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The Water's Edge

Combating Groundwater Pollutants

April 18th 2011

Environment Topics - outflow pipe

Below the Earth’s surface, water—perhaps our most precious resource—is stored in geological formations called aquifers. “It’s important to know that more than 95 percent of the Earth’s accessible freshwater is in these underground reserves. That’s water we pump from the ground and drink and use for irrigation and for industry,” says hydrologist Prof. Brian Berkowitz, head of the Department of Environmental Sciences and Energy Research at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

However, this valuable water is not sufficiently protected. A wide range of contaminants can seep down into groundwater supplies. “We have problems with chemical spills from factories, pesticides from farmland, gasoline that leaks from underground storage tanks, inadequately treated sewage from failing septic systems—the list goes on and on,” says Prof. Berkowitz. Read more ..


The Genetic Edge

Birds Inherited Sense of Smell from Dinosaurs--and Improved It

April 13th 2011

Science - Bambiraptor
Bambiraptor in a turkey vulture's colors

Pigeons may not instill the same aura of fear as a Tyrannosaurus rex, but they inherited their sense of smell from such prehistoric killers.

Birds are known more for their flying abilities and their senses of vision and balance than for their sense of smell. According to conventional wisdom, the sense of smell declined during the transition from dinosaurs to birds as the senses of vision and balance were improved for flight. But new research published today by scientists at the University of Calgary, the Royal Tyrrell Museum and Ohio University suggests that millions of years ago, the winged critters also boasted a better sense for scents than their dinosaur ancestors. Read more ..


Edge of Climate Change

West Antarctic Warming Triggered by Warmer Sea Surface in Tropical Pacific

April 11th 2011

Energy / Environment - Antarctic Ice flow

The Antarctic Peninsula has warmed rapidly for the last half-century or more, and recent studies have shown that an adjacent area, continental West Antarctica, has steadily warmed for at least 30 years, but scientists haven't been sure why.

New University of Washington research shows that rising sea surface temperatures in the area of the Pacific Ocean along the equator and near the International Date Line drive atmospheric circulation that has caused some of the largest shifts in Antarctic climate in recent decades.

The warmer water generates rising air that creates a large wave structure in the atmosphere called a Rossby wave train, which brings warmer temperatures to West Antarctica during winter and spring. Read more ..


Genetic Edge

Bacterial Genome May hold Answers to Mercury Mystery

April 11th 2011

Science - Genetics Picture

A newly sequenced bacterial genome from a team led by the Department of Energy's Oak Ridge National Laboratory could contain clues as to how microorganisms produce a highly toxic form of mercury.

Methylmercury, a potent human neurotoxin, appears in the environment when certain naturally occurring bacteria transform inorganic mercury into its more toxic cousin. Few bacterial species are capable of this conversion, and exactly how the transformation takes place has been a matter of debate for decades.   Read more ..


Edge of Space

“Opportunity” Mars Rover Completes Exploration of Martian Surface at Santa Maria Crater

April 11th 2011

Science - Mars Panorama

NASA’s long lived Opportunity Mars rover has completed a three month long exploration of Santa Maria crater along the trail towards its biggest target ever, Endeavour crater, some 22 kilometers in diameter. Santa Maria has simultaneously offered a series of stunning vistas and a scientific bonanza as a worthy way station in the rovers now seven year long overland expedition across the Martian plains of Meridiani Planum.

Opportunity made landfall at the western edge of Santa Maria on Dec. 15, 2010 (Sol 2450) after a long and arduous journey of some 19 kilometers since departing from Victoria Crater nearly two and one half years ago in September 2008. Santa Maria is the largest crater that the rover will encounter on the epic trek between Victoria and Endeavour. The science team decided that Santa Maria would be the best location for an intermediate stop as well as permit a focused science investigation because of the detection of attractive deposits of hydrated minerals. The stadium sized and oval shaped crater is some 80 to 90 meters wide (295 feet) and about nine meters in depth. Read more ..


