Enn Original News

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."

The Female Brain During Pregnancy
December 22, 2011 10:00 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

Perhaps at no time is the human brain more altered than in a pregnant woman. It is a time of intense changes within the body not felt since puberty. The changes are not all physical though. What causes the unexplained cravings, the odd awakenings in the night, and the overall change in mood? According to a research study published in the journal, Current Directions in Psychological Science, there is a lot which we do not understand about the female brain during pregnancy.

December 21, 2011 01:46 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Telemedicine is the use of telecommunication and information technologies in order to provide clinical health care at a distance. It helps eliminate distance barriers and can improve access to medical services that would often not be consistently available in distant rural communities. It is also used to save lives in critical care and emergency situations. Ronald Leach and colleagues at Howard University describe a highly asynchronous service model for healthcare delivery. The approach is much cheaper to implement than direct medicine and even less expensive than other approaches to telemedicine that have been suggested for rural and developing parts of the world. The approach to rolling out their solution is entirely incremental and would provide improved health service even in the initial stages before the system is fully implemented, the team says. "Our proposed service model provides relatively comprehensive, but not universal, healthcare coverage," says Leach.

Exploring Climate Change Impacts on Agriculture
December 21, 2011 09:55 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

The type of agriculture practiced in a given region depends heavily on the climate and weather that region receives. So naturally, with climate change, agriculture will be forced to change. Certain crops will have to be discarded for alternative crops which may grow better in the new climate. In other cases, agriculture will simply be no longer sustainable. Farms may have to close down or move to different latitudes or elevations. The unpredictable nature of climate change will make this quite a conundrum for farmers and the world at large.

Wine Mortality
December 20, 2011 11:42 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Wine consumers, especially in comparison with harder alcoholic spirits drinkers, have been shown generally to have higher levels of education and income, to consume a healthier diet, be more physically active, and have other characteristics that are associated with better health outcomes. However, epidemiologic studies have been inconsistent in showing that, after adjustment for all associated lifestyle factors, consumers of wine have lower risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality than do consumers of other beverages. The new Boston University study examined level of wine consumption and total mortality among 802 older adults ages 55—65 at baseline, controlling for key sociodemographic, behavioral, and health status factors. Despite a growing consensus that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with reduced total mortality, whether wine consumption provides an additional, an unique protective effect is unresolved as a result.

The Core of the Earth
December 20, 2011 10:14 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Based on the abundance of chemical elements in the solar system, the theory of planetary formation, and other chemical constraints regarding the remainder of Earth's volume, the inner core is composed primarily of a nickel—iron alloy. Because the inner core is more dense than pure iron or nickel, even under heavy pressures, it's believed that the remaining part of the core is composed of gold, platinum and other similar elements in quantity enough to coat Earth's surface. Identifying the composition of the earth's core is key to understanding how our planet formed and the current behavior of its interior. While it has been known for many years that iron is the main element in the core, many questions have remained about just how iron behaves under the conditions found deep in the earth. Now, a team led by mineral-physics researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has honed in on those behaviors by conducting extremely high-pressure experiments on the element.

Nitrate in the Thames
December 20, 2011 09:20 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Nitrate pollution occurs usually as a result of agricultural practices (fertilizer). Intensive agriculture practices developed during the past century have helped improve food security for many people but have also added to nitrate pollution in surface and ground waters. New research has looked at water quality measurement over the last 140 years to track this problem in the Thames River basin. The Thames River catchment provides a good study example because the water quality in the river, which supplies drinking water to millions of people, has been monitored for the past 140 years, and the region has undergone significant agricultural development over the past century. The nitrate transport route as well as application use was studied for its net effects on the Thames.

Martian Landslide and Meteorite Strike
December 19, 2011 12:43 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Cause and effect are not easy to distinguish. Dust avalanches around impact craters on Mars appear to be the result of the shock wave preceding the actual impact, according to a study led by an undergraduate student at the UA. When a meteorite careens toward the dusty surface of the Red Planet, it kicks up dust and can cause avalanching even before the rock from outer space hits the ground, a research team led by an undergraduate student at the University of Arizona has discovered.

Droughts could push parts of Africa back into famine
December 19, 2011 11:57 AM - Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM

Drought and erratic rains could lead to further food scarcities in Africa warns the United Nations World Food Program (WFP). The WFP singles out South Sudan, the world's newest nation, and Niger as nations of particular concern. Earlier this year famine killed scores of people, including an estimated 30,000 children, in Somalia. In South Sudan drought and ongoing conflict threaten food supplies for 2.7 million people.

Car Battery (Lead) Mystery
December 19, 2011 11:40 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Most people just accept that a car battery works. However, to a chemist it is a perplexing mystery because the prime ingredient (lead oxide) should be an insulator. Chemists have solved the 150 year-old mystery of what gives the lead-acid car battery its unique ability to deliver a surge of current. Lead-acid batteries are able to deliver the very large currents needed to start a car engine because of the exceptionally high electrical conductivity of the battery anode material, lead dioxide. However, even though this type of battery was invented in 1859, up until now the fundamental reason for the high conductivity of lead dioxide has eluded scientists.

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