Wednesday Morning Science Supplement

Wednesday Morning Science Supplement is an Open Thread

From Yahoo News Science

1 What, or who, killed the last mammoths?

by Marlowe Hood, AFP

Tue Mar 30, 9:12 pm ET

PARIS (AFP) – The last known population of woolly mammoths, roaming a remote Arctic island long after humans invented writing, were wiped out quickly, reports a study released Wednesday.

The culprit might have been disease, humans or a catastrophic weather event, but was almost certainly not climate change, suggests the study, published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Exactly why a majority of the huge tuskers that once strode in large herds across Eurasia and north America died out toward the end of the last ice age has generated fiery debate.

2 EU subsidies have encouraged overfishing: study

AFP

2 hrs 27 mins ago

BRUSSELS (AFP) – EU fisheries subsidies have encouraged overfishing over the years and helped maintain an over-capacity in the industry, according to a study published Wednesday.

The study was carried out in 10 European countries — including Britain, Denmark, France and Spain — which accounted for almost all of the 4.9 billion euros of fishing subsidies handed out by Brussels from 2000-2006.

“EU fisheries subsidies and the overfishing of valuable fish stocks are clearly connected,” said Tim Huntingdon, consultant at British-based Poseidon Aquatic Resource, which carried out the study along with fellow NGO the Pew Environment Group.

3 Inquiry backs British scientists in global warming row

AFP

Tue Mar 30, 11:20 pm ET

LONDON (AFP) – A British parliamentary inquiry into a scandal that engulfed one of the world’s leading climate research centres Wednesday sided with the scientists accused over the controversy.

Lawmakers found researchers at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit (CRU), headed by Phil Jones, acted in line with normal practices when they refused data requests and did not seek to mislead.

The House of Commons’ Science and Technology Committee did, however, urge climate change scientists to routinely make more information available to the public in a bid to prevent future controversies.

4 Atom smasher opens ‘new era’ for science

by Peter Capella, AFP

Tue Mar 30, 11:29 am ET

GENEVA (AFP) – Scientists at the world’s biggest atom smasher on Tuesday started colliding particles at record energy levels, opening a new era in the quest for the universe’s deepest secrets.

The European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN) said it had unleashed the unprecedented bursts of energy on the third attempt, as beams of protons thrust around the 27-kilometre (16.8-mile) accelerator collided at close to the speed of light.

“This is physics in the making, the beginning of a new era, we have collisions at 7 TeV (teralectronvolts),” said Paola Catapano, a CERN scientist and spokeswoman, referring to the record energy levels achieved.

5 Toad is a telltale for impending quakes: scientists

AFP

Tue Mar 30, 7:22 pm ET

PARIS (AFP) – For ages, mankind has craved a tool that can provide early warning of that terrifying moment when the earth begins to shake.

But if a scientific paper published on Wednesday is confirmed, we may at last have found one.

The best hope yet of an earthquake predictor could lie in a small, brown, knobbly amphibian, it suggests.

6 Singapore a key transit hub for wildlife smuggling

by Philip Lim, AFP

Tue Mar 30, 12:04 pm ET

SINGAPORE (AFP) – Midori the iguana sits on a platform contemplating his snack of fresh fruit. He is one of the lucky ones, rescued and nursed back to health in Singapore, a major hub for wildlife trafficking.

Three months ago the huge and notoriously touchy 1.5-metre (five-foot) adult male was brought into the non-profit Animal Concerns Research and Education Society (ACRES) rescue centre in bad shape.

Director Anbarasi Boopal said Midori had mouth ulcers and excreted a razor blade on his first day at the sanctuary.

7 Peruvian Amazon trees a niche market for carbon trading

by Bayly Turner, AFP

Mon Mar 29, 11:49 pm ET

SANTA ROSA, Peru (AFP) – In a far-flung corner of the Peruvian Amazon, a multinational company aims to offset carbon dioxide emissions from its factories in France by planting thousands of trees which may also provide an income for local communities.

Amid accusations of greenwashing levelled at big firms trying to clean up their image, Nestle Waters France has hired French environmentalist Tristan Lecomte and his carbon management company, The Pure Project, to execute its plan.

Nestle wants to offset the equivalent of all the annual carbon emissions from its Vittel mineral water plants in France and Belgium — about 115,000 tonnes of carbon a year.

