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Study: Light may skew lab tests on nanoparticles’ health effects

November 19, 2014 8:38 am | by Chad Boutin, NIST | News | Comments

Truth shines a light into dark places. But sometimes to find that truth in the first place, it’s better to stay in the dark. That’s what recent findings at NIST show about methods for testing the safety of nanoparticles. It turns out that previous tests indicating that some nanoparticles can damage our DNA may have been skewed by inadvertent light exposure in the lab.

Research quantifies health benefits of reducing greenhouse gas emissions

November 19, 2014 8:31 am | by Allan Chen, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, which result from the burning of fossil fuels, also reduces the incidence of health problems from particulate matter (PM) in these emissions. A team of scientists has calculated that the economic benefit of reduced health impacts from GHG reduction strategies in the U.S. range between $6 and $14 billion annually in 2020, depending on how the reductions are accomplished.

A new portrait of carbon dioxide

November 18, 2014 9:36 am | by Patrick Lynch, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center | Videos | Comments

An ultra-high-resolution NASA computer model has given scientists a stunning new look at how carbon dioxide in the atmosphere travels around the globe. Plumes of carbon dioxide in the simulation swirl and shift as winds disperse the greenhouse gas away from its sources. The simulation also illustrates differences in carbon dioxide levels in the northern and southern hemispheres.

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As temperatures rise, soil will relinquish less carbon to atmosphere

November 18, 2014 8:26 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Here’s another reason to pay close attention to microbes: Current climate models probably overestimate the amount of carbon that will be released from soil into the atmosphere as global temperatures rise, according to research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. The findings are from a new computer model that explores the feedbacks between soil carbon and climate change.

Study: Polar bears disappearing from key region

November 17, 2014 5:01 pm | by Seth Borenstein - AP Science Writer - Associated Press | News | Comments

A key polar bear population fell nearly by half in the past decade, a new U.S.-Canada study found, with scientists seeing a dramatic increase in young cubs starving and dying. Researchers chiefly blame shrinking sea ice from global warming. Scientists from the U.S. Geological Survey and Environment Canada captured, tagged and released polar bears in the southern Beaufort Sea from 2001 to 2010.

New method for methanol processing could reduce carbon dioxide emissions

November 17, 2014 8:33 am | by Matthew Chin, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

Researchers at the Univ. of California, Los Angeles Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science have developed a more efficient way to turn methanol into useful chemicals, such as liquid fuels, and that would also reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Methanol, which is a product of natural gas, is well-known as a common “feedstock” chemical.

Plants have little wiggle room to survive drought

November 14, 2014 10:27 am | by Stuart Wolpert, Univ. of California, Los Angeles | News | Comments

Plants all over the world are more sensitive to drought than many experts realized, according to a new study by scientists at the Univ. of California, Los Angeles and China’s Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden. The research will improve predictions of which plant species will survive the increasingly intense droughts associated with global climate change.

Porous molecules bind greenhouse gases

November 14, 2014 7:54 am | by Lisa Merkl, Univ. of Houston | News | Comments

A team of Univ. of Houston chemistry researchers have developed a molecule that assembles spontaneously into a lightweight structure with microscopic pores capable of binding large quantities of several potent greenhouse gases. While carbon dioxide presents the biggest problem, several other compounds are hundreds or thousands of times more potent in their greenhouse effect per unit of mass.

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Lightning expected to increase by 50% with global warming

November 13, 2014 4:56 pm | by Robert Sanders, Univ. of California, Berkeley Media Relations | Videos | Comments

Today’s climate models predict a 50% increase in lightning strikes across the U.S. during this century as a result of warming temperatures associated with climate change. Reporting in Science, a team of climate scientists look at predictions of precipitation and cloud buoyancy in 11 different climate models and conclude that their combined effect will generate more frequent electrical discharges to the ground.

Subducting oceanic plates are thinning adjacent continents

November 13, 2014 4:28 pm | by Mike Williams, Rice Univ. | News | Comments

The continental margins of plates on either side of the Atlantic Ocean are thinner than expected, and an international team led by a Rice Univ. scientist is using an array of advanced tools to understand why. The viscous bottom layers of the continental shelves beneath the Gibraltar arc and northeastern South America are literally being pulled off by adjacent subducting oceanic plates.

2015 R&D 100 Awards entries now open

November 13, 2014 11:27 am | by Lindsay Hock, Managing Editor | News | Comments

The editors of R&D Magazine have announced the opening of the 2015 R&D 100 Awards entry process. The R&D 100 Awards have a 50 plus year history of awarding the 100 most technologically significant products of the year. Past winners have included sophisticated testing equipment, innovative new materials, chemistry breakthroughs, biomedical products, consumer items, high-energy physics and more.

Supercomputers enable climate science to enter a new golden age

November 13, 2014 7:59 am | by Julie Chao, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | Videos | Comments

Not long ago, it would have taken several years to run a high-resolution simulation on a global climate model. But using some of the most powerful supercomputers now available, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory climate scientist Michael Wehner was able to complete a run in just three months. Not only were the simulations much closer to actual observations, but the high-resolution models were far better at reproducing intense storms.

Common fracking chemicals no more toxic than household substances

November 12, 2014 4:15 pm | by Laura Snider, CU-Boulder Media Relations | News | Comments

The “surfactant” chemicals found in samples of fracking fluid collected in five states were no more toxic than substances commonly found in homes, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis by researchers at the Univ. of Colorado Boulder. Fracking fluid is largely comprised of water and sand, but oil and gas companies also add a variety of other chemicals, including surfactants.

