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Sparkling springs aid quest for underground heat

July 21, 2017 - 11:11am
Analysis of natural sparkling mineral water has given scientists valuable clues on how to locate hot water springs.

Scientists Uncover Biogeochemical Controls on Occurrence and Distribution of PACs in Coals

July 21, 2017 - 10:56am
The organic matter in coal contains polycyclic aromatic compounds (PACs) of varying quantities in diverse soluble and insoluble forms. PACs in coal are of special interest for organic geochemical studies as they have been successfully used as biological marker compounds (biomarkers) and indicators of thermal maturity.However, challenges exist when applying PACs in understanding the organic geochemistry of coal. For example, what are the sources of PACs in coals? How do they transform during the long-term coal-formation history? Is there any regular relationship between the PAC and macro-molecular structural changes? 

Holographic Imaging Could Be Used to Detect Signs of Life in Space

July 21, 2017 - 10:17am
We may be capable of finding microbes in space—but if we did, could we tell what they were, and that they were alive?

Mountain glaciers recharge vital aquifers

July 21, 2017 - 10:03am
Small mountain glaciers play a big role in recharging vital aquifers and in keeping rivers flowing during the winter, according to a new study published in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.The study also suggests that the accelerated melting of mountain glaciers in recent decades may explain a phenomenon that has long puzzled scientists — why Arctic and sub-Arctic rivers have increased their water flow during the winter even without a correlative increase in rain or snowfall.

Study predicts heart cells' response to dwindling oxygen

July 21, 2017 - 9:55am
Time is of the essence when treating a patient undergoing a heart attack. Cardiac surgeons attempt to quickly stabilize the heart by applying reperfusion, a technique that restores oxygen to the heart by opening up blocked vessels with balloons and stents. While reperfusion can restore cardiac function, such sudden infusions of oxygen can also further injure severely depleted regions of the heart.“It’s a double-edged sword,” says Anthony McDougal, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering. “The rapid return of oxygen is necessary for the heart to survive, but it could also overwhelm the heart.”

Power shift: University of Toronto researcher applies AI to monitor city's electrical grid

July 21, 2017 - 9:12am
From indoor lighting to outdoor street lamps, our world is made brighter by artificial light. But the light that we perceive to be constant, actually fluctuates.A University of Toronto computer scientist and researchers from the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology are studying electrical grids for cities, creating a camera that records the city's lights at a slower speed to get more accurate readings of changing voltages at particular locations.

Experimental model predicted tornado's path hours, not minutes, before it formed

July 21, 2017 - 9:12am
As severe weather brewed in the Texas panhandle late in the afternoon of May 16,  NOAA National Weather Service forecasters alerted residents in parts of western Oklahoma about the potential for large hail and damaging tornadoes that evening, particularly in the area around Elk City.Ninety minutes later, a dangerous, rain-wrapped EF-2 tornado struck the small town: It killed one, injured eight, and destroyed about 200 homes and more than 30 businesses.

Stanford researchers develop a new type of soft, growing robot

July 20, 2017 - 4:41pm
Imagine rescuers searching for people in the rubble of a collapsed building. Instead of digging through the debris by hand or having dogs sniff for signs of life, they bring out a small, air-tight cylinder. They place the device at the entrance of the debris and flip a switch. From one end of the cylinder, a tendril extends into the mass of stones and dirt, like a fast-climbing vine. A camera at the tip of the tendril gives rescuers a view of the otherwise unreachable places beneath the rubble.

3D imaging of surface chemistry in confinement

July 20, 2017 - 4:35pm
EPFL researchers have developed an optical imaging tool to visualize surface chemistry in real time. They imaged the interfacial chemistry in the microscopically confined geometry of a simple glass micro-capillary. The glass is covered with hydroxyl (-OH) groups that can lose a proton – a much-studied chemical reaction that is important in geology, chemistry and technology. A 100-micron long capillary displayed a remarkable spread in surface OH bond dissociation constant of a factor of a billion. The research has been published in Science.

Stanford researchers discover biological hydraulic system in tuna fins

July 20, 2017 - 4:20pm
Cutting through the ocean like a jet through the sky, giant bluefin tuna are built for performance, endurance and speed. Just as the fastest planes have carefully positioned wings and tail flaps to ensure precision maneuverability and fuel economy, bluefin tuna need the utmost control over their propulsive and stabilizing structures as they speed through the ocean. The outstanding maneuverability and precision locomotion of these powerful fish are supported by a vascular specialization that is unique among vertebrates, according to new research from Stanford University and the Monterey Bay Aquarium: pressurized hydraulic fin control.