The Geologic Edge

Yellowstone Supervolcano Newly re-Imaged

April 11th 2011

Disaster - Yellowstone Caldera

University of Utah geophysicists have made the first large-scale picture of the electrical conductivity of the gigantic underground plume of hot and partly molten rock that feeds the Yellowstone supervolcano. The image suggests the plume is even bigger than it appears in earlier images made with seismic waves.

"It’s like comparing ultrasound and MRI in the human body; they are different imaging technologies," says geophysics Professor Michael Zhdanov, principal author of the new study and an expert on measuring magnetic and electrical fields on Earth’s surface to find oil, gas, minerals, and geologic structures underground.

"It’s a totally new and different way of imaging and looking at the volcanic roots of Yellowstone," says study co-author Robert B. Smith, professor emeritus and research professor of geophysics and a coordinating scientist of the Yellowstone Volcano Observatory. Read more ..


Edge on Space

White Dwarfs Could be Fertile Ground for Other Earths

April 4th 2011

Science - White dwarf

Planet hunters have found hundreds of planets outside the solar system in the last decade, though it is unclear whether even one might be habitable. But it could be that the best place to look for planets that can support life is around dim, dying stars called white dwarfs.

In a new paper published online in The Astrophysical Journal Letters, Eric Agol, a University of Washington associate professor of astronomy, suggests that potentially habitable planets orbiting white dwarfs could be much easier to find – if they exist – than other exoplanets located so far. Read more ..


Geologic Edge

Sugar grain-sized Meteorites Rocked the Climates of early Earth and Mars

April 4th 2011

Science - Micrometeorite

Bombardments of 'micro-meteorites' on Earth and Mars four billion years ago may have caused the planets' climates to cool dramatically, hampering their ability to support life, according to researchers in the United Kingdom. 

Scientists from Imperial College London studied the effects of the Late Heavy Bombardment (LHB), a period of time in the early Solar System when meteorite showers lasting around 100 million years barraged Earth and Mars. This bombardment discharged sulphur dioxide into the upper atmospheres of both planets and the researchers' analysis suggests that this may have had a catastrophic impact on their environments. Read more ..


Edge on Physics

High Temperature Superconductor Reveals New Phase of Matter

April 4th 2011

Computer Topics - Superconductor

Scientists at the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Science (SIMES) have found the strongest evidence yet that a puzzling gap in the electronic structures of some high-temperature superconductors could indicate a new phase of matter. Understanding this "pseudogap" has been a 20-year quest for researchers who are trying to control and improve these breakthrough materials with the ultimate goal of finding superconductors that operate at room temperature.

"Our findings point to management and control of this other phase as the correct path toward optimizing these novel superconductors for energy applications, as well as searching for new superconductors," said Zhi-Xun Shen of the Stanford Institute for Materials and Energy Science (SIMES), a joint institute of the Department of Energy's SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory and Stanford University. Shen led the team of researchers that made the discovery. Superconductors are materials that conduct electricity with 100 percent efficiency, losing nothing to resistance. Currently used in medical imaging, highly efficient electrical generators and maglev trains, they have the potential to become a truly transformative technology; energy applications would be just one beneficiary. Read more ..


Genetic Edge

Disease-Specific Human Embryonic Stem Cell Line Enables Study of Genetic Disorders

April 4th 2011

Eugenics - Human embryonic stemcell cluster
Cluster of human embryonicstem cells

Researchers at the University of Michigan have created the first human embryonic stem cell lines in the state of Michigan that carry the genes responsible for inherited disease. The achievement will enable university scientists to study the onset and progression of genetic disorders and to search for new treatments.

With this accomplishment, the U-M joins a small handful of U.S. universities that are creating disease-specific human embryonic stem cell lines.

“All our efforts are finally starting to bear fruit,” says Gary Smith, co-director of the U-M Consortium for Stem Cell Therapies and leader of the cell-line derivation project. “Creating disease-specific human embryonic stem cell lines has been a central goal of the consortium since it was formed two years ago, and now we’ve passed that milestone.” One of the lines carries the genetic defect that causes hemophilia B, a hereditary condition in which the blood does not clot properly. The other carries the gene responsible for Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease, a hereditary neurological disorder characterized by a slowly progressive degeneration of the muscles in the foot, lower leg and hand. Read more ..


