• The differences between organic and non-organic milk and meat

    A new study has shown that both organic milk and meat contain around 50% more beneficial omega-3 fatty acids than conventionally produced products. Analysing data from around the world, the team led by Newcastle University, reviewed 196 papers on milk and 67 papers on meat and found clear differences between organic and conventional milk and meat, especially in terms of fatty acid composition, and the concentrations of certain essential minerals and antioxidants.

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  • Man-made underwater sound may have wider ecosystem effects than previously thought

    Underwater sound linked to human activity could alter the behaviour of seabed creatures that play a vital role in marine ecosystems, according to new research from the University of Southampton.

    The study, reported in the journal Scientific Reports published by Nature, found that exposure to sounds that resemble shipping traffic and offshore construction activities results in behavioural responses in certain invertebrate species that live in the marine sediment.

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  • Kalligrammatid lacewings looked like butterflies, but lived millions of years before butterflies

    New fossils found in Northeastern China have revealed a remarkable evolutionary coincidence: an extinct group of insects known as Kalligrammatid lacewings (Order Neuroptera) share an uncanny resemblance to modern day butterflies (Order Lepidoptera). Even though they vanished some 50 million years before butterflies appeared on earth, they possess the same wing shape and pigment hues, wing spots and eyespots, body scales, long proboscides, and similar feeding styles as butterflies.

    A photo of the modern owl butterfly (“Caligo Memnon”) shown beside a fossilized Kalligrammatid lacewing (“Oregramma illecebrosa”) shows some of the convergent features independently evolved by the two distantly-related insects, including wing eyespots and wing scales. (Butterfly photo by James Di Loreto/fossil photo by Conrad Labandeira and Jorge Santiago-Blay)

    In an incredible example of convergent evolution, both butterflies and kalligrammatids evol

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  • Phases of the moon affect amount of rainfall

    When the moon is high in the sky, it creates bulges in the planet’s atmosphere that creates imperceptible changes in the amount of rain that falls below. New University of Washington research to be published in Geophysical Research Letters shows that the lunar forces affect the amount of rain – though very slightly.

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  • Did early agriculture stave off global cooling?

    A new analysis of ice-core climate data, archeological evidence and ancient pollen samples strongly suggests that agriculture by humans 7,000 years ago likely slowed a natural cooling process of the global climate, playing a role in the relatively warmer climate we experience today.

    A study detailing the findings is published online in a recent edition of the journal Reviews of Geophysics, published by the American Geophysical Union.

    “Early farming helped keep the planet warm,” said William Ruddiman, a University of Virginia climate scientist and lead author of the study, who specializes in investigating ocean sediment and ice-core records for evidence of climate fluctuations.

    A dozen years ago, Ruddiman hypothesized that early humans altered the climate by burning massive areas of forests to clear the way for crops and livestock grazing. The resulting carbon dioxide and methane released into the atmosphere had a warming effect that “cancelled most or all of a natural cooling that should have occurred,” he said.

    That idea, which came to be known as the “early anthropogenic hypothesis” was hotly debated for years by climate scientists, and is still considered debatable by some of these scientists. 

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  • Why does the human brain respond more to sounds than language?

    It takes just one-tenth of a second for our brains to begin to recognize emotions conveyed by vocalizations, according to researchers from McGill. It doesn't matter whether the non-verbal sounds are growls of anger, the laughter of happiness or cries of sadness. More importantly, the researchers have also discovered that we pay more attention when an emotion (such as happiness, sadness or anger) is expressed through vocalizations than we do when the same emotion is expressed in speech. 

    The researchers believe that the speed with which the brain 'tags' these vocalizations and the preference given to them compared to language, is due to the potentially crucial role that decoding vocal sounds has played in human survival.

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  • Cloud cover found significant factor in Greenland Ice Sheet melt

    The Greenland Ice Sheet is the second largest ice sheet in the world and it's melting rapidly, likely driving almost a third of global sea level rise.

    A new study shows clouds are playing a larger role in that process than scientists previously believed.

    "Over the next 80 years, we could be dealing with another foot of sea level rise around the world," says Tristan L'Ecuyer, professor in the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and co-author of the study. "Parts of Miami and New York City are less than two feet above sea level; another foot of sea level rise and suddenly you have water in the city."

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  • Recycling on the ropes, France has a plan to fix the industry

    Low raw material costs have dealt a heavy blow to the recycling industry. The French recycling federation (FEDEREC) believes the sector needs a complete overhaul to stay afloat in the coming years.

    FEDEREC published its view of the future of recycling in a white paper entitled "The recycling industry by 2030." In the preface to this 70-page document, a frank discussion of the problems facing the industry and how they might be solved, Corinne Lepage, a Republican politician, evoked a sector "devastated by an oil price that is so low that it is driving us back towards a linear economy, as it is cheaper today to buy primary raw materials than recycled raw materials".

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  • Lawrence Livermore Laboratory developing underground battery system to store energy and CO2

    Meeting the Paris Climate Agreement goal of limiting the increase in the global average temperature to well below two degrees Celsius compared to pre-industrial levels will require increased use of renewable energy and reducing the CO2 intensity of fossil energy use.

    The intermittency of when the wind blows and when the sun shines is one of the biggest challenges impeding the widespread integration of renewable energy into electric grids, while the cost of capturing CO2 and storing it permanently underground is a big challenge for decarbonizing fossil energy.

    However, researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, Ohio State University, University of Minnesota and TerraCOH, Inc. think they’ve found an answer to both of these problems with a large-scale system that incorporates CO2 sequestration and energy storage.

     

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  • US Files Complaint Against Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche for Alleged Clean Air Act Violations - not the kind of German engineering the VW Group wants to be known for

    The U.S. Department of Justice, on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, today filed a civil complaint in federal court in Detroit, Michigan against Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, Volkswagen Group of America, Inc., Volkswagen Group of America Chattanooga Operations, LLC, Porsche AG, and Porsche Cars North America, Inc. (collectively referred to as Volkswagen). The complaint alleges that nearly 600,000 diesel engine vehicles had illegal defeat devices installed that impair their emission control systems and cause emissions to exceed EPA’s standards, resulting in harmful air pollution. The complaint further alleges that Volkswagen violated the Clean Air Act by selling, introducing into commerce, or importing into the United States motor vehicles that are designed differently from what Volkswagen had stated in applications for certification to EPA and the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

    “With today’s filing, we take an important step to protect public health by seeking to hold Volkswagen accountable for any unlawful air pollution, setting us on a path to resolution,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for enforcement and compliance assurance at EPA. “So far, recall discussions with the company have not produced an acceptable way forward. These discussions will continue in parallel with the federal court action.”

    “Car manufacturers that fail to properly certify their cars and that defeat emission control systems breach the public trust, endanger public health and disadvantage competitors,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden for the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “The United States will pursue all appropriate remedies against Volkswagen to redress the violations of our nation’s clean air laws alleged in the complaint.”

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