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Carnivorous Plants Follow the Vegetarian Trend

December 22, 2014 - 8:57am
Carnivorous plants catch and digest tiny animals in order and derive benefits for their nutrition. Interestingly the trend towards vegetarianism seems to overcome carnivorous plants as well. The aquatic carnivorous bladderwort, which can be found in many lakes and ponds worldwide, does not only gain profit from eating little animals but also by consuming algae and pollen grains. This results in survival in aquatic habitats where prey animals are rare, and in increased fitness if the animals and algae are caught in a well-balanced diet. An Austrian research group around Marianne Koller-Peroutka and Wolfram Adlassnig published these results in the respected journal Annals of Botany.

Organic Chemistry Found on Mars

December 19, 2014 - 8:53am
NASA's Mars Curiosity rover has measured a tenfold spike in methane, an organic chemical, in the atmosphere around it and detected other organic molecules in a rock-powder sample collected by the robotic laboratory's drill. "This temporary increase in methane -- sharply up and then back down -- tells us there must be some relatively localized source," said Sushil Atreya of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, a member of the Curiosity rover science team. "There are many possible sources, biological or non-biological, such as interaction of water and rock."

Study finds reefs reduce wave energy by 97%

December 18, 2014 - 8:50am
We have a lot of stake in the coast. Coastal waters are where we host fisheries, build homes and turn to for tourism and recreation. So how should coastal communities, which comprise nearly 40 percent of the world's population, safeguard against flooding, erosion and violent weather? Marine scientist Michael Beck suggests the solution is growing right beneath some waves and, in many cases, it has been waiting there for thousands of years. 

New process turns biomass 'waste' into chemical products

December 17, 2014 - 3:13pm
A new catalytic process is able to convert what was once considered biomass waste into lucrative chemical products that can be used in fragrances, flavorings or to create high-octane fuel for racecars and jets. A team of researchers from Purdue University's Center for Direct Catalytic Conversion of Biomass to Biofuels, or C3Bio, has developed a process that uses a chemical catalyst and heat to spur reactions that convert lignin into valuable chemical commodities. Lignin is a tough and highly complex molecule that gives the plant cell wall its rigid structure.

Earth grows new layer under Icelandic Volcano

December 16, 2014 - 8:41am
New research into an Icelandic eruption has shed light on how the Earth’s crust forms, according to a paper published today in Nature. When the Bárðarbunga volcano, which is buried beneath Iceland’s Vatnajökull ice cap, reawakened in August 2014, scientists had a rare opportunity to monitor how the magma flowed through cracks in the rock away from the volcano.

An app to save 400 million animals

December 15, 2014 - 9:57am
Brazilian biologist Alex Bager has been leading a crusade to raise awareness of a major but neglected threat to biodiversity in his country.Every year over 475 million animals die in Brazil as victims of roadkill, according to an estimate by Centro Brasileiro de Ecologia de Estradas (the Brazilian Centre for the Study of Road Ecology) or CBEE, an initiative funded and coordinated by Bager. This means 15 animals are run down every second on Brazilian roads and highways."The numbers are really scary and we need people to know about them," Bager said.To register cases of roadkill throughout the country, Bager came up with the idea of an app, now used by thousands of citizen scientists. And a national day of action in November saw hundreds of volunteers participate in events to highlight the impact of roadkill on biodiversity. 

Do Wind Turbines Affect Property Values?

December 9, 2014 - 9:20am
Wind turbine developments have no effect on property values of nearby homes and farms, according to new research from the University of Guelph. Published in a recent issue of the Canadian Journal of Agricultural Economics, the study is believed the first peer-reviewed study on this issue in Canada.

Sandia Labs study points to advantages of storing hydrogen in salt mines

December 9, 2014 - 7:59am
Large-scale storage of low-pressure, gaseous hydrogen in salt caverns and other underground sites for transportation fuel and grid-scale energy applications offers several advantages over above-ground storage, says a recent Sandia National Laboratories study sponsored by the Department of Energy’s Fuel Cell Technologies Office.Geologic storage of hydrogen gas could make it possible to produce and distribute large quantities of hydrogen fuel for the growing fuel cell electric vehicle market, the researchers concluded.Geologic storage solutions can service a number of key hydrogen markets since “costs are more influenced by the geology available rather than the size of the hydrogen market demand,” said Sandia’s Anna Snider Lord, the study’s principal investigator.

New Technology Brings Temperatures Down

December 8, 2014 - 9:02am
Greek villages are famous for their glittering white walls and beautiful blue painted accents, which make them a dazzling sight whether you’re approaching the sea or looking out across them from the windows of your blessedly cool room — which stays cool even in the height of summer heat. If you look around, you might notice that there’s no air conditioning. The Greeks don’t need it, because their homes are specifically designed to control temperatures and keep people comfortable. Thick walls insulate rooms to keep temperatures stable, while those handsome white roofs and walls reflect heat.

Drugs released in environment affect plant growth

December 5, 2014 - 2:04pm
The drugs we release into the environment are likely to have a significant impact on plant growth, finds a new study led by the University of Exeter Medical School and Plymouth University. By assessing the impacts of a range of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, the research has shown that the growth of edible crops can be affected by these chemicals – even at the very low concentrations found in the environment.

Think Geoengineering is a quick fix for global warming?

