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November 9, 2011, 6:39 PM CT

Beneath massive Antarctic ice shelf

Beneath massive Antarctic ice shelf
Robert Bindschadler, an emeritus glaciologist with NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, was the first person to ever walk on the Pine Island Glacier ice shelf, in January 2008.

Credit: NASA

An international team of scientists funded by NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF) will travel next month to one of Antarctica's most active, remote and harsh spots to determine how changes in the waters circulating under an active ice sheet are causing a glacier to accelerate and drain into the sea.

The science expedition will be the most extensive ever deployed to Pine Island Glacier. It is the area of the ice-covered continent that concerns researchers most because of its potential to cause a rapid rise in sea level. Satellite measurements have shown this area is losing ice and surrounding glaciers are thinning, raising the possibility the ice could flow rapidly out to sea.

The multidisciplinary group of 13 scientists, led by Robert Bindschadler, emeritus glaciologist of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., will depart from the McMurdo Station in Antarctica in mid-December and spend six weeks on the ice shelf. During their stay, they will use a combination of traditional tools and sophisticated new oceanographic instruments to measure the shape of the cavity underneath the ice shelf and determine how streams of warm ocean water enter it, move toward the very bottom of the glacier and melt its underbelly.

"The project aims to determine the underlying causes behind why Pine Island Glacier has begun to flow more rapidly and discharge more ice into the ocean," said Scott Borg, director of NSF's Division of Antarctic Sciences, the group that coordinates all U.S. research in Antarctica. "This could have a significant impact on global sea-level rise over the coming century".........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


October 4, 2011, 10:01 PM CT

Oil spill and microbes

Oil spill and microbes
Scientists studied the interaction of the oil spill and microbes in Gulf of Mexico waters.

Credit: Luke McKay, University of Georgia

In the results of a newly released study, researchers explain how they used DNA to identify microbes present in the Gulf of Mexico following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill--and the particular microbes responsible for consuming natural gas immediately after the spill.

Water temperature played a key role in the way bacteria reacted to the spill, the scientists found.

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published the results in this week's journal.

David Valentine and Molly Redmond, geochemists at the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB) conducted the study. The National Science Foundation (NSF) and the Department of Energy supported it.

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill was unique, as per Valentine and Redmond, because it happened at such great depth and contained so much natural gas--predominantly methane, ethane and propane.

Those factors influenced the way bacteria responded to the spill.

In earlier studies, Valentine, Redmond and his colleagues showed that ethane and propane were the major hydrocarbon compounds consumed in June 2010, two months after the April spill.

By September 2010, the scientists discovered that these gases and all the methane had been consumed.

In May and June of 2010, the researchers observed that bacterial communities in the submerged plume were dominated by just a few types--Oceanospirillales, Colwellia and Cycloclasticus--and were very different from control samples without large concentrations of oil or gas.........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


September 1, 2011, 6:10 PM CT

Cryogenic Catering Truck

Cryogenic Catering Truck
Until now, servicing the state-of-the-art superconducting receivers inside an ALMA telescope has mandatory hauling the entire 115-ton telescope from its observing site at 16,500 feet down to a support facility at 9,500 feet. The dangerous 40-mile roundtrip, atop a monster truck called the ALMA Transporter, uses hundreds of gallons of diesel fuel, and the telescope's absence from scientific observing can be as long as four days.

The newly arrived servicing truck, called the Front End Service Vehicle (FESV), is a custom designed truck packed with the equipment mandatory to transport and service ALMA's temperature-sensitive astronomical equipment without removing a telescope from the working array at 16,500 feet.

"With the arrival of the FESV from our partners in Taiwan, we have delivered another critical element for the array, one that will reduce interruption to science, increase safety and efficiency of telescope maintenance, and reduce ALMA's carbon footprint," said Dr. Mark McKinnon, North American ALMA Project Manager at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) headquarters in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Dr. Mauricio Pilleux, who is heading up the telescope servicing project as the North American ALMA Deputy Project Manager based in Chile, said that ALMA's telescopes will need technical attention every day. "It's the most complex hardware ever built in so harsh a place. We need fast, safe, temperature-controlled servicing".........

Posted by: Jaison      Read more         Source


August 8, 2011, 11:10 PM CT

Math ability is inborn

Math ability is inborn
Melissa Libertus is a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at Johns Hopkins University's Krieger School of Arts and Sciences.

Credit: Will Kirk/JHU

We accept that some people are born with a talent for music or art or athletics. But what about mathematics? Do some of us just arrive in the world with better math skills than others?

It seems we do, at least as per the results of a study by a team of Johns Hopkins University psychology experts. Led by Melissa Libertus, a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, the study -- published online in a recent issue of Developmental Science -- indicates that math ability in preschool children is strongly associated with their inborn and primitive "number sense," called an "Approximate Number System" or ANS.

Research reveals that "number sense" is basic to all animals, not just human beings. For instance, creatures that hunt or gather food use it to ascertain where they can find and procure the most nuts, plants or game and to keep track of the food they hunt or gather. We humans use it daily to allow us, at a glance, to estimate the number of open seats in a movie theater or the number of people in a crowded meeting. And it is measurable, even in newborn infants.

Though the link between ANS and formal mathematics ability already has been established in adolescents, Libertus says her team's is the first study to examine the role of "number sense" in children too young to already have had substantial formal mathematics instruction.........

Posted by: Jaison      Read more         Source


August 4, 2011, 8:16 AM CT

Carbon hitches a ride from field to market

Carbon hitches a ride from field to market
Based on US crop production, scientists determined which American regions are carbon sinks, or those that take in more carbon than release it, and carbon sources, or those that release more carbon than they take in. Their calculations showed that the most agriculturally active regions, shown in blue, are carbon sinks while the regions with larger populations, shown in red, are carbon sources.

Credit: PNNL

Today, farming often involves transporting crops long distances so consumers from Maine to California can enjoy Midwest corn, Northwest cherries and other produce when they are out of season locally. But it isn't just the fossil fuel needed to move food that contributes to agriculture's carbon footprint.

New research reported in the journal Biogeosciences provides a detailed account of how carbon naturally flows into and out of crops themselves as they grow, are harvested and are then eaten far from where they're grown. The paper shows how regions that depend on others to grow their food end up releasing the carbon that comes with those crops into the atmosphere.

"Until recently, climate models have assumed that the carbon taken up by crops is put back into nature at the same place crops are grown," said the paper's main author, environmental scientist Tristram West of the Department of Energy's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. "Our research provides a more accurate account of carbon in crops by considering the mobile nature of today's agriculture".

West works out of the Joint Global Change Research Institute, a partnership between PNNL and the University of Maryland. His co-authors are scientists at PNNL, Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Colorado State University.........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


July 20, 2011, 10:29 PM CT

"Junk" Energy Into Useful Power

Research by physicist Surajit Sen has proven that crafting designer particles would enable scientists to control how energy travels through a granular system.
A University at Buffalo-led research team has developed a mathematical framework that could one day form the basis of technologies that turn road vibrations, airport runway noise and other "junk" energy into useful power.

The concept all begins with a granular system comprising a chain of equal-sized particles -- spheres, for instance -- that touch one another.

In a paper in Physical Review E this June, UB theoretical physicist Surajit Sen and his colleagues describe how altering the shape of grain-to-grain contact areas between the particles dramatically changes how energy propagates through the system.

Under "normal" circumstances, when the particles are perfect spheres, exerting force on the first sphere in the chain causes energy to travel through the spheres as a compact bundle of energy between 3 to 5 particle diameters wide, at a rate set by Hertz's Law.

But Sen and his collaborators have discovered that by altering the shape of the surface area of each particle where it presses against the next, it is possible to change how the energy moves. While this finding is yet to be demonstrated experimentally, Sen said that "mathematically, it's correct. We have proven it".

"What this work means is that by tweaking force propagation from one grain to another, we can potentially channel energy in controllable ways, which includes slowing down how energy moves, varying the space across which it moves and potentially even holding some of it down," said Sen, a professor of physics whose partners on the project included former graduate student Diankang Sun, now of New Mexico Resonance in Albuquerque, and Chiara Daraio, a professor at the California Institute of Technology.........

Posted by: Kevin      Read more         Source


July 20, 2011, 10:10 PM CT

A heavy relative of the neutron

A heavy relative of the neutron
The CDF detector records particles emerging from high-energy collisions.
Researchers of the CDF collaboration at the Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory announced the observation of a new particle, the neutral Xi-sub-b (?b0). This particle contains three quarks: a strange quark, an up quark and a bottom quark (s-u-b). While its existence was predicted by the Standard Model, the observation of the neutral Xi-sub-b is significant because it strengthens our understanding of how quarks form matter. Fermilab physicist Pat Lukens, a member of the CDF collaboration, presented the discovery at Fermilab on Wednesday, July 20.

The neutral Xi-sub-b is the latest entry in the periodic table of baryons. Baryons are particles formed of three quarks, the most common examples being the proton (two up quarks and a down quark) and the neutron (two down quarks and an up quark). The neutral Xi-sub-b belongs to the family of bottom baryons, which are about six times heavier than the proton and neutron because they all contain a heavy bottom quark. The particles are produced only in high-energy collisions, and are rare and very difficult to observe.

Eventhough Fermilab's Tevatron particle collider is not a dedicated bottom quark factory, sophisticated particle detectors and trillions of proton-antiproton collisions have made it a haven for discovering and studying almost all of the known bottom baryons. Experiments at the Tevatron discovered the Sigma-sub-b baryons (Sb and Sb*) in 2006, observed the Xi-b-minus baryon (?b-) in 2007, and found the Omega-sub-b (Ob-) in 2009. The lightest bottom baryon, the Lambda-sub-b (?b), was discovered at CERN. Measuring the properties of all these particles allows researchers to test and improve models of how quarks interact at close distances via the strong nuclear force, as explained by the theory of quantum chromodynamics (QCD). Researchers at Fermilab and other DOE national laboratories use powerful computers to simulate quark interactions and understand the properties of particles comprised of quarks.........

Posted by: Jaison      Read more         Source


July 18, 2011, 8:37 AM CT

What keeps the Earth cooking?

What keeps the Earth cooking?
A main source of the 44 trillion watts of heat that flows from the interior of the Earth is the decay of radioactive isotopes in the mantle and crust. Scientists using the KamLAND neutrino detector in Japan have measured how much heat is generated this way by capturing geoneutrinos released during radioactive decay.

Credit: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory




What spreads the sea floors and moves the continents? What melts iron in the outer core and enables the Earth's magnetic field? Heat. Geologists have used temperature measurements from more than 20,000 boreholes around the world to estimate that some 44 terawatts (44 trillion watts) of heat continually flow from Earth's interior into space. Where does it come from?.

Radioactive decay of uranium, thorium, and potassium in Earth's crust and mantle is a principal source, and in 2005 researchers in the KamLAND collaboration, based in Japan, first showed that there was a way to measure the contribution directly. The trick was to catch what KamLAND dubbed geoneutrinos � more precisely, geo-antineutrinos � emitted when radioactive isotopes decay. (KamLAND stands for Kamioka Liquid-scintillator Antineutrino Detector.)

"As a detector of geoneutrinos, KamLAND has distinct advantages," says Stuart Freedman of the U.S. Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), which is a major contributor to KamLAND. Freedman, a member of Berkeley Lab's Nuclear Science Division and a professor in the Department of Physics at the University of California at Berkeley, leads U.S. participation. "KamLAND was specifically designed to study antineutrinos. We are able to discriminate them from background noise and detect them with very high sensitivity.".........

Posted by: William      Read more         Source


July 18, 2011, 8:29 AM CT

Non-Africans are part Neanderthal

Non-Africans are part Neanderthal
Some of the human X chromosome originates from Neanderthals and is found exclusively in people outside Africa, as per an international team of scientists led by Damian Labuda of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Montreal and the CHU Sainte-Justine Research Center. The research was reported in the recent issue of Molecular Biology and Evolution.

"This confirms recent findings suggesting that the two populations interbred," says Dr. Labuda. His team places the timing of such intimate contacts and/or family ties early on, probably at the crossroads of the Middle East.

Neanderthals, whose ancestors left Africa about 400,000 to 800,000 years ago, evolved in what is now mainly France, Spain, Gera number of and Russia, and are thought to have lived until about 30,000 years ago. Meanwhile, early modern humans left Africa about 80,000 to 50,000 years ago. The question on everyone's mind has always been whether the physically stronger Neanderthals, who possessed the gene for language and may have played the flute, were a separate species or could have interbred with modern humans. The answer is yes, the two lived in close association.

"In addition, because our methods were totally independent of Neanderthal material, we can also conclude that prior results were not influenced by contaminating artifacts," adds Dr. Labuda.........

Posted by: William      Read more         Source


July 7, 2011, 9:06 AM CT

wildfires: still a wide open climate question

wildfires: still a wide open climate question
CSIRO Marine & Atmospheric Research scientist, Dr Melita Keywood. (CSIRO)
How the frequency and intensity of wildfires and intentional biomass burning will change in a future climate requires closer scientific attention, as per CSIRO's Dr Melita Keywood.

5 July 2011.

Dr Keywood said it is likely that fire - one of nature's primary carbon-cycling mechanisms - will become an increasingly important driver of atmospheric change as the world warms.

"Understanding changes in the occurrence and magnitude of fires will be an important challenge for which there needs to be a clear focus on the tools and methodologies available to researchers to predict fire occurrence in a changing climate".

She said the link between long-term climate change and short-term variability in fire activity is complex, with multiple and potentially unknown feedbacks.

"Fires require fuel to burn and climate strongly affects the type, quantity and quality of fuel. Periods of high rainfall or high atmospheric carbon dioside levels may result in increased biomass growth so that fuel loads appears to be enhanced in future fire seasons.

