Enn Original News

Macquarie Island Penguins Make an Inspiring Comeback
February 28, 2012 09:22 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

On the small Antarctic island of Macquarie, between New Zealand and Antarctica, there was once a population of roughly 3 million king penguins (Aptenodytes patagonicus). About one hundred years ago, this penguin colony, known as a rookery, was subject to a terrible slaughter at the hands of New Zealand blubber merchant, Joseph Hatch. He and his crew boiled the 3 million penguins to extract oil for lamps. Word got out of this mass killing, and an international campaign was established to protect what little penguins were left. Thanks to that campaign, the remaining rookery of merely 4,000 has blossomed to 500,000. Furthermore, genetic tests have found that the population’s genetic diversity has returned to pre-slaughter levels.

Bacteria Daggers
February 27, 2012 01:50 PM - Editor, ENN

There are many ways to kill. It is not just a human or an animal thing. Bacteria have evolved different systems for secreting proteins into the fluid around them or into other cells. Some, for example, have syringe-like exterior structures that can pierce other cells and inject proteins. Another system, called a type VI secretion system, is found in about a quarter of all bacteria with two membranes. Despite being common, researchers have not understood how it works. Now a team, co-led by researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), has figured out the structure of the type VI secretion system apparatus and proposed how it might work—by shooting spring-loaded poison molecular daggers.

Universal Vaccine
February 27, 2012 01:14 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The influenza vaccine, also known as a flu shot, is an annual vaccine to protect against the highly variable influenza virus. An influenza epidemic emerges during flu season each winter. There are two flu seasons annually, corresponding to the occurrence of winter in opposite months in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Princeton University-based researchers have found that the universal vaccine could for the first time allow for the effective, wide-scale prevention of flu by limiting the influenza virus' ability to spread and mutate. Universal, or cross-protective, vaccines — so named for their effectiveness against several flu strains — are being developed in various labs worldwide and some are already in clinical trials.

U.S. Geological Survey Releases Assessment on Shale Resources in Alaska's North Slope Region
February 27, 2012 09:30 AM - Scott Sincoff, ENN

The U.S. Geological Survey has approximated how much undiscovered onshore shale oil and gas resources are available for use in Alaska’s North Slope region. According to the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), about zero up to two billion barrels of oil is available in the region. The USGS also estimated that there is zero up to 80 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. These resources represent recoverable assets, and are quantities of gas and oil that are obtainable with using modern and readily available technology. Production has never been attempted in this Alaskan region because of economic and infrastructure capabilities. The shales in this region span most of the area, but exclude the environmentally-sensitive Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Cardiac Arrhythmia and Sudden Death in Hibernating Animals
February 27, 2012 09:28 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

This winter in North America has been unseasonably warm. However, as they always do, hibernating animals tend to follow their natural patterns by lowering their metabolism and sleeping through most of it. Along with a slow metabolism comes a lower body temperature, less need to eat, and a reduced heart rate. According to a new study presented at the 56th Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society (BPS) in San Diego, California, the lower heart rate in hibernating animals can make them prone to cardiac arrhythmia, abnormal heart rhythms. If the slumbering creature cannot sequester enough calcium for its muscle cells, this could lead to sudden cardiac death.

Titan Seasons
February 24, 2012 11:29 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Ground-based observations have revealed previously seasonal variations in cloud cover. Over the course of Saturn's 30-year orbit, Titan's cloud systems appear to manifest for 25 years, and then fade for four to five years before reappearing again. A set of recent papers, many of which draw on data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, reveal new details in the emerging picture of how Saturn's moon Titan shifts with the seasons and even throughout the day. The papers, published in the journal Planetary and Space Science in a special issue titled "Titan through Time", show how this largest moon of Saturn is similar but not so similar to Earth.

Is Shale Gas Good or Bad? Panelists and the Audience at KPMG Summit are Split
February 24, 2012 09:47 AM - Raz Godelnik, Triple Pundit

"Is the emergence of shale gas a positive or negative development with respect to sustainability?" This was one of the most interesting questions discussed on one of the panels at KPMG's Global Summit last week in New York. Given the growth of both interest and dispute around shale gas, is shale gas is a bridge to a sustainable future or a bridge to nowhere? It'’s not that we lack controversial sources of energy, from nuclear energy to ethanol, but none of these resources has the potential to become a substantial resource like shale gas has for better and worse. With so much at stake when it comes to how sustainable the future of energy is going to be, it's no wonder that even at the KPMG summit, shale gas became such a hot topic that the panelists and the crowd seemed to be very passionate about and at the same time split about the answer to the question. First let's look at why this question matters at all. According to KPMG's Energy Survey 2011 there's a growing interest in shale gas and oil: 44 percent of respondents believe these to be the energy sources that will see the most future investment (the corresponding figure was less than 1 percent in 2010). Shale gas will represent 65 percent of US gas production by the 2030s, up from an estimated 43 percent by 2015 according to the survey.

Carbon Sequestration in Illinois
February 23, 2012 11:38 AM - Editor, ENN

Carbon capture and sequestration, refers to technology attempting to prevent release of large quantities of CO2 into the atmosphere. The process is based on capturing carbon dioxide (CO2) from large point sources and storing it where it will not enter the atmosphere. One of these methods is to inject it into the ground. Geologists are hoping to learn a great deal about geologic carbon sequestration from injecting 1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into sandstone 7,000 feet beneath Decatur, Ill. The Illinois Basin — Decatur Project began its injection, the first million-ton demonstration from an industrial source in the U.S., in November 2011. Over the next three years, the Midwest Geological Sequestration Consortium, led by the Illinois State Geological Survey, hopes to use innovative science and engaging outreach to evaluate the potential of carbon capture and storage techniques.

Illinois Researchers Identify Promising New Biofuel
February 23, 2012 11:24 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

Biofuel production has ratcheted up to become a major part of America's energy and agricultural industries. Corn, or maize, is by far the most widely grown crop to be converted into ethanol. However, the dominance of maize in the biofuel industry is not without its pitfalls. Now, researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have identified a temperate-tropical maize hybrid that can potentially revolutionize biofuels in this country. The maize hybrid has the potential to increase ethanol production for each unit of plant material, and minimize the environmental cost of biofuel production.

Low Levels of Fallout from Fukushima Release
February 23, 2012 10:35 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

There is always concern when something radioactive is released as to what its downwind effects might be. Certainly there are effects at the actual site but thousands of miles away? Fallout from the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power facility in Japan was measured in minimal amounts in precipitation in the United States in about 20 percent of 167 sites sampled in a nationwide study released today. The U.S. Geological Survey led the study as part of the National Atmospheric Deposition Program (NADP). Levels measured were similar to measurements made by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the immediate days and weeks following the March 2011 incident, which were determined to be well below any level of public health concern at the time by EPA.

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