Enn Original News

A Really Old Bird with Chicks
March 10, 2011 03:59 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

How old can a bird live in the wild? And how long can they breed successfully. Records are sparse of course. A Laysan albatross named Wisdom, is at least 60 years old and was spotted in February 2011 raising a chick at the Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge in the Pacific Islands. The bird has sported and worn out 5 bird bands since she was first banded by U.S. Geological Survey scientist Chandler Robbins in 1956 as she incubated an egg. Robbins estimated Wisdom to be at least 5 years old then since this is the earliest age at which these birds breed, though they more typically breed at 8 or 9 after an involved courtship lasting several years. This means, of course, that Wisdom is more likely to be in her early sixties. While no bander goes out to study the maximum lifespan of a species as the only reason for their banding, every bander can contribute to this information. The information on life span is collected every time a banded bird is reported. The maximum longevity record cannot be longer than the time span that researchers have been studying that species, and the lifespan of the bands used on birds was shorter than the lifespan of the birds for some species. Most banders that are working on species with long lifespans are using a harder metal band that will last as long as the bird lives.

NASA Study Shows Melting Ice Caps are Largest Contributor to Higher Seas
March 10, 2011 09:22 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

The news just seems to be getting worse and worse coming out of the Arctic and Antarctic. The melting of ice is not appearing to let up, and is in fact, getting faster. A new NASA-funded satellite study shows that the two biggest ice sheets on Earth — Greenland and Antarctica — are losing mass at an accelerating rate. This is the longest study ever conducted to analyze changing ice conditions at the poles, spanning nearly 20 years. Researchers concluded that the melting of ice caps has overtaken the melting of mountain glaciers to be the most dominant source of global sea level rise, much sooner than previous forecast models predicted.

The Speed of a Moth
March 9, 2011 04:41 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Which is faster? A small moth or a songbird? The answer does surprise. A study published in March 2011 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B by researchers at Rothamsted Research, and the universities of Lund (Sweden), Greenwich and York, reports the surprising finding that night-flying moths are able to match their songbird counterparts for travel speed and direction during their annual migrations but they use quite different strategies to do so - information that adds to our understanding of the lifestyle of such insects, which are important for maintaining biodiversity and food security. This new international study of moth migration over the UK, and songbird migration over Sweden, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and the Swedish Research Council, shows that songbirds (mainly Willow Warblers) and moths (Silver Y moths) have very similar migration speeds — between 30 kilometers and 65 kilometers per hour — and both travel approximately northwards in the spring and southwards in the autumn.

Icelandic Geothermal Energy
March 8, 2011 03:38 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Iceland’s largest energy company is considering construction of the world’s longest underwater electric cable so the nation can sell its vast geothermal and volcanic energy to the European market. By the end of the year, state-owned energy company, Landsvirkjun, will complete a study of building a sub-sea cable that could deliver as much as five terawatt-hours (5 billion kilowatt-hours) annually to Europe, enough electricity to power 1.25 million homes. Geothermal energy is thermal energy generated and stored in the Earth. Thermal energy is energy that determines the temperature of matter. Earth's geothermal energy originates from the original formation of the planet, from radioactive decay of minerals, from volcanic activity, and from solar energy absorbed at the surface. The geothermal gradient, which is the difference in temperature between the core of the planet and its surface, drives a continuous conduction of thermal energy in the form of heat from the core to the surface.

The Importance of a Healthy Diet during Pregnancy
March 8, 2011 01:16 PM - David A Gabel, ENN

Heavy alcohol or drug use during pregnancy is already known to potentially cause birth defects. Almost important as this is what a mother eats. The diet of a pregnant mother can have long lasting health implications for her child. A new study from researchers at the University of Cambridge has shown how an unhealthy diet creates a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, and cancer to the child later in life.

Ghost Mountains
March 7, 2011 05:10 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The discovery of numerous large ice structures within Antarctica’s Dome A region, the site of the buried ghost mountains, reveals new understanding about ice sheet growth and movement that is essential for predicting how the ice sheet may change as the Earth’s climate warms. The Gamburtsev Mountain Range is a subglacial mountain range located in Eastern Antarctica. The range was discovered by the 3rd Soviet Antarctic Expedition in 1958 and is named for Soviet geophysicist Grigoriy A. Gamburtsev. It is approximately (750 miles long, and the mountains are believed to be about 8,900 feet high, although they are completely covered by over 600 meters (2,000 ft) of ice and snow. The Gamburtsev Mountain Range is currently believed to be about the same size as the European Alps.

Algal Blooms in the Arctic
March 4, 2011 09:23 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

An algal bloom is an explosion of growth and population of algae, which typically consist of one or a small number of phytoplankton, the foundation of the food chain. These blooms occur all over the world, even in the icy waters of the Arctic Ocean. They normally occur for a reason such as an overabundance of nutrients in the water from natural or man-made sources, or naturally with rising spring temperatures. In the Arctic, higher temperatures and melting ice have caused a shift in the region's natural bloom cycle. They are progressively coming earlier, and the shift has great importance to the entire food chain and global carbon cycle.

Deep Sea Mining
March 4, 2011 07:57 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Deep sea mining is a relatively new mineral retrieval process that takes place on the ocean floor. Ocean mining sites are usually around large areas of polymetallic nodules or active and extinct hydrothermal vents at about 1,400 - 3,700 meters below the ocean’s surface. The vents create sulfide deposits, which contain precious metals such as silver, gold, copper, manganese, cobalt, and zinc. The deposits are mined using either hydraulic pumps or bucket systems that take ore to the surface to be processed. As with all mining operations, deep sea mining raises questions about environmental damages to the surrounding areas. As undersea mining grows ever more likely, one major question looms: Can these valuable minerals be extracted on a large scale without causing significant environmental damage, particularly to the unique ecosystems near the deep hydrothermal vents where the minerals accumula

Vitamin D and Cancer
March 3, 2011 12:52 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Vitamin D is essential for the formation, growth, and repair of bones and for normal calcium absorption and immune function. It is obtained primarily through exposure of the skin to ultraviolet radiation in sunlight, but it can also be obtained from some foods and dietary supplements. Some recent research suggests vitamin D may be able to stop or prevent cancer. Now, a new study finds an enzyme that plays a role in metabolizing vitamin D can predict lung cancer survival. The study, from researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, suggests that this enzyme stops the anti-cancer effects of vitamin D. Levels of the enzyme, called CYP24A1, were elevated as much as 50 times in lung adenocarcinoma compared with normal lung tissue. The higher the level of CYP24A1, the more likely tumors were to be aggressive. About a third of lung cancer patients had high levels of the enzyme. After five years, those patients had nearly half the survival rate as patients with low levels of the enzyme.

Butanol as Gasoline Substitute from Bacteria
March 2, 2011 08:52 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Butanol may be used as a fuel in an internal combustion engine. Because its longer hydrocarbon chain causes it to be fairly non-polar, it is more similar to gasoline than it is to ethanol. Butanol has been demonstrated to work in vehicles designed for use with gasoline without modification. University of California, Berkeley, chemists have engineered bacteria to churn out a gasoline-like biofuel (butanol) at about 10 times the rate of competing microbes, a breakthrough that could soon provide an affordable transportation fuel. The potential feedstocks are the same as for ethanol: energy crops such as sugar beets, sugar cane, corn grain, wheat and cassava, prospective non-food energy crops such as switchgrass and even guayule in North America, as well as agricultural byproducts such as straw and corn stalks.

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