Earth

Giant Survival Ball Will Help Explorer Survive a Year On an Iceberg 99

Posted by Soulskill
from the rolling-the-seven-seas dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Ben Yeager reports in Outside Magazine that Italian explorer Alex Bellini plans to travel to Greenland's west coast, pick an iceberg, and live on it for a year as it melts out in the Atlantic. It's a precarious idea. Bellini will be completely isolated, and his adopted dwelling is liable to roll or fall apart at any moment, thrusting him into the icy sea or crushing him under hundreds of tons of ice. His solution: an indestructible survival capsule built by an aeronautics company that specializes in tsunami-proof escape pods. "I knew since the beginning I needed to minimize the risk. An iceberg can flip over, and those events can be catastrophic." Bellini plans to use a lightweight, indestructible floating capsules, or "personal safety systems" made from aircraft-grade aluminum in what's called a continuous monocoque structure, an interlocking frame of aluminum spars that evenly distribute force, underneath a brightly painted and highly visible aluminum shell. The inner frame can be stationary or mounted on roller balls so it rotates, allowing the passengers to remain upright at all times.

Aeronautical engineer Julian Sharpe, founder of Survival Capsule, got the idea for his capsules after the 2004 Indonesian tsunami. He believes fewer people would have died had some sort of escape pod existed. Sharpe hopes the products will be universal—in schools, retirement homes, and private residences, anywhere there is severe weather. The product appeals to Bellini because it's strong enough to survive a storm at sea or getting crushed between two icebergs. Bellini will spend almost all of his time in the capsule with the hatch closed, which will pose major challenges because he'll have to stay active without venturing out onto a slippery, unstable iceberg. If it flips, he'll have no time to react. "Any step away from [the iceberg] will be in unknown territory," says Bellini. "You want to stretch your body. But then you risk your life."
Earth

7.8 Earthquake Rocks Nepal, Hundreds Dead 101

Posted by Soulskill
from the rest-in-peace dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Nepal was struck by an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 today, with an epicenter 80 km east of the country's second biggest city, Pokhara. Its effects were also strongly felt in the capital, Kathmandu. Casualty reports conflict, but authorities have indicated at least 500 are dead and many more are feared to be trapped. Nepal has declared a state of emergency for the affected areas, and asked for international humanitarian assistance. India and Pakistan have both offered help. Some Indian cities were affected by the earthquake as well, and there are reports of avalanches on Mt. Everest, which has many climbers at any given time.
Earth

Bees Prefer Nectar Laced With Neonicotinoids 90

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-know-those-things'll-kill-ya dept.
Taco Cowboy writes: Neonicotinoids are a class of neuro-active insecticides chemically similar to nicotine. Neonicotinoids kill insects by overwhelming and short-circuiting their central nervous systems (PDF). Shell and Bayer started the development of neonicotinoids back in the 1980s and 1990s. Since this new group of pesticides came to market, the bee population has been devastated in regions where they have been widely used. Studies from 2012 linked neonicotinoid use to crashing bee populations.

New studies, however, have discovered that bees prefer nectar laced with neonicotinoids over nectar free of any trace of neonicotinoids. According to researchers at Newcastle University, the bees may "get a buzz" from the nicotine-like chemicals in the same way smokers crave cigarettes.
Space

Hubble Turns 25 43

Posted by Soulskill
from the thanks-for-all-the-desktop-wallpapers dept.
Taco Cowboy points out that the Hubble Space Telescope turns 25 today. Hubble was launched on April 24, 1990, aboard the Space Shuttle Discovery from Kennedy Space Center, Florida. Currently, it is flying about 340 miles over the Earth and circling us every 97 minutes. While the telescope itself is not really much to look at, that silver bucket is pure gold for astronomers. Scientists have used that vantage point to make ground-breaking observations about planets, stars, galaxies and to reveal parts of our universe we didn't know existed. The telescope has made more than a million observations and astronomers have used Hubble data in more than 12,700 scientific papers, "making it one of the most productive scientific instruments ever built," according to NASA. ... NASA aims to keep Hubble operating through at least 2020 so that it can overlap with its successor. The James Webb Space Telescope is due to launch in October 2018 and begin observations in mid-2019. NASA celebrated by releasing a new, epic image from Hubble titled "Celestial Fireworks." It is accompanied by an impressive flythrough video. Some nice galleries of Hubble images have been put together at the NY Times and Slate, but a bigger collection is available directly from the official Hubble website.
Space

