Enn Original News

Andean Earthquakes to the East
May 9, 2011 07:42 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

The region west of the Andes Mountains is the leading edge of the South American continent into the Pacific Ocean. Subduction of the Nazca plate beneath South America has driven the growth of the Andes Mountains. Subduction has routinely generated earthquakes larger than magnitude 8.0 along the western margin of the mountain belt. Lesser known for tectonic activity is the eastern side. The region east of the central Andes Mountains has the potential for larger scale earthquakes than previously expected, according to a new study posted online in the May 8th edition of Nature Geoscience. Previous research had set the maximum expected earthquake size to be magnitude 7.5 (Richter), based on the relatively quiet history of seismicity in that area. This new study by researchers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and colleagues contradicts that limit and instead suggests that the region could see quakes with magnitudes 8.7 to 8.9.

Seawater Bucket
May 6, 2011 01:25 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Life is incredibly complex. It is wrong to assume that what you can easily see is all there is. There is a plethora of microscopic life. From a bucket of seawater, scientists have unlocked information that may lead to a deeper understanding of organisms as different as coral reefs and human disease. By analyzing genomes of a tiny, single-celled marine animal, they have demonstrated a possible way to address diverse questions such as how diseased cells differ from neighboring healthy cells and what it is about some Antarctic algae that allows them to live in warming waters while other algae die out. Debashish Bhattacharya, professor of ecology, evolution and natural resources in Rutgers’ School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, and others of the Bigelow Laboratory of Ocean Sciences, have published their results in the journal Science. They used sophisticated new technologies to sequence the genomes of individual picobilophytes, tiny microbes first discovered in 2007. At less than 10 micrometers across, they are some of the tiniest marine animals known to science.

Book Review: Winged Obsession: The Pursuit of the World's Most Notorious Butterfly Thief
May 6, 2011 11:23 AM - Maddie Perlman-Gabel, ENN

When I first picked up Winged Obsession: The Pursuit of The Worlds Most Notorious Butterfly Thief by Jessica Weart, I wasn't very excited. A book about butterfly collectors, how exciting can that be? When I think butterfly collectors, I think of an uptight old man, passively smoking a pipe, listening to classical music, nothing exciting. Turns out lepidopterists, butterfly collectors, aren't the boring types I thought they were. Butterfly collecting can become a passionate, expensive obsession. Some rare butterflies are valued over 30,000 dollars, and there have been instances where collectors have risked it all in order to obtain a unique butterfly for their collection. Actually, I found out there are famous lepidopterists, including the controversial writer of Lolita, Vladimir Nabakov. In Winged Obsession, Weart attempts to explore this obsession, by following the true story of the "capture" of the world's most infamous butterfly dealer, Yoshi Kojima. The story is the epitome of cat and mouse, (or should I say butterfly and net), starring United States Fish and Wildlife agent Ted Newcomer and butterfly master smuggler Yoshi Kojima. Kojima considers himself the Indiana Jones of butterflies, and had been able to elude wildlife protection for years due his ability to create an elaborate web of lies, mind the bug pun.

What makes humans special? The Power of communication. New from BBC Earth
May 6, 2011 10:10 AM - Editor, BBC Earth

A human's need to communicate, can be observed from the first moments of life. The intuitive reaction of a newborn to cry, lays the stepping-stone for a process which at its heart, will enable every human to successfully communicate their experience of being alive. It has been said that words are man's greatest achievement. With the first utterances of symbolic language emerging 2.5 million years ago, slowly evolved by the first Homo sapiens — the solid foundations of modern articulation have decidedly been set. Yet many would argue that speech and language was developed not out of want, but out of need. Therefore in what ways do humans communicate”Świthout using words? Music has long been a way of communicating for necessity as well as pleasure. Such as the use of a lullaby to sooth, a folk song to warn and a chant to call to arms! But in what ways do we use rhythm and melody to communicate with nature itself?