Edge of Computing

Researchers Devise Exceptionally Efficient OLED for Televisions, Cell Phones, and Computers

March 30th 2011

Energy Topics - OLED matrix

University of Michigan engineering researchers have designed an exceptionally efficient fluorescent blue OLED, or organic light emitting diode.

OLEDs are the next generation display technology. They are already used in televisions, cell phones and computers, and they are candidates for a vast array of light sources from advertising billboards to indoor and outdoor illumination. Fluorescent OLEDs are typically less efficient at emitting light per unit area than their phosphorescent counterparts.

That may be changing, according to new findings by professor John Kieffer and graduate student Changgua Zhen of the Department of Materials Science and Engineering. They released findings in the journal Advanced Functional Materials that shattered previous records. Traditionally, the ceiling for the efficiency of fluorescent OLEDs was believed to be 5 percent. Now, Kieffer and his collaborators have produced fluorescent OLEDs with close to 10 percent efficiency. Read more ..


Edge of Computing

Computing has Hit the Power Wall and Inspires New Parallel Programming Frameworks

March 28th 2011

Computer Topics - I-phone

As Moore's Law runs out of steam and computing goes mobile, technologists are searching for ways to make the leap to new parallel programming frameworks that can leverage low-power multicore architectures. The move has been spurred by growing industry concern that today’s microprocessor computing engines have hit a “power wall”. That in turn has prompted a re-evaluation of the roadmap for high-performance computing, a reassessment that yielded a new study published by the National Research Council on the future of computing performance. The report’s bottom line is summed up in its subtitle: “Game Over or Next Level?” Read more ..


Japan After the Quake

Technology from Israel Can make Tokyo Safe from fallout in 3 Weeks

March 28th 2011

Japan - fukushima reactor smoke
Fukushima Daiichi Reactor seen with rising smoke

The Fukushima Diiachi plant explosion may cause a complete melt down, similar to that which occurred in the Chernobyl nuclear disaster of 1986.

Following the Chernobyl incident large sections of the Ukraine, where the plant was located, had to be evacuated. And even now, more than 25 years later, some areas still have radiation levels too high for human habitation. Meanwhile the site is in need of a new protective shield.

A similar tragedy occurring in a large area surrounding the damaged Japanese nuclear facilities could cause governmental authorities there to seriously reconsider nuclear energy for making electricity. But Japan simply cannot afford to give up nuclear power: The plants are there for a reason- Japan's energy security demands reliable baseload power that cannot be interrupted by shipping problems. Read more ..


Edge of Computing

Google's Limited Release of Android Honeycomb upsets OEMs

March 28th 2011

Computer Topics - Google tablet HOneycomb

Google is for an unspecified time limiting the release of Honeycomb, the tablet version of Android, a move frustrating many mobile systems makers who want to compete with the Apple iPad. Google's move highlights the difficulties of a broad open source movement like Android to compete with a vertically integrated manufacturer like Apple. "Google refused to give out any information about Honeycomb, and the end result was no one could deviate from the reference design," said a senior engineer with a large mobile systems maker in Taiwan. Read more ..


Edge on Health

Health Researchers Find Specific Proteins Flag Head and Neck Cancers

March 23rd 2011

Health/Medicine - Head/neck cancer cell

The discovery that a certain protein is over-expressed in patients with oral cancer may give new treatment hope to people suffering from the particularly aggressive, localized forms of head and neck cancer.

Researchers at the University of Michigan School of Dentistry found that when they inhibited the expression of that protein, called SIRT3 or Sirtuin-3, in oral cancer cells in a petri dish, the cells did not proliferate and more of them died.

Further, when researchers suppressed the protein in the cancer cells and combined that with radiation or chemotherapy treatment, the prohibitive effect on cancer cells was even greater, said Yvonne Kapila, associate professor of dentistry and lead author of the study.

