Sci/tech

New Study Quantifies Causes of the "Urban Heat Island" Effect
July 10, 2014 07:14 AM - Kevin Dennehy, Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies

A new Yale-led study quantifies for the first time the primary causes of the "urban heat island" (UHI) effect, a common phenomenon that makes the world's urban areas significantly warmer than surrounding countryside and may increase health risks for city residents. In an analysis of 65 cities across North America, researchers found that variation in how efficiently urban areas release heat back into the lower atmosphere — through the process of convection — is the dominant factor in the daytime UHI effect. This finding challenges a long-held belief that the phenomenon is driven principally by diminished evaporative cooling through the loss of vegetation.

Our newest Astronauts are fruit flies!
July 10, 2014 06:15 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Becoming an Astronaut is a big deal! Men and women selected to go into space are very carefully chosen. They go through rigorous medical evaluations to make sure they are healthy and that their bodies can withstand the forces of liftoff and re-entry. And they go through months and months of training to prepare them for their first space flight. Now NASA is sending untested, untrained astronauts into space. Of course, they are not human, they are fruit flies! Fruit flies are bug eyed and spindly, they love rotten bananas, and, following orders from their pin-sized brains, they can lay hundreds of eggs every day. We have a lot in common. Genetically speaking, people and fruit flies are surprisingly alike, explains biologist Sharmila Bhattacharya of NASA's Ames Research Center. "About 77% of known human disease genes have a recognizable match in the genetic code of fruit flies, and 50% of fly protein sequences have mammalian analogues."

Cell Phone Conservation
July 9, 2014 10:35 AM - Alex Kirby, The Ecologist

Some of the world's most endangered forests may soon benefit from better protection, thanks to discarded treasures from the consumer society - mobile phones. A Californian technology startup, Rainforest Connection (RFCx), has developed a tool - made from recycled smartphones - that it says will pilot new ways to monitor and stop illegal logging and animal poaching throughout Africa's equatorial forests. RFCx has formed a partnership with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), an international scientific charity that works for the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats. The two organisations are planning to install the anti-deforestation, anti-poaching technology in Cameroon this year.

Vast reservoir of gas may fuel star creation in our galaxy
July 9, 2014 08:14 AM - Ken Croswell, Science

The Milky Way may have found a solution to its gas shortage. Astronomers had calculated that our home galaxy possesses only enough fuel to forge new stars for just a few billion more years. But scientists have now discovered that a long stream of gas falling into the Milky Way is four times as massive as previously thought and could power our galaxy's starmaking career for a long time to come. "It's a very beautiful study with surprising results," says Leo Blitz of the University of California, Berkeley, an astronomer who was not part of the project.

SAR11 and Methane
July 8, 2014 08:07 AM - Allison Winter, ENN

With the focus on reducing carbon emissions, we often forget about methane — another greenhouse gas that is way more powerful as an atmospheric pollutant than carbon dioxide. Methane emissions can come from industry, agriculture, and waste management activities, but can also be emitted from a number of natural sources. One newly discovered natural source: SAR11.

Frackable rock under groundwater aquifers raise water contamination fears
July 3, 2014 02:20 PM - Editor, The Ecologist

A study by the British Geological Survey and the Environment Agency reveals that almost all the the oil and gas bearing shales in England and Wales underlie drinking water aquifers, raising fears that widespread water contamination could occur. The British Geological Survey (BGS) in partnership with The Environment Agency (EA) have published a map which show the depth to each shale gas and oil source rock below principal groundwater aquifers in England and Wales.

What are comets?
July 3, 2014 06:32 AM - Roger Greenway, ENN

Scientists have speculated for centuries about comets. Why do the become visible on an irregular interval? Why does the tail always point away from our sun? What are comets made of? Are they balls of ice, or more like an asteroid? Now NASA may finally get some concrete answers with a current mission that will land on a comet later this year! Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is releasing the Earthly equivalent of two glasses of water into space every second. The observations were made by the Microwave Instrument for Rosetta Orbiter (MIRO), aboard the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft on June 6, 2014. The detection of water vapor has implications not only for cometary science, but also for mission planning, as the Rosetta team prepares the spacecraft to become the first ever to orbit a comet (planned for August), and the first to deploy a lander to its surface (planned for November 11).

New research reveals causes and warning signs of rare tsunami earthquakes
June 30, 2014 09:16 AM - Imperial College London

Tsunami earthquakes happen at relatively shallow depths in the ocean and are small in terms of their magnitude. However, they create very large tsunamis, with some earthquakes that only measure 5.6 on the Richter scale generating waves that reach up to ten metres when they hit the shore. A global network of seismometers enables researchers to detect even the smallest earthquakes. However, the challenge has been to determine which small magnitude events are likely to cause large tsunamis.

Solar Power Meets Half of Germany's Energy Demand
June 26, 2014 10:00 AM - Andrew Burger, Triple Pundit

A core facet of Chancellor Merkel's historic "Energiewende" clean energy transition, Germany has led the world in driving adoption of solar energy technology and systems. Although it is now pulling back hard on incentives, the market momentum created by its precedent-setting solar energy feed-in tariff (FiT) persists.

MIT study unearths neanderthal diet
June 26, 2014 09:03 AM - Editor, ENN

The popular conception of the Neanderthal as a club-wielding carnivore is, well, rather primitive, according to a new study conducted at MIT. Instead, our prehistoric cousin may have had a more varied diet that, while heavy on meat, also included plant tissues, such as tubers and nuts.

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