+
upworthy
Heroes

How scientists in Iceland turned harmful greenhouse gases into rocks.

For a modern-day climate scientist, this rock could be magical.

A basalt core with carbonate crystals growing inside. Photo from Annette K. Mortensen/University of Southampton.


Humans release at least 35 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, which can be tough on the environment.

But what if, alchemy-like, we could take all that carbon dioxide and turn it into rock?

At Iceland's Hellisheidi power plant, that's what they've been trying to do.

Photo from Árni Sæberg/University of Southampton.

Hellisheidi is a geothermal plant, which means it uses volcanically-heated water to run turbines, but the process isn't perfectly emission-free — it can bring up volcanic gases, including carbon dioxide.

And while the amount of those gases it generates are only a tiny fraction of what a coal plant would produce, the power plant still wanted to get rid of it.

So in 2012, they started a pilot program, Carbfix, to try putting that carbon back in the ground.


An early injection site. Photo by Kevin Krajick/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, used with permission.

How do they do it?

They capture the plant's carbon dioxide, mix it with water, and inject it nearly a half-mile down into the volcanic basalt.

This futuristic-looking space bubble is actually the newer injection site for the Carbfix project. Photo by Kevin Krajick/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, used with permission.

There, the carbon dioxide reacts with chemicals naturally found in the basalt and turns from a gas into chalky, white carbonate.

University of Iceland geologist and study co-author Sandra Snaebjornsdottir holds up a piece of basalt covered in carbonate deposits. Photo by Kevin Krajick/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, used with permission.

Some previous projects have tried pumping carbon dioxide into sandstone or aquifers, but that was essentially just hiding the carbon dioxide. This process transforms it.

That's great! But the truly amazing thing is that the process works hundreds of times faster than anyone predicted.

Two scientists inspect some of the rock samples. Photo by Kevin Krajick/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, used with permission.

We knew this chemical reaction was theoretically possible, but previous studies guessed that it'd take hundreds, maybe even thousands, of years to work.

But Hellisheidi blew that timeline away. Within two years, 95% of the carbon dioxide pumped down had been turned into rock. The researchers just published these astounding findings in the journal Science.

This is amazing because it's not just Iceland that can do this. We could do this anywhere there's basalt.

At Iceland's Black Falls, water pours over columns of pure basalt rock. Photo by Kevin Krajick/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, used with permission.

Basalt is formed from volcanoes. Most of the sea floor is made of basalt and about 10% of continental rocks are too.

The Iceland scientists aren't being too hasty though. The next step is to try again at a larger scale.

The Hellisheidi power plant from a distance. Photo by Kevin Krajick/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, used with permission.

The project is currently injecting 5,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year. They're planning to double that rate this summer and see how it works.

They're also being careful about any unintended consequences.

A rock core covered in slime. Photo by Kevin Krajick/Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, used with permission.

Some of the cores contained a greenish slime, for instance, which may be biological. Microbiologists are going to study this slime to learn how the Carbfix process might affect underground microbes.

And all of this research is key if we're going to stop climate change.

Carbon capture is a needed bridge to help us while we transition to clean energy.

The 38th Session of the IPCC. Photo from Yoshikazu Tsuno/AFP/Getty Images.

In 2014, the International Panel on Climate Change included carbon capture in their list of options to help us limit climate change.

There's still a lot we need to do to stop climate change, but this technique could be a huge step forward.

There are many things we can personally do — such as limiting energy use and using our cars less — but we need action at the systematic level too.

"We need to deal with rising carbon emissions," said Dr. Jeurg Matter, lead author of the paper, in an article from Columbia University.

"This is the ultimate permanent storage — turning them back to stone."

@racheleehiggins/TikTok

Want out of a relationship rut? The Three hour night might be the perfect solution.

Almost every long term relationship suffers from a rut eventually. That goes especially for married partners who become parents and have the added responsibility of raising kids. Maintaining a connection is hard enough in this busy, fast paced world. Top it off with making sure kids are awake, dressed, entertained, well fed, oh yeah, and alive…and you best believe all you have energy for at the end of the day is sitting on the couch barely making it through one episode on Netflix.

And yet, we know how important it is to maintain a connection with our spouses. Many of us just don’t know how to make that happen while juggling a million other things.

