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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.
As Midwest Landscape Changes, Insecticide Use Increases
July 13, 2011 09:19 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
The Midwest United States of America is home to some of the most fertile soil in the world. Its mild climate and ample rainfall make it the agricultural heart of America. Over the years, cropland has expanded so much that natural ecosystems are becoming rarer. The continued retreat of natural habitat and growth of farms have greatly simplified the landscape. From the air, this section of the country looks like a never-ending grid. A new study from the Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center (GLBRC) concluded that the simplification of the landscape has led to an increased abundance of crop pests and therefore higher use of insecticides.
Japanese Automakers Aim to Bolster Energy Security at Home
July 12, 2011 09:33 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
Electric vehicle drivers, the wise and uber-eco-conscious members of society, can claim to not have any tailpipe emissions. However, their emissions still exist in the form of a smoke stack from the local power plant. To have a pure green vehicle, the source of power must be sustainable and renewable. Nissan, creator of the all-electric Leaf, has developed a solar charging system that stores its power in the Leaf's lithium-ion battery. The automaker has installed 488 solar panels at its Japan headquarters, enough to power 1,800 Leafs a year.
July 12, 2011 07:58 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
Vapor recovery is the process of recovering the vapors of gasoline or other fuels, so that they do not escape into the atmosphere. This is often done (or required by law) at filling stations, in order to reduce pollution. zThe negative pressure created in the (underground) tank by the withdrawal is usually used to pull in the vapors. They are drawn-in through holes in the side of the nozzle and travel through special hoses which have a return path. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is issuing a proposal under the Clean Air Act that would waive requirements for systems used at gas station pumps to capture potentially harmful gasoline vapors while refueling cars. The proposal is part of the Obama Administration’s initiative to review outdated and redundant rules and ensure that regulations are beneficial without being unnecessarily burdensome to American businesses. Beginning in 2013, states that meet the new criteria would have the option to do away with vapor recovery systems at the pump since an estimated 70 percent of all vehicles will be equipped by then with on-board systems that capture these vapors. The result of the proposal would be the continued protection of air quality and public health while potentially saving affected gas stations more than $3,000 annually.
Holes in Dinosaurs
July 11, 2011 07:44 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
Dinosaurs are a diverse group of animals that were the dominant terrestrial vertebrates for over 160 million years, from the late Triassic period (about 230 million years ago) until the end of the Cretaceous (about 65 million years ago), when the Cretaceous—Paleogene extinction event led to the extinction of most dinosaur species at the close of the Mesozoic era. New research from the University of Adelaide has added to the debate about whether dinosaurs were cold-blooded and sluggish or warm-blooded and active. Through the first half of the 20th century, most of the scientific community believed dinosaurs to have been sluggish, unintelligent cold-blooded animals. Most research conducted since the 1970s, however, has indicated that dinosaurs were active animals with elevated metabolisms and numerous adaptations for social interaction.
The Endangered Tuna
July 8, 2011 12:56 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
For the first time, all scombrid species (tunas, bonitos, mackerels and Spanish mackerels) and billfishes (swordfish and marlins) have been assessed for the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Of the 61 known species, 7 are thought to be at serious risk of extinction and are classified in a threatened category. Critically Endangered is the highest risk category assigned by the IUCN Red List for wild species. Critically Endangered means that a species' numbers have decreased, or will decrease, by 80% within three generations. Tuna is a salt water fish from the family Scombridae, mostly in the genus Thunnus. Tuna are fast swimmers, and some species are capable of speeds of 43 mph. Unlike most fish, which have white flesh, the muscle tissue of tuna ranges from pink to dark red. The red coloration derives from myoglobin, an oxygen-binding molecule, which tuna express in quantities far higher than most other fish. Some larger tuna species, such as bluefin tuna, display some warm-blooded adaptations, and can raise their body temperatures above water temperatures by means of muscular activity. This enables them to survive in cooler waters and to inhabit a wider range of ocean environments than other types of fish.
July 8, 2011 08:09 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
The United States listed the leatherback turtle as an endangered species on June 2, 1970. The leatherback sea turtle is the largest of all living sea turtles and the fourth largest modern reptile behind three crocodilians. It can easily be differentiated from other modern sea turtles by its lack of a bony shell. Instead, its carapace is covered by skin and oily flesh. A settlement filed today in federal court between conservation groups and the National Marine Fisheries Service requires the government to make a final rule protecting critical habitat for the endangered leatherback sea turtle by Nov. 15, 2011. As proposed, the rule will protect sea turtles in part of the area off the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington. If made final, it would represent the first sea turtle critical habitat ever designated in ocean waters off the continental shelf. On Jan. 5, 2010, the Fisheries Service proposed to designate about 70,600 square miles (45 million acres) of ocean waters as critical habitat for leatherbacks, which have suffered steep declines in recent decades. The proposal responded to a 2007 legal petition filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, Oceana and Turtle Island Restoration Network to protect key migratory and foraging habitat for these ancient turtles along the West Coast. On April 19, 2011, the conservation groups sued the government for its delay in finalizing the turtle’s critical habitat.