• The Volkswagen scandal and EU transportation emissions

    The revelations that Volkswagen, the world's second largest car manufacturer, had routinely gamed US emissions testing has thrown the spotlight on the environmental and health impact of cars.

    While EU member states, such as the UK, open or consider investigations into the beleaguered company, European Commission officials are currently reviewing the executive’s 2011 White Paper for transport, its main policy roadmap for the sector.

    Bringing extra impetus to their deliberation is the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, international talks aimed at capping global warming.

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  • El Niño's role in Pacific Ocean sea level rise

    Many tropical Pacific island nations are struggling to adapt to gradual sea level rise stemming from warming oceans and melting ice caps. Now they may also see much more frequent extreme interannual sea level swings. The culprit is a projected behavioral change of the El Niño phenomenon and its characteristic Pacific wind response, according to recent computer modeling experiments and tide-gauge analysis by scientists Matthew Widlansky and Axel Timmermann at the International Pacific Research Center, University of HawaiÊ»i at Mānoa, and their colleague Wenju Cai at Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia.

    During El Niño, warm water and high sea levels shift eastward, leaving in their wake low sea levels in the western Pacific. Scientists have already shown that this east-west seesaw is often followed six months to a year later by a similar north-south sea level seesaw with water levels dropping by up to one foot (30 cm) in the Southern Hemisphere. Such sea level drops expose shallow marine ecosystems in South Pacific Islands, causing massive coral die-offs with a foul smelling tide called taimasa (pronounced [kai’ ma’sa]) by Samoans.

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  • Why do Millenials, Gen Y have more trouble keeping excess weight off?

    If you are struggling with weight gain, you might be surprised to know that your parents had it easier - they could eat more and exercise less, and still avoid obesity, according to a recent study out of York University's Faculty of Health.

    "Our study results suggest that if you are 25, you'd have to eat even less and exercise more than those older, to prevent gaining weight," says Professor Jennifer Kuk in the School of Kinesiology and Health Science. "However, it also indicates there may be other specific changes contributing to the rise in obesity beyond just diet and exercise."

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  • Rutgers develops "Super Catnip"

    A bigger more hearty catnip plant – whose enriched oil not only promises to drive cats crazy with pleasure but also may be a safer, more effective mosquito repellent – has been developed for specialized commercial farmers by Rutgers University.

    A super catnip has been developed by Rutgers that will allow commercial farmers to grow bigger yields at more affordable prices.

    The Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES), which has spent more than a decade developing the new breed, CR9, for the insect repellant and pet toy industries recently licensed the product to Ball Horticulture, an Illinois company that will produce the seeds for commercial farmers.

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  • Beet juice boosts muscle performance quickly

    Scientists have evidence that Popeye was right: Spinach makes you stronger. But it’s the high nitrate content in the leafy greens — not the iron — that creates the effect. 

    Building on a growing body of work that suggests dietary nitrate improves muscle performance in many elite athletes, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis found that drinking concentrated beet juice — also high in nitrates — increases muscle power in patients with heart failure.

    “It’s a small study, but we see robust changes in muscle power about two hours after patients drink the beet juice,” said senior author Linda R. Peterson, MD, associate professor of medicine. “A lot of the activities of daily living are power-based — getting out of a chair, lifting groceries, climbing stairs. And they have a major impact on quality of life. We want to help make people more powerful because power is such an important predictor of how well people do, whether they have heart failure, cancer or other conditions. In general, physically more powerful people live longer.”

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  • Lunar crust found to be highly fractured

    Scientists believe that about 4 billion years ago, during a period called the Late Heavy Bombardment, the moon took a severe beating, as an army of asteroids pelted its surface, carving out craters and opening deep fissures in its crust. Such sustained impacts increased the moon’s porosity, opening up a network of large seams beneath the lunar surface.

    Now scientists at MIT and elsewhere have identified regions on the far side of the moon, called the lunar highlands, that may have been so heavily bombarded — particularly by small asteroids — that the impacts completely shattered the upper crust, leaving these regions essentially as fractured and porous as they could be. The scientists found that further impacts to these highly porous regions may have then had the opposite effect, sealing up cracks and decreasing porosity.

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  • Oceanic Phytoplankton contribute to ice formation in clouds

    Researchers from the Arctic Research Programme, managed at British Antarctic Survey, have shown for the first time that phytoplankton (plant life) in remote ocean regions can contribute to rare airborne particles that trigger ice formation in clouds.

    Results published today in the journal Nature show that the organic waste from life in the oceans, which is ejected into the atmosphere along with sea spray from breaking waves, stimulates cloud droplets to freeze into ice particles. This affects how clouds behave and influence global climate, which is important for improved projections of future climate change.

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  • The long-term effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill

    For 25 years, methodical research by scientists has investigated the effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 on Alaskan communities and ecosystems. A new study released today into the effects of the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska shows that embryonic salmon and herring exposed to very low levels of crude oil can develop hidden heart defects that compromise their later survival, indicating that the spill may have had much greater impacts on spawning fish than previously recognized.

    The herring population crashed four years after the spill in Prince William Sound and pink salmon stocks also declined, but the link to the oil spill has remained controversial. The new findings published in the online journal Scientific Reports suggest that the delayed effects of the spill may have been important contributors to the declines.

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  • New study predicts future Antarctic ice loss

    A new international study is the first to use a high-resolution, large-scale computer model to estimate how much ice the West Antarctic Ice Sheet could lose over the next couple of centuries, and how much that could add to sea-level rise. The results paint a clearer picture of West Antarctica’s future than was previously possible. The study has been published in The Cryosphere, an open access journal of the European Geosciences Union (EGU).

    “The IPCC’s [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] 4th and 5th Assessment Reports both note that the acceleration of West Antarctic ice streams in response to ocean warming could result in a major contribution to sea-level rise, but that models were unable to satisfactorily quantify that response,” says Stephen Cornford, a research assistant at the University of Bristol, UK and lead-author of the study.

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  • Trash or Treasure? Repurposing Food Waste to Feed the Hungry and Create Jobs

    "If I offered you a bruised banana, you probably wouldn’t be interested,” said Jonathan Deutsch, PhD, director of Drexel University’s Center for Hospitality and Sport Management. “But what if I offered you some banana ice cream on a hot summer day? I bet you’d find that a lot more appealing.”

    It was this simple observation that inspired a new model for recovering would-be wasted – or surplus – food and repurposing it to feed hungry people, generate revenue and even create jobs. The model was recently piloted in West Philadelphia, home to a large population of low-income and food insecure individuals, as part of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Challenge with support from Brown’s Super Stores.

    Compiled by researchers from Drexel University, University of Pennsylvania, Cabrini College and the EPA,the results were published in Food and Nutrition Sciences,a peer-reviewed international journal dedicated to the latest advancements in food and nutrition sciences. The report also projects the amount of food that could be saved if the program was replicated nationally.

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