Cosmic Rays Could Reveal Secrets of Lightning On Earth 48

Posted by samzenpus
from the shocking-discovery dept.
sciencehabit writes: Despite Benjamin Franklin's best efforts with a kite and a key, the phenomenon of lightning remains a scientific enigma. Now, researchers have developed a new tool that could help them solve some of lightning's mysteries. By using cosmic rays, space-traveling particles that constantly rain down on our atmosphere, scientists report they can peek inside thunderstorms and measure their electric fields, helping them pinpoint the conditions that cause storms' electrical outbursts. The advance could help researchers predict more precisely when and where lightning is most likely to strike and get people out of harm's way in time.
Earth

Yellowstone Supervolcano Even Bigger Than We Realized 151

Posted by timothy
from the I-know-some-people-who-should-vacation-there dept.
The Washington Post reports that the "supervolcano" beneath Yellowstone National Park (which, thankfully, did not kill us all in 2004, or in 2008 ) may be more dangerous when it does erupt than anyone realized until recently. Scientists have today published a paper documenting their discovery of an even larger, deeper pool of magma below the already huge reservoir near the surface. From the article: On Thursday, a team from the University of Utah published a study, in the journal Science, that for the first time offers a complete diagram of the plumbing of the Yellowstone volcanic system. The new report fills in a missing link of the system. It describes a large reservoir of hot rock, mostly solid but with some melted rock in the mix, that lies beneath a shallow, already-documented magma chamber. The newly discovered reservoir is 4.5 times larger than the chamber above it. There's enough magma there to fill the Grand Canyon. The reservoir is on top of a long plume of magma that emerges from deep within the Earth's mantle. ... “This is like a giant conduit. It starts down at 1,000 kilometers. It's a pipe that starts down in the Earth," said Robert Smith, emeritus professor of geophysics at the University of Utah and a co-author of the new paper. ... The next major, calderic eruption could be within the boundaries of the park, northeast of the old caldera. “If you have this crustal magma system that is beneath the pre-Cambrian rocks, eventually if you get enough fluid in that system, enough magma, you can create another caldera, another set of giant explosions," Smith said. "There’s no reason to think it couldn’t continue that same process and repeat that process to the northeast.”
Space

Virtual Telescope Readied To Image Black Hole's 'Ring of Fire' 36

Posted by timothy
from the ghost-of-johnny-cash dept.
astroengine writes: With the addition of a telescope at the southern-most point of Earth, the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT) now spans the diameter of our planet and, when the vast project goes online, astronomers will get their first glimpse of the bright ring surrounding a supermassive black hole. Using a method known as Very Long Baseline Interferometry, or VLBI, astronomers can combine the observing power of many telescopes situated at distant locations around the planet. The distance between those observatories, known as the "baseline," then mimics a virtual telescope of that diameter. Now, in an attempt to make direct observations of the supermassive black hole in the center of our galaxy, located at a powerful radio emission source called Sagittarius A*, the South Pole Telescope (SPT) at the National Science Foundation's Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station has been linked to the EHT and the stage is set for a historic new era of exploring the most extreme objects in the known universe. "Now that we've done VLBI with the SPT, the Event Horizon Telescope really does span the whole Earth, from the Submillimeter Telescope on Mount Graham in Arizona, to California, Hawaii, Chile, Mexico, Spain and the South Pole," said Dan Marrone of the University of Arizona. "The baselines to SPT give us two to three times more resolution than our past arrays, which is absolutely crucial to the goals of the EHT. To verify the existence of an event horizon, the 'edge' of a black hole, and more generally to test Einstein's theory of general relativity, we need a very detailed picture of a black hole. With the full EHT, we should be able to do this."
Earth

Africa E-Waste Dump Continues Hyperbole War 78

Posted by timothy
from the let's-go-take-a-visit dept.
retroworks writes: Two stories appear today which feature close up photos of young African men surrounded by scrap metal in the city of Accra. The headlines state that this is where our computers go to die (Wired). The Daily Mail puts it in even starker terms, alleging "millions of tons" are dumped in Agbogbloshie.