NASA Looks to Solar Eclipse to Help Understand Earth's Energy System

July 20, 2017 - 4:04pm
It was midafternoon, but it was dark in an area in Boulder, Colorado on Aug. 3, 1998. A thick cloud appeared overhead and dimmed the land below for more than 30 minutes. Well-calibrated radiometers showed that there were very low levels of light reaching the ground, sufficiently low that researchers decided to simulate this interesting event with computer models. Now in 2017, inspired by the event in Boulder, NASA scientists will explore the moon’s eclipse of the sun to learn more about Earth’s energy system.On Aug. 21, 2017, scientists are looking to this year’s total solar eclipse passing across America to improve our modelling capabilities of Earth’s energy. Guoyong Wen, a NASA scientist working for Morgan State University in Baltimore, is leading a team to gather data from the ground and satellites before, during and after the eclipse so they can simulate this year’s eclipse using an advanced computer model, called a 3-D radiative transfer model. If successful, Wen and his team will help develop new calculations that improve our estimates of the amount of solar energy reaching the ground, and our understanding of one of the key players in regulating Earth’s energy system, clouds.

Shading and Lighting Retrofits Slash Energy Use in New York ''Living Lab'' Office Demonstration

July 20, 2017 - 3:30pm
By using advanced lighting and automated shades, scientists from the Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) found that occupants on one floor of a high-rise office building in New York City were able to reduce lighting energy usage by nearly 80 percent in some areas.The dramatic results emerged at a “living laboratory” set up to test four sets of technologies on one 40,000 square-foot floor of a building.

Berkeley Lab to Lead Multimillion-Dollar Geothermal Energy Project

July 20, 2017 - 3:23pm
The Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) will lead a new $9 million project aimed at removing technical barriers to commercialization of enhanced geothermal systems (EGS), a clean energy technology with the potential to power 100 million American homes.Berkeley Lab will partner with seven other DOE national labs and six universities to develop field experiments focused on understanding and modeling rock fractures, an essential element of geothermal systems. Scientists will use the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) in South Dakota to create small-scale fracture networks in crystalline rock 1,500 meters below ground.

United States' Electric Grid Remains Vulnerable to Natural Disasters, Cyber and Physical Attacks; Actions Needed to Improve Resiliency of the Power System

July 20, 2017 - 3:02pm
With growing risks to the nation’s electrical grid from natural disasters and as a potential target for malicious attacks, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should work closely with utility operators and other stakeholders to improve cyber and physical security and resilience, says a new congressionally mandated report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.  The grid remains vulnerable to diverse threats that can potentially cause extensive damage and result in large-area, prolonged outages that could cost billions of dollars and cause loss of life, the report found. The committee that conducted the study and wrote the report recommended ways to make the grid more resilient through the development and demonstration of technologies and organizational strategies that minimize the likelihood that outages will happen, reduce the impacts and speed recovery if they do, all the while developing mechanisms for continual improvements based on changing threats.

Heritage and ancient grain project feeds a growing demand

July 20, 2017 - 1:18pm
After a century of markets dominated by a few types of wheat and white flour, ancient and heritage wheat varieties are making a comeback.

Nesting aids make agricultural fields attractive for bees

July 20, 2017 - 11:10am
Farmers are facing a problem: Honeybees are becoming ever more rare in many places. But a lot of plants can only produce fruits and seeds when their flowers were previously pollinated with pollen from different individuals. So when there are no pollinators around, yields will decrease.

Mixed outcomes for plants and animals in warmer 2080s climate

July 20, 2017 - 11:02am
More than three quarters of plants and animals in England are likely to be significantly affected by climate change by the end of the century, say researchers.

Bringing neural networks to cellphones

July 19, 2017 - 7:07pm
In recent years, the best-performing artificial-intelligence systems — in areas such as autonomous driving, speech recognition, computer vision, and automatic translation — have come courtesy of software systems known as neural networks.But neural networks take up a lot of memory and consume a lot of power, so they usually run on servers in the cloud, which receive data from desktop or mobile devices and then send back their analyses.

A uranium-based compound improves manufacturing of nitrogen products

July 19, 2017 - 7:03pm
Nitrogen is abundantly available in nature and forms the basis for many valuable products, both natural and artificial. This requires a reaction known as “nitrogen fixation”, whereby molecular nitrogen is split into two atoms of nitrogen that can then be connected to other elements like carbon or hydrogen. But performing nitrogen fixation to make ammonia on an industrial scale requires harsh conditions with very high temperature and pressure. EPFL scientists have now developed a uranium-based compound that allows nitrogen fixation to take place in ambient conditions. The work, published in Nature, forms a basis for the development of more efficient catalysts, while it highlights new concepts that can be expanded to metals beyond uranium.

Fresh Water Below the Seafloor?

July 19, 2017 - 6:49pm
In some places, water is dangerously scarce. In the African Sahel, generations of severe droughts have claimed millions of lives and have turned fertile pastures into swaths of desert. In Brazil, residents of the water-starved city of São Paulo have been frenetically digging homemade wells to mine fresh water, while schoolkids skip brushing their teeth as a conservation measure. And in California, devastating drought conditions in recent years idled nearly a half-million acres of crops and triggered the loss of tens of thousands of jobs.