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We’re basically putting the cast of Finding Nemo in a blender

blending nemo

We’re basically putting the cast of Finding Nemo in a blender

By on 4 Sep 2015commentsShare

First, there was Finding Nemo. Then, there was Finding Dory. And now, coming to a warm and acidified ocean near you, there’s Finding Squirt’s Thermal Niche, a coming-of-age story about a young sea turtle who fights his way poleward in search of cooler temperatures. Along the way, he learns the true meaning of survival as he goes head to head with other species either on the move or defending their native waters from climate change refugees like Squirt.

You’re welcome, Pixar. I’ll take my payment in survival gear.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a movie plot. It’s real life. Climate change refugees (human or otherwise) are already a growing concern on land, but thanks to rising ocean temperatures, they’re a problem under the sea, too. Here’s more from the New York Times:

According to a 2013 study, marine species are pushing their range boundaries poleward, away from the Equator, at an average speed of 4.5 miles a year. That’s 10 times as faster as the speed at which species on land are moving.

… Global warming is going to reshuffle ocean ecosystems on a scale not seen for millions of years. Marine biologists can’t yet say what these new habitats are going to be like.

“If you put a bunch of species in a blender, you’re not entirely sure what’s going to come out,” said Malin L. Pinsky, a marine biologist at Rutgers University.

Actually, if you put a bunch of sea creatures in a blender, you’d probably get something akin to Soylent, except not as gross.

How all that reshuffling happens will have big ramifications for fish and fishermen alike. In a study published earlier this week in Nature Climate Change, scientists looked at the habitat ranges of more than 13,000 sea creatures to figure out whether and where Squirt et. al. will have to migrate to over the course of this century. From the New York Times:

The researchers noted the warmest and coldest temperatures in which each species has been observed. If the future plays out like the past, the scientists reasoned, each species will probably move in order to stay in its “thermal niche.”

The journey will be easier for some animals than others, the study found. Some will be able to swim through open ocean to escape overheated waters. Others may find their paths blocked by landmasses or shallow seas.

The scientists also compared the projected biodiversity of each region of the ocean in 2100 with that seen today. The tropics will lose a substantial fraction of their species, the researchers found. And there won’t be any new species immigrating into the tropics to take their place.

OK — so maybe Finding Squirt’s Thermal Niche would work better as a dystopian young adult film, rather than a feel-g00d Pixar movie. Picture it: Squirt is now an angsty 18-year-old on bad terms with his father, Crush. The two get separated during the migration, and Squirt falls in with a group of low-life sharks that prey on scared refugees. When the gang comes across Dory — now a homeless drug addict — Squirt has to choose between risking his life to save an old friend and turning his back on everything he once was. Which way will he swim? Will he ever reunite with Crush? Can he find Squiggle, the turtle he’s loved for years but never had the shell to ask out? Or will he just starve to death halfway through the movie?

Spoiler alert: It’s probably that last one.


Warming Oceans Putting Marine Life ‘In a Blender’

, New York Times.


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Can robots push down the price of solar electricity?

Utility-scale solar farms often stretch across hundreds of acres—massive projects that rely on crews of workers to install, and later keep clean, row after row of panels.

One California-based startup is betting its robots—dubbed Rover and Spot—can speed up the installation and maintenance of large-scale solar farms enough to bring the price of solar electricity in line with natural gas.

Alion Energy’s two machines—Rover takes care of installation and Spot cleans the panels—will be used in three projects in the next few months in California, China and Saudia Arabia, the New York Times reported.

Alion Energy says Rover and Spot, which were unveiled in June 2013, can build utility-scale plants two times faster than the conventional installation with 50 percent less labor required.

Alion Energy uses extruded concrete rails to replace metal posts, racks and cable trenches. Rover works with the concrete rail system to carry and mount panels, an installation process that eliminates low-skilled tasks such as bolt-tightening, ditch-digging and hauling heavy glass over uneven ground, the company says.

Alion Energy, along with other several other companies, are finally tackling an area within large-scale solar projects that has so-far received little attention: installation and maintenance. While module and solar cell prices have dropped, labor, engineering and permitting has risen.

QBotix has developed a robot that controls tracking operations to maximize output from solar panels, while Serbot makes robots that can clean solar arrays, the NYT reported.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory has developed its own solution for concentrating solar power plants by combining GPS, an infrared camera and some fancy software, and then loading it all onto the back of a pickup truck. The so-called Thermal Scout can identify and analyze bad receiver tubes, which typically number in the thousands, as fast as a truck can drive between the rows of mirrors at a CSP plant.

Photo: Alion Energy


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