The stories appear the same day as a press release by investigators who returned this week from 3 weeks at the site. The release claims that Agbogbloshie's depiction as the worlds "largest ewaste dump site" to be a hoax. It is a scrap automobile yard which accounts for nothing more than local scrap from Accra. Three Dagbani language speaking electronics technicians, three reporters, Ghana customs officials and yours truly visited the site, interviewed workers about the origins of the material, and assessed volumes. About 27 young men burn wire, mostly from automobile scrap harnesses. The electronics — 20 to 50 items per day — are collected from Accra businesses and households. The majority of Accra (population 5M) have had televisions since the 1990s, according to World Bank metadata (over 80% by 2003).

The investigation did confirm that most of the scrap was originally imported used, and that work conditions were poor. However, the equipment being recycled had been repaired and maintained, typically for a decade (longer than the original OECD owner). It is a fact that used goods will, one day, eventually become e-waste. Does that support a ban on the trade in used goods to Africa? Or, as the World Bank reports, is the affordable used product essential to establish a critical mass of users so that investment in highways, phone towers, and internet cable can find necessary consumers?
Earth

USGS: Oil and Gas Operations Could Trigger Large Earthquakes 170

Posted by timothy
from the now-there's-some-economic-stimulus dept.
sciencehabit writes: The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has taken its first stab at quantifying the hazard from earthquakes associated with oil and gas development. The assessment, released in a preliminary report today, identifies 17 areas in eight states with elevated seismic hazard. And geologists now say that such induced earthquakes could potentially be large, up to magnitude 7, which is big enough to cause buildings to collapse and widespread damage. Update: 04/23 15:56 GMT by T : New submitter truavatar adds: At the same time, the Oklahoma Geological Survey released a statement explicitly calling out deep wastewater injection wells to Oklahoma earthquakes, stating "The OGS considers it very likely that the majority of recent earthquakes, particularly those in central and north-central Oklahoma, are triggered by the injection of produced water in disposal wells."
NASA

NASA Teams Scientific Experts To Find Life On Exoplanets 58

Posted by Soulskill
from the so-we-can-steal-their-oil dept.
coondoggie writes: As the amount of newly discovered planets and systems outside our solar system grows, NASA is assembling a virtual team of scientific experts to search for signs of life. The program, Nexus for Exoplanet System Science (NExSS) will cull the collective expertise from each of NASA's science communities, including earth scientists, planetary scientists, heliophysicists, and astrophysicists. They'll work with key universities to better analyze all manner of exoplanets, as well as how the planet stars and neighbor planets interact to support life.
Earth

Cheap Gas Fuels Switch From Electric Cars To SUVs 616

Posted by Soulskill
from the greenbacks-more-important-than-being-green dept.
schwit1 points out news that's sure to clash with Earth Day narratives: drivers who bought hybrid and electric cars are switching back to SUVs at a higher rate than ever. Quoting: According to Edmunds.com, about 22 percent of people who have traded in their hybrids and EVs in 2015 bought a new SUV. The number represents a sharp increase from 18.8 percent last year, and it is nearly double the rate of 11.9 percent just three years ago. Overall, only 45 percent of this year's hybrid and EV trade-ins have gone toward the purchase of another alternative fuel vehicle, down from just over 60 percent in 2012. Never before have loyalty rates for alt-fuel vehicles fallen below 50 percent. ... Edmunds calculates that at the peak average national gas price of $4.67/gallon in October 2012, it would take five years to break even on the $3,770 price difference between a Toyota Camry LE Hybrid ($28,230) and a Toyota Camry LE ($24,460). At today's national average gas price of $2.27/gallon, it would take twice as much time (10.5 years) to close the same gap.
Science