"Reduced water availability linked to drought may also result in drier biomass that is more readily burned in possibly more intense fires, while higher temperatures and other extreme weather may lengthen fire seasons and result in increased likelihood of fire ignitions and longer burning periods. Vegetation types are also altered in a changing climate.........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


July 5, 2011, 8:35 PM CT

How hot did Earth get in the past?

How hot did Earth get in the past?
The question seems simple enough: What happens to the Earth's temperature when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increase? The answer is elusive. However, clues are hidden in the fossil record. A newly released study by scientists from Syracuse and Yale universities provides a much clearer picture of the Earth's temperature approximately 50 million years ago when CO2 concentrations were higher than today. The results may shed light on what to expect in the future if CO2 levels keep rising.

The study, which for the first time compared multiple geochemical and temperature proxies to determine mean annual and seasonal temperatures, is published online in the journal Geology, the premier publication of the Geological Society of America, and is forthcoming in print Aug. 1.

SU Alumnus Caitlin Keating-Bitonti '09 is the corresponding author of the study. She conducted the research as an undergraduate student under the guidance of Linda Ivany, associate professor of earth sciences, and Scott Samson, professor of earth sciences, both in Syracuse University's College of Arts and Sciences. Early results led the team to bring in Hagit Affek, assistant professor of geology and geophysics at Yale University, and Yale Ph.D. candidate Peter Douglas for collaborative study. The National Science Foundation and the American Chemical Society funded the research.........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


June 22, 2011, 10:43 PM CT

2004 Sumatra earthquake deadliest in history

2004 Sumatra earthquake deadliest in history
At a typical subduction zone, the fault ruptures primarily along the boundary between the two tectonic plates and dissipates in weak sediments (a), or ruptures along "splay faults" (b); in either case, stopping far short of the trench. In the area of the 2004 Sumatra earthquake, sediments are thicker and stronger, extending the rupture closer to the trench for a larger earthquake and, due to deeper water, a much larger tsunami.

Credit: UT Austin

An international team of georesearchers has discovered an unusual geological formation that helps explain how an undersea earthquake off the coast of Sumatra in December 2004 spawned the deadliest tsunami in recorded history.

Instead of the usual weak, loose sediments typically found above the type of geologic fault that caused the earthquake, the team found a thick plateau of hard, compacted sediments. Once the fault snapped, the rupture was able to spread from tens of kilometers below the seafloor to just a few kilometers below the seafloor, much farther than weak sediments would have permitted. The extra distance allowed it to move a larger column of seawater above it, unleashing much larger tsunami waves.

"The results suggest we should be concerned about locations with large thicknesses of sediments in the trench, particularly those which have built marginal plateaus," said Sean Gulick, research scientist at The University of Texas at Austin's Institute for Geophysics. "These may promote more seaward rupture during great earthquakes and a more significant tsunami".

The team's results appear this week in an article lead-authored by Gulick in an advance online publication of the journal Nature Geoscience

The team from The University of Texas at Austin, The University of Southampton in the United Kingdom, The Agency for the Evaluation and Application of Technology in Indonesia and The Indonesia Institute for Sciences used seismic instruments, which emit sound waves, to visualize subsurface structures.........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


June 5, 2011, 8:54 PM CT

Upping the anti

Upping the anti
This is an artist's image of the ALPHA trap which captured and stored antihydrogen atoms.

Credit: Chukman So

Science fiction is fast approaching science fact as scientists are progressing rapidly toward "bottling" antimatter. In a paper published online today by the journal Nature Physics, the ALPHA experiment at CERN, including key Canadian contributors, reports that it has succeeded in storing antimatter atoms for over 16 minutes. While carrying around bottled antimatter like in the movie Angels and Demons remains fundamentally far-fetched, storing antimatter for long periods of time opens up new vistas for researchers struggling to understand this elusive substance. ALPHA managed to store twice the antihydrogen (the antimatter partner to normal hydrogen) 5,000 times longer than the prior best, setting the stage, for example, to test whether antihydrogen and normal hydrogen fall the same way due to gravity.

Main author Makoto Fujiwara, TRIUMF research scientist, University of Calgary adjunct professor, and spokesperson of the Canadian part of the ALPHA team said, "We know we have confined antihydrogen atoms for at least for 1,000 seconds. That's almost as long as one period in hockey! This is potentially a game changer in antimatter research."

Antimatter remains one of the biggest mysteries of science. At the Big Bang, matter and antimatter should have been produced equally, but since they destroy each other upon contact, eventually nothing should have remained but pure energy (light). However, all observations suggest that only the antimatter has vanished. To figure out what happened to "the lost half of the universe," researchers are eager to determine if, as predicted, the laws of physics are the same for both matter and antimatter. ALPHA uses an analogue of a very well-known system in physics, the hydrogen atom (one electron orbiting one proton), and testing whether its antimatter twin, antihydrogen (an antielectron orbiting an antiproton), behaves the same. But to study something one must hold onto it long enough.........

Posted by: Sarah      Read more         Source


June 5, 2011, 8:51 PM CT

Carbon release to atmosphere 10 times faste now

Carbon release to atmosphere 10 times faste now
The rate of release of carbon into the atmosphere today is nearly 10 times as fast as during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM), 55.9 million years ago, the best analog we have for current global warming, as per an international team of geologists. Rate matters and this current rapid change may not allow sufficient time for the biological environment to adjust.

"We looked at the PETM because it is believed to be the best ancient analog for future climate change caused by fossil fuel burning," said Lee R. Kump, professor of geosciences, Penn State.

However, the scientists note in the current issue of Nature Geoscience, that the source of the carbon, the rate of emission and the total amount of carbon involved in this event during the PETM are poorly characterized.

Investigations of the PETM are commonly done using core samples from areas that were deep sea bottom 55.9 million years ago. These cores contain layers of calcium carbonate from marine animals that can show whether the carbon in the carbonate came from organic or inorganic sources. Unfortunately, when large amounts of greenhouse gases --carbon dioxide or methane -- are in the atmosphere, the oceans become more acidic, and acid dissolves calcium carbonate.

"We were concerned with the fidelity of the deep sea records," said Kump. "How do we determine the rate of change of atmospheric carbon if the record is incomplete? The incomplete record makes the warming appear more abrupt".........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


June 2, 2011, 8:04 AM CT

Thomas Edison also invented the concrete house

Thomas Edison also invented the concrete house
Edison's concrete house is shown in this image.

Credit: New Jersey Institute of Technology

Afficionados of modern poured-concrete design were in for a rude awakening last month when they heard NJIT Assistant Professor Matt Burgermaster's presentation at the 64th annual meeting of the Society of Architectural Historians. "Edison's 'Single-Pour System: Inventing Seamless Architecture" illustrated how Thomas Edison invented and patented in 1917 an innovative construction system to mass produce prefabricated and seamless concrete houses. Typically most people associate this style of architectural design and type of building technology with the European avant-garde of the early 20th century.

Unknown to a number of people, however, is that a number of Edison houses remain standing in towns surrounding West Orange, New Jersey, where Edison's factory was located and is now a National Historic Park. On the park grounds is even a prototype of Edison's concrete house.

"Edison's one-of-a-kind system was patented for the purpose of building a single, repeatable structure without any parts, with a single act of construction," said Burgermaster, "And, remarkably, 100 years later a number of of these houses remain standing".

This paper analyzed Edison's invention of a single-pour system for concrete construction as a novel application of this material's dynamic behavior and speculated on its role in the development of a type of integrated building anatomy that, perhaps inadvertently, also invented the idea of a seamless architecture.........

Posted by: Jaison      Read more         Source


May 29, 2011, 2:39 PM CT

Seeing hidden building blocks of life

Seeing hidden building blocks of life
A diamond surrounded by air, and a glass of water. Both contain carbon and oxygen. If they are embedded inside another object, without access for a chemical probe, it is a difficult task to distinguish between even simple chemical bonds. A new synchrotron X-ray technique has made this now possible.

Credit: Simo Huotari (University of Helsinki)

Researchers from Finland and France have developed a new synchrotron X-ray technique that may revolutionize the chemical analysis of rare materials like meteoric rock samples or fossils. The results have been published on 29 May 2011 in Nature Materials as an advance online publication.

Life, as we know it, is based on the chemistry of carbon and oxygen. The three-dimensional distribution of their abundance and chemical bonds has been difficult to study up to now in samples where these elements were embedded deep inside other materials. Examples are tiny inclusions of possible water or other chemicals inside martian rock samples, fossils buried inside a lava rock, or minerals and chemical compounds within meteorites.

X-ray tomography, which is widely used in medicine and material science, is sensitive to the shape and texture of a given sample but cannot reveal chemical states at the macroscopic scale. For instance graphite and diamond both consist of pure carbon, but they differ in the chemical bond between the carbon atoms. This is why their properties are so radically different. Imaging the variations in.

atomic bonding has been surprisingly difficult, and techniques for imaging of chemical bonds are highly desirable in a number of fields like engineering and research in physics, chemistry, biology, and geology.........

Posted by: William      Read more         Source


May 29, 2011, 2:16 PM CT

Tiny bubbles signal to coral reefs

Tiny bubbles signal  to coral reefs
A new study of Papua New Guinea's "champagne reefs" in Nature Climate Change by the University of Miami, the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Max-Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Germany concludes that ocean acidification, along with increased ocean temperatures, will likely severely reduce the diversity and resilience of coral reef ecosystems within this century. These reefs provide sobering illustrations of how coral reefs may look in 100 years if ocean acidification conditions continue to worsen.

Credit: Katharina Fabricius/Australian Institute of Marine Science

A newly released study from University of Miami (UM) Rosenstiel School of Marine & Atmospheric Science researchers Chris Langdon, Remy Okazaki and Nancy Muehllehner and his colleagues from the Australian Institute of Marine Science and the Max-Planck Institute for Marine Microbiology in Gera number of concludes that ocean acidification, along with increased ocean temperatures, will likely severely reduce the diversity and resilience of coral reef ecosystems within this century.

The research team studied three natural volcanic CO2 seeps in Papua New Guinea to better understand how ocean acidification will impact coral reefs ecosystem diversity. The study details the effects of long-term exposure to high levels of carbon dioxide and low pH on Indo-Pacific coral reefs, a condition that is projected to occur by the end of the century as increased man-made CO2 emissions alter the current pH level of seawater, turning the oceans acidic.

"These 'champagne reefs' are natural analogs of how coral reefs may look in 100 years if ocean acidification conditions continue to get worse," said Langdon, UM Rosenstiel School professor and co-principal investigator of the study.

The study shows shifts in the composition of coral species and reductions in biodiversity and recruitment on the reef as pH declined from 8.1 to 7.8. The team also reports that reef development would cease at a pH below 7.7. The IPCC 4th Evaluation Report estimates that by the end of the century, ocean pH will decline from the current level of 8.1 to 7.8, due to rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations.........

Posted by: Ashley      Read more         Source


May 19, 2011, 9:00 AM CT

Bird, crocodile family trees split earlier than thought

Bird, crocodile family trees split earlier than thought
This is a reconstruction of X. sapingensis, based on the fossil.

Credit: Sterling Nesbitt

A fossil unearthed in China in the 1970s of a creature that died about 247 million years ago, originally believed to be a distant relative of both birds and crocodiles, turns out to have come from the crocodile family tree after it had already split from the bird family tree, as per research led by a University of Washington paleontologist.

The only known specimen of Xilousuchus sapingensis has been reexamined and is now classified as an archosaur. Archosaurs, characterized by skulls with long, narrow snouts and teeth set in sockets, include dinosaurs as well as crocodiles and birds.

The new examination dates the X. sapingensis specimen to the early Triassic period, 247 million to 252 million years ago, said Sterling Nesbitt, a UW postdoctoral researcher in biology. That means the creature lived just a short geological time after the largest mass extinction in Earth's history, 252 million years ago at the end of the Permian period, when as much as 95 percent of marine life and 70 percent of land creatures perished. The evidence, he said, places X. sapingensis on the crocodile side of the archosaur family tree.

"We're marching closer and closer to the Permian-Triassic boundary with the origin of archosaurs," Nesbitt said. "And today the archosaurs are still the dominant land vertebrate, when you look at the diversity of birds".........

Posted by: William      Read more         Source


May 8, 2011, 9:33 PM CT

Central Andean backarc potential for great earthquake?

Central Andean backarc potential for great earthquake?
Ben Brooks, 'O. Ozcacha and Todd Ericksen stand next to one of the GPS stations that was used in the study.

Credit: Image courtesy Ben Brooks, SOEST/UHM

The region east of the central Andes Mountains has the potential for larger scale earthquakes than previously expected, as per a newly released study posted online in the May 8th edition of Nature Geoscience Prior research had set the maximum expected earthquake size to be magnitude 7.5, based on the relatively quiet history of seismicity in that area. This newly released study by scientists from the University of Hawaii at Manoa (UHM) and his colleagues contradicts that limit and instead suggests that the region could see quakes with magnitudes 8.7 to 8.9.

Benjamin Brooks, Associate Researcher in the Hawaii Institute of Geophysics and Planetology in the School of Ocean and Earth Science and Technology at UHM and his colleagues used GPS data to map movement of the Earth's surface in the Subandean margin, along the eastern flank of the Andes Mountains. They report a sharp decrease in surface velocity from west to east. "We relate GPS surface movements to the subsurface via deformation models", says Brooks. "In this case, we use a simple elastic model of slip on a buried dislocation (fault) and do millions of Monte Carlo simulations to determine probability distributions for the model parameters (like slip, width, depth, dip, etc.)." From these data, the scientists conclude that the shallow section in the east of the region is currently locked in place over a length of about 100 km, allowing stress to build up as the tectonic plates in the region slowly move against each other. Rupture of the entire locked section by one earthquake could result in shaking of magnitudes up to 8.9, they estimate.........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


May 4, 2011, 5:22 PM CT

Air pollution near Michigan schools

Air pollution near Michigan schools
-Air pollution from industrial sources near Michigan public schools jeopardizes children's health and academic success, as per a newly released study from University of Michigan researchers.

