Irregular Reporting of Societal IssuesSM

"Get your news weakly"SM 29 January 2007

The Newsweakly Environmental Issue:
Bringing You The Latest In Climate Change Strategy

Scientists Combat Global Warming

Concerned scientists have, on the whole, agreed that the climate of the Earth is changing, with the general trend being significantly warmer. While agreement on this front is strong and continues to increase, the methods to combat the process are debated. At an even more fundamental level, there remains disagreement as to whether significant intervention is required. However, one item is without debate -- the need to cope with the environmental changes wrought by climate change.

Of concern to many is the retreat of glaciers and the reduced snow fall across much of the world, with notable examples including the shrinking ice sheet of Greenland and the almost entire absence of snow in western Europe this winter. Newsweakly discussed this problem with many of leading scientists and all agreed that the most pressing problem caused by reduced snowfall and retreating glaciers is its impact on the winter sports industry.

Fortunately, there are new developments in several areas, which offer promising solutions to the pressing problem of winter sports. Scientists working for BASF, a petrochemical company based in Germany, have been collaborating with researchers from Exxon-Mobil to create a synthetic snow replacement being called PolySnow. According to sources familiar with the project, the results are promising, with crude oil becoming a very slippery, yet soft substance that can be blown out over a hillside for sledding and skiing. "What I saw was amazingly like snow, but not cold or wet", says Hans Gretel, reporter for Der Spiegel, adding, "it did leave an oily stain on my clothes". Spokespersons for BASF indicate that the product has not yet been finalized. Additional relatively minor enhancements reportedly include emphasizing a more "white" appearance and changes to prevent PolySnow from killing all the vegetation that it touches, though its cross-over marketing potential as a defoliant has raised interest at the Pentagon.


Even more exciting than PolySnow, however, is a joint project of Stanford University and the Lawrence-Livermore National Laboratories in California. Scientists at the two institutions took a radically new approach to the problem of snow and ice, opting for nanotechnology. The work so far has resulted in the creation of NanoFlakes, which are individual snowflake-sized machines. Instead of focusing on viscosity like PolySnow, the NanoFlakes work cooperatively to make movement across their surface smooth and effortless. "What makes this solution so elegant is the breadth of the possible applications", says Lab Administrator Sancho Panza. The cooperative nature of the NanoFlakes reportedly allows them to create NanoIce, which researchers have shortened to NIce. "Our researchers are most excited about NIce, which we have been able to leverage for the creation of NanoGlaciers", says Panza.

Scientists have reportedly created large-scale NanoGlaciers in valleys east of San Francisco Bay. Critics charge that such developments are inherently risky, pointing to one experiment, where a NanoGlacier advanced on a suburb of Oakland, eventually creating a terminal morraine of tract housing in the path its advance. "We are very sorry that five houses were crushed by the advance of the NanoGlacier, and the NanAvalanche that crushed an additional two houses was a surprise to us all, but these represent only the tiniest of obstacles on our quest for WiSpR Tech (Winter Sport Replacement Technology)", says Panza. A team of trained NanoNegotiators was able to convince the NanoGlacier to move farther up the valley, under the condition that scientists would begin referring to "glacial retreat" as "glacial relocation".

Another interesting result of the cooperative nature of NanoFlakes is that the resulting NanoGlaciers are crevasse-free. However, early reports indicate that NIce resists the use of crampons, ice axes, and other sharp objects. According to unconfirmed reports, the NIce considers these a threat, and may spontaneously open and close crevasses around ice climbers as a device to protect itself. Panza and others admit that more work needs to be done on NanoFlakes, but insist that the benefits of the technology far outweigh any theoretical side-effects. "We are thrilled to be able to bring the excitement of a glacier to communities that never have had one, like Sacramento", said Panza, adding, "In fact, it's on its way now".

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© 2006, 2007 Lea Ann Mawler & Stuart Mawler