Enn Original News

Moon Study: Crust to Core
January 3, 2012 01:16 PM - Editor, ENN

NASA's twin spacecraft to study the moon from crust to core have arrived in lunar orbit. Named Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), the spacecraft are scheduled to be placed in orbit on December 31 and January 1. "Our team may not get to partake in a traditional New Year's celebration, but I expect seeing our two spacecraft safely in lunar orbit should give us all the excitement and feeling of euphoria anyone in this line of work would ever need," said David Lehman, project manager for GRAIL from NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California. The distance from Earth to the moon is approximately 250,000 miles. NASA's Apollo crews took about three days to travel to the moon. Launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Sept. 10, 2011, the GRAIL spacecraft are taking about 30 times that long and covering more than 2.5 million miles (4 million kilometers) to get there.

Mercury in the Atmosphere
January 3, 2012 11:21 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Mercury is an extremely toxic material. It is known to emitted to the atmosphere but what happens to the Mercury after that? How is it removed or processed? Humans pump thousands of tons of vapor from the metallic element mercury into the atmosphere each year, and it can remain suspended for long periods before being changed into a form that is easily removed from the atmosphere. New research shows that the upper troposphere and lower stratosphere work to transform elemental mercury into oxidized mercury, which can easily be deposited into aquatic ecosystems and ultimately enter the food chain.

New Year's Resolution: Keep Your Brain from Shrinking
January 3, 2012 09:46 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

The typical New Year's resolution is about losing weight. However, there are other aspects of our health that perhaps deserve more attention. One, for instance, is keeping a healthy mind. Alzheimer's disease is a terrible affliction of the mind and it is associated with a shrinking of the brian. A new study which was just published before the New Year suggests brain shrinkage can be avoided if people consume the right diet. The researchers recommend diets with high amounts of omega 3 fatty acids and lots of vitamins B, C, D, and E.

Math and Piegons
December 30, 2011 08:24 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

There is a common saying that being a bird brain means you are not very bright. But how bright is that? Pigeons can learn abstract numerical rules, a skill that scientists had believed only primates possessed. Although the birds may not be able to do higher math, their ability to reason numerically is likely something that a wide variety of species can do, too, researchers say. Many species, from honeybees to elephants, can discriminate between quantities of items, sounds, or smells, and represent numbers mentally. However only primates (all species, from lemurs to chimpanzees) were known previously to be able to reason numerically.

Tsunami Debris
December 29, 2011 09:16 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Anything that goes into the ocean will eventually either sink or float. Debris from the tsunami that devastated Japan in March could reach the United States as early as this winter, according to predictions by NOAA scientists. However, they warn there is still a large amount of uncertainty over exactly what is still floating, where it's located, where it will go, and when it will arrive. Responders now have a challenging, if not impossible situation on their hands: How do you deal with debris that could now impact U.S. shores, but is difficult to find? Just another garbage wave to worry about but one that is not directly a result of man's bad habits.

Oil and Fish Embryos in Shallow Water
December 28, 2011 09:58 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

In a study published today in the scientific journal PNAS, NOAA scientists and their collaborators reported Pacific herring embryos in shallow waters died in unexpectedly high numbers following an oil spill in San Francisco Bay, and suggest an interaction between sunlight and the chemicals in oil might be responsible. The oil spill was from the container ship Cosco Busan in November 2007 which released 54,000 gallons of bunker fuel, a combination of diesel and residual fuel oil, into the San Francisco Bay. The accident contaminated the shoreline near the spawning habitats of the largest population of Pacific herring on the West Coast. Scientists found that herring embryos placed in cages in relatively deep water at oiled sites developed subtle but important heart defects consistent with findings in previous studies. In contrast, almost all the embryos that naturally spawned in nearby shallower waters in the same time period died. When scientists sampled naturally-spawned embryos from the same sites two years later, mortality rates in both shallower and deeper waters had returned to pre-spill levels.

Mammal Evolutionary Waves in North America
December 27, 2011 09:50 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Climate changes do affect how animals adapt and change. A new novel statistical study by Brown University shows that climate changes profoundly influenced the rise and fall of six distinct and successive waves of mammal species in North America over the last 65 million years. Warming and cooling periods, in two cases confounded by species migrations, marked the transition from one dominant grouping to the next.

Dawn at Vesta
December 23, 2011 10:06 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Vesta is the second-most-massive asteroid after the dwarf planet Ceres,and comprises an estimated 9% of the mass of the asteroid belt. Vesta is thought to be a remnant protoplanet with a differentiated interior. It lost some 1% of its mass less than a billion years ago in a collision that left an enormous crater occupying much of its southern hemisphere. NASA's Dawn spacecraft has sent back the first images of the giant asteroid Vesta from its low-altitude mapping orbit. The images, obtained by the framing camera, show the stippled and lumpy surface in detail never seen before, piquing the curiosity of scientists who are studying Vesta for clues about the solar system's early history. The surface shows abundant small craters, and textures such as small grooves and lineaments that are reminiscent of the structures seen in low-resolution data from the higher-altitude orbits. Also, this fine scale highlights small outcrops of bright and dark material.

Wildlife Protection at Glover's Reef, Belize Falling Short
December 23, 2011 10:04 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

Belize, the small Central American nation facing the Caribbean Sea on the Yucatan Peninsula, is home to extremely diverse and tropical wildlife. A large stretch of sea surrounding Glover's Reef, an atoll reef lagoon that is home to a beautiful resort, has been placed under government protection. As a result of the fishing ban, populations of barracuda, groupers, snappers, and other predators have rebounded. However, populations of herbivorous fish have only slightly increased. This means trouble for the corals which depend on the herbivorous fish to eat the algae which collects upon and smothers them.

Diving Marine Mammals and Decompression
December 22, 2011 10:03 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Decompression sickness (DCS) describes a condition arising from dissolved gases coming out of solution to form bubbles inside the body upon depressurization. So how do marine mammals, whose very survival depends on regular diving, manage to avoid DCS? Do they, indeed, avoid it? In April 2010, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution’s Marine Mammal Center (MMC) invited the world’s experts in human diving and marine-mammal diving physiology to convene for a three-day workshop to discuss the issue of how marine mammals manage gas under pressure. Twenty-eight researchers discussed and debated the current state of knowledge on diving marine mammal gas kinetics—the rates of the change in the concentration of gases in their bodies. "Until recently the dogma was that marine mammals have anatomical and physiological and behavioral adaptations to make the bends not a problem," said MMC Director Michael Moore. "There is no evidence that marine mammals get the bends routinely, but a look at the most recent studies suggest that they are actively avoiding rather than simply not having issues with decompression."

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