Sci/tech

Neptune Completes First Orbit Since Discovery
July 12, 2011 02:50 PM - Ian O'Neill, Discovery News

Happy First 'Birthday' Neptune! Or, to be more accurate, I should say: "Happy First Orbit Since Being Discovered On Sept. 23, 1846, Neptune!" Yes, Neptune has only completed one whole orbit around the sun after being discovered 164.8 (Earth) years ago. Despite Neptune's size, however, the "ice giant" wasn't easy to spot and it took some ingenuity to track down.

Japanese Automakers Aim to Bolster Energy Security at Home
July 12, 2011 09:33 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

Electric vehicle drivers, the wise and uber-eco-conscious members of society, can claim to not have any tailpipe emissions. However, their emissions still exist in the form of a smoke stack from the local power plant. To have a pure green vehicle, the source of power must be sustainable and renewable. Nissan, creator of the all-electric Leaf, has developed a solar charging system that stores its power in the Leaf's lithium-ion battery. The automaker has installed 488 solar panels at its Japan headquarters, enough to power 1,800 Leafs a year.

Book Review: Currents of Deceit
July 11, 2011 03:50 PM - Maddie Perlman-Gabel, ENN

On April 20, 2010, the infamous BP oil rig exploded. Americans and the rest of the world alike were in shock and feared how much oil would be released and how much damage it would do. After three months, the spillage of the oil was stopped and restoration has slowly begun. But what if there was a spill of something invisible and the company responsible wanted to keep it a secret. In the book Currents of Deceit, Professor Ronald Perkins writes about such a situation. Ronald Perkins is a professor of Geology at Duke University's Nicholas School where he has been teaching since 1968. Prior to his professorship at Duke, Perkins worked as a research geologist with the Shell Development Company. As his first work of fiction, Currents of Deceit is a stray from Perkins's usual writing of textbooks and scientific papers.

Planet Construction
July 6, 2011 07:54 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

The sun and the solar system's rocky inner planets, including the Earth, may have formed differently than previously thought, according to UCLA scientists and colleagues analyzing samples returned by NASA's Genesis mission. The data from Genesis, which collected material from the solar wind blowing from the sun, reveal differences between the sun and planets with regard to oxygen and nitrogen, two of the most abundant elements in our solar system, the researchers report in two studies in the June 24 issue of the journal Science. And although the differences are slight, the research could help determine how our solar system evolved.

Incredible Images from the Land of the midnight sun
July 4, 2011 10:45 AM - Willow Murton, Assistant Producer, Arctic/Mountains team, BBC Earth

What is it like to live in a place where there is never-ending sunlight? BBC Assistant Producer Willow Murton describes how when days have no end, the midnight sun becomes a state of mind.I pull off my eye mask and open my eyes. The sun shines bright above me. I look at my watch. Three o’clock in the morning? I sit bolt upright, lifting my head from the make do pillow. Reindeer hair sticks to my cheek. Simon the sound recordist mutters as he rigidly stares out ahead of us. Beth the researcher alongside us is, like me, struggling with sleep deprivation and the daylight. I am still trying to focus my eyes in the dazzling night of the Arctic summer. Suddenly I see the figures along the ice edge. Five men, spread out along the horizon, all poised, waiting...watching for their target. Simon swears. We aren't hunters but we know the rules. We mustn't do anything, we mustn't move, cannot move from our dogsled bed. I spot our tripod and camera, no cameraman anywhere nearby. I am filled with a dreadful nauseous realization – this could be the moment that we have spent over a year working towards. Months of careful negotiations and awkward logistics all for us to sleep through our only possible chance of filming a narwhal hunt. We can only sit and watch in confused disbelief... At that moment, the silhouette of a whale crests the ice edge. I wonder how on earth I am going to explain this to the team back in Cardiff. Surreal scenes like this are surely what you are supposed to wake from rather than wake up to. It's late Spring in Northern Greenland, there is no reference to time as the sun never sets so the days blend into each other. In the full glare of the midnight sun this is a place where anything seems possible and where dreaming and being seem to meet.