8 Koch Industries funds climate change deniers: Greenpeace

AFP

Tue Mar 30, 2:12 am ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Koch Industries, a huge privately-owned US company dominated by oil and chemical interests, is plowing millions of dollars into campaigns to discredit climate science and clean energy policies, a report alleged Tuesday.

Between 2005 and 2008, the Kansas-based conglomerate that “most Americans have never heard of” spent nearly 25 million dollars to fund “organizations of the ‘climate denial machine,'” environmental protection group Greenpeace said in the report.

Between 2006 and 2009, Koch Industries and the family that founded and still controls the conglomerate spent 37.9 million dollars on direct lobbying on oil and energy issues — eclipsed only by oil majors Exxon and Chevron, who spent 87.8 million dollars and 50 million dollars, the report said.

9 UN meet to seek funds to rebuild quake-hit Haiti

by Gerard Aziakou, AFP

Sun Mar 28, 11:03 am ET

UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – More than 100 countries gather here this week for a major donors conference expected to pledge more than three billion dollars for the long-term reconstruction of Haiti, still reeling from a devastating earthquake.

Wednesday’s “International Donors Conference Towards a New Future for Haiti” will be chaired by Haitian President Rene Preval, with UN chief Ban Ki-moon and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton as co-hosts.

“This conference is about securing resources for Haiti’s long-term reconstruction,” said Helen Clark, the administrator for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which is playing a lead role in efforts to put Haiti back on its feet.

10 World’s iconic sites go dark to fight global warming

AFP

Sun Mar 28, 8:50 am ET

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – From Sydney Harbor to the world’s tallest tower in Dubai and the ancient pyramids, major landmarks went dark for an hour to join the battle against climate change.

But politics and commercial priorities meant that some well-known energy-guzzling monuments did not join the record 4,000 cities and 125 countries in Saturday night’s fourth annual Earth Hour organised by the WWF.

Drivers had to cross San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge with just their headlights to help them see, while Twitter and Facebook set up applications to let screens darken for an hour along with tourist monuments that briefly went missing from the skyline.

11 Sudan looks to the sun for power

by Guillaume Lavallee, AFP

Sat Mar 27, 2:18 pm ET

KHARTOUM (AFP) – Spread across central Africa as the continent’s largest country, Sudan plans to exploit the relentless Saharan sun to power its underdeveloped regions and green its deserts.

Harnessing the sun’s energy for vast regions such as war-torn Darfur, which itself is the size of France, is costly. But the country’s ministry of energy and mining believes that advances in solar technology will lower the costs.

“The costs are high compared to other conventional energy resources but we think that with the technology advances going on there will be a substantial decrease,” the ministry’s secretary general, Omar Mohammed Kheir, told AFP.

12 ‘Cash for refrigerators’ kick-starts appliance sales

by Rob Lever, AFP

Fri Mar 26, 12:10 pm ET

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Americans are lining up to snap up rebates for “cash for refrigerators” and “dollars for dishwashers,” as part of a government program aimed at both economic stimulus and reduced emissions.

The effort, modeled after the “cash for clunkers” auto trade-in program, includes nearly 300 million dollars to encourage consumers to dump older appliances in favor of newer, energy-efficient models.

US officials say the effort, a small part of the nearly 800-billion-dollar economic stimulus measure enacted last year, will help reduce the US carbon footprint because of the heavy electrical consumption of big appliances, and at the same time pump money into the economy that can create jobs.

13 Fishing countries targeted over endangered southern tuna

by David Brooks, AFP

Fri Mar 26, 12:02 pm ET

WELLINGTON (AFP) – A week after a UN conference failed to ban trade in the critically endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna, environmentalists are warning of the possible extinction of its southern hemisphere cousin.

The UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) conference that ended Thursday voted heavily against a plan by the United States and European Union to ban trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna, the population of which has fallen by about three-quarters in the last 40 years.

But southern bluefin tuna appear in even worse trouble, and environmentalists blame Australia, Japan, New Zealand and other nations for pushing the species closer to extinction and are calling for the fishery to be closed.

14 Green economy could save planet: experts

by Sebastian Smith, AFP

Thu Mar 25, 10:25 pm ET

NEW YORK (AFP) – The planet is overheated, under-resourced, and almost out of time, but technical innovation and green economics could still save the day, experts and leaders told an international conference here.

