Exotic Pet Shop Raid
A pet shop owner on the outskirts of Bangkok, Thailand, has been arrested after police discovered thousands of protected animals caged in the man’s shop, likely to be sold illegally on the exotic animal market. Most notable were the 14 albino lions the man had imported from Africa; however there were also nearly 1,000 sugar gliders, 17 marmosets, 12 peacocks, a leopard, and an unknown number of tortoises, meerkats, capuchin monkeys, and other species.
Sturgeon like fish first appeared in fossil records approximately 200 million years ago, while true sturgeons didn't appear until 100 million years ago. In that time, and up to now, it has long been believed that sturgeons have undergone very little change, and have earned the title as a living fossil. However, a new University of Michigan, US, study suggests that sturgeon have evolved quickly when it comes to size, with species ranging in size from a bass to a car.
Solar Cell Breakthrough
A team of engineers from the University of New South Wales, Australia, has developed a method to improve the quality of low grade silicon, promising to improve electrical efficiency and drop the cost of solar panels. The team has found a way to control hydrogen atoms so they can better correct deficiencies in silicon. Standard commercial cells have an efficiency around 19%; this breakthrough could result in efficiencies between 21% and 23%.
Researchers from Deakin University in Queensland and the Tenkile Conservation Alliance have united to conduct a camera trap study of Papua New Guinea's Torricelli Mountains, the first in the region. The study endeavors to estimate the population size and habitat of many endangered animals, specifically the tenkile, or Scott's tree kangaroo, which has only an estimated 300 members left in the wild.
Los Angeles Air Quality
According to a new study by NOAA's Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, US, the emission reduction requirements for automobiles and trucks has improved air quality in Los Angeles. Ozone concentrations, a principle component in the smog, has seen significant reductions along with the eye stinging organic nitrate component. The study analyzed recent figures from aircraft along with archived records over the past 50 years.
Non-Exhaust Vehicle Pollution
Researchers from the University of Hertfordshire, UK, have released a study which found that only a third of traffic pollution is related to exhaust emissions, while the rest comes from sources such as break and surface wear. The team collected air samples from the Hatfield Tunnel where airborne particles are confined and not subject to weather conditions. The study suggests that new technologies should be investigated in order to reduce non-exhaust pollution.
US Drinking Water
According to the US Environmental Protection Agency's "Drinking Water Infrastructure Needs Survey and Assessment: Fifth Report to Congress," approximately 52,000 community and 21,400 non-community water systems will require $384.2 billion of infrastructure investment through 2030 to ensure a safe and adequate supply of drinking water in the homes, schools, and businesses of all Americans.
Traffic Accidents or Air Pollution
Clean Air in London, an anti-pollution organization, has released the results of a recent survey of over 100 members of Parliament that found many members to be misinformed about air pollution. Over two third of conservative members rated traffic accidents more deadly than air pollution, when in fact accidents only caused 1,901 deaths in 2011, while nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide cause approximately 29,000 deaths annually.
Tropical Storm Andrea
The US Atlantic hurricane season has begun with Tropical Storm Andrea, which is not expected to strengthen into a hurricane before making landfall in Florida's Big Bend area Thursday afternoon. Maximum sustained winds have been recorded at 60 mph (95 kmh), and a tropical storm warning has been issued from Florida up to Virginia. The National Weather Service has warned that the storm is likely to cause flooding, but could also spawn tornadoes.
China's Water Project Begins Tests
One of the world's biggest feats of engineering, China's South-North Water Diversion Project, has begun testing on the eastern part of the project, which is set to start operation later this year. The project, which began construction in 2002 and is still expected to take another 40 years to fully complete, will pump around 45 million cubic meters (1.6 billion cubic ft) of water from the south to the arid north, including the capital Beijing, which suffers from water shortages.
New Discovery to Fight Cancer
Researchers at Ohio State University, US, have found that a compound called apigenin can re-educate cancer cells into normal cells, causing them to die on a regular cycle. The team noticed apigenin bonded with 160 proteins; one of which, hnRNPA2, can restore order to a cancer cell. This is not; however, some wildly expensive drug treatment; apigenin is actually found naturally in many fruits and vegetables, most commonly in parsley, celery, and chamomile tea.
Rainforests Will Survive
According to a recent report by researchers at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama, rainforests in South America have survived three previous major warming events, and are likely to survive the projected warming over the next century. The team reviewed approximately 3,800 published estimates of temperature over the past 120 million years and compared them to the existence of tropical plants in fossil records.
Australian scientists have discovered a lake that seems to be in the same chemical state as it was 7,500 years ago, somehow not being affected by climate change or other man made influences. Aptly named Blue Lake, the area is a refuge for the freshwater biota of the region and is located on North Stradbroke Island. The team believes the water has remained unchanged because the waters drain into a nearby swamp and are replaced by an aquifer every 35 days.
