Wednesday Morning Science Supplement

Wednesday Morning Science Supplement is an Open Thread

35 Story Final.

From Yahoo News Science

1 Developing nations furious over Danish climate text


1 hr 49 mins ago

COPENHAGEN (AFP) – A leaked Danish proposal triggered outrage at Copenhagen climate talks, with developing nations condemning a draft deal that they argued would consign most of the world’s poor to permanent penury.

The “draft political agreement” circulated informally by the host government exposed the deep faultlines besetting a 192-nation conference aimed at averting the potential planetary catastrophe of global warming.

The cost of failure in Copenhagen was underlined by the UN’s World Meteorological Organisation, which said the current decade was shaping up to be the hottest since accurate records began in 1850.

2 US Republicans vow to rain on Copenhagen parade

by Shaun Tandon, AFP

Tue Dec 8, 9:56 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Republican lawmakers critical of efforts to battle climate change said they would fly next week to the Copenhagen summit to undercut President Barack Obama’s promises of strong US action.

Members of Congress’ minority party vowed to highlight a scandal over leaked emails from leading climate scientists which they said backed their suspicions that the global warming threat was overblown and too costly to act on.

“I will not be one of the sycophants that says climate change is the biggest problem facing the world and we need to do all these draconian things that cost jobs,” Representative Joe Barton, the top Republican on the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, told a news conference Tuesday.

3 China a bright spot on climate with green bulbs

by Joelle Garrus, AFP

Tue Dec 8, 11:15 pm ET

BEIJING (AFP) – As the world’s top producer of energy-efficient light bulbs and a potentially massive market for them, China is seen as pivotal to greater worldwide acceptance of environmentally-friendly lighting.

While also the largest producer of less-efficient incandescent bulbs, China is moving with the times as the classic light bulb, which produces more heat than light, is slowly being switched off.

Developed countries have already begun phasing them out and China, the world’s top source of the carbon dioxide emissions blamed for climate change, is expected to follow, with potentially huge ramifications on emissions.

4 G77 says Danish climate text ‘threatens success’ of UN talks

by Richard Ingham and Marlowe Hood, AFP

Tue Dec 8, 4:21 pm ET

COPENHAGEN (AFP) – A Danish draft proposal for a political agreement “threatens the success” of UN climate talks in Copenhagen, the head of the G77 group of countries said Tuesday at the summit aimed at sealing a historic deal on cutting carbon emissions.

The text, which has not been officially released, is a “serious violation that threatens the success of the Copenhagen negotiating process,” said Sudan’s Lumumba Stanislas Dia Ping, who heads the G77 group.

“The G77 members will not walk out of this negotiation at this late hour because we can’t afford a failure in Copenhagen,” he told journalists.

5 Wastepickers of the world unite at climate talks

by Richard Ingham, AFP

Tue Dec 8, 10:05 am ET

COPENHAGEN (AFP) – Ignored, marginalised or despised in many countries, wastepickers from Asia, Latin America and Africa have come together in Copenhagen to lobby for recognition as unsung heroes in the fight against climate change.

An estimated 15 million people around the world survive by sifting through trash, rooting out plastic packaging, glass bottles, scrap metal, paper and other tossed-out goods that are then resold for recycling.

In some places, the recycling rate reaches more than 80 percent, an exploit in efficiency that saves the planet a fortune in environmental terms.

6 UN scientists defend ‘targeted’ colleagues

by Marlowe Hood, AFP

Tue Dec 8, 10:27 am ET

COPENHAGEN (AFP) – Members of the Nobel-winning panel of climate scientists rose on Tuesday to defend colleagues that they said had been “targeted” for email hacking to sway the outcome of the UN global warming talks.

Rajendra Pachauri, chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), said he believed the email intercept was a calculated act.

“The persons who have worked on this report, and those who unfortunately have been victims of this terrible and illegal act, are outstanding scientists, and have contributed enormously over the 20, 21 years of the existence of the IPCC,” he told a press conference at the UN climate talks here.