The scientists observed that schools located in areas with the state's highest industrial air pollution levels had the lowest attendance rates---an indicator of poor health---as well as the highest proportions of students who failed to meet state educational testing standards.

The scientists examined the distribution of all 3,660 public elementary, middle, junior high and high schools in the state and observed that 62.5 percent of them were located in places with high levels of air pollution from industrial sources.

Minority students appear to bear the greatest burden, as per a research team led by Paul Mohai of the U-M School of Natural Resources and Environment and Byoung-Suk Kweon of the U-M Institute for Social Research.

The scientists observed that while 44.4percent of all white students in the state attend schools located in the top 10 percent of the most polluted locations in the state, 81.5 percent of all African American schoolchildren and 62.1 percent of all Hispanic students attend schools in the most polluted zones.

The study results are published in the May edition of the journal Health Affairs. Mohai and Kweon presented their findings today at a Washington, D.C., forum sponsored by Health Affairs.........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


May 4, 2011, 4:22 PM CT

Analysis of National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska

Analysis of National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska
"The USGS conducts evaluation updates to re-evaluate petroleum potential as new data and information become available," said USGS Energy Resources Program Coordinator Brenda Pierce. "Understanding how much undiscovered, technically recoverable resource might be present serves as a basis for calculating how much might be economically developed."

the U.S. Geological Survey evaluation on the economic recoverability of undiscovered, conventional oil and gas resources within the NAtional pEtroleum Reserve in Alaska (NPRA) and adjacent state waters is now available.

THis economic analysis is based on a 2010 USGS resource evaluation that determined how much undiscovered, conventional oil and gas in the NPRA is technically recoverable. these reports provide updates from the USGS 2003 economic analysis and 2002 resource evaluation of the NPRA.

Technically recoverable resources are those that could be potentially produced using current technology and industry practices. Economically recoverable resources are those that can be sold at a price that covers the costs of discovery, development, production and transportation to the market.

The new economic analysis estimates that approximately 273 million barrels of undiscovered oil are economically recoverable at an oil price of $72 per barrel (comparable to $8 per thousand cubic feet of gas). About 500 million barrels of undiscovered oil are economically recoverable at $90 per barrel (comparable to $10 per thousand cubic feet of gas). These estimates do not include the discovered oil accumulations in northeastern NPRA that have still not been developed.........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


April 7, 2011, 8:48 AM CT

Precedent-sEtting and biodiversity

Precedent-sEtting and biodiversity
The loss of biodiversity through species extinctions may be compromising the ability of the planet to cleanse itself of human-caused pollution.

Credit: © 2011 Jupiter Images Corporation

Frequent reports of accelerating species losses invariably raise questions about why such losses matter and why we should work to conserve biodiversity.

Biologists have traditionally responded to such questions by citing societal benefits that are often presumed to be offered by biodiversity--benefits like controlling pests and diseases, promoting the productivity of fisheries, and helping to purify air and water, among a number of others. Nevertheless, a number of of these presumed benefits are have yet to be supported by rigorous scientific data.

But Bradley J. Cardinale of the University of Michigan has produced a newly released study that finally verifies that biodiversity promotes water quality and explains how it does so. Specifically, the study reveals how biodiversity helps remove excess levels of nutrients from streams that usually degrade water quality.

Cardinale said, "This is the first study that nails the mechanism by which biodiversity promotes water quality. And by nailing the mechanism, it provides solid evidence of a cause-and-effect relationship between biodiversity and water quality that was previously missing".

Here's how Cardinale's mechanism works: as the number of species of algae in a stream increases, the geographical distribution of these organisms within the stream expands, and the more water these widely distributed organisms may cleanse through a pollution-removing process common to algae.........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


April 7, 2011, 8:40 AM CT

Some People's Climate Beliefs Shift With Weather

Some People's Climate Beliefs Shift With Weather
Photo by domediart, Flickr
Social researchers are struggling with a perplexing earth-science question: as the power of evidence showing manmade global warming is rising, why do opinion polls suggest public belief in the findings is wavering? Part of the answer appears to be that some people are too easily swayed by the easiest, most irrational piece of evidence at hand: their own estimation of the day's temperature.

In three separate studies, scientists affiliated with Columbia University's Center for Research on Environmental Decisions (CRED) surveyed about 1,200 people in the United States and Australia, and observed that those who thought the current day was warmer than usual were more likely to believe in and feel concern about global warming than those who thought the day was uncommonly cold. A new paper describing the studies appears in the current issue of the journal Psychological Science.

"Global warming is so complex, it appears some people are ready to be persuaded by whether their own day is warmer or cooler than usual, rather than think about whether the entire world is becoming warmer or cooler," said main author Ye Li, a postdoctoral researcher at the Columbia Business School's Center for Decision Sciences, which is aligned with CRED. "It is striking that society has spent so much money, time and effort educating people about this issue, yet people are still so easily influenced." The study says that "these results join a growing body of work show that irrelevant environmental information, such as the current weather, can affect judgments...... By way of analogy, when asked about the state of the national economy, someone might look at the amount of money in his or her wallet, a factor with only trivial relevance".........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


March 31, 2011, 11:04 PM CT

Extra-Cold Winters in Northeastern North America

Extra-Cold Winters in Northeastern North America
Snow cover over North America and Europe in March, 2003, as imaged by a satellite instrument.

Credit: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio; George Riggs (NASA/SSAI)

If you're sitting on a bench in New York City's Central Park in winter, you're probably freezing.

After all, the average temperature in January is 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

But if you were just across the pond in Porto, Portugal, which shares New York's latitude, you'd be much warmer--the average temperature is a balmy 48 degrees Fahrenheit.

Throughout northern Europe, average winter temperatures are at least 10 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than similar latitudes on the northeastern coast of the United States and the eastern coast of Canada.

The same phenomenon happens over the Pacific, where winters on the northeastern coast of Asia are colder than in the Pacific Northwest.

Scientists at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have now found a mechanism that helps explain these chillier winters--and the culprit is warm water off the eastern coasts of these continents.

"These warm ocean waters off the eastern coasts actually make it cold in winter--it's counterintuitive," says Tapio Schneider, a geoscientist at Caltech.

Schneider and Yohai Kaspi, a postdoctoral fellow at Caltech, describe their work in a paper reported in the March 31 issue of the journal Nature.

"This research makes a novel contribution to an old problem," says Eric DeWeaver, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, which funded the research.........

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March 31, 2011, 11:00 PM CT

Mesopotamian cIties in Iraqi Marshes?

Mesopotamian cIties in Iraqi Marshes?
Explore the marshlands-turned-desert that is giving archaeologists insight into the earliest modern civilizations in this photo gallery.

Credit: National Science Foundation

Learn more about the Iraqi marshes and the origins of Mesopotamian cities in this photo gallery and video.

Three National Science Foundation-supported scientists recently undertook the first non-Iraqi archaeological investigation of the Tigris-Euphrates delta in nearly 20 years. Archeologists Jennifer Pournelle and Carrie Hritz, with geologist Jennifer Smith, carried out the study late last year to look for links between wetland resources and the emergence of Mesopotamian cities.

"Mesopotamia"--Greek for "the land between the rivers"--is an area about 300 miles long and 150 miles wide straddling the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, which now run through Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran. It is broadly considered a cradle of civilization, because urban societies first developed there, about six thousand years ago.

Alexander the Great conquered Mesopotamia in 332 B.C.

"This is an important project because it has the potential to shed new light on the processes by which civilization rose in the Near East," said John Yellen, an NSF program director for archeological research.

The scientists proposed the project to probe how the area's gulf shoreline and marshes contributed to the economic foundation of Mesopotamian cities. Specifically, they wanted to investigate archaeological sites from 5,000 B.C. to Islamic times to learn more about how wetland resources contributed to the locale's towns and cities during the early- to mid-Holocene period.........

Posted by: William      Read more         Source


March 31, 2011, 10:57 PM CT

EarthScope Seismic Sensors Head East of the Mississippi

EarthScope Seismic Sensors Head East of the Mississippi
EarthScope Transportable Array Station 345A is about 15 miles northwest of Columbia, Miss.

Credit: Image courtesy of IRIS

Most seismic activity--and earthquakes--have been in the U.S. West. But the East is not out of the woods in terms of risk, geologists say.

After a six-year march eastward from the U.S. West Coast, the EarthScope Transportable Array seismic network has reached a major milestone: installation of the first Transportable Array station east of the Mississippi River.

Station 345A, located on a private farm about 15 miles northwest of Columbia, Miss., will operate for the next two years, continuously recording ground motion from local, regional and global earthquakes.

The Transportable Array is part of the National Science Foundation (NSF)-funded EarthScope project, an integrated Earth science effort to explore the structure, evolution and dynamics of the North American continent.

EarthScope has additional support from NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey. The Transportable Array is constructed, operated and maintained by the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS) as part of EarthScope.

"Research using data from the Transportable Array has already improved our understanding of the structure and dynamics of the western United States," says Greg Anderson, NSF program director for EarthScope.

"With the arrival of the Transportable Array in the eastern United States," Anderson says, "researchers will derive new insights about the older core of our continent and processes correlation to the formation and modification of continents over geologic time.".........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


March 31, 2011, 7:13 AM CT

Newly discovered natural arch in Afghanistan

Newly discovered natural arch in Afghanistan
Wildlife Conservation Society scientists working in Afghanistan recently discovered one of the largest natural stone arches in the world.

Credit: Ayub Alavi

Scientists from the Wildlife Conservation Society have stumbled upon a geological colossus in a remote corner of Afghanistan: a natural stone arch spanning more than 200 feet across its base.

Located at the central highlands of Afghanistan, the recently discovered Hazarchishma Natural Bridge is more than 3,000 meters (nearly 10,000 feet) above sea level, making it one of the highest large natural bridges in the world. It also ranks among the largest such structures known.

"It's one of the most spectacular discoveries ever made in this region," said Joe Walston, Director of the Wildlife Conservation Society's Asia Program. "The arch is emblematic of the natural marvels that still await discovery in Afghanistan".

Wildlife Conservation Society staff Christopher Shank and Ayub Alavi discovered the massive arch in late 2010 in the course of surveying the northern edge of the Bamyan plateau for wildlife (the landscape is home to ibex and urial wild sheep) and visiting local communities.

After making the discovery, they returned to the Hazarchishma Natural Bridge (named after a nearby village) in February 2011 to take accurate measure of the natural wonder. The total span of arch�the measurement by which natural bridges are ranked�is 210.6 feet in width, making it the 12th largest natural bridge in the world. This finding pushes Utah's Outlaw Arch in Dinosaur National Monument�smaller than Hazarchishma by more than four feet�to number 13 on the list.........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


March 30, 2011, 7:13 AM CT

Communicating uncertain climate risks

Communicating uncertain climate risks
The authors of a recent Perspectives piece in the journal Nature Climate Science say it is not enough to intuit the success of climate communications. They contend the evaluation of climate communication should be met with the same rigor as climate science itself. Here, someone uses the 220 megapixel HiPerWall display at the University of California, San Diego to discuss 10 time varying Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change simulation runs.

Credit: Falko Kuester, California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2), University of California, San Diego

Despite much research that demonstrates potential dangers from climate change, public concern has not been increasing.

One theory is that this is because the public is not intimately familiar with the nature of the climate uncertainties being discussed.

"A major challenge facing climate researchers is explaining to non-specialists the risks and uncertainties surrounding potential" climate change, says a new Perspectives piece published recently in the science journal Nature Climate Change.

The article attempts to identify communications strategies needed to improve layman understanding of climate science.

"Few citizens or political leaders understand the underlying science well enough to evaluate climate-related proposals and controversies," the authors write, at first appearing to support the idea of specialized knowledge--that only climate researchers can understand climate research.

But, author Baruch Fischhoff quickly dispels the notion. "The goal of science communication should be to help people understand the state of the science," he says, "relevant to the decisions that they face in their private and public lives".

Fischhoff, a social and decision scientist at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and Nick Pidgeon, an environmental psychology expert at Cardiff University in the United Kingdom wrote the article together, titled, "The role of social and decision sciences in communicating uncertain climate risks".........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


March 28, 2011, 7:28 AM CT

First practical 'artificial leaf'

First practical 'artificial leaf'
esearchers today claimed one of the milestones in the drive for sustainable energy � development of the first practical artificial leaf. Speaking here at the 241st National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, they described an advanced solar cell the size of a poker card that mimics the process, called photosynthesis, that green plants use to convert sunlight and water into energy.

"A practical artificial leaf has been one of the Holy Grails of science for decades," said Daniel Nocera, Ph.D., who led the research team. "We believe we have done it. The artificial leaf shows particular promise as an inexpensive source of electricity for homes of the poor in developing countries. Our goal is to make each home its own power station," he said. "One can envision villages in India and Africa not long from now purchasing an affordable basic power system based on this technology".

The device bears no resemblance to Mother Nature's counterparts on oaks, maples and other green plants, which researchers have used as the model for their efforts to develop this new genre of solar cells. About the shape of a poker card but thinner, the device is fashioned from silicon, electronics and catalysts, substances that accelerate chemical reactions that otherwise would not occur, or would run slowly. Placed in a single gallon of water in a bright sunlight, the device could produce enough electricity to supply a house in a developing country with electricity for a day, Nocera said. It does so by splitting water into its two components, hydrogen and oxygen.........

Posted by: Kevin      Read more         Source


March 26, 2011, 10:13 PM CT

ANtarctic Icebergs and GLobal Carbon Cycle

ANtarctic Icebergs and GLobal Carbon Cycle
Iceberg
In a finding that has global implications for climate research, researchers have discovered that when icebergs cool and dilute the seas through which they pass for days, they also raise chlorophyll levels in the water that may in turn increase carbon dioxide absorption in the Southern Ocean.

An interdisciplinary research team supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF) highlighted the research this month in the journal Nature Geosciences.

