Even Minor Dehydration Can Make Thinking More Difficult

If climate change leads to increased temperatures throughout the world, people will sweat off water faster, meaning that they will become dehydrated more quickly. This has clear implications for possibly reducing the average level of decision making among humans.

If you’re finding it hard to get your thoughts straight, dehydration could be to blame. An analysis of previous research has found a link between dehydration and poor performance in tasks that need serious focus or advanced mental processing.

While we know that staying hydrated is good for us for all kinds of reasons, this new meta-study was designed to take a closer look at exactly which brain processes might be affected and at what level of dehydration.

It turns out that at just a 2 percent level of body mass loss due to dehydration – so losing about a litre of water through sweat – the mental imbalance starts. That underlines how crucial it is for us to keep up our water intake, and how damaging it might be to the mental agility we all rely on if we don’t.

“We find that when people are mildly dehydrated they really don’t do as well on tasks that require complex processing or on tasks that require a lot of their attention,” lead researcher Mindy Millard-Stafford, from the Georgia Institute of Technology, told Allison Aubrey at NPR.

Millard-Stafford and her colleague Matthew Wittbrodt looked at 33 previous studies linking dehydration with mental performance. In total, the studies covered a total of 413 individuals experiencing between 1 percent and 6 percent of body mass loss through dehydration.

That 2 percent point seems to be the tipping point when it comes to staying mentally sharp. According to the experts, it would maybe take an hour’s hike to get to that level.

What’s more, it’s a level of dehydration that we might not actually notice through triggers like increased thirst: so mental performance could decline even when we don’t feel like we need to take on any water.

The analysis backs up previous research suggesting that dehydration impairs some mental processes more than others, with attention, executive function, and motor coordination particularly hard hit. Lower-level tasks like reaction time aren’t as badly affected, the meta-study shows.

While it’s different for every individual, experts recommend that women get up to 2.7 litres or 95 fluid ounces (11.5 cups) of water every day, and men up to 3.7 litres or 130 fluid ounces (15.5 cups).

The body as a whole is 60 percent water, which it leverages for jobs like transporting nutrients around the body and lubricating our eyeballs.

When there isn’t enough water available – it’s regularly lost through sweating and urination – these vital functions start to break down. We become thirsty, start to feel nauseous, and become more likely to feel exhausted.

Solar-Powered Device Makes Water Out of Dry Desert Air

It shows a lot of promise, although the efficiency needs to still be improved more.

When it comes to future challenges, one of the biggest will be water scarcity – on a warming planet we’re going to have plenty of seawater, but not enough fresh, clean water in the right places for everybody to drink.

And while a lot of research has focussed on desalination, a team of scientists have now come up with another possible solution – a device that pulls fresh water out of thin air, even in the middle of the desert. All it needs is sunlight.

Called the ‘solar-powered harvester’, the device was created by teams from MIT and the University of California, Berkeley, using a special type of material known as a metal-organic framework (MOF).

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As ambient air diffuses through the MOF crystals, water molecules attach to the interior surfaces. X-ray diffraction studies of the system have shown that the water vapour molecules often gather in groups of eight, forming cubes.

Sunlight then heats the MOF up and pushes the bound water towards the condenser, which is the same temperature as the outside air. This vapour condenses as liquid water, and drips into a collector to provide clean drinking water.

EPA Blocked Release of Major Water Contamination Report

All of the wealth in world history’s wealthiest country and it still isn’t using those resources to provide access to safe drinking water for tens of millions. America is a plutocracy though, and while it remains that way, the society’s structure will primarily prioritize making the rich richer over much else.

The chemicals that were under review are PFOA and PFOS, which, as Politiconotes, “have long been used in products like Teflon and firefighting foam”—as well as by the Department of Defense, when it conducts exercises at U.S. bases—despite the fact that they “have been linked with thyroid defects, problems in pregnancy, and certain cancers, even at low levels of exposure.”

The study, conducted by the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), reportedly shows that these chemicals are dangerous to human health at far lower levels than previously known or disclosed by the EPA, and have “contaminated water supplies near military bases, chemical plants, and other sites from New York to Michigan to West Virginia.”

Scientist Claims to Have Found the Solution Alternative to Plastic Water Bottles

The material needs to be tested by a trustworthy source for safety, but this invention could represent an advance that would drastically reduce the harms (such as the contaminants in the plastic) caused by the water bottles.

A British scientist claims to have invented a plastic-free, single-use water bottle that can decompose within three weeks.

The Choose Water bottle, developed by James Longcroft, aims to replace plastic bottles and help save the world’s oceans from plastic waste.

The outer lining of the bottle is made out of recycled paper donated by businesses, while the waterproof inner lining is made with a composite material Longcroft has developed himself.

All the constituents of the bottle can fully decompose within three weeks when left in water or landfill, and can be eaten by sea creatures, the company told Business Insider in a statement.

The steel cap on the bottle will also rust and fully decompose in about a year, Longcroft told the Evening Standard.

Plastic usually takes hundreds of years to break down.

Longcroft, who lives in Scotland, is still waiting for patents and started crowdfunding for the bottle on Monday. He has set a goal of £25,000 ($US34,000), of which he has raised about £8,000 ($US11,000) so far.

He hopes to see the bottles available in stores by the end of the year, and that they will be sold for about 85p and 90p (about $US1.2) so that they become a viable alternative to plastic, according to The Times.

Improved Process for Making Clean Drinking Water Out of Salt Water Developed

It would be helpful in creating much more safe drinking water if it actually becomes mass produced.

Using an innovative combination of sunshine and hydrogels, a new device just unveiled by scientists is able to produce clean drinking water from virtually any source – even the salty waters of the Dead Sea.

