Wednesday Morning Science Supplement is an Open Thread
|From Yahoo News Science|
1 Turkey blamed for looming crop ‘disaster’ in Iraq
by Jacques Clement, AFP
Wed May 20, 2:45 am ET
|BAGHDAD (AFP) – Iraq faces an agricultural “disaster” this summer if Turkey continues to retain waters from the Tigris and Euphrates rivers which have sustained Iraqi agriculture for millennia, experts say.
The controversy over the sharing of the mighty rivers at the root of Iraq’s ancient name of Mesopotamia — meaning “between the rivers” in Greek — is almost as old as the country itself.
But for Baghdad, the current shortage demands an urgent response from Turkey.
2 Obama unveils ‘historic’ car efficiency standards
by Stephen Collinson, AFP
Wed May 20, 2:17 am ET
|WASHINGTON (AFP) – President Barack Obama has unveiled “historic” efficiency and greenhouse gas standards for US cars, forging a rare moment of unity between auto firms and environmentalists on climate change.
“For the first time in history, we have set in motion a national policy aimed at both increasing gas mileage and decreasing greenhouse gas pollution for all new trucks and cars sold in the United States,” Obama said Tuesday.
The president gathered 10 auto industry chiefs, from crippled US firms to foreign giants, plus union bosses and environmentalists, to celebrate the deal forged by his administration in secret talks over the past few weeks.
3 UN chief urges action on growing climate change risk
by Mohammad Fadhel, AFP
Sun May 17, 10:56 am ET
|MANAMA (AFP) – UN chief Ban Ki-moon called for decisive action to reduce the growing impact of climate change as he launched on Sunday a global assessment of ways to minimise the risks from natural disasters.
“Gulf countries have so far been less exposed to disasters but rising sea levels threaten Bahrain, Egypt and Djibouti. Many other Arab countries are stricken by earthquakes and drought,” Ban said in Bahrain.
“As a result of global climate change, weather-related hazards are on the rise and we must act decisively,” the UN secretary general said, urging governments to do more to reduce the risks, which affects most the poor.
4 Protests as nuclear fuel ship docks in Japan
by Harumi Ozawa, AFP
Mon May 18, 1:37 am ET
|OMAEZAKI, Japan (AFP) – An armed vessel with a load of recycled nuclear fuel from France arrived amid heavy security Monday at a Japanese port where it was greeted by dozens of protesters.
The Pacific Heron — carrying a British police team to head off possible hijackers on its secretive two-month voyage — delivered a load of mixed-oxide or MOX fuel, a blend of plutonium and reprocessed uranium.
Several dozen anti-nuclear activists and concerned residents rallied at a pier of the Omaezaki fishing port as the ship docked under heavy police guard and cranes unloaded metal containers of the nuclear fuel.
5 Hungry vultures get daily ‘five-star’ feast in Spain
by Sebastien Guine, AFP
Wed May 20, 2:06 am ET
|VALDERROBRES, Spain (AFP) – Hundreds of vultures surround retired sailor Jose Ramon Moragrega before noisily feasting on the mass of dead rabbits he dumps from a red wheelbarrow onto a patch of gravel.
Fueled by a passion for the large birds, the 57-year-old has repeated this ritual each morning for the past two decades at his property near the town of Valderrobres in the mountains of Aragon in eastern Spain.
Each day, “Vultureman”, as he calls himself, feeds the predators between 100 and 200 rabbits not fit for human consumption that he gets for free at a local slaughterhouse.
6 Crusading NY health chief picked to head CDC
By DAVID B. CARUSO, Associated Press Writer
Fri May 15, 5:08 pm ET
|NEW YORK – For seven years, Dr. Thomas Frieden has been the nagging conscience of the nation’s biggest city, the man who made sure New Yorkers couldn’t smoke in bars or eat french fries cooked in artery-clogging trans fats.
Now, the city’s health commissioner will be taking his crusade against unhealthy living national as the head of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
President Barack Obama announced Friday that he has picked the 48-year-old Frieden to lead the public health agency, where he will be faced with some immediate decisions on how to deal with the swine flu outbreak, including whether to produce a vaccine. Frieden also may play a role in health care reform.
7 Obama wants to pump $475M into Great Lakes cleanup
By JOHN FLESHER, AP Environmental Writer
Fri May 15, 6:38 am ET
|TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – A budget proposal from the Obama administration would spend $475 million on beach cleanups, wetlands restoration and removal of toxic sediments from river bottoms around the Great Lakes.