The research indicates that "iceberg transport and melting have a role in the distribution of phytoplankton in the Weddell Sea," which was previously unsuspected, said John J. Helly, director of the Laboratory for Environmental and Earth Sciences with the San Diego Supercomputer Center at the University of California, San Diego and Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Helly was the main author of the paper, "Cooling, Dilution and Mixing of Ocean Water by Free-drifting Icebergs in the Weddell Sea," which was first reported in the journal Deep-Sea Research Part II.

The results indicate that icebergs are particularly likely to influence phytoplankton dynamics in an area known as "Iceberg Alley," east of the Antarctic Peninsula, the portion of the continent that extends northwards toward Chile.

The latest findings add a new dimension to prior research by the same team that altered the perception of icebergs as large, familiar, but passive, elements of the Antarctic seascape. The team previously showed that icebergs act, in effect, as ocean "oases" of nutrients for aquatic life and sea birds.........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


March 26, 2011, 10:09 PM CT

Algae and bacteria hogged oxygen after ancient mass extinction

Algae and bacteria hogged oxygen after ancient mass extinction
A distant view of the field area in the Nanpanjiang Basin in south China where limestone contained evidence of a slow recovery of marine animal populations after the mass extinction 250 million years ago.
A mass extinction is hard enough for Earth's biosphere to handle, but when you chase it with prolonged oxygen deprivation, the biota ends up with a hangover that can last millions of years.

Such was the situation with the greatest mass extinction in Earth's history 250 million years ago, when 90 percent of all marine animal species were wiped out, along with a huge proportion of plant, animal and insect species on land.

A massive amount of volcanism in Siberia is widely credited with driving the disaster, but even after the immense outpourings of lava and toxic gases tapered off, oxygen levels in the oceans, which had been depleted, remained low for about 5 million years, slowing life's recovery there to an unusual degree.

The reason for the lingering low oxygen levels has puzzled scientists, but now Stanford scientists have figured out what probably happened. By analyzing the chemical composition of some then-underwater limestone beds deposited over the course of the recovery in what is now southern China, they have determined that while it took several million years for most ecosystems in the ocean to recover, tiny single-celled algae and bacteria bounced back much more quickly.

In fact, as per biogeochemist Katja Meyer, the tiny organisms rebounded to such an extent that the bigger life forms couldn't catch a break - much less their breath - because the little ones were enjoying a sustained population explosion.........

Posted by: William      Read more         Source


March 25, 2011, 7:33 AM CT

A New Phase of Matter

A New Phase of Matter
An unprecedented three-pronged study has found that one type of high-temperature superconductor may exhibit a new phase of matter. As in all superconductors, electrons pair off (bottom) to conduct electricity with no resistance when the material is cooled below a certain temperature. But in this particular copper-based superconductor, many of the electrons in the material don't pair off; instead they form a distinct, elusive order (orange plumes) that had not been seen before. (Illustration by Greg Stewart, SLAC.)

Researchers have found the strongest evidence yet that a puzzling gap in the electronic structures of some high-temperature superconductors could indicate a new phase of matter. Understanding this "pseudogap" has been a 20-year quest for scientists who are trying to control and improve these breakthrough materials, with the ultimate goal of finding superconductors that operate at room temperature.

"Our findings point to management and control of this other phase as the correct path toward optimizing these novel superconductors for energy applications, as well as searching for new superconductors," said Zhi-Xun Shen of the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Science (SIMES), a joint institute of the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University. Shen led the team of scientists that made the discovery; their findings are reported in the March 25 issue of Science.

Superconductors are materials that conduct electricity with 100 percent efficiency, losing nothing to resistance. Currently used in medical imaging, highly efficient electrical generators and maglev trains, they have the potential to become a truly transformative technology; energy applications would be just one beneficiary. This promise is hampered by one thing, though: they work only at extremely low temperatures. Eventhough research over the past 25 years has developed "high-temperature superconductors" that work at warmer temperatures, even the warmest of them-the cuprates-must be chilled half-way to absolute zero before they will superconduct.........

Posted by: Kevin      Read more         Source


March 20, 2011, 10:08 PM CT

Rapid, high-definition chemistry

Rapid, high-definition chemistry
IRENI-generated images (right) are 100 times less pixelated than in those from conventional infrared imaging (left). Using multiple beams from a synchrotron provided made the difference, providing enough light to obtain a detailed image of the sample. With this technique, the quality of the chemical images is now similar to that of optical microscopy.

Credit: Carol Hirshmugl/Michael Naase

With intensity a million times brighter than sunlight, a new synchrotron-based imaging technique offers high-resolution pictures of the molecular composition of tissues with unprecedented speed and quality. Carol Hirschmugl, a physicist at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM), led a team of scientists from UWM, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) to demonstrate these new capabilities.

Hirschmugl and UWM scientist Michael Nasse have built a facility called "Infrared Environmental Imaging (IRENI)," to perform the technique at the Synchrotron Radiation Center (SRC) at UW-Madison. The new technique employs multiple beams of synchrotron light to illuminate a state-of-the-art camera, instead of just one beam.

IRENI cuts the amount of time needed to image a sample from hours to minutes, while quadrupling the range of the sample size and producing high-resolution images of samples that do not have to be tagged or stained as they would for imaging with an optical microscope.

"Since IRENI reveals the molecular composition of a tissue sample, you can choose to look at the distribution of functional groups, such as proteins, carbohydrates and lipids," says Hirschmugl, "so you concurrently get detailed structure and chemistry".........

Posted by: Sarah      Read more         Source


March 20, 2011, 9:59 PM CT

Climate change hits home

Climate change hits home
Direct experience of extreme weather events increases concern about climate change and willingness to engage in energy-saving behaviour, as per a new research paper reported in the first edition of the journal Nature Climate Change this week.

In particular, members of the British public are more prepared to take personal action and reduce their energy use when they perceive their local area has a greater vulnerability to flooding, as per the research by Cardiff and Nottingham universities.

Eventhough no single flooding event can be attributed to climate change, Britain has experienced a series of major flood events over the past decade, something which is expected to increase in years to come as a result of climate change.

Psychology expert Dr Alexa Spence, now at the University of Nottingham, said: "We know that a number of people tend to see climate change as distant, affecting other people and places. However experiences of extreme weather events like flooding have the potential to change the way people view climate change, by making it more real and tangible, and ultimately resulting in greater intentions to act in sustainable ways".

The research team and Ipsos-MORI surveyed 1,822 members of the British public to test whether personal experience of flooding had affected perceptions about climate change. They also looked at whether those perceptions would affect respondents' intentions regarding energy use. The study revealed that people who reported flooding experiences had significantly different perceptions of climate change, in comparison to those who had not experienced flooding. These perceptions were, in turn correlation to a greater preparedness to save energy. In particular:........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


March 20, 2011, 9:56 PM CT

Think globally, but act locally

Think globally, but act locally
The endangered Quino checkerspot butterfly experiences pressures in Southern California from climate change, but also urban development, invasive species and pollution.

Credit: Lawrence Gilbert and Michael C. Singer. The University of Texas at Austin.

Global warming is clearly affecting plants and animals, but we should not try to tease apart the specific contribution of greenhouse gas driven climate change to extinctions or declines of species at local scales, biologists from The University of Texas at Austin advise.

Camille Parmesan, Michael C. Singer and their coauthors published their commentary online this week in Nature Climate Change

"Yes, global warming is happening. Yes, it is caused by human activities. And yes, we've clearly shown that species are impacted by global warming on a global scale," says Parmesan, associate professor of integrative biology.

Policy makers have been recently pressing biologists to dissect how much of the changes observed in wild species are due specifically to greenhouse gas driven climate change verses other possible factors, including natural changes in the climate.

However, research funding is limited, and the researchers feel it should be directed more toward studies on species adaptations and conservation of compromised species rather than trying to figure what percent of each species' decline is due to rising greenhouse gases. One reason is that, from the perspective of wildlife, it doesn't matter what proportion of climate-change impacts are caused by humans.........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


March 18, 2011, 10:09 PM CT

An icy gaze into the Big Bang

An icy gaze into the Big Bang
The research group led by Rudolf Grimm reports on a first experimental step into the strongly interacting regime of an ultracold Fermi-Fermi mixture.

Credit: Harald Ritsch

Researchers of the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI) in Innsbruck, Austria, have reached a milestone in the exploration of quantum gas mixtures. In an international first, the research group led by Rudolf Grimm and Florian Schreck has succeeded in producing controlled strong interactions between two fermionic elements - lithium-6 and potassium-40. This model system not only promises to provide new insights into solid-state physics but also shows intriguing analogies to the primordial substance right after the Big Bang.

As per theory, the whole universe consisted of quark-gluon plasma in the first split seconds after the Big Bang. On the earth this cosmic primordial "soup" can be observed in big particle accelerators when, for example, the nuclei of lead atoms are accelerated to nearly the speed of light and smashed into each other, which results in particle showers that are investigated with detectors. Now the group of quantum physicists led by Prof. Rudolf Grimm and PhD Florian Schreck from the Institute for Quantum Optics and Quantum Information (IQOQI) of the Austrian Academy of Sciences together with Italian and Australian scientists has for the first time achieved strong controlled interactions between clouds of lithium-6 and potassium-40 atoms. Hence, they have established a model system that behaves in a similar way as the quark-gluon plasma, whose energy scale has a twenty times higher order of magnitude.........

Posted by: Sarah      Read more         Source


March 18, 2011, 10:06 PM CT

Can Biochar Help Suppress Greenhouse Gases?

Can Biochar Help Suppress Greenhouse Gases?
Nitrous oxide is a potent greenhouse gas and a precursor to compounds that contribute to the destruction of the ozone. Intensively managed, grazed pastures are responsible for an increase in nitrous oxide emissions from grazing animals' excrement. Biochar is potentially a mitigation option for reducing the world's elevated carbon dioxide emissions, since the embodied carbon can be sequestered in the soil. Biochar also has the potential to beneficially alter soil nitrogen transformations.

Laboratory tests have indicated that adding biochar to the soil could be used to suppress nitrous oxide derived from livestock. Biochar has been used for soil carbon sequestration in the same manner.

In a study funded by the Foundation for Research Science and Technology,researchers at Lincoln University in New Zealand, conducted an experiment over an 86-day spring/summer period to determined the effect of incorporating biochar into the soil on nitrous oxide emissions from the urine patches produced by cattle. Biochar was added to the soil during pasture renovation and gas samples were taken on 33 different occasions. The study was reported in the March/April 2011 issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality.

Addition of biochar to the soil allowed for a 70% reduction in nitrous oxide fluxes over the course of the study. Nitrogen contribution from livestock urine to the emitted nitrous oxide decreased as well. The incorporation of biochar into the soil had no detrimental effects on dry matter yield or total nitrogen content in the pasture.........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


March 18, 2011, 9:02 PM CT

Electronic medical records improve quality of care

Electronic medical records improve quality of care
Martin Chieng Were, M.D., M.S., is a Regenstrief Institute investigator and assistant professor of medicine at the Indiana University School of Medicine.

Credit: Regenstrief Institute

A newly released study, conducted by scientists from the Regenstrief Institute and the schools of medicine at Indiana University and Moi University, is one of the first to explore and demonstrate the impact of electronic record systems on quality of medical care in a developing country.

In a paper reported in the March 2011 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Informatics Association, Martin Chieng Were, M.D., M.S., assistant professor of medicine at the IU School of Medicine and a Regenstrief Institute investigator, and his colleagues report that computer-generated reminders about overdue tests yielded nearly a 50 percent increase in the appropriate ordering of CD4 blood tests. CD4 counts are critical to monitoring the health of patients with HIV and guide therapy decisions.

The research evaluating impact of just-in-time physician support (implemented within electronic medical records) on health care provider behavior and quality of care was conducted in clinics in Eldoret, Kenya. The comparative study, which is one of the first to use computer-generated clinical reminders in sub-Saharan Africa, observed that clinical summaries with computer-generated reminders significantly improved physician adherence to CD4 testing guidelines.

This work is especially significant because of the a number of medical errors that occur in settings where too few skilled health-care providers deal with a large patient population with critical illnesses. In developed countries, patients with HIV are often seen by infectious disease specialists for their HIV care. In contrast, a large number of HIV-positive patients in resource-limited countries like Kenya are taken care of by clinical officers whose level of training is similar to that of nurse practitioners. The combination of overworked staff with limited training, increasingly busy clinics, the challenges of providing chronic disease management, and the difficulty of keeping up-to-date often results in suboptimal patient care.........

Posted by: Sean      Read more         Source


March 18, 2011, 6:19 PM CT

Enhancing the Magnetism

Enhancing the Magnetism
"The nation that controls magnetism will control the universe," famed fictional detective Dick Tracy predicted back in 1935. Probably an overstatement, but there's little doubt the nation that leads the development of advanced magnetoelectronic or "spintronic" devices is going to have a serious leg-up on its Information Age competition. A smaller, faster and cheaper way to store and transfer information is the spintronic grand prize and a key to winning this prize is understanding and controlling a multiferroic property known as "spontaneous magnetization".

Now, scientists with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have been able to enhance spontaneous magnetization in special versions of the popular multiferroic material bismuth ferrite. What's more, they can turn this magnetization "on/off" through the application of an external electric field, a critical ability for the advancement of spintronic technology.

"Taking a novel approach, we've created a new magnetic state in bismuth ferrite along with the ability to electrically control this magnetism at room temperature," says Ramamoorthy Ramesh, a materials scientist with Berkeley Lab's Materials Sciences Division, who led this research. "An enhanced magnetization arises in the rhombohedral phases of our bismuth ferrite self-assembled nanostructures. This magnetization is strain-confined between the tetragonal phases of the material and can be erased by the application of an electric field. The magnetization is restored when the polarity of the electric field is reversed".........

Posted by: Jaison      Read more         Source


March 17, 2011, 10:39 PM CT

Wind and solar energy

Wind and solar energy
This is the Kahuku Wind Project, which was included in the Oahu Wind Integration Study.

