Sprouts and Snippets: Allergies, DIY Treasure and NASA Scraps Mission

Information about allergies, a place to find supplies for a DIY project and NASA's recent mission cancellation.

| February/March 2007

  • Allergies
    Ragweed can be a major contributor to a person's allergies.
    Photo courtesy Voyagerix/Fotolia

  • Allergies

As if Allergies Aren’t Bad Enough

Global warming is making allergy seasons worse, according to a study conducted by United States Department of Agriculture plant physiologist Lewis Ziska. Higher levels of CO2 have resulted in higher temperatures, and increases in CO2 stimulate photosynthesis, vegetative growth and pollen production, Ziska says. The USDA looked at CO² levels and pollen counts of ragweed, a major allergen. Ziska tested pollen counts at varying levels of CO2: 280 parts per million (the pre-Industrialization level), 370 ppm (roughly today’s count) and 600 ppm (an estimated level for the future). Ragweed pollen counts doubled at each interval.

Treasure-trove for Tinkerers

Do-it-yourselfers, bargain hunters, hobbyists, tinkerers, artists and experimenters owe themselves a look at American Science & Surplus (www.sciplus.com). The company sells a wide range of unusual, hard-to-find items. Most have a scientific or educational slant, some are simply handy, and many are amusing or downright bizarre. The clever descriptions alone are worth the time. The inventory changes constantly, but we found small solar panels, transformers, meters, AC and DC motors, and 13 kinds of rechargeable batteries. Among the 23 major product categories are electrical parts, house and garden, switches, tools, hardware, optics, toys and robot parts.

NASA Scraps Mission to Care for Home Planet

In recent months NASA has cancelled or delayed numerous programs that could help us better understand our changing climate. In addition, the organization has amended its primary mission statement. What once said, “To understand and protect our home planet,” now reads “To pioneer the future in space exploration, scientific discovery and aeronautics research.” Any mention of Earth has been deleted. Some NASA scientists think the altered mission statement reflects the Bush administration’s desire to avoid the global warming controversy and emphasize instead its goal of sending humans to the moon and Mars.

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