Video-linked panels from Beijing, London, Mexico City, Monaco, Nairobi and New Delhi painted an alarming picture of environmental degradation and mass poverty at Thursday’s conference in New York.

They called on the United States and other rich countries to show leadership, for example by investing in carbon capture technology and other long-term methods of reducing greenhouse gasses.

15 Economy trumps ecology at UN wildlife meet

by Marlowe Hood, AFP

Thu Mar 25, 2:27 pm ET

DOHA (AFP) – Commerce beat out conservation at a UN wildlife trade forum on Thursday, with Japan, China and pro-fisheries interests scoring a clean sweep in defeating proposals to protect high-value marine species.

At its final session in Doha, the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) reversed the only decision it had taken in 13 days to list an endangered ocean animal of commercial value, the porbeagle shark.

Lobbied aggressively by Tokyo, the 175-nation CITES last week massively rejected a so-called Appendix I ban on cross-border commerce in Atlantic bluefin tuna, a sushi mainstay.

16 China sandstorm fuels record pollution in HK, Taiwan

by Peter Brieger, AFP

Thu Mar 25, 12:06 pm ET

HONG KONG (AFP) – Air pollution in Hong Kong and Taiwan soared to record levels as officials warned Monday of a public health menace from a toxic stew of particulates, fuelled by a massive sandstorm over Beijing.

Readings of Hong Kong’s Air Pollution Index were more than double the level at which the general public is advised to stay indoors.

“Today’s API is at record high levels,” a spokeswoman for the Environmental Protection Department told AFP.

17 Mini-Big Bangs created in cosmos origins project

By Robert Evans, Reuters

Tue Mar 30, 2:21 pm ET

GENEVA (Reuters) – Physicists smashed sub-atomic particles into each other with record energy on Tuesday, creating thousands of mini-Big Bangs like the primeval explosion that gave birth to the universe 13.7 billion years ago.

Scientists and engineers in control rooms across the sprawling European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) near Geneva burst into applause as the $9.4 billion project to probe the origins of the cosmos scored its first big success.

“This opens the door to a totally new era of discovery,” said CERN’s director of research Sergio Bertolucci. “It is a step into the unknown where we will find things we thought were there and perhaps things we didn’t know existed.”

18 Special Report: Fast machines, genes and the future of medicine

By Maggie Fox, Julie Steenhuysen and Ben Hirschler, Reuters

Tue Mar 30, 1:02 pm ET

WASHINGTON/CHICAGO/LONDON (Reuters ) – Francis Collins, who helped map the human genome, did not get around to having his own genes analyzed until last summer. And he was surprised by what he learned.

Collins has a predisposition for type-2 diabetes, something he had never suspected. The lanky, former director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) discovered this through tests offered by Navigenics, 23andMe and DecodeMe — companies that charge customers a few hundred dollars for a peek at their genetic makeup.

“I signed up for all three because I wanted to see if they gave the same answer,” he said. “They all agreed my diabetes risk is higher.”

19 Toyota safety probe taps rocket scientists

By John Crawley and Chang-Ran Kim, Reuters

Tue Mar 30, 1:40 pm ET

WASHINGTON/TOKYO (Reuters) – U.S. auto safety regulators said on Tuesday they will tap the expertise of the country’s top space and aeronautics experts to analyze Toyota Motor Corp’s electronic throttles to see if they are behind the reports of unintended acceleration that have hounded the automaker.

The news that NASA scientists will join the probe came as Toyota, reeling from a recall crisis sparked by the acceleration reports, launched a task force aimed at regaining consumer trust and pledged to give its regional operations more clout to speed up decisions on quality issues.

“We are determined to get to the bottom of unintended acceleration,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said in an interview with Reuters.

20 NASA to help on Toyota probe

By John Crawley, Reuters

Tue Mar 30, 7:06 am ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. auto safety regulators are turning to scientists from the NASA space and aeronautics agency for help analyzing Toyota electronic throttles to see if they are behind unintended acceleration, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood said.

Separate from the work of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration scientists, LaHood said, experts from the National Academy of Sciences will lead a study of unintended acceleration across the auto industry, a broader issue raised by congressional lawmakers at recent hearings on Toyota Motor Corp.

