Top Stories

Martian Hit! or ?

When Jupiter’s tides ripped Comet Shoemaker–Levy 9 to shreds, what remained hit the thick atmosphere and disintegrated. They really did not hit the ground, Occasionally astronomers have caught a glimpse of a rock hitting the moon. How about Mars? Astronomers think there’s a chance of a cosmic ruck hitting Mars in the near term future. This is a comet that is predicted as having a chance of hitting Mars. And Mars is under observation by us humans on the ground and by telescope and camera. >> Read the Full Article

The Future of Chocolate

Back in the Mayan age, around 1100 BCE, cacao was recognized as a "super" food, traded as a precious currency with a value on par with gold and jewels Bythe 17th century the Spanish added sugar (cane) to sweeten it and the rest is history. As other European countries clamored to get in on the action—and started exporting cacao trees to their colonies—Africa soon became the world's most prominent grower of cacao, even though it's not native to that continent. Today, cacao has devolved into a byproduct of itself. Instead of being viewed as the sacred fruit that it is, with all its nutritional benefits, cacao is largely seen as a candy bar, a mid-day fix, loaded with sugar, milk, and other substandard ingredients. >> Read the Full Article

US Forest Service Reopens Caves Despite Risk to Bats

Despite the unabated threat of a devastating fungal disease that has already killed nearly 7 million hibernating bats, U.S. Forest Service officials released a plan today to rescind their three-year-old precautionary cave closure policy in the Rocky Mountain Region, including in Colorado and much of Wyoming and South Dakota. The new policy, described in an environmental assessment posted to the Forest Service website, reopens all caves in the region to recreational activities, nullifying an aggressive approach to containing white-nose syndrome unique among western federal land agencies. "This decision is a terrible blow to efforts to forestall the spread of this wildlife epidemic to the West," said Mollie Matteson, a bat specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity. "It’s extremely short-sighted, giving priority to the recreational interests of a small group of people over the survival of western bats, and it ignores all the benefits insect-eating bats provide to the rest of us, including farmers who depend on bats to save them millions of dollars in additional costs by containing crop pests." >> Read the Full Article

Egyptian Solar Power

Egypt is a land of ancient mysteries. It is a desert country with one long river flowing through it. Desert means lots of sun. Egypt is preparing to build a billion dollar solar power plant with help from a suite of international donors. Construction of Kuryamatt, a 150-megawatt hybrid power plant that will use both solar energy and natural gas to generate electricity, is underway 90 kilometers south of Cairo. Plans for a second large solar plant, in Upper Egypt's Kom Ombo, are also underway. These moves come after severe power cuts crippled the country last year during the hot summer months when Egyptians blast their air-conditioning units, and power up their stoves to prepare Ramadan feasts. >> Read the Full Article

The Hidden Conservation Costs of Renewable Energy

Ecologist writer Luke Dale-Harris questions the ability of Natura 2000 to work as an effective environmental regulator. The birds that migrate freely across Europe are unaware of the invisible borders that lie below them. They follow the same routes that have carried them to warmth every year for an eternity, marked out by the indomitable features of the landscape - the coast of the Atlantic on one side and the curve of the Carpathian Mountains on the other. But it is what they miss that matters most; their future, along with that of the rest of us, is dictated by the political and economic tides that shift shape across the continent. >> Read the Full Article

Loss of wild pollinators could threaten food security

The loss of wild pollinators from agricultural landscapes could threaten global crop yields, a study has found. Led by Lucas Garibaldi, an assistant professor at the National University of Río Negro in Argentina, a team of researchers compared fields containing many wild pollinators - mostly insects - with those containing few. They studied 41 crop systems across all continents except Antarctica to understand how the loss of wild pollinators impacts crop production. >> Read the Full Article

Ecosytem Complexity

What is the impact of a single factor such as climate change on the ecosystem? Ecology is a complex science with multiple and interrelated factors. According to a new study led by scientists at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, the forces behind the sardine mystery are a dynamic and interconnected moving target. Publishing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Scripps graduate student Ethan Deyle, professor George Sugihara, and their colleagues argue that problems lie in seeking answers one factor at a time, as scientists have done for decades. What is the singular impact of climate or overfishing? Focusing on single variables in isolation can lead to misguided conclusions, the researchers say. Instead, using novel mathematical methods developed last year at Scripps, the researchers argue that climate, human actions and ecosystem fluctuations combine to influence sardine and other species populations, and therefore such factors should not be evaluated independently >> Read the Full Article

New Federal Handbook Guides Coordination of Environmental, Historic Preservation Review

Earlier this month, the Council on Environmental Quality ("CEQ") and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation ("ACHP") published a new handbook governing the coordination of project review under the National Environmental Policy Act ("NEPA") and Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act ("Section 106"). Drawing from existing rules and guidance from both agencies, the Handbook for Integrating NEPA and Section 106 Reviews (the "Handbook") summarizes regulatory requirements; provides checklists and flow-charts to assist project sponsors and reviewing agencies; and emphasizes opportunities to synchronize and streamline review under both statutes. >> Read the Full Article

Teach Your Children Well - About Climate Change

By the time today's K-12 students grow up, the challenges posed by climate change are expected to be severe and sweeping. Now, for the first time, new federal science standards due out this month will recommend that U.S. public school students learn about this climatic shift taking place. Mark McCaffrey of the National Center for Science Education says the lessons will fill a big gap. "Only 1 in 5 [students] feel like they've got a good handle on climate change from what they've learned in school," he says, adding that surveys show two-thirds of students say they're not learning much at all about it. "So the state of climate change education in the U.S. is abysmal." >> Read the Full Article

EPA Fracking Panel

Hydraulic fracturing is the propagation of fractures in a rock layer by a pressurized fluid. Some hydraulic fractures form naturally—certain veins or dikes are examples—and can create conduits along which gas and petroleum from source rocks may migrate to reservoir rocks. Induced hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking, is a technique used to release petroleum, natural gas (including shale gas, tight gas, and coal seam gas), or other substances for extraction. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) independent Science Advisory Board (SAB) today announced the formation of its Hydraulic Fracturing Research Advisory panel. This panel of independent experts will peer review EPA’s 2014 draft report of results for its national study on any potential impacts of hydraulic fracturing on drinking water resources. The SAB panel will provide scientific feedback on EPA’s research in an open and transparent manner on this controversial subject. The development of the draft report, which is directed by Congress, is in line with the Administration’s focus on continuing to expand safe and responsible domestic oil and gas production. >> Read the Full Article