Sci/tech

Ice cores show volcanic eruptions and cold climate strongly linked
August 4, 2015 07:31 AM -

Researchers find new evidence that large eruptions were responsible for cold temperature extremes recorded since early Roman times

It is well known that large volcanic eruptions contribute to climate variability. However, quantifying these contributions has proven challenging due to inconsistencies in both historic atmospheric data observed in polar ice cores and corresponding temperature variations seen in climate indicators such as tree rings.

How Corn Became King
July 28, 2015 09:12 AM - Kelly April Tyrrell, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Ten thousand years ago, a golden grain got naked, brought people together and grew to become one of the top agricultural commodities on the planet.

Now, University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers have found that just a single letter change in the genetic script of corn's ancestor, teosinte, helped make it all possible.

Publishing in the journal Genetics this month, UW-Madison genetics Professor John Doebley and a team of researchers describe how, during the domestication of corn, a single nucleotide change in the teosinte glume architectural gene (tga1) stripped away the hard, inedible casing of this wild grass, ultimately exposing the edible golden kernel.

EPA Releases Updated Environmental and Public Health Indicators in Online Database
July 21, 2015 09:04 AM - USEPA Newsroom

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released updated environmental and public health indicators in an online database, making information about the current and historical condition of the nation’s environment and human health more accessible to the public. This is an online update to EPA’s Report on the Environment. Users can explore 85 individual indicators-- on our air, water, land, human exposure, health and ecological condition-- using interactive graphs, tables, and maps, and download the data for each indicator.

Pluto's atmosphere found being stripped away by the solar wind
July 21, 2015 06:38 AM - Editor, ENN

New Horizons has discovered a region of cold, dense ionized gas tens of thousands of miles beyond Pluto — the planet’s atmosphere being stripped away by the solar wind and lost to space. Beginning an hour and half after closest approach, the Solar Wind Around Pluto (SWAP) instrument observed a cavity in the solar wind — the outflow of electrically charged particles from the Sun — between 48,000 miles (77,000 km) and 68,000 miles (109,000 km) downstream of Pluto. SWAP data revealed this cavity to be populated with nitrogen ions forming a “plasma tail” of undetermined structure and length extending behind the planet.

How clouds get their brightness
July 17, 2015 02:34 PM - Pacific Northwest National Laboratory

How clouds form and how they help set the temperature of the earth are two of the big remaining questions in climate research. Now, a study of clouds over the world's remotest ocean shows that ocean life is responsible for up to half the cloud droplets that pop in and out of existence during summer.

Seaweed that tastes like bacon? Sign me up!
July 15, 2015 10:10 AM - Oregon State University

Oregon State University researchers have patented a new strain of a succulent red marine algae called dulse that grows extraordinarily quickly, is packed full of protein and has an unusual trait when it is cooked.

This seaweed tastes like bacon.

Wildfires ravage Canada and Alaska causing mass evacuations
July 13, 2015 08:38 AM - Nathan Rott, NPR

"Extreme." "Unprecedented." "Historic." Those are just a few of the words being used to describe the start of this year's fire season in North America. The wildfires are centered in the northwest of the continent, but their consequences are far-reaching. Thick smoke has blanketed parts of Wisconsin and North Dakota. It's triggered air alerts in Minnesota and Montana and muddied skies as far south as Tennessee and Colorado.

New Model Predicts Avian Fatalities at Wind Facilities
July 8, 2015 12:30 PM - USGS

The U.S. Geological Survey, in collaboration with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, has released a study that will enable ecologists, managers, policy makers, and industry to predict the bird fatalities at a wind facility prior to it being constructed. The study examined golden eagles as a case study because they are susceptible to collisions with wind turbines in part because of their soaring and hunting behavior. 

Mapping mosquito data to track spread of disease
July 7, 2015 09:01 AM - Tania Rabesandratana, SciDevNet

Mosquitoes that carry the dengue and chikungunya viruses are more widespread than ever, believe scientists mapping the global spread of the insects. There are no treatments or vaccines for these diseases, so knowing where the mosquitoes that transmit them occur and thrive can help focus research and public health resources, the scientists say.

What we can learn from the Seahorse
July 7, 2015 07:51 AM - Oregon State Univesity

One of the ocean’s oddest little creatures, the seahorse, is providing inspiration for robotics researchers as they learn from nature how to build robots that have capabilities sometimes at odds with one another – flexible, but also tough and strong.

Their findings, published today in the journal Science, outline the virtues of the seahorse’s unusual skeletal structure, including a tail in which a vertebral column is surrounded by square bony plates. These systems may soon help create technology that offers new approaches to surgery, search and rescue missions or industrial applications.

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