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Pigeons are smarter than you think!
February 4, 2015 06:09 PM - UNIVERSITY OF IOWA via EurekAlert

The more scientists study pigeons, the more they learn how their brains--no bigger than the tip of an index finger--operate in ways not so different from our own.

In a new study from the University of Iowa, researchers found that pigeons can categorize and name both natural and manmade objects--and not just a few objects. These birds categorized 128 photographs into 16 categories, and they did so simultaneously.

Soil moisture satellite launched
February 2, 2015 08:59 PM - NASA JPL

NASA successfully launched its first Earth satellite designed to collect global observations of the vital soil moisture hidden just beneath our feet.

The Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) observatory, a mission with broad applications for science and society, lifted off at 6:22 a.m. PST (9:22 a.m. EST) Saturday from Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, on a United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket. NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, manages SMAP for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington, with instrument hardware and science contributions made by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

About 57 minutes after liftoff, SMAP separated from the rocket's second stage into an initial 411- by 425-mile (661- by 685-kilometer) orbit. After a series of activation procedures, the spacecraft established communications with ground controllers and deployed its solar array. Initial telemetry shows the spacecraft is in excellent health.

How did the Zebra get its stripes?
January 30, 2015 08:28 AM - UCLA

One of nature’s fascinating questions is how zebras got their stripes.

A team of life scientists led by UCLA’s Brenda Larison has found at least part of the answer: The amount and intensity of striping can be best predicted by the temperature of the environment in which zebras live.

In the January cover story of the Royal Society’s online journal, Open Science, the researchers make the case that the association between striping and temperature likely points to multiple benefits — including controlling zebras’ body temperature and protecting them from diseases carried by biting flies.

ADHD linked to pesticide exposure
January 29, 2015 06:57 AM - Rutgers University

A commonly used pesticide may alter the development of the brain’s dopamine system -- responsible for emotional expression and cognitive function – and increase the risk of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in children, according to a new Rutgers study.

Mice exposed to a commonly used pesticide in utero and through lactation exhibited several features of ADHD, including dysfunctional dopamine signaling in the brain, hyperactivity, working memory, attention deficits and impulsive-like behavior.

The research published Wednesday in the Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), by Rutgers scientists and colleagues from Emory University, the University of Rochester Medical Center, and Wake Forest University discovered that mice exposed to the pyrethroid pesticide deltamethrin in utero and through lactation exhibited several features of ADHD, including dysfunctional dopamine signaling in the brain, hyperactivity, working memory, attention deficits and impulsive-like behavior.

Fracking has been with us for more than 60 years. It is evolving.
January 28, 2015 07:50 AM - U.S. Geological Survey

Two new U.S. Geological Survey publications that highlight historical hydraulic fracturing trends and data from 1947 to 2010 are now available.

Hydraulic fracturing is presently the primary stimulation technique for oil and gas production in unconventional resource reservoirs. Comprehensive, published, and publicly available information regarding the extent, location, and character of hydraulic fracturing in the United States is scarce. 

“These national-scale data and analyses will provide a basis for making comparisons of current-day hydraulic fracturing to historical applications,” said USGS scientist and lead author Tanya Gallegos.

Rosetta Comet releasing more water as it gets closer to the Sun
January 27, 2015 08:41 AM - Jet Propulsion Laboratory

There has been a significant increase in the amount of water "pouring" out of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko, the comet on which the Rosetta mission's Philae lander touched down in November 2014. 

The 2.5-mile-wide (4-kilometer) comet was releasing the earthly equivalent of 40 ounces (1.2 liters) of water into space every second at the end of August 2014. The observations were made by NASA's Microwave Instrument for Rosetta Orbiter (MIRO), aboard the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft. Science results from the MIRO team were released today as part of a special Rosetta-related issue of the journal Science. 

Research shows loss of pollinators increases risk of malnutrition and disease
January 27, 2015 08:15 AM - Joshua E. Brown, University of Vermont

A new study shows that more than half the people in some developing countries could become newly at risk for malnutrition if crop-pollinating animals — like bees — continue to decline. Despite popular reports that pollinators are crucial for human nutritional health, no scientific studies have actually tested this claim — until now. The new research by scientists at the University of Vermont and Harvard University has, for the first time, connected what people actually eat in four developing countries to the pollination requirements of the crops that provide their food and nutrients.

ENN Announces Release of New Mobile App!
January 26, 2015 08:39 AM - ENN Editor

This week ENN launches a new mobile app making it easier for you to connect with us and stay up to date with groundbreaking environmental news. The Environmental News Network (ENN) is recognized as the most comprehensive and dependable online environmental news source. With almost twenty years of experience aggregating and producing original content for environmental experts and novices alike, ENN's mission is to inform, educate and inspire environmental discussion and action among its readers and contributors.

Because ENN recognizes that there is no lack of environmental news content but rather an overabundance of it, ENN gathers, filters and streamlines environmental news from affiliate networks and other news streams so as to consolidate and support better environmental decisions for an ever changing world. ENN’s core sources include major wire services, research institutions, and freelance and citizen journalists from around the world.

Click to the rest of the story for downlad links, or visit the App store on your iPhone.

Missouri River Sturgeon need more oxygen to reproduce. Dead zones, dams implicated.
January 24, 2015 08:32 AM - USGS

Pallid sturgeon come from a genetic line that has lived on this planet for tens of millions of years; yet it has been decades since anyone has documented any of the enormous fish successfully producing young that survive to adulthood in the upper Missouri River basin.

Now, fisheries scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey, Montana State University and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have shown why, detailing for the first time the biological mechanism that has caused the long decline of pallid sturgeon in the Missouri River and led to its being placed on the endangered species list 25 years ago.

In a paper published this week in the journal Fisheries, the scientists show that oxygen-depleted dead zones between dams in the upper Missouri River are directly linked with the failure of endangered pallid sturgeon hatched embryos to survive to adulthood.

The Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer sets its sights on habitable planets
January 21, 2015 05:53 PM - JPL/California Institute of Technology

The NASA-funded Large Binocular Telescope Interferometer, or LBTI, has completed its first study of dust in the "habitable zone" around a star, opening a new door to finding planets like Earth. Dust is a natural byproduct of the planet-formation process, but too much of it can block our view of planets.

The findings will help in the design of future space missions that have the goal of taking pictures of planets similar to Earth, called exo-Earths. 

"Kepler told us how common Earth-like planets are," said Phil Hinz, the principal investigator of the LBTI project at the University of Arizona, Tucson, referring to NASA's planet-hunting Kepler mission, which has identified more than 4,000 planetary candidates around stars. "Now we want to find out just how dusty and obscured planetary environments are, and how difficult the planets will be to image."

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