Sci/tech

Geo-engineering: a bad idea whose time has come?
December 10, 2011 02:11 PM - Deborah Zabarenko, Reuters, Environment Correspondent WASHINGTON

The mainstream approach to climate change does not seem to be working so some scientists and policymakers say it may be time to look into something completely different: re-engineering Earth's climate. Variously called geo-engineering, climate remediation and planet hacking, the idea is to do on purpose what industry and other human activities have done inadvertently, which is to change the amount of climate-warming greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and as a result, cool it down. The concept has been around for nearly a century, from about the same time scientists and engineers noted the warming effect carbon dioxide emissions had on climate. Until quite recently, the notion has been relegated to the fringes of debate. Global climate talks have focused instead on curbing future emissions of greenhouse gases, known as mitigation. But in the lead-up to the latest round of U.N. climate negotiations in Durban, South Africa, there have been serious examinations of what it might take to start countering the effects of increasing carbon dioxide in the air.

ExxonMobil Energy Use Predictions
December 9, 2011 03:15 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

There are many predictions, many demands and many possibilities for future energy use and sources. ExxonMobil has just released their prediction of how energy demands will be served in the next few decades. ExxonMobil’s just-released Outlook for Energy: A View to 2040 takes a look into the future and finds that technology advancements over the next three decades will produce greater supplies of energy, more diverse supplies of energy and new ways to save energy – all of which will be essential to meeting future energy demand. ExxonMobil’s 2012 Outlook for Energy sees efficiency, developing world economic growth and natural gas reshaping global. Demand through 2040 is to be about 30 percent higher in 2040 versus 2010 as population grows and global GDP doubles; demand in developing nations to rise nearly 60 percent; natural gas from shale and other unconventional rock formations will account for 30 percent of global gas production by 2040; demand growth would be more than four times the projected 30 percent without expected gains in efficiency.

Spider Musical Patterns
December 8, 2011 02:44 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

There is something about beautiful music and pretty spider webs. Using a new mathematical methodology, researchers at MIT have created a scientifically rigorous analogy that shows the similarities between the physical structure of spider silk and the sonic structure of a melody, proving that the structure of each relates to its function in an equivalent way. The step-by-step comparison begins with the primary building blocks of each item — an amino acid and a sound wave — and moves up to the level of a beta sheet nanocomposite (the secondary structure of a protein consisting of repeated hierarchical patterns) and a musical riff (a repeated pattern of notes or chords). The study explains that structural patterns are directly related to the functional properties of lightweight strength in the spider silk and, in the riff, sonic tension that creates an emotional response in the listener.

Double Tsunami
December 7, 2011 03:23 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

When is a tsunami not the worse case: when it becomes a double tsunami. Researchers have discovered that the destructive tsunami generated by the March 2011 Tōhoku-Oki earthquake was a long-hypothesized merging tsunami that doubled in intensity due to passing over rugged ocean ridges, amplifying its destructive power before reaching shore. Satellites captured not just one wave front that day, but at least two, which merged to form a single double-high wave far out at sea – one capable of traveling much longer distances without losing its power. Ocean ridges and undersea mountain chains pushed the waves together, but only along certain directions from the tsunami’s origin.

Atoms and Glass Fibers
December 7, 2011 12:03 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

A highly sensitive method to detect atoms has been developed at the Vienna University of Technology. Glass fiber cables are indispensable for the internet – now they may also be used as a quantum physics lab. The Vienna University of Technology is the only research facility in the world, where single atoms can be controllably coupled to the light in ultra-thin fiber glass. Specially prepared light waves interact with very small numbers of atoms, which makes it possible to build detectors that are extremely sensitive to tiny trace amounts of a substance. Professor Arno Rauschenbeutel’s team, one of six research groups at the Vienna Center for Quantum Science and Technology, has presented this new method in the journal “Physical Review Letters”. The research project was carried out in collaboration with the Johannes Gutenberg University in Mainz, Germany.

Climate and Global Radiation Balance
December 7, 2011 10:33 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Scientists at the Universities of Bristol and Southampton have developed an important new insight into climate sensitivity – the sensitivity of global temperature to changes in the Earth’s radiation balance – over the last half million years. Climate sensitivity is a key parameter for understanding past natural climate changes as well as potential future climate change. In a study in Journal of Climate, the researchers reconstructed, for the first time, climate sensitivity over five ice-age cycles based on a global records of sea surface and polar temperature change. These were compared with a new reconstruction of changes in the Earth’s radiation balance caused by changes in greenhouse gas concentrations, in surface reflectivity, and those due to slow changes in the Earth-Sun orbital configuration.

Electric Car Rental In Paris
December 6, 2011 01:48 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Electric cars do not pollute as do internal combustion vehicles. The relative problem is one of frequent charging and limited distances. Pay-as-you-drive electric car rentals are expected to help cut pollution and reduce traffic in Paris, as the new fleet of fully electric Autiolib vehicles hits the French capital. As of December 5, Parisians could take the bubble cars for a ride from more than 1,200 parking spots where they rest for recharge. They would cost 10 euros a day or 15 euros a week, while an annual fee of 144 euro allows users to take the car for only half an hour each time for 5 euro, just over the price of two underground tickets. The Autolib system builds on the success of the Velib bicycle-sharing service.

Electric Car Battery Safety
December 1, 2011 11:20 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Electric cars may present different hazards than conventional design. Recent crash tests as well as one report of a battery fire suggest that the present car design may have to be improved. Crash tests have been carried out in the well known Euro NCAP testing center on the Volt and the Renault Fluence EV that gives tested cars crash resistance ratings scores ranging from 1 to 5 points. Overall crash test results of both of cars resulted in the Fluence EZ having an over crash test rating of 4 points, as compared to the Volt receiving a higher score of 5 points, highest in the auto safety rating program. One Chevy Volt battery pack that was being closely monitored following a government crash test caught fire. Another recently crash-tested battery emitted smoke and sparks.

Watery Earthquakes
December 1, 2011 10:12 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

An earthquake is the result of a sudden release of energy in the Earth's crust that creates seismic waves. The seismicity, seismism or seismic activity of an area refers to the frequency, type and size of earthquakes experienced over a period of time. A new study presents geophysical evidence of fluids (water) migrating into the creeping section of the San Andreas fault that seem to originate in the region of the uppermost mantle that also stimulates tremor, and evidence that along-strike variations in tremor activity and amplitude are related to strength variations in the lower crust and upper mantle. From the pattern of electrical conductivity and seismic activity they were able to deduce that rock water acts as a lubricant.

Is Thorium the Energy Panacea We Have Been Waiting For?
November 29, 2011 09:57 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

Thorium is a naturally-occurring, radioactive, and amazingly abundant metal that was discovered in 1828 by Swedish chemist, Jons Jakob Berzelius. The mineral, named after the Norse god of thunder, has languished in relative obscurity for many years as opposed to its much more recognized cousin, uranium. However, conversations have been popping up about thorium in recent years and how it can be a game-changer in the energy industry. Thorium has incredible potential as an ultra-safe, clean, and cheap nuclear energy source which can power the world for millennia.

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