Rain Adds Disaster After Drought
Many residents of Iowa, US, were hoping the rain wound end their problems after they spent much of last year in a drought; however, after having one of the wettest springs on record, the rain has issued in a wave of its own problems. The runoff is washing fertilizer off of farms and into rivers that provide drinking water for much of the state. Nitrate has soared to levels never seen in Iowa before, which can cause ecological, economical, and health problems.
The tornado that hit El Reno, Oklahoma, US, last week has been upgraded from an EF3 to an EF5 after scientists surveyed the damage and concluded the storm had winds up to 295 mph (475 kmh), just shy of the record of fastest winds measured on Earth set in 1999 at 302 mph (486 kmh). The tornado set a record at 2.6 miles (4.2 km) wide, and is the second EF5 tornado to hit Oklahoma in less than two weeks.
Spiny Shark Fossils
The fossilized remains of a 408 million year old fish species have been discovered in the Iberian mountains of Spain. The fish lived during the Devonian period and is a spiny shark, an extinct type of fish with characteristics of both sharks and bony fish. The findings include scales, spines, and shoulder bones, which appear to have grown differently than other fossils of spiny sharks, suggesting this species was more like sharks than bony fish.
The Sound of Science
The cacophonous mating calls of the recently emerged cicadas may be an obnoxious sound to many, but to the US Navy, it sounds like potential. The Navy has been studying the cicadas in order to identify how such tiny creatures can make so much noise, and to create a similar mechanism for creating loud noise with just a little power, which could be used in underwater sensing, ship to ship communications, and rescue operations.
Mediterranean Jellyfish Surge
Scientists across the Mediterranean warn that a surge in jellyfish not only threatens biodiversity of the already overfished sea, but also the health of thousands of summer tourists. The Institute of Marine Sciences in Barcelona, Spain, has identified a drastic rise in the number of mauve stinger jellyfish, a highly poisonous species. There have been reports of 30 to 40 mauve stingers per square meter at beaches along the coast of Catalonia and Valencia, Spain.
12 New Alaskan Volcanoes
Since 2009, researchers from the US Geological Survey and US Forest Service have discovered 12 new volcanoes and re-evaluated 25 already known in southeast Alaska. The volcanic piles are tiny cones compared to the much larger stratovolcanoes to the west, and the chemical signatures in the lava are much different. The lava's chemistry holds clues to characteristics of the earth's crust and mantle when the lava was formed, which the team hopes to study.
A mysterious sea creature was found on a beach in Scotland last week, prompting some believers to suggest it was a relative of the Loch Ness monster. The creature is approximately 1.8 m (6 ft) long and 0.3 m (1 ft) across, and was taken to St. Andrews Aquarium to be further studied. At the aquarium, marine biologists were able to identify the creature as nothing more than a Conger eel that had died at sea and washed ashore.
Flooding Hits Central Europe
Several days of heavy rains in central Europe have caused some of the worst flooding in 70 years in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic. In the town of Passau, Germany, one of the worst areas hit, markers set in 1954, when the city suffered the worst flooding in living memory, have already disappeared under the water, which is still rising. Thousands have been evacuated from their homes, eight people have been reported dead and nine are still missing.
Vinegar Cancer Test
Researchers from the Tata Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, India, began a study in 1998 with over 150,000 women to determine if using diluted vinegar, a cheap alternative to a pap smear, could accurately identify cancerous cells. The vinegar caused abnormal cells to briefly change colors; once identified the women were given the medical attention they needed, which cut the death rate of cervical cancer by 31%.
Power from Photosynthesis
Chemist Daniel Nocera has developed an artificial leaf that mimics photosynthesis in order to provide energy to power homes, cars, or whatever else is needed. The leaf is a silicon wafer covered with catalysts that use sunlight to separate water into hydrogen and oxygen that can be used to power fuel cells to create electricity. The leaf is still a little expensive, just a little cheaper than solar panels; however, Nocera is working to drop the cost by using cheaper materials.
Blind as a Bat
Researchers at the Weizmann Institute, Israel have constructed a device that can measure brain activity of bats to detect how the bats perceive, remember, and navigate spaces. The study found that bats can pick up on the length, width, and volume of a space equally through place cells in the brain and navigate with an understanding of three dimensional space. The study also suggests that humans may not perceive all three dimensions in the same resolution.
Hot Pink Slugs
It seems like something straight out of Alice in Wonderland, but according to park rangers in New South Wales, Australia, dozens of giant, fluorescent pink slugs have been spotted on Mount Kaputar. The eight inch slugs have been seen in the hundreds, and are believed to be survivors from an era when Australia was home to rainforests. Scientists believe a volcano eruption 17 million years ago has led to the haven for invertebrates atop Mount Kaputar.