Credit: Hawaiian Electric Company

When combined with on-Oahu wind farms and solar energy, the Interisland Wind project planned to bring 400 megawatts (MW) of wind power from Molokai and Lanai to Oahu could reliably supply more than 25% of Oahu's projected electricity demand, as per the Oahu Wind Integration Study (OWIS).

For the purposes of the research project, the OWIS released recently studied the impact on the Oahu grid of a total of 500 MW of wind energy and a nominal 100 MW of solar power, though a good deal more utility-scale and customer-sited solar power is expected on Oahu.

The study observed that the 500 MW of wind and 100 MW of solar power could eliminate the need to burn approximately 2.8 million barrels of low sulfur fuel oil (LSFO) and 132,000 tons of coal each year while maintaining system reliability, if many recommendations are incorporated, including:.
  • Provide state-of-the-art wind power forecasting to help anticipate the amount of power that will be available from wind;.
  • Increase power reserves (the amount of power that can be called upon from operating generators) to help manage wind variability and uncertainty in wind power forecasts;.
  • Reduce minimum stable operating power of baseload generating units to provide more power reserves; .
  • Increase ramp rates (the time it takes to increase or decrease output) of Hawaiian Electric's thermal generating units;.........

    Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


March 15, 2011, 10:12 PM CT

Large Hadron Collider could be world's first time machine

Large Hadron Collider could be world's first time machine
An illustration of the Large Hadron Collider, the world's most powerful particle accelerator, located in Switzerland (CERN)
If the latest theory of Tom Weiler and Chui Man Ho is right, the Large Hadron Collider - the world's largest atom smasher that started regular operation last year - could be the first machine capable of causing matter to travel backwards in time.

"Our theory is a long shot," admitted Weiler, who is a physics professor at Vanderbilt University, "but it doesn't violate any laws of physics or experimental constraints".

A main goals of the collider is to find the elusive Higgs boson: the particle that physicists invoke to explain why particles like protons, neutrons and electrons have mass. If the collider succeeds in producing the Higgs boson, some researchers predict that it will create a second particle, called the Higgs singlet, at the same time.

As per Weiler and Ho's theory, these singlets should have the ability to jump into an extra, fifth dimension where they can move either forward or backward in time and reappear in the future or past.

"One of the attractive things about this approach to time travel is that it avoids all the big paradoxes," Weiler said. "Because time travel is limited to these special particles, it is not possible for a man to travel back in time and murder one of his parents before he himself is born, for example. However, if researchers could control the production of Higgs singlets, they might be able to send messages to the past or future".........

Posted by: Kevin      Read more         Source


March 13, 2011, 11:59 AM CT

New measurement technology

New measurement technology
Confocal micrograph of an actin-filamin network. Credit: Kurt Schmoller, Technische Universtaet Muenchen (Technical University of Munich)
The development of a new measurement technology under a research project funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and the National Science Foundation is probing the structure of composite and biological materials.

"Our results have provided some of the first microscopic insights into a sixty year old puzzle about the way polymeric networks react to repeated shear strains," said Dr. Daniel Blair, Assistant Professor, and principal investigator of the Soft Matter Group in the Department of Physics at Georgetown University.

Blair, Professor Andreas Bausch and other scientists at Technische Universtaet Muenchen (Technical University of Munich) used the muscle filament known as actin to construct a unique polymer network. In their quest to understand more about bio-polymers, they developed the rheometer and confocal microscope system (measures the mechanical properties of materials), which provide a unique and unprecedented level of precision and sensitivity for investigating polymeric systems which were previously too small to visualize during mechanical stress experiments. The rheometer and confocal microscopes clearly visualized the fluorescently labeled actin network and they filmed the polymer filaments'movement in 3-D when mechanical stress was applied.........

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March 10, 2011, 7:57 AM CT

Earth's Sixth Mass Extinction

Earth's Sixth Mass Extinction
Earth's warming climate is contributing to an infection responsible for tropical frog extinctions.

Credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller, National Science Foundation

With the steep decline in populations of a number of animal species, researchers have warned that Earth is on the brink of a mass extinction like those that have occurred just five times during the past 540 million years.

Each of these "Big Five" saw three-quarters or more of all animal species go extinct.

In results of a study published in this week's issue of journal Nature, scientists report on an evaluation of where mammals and other species stand today in terms of possible extinction compared with the past 540 million years.

They find cause for hope--and alarm.

"If you look only at the critically endangered mammals--those where the risk of extinction is at least 50 percent within three of their generations--and assume that their time will run out and they will be extinct in 1,000 years, that puts us clearly outside any range of normal and tells us that we are moving into the mass extinction realm," said Anthony Barnosky, an integrative biologist at the University of California at Berkeley, and first author of the paper.

Barnosky is also a curator in the university's Museum of Paleontology and a research paleontologist in its Museum of Vertebrate Zoology.

"A modern global mass extinction is a largely unaddressed hazard of climate change and human activities," said H. Richard Lane, program director in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the research.........

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March 10, 2011, 7:55 AM CT

Black Holes: A Model for Superconductors?

Black Holes: A Model for Superconductors?
(l to r) Mohammad Edalati, Rob Leigh, and Philip Phillips. Not shown is co-author Ka Wai Lo.
Black holes are some of the heaviest objects in the universe. Electrons are some of the lightest. Now physicists Robert G. Leigh and Philip Phillips along with postdoctoral fellow Mohammad Edalati and graduate student Ka Wai Lo of the University of Illinois have shown how charged black holes can be used to model the behavior of interacting electrons in unconventional superconductors.

Unlike the old superconductors, which were all metals, the new superconductors start off their lives as insulators. In the insulating state of the copper-oxide materials, there are plenty of places for the electrons to hop but nonetheless-no current flows. Such a state of matter, known as a Mott insulator after the pioneering work of Sir Neville Mott, arises from the strong repulsions between the electrons. Eventhough this much is agreed upon, much of the physics of Mott insulators remains unsolved, because there is no exact solution to the Mott problem that is directly applicable to the copper-oxide materials.

Enter string theory-an evolving theoretical effort that seeks to describe the known fundamental forces of nature, including gravity, and their interactions with matter in a single, mathematically complete system.

In string theory, some strongly interacting quantum mechanical systems can be studied by replacing them with classical gravity in a space-time in one higher dimension, a relationship that was first conjectured by string theorist Juan Maldacena some fourteen years ago. The conjecture was made possible by thinking about D-branes, important objects in string theory, in two different but equivalent ways. Physical features of the quantum systems, such as temperature, charge density, etc., become properties of black holes in the classical gravity theory.........

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March 10, 2011, 7:52 AM CT

California Islands Give Up Evidence of Early Seafaring

California Islands Give Up Evidence of Early Seafaring
Evidence for a diversified sea-based economy among North American inhabitants dating from 12,200 to 11,400 years ago is emerging from three sites on California's Channel Islands.

Reporting in the March 4 issue of Science, a 15-member team led by University of Oregon and Smithsonian Institution scholars describes the discovery of scores of stemmed projectile points and crescents dating to that time period. The artifacts are linked to the remains of shellfish, seals, geese, cormorants and fish.

Funded by grants from the National Science Foundation, the team also found thousands of artifacts made from chert, a flint-like rock used to make projectile points and other stone tools.

Some of the intact projectiles are so delicate that their only practical use would have been for hunting on the water, said Jon Erlandson, professor of anthropology and director of the Museum of Natural and Cultural History at the University of Oregon. He has been conducting research on the islands for more than 30 years.

"This is among the earliest evidence of seafaring and maritime adaptations in the Americas, and another extension of the diversity of Paleoindian economies," Erlandson said. "The points we are finding are extraordinary, the workmanship amazing. They are ultra thin, serrated and have incredible barbs on them. It's a very sophisticated chipped-stone technology." He also noted that the stemmed points are much different than the iconic fluted points left throughout North America by Clovis and Folsom peoples who hunted big game on land.........

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March 10, 2011, 7:49 AM CT

Some Antarctic Ice is Forming from Bottom

Some Antarctic Ice is Forming from Bottom
Researchers endured extreme wind and cold at a high-elevation field camp near the center of the ice sheet. (Michael Studinger/AGAP)
Researchers working in the remotest part of Antarctica have discovered that liquid water locked deep under the continent's coat of ice regularly thaws and refreezes to the bottom, creating as much as half the thickness of the ice in places, and actively modifying its structure. The finding, which turns common perceptions of glacial formation upside down, could reshape scientists' understanding of how the ice sheet expands and moves, and how it might react to warming climate, they say. The study appears in this week's early online edition of the leading journal Science; it is part of a six-nation study of the invisible Gamburtsev Mountains, which lie buried under as much as two miles of ice.

Ice sheets are well known to grow from the top as snow falls and builds up annual layers over thousands of years, but researchers until recently have known little about the processes going on far below. In 2006, scientists in the current study showed that lakes of liquid water underlie widespread parts of Antarctica. In 2008-2009, they mounted an expedition using geophysical instruments to create 3-D images of the Gamburtsevs, a range larger than the European Alps. The expedition also made detailed images of the overlying ice, and subglacial water.

"We commonly think of ice sheets like cakes--one layer at a time added from the top. This is like someone injected a layer of frosting at the bottom--a really thick layer," said Robin Bell, a geophysicist at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and a project co-leader. "Water has always been known to be important to ice sheet dynamics, but mostly as a lubricant. As ice sheets change, we want to predict how they will change. Our results show that models must include water beneath." The Antarctic ice sheet holds enough fresh water to raise ocean levels 200 feet; if even a small part of it were to melt into the ocean, it could put major coastal cities under water.........

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March 8, 2011, 7:45 AM CT

Hunt for green catalysts

Hunt for green catalysts
L. Keith Woo's hunt for green catalysts has led him to experiment with iron porphyrins. Here he's holding a model of an iron porphyrin compound in his Iowa State University research lab.

Credit: Photo by Bob Elbert/Iowa State University

L. Keith Woo is searching for cleaner, greener chemical reactions.

Woo, an Iowa State University professor of chemistry and an associate of the U.S. Department of Energy's Ames Laboratory, has studied catalysts and the chemical reactions they affect for more than 25 years. And these days, his focus is on green catalysis.

That, he said, is the search for catalysts that lead to more efficient chemical reactions. That could mean they promote reactions at lower pressures and temperatures. Or it could mean they promote reactions that create less waste. Or it could mean finding safer, cleaner alternatives to toxic or hazardous conditions, such as using water in place of organic solvents.

"We're trying to design, discover and optimize materials that will produce chemical reactions in a way that the energy barrier is lowered," Woo said. "We're doing fundamental, basic catalytic work".

And much of that work is inspired by biology.

In one project, Woo and his research group are studying how iron porphyrins (the heme in the hemoglobin of red blood cells) can be used for various catalytic applications. Iron porphyrins are the active sites in a variety of the enzymes that create reactions and processes within a cell. Most of the iron porphyrin reactions involve oxidation and electron transfer reactions.........

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March 7, 2011, 7:30 AM CT

Observing Arctic ice-edge plankton blooms

Observing Arctic ice-edge plankton blooms
"Ice-edge phytoplankton blooms in the Arctic Ocean provide food for planktonic animals called zooplankton, which are in turn exploited by animals higher up the food chain such as fish," explained Dr Andrew Yool, one of the team of NOC researchers.

During the Arctic spring and summer, sea-ice melts and breaks up. Freshwater from melting ice forms a blanket over the denser, saltier water below. This stratification of the water column, along with seasonal sunshine, triggers the appearance of phytoplankton blooms, which often form long but narrow (20-100 km) bands along the receding ice-edge.

Arctic ice-edge blooms have in the past been studied largely during research cruises. These studies have often focused on regions such as the Barents Sea between Norway and the Svalbard Archipelago, and the Bering Shelf bordering Alaska, where blooms are thought to account for 50% or more of biological production.

However, advances in modern satellite technology now offer the opportunity to observe and monitor ice-edge blooms at high spatial resolution over large areas and extended periods of time from space.

"Our aim was to use satellite data to get a synoptic view of ice-edge blooms across the whole Arctic region," said Dr Yool.

To do this, the research team used daily data from the NASA's SeaWiFs satellite, which was launched in 1997. SeaWiFs continuously observes ocean colour (sea-ice, cloud and fog cover permitting), sampling the whole globe every two days. To provide an alternative estimate of bloom occurrence, and an independent check on their findings, the scientists also used data from the MODIS satellite.........

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March 7, 2011, 6:55 AM CT

An 'eye' on nanoparticles

An 'eye' on nanoparticles
This is an optical microscope image of the microfluidic channel (light pattern) and sensing electrode (gold) of the analyzer. Nanoparticles are suspended in a fluid flow through the channel, and are detected individually as they pass through the sensing volume.

Credit: J.L. Fraikin and A.N. Cleland, UCSB

Precision measurement in the world of nanoparticles has now become a possibility, thanks to researchers at UC Santa Barbara.

The UCSB research team has developed a new instrument capable of detecting individual nanoparticles with diameters as small as a few tens of nanometers. The study will be published on line this week by Nature Nanotechnology, and appear in the April print issue of the journal.

"This device opens up a wide range of potential applications in nanoparticle analysis," said Jean-Luc Fraikin, the main author on the study. "Applications in water analysis, pharmaceutical development, and other biomedical areas are likely to be developed using this new technology." The instrument was developed in the lab of Andrew Cleland, professor of physics at UCSB, in collaboration with the group of Erkki Ruoslahti, Distinguished Professor, Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute at UCSB.

Fraikin is presently a postdoctoral associate in the Marth Lab at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute's Center for Nanomedicine, and in the Soh Lab in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at UC Santa Barbara.

The device detects the tiny particles, suspended in fluid, as they flow one by one through the instrument at rates estimated to be as high as half a million particles per second. Fraikin compares the device to a nanoscale turnstile, which can count �� and measure �� particles as they pass individually through the electronic "eye" of the instrument.........