The spending represents a first step toward a multiyear campaign to repair decades of damage to the battered ecosystem. It also seeks to ward off new threats by preventing exotic species invasions and cutting down on erosion and runoff.
Obama’s 2010 budget released in February requested the $475 million for a Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, focusing on the region’s most pressing environmental problems. When added to existing programs such as sewer system upgrades, it would push annual federal spending on the lakes past $1 billion.
8 European scientists launch new space telescope
By DANICA COTO, Associated Press Writer
Sat May 16, 1:45 am ET
|SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – As American astronauts overhauled the aging Hubble, European scientists launched an even larger space telescope toward a far-flung orbit, hoping to help answer two questions: How did the cosmos begin and are we alone in it?
“We are seeking the origins of the universe,” said Jean-Yves Le Gall, chairman and CEO of French satellite launcher Arianespace, which on Thursday launched the Herschel space telescope and a companion spacecraft from French Guiana.
The Herschel space telescope, the largest ever launched, will observe chunks of ice and dust left over from the formation of planets, playing a “complementary” role to the versatile Hubble, said Andreas Diekmann, director of the European Space Agency’s Washington office.
9 Flourishing eagles feast on Maine’s rare seabirds
By CLARKE CANFIELD, Associated Press Writer
Sat May 16, 10:39 pm ET
|PORTLAND, Maine – Bald eagles, bouncing back after years of decline, are swaggering forth with an appetite for great cormorant chicks that threatens to wipe out that bird population in the United States.
The eagles, perhaps finding less fish to eat, are flying to Maine’s remote rocky islands where they’ve been raiding the only known nesting colonies of great cormorants in the U.S. Snatching waddling chicks from the ground and driving adults from their nests, the eagles are causing the numbers of the glossy black birds to decline from more than 250 pairs to 80 pairs since 1992.
“They’re like thugs. They’re like gang members. They go to these offshore islands where all these seabirds are and the birds are easy picking,” said Brad Allen, a wildlife biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “These young eagles are harassing the bejesus out of all the birds, and the great cormorants have been taking it on the chin.”
10 Blue whales returning to former Alaska waters
By MARY PEMBERTON, Associated Press Writer
Mon May 18, 5:03 am ET
|ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Blue whales are returning to Alaska in search of food and could be re-establishing an old migration route several decades after they were nearly wiped out by commercial whalers, scientists say.
The endangered whales, possibly the largest animals ever to live on Earth, have yet to recover from the worldwide slaughter that eliminated 99 percent of their number, according to the American Cetacean Society. The hunting peaked in 1931 with more than 29,000 animals killed in one season.
The animals used to cruise from Mexico and Southern California to Alaska, but they had mostly vanished from Alaskan waters.
11 Hubble departs shuttle for new discoveries
By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Writer
Tue May 19, 7:16 pm ET
|CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – A rejuvenated Hubble Space Telescope, more powerful than ever, departed the space shuttle Tuesday and sailed off for new discoveries.
“It’s showtime for us now,” said program scientist Eric Smith.
Hubble – considered to be at its prime following five days of repairs and upgrades – was gently dropped overboard by the shuttle Atlantis astronauts, the last humans to see the 19-year-old observatory up close.
12 Early skeleton sheds light on primate evolution
By MALCOLM RITTER, AP Science Writer
Wed May 20, 1:40 am ET
|NEW YORK – The nearly complete and remarkably preserved skeleton of a small, 47 million-year-old creature found in Germany was displayed Tuesday by scientists who said it would help illuminate the evolutionary roots of monkeys, apes and humans.
Experts praised the discovery for the level of detail it provided but said it was far from a breakthrough that would solve the puzzles of early evolution.
About the size of a small cat, the animal has four legs and a long tail. Nobody is claiming that it’s a direct ancestor of monkeys and humans, but it provides a good indication of what a long-ago ancestor may have looked like, researchers said at a news conference.
13 Boom in tiny bedbugs is causing big trouble
By Barbara Barrett, McClatchy Newspapers
Fri May 15, 5:50 pm ET
|WASHINGTON – The biggest bedbug outbreak since World War II has sent a collective shudder among apartment dwellers, college students and business travelers across the nation.
The bugs – reddish brown, flat and about the size of a grain of rice – suck human blood. They resist many pesticides and spread quickly in certain mattress-heavy buildings, such as hotels, dormitories and apartment complexes.
