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Thursday, December 18, 2014

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

ScienceDaily: Top Environment News

Spider's web weaves way to advanced networks and displays

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 02:14 PM PST

Searching for new ways to develop efficient, flexible networks, physicists discovered the designs of spider webs and leaf venation, refined across thousands of years of evolution, are worthy models for the next generation of optoelectronic applications.

Satellites measure increase of Sun's energy absorbed in the Arctic

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 12:41 PM PST

NASA satellite instruments have observed a marked increase in solar radiation absorbed in the Arctic since the year 2000 -- a trend that aligns with the steady decrease in Arctic sea ice during the same period.

Satellite sees holiday lights brighten cities

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 12:40 PM PST

Even from space, holidays shine bright. With a new look at daily data scientists have identified how patterns in nighttime light intensity change during major holiday seasons -- Christmas and New Year's in the United States and the holy month of Ramadan in the Middle East.

Policy action urgently needed to protect Hawaii's dolphins

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 12:40 PM PST

Tourism is increasing pressure on Hawaii's spinner dolphins. A new study shows that long-proposed federal regulations to limit daytime access to bays where the dolphins rest are greatly needed, but local, community-based conservation measures tailored to each individual bay will speed their acceptance. A one-size-fits-all approach will not work, authors say.

New conversion process turns biomass 'waste' into lucrative chemical products

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 12:40 PM PST

A new catalytic process is able to convert what was once considered biomass waste into lucrative chemical products that can be used in fragrances, flavorings or to create high-octane fuel for racecars and jets. A team of researchers has developed a process that uses a chemical catalyst and heat to spur reactions that convert lignin into valuable chemical commodities.

Australia's coastal observation network may aid in understanding of extreme ocean events

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 12:40 PM PST

A network of nine reference sites off the Australian coast is providing the latest physical, chemical, and biological information to help scientists better understand Australia's coastal seas.

Short-necked Triassic marine reptile discovered in China

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 12:40 PM PST

A new species of short-necked marine reptile from the Triassic period has been discovered in China.

Colorado River Delta greener after engineered pulse of water

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 11:11 AM PST

The engineered spring flood that brought water to previously dry reaches of the lower Colorado River and its delta resulted in greener vegetation, the germination of new vegetation along the river and a temporary rise in the water table, according to new results from the binational team of scientists studying the water's effects.

Ancient, hydrogen-rich waters deep underground around the world: Waters could support isolated life

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 11:11 AM PST

A team of scientists has mapped the location of hydrogen-rich waters found trapped kilometers beneath Earth's surface in rock fractures in Canada, South Africa and Scandinavia. Common in Precambrian Shield rocks -- the oldest rocks on Earth -- the ancient waters have a chemistry similar to that found near deep sea vents, suggesting these waters can support microbes living in isolation from the surface.

National model of restoration: Nine Mile Run

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 10:14 AM PST

A study by a hydrologist shows that one of the largest urban-stream restorations in the United States has led to the recovery of fish and, more importantly, a groundswell of local support. Nine Mile Run, which is part of a watershed that drains 6.5 square miles of land, had been truly abused by urbanization and industrialization. Toxins leached into the creek from a slag heap left over from the steelmaking process, sewer lines discharged into the water, and so much of the waterway had been buried in culverts or diverted from its natural path that Nine Mile Run had become toxic. The restoration project involved rerouting the creek to a natural pathway, reestablishing flora, creating areas to catch floodwater, and building natural "slash piles" and "snags" from cut-down trees to create bird and animal habitats.

Even in restored forests, extreme weather strongly influences wildfire's impacts

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 10:14 AM PST

A new study examined how the Rim Fire burned through forests with restored fire regimes in Yosemite National Park to determine whether they were as resistant to high-severity fire as many scientists and land managers expected.

Contrasting views of kin selection assessed

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 10:14 AM PST

Researchers have used several different ways of testing Hamilton's rule, the core mathematical formula of kin selection, as an explanation for the evolution of much altruistic behavior in animals. These vary in their realism and their ability to generate predictions. The variety of approaches, as well as different views about what constitutes an explanation, helps explain a divisive debate about the importance of kin selection in evolution. A new criterion of 'causal aptness' could help resolve disputes.

Researchers' recipe: Cook farm waste into energy

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 08:36 AM PST

Researchers are studying how to make biofuels from farm waste, especially 'wet' waste, such as corn husks, tomato vines and manure, that is typically difficult to use. They have developed a fairly simple procedure, pressure cooking, to transport waste and produce energy from it. Cooking farm waste yields compact, easily transportable material that will not degrade and can be used in energy-producing plants, they say.

Great Lakes pollution no longer driven by airborne sources; land, rivers now bigger factors

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 08:35 AM PST

A researcher who measured organic pollutants in the air and water around Lake Erie and Lake Ontario has found that airborne emissions are no longer the primary cause of the lakes' contamination. Instead, most of the lakes' chemical pollutants come from sources on land or in rivers.

