Green Technology and Environmental Science News - ENN
Updated: 1 hour 53 min ago
In a United Nations report released in May, scientists worldwide were called upon to join the war on jellyfish. According to the report, jellyfish have overwhelmed the marine ecosystem as a result of the overfishing of more competitive species, consuming fish eggs and larvae of weaker specimens and creating what the report called a "vicious cycle." So how can this cycle be stopped?
Satellites are put into orbit for a variety of tasks. From sending television signals to our homes to enabling GPS devices, to helping us see weather on a global scale, satellites collect information and provide us with modern conveniences. One new use for a proposed satellite scheduled to launch this winter is soil moisture monitoring at a local level.
An ancient art form is beginning to take off in a way no one thought possible: on a spaceship. Origami, or Japanese folding paper, is currently being developed into solar panels at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory at The California Institute of Technology. Solar panels that have endless applications. Space travel has already turned over the possibility of solar-powered flight via folding panels, but this particular reincarnation is different. Developers cite a more intricate fold that allows for efficient deployment of the solar arrays. And it doesn’t stop there. Origami may one day be used in self-assembling solar arrays that are launched into space to power the earth below.
A Virginia Tech scientist has discovered a potentially new form of plant communication, one that allows them to share an extraordinary amount of genetic information with one another. The finding by Jim Westwood, a professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, throws open the door to a new arena of science that explores how plants communicate with each other on a molecular level. It also gives scientists new insight into ways to fight parasitic weeds that wreak havoc on food crops in some of the poorest parts of the world.
Researchers have discovered that the world's energy needs could easily be met by harnessing the power potential of high-altitude winds. Developers in an emerging field known as airborne wind energy envisage using devices that might look like parachutes or gliders to capture electricity from the strong, steady winds that blow well above the surface in certain regions.
We've genetically-modified crops to enhance desired traits such as increased resistance to herbicides or pesticides. Nonetheless, pests still infest crops around the world. In an attempt to control these pests, scientists have turned to genetically engineering the pests themselves!
Honey bees are known for their fascinating social structure. A honey bee colony is in fact a well-organized machine, running on good communication, defense and division of labor. As social insects, honey bees have also been shown the communicate to their fellow foragers, a dance to tell their counterparts where food is located. But listening to other bees isn’t always the name of the game. Sometimes the honeybee just wants to do its own thing.
Watch out George Lucas fans, a Death Star may be in our horizons – and one would only have to look as far as our nearest stellar neighbor: the Sun. According to Mr. Ashley Dale of the University of Bristol, solar "super-storms" pose an imminent threat to the earth by disabling electricity and communication system – or worse. Thus, the celestial body that illuminates the world may very well be responsible for sending it into darkness. In this month's issue of PhysicsWorld, Mr. Dale writes: "Without power, people would struggle to fuel their cars at petrol stations, get money from cash dispensers or pay online. Water and sewage systems would be affected too, meaning that health epidemics in urbanized areas would quickly take a grip, with diseases behind centuries ago soon returning."
It is estimated that as many as 5.6 trillion used-cigarettes, or 766,571 metric tons, are deposited into the environment worldwide every year. That's a lot of litter, especially when it takes 18 months to 10 years for cigarette filters to degrade! However, these butts may have a newly discovered second use as a group of South Korean scientists have converted these cigarette leftovers into a high-performing material that could be integrated into computers, handheld devices, electrical vehicles and wind turbines.
A team of scientists at the University of Sheffield are the first to fabricate perovskite solar cells using a spray-painting process – a discovery that could help cut the cost of solar electricity. Experts from the University's Department of Physics and Astronomy and Department of Chemical and Biological Engineering have previously used the spray-painting method to produce solar cells using organic semiconductors - but using perovskite is a major step forward.
Unless your skin is about a foot thick, swimming and surfing in the Pacific Ocean for hours at a time requires a wetsuit to stay warm and comfortable. That comfort, however, comes at a price as the vast majority of wetsuits are made from petroleum-based neoprene. The material is durable and does the job, but its manufacture is a carbon-intensive and toxic process. Now Patagonia is aggressively promoting its plant-based wetsuit technology with the goal to have it become a game-changer in the surf industry.
