Enn Original News

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…without 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.

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."

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