“We are determined to get to the bottom of unintended acceleration,” LaHood said in an interview with Reuters ahead of the formal announcement on Tuesday.

21 Swine flu virus not so new, study finds

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor

Thu Mar 25, 1:19 pm ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The H1N1 swine flu virus may have been new to humanity in many ways but in one key feature its closest relative was the 1918 pandemic virus, researchers reported on Wednesday.

Their findings could point to better ways to design vaccines and help explain why the swine flu pandemic largely spared the elderly.

“This study defines an unexpected similarity between two pandemic-causing strains of influenza,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in a statement.

22 Atom smasher will help reveal ‘the beginning’

By ALEXANDER G. HIGGINS and SETH BORENSTEIN, Associated Press Writers

Tue Mar 30, 9:13 pm ET

GENEVA – The world’s largest atom smasher threw together minuscule particles racing at unheard of speeds in conditions simulating those just after the Big Bang – a success that kick-started a megabillion-dollar experiment that could one day explain how the universe began.

Scientists cheered Tuesday’s historic crash of two proton beams, which produced three times more energy than researchers had created before and marked a milestone for the $10 billion Large Hadron Collider.

“This is a huge step toward unraveling Genesis Chapter 1, Verse 1 – what happened in the beginning,” physicist Michio Kaku told The Associated Press.

23 ‘Nyet’ to $1 million? Math genius may reject award

By MALCOLM RITTER and IRINA TITOVA, Associated Press Writers

Mon Mar 29, 9:27 pm ET

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia – Who doesn’t want to be a millionaire? Maybe a 43-year-old unemployed bachelor who lives with his elderly mother in Russia – and who won $1 million for solving a problem that has stumped mathematicians for a century.

Grigory Perelman can’t decide if he wants the money.

“He said he would need to think about it,” said James Carlson, who telephoned Perelman with the news he had won the Millennium Prize awarded by the Clay Mathematics Institute of Cambridge, Mass.

24 US judge strikes down patent on cancer genes

By LARRY NEUMEISTER, Associated Press Writer

Tue Mar 30, 12:18 am ET

NEW YORK – In a ruling with potentially far-reaching implications for the patenting of human genes, a judge on Monday struck down a company’s patents on two genes linked to an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer.

The decision by U.S. District Judge Robert Sweet challenging whether anyone can hold patents on human genes was expected to have broad implications for the biotechnology industry and genetics-based medical research.

Sweet said he invalidated the patents because DNA’s existence in an isolated form does not alter the fundamental quality of DNA as it exists in the body nor the information it encodes.

25 Grasshopper outlook strikes fear on Western range

By MATT JOYCE, Associated Press Writer

Sun Mar 28, 3:32 pm ET

NEWCASTLE, Wyo. – Grasshopper infestations have taken on mythic tones here on the arid prairie of northeastern Wyoming – they blanket highways, eat T-shirts off clotheslines and devour nearly every scrap of vegetation on ranches and farms.

The myth may come closer to reality this summer than at any time in decades in several states in the West and the Plains.

A federal survey of adult grasshoppers last fall indicated that parts of Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, North Dakota, Nebraska and Idaho could face costly grasshopper infestations this summer.

26 Moth forces wine country’s secret into the open

By TRACIE CONE, Associated Press Writer

Sat Mar 27, 10:21 pm ET

FRESNO, Calif. – One of the dirty secrets of California’s wine country is now on everyone’s lips. Somehow a voracious grape-eating moth has found its way nonstop from Europe to the heart of the Napa Valley, the land of three-figure cabernet. With valuable fruit at risk, the region’s fast and loose play with federal agriculture quarantine laws is getting new scrutiny from investigators and researchers.

Suitcase smuggling is the winked-at act of sneaking in cane cuttings to clone vines from France’s premier vineyards, hoping to replicate success. Vintners say it helped build a handful of exceptional vineyards in the 1980s when U.S. plant choices were limited and import testing took seven years.

As California clamps a quarantine across the heart of Napa Valley and farmers ready their pesticides, nobody is winking anymore. A new Napa reality is setting in_ that lax attitudes invite costly invasions of new pests that can threaten the country’s most expensive and economically productive farmland.

