MastersConnection 2020
Issue 414 In This Issue January 24th, 2015

Editors Corner

Have you ever heard of nanopesticides? As the name would suggest, these would be pesticides with nano-scale droplets. From a commercial standpoint, this might seem like a good idea, but I don't imagine that it would be good for the health of most-any living creature. Click here

On the flip side, did you know that plants can benefit from certain bacteria and/or fungi in the soil? If the microbiome this creates with the plant is supported and even enhanced, this can help make plants healthy and vibrant, at the very least reducing the need for chemicals and/or pesticides. Click here

On a slightly different subject, you may have heard of hydrophobic (meaning water-repellent) coatings that can be applied to surfaces. Well, scientists have now taken this one step further. They used lasers to etch a hydrophobic pattern right in to the material itself. Click here

There's more, but I will leave the rest for you to discover and enjoy.
Have a wonderful week.

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Earth Watch

This chart of rising ocean temperatures is terrifying
This year’s biggest climate change news was that 2014 was hottest year on record. Turns out, there’s bigger news: It was also the hottest year in the oceans, which are warming so fast they’re literally breaking the NOAA’s charts. Don’t think you mind a little jacuzzification in your ocean? You’re wrong. Warmer oceans matter because “global warming” doesn’t just mean above average air temperatures over the course of a year — it actually refers to an increase in the total amount of heat energy contained in the Earth’s systems. While air temperatures can fluctuate on any given year, they are usually matched by an increase or decrease of the amount of heat stored in the oceans (which, by the way, absorb around 90 percent of total global warming heat). To know whether the system as a whole is getting warmer or not, scientists need to take into account the temperatures of the atmosphere, land, AND oceans. Luckily, NOAA has been tracking ocean energy data for decades, updating its charts every few months.

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GMO Watch

Self-destruction genes could keep GMOs from spilling into the wild
It’s the worst nightmare of activists opposed to genetically modified crops: An errant GMO seed blows out of a wheat or corn field and breeds with a species in the wild or on a neighboring farm. The modified gene proliferates and spreads through the population, and pretty soon the line between engineered crops and their “natural” counterparts begins to disappear, with unpredictable consequences for ecosystems. This happened in 2010 in North Dakota, when scientists discovered that genes from genetically engineered canola — grown commercially for its oil across the state — were appearing in nearly every sample of canola taken in the wild. In that case, the “escape” of GMO canola turned out to be no big deal. But it raised eyebrows with plant scientists about how quickly modified genes can spread. Some warned that plants engineered to be especially hardy — for example, the drought- and heat-tolerant plants that agribusiness giants like Monsanto are pushing as a remedy to climate change — could drive out native breeds, taking with them a precious store of genetic diversity.

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Something Worth Knowing

Tapping the ‘plant microbiome’ to improve farming and plant health
People are increasingly aware of the link between the trillions of microbes that live within our bodies and human health. Studies have found that a healthy population of bacteria, or a microbiome, in a person can prevent food allergies and even treat depression. Just as in the human body, these types of tiny bugs can play an beneficial role in plant health. Growth-promoting bacteria or fungi can be added to plants or soil in a variety of ways – in seed coats, suspended in water and sprayed on plants or soil, or mixed into mulches that are added to the soil or placed around plant stems. Study of this microscopic world has been going on for decades but is now attracting more interest from researchers looking for environmentally benign methods to improve agriculture.

Nitrogen fixing
All plants in natural soil have associations with microbes, including bacteria and fungi. The symbiotic relationship between plants and microbes has been evolving for at least four million years: fossil evidence shows structures formed between early land plants and what appear to be fungi.

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15 Ingenious Ways to Save Money on Groceries
Next to your mortgage, if you have one, you probably spend more money on food and groceries than any other item in your budget. You can cut expenses way down by following some of these ingenious ideas for lowering your food costs.

1) Eat the food you buy. I’m not being facetious. The U.S. Dept. of Agriculture estimates that people throw away 30% of the groceries they buy because the food spoils before it is eaten or people lose track of leftovers in their fridge or freezer. Keep a list of what you have in the fridge on the front door so you remember what you have to cook.

2) Eat leftovers. Reheat some meals, like spaghetti or stew. Need to be more creative? Cooked vegetables like green beans and potatoes can end up in a salad with carrots and tomatoes; just add a little vinaigrette and you have a yummy salad.

3) Store food in air-tight containers. It’s worth investing in some good glass containers with tight-fitting lids, so that when you put leftovers away, they’ll actually last a few days in the fridge. Use a piece of masking tape to label what’s inside and the date.

