‘Paradise Falls’ thrusts readers into the Love Canal disaster

In December 1987, my family moved from sweltering Florida to a snow-crusted island in the Niagara River just north of Buffalo, N.Y. There on Grand Island, I heard for the first time about a place called Love Canal. Right across the river, not a mile away, lay an entire neighborhood that had been emptied out less than a decade before by one of the worst environmental disasters in American history.

In the 1940s and ’50s, Hooker Chemical dumped about 20,000 tons of toxic waste into the canal, eventually covering it with soil and selling the land to the city of Niagara Falls for a dollar. The city built a school on it, and houses sprang up around it. For years, residents would smell strange odors in their homes, and kids would see chemicals bubbling up on the playground, but it wasn’t until the late 1970s that local officials began to take notice. Eventually, testing revealed dangerous levels of toxic chemicals along with increased rates of certain cancers in adults, as well as seizures, learning disabilities and kidney problems in children.

To me as a kid, the area surrounding Love Canal was an eerie abandoned neighborhood where teenagers would drive around at night to get creeped out. The place is truly haunting. The stories I heard of toxic chemicals gurgling up in people’s backyards stayed with me, and in 2008, I returned as an environmental reporter to write about Love Canal’s legacy. Only then did I understand the magnitude of the crisis.

And only now, with the publication of Paradise Falls, do I fully comprehend the human tragedy of Love Canal and the neighborhood called LaSalle that straddled it. Journalist Keith O’Brien chronicles events primarily through the lens of the people who lived there. He focuses on the period from Christmas 1976 to May 1980, when President Jimmy Carter signed a federal emergency order that evacuated more than 700 families.
Having covered the story myself, I was puzzled at first to see that O’Brien covered such a tight time frame in a story that developed over decades. He skims quickly through the history of chemical dumping and touches only briefly on follow-up studies of residents in the 1980s. But he fills more than 350 pages with a narrative of the main crisis period so gripping it could almost be a thriller. As the disaster unfolds, there are horrific discoveries, medical mysteries and plenty of screaming neighbors. The whole narrative is pulled directly from O’Brien’s extensive research, including interviews and documents that had been stored for decades.

Chapters hop between the perspectives of key residents and the scientists and officials dealing with the crisis, but the story is told chronologically and in great detail. In fact, there’s so much detail that we even learn the type of cookies (oatmeal) served to the officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency who housewife-turned-activist Lois Gibbs famously took hostage in a publicity stunt.

O’Brien’s previous book, Fly Girls, was about pioneering female aviators of the 1920s and ’30s. So perhaps it’s no surprise that he has again focused on heroines. Gibbs was the public face of Love Canal, but many of the other women who took action got far less attention. O’Brien brings their stories to light. There was Elene Thornton, a Black resident of public housing who fought for her neighbors; Bonnie Casper, a young congressional aide who rallied government action; and Beverly Paigen, a scientist who risked her job studying a problem her superiors wanted to drop.

But perhaps the most poignant story, told in heartbreaking detail, is that of Luella Kenny. She was a cancer researcher living with her family in a house that backed up to a creek near Love Canal when her 6-year-old son Jon Allen fell ill with mysterious symptoms. Doctors ignored her at first, but eventually the child grew so sick he was hospitalized with a kidney disease called nephrotic syndrome.

O’Brien narrates the family’s days with stunning clarity, capturing small but moving moments like Jon Allen gathering fallen chestnuts in the hospital parking lot and rolling them between his small, swollen fingers. By the time I read of Jon Allen’s death, even though I already knew the outcome, I cried. I felt as if I knew these people personally by the end of the book, and any misgivings I had initially about O’Brien’s approach disappeared. There are many ways to tell a story, but sometimes the simplest way — the perspective of those who lived it — is best.

Europa may have much more shallow liquid water than scientists thought

Europa’s frozen surface is covered with distinctive pairs of ridges that straddle troughs of ice. These double ridges are the most common features on the Jovian moon. But scientists don’t yet have a clear idea of how the oddities are created.

Now, an analysis of images of a similar set of ridges on Greenland’s ice sheet suggests that relatively shallow water within Europa’s thick icy shell may be behind their formation, scientists report April 19 in Nature Communications. If so, that could mean that Europa has much more shallow liquid water than scientists have thought.