27 Landmarks, cities worldwide unplug for Earth Hour

By DAVID STRINGER, Associated Press Writer

Sat Mar 27, 9:56 pm ET

LONDON – Europe’s best known landmarks – including the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben and Rome’s Colosseum – fell dark Saturday, following Sydney’s Opera House and Beijing’s Forbidden City in joining a global climate change protest, as lights were switched off across the world to mark the Earth Hour event.

In the United States, the lights went out at the Empire State Building in New York, the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and the Coca-Cola headquarters in Atlanta, among many other sites in the Eastern time zone.

Millions were expected to turn off lights and appliances for an hour from 8:30 p.m. in a gesture to highlight environmental concerns and to call for a binding pact to cut greenhouse gas emissions. This year’s was the fourth annual Earth Hour, organized by the World Wildlife Fund.

28 What if all coral reefs die? Experts are scared

By BRIAN SKOLOFF, Associated Press Writer

Thu Mar 25, 1:49 pm ET

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Coral reefs are dying, and scientists and governments around the world are contemplating what will happen if they disappear altogether.

The idea positively scares them.

Coral reefs are part of the foundation of the ocean food chain. Nearly half the fish the world eats make their homes around them. Hundreds of millions of people worldwide – by some estimates, 1 billion across Asia alone – depend on them for their food and their livelihoods.

29 New ancestor? Scientists ponder DNA from Siberia

By MALCOLM RITTER, AP Science Writer

Wed Mar 24, 3:35 pm ET

NEW YORK – In the latest use of DNA to investigate the story of humankind, scientists have decoded genetic material from an unidentified human ancestor that lived in Siberia and concluded it might be a new member of the human family tree.

The DNA doesn’t match modern humans or Neanderthals, two species that lived in that area around the same time – 30,000 to 50,000 years ago.

Instead, it suggests the Siberian species lineage split off from the branch leading to moderns and Neanderthals a million years ago, the researchers calculated. And they said that doesn’t seem to match the history of human ancestors previously known from fossils.

30 6-week search finds no Asian carp near Chicago

By JOHN FLESHER, AP Environmental Writer

Mon Mar 29, 4:25 pm ET

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. – An initial six-week mission to catch and kill Asian carp lurking on the Great Lakes’ doorstep turned up none of the despised fish, suggesting few if any have eluded an electric barrier designed to block their path to Lake Michigan, officials said Monday.

Beginning in mid-February, teams of biologists and commercial fishermen combed a network of Chicago-area rivers and canals where Asian carp DNA has been detected in numerous spots over the past year. They spread netting across large areas and used electric stunning prods where they believed the carp were most likely to gather, said Chris McCloud, spokesman for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

The operation yielded more than 1,000 common carp, a similar number of gizzard shad and a few other varieties but no silver or bighead carp – natives of Asia that have infested sections of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers plus the Chicago waterways south of the electric barrier, some 25 miles from Lake Michigan.

31 Thai PM offers to dissolve parliament by year end

By KINAN SUCHAOVANICH, Associated Press Writer

Mon Mar 29, 11:20 am ET

BANGKOK – Thailand’s prime minister offered Monday to dissolve parliament by the end of the year, but protesters demanding he step down did not immediately accept the compromise, which could have helped resolve the country’s political crisis.

The Red Shirt protesters – formally known as the United Front for Democracy Against Dictatorship – have been holding street demonstrations in the Thai capital for the past two weeks to demand that Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva carry out a parliament dissolution so new polls can be held.

“For the sake of the people, you should make way,” said Jatuporn Prompan, one of the three protest leaders at the second day of nationally televised talks between the two sides. “People would honor you and remember you for your sacrifice.”

32 Bees in more trouble than ever after bad winter

By GARANCE BURKE and SETH BORENSTEIN, Associated Press Writers

Wed Mar 24, 8:05 am ET

MERCED, Calif. – The mysterious 4-year-old crisis of disappearing honeybees is deepening. A quick federal survey indicates a heavy bee die-off this winter, while a new study shows honeybees’ pollen and hives laden with pesticides.

Two federal agencies along with regulators in California and Canada are scrambling to figure out what is behind this relatively recent threat, ordering new research on pesticides used in fields and orchards. Federal courts are even weighing in this month, ruling that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency overlooked a requirement when allowing a pesticide on the market.

And on Thursday, chemists at a scientific conference in San Francisco will tackle the issue of chemicals and dwindling bees in response to the new study.

