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tv   Tech Know  Al Jazeera  March 8, 2015 5:30am-6:01am EDT

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n, and powering them to dig themselves and the children out of the cycle of poverty and you can keep up to date with all the day's news on the website. this is tech no . this is a show about science by scientists. tonight, techno journeys into the jungle. this is one of the iconic animals of costa row
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icarica. >> how extensive is the damage? we are going to find out. >> we're going to walk every trail, stream, or swamp we come across to see what's out there. >> i'm phil torres. i'm an entimologist. >> ready? >> yes. >> i'll share it with a biologist. that's our team. now let's do some science. hey, guys, welcome to techknow. you guys know, i've spent a lot of in the jungles.
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i do my research in the tropics and usually i'm looking at spiders and butterflies. but this time i went down to costa rica to look at something different. we know there are a lot of scientific issues out there protecting our rain forest is one of them certainly but maybe it's not quite high enough on the list. because we're realizing now that rain forests are doing incredible services for us in society. >> and they're doing them for free. completely for free. we don't usually think about ecosystems like rain forests providing fundamental services. >> it takes so much to keep new york running, so many systems, the rain forest is so much more complex. >> what's amazing is those services that you see in the rain forest, they don't just stop there. they're actually affecting us here in los angeles and that's something scientists are just now beginning to realize. let's take a
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look. >> if you listen closely, you can hear the lyrics, the poetry of the rain forest. among its trubadors is this guy. literally, you see post cards with this thing. here's looking at you, kid. check out these farm hands working dusk 'til dawn to cultivate their garden. stunning beauty unparalleled by adversity. the magic that is the rain forest. i travel to costa rica to check out the health of these ecosystems. these tall, dense jungles are known for warm climates, lots of rain, and sheltering more than
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half of the world's plant and animal species. although rain forests comprise a small percentage of the earth, they do big things. in human terms, they're a critical component to how we function. >> i love to think of the amazon, the rain forest as the lungs of the planet. >> they're more like the heart of the biosphere. our tale of the rain forest brings us to nasa's jet propulsion laboratory in pasadena, california where scientists use all different techniques to understand our living, breathing, green earth. a recent study reveals tropical rain forests may be man's best friend. >> what our study shows is that the tropics really dominate the
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metabolism of our planet. they dominate the removal of fossil fuels from the atmosphere. they're really cleaning up the planet. >> their research-employed satellite mapping, forestry data, and good old fashioned jungle gum shoeing. trees like these are natural consumers of carbon monoxide which leads to global warming. their research suggests rain forests are absorbing far more co2 than previously reported. >> if they're not taking up carbon, the simple answer is there would be 25% more carbon in the atmosphere than there actually is and the rate of warming would be approximately 25% faster. they're helping to regulate our climate. >> despite an overall decline in the destruction of rain forests over the past decade, it's still
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a story of paradise lost. farming, construction, pollution, and drought. just to name some of the threats to these incredibly complex ecosystems. understanding and documenting the life in these forests is like taking their pulse. >> so we just got into the bat cave and it is absolutely amazing. length of those antenna are incredibly long which tells you that this thing is specifically adapted to living in the dark. >> what do we have inside? >> we got insects and -- wow, some of these are amazing. look at that. a mosquito in there. that's the best looking one i've ever seen. >> like his nasa colleagues, the senior scientist spends most of his time in and around global forests. >> there used to be a term in
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the 70s and 80s, the hamburger effect. meaning all these forests were being deforested for grazing animals. now it's actually the soy bean effect. you're actually reducing the bio diversity of the world a lot. >> but the trees appear to be fighting back, and a global movement is underway to offer financial incentives to not degrade these rain forests. some places in the world are getting the message. >> costa rica is kind of a good example. they're kind of one of the green countries in the world if the. >> we're heading there next to the deep jungle. i heard there might be vampire bats in there. >> join the conversation by following us on twitter and at al
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>> at one time i felt that selling cocaine was my purpose. >> as the amount of drugs grew guns came in. >> murder rate was sky-high. >> this guy was the biggest in l.a. >> i was goin' through a million dollars worth of drugs every day. i liked it. it's hard to believe that a friend would set you up. people don't get federal life sentences and beat them. >> they had been trafficking on behalf of the united states government. >> the cia admitted it. >> "freeway - crack in the system". only on al jazeera america.
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while rain forests around the world continue to be diminished, there's a bright spot in costa rica. this is a 720 acre rain forest that once was partly devastated by pasture use. planted. >> today, through impressive
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environmental efforts, it's a shining example of reforestation and renewal of biodiversity. paul foster is the founder. >> most of the trees we're looking at here we planted 12 years ago. originally this was pasture. regenerated. >> i like your garden. it's very nice. >> as an entamologist i got a chance to discover new species and check out how the animals are doing. the rain forest comes alive at night. we are going to walk every trail, swamp, or water we come across. this is a unique animal of costa rica. you see post cards with this thing. take a look. >> this is a postcard. >> wow. that's incredible.
