Top Stories

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).

Small Elephant-Relative Spotted in Namibia
July 2, 2014 11:35 AM - Jeremy Hance, MONGABAY.COM

Forget marsupials, the world's strangest group of mammals are actually those in the Afrotheria order. This superorder of mammals contains a motley crew that at first glance seems to have nothing in common: from the biggest land animals on the planet—elephant—to tiny, rodent sized mammals such as tenrecs, hyraxes, golden moles, and sengis. But there's more: the group even includes marine mammals, such as dugongs and manatees. Finally, they also include as a member the most evolutionary-distinct mammal on the planet: the aardvark. While these species may seem entirely unrelated—and many were long shuffled into other groups—decades of genetic and morphological research now point to them all springing from the same tree. Last week, though, scientists announced the newest, and arguably cutest, member of Atrotheria: the Etendeka round-eared sengi. Described in the most recent edition of the Journal of Mammology, the Etendeka round-eared sengi (Macroscelides micus) was discovered in the northwest corner of Namibia.

EPA Proposes New Standards for Landfills, Hopes to Reduce Methane Emissions
July 2, 2014 08:49 AM - US EPA Newsroom

As part of the President's Climate Action Plan — Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is proposing updates to its air standards for new municipal solid waste (MSW) landfills. These updates would require certain landfills to capture additional landfill gas, which would reduce emissions of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, and help further reduce pollution that harms public health.

How to Make Your Home Smart and Energy Efficient
July 2, 2014 07:43 AM - Jessica Oaks, Triple Pundit

You may not realize it, but at this very moment, you’re probably wasting electricity. Don’t feel too bad though; the fact of the matter is, most people are using more electricity than they need. The home is filled with electronic devices, and keeping track of them all can be a real hassle. Most of us tend not to think about it. After all, what damage can possibly be done by leaving the lights on in a room or setting the thermostat a couple of degrees cooler? Well, more than you probably think. When it comes to electrical usage, one should think of the age-old economic theory, the Tragedy of the Commons. The principle is simple: Individuals acting rationally and in their own self-interest can actually act against the best interests of the group, by wasting a common resource needed by the collective whole. You may not believe that you’re using an exorbitant amount of electricity, but over time, this usage adds up. And this usage burdens the electrical grid and increases your spending. Thankfully, by being conscious of this fact, you can make changes that benefit your wallet, and the community as well.

Oklahoma and Earthquakes - Is Fracking to Blame?
July 1, 2014 08:42 AM - Kevin Mathews, Care2

Which state is the current earthquake capital of the United States? If you guessed California, your data is sadly out of date. Believe it or not, Oklahoma, the new center of quivering land, has twice as many earthquakes as California does at this point. We're not just talking minor shaking, either. Oklahoma averages one earthquake that measures at least 3.0 on the Richter scale every single day.

Is Oceanic Plastic being eaten by fish?
July 1, 2014 07:38 AM - ANGUS CHEN, ScienceNOW

Millions of tons. That's how much plastic should be floating in the world's oceans, given our ubiquitous use of the stuff. But a new study finds that 99% of this plastic is missing. One disturbing possibility: Fish are eating it. If that’s the case, "there is potential for this plastic to enter the global ocean food web," says Carlos Duarte, an oceanographer at the University of Western Australia, Crawley. "And we are part of this food web."

World’s Protected Areas Not Protecting Biodiversity
June 30, 2014 02:53 PM - Wildlife Conservation Society

Scientists from James Cook University, the Wildlife Conservation Society, the University of Queensland, Stanford University, BirdLife International, the International Union for Nature Conservation, and other organizations have warned that the world's protected areas are not safeguarding most of the world's imperilled biodiversity, and clear changes need to be made on how nations undertake future land protection if wildlife is going to be saved. These findings come at a time when countries are working toward what could become the biggest expansion of protected areas in history. The authors of the new study found that 85 percent of world's 4,118 threatened mammals, birds, and amphibian species are not adequately protected in existing national parks, and are therefore vulnerable to extinction in the near term. The new study appears in the esteemed international journal PLOS Biology.

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.

Why can't we recover precious metals from landfills?
June 30, 2014 08:17 AM - CleanTechies, Clean Techies

Mining for precious metals like gold, silver, and copper is extremely costly. Not only does it require a huge amount of energy and have a devastating impact on the environment, it also puts human life at risk. Still, these metals are what enable our precious smartphones and tablets to work so efficiently, so we have to get them from somewhere. But what if that somewhere was old gadgets we no longer want instead of deep within the Earth?

The link between oceanic currents and climate
June 29, 2014 08:19 AM - The Earth Institute at Columbia University, via ScienceDaily

For decades, climate scientists have tried to explain why ice-age cycles became longer and more intense about 900,000 years ago, switching from 41,000-year cycles to 100,000-year cycles. In a new study in the journal Science, researchers found that the deep ocean currents that move heat around the globe stalled or even stopped, possibly due to expanding ice cover in the north. The slowing currents increased carbon dioxide storage in the ocean, leaving less in the atmosphere, which kept temperatures cold and kicked the climate system into a new phase of colder but less frequent ice ages, they hypothesize.

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