Two shelters have closed temporarily in Charlotte, N.C. , because of bedbugs, a Yahoo chat group dedicates itself to sufferers and countless bedbug blogs provide forums for news, tips and commiseration. State inspectors say that more emphasis may be needed to tackle the creatures.
14 Environmentalists happy with Obama; industry less so
By Les Blumenthal, McClatchy Newspapers
Sun May 17, 6:00 am ET
|WASHINGTON – Interior Secretary Ken Salazar was defiant as an aide slipped him a note during his testimony before the House interior appropriations subcommittee. Led by two Republican senators upset by the Obama administration’s decision to cancel oil and gas leases near two national parks in southern Utah’s Red Rock Canyon region, the Senate had just blocked the White House nominee for the No. 2 slot at the Interior Department .
Dismissing the vote as “bitter obstructionism,” Salazar said he wasn’t about to second-guess his decision on the Utah leases. “I have no regrets,” he told the subcommittee last week.
In the nearly four months since taking office, the Obama administration has moved quickly, relentlessly and without apology to roll back the natural resource and public lands policies of its predecessor. Though they have yet to lay out their own vision in detail, Salazar and other administration officials have left no doubt that they consider the Bush approach misguided and unfairly weighted toward timber, mining, oil and other interests.
15 It’s nature’s law: When people arrive, animals vanish
By Robert S. Boyd, McClatchy Newspapers
Tue May 19, 3:53 pm ET
|WASHINGTON – It seems to be a law of nature that when people come, animals go. It happened in the past, and it’s happening again now.
About 11,000 years ago, more than 130 species, including most large mammals such as the woolly mammoth, saber-tooth cat and a 5-ton ground sloth, suddenly vanished from North America .
Scientists are still debating the reasons, but two leading suspects are excessive hunting by humans who’d newly arrived from the Old World and devastating human-borne diseases.
16 NASA: Hubble Camera’s Repair a Partial Success
Tariq Malik, Senior Editor SPACE.com
Sun May 17, 3:16 am ET
|HOUSTON – An ambitious attempt by Atlantis astronauts to fix the Hubble Space Telescope’s broken main camera has apparently met with only partial success, with one of the instrument’s three photo channels failing to recover as hoped, NASA officials said early Sunday.
Atlantis spacewalkers John Grunsfeld and Andrew Feustel spent 6 1/2 hours working on Hubble on Saturday to revive the observatory’s broken Advanced Camera for Surveys and install a powerful new spectrograph. It was the third of five spacewalks planned for their 11-day mission to overhaul Hubble for the last time.
NASA spokesperson Josh Byerly said engineers were unable to revive the camera’s high-resolution channel, one of three science-collecting channels it used to observe the universe before a crippling electrical short in 2007. That electrical short shut down the camera’s high-resolution and wide-field imager channels, though a third mode – a solar blind channel for studying objects in the far ultraviolet realm of the light spectrum – was later regained.
17 Astronauts Repair Key Hubble Device in Tough Spacewalk
Tariq Malik, Senior Editor SPACE.com
Sun May 17, 8:51 pm ET
|HOUSTON – Two embattled astronauts fought through a stuck bolt and dead battery on Sunday to fix a key instrument in the Hubble Space Telescope in a frustratingly long spacewalk.
Atlantis astronauts Michael Massimino and Michael Good were already expecting a challenging day to repair a long-broken spectrograph on the 19-year-old Hubble. The instrument was never designed to be fixed in orbit.
Ultimately, the astronauts completed their repair work on Hubble’s ailing Space Telescope Imaging Spectrograph (STIS), which failed in 2004. But it was a long, tough haul that prevented the spacewalkers from finishing all their tasks.
18 Astronauts Give Hubble Telescope One Last Hug
Tariq Malik, Senior Editor SPACE.com
Mon May 18, 6:45 pm ET
|HOUSTON – Spacewalking astronauts finished their hands-on repairs on the Hubble Space Telescope Monday, wrapping up a five-day marathon to overhaul the much-loved observatory for the last time.
Atlantis astronauts John Grunsfeld and Andrew Feustel spent just over seven hours adding some final upgrades to 19-year-old Hubble more powerful than ever before. It was an emotional day for the astronauts, as they became the last people ever to touch the iconic space telescope.
“This is a really tremendous adventure that we’ve been on, a very challenging mission,” said Grunsfeld, a self-described Hubble hugger making his third trip to the telescope, as he finished his work. “Hubble isn’t just a satellite, it’s about humanity’s quest for knowledge.”
