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The Gerat Northern Lights
February 25, 2011 11:43 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
An aurora is a natural light display in the sky, particularly in the polar regions, caused by the collision of charged particles directed by the Earth's magnetic field. An aurora is usually observed at night and typically occurs in the ionosphere. It is also referred to as a polar aurora or, collectively, as polar lights. These phenomena are commonly visible between 60 and 72 degrees north and south latitudes, which place them in a ring just within the Arctic and Antarctic polar circles. Recent increases in solar activity, including the largest solar flare in four years, may lead to hopes of seeing the aurora borealis, also known as the northern lights, in the United Kingdom and other relatively more southern locales. In the United Kingdom, for example, the chances of seeing the aurora increase the further north you go — ranging from one or two displays every 10 years in the south of England to one or two displays a week in the far northern Shetland Islands. Solar variation is the change in the amount of radiation emitted by the Sun and in its spectral distribution over years to millennia. These variations have periodic components, the main one being the approximately 11-year solar cycle (or sunspot cycle). This variation causes the northern lights to vary in location and magnitude.
Islamic Leaders Preach Conservation in Sumatra, Indonesia (updated)
February 25, 2011 07:24 AM - Melanie Jae Martin
Do religious texts mandate respect for the earth and other species? Some Islamic leaders in Sumatra believe the Koran does. In Indonesia, the country with the highest rate of deforestation and some of the most diverse habitat in the world, many Islamic leaders believe religion is the key to conservation. In Sumatra, habitat is disappearing fast, mainly due to oil palm plantations, and populations of animals like the Sumatran orangutan and tiger are dwindling. Education is key to solving the region’s environmental problems, the leaders believe, and religion has the potential to spark wide public interest in environmental awareness. Called FORDALING (the Islamic Leader Forum for Environmental Care), the group believes the Koran directly addresses the need for protecting the natural world. They explain this in their newly released book Ayat-Ayat Konservasi (Islamic Verses for Conservation). Through this book and other projects, these religious leaders have set out to show Indonesian Muslims why conservation should be important to them and the world.
New England Beaches Erosion
February 24, 2011 03:16 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Beach erosion is a chronic problem along many open ocean shores of the United States. As coastal populations continue to grow and community infrastructures are threatened by erosion, there is an increased demand for accurate information regarding past and present trends and rates of shoreline movement. There is also a need for a comprehensive analysis of shoreline movement that is consistent from one coastal region to another. An assessment of coastal change over the past 150 years has found 68 percent of beaches in the New England and Mid-Atlantic region are eroding, according to a U.S. Geological Survey report just released. Scientists studied more than 650 miles of the New England and Mid-Atlantic coasts and found the average rate of coastal change — taking into account beaches that are both eroding and prograding -- was a negative 1.6 feet per year. Of those beaches eroding, the most extreme case exceeded 60 feet per year. The past 25 to 30 years saw a small reduction in the percentage of beaches eroding — dropping to 60 percent, possibly as a result of beach restoration activities such as adding sand to beaches.
DEP Environmental Stewardship Program Grows to More than 500 Participants
February 24, 2011 08:44 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection has set up a voluntary program for individuals and businesses to tackle sustainability issues in the state. It rewards those who make the extra effort to reduce their carbon footprint and lead by example. The Environmental Stewardship Program now boasts more than 500 participants, including Ortho Clinical Diagnostics in Raritan, which has erected solar panels to provide green energy. The image shows one of the solar panels as well as DEP inspector Douglas Speeney (center) speaking with OCD's John Nester (left) and Brian Lubbert (right).