7 Green odyssey takes cyclist from Australia to Copenhagen

by Marc Preel, AFP

Tue Dec 8, 2:42 pm ET

COPENHAGEN (AFP) – After spending 16 months cycling 18,000 kilometres (11,180 miles) from Brisbane to Copenhagen, Kim Nguyen is taking part in the UN climate talks with a host of eyewitness accounts of the effects of global warming from his odyssey.

“The first place that I guess I realised the severity of what we’re facing already was when I was talking to farmers in East Timor, just after Australia,” the 28-year-old Australian told AFP.

“They were telling me that during the last three years they had not been able to grow enough food to eat and survive because the rains that usually came at a certain time of the year were not coming. And then when they did come they came in a deluge and there were floods,” Nguyen said.

8 US takes action on C02 in Copenhagen boost

by Shaun Tandon, AFP

Mon Dec 7, 8:37 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – The US government said it would start to regulate carbon dioxide as a dangerous pollutant, sidestepping a divided Congress to give momentum to global climate talks in Copenhagen.

The decision paves the way for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue standards on how much carbon US factories, buildings and cars can emit, even without legislation in Congress.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson signed orders declaring six greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide, blamed for global warming to be pollutants that are subject to government regulation.

9 Indian government under pressure over carbon pledge

by Elizabeth Roche, AFP

Tue Dec 8, 1:47 pm ET

NEW DELHI (AFP) – India’s environment minister faced criticism in parliament on Monday and dissent from negotiators after his offer to reduce the country’s carbon footprint ahead of the Copenhagen climate change talks.

Jairam Ramesh announced last week that India would reduce its carbon intensity by 20 to 25 percent by 2020, compared to 2005 levels, in a move designed to show India’s leadership and willingness to be flexible.

However, opposition lawmakers and commentators have painted Ramesh’s offer as a poorly judged unilateral compromise that has been made without gaining anything from the developed countries which are blamed for climate change.

10 Turning trash into treasure in Cairo

by Emmy Varley, AFP

Mon Dec 7, 10:50 pm ET

CAIRO (AFP) – In an attempt to help curb the city’s stifling pollution and meet their energy needs too, a few Cairo families have begun to recycle waste — now that the nation’s pigs are gone — by generating biogas from rubbish.

It is an ambitious project that is still in its infancy but may just catch on in this teeming city of 18 million people, often obscured in a dirty grey veil of haze produced mainly by the fumes from millions of car exhausts.

The idea has taken added urgency since the slaughter earlier this year of the nation’s pigs — wiped out on government orders supposedly to prevent the spread of swine flu — which would otherwise have eaten much of the waste.

11 Thai villages sink as erosion, climate change bite

by Richard Sargent, AFP

Mon Dec 7, 3:35 am ET

KHUN SAMUTCHINE, Thailand (AFP) – Surrounded by water, a Buddhist temple is one of the last remnants of a Thai village that has vanished beneath the sea — a scene being repeated across Asia and the world.

Around 60 families have already been forced away from the once idyllic fishing community of Khun Samutchine, as the sea that local people rely on for their livelihood advances inland by more than 20 metres (yards) a year.

“I live on somebody else’s land, I can’t escape the village because I’m too poor,” says Noo Wisuksin, 71, as she points to the spot in the water where her home used to be decades ago.

12 Public worldwide wants action on climate change: poll


Sun Dec 6, 7:07 pm ET

LONDON (AFP) – Most people worldwide believe climate change is a very serious problem that their governments must tackle, a poll said Monday, as the landmark Copenhagen summit on the issue was set to get under way.

However the poll of more than 24,000 people also showed concern about rising global temperatures from man-made emissions has dropped in the United States and China — the world’s two biggest polluters.

Sixty-four percent of people think climate change is a “very serious” problem, up from 44 percent of those polled in 1998, according to the GlobeScan survey conducted for Britain’s BBC World Service.

13 Virgin unveils spaceship to offer space tourism

by Paula Bustamante, AFP

Tue Dec 8, 11:39 am ET

MOJAVE, California (AFP) – Virgin founder Richard Branson unveiled a commercial rocket plane that will allow tourists a chance to view the Earth and experience weightlessness from suborbital space.