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March 1, 2011, 10:21 PM CT

World's oldest Pteranodon?

World's oldest Pteranodon?
Fossilized bones discovered in Texas from a flying reptile that died 89 million years ago appears to be the earliest occurrence of the prehistoric creature known as Pteranodon.

Previously, Pteranodon bones have been found in Kansas, South Dakota and Wyoming in the Niobrara and Pierre geological formations. This likely Pteranodon specimen is the first of its kind found in Texas, as per paleontologist Timothy S. Myers at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, who identified the reptile. The specimen was discovered north of Dallas by an amateur fossil hunter who found various bones belonging to the left wing.

Pteranodon was a type of pterosaur that lived about the same time as some dinosaurs, about 100 million to 65 million years ago. The only reptiles to dominate the ancient skies, pterosaurs had broad leathery wings and slim torsos.

Adult pterosaur, toothless variety with about a 12-foot wing span.

The specimen identified by Myers is an adult pterosaur of the toothless variety and while larger than most birds, wasn't among the largest pterosaurs, Myers said, noting it had a wing span between 12 and 13 feet, or 3.6 to 4 meters. It was discovered in the Austin Group, a prominent rock unit in Texas that was deposited around 89 million years ago, early in the geological time period called the Late Cretaceous.........

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March 1, 2011, 10:01 PM CT

Ecological importance of sounds

Ecological importance of sounds
Luis J. Villanueva-Rivera, from right, Bryan Pijanowski and Sarah Dumyahn collect data from a remote listening post that records sounds from the surrounding area. (Purdue Agricultural Communication photo/Tom Campbell)

A Purdue University researcher is leading an effort to create a new scientific field that will use sound as a way to understand the ecological characteristics of a landscape and to reconnect people with the importance of natural sounds.

Soundscape ecology, as it's being called, will focus on what sounds can tell people about an area. Bryan Pijanowski, an associate professor of forestry and natural resources and main author of a paper outlining the field in the journal BioScience, said natural sound could be used like a canary in a coal mine. Sound could be a critical first indicator of environmental changes.

Pijanowski said sound could be used to detect early changes in climate, weather patterns, the presence of pollution or other alterations to a landscape.

"The dawn and dusk choruses of birds are very characteristic of a location. If the intensity or patterns of these choruses change, there is likely something causing that change," Pijanowski said. "Ecologists have ignored how sound that emanates from an area can help determine what's happening to the ecosystem".

Part of his research will be to capture sounds that are being lost and attempting to restore their value to people. Pijanowski said natural sounds such as birds chirping, wind rustling through leaves and even the absence of noise not only have aesthetic significance, but also can give people valuable information about what's happening around them.........

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February 22, 2011, 8:00 AM CT

Volcanoes along Pacific Ocean Seamount Trail

Volcanoes along Pacific Ocean Seamount Trail
Nearly half a mile of rock retrieved from beneath the seafloor is yielding new clues about how underwater volcanoes are created and whether the hotspots that led to their formation have moved over time.

Georesearchers have just completed an expedition to a string of underwater volcanoes, or seamounts, in the Pacific Ocean known as the Louisville Seamount Trail.

There they collected samples of sediments, basalt lava flows and other volcanic eruption materials to piece together the history of this ancient trail of volcanoes.

The expedition was part of the Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP).

"Finding out whether hotspots in Earth's mantle are stationary or not will lead to new knowledge about the basic workings of our planet," says Rodey Batiza, section head for marine geosciences in the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Division of Ocean Sciences.

Tens of thousands of seamounts exist in the Pacific Ocean. Expedition researchers probed a handful of the most important of these underwater volcanoes.

"We sampled ancient lava flows, and a fossilized algal reef," says Anthony Koppers of Oregon State University. "The samples will be used to study the construction and evolution of individual volcanoes.".........

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February 22, 2011, 7:55 AM CT

Oldest Fossils of Large Seaweeds

Oldest Fossils of Large Seaweeds
Almost 600 million years ago, before the rapid evolution of life forms known as the Cambrian explosion, a community of seaweeds and worm-like animals lived in a quiet deep-water niche near what is now Lantian, a small village in south China.

Then they simply died, leaving some 3,000 nearly pristine fossils preserved between beds of black shale deposited in oxygen-free and unbreathable waters.

Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences, Virginia Tech in the United States and Northwest University in Xi'an, China report the discovery of the fossils in this week's issue of the journal Nature

In addition to ancient versions of algae and worms, the Lantian biota--named for its location--included macrofossils with complex and puzzling structures.

In all, researchers have identified some 15 species at the site.

The fossils suggest that structural diversification of macroscopic eukaryotes--the earliest versions of organisms with complex cell structures--may have occurred only tens of millions of years after the Snowball Earth event that ended 635 million years ago.

Snowball Earth proposes that the Earth's surface became almost, or completely, frozen at least once during the planet's history.

The presence of macroscopic eukaryotes in the highly organic-rich black shale suggests that, despite the overall oxygen-free conditions, brief oxygenation of the oceans did come and go, as per H. Richard Lane, program director in the National Science Foundation (NSF)'s Division of Earth Sciences, which funded the research.........

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February 22, 2011, 7:54 AM CT

The Year of the Higgs?

The Year of the Higgs?
This February, scientists will renew their search for one of the universe's most elusive mysteries, the Higgs boson--a hypothetical particle that if found would give an insight into why particles have certain mass.

The search will take place at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, the world's largest particle accelerator at the European Organization for Nuclear Research in Geneva, Switzerland.

The Higgs boson is the only remaining Standard Model particle that has not been observed in particle physics experiments. But using two separate and complimentary experiments, the A Toroidal LHC Apparatus (ATLAS) and Compact Muon Solenoid (CMS), researchers hope to prove its existence.

Both ATLAS and CMS are particle physics detectors. They are located on opposite sides of the 27-kilometer (17-mile) LHC ring circling the countryside on the outskirts of Geneva, buried deep below ground.

The LHC has been offline during a winter break, which temporarily halted the experiments.

"The research program over this past year was essentially to commission the accelerator and the experiments to make sure that they work and they are giving us sensible results," said physicist Aaron Dominguez of the University of Nebraska and the US CMS experiment, whose work is supported by the National Science Foundation.........

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February 22, 2011, 7:40 AM CT

First harmful algal bloom species genome sequenced

First harmful algal bloom species genome sequenced
Aureococcus anophagefferens cells of a harmful algal bloom brown tide.

Credit: Chris Gobler, Stony Brook University


The microscopic phytoplankton Aureococcus anophagefferens, which causes devastating brown tides, appears to be tiny but it's proven to be a fierce competitor.

In the first genome sequencing of a harmful algal bloom species, scientists observed that Aureococcus' unique gene complement allows it to outcompete other marine phytoplankton and thrive in human-modified ecosystems, which could help explain the global increases in harmful algal blooms (HABs).

The research team, led by Christopher Gobler of Stony Brook University's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences in collaboration with researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI), will publish its findings online in the February 21 edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

The brown tides caused by Aureococcus do not produce toxins that poison humans, but the long-lasting blooms are toxic to bivalves and have decimated sea grass beds and shellfisheries leading to billions of dollars in economic losses. The blooms, which had not been documented before 1985, are now chronic, annual events in estuaries along the heavily populated coastlines of the eastern United States and South Africa. While HABs occur naturally, impacts from human activities, such as increased pollutants and excess nutrients from fertilizer runoff, have been associated with the rise in HAB outbreaks. Like a number of other HABs, Aureococcus blooms in shallow estuaries where light levels and inorganic nutrients are low, and organic carbon and nitrogen concentrations are high.........

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February 21, 2011, 7:54 AM CT

Testing the limits of where humans can live

Testing the limits of where humans can live
These are stone artifacts, mostly tips for spears and harpoons, found on the Kuril Islands.

Credit: Photo credit: Coby Phillips, U. Washington.

On an isolated segment of islands in the Pacific Ring of Fire, residents endure volcanoes, tsunamis, dense fog, steep cliffs and long and chilly winters.

Sounds homey, huh?

At least it might be for inhabitants of the Kuril Islands, an 810-mile archipelago that stretches from Japan to Russia. The islands, formed by a collision of tectonic plates, are nearly abandoned today, but anthropologists have learned that thousands of people have lived there on and off as far back as at least 6000 B.C., persevering despite natural disasters.

"We want to identify the limits of adaptability, or how much resilience people have," said Ben Fitzhugh, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Washington. "We're looking at the islands as a yardstick of humans' capacity to colonize and sustain themselves".

Understanding what made residents stay and how they survived could inform how we adapt to modern vulnerabilities, including climate change. The findings also have implications for how we rebound from contemporary catastrophes, such as the Indonesian tsunami in 2004, hurricanes Katrina and Rita and last year's earthquake in Haiti.

Fitzhugh is leading an international team of anthropologists, archaeologists, geologists and earth and atmospheric researchers in studying the history of human settlement on the Kuril Islands.........

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February 21, 2011, 7:51 AM CT

Are population estimates off the mark?

Are population estimates off the mark?
"Almost all of the growth in world population will occur in poor countries, particularly in Africa and South Asia," says the Population Council's John Bongaarts. "But larger investments in family planning right now would have a very beneficial impact on human welfare and any environmental issue we care about."

Credit: The Population Council Inc.

In 2011 the Earth's population will reach 7 billion. The United Nations (UN) reports that the total number of people will climb to 9 billion in 2050, peak at 9.5 billion, stabilize temporarily, and then decline. Despite the confidence with which these projections are presented, in an American Association for the Advancement of Science press briefing and presentation today the Population Council's John Bongaarts presents evidence that the actual population trajectory is highly uncertain.

What could happen depends on trends in fertility and mortality�and both variables are complex and not easy to forecast.

With respect to fertility, some analysts assume that the very low levels of childbearing now prevailing in Southern and Eastern Europe, where women have fewer than two children on average, will continue in those countries and spread to other parts of the world. But scholars have different expectations of how rapidly and widely that trend will unfold. If fertility remains higher than the UN projects the world population could exceed 10 billion in 2100.

In terms of mortality, pessimists say that life spans in developed countries are close to the biological limit. However, optimists predict that life expectancy will continue to rise very rapidly, exceeding 100 years before the end of this century. If the optimists are right, the world's population could also exceed 10 billion in 2100. This higher population scenario also has implications for the solvency of social security systems that provide income to the elderly.........

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February 21, 2011, 7:48 AM CT

Black carbon and tropospheric ozone in climate change

Black carbon and tropospheric ozone in climate change
lack carbon (BC) and tropospheric ozone (O3) are harmful air pollutants that also contribute to climate change. The emission of both will continue to negatively impact both human health and climate.

While our scientific understanding of how black carbon and tropospheric ozone affect climate and public health has significantly improved in recent years, the threat posed by these pollutants has catalysed a demand for knowledge and concrete action from governments, civil society, United Nations (UN) agencies and other stakeholders.

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) was requested to urgently provide science-based advice on actions to reduce the impact of these pollutants and the Integrated Evaluation of Black Carbon and Tropospheric Ozone is the result. Its main findings are:
    .
  1. A small number of emissions reduction measures targeting black carbon and tropospheric ozone could immediately begin to protect climate, public health, water and food security, and ecosystems. These measures target fossil fuel extraction, residential cooking and heating, diesel vehicles, waste management, agriculture and small industries. Full implementation is achievable with existing technology but would require significant and strategic investment as well as institutional arrangements.........

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February 21, 2011, 7:31 AM CT

Is it safe to drink?

Is it safe to drink?
"Over the last couple of generations, there has been a huge amount of groundwater pollution worldwide, and this has had a negative impact on our drinking water supply," says Barbara Sherwood Lollar, Canada Research Chair in Isotope Geochemistry of the Earth and the Environment at the University of Toronto.

Sherwood Lollar is taking part in the THINK CANADA Press Breakfast Sunday at AAAS. Her research examines society's efforts to reverse and stop groundwater pollution, and the effectiveness of bioremediation technologies�using microbes to clean up organic contaminants such as petroleum hydrocarbons (oil, gasoline or diesel) or chemicals used in the electronics or transportation industries.

While the disposal of these organic contaminants tends to be well regulated today, this has not always been the case. Lax regulations and enforcement during the period immediately after the Second World War has left Europe and North America with a legacy of past contamination.

"This contamination has had a pervasive impact on the environment," says Sherwood Lollar. "It is still out there, and it needs to be dealt with".

Over the past decade, a number of techniques used to clean up groundwater contamination have harnessed the power of microbiology and the work of geochemists like Sherwood Lollar. "We are not genetically engineering microbes," she explains. "In a number of settings, naturally occurring microbes feed off the organic contaminants and, in the process, convert them to non-toxic end products".........

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February 21, 2011, 7:26 AM CT

New study illustrates shifting biomes in Alaska

New study illustrates shifting biomes in Alaska
newly released study released recently in the EarlyView of Ecology Letters addresses forest productivity trends in Alaska, highlighting a shift in biomes caused by a warming climate. The findings, conducted by researchers at the Woods Hole Research Center and three other institutions based in Alaska and France, linked satellite observations with an extensive and unique tree-ring data set. Patterns observed support current hypotheses regarding increased growth of evergreen forest at the margins of present tundra and declining productivity at the margins of temperate forest to the south. This study provides a regional picture of forest productivity which did not previously exist.

As per main author Pieter Beck, a post-doctoral fellow at WHRC, "The results provide evidence for the initiation of a biome shift in response to climate change, and indicate that some ecosystem models appears to be missing fundamental changes taking place in the circumpolar region." .

He adds that "while the findings contrast with some recent model predictions of increased high latitude vegetation productivity, they are consistent with longer-term projections of global vegetation models".

