• New forensic method tells the difference between poached and legal ivory

    Forensic-dating could end a major loophole in the current global ban on ivory, according to a new paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Scientists have developed a method to determine the age of ivory, allowing traders to tell the difference between ivory taken before the ban in 1989, which is still legal, and recently-poached ivory. Elephants across Africa are being slaughtered in record numbers for their tusks—the most recent estimate put it at 3,000 annually—due to rising demand for ivory in East Asia. Various loopholes have exacerbated the crisis. >> Read the Full Article
  • Plants Under Attack Release VOCs, Attract Herbivore Predators and Caterpillars

    Did you know that plants emit airborne distress signals when they are getting eaten? When damaged, plants release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and according to a new study, these compounds can serve two functions, one to attract enemies that might attack the herbivorous insects eating the plant, and two, to ward off the herbivorous insects, which avoid the herbivore-induced VOCs. A team of researchers has found that the odor released by maize plants under attack by insects attract not only parasitic wasps, which prey on herbivorous insects, but it also attracts caterpillars of the Egyptian cotton leafworm moth Spodoptera littoralis, a species that feeds on maize leaves. >> Read the Full Article
  • Livermorium and Flerovium

    The periodic table is a tabular arrangement of the chemical elements, organized on the basis of their atomic numbers, electron configurations, and recurring chemical properties. At one ttime the periodic table ended at uranium (element 92)until heavier material were created artificially. These tends to be short lived and unstable. Lawrence Livermore Laboratory employees and city officials have just celebrated the official discovery of the two heaviest elements on the periodic table -- 114, Flerovium, and 116, Livermorium. Director Parney Albright kicked off the celebration acknowledging the collaboration between Lawrence Livermore scientists and researchers from the Flerov Institute in Dubna, Russia, who discovered six heavy elements (113-118) including the latest Flerovium and Livermorium. Earlier in the day, Swalwell presented a certificate of appreciation to the LLNL scientists responsible for discovering Livermorium. >> Read the Full Article
  • President Obama Announces Second Term Climate Change Agenda

    In a speech at Georgetown University on June 25, 2013, President Barack Obama unveiled his administration's climate change agenda for its second term, featuring a series of rules and initiatives that can implemented by the United States Environmental Protection Agency ("EPA") and other federal agencies without congressional action. While the details of these proposals will be determined through subsequent rulemaking, the plans and timeframes set forth in the speech signal a major expansion of federal climate change mitigation and adaptation efforts, with potentially significant impacts upon electric utilities and other regulated entities as well as units of state and local government most affected by the impacts of global warming. The centerpiece of President Obama's speech is a new Presidential Memorandum directing EPA to finalize proposed greenhouse gas ("GHG") emissions standards for new and significantly modified power plants by September 2013, to propose the nation's first GHG emissions guidelines for existing power plants by June 2014, and to finalize those guidelines by June 2015. >> Read the Full Article
  • Fruit Fly Propagation

    Fruit flies, to humans, are an annoying batch of little critters. But to other fruit flies, there is a different picture. A team led by University California researchers has discovered a sensory system in the foreleg of the fruit fly that tells male flies whether a potential mate is from a different species. The work addresses a central problem in evolution that's poorly understood: how animals of one species know not to mate with animals of other species. >> Read the Full Article
  • Dinosaur Growth

    Tracking the growth of dinosaurs and how they changed as they grew is difficult since all the evidence there is consists of fossils. Using a combination of biomechanical analysis and bone histology, palaeontologists from Beijing, Bristol, and Bonn have shown how one of the best-known dinosaurs switched from four feet to two as it grew. Psittacosaurus, the 'parrot dinosaur' is known from more than 1000 specimens from the Cretaceous, 100 million years ago, of China and other parts of east Asia. As part of his PhD thesis at the University of Bristol, Qi Zhao, now on the staff of the Institute for Vertebrate Paleontology in Beijing, carried out the intricate study on the bones of babies, juveniles and adults. >> Read the Full Article
  • Chemists Introduce New Energy Efficient Seawater Desalination Method

    Having access to fresh water is a human necessity. We rely on fresh water not only for drinking, but also for crop irrigation and food production. And in an ever-changing world, with ever-changing landscapes, many communities are often faced with access limitations to fresh water due to both natural and man-made causes. This is what turns communities to the sea- an abundant, yet salty water source. Seawater desalination is one way to address water needs, but many methods rely on large, expensive equipment which is not always efficient. So with this problem comes a solution from chemists at The University of Texas at Austin and the University of Marburg in Germany, as this team has introduced a new method that creates a small electrical field that removes salts from the water. >> Read the Full Article
  • Thinner and Lighter Solar Cells

    Solar cells have been changing for years and gradually becoming less expensive, more compact and more efficient. Most efforts at improving solar cells have focused on increasing the efficiency of their energy conversion, or on lowering the cost of manufacturing. But now MIT researchers are opening another avenue for improvement, aiming to produce the thinnest and most lightweight solar panels possible which will reduce manufacturing and installation costs. >> Read the Full Article
  • Backing Up Wind Power: The Policy Issues Associated with Hydroelectricity

    What happens when there's no wind and wind turbines stop turning? What provides the back up power for this clean energy source on calm, windless days? While wind may be the fastest growing renewable energy source in the US, in order for us to rely on wind power, there needs to be some backup technology to fill in when wind does not blow. >> Read the Full Article
  • Are We Living Through a Shale Bubble?

    On May 24th, J. David Hughes and Deborah Rogers gave a briefing to summarize the findings of two new reports dismantling the myth of a "shale revolution". We've heard about it in the media, on both sides of the political aisle: shale gas and oil are the future of US energy. Indeed, natural gas prices dropped thanks to hydraulic fracturing (or fracking) and horizontal drilling, which helped lower the country's carbon emissions by reducing coal consumption. >> Read the Full Article