Enn Original News

Shrinking Coyotes
February 29, 2012 10:47 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Many animals used to be a lot bigger. When the last ice age ended more than 10,000 years ago, many large species of mammals went extinct and others underwent changes in appearance. What caused these evolutionary changes? A study by Julie Meachen of the National Science Foundation (NSF) National Evolutionary Synthesis Center and Josh Samuels of the John Day Fossil Beds National Monument reveals that gray wolves and coyotes, once more similar in size, took the extinction in different strides. The coyotes shrunk while the wolves did not.

American Scientists Make Great Leap in Battery Technology
February 29, 2012 10:14 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

One of the primary concerns with owning an electric vehicle is cost of the battery, the range it offers, and the time it takes to recharge. Those concerns will be significantly lessoned with the development of a new lithium-ion battery. Designed by scientists at Envia Systems, a US-based company, the new battery has roughly twice the energy density of existing rechargeable batteries. Such an innovation could greatly increase the range of electric cars as well as cut the price of the battery packs in half.

Organic Aerosols
February 28, 2012 03:11 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

An aerosol is a colloid suspension of fine solid particles or liquid droplets in a gas. Examples are clouds, and air pollution such as smog and smoke In a suburb of smoggy Los Angeles, University of California experts are providing a likely answer to a sticky scientific problem. A growing body of research has shown that computer models used by federal regulators for decades significantly underestimate the quantity of organic aerosols, a major component of dangerous smog and the largest unknown in climate-change calculations. Organic aerosols may act as a transport vehicle of organics and other water insoluble compounds into the atmosphere.

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.

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