The Trouble with Bottled Water

In the spring of 2007, the quietly simmering backlash against bottled water began to boil. Responding to well-organized pressure groups, first one, and then a dozen cities across the nation canceled their contracts for bottled-water delivery. Upscale restaurants struck fancy waters from their menus, and college students conducted taste tests intended to prove, once and for all, that most people can’t tell the difference between bottled water and tap.

bottleSuddenly bottled water was big news. Every time I opened a newspaper, magazine or Web browser, there was another story announcing that this harmless indulgence is anything but. On the lookout for this sort of material, I nearly drowned in the tidal wave of eco-criticism. With a mounting sense of anticipation—how far will the attacks go?—I watched as reporters, using statistics from academics and environmental groups, blasted away at the bottled-water industry. But curiously, their focus wasn’t water, at first. It was oil. Read more

Watching Water Run

It is the hot, dark heart of summer in this small town that I love. Fireworks have been going off sporadically for several nights, and the teenagers next door are playing water polo in the afternoons in the swimming pool their professor parents built for them this year.

001Down the street a 4-year-old girl is riding her tricycle madly around the circular driveway of her parents’ home. It seems only yesterday that I walked by the house one morning and saw a pink ribbon on the mailbox. Now she is a tricycle racer, her long curly hair hanging rakishly down over her eyes, her concentration and speed all you need to know about the power of our species. Read more

How Can We Keep Track of Earth’s Invisible Water?

It’s no secret that Earth is a wet and wild place—from grade school onward, most people can readily cite the fact that water covers about 70 percent of the planet’s surface. And images taken from space show our home world as a “blue marble” awash in oceans, rivers and lakes.

001But life on Earth depends on a lot of water that we can’t see, from vapor in the air we breathe to freshwater in deep aquifers used to irrigate crops. Figuring out where this water came from, where it is now, how it moves around and how humans are affecting its flow will be critical to management of this most precious resource. Read more

This Robotic Insect Can Jump on Water

Robots seem to be able to do anything these days — from clearing clogged arteries to sniffing out disease in crops. Now robots can add jumping on water to their resume, Sid Perkins reports for Science. Scientists have designed a tiny robot that’s so light, it can bounce at the surface of a puddle.

001To build their bot, the team drew inspiration from an unusual source: insects called water striders. These bugs possess the handy ability to leap across a puddle or a pond without a single splash. Water striders weigh so little that water’s surface tension can support them, explains Perkins. Hairs on their feet also help keep them afloat. Read more

The Sun Is Spraying Water Into Space

Our oceans, it is thought, came from space, as ice-rich comets rocked the early Earth. But some of that water, which set the conditions for life to arise, may have been born from the Sun.

001On top of providing us with heat and light, and forming the gravitational basis of our solar system, the Sun is constantly pumping out a flow of ions known as the solar wind. Made up of charged particles, mostly the bare nuclei of hydrogen atoms, the solar wind streams out across the solar system, driving the aurorae, affecting the chemistry of our atmosphere and, according to a new study, sprinkling space with water. Read more