Sci/tech

Many gene tests a waste of money: experts
November 30, 2007 03:28 PM - Reuters

LONDON (Reuters) - Genetic tests to assess disease risk are proliferating but many are a waste of money and tell people little more than they would know from studying family history, medical experts said on Friday.

A host of companies now offer tests, typically costing hundreds of dollars, to calculate genetic risks for common conditions like cancer, diabetes and heart disease that involve multiple genes.

Microbes in ancient ice could give clues to life's origin
November 30, 2007 10:54 AM -

Riverside, California - Researchers from the University of California, Riverside and the University of Delaware have thawed ice estimated to be perhaps a million years old or more from above Lake Vostok, an ancient lake that lies hidden more than two miles beneath the frozen surface of Antarctica.

Currently, the research team, led by UC Riverside’s Brian Lanoil, an assistant professor of environmental sciences, is examining the eons-old water for microorganisms. Using novel genomic techniques, the team is trying to determine how the tiny, living “time capsules” survived the ages in total darkness, in freezing cold and without food and energy from the sun.

Global warming sends salamanders packing
November 30, 2007 10:39 AM -

BERKELEY -- A genetic study of the salamander family that encompasses two-thirds of the world's salamander species shows that periods of global warming helped the amphibians diversify and expand their range from North America into Europe and Asia, where pockets of them are still found today.

Interestingly, while one period of warming allowed some salamanders to move northward into Asia via an arctic land bridge, the next warming period may have facilitated their return to North America.

Invasive species threaten land of the dodo
November 30, 2007 09:54 AM - By Ed Harris, Reuters

PORT LOUIS (Reuters) - Three centuries after the dodo's demise, the rich plant and animal life of Mauritius is still under threat, this time from exploding populations of non-native species such as Chinese guavas and Malagasy geckos.

The Poo Theory of Life
November 30, 2007 09:06 AM - , Environmental Graffiti

The Cambrian period began a little over 500 million years ago. Before the Cambrian period, life on earth consisted of mostly single-celled organisms and bacteria. Afterwards the evolutionary ancestors of all the major groups of living things today were hanging around the planet. So what caused this evolutionary leap? According to one scientist, poop.

Biogeochemist Graham Logan published his opinion on the matter a few years ago. He points out that feces producing creatures, ones that ate food then excreted it like humans today, first arrived around 40 million years before the Cambrian period. He argued that their poo was what allowed oxygen levels to rise, and evolution to explode.

IT's Drive to Go Lean, Clean & Green
November 30, 2007 08:32 AM - Andrew Burger, Triple Pundit

Hats off to Google…I’ve been around a while now and I’ve never seen what has so quickly grown into such a large, influential organization be so openly idealistic, agile, innovative and committed, not only to green tech but to corporate social and environmental responsibility in general. Better yet, leading IT companies in general are making real and substantial commitments to becoming more energy efficient, reducing carbon dioxide and greenhouse gas emissions, and minimizing pollution. It’s a good thing and it couldn’t come at a better time as by instituting such change transnational IT industry leaders can blaze a clean and green tech trail in developed and developing nations alike.

Chinese Villagers Battle Police Over Hoard of Fossils
November 29, 2007 09:05 AM - , Environmental Graffiti

Chinese peasants fought a pitched battle against police, using their tractors and farm equipment as weapons, over a cache of dinosaur fossils the villagers were intending to sell on the black market.

China is the site of several of the world’s most productive fossil sites, and the fossils are often seen as a key to riches for the poor villagers who find them. Seven residents of Shaping village in China’s Henan Province were arrested after the police attack and immediately charged with obstructing justice. The group may also be the first to be tried under a 2006 Chinese law on illegal excavation and sale of fossils. The seven are accused of organizing a “Dinosaur Protection Squad” to prevent government seizure of the fossils.

MagLev Wind Turbine
November 29, 2007 09:01 AM - , Triple Pundit

MagLev wind turbines, the next generation of wind turbines is capable of generating power from wind speeds as low as 1.5 m/s and reported to operate in winds reaching 40 m/s. This large wind turbine from maglev industries will also increase generation capacity by 20% at the same time decreasing operational costs by 50% over the traditional wind turbine. Maglev also claims that this particular turbine will be operational for 500 years, a staggering claim.

Organic 'building blocks' discovered in Titan's atmosphere
November 29, 2007 08:40 AM - University College London

Scientists analysing data gathered by the Cassini spacecraft have confirmed the presence of heavy negative ions in the upper regions of Titan’s atmosphere. These particles may act as organic building blocks for even more complicated molecules and their discovery was completely unexpected because of the chemical composition of the atmosphere (which lacks oxygen and mainly consists of nitrogen and methane). The observation has now been verified on 16 different encounters and findings will be published in Geophysical Research Letters on November 28.

Rodent fossils allows to determine climate of the Iberian Peninsula 6 million years ago
November 29, 2007 08:21 AM - Universidad de Granada

How did the rodents which inhabited the south of the Iberian Peninsula live six million years ago" The researcher of the UGR Raef Minwer-Barakat has attempted to answer this question through his doctoral thesis "Rodents and insectivorous of Upper Turoliense and the Pliocene of the central section of the Guadix basin", supervised by doctors Elvira Martín and César Viseras, of the Dept. of Stratigraphy and Palaeontology of the University of Granada. His studied has concluded with the discovering of three new species of rodents and insectivores (Micromys caesaris, Blarinoides aliciae and Archaeodesmana elvirae) and the finding, for the first time in the region, of nine more species.

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