Deaths by energy source

Forbes has an interesting article looking at the health effects of different energy sources, more specifically, the number of (human) deaths per unit of energy produced.  For all the publicity nuclear energy accidents get, it’s worth noting that the mortality rate from nuclear energy is about 90 deaths per tkWhr (trillion kilowatt hour of energy produced), while coal is 170,000 deaths per tkWhr!  To be fair, that coal rate is the global average and the US is much better than that (mainly because of existing pollution controls)…but even then, it’s a whopping 15,000 deaths per tkWhr.  The complete list:

Energy Source               Mortality Rate (deaths/trillionkWhr)

Coal – global average         170,000    (50% global electricity)

Coal – China                         280,000   (75% China’s electricity)

Coal – U.S.                               15,000    (44% U.S. electricity)

Oil                                               36,000    (36% of energy, 8% of electricity)

Natural Gas                                4,000    (20% global electricity)

Biofuel/Biomass                    24,000    (21% global energy)

Solar (rooftop)                              440    (< 1% global electricity)

Wind                                                 150    (~ 1% global electricity)

Hydro – global average          1,400    (15% global electricity)

Nuclear – global average            90    (17%  global electricity w/Chern&Fukush)

You can read more over at Forbes.com.

Sequence a human genome in 24 hours!

The first human genome to be sequenced took about thirteen years, and cost a few billion dollars.  A new product from Life Technologies has dramatically improved upon that, offering sequencing of an entire human genome sequence in under a day and at a cost under $1000!  The machine itself costs around $150k, so would pay for itself pretty quickly (current costs for sequencing a genome are around $10k+).  We’re entering a new era of medical care enabled by information like this, and it’ll be exciting to watch how these technologies are used (such as in preventative care, also with targeting medications).

(via Core77)

Superbugs

Antibiotic-resistant ‘superbugs’ are perhaps one of the scariest byproducts of our modern lifestyle and society.  The gist of it is, bacteria, like any living organism, evolves to survive in its environment.  When exposed to antibiotics, some bacteria may have traits or mutations that help them survive longer than others; this can be passed on to future generations if they survive.  Over time and with more exposure to antibiotics, they can grow stronger and stronger.  NDM-1 is a new bug in the wild that appears resistant to ALL antibiotics, MRSA is another (though MRSA can still be treated, to some extent).  Antibiotic use in cattle is believed to be a big cause of the creation of superbugs like these, so it’s a bit of a surprise lately that the FDA announced it will no longer regulate the use of antibiotics in cattle!  This is in spite of studies showing a large percentage of meat samples (~50%) had MRSA.  A letter from a group of medical and health professionals stated,

The evidence is so strong of a link between misuse of antibiotics in food animals and human antibiotic resistance that FDA and Congress should be acting much more boldly and urgently to protect these vital drugs for human illness.

The issue is serious enough that there’s even a lawsuit against the FDA, claiming the agency is not doing enough about this health threat.

If you care about issues like these, go read the full article at the New York Times for yourself.  This issue is not confined to the FDA or cattle, this is about the use of antibiotics globally.  We’d be fools to expect human behavior to change enough to eliminate this problem; rather, we need to recognize the changes we are creating in our environment, and pursue technologies that can help alleviate the problem we’re creating.