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On The Lighter Side

Amazing Night Sky Photos by Stargazers
(May 2013)

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Triad Theater
Calendar of Events

Jan 31st @ 7pm: Vanda Comedian Extrordinaire
*to speak on her journey of life" and other ventures!

Jan 30th @ 7pm: Songwriters Showcase
Poets welcomed. Donation $5

Feb 14th: Croooners and Spooners Valentine Show

Feb 15th: Conversations w Miceal

Feb 30th & 31st: Bluegrass Festival

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Bloggers Corner
The Big Sleep
By Rene Westbrook (Esprit)

For most of us, there is a nightly ritual that snatches day from our clutches in order to surrender into that shallow "death" called sleep. Populated with flashing signs of wild meanderings, we enter into a dream world of images and side shows that only the subconscious state can deconstruct. This constant dress rehearsal allows us to ease into an unknown place that comes with a stark warning: our waking hours are numbered...yikes! In my early twenties, I was very interested in that heavenly place of no return and began to read books by Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, a Swiss American psychiatrist who became a modern day shaman on death and dying. Her pioneering work on the subject helped many understand what she called the five stages of grief and its powerful hold on the human psyche.  Through her efforts, most of us are comfortable with the near death experience, past lives, and ubiquitous of all, the journey through the tunnel of "light". Fascinated as I was with her findings, I also sought out radical ideas against my Catholic upbringing.  In the 70s, psychoactive drugs were one way to access mystical domains, and the books of Carlos Castaneda opened the doors for me to "a separate reality". At the same time, Reincarnation was all the rage with its concept that a soul can begin again in a new body after death.

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Health Watch

One cup of blueberries per day helps relieve high blood pressure and hardened arteries
With ancient ties to North America, its no wonder that blueberries are one of America's favorite foods. Called "star berries" by the Native Americans for their five-point star shape, blueberries were an abundant resource, acting as a food and a medicine. The berries were dried to create a type of jerky that could be taken on long trips, similar to today's version of fruit leather. Natives also made dye from blueberry juice, using it to paint textiles and baskets. Native to the region, blueberries were quickly adopted by the early settlers, who relied upon them when food was scarce. Learning from the Native Americans, early colonists made gray paint out of blueberries by boiling them in milk, using it to paint their homes. Today, blueberries are still an integral part of our diet, playing an equally important role. Blueberries offer a variety of health benefits, including improving memory, protecting the heart, assisting with digestion and reducing the risk of Alzheimer's disease and dementia. Consuming them regularly keeps your brain sharp, and they even help shield us from the effects of toxic heavy metals.

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Pesticides just got a whole lot smaller. Is that a good thing?
Nanoparticles are basically the X-Men of the molecular world, in that they are unpredictable, elusive, and come in a dizzying array of forms. So it should come as no surprise that scientists are now researching a new type of nanotechnology that could revolutionize modern farming: nanopesticides. (Cue: Ooo, ahh) Recent studies have suggested that the nano-scale pesticide droplets could offer a range of benefits including raising crop durability and persistence, while decreasing the amount of pesticide needed to cover the same amount of ground. But they’re also looking at the hefty potential for trouble: No one knows if the nanopesticide particles will seep into water systems, and, if they do, if they will harm non-pests like bees, fish, and even humans. As we’ve written before, nanotechnology involves engineering particles that are tinier than the tiniest tiny. (More technically, we’re talking anything measured in billionths of a meter.) Scientists find this useful, since most substances behave much differently at that scale.

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Technology Watch

Water Bounces Right Off This Super-Repellent Material

Wearable Brain Scanner Measures Activity on the Go
Imagine if you could get a scan of your brain as you went about your day. Soon, that may be a reality — a team of scientists is developing a portable brain scanner that can reveal natural brain activity while a person is engaging in creative activities or social interactions. Positron emission tomography (PET) scanners use a radioactive substance used by cells (usually a sugar) to image activity in the brain. Traditional PET scanners are very bulky, but the new helmetlike device can be worn on a person's head while he or she is walking around, playing a piano or chatting with friends. Future studies using the new device could lead to a deeper understanding of healthy brain function, as well as neurological disorders such as dementia, stroke, traumatic brain injury and depression, the researchers said. "Every social experiment that has been done (in a brain scanner) is an artificially contrived experiment," said Julie Brefczynski-Lewis, a neuroscientist at West Virginia University and one of the scientists leading the project. "Here, you can actually see what people are doing when they're embarrassed, when they're laughing, when they're crying."

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