Sci/tech

New insight on the Tree of Life from Temple University
March 4, 2015 07:47 AM - Temple University via EurekAlert

Temple University researchers have assembled the largest and most accurate tree of life calibrated to time, and surprisingly, it reveals that life has been expanding at a constant rate. 

"The constant rate of diversification that we have found indicates that the ecological niches of life are not being filled up and saturated," said Temple professor S. Blair Hedges, a member of the research team's study, published in the early online edition of the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution. "This is contrary to the popular alternative model which predicts a slowing down of diversification as niches fill up with species." 

The tree of life compiled by the Temple team is depicted in a new way --- a cosmologically-inspired galaxy of life view --- and contains more than 50,000 species in a tapestry spiraling out from the origin of life.

Using satellites to monitor forest health
February 28, 2015 07:12 AM - Oregon State University

Scientists for the first time have simultaneously compared widespread impacts from two of the most common forest insects in the West – mountain pine beetle and western spruce budworm – an advance that could lead to more effective management policies.

By combining data from satellites, airplanes and ground-based crews, the researchers have shown in unprecedented detail how insects affect Western forests over decades.

In the past, forest managers relied on airplane surveys to evaluate insect damage over broad areas.

Antifreeze protein from ticks fights frostbite in mice
February 26, 2015 08:54 AM - Ziba Kashef, Yale University

A protein that protects ticks from freezing temperatures also prevents frostbite when introduced in mice, a Yale-led study has found. The research is the first to demonstrate the protein’s ability to boost frostbite resistance in an adult mammal.

ENN Releases App for Android Users
February 23, 2015 09:14 AM - ENN Editor

Last month ENN launched a new mobile app available at the iTunes store making it easier for you to connect with us and stay up to date with groundbreaking environmental news. Now, ENN releases the mobile app at Google Play, making it compatible for Android users.

ENN is more than just a gatherer of environmental news but rather a unique set of resources, archives, tools, and experts for the increasingly complex field of environmental science attracting readers from all levels of government, business and academia.

We also encourage you to join the conversation by checking out our Community Blog and by connecting with us on Facebook.

Apple users can download the app at the iTunes store.

Android users can download the app at Google Play.

Make sure you click on the app with the logo shown here.

'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).

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. 

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.

Plants Can be 'Reprogrammed' for Drought Tolerance
February 4, 2015 03:02 PM - Iqbal Pittalwala, University of California, Riverside

Crops and other plants are constantly faced with adverse environmental conditions, such as rising temperatures (2014 was the warmest year on record) and lessening fresh water supplies, which lower yield and cost farmers billions of dollars annually. Drought is a major environmental stress factor affecting plant growth and development.  When plants encounter drought, they naturally produce abscisic acid (ABA), a stress hormone that inhibits plant growth and reduces water consumption.  Specifically, the hormone turns on a receptor (special protein) in plants when it binds to the receptor like a hand fitting into a glove, resulting in beneficial changes – such as the closing of guard cells on leaves, called stomata, to reduce water loss – that help the plants survive.

Scientists discover organism that hasn't evolved in more than 2 billion years
February 3, 2015 09:08 AM - UCLA

An international team of scientists has discovered the greatest absence of evolution ever reported — a type of deep-sea microorganism that appears not to have evolved over more than 2 billion years. But the researchers say that the organisms’ lack of evolution actually supports Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. The findings are published online today by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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