3.46-Billion-Year-Old 'Fossils' Were Not Created By Life Forms 66

Posted by Soulskill
from the stupid-tricksy-fossilses dept.
sciencehabit writes: What are the oldest fossils on Earth? For a long time, a 3.46-billion-year-old rock from Western Australia seemed to hold the record. A 1993 Science paper (abstract) suggested that the Apex chert contained tiny, wormy structures that could have been fossilized cell walls of some of the world's first cyanobacteria. But now there is more evidence that these structures have nothing to do with life. The elongated filaments were instead created by minerals forming in hydrothermal systems, researchers report (abstract). After the minerals were formed, carbon glommed on to the edges, leaving behind an organic signature that looked suspiciously like cell walls.
Sci-Fi

Astronaut Snaps Epic Star Trek Selfie In Space 143

Posted by samzenpus
from the zero-g-cosplay dept.
mpicpp writes with this story about astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti's tribute to a Star Trek icon. "Captain Kathryn Janeway led the USS Voyager through many harrowing lost-in-space adventures. She was the first female Starfleet captain to take the lead role in a 'Trek' series. Janeway is fictional, but she is an inspiration to many women interested in space. European Space Agency astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti, the first Italian woman in space, took a moment to celebrate Captain Janeway at around 250 miles above Earth. Cristoforetti is currently aboard the International Space Station. She tweeted a selfie on April 17 while dressed in a Star Trek: Voyager-style red and black uniform with a purple turtleneck. The image shows her pointing a thumb at SpaceX's Dragon supply capsule."
The Almighty Buck

William Shatner Proposes $30 Billion Water Pipeline To California 670

Posted by samzenpus
from the pipe-it-in dept.
Taco Cowboy writes The 84-year-old Star Trek star wants to build a water pipeline to California. All it'll cost, according to Mr. Shatner, is $30 billion, and he wants to KickStarter the funding campaign. According to Mr. Shatner, if the KickStarter campaign doesn't raise enough money then he will donate whatever that has been collected to a politician who promise to build that water pipe. Where does he wants to get the water? Seattle, "A place where there's a lot of water. There's too much water," says Mr. Shatner.
Earth

Pull-Top Can Tabs, At 50, Reach Historic Archaeological Status 120

Posted by timothy
from the remember-making-giant-chains-of-these dept.
New submitter kuhnto writes A simple relic of 20th century life has taken on new meaning for archaeologists: The ring-tab beer can — first introduced 50 years ago — is now considered an historic-era artifact, a designation that bestows new significance on the old aluminum cans and their distinctive tabs that are still found across the country.
Earth

If Earth Never Had Life, Continents Would Be Smaller 62

Posted by timothy
from the war-of-concretion dept.
sciencehabit writes It may seem counterintuitive, but life on Earth, even with all the messy erosion it creates, keeps continents growing. Presenting here this week at the annual meeting of the European Geosciences Union, researchers say it's the erosion itself that makes the difference in continental size. Plant life, for example, can root its way through rock, breaking rocks into sediment. The sediments, like milk-dunked cookies, carry liquid water in their pores, which allows more water to be recycled back into Earth's mantle. If not enough water is present in the mantle about 100 to 200 km deep to keep things flowing, continental production decreases. The authors built a planetary evolution model to show how these processes relate and found that if continental weathering and erosion rates decreased, at first the continents would remain large. But over time, if life never evolved on Earth, not enough water would make its way to the mantle to help produce more continental crust, and whatever continents there were would then shrink. Now, continents cover 40% of the planet. Without life, that coverage would shrink to 30%. In a more extreme case, if life never existed, the continents might only cover 10% of Earth.
Earth