Europa’s double ridge systems, which can stretch for hundreds of kilometers, include some of the oldest features on the moon, says Riley Culberg, a geophysicist at Stanford University. Some researchers have proposed that the flexing of the moon’s icy shell due to tides in an underlying liquid water ocean plays a role in the ridges’ formation (SN: 8/6/20). Yet others have suggested that water erupted from deep within the icy moon — a process known as cryovolcanism — to create the ridges. Without a closer look, though, it’s been hard to nail down a more solid explanation.
But Culberg and his colleagues seem to have caught a break. Data gathered by NASA’s ICESat-2 satellite in March 2016 showed an 800-meter-long double ridge system in northwestern Greenland. So the team looked back at other images to see when the ridge system first appeared and to assess how it grew. The researchers found that the ridges appeared in images taken as early as July 2013 and are still there today.

When the ridges — which lie on either side of a trough, like those on Europa — reached full size, they averaged only 2.1 meters high. That’s a lot smaller than the ridges on Europa, which can rise 300 meters or more from the moon’s surface. But surface gravity is much lower on Europa, so ridges can grow much larger there, Culberg says. When he and his colleagues considered the difference between Earth’s gravity and Europa’s in their calculations, they found that the proportions of the two ridge systems are consistent.
Scientists will never get a perfect analog of Europa on Earth, but the ridges in Greenland “look just like the Europan ridges,” says Laurent Montési, a geophysicist at the University of Maryland in College Park who was not involved in the study.

Data from airplane-mounted radar gathered in March 2016 show that a water-filled layer of snow about 10 to 15 meters below the surface underlies the Greenland ridges, Culberg and his team say. That water comes from surface meltwater that sinks into and is then collected in the buried snow, which in turn sits atop an impermeable layer of ice.

Repeated freeze-thaw cycles of water in that layer of snow would squeeze water toward the surface, the researchers propose. In the first phase of refreezing, a solid plug of ice forms. Then, as more water freezes, it expands and is forced toward the surface on either side of that plug, pushing material upward and producing the double ridges at the surface.

On Europa, the process works the same way, the researchers suggest. But because there is no known meltwater or precipitation at the moon’s surface, near-surface water there probably would have to come from the ocean thought to be trapped beneath the moon’s icy shell (5/14/18). Once that water rose toward the surface through cracks, it could pool in thick layers of ice shattered by tidal flexing or the impacts of meteorites.

“There’s a general consensus that these ridges grow from cracks in the ice,” says William McKinnon, a planetary scientist at Washington University in Saint Louis who was not involved in the study. “But how do they do it is the question.”

The answer to that question may not be long in coming, McKinnon says. NASA’s Europa Clipper mission is scheduled to launch in late 2024. If all goes well, the orbiter will arrive at Jupiter in April 2030. “If there’s anything like what has happened in Greenland going on at Europa, we’ll be able to see it,” he says.

Researchers will also be interested to see if the mission can ascertain what sort of materials might have been brought to Europa’s surface from the ocean deep below, because the moon is considered to be one of the best places in the solar system to look for extraterrestrial life (SN: 4/8/20).

The Large Hadron Collider has restarted with upgraded proton-smashing potential

After a hiatus of more than three years, the Large Hadron Collider is back.

Scientists shut down the particle accelerator in 2018 to allow for upgrades (SN: 12/3/18). On April 22, protons once again careened around the 27-kilometer-long ring of the Large Hadron Collider, or LHC, located at the particle physics laboratory CERN in Geneva.

The LHC is coming out of hibernation gradually. Researchers started the accelerator’s proton beams out at relatively low energy, but will ramp up to slam protons together at a planned record-high energy of 13.6 trillion electron volts. Previously, LHC collisions reached 13 trillion electron volts. Likewise, the beams are starting out wimpy, with relatively few protons, but will build to higher intensity. And when fully up to speed, the upgraded accelerator will pump out proton collisions more quickly than in previous runs. Experiments at the LHC will start taking data this summer.

