Sci/tech

Huge rare earth deposits found in Pacific
July 4, 2011 08:25 AM - Reuters, TOKYO

Vast deposits of rare earth minerals, crucial in making high-tech electronics products, have been found on the floor of the Pacific Ocean and can be readily extracted, Japanese scientists said on Monday. "The deposits have a heavy concentration of rare earths. Just one square kilometer (0.4 square mile) of deposits will be able to provide one-fifth of the current global annual consumption," said Yasuhiro Kato, an associate professor of earth science at the University of Tokyo. The discovery was made by a team led by Kato and including researchers from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology. They found the minerals in sea mud extracted from depths of 3,500 to 6,000 meters (11,500-20,000 ft) below the ocean surface at 78 locations. One-third of the sites yielded rich contents of rare earths and the metal yttrium, Kato said in a telephone interview.

Takeoffs and Landings Cause More Precipitation Near Airports, Researchers Find
July 1, 2011 09:13 AM - Editor, Science Daily

ScienceDaily (June 30, 2011) — Researchers have found that areas near commercial airports sometimes experience a small but measurable increase in rain and snow when aircraft take off and land under certain atmospheric conditions.

Motion Affer Effect
June 30, 2011 02:10 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The motion after-effect is a visual illusion experienced after viewing a moving visual stimulus for a time (seconds to minutes) with stationary eyes, and then fixating a stationary stimulus. The stationary stimulus appears to move in the opposite direction to the original (physically moving) stimulus. The motion aftereffect is believed to be the result of motion adaptation. For example, if one looks at a waterfall for about a minute and then looks at the stationary rocks at the side of the waterfall, these rocks appear to be moving upwards slightly. The illusory upwards movement is the motion aftereffect. This particular motion aftereffect is also known as the waterfall illusion. Why does it happen, though? Is it because we are consciously aware that the background is moving in one direction, causing our brains to shift their frame of reference so that we can ignore this motion? Or is it an automatic, subconscious response? Davis Glasser, a doctoral student in the University of Rochester's Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences thinks he has found the answer. The results of a study done by Glasser, along with his advisor, Professor Duje Tadin, and colleagues James Tsui and Christopher Pack of the Montreal Neurological Institute, is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. In their paper, the scientists show that humans experience the Motion Aftereffect even if the motion that they see in the background is so brief that they can't even tell whether it is heading to the right or the left.

Warm Ocean Under Antarctic Glacier
June 27, 2011 01:14 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Pine Island Glacier is a large ice stream flowing west-northwest along the south side of the Hudson Mountains into Pine Island Bay, Amundsen Sea, Antarctica. It was mapped by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) from surveys and United States Navy air photos, 1960–66, and named in association with Pine Island Bay. The area drained by Pine Island Glacier comprises about 10% of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Satellite measurements have shown that the Pine Island Glacier Basin has a greater net contribution of ice to the sea than any other ice drainage basin in the world and this has increased due to recent acceleration of the ice stream. An international team of scientists from Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory and British Antarctic Survey has discovered that due to an increased volume of warm water reaching the cavity beneath Pine Island Glacier in West Antarctica, it’s melting 50 percent faster than it was 15 years earlier. The glacier is currently sliding into the sea at a rate of 2.5 miles a year, while its ice shelf (the part that floats on the ocean) is melting at about 80 cubic kilometres a year.

Vesta
June 27, 2011 07:51 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Vesta is an asteroid that is thought to be a remnant protoplanet with a differentiated interior and a mean diameter of about 530 km. Comprising an estimated 9% of the mass of the entire asteroid belt which lies between Mars and Jupiter. It is the second-most-massive object in the belt after the dwarf planet Ceres. NASA's Dawn spacecraft is on track to begin the first extended visit to a large asteroid. The mission expects to go into orbit around Vesta on July 16 and begin gathering science data in early August. Vesta resides in the main asteroid belt and is thought to be the source of a large number of meteorites that fall to Earth.

