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January 19, 2011 04:51 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
For a long time there has been speculation of whether there is or was life on Mars. A really good answer would have been to have one of the Mars rover devices to photograph something moving about and obviously alive. Well that did not happen so a search for more subtle clues of smaller life forms or something from the deep past is in progress. The next rover to be delivered to Mars will contain a SAM. The instrument is Sample Analysis at Mars, or SAM, built by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Md. At the carefully selected landing site for the Mars rover named Curiosity, one of SAM's key jobs will be to check for carbon-containing compounds called organic molecules, which are among the building blocks of life on Earth. The clean-room suits worn by Curiosity's builders at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., are just part of the care being taken to keep biological material from Earth from showing up in results from SAM.
Climate Models Are Becoming Increasingly Accurate
January 19, 2011 09:45 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
Predicting future climates on planet Earth is an extremely hard task due to the myriad of factors involved. To make the necessary calculations requires computers with capacities far beyond the average home computer. However, climate models are become ever more reliable thanks not only to greater computing power, but also to more extensive observation efforts of the current climate, and an improved understanding of the climate system.
Masdar World Future Energy Summit
January 18, 2011 04:36 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Abu Dhabi, UAE, may be a major oil supplier to the world, but the Emirate is also active with ideas and commitments to a green energy future. The World Future Energy Summit 2011 in Abu Dhabi began on January 17th. The summit is taking place not far from the emerging city of Masdar which is designed to be a showpiece of clean tech innovation and green urban planning. Around 33 official delegations and more than 3,000 delegates will participate in the World Future Energy Summit. Masdar is a project in Abu Dhabi, in the United Arab Emirates. Its core is a planned city, which is being built by the Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company, a subsidiary of Mubadala Development Company, with the majority of seed capital provided by the government of Abu Dhabi. The city will rely entirely on solar energy and other renewable energy sources, with a sustainable, zero-carbon, zero-waste ecology. The city is being constructed 11 miles east-south-east of the city of Abu Dhabi.
Inflammation and How It May be Controlled
January 17, 2011 05:58 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Inflammation is a protective attempt by the organism to remove the injurious stimuli and to initiate the healing process Scientists have identified a protein that acts as a "master switch" in certain white blood cells, determining whether they promote or inhibit inflammation. The study, published in the journal Nature Immunology, could help researchers look for new treatments for diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis that involve excessive inflammation. Inflammatory responses are an important defense that the body uses against harmful stimuli such as infections or tissue damage, but in many conditions, excessive inflammation can itself harm the body. In rheumatoid arthritis, the joints become swollen and painful, but the reasons why this happens are not well understood.
How Hot Can It Get?
January 14, 2011 01:35 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
In the ancient past temperatures on Earth appeared to have been much warmer than today. It is possible that temperatures may rise as high as then based on current climate change projections. The new study, by National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist Jeffrey Kiehl, will appear as a Perspectives piece in this week’s issue of the journal Science. Building on recent research, the study examines the relationship between global temperatures and high levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere tens of millions of years ago. It warns that, if carbon dioxide emissions continue at their current rate through the end of this century, atmospheric concentrations of the greenhouse gas will reach levels that last existed about 30 million to 100 million years ago, when global temperatures averaged about 29 degrees F higher than now (in the high eighties F).
NOAA's Weatherman in the Sky
January 14, 2011 11:20 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
Forecasting the weather can be a tricky business, especially in winter. When a winter storm approaches, forecasts can range widely across the board from light flurries to a blizzard. As many know, the jet stream over the North American continent moves west to east. That is why the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is dispatching its state of the art aircraft to gather atmospheric data over the North Pacific Ocean, the region where North America's weather originates.
January 13, 2011 07:03 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Hanny's Voorwerp which is Dutch for Hanny's object, is an astronomical object of unknown nature. It was discovered in 2007 by Dutch school teacher Hanny van Arkel, while she was participating as an amateur volunteer in the Galaxy Zoo project. Photographically, it appears as a bright blob close to spiral galaxy IC 2497 in the constellation Leo Minor. The object, now referred to as a "voorwerp", is about the size of our Milky Way galaxy and has a huge central hole over 16,000 light years across. The voorwerp is false colored green, a standard color to represent the presence of several luminous emission lines of glowing oxygen. It has been shown to be at the same distance from Earth as the adjacent galaxy, both about 650 million light-years away. Hanny's Voorwerp may be a small part of a 300,000-light-year-long streamer of gas, located about 650 million light-years from Earth. Scientists suggested that a quasar in a nearby galaxy, known as IC 2497, was shining on Hanny's Voorwerp, lighting up the oxygen in the streamer with a greenish glow. The only problem was that no quasar could be seen.
High-Speed Rail Potential in US "Megaregions"
January 13, 2011 09:40 AM - David A Gabel, ENN
High speed rail is considered the holy grail of mass transit planning, and touted as a necessity for advanced economies. America is often derided for not having any high speed rail networks, while other advanced nations in Europe and Asia have them well established. A new report from the group America 2050 outlines the areas of the United States which have the greatest potential to support a high speed rail network.
Snow, Snow, Everywhere
January 12, 2011 03:23 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Is it growing warmer or it growing colder? In the US and in Europe it is hard to tell this year. As of now about 71% of the USA is covered with a layer of snow. Comparing earlier January amounts this is the highest in the last 7 years. 2010 was 56% with a low of 21% in 2006. Average snow depth has also increased proportionately in this time frame. The winters of 1976-77 and 1977-78 were the two of the coldest USA winters in recent times so we have a way to go yet. The winter of 2009—2010 in Europe was also unusually cold. Globally there were atypical snowfalls in several parts of the Northern Hemisphere. In January 2010, the northern half of Europe experienced its coldest winters since 1981—1982. The winter of 2010-2011 in Europe began with an unusually cold November caused by a cold weather cycle that started in southern Scandinavia and subsequently moved south and west over both Belgium and the Netherlands on 25 November and into the west of Scotland and North East England on 26 November. This was due to a low pressure zone in the Baltics, with a high pressure over Greenland on 24 November.
Prison Air Pollution
January 11, 2011 06:01 PM - Andy Soos, ENN
Prisons are where they keep criminals. What has that to do with the environment? The answer is that prisons need to be heated and like industrial boilers or even home heating systems they must burn fuel and in the combustion release potential air pollutants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Justice announced a settlement with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania’s Department of Corrections and the Department of General Services for alleged Clean Air Act violations at boiler plants generating power, heat and hot water at four correctional facilities. This settlement secures air pollution reductions and additional reporting requirements for correctional facilities in Muncy, Bellefonte, Huntingdon and Somerset, Pennsylvania.