Affordable Solar Power On The Horizon
October 5, 2007 08:10 AM - University of Cambridge

Cambridge, UK - Environmentally friendly solar panels may be an affordable alternative to conventional power sources within the next ten years, as a result of a new initiative launched this week.

The project, funded by the Carbon Trust, will be led by the University of Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory in collaboration with The Technology Partnership.

Currently solar panels are made from silicon, which makes them expensive to manufacture and therefore cost prohibitive for many. However, new technology being researched at Cambridge uses plastic to create solar cells, a much more cost effective and energy efficient method.

Geologists Recover Rocks from San Andreas Fault
October 5, 2007 08:00 AM - NSF

CALIFORNIA - For the first time, geologists have extracted intact rock samples from two miles beneath the surface of the San Andreas Fault, the infamous rupture that runs 800 miles along the length of California.  Never before have so-called "cores" from deep inside an actively moving tectonic boundary been available to study. Now, scientists hope to answer long-standing questions about the fault's composition and properties.  Altogether, the geologists retrieved 135 feet of 4-inch diameter rock cores weighing roughly 1 ton. They were hauled to the surface through a borehole measuring more than 2.5 miles long.

Thousands of New Marine Microbes Discovered
October 5, 2007 07:45 AM - Reuters

CHICAGO - Scientists have uncovered thousands of marine microbes -- including never-before-seen bacteria -- thriving deep in the sea near cracks in the Earth's crust where warm fluids and cold sea water mix, U.S. researchers said on Wednesday.  Using new DNA sequencing techniques, the researchers have identified as many as 37,000 different kinds of bacteria huddled near two hydrothermal vents on an underwater volcano off the Oregon coast.  "Many of these bacteria had never been reported before," said Julie Huber of the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, whose study appears in the journal Science.

Japan to Start Test Sales of Ethanol-Mixed Gasoline
October 5, 2007 07:35 AM - Reuters

TOKYO - Japan will start next week the first test sales in a city of gasoline mixed with ethanol to meet Kyoto emissions targets, two months behind schedule due to difficulties in finding a petrol supplier outside the nation's major refiners.  Project manager, the Osaka municipal government, said on Friday it would start selling on October 9 gasoline directly blended with up to 3 percent of ethanol (E3) at two pump stations in suburban areas at a price similar to regular gasoline.

Bird Flu Virus Mutating into Human-Unfriendly Form
October 4, 2007 08:37 PM - Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The H5N1 bird flu virus has mutated to infect people more easily, although it still has not transformed into a pandemic strain, researchers said on Thursday.

The changes are worrying, said Dr. Yoshihiro Kawaoka of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

"We have identified a specific change that could make bird flu grow in the upper respiratory tract of humans," said Kawaoka, who led the study.

"The viruses that are circulating in Africa and Europe are the ones closest to becoming a human virus," Kawaoka said.

Bird Flu Virus "More Invasive Than Thought'
October 4, 2007 08:07 PM - Jia Hepeng, SciDevNet

BEIJING - The post mortems of two people who died after H5N1 infection have revealed that the virus infects more human organs than previously thought. The study was published in The Lancet.  Lead author Gu Jiang, a professor at the School of Basic Medical Sciences of the Beijing-based Peking University, and colleagues studied post-mortem tissues of one man and one pregnant woman, and also tested the foetus of the woman.

India's Tsunami Warning Center Up And Running
October 4, 2007 07:49 PM - T. V. Padma, SciDevNet

HYDERABAD - India's tsunami warning center in Hyderabad became operational this week, less than three years since the country's southern coast was devastated by the Asian tsunami.

The $314 million dollar center, located at the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services, is now operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It receives data via satellite from six ocean buoys — four in the Bay of Bengal and two in the Arabian Sea — equipped with water pressure sensors to detect any rise in water levels. Six more back-up buoys will be ready in the next two months.

Study: Vitamin C Essential For Plant Growth
October 4, 2007 07:38 PM -

University of Exeter - Scientists from the University of Exeter and Shimane University in Japan have proved for the first time that vitamin C is essential for plant growth. This discovery could have implications for agriculture and for the production of vitamin C dietary supplements.

The study, which is published in The Plant Journal, describes the newly-identified enzyme, GDP-L-galactose phosphorylase, which produces vitamin C, or ascorbate, in plants. Vitamin C is already known to be an antioxidant, which helps plants deal with stresses from drought to ozone and UV radiation, but until now it was not known that plants could not grow without it.


Gamma Ray Delay, Sign of 'New Physics' Beyond Einstein
October 4, 2007 06:58 PM -

Davis California - Delayed gamma rays from deep space may provide the first evidence for physics beyond current theories.

The MAGIC (Major Atmospheric Gamma-ray Imaging Cherenkov) telescope found that high-energy photons of gamma radiation from a distant galaxy arrived at Earth four minutes after lower-energy photons, although they were apparently emitted at the same time. If correct, that would contradict Einstein's theory of relativity, which says that all photons (particles of light) must move at the speed of light.

How 'Mother of Thousands' Makes Plantlets
October 4, 2007 06:48 PM - Paul Schaefer, ENN

Davis, California - New research shows how the houseplant "mother of thousands", a plant officially called "Kalanchoe diagremontiana" makes the tiny plantlets that drop from the edges of its leaves. In an amazing twist of evolution, this houseplant, having lost the ability to make viable seeds, shifted some of the processes that make seeds to the leaves, said Neelima Sinha, professor of plant biology at UC Davis.

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