Branson said Monday that he hopes to offer tickets aboard his Virgin Galactic spaceliner for 200,000 dollars each, giving adventurous, well-heeled travellers a chance to experience space for a fraction of the cost of a seat on a NASA shuttle or Russian spaceship.

Branson, who is spending between 250 million and 400 million dollars on the space venture, also said he planned to be on the craft’s first passenger flight some 18 months from now, accompanied by his family and the US designer of the space ship, Burt Rutan.

14 Branson unveils Virgin Galactic spaceliner

by Paula Bustamante, AFP

Mon Dec 7, 6:30 pm ET

MOJAVE, California (AFP) – Richard Branson unveiled Monday a commercial spaceliner offering tourists a cheaper chance to experience the thrill of weightlessness and view the splendor of the Earth from space.

The British billionaire hopes to offer tickets aboard his spacecraft at a cost of 200,000 dollars each, giving adventurous, well-heeled travellers a chance to experience space for a fraction of the cost of a seat on a NASA shuttle or Russian spaceship.

Announcing the roll-out of the Virgin Galactic spaceliner in California’s Mojave desert, Branson said he planned to be on the craft’s first passenger flight some 18 months from now, accompanied by his family and the American designer of the space ship, Burt Rutan.

15 Florida’s space economy threatened by shuttle’s end

By Michael Connor, Reuters

Tue Dec 8, 11:39 am ET

MIAMI (Reuters) – At El Leoncita Cuban & Mexican Restaurant near the Kennedy Space Center on Florida’s “space” coast, a bar sign says it all:

“No happy hour on launch days.”

Business from tourists is so strong that when a U.S. space shuttle blasts off a drinks promotion is never needed. Throngs waiting for their margaritas snake out into the Titusville eatery’s parking lot, according to owner Miguel Sanchez.

16 U.S. approves first "ethical" human stem cell lines

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor, Reuters

Wed Dec 2, 1:48 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. government approved the first 13 batches of human embryonic stem cells on Wednesday, enabling researchers using them to get millions of dollars in federal funding as promised by President Barack Obama in March.

The batches, known as lines, were made by two researchers at Harvard University and Rockefeller University using private funds, said Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health.

“Today we are announcing the approval of the first 13 stem cell lines,” Collins told reporters in a telephone briefing.

17 Climate documents spark rich vs. poor clash

By JOHN HEILPRIN, Associated Press Writers

1 hr 1 min ago

COPENHAGEN – Developing nations who face huge climate change burdens are demanding that wealthy nations shoulder more of the costs, as a leaked Danish document and fresh evidence of a hotter planet raised temperatures at the U.N. climate conference.

Negotiators on Wednesday were trying to bridge the difficult gaps among 192 nations and stem a growing chasm between rich and poor on the third day of the U.N. climate conference.

A key speaker will be U.S. Environmental Protection Agency head Lisa Jackson, whose agency just gave President Barack Obama a new way to cut back on greenhouse gas emissions. Obama will join more than 100 national leaders converging on Copenhagen for the final days of bargaining late next week.

18 App in the hand finds birds in bushes as you roam

By MARY ESCH, Associated Press Writer

Tue Dec 8, 4:47 pm ET

ALBANY, N.Y. – When Jory Langner finds time for a field trip during an upcoming visit to Washington, he won’t have to ask local birders where to find candidates to add to his life list of birds sighted.

All he’ll have to do to is pull out his iPhone and fire up BirdsEye, a new bird-finding application that gives users instant access to recent reports of birds spotted near their location, tells them where to look for specific birds, and keeps track of their lists of all the birds they’ve ever seen.

The application makes its debut just ahead of the National Audubon Society’s annual Christmas Bird Count, an effort that enlists as many as 55,000 bird watchers around the country – from the kitchen window crowd to slog-through-the-woods diehards – who report back the kinds and numbers of birds they spot.

