Enn Original News

Photosynthesis
February 21, 2012 07:55 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Photosynthesis is the process whereby biological systems convert sunlight into food and the source of all the fossil fuels we burn today. In a way it is the ultimate source of all energy supplies that we use. Glasgow scientists Professor Lee Cronin, Gardiner Chair of Chemistry, and Professor Mike Blatt, Regius Professor of Botany, will lead the UK efforts in two of four transatlantic research teams exploring ways to overcome limitations in photosynthesis which could then lead to ways of significantly increasing the yield of important crops for food production or sustainable bioenergy.

Science Spending
February 17, 2012 08:19 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Science has changed the world. It has created new products and ease of service. What the future will bring is, of course, always uncertain. "It’s not every day you have robots running through your house," Barack Obama quipped last week at the White House science fair, a showcase for student exhibitors that also gave the US president a chance to reiterate a favourite theme. Science and technology, he said, "is what’s going to make a difference in this country, over the long haul".

Transparent Iron
February 16, 2012 01:08 PM - Editor, ENN

When one thinks of iron one thinks of a dull grey solid. Transparent iron is an odd thought. The effect of electromagnetically induced transparency (EIT) is a known phenomena from laser physics. With intense laser light of a certain wavelength it is possible to make a non-transparent material transparent for light of another wavelength. This effect is generated by a complex interaction of light with the atomic electron shell. At DESY's X-ray source PETRA III, the Helmholtz research team of Röhlsberger managed to prove for the first time that this transparency effect also exists for X-ray light, when the X-rays are directed towards atomic nuclei of the Mössbauer isotope iron-57 (which makes up 2% of naturally occurring iron). The potential real world benefit for this phenomena may be in the a quantum effects computer which would be extremely fast.

Survival of Fish with Antifreeze in Antarctica
February 16, 2012 12:30 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

A unique group of fish that has evolved to live in Antarctic waters thanks to anti-freeze proteins in their blood and body fluids is threatened by rising temperatures in the Southern Ocean, according to a new study by Yale. The development of antifreeze glycoproteins by notothenioids, a fish family that adapted to newly formed polar conditions in the Antarctic millions of years ago, is an evolutionary success story. The three species of fish are an example of the diversity this lineage achieved when it expanded into niches left by fish decimated by cold water environment. Now the same fish are endangered by warming of the Antarctic seas.

Coal-Power in China Makes Electric Vehicles More Polluting
February 16, 2012 11:42 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

China produces electricity for its burgeoning economy with its ample coal reserves. A full 80 percent comes from coal-burning power plants, and new plants are being constructed all the time. The country's reliance on coal power, while causing very dirty pollution, also has an interesting side effect. It takes away the "greenness" of electric vehicles. A new study from a team of University of Tennessee researchers has found that the power generated to fuel electric cars produces much greater emissions of particulate matter (PM) than gasoline-powered cars. Perversely, this also makes driving an electric car in China a greater public health hazard than driving a gasoline car.

Organic Brown Rice and Arsenic
February 16, 2012 06:38 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

A new study by Professor Brian Jackson, director of the Trace Element Analysis Core Facility at Dartmouth has found alarming levels of Arsenic in Organic Brown Rice and Brown Rice Syrup. This is particularly alarming since Brown Rice Syrup is being sought by health conscious consumers as a "healthy" alternative to sugar and high fructose corn syrup. Dartmouth researchers and others have previously called attention to the potential for consuming harmful levels of arsenic via rice, and organic brown rice syrup may be the latest culprit on the scene. With the introduction of organic brown rice syrup into food processing, even the health conscious consumer may unknowingly be ingesting arsenic. Recognizing the potential danger, Brian Jackson and other Dartmouth researchers conducted a study to determine the concentrations of arsenic in commercial food products containing organic brown rice syrup including infant formula, cereal/energy bars, and high-energy foods used by endurance athletes.

Budget Woes and Ozone
February 15, 2012 08:00 AM - Editor, ENN

Budgets are being cut all over. So something has to be hurting. U.S. scientists are raising the alarm about Environment Canada saying cuts in the department could go far beyond ozone monitoring. Programs tracking pollution wafting into Canada from Asia, Europe and the U.S. are also being hit, they say. And it’s an open question if Canada will be able to fulfil its obligations under several international agreements if more cuts go ahead, five leading atmospheric scientists write in the newsletter of the American Geophysical Union, which has 61,000 members in 148 countries.

Mariana Trench Clam Fields
February 15, 2012 07:22 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Clam can be used in several different ways: one, as a general term covering all bivalve molluscs. The word can also be used in a more limited sense, to mean bivalves that burrow in sediment, as opposed to ones that attach themselves to the substrate (for example oysters and mussels), or ones that can swim and are migratory, like scallops. Scientists have long marveled at the unusual life forms thriving at high temperature hydrothermal vents of the deep ocean. Now the discovery of clam communities near the lower temperature vents in the Mariana Trench is providing information about both the biogeography of the clams and the extent of the serpentinite vents that sustain them. A team of scientists from the United States and Japan discovered the vesicomyid clams while conducting deep sea dives from the Japanese R/V Yokosuka to study the geology of the southern Mariana.

Chang Shan
February 14, 2012 01:51 PM - Editor, ENN

Many new medicines have been found by analyzing old folklore and herbal remedies. For roughly 2,000 years, Chinese herbalists have treated malaria using a root extract, commonly known as chang shan, from a type of blue evergreen hydrangea that grows in Tibet and Nepal. More recent studies suggest that halofuginone, a compound derived from this extract’s bioactive ingredient, could be used to treat many other autoimmune disorders as well. Now, researchers from the Harvard School of Dental Medicine have discovered the molecular secrets behind this herbal extract’s power.

Coal Tar Sealant Health Hazards
February 14, 2012 01:04 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Coal tar is a brown or black liquid of extremely high viscosity, which smells of naphthalene and aromatic hydrocarbons. Coal tar is incorporated into some parking-lot sealcoat products, which are marketed as a means of protecting and beautifying underlying pavement. Sealcoat products that are coal-tar based typically contain 20 to 35 percent coal-tar pitch. Coal-tar-based sealants are emitting polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) into the air at rates that may be greater than annual emissions from vehicles in the United States, according to new reports by the U.S. Geological Survey, published in the scientific journals Chemosphere and Atmospheric Environment. Children living near coal-tar-sealed pavement are exposed to twice as many PAHs from ingestion of contaminated house dust than from food, according to a separate new study by Baylor University and the USGS, published in the journal Environmental Pollution. Several PAHs are probable human carcinogens and many are toxic to fish and other aquatic life.

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