Tesla Charging Network
Tesla Motors has announced plans to expand its network of free Supercharger stations, which currently take just 40 minutes to charge, to allow consumers to make a full coast to coast trip within two years, starting by doubling the number of stations along the East and West coasts by the end of June. Within a year, Tesla expects 80-90% of the nation to be covered with a plan to have 200 stations to cover the entire nation within 24 months.
Deep Space Radiation
As plans to visit Mars ramp up, with NASA planning an orbit trip by the mid-2030s and the private sector looking for volunteers for a trip, concerns about radiation exposure have come to the forefront of many people's minds. Using readings from a radiation sensor on the Curiosity rover, NASA scientists estimate that a six month trip to and from Mars would expose the astronauts to 662 millisieverts, equivalent to getting a full body CT scan every five days for a year.
Value of Shark Tourism
According to a recent study by international scientists, sharks may be more economically valuable when alive as a tourist attraction than when caught and served as soup. The study estimates that shark watching tourism generates $314 million annually, and is steadily rising, while the shark fishing industry is valued at $630 million and decreasing. If conservation efforts are taken to save the sharks, the tourism industry could surge to $70 million in just 20 years.
SARS-like Virus a Global Threat
A coronavirus, first seen in Saudi Arabia of last year, has now been confirmed in France after the death of a 65 year old man who recently returned from Dubai, bringing the global death toll from the virus up to 27. Known as the Middle East respiratory symptom coronavirus, patients initially suffer from cold like symptoms, but slowly degrade to pneumonia, kidney failure, and eventually death.
Initial research from an international team of scientists suggests that the amount of methane released from livestock varies based on the genes of the individual. The preliminary study was conducted on 25 dairy cattle to identify animals that produced less methane on a range of diets. The team plans to expand their experiments to a total of 1,400 animals in the hopes that farmers and industries will choose cattle that leave a smaller impact on the environment.
Mercury in Peru
An international team of researchers has discovered unsafe levels of mercury in the fish and residents of Puerto Maldonado, Peru. The team bought 15 different species of fish from several markets in the city and found that nine of the species had average levels of mercury above the international limit. The team also took hair samples from 226 residents, and found that 78% of adults had mercury concentrations above the international limit.
GM Wheat Found in Field
Unapproved, genetically engineered wheat has been discovered in an Oregon, US, field. The US Agriculture Department issued a statement that the wheat is safe for consumption, but that none of it has entered the market, and will conduct an investigation to determine how it got in the field. Concerns have arisen as the US exports about half of its wheat crop to many countries that do not approve of genetically altered food.
Several companies throughout the UK have gotten the go-ahead to construct waste to energy facilities, a step towards removing waste from the environment and creating cleaner energy. Viridor will construct an incinerator next to its landfill, while Peer Environment will build an anaerobic digestion facility that will generate electricity for approximately 3,500 homes using 60,000 tonnes (66,000 tons) of organic waste annually.
Researchers from Oregon State University, US, have conducted surveys of several dams along the Nu River and its tributaries in China to identify habitat loss and environmental degradation caused by the dams. The study found that contrary to past beliefs, smaller dams pose a larger risk to the environment than larger dams do, especially when effects accumulate through multiple dams along the same stretch of the river.
GM Salmon-Trout Hybrid
A recent study by researchers at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, has found that the offspring of genetically modified salmon and wild brown trout are faster growing and even more competitive than either of their parents, increasing fears about GM animals escaping into the wild. The hybrids suppressed the growth of GM salmon and wild salmon by 82% and 54%, respectively, when all competed for limited food in a simulated stream.
Parasite Resistant Maize
A Kenyan scientist at Maseno University has developed two new strands of hybrid maize that are resistant to the deadly parasitic Striga weed, also known as witch weed. The new varieties produce a natural chemical that suppresses the growth of the weed. They are currently undergoing testing to ensure the new varieties can be distinguished from existing varieties, and could be commercially available in 2014.
Fourth Insecticide to Pose Risk to Bees Identified
The European Food Safety Authority has identified fipronil, a popular insecticide made by German chemical company BASF, as a “high acute risk” to honeybees. The EFSA report found the risk to honeybees from drifting pesticide dust was high when fipronil was used as a seed treatment for maize, but that there was insufficient data to assess the risk from its use on sunflowers, or the risk through pollen and nectar.
Frozen Plant Regrows
After being buried under the Teardrop Glacier in Canada since the Little Ice Age, about 400 years ago, samples of bryophytes, nonvascular plants such as moss and hornwort, were taken to a lab where they began to grow again. Even planting ground up steam and leaf tissue led to the growth of 11 cultures from seven specimens. The team hopes that these plants are a sign that plant life could exist in extreme conditions on other planets, and in other places on our own.