19 Wolf recovery at crossroads in the Southwest

By SUSAN MONTOYA BRYAN, Associated Press Writer

Sun Dec 6, 4:16 pm ET

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – A decade has passed since the federal government began returning endangered Mexican wolves to their historic range in the Southwest. It hasn’t worked out – for the wolves, for ranchers, for conservationists or for federal biologists.

And that has resulted in frustration and resentment by many involved in the reintroduction program along the Arizona-New Mexico border, a landscape of sprawling pine and spruce forests, cold-water lakes and clear streams.

“I believe in being a good steward of the land and preserving it for generations to come, but this is ridiculous,” said Ed Wehrheim, who heads the county commission in Catron County, in the heart of wolf country. “I’ve had ranchers’ wives come to me just bawling because everything they and their parents have worked for is going down the drain.”

20 Scientists, lawyers mull effects of home robots

By BROOKE DONALD, Associated Press Writer

Sun Dec 6, 9:26 am ET

PALO ALTO, Calif. – Eric Horvitz illustrates the potential dilemmas of living with robots by telling the story of how he once got stuck in an elevator at Stanford Hospital with a droid the size of a washing machine.

“I remembered thinking, `Whoa, this is scary,’ as it whirled around, almost knocking me down,” the Microsoft researcher recalled. “Then, I thought, `What if I were a patient?’ There could be big issues here.”

We’re still far from the sci-fi dream of having robots whirring about and catering to our every need. But little by little, we’ll be sharing more of our space with robots in the next decade, as prices drop and new technology creates specialized machines that clean up spilled milk or even provide comfort for an elderly parent.

21 Climate drama climax looks elusive in Copenhagen

By CHARLES J. HANLEY and JAN M. OLSEN, Associated Press Writers

Sun Dec 6, 3:26 am ET

COPENHAGEN, Denmark – For 20 years, as this crowded planet grew warmer, nations have gathered annually to try to do something about it. History now brings them to this chilly northern capital, and to a crossroads.

The world looks to Copenhagen “to witness what I believe will be an historic turning point in the fight against climate change,” says Yvo de Boer, United Nations organizer of the two weeks of talks opening Monday.

It may witness, instead, history put on hold.

22 Forest-saving deal could lift climate summit hopes

By MICHAEL CASEY, AP Environmental Writer

Sat Dec 5, 1:43 am ET

BANGKOK – In a potentially valuable boost to fighting climate change, rich and poor countries are close to an agreement to end the destruction of the world’s forests in 20 years, government negotiators said.

It depends, however, on whether consensus on an overarching climate accord is reached by the 192 countries at the U.N. climate summit in Copenhagen starting Monday. But governments and environmentalists hope the forest plan will embolden delegates to overcome their differences and set ambitious targets for curbing the carbon emissions blamed for global warming.

“This has the chance to be one of the real political breakthroughs to helping deliver a deal in Copenhagen,” said Duncan Marsh of The Nature Conservancy. “This can be one of the things that brings countries together around a real north-south bargain to protect climate.”

23 Obama science advisers grilled over hacked e-mails


Thu Dec 3, 7:50 am ET

WASHINGTON – House Republicans pointed to controversial e-mails leaked from climate scientists and said it was evidence of corruption. Top administration scientists looking at the same thing found no such sign, saying it doesn’t change the fact that the world is warming.

The e-mails from a British university’s climate center were obtained by computer hackers and posted online about two weeks ago. Climate change skeptics contend the messages reveal that researchers manipulated and suppressed data and stifled dissent, and conservative bloggers are dubbing it “Climategate.”

In the first Capitol Hill airing of the issue, House Republicans Wednesday read excerpts from at least eight of the e-mails, saying they showed the world needs to re-examine experts’ claims that the science on warming is settled. One e-mail from 2003 was by John Holdren, then of Harvard University and now the president’s science adviser.

24 Experts: Man controlled robotic hand with thoughts

By ARIEL DAVID, Associated Press Writer

Wed Dec 2, 5:06 pm ET

ROME – An Italian who lost his left forearm in a car crash was successfully linked to a robotic hand, allowing him to feel sensations in the artificial limb and control it with his thoughts, scientists said Wednesday.