Scott Goetz, a senior scientist at WHRC, proposed the study and co-authored the manuscript. He says, "Most people don't think of high latitudes forests as being drought stressed - and they are not in the traditional sense of having soils dry up and blow away - but their growth is negatively impacted by hot dry air masses and those have increased in recent years. This paper shows those drought impacts are captured in both the satellite and the tree ring record. Of course the tree rings go back in time much further than the satellite observations, which only extend about 30 years, but the changes that we observe from satellites are clearly supported not only by the tree rings but also by carbon isotope analysis of the wood."........

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February 14, 2011, 7:42 AM CT

Measuring Science Investments

Measuring Science Investments
Measuring the results of scientific research has seen little federal focus until now.

A 2010 administrative memorandum calls on U.S. federal agencies and executive departments to develop tools to "better assess the impact of [.] science and technology investments.".

Translation: There is increasing pressure to document the results of [.] research investments in a scientific manner, writes Julia Lane, Science of Science and Innovation Policy program director at the National Science Foundation (NSF) and her co-author Stefano Bertuzzi, Office of Science Policy at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

They make the observation in, "Measuring the Results of Science Investments," a Policy Forum paper appearing in this week's edition of the journal Science

Lane and Bertuzzi examine critical questions for measuring the effects of scientific research. Is it possible to create such a system? What would be the inputs, outputs and structure of the system? What scientific disciplines should inform the formulation of such a model?

"It is important that the scientific community, together with the federal government, engage in describing the results," said Lane of the special burdens placed on measuring the fundamental and exploratory research that NSF is responsible for funding, but does not always show immediate results.........

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February 14, 2011, 6:52 AM CT

Archaeologists find hidden African side

Archaeologists find hidden African side
In West African practice, placing metal and pointed objects at the doorway helps deter harmful spirits from entering. These were found buried at the entrance to the slave quarters, until now known only as a potting shed -- its most recent use.

Credit: UMD

One of North America's most famous Revolutionary-era buildings � a lone-surviving testament to an Enlightenment ideal � has a hidden West African face, University of Maryland archaeologists have discovered.

Their excavation at the 1785 Wye �Orangery� on Maryland's Eastern Shore � the only 18th century greenhouse left in North America � reveals that African American slaves played a sophisticated, technical role in its construction and operation. They left behind tangible cultural evidence of their involvement and spiritual traditions.

Frederick Douglass, who lived there as a young man, made it famous through his autobiography. But the team concludes that he failed to appreciate the slaves� full contribution.

"For years, this famous Enlightenment structure has been recognized for its European qualities, but it has a hidden African face that we've unearthed," says University of Maryland archaeologist Mark Leone, who led the excavation. "Concealed among the bricks of the furnace that controlled the greenhouse temperature, we found embedded a symbol used in West African spirit practice. An African American slave built the furnace, and left an historic signature".

His team also found African charms buried at the entrance to a part of the Wye greenhouse that once served as living quarters for the slaves who maintained the building.........

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February 8, 2011, 6:48 AM CT

Bound Neutrons Pave Way to Free Ones

Bound Neutrons Pave Way to Free Ones
Some experiments seem to show that the building blocks of protons and neutrons inside a nucleus are somehow different from that of free ones. Other experiments show they behave differently when they pair up: they move faster and frequently overlap.
A study of bound protons and neutrons conducted at the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility has allowed scientists, for the first time, to extract information through experimentation about the internal structure of free neutrons, without the assistance of a theoretical model. The result was reported in the Feb. 4 issue of Physical Review Letters.

The major hurdle for researchers who study the internal structure of the neutron is that most neutrons are bound up inside the nucleus of atoms to protons. In nature, a free neutron lasts for only a few minutes, while in the nucleus, neutrons are always encumbered by the ubiquitous proton.

To tease out a description of a free neutron, a group of researchers compared data collected at Jefferson Lab and the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory that detail how bound protons and neutrons in the nucleus of the atom display two very different effects. Both protons and neutrons are referred to as nucleons.

"Both effects are due to the nucleons behaving like they are not free," says Doug Higinbotham, a Jefferson Lab staff scientist.

Nucleons appear to differ when they are tightly bound in heavier nuclei versus when they are loosely bound in light nuclei. In the first effect, experiments have shown that nucleons tightly bound in a heavy nucleus pair up more often than those loosely bound in a light nucleus.........

Posted by: Sarah      Read more         Source


February 7, 2011, 3:48 PM CT

Neutron analysis reveals superconductivity link

Neutron analysis reveals superconductivity link
Neutron scattering analysis of two families of iron-based materials suggests that the magnetic interactions thought responsible for high-temperature superconductivity may lie "two doors down": The key magnetic exchange pairings occur in a next-nearest-neighbor ordering of atoms, rather than adjacent atoms.

Scientists at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory and the University of Tennessee, using the Spallation Neutron Source's ARCS Wide Angular Range Chopper Spectrometer, performed spin-wave studies of magnetically ordered iron chalcogenides. They based their conclusions on comparisons with prior spin-wave data on magnetically ordered pnictides, another class of iron-based superconductors.

"As we analyze the spectra, we find that even though the nearest neighbor exchange couplings between chalcogenide and pnictide atoms are different, the next nearest neighbor exchange couplings are closely similar," said Pengcheng Dai, who has a joint appointment with ORNL's Neutron Sciences Directorate and the University of Tennessee.

Dai referred to theories that have suggested second-nearest-neighbor couplings could be responsible for the widely acclaimed but poorly understood properties of high-temperature superconductors.

"There are theories suggesting that it's the second nearest neighbor that drives the superconductivity," he said. "Our discovery of similar next-nearest-neighbor couplings in these two iron-based systems suggests that superconductivity shares a common magnetic origin."........

Posted by: Sarah      Read more         Source


February 3, 2011, 7:56 AM CT

Earliest cemetery in Middle East

Earliest cemetery in Middle East
The Middle Epipalaeolithic site of 'Uyun al-Hammam, with inset showing the location of the site and other Early and Middle Epipalaeolithic sites discussed in the text.
Anthropologists at the University of Toronto and the University of Cambridge have discovered the oldest cemetery in the Middle East at a site in northern Jordan. The cemetery includes graves containing human remains buried alongside those of a red fox, suggesting that the animal was possibly kept as a pet by humans long before dogs ever were.

The 16,500-year-old site at 'Uyun al-Hammam was discovered in 2000 by an expedition led by University of Toronto professor Edward (Ted) Banning and Lisa Maher, an assistant professor of anthropology at U of T and research associate at the University of Cambridge. "Recent archaeological excavations have uncovered the remains of at least 11 individuals - more than known from all other sites of this kind combined," says Banning, of U of T's Department of Anthropology.

Prior research had identified the earliest cemeteries in the region in a somewhat later period (the Natufian, ca. 15,000-12,000 years ago). These were notable for instances of burials of humans with dogs. One such case involved a woman buried with her hand on a puppy, while another included three humans buried with two dogs along with tortoise shells. However, this new research shows that some of these practices occurred earlier.

Most of the individuals buried at the Jordan site were found with what are known as "grave goods," such as stone tools, a bone spoon, animal parts, and red ochre (an iron mineral). One grave contained the skull and right upper arm bone of a red fox, with red ochre adhered to the skull, along with bones of deer, gazelle and wild cattle. Another nearby grave contained the nearly complete skeleton of a red fox, missing its skull and right upper arm bone, suggesting that portions of a single fox had been moved from one grave to another in prehistoric times.........

Posted by: William      Read more         Source


February 3, 2011, 7:51 AM CT

Field study of smoggy inversions to end

Field study of smoggy inversions to end
Motorized glider pilot Chris Santacroce ascends toward Lone Peak in the Wasatch Range above Salt Lake City with automated weather sensors attached to his helmet. He was a volunteer in a two-month field campaign to study temperature inversions that trap smog in the urban Salt Lake Valley. The field work was ending Feb. 7, 2011, and scientists from the University of Utah and other institutions planned to spend the next two years analyzing the data.

Credit: Amanda Oliver, University of Utah

During the past two months, scientists launched weather balloons, drove instrument-laden cars and flew a glider to study winter inversions that often choke Salt Lake City in smog and trap dirty air in other urban basins worldwide.

The field campaign � part of a three-year study by the University of Utah and other institutions � ends Monday, Feb. 7 as atmospheric researchers begin analyzing data they collected to learn how weather conditions contribute to inversions, which occur when warmer air aloft holds cold air near the ground, trapping pollutants.

"Our study applies to urban basins around the world, any location with a lot of people and mountains nearby," says John Horel, a University of Utah professor of atmospheric sciences and one of the principal researchers for the study.

"Los Angeles, Phoenix, Tehran and Mexico City experience these winter inversions and cold-air pools. Unfortunately, one of the advantages of studying them in Salt Lake City is just how frequently they occur here".

Salt Lake City residents already have experienced more than 20 days with air pollution levels exceeding federal standards this winter, and on some smoggy days, the city has the nation's dirtiest air.

Some 50 scientists and volunteers from the University of Utah and other institutions are wrapping up the two-month monitoring program to better understand the winter weather conditions frequently linked to inversions � known as cold-air pools by meteorologists � and the resulting poor air quality.........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


February 2, 2011, 7:53 AM CT

Ice Cores Yield Rich History of Climate Change

Ice Cores Yield Rich History of Climate Change
On Friday, Jan. 28 in Antarctica, a research team investigating the last 100,000 years of Earth's climate history reached an important milestone completing the main ice core to a depth of 3,331 meters (10,928 feet) at West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide (WAIS). The project will be completed over the next two years with some additional coring and borehole logging to obtain additional information and samples of the ice for the study of the climate record contained in the core.

As part of the project, begun six years ago, the team, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), has been drilling deep into the ice at the WAIS Divide site and recovering and analyzing ice cores for clues about how changes in the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere have influenced the Earth's climate over time.

Friday's milestone was reached at a depth of 3,331 meters--about two miles deep--creating the deepest ice core ever drilled by the U.S. and the second deepest ice core ever drilled by any group, second only to the ice core drilled at Russia's Vostok Station as part of a joint French/U.S./Russian collaboration in the 1990s.

"By improving our understanding of how natural changes in greenhouse gas influenced climate in the past, the science community will be able to do a better job of predicting future climate changes caused by the emissions of greenhouse gases by human activity," said Kendrick Taylor, chief scientist for the WAIS Divide Ice Core Project.........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


February 1, 2011, 8:00 AM CT

Quantum-mechanical implementation of 'shell game'

Quantum-mechanical implementation of 'shell game'
The photon shell game architecture: Two superconducting phase qubits (squares in the center of the image) are connected to three microwave resonators (three meander lines).

Credit: Erik Lucero, Matteo Mariantoni, Dario Mariantoni

Inspired by the popular confidence trick known as "shell game," scientists at UC Santa Barbara have demonstrated the ability to hide and shuffle "quantum-mechanical peas" �� microwave single photons �� under and between three microwave resonators, or "quantized shells".

In a paper reported in the Jan. 30 issue of the journal Nature Physics, UCSB scientists show the first demonstration of the coherent control of a multi-resonator architecture. This topic has been a holy grail among physicists studying photons at the quantum-mechanical level for more than a decade.

The UCSB scientists are Matteo Mariantoni, postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Physics; Haohua Wang, postdoctoral fellow in physics; John Martinis, professor of physics; and Andrew Cleland, professor of physics.

As per the paper, the "shell man," the researcher, makes use of two superconducting quantum bits (qubits) to move the photons �� particles of light �� between the resonators. The qubits �� the quantum-mechanical equivalent of the classical bits used in a common PC �� are studied at UCSB for the development of a quantum super computer. They constitute one of the key elements for playing the photon shell game.

"This is an important milestone toward the realization of a large-scale quantum register," said Mariantoni. "It opens up an entirely new dimension in the realm of on-chip microwave photonics and quantum-optics in general".........

Posted by: Sarah      Read more         Source


January 28, 2011, 7:40 PM CT

Precise way to monitor ocean wave behavior

Precise way to monitor ocean wave behavior
Engineers have created a new type of "stereo vision" to use in studying ocean waves as they pound against the shore, providing a better way to understand and monitor this violent, ever-changing environment.

The approach, which uses two video cameras to feed data into an advanced computer system, can observe large areas of ocean waves in real time and help explain what they are doing and why, researchers say.

The system appears to be of particular value as climate change and rising sea levels pose additional challenges to vulnerable shorelines around the world, threatened by coastal erosion. The technology should be comparatively simple and inexpensive to implement.

"An ocean wave crashing on shore is actually the end of a long story that commonly begins thousands of miles away, formed by wind and storms," said David Hill, an associate professor of coastal and ocean engineering at Oregon State University. "We're trying to achieve with cameras and a computer what human eyes and the brain do automatically - see the way that near-shore waves grow, change direction and collapse as they move over a seafloor that changes depth constantly".

This is the first attempt to use stereo optical imaging in a marine field setting on such a large scale, Hill said, and offers the potential to provide a constant and scientifically accurate understanding of what is going on in the surf zone. It's also a form of remote sensing that doesn't require placement of instruments in the pounding surf environment.........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


January 28, 2011, 7:25 PM CT

Ecology-evolution dynamic

Ecology-evolution dynamic
Thomas Schoener's paper in the Jan. 28 issue of Science is based on his talk, "The Newest Synthesis: Evolution + Ecology = EvoEco," at the Darwin/Chicago 2009 conference. Darwin conference videos are here: http://darwin-chicago.uchicago.edu/List%20of%20Video%20Talks.html.

Credit: University of Chicago

Ecology drives evolution. In today's issue of the journal Science, UC Davis expert Thomas Schoener describes growing evidence that the reverse is also true, and explores what that might mean to our understanding of how environmental change affects species and vice-versa.

A classic example of ecology influencing evolution is seen in a Gal�pagos ground finch, Geospiza fortis. In this species, larger beaks dominated the population after dry years when large seeds were more abundant. After wet years, the direction of natural selection reversed, favoring smaller beaks that better handled the small seeds produced in the wet environment.

Environmental factors had given birds with certain genes a survival advantage.