33 Research monkey deaths prompt calls for crackdown

By SCOTT SONNER, Associated Press Writer

Thu Mar 18, 3:57 am ET

SPARKS, Nev. – Workers at a Nevada research lab were checking on a primate room when they came across a ghastly sight: Thirty dead monkeys were essentially cooked alive after someone left the heater on. Two others were near death and had to be euthanized.

At a lab run by the same company, a monkey died last year after it was sent through a washer while still in its cage. The temperatures were so scalding the monkey never had a chance.

The two cases have led to calls for greater oversight and enforcement of the animal research industry after an alarmingly high number of deaths in recent years.

34 Feds thinking outside the box to plug intelligence gaps

By Robert S. Boyd, McClatchy Newspapers

Mon Mar 29, 3:31 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Three recent events – the foiled Christmas Day bombing of a Detroit bound airliner, the Dec. 30 assassination of seven CIA officers and contractors by a Jordanian double agent in Afghanistan and the difficulties that U.S. Marines in Marjah, Afghanistan , have encountered all have something in common: inadequate intelligence.

To lower the odds of similar troubles in the future, the government has launched a swarm of spooky, out-of-the-box research projects known collectively as the Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity.

“The intelligence community needs to place bets on high-risk, high-payoff research that might not work, (but if it did) would give us an overwhelming intelligence advantage over future adversaries,” IARPA director Lisa Porter said in an interview at her sparkling new headquarters just outside Washington in College Park, Md. “We need to fundamentally change the way we do business.”

35 Mars Rover Finds Weird Rocks, Hits 20-Km Marker

SPACE.com Staff

Thu Mar 25, 12:35 pm ET

NASA’s Mars rover Opportunity has found a Martian rock covered in weird material as its odometer hit a major milestone this week, with the long-lived robot completing equivalent to a half-marathon on the red planet.

Opportunity, now in its seventh year on Mars, found the odd Mars rock during the past six weeks studying investigating a crater called “Concepción.” The crater is about 33 feet (10 meters) in diameter, with dark rays extending from it, as seen from orbit, which made it a target of interest for rover inspection because they suggest the crater is young.

The rover made the pit stop to investigate the crater on its long journey to the large crater Endeavour, which is still about 7 miles (12 km) away. It was while Opportunity was at Concepción that the rover surpassed 12.43 miles (20 km) of total driving, about the length of a half-marathon.

36 Space Shuttles Will Keep Flying Through Early 2011, Report Says

Tariq Malik, SPACE.com Managing Editor

Thu Mar 25, 8:03 pm ET

NASA has made steady progress toward the planned retirement of its three aging space shuttles this September, but will likely not complete the fleet’s current flight schedule until February 2011, a new report has found.

The 32-page audit was released by NASA’s Office of the Inspector General, the agency’s financial watchdog, on Thursday – one day before top space shuttle officials planned to meet at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida to discuss plans for the next shuttle mission, which is slated to blast off on April 5.

“Based on calculations by the Office of Inspector General, historical flight rates, and internal NASA evaluations, NASA is not likely to meet its September 2010 timetable, and it will most likely take until the second quarter of FY 2011 to complete the last of the planned Space Shuttle flights,” the report stated. February 2011, it went on, is a better estimate for the final flight.

37 Rare Arctic Springs Hold Clues to Jupiter’s Moon Europa

Charles Q. Choi, Astrobiology Magazine, SPACE.com

Fri Mar 26, 7:30 am ET

Extraordinarily rare springs high above the rest of the world in the Arctic could serve as Earth’s own little version of Europa, helping scientists picture what life might face on the mysterious Jovian moon.

Europa is covered with sulfur-rich materials concentrated along cracks and ridges on its icy surface, which could hold the only clues we currently have about the composition of its hidden underground ocean. These compounds in the ice might even contain organic material that migrated upward from the sea below.

“Europa’s liquid water layer contains twice the volume of all the Earth’s oceans combined, an enormous potentially habitable environment, not billions of years in the past but at the present day,” said astrobiologist Damhnait Gleeson at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. “The composition of the ocean directly controls our view of the habitability of the environment, our understanding of whether microbial life could survive there, and if so, what metabolic pathways or geochemical gradients it could utilize to gain energy.”

