Sci/tech

Chernobyl: thirty years hence...
March 24, 2014 09:26 AM - Rachel Nuwer/Smithsonian, Ecologist

It's not just people, animals and trees that suffer from radiation at Chernobyl, writes Rachel Nuwer, but also decomposer fungi and microbes. And with the buildup of dead wood comes the risk of catastrophic fire - which could spread radiation far and wide. Nearly 30 years have passed since the Chernobyl plant exploded and caused an unprecedented nuclear disaster. The effects of that catastrophe, however, are still felt today.

Road to environmental destruction
March 21, 2014 11:40 AM - ENN Editor

Roads are considered connectors of human development providing opportunities for economic success and communication but the flip side of this network is that it has also brought enormous destruction to our fields and forests. With forest destruction comes increased human development and ecological degradation. Recent mapping and modeling has been done to document and measure forest destruction in an initiative by the Ames Research Center of NASA and ENN affiliate, Mongabay.

Are Your Shaving Razors Inspired by Frog and Cricket Legs?
March 21, 2014 07:40 AM - NoCamels Team, NoCamels

Despite the fact that no animals (except for humans!) shave, it turns out the animal kingdom can teach us a thing or two about shaving. Researchers at the Technion have found that by mimicking the texture of the legs of creatures who live in wet environments — they can create better razors.

Floods in Britain: a sign of things to come?
March 20, 2014 11:52 AM - ClickGreen Staff, ClickGreen

A new investigation of long-term weather records suggests that the recent flooding in the south of England could signal the onset of climate change. The research, from UWE Bristol, Loughborough University and the University of East Anglia has produced a new index of flooding trends called the Fluvial Flood Indices. This enables widespread flooding and weather patterns to be viewed in the context of the last 150 years, revealing that four of the six most severe flood episodes since 1871 have occurred in the last 30 years.

No more stinky cotton!
March 19, 2014 10:18 AM - Robin Blackstone, ENN

Following the eradication of the cotton boll weevil in the late 1990s cotton growers began to notice an influx of a new pest, stink bugs. Stink bugs feed on bolls on the bottom portion of the plant, puncturing squares causing young cotton bolls to drop and staining, matting and shrinking cottonseeds through heavy stink bug feeding. Injured locks or bolls may fail to open. Resultantly damage caused by stink bugs introduce bacteria, such as Pantoea agglomerans and fungi that cause boll rots. Currently stink bugs are ranked among the most damaging insect pests of cotton in the southeastern United States.

The cold hard glacial truth
March 18, 2014 03:46 PM - Tom Robinette, University of Cincinatti

Lewis Owen has been scraping out icy fragments of history's truth from one of the most glaciated regions on Earth for the past 25 years. His frequent excursions to Tibet and the Himalayas have led the University of Cincinnati professor of geology to some cold, hard facts. Owen knows climate change is immortal — fluctuating across millennia, patiently building toward moments when circumstances are ripe for apocalypse. It was true thousands of years ago, when rapid climate change had profound effects on landscapes and the creatures that lived on them. That scenario could be true again, if the past is ignored.

Scientists develop system to filter water using plant sticks
March 18, 2014 01:21 PM - Yao-Hua Law, SciDevNet

Scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States are working with their counterparts in developing countries to produce an "economical and efficient" means of filtering out bacteria from water using plant xylem that normally transports water and nutrients from the soil. The novel technology could provide a solution to the burden of water-borne diseases in East Asia and the Pacific where about 180 million people lack access to safe water supply, according to the UNICEF (UN Children's Fund).

COLLEGIATE CORNER: Offshore oil drilling: is it really necessary?
March 18, 2014 10:32 AM - Christian Ramirez, Class of 2015, Wakefield High School, Arlington, VA

As we all know, oil is a very important energy resource the world needs for its everyday life. It is known that not only do most of the countries on the planet use it, but also it is a scarce resource, which means that in the near future, there will no longer be enough available oil that could be drilled and processed for future endeavors. The demand for oil has increased significantly throughout the past few years and other ways of obtaining this resource must be used more often. A form of oil drilling has emerged which is dangerous and is known as offshore drilling. Sounds like a good plan at first, going to the ocean where more oil can be found and at a faster rate, but is it really worth it? There should be an alternate to offshore drilling because of the many horrific and unfair problems that it brings to Americans, animals, and the overall environment.

A dust induced monsoon in India
March 17, 2014 10:23 AM - ENN Editor

Another sign of our global connectedness has manifested itself in a new satellite analysis linking dust in North Africa and West Asia with stronger monsoons in India. The study shows that as airborne dust from North Africa and West Asia absorbs sunlight it warms the air and strengthens the eastern winds carrying moisture. The heavy laden air generates a monsoon rainfall about a week later in India thereby explaining one way that dust can affect the climate, filling in previously unknown details about the Earth system.

Mountain Thermostats
March 17, 2014 08:10 AM - Dominic Rowland, MONGABAY.COM

What do mountains have to do with climate change? More than you'd expect: new research shows that the weathering rates of mountains caused by vegetation growth plays a major role in controlling global temperatures. Scientists from the University of Oxford and the University of Sheffield have shown how tree roots in certain mountains "acted like a thermostat" for the global climate. In warmer climates, tree roots grow faster and deeper (aided by the decomposition of leaf litter), breaking up rock that combines with carbon dioxide. This weathering process removes carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, lowering the global temperature and decreasing the growth rate of vegetation.

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