Enn Original News

Dune Flows
February 7, 2012 10:00 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Sand dunes flow over the land subject to the winds like ocean waves or rivers. What makes them move? What makes them start or stop? In a study at the White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, University of Pennsylvania researchers have uncovered a unifying mechanism to explain the beautiful dune patterns that occur. The findings may also hold implications for identifying when dune landscapes like those in Nebraska's Sand Hills may reach a tipping point under climate change, going from valuable grazing land to barren desert.

The Future of Trucking is Electric
February 7, 2012 09:29 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

Trucking has become the most common mode for transporting goods across the land. However, all those trucks on the road burning diesel fuel can create a great deal of air pollution. Plus, higher gas prices cause increases in the prices of goods. Now is the time to consider the next era of trucking, the electric truck. At the moment, they cost about three times more than the internal combustion engine truck. However, a new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) shows that a fleet of electric trucks can actually be more cost effective than the standard diesel fleet.

A Shining Star of Bipartisan Cleantech Support
February 6, 2012 05:12 PM - David Gold, Clean Techies

Amid all the negative publicity that Solyndra's failure has brought to the Administration's cleantech efforts, one cleantech program has received broad bipartisan support: DOE's Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-e). In 2012, ARPA-e will receive $275 million, a 53% increase from the prior year with both the House and the Senate supporting significant funding for the agency's third year of operations. ARPA-e is modeled after the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), which for over 50 years has funded early-stage research projects that show the potential to develop technologies that could yield disruptive advances for the military. DARPA's projects have resulted in major leaps including, but definitely not limited to, the Internet, stealth technology and the Global Positioning System. Both agencies operate by soliciting proposals from companies, universities, and labs within broad thematic areas and select the most promising proposals for grant awards. Readers of my blog know that I am not a big fan of some of the Administration's cleantech efforts. ARPA-e is at least one exception. Authorized in the last year of the Bush Administration and initially funded through the Obama Administration's American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), the ARPA-e program may be one government program that can help seed the disruptive advances needed in our energy economy.

Once, men abused slaves. Now we abuse fossil fuels
February 6, 2012 04:51 PM - Andy Gryce, Population Matters

Pointing out the similarities (and differences) between slavery and the use of fossil fuels can help us engage with climate change in a new way, says Jean-François Mouhot, visiting researcher at Georgetown University, USA. In 2005, while teaching history at a French university, I was struck by the general disbelief among students that rational and sensitive human beings could ever hold others in bondage. Slavery was so obviously evil that slave-holders could only have been barbarians. My students could not entertain the idea that some slave-owners could have been genuinely blind to the harm they were doing. At the same time, I was reading a book on climate change which noted how today's machinery – almost exclusively powered by fossil fuels like coal and oil – does the same work that used to be done by slaves and servants. "Energy slaves" now do our laundry, cook our food, transport us, entertain us, and do most of the hard work needed for our survival.

Deadly Malaria on the Decline
February 6, 2012 10:15 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

A new research study has found that malaria is killing twice as many people that previously believed. However, as efforts to combat the deadly steam have picked up, the total number of deaths is declining. In 2010, 1.2 million people died of malaria, twice as much as the last survey suggested. Researchers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington believe that the discrepancy is due to the previous studies assuming that malaria only kills children under age five. In actuality, 42 percent of malaria deaths are people aged five and older.

Ancient Lake Vostok
February 6, 2012 08:37 AM - Editor, ENN

After 20 years of drilling, a team of Russian researchers is close to breaching the prehistoric Lake Vostok, which has been trapped deep beneath thick ice layers (2 miles thick) in Antarctica for the last 14 million years. Lake Vostok is actually the third largest lake in the world, measured by the amount of water it holds. In the early 1990s, the Russians re-created a history of the Earth's atmosphere throughout the past 400,000 years — a record of our planet's air during the past four ice ages. The lakes are rich in oxygen (making them oligotrophic), with levels of the element some 50 times higher than what would be found in your typical freshwater lake. The high gas concentration is thought to be because of the enormous weight and pressure of the continental ice cap.

Donna Resevoir and Canal
February 6, 2012 08:12 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

During the week of February 6-12, 2012, representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Texas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS) will be in the area of South Alamo, Texas, to speak with residents about the contamination in the Donna Reservoir and Canal. This effort is being made to provide local residents with information about the health risks of consuming fish taken from the Donna Reservoir and Canal. The possession of contaminated fish taken from the reservoir is prohibited by the TDSHS and has been since 1993.

Arrested for Excessive Sweetness
February 3, 2012 04:07 PM - David A Gabel, ENN

Put your hands up and step away from the sugar! No, not really. But one day, sugar may be a regulated substance, on par with alcohol and tobacco. The notion seems draconian at first, but once you look at the reasoning behind it, it begins to make a lot of sense. Researchers from the University of California (UC) San Francisco stipulate that excessive consumption of sugar is behind the global obesity pandemic. Sugar contributes to over 35 million deaths per year from diabetes, heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. Their desire is to see a healthier world with fewer health-related costs through the restriction and regulation of sugar.

Alaskan Yellow Cedar
February 3, 2012 07:58 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Yellow-cedar, a culturally and economically valuable tree in southeastern Alaska and adjacent parts of British Columbia, has been dying off across large expanses of these areas for the past 100 years. But no one could say why. "The cause of tree death, called yellow-cedar decline, is now known to be a form of root freezing that occurs during cold weather in late winter and early spring, but only when snow is not present on the ground," explains Pacific Northwest Research Station scientist Paul Hennon, co-lead of a synthesis paper recently published in the February issue of the journal BioScience. "When present, snow protects the fine, shallow roots from extreme soil temperatures. The shallow rooting of yellow-cedar, early spring growth, and its unique vulnerability to freezing injury also contribute to this problem."

Nano Improved Transformer Oil
February 2, 2012 03:14 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Rice University scientists have created a nano-infused oil that could greatly enhance the ability of devices as large as electrical transformers and as small as microelectronic components to shed excess heat. Research in the lab of Rice materials scientist Pulickel Ajayan, which appears in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Nano, could raise the efficiency of such transformer oils by as much as 80 percent in a way that is both cost-effective and environmentally friendly. The Rice team focused their efforts on transformers for energy systems. Transformers are filled with mineral oils that cool and insulate the windings inside, which must remain separated from each other to keep voltage from leaking or shorting.

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