Novel insights into pathogen behavior

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 07:13 AM PST

New insights into the behavior of an important bacterial pathogen have been provided by researchers. The researchers investigated, using combination of experiments and computational modeling, how bacteria swarm in groups containing millions of cells. "We show in this paper that appendages of this bacterium called 'pili' link together to alter group motion and give swarming groups a form of braking power," an author explained.

Not just for the holidays, mistletoe could fight obesity-related liver disease

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 07:13 AM PST

Mistletoe hanging in doorways announces that the holidays are just around the corner. For some people, however, the symbolic plant might one day represent more than a kiss at Christmas time: It may mean better liver health. Researchers have found that a compound produced by a particular variety of the plant can help fight obesity-related liver disease in mice.

Asteroid that wiped out dinosaurs may have nearly knocked off mammals, too

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 07:13 AM PST

The classic story is that mammals rose to dominance after the dinosaurs went extinct, but a new study shows that some of the most common mammals living alongside dinosaurs, the metatherians, extinct relatives of living marsupials, were also nearly wiped out when an asteroid hit the planet 66 million years ago.

Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria syndrome: Substance from broccoli can moderate defects

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 07:13 AM PST

Children who suffer from Hutchinson-Gilford Progeria syndrome age prematurely due to a defective protein in their cells. Scientists have now identified another important pathological factor: the system responsible for removing cellular debris and for breaking down defective proteins operates at lower levels in HGPS cells than in normal cells. The researchers have succeeded in reactivating protein breakdown in HGPS cells and thus reducing disease-related defects by using a substance from broccoli.

Better focus at the micro world: A low-budget focus stacking system for mass digitization

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 07:13 AM PST

Researchers constructed a focus stacking set-up made of consumer grade products with better end results than high-end solutions and this at only a tenth of the price of current existing systems. Because of the operational ease, speed and the low cost of the system, it is ideal for mass digitization programs involving type specimens.

Bugs life: The nerve cells that make locusts ‘gang up’

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 06:06 AM PST

A team of biologists has identified a set of nerve cells in desert locusts that bring about 'gang-like' gregarious behavior when they are forced into a crowd. The findings demonstrate the importance of individual history for understanding how brain chemicals control behaviour, which may apply more broadly to humans also.

Ancient Earth may have made its own water: Rock circulating in mantle feeds world's oceans even today, evidence suggests

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 06:05 AM PST

In a finding that meshes well with recent discoveries from the Rosetta mission, researchers have discovered a geochemical pathway by which Earth makes it own water through plate tectonics. This finding extends the planet's water cycle to billions of years—and suggests that enough water is buried in the deep earth right now to fill the Pacific Ocean.

Unraveling the light of fireflies

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 04:45 AM PST

How do fireflies produce those mesmerizing light flashes? Using cutting-edge imaging techniques, scientists have unraveled the firefly's intricate light-producing system for the first time.

Predicting antibiotic resistance

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 04:45 AM PST

Treating bacterial infections with antibiotics is becoming increasingly difficult as bacteria develop resistance not only to the antibiotics being used against them, but also to ones they have never encountered before. By analyzing genetic and phenotypic changes in antibiotic-resistant strains of E. coli, researchers have revealed a common set of features that appear to be responsible for the development of resistance to several types of antibiotics.

Global carbon dioxide emissions increase to new all-time record, but growth is slowing down

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 04:44 AM PST

2013 saw global CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use and cement production reach a new all-time high. This was mainly due to the continuing steady increase in energy use in emerging economies over the past ten years.  However, emissions increased at a notably slower rate (2%) than on average in the last ten years (3.8% per year since 2003, excluding the credit crunch years).

North Atlantic signaled Ice Age thaw 1,000 years before it happened, reveals new research

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 04:44 AM PST

The Atlantic Ocean at mid-depths may have given out early warning signals – 1,000 years in advance - that the last Ice Age was going to end, scientists report.

Gothic cathedrals blend iron and stone

Posted: 17 Dec 2014 04:43 AM PST

Using radiocarbon dating on metal found in Gothic cathedrals, an interdisciplinary team has shown, for the first time through absolute dating, that iron was used to reinforce stone from the construction phase. This study sheds new light on the technical skill and intentions of cathedral builders.

Research shows Jaws didn't kill his cousin

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 06:18 PM PST

Our jawed ancestors weren't responsible for the demise of their jawless cousins as had been assumed. Instead, researchers believe that rising sea levels are more likely to blame. "When our jawed vertebrate ancestors overtook their jawless relatives 400 million years ago, it seems that it might not have been through direct competition but instead the inability of our jawless cousins to adapt to changing environmental conditions," an experts said.

Evolution: Complexity key propagating future generations.

Posted: 16 Dec 2014 11:41 AM PST

The KISS concept -- keep it simple, stupid -- may work for many situations. However, when it comes to evolution, complexity appears to be key for prosperity and propagating future generations.

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