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One Quarter of World's Agricultural Land "Highly Degraded", UN Report Concludes
December 8, 2011 03:18 PM - Michael Ricciardi, Matter Network

On Monday, the UN released the results of the first ever global study on the state of Earth’s land. The main finding: 25 percent of all land is highly degraded making it unsuitable for agriculture. The implications of this finding are enormous; the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that farm output must increase by 70 percent by 2050 to accommodate the food needs of an estimated 9 billion humans.

Spider Musical Patterns
December 8, 2011 02:44 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

There is something about beautiful music and pretty spider webs. Using a new mathematical methodology, researchers at MIT have created a scientifically rigorous analogy that shows the similarities between the physical structure of spider silk and the sonic structure of a melody, proving that the structure of each relates to its function in an equivalent way. The step-by-step comparison begins with the primary building blocks of each item — an amino acid and a sound wave — and moves up to the level of a beta sheet nanocomposite (the secondary structure of a protein consisting of repeated hierarchical patterns) and a musical riff (a repeated pattern of notes or chords). The study explains that structural patterns are directly related to the functional properties of lightweight strength in the spider silk and, in the riff, sonic tension that creates an emotional response in the listener.

NJ Governor Christie's Energy Master Plan
December 8, 2011 10:12 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

The 138 page document has been released by the New Jersey Governor's Office that is a master plan on energy for the state. This final version is largely the same as the draft document released last summer, save for a few changes. It lays out the direction for how the state will meet its energy demands over the next decade. The point that stands out is the goal for renewable energy, which has been lowered to 22.5 percent by 2021 as compared to the goal of 30 percent by the previous administration. The plan sets an overall goal of obtaining 70 percent of electricity from clean energy sources by 2050, which would include nuclear, natural gas, and hydroelectric.

European Pesticides in Waterways
December 8, 2011 09:53 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Insecticides enter rivers through runoff from fields and to a lesser extent when they drift into the water during application. Contamination levels have been rising in many central and southern European countries for 20 years with the biggest growth expected in areas that now have relatively low agriculture pesticide pollution, the Helmholtz study shows, based on projections through 2090. Insecticides enter rivers through runoff from fields and to a lesser extent when they air drift into the water during application. Contamination levels have been rising in many central and southern European countries for 20 years with the biggest growth expected in areas that now have relatively low agriculture pesticide pollution based on projections through 2090.

Double Tsunami
December 7, 2011 03:23 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

When is a tsunami not the worse case: when it becomes a double tsunami. Researchers have discovered that the destructive tsunami generated by the March 2011 Tōhoku-Oki earthquake was a long-hypothesized merging tsunami that doubled in intensity due to passing over rugged ocean ridges, amplifying its destructive power before reaching shore. Satellites captured not just one wave front that day, but at least two, which merged to form a single double-high wave far out at sea — one capable of traveling much longer distances without losing its power. Ocean ridges and undersea mountain chains pushed the waves together, but only along certain directions from the tsunami’s origin.

Chevrolet Carbon Story 4 Rockingham County Landfill
December 7, 2011 02:12 PM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Americans create over 200 million tons of trash each year. As garbage in landfills decomposes, it creates a gas that is half methane (the primary component of natural gas), which has 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Instead of letting the gas escape into the air, landfill gas projects collect the gas and destroy it through either flaring, or using the gas to power electric generators or boilers. Thus garbage is turned into energy. As part of its Carbon Initiative Program, Chevrolet is supporting the Rockingham County (Virginia) Landfill’s methane capture and use program. Rockingham County Landfill collects the methane from the landfill and pipes it to Rockingham (Virginia) Memorial Hospital (RMH) where it will fuel boilers that produce steam, heat and electricity for the Hospital’s use. RMH is a LEED certified facility and one of the first hospitals to utilize landfill gas for the vast majority of their fuel needs. Destroying landfill gasses helps to reduce odors and other hazards associated with Landfill Gas emissions, and it helps prevent methane from migrating into the atmosphere and contributing to local smog and global climate change. Over the next few years, Chevrolet will be investing in projects that will help reduce up to 8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Every carbon-reducing project Chevrolet invests in will be based in the United States, and each will be focused in one of three areas: renewable energy, energy efficiency programs, and forestry (including conservation). Chevrolet has chosen projects they believe will make a lasting difference in communities across the country. Progress is already underway, and Chevrolet estimates it will take up to five years to achieve the initial goal. There's still a lot of work to be done, but every project is a step in the right direction.

Atoms and Glass Fibers
December 7, 2011 12:03 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

A highly sensitive method to detect atoms has been developed at the Vienna University of Technology. Glass fiber cables are indispensable for the internet — now they may also be used as a quantum physics lab. The Vienna University of Technology is the only research facility in the world, where single atoms can be controllably coupled to the light in ultra-thin fiber glass. Specially prepared light waves interact with very small numbers of atoms, which makes it possible to build detectors that are extremely sensitive to tiny trace amounts of a substance. Professor Arno Rauschenbeutel’s team, one of six research groups at the Vienna Center for Quantum Science and Technology, has presented this new method in the journal “Physical Review Letters”. The research project was carried out in collaboration with the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.

Climate and Global Radiation Balance
December 7, 2011 10:33 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Scientists at the Universities of Bristol and Southampton have developed an important new insight into climate sensitivity — the sensitivity of global temperature to changes in the Earth’s radiation balance — over the last half million years. Climate sensitivity is a key parameter for understanding past natural climate changes as well as potential future climate change. In a study in Journal of Climate, the researchers reconstructed, for the first time, climate sensitivity over five ice-age cycles based on a global records of sea surface and polar temperature change. These were compared with a new reconstruction of changes in the Earth’s radiation balance caused by changes in greenhouse gas concentrations, in surface reflectivity, and those due to slow changes in the Earth-Sun orbital configuration.

Combining Medical Marijuana with Opiates to Fight Chronic Pain
December 7, 2011 09:43 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

Scientists have found that patients who suffer from chronic pain can receive greater relief if medical marijuana is combined with their opiate-based pain medicine. Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco have conducted a small scale study to see if this combination produces any real benefits. They intended to show that the cannabis, rather than relieving pain itself, actually caused the opiate medicine such as morphine or oxycodone to be more effective. While the cannabis did not bolster the opiates in the blood, the patients all declared that their pain had been significantly decreased.

Electric Car Rental In Paris
December 6, 2011 01:48 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Electric cars do not pollute as do internal combustion vehicles. The relative problem is one of frequent charging and limited distances. Pay-as-you-drive electric car rentals are expected to help cut pollution and reduce traffic in Paris, as the new fleet of fully electric Autiolib vehicles hits the French capital. As of December 5, Parisians could take the bubble cars for a ride from more than 1,200 parking spots where they rest for recharge. They would cost 10 euros a day or 15 euros a week, while an annual fee of 144 euro allows users to take the car for only half an hour each time for 5 euro, just over the price of two underground tickets. The Autolib system builds on the success of the Velib bicycle-sharing service.

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