Enn Original News

The Use of Whiskers on Mammals
November 10, 2011 03:14 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Whiskers, are specialized hairs usually employed for tactile sensation. Research from the University of Sheffield comparing rats and mice with their distance relatives the marsupial, suggests that moveable whiskers were an important milestone in the evolution of mammals from reptiles. Using high-speed digital video recording and automatic tracking, the research team, which was led by Professor Tony Prescott from the University┬┤s Department of Psychology, have shed new light on how rodents such as mice and rats move their whiskers back-and-forth at high speed and in varying ways to actively sense the environment around them in a behavior known as whisking. Whisking allows mice or rats to accurately determine the position, shape and texture of objects, make rapid and accurate decisions about objects, and then use the information to build environmental maps.

The Importance of Riverbed Carbon Storage Capacity
November 10, 2011 09:43 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

The soils and sediments at the bottom of rivers are rich in organic material. They can store carbon for thousands of years according to a study from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI). Despite often high rates of erosion and sediment transport, the riverbed can hold organic carbon for 500 to 17,000 years. The researchers focused their studies on the Ganges-Brahmaputra basin in India, which feeds off waters from the Himalaya Mountains. The fact that riverbeds store much carbon is a cause for concern. In a changing climate, the soils could be destabilized, releasing the carbon back to the atmosphere.

Lead Air Quality
November 10, 2011 08:02 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

It has long been understood that lead in water is not good. Well neither is lead in the air. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has determined that available air quality information indicates that 39 states are meeting the health-based national air quality standards for lead set in 2008. Based on 2008 to 2010 air quality monitoring data, EPA also determined that Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan and Puerto Rico each have one area that does not meet the agency’s health based standards for lead. Exposure to lead may impair a child’s IQ, learning capabilities and behavior.

The Environmental Benefits of Cloud Computing
November 9, 2011 03:03 PM - David A Gabel, ENN

A new report released by the Carbon Disclosure Project in London has found that blue-chip companies can reduce their carbon emissions by 50% if they move their data storage operations to the cloud. The study focused on major IT companies in France and the United Kingdom. These are the same companies which are also developing such "cloud" technologies and services. The release of the report follows an announcement that the use of cloud services may well triple within the next two years.

GHG Index is Up
November 9, 2011 02:47 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Green house gas emissions such as carbon dioxide have been increasing. NOAA’s updated Annual Greenhouse Gas Index, which measures the direct climate influence of many greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane, shows a continued steady upward trend that began with the Industrial Revolution of the 1880s. Started in 2004, the AGGI reached 1.29 in 2010. That means the combined heating effect of long-lived greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere by human activities has increased by 29 percent since 1990, the base index year used as a baseline for comparison. This is slightly higher than the 2009 AGGI, which was 1.27, when the combined heating effect of those additional greenhouse gases was 27 percent higher than in 1990.

How Black Can It Be?
November 9, 2011 02:04 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The color black is the absence of light and/or something that absorbs all light. Of course, there is nothing that is 100% black. NASA engineers have produced a material that absorbs on average more than 99 percent of the ultraviolet, visible, infrared, and far-infrared light that hits it -- a development that promises to open new frontiers in space technology. Black is the perfect stealth material. Black materials serve another important function on spacecraft instruments, particularly infrared-sensing instruments, added Goddard engineer Jim Tuttle. The blacker the material, the more heat it radiates away. In other words, super-black materials, like the carbon nanotube coating, can be used on devices that remove heat from instruments and radiate it away to deep space. This cools the instruments to lower temperatures, where they are more sensitive to faint signals.

Second Hand Smoke at Home
November 9, 2011 10:17 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Strong clean indoor air laws are associated with large increases in voluntary smoke free home policies both in the homes with and without smokers according to a new study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. These results support the hypothesis of norm spreading of clean indoor air laws. There has been concern that such laws might encourage smokers to smoke more in their homes or other private venues. Children living in a home with an adult smoker may be up to twice as likely to take up smoking themselves. The present study of the U.S. uses the individual-level data from the Tobacco Use Supplements to Current Population Survey to investigate the influence of smoke free workplace and public place laws on the presence of smoke free rules in U.S. homes.

After Images
November 8, 2011 03:36 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Here is a strange thought/illusion to consider. When we gaze at a shape and then the shape disappears, a strange thing happens: We see an afterimage in the complementary color. Now a Japanese study has observed for the first time an equally strange illusion: The afterimage appears in a complementary shape—circles as hexagons, and vice-versa. "The finding suggests that the afterimage is formed in the brain, not in the eye," the author, Hiroyuki Ito of Kyushu University, wrote in an email. More specifically, the illusion is produced in the brain’s shape-processing visual cortex, not the eye’s light-receiving, message-sending retina. The findings appear in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, a journal published by the Association for Psychological Science.

Roman Era Drought in Southwest USA
November 7, 2011 04:19 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

There have been periodic droughts in the American southwest for millenia. A new study at the UA's Laboratory of Tree-Ring Research has revealed a previously unknown multi-decade drought period in the second century A.D which was in the middle of the Roman era. The findings give further evidence that extended periods of aridity have occurred at intervals throughout our past. Almost nine hundred years ago, in the mid-12th century, there was a better known multi-decade drought in the southwestern US made locally famous by the Anasazi. This was the most recent extended period of severe drought known for this region.

Permafrost Microbial Action
November 7, 2011 11:06 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

There are an estimated 1,7 billion metric tons of carbon in the frozen soils at the north pole. This sequestered carbon is more than 250 times the amount of greenhouse gas emissions attributed to the United States in the year 2009. As global temperatures slowly rise, however, so too do concerns regarding the potential impacts upon the carbon cycle when the permafrost thaws and releases the carbon that has been trapped for eons. In this case the concern focus on the microbes in the permafrost that will ultimately release, contain, or somewhere in between limit the carbon release.

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