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How studying volcanos can improve aviation safety

A study on ash blasted from volcanoes is a first step towards accurately assessing where it is safe to fly during eruptions, according to the authors. The researchers found that the ash grains ejected into the atmosphere have diverse shapes and properties. They also learned that big grains can travel further than was previously estimated. All this could improve existing models of ash concentrations, which governments and airlines use to make flight decisions during eruptions, they say. Ash can cause aircraft engines to fail.

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How Pigeons organize for better navigation

Having a hierarchical social structure with just a few well-connected leaders enables pigeon flocks to navigate more accurately on the wing, new research shows.

Hierarchical organisation also enables flocks to cope better with navigation errors made by individual birds.

Researchers from Oxford University and the Zoological Society of London created 'virtual flocks' of homing pigeons to test how different social networks affect the navigation performance of these groups. The team's simulations looked at everything from no networks (all connections between individuals were of equal strength) to random networks (some connections were stronger than others but randomly distributed) to hierarchical networks with just a few well-connected individuals leading the way.

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First Wave Energy Device in US Powers Hawaii Military Base

The first grid-connected wave energy device in North American waters started feeding renewable electricity to a Marine Corps base in Hawaii last week. In coordination with the U.S. Navy, Northwest Energy Innovations and the Energy Department brought online a prototype of the Azura wave energy converter (WEC) device. The one-of-a-kind, wave energy device is designed to generate electricity from the motion of the choppy waters at the Navy’s Wave Energy Test Site (WETS) in Kaneohe Bay on Oahu. 

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Evolution update

Evolutionary theorist Stephen Jay Gould is famous for describing the evolution of humans and other conscious beings as a chance accident of history. If we could go back millions of years and "run the tape of life again," he mused, evolution would follow a different path. 

A study by University of Pennsylvania biologists now provides evidence Gould was correct, at the molecular level: Evolution is both unpredictable and irreversible. Using simulations of an evolving protein, they show that the genetic mutations that are accepted by evolution are typically dependent on mutations that came before, and the mutations that are accepted become increasingly difficult to reverse as time goes on.

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You may want to think twice about that mobile phone upgrade

A new research study has called for an overhaul of the way mobile devices are manufactured and contracted, in order to stop the harmful effects on the environment caused by current business models. Researchers from the University of Surrey analysed studies on the lifespan of mobile devices, from manufacture, use and disposal to see what impact each stage had on the environment. Through their investigation, they concluded that the current mobile business model, driven by frequent upgrades, is costing both the manufacturer and the environment. 

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How aging water supply systems can be making us sick

The study, by engineers at the University of Sheffield, is the first to prove conclusively that contaminants can enter pipes through leaks and be transported through the pipe network.

The pressure in mains water pipes usually forces water out through leaks, preventing anything else from getting in. But when there is a significant pressure drop in a damaged section of pipe, water surrounding the pipe can be sucked in through the hole. 

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Why are some states reducing EV incentives?

First of all we have to say that the vast majority of US state authorities are continuing with their current electric vehicle financial incentives, with many actually increasing the amount of funds available, but some states are struggling. Connecticut, Georgia, and Illinois are just three states in the US where electric vehicle financial incentives are being tapered down. Whether or not they are reintroduced in the future remains to be seen but budgets need to be balanced.

Is this a reflection of the technology?

It would be easy to say that we are yet again looking at a false dawn for the electric vehicle sector but this would be wrong. There has been enormous government and corporate investment in the industry and it is inconceivable to even suggest it will fade away into the background as it has done before. The simple fact is that many states across the US, and governments around the world, are struggling to balance their books during the current tight economic environment and schemes such as financial incentives to switch to electric vehicles are feeling the brunt.

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Kansas City goes All-In for EV's

Even though there is a long way to go before electric vehicles are accepted by all motorists, there is no doubt that the Kansas City Power and Light company is putting Kansas City on the map. The company announced very interesting and very ambitious plans to install 1001 electric vehicle charging stations across the area which it serves. This is certainly a very interesting development at a time when advances in electric vehicle battery technology are hitting the headlines but consumers are still concerned about range anxiety.

Will this move make a difference?

As one executive put it “if you install the charging stations they will come” which just about sums it up. The $20 million “clean charging network” will consist of 1001 charging stations which will be able to charge two cars at the time. Not only will this encourage more electric vehicles in the region but it will also greatly help with charging at busy times of the day. The simple fact is that until somebody actually took the plunge and decided to install electric vehicle charging stations we would always be at the beck and call of electric vehicle battery technology.

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"Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care."

Seven Billion Dreams. One Planet. Consume with Care. That is the theme of this year's World Environment Day – celebrated today, June 5th! Established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972, World Environmental Day (WED) helps raise awareness to protect nature and encourage worldwide awareness and action for environmental protection.

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Ladybird colors and toxicity to birds

For one of Britain’s best-loved and colourful group of insects, ladybirds, their colour reveals the extent of their toxicity to predators, according to new research undertaken at the Universities of Exeter and Cambridge. 

The study which is published today in the journal Scientific Reports, also found that the more conspicuous and colourful the ladybird species, the less likely it is to be attacked by birds.

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