Sci/tech

EPA Makes Chemical Information More Accessible, and for Free
March 16, 2010 06:23 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

The web has been a valuable source of information on the releases of toxic chemicals in our communities, and for citizens and environmental action groups to see what companies and facilities are emitting air pollutants, discharging water pollution, and generating hazardous wastes. Finding the information you were looking for was not always easy, and not always free. Now things are getting a little easier, and more information is obtainable for free. US EPA announced that it is providing web access, free of charge, to the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Chemical Substance Inventory. This inventory contains a consolidated list of thousands of industrial chemicals maintained by the agency. EPA is also making this information available on Data.Gov, a website launched to provide public access to important government information.

Salt and Smog
March 15, 2010 02:46 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The smell of sea salt at the beach is a pleasant thought for many beach goers. Wind and waves kick up spray sending salt (sodium chloride into the air. Most salt of this sort falls back into the sea or nearby beach. The bit of chloride lingering in the air can react with nitrogen oxides (NOx) to form nitryl chloride which is a forerunner of chlorine gas, the most reactive form of chlorine. Those gas can contribute to smog formation in coastal areas. However, in a surprise, researchers have found that this air chemistry thought to be restricted to sea spray occurs at similar rates in the air above Boulder, Colorado which is nearly 900 miles away from any ocean. What's more, local air quality measurements taken in a number of national parks across the United States imply similar conditions in or near other non-coastal metropolitan areas.

Where Has the Oil Gone?
March 12, 2010 02:44 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Oil supply is not infinite. Sooner or later it will run out. The interesting speculation is when that will happen. In a recent publication (ACS Energy and Fuels), several Kuwait scientists have studied this matter with a multicycle Hubbert model. The original Hubbert model in 1956, accurately predicted that oil production would peak in the United States around 1970. The model has since gained in popularity and has been used to forecast oil production worldwide. However, recent studies show that the model does not take into account more complex oil production cycles of some countries. Those cycles can be heavily influenced by technology changes, politics, social upheavals, and other factors.

Earthquakes Move the World
March 11, 2010 03:56 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

When there is a large earthquake, it basically means that a major geological stress was released. When that happens the earth will literally move. It may not be as dramatic as some motion pictures may show but it does happen. The massive magnitude 8.8 earthquake that struck the west coast of Chile last month moved the entire city of Concepcion at least 10 feet to the west, and shifted other parts of South America as far apart as the Falkland Islands and Fortaleza, Brazil.

Staying Young by Learning
March 10, 2010 07:18 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

An old proverb states that to stay young is to keep alert and active or: "An idle mind is the devil's workshop." University of California neurobiologists are providing the first visual evidence that learning promotes brain health — and, therefore, that mental stimulation could limit the debilitating effects of aging on memory and the mind. Using a novel visualization technique they devised to study memory, a research team found that everyday forms of learning animate neuron receptors that help keep brain cells functioning at optimum levels. These receptors are activated by a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which facilitates the growth and differentiation of the connections, or synapses, responsible for communication among neurons. BDNF is key in the formation of memories.

New Report Offers Little Hope for International Climate Agreement
March 9, 2010 06:46 AM - Thomas Schueneman, Global Warming is Real

It's the big pink elephant in the room that few others wish to acknowledge, but a central theme in a new report by former climate negotiator Nigel Purvis: An international climate change treaty isn't likely to be signed anytime soon. Purvis served as president Clinton's chief UN climate negotiator, and in his report released today Purvis says that the United States and Europe should "accept reality" and take immediate practical steps to deal with global warming.

Impact of Ancient Indonesian Volcanic Eruption
March 8, 2010 04:05 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

The Toba super eruption occurred between 69,000 and 77,000 years ago at Lake Toba (present day Indonesia), and it is recognized as one of Earth's largest known eruptions. The related catastrophe theory holds that this super volcanic event plunged the planet into a 6 to 10 year volcanic winter, which resulted in the world's human population being reduced to 10,000 or even a mere 1,000 breeding pairs, creating a bottleneck in human evolution. Some researchers argue that the Toba eruption produced not only a catastrophic volcanic winter but also an additional 1,000 year cooling episode. Newly discovered archaeological sites in southern and northern India have revealed how people lived before and after the colossal Toba volcanic eruption 74,000 years ago.

Neglected tropical diseases NEED to be studied
March 8, 2010 07:12 AM - PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases , SciDevNet

The 'innovation gap' for neglected tropical diseases is rapidly growing, say Sandeep P. Kishore and colleagues, but research universities in the United States could help close the gap. Total research funding for diabetes is more than 15 times greater than that for malaria, and more than 100 times that of other diseases such as schistosomiasis. The authors suggest three key steps to making a meaningful impact on neglected disease research.

Martian Glaciers
March 3, 2010 02:48 PM - Andy Soos, ENN

Mars is a lot like Earth in many ways. The signs of water are obvious in the deep valleys. Many have speculated about once vast oceans often centered over the northern part of Mars. Where did the water go? Extensive radar mapping of the middle latitude region of northern Mars shows that thick masses of buried ice are quite common beneath protective coverings of rubble. NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has charted the locations of these hidden glaciers and ice filled valleys which were first confirmed by radar two years ago.

Charles Darwin, Earthquake Predictor
March 2, 2010 06:48 AM - Richard A. Kerr, Science NOW

Charles Darwin helped forecast today's magnitude-8.8 earthquake in Chile, which has, at press time, killed more than 200 people, caused extensive damage, and sent a modest-size tsunami around the Pacific. Seismologists are giving the famed naturalist credit for reporting telltale signs that helped later scientists forecast that the giant temblor—one of the 10 most powerful on record—was imminent in the South American country. "This was not a big surprise, though no one could tell when it would strike," says seismologist Hiroo Kanamori of the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.

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