Mice that were injected with SIRT3-inhibited oral cancer cells had about a 75 percent reduction in tumors compared to the mice injected with regular oral cancer cells, said Kapila, whose research team began looking at the Sirtuin group of proteins because some studies suggest they are key regulators for cell integrity and survival. Read more ..


Japan After the Quake

Researchers Investigate Sediment Slides and Coral Reefs to Study Earthquake Patterns

March 21st 2011

Japan - Japan quake 2011

In the wake of the devastating loss of life in Japan, the urgent question is where the next big earthquake will hit. To answer it, geologist Prof. Zvi Ben-Avraham and his doctoral student Gal Hartman of Tel Aviv University's Department of Physics and Planetary Sciences in the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Faculty of Exact Sciences are examining coral reefs and submarine canyons to detect earthquake fault zones.

Working with an international team of Israelis, Americans and Jordanians, Prof. Ben-Avraham and his team are developing a new method to determine what areas in a fault zone region are most at risk. Read more ..


The Mind's Edge

Scientists Discover Major Clue in long-term Memory

March 21st 2011

Social Topics - Baby Boomer

You may remember the color of your loved one's eyes for years. But how?

Scientists believe that long-term potentiation (LTP) – the long-lasting increase of signals across a connection between brain cells -- underlies our ability to remember over time and to learn, but how that happens is a central question in neuroscience.

Researchers at Duke University Medical Center have found a cascade of signaling molecules that allows a usually very brief signal to last for tens of minutes, providing the brain framework for stronger connections (synapses) that can summon a memory for a period of months or even years. Read more ..


Edge of Health Research

The Diabetes and Obesity Connection

March 21st 2011

Health/Medicine - Pancreas--Gray's Anatomy

More than 220 million people around the world suffer from diabetes, a chronic condition in which abnormally high levels of glucose (sugar) circulate in the blood. Type 2 diabetes, the most common form of the disease, develops when the body cannot adequately produce, or improperly uses, insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. People with type 2 diabetes are at an increased risk for many serious health problems, including heart disease, blindness, and kidney damage. Notably, according to the National Institutes of Health, more than 85 percent of those with type 2 diabetes are overweight.

“Most researchers believe that the rising rate of obesity is the driving force behind the epidemic of type 2 diabetes,” says Prof. Michael Walker of the Weizmann Institute of Science’s Department of Biological Chemistry. “Our challenge is to understand why obese individuals have a much higher risk of developing diabetes.” Read more ..


Edge of Outer Space

Baby Stars born to 'Napping' Parents

March 14th 2011

Science - Stellar formation-Corona Australis

Astronomers of Cardiff University in the UK believe that a young star’s long "napping" could trigger the formation of a second generation of smaller stars and planets orbiting around it.

It has long been suspected that the build up of material onto young stars is not continuous but happens in episodic events, resulting in short outbursts of energy from these stars.

However, this has been largely ignored in models of star formation.

Now, by developing advanced computer models to simulate the behavior of young stars, Cardiff University Astrophysicists Dr. Dimitris Stamatellos and Professor Anthony Whitworth, along with Dr. David Hubber from the University of Sheffield, have offered a new insight in star formation.

While stars are young they are surrounded by discs of gas and dust, and grow by accreting material from these discs. The discs may break-up to give birth to smaller stars, planets and brown dwarfs - objects larger than planets but not large enough to burn hydrogen like our Sun. Read more ..


Edge on Climate Change

Corn Crop Imperiled Should World Temperatures Rise

March 14th 2011

Food - Iowa corn field
Cornfield in Kenya

A hidden trove of historical crop yield data from Africa shows that corn – long believed to tolerate hot temperatures – is a likely victim of global warming.

Stanford agricultural scientist David Lobell and researchers at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) report that a clear negative effect of warming on maize – or corn – production was evident in experimental crop trial data conducted in Africa by the organization and its partners from 1999 to 2007.

