Enn Original News

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.

Merlefest 2011 concludes, a rousing success
May 1, 2011 08:48 PM - Roger Greenway, ENN

MerleFest 2011, presented by Lowe's, has now come to a close for another year. Initial figures show that, from its start on Thursday, April 28 to its close on Sunday, May 1, aggregate participation over the festival's four days' celebration of "traditional plus" music exceeded 80,000, slightly more than last year. MerleFest, held on the campus of Wilkes Community College, is the primary fund-raiser for the college and funds scholarships, capital projects and other educational needs. ENN publisher, Roger Greenway, and editor Chris Allyn represented ENN at Merlefest for the second year. We were impressed with the commitment to recycling and to reducing waste going into landfills. Recycling containers were everywhere. LED lighting was prominent in stage lighting. Performers who turned in riveting performances at MerleFest 2011 include Doc and Richard Watson, Randy Travis, The Doobie Brothers, Lyle Lovett, Zac Brown Band, Robert Plant and Band of Joy, John Hartford String Band, Nashville Bluegrass Band, Tim O'Brien, Sam Bush, Tony Rice, Peter Rowan, Cadillac Sky, Balsam Range, Sarah Jarosz, Crooked Still, Sonny Landreth, Jerry Douglas featuring Omar Hakim and Viktor Krauss, Alison Brown Quartet with Stuart Duncan, Del McCoury Band, Tut Taylor, Scythian, The Emmitt-Nershi Band, The Wailin' Jennys, Roy Book Binder, The Kruger Brothers and many more.

How you can "Green" your kids toys
April 30, 2011 08:40 AM - Alexis Bonari, College Scholarships

Toys seem to multiply mysteriously as kids grow. Gifts from relatives, impulse buys, bribes. There seems to be no end of occasions to buy kids toys. Every parent knows that these toys enjoy their moment in the sun, only to be quickly discarded in favor of new toys. Sometimes, these new "toys" are nothing but empty cardboard boxes or wrapping. There are many ways that parents can make their kids' toys more eco-friendly by cutting down on the waste that buying so many new toys creates, and by choosing more sustainable and less toxic materials. Reuse and Recycle Toys don't have to be new to be new to your kids. Plenty of great toys can be found at yard sales and thrift stores, saving you money and reducing the amount of new materials that are created. Most of the time, these toys just need a simple wash to look like new. Also take a look at your kids' old toys. Sometimes, a new coat of paint or a simple customization (adding a bow to that stuffed bunny, putting new wheels on that old race car, etc.) can make these toys look like new to your children. Finally, when your children are done with their toys, be sure to donate them or to resell them in a yard sale. Don't let them end up in the landfill. Make Your Own Plenty of great toys can be made with simple materials and a little creativity. Stuffed animals are easy to sew together – even if you only use basic shapes and sew together two pieces of felt. Wooden blocks can be easily created by buying pre-cut shapes and painting them. Kids' jewelry, book covers, games, costumes, and much more can all be created. If you get your kids to help you, play time takes on a new level by giving them the opportunity to exercise their creativity.

World Wildlife Federation turns 50!
April 30, 2011 08:14 AM - WWF

A summit of environmental leaders and politicians has called for an urgent move towards a global green economy in order to achieve sustainable development over the next half century. Low-carbon technology, green infrastructures, investment in renewable energy and sustainable agriculture were all listed as being essential in combatting climate change, poverty and water shortages. Speaking at the event today, convened by WWF to mark the global conservation organisation's 50th anniversary, EU Environment Commissioner Janez Potočnik said that unless biodiversity is adequately protected the consequences would be "catastrophic". "Biodiversity and ecosystem services must be protected, valued and adequately restored," said Commissioner Potočnik. "It's essential for human wellbeing and in our own self-interest. If we do not preserve ecosystems we will push biodiversity over the tipping point beyond which changes become irreversible and possibly even catastrophic. It is an irrefutable fact that global consumption and use of resources is the biggest factor in a sustainable future."

Lake Demise, Lake Control
April 29, 2011 07:40 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

A lake ecosystem is made up of living and nonliving parts that all interact with each other to form a stable system. These interactions assure the lake ecosystem's health and sustainability. It is a fine balance of production and decomposition, made possible by the biodiversity that occurs in a healthy lake ecosystem. Researchers eavesdropping on complex signals from a remote Wisconsin lake have detected what they say is an unmistakable warning--a death knell--of the impending collapse of the lake's aquatic ecosystem. The finding, reported in the journal Science by a team of researchers led by Stephen Carpenter, an ecologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW-Madison), is the first experimental evidence that radical change in an ecosystem can be detected in advance, possibly in time to prevent ecological catastrophe.

Krill and Whales in Antarctica
April 28, 2011 03:55 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The humpback whale is a species of baleen whale. Adults range in length from 39–52 feet and weigh approximately 79,000 pounds. Like other large whales, the humpback was and is a target for the whaling industry. Due to over-hunting, its population fell by an estimated 90% before a whaling moratorium was introduced in 1966. Stocks have since partially recovered. There are at least 80,000 humpback whales worldwide. Scientists have recently observed a super-aggregation of more than 300 humpback whales gorging on the largest swarm of Antarctic krill seen in more than 20 years in bays along the Western Antarctic Peninsula. The sightings, made in waters still largely ice-free deep into austral autumn, suggest the previously little-studied bays are important late-season foraging grounds for the endangered whales. But they also highlight how rapid climate change is affecting the region.

Wind Wake
April 27, 2011 05:36 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

What is a wake? It is small island in the Pacific. However, in this case it is the region of recirculating air flow immediately behind a moving solid body, caused by the air flow of surrounding air around the wind turbine. The air turbines not only produce power, they produce wakes -- similar to what forms in bodies of water -- that are invisible ripples and waves and other disturbances in the atmosphere downstream that can damage turbines and decrease efficiency. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory researchers and collaborators will launch a study of those wakes this month, with an eye toward improving the efficiency and potential produced power of the wind farms.

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