Enn Original News

Farms or Industry Pollution?
March 7, 2012 07:35 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

What to do when everything cannot be done at the same time? In present day Europe farm pollution as opposed to industrial pollution is gaining more attention and effort. While factories were once the big concern, more attention is focusing on pollution from farming, which accounts for more than half of land use in the EU and is overall the biggest consumer of water. Industrial releases once dominated the attention such as the sludge that broke through containment walls in the Hungarian town of Ajka in October 2010, the immediate concern was the safety of hundreds of nearby residents. In the end 10 people died from exposure and the toxic muck spilled into waterways, including the Danube, prompting alarms downstream. These spills are relatively rare and industrial pollution in many European rivers has declined since the 1960s. Tougher treatment laws, international cooperation and EU policies like the 2000 Water Framework Directive and 2006 Groundwater Directive are credited with the improvements.

Norwegian Wood: It is Good
March 6, 2012 10:46 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

It is true that some of the best lumber comes from Scandinavia. The wood there is strong and highly durable, having to survive the harsh conditions of the northern winter. A new study from the University of Copenhagen has hammered the point home even further. It stated that some Scandinavian evergreens actually survived the spectacularly harsh conditions of the last Ice Age while the entire region was blanketed with a massive sheet of ice. Much of today's Scandinavian forests are populated by tree migrants from southern and eastern Europe which arrived after the temperatures warmed. However, there remains a large contingent of the original Scandinavian trees that survived against all odds.

Abu Dhabi bets on anti-dust solar panels
March 6, 2012 10:10 AM - Rehab Abd Almohsen, SciDevNet

Abu Dhabi is teaming up with a global electronics company to develop better coatings for solar panels to make them cheaper and easier to keep clean in desert conditions. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region stands to benefit from concentrated solar power (CSP) — a technology that uses lenses or mirrors to focus large amounts of sunlight onto a small area. This light is converted to heat, which generates electricity. In 2009, a joint study by the International Energy Agency's SolarPACES group, the European Solar Thermal Electricity Association and Greenpeace International concluded that CSP could generate up to a quarter of the world's energy needs by 2050. But harsh desert conditions in parts of the MENA region generate large amounts of airborne dust which collects on the solar panels used in CSP systems, reducing their efficiency. They need regular cleaning, which consumes large amounts of water. Bodo Becker, operations manager at Flagsol, which developed Egypt's first solar-thermal plant, Kuraymat, said this is a serious issue at his facility. "If we leave dust to accumulate for just one month, the output of the solar panels decreases by about 35 per cent," he said, adding that the facility uses nearly 40,000 litres of water every day.

D.C. Circuit Hears Challenges to EPA Climate Regulations
March 5, 2012 10:45 AM - Jonathan Kalmuss-Katz, Sive Paget & Riesel, P.C.

On February 28 and 29, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments in a series of challenges to the [EPA's] regulation of [GHGs] under the Clean Air Act, far-reaching litigation spanning dozens of parties and at least four separate rules. Decisions from the panel of Judges David Sentelle, David Tatel and Janice Rogers Brown are expected later this year. The rare, two-day argument began with a challenge to EPA's December 7, 2009 finding that emissions of six GHGs, including carbon dioxide, "may reasonably be anticipated both to endanger public health and to endanger public welfare." This "endangerment finding" is the cornerstone of all subsequent action by EPA.

Persistent Droughts Plaguing Much of the World
March 5, 2012 10:29 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

Long dry spells have been a problem in various parts of the world including China, Africa, Russia, Australia, the southern and western United States, and Western Europe. Many are hoping that this is just a cyclical nuisance and not evidence of a permanent change in climate patterns. England in particular is used to being a damp and rainy island, but has been surprised now with three straight winters of drought-level precipitation. The first to notice and be affected by the changing levels of rainfall are the farmers. However, now public officials are beginning to worry about the long-term stability of their water supplies and the effects that lower rainfall will have on the environment as a whole.

Gasoline Versus Diesel Oil for Organic Aerosols
March 5, 2012 08:37 AM - Editor, ENN

The exhaust fumes from gasoline vehicles contribute more to the production of a specific type of air pollution-secondary organic aerosols (SOA)-than those from diesel vehicles, according to a new study by scientists from the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES). Secondary organic aerosols, tiny "tar balls" resulting from combustion products of internal combustion engines that can encapsulate gaseous pollutants, have been identified as a danger to health. Diesel fuel oil seems to be more responsible for these aerosols than gasoline which is counter to normal thinking on the subject.

The Dark at the Center of a Cosmic Collision
March 5, 2012 08:19 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

The Abell 520 galaxy cluster is an unusual structure resulting from a major merger of far off galaxies. It has been popularly nicknamed "The Train Wreck Cluster", due to its chaotic structure. Five years ago, SF State researcher Andisheh Mahdavi and his colleagues observed an unexpected dark core at the center of Abell 520, a cosmic "train wreck" of galaxy clusters. With new space-based telescope observations, they have confirmed that the core really does exist. But they are no closer to explaining why it is there. When galaxy clusters crash into each other, the bright matter of galaxies sticks together with the mysterious substance called dark matter, leaving behind hot gases. Or at least that is what astronomers have observed in similar cosmic wrecks like the Bullet Cluster. But Myungkook James Jee of the University of California, Davis, Mahdavi and their colleagues say Abell 520 has a definite -- but bewildering -- dark matter core that is completely separated from its usual bright partners.

Blue Whales and Man Made Noise
March 2, 2012 03:30 PM - Editor, ENN

Blue whale vocal behavior is affected by man-made noise, even when that noise does not overlap the frequencies the whales use for communication, according to new research published Feb. 29 in the open access journal PLoS ONE. The whales were less likely to emit calls when mid-frequency sonar from ships was present, but were more likely to do so when ship sounds were nearby, the researchers report. The data show an acoustical response from blue whales to MFA sonar and ship noise. In particular, there is a disruption of the D call production of these animals with MFA sonar. The implications of such a response are unknown to date, but owing to the low received level, a single source of MFA sonar may be capable of affecting the animals' vocal behavior over a substantial area. Additionally, nearby ships elicit more intense D calling by blue whales.

How Spiders Stick or Not Stick to their Web
March 2, 2012 03:04 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Spiders use their sticky webs to catch their food. So why do they not stick? Researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute and University of Costa Rica studying why spiders do not stick to their own sticky webs have discovered that a spider’s legs are protected by a covering of branching hairs and by a non-stick chemical coating. Their results are published online in the journal, Naturwissenschaften. They also observed that spiders carefully move their legs in ways that minimize adhesive forces as they push against their sticky silk lines hundreds to thousands of times during the construction of each orb.

Study: Older People Sleep Better
March 2, 2012 08:53 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

A new study from the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania has found that aging is not a factor in poor sleep. The study surveyed more than 150,000 Americans about the quality of their sleep and found that the quality actually improves over time. The fewest complaints of poor sleep came from people in their 80's. It was a popular belief that older adults wake up more frequently in the night than young adults. This old notion has now been turned on its head.

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