But does evolution affect ecology over similar time scales? Researchers are increasingly thinking that the answer is yes, says Schoener, who points toward numerous examples of organisms evolving rapidly. This sets the stage for the possibility that evolutionary dynamics routinely interact with ecological dynamics.

Schoener writes: "If ecology affects evolution (long supported) and evolution affects ecology (becoming increasingly supported), then what? The transformed ecology might affect evolution, and so on, back and forth in a feedback loop".........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


January 28, 2011, 7:16 PM CT

Chemistry Now Video Series

Chemistry Now Video Series
In celebration of the International Year of Chemistry, the National Science Foundation (NSF) and NBC Learn, the educational arm of NBC News, have teamed up to launch "Chemistry Now," a weekly online video series that uncovers and explains the science of common physical objects in our world and the changes they undergo every day. The series also looks at the lives and work of researchers on the frontiers of 21st century chemistry.

"Chemistry Now" consists of 32 learning packages that aim to break down the chemistry behind things such as cheeseburgers and chocolate or soap and plastics. A new topic will be explored each week starting in January and running through May. The series will then resume in the fall of 2011 to keep pace with the academic school year.

Made particularly for students and teachers to explore chemistry in and beyond the classroom, the online videos are matched with lesson plans from the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) and are available cost-free on NBC Learn and NSF's Science360 websites and on the NSTA blog.

Weekly content includes original video stories that illustrate real-world applications of chemistry; current events and archival news stories correlation to chemistry; original source documents and images from the Chemical Heritage Foundation; articles from the archives and current publications of Scientific American; and content-coordinated lesson plans for middle and high school students, produced by national curriculum specialists at NSTA.........

Posted by: Sarah      Read more         Source


January 28, 2011, 7:12 PM CT

Physics-Based Space Weather Model

Physics-Based Space Weather Model
The first large-scale, physics-based space weather prediction model is transitioning from research into operation.

Researchers affiliated with the National Science Foundation (NSF) Center for Integrated Space Weather Modeling (CISM) and the National Weather Service reported the news today at the annual American Meteorological Society (AMS) meeting in Seattle, Wash.

The model will provide forecasters with a one-to-four day advance warning of high speed streams of solar plasma and Earth-directed coronal mass ejections (CMEs).

These streams from the Sun may severely disrupt or damage space- and ground-based communications systems, and pose hazards to satellite operations.

CISM is an NSF Science and Technology Center (STC) made up of 11 member institutions. Established in 2002, CISM scientists address the emerging system-science of Sun-to-Earth space weather.

The research-to-operations transition has been enabled by an unprecedented partnership between the Boston University-led CISM and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)'s Space Weather Prediction Center.

"It's very exciting to pioneer a path from research to operations in space weather," says scientist Jeffrey Hughes of Boston University, CISM's director. "The science is having a real impact on the practical problem of predicting when 'solar storms' will affect us here on Earth.".........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


January 28, 2011, 7:59 AM CT

Cow rumen for better biofuels enzymes

Cow rumen for better biofuels enzymes
The researchers placed mesh bags of switchgrass in the cow rumen to isolate those microbes that adhere to the grass and the microbial enzymes that help break down plant biomass. This effort yielded dozens of new candidate enzymes for biofuel production.

Credit: L. Brian Stauffer

When it comes to breaking down plant matter and converting it to energy, the cow has it all figured out. Its digestive system allows it to eat more than 150 pounds of plant matter every day. Now scientists report that they have found dozens of previously unknown microbial enzymes in the bovine rumen � the cow's primary grass-digestion chamber � that contribute to the breakdown of switchgrass, a renewable biofuel energy source.

The study, in the journal Science, tackles a major barrier to the development of more affordable and environmentally sustainable biofuels. Rather than relying on the fermentation of simple sugars in food crops such as corn, beets or sugar cane (which is environmentally costly and threatens the food supply) scientists are looking for better ways to convert the leaves and stems of grasses or woody plants to liquid fuel. These "second-generation" biofuels ideally will be "carbon neutral," absorbing as much carbon dioxide from the atmosphere as is emitted in their processing and use.

But breaking down and releasing the energy in the plant cell wall is no easy task.

"The problem with second-generation biofuels is the problem of unlocking the soluble fermentable sugars that are in the plant cell wall," said University of Illinois animal sciences professor Roderick Mackie, an author on the study whose research into the microbial life of the bovine rumen set the stage for the new approach. "The cow's been doing that for millions of years. And we want to examine the mechanisms that the cow uses to find enzymes for application in the biofuels industry".........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


January 28, 2011, 7:56 AM CT

Ecosystems and Fishing in Northwest Mexico

Ecosystems and Fishing in Northwest Mexico
Fisherman on small boats return to Golfo de Santa Clara with gulf corvina fish.
Scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego have completed a newly released study on the geography of commercial fisheries in Northwest Mexico and the results could have far-ranging implications for the sustainable future of marine wildlife in the area.

The scientists, led by Scripps postdoctoral researcher Brad Erisman, analyzed data from local fisheries offices around the region that includes Baja California as well as Gulf of California coasts from Sonora south to Nayarit. The region accounts for more than 60 percent of fishing production in Mexico.

The scientists' goal was to detect any patterns between the geography of the species and their habitats in Northwest Mexico, and the localized fishing information revealed in the data. After poring over the data the scientists found clear-cut overlapping patterns in their analysis and used the results to create a new map proposing five clearly defined fishery sub-regions around Northwest Mexico.

While fisheries resources in Northwest Mexico are currently managed as one homogeneous area, the researchers' proposed sub-regions differentiate between areas rich in mangroves versus rocky shores, reefs versus soft sea bottoms, as well as temperate versus tropical regions, and geological features distinguishing west and east.........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source


January 28, 2011, 7:43 AM CT

Dinosaurs survived mass extinction by 700,000 years

Dinosaurs survived mass extinction by 700,000 years
University of Alberta scientists determined that a fossilized dinosaur bone found in New Mexico confounds the long established paradigm that the age of dinosaurs ended between 65.5 and 66 million years ago.

The U of A team, led by Larry Heaman from the Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, determined the femur bone of a hadrosaur as being only 64.8 million years old. That means this particular plant eater was alive about 700,000 years after the mass extinction event a number of paleontologists believe wiped all non-avian dinosaurs off the face of earth, forever.

Heaman and his colleagues used a new direct-dating method called U-Pb (uranium-lead) dating. A laser beam unseats minute particles of the fossil, which then undergo isotopic analysis. This new technique not only allows the age of fossil bone to be determined but potentially can distinguish the type of food a dinosaur eats. Living bone contains very low levels of uranium but during fossilization (typically less than 1000 years after death) bone is enriched in elements like uranium. The uranium atoms in bone decay spontaneously to lead over time and once fossilization is complete the uranium-lead clock starts ticking. The isotopic composition of lead determined in the hadrosaur's femur bone is therefore a measure of its absolute age.........

Posted by: William      Read more         Source


January 27, 2011, 10:53 PM CT

Humans may have left Africa for Eurasia earlier than believed

Humans may have left Africa for Eurasia earlier than believed
These small hand axes are at least 100,000 years old. A team of scientists found these tools in the United Arab Emirates.
Researchers have discovered new evidence suggesting that modern humans first left Africa to explore Eurasia much earlier than previously thought.

An international team of researchers has uncovered a tool kit that indicates that modern humans, who looked and perhaps behaved much like us, must have lived in eastern Arabia about 100,000 to 125,000 years ago. The collection of small hand axes, scrapers and other tools was found in Jebel Faya, United Arab Emirates. A report about the discovery appears in the journal Science.

The people who made these tools "are our ancestors, I have no doubt about that," said Hans-Peter Uerpmann, of the University of Tubingen in Gera number of, who collaborated on the project, at a press teleconference Wednesday.

But the findings still do not prove definitively that modern humans made these tools, as the scientists did not find human remains near them, said Ted Goebel, anthropologist at Texas A&M University, who was not involved in the study. They potentially could have been made by Neanderthals or Neanderthal-like hominids, who were already in Eurasia at that time, Goebel said.

Prior research suggested that modern humans first left Africa along the coast by way of the Indian Ocean rim about 60,000 years ago, based on genetic evidence.........

Posted by: William      Read more         Source


January 26, 2011, 6:59 AM CT

Evolution by mistake

Evolution by mistake
Just like erasing misspellings on a whiteboard, organisms have evolved mechanisms to deal with errors that pop up when genetic information is translated into proteins. Joanna Masel (left) and Etienne Rajon discovered that such errors help organisms adapt to evolutionary challenges. Here, they write "GATTACA" on a whiteboard, for the 1997 movie spelled with letters of the genetic alphabet.

Credit: Beatriz Verdugo/UANews

Charles Darwin based his groundbreaking theory of natural selection on the realization that genetic variation among organisms is the key to evolution.

Some individuals are better adapted to a given environment than others, making them more likely to survive and pass on their genes to future generations. But exactly how nature creates variation in the first place still poses somewhat of a puzzle to evolutionary biologists.

Now, Joanna Masel, associate professor in the UA's department of ecology and evolutionary biology, and postdoctoral fellow Etienne Rajon discovered the ways organisms deal with mistakes that occur while the genetic code in their cells is being interpreted greatly influences their ability to adapt to new environmental conditions � in other words, their ability to evolve.

"Evolution needs a playground in order to try things out," Masel said. "It's like in competitive business: New products and ideas have to be tested to see whether they can live up to the challenge".

The finding is reported in a paper reported in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

In nature, it turns out, a number of new traits that, for example, enable their bearers to conquer new habitats, start out as blunders: mistakes made by cells that result in altered proteins with changed properties or functions that are new altogether, even when there is nothing wrong with the gene itself. Sometime later, one of these mistakes can get into the gene and become more permanent.........

Posted by: Jaison      Read more         Source


January 26, 2011, 6:55 AM CT

A new look at the atom

A new look at the atom
Graduate student Vincent Lonij (left), associate professor of physics Alex Cronin, research assistant Will Holmgren and undergraduate student Catherine Klauss perform maintenance on a chamber used to beam atoms through a grating to measure a tiny force that helps physicists better understand the structure of atoms.

Credit: Norma Jean Gargasz/UANews

Measuring the attractive forces between atoms and surfaces with unprecedented precision, University of Arizona physicists have produced data that could refine our understanding of the structure of atoms and improve nanotechnology. The discovery has been reported in the journal Physical Review Letters

Van der Waals forces are fundamental for chemistry, biology and physics. However, they are among the weakest known chemical interactions, so they are notoriously hard to study. This force is so weak that it is hard to notice in everyday life. But delve into the world of micro-machines and nano-robots, and you will feel the force � everywhere.

"If you make your components small enough, eventually this van-der-Waals potential starts to become the dominant interaction," said Vincent Lonij, a graduate student in the UA department of physics who led the research as part of his doctoral thesis.

"If you make tiny, tiny gears for a nano-robot, for example, those gears just stick together and grind to a halt. We want to better understand how this force works".

To study the van-der-Waals force, Lonij and his co-workers Will Holmgren, Cathy Klauss and associate professor of physics Alex Cronin designed a sophisticated experimental setup that can measure the interactions between single atoms and a surface. The physicists take advantage of quantum mechanics, which states that atoms can be studied and described both as particles and as waves.........

Posted by: Sarah      Read more         Source


January 25, 2011, 7:34 AM CT

new light on dawn of the dinosaurs

new light on dawn of the dinosaurs
Careful dating of new dinosaur fossils and volcanic ash around them by scientists from UC Davis and UC Berkeley casts doubt on the idea that dinosaurs appeared and opportunistically replaced other animals. Instead -- at least in one South American valley -- they seem to have existed side by side and gone through similar periods of extinction.

Geologists from Argentina and the United States announced earlier this month the discovery of a new dinosaur that roamed what is now South America 230 million years ago, at the beginning of the age of the dinosaurs. The newly discovered Eodramaeus, or "dawn runner," was a predatory dinosaur that walked (or ran) on two legs and weighed 10 to 15 pounds. The new fossil was described in a paper by Ricardo Martinez of the Universidad Nacional de San Juan, Argentina, and his colleagues in the journal Science Jan. 14.

The fossils come from a valley in the foothills of the Andes in northwestern Argentina. More than 200 million years ago, it was a rift valley on the western edge of the supercontinent Pangaea, surrounded by volcanoes. It's one of the few places in the world where a piece of tectonically active continental margin has been preserved, said Isabel Montañez, a UC Davis geology professor and a co-author of the Science paper.........

Posted by: William      Read more         Source


January 25, 2011, 7:31 AM CT

Debris on certain Himalayan glaciers

Debris on certain Himalayan glaciers
These are crevasses of a steep glacier in the Sutlej Valley of the Western Himalaya. This glacier has a debris-covered toe.

Credit: Bodo Bookhagen, UCSB

A new scientific study shows that debris coverage �� pebbles, rocks, and debris from surrounding mountains �� appears to be a missing link in the understanding of the decline of glaciers. Debris is distinct from soot and dust, as per the scientists.

Melting of glaciers in the Himalayan Mountains affects water supplies for hundreds of millions of people living in South and Central Asia. Experts have stated that global warming is a key element in the melting of glaciers worldwide.

Bodo Bookhagen, assistant professor in the Department of Geography at UC Santa Barbara, co-authored a paper on this topic in Nature Geoscience, published this week. The first author is Dirk Scherler, Bookhagen's graduate student from Gera number of, who performed part of this research while studying at UCSB.

"With the aid of new remote-sensing methods and satellite images, we identified debris coverage to be an important contributor to glacial advance and retreat behaviors," said Bookhagen. "This parameter has been almost completely neglected in prior Himalayan and other mountainous region studies, eventhough its impact has been known for some time".

The finding is one more element in a worldwide political controversy involving global warming. "Controversy about the current state and future evolution of Himalayan glaciers has been stirred up by erroneous reports by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)," as per the paper.........

Posted by: Tyler      Read more         Source

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