Sci/tech

Hubble catches stars on the move
June 4, 2010 08:54 AM - Colleen Sharkey, EurekAlert

With a mass of more than 10 000 suns packed into a volume with a diameter of a mere three light-years, the massive young star cluster in the nebula NGC 3603 is one of the most compact stellar clusters in the Milky Way [1] and an ideal place to test theories for their formation. A team of astronomers from the Max-Planck Institute for Astronomy in Heidelberg and the University of Cologne led by Wolfgang Brandner (MPIA) wanted to track the movement of the cluster's many stars. Such a study could reveal whether the stars were in the process of drifting apart, or about to settle down.

Electric ash found in Eyjafjallajokull's plume, say UK researchers
June 3, 2010 09:33 AM - Joe Winters, EurekAlert

In the first peer-reviewed scientific paper to be published about the Icelandic volcano since its eruption in April 2010, UK researchers write that the ash plume which hovered over Scotland carried a significant and self-renewing electric charge. The volcano-chasing researchers argue this adds a further dimension to understanding the detailed nature of volcanic plumes and their effects on air travel.

The New Airplane
June 2, 2010 12:58 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

There has been much said about how large a carbon footprint a plane ride does. There is also the annoyance of waiting in an airport or on a security line. At least the carbon footprint may be reduced in the future. In what could set the stage for a fundamental shift in commercial aviation, an MIT led team has designed a green airplane that is estimated to use 70 percent less fuel than current planes while also reducing noise and emission of nitrogen oxides.

The Not So Solid Earth
June 1, 2010 04:16 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The interior of the Earth, similar to the other rocky or terrestrial planets, is divided into layers. The mantle is a highly viscous layer between the crust and the outer core. Earth's mantle is a rocky shell about 1,800 miles thick that constitutes over 80% percent of the Earth's volume (The part of the Earth best known to us humans.). Two thousand miles beneath our feet, the Earth's solid rock – known as the mantle – gives way to the swirling liquid iron of the outer core. The last few hundred miles of the lowermost mantle is also known as D” (pronounced dee-double-prime). D" is one of the most enigmatic parts of the Earth which scientists have struggled to understand for decades; it can only be measured remotely, using seismic waves from earthquakes.

Sun May Soon Plunge Into Hot Cloud of Interstellar Gas
May 28, 2010 09:05 AM - Phil Berardelli

Don't worry about stocking up on sunscreen, but our solar system may be headed for a celestial version of global warming. A new analysis suggests that in about 100 years the sun could plunge into a hot cloud of interstellar gas. The change should have no impact on our planet, but it could boost the amount of deadly radiation in space, making missions more challenging for future astronauts.

How to Kill a Well With Gravity
May 28, 2010 08:50 AM - Richard A. Kerr, Science AAAS

Oil giant BP plc has a very long straw stuck 3048 meters into the Gulf of Mexico sea floor with oil and gas spouting out the top at several thousand pascals. How do BP engineers stop the flow when none of the control valves at the top is working and there's no way to put a stopper in the straw's end? The only option is using gravity, notes petroleum engineer Paul Bommer of the University of Texas, Austin.

Chasms on Mars
May 27, 2010 02:57 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Large sheets of ice and snow form on the poles of both Earth and Mars. On Earth their formation is shaped by ice and water flows. On Mars there is an oddness of spiraling troughs and a giant canyon. What in the climate of Mars does this? Data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have helped scientists solve a pair of mysteries dating back four decades and provided new information about climate change on the Red Planet.

U.S. Environment Not the Best for EVs
May 27, 2010 09:16 AM - John Gartner, Matter Network

The enthusiasm is building -- we’re just a few months from the U.S. launch of the first electric vehicles aimed at mainstream consumers. Nissan is touting the success of the registration program for its upcoming Leaf EV, boasting 13,000 orders for its vehicles. It is hoped across the industry (and in Washington DC) that sales of EVs will revive the American auto industry. While Pike Research believes that sales of EVs will grow relatively quickly, EV sales would likely grow much higher if it weren’t for our relatively cheap gasoline.

The Deepwater Oil Release Impact on Marine Life
May 25, 2010 03:36 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

New reports are surfacing every day about the immediate impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill on Gulf Coast wildlife, especially as the oil reaches the sensitive marshlands along the coast. What will be the long term impact to local marine life? There is some knowledge from earlier releases such as Valdez off Alaska. Oil contains complex hydrocarbons and heavy metals. Such materials will be absorbed and have impact on the local marine life over time. How they will be absorbed, how much and their effects are unknown or debatable. To begin to address this issue, Academy scientist Peter Roopnarine is working with Laurie Anderson from Louisiana State University and David Goodwin from Denison University to collect and analyze three different types of mollusks from the Gulf Coast. These animals are continually building their shells, and if contaminants are present in their environment, they can incorporate those compounds into their shells.

Clean Up the Trucks
May 24, 2010 03:46 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

About a year ago the President and car company CEOs, announced the first Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards for cars and light trucks that took into account greenhouse gas emissions as a factor. The move ordered a 30 percent increase in fuel efficiency by 2016, totaling a 35.5 miles per gallon average for both cars and light trucks. This past Friday’s directive ordered federal agencies to begin development of even more stringent standards for 2017 and beyond. Though big rigs represent less than five percent of all vehicles on U.S. highways, they consume more than 20 percent of the total of transportation fuels utilized. Truck fuel consumption tends to be presently less than 10 miles per gallon which makes them comparatively fuel inefficient.

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