Sci/tech

Beaming Down Earth's Energy From Space
December 21, 2011 08:52 AM - Jason Major, Discovery News

It's always sunny in low-Earth orbit, so what better place to look for a source of solar energy? With the end of "cheap oil" rumored to be rapidly approaching (if not already upon us), not to mention the effects of fossil fuel use upon the environment and climate, sources of alternate, clean and renewable energy appear to be the unavoidable wave of the future. But the key factor in all these ventures is efficiency -- how to get the most "bang for the buck" in the harnessing, creation and distribution of energy.

The Core of the Earth
December 20, 2011 10:14 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Based on the abundance of chemical elements in the solar system, the theory of planetary formation, and other chemical constraints regarding the remainder of Earth's volume, the inner core is composed primarily of a nickel–iron alloy. Because the inner core is more dense than pure iron or nickel, even under heavy pressures, it's believed that the remaining part of the core is composed of gold, platinum and other similar elements in quantity enough to coat Earth's surface. Identifying the composition of the earth's core is key to understanding how our planet formed and the current behavior of its interior. While it has been known for many years that iron is the main element in the core, many questions have remained about just how iron behaves under the conditions found deep in the earth. Now, a team led by mineral-physics researchers at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has honed in on those behaviors by conducting extremely high-pressure experiments on the element.

Martian Landslide and Meteorite Strike
December 19, 2011 12:43 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Cause and effect are not easy to distinguish. Dust avalanches around impact craters on Mars appear to be the result of the shock wave preceding the actual impact, according to a study led by an undergraduate student at the UA. When a meteorite careens toward the dusty surface of the Red Planet, it kicks up dust and can cause avalanching even before the rock from outer space hits the ground, a research team led by an undergraduate student at the University of Arizona has discovered.

Car Battery (Lead) Mystery
December 19, 2011 11:40 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Most people just accept that a car battery works. However, to a chemist it is a perplexing mystery because the prime ingredient (lead oxide) should be an insulator. Chemists have solved the 150 year-old mystery of what gives the lead-acid car battery its unique ability to deliver a surge of current. Lead-acid batteries are able to deliver the very large currents needed to start a car engine because of the exceptionally high electrical conductivity of the battery anode material, lead dioxide. However, even though this type of battery was invented in 1859, up until now the fundamental reason for the high conductivity of lead dioxide has eluded scientists.

Chevrolet Carbon Stories: San Juan National Forest tree planting
December 16, 2011 02:59 PM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Whenever you take a breathe, you are breathing in 1/3 more carbon dioxide than your grandparents did. That's a significant increase in just two generations. Now imagine a forest. In one year, an acre of forest absorbs 6 tons of carbon dioxide and emits 4 tons of oxygen. In 2003, the San Juan National Forest suffered a major fire that effectively destroyed and deforested large sections of land in Colorado. The US Forest Service does not plan to replant the burned areas, and this land is not likely to be naturally reforested. In conjunction with the US Forest Service, the National Forest Foundation and local activists with the help of Chevrolet have actively begun to reforest a portion of the burned land with newly planted trees. Along with replanting the forest, this is a great project for its ecological benefits such as restoring habitat, as well as for the local economy.

Higgs Boson
December 16, 2011 01:25 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The Higgs boson is a hypothetical massive elementary particle that is predicted to exist by the Standard Model of particle physics. The Higgs boson plays a crucial role in the Higgs mechanism responsible for breaking the electroweak symmetry of the Standard Model . If shown to exist, it would help explain why other elementary particles have mass. It is the only elementary particle predicted by the Standard Model that has not yet been observed in particle physics experiments. In the popular media, the particle is sometimes referred to as the God particle. They're not claiming the discovery yet, but physicists at the CERN laboratory in Switzerland may have finally found the Higgs boson. Just as the rumors suggested, both teams report tantalizing signs that the Higgs is there and that it has a mass about 133 times that of the proton. But one team sees additional oddities, so the results are far from clear.

Joint USA-Canada Arctic Ocean Survey Comes to an End
December 16, 2011 10:00 AM - David A Gabel, ENN

Yesterday marked the completion of a five year collaboration between the United States and Canada to survey the Arctic Ocean. As the changing Arctic climate causes the ice to melt, this region will become more accessible to resource recovery. The project's goal was to delineate the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles from the coastline. According the Convention of the Law of the Sea, each nation has sovereign rights to natural resources on or above the seabed on the extended continental shelf (ECS).

Geospatial initiative shows the way
December 16, 2011 07:52 AM - Daniela Hirschfeld, SciDevNet

GeoSUR, a Latin American and Caribbean (LAC) open access and web-based initiative for geospatial data-sharing, has received a boost at the Eye on Earth Summit in Abu Dhabi (12-15 December). The conference "Networks of Networks" working group accepted GeoSUR – one of the first such regional networks in the developing world – as a "case model".

Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant finally in cold shutdown
December 16, 2011 06:49 AM - Kiyoshi Takenaka and Shinichi Saoshiro, Reuters, TOKYO

Japan declared its tsunami-stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant to be in cold shutdown on Friday in a major step toward resolving the world's worst nuclear crisis in 25 years. The Fukushima Daiichi plant, 240 km (150 miles) northeast of Tokyo, was wrecked on March 11 by a huge earthquake and a towering tsunami which knocked out its cooling systems, triggering meltdowns, radiation leaks and mass evacuations. In making the much-anticipated announcement, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda drew a line under the crisis phase of the emergency at the plant and highlighted the next challenges: post-disaster clean-up and the safe dismantling of the plant, something experts say could take up to 40 years. "The reactors have reached a state of cold shutdown," Noda told a government nuclear emergency response meeting. "A stable condition has been achieved. It is judged that the accident at the plant itself has ceased," he added, noting radiation levels at the boundary of the plant could now be kept at low levels, even in the event of "unforeseeable incidents."

Romanian Drought, Power, Crops and Survival
December 14, 2011 03:27 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The Danube runs from Germany to the Black Sea. It is a long river with many countries on it. Now it is running low due to drought. It has run low before around 2007 most recently. It threatens people, crops, and even nuclear reactors. The nuclear power plant in Cernavodă is the only nuclear power plant in Romania. It produces around 20% of the country's electricity. It uses CANDU reactor technology using heavy water produced at Drobeta-Turnu Severin as its neutron moderator and water from the Danube – Black Sea Canal for cooling.

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