30 August 2007
Astronomers examining a microwave anomaly in the area of the constellation Eridanus, southwest of Orion, report having discovered a massive void, far larger than anything seen or theorized to date. The empty space, more than 1 billion light-years in diameter, contains no galaxies, stars or visible nebula, and appears to lack even dark matter. [Full Story]
PINK SOLAR CELLS CAN PRODUCE POWER AT 25% OF CURRENT COST
As environmental groups, lobbyists and the general public push for more environmentally friendly industrial practices, scientists are finding innovative ways to bring down costs and increase the efficiency of renewable resources. The dye-sensitive solar cells (DSSC), with a pinkish sheen, now being developed at Ohio State University, are an example of the type of engineering innovation that could bring about a genuine green-power revolution. [Full Story]
Through the 'Think' project, Casavaria [Sentido's publisher] aims to develop major new technologies to help bring the costly aspects of everyday post-industrial life in line with what the planet, and civilization itself, can sustain. The project seeks to reduce instability in technology for communication and to develop an entirely new sort of renewable "fuel" source. [Full Story]
GEOTHERMAL: WEST DIGS DEEP FOR THE NEXT BIG THING IN POWER
Geothermal energy is increasingly being touted by scientists and researchers as one of the most efficient and environmentally friendly sources of power available. Currently, geothermal sources supply enough energy, 2,800 megawatts, to run 2.8 million American homes. [Full Story]
A RISING TIDE OF RECOGNITION THAT CLIMATE CHANGE IS HUMAN-INDUCED
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change declared last week that global warming and climate change is linked directly to human activities. The UN-based group, made up of 2500 of the world’s foremost scientists working on climate change convened again for the first time since 2001 to discuss the issue with more urgency to the global community. [Full Story]
NUCLEAR SCIENTISTS HAVE MOVED DOOMSDAY CLOCK FORWARD, WARNING OF 'NEW NUCLEAR AGE'
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has moved the minute hand on the figurative 'Doomsday Clock' forward 2 minutes, from 7 minutes to Midnight to 5 minutes to midnight. The figurative clock measures the possibility of major threats to civilization bringing about the end of continuity in human society, and was initiated due to the threat from nuclear weapons. [Full Story]
BIOMETRIC DEVICES MAY UNDERMINE INDIVIDUAL LIBERTY
In the wake of major terrorist attacks against densely populated civilian centers in several countries across Europe, Asia and America, governments and private industry are looking at ways of using biometric scanning technology to determine who should or should not have access to certain locations and services. The technology is complicated and highly advanced, but unproven, and potentially highly flawed. [Full Story]
INDIA TO PUSH FOR POLIO ERADICATION
In late September, India announced it was planning an aggressive campaign to halt the spread of polio, a paralyzing disease nearly eradicated worldwide a decade ago. The plans came after official reports showed 5 times as many new cases in the first 9 months of 2006 as in all of 2005, with about 90% of the 297 new cases concentrated in Uttar Pradesh state alone. [Full Story]
NEW MICROWAVE ENGINE APPLIES THEORY OF RELATIVITY
A new breakthrough in propulsion technology may enable a fuel-free engine with no moving parts to use microwaves to push satellites through space and automobiles on earth. The science is complicated and controversial, but appears to be sound and takes advantage of Einstein's landmark theory of relativity to turn contained microwaves into a propulsion system, in the form of a non-mechanical engine. [Full Story]
PHYSICISTS IN JAPAN PLAN TO CREATE NEW UNIVERSE IN LAB
A radical new project could permit human beings to create a "baby universe" in a laboratory in Japan. While it sounds like a dangerous undertaking, the physicists involved believe that if the project is successful, the space-time around a tiny point within our universe will be distorted in such a way that it will begin to form a new superfluid space, and eventually break off, separate in all respects from our experience of space and time, causing no harm to the fabric of our universe. [Full Story]
QUANTUM STABILITY FROM GRAPHENE'S 'PERFECT' CRYSTAL FILM
Philip Ball reports in the New Scientist that discoveries in the quantum properties of graphene, a single-atom-thick sheets of interlinked carbon atoms may hold the secret to superfast computing, beyond the physical capacity of silicon. The unique material is obtained by flaking or peeling individual sheets away from graphite. [Full Story]
