Top Stories

Where the Wild Things Aren't: Cats Avoid Places Coyotes Roam
July 1, 2015 07:33 AM - NC State University

Domestic cats might be determined hunters, but they stick mostly to residential areas instead of venturing into parks and protected areas where coyotes roam. That’s the key finding from a North Carolina State University analysis of more than 2,100 sites – the first large-scale study of free-ranging cats in the U.S. published in the Journal of Mammalogy.

Why is it important to know where 74 million pet cats spend their time away from home?

The super sense you didn't know you had
July 1, 2015 05:41 AM - Bristol University.

An experiment originally designed to test the visual abilities of octopuses and cuttlefish has given University of Bristol researchers an unprecedented insight into the human ability to perceive polarized light – the super sense that most of us don’t even know we have. 

We are all familiar with colour and brightness, but there is a third property of light, the ‘polarization’, which tells us the orientation in which the light waves are oscillating. 

Dr Shelby Temple, a Research Associate from the Ecology of Vision Group in Bristol’s School of Biological Sciences and one of the study’s lead authors said: “Imagine a skipping rope represents a light wave travelling through space.  If you move the rope from side to side, the wave you make is horizontally polarized.  If you shake the rope up and down you create a vertically polarized wave. Generally, light is a mixture of polarizations, but sometimes – for example in parts of the sky, on your computer screen and in reflections from water or glass – a large percentage of the waves are oscillating in the same orientation and the light is strongly polarized.”

Today's Extra Second Explained
June 30, 2015 01:09 PM - NASAs Jet Propulsion Laboratory

The day will officially be a bit longer than usual on Tuesday, June 30, 2015, because an extra second, or "leap" second, will be added. "Earth's rotation is gradually slowing down a bit, so leap seconds are a way to account for that," said Daniel MacMillan of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. Strictly speaking, a day lasts 86,400 seconds. That is the case, according to the time standard that people use in their daily lives - Coordinated Universal Time, or UTC. UTC is "atomic time" - the duration of one second is based on extremely predictable electromagnetic transitions in atoms of cesium. These transitions are so reliable that the cesium clock is accurate to one second in 1,400,000 years.

Can pollution be good for trees?
June 30, 2015 07:46 AM - Society for Experimental Biology via EurekAlert!

Trees that can tolerate soil pollution are also better at defending themselves against pests and pathogens. "It looks like the very act of tolerating chemical pollution may give trees an advantage from biological invasion", says Dr Frederic E. Pitre of the University of Montreal and one of the researchers behind the discovery. 

Study examines the role of naturally occurring halogens in atmospheric deposition
June 30, 2015 06:11 AM - Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences (CIRES) and the University of Colorado Boulder

It’s been difficult to explain patterns of toxic mercury in some parts of the world, such as why there’s so much of the toxin deposited into ecosystems from the air in the southeastern United States, even upwind of usual sources.

A new analysis led by researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder shows that one key to understanding mercury’s strange behavior may be the unexpected reactivity of naturally occurring halogen compounds from the ocean.

How Rainwater Could Save Rupees
June 29, 2015 11:24 AM - Ashley Morrow, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

Rainwater could save people in India a bucket of money, according to a new study by scientists looking at NASA satellite data. The study, partially funded by NASA’s Precipitation Measurement Missions, found that collecting rainwater for vegetable irrigation could reduce water bills, increase caloric intake and even provide a second source of income for people in India.

What California can learn for Israel on solving serious water shortages
June 29, 2015 06:13 AM - Jan Lee, Triple Pundit

California is still counting up the damage from the 2014 drought, which resulted in more than $200 million in losses in the dairy and livestock industry and a staggering $810 million in crop production. And analysts are predicting this year to be even worse.

But many will admit that if there is any country on earth that knows how to trump a three-year (and counting) drought cycle and convert a wasteland to oasis, it’s Israel. For thousands of years, populations have been wresting a livelihood from the desert of what is now Israel, refining the techniques that would one day result in an agricultural paradise.

Study examines overall carbon cost of fuel from Canadian oil sands
June 28, 2015 06:34 AM - UC Davis via the ECOreport, ECOreport

Gasoline and diesel fuel extracted and refined from Canadian oil sands will release about 20 percent more carbon into the atmosphere over the oil’s lifetime than fuel from conventional crude sources in the Unied States, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory; the University of California, Davis; and Stanford University.

The researchers used a life-cycle, or “well-to-wheels,” approach, gathering publicly available data on 27 large Canadian oil sands production facilities. The study, published in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, found the additional carbon impact of Canadian oil sands was largely related to the energy required for extraction and refining.

California's Isla Rasa being abandoned by seabirds
June 27, 2015 09:11 AM - ScienceDaily

Isla Rasa, in the Gulf of California, is renowned for its massive aggregations of nesting seabirds. Over 95 percent of the world populations of Elegant Terns and Heerman's Gulls concentrate unfailingly every year on this tiny island to nest. Ever since the phenomenon was described by L. W. Walker in 1953 the island has been a magnet for tourists, naturalists, filmmakers, and seabird researchers.

During some years in the last two decades, however, the seabirds have arrived to the island in April, as they usually do, but leave soon after without nesting. The first event was the 1998 "El Niño," when oceanic productivity collapsed all along the eastern Pacific coast from Chile to California. But then colony desertion happened again in 2003, and since then it has recurred with increasing frequency in 2009, 2010, 2014, and 2015. Researchers and conservationists were asking themselves where are the birds going when they leave their ancestral nesting ground, and what is causing the abandonment of their historic nesting site.

Beware the Giant Toxic Algae Bloom
June 26, 2015 07:56 AM - Lizabeth Paulat, Care2

Humans and animals on the west coast should take care when near the water. One of the largest algae blooms of all time is producing dangerous toxins which now stretch from California to Alaska. The neurotoxin being released by the bloom is called domoic acid, and it can cause a series of problems for any mammal that comes into contact with it.

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