Sci/tech

Solar Impulse completes first solar-powered night flight
July 9, 2010 06:48 AM - Vincent Fribault, Reuters

A giant glider-like aircraft has completed the first night flight propelled only by solar energy, organizers said on Thursday. Solar Impulse, whose wingspan is the same as an Airbus A340, flew 26 hours and 9 minutes, powered only by solar energy stored during the day. It was also the longest and highest flight in the history of solar aviation, organizers said. Bertrand Piccard, the Swiss president of the project, best known for completing the first round-the-world flight in a hot air balloon in 1999, said the success of the flight showed the potential of renewable energies and clean technology. "We are on the verge of the perpetual flight," he said.

Elves and Sprites
July 8, 2010 03:19 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Upper atmospheric lightning or upper atmospheric discharge are terms sometimes used by researchers to refer to a family of electrical breakdown phenomena that occur well above the altitudes of normal lightning. The preferred current usage is transient luminous events (TLEs) to refer to the various types of electrical discharge phenomena in the upper atmosphere, because they lack several characteristics of the more familiar lower atmospheric lightning. TLEs include red sprites, sprite halos, blue jets, gigantic jets, and elves.

High Above the Earth, Satellites Track Melting Ice
July 8, 2010 08:48 AM - Michael D. Lemonick, Yale Environment 360

The surest sign of a warming Earth is the steady melting of its ice zones, from disappearing sea ice in the Arctic to shrinking glaciers worldwide. Now, scientists are using increasingly sophisticated satellite technology to measure the extent, thickness, and height of ice, assembling an essential picture of a planet in transition.

Really High Pressures
July 7, 2010 03:33 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Deep down in the earth are tremendously high pressures. What happens under high pressure is not the same as what happens at lower pressures. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory physicists are using an ultra fast laser based technique they dubbed nanoshocks for something entirely different. In fact, the nanoshocks have such a small spatial scale that scientists can use them to study shock behavior in tiny samples such as thin films or other systems with microscopic dimensions (a few tens of micrometers). In particular they have used the technique to shock materials under high static pressure in a diamond anvil cell.

Trees a 'low-cost' solution to air pollution and biodiversity loss in cities
July 4, 2010 09:50 AM - Editor, Ecologist

Native woods and trees in urban areas, including gardens, provide haven for wildlife, reduce air pollution, surface run-off and flooding Reversing the declining numbers of native trees and woods in cities would provide numerous benefits at 'relatively little cost', says a report from the Woodland Trust. As well as access to green space, the report, 'Greening the Concrete Jungle', says trees provide a wide range of free ecosystem services including reducing the risk of surface water flooding and improving air quality that could save millions in flood defence and healthcare costs.

Dispersants in the Gulf
July 1, 2010 02:30 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

EPA continues to carefully monitor BP’s use of dispersant in the Gulf. Dispersants are generally less toxic than oil and can help prevent some oil from impacting sensitive areas along the Gulf Coast. EPA believes BP should use as little dispersant as necessary and, on May 23, EPA directed BP to reduce dispersant usage by 75 percent from peak usage. EPA and the Coast Guard formalized that order in a directive to BP on May 26. Over the next month BP reduced dispersant use 68 percent from that peak and EPA will continue to urge BP to reduce the volumes used. However, dispersants come in many varieties with different effectiveness and toxicity. EPA has just released a study of such available options.

Human Bite Stronger Than Thought
June 30, 2010 09:00 AM - Anna Salleh, ABC Science Online

Humans have a much more powerful bite than previously thought, thanks to the mechanics of their skull, say Australian researchers. New analysis shows our bite is much more powerful than scientists thought. The design of the human jaw actually makes it 40 percent to 50 percent more efficient than for all great apes.

Mid Ocean Life
June 28, 2010 09:03 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

For those without a green thumb, it takes several things to make plants (or algae grow). These are sunlight, nutrients, and water. In the middle of the ocean there is plenty of water and on the surface plenty of sunlight, the problem is lack of nutrients. For almost three decades, oceanographers have been puzzled by the ability of microscopic algae to grow in mid-ocean areas where there is very little nitrate, an essential algal nutrient. In a recent issue of Nature, oceanographer Ken Johnson, along with coauthors Stephen Riser at the University of Washington and David Karl at the University of Hawaii, show that mid-ocean algae obtain nitrate from deep water, as much as 800 feet below the surface.

Middle school project discovers cave skylight on Mars
June 25, 2010 03:20 PM - Robert Burnham, Arizona State University

The 16 students in Dennis Mitchell's 7th-grade science class at Evergreen Middle School in Cottonwood, Calif., chose to study lava tubes, a common volcanic feature on Earth and Mars. It was their class project for the Mars Student Imaging Program (MSIP), a component of ASU's Mars Education Program, which is run out of the Mars Space Flight Facility on the Tempe campus. They went looking for lava tubes on Mars — and found what may be a hole in the roof of a Martian cave.

Telepresence Could Save Business $19 Billion by 2020
June 25, 2010 09:12 AM - Thomas Miner, Matter Network

According to a new study of large companies using telepresence technology, U.S. and U.K. businesses that substitute some business travel with telepresence can cut CO2 emissions by nearly 5.5 million metric tons in total – the greenhouse gas equivalent of removing more than one million passenger vehicles from the road for one year – and achieve total economy-wide financial benefits of almost $19 billion, by 2020.

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