Resistance To Antibiotics Found In Isolated Amazonian Tribe 53

Posted by timothy
from the strong-willed-organisms dept.
sciencehabit writes When scientists first made contact with an isolated village of Yanomami hunter-gatherers in the remote mountains of the Amazon jungle of Venezuela in 2009, they marveled at the chance to study the health of people who had never been exposed to Western medicine or diets. But much to their surprise, these Yanomami's gut bacteria have already evolved a diverse array of antibiotic-resistance genes, according to a new study, even though these mountain people had never ingested antibiotics or animals raised with drugs. The find suggests that microbes have long evolved the capability to fight toxins, including antibiotics, and that preventing drug resistance may be harder than scientists thought.
The Military

Scientists Locate Sunken, Radioactive Aircraft Carrier Off California Coast 192

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-you-leave-behind dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Aaron Kinney reports in the San Jose Mercury News that scientists have captured the first clear images of the USS Independence, a radioactivity-polluted World War II aircraft carrier that rests on the ocean floor 30 miles off the coast of Half Moon Bay. The Independence saw combat at Wake Island and other decisive battles against Japan in 1944 and 1945 and was later blasted with radiation in two South Pacific nuclear tests. Assigned as a target vessel for the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb tests, she was placed within one-half-mile of ground zero and was engulfed in a fireball and heavily damaged during the 1946 nuclear weapons tests at Bikini Atoll. The veteran ship did not sink, however (though her funnels and island were crumpled by the blast), and after taking part in another explosion on 25 July, the highly radioactive hull was later taken to Pearl Harbor and San Francisco for further tests and was finally scuttled off the coast of San Francisco, California, on 29 January 1951. "This ship is an evocative artifact of the dawn of the atomic age, when we began to learn the nature of the genie we'd uncorked from the bottle," says James Delgado. "It speaks to the 'Greatest Generation' — people's fathers, grandfathers, uncles and brothers who served on these ships, who flew off those decks and what they did to turn the tide in the Pacific war."

Delgado says he doesn't know how many drums of radioactive material are buried within the ship — perhaps a few hundred. But he is doubtful that they pose any health or environmental risk. The barrels were filled with concrete and sealed in the ship's engine and boiler rooms, which were protected by thick walls of steel. The carrier itself was clearly "hot" when it went down and and it was packed full of fresh fission products and other radiological waste at the time it sank. The Independence was scuttled in what is now the Gulf of the Farallones sanctuary, a haven for wildlife, from white sharks to elephant seals and whales. Despite its history as a dumping ground Richard Charter says the radioactive waste is a relic of a dark age before the enviornmental movement took hold. "It's just one of those things that humans rather stupidly did in the past that we can't retroactively fix.""
Science

Newly Discovered Sixth Extinction Rivals That of the Dinosaurs 93

Posted by samzenpus
from the end-of-the-line dept.
sciencehabit writes Earth has seen its share of catastrophes, the worst being the 'big five' mass extinctions scientists traditionally talk about. Now, paleontologists are arguing that a sixth extinction, 260 million years ago, at the end of a geological age called the Capitanian, deserves to be a member of the exclusive club. In a new study, they offer evidence for a massive die-off in shallow, cool waters in what is now Norway. That finding, combined with previous evidence of extinctions in tropical waters, means that the Capitanian was a global catastrophe.
Technology

The Crazy-Tiny Next Generation of Computers 104

Posted by samzenpus
from the getting-small dept.
An anonymous reader writes University of Michigan professors are about to release the design files for a one-cubic-millimeter computer, or mote. They have finally reached a goal set in 1997, when UC Berkeley professor Kristopher Pister coined the term "smart dust" and envisioned computers blanketing the Earth. Such motes are likely to play a key role in the much-ballyhooed Internet of Things. From the article: "When Prabal Dutta accidentally drops a computer, nothing breaks. There’s no crash. The only sound you might hear is a prolonged groan. That’s because these computers are just one cubic millimeter in size, and once they hit the floor, they’re gone. 'We just lose them,' Dutta says. 'It’s worse than jewelry.' To drive the point home, Dutta, an assistant professor of electrical engineering at the University of Michigan, emails me a photo of 50 of these computers. They barely fill a thimble halfway to its brim."