Wednesday Morning Science Supplement

Wednesday Morning Science Supplement is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Science

1 India’s ‘miracle’ biofuel crop: too good to be true?

by Yasmeen Mohiuddin, AFP

Tue Jan 26, 10:50 pm ET

NEW DELHI (AFP) – To its fans, jatropha is a miracle crop, an eco-friendly answer to India’s growing energy needs, but some experts are starting to question whether the wonder-shrub is too good to be true.

The seeds of the wild plant, which grows abundantly across India, produce non-edible oil that can be blended with diesel, to make the biofuel that is part of government efforts to cut carbon emissions and combat climate change.

That, combined with the shrub’s much vaunted ability to flourish on poorly irrigated land, should make it the perfect crop for wasteland in the drought-prone nation.

2 Bulgaria’s ‘green’ energy boom sparks fears

by Diana Simeonova, AFP

Tue Jan 26, 12:07 pm ET

SOFIA (AFP) – Bulgaria is undergoing a boom in the renewable energy sector that experts warn could see an influx of dodgy investment and actually end up doing more harm than good for the environment.

And the government — the main driver behind the boom — is taking note.

This month it imposed a half-year moratorium on new “green” energy projects in a bid to sift out those with serious financing and prevent a vital Black Sea bird migration route from being built over with wind farms.

3 Polluting limos banned from Davos

by Hui Min Neo, AFP

Mon Jan 25, 9:43 pm ET

DAVOS, Switzerland (AFP) – The political and business elite heading for the Davos forum this week have been told to leave their polluting limousines behind.

Under a new climate change initiative, the World Economic Forum is blocking the gas guzzling cars that normally clog the roads around the congress. But VIPs such as presidents can claim diplomatic immunity and environmentalists have derided the limits as “not very challenging”.

The ban only applies to cars that give off more than 230 grammes per kilometre of carbon dioxide and consume more than nine litres of fuel per 100 kilometres.

4 Scientists back UN climate panel, but call for changes

by Marlowe Hood, AFP

Mon Jan 25, 5:00 pm ET

PARIS (AFP) – Leading scientists from the besieged UN climate panel are defending its integrity, even as they called for changes in the way data is collected and handled.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has come under intense fire in recent weeks over errors uncovered in its 2007 report, the scientific touchstone for faltering global climate talks.

A prediction that global warming would melt away the Himalayan glaciers that provide water to a billion people in Asia by 2035 has been dismissed by glaciologists as preposterous, and will be withdrawn.

5 Water woes could undermine Yemen’s drive against Al-Qaeda

by Michel Moutot, AFP

Sun Jan 24, 4:40 pm ET

SANAA (AFP) – Impoverished Yemen is reeling under the threat of Al-Qaeda, northern Shiite rebels and southern secessionists, but a lack of water is putting its ancient capital at even greater risk, experts say.

Within a decade — or even less — Sanaa could become the first waterless capital in the world, they warn, adding the outlook is also bleak for the rest of this parched country where wells in some regions are already dry.

A conference in London on Wednesday will discuss Yemen’s anti-terrorism drive, but it is unclear whether the water woes that experts say are likely to fuel more insecurity are on the agenda.

6 Climate talks threaten Saudi with anti-oil bias: official

by Paul Handley, AFP

Sun Jan 24, 1:55 pm ET

RIYADH (AFP) – Global climate talks are biased against oil and pose a “scary” threat to Saudi Arabia’s economy, a top official said on Sunday, defending Riyadh’s stance on efforts to harness greenhouse gas emissions.

Mohammed al-Sabban, the country’s top climate negotiator, said negotiations on emissions controls saw Saudi Arabia, for decades the world’s leading oil exporter, effectively targeted by “certain” industrialised countries while letting their own subsidized coal, nuclear and biofuel industries off the hook.

He also said that after the watered-down resolutions at the December UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, climate negotiations were deadlocked.

7 Indians keep faith with Ganges despite pollution

by Yasmeen Mohiuddin, AFP

Sun Jan 24, 3:29 am ET

KANPUR, India (AFP) – For India’s devout Hindus, the sacred River Ganges is always clean and always pure — even if its waters are a toxic stew of human sewage, discarded garbage and factory waste.

The belief that the Ganges washes away sin entices millions of Hindus into the river each year, and huge crowds of pilgrims are currently passing through the town of Haridwar for the three-month Kumbh Mela bathing festival.

But concern over pollution along the length of the 2,500 kilometre (1,500 mile) river is growing, and the city of Kanpur — 800 kilometres downstream of Haridwar — is the site of one of the worst stretches of all.

8 Seismologists: Another earthquake threatens Haiti

by Jean-Louis Santini, AFP

Sat Jan 23, 2:05 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Another earthquake is threatening to hit Haiti with as much, if not more force than the massive temblor that leveled Port-au-Prince, seismologists said, urging the country to rebuild with strict norms.

