Top Stories

How many near-earth asteroids are there?

When we hear about another asteroid that will pass by close to Earth, I wonder how many such objects there are, how many we have not identified, and how NASA finds them and calculates their orbits around the sun. More than 10,000 asteroids and comets that can pass near Earth have now been discovered. The 10,000th near-Earth object, asteroid 2013 MZ5, was first detected on the night of June 18, 2013, by the Pan-STARRS-1 telescope, located on the 10,000-foot (convert) summit of the Haleakala crater on Maui. Managed by the University of Hawaii, the PanSTARRS survey receives NASA funding. Ninety-eight percent of all near-Earth objects discovered were first detected by NASA-supported surveys. "Finding 10,000 near-Earth objects is a significant milestone," said Lindley Johnson, program executive for NASA's Near-Earth Object Observations Program at NASA Headquarters, Washington. "But there are at least 10 times that many more to be found before we can be assured we will have found any and all that could impact and do significant harm to the citizens of Earth." During Johnson's decade-long tenure, 76 percent of the NEO discoveries have been made. >> Read the Full Article

Knobby Pareiasaurs

During the Permian era, the Earth was dominated by a single supercontinent called Pangea – "All-Earth". Animal and plant life dispersed broadly across this land, as documented by identical fossil species found on multiple modern continents. But a new study published in the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology supports the idea that there was an isolated desert in the middle of Pangea with a fauna all its own. Roaming this desert in what is now northern Niger was a very distinctive creature known as a pareiasaur. >> Read the Full Article

Feeding Birds in Winter May Do More Harm Than Good

Believe it or not, but over 55 million Americans feed wild birds and spend over $3 billion a year on bird food, and millions more on bird feeders, baths, and other accessories. Many of us have at least one bird feeder in our yards, not only to decorate our outdoor space, but also to attract wildlife. Besides those clever, pesky squirrels that compete for the seed, birds use bird feeders as a fast-food outlet in times of food shortages. While birds do not actually need the food we offer in these feeders, it seems that these backyard feeders are always the popular spot to be, especially during the winter. However, according to researchers at the University of Exeter and the British Trust for Ornithology, feeding wild bird populations during the winter can actually result in less successful breeding during the following spring. >> Read the Full Article

Chipotle Makes History by Becoming First Fast Food Chain to Tag GMOs

Let's face it, it's good to be first, at least if you happen to be the first to do something worthwhile. In the ongoing debate about the safety of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food, Denver, CO-based Chipotle Mexican Grill made what may turn out to be an important food history "first" in the United States. >> Read the Full Article

Plant Math

Humans do math or at least some humans can do so. New research shows that to prevent starvation at night, plants perform accurate arithmetic division. The calculation allows them to use up their starch reserves at a constant rate so that they run out almost precisely at dawn. Plants feed themselves during the day by using energy from the sun to convert carbon dioxide into sugars and starch. Once the sun has set, they must depend on a store of starch to prevent starvation. >> Read the Full Article

Tel Aviv Testing Electric Scooters

As part of a broader citywide program to reduce air pollution, greenhouse gas emissions and noise, the municipality of Tel Aviv-Jaffa is launching a pilot program to potentially replace its fleet of scooters with electric versions. To this purpose, the city has decided to purchase about 25 electric scooters to examine their effectiveness in comparison to the gasoline ones that municipal workers employ today. If the pilot yields positive results, the municipality will explore the possibility of gradually replacing its entire 300-scooter fleet with their electrical counterparts, the city said. City officials will be examining a number of parameters during the pilot program, including the scooter performance capabilities, riding experience, environmental footprint, cost effectiveness and safety, they explained. >> Read the Full Article

A new approach to calm potential EV battery worries

While the Nissan Leaf is perhaps the best known EV in the mass market today there have still been issues with regards to the journey capacity and battery technology. Even though battery technology continues to catch up with EV technology there is something of a vacuum while this process is completed. As a consequence, like competitors such as Tesla, Nissan is now launching a new service to put EV driver's minds at rest. In simple terms Nissan will offer Nissan Leaf drivers in the US the opportunity to replace their battery for whatever reason while part of the battery replacement program (cost $100 a month). When you bear in mind that the cost of the battery pack in an EV is the single most expensive piece of equipment this will certainly help. >> Read the Full Article

Now is the Season - for getting your Vitamin D!

We know that Vitamin D levels increase when we spend more time in the Sun. So its not a surprise that our Vitamin D levels are higher in the Summer months when we generally spend more time outdoors. A new study has found exactly that! UC Irvine and Mayo Clinic researchers have found that vitamin D levels in the U.S. population peak in August and bottom out in February. The essential vitamin — necessary for healthy bones — is produced in the skin upon exposure to ultraviolet B rays from the sun. Vitamin D helps bones absorb calcium and can protect against osteoporosis. It's also thought to play a role in seasonal illnesses, such as the flu. Low levels of vitamin D are believed to impair "innate immunity" i.e., the body's first line of defense against pathogens. To further study this link, good estimates of the cyclicality of the vitamin are necessary. Solar exposure — a timely topic since June 21 marks the first day of summer — is the most important way people acquire vitamin D. But certain foods, including egg yolks and oil-rich fish like mackerel, salmon, sardines and herring contain the nutrient. In addition, milk and cereal are often enriched with vitamin D. >> Read the Full Article

New pirate ant uses sickle-shaped mandibles to decimate rivals

A new species of ant has recently been discovered in the Hortarium of the Los Baños University in the Philippines. Scientists named it the pirate ant (Cardiocondyla pirata) due to the female’s unique pigmentation pattern: a distinctive stripe across the eyes that resembles a pirates’ eye-patch. The pirate ant belongs to a genus Cardiocondyla that are distributed worldwide, but mainly found in the tropics. >> Read the Full Article

The Produce is Alive!

The fruits and vegetables we buy in the grocery store are actually still alive and according to new research from Rice University and the University of California at Davis, produce may be healthier for us depending on the time of day. "Vegetables and fruits don't die the moment they are harvested," said Rice biologist Janet Braam, lead researcher of the study. Once picked, produce can continue to metabolize and survive independently for some time. Even when they are cut, their cells remain active and alive. >> Read the Full Article