Welcome to our new weekly feature, Wireless Green.
I’ll be here every Friday to rundown the weeks most popular, weird, and interesting stories on science and the environment.
We’re starting with two of the biggest stories in the science world, and they both deal with space.
First off, Virgin invited several pre-booked ticket holders to the unveiling of the company’s commercial spaceship, the world’s first. The ship is known as Space Ship 2. People with loads of money (including washed up soap opera star Victoria Principal. Only the A-list on these flights!) can pretend to be a spaceman in a ship that looks remarkably like a space shuttle attached to a football goalpost.
While the stars were admiring Virgin’s spaceship, a determined band of doomsday prophets was attempting to warn us that we’re all going to die on Tuesday. It seems a giant asteroid, known as TU24, will be passing extremely close to Earth on January 29th. It’ll pass within 350,000 miles of Earth, close enough to be seen by amateur telescopes. A few nutjobs have taken “within 350,000 miles” to mean this asteroid is going to crash into the planet and kill us all. At least one astronomer appears to enjoy telling those people off. One can only wonder if the people predicting Earth’s end are the same ones who insist NASA’s recent photo of a humanoid looking rock is proof of life on Mars.
Back on the environmental front, it appears we don’t need an asteroid to kill us all because we’re doing a fine job of it ourselves. It turns out that modern medicine is in danger due to plant extinction. With almost 70% of our new drugs coming from various plant sources, and very few chemical replacements for the plant compounds being discovered, the issue is a serious one. The world’s most popular cancer drug, for example, cannot be created without the bark of at least 6 yew trees per dose. Over 80% of the yew trees in one Chinese province have now disappeared as the drug grows more popular.
But not to worry, it’s not all bad news on the environmental front as several companies and organizations announced their intentions to improve the environment. Whole Foods, the organic retailer, announced it would join the recent anti-plastic bag trend and dump the bags by Earth Day. Yale University announced it has reduced its carbon footprint by almost 20%, and Hewlett-Packard provided the funds to save 30,000 acres for use as a wildlife corridor in Silicon Valley.