Five #greenreads to enjoy by candle or iPad glow during Earth Hour.
Carl Zimmer in National Geographic on second chances:Extinction is forever. Isn't it? Scientists are working to bring long-gone species back to life (think Jurassic Park but without the dinosaurs). It's been nicknamed "de-extinction," and it has already happened. Geneticists cloned a wild European goat known as a bucardo that went extinct a few years ago. The resulting newborn, which suffered from birth defects, lived for a few minutes, and then went extinct (again). So the science still has a way to go, but the question remains: should we? Are we playing God, or do we owe it to the species that we helped send into oblivion in the first place? Philosophical questions aside: where do we put 'em? And will they upset the survival of Earth's current roster of plants and animals? The only question that's easy to answer: wouldn't it be cool to see a real, live woolly mammoth? Yes, yes it would be.
Jeremy Miller in Orion on finding your center:Imagine you are trying to balance a flat, rigid map of the United States on your finger. Now place the 300-plus million Americans on the exact spots where they live. The point where this imaginary, teetering map would stabilize (assuming everyone weighed the same) is called the centroid, and it’s calculated every decade during the national census. In 1790, the centroid was near Baltimore, but since then has headed more than 800 miles to the southwest. “To trace the path of the centroid" writes Miller, "is to skim a great narrative spanning 220 years.” Much of U.S. history can be seen in how we've pushed and pulled our centroid: dogged westward expansion, the influx of European immigrants to the northeast, a southerly tug after the invention air-conditioning. As he joins census workers in the search today’s centroid (somewhere in Missouri), Miller wonders where our center will shift once climate change begins to tip the scale.
Kenneth Chang for the New York Times on a sunny storm:In 1859, the sun exploded. The eruption wasn't a universe-annihilating catastrophe, but more of a solar hiccup directed straight at Earth. "The Sun hurled billions of tons of electrons and protons whizzing toward Earth, and when those particles slammed into the planet’s magnetic field they created spectacular auroras of red, green and purple," describes Chang. Back then, the damages from this geomagnetic barrage were slight, with some telegraph operators getting shocked and papers going aflame after electric wires shot out sparks. But a similar storm in today's high-tech world would disable satellites, scramble GPSs, and leave entire continents in the dark -- maybe even for months. Small solar flares hit earth all the time -- 20 in the past year -- but a big one is bound to strike sometime in the future. And until then, says one electrical engineer, "we’re playing Russian roulette with the Sun."
Ted Genoways at OnEarth on a long goodbye: Scientist and poetess Eva Saulitis has studied, listened to, and bonded with Alaska's killer whales since 1986. Sadly, in the years since the Exxon Valdez spilled its oily payload into Prince William Sound, she’s watched the surviving members of the AT1 orca pod vanish one by one. The population's demise is especially regrettable because the whales seem to be genetically distinct from the rest of the orcas in the eastern Pacific -- and even have their own special dialect of whale song. “What haunts her, Saulitis said, was no longer the prospect of a world without the AT1s but rather the day when there is only one -- that last whale, calling out in its lost language to an ocean that will never yield a reply.”
Mariya Karimjee at the GlobalPost on a recycling wreck: Gaddani Beach, Pakistan isn’t a sunbather’s paradise. Metal saws rent the air, “and the whole place smells of a four-car pileup. Which is essentially what it is,” explains Karimjee. Gaddani is a ship-breaking site, where cargo ships and oil tankers that once ferried goods across the oceans are dismantled into scrap. “Hidden among their viscera" she writes, "are some of the most hazardous substances known to commerce: complex petrochemicals, asbestos, heavy metals and random poisons.” Navigating through the sprawling wrecks are Gaddani's poor -- desperate, unregistered workers who may just have the world's most dangerous job.
Tired of reading yet? Watch this.
Simon Ennis for the New York Times on a lunar land grab: For just $19.99, you (yes, you!) can own a plot of land on the moon. And that's not all, the moons of Mercury, Venus, Mars, and Jupiter are also available. Buy now, while supplies last! Yup ... there's a guy in Nevada who says he can sell you a bit of the universe (and probably a few bridges, too).