Led by Lobell, the researchers combined data from 20,000 trials in sub-Saharan Africa with weather data recorded at stations scattered across the region. They found that a temperature rise of a single degree Celsius would cause yield losses for 65 percent of the present maize-growing region in Africa – provided the crops received the optimal amount of rainfall. Under drought conditions, the entire maize-growing region would suffer yield losses, with more than 75 percent of areas predicted to decline by at least 20 percent for 1 degree Celsius of warming. Read more ..


Environmental Edge

Study of Effects of BP Oil Spill on Air Pollution in Gulf of Mexico has Far-Reaching Implications

March 14th 2011

Environment Topics - Gulf of Mexico dead zone
Gulf of Mexico

During a special airborne mission to study the air-quality impacts of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill last June, NOAA researchers discovered an important new mechanism by which air pollution particles form. Although predicted four years ago, this discovery now confirms the importance of this pollution mechanism and could change the way urban air quality is understood and predicted.

The NOAA-led team showed that although the lightest compounds in the oil evaporated within hours, it was the heavier compounds, which took longer to evaporate, that contributed most to the formation of air pollution particles downwind. Because those compounds are also emitted by vehicles and other combustion sources, the discovery is important for understanding air quality in general, not only near oil spills. Read more ..


Ancient Edge

If the Fabled Atlantis Was Destroyed by a Tsunami, Has it Finally Yielded its Secrets

March 14th 2011

Archaeology Topics - Atlantis ancient walls
Ancient walls off the coast of Spain

A U.S.-led research team may have finally located the lost city of Atlantis, the legendary metropolis believed swamped by a tsunami thousands of years ago in mud flats in southern Spain.

A new National Geographic Channel documentary, Finding Atlantis, followed a team of US, Canadian, and Spanish scientists as they employed advanced remote-sensing and other technology paired with underwater archeology and historical sleuthing in an effort to find a lost civilization. Led by University of Hartford professor and archaeologist Richard Freund, the team has been surveying marshlands in Spain to look for proof of the ancient city. If the team can match geological formations to descriptions left by the Greek philosopher Plato and date artifacts back to the time of Atlantis, we may be closer to solving one of the world's greatest mysteries. Read more ..


Edge on the Environment

Over-Fishing of Predator Fish Causes Domination by Smaller Fish

March 7th 2011

Animals - Tuna haul

By 2050, small fish could dominate the oceans because of the rapid decline of larger, predator fish.

In a new report, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization finds that one-third of the world’s fisheries are overexploited, depleted or recovering and in urgent need of rebuilding. At a recent meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Washington, University of British Columbia fisheries expert Villy Christensen predicted the eventual preponderance of small fish.

Twenty years ago, Christensen designed a computer tool called Ecopath to study complex marine ecosystems. Now Ecopath has 6,000 users in 155 countries. Read more ..


The Nano Edge

Researchers Introduce First Complete Millimetre-Scale Computing System

February 28th 2011

Science - UM nano-pressure monitor

A prototype implantable eye pressure monitor for glaucoma patients is believed to contain the first complete millimeter-scale computing system.

And a compact radio that needs no tuning to find the right frequency could be a key enabler to organizing millimeter-scale systems into wireless sensor networks. These networks could one day track pollution, monitor structural integrity, perform surveillance, or make virtually any object smart and trackable.

Both developments at the University of Michigan are significant milestones in the march toward millimeter-scale computing, believed to be the next electronics frontier.

Researchers presented papers at the International Solid-State Circuits Conference (ISSCC) in San Francisco. The work is being led by three faculty members in the University of Michigan Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science: professors Dennis Sylvester and David Blaauw, and assistant professor David Wentzloff. Read more ..


Edge of Life

Canadian Researcher Lists More than 4,000 Components of Blood Chemistry

February 28th 2011

Science - University of Alberta blood research

After three years of exhaustive analysis led by a University of Alberta researcher, the list of known compounds in human blood has exploded from just a handful to more than 4,000.