Comet Elenin
May 5, 2011 01:57 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

A comet is an icy small Solar System body that, when close enough to the Sun, displays a visible coma (a thin, fuzzy, temporary atmosphere) and sometimes also a tail. These phenomena are both due to the effects of solar radiation and the solar wind upon the nucleus of the comet. Comet nuclei are themselves loose collections of ice, dust, and small rocky particles, ranging from a few hundred meters to tens of kilometers across. Comet Elenin is coming to the inner-solar system this fall of 2011. Comet Elenin (also known by its astronomical name C/2010 X1), was first detected on Dec. 10, 2010 by Leonid Elenin, an observer in Lyubertsy, Russia, who made the discovery using the ISON-NM observatory near Mayhill, New Mexico. At the time of the discovery, the comet was about 647 million kilometers (401 million miles) from Earth. Over the past four-and-a-half months, the comet has — as comets do — closed the distance to Earth's vicinity as it makes its way closer to perihelion (its closest point to the sun). As of May 4, Elenin's distance is about 170 million miles. It is scheduled to come as close as 22 million miles.

Study Finds Sea-Level Rise Likely on West Coast
May 5, 2011 09:20 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

For the last few decades, sea levels of the eastern North Pacific Ocean along the west coast of North America have remained remarkably steady as other sea levels rise around the world. That is due to the dominance of cold surface waters along the coast. According to a new study from the University of California (UC) San Diego, the cold waters on the coast will give way to warmer waters beginning this decade, which will lead to accelerated sea-level rise. The change in water temperature is related to the climate phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO).

The Eye Versus the Camera
May 4, 2011 05:01 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Which is better: the camera or the eye (assuming normal eyesight). Visual perception is the ability to interpret information and surroundings from the effects of visible light reaching the eye. A camera merely records whatever image it receives. The human eye long ago solved a problem common to both digital and film cameras: how to get good contrast in an image while also capturing faint detail. The illusion of a bright and dark band on either side of the central stripe is due to lateral inhibition, where the cones in the retina inhibit their neighbors using negative feedback. A University of California Berkeley neurobiologist has discovered that the phenomenon involves localized positive feedback as well. Nearly 50 years ago, physiologists described the retina’s tricks for improving contrast and sharpening edges, but new experiments by University of California, Berkeley, neurobiologists show how the eye achieves this without sacrificing shadow detail.

Air Quality Awareness
May 3, 2011 04:59 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Today is the beginning of Air Quality Awareness Week, a cooperative effort among EPA, state environmental agencies and the National Weather Service to remind the public to protect their health by paying attention to local air quality. With the onset of warmer weather, the EPA urges citizens to be aware of the increased risk of ground-level ozone air pollution and fine particle air pollution (when combined, often referred to as smog), and take health precautions when poor air quality is predicted. Air quality is defined as a measure of the condition of air relative to the requirements of one or more biotic species and or to any human need or purpose. Air quality indices (AQI) are numbers used by government agencies to characterize the quality of the air at a given location. As the AQI increases, an increasingly large percentage of the population is likely to experience increasingly severe adverse health effects. To compute the AQI requires an air pollutant concentration from a monitor or model. The function used to convert from air pollutant concentration to AQI varies by pollutant, and is different in different countries. Air quality index values are divided into ranges, and each range is assigned a descriptor and a color code. Standardized public health advisories are associated with each AQI range. An agency might also encourage members of the public to take public transportation or work from home when AQI levels are high.

Global Climate Change Affects Tropical as well as Polar Regions
May 3, 2011 09:24 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

The most often heard victims of climate change are the polar bears in the far north losing their hunting grounds to the melting polar ice. Maps show the greatest area of warming temperatures are at the north and south poles. However, equally important are the effects of climate change in the tropical regions of the world. As temperatures rise here, poorly adaptable species may be lost forever. It may also encourage the spread of diseases and unprecedented heat waves which may lead to forest fires.

Buidling Energy Use and Efficiency
May 2, 2011 01:03 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Energy Star is an international standard for energy efficient consumer products originated in the United States of America. It was first created as a United States government program during the early 1990s, but Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Taiwan and the European Union have also adopted the program. Devices carrying the Energy Star logo, such as computer products and peripherals, kitchen appliances, buildings and other products, generally use 20%—30% less energy than required by federal standards The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Energy Star program has launched the 2011 National Building Competition: Battle of the Buildings. Teams from 245 buildings around the country are going head-to-head to improve energy efficiency and determine who can reduce their energy use the most. Nearly five million commercial buildings in the United States are responsible for approximately 20 percent of both the nation’s energy use and greenhouse gas emissions at a cost of more than $100 billion annually. Through energy efficiency improvements, competitors are working to save energy, reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions and protect the health of Americans.

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