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A research project coordinated by UC3M helps reduce the cost of parallel computing
July 29, 2016 04:41 PM - CARLOS III UNIVERSITY OF MADRID via EurekAlert!

Heterogeneous parallel computing combines various processing elements with different characteristics that share a single memory system. Normally multiple cores (like the 'multicores' in some smart phones or personal computers) are combined with graphic cards and other components to process large quantities of data.

"We hope to help transform code so that it can be run in heterogeneous parallel platforms with multiple graphic cards and reconfigurable hardware," explains the project's coordinator, José Daniel García, an associate professor in UC3M's Computer Science department. "We've made significant improvements in both performance and energy efficiency, comparable to those that can be made with a manual development process; the difference is that with a manual development process, we need months of engineering, while with our semiautomatic process we can do the same tasks in a few days."

ORNL-led study analyzes electric grid vulnerabilities in extreme weather areas
July 29, 2016 04:25 PM - DOE/OAK Ridge National Laboratory via EurekAlert!

Climate and energy scientists at the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory have developed a new method to pinpoint which electrical service areas will be most vulnerable as populations grow and temperatures rise.

"For the first time, we were able to apply data at a high enough resolution to be relevant," said ORNL's Melissa Allen, co-author of "Impacts of Climate Change on Sub-regional Electricity Demand and Distribution in the Southern United States," published in Nature Energy.

Rice crops that can save farmers money and cut pollution
July 29, 2016 03:31 PM - University of Toronto via ScienceDaily

A new U of T Scarborough study has identified "superstar" varieties of rice that can reduce fertilizer loss and cut down on environmental pollution in the process.

The study, authored by U of T Scarborough Professor Herbert Kronzucker in collaboration with a team at the Chinese Academy of Sciences, looked at 19 varieties of rice to see which ones were more efficient at using nitrogen.

"We have this bucolic idea of agriculture -- animals grazing or vast fields of majestic crops -- but the global reality is it's one of the biggest drivers of environmental pollution and climate change," says Kronzucker.

Changing Arctic Tundra Could Radically Alter Shorebird Breeding Grounds
July 29, 2016 03:21 PM - Yale Environment 360

A new study projects that global warming could dramatically affect the tundra breeding habitat of 24 shorebird species, with 66 percent to 83 percent losing most of their suitable nesting territories. Researchers modeled breeding conditions for these migratory shorebird species — some of which travel more than 10,000 miles from Antarctica or southern South America to breed in the Arctic — and compared projected 21st century conditions to the last major warming event more than 6,000 years ago. 

Butterflies use differences in leaf shape to distinguish between plants
July 28, 2016 04:46 PM - Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution via EurekAlert!

The preference of Heliconius butterflies for certain leaf shapes is innate, but can be reversed through learning. These results support a decades-old theory for explaining the evolution of the exceptional diversity of leaf shapes in passionflowers.

The tropical butterfly Heliconius eratodistinguishes between shapes, and uses them as a cue for choosing the plants on which to feed and lay eggs, shows new research by scientists from the University of Cambridge and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute. The butterfly has an innate preference for passionflowers with particular leaf shapes, but can learn to overcome this preference in favor of other shapes, especially those that are the most abundant in the local flora. These preferences can promote the evolution of plant biodiversity.

The US Is Finally Getting Its First Offshore Wind Farm
July 28, 2016 04:30 PM - Brendan Cole via Wired.com

BUILDING IN RHODE Island isn’t easy. Hurricanes and tropical storms barrel through its quaint coastline towns, interrupting perfect summer weekends. Freezing winters bring blizzards that can shut down the entire state. And every season features corrosive salty winds, biting at the coast as if sent by a Britain still seething at the first American colony to declare independence.

But one company sees the state’s incessant wind as a utility. Deepwater Wind has partnered with General Electric Renewable Energy to build the first offshore wind farm in the United States, off the coast of Block Island. Hooked up to the grid by the end of 2016, the system could supply 90 percent of the tourist destination’s power within the next few years. But it hasn’t been easy. Designing and building spinning fans hundreds of feet tall that stay sutured to the ocean floor in the face of currents and wicked winds has taken almost three years of work.

First whale detected by newly deployed acoustic buoy in New York Bight
July 28, 2016 04:15 PM - Wildlife Conservation Society via EurekAlert!

A new acoustic buoy recently deployed by scientists from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) and WCS's (Wildlife Conservation Society) New York Aquarium to listen for some of the world's biggest animals in the New York Bight has detected its first whale species, and it's a really big one.

Fixed in position some 22 miles south of Fire Island and fitted with a digital acoustic monitoring instrument, the hi-tech buoy is now operational and has detected the vocalizations of fin whales, enormous marine mammals second in size only to the blue whale, the largest animal species on earth. The first whale detection was made on Monday, July 4th, only 12 days after the buoy was placed in its current position on June 23rd.

Since that time, the buoy has made several fin whale detections; the most recent vocalizations were detected yesterday (July 27th) and today.

Breakthrough solar cell captures CO2 and sunlight, produces burnable fuel
July 28, 2016 03:01 PM - University of Illinois at Chicago via EurekAlert!

Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have engineered a potentially game-changing solar cell that cheaply and efficiently converts atmospheric carbon dioxide directly into usable hydrocarbon fuel, using only sunlight for energy.

The finding is reported in the July 29 issue ofScience and was funded by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy. A provisional patent application has been filed.

Unlike conventional solar cells, which convert sunlight into electricity that must be stored in heavy batteries, the new device essentially does the work of plants, converting atmospheric carbon dioxide into fuel, solving two crucial problems at once. A solar farm of such "artificial leaves" could remove significant amounts of carbon from the atmosphere and produce energy-dense fuel efficiently.

One hour of physical activity per day could offset health risk of 8 hours of sitting
July 28, 2016 07:10 AM - The Lancet via EurekAlert!

A new study of over 1 million people finds that doing at least one hour of physical activity per day, such as brisk walking or cycling for pleasure, may eliminate the increased risk of death associated with sitting for 8h a day.

Physical inactivity is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and some cancers and is associated with more than 5 million deaths per year and, as the first global economic analysis of physical inactivity shows, costs the world economy over US$67.5 billion per year in health care costs and lost productivity.

Videos reveal birds, bats and bugs near Ivanpah solar project power towers
July 27, 2016 04:15 PM - Us Geological Survey via EurekAlert!

Video surveillance is the most effective method for detecting animals flying around solar power towers, according to a study of various techniques by the U.S. Geological Survey and its partners at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System facility in southeastern California.

This study is the first to examine a variety of remote sensing and sampling techniques to determine which technology might be most effective for monitoring how solar power facilities impact flying animals. The information will be used to further study the effects of solar power infrastructure on flying animals -- a subject about which little is known -- and to develop ways to lessen harmful effects.

At Ivanpah, evidence of flying animals impacted by intense heat near the solar towers had been observed. The new study showed that although birds and bats were occasionally seen near the towers at Ivanpah, most observations involved insects.

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