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Hidden Benefits of Electric Vehicles for Addressing Climate Change

April 4, 2015 Comments off

Hidden Benefits of Electric Vehicles for Addressing Climate Change
Source: Scientific Reports

There is an increasingly hot debate on whether the replacement of conventional vehicles (CVs) by electric vehicles (EVs) should be delayed or accelerated since EVs require higher cost and cause more pollution than CVs in the manufacturing process. Here we reveal two hidden benefits of EVs for addressing climate change to support the imperative acceleration of replacing CVs with EVs. As EVs emit much less heat than CVs within the same mileage, the replacement can mitigate urban heat island effect (UHIE) to reduce the energy consumption of air conditioners, benefitting local and global climates. To demonstrate these effects brought by the replacement of CVs by EVs, we take Beijing, China, as an example. EVs emit only 19.8% of the total heat emitted by CVs per mile. The replacement of CVs by EVs in 2012 could have mitigated the summer heat island intensity (HII) by about 0.94°C, reduced the amount of electricity consumed daily by air conditioners in buildings by 14.44 million kilowatt-hours (kWh), and reduced daily CO2 emissions by 10,686 tonnes.

Wastewater Treatment Plants as Chemical Observatories to Forecast Ecological and Human Health Risks of Manmade Chemicals

January 21, 2014 Comments off

Wastewater Treatment Plants as Chemical Observatories to Forecast Ecological and Human Health Risks of Manmade Chemicals
Source: Scientific Reports

Thousands of chemicals have been identified as contaminants of emerging concern (CECs), but prioritizing them concerning ecological and human health risks is challenging. We explored the use of sewage treatment plants as chemical observatories to conveniently identify persistent and bioaccumulative CECs, including toxic organohalides. Nationally representative samples of sewage sludge (biosolids) were analyzed for 231 CECs, of which 123 were detected. Ten of the top 11 most abundant CECs in biosolids were found to be high-production volume chemicals, eight of which representing priority chemicals, including three flame retardants, three surfactants and two antimicrobials. A comparison of chemicals detected in nationally representative biological specimens from humans and municipal biosolids revealed 70% overlap. This observed co-occurrence of contaminants in both matrices suggests that the analysis of sewage sludge can inform human health risk assessments by providing current information on toxic exposures in human populations and associated body burdens of harmful environmental pollutants.

See: Sludge as New Sentinel for Human Health Risks (Science Daily)

Quantifying the Digital Traces of Hurricane Sandy on Flickr

November 7, 2013 Comments off

Quantifying the Digital Traces of Hurricane Sandy on Flickr
Source: Scientific Reports

Society’s increasing interactions with technology are creating extensive “digital traces” of our collective human behavior. These new data sources are fuelling the rapid development of the new field of computational social science. To investigate user attention to the Hurricane Sandy disaster in 2012, we analyze data from Flickr, a popular website for sharing personal photographs. In this case study, we find that the number of photos taken and subsequently uploaded to Flickr with titles, descriptions or tags related to Hurricane Sandy bears a striking correlation to the atmospheric pressure in the US state New Jersey during this period. Appropriate leverage of such information could be useful to policy makers and others charged with emergency crisis management.

Using social media to quantify nature-based tourism and recreation

October 23, 2013 Comments off

Using social media to quantify nature-based tourism and recreation
Source: Scientific Reports

Scientists have traditionally studied recreation in nature by conducting surveys at entrances to major attractions such as national parks. This method is expensive and provides limited spatial and temporal coverage. A new source of information is available from online social media websites such as flickr. Here, we test whether this source of “big data” can be used to approximate visitation rates. We use the locations of photographs in flickr to estimate visitation rates at 836 recreational sites around the world, and use information from the profiles of the photographers to derive travelers’ origins. We compare these estimates to empirical data at each site and conclude that the crowd-sourced information can indeed serve as a reliable proxy for empirical visitation rates. This new approach offers opportunities to understand which elements of nature attract people to locations around the globe, and whether changes in ecosystems will alter visitation rates.

How Peer Pressure Shapes Consensus, Leadership, and Innovations in Social Groups

October 10, 2013 Comments off

How Peer Pressure Shapes Consensus, Leadership, and Innovations in Social Groups
Source: Scientific Reports

What is the effect of the combined direct and indirect social influences—peer pressure (PP)—on a social group’s collective decisions? We present a model that captures PP as a function of the socio-cultural distance between individuals in a social group. Using this model and empirical data from 15 real-world social networks we found that the PP level determines how fast a social group reaches consensus. More importantly, the levels of PP determine the leaders who can achieve full control of their social groups. PP can overcome barriers imposed upon a consensus by the existence of tightly connected communities with local leaders or the existence of leaders with poor cohesiveness of opinions. A moderate level of PP is also necessary to explain the rate at which innovations diffuse through a variety of social groups.

Characterizing scientific production and consumption in Physics

May 1, 2013 Comments off

Characterizing scientific production and consumption in Physics

Source: Scientific Reports

We analyze the entire publication database of the American Physical Society generating longitudinal (50 years) citation networks geolocalized at the level of single urban areas. We define the knowledge diffusion proxy, and scientific production ranking algorithms to capture the spatio-temporal dynamics of Physics knowledge worldwide. By using the knowledge diffusion proxy we identify the key cities in the production and consumption of knowledge in Physics as a function of time. The results from the scientific production ranking algorithm allow us to characterize the top cities for scholarly research in Physics. Although we focus on a single dataset concerning a specific field, the methodology presented here opens the path to comparative studies of the dynamics of knowledge across disciplines and research areas.

Humans use Compression Heuristics to Improve the Recall of Social Networks

March 21, 2013 Comments off

Humans use Compression Heuristics to Improve the Recall of Social Networks

Source: Scientific Reports

The ability of primates, including humans, to maintain large social networks appears to depend on the ratio of the neocortex to the rest of the brain. However, observed human network size frequently exceeds predictions based on this ratio (e.g., “Dunbar’s Number”), implying that human networks are too large to be cognitively managed. Here I show that humans adaptively use compression heuristics to allow larger amounts of social information to be stored in the same brain volume. I find that human adults can remember larger numbers of relationships in greater detail when a network exhibits triadic closure and kin labels than when it does not. These findings help to explain how humans manage large and complex social networks with finite cognitive resources and suggest that many of the unusual properties of human social networks are rooted in the strategies necessary to cope with cognitive limitations.

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