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Robotic ocean gliders aid study of melting polar ice

November 12, 2014 8:18 am | by Jessica Stoller-Conrad, Caltech | News | Comments

The rapidly melting ice sheets on the coast of West Antarctica are a potential major contributor to rising ocean levels worldwide. Although warm water near the coast is thought to be the main factor causing the ice to melt, the process by which this water ends up near the cold continent is not well understood. Using robotic ocean gliders, Caltech researchers now have a better understanding of the cause.

Japan's nuclear cleanup stymied by water woes

November 12, 2014 6:58 am | by Mari Yamaguchi - Associated Press - Associated Press | News | Comments

More than three years into the massive cleanup of Japan's tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant, only a tiny fraction of the workers are focused on key tasks such as preparing for the dismantling of the broken reactors and removing radioactive fuel rods. Instead, nearly all the workers at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant are devoted to a single, enormously distracting problem: coping with the vast amount of contaminated water.

Climate worsening watery dead zones

November 11, 2014 9:55 am | by Associated Press, Seth Borenstein | News | Comments

Global warming is likely playing a bigger role than previously thought in dead zones in oceans, lakes and rivers around the world and it's only going to get worse, according to a new study. Dead zones occur when fertilizer runoff clogs waterways with nutrients, such as nitrogen and phosphorous. That leads to an explosion of microbes that consumes oxygen and leaves the water depleted of oxygen, harming marine life.

The missing piece of the climate puzzle

November 11, 2014 7:49 am | by Genevieve Wanucha | Program in Atmospheres Oceans and Climate | MIT | News | Comments

In classrooms and everyday conversation, explanations of global warming hinge on the greenhouse gas effect. In short, climate depends on the balance between two different kinds of radiation: The Earth absorbs incoming visible light from the sun, called “shortwave radiation,” and emits infrared light, or “longwave radiation,” into space.

Unexpected findings change the picture of sulfur on early Earth

November 10, 2014 8:20 am | by Kimm Fesenmaier, Caltech | News | Comments

Scientists believe that until about 2.4 billion years ago there was little oxygen in the atmosphere. Evidence in support of this hypothesis comes from studies of sulfur isotopes preserved in the rock record. But the sulfur isotope story has been uncertain because of the lack of key information that has now been provided by a new analytical technique developed by a team of Caltech geologists and geochemists.

Wind energy reaches greater heights

November 6, 2014 3:14 pm | by Rob Matheson, MIT | News | Comments

Wind turbines across the globe are being made taller to capture more energy from the stronger winds that blow at greater heights. But it’s not easy, or sometimes even economically feasible, to build taller towers, with shipping constraints on tower diameters and the expense involved in construction.

Synthetic fish measures wild ride through dams

November 5, 2014 8:31 am | by Frances White, PNNL | News | Comments

In the Pacific Northwest, young salmon must dodge predatory birds, sea lions and more in their perilous trek toward the ocean. Hydroelectric dams don't make the trip any easier, with their manmade currents sweeping fish past swirling turbines and other obstacles. Despite these challenges, most juvenile salmon survive this journey every year.

Thirdhand smoke: Toxic airborne pollutants linger long after the smoke clears

November 4, 2014 2:47 pm | by Julie Chao, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Ever walked into a hotel room and smelled old cigarette smoke? While the last smoker may have left the room hours or even days ago, the lingering odors are thanks to thirdhand smoke. Scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, who have made important findings on the dangers of thirdhand smoke and how it adsorbs strongly onto indoor surfaces, have published a new study assessing the health effects of thirdhand smoke constituents.

Scientists identify new driver behind Arctic warming

November 4, 2014 8:45 am | by Dan Krotz, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory | News | Comments

Scientists have identified a mechanism that could be a big contributor to warming in the Arctic region and melting sea ice. The research was led by scientists from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. They studied a long-wavelength region of the electromagnetic spectrum called far infrared. It’s invisible to our eyes but accounts for about half the energy emitted by the Earth’s surface. This process balances out incoming solar energy.

Distillers grains with calcium oxide improve cattle diets

November 4, 2014 8:08 am | by Darrin Pack, Purdue Univ. | News | Comments

Research by Purdue Univ. scientist Jon Schoonmaker and his colleagues has shown that small amounts of calcium oxide can neutralize the acid in distillers grains, a commonly used alternative to corn in many livestock feed mixes. The findings are good news for beef producers hoping to provide a more nutritious, better balanced diet to their animals while keeping their feed budgets manageable.

New way to make batteries safer

November 3, 2014 4:51 pm | by Anne Trafton, MIT News Office | News | Comments

Every year, nearly 4,000 children go to emergency rooms after swallowing button batteries, the flat, round batteries that power toys, hearing aids, calculators and many other devices. Ingesting these batteries has severe consequences, including burns that permanently damage the esophagus, tears in the digestive tract and, in some cases, even death.

Lack of oxygen delayed the appearance of animals on Earth

November 1, 2014 6:46 pm | by Jim Shelton, Yale Univ. | News | Comments

Geologists are letting the air out of a nagging mystery about the development of animal life on Earth. Scientists have long speculated as to why animal species didn’t flourish sooner, once sufficient oxygen covered the Earth’s surface.

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