19 Astronauts Say Farewell to Hubble Telescope
Tariq Malik, Senior Editor SPACE.com
Tue May 19, 10:30 am ET
|HOUSTON – Atlantis astronauts bid a fond farewell to the Hubble Space Telescope Tuesday and released it back into orbit after the last-ever service call on the beloved observatory.
With smooth precision, astronaut Megan McArthur hauled the refurbished space telescope out of Atlantis’ cargo bay and gingerly placed it back in orbit. The shuttle’s thrusters fired and it slowly pulled away from the 19-year-old Hubble after nearly a week of work to extend the telescope’s life through the next five to 10 years.
“Houston, Hubble has been released,” Atlantis commander Scott Altman radioed Mission Control. “It’s safely back on its journey of exploration as we begin the steps to conclude ours.”
20 Hubble’s Last Visit To Be Relived in 3-D
Robert Z. Pearlman, SPACE.com
Tue May 19, 9:22 pm ET
|Eight pairs of eyes were trained on the Hubble Space Telescope on Tuesday as it was released into orbit after spending a week berthed in space shuttle Atlantis’ payload bay. Seven of those stares belonged to the crew of STS-125, who worked to upgrade the satellite during that time.
The eighth captured the view for the rest of us: an IMAX 3D camera.
The 70 mm camera, best known for producing the large format movies that museums and science centers project on giant screens, was flown on the orbiter to document the fifth and final crewed mission to service the telescope for “Hubble 3D”, to be released by Warner Brothers in the spring of 2010.
21 Dodging Space Junk: Shuttle Looks Good So Far
Tariq Malik, Senior Editor SPACE.com
Tue May 19, 11:46 pm ET
|HOUSTON – The vital heat shield on the shuttle Atlantis appears to be in good shape after nearly a week linked with the Hubble Space Telescope, which circles the Earth in a region known to be littered with more junk than NASA’s usual orbital haunts.
After repairing the 19-year-old Hubble, Atlantis astronauts fired their shuttle’s engines on Tuesday to lower part of their orbit out of the space telescope’s 350-mile (563-km) high neighborhood as a precaution against debris hits.
They also took a second look at their shuttle’s heat shield to make sure the protective panels lining its wing edges and nose cap were free of any new damage from space debris or micrometeorites. The survey is a now-standard late inspection, but NASA isn’t expecting any surprises.
22 Space Littering Can Impact Earth’s Atmosphere
Leonard David, SPACE.com’s Space Insider Columnist
Tue May 19, 1:45 pm ET
|There is growing appreciation that outer space has become a trash bin, with the Earth encircled by dead or dying spacecraft, along with menacing bits of orbital clutter – some of which burns up in the planet’s atmosphere.
The big news of late was a smashup of a commercial Iridium satellite with a defunct Russian spacecraft earlier this year. Then there was that 2007 anti-satellite test by China, purposely destroying one of its aging weather satellites. These events produced large debris fields in space – adding to the swamp of cosmic compost.
But I sense a line of research that needs exploring: The overall impact of human-made orbital debris, solid and liquid propellant discharges, and other space age substance abuse that winds up in a high-speed dive through Earth’s atmosphere.
23 Astronauts Take Time Off After Fixing Hubble
Tariq Malik, Senior Editor SPACE.com
2 hrs 8 mins ago
|HOUSTON – After a tough week fixing up the Hubble Space Telescope, it’s time for a break for the seven astronauts aboard the shuttle Atlantis.
Shuttle commander Scott Altman and his crew will take some hard-earned time off Wednesday and rest up from their exhausting service call to give the 19-year-old space telescope another five or 10 years of orbital life.
The astronauts set Hubble free on Tuesday after a five-day spacewalk marathon to boost its cosmic vision and revive ailing science instruments. They are the last humans ever to see Hubble up close and left it more powerful than ever.
24 Largest Population of Leatherback Sea Turtles Found
Mon May 18, 2:50 pm ET
|The world’s largest nesting population of leatherback sea turtles has been identified in Africa, it was announced today.
Land and aerial surveys indicate a population of between 15,730 and 41,373 female turtles use the nesting beaches in Gabon, West Africa.
Leatherbacks are of intense conservation concern around the world after populations in the Indo-Pacific crashed by more than 90 percent in the 1980s and 1990s. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists leatherback turtles as critically endangered globally, but detailed population assessments in much of the Atlantic, especially Africa, are lacking.