Sci/tech

Illuminating Study Reveals How Plants Respond to Light
November 26, 2007 08:41 AM - www.nsf.gov

Most of us take it for granted that plants respond to light by growing, flowering and straining towards the light, and we never wonder just how plants manage to do so. But the ordinary, everyday responses of plants to light are deceptively complex, and much about them has long stumped scientists.

Now, a new study "has significantly advanced our understanding of how plant responses to light are regulated, and perhaps even how such responses evolved," says Michael Mishkind, a program director at the National Science Foundation (NSF).  This study, which was funded by NSF, will be published in the November 23, 2007 issue of Science.

Human safety, prosperity depend on better ocean observing system: Scientists
November 26, 2007 08:26 AM - University of California - San Diego

Speedy diagnosis of the temper and vital signs of the oceans matters increasingly to the well being of humanity, says a distinguished partnership of international scientists urging support to complete a world marine monitoring system within 10 years.

The Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO) says warming seas, over-fishing and pollution are among profound concerns that must be better measured to help society respond in a well-informed, timely and cost-effective way.

Nanotech's health, environment impacts worry scientists
November 26, 2007 08:23 AM - University of Wisconsin-Madison

The unknown human health and environmental impacts of nanotechnology are a bigger worry for scientists than for the public, according to a new report published today (Nov. 25) in the journal Nature Nanotechnology.

The new report was based on a national telephone survey of American households and a sampling of 363 leading U.S. nanotechnology scientists and engineers. It reveals that those with the most insight into a technology with enormous potential -- and that is already emerging in hundreds of products -- are unsure what health and environmental problems might be posed by the technology.

Termite Guts Yield Enzymes for Better Biofuel
November 25, 2007 05:27 PM -

WALNUT CREEK, CA--Termites -- notorious for their voracious appetite for wood, rendering houses to dust and causing billions of dollars in damage per year -- may provide the biochemical means to a greener biofuel future. The bellies of these tiny beasts actually harbor a gold mine of microbes that have now been tapped as a rich source of enzymes for improving the conversion of wood or waste biomass to valuable biofuels.

The genomic sequencing and analysis of the termite gut microbes by the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI), the California Institute of Technology, Verenium Corporation (formerly Diversa), a biofuels company, INBio, the National Biodiversity Institute of Costa Rica, and the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center, are highlighted in the November 22 edition of the journal Nature.

Astronauts finish station work for European lab
November 24, 2007 01:31 PM - Reuters

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Astronauts spent seven hours in space on Saturday to finish preparing the International Space Station for its next addition -- Europe's first permanent space laboratory.

Passengers unhurt after Antarctic ship hits ice
November 23, 2007 07:12 PM - Reuters

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - More than 150 passengers and crew escaped unhurt after their cruise ship hit ice in the Antarctic and started sinking on Friday, the ship's owner and coast guard officials said.

EU agrees public funding for satellite project
November 23, 2007 05:31 PM - Reuters

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union nations clinched a deal late on Friday to fund an ambitious satellite navigation project to rival the U.S. Global Positioning System using unspent cash from the EU budget, a presidency spokesman said.

Creator of hurricane intensity scale dies at 90
November 23, 2007 02:32 PM - Reuters

The Miami Herald quoted Saffir's son, Richard, as saying he died of a heart attack on Wednesday night at South Miami Hospital.

Tiny DNA molecules point up new scenario for first life on Earth
November 23, 2007 08:59 AM - University of Colorado at Boulder

A team led by the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Milan has discovered some unexpected forms of liquid crystals of ultrashort DNA molecules immersed in water, providing a new scenario for a key step in the emergence of life on Earth.

CU-Boulder physics Professor Noel Clark said the team found that surprisingly short segments of DNA, life’s molecular carrier of genetic information, could assemble into several distinct liquid crystal phases that “self-orient” parallel to one another and stack into columns when placed in a water solution. Life is widely believed to have emerged as segments of DNA- or RNA-like molecules in a prebiotic “soup” solution of ancient organic molecules.

History shows climate changes led to war
November 22, 2007 10:10 AM - Reuters

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Global warming is one of the most significant threats facing humankind, researchers warned, as they unveiled a study showing how climate changes in the past led to famine, wars and population declines.

The world's growing population may be unable to adequately adapt to ecological changes brought about by the expected rise in global temperatures, scientists in China, Hong Kong, the United States and Britain wrote in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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