"Right now a medical doctor analyzing the blood of an ailing patient looks at something like 10 to 20 chemicals," said U of A biochemist David Wishart. "We've identified 4,229 blood chemicals that doctors can potentially look at to diagnose and treat health problems." Read more ..


Edge on Biology

Scientists Reveal Secret of Migrating Sea Turtles

February 28th 2011

Science - Sea turtle brains
Central nervous system of Tritonia diomedea

From the very first moments of life, hatchling loggerhead sea turtles have an arduous task. They must embark on a transoceanic migration, swimming from the Florida coast eastward to the North Atlantic and then gradually migrating over the course of several years before returning again to North American shores. Now, researchers have figured out how the young turtles find their way.

"One of the great mysteries of animal behavior is how migratory animals can navigate in the open ocean, where there are no visual landmarks," said Kenneth Lohmann of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

"The most difficult part of open-sea navigation is determining longitude or east-west position. It took human navigators centuries to figure out how to determine longitude on their long-distance voyages," added Nathan Putman, a graduate student in Lohmann's lab and lead author of the study. "This study shows, for the first time, how an animal does this." Read more ..


The Race for Hydrogen

Mimicking Photosynthesis Path to Solar-derived Hydrogen Fuel

February 21st 2011

Energy / Environment - Hydrogen fueling

Inexpensive hydrogen for automotive or jet fuel may be possible by mimicking photosynthesis, according to a Penn State materials chemist, but a number of problems need to be solved first.

"We are focused on the hardest way to make fuel," said Thomas Mallouk, Evan Pugh Professor of Materials Chemistry and Physics. "We are creating an artificial system that mimics photosynthesis, but it will be practical only when it is as cheap as gasoline or jet fuel." Read more ..


Edge of Life

Research on Fertility Yields Unexpected Rewards

February 21st 2011

Social Topics - Pregnant

When Prof. Nava Dekel of the Weizmann Institute of Science’s Department of Biological Regulation began studying a protein that plays a role in implanting fertilized ova in the uterus, she had no idea it would lead to a discovery that is now helping couples struggling with infertility to have children.

For many years, Prof. Dekel focused her investigations on the mechanisms responsible for ovum (egg) development and embryo implantation. “But in science,” she says, “you can never decide ‘this is what I’m going to study for the rest of my life.’ You follow a path, and somewhere along the way you say, ‘Wow—there’s something interesting!’” Read more ..


The Nano Edge

Researchers Produce Graphene Sheets from Sugar at Low Process Temperatures

February 21st 2011

Science - Sugar graphene

Rice University researchers have learned to make pristine sheets of graphene, the one-atom-thick form of carbon, from plain table sugar and other carbon-based substances. They do so in a one-step process at temperatures low enough to make graphene easy to manufacture. The lab of Rice chemist James Tour reported that large-area, high-quality graphene can be grown from a number of carbon sources at temperatures as low as 800 degrees Celsius (1,472 F). As hot as that may seem, the difference between running a furnace at 800 and 1,000 degrees Celsius is significant, Tour said. Read more ..


Edge on Light

Jewel-toned Organic Phosphorescent Crystals Become New Class of Light-emitting Materials

February 21st 2011

Science - aromatic carbonyls
Credit: Marcin Szczepanski, U-M College of Engineering

Pure organic compounds that glow in jewel tones could potentially lead to cheaper, more efficient and flexible display screens, among other applications. University of Michigan researcher Jinsang Kim and his colleagues have developed a new class of material that shines with phosphorescence—a property that has previously been seen only in non-organic compounds or organometallics.

Kim and his colleagues made metal-free organic crystals that are white in visible light and radiate blue, green, yellow and orange when triggered by ultraviolet light. By changing the materials' chemical composition, the researchers can make them emit different colors. Read more ..


The Geologic Edge

Scientists Map Out the Advance of the Ice Age in Britain

February 14th 2011

Environment Topics - Siberian Glacier

Led by Professor Chris Clark from the University of Sheffield´s Department of Geography, a team of experts developed the maps to understand what effect the current shrinking of ice sheets in parts of the Antarctic and Greenland will have on the speed of sea level rise.

