North America, Australia and New Zealand.  Factoring in Europe, the decline is about 50%.

The lead author, Dr. Hagai Levine of Hebrew University, gives no opinion on why this precipitous decline has occurred, but some factors mentioned in news reports are obesity and estrogenic compounds in plastics.  Estrogenics are the endocrine inhibitors mentioned in the plastics post above.

A newsletter I follow, the People’s Pharmacy, also mentioned this study, and opined that it may in part be due to the plastic compound BPA (Bisphenol-A).  The Mayo Clinic has some advice on how to reduce exposure to BPA.


Fracking and Earthquakes, Surely You Jest!

Ok Fracking Earthquake Animation

Click on the picture above to watch how fracking induced earthquakes in Senator Inhofe’s state have literally exploded over the last twelve or so years.

Courtesy of USGS, at least until Trump figures out how to defund it.



Author: Bob Mahoney

Physics teacher

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