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Top stories: ‘Blue energy,’ monkey retirement, and the nitrogen crisis paralyzing the Dutch economy

Rivers could generate thousands of nuclear power plants worth of energy, thanks to a new ‘blue’ membrane

Green energy advocates may soon be turning blue. A new membrane could unlock the potential of “blue energy,” which uses chemical differences between fresh- and saltwater to generate electricity. If researchers can scale up the postage stamp–size membrane in an affordable fashion, it could provide carbon-free power to millions of people in coastal nations where freshwater rivers meet the sea.

Should aging lab monkeys be retired to sanctuaries?

Research monkeys often spend most of their lives in the lab—but a growing number of scientists say that once the primates have served their scientific purpose, they should be retired to sanctuaries to live out the rest of their days in peace. These efforts face many obstacles, however, including a lack of funding and an unwillingness by some to retire monkeys that can still contribute to research projects.

Nitrogen crisis from jam-packed livestock operations has ‘paralyzed’ Dutch economy

Last week, Dutch farmers across the country parked their tractors along highways in their third protest since October, when they drove en masse to The Hague, the nation’s center of government. They are protesting a Dutch high court decision that in May suspended permits for construction projects that pollute the atmosphere with nitrogen compounds and harm nature reserves. The freeze has “paralyzed” the economy, experts say, stalling the expansion of dairy, pig, and poultry farms—major sources of nitrogen—as well as plans for new homes, roads, and airport runways.

Even 50-year-old climate models correctly predicted global warming

Climate change doubters have long had a favorite target: climate models. They claim that computer simulations conducted decades ago didn’t accurately predict current warming, so the public should be wary of the predictive power of newer models. Now, the most sweeping evaluation of these older models—some half a century old—shows most of them were indeed accurate.

Early humans domesticated themselves, new genetic evidence suggests

When humans started to tame dogs, cats, sheep, and cattle, they may have continued a tradition that started with a completely different animal: us. A new study—citing genetic evidence from a disorder that mirrors elements of domestication—suggests modern humans domesticated themselves after they split from their extinct relatives, Neanderthals and Denisovans, approximately 600,000 years ago.