Islamic Leaders Preach Conservation in Sumatra, Indonesia
February 23, 2011 04:29 PM - Melanie Jae Martin
Do religious texts mandate respect for the earth and other species? Some Islamic leaders in Sumatra believe the Koran does. In Indonesia, the country with the highest rate of deforestation and some of the most diverse habitat in the world, many Islamic leaders believe religion is the key to conservation. In Sumatra, habitat is disappearing fast, mainly due to oil palm plantations, and populations of animals like the Sumatran orangutan and tiger are dwindling. Education is key to solving the region's environmental problems, the leaders believe, and religion has the potential to spark wide public interest in environmental awareness. Called FORDALING (the Islamic Leader Forum for Environmental Care), the group believes the Koran directly addresses the need for protecting the natural world. They explain this in their newly released book Ayat-Ayat Konservasi (Islamic Verses for Conservation). Through this book and other projects, these religious leaders have set out to show Indonesian Muslims why conservation should be important to them and the world.
ENN Community Launches
February 23, 2011 03:50 PM - Editor, ENN
Great news today! We've launched a brand new community for ENN! This feature brings a whole new dimension to our site by creating a vibrant space for our readers and environmental enthusiasts to interact with each other and weigh in with YOUR opinions about topics related to our news articles. That's right, it's your turn at the mic! Time to jump in and start sharing. We are really excited to have you all begin posting your thoughts and tips -- you can start by rating your favorite environment topics, and then begin to share tips and reviews as well. You can also check out the latest reviews from fellow readers to share your comments and compliments. There are lots of ways to get the most out of our new community -- take a few polls and see some of the badges that you can unlock, too. Have fun checking out the newest part of ENN and thanks for helping us kick off a thriving reader community!
February 23, 2011 06:38 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
Despite having a comparable brain size to other highly evolved animals, sheep have been historically perceived as unintelligent and were therefore not considered to be good animal models for studying diseases that affect learning and memory. However, new research recently published in the journal PLoS ONE shows that sheep are indeed smarter than previously believed. The researchers are hopeful the animals will prove useful for research into diseases that impair the cognitive abilities of patients, such as Huntington's disease (HD) and Alzheimer's disease. Sheep are quadrupedal, ruminant mammals typically kept as livestock. Like all ruminants, sheep are members of the order Artiodactyla, the even-toed ungulates. Although the name "sheep" applies to many species in the genus Ovis, in everyday usage it almost always refers to Ovis aries. Numbering a little over one billion, domestic sheep are also the most numerous species of sheep.
Captive Gorillas Succumbing to Human Disease
February 22, 2011 11:20 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
Life for humans is much easier than for animals in the wild. On a day-to-day basis, we generally do not have to worry about being eaten or starving to death. Depending on the individual's job, some can get by just fine by sitting around all day. However, this lifestyle brings forth its own set of health issues such as diabetes and heart disease, illnesses rarely found in the wild. These "human" diseases have spread to gorillas that are raised in captivity.
Bald Men and Prostate Cancer
February 22, 2011 08:03 AM - Andy Soos, ENN
Men who start to lose hair at the age of 20 are more likely to develop prostate cancer in later life and might benefit from screening for the disease, according to a new study published online in the cancer journal, Annals of Oncology. The study set out to see if early-onset androgenic alopecia (which are directly connected to androgens such as testosterone) was associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer later in life. Androgens play a role in the development of both androgenic alopecia, commonly known as male pattern baldness, and prostate cancer. Testosterone, which is a very potent androgen or male hormone, is responsible for increased muscle mass, deepened voice and strong bones characteristic of the male gender. In addition, testosterone can contribute to aggression, libido, and growth of genitalia during puberty. Male hormones also have an effect on the liver and cholesterol; however, when it is converted into another androgen, it acts on the skin and hair follicles, and in some cases, producing male pattern baldness.
EU Household Plastics Banning
February 18, 2011 12:58 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
The European Union will ban six toxic chemicals within three to five years, three of which are commonly used in plastic household items. Among the compounds are three plastic softening phthalates, a musk fragrance, a flame retardant and a hardener for epoxy resin. Although the most toxic phthalates have been banned in children's toys since 1999, a survey last October showed some are commonly found in products on supermarket shelves, including items regularly used by children, such as pencil cases and erasers. The decision is being taken under the REACH regulation on chemicals, adopted in 2006 after major debate and discussion.