Top Stories

How to minimize drought impact on food crops

The worldwide demand for legumes, one of the world’s most important agricultural food crops, is growing; at the same time, their production has been adversely affected by drought. In an Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis research paper published today in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers provide information that could help agricultural planning and management to minimize drought-induced yield losses.

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Tesla Superchargers vs. Battery Swap Stations, Superchargers win

They say the mark of a great company is knowing when to cut your losses and run. Well, it seems as though Tesla is on the verge of ditching its battery swap service which was launched with the Tesla Model S electric vehicle. The idea was that battery swap stations would be built across America allowing Tesla Model S users to book an appointment which will allow them to swap their discharged batteries for fully charged replacements.

The idea seemed good and all Tesla Model S owners were contacted but only a few took up the company’s offer to visit the one and only battery swap station open to the public at the moment.

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Canadian wildfire smoke transported to US

Canada has already had its share of wildfires this season, and the smoke from these wildfires is slowly drifting south over the United States' Midwest.  The drifting smoke can be seen in this Terra satellite image over Lake Michigan, as well as parts of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana and Ohio. 

The smoke released by any type of fire (forest, brush, crop, structure, tires, waste or wood burning) is a mixture of particles and chemicals produced by incomplete burning of carbon-containing materials. All smoke contains carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and particulate matter (PM or soot). Smoke can contain many different chemicals, including aldehydes, acid gases, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), benzene, toluene, styrene, metals and dioxins.

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Americans may waste more food that they think

Most Americans are aware that food waste is a problem, are concerned about it, and say they work to reduce their own waste, but nearly three-quarters believe that they waste less food than the national average, new research suggests. The findings, from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future (CLF) at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, are significant given that 31 to 40 percent of the American food supply goes to waste, primarily in homes, stores and restaurants. The top foods wasted, by weight, are fruits and vegetables, due in part to their perishability and bulk. Food waste costs Americans $161.6 billion annually.

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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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