November 26, 2014 - 9:20am
The deliberate, large-scale intervention in the Earth’s climate system is not a “quick fix” for global warming, according to the findings of the UK’s first publicly funded studies on geoengineering.The results of three projects – IAGP, led by the University of Leeds; SPICE, led by the University of Bristol; and CGG, led by the University of Oxford – are announced at an event held at The Royal Society, London, on 26 November.

UK unveils first waste-fueled bus

November 20, 2014 - 7:49am
The UK's first ever bus powered on human and food waste has taken to the road today which engineers believe could provide a sustainable way of fuelling public transport - cutting emissions in polluted towns and cities. The 40-seater Bio-Bus, which runs on gas generated through the treatment of sewage and food waste that's unfit for human consumption, helps to improve urban air quality as it produces fewer emissions than traditional diesel engines. Running on waste products that are both renewable and sustainable, the bus can travel up to 300km on a full tank of gas.

Researchers use social media to track air pollution

November 18, 2014 - 11:13am
University of Wisconsin-Madison computer science researchers have developed a method for using social media posts to estimate air pollution levels with significant accuracy.

European Space Agency's Rosetta Makes Historic First Landing on a Comet

November 15, 2014 - 7:05am
On Wednesday, Nov. 12, the European Space Agency's Rosetta mission successfully landed on the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Descending at a speed of about 2 mph (3.2 kilometers per hour) the lander, called "Philae," first touched down and its signal was received at 8:03 a.m. PST (11:03 a.m. EST). Partially due to anchoring harpoons not firing, and the comet's low gravity (a hundred-thousand times less than that of Earth), Philae bounced off the surface and flew up to about six-tenths of a mile (1 kilometer) both above the comet's surface as well as downrange. At 9:53 a.m. PST (12:53 p.m. EST), almost two hours after first contact, Philae again touched down. A second, more modest bounce resulted, again sending it airborne. Philae's third contact with the comet's nucleus was the charm. At 10 a.m. PST (1 p.m. EST), the Rosetta mission's Philae lander became the first spacecraft to soft-land on a comet.

Fukushima Radioactivity Detected Off West Coast

November 11, 2014 - 8:32am
Monitoring efforts along the Pacific Coast of the U.S. and Canada have detected the presence of small amounts of radioactivity from the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant accident 100 miles (150 km) due west of Eureka, California. Scientists at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) found the trace amounts of telltale radioactive compounds as part of their ongoing monitoring of natural and human sources of radioactivity in the ocean.

MIT finds the missing piece of the climate modeling puzzle

November 10, 2014 - 2:58pm
In classrooms and everyday conversation, explanations of global warming hinge on the greenhouse gas effect. In short, climate depends on the balance between two different kinds of radiation: The Earth absorbs incoming visible light from the sun, called “shortwave radiation,” and emits infrared light, or “longwave radiation,” into space.Upsetting that energy balance are rising levels of greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide (CO2), that increasingly absorb some of the outgoing longwave radiation and trap it in the atmosphere. Energy accumulates in the climate system, and warming occurs. But in a paper out this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, MIT researchers show that this canonical view of global warming is only half the story.

New antibiotic found in mushroom that grows on horse dung

November 7, 2014 - 11:18am
Researchers from the Institute of Microbiology at ETH Zurich and the University of Bonn have discovered a new protein with antibiotic properties in a mushroom that grows on horse dung. The new agent that was found in fungi is found to kill bacteria. The substance, known as copsin, has the same effect as traditional antibiotics, but belongs to a different class of biochemical substances. Copsin is a protein, whereas traditional antibiotics are often non-protein organic compounds.

The mysteries of what Comets actually are is getting closer to being solved

November 7, 2014 - 4:44am
Man has been amazed by comets for millenia. What are they, these beautiful wanderers?  There have been many theories, the most popular being that they are balls of ice.  Now we are actually getting data.  The photographs taken by the European Space Agency's Rosetta spacecraft show comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko to be more rocklike than a ball of ice. After sailing through space for more than 10 years, the Rosetta spacecraft is now less than a week shy of landing a robotic probe on a comet. The mission's Philae (fee-LAY) lander is scheduled to touch down on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko on Wednesday, Nov. 12 at 7:35 a.m PST/10:35 a.m. EST. A signal confirming the landing is expected about 8:02 a.m. PST/11:02 a.m. EST. If all goes as planned with this complex engineering feat, it will be the first-ever soft landing of a spacecraft on a comet.

New Mechanism Behind Arctic Warming Revealed

November 6, 2014 - 8:06am
We all know that greenhouse gases contribute to global warming, but new research identifies a new mechanism that could turn out to be a major contributor to melting sea ice, specifically in the Arctic region. Scientists from the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have studied a long-wavelength region of the electromagnetic spectrum called far infrared. Far infrared is a region in the infrared spectrum of electromagnetic radiation. While it is invisible to our eyes, it accounts for about half the energy emitted by the Earth’s surface. 

Disguised Rover Used To Help Study Penguins

November 5, 2014 - 8:26am
A group of scientists working in collaboration with a filmmaker have come up with a clever, and adorable, way to study notoriously shy Emperor penguins in Adélie Land, Antarctica by sending in a rover disguised as a chick that was so convincing penguins tried to make conversation with it. As researchers explain in a study published in the journal Nature Methods, which was led by Yvon Le Maho of the University of Strasbourg in France, scientists have been unable to study these penguins up close without seriously stressing them out, altering their behavior or causing them to retreat.

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