Sci/tech

A world of sonic wonder
October 27, 2011 08:03 AM - BBC Earth Team

The First wonder, Speaking Sands For nearly a century, man has been baffled by the sound of singing sand dunes. The songs they emit are almost as diverse as the countless theories about how they occur. The sound is produced when the sand on the surface of dunes avalanches. It was once thought that these sounds were produced by the friction between the grains. More recent studies have revealed that the sound continues after the sand has stopped moving and the song that the dunes sing varies depending on the time of year. Some researchers now theorise that the sound is caused by the reverberation between dry sand at the surface and a band of wet sand within the dune, hence it changes seasonally. There are approximately thirty locations around the world where these booming dunes can be heard; the earliest records seem to date to Marco Polo’s time in the Gobi Desert. However you don’t need to adventure among the dunes to hear them sing; the strange sound, said to be like the drone of a low flying propeller plane, has reportedly been heard up to ten kilometres away from its source.

Automated Vehicles and the Future of Fuel Efficiency
October 25, 2011 09:15 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

Cars these days are becoming more and more like computers on wheels. Many car enthusiasts long for the days of simpler designs where they can figure out exactly what's going on under the hood. With all the advanced electronics in newer vehicles, trying to fix them yourself has become a daunting task. However, as more sophisticated electronics are added, cars will gradually become smarter, to the point where they may even drive themselves. Automated vehicles, while most likely not adopted by everyone, will probably make the road safer and more convenient for some "drivers". Plus, according to a new research study, they will have the extra benefit of increasing fuel efficiency.

Life on the Moons of the Solar System
October 24, 2011 07:23 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Earth has plenty of life. Where else may it lie in the solar system? Some hope for Mars which is on the edge of the solar system Goldilocks zone. Others believe it lies on on of the other moons such as Titan, Enceladus or Europa. Ten times thicker than Earth's, Titan's atmosphere extends nearly 370 miles above its frigid surface. It's a literal chemical factory, where nitrogen and methane are zapped by the sun's ultraviolet rays and transformed into organic molecules, some of which descend to the moon's surface while others rise up above the clouds, creating a bluish high-level haze of hydrocarbons. Strange lakes and rivers of methane have been found on its surface.

A Green Super Yacht on Steroids?
October 21, 2011 01:07 PM - Pete Danko, Matter Network

There was the Super Nova 60, the world’s first carbon neutral megayacht. Then there was the 72-foot Emax Excalibur, which represented the first step in the maritime industry towards the production of post-carbon yachts. But forget about those – the folks at Sauter Carbon Offset Design and their building partners Ned Ship Group say the latest in their series of green yacht concepts is "the fastest and greenest superyacht in the world."

Water and the Evolution of Planetary Systems
October 21, 2011 10:35 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Using data from the Herschel Space Observatory, astronomers have detected for the first time cold water vapor enveloping a dusty disk around a young star. The findings suggest that this disk, which is poised to develop into a solar system, contains great quantities of water, suggesting that water-covered planets like Earth may be common in the universe. Herschel is a European Space Agency mission with important NASA contributions.

Deep Sea Volcanic Action
October 20, 2011 03:50 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Submarine volcanoes are underwater fissures in the Earth's surface from which magma can erupt. They are estimated to account for 75% of annual magma output. The vast majority are located near areas of tectonic plate movement, known as ocean ridges. Although most are located in the depths of seas and oceans, some also exist in shallow water, which can spew material into the air during an eruption. Hydrothermal vents, sites of abundant biological activity, are commonly found near submarine volcanoes. The first scientists to witness exploding rock and molten lava from a deep sea volcano, seen during a 2009 expedition, report that the eruption was near a tear in the Earth's crust that is mimicking the birth of a subduction zone. Scientists on the expedition collected boninite, a rare, chemically distinct lava that accompanies the formation of Earth's subduction zones.

CMAQ
October 20, 2011 10:34 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Air modeling is an important science for predicting the impact of air quality changes. There are numerous conservative models available to fit many different circumstances. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has just released a new version of its Community Multi-scale Air Quality model (CMAQ) that uses up-to-the minute meteorology and air chemistry data to determine how weather conditions affect pollution, and how pollution can affect and change weather. Version 5.0 of CMAQ allows scientists to analyze air quality at smaller, finer-resolution settings for individual towns and cities, and model air quality for the entire northern hemisphere. Currently, scientists use CMAQ to estimate air quality levels at the regional and national scales.

NASA snaps tens of millions of fires on Earth in decade-long study
October 20, 2011 07:25 AM - Click Green Staff, ClickGreen

NASA has released a series of new satellite images that show tens of millions of fires detected worldwide from space since 2002. The US space agency maintains a comprehensive research program using satellites, aircraft and ground resources to observe and analyze fires around the world. The research helps scientists understand how fire affects our environment on local, regional and global scales.

Japanese team wins Australian solar car race
October 20, 2011 06:34 AM - Reuters, CANBERRA

A team from Japan won a world solar car race through Australia's outback on Thursday, after battling more than 3,000 km (1,800 miles) of remote highways, dodging kangaroos and other wildlife and avoiding a bushfire. Race officials said the team from Tokai University, near Tokyo, finished the race from the northern city of Darwin to the southern city of Adelaide at about noon on Thursday. The teams set off on Sunday. The Nuon Solar Car Team from the Netherlands came second, while a U.S. team from the University of Michigan finished third. Nuon's driver Javier Sint Jago said he had to avoid a bushfire, wallabies, cattle, sheep and lizards on his marathon drive, although the biggest challenge was to fight the strong winds which buffeted his 140 kg (300 lb) vehicle. "It was pretty rough. The side winds were 50 to 60 km an hour (30-40 mph), and can easily push you off the side," he said. "It was just so much concentration." Thirty-seven cars from 21 countries started off in Darwin, heading south and using only the power generated by the sun in the 11th running of the annual race.

Commentary: U.S. House of Representatives Passes Bill To Weaken EPA Clean Air Rules
October 19, 2011 01:55 PM - Dominick DalSanto, Baghouse.com

Two bills are currently working they way through the U.S. Congress in an attempt to stay activation of new air pollution regulations propagated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, namely additions to the NESHAP, Cement MACT, and Boiler MACT standards scheduled to take effect in the next few months. The new regulations will require most facilities to install updated dust collection systems to meet more stringent emissions levels. The pair of bills, the Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act of 2011 and the EPA Regulatory Relief Act of 2011, are part of a larger effort by conservatives to curtail the so-called "aggressive" agenda of the EPA. Several different EPA rule sets are covered by the bill, but the main three are the National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAPs), Boiler MACTs (Maximum Available Control Technology), and Cement MACTs which covers emissions from the manufacture of cement. The standards are either new, or updates to existing EPA regulations. The EPA NESHAPs cover the six basic air pollutants the EPA regulates, carbon monoxide (CO), sulfur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter e.g. dusts smaller than 2.5 microns (PM2.5), lead, and ozone. These rules were recently revised to include stricter limits.

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