38 Deformed Galaxies Confirm Universe’s Acceleration

SPACE.com Staff

Fri Mar 26, 4:16 pm ET

An exhaustive study of nearly half a million deformed galaxies observed by the Hubble Space Telescope has revealed definitive proof of the acceleration of our universe’s expansion.

A team of astronomers took a close look at more than 446,000 galaxies observed by Hubble in 557 overlapping photographs – making it the largest survey ever performed by the iconic space telescope. The observations, taken from Hubble’s COSMOS study, are the latest confirmation of what scientists have long thought, that a mysterious force called dark energy is driving the universe to not just expand, but to expand at an ever-faster pace.

“The sheer number of galaxies included in this type of analysis is unprecedented, but more important is the wealth of information we could obtain about the invisible structures in the universe from this exceptional dataset,” study co-author Patrick Simon from Edinburgh University said in a statement.

39 New York City Wants to Adopt a Space Shuttle

Tariq Malik, SPACE.com Managing Editor

Mon Mar 29, 4:15 pm ET

NEW YORK – The Big Apple has set its sights set on one of NASA’s space shuttles with hopes of snagging one of the iconic space planes for permanent display aboard an aircraft carrier-turned-museum.

Elected officials are now throwing their weight behind space-minded citizens and the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum to reserve one of NASA’s three aging space shuttles once they are retired from spaceflight later this year.

“I can think of no better place to showcase the space program and America’s innovation to the world than New York,” said Congressman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), who is based here in Manhattan. “As America’s most cosmopolitan city, New York would be the perfect venue to display this iconic spacecraft.”

40 Saturn Moon’s Heat Glow Looks Just Like Pac-Man

SPACE.com Staff

Tue Mar 30, 12:03 pm ET

As if dominating one 1980s pop icon wasn’t enough, Saturn’s moon Mimas – which bears a striking resemblance to the Death Star in “Star Wars” – has a heat glow that looks like Pac-Man chomping down on some video game chow.

New high-resolution images and a temperature map of Mimas taken by NASA’s Cassini spacecraft revealed the surprising patterns on the surface of the small moon. The odd Pac-Man-like feature, along with striking bands of light and dark in crater walls, were seen by during its closest flyby of the moon on Feb. 13.

The new photos also take a look at the moon’s enormous scar, called Herschel Crater, and has often been said to give Mimas a Death Star look.

41 History’s Most Destructive Volcanoes

Andrea Thompson, LiveScience Senior Writer

Wed Mar 24, 5:05 pm ET

The eruption of a volcano on the island nation of Iceland on Saturday is a result of the tectonic processes that have continuously shaped and re-shaped the Earth’s surface for billions of years. These processes are responsible for some of the biggest, deadliest eruptions in history.

The Eyjafjallajokull (AYA-feeyapla-yurkul) volcano – part of the volcanic complex that originally formed Iceland – erupted on March 20 for the first time in nearly 200 years. While the eruption has not been a major one so far, it did cause residents in the surrounding areas to evacuate, as they wait to see if the volcano will continue to spew lava and ash or quiet back down.

Other residents of volcanically active areas, whether prehistoric creatures or modern humans, haven’t always had enough warning to escape before a nearby volcano blew its top, sometimes virtually destroying everything for many miles around.

42 Green Tires Could Slash Oil Needs

Matt Safford, TechNewsDaily Contributor, LiveScience.com

Thu Mar 25, 11:31 am ET

About seven gallons of oil is required to make each of the roughly one billion tires produced annually, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association trade group. But the tire industry’s dependence on oil could drop dramatically in the next five years.

A new technology being developed in a research partnership between Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company and California-based biotechnology company Genencor aims to eliminate the oil currently used to make isoprene, a key tire ingredient, by creating a more environmentally friendly alternative using plants like sugar cane, corn, or switchgrass.

“We’re developing a biological system for making isoprene-we call it BioIsoprene – using renewable raw materials, Richard J. LaDuca, Genencor’s Senior Director of Business Development told TechNewsDaily. “The difference here is that we’re using the power of biotechnology to design a cell factory for chemical synthesis [of BioIsoprene].

43 Quarter of Republicans Think Obama May Be the Anti-Christ

LiveScience Staff

Thu Mar 25, 1:07 pm ET

Americans have some extreme views of President Obama, with a new controversial survey suggesting that 40 percent of adults believe he is a socialist, and about a quarter of survey participants thinking the president is a racist, anti-American and even doing things Hitler did.