During a one-month experiment conducted last year, 26-year-old Pierpaolo Petruzziello felt like his lost arm had grown back again, although he was only controlling a robotic hand that was not even attached to his body.

“It’s a matter of mind, of concentration,” Petruzziello said. “When you think of it as your hand and forearm, it all becomes easier.”

25 Proposed emissions cuts aren’t enough, U.N. says

By Renee Schoof, McClatchy Newspapers

Wed Dec 2, 7:21 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Promises by the U.S. and other industrialized countries to cut the emissions causing global warming are insufficient to avoid the worst effects of climate change, the United Nations climate chief said Wednesday.

The international climate talks, which begin Monday in Copenhagen , are a chance to “finally get climate change under control” and put all countries on a path of sustainable growth, said Yvo de Boer , the U.N. official overseeing the meeting.

However, De Boer said one of the main obstacles in the talks was that the emissions reductions offered by rich nations as a group “are not yet where science says they need to be if we’re going to avoid the worst impacts of climate change.”

26 U.S. action on climate policy is key to international treaty

By Renee Schoof, McClatchy Newspapers

Fri Dec 4, 5:56 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Negotiators in Copenhagen will try to nail down all the main elements of a treaty to curb global warming in the next two weeks, but a final agreement won’t be possible until the United States figures out what it will do to reduce emissions of heat-trapping pollution.

President Barack Obama plans to visit the talks on their final day to promise that the U.S. will cut its share of emissions and to press for a strong agreement. The world, however, will be watching to see whether he also signals a willingness to pressure Congress to enact the law that’s needed to make that happen.

Despite charges by some critics that data on global temperatures have been altered, the evidence of climate change is conclusive and worsening.

27 EPA finds greenhouse gases pose dangers, plans regulation

By Renee Schoof, McClatchy Newspapers

Mon Dec 7, 6:47 pm ET

WASHINGTON – The Environmental Protection Agency said Monday that global warming pollution endangered the health and welfare of Americans and must be reduced, a move that seemed timed to signal that the U.S. is serious about joining an international bid to reduce the risks of damaging climate change.

Monday’s finding means that the EPA will proceed with preparations to regulate large producers of greenhouse gas emissions. Those rules could take effect if Congress doesn’t pass legislation.

Nonetheless, it probably would be years before new EPA rules took effect for existing coal-fired power plants, the main source of heat-trapping gases. The Obama administration prefers to have Congress do that work through a climate and energy law.

28 Astronaut Hangout to Close After 30 Years

Robert Z. Pearlman,

Thu Dec 3, 9:03 am ET

A former Air Force barrack-turned-bar that counted astronauts among its regular patrons will close next month after more than three decades serving the NASA community in Houston.

“The Outpost is closing… and this time, it is for good,” wrote owner Stephanie Foster in a note added Tuesday to the Webster, Texas tavern’s Web site. “All-in-all, you must admit that it has been an interesting and fun run for this little bar.”

The “little bar”, located just down the road from NASA’s Johnson Space Center, has been a landmark for space history enthusiasts, in part for what its patronage have left behind: The Outpost’s walls are lined in space memorabilia ranging from astronaut-autographed photos to posters and decals.

29 Congress Examines Astronaut Safety on Commercial Spaceships

Tariq Malik, Managing Editor

Thu Dec 3, 3:31 pm ET

Lawmakers on Wednesday said NASA must continue to improve astronaut crew safety on its new shuttle-replacing rocket, as well as on promising commercial vehicles that could ferry crews to orbit.

In a House subcommittee hearing, NASA officials told congressional representatives that its new Ares rockets should be 10 times safer than the space shuttles they are intended to replace. Committee members also stressed that NASA must set guidelines for commercial boosters before astronauts can ride them into space.

“Much has been said about the potential for future plans in recent months, but there has been precious little discussion about safety,” said Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona), who chairs the space and aeronautics subcommittee for the House Committee on Science and Technology.

