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July 19, 2011 12:31 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
NASA's Dawn spacecraft has returned the first close-up image after beginning its orbit around the giant asteroid Vesta. On Friday, July 15, Dawn became the first probe to enter orbit around an object in the main asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. The image taken for navigation purposes shows Vesta in greater detail than ever before. When Vesta captured Dawn into its orbit, there were approximately 9,900 miles (16,000 kilometers) between the spacecraft and asteroid. Engineers estimate the orbit capture took place at 10 p.m. PDT Friday, July 15 (1 a.m. EDT Saturday, July 16). Vesta is 330 miles in diameter and the second most massive object in the asteroid belt (Ceres is the biggest.). Ground- and space-based telescopes have obtained images of Vesta for about two centuries, but they have not been able to see much detail on its surface.
Debate Continues Over European Union’s 2020 Emissions Goal
July 19, 2011 09:30 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
Europe has set a bold target for itself, reducing its total carbon emissions by 20% by 2020 against 1990 levels. It is an ambitious goal, no doubt, but one that is certainly attainable at the rate the continent is going. Just last year, statistics showed that Europe's emissions had already fallen by 8 percent. Taken as a good sign, some politicians believe 20 percent reduction is not enough; Europe should cut emissions by 30% by 2020! This new push has opened up a new debate, but not everybody is so thrilled.
Real Earth Cooking
July 18, 2011 12:56 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
What spreads the sea floors and moves the continents? What melts iron in the outer core and enables the Earth’s magnetic field? Heat. Geologists have used temperature measurements from more than 20,000 boreholes around the world to estimate that some 44 terawatts (44 trillion watts) of heat continually flow from Earth’s interior into space. Where does it come from? Initially the earth heated up using energy released buy gravitational collapse, and while this energy completely melted the planet, this heat would have all been lost by now as the Earth is 4.6 billion years old. However, the earth is still hot in its core as we can see from all the volcanic activity on our planet. The energy which keeps the core hot and the volcanoes active is produced by radioactive decay. Heavy, radioactive elements such as uranium sank to the Earth's core along with the Iron and Nickel early in Earth's history (when it was all molten) and these radioactive elements have been heating the core (rather like a nuclear power station) ever since.
The Coming Global Phosphate Crisis
July 18, 2011 09:43 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
Phosphate is a mineral that is used in fertilizer to boost agricultural productivity. It is greatly responsible for the "green" revolution and the increased output of farms around the world. Unfortunately, the world will be coming to a point, if certain trends hold, where we will run out of phosphate. The mineral is widely used, but utterly unrecycled. Like fossil fuels, phosphate may come to a point where it is too costly to use, and world hunger may be the consequence.
The Most Efficient Energy Star
July 15, 2011 10:15 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
Energy Star is an international standard for energy efficient consumer products originated in the United States of America. It was first created as a United States government program during the early 1990s, but Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan and the European Union have also adopted the program. Devices carrying the Energy Star logo, such as computer products and peripherals, kitchen appliances, buildings and other products, generally use 20%—30% less energy than required by federal standards. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Department of Energy announced July 14 for the first time products recognized as the most energy-efficient in their categories among those that have earned the Energy Star label. This pilot program is part of Energy Star’s overall commitment to protect people’s health and the environment by encouraging energy efficiency. The Most Efficient initiative also continues Energy Star’s work to provide consumers with the best efficiency information so they can make investments that will lower their energy bills and environmental impact. The new designation of Most Efficient aims to provide all manufacturers with an incentive for greater product energy efficiency while providing consumers new information about the products that comprise the top tier in the categories.
The Significant Role of Forests in Regulating Global Climate
July 15, 2011 08:56 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
A new study published in the journal, Science, has quantified the forests' role in regulating carbon dioxide (CO2) levels in the atmosphere. Because plants absorb CO2 as part of their metabolism, the greater the forest, the more CO2 is removed, and the impact of global climate change is decreased. The study found that the world's established forests remove 8.8 billion tons of CO2 from the atmosphere per year. This equates to nearly one third of all annual fossil fuel emissions from humans.
Chemicals Found in Household Products Linked to Thyroid Hormone Disruption
July 14, 2011 09:41 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
Phthalates and Bisphenol A (BPA) are chemicals that are commonly found in plastics and household products such as solvents and cleaners. Being common in places that people live and eat, they will eventually make their way into the body. A new large study out of the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor has linked the abundance of these chemicals in the human body with thyroid function. Disrupting the thyroid's proper functioning can affect many important body systems such as reproduction, metabolism, and energy levels.
Garden of Cosmic Speculation
July 14, 2011 08:27 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
The Garden of Cosmic Speculation is at Portrack House, near Dumfries in South West Scotland. It is a private garden created by Charles Jencks. The garden is inspired by science and mathematics, with sculptures and landscaping on these themes, such as Black Holes and Fractals. The garden is not abundant with plants, but sets mathematical formulae and scientific phenomenae in a setting which elegantly combines natural features and artificial symmetry and curves. It is probably unique among gardens, and contrasts nicely with the historical and philosophical themes of the less spectacular but equally thoughtful Little Sparta. Little Sparta is a garden at Dunsyre in the Pentland Hills near Edinburgh, created by artist and poet Ian Hamilton Finlay and his wife Sue Finlay. This Dumfries garden, known as The Garden of Cosmic Speculation, is not your everyday example of landscaping; instead it is based on mathematics and science mixed with nature and man-made lakes. Built in 1989, it has been called by some the most important garden in the 21st century.
The Right Tool for a Fish
July 13, 2011 01:56 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
What constitutes a tool use? For humans we always seem to be using tools like hammers, pencils etc. The tool use behavior has been observed in dolphins, elephants, otters, birds, primates and octopuses. While exploring Australia's Great Barrier Reef, professional diver Scott Gardner heard an odd cracking sound and swam over to investigate. What he found was a footlong blackspot tuskfish holding a clam in its mouth and whacking it against a rock. Soon the shell gave way, and the fish gobbled up the bivalve, spat out the shell fragments, and swam off. Tool use? Considering the limits of a fish to manipulate objects it may well be. Many creatures without hands have managed to use other body parts to their advantage, notably the mouth.
July 13, 2011 10:49 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
When soil moisture levels increase, pesticide losses to the atmosphere through volatilization also rise. In one long-term field study, U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists found that herbicide volatilization consistently resulted in herbicide losses that exceed losses from field runoff. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) soil scientist Timothy Gish and ARS micrometeorologist John Prueger led the investigation, which looked at the field dynamics of atrazine and metolachlor, two herbicides commonly used in corn production. Both herbicides are known to contaminate surface and ground water, which was primarily thought to occur through surface runoff.