Enn Original News

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."

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.

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