Enn Original News

Tree Change in North America
November 4, 2011 05:22 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Over the last three to four decades, forests throughout much of western North America have been subjected to disturbance at a scale well beyond that previously recorded over the last century. Although some disturbances may be attributed to fire suppression policies, which have resulted in fuel accumulation and denser stands prone to insect attack, climate change is more likely the cause, based on recent surveys and analyses of natural mortality by a new study by Oregon State. In the new report, scientists outline the impact that a changing climate will have on which tree species can survive, and where. The study suggests that many species that were once able to survive and thrive are losing their competitive footholds, and opportunistic newcomers will eventually push them out.

Life on Mars
November 4, 2011 04:51 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

It has been speculated for centuries that life existed or once existed on Mars. A new NASA study suggests if life ever existed on Mars, the longest lasting habitats were most likely below the Red Planet's surface. A new interpretation of years of mineral-mapping data, from more than 350 sites on Mars examined by European and NASA orbiters, suggests Martian environments with abundant liquid water on the surface existed only during short episodes. These episodes occurred toward the end of a period of hundreds of millions of years during which warm water interacted with subsurface rocks. This has implications about whether life existed on Mars and how the Martian atmosphere has changed.

The Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta Future
November 4, 2011 03:37 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

USGS scientists and academic colleagues have investigated how California's interconnected San Francisco Bay and Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta (the Bay-Delta system) is expected to change from 2010 to 2099 in response to both fast and moderate climate warming scenarios. Results indicate that this area will feel impacts of global climate change in the next century with shifts in its biological communities, rising sea level, and modified water supplies. "The protection of California's Bay-Delta system will continue to be a top priority for maintaining the state's agricultural economy, water security to tens of millions of users, and essential habitat to a valuable ecosystem," said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. "This new USGS research complements ongoing initiatives to conserve the Bay-Delta by providing sound scientific understanding for managing this valuable system such that it continues to provide the services we need in the face of climate uncertainty."

First Humans in Europe Identified
November 4, 2011 03:09 PM - David A Gabel, ENN

Researchers at the Oxford University have determined that a recovered jawbone and teeth originate from the first modern humans in Europe. The fossilized remains have been carbon dated to reveal the age of the bones. The researchers first believe the fossils, which were found in a prehistoric cave in Italy, were those of the Neanderthal. Through additional research, they concluded that they were in fact from anatomically modern humans. Radiocarbon testing revealed the age of the bones, 43,000 – 45,000 years old, the oldest of any modern human remains in Europe.

The Great Sunstone
November 2, 2011 05:18 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The sunstone is a type of mineral attested in several 13th–14th century written sources in Iceland, one of which describes its use to locate the sun in a completely overcast sky. Sunstones are also mentioned in the inventories of several churches and one monastery in 14th–15th century Iceland. A theory exists that the sunstone had polarizing attributes and was used as a navigation instrument by seafarers in the Viking Age. To see if calcite is accurate enough for navigation, a team led by Guy Ropars, a physicist at the University of Rennes 1 in France, built a sunstone. They used a chunk of calcite from Iceland spar, a rock familiar to the Vikings, and locked it into a wooden device that beams light from the sky onto the crystal through a hole and projects the double image onto a surface for comparison. They then used it over the course of a completely overcast day. Their sunstone came within 1% of the true location of the sun even after it had dipped below the horizon.

Birds and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch
November 2, 2011 04:21 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

A swirling sea of plastic bags, bottles and other debris is growing in the North Pacific, and now another one has been found in the Atlantic. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch stretches for hundreds of miles across the North Pacific Ocean, forming a nebulous, floating junk yard on the high seas. It's the poster child for a worldwide problem: plastic that begins in human hands yet ends up in the ocean, often inside animals' stomachs or around their necks. Since 2009, photographer Chris Jordan has been documenting birds on Midway Atoll way out in the Pacific Ocean — near what is known as the Pacific Garbage Patch. What Jordan found on those islands were carcasses of baby birds that have died an unnerving death: According to the BBC, "about one-third of all albatross chicks die on Midway, many as the result of being mistakenly fed plastic by their parents."

Of Mice and Men
November 2, 2011 03:07 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Mice are often used to test whether substances in food are harmful to humans. This requires that mice and humans metabolize substances in the same way. This may not be perfectly true (after all mice and men are different). The health risk associated with harmful substances in food may therefore be underestimated. Researchers at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health have adopted a mouse type where human enzymes have been inserted to examine whether people may be more sensitive to certain carcinogenic substances from heat-treated foods. They have obtained a better model to assess negative health effects in humans from substances in food using these mice.

Belgium to Completely Phase Out Nuclear Power by 2025
November 2, 2011 09:19 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

The small western-European country of Belgium currently has two commercial nuclear sites and a total of seven reactors. Nuclear energy accounts for over half of the nation's power consumption, a total of about 45 billion kilowatt-hours per year. Although typically quite fractured, Belgium's political parties have reached a consensus on nuclear power. The oldest reactors are to be shut down by 2015 and all nuclear reactors at both sites will be shut down by 2025. The plan is conditional on Belgium finding enough energy from alternative sources to prevent power shortages.

Interacting with Mars
November 1, 2011 05:42 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

First there were telescopes looking up at Mars. In time this became orbital views and then remote control robots wandering the surface. It would be nice to walk on Mars and really see what there is to see. Until then there is something called a CAVE, which is a 3D visualization center and it gives you a total immersive environment. This means that it renders virtual data in three dimensions and as you move your head and really see Mars as if you were there. So, when you are in that environment you can interact with the data on other planets in a more personal hands on or eyes on way.

Bigger Birds
November 1, 2011 03:27 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Birds tend to be small creatures on average. SF State scientists, working with researchers from PRBO Conservation Science and the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory who collected the data, found that birds' wings have grown longer and birds are increasing in mass over the last 27 to 40 years. What's making the birds bigger? The researchers think that the trend is due to climate change, but their findings put a twist in the usual thinking about climate change and body size. A well-known ecological rule, called Bergmann's Rule, states that animals tend to be larger at higher latitudes. One reason for this rule might be that larger animals conserve body heat better, allowing them to thrive in the generally colder climate of higher latitudes. The logic would then be that as the climate warms, birds should get smaller. Apparently this is not so.

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