Aftershocks have already rattled the impoverished Caribbean nation in the days following the January 12 quake that killed over 110,000 people, left nearly 610,000 homeless and injured scores more.

On Wednesday, a magnitude 5.9 temblor struck a people already scrambling to rebuild their tattered lives.

9 Swiss pilots aim to circle world in a solar-powered plane

by W.G. Dunlop, AFP

Thu Jan 21, 9:02 am ET

ABU DHABI (AFP) – Bertrand Piccard is no conventional environmental activist — he hopes to raise awareness about the potential of renewable energy by flying a solar-powered aircraft around the world.

“What we want to do is to fly day and night to show that, with renewable energies, you can have unlimited duration of flight, no restriction,” Piccard told AFP at the World Future Energy Summit in Abu Dhabi, where he had a booth to promote his venture.

The 51-year-old Swiss psychiatrist plans to fly his one-of-kind “Solar Impulse” around the world over 20 to 25 days, traveling at an average of 70 kilometres (43 miles) an hour.

10 Nepalese climbers in bid to clean up Everest

by Deepesh Shrestha, AFP

Thu Jan 21, 2:17 am ET

KATHMANDU (AFP) – A group of top Nepalese climbers is planning a high-risk expedition to clean up Everest, concerned at the toll that decades of mountaineering has taken on the world’s highest peak.

The 20 climbers, led by seven-time Everest summiteer Namgyal Sherpa, will brave thin oxygen and temperatures well below freezing to clear more than two tonnes of rubbish discarded by mountaineers.

Environmental activists say Everest is littered with the detritus of past expeditions, including human waste and mountaineers’ corpses, which do not decompose because of the extreme cold.

11 Indonesia eyes pet market for endangered tigers

by Arlina Arshad, AFP

Thu Jan 21, 3:48 am ET

JAKARTA (AFP) – The Indonesian government has hatched a plan to save Sumatran tigers from extinction by allowing people to adopt captive-born animals as pets for 100,000 dollars a pair, officials said.

The forestry ministry said the plan could be put into practice as early as this year despite reservations from environmentalists, who say the focus should be on protecting habitats for the remaining 200 tigers in the wild.

“We’re not selling or renting tigers. We’re only authorising people to look after them,” forestry ministry conservation chief Darori told AFP.

12 Australia moving cancer-hit Tasmanian Devils to new islands

by Talek Harris, AFP

Thu Jan 21, 1:31 am ET

SYDNEY (AFP) – Australia is taking the bold step of moving Tasmanian Devils to new islands in a desperate bid to save the iconic species from being wiped out by a hideous face cancer.

Starting this year, Australia will ship healthy Devils — known for their fearsome shrieks and wild temperament — to islands off Tasmania to create a back-up group in case the general population fails.

Some 70 percent of Devils have already been lost to the infectious disease, which is spread by biting as the feisty creatures mate and fight over animal carcasses.

13 Madagascar mammals came by sea, not land: study


Wed Jan 20, 12:13 pm ET

PARIS (AFP) – Madagascar’s magnificent menagerie of mammals arrived tens of millions of years ago on natural rafts carried by storms and currents, and not across land bridges as some scientists contend, according to a study released Wednesday.

Evolutionary biologists agree, based on evidence from molecular DNA, that the island’s major fauna made their way from continental Africa in four stages.

A first wave of lemur-like animals appeared between 60 and 50 million years ago, followed by tenrecs some 42 to 25 million years ago, carnivores just after that, and then rodents.

14 Giant, leaping Asian carp threaten US Great Lakes

by Mira Oberman, AFP

Wed Jan 20, 8:39 am ET

CHICAGO (AFP) – Huge Asian carp, which act like “aquatic vacuum cleaners” and leap into the air when spooked by motorboats, may have invaded the US Great Lakes despite a massive effort to block them, officials said Tuesday.

Researchers analyzing water samples have discovered fragments of Asian carp DNA in Lake Michigan, although there is still no evidence that that fast-breeding fish have breached electric barriers set up along Chicago-area waterways.

“Clearly this is not good news,” said Major General John Peabody, commanding general of the US Army Corps of Engineers’ Great Lakes and Ohio River division.

15 China’s Baidu sues US web firm over hacker attack

by Susan Stumme, AFP

Wed Jan 20, 6:02 am ET

BEIJING (AFP) – China’s top Internet search engine Baidu said Wednesday it had sued a US web firm after its site was hacked, a new salvo in a growing spat after Google’s threat to quit the country because of cyber attacks.

Google, which trails Baidu in market share in China, said last week it may abandon its Chinese search engine and possibly leave the country altogether after what it called a “highly sophisticated” attack by China-based hackers and over state censorship.

The announcement has thrown a spanner into already frayed Sino-US ties, with Washington calling for an explanation and Beijing defending its right to filter information available on the web and telling foreign firms to obey the law. Related article: Challenges in China Internet market


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