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"Tuning" the silk: How spiders use vibrations to learn about their prey, mates, and web
June 18, 2014 01:36 PM - Allison Winter, ENN
The fine craftsmanship of a spider's web helps these eight-legged arachnids catch their prey. But these silk-threaded designs can tell a spider a lot more than what they will be having for dinner. The spider that sits in the middle of its web monitors the silk threads for vibrations. And according to a new discovery by researchers at the Universities of Oxford, Strathclyde, and Sheffield the frequencies of these vibrations carry specific information about the prey, mates, and even the structural integrity of the web.
Are fruit flies smarter than we thought?
June 18, 2014 11:34 AM - University of Oxford
Oxford University neuroscientists have shown that fruit flies take longer to make more difficult decisions. In experiments asking fruit flies to distinguish between ever closer concentrations of an odour, the researchers found that the flies don't act instinctively or impulsively. Instead they appear to accumulate information before committing to a choice. Gathering information before making a decision has been considered a sign of higher intelligence, like that shown by primates and humans.
Are we close to bringing back supersonic travel?
June 18, 2014 07:06 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN
Remember the Concorde? The supersonic passenger jet that flew from 1969 to almost 2000. It was not cost effective for the airlines, and extravagantly expensive for passengers. It was also cramped. The luxury was being able to fly from New York to London in about 3 hours! The Concorde had a big problem, the sonic boom it created when flying at supersonic speed. This led to governments restricting where it could fly supersonically and was a major factor in it not being economical to continue flying. That and a very advanced airframe that was getting old. The return of supersonic passenger travel may be coming closer to reality thanks to NASA’s efforts to define a new standard for low sonic booms. Several NASA aeronautics researchers will present their work in Atlanta this week at Aviation 2014, an annual event of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. They will share with the global aviation community the progress they are making in overcoming some of the biggest hurdles to supersonic passenger travel.
Penguin populations may have benefited from historic climate warming
June 13, 2014 09:10 AM - Editor, ENN
While penguins have adapted to extremely cold weather, harsh winters are still difficult for populations especially when it comes to breeding and finding food. So with warming climates on the horizon, are penguin populations going to be better off? Not necessarily. However, a new study does reveal that penguin populations over the last 30,000 years have benefitted in some ways from climate warming and retreating ice. An international team, led by scientists from the University of Southampton and Oxford University, has used a genetic technique to estimate when current genetic diversity arose in penguins and to recreate past population sizes.
Brazilian Courts order lower electromagnetic pollution
June 12, 2014 02:09 PM - Elza Boiteux
The Brazilian Judiciary determined to reduce the level of electromagnetic pollution generated by power lines to standard adopted by Swiss law (1.0 microtesla). Two associations of residents in São Paulo — the largest city of Brazil — proposed the action. The plaintiff has pleaded to not be exposed to electromagnetic fields incompatible with the human health. The electromagnetic fields generated by power lines that cross these areas is 10 times greater than the level determined by the court. The judgment of the Court of State of São Paulo (Tribunal de Justiça de São Paulo) has determined that the concessionaire of electric power reduces the electromagnetic field generated by power lines that pass through these neighborhoods.
Wasted heat from air conditioners causes warmer nighttime temperatures
June 12, 2014 08:01 AM - Allison Winter, ENN
With summer temperatures fast approaching, households across the country are installing and prepping air conditioning units in anticipation of hot, sticky weather. However, a potentially brutal cycle may be in store if summertime extreme-heat days are projected to become more frequent and intense as a result of climate change. According to a new study conducted in Phoenix by Arizona State University researchers, so much wasted heat is emitted by air conditioning units that it actually raises the city's outdoor temperature at night by 1-2.7 degrees! Consequently, these warmer temperatures may encourage individuals to further their demands and energy use of their air conditioners. The research, published last month in the Journal of Geophysical Research, investigates the effects of air-conditioning systems on air temperature and examines their electricity consumption for a semiarid urban environment.
Archaeological expedition reveals first fossil-record evidence of forest fire ecology
June 6, 2014 10:25 AM - Allison Winter, ENN
Fossils can reveal an incredible amount of information. From what kind of organisms lived when and where to how they may have evolved over time. And now a new discovery of plant fossils with abundant fossilized charcoal reveals something new about prehistoric forest fires. Forest fires affect ecosystems differently and despite the fact that organisms and plant life have had to adapt to cope with these natural phenomena, new research shows that forests have been recovering from fires in the same manner as they did 66 million years ago.
Milkweed loss to blame for declining Monarch populations
June 5, 2014 09:01 AM - Allison Winter, ENN
Populations of the popular Monarch butterfly have been declining in recent years and a new study is citing habitat loss on US breeding grounds as the main culprit. The eastern North American monarch population is known not only for its iconic orange and black colors, but also for its late summer migration from the United States to Mexico, a migration covering thousands of miles. And despite the long-held belief that monarch butterflies are most vulnerable to disturbances on wintering grounds in Mexico, new research from the University of Guelph shows lack of milkweed in the US which provides breeding grounds for the species is playing more of a role for species decline.
EU reacts to Obama's Clean Power Plan
June 3, 2014 10:11 AM - Editor, ENN
After the US EPA announced their plan to cut US power plant emissions 30% by 2030, the European Union (EU) reacts, praising the Emission Performance Standard (EPS) for its vision while serving as a "positive signal" to other countries. "This proposed rule is the strongest action ever taken by the U.S. government to fight climate change," the EU's climate action commissioner, Connie Hedegaard said in a reaction statement. "If implemented as planned, this measure will help the country meet its 2020 emissions target."
EPA doles out grants to replace old diesel engines on tug boats
May 27, 2014 03:17 PM - Allison Winter, ENN
The shipping industry is one of the most under-regulated industries in the world due to outdated and international regulations that are difficult to enforce on a global scale. And as these ships enter our harbors and ports close to home, their operations have the potential to generate smog-forming emissions and other pollutants that are linked to various health problems in susceptible populations. In an effort to combat some of the pollution expelled from dirty diesel engines, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has allotted over one million dollars to help two specific organizations replace their old engines with less polluting models. According to the EPA, the projects will cut emissions of harmful nitrogen oxides and particulate matter among other pollutants which are linked to asthma, lung and heart disease and premature death.