Yet Another Reason to Hate Laundry and Other News of the Week

Owen portrait

Sir Richard Owen, a brilliant (if cranky) biologist (1804-1892). And I'm thinking, although I have no proof whatsoever, the inspiration for Disney's Scrooge.

From Science News for Kids comes reason #514 to hate doing laundry: Washing your clothes can pollute the ocean, even if you live far from the coastline.  According to a study by Mark Browne, an environmental scientist at University College Dublin in Ireland, minuscule particles of plastic break off clothes, blankets, and furniture made of polyester while they are in the washing machine. Those bits of plastic, up to 1900 fibers per garment per wash, zip down your drain during the rinse cycle and through your town’s water treatment plants on their way to the coast. It’s a major source of plastic pollution for our oceans, and worse, because the plastic absorbs other chemical pollutants in the water, can be a major hazard for the ocean’s inhabitants. Those toxic bits are small enough to get into the muscle tissues and even the cells of mussels and other marine life. I guess it’s time to get serious about looking for cotton and other all-natural fibers when I shop. I’m really going to miss those fleecy sweaters (according to Browne, fleece is the biggest offender).

In case you’re interested, Together Yes, a local group that focuses on environmental sustainability has published a longer version of my rant about fleece:  Reason #514 to Hate Doing Laundry.

Yet Another Reason to Hate Laundry continues below the fold with:

  • Why scientists think comets may have created our oceans
  • An absolutely fabulous stash of sandals in Scotland
  • Toothy pterosaurs and rapidly growing T. Rexes (now with 30% more mass!)

Comets may be source of our ocean water: The New York Times reports this week that comets may have delivered the water in Earth’s oceans. So far, scientists have found water on seven comets, but only the water on Hartley 2, a comet examined with the help of the Herschel Space Telescope, has a chemical composition that matches the water found on Earth. Previously, scientists had thought asteroids had been the source of Earth’s water. The discovery that there are comets in space covered in ice that matches the chemical composition of water on Earth greatly expands the list of possible sources–and means scientists may have to rethink a few things about how our solar system was formed.

If you love shoes, have I got a stash for you: In preparing the ground for a new grocery store in Scotland, excavators came across a stash of 120 Roman hobnailed sandals. The shoes had been dumped in a ditch near the gate of what appears to be a second century fort built along the Antonine Wall. On the off-chance that 2000-year old cast-off leather footwear isn’t to your taste, they also found jewelry, coins, pottery and animal bones at the site.  See? Something for everyone, and the store isn’t even open yet!

Massive pterosaurs with teeth and ridiculously fast-growing T. Rexes–two more reasons I’m grateful that the only dinosaurs still alive today come wrapped in feathers. A beak tip given to the Natural History Museum in London by Sir Richard Owen in 1884 has finally been identified as the tip and tooth of a massive pterosaur named Coloborhynchus. This flying reptile would have had a wingspan of some 7 meters–setting a new upper bound for winged and toothed beasties. Coloborhynchus would have used its teeth to spear fish while flying low over the ocean. And if that doesn’t make you shudder, consider this: scientists think the T. Rex could have packed on as much as 3950 pounds a year during its teen years, culminating in an adult weight of some 9 tons–a revised weight that’s nearly 30% heavier than previous estimates. Grr Argh.

So, what about you? What caught your eye this week?

About Shala Howell

I spent two decades helping companies like Bell Labs, Juniper Networks, and a genetic testing company that was later acquired by CVS translate some of the world’s most complicated concepts into actionable, understandable English. Now I'm working on a much harder problem -- fostering children’s curiosity and engagement in the scientific, artistic, and linguistic world that surrounds them. The first book in my Caterpickles Parenting Series, What’s That, Mom?, focuses on how to use public art to nurture children’s curiosity in the world around them. My next book, Did Dinosaurs Have Belly Buttons?, is currently planned for release in 2018. In the meantime, you can find me blogging about life with a very curious Ten-Year-Old at Caterpickles.com, chatting about books and the writing life at BostonWriters.blog, and tweeting about books, writing, science, & things that make me smile at @shalahowell.
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