Enn Original News

Floods, Droughts, and Air Pollution
November 15, 2011 01:51 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Certain types of air pollution can serve as nuclei which aid in the formation of rainfall. Therefore increases in air pollution and other particulate matter in the atmosphere can strongly affect cloud development in ways that reduce precipitation in dry regions or seasons, while increasing rain, snowfall and the intensity of severe storms in wet regions or seasons, says a new study in Nature Geoscience. The research provides the first clear evidence of how aerosols — soot, dust and other small particles in the atmosphere — can affect weather and climate; and the findings have important implications for the availability, management and use of water resources in regions across the United States and around the world.

Cooking Stoves in Developing Nations Linked to Pneumonia
November 15, 2011 10:19 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

In many developing nations around the world, cooking is primarily done over a wood-burning fire pit. It is estimated that this is the primary cooking and heating source for 43% of the global population, about 3 billion people. A team of international researchers have found that pneumonia is linked with young children who are continuously exposed to the smoke from cooking fires. They found that if smoke-reducing chimneys are used on the cooking stoves, cases of severe pneumonia can be reduced by one-third.

Weed Ray Guns
November 14, 2011 12:51 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Weed control is the botanical component of pest control, using physical and chemical methods to stop weeds from reaching a mature stage of growth when they could be harmful to domesticated plants and livestock. In order to reduce weed growth, many weed control strategies have been developed in order to contain the growth and spread of weeds. The most basic technique is plowing or manual weeding which cuts the roots of annual weeds. Today, chemical weed killers known as herbicides are widely used. So what is there a better way? The Air Force is requesting proposals/research topics to develop a device that uses directed energy technology to prevent and abate unwanted plants (weeds) in areas that require control or defoliation. The purpose of this system will be the removal of unwanted plants and keep seeds from germinating.

Federal Government Unveils New Comprehensive Geospatial Map of United States
November 14, 2011 10:40 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

A new map website created by the Federal Geographic Data Committee has been created and made available to the public. Its ease of use and depth of information may give a serious run on other established mapping sites such as Google Earth, Bing, or Mapquest. For professionals who need maps for work or the average geography enthusiast, the new website will be very useful. Currently in its prototype phase, the map offers multiple layers including the standard street map, aerial view, plus topo maps and terrain maps. The website then allows the user to create an editable layer to draw features on the map, add text, save and share the map.

Primordial Gas
November 14, 2011 09:23 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Before the first planet, before the first star, there had to be gas. For the first time, astronomers have found pristine clouds of the primordial gas that formed in the first few minutes after the Big Bang. The composition of the gas matches theoretical predictions, providing direct evidence in support of the modern cosmological explanation for the origins of elements in the universe. Only the lightest elements, mostly hydrogen and helium, were created in the Big Bang. Then a few hundred million years passed before clumps of this primordial gas condensed to form the first stars, where heavier elements were forged. Until now, astronomers have always detected metals (their term for all elements heavier than hydrogen and helium) wherever they have looked in the universe.

Monarch butterflies decline at wintering grounds in Mexico, Texas drought adds to stress to migration
November 14, 2011 07:55 AM - Rhett Butler, MONGABAY.COM

Every fall, millions of monarch butterflies travel south to Mexico and take refuge in twelve mountain sanctuaries of oyamel fir forests. Now, declining numbers of the overwintering butterflies expose the migration’s vulnerability and raise questions about threats throughout the monarch’s lifecycle. A study published online last spring in Insect Conservation and Diversity shows a decrease in Mexico’s overwintering monarch butterflies between 1994 and 2011. The butterflies face loss of wintering habitat in Mexico and breeding habitat in the United States. Extreme weather, like winter storms in Mexico and the ongoing drought in Texas, adds yet another challenge.

Survival against all odds: Animals of the Arctic
November 11, 2011 05:16 PM - BBC Earth

Adaptation is fundamental for a species to survive, especially in hostile environments like the Arctic. When faced with six months of perpetual darkness where snow and ice lays claim to every inch of the land. What kind of extraordinary animals survive in such harsh terrain, and more importantly, how do they do it? During winter in the Arctic, temperatures can drop to a bone-chilling −50°C (−58 °F). Rather than going into hibernation however, some animals will stick out the winter and use their cold-conquering adaptations to survive. One such animal that has done this is the arctic fox or the snow fox as it is also commonly known. Ranging far and wide in the arctic and alpine tundra, these jackals of the north, so-called because of their propensity to scavenge on polar bears' kills, have a woolly coat that has the best insulating properties of any mammal. Other adaptations for life in the arctic include small, heavily furred ears and a short nose. Having a smaller surface area reduces heat loss. They also have fur on the soles of their feet as well as increased blood circulation to the feet which literally stops their paws freezing to the ice! Another such master of retaining body heat is the walrus. Walrus are covered with short coarse hair that becomes less dense as they get older. Their skin which is folded and wrinkled can be up to 4 cm thick serving as a great insulator. This tough skin is the thickest on the neck and shoulders of adult males where it also serves as a defensive purpose – when these bulls spar the thick skin is intended to resist tusk penetration. They have a deposit of fatty tissue that is up to an astounding 15 centimetres (6 inches) thick - in winter it may make up to a third of their body mass. As well as being an excellent insulator it also streamlines the body and is used as an energy reserve.

The First Stars
November 11, 2011 09:16 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

The very first stars in our universe were not the giants scientists had once thought, according to new simulations performed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California. Astronomers grew stars in their computers, mimicking the conditions of our primordial universe. The simulations took weeks. When the scientists' concoctions were finally done, they were shocked by the results -- the full-grown stars were much smaller than expected.

First Green House Gas Permit
November 11, 2011 07:50 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Green house gases are such materials as Carbon Dioxide and Methane that are implicated in global warming. From a permitting point of view it is a new phenomena. Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued the first Texas Greenhouse Gas (GHG) permit for the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) Thomas C. Ferguson Power Plant in Llano County, Texas. LCRA is modernizing and expanding its plant by replacing its 37 year old unit with a new more efficient and reliable natural gas powered unit.

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.

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