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it's right now one of the things we're looking now are glass frogs. they're bright green frogs and the bottom is see through which is why they're called glass frogs. this is it. what are we looking at? >> laying eggs. and if it doesn't rain a few days, he'll urinate or water the eggs so that they don't dry out. >> that's a caring father for you. indicating creatures like glass frogs are sensitive to pollution and other things and are a good barometer of the environment. it's a time stamp. the next day the search for species continues in the most mysterious of places. paul is taking me to a cave in the middle of the rain forest and we heard there might be van
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van -- vampire bats in there. >> you going first? >> yes, sure. oh, good. >> bats get a bad rap but in real life, they're an important part of our ecosystem. khalil is a real life bat man and studies them. >> they eat bugs, eat nectar, eat pollen. >> i never worried about being attacked by a bat but entering this cave was daunting. i keep telling myself that it's all for science.
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>> the bat cave is absolutely amazing. i'm drenched and covered in mud but there are probably about 50 to 100 bats. >> it's a little muddy in there but we saw some good stuff. >> the stream down there, we can clean up a bit. >> yeah. >> back in the rain forest, a critical part to understanding its condition is knowing what's living in there. take a close look at this butterfly, for example. at night you can find butterflies sleeping so i'm going to wake it up a little bit so i can show you guys. to us, it looks like an owl but to a predator, when you see it on the side, it actually looks something more like an lizard or a snake's head.
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you can tell looking at these parts in here that it's a male and they smell really distinctly, kind of like burnt ketchup which is really word. >> it's time to hit the books to found. bones. >> oh, yes. green bones. >> yep, there it is. >> so that tells us. wow. some frogs have green bones. who would have known. >> uh-huh. >> what does it mean to you every time you can add a new species to your species list. >> it's just the process of discovery and the process of linking all of the organisms that live here together and learning more about their connections and interactions with each other. >> studying and documenting life in the rain forest is so extremely important for science. it is strenuous work and the
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conditions at times, hazardous. but often, the rewards are phenomenal. when you discover a new species for that reserve, what's the process? >> basically it's really important just to document it and say this species was found here and when. so that we know exactly the condition of the rain forest at this time. this is relatively new reserve. there's others nearby this one in costa rica that have been documenting species for decades and using that data set, they're already seeing the effects of global warming. >> yeah, if you look at species through the optics of climate change, you know, the idea that species have their quote, unquote, natural ranges, but now that climate is changing, temperatures are warming, say, that's going to affect where these species occur, where they
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live, where they go. and in a place like where you were in costa rica where there's a lot of mountain ecosystems, those species are going up the mountains but what's going to happen when they reach the top. >> you see that in the rain forest but also here in the u.s. there are deferentery species -- definitely species being affected in the rocky mountains, for example. up next, a scientist who is recycling pollution into works of art.
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welcome back to techknow. from the force of costa rica, i now take you to the forest of ohio where i met this incredible tag team of scientists and artists. they're taking pollution, something we consider quite ugly, and they're making something quite beautiful it. >> we are getting used to seeing recycled materials in art but this idea of recycling pollution is totally new. >> art is always challenging the way we view our outside world. who knew that chemical pollution could do that too. >> they're not just taking pollution to make art.
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they're actually taking pollution out of a system and cleaning up an entire landscape. let's take a look. >> it may not look like it, but this is the first step in making paint, artist paint, and not the ready-made kind from a tube. but the kind professional artists whip up on their own with a little pigment, linseed oil, and muscle. >> how did you get the idea of first making paint. >> anybody that works in this clothes. >> the area, the lush coal country of southeast ohio where gallons of iron tainted water from hundreds of abandoned mines ripple down its creeks. >> we're in the sunday creek water shed right now. it's about 130 square miles. >> the water shed's watch dog,
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michelle shivley who monitors the runoff from the coal mines 1968. >> it's still discharging anywhere from 800 to 1,000 gallons per minute. we actually end up with acid mine drainage and it's filled with metals, iron, aluminum, manganese. >> where some saw toxic runoff, a civil engineer saw pigment. pigment for paint home grown in ohio and not imported from overseas factories. >> huge industry. we go through about a million metric tons a year in the united states. a lot of that is imported from china and we're hoping we can change that a little bit with this process. >> i always lose a graduate student or two. >> yeah, that's cold water. you can really see where the orange has settled on the bottom.
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when you look at the edge it looks very healthy but in the water, what happens. >> there should be lots of great fish here, all kinds of insects but those have all been killed because of it. >> nothing in here. >> yeah. >> so is this the entrance? >> that's it. yeah. so right here, six square miles of underground mine empties out right in this single spot. >> oh, wow. so this is where they drilled that hole 50, 60 years ago. >> that's right. out. >> let's collect some water. collect some toxic water. so i know there's a lot of bad stuff in this water but being in it now, is it, like, toxic to us? >> that's one of the reasons i think it has not been cleaned up yet because human exposure is not really a risk. it's low ph but it's no worse than lemon juice. there's a lot of iron in it but iron is nontoxic really to humans at this level. >> so my skin won't fall off? >> i hope not.