The unique maps record the pattern and speed of shrinkage of the large ice sheet that covered the British Isles during the last Ice Age, approximately 20,000 years ago. The sheet, which subsumed most of Britain, Ireland and the North Sea, had an ice volume sufficient to raise global sea level by around 2.5 meters when it melted. Read more ..


Edge on the Environment

Depletion of Arctic Fisheries 75 Times Higher than Previous Reports Suggested

February 14th 2011

Environment Topics - Greenpeace cod protester

University of British Columbia researchers estimate that fisheries catches in the Arctic totaled 950,000 tonnes from 1950 to 2006, almost 75 times the amount reported to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) during this period.

Led by Prof. Daniel Pauly, the research team from UBC’s Fisheries Centre and Dept. of Earth and Ocean Sciences reconstructed fisheries catch data from various sources—including limited governmental reports and anthropological records of indigenous population activities—for FAO’s Fisheries Statistical Area 18, which covers arctic coastal areas in northern Siberia (Russia), Arctic Alaska (the U.S.) and the Canadian Arctic.

The Arctic is one of the last and most extensive ocean wilderness areas in the world. The extent of the sea ice in the region has declined in recent years due to climate change, raising concerns over loss of biodiversity as well as the expansion of industrial fisheries into this area. Read more ..


Edge on the Universe

New Computer Simulations Give New Insights into the Birth of Stars

February 6th 2011

Science - Stellar formation-Corona Australis

The first stars in the universe were not as solitary as previously thought. In fact, they could have formed alongside numerous companions when the gas disks that surrounded them broke up during formation, giving birth to sibling stars in the fragments. These are the findings of studies performed with the aid of computer simulations by researchers at Heidelberg University’s Centre for Astronomy together with colleagues at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching and the University of Texas at Austin. The group’s findings, being published in Science magazine, cast an entirely new light on the formation of the first stars after the Big Bang. Read more ..


Google on Edge

GOP Could Make Trouble for Google

February 6th 2011

Obama Admin Topics - Obama_Google
Fortune Cover, Nov 9, 2009

Saddled with the perception that it is a darling of the Obama administration, Google may have it tough with Republicans. The company whose chief executive campaigned for President Obama stands to become a target of investigations by multiple committees. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), who has promised to be an aggressive watchdog as chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has led congressional Republicans in questioning whether Google has inappropriate ties to the Obama administration.

Issa wrote to the White House in April to ask whether a technology official and former Google employee had unethical contact with the company. “The American people have a right to expect that White House employees are working to advance the public interest and not the interests of the lobby shops who formerly employed them,” Issa said in the letter.His spokesman, Seamus Kraft, said the committee “will continue to be concerned about consumer privacy issues and the Presidential Records Act.” Both issues directly affect Google.

Watchdogs have also questioned Google’s ties to Democrats. The pro-free-market group National Legal and Policy Center, for example, has labeled the company the Halliburton of the Obama years. Halliburton was closely associated with the administration of President George W. Bush. Read more ..


Warfare Edge

Israeli Scientists Develop Crucial Enzymes to Protect US Troops from Nerve Gas Attacks

February 6th 2011

Military - Nerve gas drill

Protection against nerve gas attack is a significant component of the defense system of many countries around the world. Nerve gases are used by armies and terrorist organizations, and constitute a threat to both the military and civilian populations, but existing drug solutions against them have limited efficiency.

A multidisciplinary team of scientists at the Weizmann Institute of Science succeeded in developing an enzyme that breaks down such organophosphorus nerve agents efficiently before damage to nerves and muscles is caused. Their results have been published, while recent experiments performed in a U.S. military laboratory (the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Chemical Defense, or USAMRICD) have shown that injecting a relatively small amount of this enzyme into animals provides protection against certain types of nerve agents, for which current treatments show limited efficacy. Read more ..