Physicists will use this data to further characterize the Higgs boson, the particle discovered at the LHC in 2012 that reveals the source of mass for elementary particles (SN: 7/4/12). And researchers will be keeping an eye out for new particles or anything else that clashes with the standard model, the theory of the known particles and their interactions. For example, researchers will continue the hunt for dark matter, a mysterious substance that so far can be observed only by its gravitational effects on the cosmos (SN: 10/25/16).

After several years of operations, the LHC will shut down again to prepare the High-Luminosity LHC (SN: 6/15/18), which will further boost the rate of proton collisions and allow for even more detailed studies of the fundamental constituents of matter.

NFL tickets 2022: Breaking down the hottest games & cheapest prices on sale for football season

The NFL schedule release isn't the most interesting event on the league's offseason calendar, but it still serves an important purpose for fans. It helps them to plan which NFL games they might like to attend during the season.

Once the schedule is announced, the NFL's most eager fans tend to circle the matchups they most want to see in the upcoming season. The 2022 campaign will be no different, and there are plenty of marquee matchups on this year's game slate.

Cowboys vs. Buccaneers; Chiefs vs. Bills; Seahawks vs. Broncos; there are plenty of high-end matchups at which NFL fans will want to be. But just how expensive will those top-tier games get? The prices can get a little bit out of control, even for bargain hunters.

Which of this year's 256 games are the most expensive, and which are the cheapest? The Sporting News breaks down the NFL's hottest (and coldest) tickets using the price from TicketSmarter.com.

MORE: Buy 2022 NFL season tickets with TicketSmarter

Most expensive NFL tickets for 2022 season
There are currently 17 games during the NFL season that have an average ticket price of $800 or higher. The most expensive of the bunch is the Packers vs. Giants game, which is commanding an average price of $2,136 per ticket. That contest is set to be played in London at the Tottenham Hotspur's stadium.

The Seahawks vs. Buccaneers game is also set to have an average price of greater than $1,000 per ticket. That contest is the first in NFL history to be played in Germany, so Munich residents will relish a chance to play in the game.

Another notably expensive game is Russell Wilson's return to Seattle, which will be the most expensive game played on American soil this year. The Broncos are participants in two of the games that feature average ticket prices over $1,000 while the Buccaneers lead the pack with four appearances in such games.

Below is a look at the most expensive games of the 2022 NFL season. This includes the high and low prices to get into the stadium thanks to TicketSmarter.
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Cheapest NFL tickets for 2022 season
If you're looking for a cheap way to get to an NFL game this season, you're in luck. There are about a dozen and a half games at which it shouldn't be too hard to land favorably priced tickets.

There are 19 games in the NFL where the average ticket price is less than $220, and 10 of them have a price tag of $200 or lower. Unsurprisingly, many of the teams that are coming off down seasons or are projected to have rough 2022 campaigns are on the list.

The Lions, Panthers, Falcons, Jaguars and Texans are frequently on the list of teams with the lowest average price. The Jaguars and Texans both have tickets available at as low as $32, and the Colts have discounted their game against the Jaguars to a minimum price of $32.
The cheapest overall game right now is set to take place on Oct. 2 when the Seahawks travel to Detroit to take on the Lions. The average ticket price for that contest is $158 while the highest-priced ticket for the game is just $804. Only two other games on the schedule — Panthers at Ravens and Dolphins at Lions — have maximum ticket prices in the $800 range.

Below is a look at the least expensive games of the 2022 NFL season. This includes the high and low prices to get into the stadium thanks to TicketSmarter.
MORE: LeSean McCoy rips Chiefs OC Eric Bieniemy, explains why he isn't a head coach

How much do NFL tickets cost by team?
Unsurprisingly, the Buccaneers ($757.26) have the highest average ticket price for any NFL team in 2022. That makes sense given that Tom Brady is in what could be his last NFL season, so fans are willing to pay a premium to see him play once again.

Beyond the Bucs, only three other teams have tickets that cost an average of more than $600. They are the Cowboys ($690), the Raiders ($674) and the Patriots ($643).

The Lions have the NFL's cheapest ticket, as their games cost, on average, about $224. The Jaguars ($258), Jets ($265), Cardinals ($276) and Browns ($282) are the league's other four teams that have an average ticket cost of under $300.

Below is a full look at the list of average ticket prices, via TicketSmarter. Please note that this average includes events at all venues, including away games.