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Center for Biological Diversity launches new Environmental Health Program
February 21, 2015 07:47 AM - Center for Biological Diversity

The Center for Biological Diversity this week launched its new Environmental Health program, greatly expanding its capacity to protect wildlife, people and the environment from pesticides, rodenticides, lead, mining, industrial pollution, and air and water pollution.

“The future of people is deeply intertwined with the fate of all the other species that evolved beside us,” said Lori Ann Burd, the program’s director. “This new program will work to protect biodiversity and human health from toxic substances while promoting a deep understanding of the connection between the health of people and imperiled species.”

Harsh winter in Eastern US result of warming Arctic and shifting jet stream
February 18, 2015 07:32 AM - Kirk Moore, Rutgers University

Prolonged cold snaps on the East Coast, California drought and frozen mornings in the South all have something in common – the atmospheric jet stream which transports weather systems that’s  taken to meandering all over North America.

Rutgers University climate scientist Jennifer Francis and colleagues link that wavy jet stream to a warming Arctic, where climate changes near the top of the world are happening faster than in Earth’s middle latitudes.

A new study from Francis and University of Wisconsin-Madison scientist Stephen Vavrus, published in IOPscience, backs up that theory, with evidence linking regional and seasonal conditions in the Arctic to deeper north-south jet stream waves which will lead to more extreme weather across the country.

'Hidden Order' Physics Mystery getting less mysterious thanks to Rutgers scientists
February 17, 2015 07:33 AM - Rutgers University

A new explanation for a type of order, or symmetry, in an exotic material made with uranium may lead to enhanced computer displays and data storage systems, and more powerful superconducting magnets for medical imaging and levitating high-speed trains, according to a Rutgers-led team of research physicists.

The team’s findings are a major step toward explaining a puzzle that physicists worldwide have been struggling with for 30 years, when scientists first noticed a change in the material’s electrical and magnetic properties but were unable to describe it fully. This subtle change occurs when the material is cooled to 17.5 degrees above absolute zero or lower (a bone-chilling minus 428 degrees Fahrenheit).

Component in olive oil kills cancer cells
February 16, 2015 08:52 AM - Rutgers University

A Rutgers nutritional scientist and two cancer biologists at New York City’s Hunter College have found that an ingredient in extra-virgin olive oil kills a variety of human cancer cells without harming healthy cells.

The ingredient is oleocanthal, a compound that ruptures a part of the cancerous cell, releasing enzymes that cause cell death.

Paul Breslin, professor of nutritional sciences in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences, and David Foster and Onica LeGendre of Hunter College, report that oleocanthal kills cancerous cells in the laboratory by rupturing vesicles that store the cell’s waste.

A Valentine's Day gift to us all from NASA
February 14, 2015 06:03 AM - JPL/NASA

Valentine's Day is special for NASA's Voyager mission. It was on Feb. 14, 1990, that the Voyager 1 spacecraft looked back at our solar system and snapped the first-ever pictures of the planets from its perch at that time beyond Neptune. 

This "family portrait" captures Neptune, Uranus, Saturn, Jupiter, Earth and Venus from Voyager 1's unique vantage point. A few key members did not make it in: Mars had little sunlight, Mercury was too close to the sun, and dwarf planet Pluto turned out too dim. 

Will eating Chili peppers make you thin?
February 9, 2015 08:25 AM - University of Wyoming via BIOPHYSICAL SOCIETY at EurekAlert.

Don't go chomping on a handful of chili peppers just yet, but there may be help for hopeful dieters in those fiery little Native American fruits.

A large percentage of the world's population -- fully one third, by the World Health Organization's estimates -- is currently overweight or obese. This staggering statistics has made finding ways to address obesity a top priority for many scientists around the globe, and now a group of researchers at the University of Wyoming has found promise in the potential of capsaicin -- the chief ingredient in chili peppers -- as a diet-based supplement.

New data shows stars are younger than previously thought
February 6, 2015 09:27 AM - ESA AND THE PLANCK COLLABORATION, vis EurekAlert

The highly anticipated update of the analysis of data from the European Space Agency's Planck satellite starts with a first paper published in Astronomy and Astrophysics, which already holds in store a few major surprises. The first article in fact "rejuvenates" the stars of our Universe. Thanks to new maps of cosmic background radiation (in particular, those containing "polarization anisotropies" of radiation) scientists have found that the "reionization" process could be more recent than estimated until now.

Reionization is one of the most important processes in cosmology as it is associated with star formation, which cosmologists data back to after the "dark ages" of the Universe, when there was still no starlight. The NASA WMAP satellite, launched in 2001, had given an initial estimate of the period when the process may have taken place. 

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.

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