Sci/tech

Solar storms to hit Earth, power companies prepare
August 6, 2011 07:50 AM - Reuters, NEW YORK

Three large explosions from the Sun over the past few days have prompted U.S. government scientists to caution users of satellite, telecommunications and electric equipment to prepare for possible disruptions over the next few days. "The magnetic storm that is soon to develop probably will be in the moderate to strong level," said Joseph Kunches, a space weather scientist at the Space Weather Prediction Center, a division of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). He said solar storms this week could affect communications and global positioning system (GPS) satellites and might even produce an aurora visible as far south as Minnesota and Wisconsin. An aurora, called aurora borealis or the northern lights in northern latitudes, is a natural light display in the sky in the Arctic and Antarctic regions caused by the collision of energetic charged particles with atoms in the high altitude atmosphere.

Martian Summer
August 5, 2011 12:21 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

A newly released image from ESA’s Mars Express shows the north pole of Mars during the red planet’s summer solstice. All the carbon dioxide ice has gone, leaving just a bright cap of water ice. This image was captured by the orbiter’s High-Resolution Stereo Camera on May 17, 2010 and shows part of the northern polar region of Mars during the summer solstice. The solstice is the longest day and the beginning of the summer for the planet’s northern hemisphere. The ice shield is covered by frozen water and carbon dioxide ice in winter and spring but by this point in the martian year all of the carbon dioxide ice has warmed and evaporated into the planet’s atmosphere.

Green House Gases Other than CO2
August 4, 2011 11:40 AM - Andy Soos, ENN

Carbon dioxide remains the largest by mass of potential green house gases affecting climate change, but other greenhouse gases measurably contribute to the problem. A new study, conducted by NOAA scientists and published online today in Nature, shows that cutting emissions of those other gases could slow changes in climate that are expected in the future. Discussions with colleagues around the time of the 2009 United Nations’ climate conference in Copenhagen inspired three NOAA scientists – Stephen Montzka, Ed Dlugokencky and James Butler of NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory in Boulder, Colo. – to review the sources of non-carbon dioxide (CO2) greenhouse gases and explore the potential climate benefits of cutting their emissions.

Meet the fastest land animal, the magnificent Cheetah
August 4, 2011 10:49 AM - BBC Earth

It is well documented who are the speed demons of the Animal Kingdom. We all know that a cheetah can reach speeds of up to 60 mph in a mere three seconds and that the Atlantic sailfish leaps to the top of the podium as the fastest creature in the ocean. Yet it is rarely asked why. What parts of their body have evolved to make them so fast, and for what purpose? In this series, BBC Earth peels back the fur and the scales of these incredible creatures to reveal what it is that makes them so fast. As the world's fastest land mammal, the cheetah's ability for acceleration starts on the inside. The spotted cat mobilizes glycogen molecules that are stored in its large liver to provide huge bursts of energy. However these surges are short lived because they produce an unwelcome by-product, lactic acid, which builds up and causes painful cramps. Which means that cheetahs can only run at full speed for up to 30 seconds. Cheetah's are not just one-trick cats, they have other adaptations up their sleeves, or rather within its hair. Their distinctive spotted coat makes them almost invisible when creeping slowly through the African grasslands. The longer that they can stay camouflaged and the closer they get to their target, the more likely they are to catch their prey before they run out of steam.

Chemical Data Reporting Rule
August 3, 2011 03:40 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is increasing the type and amount of information it collects on commercial chemicals from chemical manufacturers, allowing the Agency to better identify and manage potential risks to Americans’ health and the environment. The improved rule, known as the chemical data reporting Rule (CDR), also requires that companies submit the information electronically to EPA, rather than on paper, and limits confidentiality claims by companies. The changes are part of EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s commitment to strengthen the agency’s chemical management program and increase the transparency of critical information on chemicals. The CDR Rule, which falls under the Toxic Substances Control Act Inventory Update Rule (IUR), requires more frequent reporting of critical information on chemicals and requires the submission of new and updated information relating to potential chemical exposures, current production volume, manufacturing site-related data, and processing and use-related data for a larger number of chemicals. The improved information will allow EPA to better identify and manage risks associated with chemicals.

Johnson Controls Strides from Green Buildings to Clean Vehicles
August 1, 2011 07:06 AM - Tina Casey, Triple Pundit

Johnson Controls recently made headlines with an energy efficiency upgrade of the iconic Empire State Building, and it has just announced an equally ambitious foray into the field of electric vehicles. The company has opened the largest advanced energy storage research and development center in North America. The new project, funded partly by a $299 million American Recovery and Reinvestment Act matching grant, involved an upgrade and expansion of the company’s existing Battery Technology Center and Battery Test Facility in Glendale, Wisconsin.

How to avoid being eaten by lions
July 29, 2011 07:10 AM - BBC Earth

Being eaten by lions is probably something we’d all like to avoid. Deadly 60 presenter Steve Backshall shares his top tips to help us steer clear of the killer jaws of big cats. 1. Stay in the car. "Lions don't see a car as prey, so you're safer inside', our director Giles insists, if you're in a vehicle, stay in it. 2. If you go tracking on foot be extra vigilant. 3. Always travel with a local guide. (Our team had two local guides with them at all times.) 4. Carry a big stick and a firearm. (But use them as a deterrent, never intending to inflict harm on the animal. A hurt lion is a very angry lion.) 5. Keep your eyes open: You'd be amazed how close a 500lb lion can get without you noticing. 6. Always have a 'spotter'. Just because you’re filming one lion, doesn't mean there isn't another behind you.

Solar EV Chargers Make Zero Emissions a Reality
July 28, 2011 07:26 AM - Alexander George, Wired Top Stories

"Zero emissions" is a tricky phrase. Electric vehicles produce zero emissions at the tailpipe, but more often than not there are emissions at the power plant. The only way to have a truly zero-emissions EV is to get your power from a renewable source like the sun. SolarCity is making it a whole lot easier to do that. The California company has started offering solar EV chargers to customers in 11 states and Washington, D.C., allowing people to drive their cars purely on sunshine.

Deadly animals drive BBC Earth to walk on the wild side
July 27, 2011 03:13 PM - Adelle Havard, BBC Earth

Bringing the best of natural history filmmaking to a large audience has never been easy. But what happens when you get the taste for something a little darker? Something a little more sinister, a little harder to find, something that’s intentionally keeping itself far from your reach. This month at BBC Earth we are hunting down all that is Deadly! Gathering together the incredible knowledge of the BBC Earth natural history teams, with the most interesting and thrilling nature photography and film from the BBC. July on Life Is is set to be a truly captivating month! Deadly fact: The Panther Chameleon has a wicked tongue, coated with mucus and tipped with a vacuum, absolutely perfect for picking up prey!

Space Station to Be Sunk After 2020
July 27, 2011 12:17 PM - Editor, Discovery News

Russia and its partners plan to plunge the International Space Station (ISS) into the ocean at the end of its life cycle after 2020 so as not to leave space junk, the space agency said on Wednesday.

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