Here are some noteworthy science and environmental links folks are Digging today:
— If Andy Rooney was British, wild-haired and on a weeklong sugar high, he'd look something like UPI's Martin Sieff in the video accompanying this article. Sieff's clearly freaked out about "warming wars" in the Arctic — disputes over "oil! gold! diamonds! natural gas!" suddenly accessible thanks to melting ice on top of the world. It's an interesting and unnerving prospect, one that Russia, and Sieff, clearly is aware of. Russian bombers and warships are patrolling the Arctic, asserting a military presence they apparently hope will dissuade other Artic-abutting nations from sticking their noses into the "treasury trove of mineral resources" up there, as Sieff eloquently puts it.
• Economist: "The illusion of clean coal"
— The alleged cleanliness of coal has been taking a whacking lately, most recently and entertainingly in this commercial directed by the Coen brothers (side note: There's now a "making of" video, too). The Economist weighs in with this overview about the practicality of actually capturing and storing carbon emissions, which is the technology required to make coal even remotely clean. The conclusion is a similar one made today by the New York Times' Green Inc. blog: Maybe we could do it, but it's so expensive, no one is doing it.
• Newsweek: "The Recession's Green Lining"
— Using Russia's Lake Baikal — the oldest, and possibly most polluted, freshwater lake in the world — as an example, Newsweek examines how the recession is forcing some of the world's dirtiest industrial outfits out of commission. It's happening around the world, in go-go countries like China and India, and at Lake Baikal at least, a heavily polluting industry is being replaced with eco-tourism. While Newsweek acknowledges that "[r]ecession is not exactly a long-term environmental strategy, obviously," the hope is that it can enlighten polluters while lightening their wallets.
• Bloomberg News: "Harvard Scientists' Discovery Opens Door to Synthetic Life"
— By copying the part of a living cell that makes proteins, researchers have cleared one of the biggest hurdles toward making their own, self-replicating life forms, announced Harvard's George Church at a lecture over the weekend. This means cells can be reprogrammed to create almost any protein, even some that don't exist in nature. While that may sound like an invitation to play God, the scientists hope to, at least at first, focus their powers on practical life-harnessing projects, such as creating better biofuels. As Bloomberg mentions, this could potentially even help bring us clean coal, if we can engineer microbes that break down coal into a more manageable state, such as methane gas.
• Divine Caroline: "Seven Evolutionary Leftovers in the Human Body"
— People carry around a variety of seemingly useless organs — male nipples, wisdom teeth, the appendix — without knowing why. Divine Caroline's look at seven such body parts has been a popular item on Digg recently, as it gathers a few vestigial organs, such as the tail stubs bequeathed to us by our ape ancestors, and some that are merely byproducts of our fetal development, such as male nipples.