As production of shale gas soars, the industry's effects on nature and wildlife remain largely unexplored, according to a study by a group of conservation biologists published in Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment on August 1. The report emphasizes the need to determine the environmental impact of chemical contamination from spills, well-casing failure, and other accidents. "We know very little about how shale gas production is affecting plants and wildlife," says author Sara Souther, a conservation fellow in the Department of Botany at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. "And in particular, there is a lack of accessible and reliable information on spills, wastewater disposal and the chemistry of fracturing fluids. Of the 24 U.S. states with active shale gas reservoirs, only five maintain public records of spills and accidents." The 800 percent increase in U.S. shale gas production between 2007 and 2012 is largely due to the use of hydraulic fracturing. Also called fracking, the process uses high-pressure injection of water, laden with sand and a variety of chemicals, to open cracks in the gas reservoir so natural gas can flow to the well.
The development and survival of an important group of marine invertebrates known as sea hares is under threat from increasing boat noise in the world's oceans, according to a new study by researchers from the UK and France. While previous studies have shown that marine noise can affect animal movement and communication, with unknown ecological consequences, scientists from the Universities of Bristol and Exeter and the École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE) CRIOBE in France have demonstrated that boat noise stops embryonic development and increases larval mortality in sea hares.
Robins sit on their eggs for about two weeks after they are laid. Male seahorses usually carry eggs for 9 to 45 days. Deep-sea octopuses? Four and a half years! Researchers at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) have observed this unique brooding phenomenon and have declares this species to have a longer brooding time than any other known animal. Egg brooding happens after the parent species lays the eggs. The parents then do everything in their power to protect those eggs so that offspring can develop. This includes cleaning the eggs and guarding them from predators, which evidently risks the parents' own ability to survive. In May 2007, during a deep-sea survey, researchers from MBARI, led by Bruce Robison, discovered a female octopus (Graneledone boreopacifica), clinging to a rocky ledge just above the floor of the canyon, about 1,400 meters (4,600 feet) below the ocean surface. Over the next four and one-half years, the researchers dove at this same site 18 times.
Astro Physicists love to look for reasons current theories are correct. When data are obtained that do not fit a current theory, the race is on to come up with an explanation! The Universe is a big place, full of unknowns. Astronomers using NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory have just catalogued a new one. "I couldn't believe my eyes," says Esra Bulbul of the Harvard Center for Astrophysics. "What we found, at first glance, could not be explained by known physics."
The first ever example of a plant-eating dinosaur with feathers and scales has been discovered in Russia. Previously only flesh-eating dinosaurs were known to have had feathers so this new find indicates that all dinosaurs could have been feathered. The new dinosaur, named Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus as it comes from a site called Kulinda on the banks of the Olov River in Siberia, is described in a paper published today in Science.
The planet's soil releases about 60 billion tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year, which is far more than that released by burning fossil fuels. This happens through a process called soil respiration. This enormous release of carbon is balanced by carbon coming into the soil system from falling leaves and other plant matter, as well as by the underground activities of plant roots.
Their scruffy beards weren't ironic, but there are reasons mammoths and mastodons could have been the hipsters of the Ice Age. According to research from the University of Cincinnati, the famously fuzzy relatives of elephants liked living in Greater Cincinnati long before it was trendy -- at the end of the last ice age. A study led by Brooke Crowley, an assistant professor of geology and anthropology, shows the ancient proboscideans enjoyed the area so much they likely were year-round residents and not nomadic migrants as previously thought.
The size and age of plants have more of an impact on their productivity than temperature and precipitation, according to a landmark study by University of Arizona researchers. UA professor Brian Enquist and postdoctoral researcher Sean Michaletz, along with collaborators Dongliang Cheng from Fujian Normal University in China and Drew Kerkhoff from Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, have combined a new mathematical theory with data from more than 1,000 forests across the world to show that climate has a relatively minor direct effect on net primary productivity, or the amount of biomass – wood or any other plant materials – that plants produce by harvesting sunlight, water and carbon dioxide.
Since the end of the Space Shuttle flights, NASA has been relying on help from Russia to launch men and women into space. The agency has been planning on replacement rockets to take humans into space and now engineers have taken a crucial step in preparing to test parts of NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) rocket that will send humans to new destinations in the solar system. They installed on Thursday an RS-25 engine on the A-1 Test Stand at the agency's Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.