Huge rare earth deposits found in Pacific
July 4, 2011 08:25 AM - Reuters, TOKYO

Vast deposits of rare earth minerals, crucial in making high-tech electronics products, have been found on the floor of the Pacific Ocean and can be readily extracted, Japanese scientists said on Monday. "The deposits have a heavy concentration of rare earths. Just one square kilometer (0.4 square mile) of deposits will be able to provide one-fifth of the current global annual consumption," said Yasuhiro Kato, an associate professor of earth science at the University of Tokyo. The discovery was made by a team led by Kato and including researchers from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology. They found the minerals in sea mud extracted from depths of 3,500 to 6,000 meters (11,500-20,000 ft) below the ocean surface at 78 locations. One-third of the sites yielded rich contents of rare earths and the metal yttrium, Kato said in a telephone interview.

Takeoffs and Landings Cause More Precipitation Near Airports, Researchers Find
July 1, 2011 09:13 AM - Editor, Science Daily

ScienceDaily (June 30, 2011) — Researchers have found that areas near commercial airports sometimes experience a small but measurable increase in rain and snow when aircraft take off and land under certain atmospheric conditions.

Motion Affer Effect
June 30, 2011 02:10 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The motion after-effect is a visual illusion experienced after viewing a moving visual stimulus for a time (seconds to minutes) with stationary eyes, and then fixating a stationary stimulus. The stationary stimulus appears to move in the opposite direction to the original (physically moving) stimulus. The motion aftereffect is believed to be the result of motion adaptation. For example, if one looks at a waterfall for about a minute and then looks at the stationary rocks at the side of the waterfall, these rocks appear to be moving upwards slightly. The illusory upwards movement is the motion aftereffect. This particular motion aftereffect is also known as the waterfall illusion. Why does it happen, though? Is it because we are consciously aware that the background is moving in one direction, causing our brains to shift their frame of reference so that we can ignore this motion? Or is it an automatic, subconscious response? Davis Glasser, a doctoral student in the University of Rochester's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences thinks he has found the answer. The results of a study done by Glasser, along with his advisor, Professor Duje Tadin, and colleagues James Tsui and Christopher Pack of the Montreal Neurological Institute, is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In their paper, the scientists show that humans experience the Motion Aftereffect even if the motion that they see in the background is so brief that they can't even tell whether it is heading to the right or the left.

Warm Ocean Under Antarctic Glacier
June 27, 2011 01:14 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Pine Island Glacier is a large ice stream flowing west-northwest along the south side of the Hudson Mountains into Pine Island Bay, Amundsen Sea, Antarctica. It was mapped by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) from surveys and United States Navy air photos, 1960–66, and named in association with Pine Island Bay. The area drained by Pine Island Glacier comprises about 10% of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Satellite measurements have shown that the Pine Island Glacier Basin has a greater net contribution of ice to the sea than any other ice drainage basin in the world and this has increased due to recent acceleration of the ice stream. An international team of scientists from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and British Antarctic Survey has discovered that due to an increased volume of warm water reaching the cavity beneath Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica, it’s melting 50 percent faster than it was 15 years earlier. The glacier is currently sliding into the sea at a rate of 2.5 miles a year, while its ice shelf (the part that floats on the ocean) is melting at about 80 cubic kilometres a year.

Vesta
June 27, 2011 07:51 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Vesta is an asteroid that is thought to be a remnant protoplanet with a differentiated interior and a mean diameter of about 530 km. Comprising an estimated 9% of the mass of the entire asteroid belt which lies between Mars and Jupiter. It is the second-most-massive object in the belt after the dwarf planet Ceres. NASA's Dawn spacecraft is on track to begin the first extended visit to a large asteroid. The mission expects to go into orbit around Vesta on July 16 and begin gathering science data in early August. Vesta resides in the main asteroid belt and is thought to be the source of a large number of meteorites that fall to Earth.

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