The whammy: 14 percent of Americans say President Barack Obama may be the Antichrist. When split by political party, 24 percent of Republicans and 6 percent of Democrats viewed the nation’s leader in this way.

The results come from an online Harris Poll involving 2,320 adults who were surveyed online between March 1 and March 8 by Harris Interactive, a market research firm. Respondents were read each of 15 statements and asked whether they thought they were true or false. The sample of people was selected from among roughly 4 million people who agreed to participate in Harris Interactive surveys and are given “modest incentives,” according to Harris. The results were then weighted to reflect the composition of the U.S. adult population.

44 Tiny Tyrannosaur Came from the Land Down Under

Rachael Rettner, LiveScience Staff Writer

Thu Mar 25, 2:08 pm ET

T-rex’s relatives might have once roamed in the land Down Under, according to a new study. A pelvic bone uncovered in Australia marks the first evidence that tyrannosaurs could have inhabited the Southern Hemisphere.

Until now, all the remains from tyrannosauroids – the lineage of dinosaurs that includes the famous Tyrannosaurus rex – have been restricted to northern continents like Asia and North America, leading some paleontologists to believe these dinosaurs never lived down south, said study author Roger Benson of University of Cambridge in England. But the new finding suggests tyrannosaurs could have had a global distribution.

“It helps us to fill in a gap in the geography of tyrannosaurs,” Benson said.

45 Mysterious whale die-off is largest on record

Jeremy Hsu, LiveScience Contributor

Mon Mar 29, 3:05 pm ET

Mass death among baby right whales has experts scrambling to figure out the puzzle behind the largest great whale die-off on record.

Observers have found 308 dead whales in the waters around Peninsula Valdes along Argentina’s Patagonian Coast since 2005. Almost 90 percent of those deaths represent whale calves less than 3 months old, and the calf deaths make up almost a third of all right whale calf sightings in the last five years.

“This is the single largest die-off event in terms of numbers and in relation to population size and geographic range,” said Marcela Uhart, a medical veterinarian with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS). She represents an associate director in Latin America for the WCS Global Health Program.

46 Scientists to Levitate Drops of Liquid to Study Glass

Clara Moskowitz, LiveScience Senior Writer

Tue Mar 30, 11:55 am ET

Physicists are building a levitation chamber to suspend a drop of liquid in mid-air and watch its atoms as it cools into glass.

The machine should help clarify the mystery of glass, which is a puzzling state where matter is more like a liquid than a solid. Physicists want to better understand what happens to the atoms in a material when it transitions from a liquid to a glass.

We often think of glass simply as the stuff that’s in our windows, but it’s actually a phase of matter, like a gas, a liquid or a solid. All liquids can become glasses, but some more easily than others.

47 Ethical Failures Found on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ and ‘House’

Rick Nauert, PhD, Senior News Editor PsychCentral.com, LiveScience.com

Tue Mar 30, 11:55 am ET

Many health care professionals cringe when they watch popular medical programs – episodes of which glamorize behavior that would not be tolerated in reality.

A medical student and faculty directors from the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics analyzed depictions of bioethical issues and professionalism over a full season of two popular medical dramas – “Grey’s Anatomy” and “House, M.D.” – and found that the shows were “rife” with ethical dilemmas and actions that often ran afoul of professional codes of conduct.

The authors of the review, available in the April issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics, say they were well aware that their findings would end up stating the obvious.

48 Ancient Blind Snakes Hitched Ride on Drifting Continents

Jeanna Bryner, LiveScience Managing Editor

Tue Mar 30, 8:21 pm ET

Blind snakes are small worm-like creatures that likely feel their way through underground homes by sensing chemicals through their skin.

It turns out, these organisms have been around since 150 million years ago, when the supercontinent called Gondwana was just breaking up, according to new genetic research. The study suggests that when Madagascar broke off of India, the blind snakes hitched a ride aboard the giant slabs of Earth.

The result: Blind snakes evolved into different species that ultimately spread around the globe.

3 comments

    • RUKind on April 1, 2010 at 6:23 am

    This bee die-off is really bothering me.I garden organically in SE Mass and honey bees are rare for the last seven years or so.

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