Sci/tech

Engineering Fruit Flies May Help Crops
August 13, 2014 08:04 AM - Editor, ENN

We've genetically-modified crops to enhance desired traits such as increased resistance to herbicides or pesticides. Nonetheless, pests still infest crops around the world. In an attempt to control these pests, scientists have turned to genetically engineering the pests themselves!

Bees Don't Always Listen to the Hive
August 8, 2014 02:59 PM - Anna Brones, Care2

Honey bees are known for their fascinating social structure. A honey bee colony is in fact a well-organized machine, running on good communication, defense and division of labor. As social insects, honey bees have also been shown the communicate to their fellow foragers, a dance to tell their counterparts where food is located. But listening to other bees isn’t always the name of the game. Sometimes the honeybee just wants to do its own thing.

The Danger of Solar "Super-Storms"
August 5, 2014 01:45 PM - Winfield Winter, ENN

Watch out George Lucas fans, a Death Star may be in our horizons — and one would only have to look as far as our nearest stellar neighbor: the Sun. According to Mr. Ashley Dale of the University of Bristol, solar "super-storms" pose an imminent threat to the earth by disabling electricity and communication system — or worse. Thus, the celestial body that illuminates the world may very well be responsible for sending it into darkness. In this month's issue of PhysicsWorld, Mr. Dale writes: "Without power, people would struggle to fuel their cars at petrol stations, get money from cash dispensers or pay online. Water and sewage systems would be affected too, meaning that health epidemics in urbanized areas would quickly take a grip, with diseases behind centuries ago soon returning."

A Second Use for Cigarette Butts
August 5, 2014 12:10 PM - Editor, ENN

It is estimated that as many as 5.6 trillion used-cigarettes, or 766,571 metric tons, are deposited into the environment worldwide every year. That's a lot of litter, especially when it takes 18 months to 10 years for cigarette filters to degrade! However, these butts may have a newly discovered second use as a group of South Korean scientists have converted these cigarette leftovers into a high-performing material that could be integrated into computers, handheld devices, electrical vehicles and wind turbines.

Spray-on Solar Panels?
August 4, 2014 03:33 PM - ClickGreen Staff, ClickGreen

A team of scientists at the University of Sheffield are the first to fabricate perovskite solar cells using a spray-painting process — a discovery that could help cut the cost of solar electricity. Experts from the University's Department of Physics and Astronomy and Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering have previously used the spray-painting method to produce solar cells using organic semiconductors - but using perovskite is a major step forward.

Surf's Up for Clean Technology
August 1, 2014 11:45 AM - Leon Kaye, Triple Pundit

Unless your skin is about a foot thick, swimming and surfing in the Pacific Ocean for hours at a time requires a wetsuit to stay warm and comfortable. That comfort, however, comes at a price as the vast majority of wetsuits are made from petroleum-based neoprene. The material is durable and does the job, but its manufacture is a carbon-intensive and toxic process. Now Patagonia is aggressively promoting its plant-based wetsuit technology with the goal to have it become a game-changer in the surf industry.

Drilling in the Dark
August 1, 2014 08:54 AM - University of Wisconsin-Madison

As production of shale gas soars, the industry's effects on nature and wildlife remain largely unexplored, according to a study by a group of conservation biologists published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment on August 1. The report emphasizes the need to determine the environmental impact of chemical contamination from spills, well-casing failure, and other accidents. "We know very little about how shale gas production is affecting plants and wildlife," says author Sara Souther, a conservation fellow in the Department of Botany at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "And in particular, there is a lack of accessible and reliable information on spills, wastewater disposal and the chemistry of fracturing fluids. Of the 24 U.S. states with active shale gas reservoirs, only five maintain public records of spills and accidents." The 800 percent increase in U.S. shale gas production between 2007 and 2012 is largely due to the use of hydraulic fracturing. Also called fracking, the process uses high-pressure injection of water, laden with sand and a variety of chemicals, to open cracks in the gas reservoir so natural gas can flow to the well.

Boat noise impacts development and survival of marine invertebrates
July 31, 2014 08:42 AM - University of Bristol

The development and survival of an important group of marine invertebrates known as sea hares is under threat from increasing boat noise in the world's oceans, according to a new study by researchers from the UK and France. While previous studies have shown that marine noise can affect animal movement and communication, with unknown ecological consequences, scientists from the Universities of Bristol and Exeter and the École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE) CRIOBE in France have demonstrated that boat noise stops embryonic development and increases larval mortality in sea hares.

Astro Physics has a new mystery
July 26, 2014 07:54 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Astro Physicists love to look for reasons current theories are correct. When data are obtained that do not fit a current theory, the race is on to come up with an explanation! The Universe is a big place, full of unknowns. Astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have just catalogued a new one. "I couldn't believe my eyes," says Esra Bulbul of the Harvard Center for Astrophysics. "What we found, at first glance, could not be explained by known physics."

New fossils suggest ALL dinosaurs had feathers
July 25, 2014 09:50 AM - University of Bristol

The first ever example of a plant-eating dinosaur with feathers and scales has been discovered in Russia. Previously only flesh-eating dinosaurs were known to have had feathers so this new find indicates that all dinosaurs could have been feathered. The new dinosaur, named Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus as it comes from a site called Kulinda on the banks of the Olov River in Siberia, is described in a paper published today in Science.

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