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>> we got 20 gallons of future paint. out of these gallons, how much paint will you get? >> about 40 grams which is a pretty small amount. but we're just making it for testing purposes right now. >> i assume when you scale it up, you won't have people just collecting jugs. >> the long term solution here is to build a treatment plant on site here so there will be a small water treatment plant to treat all the water and continuously produce pigment and the sales from the pigment will pay for operating the plant. >> so it's worth being a scientist scientist scientist. in goes the dirty water, out comes the pigment. so this is where the magic happens. >> this is it. that's right. this is where we turn it into pigment. so the water's going to go in, and we're going to precipitate out the iron. that happens naturally in the stream but we want to do it in a
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very controlled manner in the lab. >> that's basically taking the iron from being in the water to being a solid that you can see? >> exactly. to accelerate the reaction, we heat it up. could you turn that on over there? next i'm going to add a little seed. so this is pigment that we made earlier. >> it's going to basically help the other iron become more like that in >> exactly. if you've ever made rock candy from sugar water, you always start with a crystal of sugar. >> so you put in the blueprint for all the other molecules to fall into. >> exactly. >> that looks nice. >> then air is bubbled in oxidizing, literally rusting, dissolving the iron. neutralize. >> i'm just going to add enough to raise the ph up to seven and a half.
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>> so i just saw it turn blue but only briefly. as the reaction continues, the iron turns into an orange that painters call gertite. then it takes about five days for it to separate from the water. >> this is some after it is settled. you can see down on the bottom there is some nice, yellow -- >> so this down here? >> yes. >> once it dries, you've got pigment. >> how much can you sell this for? >> it's about $0.50 a pound. which doesn't sound like much but from the single site that we're working at, we can generate over 2,000 pounds a day. so that water's good to go back into the stream and be good. >> time to take our pigment across campus. >> i'm now bringing the pigment we made to the art studio where we're going to turn
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toxins from sunday creek into art. thanks for having me. so i brought you the finest dried sludge in ohio. and i understand you have a use for it >> yes. we make paint out of it and it's the same kind of paint used for centuries. you can feel the weight of this if you want to. big piece of glass. and essentially what we're going to do is very simple. we take a pile of this pigment. then we take this which is an linseed oil and make a little bit of a ring around it. start working from the center out. it's going to feel like it's too hard but you got to put some muscle into it, pressure into it. work it. work it harder. nicely done, phil. >> so how does this stack up to something you'd buy at a store? >> pretty much you wouldn't know the difference. >> what was it like the first time you pointed with this
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pigment? >> yeah, it was a disaster. yeah. it all broke up. the binder wasn't right. crystals were too big. so it ended up being a nice dirt pile. chunks here and there. couldn't control it at all. you have to respond to that. >> a science. >> his fine eye for color helped refine the pigment making process and inspired a series of paintings using the acid mine draining pigment called the chroma paintings priced at several thousand dollars each but priceless in the message they send. >> how would you describe it? >> i think it's controlled chaos. i'm going to push these pigments where i want them and at the point you're done with that, nature takes over and you have no control. >> how do you find art and science combine? >> the scientists and artists share two things, curiosity and failure. scientists and artists are endlessly curious and we fail most of the time.
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and that drives us forward. that sense of curiosity and willingness to get up from those failures that leads us to our roles and i think it's critical that we function that way and do world. >> talking like a scientist. >> i know. and i feel like a scientist. don't tell them that. i feel like a scientist. i brought you back a little gift from ohio. this is the actual powder that they're using to make the art. so this is once this rusty orange pollution and now it looks like this. >> that's really a beautiful color. do they think there's going to be a market for the paint that they produce? >> absolutely there's a market. and i think the more we can find conservation programs that are actually funding themselves, the better. it's pretty innovative. >> i thought that was the coolest part of this story. the idea that the funds generated from this program would go back to restoring a wetland system, that's really cool.
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>> so, phil, you did some painting yourself. does your personal touch add any value to a work of art? >> if anything i took away, maybe a few dollars in value but those paintings are pretty expensive so hopefully no harm done. be sure to check us out next time on techknow when we bring you more stories from the world of science. >> on al jazeera america >> a team of scientists are taking their inspiration from nature. >>'s a vital part of who we are >>they had some dynamic fire behavior... >> and what we do.... >> transcranial direct stimulation... don't try this at home! >> tech know's team of experts show you how the miracles of science... >> this is my selfie... what can you tell me about my future? >> ...can effect and surprise us... >> sharks like affection
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