This new technique could prevent tens of thousands of death every year, since access to safe drinking water is at a premium in many developing nations, not to even mention the wake of a natural disaster or emergency anywhere in the world.

The technology is compact, inexpensive, and uses ambient solar energy in order to evaporate water and remove impurities, making it a substantial upgrade over similar processes that have been used in the past.

“Water desalination through distillation is a common method for mass production of freshwater,” says one of the researchers, Fei Zhao from the University of Texas at Austin.

“However, current distillation technologies, such as multi-stage flash and multi-effect distillation, require significant infrastructures and are quite energy-intensive.”

“Solar energy, as the most sustainable heat source to potentially power distillation, is widely considered to be a great alternative for water desalination.”

The new filtering device works by combining several gel-polymer hybrid materials that mix both hydrophilic (water-attracting) and semiconducting (solar-adsorbing) properties.

The nanostructure of the gels enables more water vapour to be produced from less solar energy, and without the complicated series of optical instruments that existing devices use to concentrate sunlight. Here, that concentration isn’t needed.

When a jar of contaminated water is placed in direct sunlight with the hydrogel evaporator on top, vapour is released that’s then trapped and stored by a condenser.

“We have essentially rewritten the entire approach to conventional solar water evaporation,” says lead researcher Guihua Yu, from the University of Texas at Austin.

To give their new contraption a thorough testing, the researchers tried it out at the Dead Sea, which borders Israel, the West Bank, and Jordan. With a salinity of around 34 percent, it’s about ten times as salty as your standard ocean water.

The hydrogel filtering device passed its test with flying colours, producing drinking water from the Dead Sea that met the accepted drinking water standards put down by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Possibility of Stopping Hurricanes Using Air Bubbles

As 2017 showed, hurricanes can do immense damage. The effects of climate change will also make hurricanes worse, as warmer air means more water vapor, and more water vapor translates to more superstorms. It’s uncertain how much using air bubble technology would actually help, but there might be beneficial truth to using it.

Tropical hurricanes are generated when masses of cold and warm air collide. Another essential factor is that the sea surface temperature must be greater than 26.5°C.

“Climate change is causing sea surface temperatures to increase,” says Grim Eidnes, who is a Senior Research Scientist at SINTEF Ocean. “The critical temperature threshold at which evaporation is sufficient to promote the development of hurricanes is 26.5°C. In the case of hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico in the period August to September 2017, sea surface temperatures were measured at 32°C”, he says.

So to the big question. Is it possible to cool the sea surface to below 26.5°C by exploiting colder water from deeper in the water column?

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Researchers at SINTEF now intend to save lives by using a tried and tested method called a “bubble curtain”.

The method consists of supplying bubbles of compressed air from a perforated pipe lowered in the water, which then rise, taking with them colder water from deeper in the ocean. At the surface, the cold water mixes with, and cools, the warm surface water.

SINTEF believes that the Yucatan Strait will be an ideal test arena for this technology.

“Our initial investigations show that the pipes must be located at between 100 and 150 metres depth in order to extract water that is cold enough” says Eidnes. “By bringing this water to the surface using the bubble curtains, the surface temperature will fall to below 26.5°C, thus cutting off the hurricane’s energy supply”, he says, before adding that “This method will allow us quite simply to prevent hurricanes from achieving life-threatening intensities”.

Discovery from Last Year: Device to Pull Water Out of Thin Air Developed

This discovery has immense potential to help people in areas that lack water. Only 3 percent of the world’s total water is freshwater — the rest is saltwater, with inadequate desalinization advances — so access to water indeed looks to become a more major issue in the years ahead.

Scientists have developed a device that can suck water out of desert skies, powered by sunlight alone. They hope that a version of the technology could eventually supply clean drinking water in some of the driest and poorest parts of the globe.

The device is based on a novel material that can pull large amounts of water into its many pores. According to a study published in the journal Science on Thursday, a kilogram of the material can capture several liters of water each day in humidity levels as low as 20 percent, typical of arid regions.

The technology could help address a big and growing problem. A report last year in Science Advances found that four billion people, nearly half in India and China, face “severe water scarcity at least one month of the year.” That means water shortages affect two-thirds of the world’s population. These shortages—and the resulting conflicts—are only expected to become more common in large parts of the world as climate change accelerates.

A team at MIT developed the technology with Omar Yaghi’s laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley. The key component is a promising class of synthetic porous materials called metal-organic frameworks, composed of organic molecules stitched together with metal atoms, which Yaghi pioneered (see “A Better Way to Capture Carbon”). The size and chemical character of the material’s pores can be customized to capture particular types of molecules or allow them to flow through. The material also has a massive surface area, on the order of a football field per gram, enabling it to bond with a large quantity of particles.

In this case, the scientists employed a previously developed version of the material that Yaghi optimized to efficiently capture water molecules. The prototype bonds with water at night or in shade. But during the day, sunlight hitting the material adds enough energy to convert the water molecules into vapor. In turn, they slip out of the material’s pores and into an adjacent acrylic enclosure. A condenser at the bottom of the vessel collects the water droplets and funnels them into a chamber below, from which clean water can be collected.

The process is completely passive, with no need for solar panels, batteries, or additional energy. Previous water-harvesting technologies have been limited to areas with fog or other high-moisture conditions.

Though they plan to continue refining the technology, they’re “not that far away” from a viable product, says Evelyn Wang, head of MIT’s device research laboratory. She notes that materials of this type are already being mass-produced, at increasingly affordable prices, by the German chemical giant BASF.

Yaghi says the technology could be paired with solar panels or other equipment to boost water production for industrial or agricultural purposes. But the big hope, he says, is that these devices could become household fixtures in poorer parts of the world. That would allow families to reliably produce their own water instead of rationing whatever they can carry, or whatever is available, from community wells.