Here are some interesting environmental links folks are Digging today:
— After receiving seven credit card applications in a single day in 2007, a Chicago-area man decided to save all such propositions sent to his family over the next year. Twenty-three pounds of pre-approval later, the household had amassed 445 offers, including 35 addressed to the family's 8- and 11-year-old sons. It's an interesting look into the daily direct-mail maelstrom unfolding around us — and includes awkward justifications from bank representatives — but there's no mention of the environmental impact.
— The world record for solar-cell efficiency was 24.7 percent until November 2008, when Australian researchers
reached the 25 percent milestone. But that's now been shattered by scientists at Germany's Fraunhofer Institute of Solar Energy Systems, who recently announced they've developed a solar cell that's 41.1 percent efficient. While it's likely years away from adorning residential rooftops — only more industrial customers like power plants will be able to afford them at first — the developers say they're already working to make the technology into "competitive" commercial products.
— Al Gore is expected to join Google CEO Eric Schmidt next week as the company unveils Google Ocean, the latest component in its suite of planet- and cosmos-mapping software. Underwater topography, with a layer showing the sea floor's depth, is one anticipated feature, and users will be able to search for points of interest, such as shipwrecks.
— A Flickr user caught this macro photo of a sea urchin's diminutive dentals.
— Fire ants were accidentally brought to the United States from South America in the 1930s, and quickly established themselves as one of the Southeast's most hated invasive pests. While the rapid rise of a venomous alien species can wreak havoc in native ecosystems, the equally quick evolutionary response from Southern lizards offers hope, scientists say. Twelve stings can kill a three-inch-long fence lizard, and in places like Arkansas where fire ants are less common, the reptiles tend to hold still when swarmed, hoping the ants will move on. But in fire-ant-infested Alabama, the same species of fence lizard has evolved longer legs that help it twitch and flee until the ants fall off. Sixty-eight years is a fast adaptation by normal evolutionary standards.