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Study shows presence of any calcified plaque significantly raises risk of heart disease for people under age 50

A major report led by Vanderbilt investigators found that the mere presence of even a small amount of calcified coronary plaque, more commonly referred to as coronary artery calcium (CAC), in people under age 50 — even small amounts — was strongly associated with increased risk of developing clinical coronary heart disease over the ensuing decade.

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NREL Research Pinpoints Promise of Polycrystalline Perovskites

A team of scientists from the Energy Department's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) determined that surface recombination limits the performance of polycrystalline perovskite solar cells.

Considerable research into perovskites at NREL and elsewhere has proved the material's effectiveness at converting sunlight into electricity, routinely topping 20 percent efficiency. The sunlight creates mobile electrons whose movement generates the power but upon encountering defects can slip into a non-productive process. Known as a recombination, this process reduces the efficiency of a solar cell. For the cell to be the most efficient, the recombination must occur slowly.

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Drought identified as key to severity of West Nile virus epidemics

A study led by UC Santa Cruz researchers has found that drought dramatically increases the severity of West Nile virus epidemics in the United States, although populations affected by large outbreaks acquire immunity that limits the size of subsequent epidemics.

The study, published February 8 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, involved researchers from UC Santa Cruz, Stanford University, and the New York State Department of Health. They analyzed 15 years of data on human West Nile virus infections from across the United States and found that epidemics were much larger in drought years and in regions that had not suffered large epidemics in the past.

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University of Toronto scientist says diesel trains may expose passengers to exhaust

A new U of T study finds that diesel trains may expose passengers to elevated levels of certain pollutants, especially if they are sitting directly behind the locomotive.

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Global bee expert sheds light on new research from Australia

York University biologist and bee expert, Professor Amro Zayed, continues to produce and publish original research of global importance. This time, he has contributed a news and views article in Nature (November 2016) that puts into context the work of an Australian researcher who discovered how natural selection allows an invader bee population to overcome the genetic odds stacked against it. The study, led by Professor Rosalyn Gloag of the University of Sydney, New South Wales, examined the invasion of Asian honeybees over an eight-year time frame.

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Air pollution linked to heightened risk of Type 2 diabetes in obese Latino children

Latino children who live in areas with higher levels of air pollution have a heightened risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, according to a new USC-led study.

Scientists tracked children’s health and respective levels of residential air pollution for about 3.5 years before associating chronic unhealthy air exposure to a breakdown in beta cells, special pancreatic cells that secrete insulin and maintain the appropriate sugar level in the bloodstream.

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High Selenium Levels Found in Fish in N.C. Lakes Receiving Coal Ash Waste

A new Duke University study has found high levels of selenium in fish in three North Carolina lakes receiving power plants’ coal ash waste.

“Across the board, we’re seeing elevated selenium levels in fish from lakes affected by coal combustion residual effluents,” said Jessica Brandt, a doctoral student in environmental health at Duke’s Nicholas School of the Environment, who led the study.

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New Scientific Approach Assesses Land Recovery Following Oil and Gas Drilling

When developing oil and gas well pads, the vegetation and soil are removed to level the areas for drilling and operations. The new assessment approach, called the disturbance automated reference toolset, or DART, is used to examine recovery patterns after well pads are plugged and abandoned to help resource managers make informed decisions for future well pad development.

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What Happened to the Sun over 7,000 Years Ago?

An international team led by researchers at Nagoya University, along with US and Swiss colleagues, has identified a new type of solar event and dated it to the year 5480 BC; they did this by measuring carbon-14 levels in tree rings, which reflect the effects of cosmic radiation on the atmosphere at the time. They have also proposed causes of this event, thereby extending knowledge of how the sun behaves.

When the activity of the sun changes, it has direct effects on the earth. For example, when the sun is relatively inactive, the amount of a type of carbon called carbon-14 increases in the earth's atmosphere. Because carbon in the air is absorbed by trees, carbon-14 levels in tree rings actually reflect solar activity and unusual solar events in the past. The team took advantage of such a phenomenon by analyzing a specimen from a bristlecone pine tree, a species that can live for thousands of years, to look back deep into the history of the sun.

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Campus natural gas power plants pose no radon risks

When Penn State decided to convert its two power plants from their historic use of coal as a source of energy to natural gas, there was concern about radon emissions. Although radon is known to exist in natural gas, now Penn State research indicates that it does not escape from these two power plants in harmful amounts.

By converting the West Campus Steam Plant on the University Park Campus, Penn State reduced its greenhouse gas emissions at the plant by nearly 40 percent, but the University wanted to make sure that the conversion was not causing a significant increase of radon levels in the atmosphere. Penn State also operates a second power plant on the East end of campus near its football stadium.

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