Sri Lanka Water Crisis Looming
According to researchers from the University of Jaffna, Sri Lanka, the single main source of freshwater for northern Sri Lanka, the Jaffna aquifer, is gradually depleting through overuse. The report showed that potential recharge of the aquifer in the dry season is 14% lower than in the wet season, an imbalance that could cause a groundwater crisis in the future. The team suggests a regulatory framework be instituted to optimize water usage.
Ocean Acidification on Calcifiers
An international team of scientists has used Synchrotron X-ray Tomography Microscopy images of benthic foraminifera, deep sea floor dwelling calcifiers, in order to identify what characteristics allowed them to survive severe ocean acidification 55.5 million years ago. The findings suggest that the surviving species' actually increased the thickness of their shells, contrary to previous expectations.
Summer Snow Showers
Residents of upstate New York and Vermont, US, where in for a summer surprise over Memorial Day weekend as the skies opened up and released several feet of snow. Whiteface Mountain, a ski resort in New York, was blanketed by 3 ft (.9 m) on Sunday. Mount Mansfield in Vermont also received 13.2 in (33.5 cm) of snow on Sunday, the latest in the season the area has ever received more than a foot of snow.
Soil Atlas of Africa
A team of international experts has, for the first time, completed a map of Africa's soil diversity, known as the Soil Atlas of Africa, which will help farmers, land managers, and policy makers understand the need to manage the soil in a sustainable fashion. The map can help identify where certain soils that boost crop yield can be found in greater quantities, as well as helping regional users identify trends and patters of soil distribution and quality.
Shrimp Die Off
The cause of a mysterious disease that has been devastating shrimp farms in Asia since 2009 has been linked back to a common bacteria according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Freezing the shrimp is said to kill the bacteria strain; however, the shrimp that are shipped fresh globally pose a risk of disease transfer. Knowing the cause will make it easier to develop more effective strategies for controlling the spread of the disease.
Deforestation Dries up Dams
An international team of researchers has conducted a study that found deforestation can negatively impact hydropower generation. Trees have an important role in the natural water cycle, releasing water vapor into the atmosphere which turns into rain that feeds the rivers; if deforestation continues in Brazil, the Belo Monte dam is expected to generate 33% less electricity than originally projected.
The awakening of the 17 year cicadas, known as Brood II, has begun along the US East coast. For the time being, the majority of sightings seem to be in central and northern Virginia, with a few scattered sightings farther north. Cicadas have also been sighted in southern Maryland, near Silver Spring; in several counties in New Jersey; even as far north as Staten Island, New York. The cicadas only come above ground when the soil temperature hits 64°F (17.7°C).
Buzzard Nests Destroyed
A UK government agency, Natural England, has issued licenses to destroy the nests and eggs of buzzards, a protected species, in order to protect a pheasant shoot. This information was released to the public after the nests were destroyed, and only because it was requested under the Freedom of Information Act. Buzzards are recovering from near extinction, with a current population of 40,000, while 35m pheasants are bred annually for shoots.
Keystone XL Pipeline
The US House of Representatives has voted to shut President Obama out of the decision making process for approving the Keystone XL pipeline. The vote, which passed 241-175, would dispense with any more environmental reviews and allow only 60 days for legal challenges. It is unlikely; however, that the Senate will also approve of this measure, and the White House has announced it will veto any measure to bypass the current permit process.
GHG Emissions from Shoes
An international team of researchers has found that making a new pair of synthetic running shoes, specifically the Asics gel Kayanos, generates an average of 30 lbs (13.6 kg) of carbon dioxide emissions, roughly equivalent to leaving a 100 watt light bulb on for a week. Approximately 68% of the total greenhouse gas emissions for the shoes were generated during the manufacturing process, not in the sourcing of materials.
3-D Food Printer
NASA has given a six month grant to Systems & Materials Research Corp. to help develop a 3-D food printer that will turn proteins, carbs, and sugars into edible food products, an innovation the company believes could end world hunger. Most of the nutrients will be stored in powder form and mixed with oil and water as it is needed and cooked as it prints. Some alternative food sources that can be used with the printer include algae, grass, duckweed, and insects.
As Scotland discusses voting for independence from the UK, Ed Davey, the UK energy secretary, warns that Scotland could lose billions of pounds in subsidies for renewable energy products, threatening their green revolution. Davey said there had been pledges of £13 billion (USD$19.6 billion) worth of investments that could generate over 9,000 new jobs in Scottish renewables that would be lost if the nation were to secede.
A team of UK researchers has conducted a study which found that the unkempt area of farms are actually important for supporting wildlife. The areas around the edges of farms and the areas where machinery has broken down and left to rust away that people tend to consider eye sores actually contain an abundance of food sources for many insects and animals.
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