Life Cycle Assessment of EVs Reveals Startling Results
June 22, 2011 08:37 AM - Phil Covington, Triple Pundit

A number of articles and blogs published this week paint a negative picture of electric cars based on a British study published earlier this month. The study attempts a comparative life-cycle assessment (LCA) of conventional, hybrid and electric cars and prompted "downer" headlines such as, "Electric Cars May Not Be So Green After All" and "More Bad News For The Chevy Volt".

The incredible tree houses of the Korowai: New from BBC Earth
June 21, 2011 07:30 AM - Rachael Kinley, Researcher, Jungles/Oceans team

When encountering persons of the same sex, you often wonder what natural similarities you may find. And it's no different when you meet members of a remote tribe living in the dense vegetation of the jungle. BBC Earth Researcher Rachael Kinley shares her intimate and humorous tale of what happened when the women of the Korowai Tribe in Papua invited her into their tree house. Before filming begins, it's important to spend time with the contributors without big cameras in their faces. It helps to strike up a friendly rapport and make the future weeks more productive and enjoyable for all. So, our first day in Papua with the Korowai is spent in their home, a tree house.

Panama Seiches
June 17, 2011 01:56 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

An unusual signal detected by the seismic monitoring station at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute's research facility on Barro Colorado Island results from waves in Lake Gatun, the reservoir that forms the Panama Canal channel, scientists report. Understanding seismic background signals leads to improved earthquake and tsunami detection in the Caribbean region where 100 tsunamis have been reported in the past 500 years. A seiche is a standing wave in an enclosed or partially enclosed body of water. Seiches and seiche-related phenomena have been observed on lakes, reservoirs, swimming pools, bays, harbors and seas. The key requirement for formation of a seiche is that the body of water be at least partially bounded, allowing the formation of the standing wave.

Incredible Jungle games - Follow the hunter, New from BBC Earth
June 17, 2011 08:42 AM - Willow Murton, Assistant Producer, Oceans and Jungles team, BBC Earth

"Is it all going to be like this?" Human Planet's Assistant Producer Willow Murton takes us into the thick of the rainforest and shares what it's really like to be confronted by deadly poisoned darts, a broken down boat and fortune in disguise. There are places that you imagine you may return to and people you may meet again and then there are farewells to people and places you assume you will hold as a treasured memories. For me Aurelio village was one of those places; so remote, so distant, one of only two communities where the Matis of Brazil live. Set in the vast indigenous Vale do Javari reserve, it takes several days' boat ride to reach the village, as well as many months of painstaking preparation. I had first come here to make the series "Tribe" and couldn't believe my luck when I was asked to make a return trip for "Human Planet"– a rare privilege. There is good reason to return to this remote corner of the Amazon for Human Planet's Jungles episode. The Matis are true masters of the rainforest. Pete, our endurance fit cameraman, and I are reminded of this on our first filming day. An hour into the hunt we’d come to film, we are up to our knees, even thighs at times in swamp mud, soaked through by the unrelenting rain and all eyes on deadly poisoned darts being fired over our heads! Pete turns to me and asks if it's all going to be like this?

Sunspots unusually quiet, what might THAT mean?
June 16, 2011 05:51 AM - Deborah Zabarenko, Environment Correspondent, Reuters, WASHINGTON

Sunspot cycles -- those 11-year patterns when dark dots appear on the solar surface -- may be delayed or even go into "hibernation" for a while, a U.S. scientist said on Wednesday. But contrary to some media reports, this does not mean a new Ice Age is coming, Frank Hill of the National Solar Observatory said in a telephone interview. "We have not predicted a Little Ice Age," Hill said, speaking from an astronomical meeting in New Mexico. "We have predicted something going on with the Sun." The appearance of sunspots helps predict solar storms that can interfere with satellite communications and power grids. Hill and other scientists cited a missing jet stream, fading spots and slower activity near the Sun's poles as signs that our nearest star is heading into a rest period. "This is highly unusual and unexpected," he said in a statement released on Tuesday. "But the fact that three completely different views of the Sun point in the same direction is a powerful indicator that the sunspot cycle may be going into hibernation."

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