The Edge of the Universe

Scientists Discover Ejected Solar Materials Resembling Clouds in Earth’s Atmosphere

February 6th 2011

Science - Sun ejecta

Physicists, led by a researcher at the University of Warwick, studying new images of clouds of material exploding from the Sun have spotted instabilities forming in that exploding cloud that are similar to those seen in clouds in Earth’s atmosphere. 

These  results could greatly assist physicists trying to understand and predict our Solar System’s “weather.”

The researchers, led by of the Centre for Fusion Space and Astrophysics, at the the UK’s University of Warwick’s Department of Physics, made their discovery when examining new images  of clouds of material exploding from the Sun known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs). These images were  provided by the Atmospheric Imaging Assembly (AIA) experiment on NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). SDO was been launched last year and provides unprecedented views of the Sun in multiple temperatures. Read more ..


Oceans on the Edge

NOAA Moves to Police Seas

January 30th 2011

Environment Topics - NOAA HQ

As part of their continuing effort to take a lead in managing global fisheries, officials with the U.S. National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration told Congress earlier this month that they’ll work with six countries – singled-out for their lack of enforcement—to cut down on illegal fishing around the globe.

A NOAA taskforce identified vessels in Colombia, Ecuador, Italy, Panama, Portugal, and Venezuela for illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, or IUU. Most infractions were for fishing out of season or without proper registration, but in one instance driftnets were used illegally by an Italian vessel to catch 24 eastern Atlantic bluefin tuna—20 of them under the legal catch size—in the summer of 2009. Read more ..


Edge on Maternity

Israeli Scientists Find a Link Between Antioxidants and Female Infertility

January 24th 2011

Social Topics - Pregnant

Antioxidants are sold over the counter everywhere. They’re added to food, drink, and face cream. But according to Prof. Nava Dekel of the Weizmann Institute of Science’s Department of Biological Regulation, we still don’t have a complete understanding of how they act in our bodies. New research by Prof. Dekel and her Israeli team, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), has revealed an unexpected possible side effect of antioxidants: they might cause fertility problems in females.

Common antioxidants include vitamins C and E. These work by eliminating molecules called reactive oxygen species that are produced naturally in the body. Stress can cause these chemically active molecules to be overproduced; in large amounts they damage cells indiscriminately. By neutralizing these potentially harmful substances, antioxidants may, theoretically, improve health and slow down the aging process. Read more ..


The Robotic Edge

In the Future, Robots May Develop as Does Nature

January 24th 2011

Science - Lego robots

Want to build a really tough robot? Forget about Terminator. Instead, watch a tadpole turn into a frog.

Or at least that’s not too far off from what University of Vermont roboticist Josh Bongard has discovered.

In a first-of-its-kind experiment, Bongard created both simulated and actual robots that, like tadpoles becoming frogs, change their body forms while learning how to walk. And, over generations, his simulated robots also evolved, spending less time in “infant” tadpole-like forms and more time in “adult” four-legged forms. Read more ..


The Pre-Historic Edge

New Discovery in China Allows Scientists to Differentiate Male and Female Flying Dinosaurs

January 24th 2011

Science - Quetzalcoatlus mates
Female Pterodactyl (l), Male Pterodactyl (r)

The discovery of an ancient fossil, nicknamed 'Mrs. T', has allowed scientists for the first time to sex pterodactyls – flying reptiles that lived alongside dinosaurs between 220-65 million years ago. Pterodactyls featured prominently in Steven Spielberg's movie Jurassic Park III and are a classic feature of many dinosaur movies where they are often depicted as giant flying reptiles with a crest. The discovery of a flying reptile fossilized together with an egg in Jurassic rocks (about 160 million years old) in China provides the first direct evidence for gender in these extinct fliers. This fossil shows that females were crestless, solving the long-standing problem of what some pterosaurs did with their spectacular head crests: showy displays by males. According to a news release, the find was made by an international team of researchers from the University of Leicester and the University of Lincoln in the UK, as well as the Geological Institute of Beijing. Read more ..



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