According to one mom, a “three-hour night” could be just the thing to tick off multiple boxes on the to-do list while rekindling romance at the same time. Talk about the ultimate marriage hack.

Keep ReadingShow less

It's time to rethink the term 'geriatric pregnancy' as more women wait to have children

Women are having children well past 40 but are considered "geriatric" after 35.

Rethinking the term 'geriatric pregnancy' as more women wait for kids

In more recent decades, women have started to delay having children or decide to not have them at all. Society has been taught that women must have children when they're in their 20s because that's when fertility is highest. Unfortunately it's true that fertility declines as women age, but pregnancy is still possible up until menopause.

Even if someone previously didn't want children, with technology they have the option to change their minds much later in life. Many women have taken to the idea of having more life and career experience before brining about children. But the language around pregnancy in women over 35 is still pretty offensive.

This now more common phenomenon of waiting until later in life to have children is medically called a geriatric pregnancy, though some doctors sugar coat it by calling it "advanced maternal age." Neither of these terms feels indicative of a warm feeling you're expected to experience while growing a child. BBC's The Global Story podcast blows through some pretty unfortunate misconceptions and truths about pregnancy after 35 in an interview with the Head of Reproductive Science and Sociology Group, UCL.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

Family posts a very chill note to neighbors explaining why their dog is on the roof

“We appreciate your concern but please do not knock on our door.."

via Reddit

Meet Huckleberry the dog.

If you were taking a stroll through a quiet neighborhood and happened to catch a glance of this majestic sight, you might bat an eye. You might do a double take. If you were (somewhat understandably) concerned about this surprising roof-dog's welfare, you might even approach the homeowners to tell them, "Uh, I'm not sure if you know...but there's a...dog...on your ROOF."

Well, the family inside is aware that there's often a dog on their roof. It's their pet Golden, Huckleberry, and he just sorta likes it up there.

Keep ReadingShow less
Education

Watching kids do lightning fast mental math is both mesmerizing and mind-blowing

Their finger twitching looks random, but WOW is it impressive.

Digamarthi Sri Ramakanth/Wikimedia Commons

2003 UCMAS National Abacus & Mental Arithmetic Competition

In the age of calculators and smartphones, it's become less necessary to do math in your head than it used to be, but that doesn't mean mental math is useless. Knowing how to calculate in your head can be handy, and if you're lucky enough to learn mental abacus skills from a young age, it can be wicked fast as well.

Video of students demonstrating how quickly they can calculate numbers in their head are blowing people's minds, as the method is completely foreign for many of us. The use of a physical abacus isn't generally taught in the United States, other than perhaps a basic introduction to how it works. But precious few of us ever get to see how the ancient counter gets used for mental math.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

Kristen Wiig plays a cult leader pilates coach in an epic 'SNL' return

Kristen Wiig made an epic return to “Saturday Night Live” this week

Saturday Night Live/Youtube

A creepy slowed down version of Megan Thee Stallion's "Body" was a fabulous touch.

Kristen Wiig made an epic return to “Saturday Night Live” this week, and along with bringing back her iconic “Aunt Linda” character, she might have created a whole new fan favorite.

In a horror trailer reminiscent of an A24 film, Chloe Fineman and Molly Kearney work up the courage to take their first pilates class. They enter an eerily dark purple room where Wiig, playing a cult-leader Pilates instructor with a fondness for weird pet names, gives them the scariest workout of their life.

Keep ReadingShow less

A man in a red shirt has an epiphany and Mel Robbins delivers a TED Talk.

It’s a wonder that humans can get anything done because we are hard-wired to procrastinate. Whenever we consider performing a task that may be boring, unpleasant, or stressful, the brain automatically sends a signal that says why not do it “later” or “tomorrow”?

Humans are natural-born procrastinators because our old brain wants to protect us from potential danger or discomfort. So, when faced with an uncomfortable situation, our brain springs into action and suggests we do it later.

While some people are able to override this reaction, many cannot and researchers believe that around 20% are chronic procrastinators.

As we all know, this knee-jerk reaction can cause all sorts of troubles. It can make it a lot harder to be a good employee, take care of domestic responsibilities, or ensure our school work is done on time. According to Psychological Science, chronic procrastinators have higher levels of anxiety and often have inadequate retirement savings.

Keep ReadingShow less