Sci/tech

Photosynthesis measured on a global scale
May 1, 2015 10:12 AM - Brown University

A research team led by geoscientists from Brown University and the Marine Biological Laboratory has provided some crucial ground-truth for a method of measuring plant photosynthesis on a global scale from low-Earth orbit. The researchers have shown that chlorophyll fluorescence, a faint glow produced by plant leaves as a byproduct of photosynthesis, is a strong proxy for photosynthetic activity in the canopy of a deciduous forest. That glow can be detected by orbiting satellites and could be used to monitor global photosynthetic activity in real time.

Oregon State University study links climate changes in Northern and Southern Hemispheres - with 200 year lag
April 29, 2015 03:52 PM - Oregon State University

A new study using evidence from a highly detailed ice core from West Antarctica shows a consistent link between abrupt temperature changes on Greenland and Antarctica during the last ice age, giving scientists a clearer picture of the link between climate in the northern and southern hemispheres.

Greenland climate during the last ice age was very unstable, the researchers say, characterized by a number of large, abrupt changes in mean annual temperature that each occurred within several decades. These so-called “Dansgaard-Oeschger events” took place every few thousand years during the last ice age. Temperature changes in Antarctica showed an opposite pattern, with Antarctica cooling when Greenland was warm, and vice versa.

How soon after the big bang did water form in the early universe?
April 28, 2015 02:12 PM - Christine Pulliam, Smithsonian Science News

How soon after the Big Bang could water have existed? Not right away, because water molecules contain oxygen and oxygen had to be formed in the first stars. Then that oxygen had to disperse and unite with hydrogen in significant amounts. New theoretical work finds that despite these complications, water vapor could have been just as abundant in pockets of space a billion years after the Big Bang as it is today.

“We looked at the chemistry within young molecular clouds containing a thousand times less oxygen than our Sun. To our surprise, we found we can get as much water vapor as we see in our own galaxy,” says astrophysicist Avi Loeb of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA).

How Desalination Technology Is Helping Solve California's Drought
April 27, 2015 08:40 AM - Betty Ilovici, NoCamels

Four years of devastating droughts in California have pushed cities and counties in the Golden State to seriously consider turning to the one drinking source that is not depleting anytime soon – seawater. With the Pacific Ocean abutting their shores, water desalination may be the much-needed solution for Californians. But desalination has its disadvantages, the chief ones being the high costs and the potential environmental damage.

Aluminum-ion battery technology advances
April 27, 2015 06:56 AM - Mark Shwartz, The Ecologist

A new high-performance 'aluminum-ion' battery could be the technical breakthrough needed to boost the renewable energy takeover. It's safe, uses abundant low-cost materials, recharges in one minute and withstands many thousands of recharge cycles.

If this new battery lives up to expectations, it could propel a whole new chapter in the renewable takeover of the world's energy supply.

Stanford University scientists have invented the first high-performance aluminum battery that's fast-charging, long-lasting, inexpensive - and safe.

On Earth Day, Give Fiber Its Due...
April 22, 2015 02:14 PM - Guest Contributor, James Gowen, Verizon Chief Sustainability Officer

There's a touch of green associated with receiving phone service, using the Internet and streaming video over an all-fiber-optic network. It's not the color of laser-generated light that carries massive amounts of data through all-glass cables directly into homes and businesses. It's green in the sense of how much more environmentally friendly today’s fiber-based telecommunications networks are compared to copper wire and coaxial cable networks. Whether it's energy efficiency or reduced demand for raw materials and other resources, all-fiber networks are a winning strategy on many fronts — including environmental sustainability. As we approach the 45th celebration of Earth Day on April 22, it's a good time to reflect on how network and technology decisions made by major telecommunications companies don't just result in advanced, more reliable services. These decisions can also pay handsome dividends on the sustainability front.

Energy-tracking app encourages sustainable behaviors
April 22, 2015 01:33 PM - Editor, ENN

We've all heard of fitness trackers and apps that help us stay on track with our daily nutrition and exercise, but what about an app to monitor our personal energy usage and carbon footprint? Just in time for Earth Day, a team at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has created an energy-tracking app to make reducing day-to-day energy usage more accessible.

Study shows how climate affects biodiversity
April 16, 2015 03:18 PM - Uppsala University via AlphaGalileo

A key question in the climate debate is how the occurrence and distribution of species is affected by climate change. But without information about natural variation in species abundance it is hard to answer. In a major study, published today in the leading scientific journal Current Biology, researchers can now for the first time give us a detailed picture of natural variation.

Human sweat conveys our emotional state!
April 16, 2015 06:50 AM - ASSOCIATION FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL SCIENCE via EurekAlert.

Humans may be able to communicate positive emotions like happiness through the smell of our sweat, according to new research published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The research indicates that we produce chemical compounds, or chemosignals, when we experience happiness that are detectable by others who smell our sweat. 

While previous research has shown that negative emotions related to fear and disgust are communicated via detectable regularities in the chemical composition of sweat, few studies have examined whether the same communicative function holds for positive emotions.

New oil repellant materials could help clean up oil spills
April 15, 2015 03:34 PM - Scott Gordon, University of Wisconsin-Madison

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have announced a significant step forward in the development of materials that can ward off oil — a discovery that could lead to new protective coatings and better approaches to cleaning up oil spills. In a new paper in the journal Advanced Functional Materials, professor of chemical and biological engineering David Lynn and assistant scientist Uttam Manna describe new coatings that are extremely oil-repellant (or "superoleophobic") in underwater environments.

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