Sci/tech

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."

End of the Sunspot Cycle?
June 15, 2011 07:51 AM - Richard A. Kerr, Science AAAS

Things may be about to get very dull on the sun. Three different measurements of solar activity, reported by scientists at a press conference today, suggest that the next 11-year-long solar cycle will be far quieter than the current one. In fact, it may not happen at all: Sunspots, the enormous magnetic storms that erupt on the sun's surface as the cycle builds, might disappear entirely for the first time in approximately 400 years.

New from BBC Earth: The circus comes to town
June 14, 2011 12:06 PM - Mark Flowers, Producer/Director Rivers/Urban team, BBC Earth

Traveling to the farthest corners of the world, it is not just the remarkable environments that can prove a little hard to capture. When Rivers Producer/Director Mark Flowers met the children from the North-East Indian root tree villages, he hadn't bargained on having to make himself the center of attention. But sometimes it's the little extra's that make an experience unforgettable. The most heart-stealing and downright soul- enhancing benefit of working on a Human Planet shoot is the children we encounter while we are filming. It's unbelievably refreshing to step outside of a regulated, fast-paced and impersonal modern, urban society and meet people who live in a more open, communal and for me personally, a far more "Human" way. The children we met during our trip to film living root bridges in one of the most remote areas of North-East India were fantastic – cheeky, smart and funny. To the young people who live in isolated hill villages in the rainforests of Meghalaya, the arrival of a gangly bunch of giant, pale-skinned strangers, brandishing weird black boxes, screens and cables, was the most surprising thing to happen in a long while. The circus had come to town! Within minutes of us stepping out of the cars, there were bright eyes at the windows and small hands waving from the homes we passed. High pitched "hellos" echoed all around while tiny toddlers stood dumb struck for a few seconds in doorways and then exploded into howls. Dogs barked and sulky, caged cuckoos crooned from dark corners.

The Wetness of Water
June 14, 2011 08:13 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Water is amazing. It occupies about 2/3rds of the Earth's surface. It is the basis of life in many ways. It interacts with the atmosphere as a major cleanser of sorts. So how does it do it? Some water molecules split the difference between gas and liquid, a study in Nature shows. Air and water meet over most of the earth’s surface, but exactly where one ends and the other begins turns out to be a surprisingly subtle question. A new study in Nature narrows the boundary to just one quarter of water molecules in the uppermost layer — those that happen to have one hydrogen atom in water and the other vibrating freely above.

A Medium Solar Flare
June 8, 2011 04:25 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The Sun unleashed an M-2 (medium-sized) solar flare, an S1-class (minor) radiation storm and a spectacular coronal mass ejection on June 7, 2011. The large cloud of particles mushroomed up and fell back down looking as if it covered an area of almost half the solar surface. A solar flare is a sudden brightening observed over the Sun surface or the solar limb, which is interpreted as a large energy release of up a sixth of the total energy output of the Sun each second. Solar flares strongly influence the local space weather in the vicinity of the Earth. They can produce streams of highly energetic particles in the solar wind, known as a solar proton event, or coronal mass ejection. These particles can impact the Earth's magnetosphere and cause a geomagnetic storm. A geomagnetic storm is a temporary disturbance of the Earth's magnetosphere caused by a disturbance in the interplanetary medium. A geomagnetic storm is a major component of space weather and provides the input for many other components of space weather, and present radiation hazards to spacecraft, astronauts and cosmonauts. The current flare event is moving at 1400 km/s according to NASA models. The flare event should deliver a glancing blow to Earth's magnetic field during the late hours of June 8th or June 9th. High-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras when the it arrives.

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