Sci/tech

Increase Gas Mileage by Preventing Friction Loss
January 13, 2012 09:54 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

A joint study from the VTT Technical Research Centre in Finland and America's Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) has concluded that at least one third of a car's fuel consumption is used in overcoming friction. Friction loss has a direct impact on both fuel consumption and as a result, air emissions. However, there is available technology and technology under development that will make it possible to reduce fuel consumption and emissions by 18 percent within a decade. Within 25 years, the researchers estimate fuel consumption can be reduced by over 60 percent.

Maize Strength
January 13, 2012 08:04 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Maize is known in many English-speaking countries as corn but is technically a grain domesticated by indigenous peoples in Mesoamerica in prehistoric times. The leafy stalk produces ears which contain seeds called kernels. Though technically a grain, maize kernels are used in cooking as a vegetable or starch. The Olmec and Mayans cultivated it in numerous varieties throughout central and southern Mexico. Between 1700 and 1250 BC, the crop spread through much of the Americas. The region developed a trade network based on surplus and varieties of maize crops. After European contact with the Americas in the late 15th and early 16th centuries, explorers and traders carried maize back to Europe and introduced it to other countries. Now the discovery of a new provisioning gene in maize plants that regulates the transfer of nutrients from the plant to the seed could lead to increased crop yields and improve food security. Scientists from Oxford University and the University of Warwick, in collaboration with agricultural biotech research company Biogemma-Limagrain, have identified the gene, called Meg 1.

The Myriad Planets of the Galaxy
January 12, 2012 01:57 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

At one time there was serious debates that planets were a rare phenomena, few and far between. Our Milky Way galaxy contains a minimum of 100 billion planets, according to a detailed statistical study based on the detection of three planets located outside our solar system, called exoplanets. The discovery, to be reported in the January 12 issue of Nature, was made by an international team of astronomers, including co-author Stephen Kane of NASA's Exoplanet Science Institute at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. The survey results show that our galaxy contains, on average, a minimum of one planet for every star. This means that it's likely there are a minimum of 1,500 planets within just 50 light-years of Earth.

List of natural disasters and extreme weather makes 2011 the worst on record
January 11, 2012 02:27 PM - Click Green Staff, ClickGreen

A sequence of devastating earthquakes and a large number of weather-related catastrophes made 2011 the costliest year ever in terms of natural catastrophe losses. Estimates of around US$380 billion in global economic losses were nearly two-thirds higher than in 2005, the previous record year with losses of $220 billion. The earthquakes in Japan in March and New Zealand in February alone caused almost two-thirds of these losses. Insured losses of $105 billion also exceeded the 2005 record of $101 billion.

Radar Study of Kilauea
January 10, 2012 12:00 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Kīlauea is a volcano in the Hawaiian Islands, and one of five shield volcanoes that together form the island of Hawaiʻi. The Puʻu ʻŌʻō cone has been continuously erupting in the eastern rift-zone since 1983, making it the longest rift-zone eruption of the last 200 years. Thirty-five eruptions have taken place since 1952, not including the current episode. An airborne radar developed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif., has just returned to Hawaii to continue its study of Kilauea volcano, Hawaii's current most active volcano. UAVSAR uses a technique called interferometry that sends pulses of microwave energy from the sensor on the aircraft to the ground to detect and measure very subtle deformations in Earth's surface.

Operation Migration is ON! Whooping Cranes WILL migrate!
January 10, 2012 06:59 AM - Ian Simpson, Reuters, WASHINGTON

A flock of rare whooping cranes has been given the go-ahead to complete its inaugural winter migration after a U.S. agency lifted restrictions on the pilots, who will guide them wearing bird costumes. The whooping cranes, part of North America's tallest flying bird species, have been in pens since last month while the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) investigated whether the 1,285-mile flight violates regulations. The FAA said on Monday it would grant a "one-time exemption" to the pilots flying ultralight aircraft leading the whooping cranes, who were stalled in Alabama on their journey from Wisconsin to two Florida refuges. The issue arose because the pilots are being paid by the conservation group Operation Migration, violating FAA regulations that a pilot must hold a commercial rating to fly for hire. The Operation Migration pilots are licensed to fly lightweight sport aircraft. "The FAA has granted an exemption to Operation Migration that will allow pilots to continue to aid the whooping crane migration," the agency said in a statement.

Top 10 ethical destinations in the developing world
January 9, 2012 05:06 PM - Editor, Green Traveler Guides

Every year, Ethical Traveler reviews the policies and practices of the world's developing nations, then selects the ten that are doing the best job of preserving their environment, promoting human rights and creating a sustainable, community-based tourism industry. By visiting these destinations, we use our economic power—our travel dollars—to support these countries. In alphabetical order, the 2012 list: Argentina, The Bahamas, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominica, Latvia, Mauritius, Palau, Serbia, Uruguay. How were these countries chosen? A research team first identifies the "best" tourism destinations, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. Next, using publicly available data, these countries are rated. (For more on the methodology, download the full report.) As Ethical Traveler researcher Natalie Lefevre points out, "None of these countries are perfect, but they deserve their spots—thanks to their effort to ensure that tourism has a positive impact on their country and their people."

Ancient Tortoise Lives On
January 9, 2012 02:58 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The Galápagos tortoise or giant tortoise (Chelonoidis nigra) is the largest living species of tortoise, reaching weights of over 880 lb and lengths of over 5.9 feet. With life spans in the wild of over 100 years, it is one of the longest-lived vertebrates. The subspecies that lived on Floriana Island until 1850 had a modest fame as the one of the species that Darwin used in his studies. A new analysis, published January 9 in the journal Current Biology, suggests that the direct descendants of extinct Chelonoidis elephantopus live on the volcanic slopes of the northern shore of Isabela Island — 200 miles from their ancestral home of Floreana Island, where they disappeared after being hunted to extinction by whalers. "This is not just an academic exercise," said Gisella Caccone, senior research scientist in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and senior author of the paper. "If we can find these individuals, we can restore them to their island of origin. This is important as these animals are keystone species playing a crucial role in maintaining the ecological integrity of the island communities."

Meteor Showers in 2012
January 6, 2012 12:13 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

A meteor shower is a celestial event in which a number of meteors are observed to radiate from one point in the night sky. These meteors are caused by streams of cosmic debris called meteoroids entering the atmosphere extremely high speeds on parallel trajectories. Most meteors are smaller than a grain of sand, so almost all of them disintegrate and never hit the Earth's surface. Intense or unusual meteor showers are known to produce greater than 1,000 meteors an hour. Whether you're watching from a downtown area or the dark countryside, there are some tips to help you enjoy these celestial shows of shooting stars. Those streaks of light are really caused by tiny specks of comet-stuff hitting Earth's atmosphere at very high speed and disintegrating in flashes of light. First a word about the moon - it is not the meteor watcher's friend. Light reflecting off a bright moon can be just as detrimental to good meteor viewing as those bright lights of the big city. There is nothing you can do except curse, so you'll have to put up with it or wait until the next favorable shower.

China Partners With Better Place On Electric Vehicle Center
January 6, 2012 08:59 AM - Yinnon Shraga, NoCamels

China Southern Power Grid (CSG) and Better Place, the Israeli provider of global electric car networks, announced the opening of their Switchable Electric Car Experience Center in Guangzhou's Pearl River New Town. The center will demonstrate the technology behind Better Place's "battery swap stations" for electric cars.

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