• Forecasting Flu Outbreaks with Weather Technology

    Flu season often coincides with winter months as it has been found that the influenza virus lasts longer in cold, dry air. Knowing this, researchers have developed a framework for initializing real-time forecasts of seasonal influenza outbreaks using a technique used for weather prediction. The availability of real-time, web-based estimates of local influenza infection rates can make quantitative forecasting possible. Scientists at Columbia University and the National Center for Atmospheric Research have announced a new system that adapts techniques used in modern weather prediction to generate local forecasts of seasonal influenza outbreaks. By predicting the timing and severity of the outbreaks, the system can eventually help health officials and the general public better prepare for them. Each year, flu season peaks at various times from region to region. Pinpointing the outbreaks with the new forecast system can provide "a window into what can happen week to week as flu prevalence rises and falls," says lead author Jeffrey Shaman, an assistant professor of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health. Shaman and co-author Alicia Karspeck, an NCAR scientist, used web-based estimates of flu-related sickness from the winters of 2003–04 to 2008–09 in New York City to generate weekly flu forecasts. Consequently, researchers found that the technique could predict the peak timing of the outbreak more than seven weeks in advance of the actual peak. >> Read the Full Article
  • Martian Dust Storms

    Mars also has the largest dust storms in the Solar System. These can vary from a storm over a small area, to gigantic storms that cover the entire planet. They tend to occur when Mars is closest to the Sun. A Martian dust storm that NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has been tracking since last week has also produced atmospheric changes detectable by rovers on Mars. Using the orbiter's Mars Color Imager, Bruce Cantor of Malin Space Science Systems, San Diego, began observing the storm on Nov. 10, and subsequently reported it to the team operating NASA's Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity. The storm came no closer than about 837 miles (1,347 kilometers) from Opportunity, resulting in only a slight drop in atmospheric clarity over that rover, which does not have a weather station. >> Read the Full Article
  • New Development for Phytoremediation: Harvesting Collected Contaminants

    A team of researchers led by the University of Warwick are about to embark on a research program called "Cleaning Land for Wealth" (CL4W), that will use a common class of flower to restore poisoned soils while at the same time produce platinum and arsenic nanoparticles that can be used in a range of applications. A "Sandpit" exercise organized by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council allowed researchers from the Warwick Manufacturing group (WMG) at five universities to share technologies and skills to come up with an innovative multidisciplinary research project that could "help solve major technological and environmental challenges." >> Read the Full Article
  • Type 1A Supernovas

    A supernova is a stellar explosion that is more energetic than a nova. I Supernovae are extremely luminous and cause a burst of radiation that often briefly outshines an entire galaxy, before fading from view over several weeks or months. A Type Ia supernova is a sub-category of supernovae that results from the violent explosion of a white dwarf star. Supernova can be easily picked out and are often used as a way to measure distances. A study using a unique new instrument on the world’s largest optical telescope has revealed the likely origins of especially bright supernovae that astronomers use as easy-to-spot mile markers to measure the expansion and acceleration of the universe. >> Read the Full Article
  • Colossal Galactic Bridge

    The Planck (European Space Agency or ESA) space telescope has made the first conclusive detection of a bridge of hot gas connecting a pair of galaxy clusters across 10 million light-years of intergalactic space. In the early Universe, filaments of gaseous matter pervaded the cosmos in a giant web, with clusters eventually forming in the densest nodes. Planck’s discovery of a bridge of hot gas connecting the clusters Abell 399 and Abell 401, each containing hundreds of galaxies is one such discovery. >> Read the Full Article
  • Not Your Pilgrim's Turkey

    As we get ready for a great traditional Thanksgiving feast, I often wonder if this meal is really what the pilgrims and Native Americans would have eaten. Most likely our traditions have nothing to do with what really went down. We cannot even be sure that the first Thanksgiving had a turkey, and even if they did, according to a new study, this main dish would be genetically different than the bird present at the first Thanksgiving. >> Read the Full Article
  • The Changing Winds of Mars

    There is atmosphere on Mars and where there is atmosphere there are winds. Observations of wind patterns and natural radiation patterns on Mars by NASA's Curiosity rover are helping scientists better understand the environment on the Red Planet's surface. Researchers using the car-sized mobile laboratory have identified transient whirlwinds, mapped winds in relation to slopes, tracked daily and seasonal changes in air pressure, and linked rhythmic changes in radiation to daily atmospheric changes. The knowledge being gained about these processes helps scientists interpret evidence about environmental changes on Mars that might have led to conditions favorable for life in the past or even now. >> Read the Full Article
  • Owl wings may inspire new design for quieting aircrafts

    Airlines and airports could soon be relying on nature for a unique way to reduce noise pollution after researchers found owl feathers are designed to minimize sound while in flight. Owls have long been known to have the uncanny ability to fly silently, relying on specialized plumage to reduce noise so they can hunt in acoustic stealth. Now researchers from the University of Cambridge, England, are studying the owl's wing structure to better understand how it mitigates noise so they can apply that information to the design of conventional aircraft. >> Read the Full Article
  • General Motors Moves Deeper into the Electric Vehicle Business

    GM is already the maker of the Chevrolet Volt, the first wide-selling domestic plug-in hybrid electric vehicle to hit the market. With new CAFE standards put in place by the US Government, and with growing public demand for cleaner vehicles, GM has decided to expand its electric vehicle inventory. According to GM's product development chief, by 2017, the US automaker will build up to 500,000 vehicles which utilize some sort of electric technology. Adding to its fleet of Volts will also be the new all-electric Spark, which goes on sale in select markets starting next year. The half-million vehicles expected to be produced would equal about five percent of its total global sales from 2011. >> Read the Full Article
  • US Military Takes Part in Reducing Ecological Footprint

    In an effort to enhance American security and address climate change, the U.S. military is diminishing its footprint. The military is producing cleaner power, reducing energy consumption, managing water and minimizing waste. Their efforts encompass vast numbers of vehicles, ships, planes, buildings, lands, and other facilities. A major impetus for these efforts is Executive Order 13514, "Federal Leadership in Environmental, Energy, and Economic Performance," which President Obama signed on October 5, 2009. It mandates a 30 percent reduction in energy usage by federal agencies. >> Read the Full Article