Research in Brief: February 5th

Acceleration of Andean Glacier melt is reportedly faster than recorded historyAndean glaciers are retreating at what is being called an “unprecedented” rate according to a new study.Each year, the melt water from the glaciers provides a source of fresh water for tens of millions of South Americans, but the glaciers are now treating at the fastest rate in 300 years.An average temperature spike of 0.7 degrees Celsius over the past 70 years is being blamed for the majority of the damage."Glacier retreat in the tropical Andes over the last three decades is unprecedented," said Antoine Rabatel, the lead author of the study and a scientist with the Laboratory for Glaciology and Environmental Geophysics in Grenoble, France.The problem is so bad that scientists are worried that the glaciers will simply cease to exist at lower altitudes, effectively wiping out many communities only source of water. The Chacaltaya glacier in the Bolivian Andes, once a ski resort, has already disappeared completely, according to some scientists.Geo-engineering firm accused of illegally polluting oceansRuss George, an American businessman and entrepreneur, was recently caught illegally spreading 100 tonnes of iron sulphate into the Pacific Ocean.George, who is the CEO of the geoengineering firm Planktos Inc. and provided testimony to the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming in 2007, performed the act as a geoengineering experiment of sorts. The aim was to promote algal growth in the ocean which would, in turn, absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.This is but one of the many ideas that have been put forward as methods of reducing atmospheric greenhouse gas levels by supporters of geoengineering. Other proposed methods include using bio-energy with carbon capture and storage for future use and the already widely implemented strategy of tree planting.Geoengineering is a controversial subject however as many are against tampering with the environment and others claim that by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere we are not stopping the problem of it being released in the first place. Moratoriums exist to prevent such experiments and so it is alleged that George's actions violated the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and the London convention on the dumping of wastes at sea.Patent application filled for “At-home Stomach pump” which aims to promote weight-lossA new patent has been published detailing a pump that is designed to suck out food 20 minutes after you eat a meal as a way to fight obesity.The pump was created by Dean Kamen, the inventor of the Segway, and Aspire Bariatrics as a ‘healthy way’ for people to lose weight without having to radically change their diet.This procedure is supposedly far less invasive than many other gastric bypass surgeries that are available to the public. It was described as a small, 1cm incision over the patient’s stomach, with a tube that is secured both within the stomach and on the surface of the skin with a skin port. Around 20 minutes after the food is ingested, the patient can open the skin port and the slightly-digested food can be extracted.The pump is currently in the human trials stage of testing, and the results are looking promising. However, many obesity experts are opposing the device, arguing that it fails to address the causes of obesity.