30 NASA, DARPA Host Space Junk Wake-Up Call

Leonard David,’s Space Insider Columnist

Tue Dec 8, 5:15 pm ET

Outer space has become Earth’s largest junkyard.

It is an international dumping ground for derelict spacecraft, wreckage from colliding satellites, remains from mischievous anti-satellite testing, spent rocket stages, discarded lens caps and clamp bands, paint chips and, yes, at one point, even a lost-to-space tool bag.

All that riff-raff might be out of sight, but it is far from being out of mind. This week, experts from around the world are attending a wake-up call type of meeting.

31 How Raptors Use Their Deadly Talons

Charles Q. Choi, Special to LiveScience

Wed Dec 2, 10:11 am ET

Scientists have unraveled how the talons of birds of prey have evolved to help them kill victims.

The killing techniques range from dismemberment to squeezing prey to death. The findings could help researchers understand how the claws of extinct dinosaurs and birds helped them hunt.

As common as raptors are, the specifics of how they capture prey often remain poorly understood. Even with modern technology, actually closely witnessing how birds of prey deal with victims remains largely a matter of luck. As such, surprisingly little was known about how talons are employed during feeding.

32 Big Freeze: Earth Could Plunge into Sudden Ice Age

Charles Q. Choi, Special to LiveScience

Wed Dec 2, 1:05 pm ET

In the film, “The Day After Tomorrow,” the world gets gripped in ice within the span of just a few weeks. Now research now suggests an eerily similar event might indeed have occurred in the past.

Looking ahead to the future, there is no reason why such a freeze shouldn’t happen again – and in ironic fashion it could be precipitated if ongoing changes in climate force the Greenland ice sheet to suddenly melt, scientists say.

Starting roughly 12,800 years ago, the Northern Hemisphere was gripped by a chill that lasted some 1,300 years. Known by scientists as the Younger Dryas and nicknamed the “Big Freeze,” geological evidence suggests it was brought on when a vast pulse of fresh water – a greater volume than all of North America’s Great Lakes combined – poured into the Atlantic and Arctic Oceans.

33 Copenhagen Climate Summit: What You Need to Know

Andrea Thompson, Senior Writer

Fri Dec 4, 5:11 pm ET

The question of how to address global climate change is one of the most confounding on the planet. Experts and world leaders plan to wrestle with the scientific, political and social issues surrounding the topic at an upcoming conference in the Danish city of Copenhagen next week. Here’s what you need to know.

What is the meeting and what is its goal?

Officially called the United Nations Climate Change Conference, the summit is being held in Copenhagen, Denmark, from Dec. 7 to Dec. 18.

34 Scientists: Dim Outlook for Climate Summit

Jeanna Bryner, Senior Writer

Mon Dec 7, 10:02 am ET

As world leaders gear up for what is being billed as an historic climate meeting in Copenhagen, scientists offer a grimmer outlook on the outcome that is supposed to replace the last major global climate deal, drawn up in 1997.

“I don’t have high hopes,” said Josefino Comiso, a senior scientist at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “But I hope that the participants could get to a good plan on how to minimize greenhouse gas emissions.”

Comiso told LiveScience that more research is needed to convince the public and “climate skeptics” that greenhouse gas emissions are causing global warming. Other scientists say the United States needs to take more of a leadership role.

35 Skin Cream Secrets Revealed

Rachael Rettner, Staff Writer

Mon Dec 7, 7:17 pm ET

If asked to describe how skin cream feels, you might use words like “smooth,” “thick,” or “greasy.”

But for Ohio State University mechanical engineering professor Bharat Bhushan, these words aren’t good enough. Using a special instrument, he has gleaned new understanding of how these creams interact with skin on the nanoscale, bringing a more quantitative measure to the smooth sensation.

Skin creams are mixtures of oil and water, and they basically soften the skin by returning moisture to it, and holding moisture in. But the way the cream feels really comes down to how much friction it creates as you apply it to your body. Factors such as the cream’s thickness and how fast you rub it in both affect friction, Bhushan and colleagues found.

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