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“Ecosystem services” help assess ocean energy development

February 27, 2015 7:47 am | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

With many projects under development in coastal regions such as New England, tidal power seems poised to join other U.S. commercial power sources. A new study finds that little is known of the impacts that tidal power projects may have on coastal environments and the people who depend on them, but that the perspective of “ecosystem services” could provide a promising framework for evaluating impacts.

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Economic models provide insights into global sustainability challenges

February 27, 2015 7:40 am | by Natalie van Hoose, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Using models that blend global economics, geography, ecology and environmental sciences is essential to understanding how changes in trade and natural systems in one part of the world affect those in another, a review concludes. An interdisciplinary team of experts determined how systems integration could shed insights on how activities in one part of the world can have significant impacts on distant regions.

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New peanut allergy test goes beyond scratching the surface

February 27, 2015 7:33 am | by Colin Poitras, UConn | News | Comments

Current peanut allergy tests are not very reliable when it comes to diagnosing the severity of an individual’s allergic reaction, which can range from hives to life-threatening anaphylactic shock. With an estimated three million people in the U.S. allergic to peanuts and tree nuts, having a more precise and reliable allergy test could prevent hospitalizations and allow for better monitoring of individuals suffering from peanut allergies.

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The big melt: Antarctica's retreating ice may re-shape Earth

February 27, 2015 1:08 am | by Luis Andres Henao and Seth Borenstein, Associated Press | News | Comments

From the ground in this extreme northern part of Antarctica, spectacularly white and blinding ice seems to extend forever. What can't be seen is the battle raging underfoot to re-shape Earth. Water is eating away at the Antarctic ice, melting it where it hits the oceans. As the ice sheets slowly thaw, water pours into the sea—130 billion tons of ice (118 billion metric tons) per year for the past decade.

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Heat blamed for spray vaccine's failure against swine flu

February 26, 2015 1:10 pm | by Mike Stobbe, AP Medical Writer, Associated Press | News | Comments

The makers of the nasal spray version of the flu vaccine say they now know why it didn't protect young children against swine flu—the doses got too warm. The spray FluMist works well for most flu strains, but small studies found it didn't work very well against the swine flu bug that first emerged in 2009.

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Study maps extroversion types in brain’s anatomy

February 26, 2015 12:43 pm | by David Orenstein, Brown Univ. | News | Comments

Everyday experience and psychological studies alike tell us there are two different types of extroverts: The gregarious “people-persons” and the ambitious “go-getters”. A new study shows that these overlapping yet distinct personalities have commensurately overlapping yet distinct signatures in the anatomy of the brain.

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Research predicts when, how materials will act

February 26, 2015 12:09 pm | by Kathleen Haughney, Florida State Univ. | News | Comments

In science, it’s commonly known that materials can change in a number of ways when subjected to different temperatures, pressures or other environmental forces.  A material might melt or snap in half. And for engineers, knowing when and why that might happen is crucial information.  Now, a Florida State Univ. researcher has laid out an overarching theory that explains why certain materials act the way they do.

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Building blocks of the future defy logic

February 26, 2015 11:58 am | by Cassi Camilleri, Univ. of Malta | News | Comments

Wake up in the morning and stretch; your midsection narrows. Pull on a piece of plastic at separate ends; it becomes thinner. So does a rubber band. One might assume that when a force is applied along an axis, materials will always stretch and become thinner. Wrong.

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Physicists find new form of quantum friction

February 26, 2015 11:40 am | by Ike Sweitlitz, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Physicists at Yale Univ. have observed a new form of quantum friction that could serve as a basis for robust information storage in quantum computers in the future. The researchers are building upon decades of research, experimentally demonstrating a procedure theorized nearly 30 years ago.

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Using “fuzzy logic” to optimize hybrid solar/battery systems

February 26, 2015 11:11 am | by American Institute of Physics | News | Comments

How did fuzzy logic help a group of researchers in Tunisia and Algeria create an ideal photovoltaic system that obeys the supply-and-demand principle and its delicate balance? In the Journal of Renewable & Sustainable Energy, the group describes a new sizing system of a solar array and a battery in a standalone photovoltaic system that is based on fuzzy logic.

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A mollusk of a different stripe

February 26, 2015 10:59 am | by Jennifer Chu, MIT News Office | Videos | Comments

The blue-rayed limpet is a tiny mollusk that lives in kelp beds along the coasts of Norway, Iceland, the U.K., Portugal and the Canary Islands. These diminutive organisms might escape notice entirely, if not for a very conspicuous feature: bright blue dotted lines that run in parallel along the length of their translucent shells. Depending on the angle at which light hits, a limpet’s shell can flash brilliantly even in murky water.

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New insight found in black hole collisions

February 26, 2015 10:50 am | by Amanda Siegfried, UT Dallas | News | Comments

New research by a Univ. of Texas, Dallas astrophysicist provides revelations about the most energetic event in the universe: the merging of two spinning, orbiting black holes into a much larger black hole. The work provides, for the first time, solutions to decades-old equations that describe conditions as two black holes in a binary system orbit each other and spiral in toward a collision.

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Smartphones could tell consumers what's in food

February 26, 2015 9:09 am | by Mary Clare Jalonick, Associated Press | News | Comments

In the ever-complicated debate over labeling of genetically modified foods, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says he has an idea: use your smartphone. Vilsack told members of Congress on Wednesday that consumers could just use their phones to scan special bar codes or other symbols on food packages in the grocery store. All sorts of information could pop up, such as whether the food's ingredients include genetically modified organisms.

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New technology could make treatment of oil and gas wastewater simpler, cheaper

February 26, 2015 9:05 am | by Univ. of Colorado at Boulder | News | Comments

Oil and gas operations in the U.S. produce about 21 billion barrels of wastewater per year. The saltiness of the water and the organic contaminants it contains have traditionally made treatment difficult and expensive. Engineers at the Univ. of Colorado Boulder have invented a simpler process that can simultaneously remove both salts and organic contaminants from the wastewater, all while producing additional energy.

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The body’s transformers

February 26, 2015 8:59 am | by Julie Cohen, UC Santa Barbara | Videos | Comments

Like the shape-shifting robots of "Transformers" fame, a unique class of proteins in the human body also has the ability to alter their configuration. These so-named intrinsically disordered proteins lack a fixed or ordered 3-D structure, which can be influenced by exposure to various chemicals and cellular modifications. A new study looked at a particular IDP called tau, which plays a critical role in human physiology.

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