BEYOND THE BIG BANG, THE MEMBRANE MULTIVERSE
The 'universe' we know as all-encompassing may actually be just one of many such distinct self-contained, self-sustaining phenomena, with distinct physical properties and corresponding physical laws and tendencies, unified membrane cosmologies adrift in a 'superfluid' soup, at times colliding with incredible energy diffusion, creating whole new universes. [Full Story]
Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC) is to introduce an amendment to legislation currently under debate, which would restrict the executive branch's ability to gag scientists, manipulate their findings or demote those who disagree with official policy. The legislation would also require that scientists appointed to investigatory panels be selected for their credentials, not their political views. [Full Story]
SCIENCE ABOVE TECHNOCRACY, FOR A FULLER FUTURE
Science is in many ways an artform, but it is specifically and most importantly, the art of knowledge. It is not philosophy, not a study of how knowledge comes about, what it is, whether it can be trusted or whether we need to adjust our thinking; it is, instead, a direct study of the natural world, its tendencies, its evidence, and its capacity to work with us, for us and around us. [Full Story]
GOV'T POLICY UNLAWFULLY CRIMINALIZES COMMENT ON SCIENTIFIC FACT
The global environment is, of course, a global issue, one that touches every life on the planet, and the science about it should be open and available to all. Past government policy and existing federal law mean that such scientific evidence should be readily available to the public. But now, it appears that several agencies are laboring to silence scientists who are researching climate trends and alterations. [Full Story]
As nations across the world either brace for what is now seen as the inevitable spread of the H5N1 strain of avian influenza, which has proven deadly to a high percentage of the few human beings who have contracted the virus, some are taking aim at migratory birds. But wild birds might not be the most likely means of delivery for the aggressive virus. [Full Story]
SCIENCE SAYS EVOLUTION WORKS
The journal Science, in selecting its breakthrough of the year, decided to feature a series of scientific advances demonstrating how evolution works. At the end of a year that has seen a growing marginal movement in the US to displace evolution as mere conjecture in favor of the untested, religiously based "intelligent design" argument, Science intends to proactively defend science, as such. [Full Story]
A new study, conducted at the University of Pennsylvania, by Sean Polyn, PhD, and reported today in the journal Science, demonstrates that memory is the brain's effort to return to a past state. It is not simply a recalling of fact or envisioning of the past, but rather a mechanism by which the brain recreates the chemical and neurological state of its organization at a past time. [Full Story]
AIDS KILLED MORE THAN 3 MILLION IN 2005
The human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV) and its deadly end-stage syndrome, AIDS, killed at least 3 million people in 2005. HIV also infected 5 million new people around the world, the largest single increase on record, though similar numbers were reported for 2003. The pandemic is still extremely deadly and is still spreading. [Full Story]
OXFORD'S LORD MAY SAYS SCIENCE ENTERING 'DANGEROUS TIMES'
Top British scientist says "Fundamentalism is hampering global efforts to tackle climate change". Lord May used his departing speech as president of the Royal Society to warn researchers, policy-makers and the public that science is under attack from fundamentalist tendencies and organizations, even as it faces "non-linear" biological, environmental and political threats. [Full Story]
WHY WIND IS SMARTER
Wind energy offers something no carbon-based fuel can offer: zero emissions, zero cleanup, local control and reasonable local supply everywhere on Earth, and it is 100% non-climate disruptive and essentially infinitely renewable. In fact, the overall global wind resource far exceeds our capacity even to harness or to use it. As of 2003, Pentagon-commissioned research had found that just 3 wind-rich midwestern states possess sufficient wind resources to power the entire US economy with existing wind-turbine technology. [Full Story]
GATES ANNOUNCES PLANS TO REPLACE PAPER WITH SILICON
Bill Gates is busy dreaming of new inroads (into your everyday life) for his company as computer technology becomes faster, cheaper, more ubiquitous. He told a London audience that the static format of paper would be replaced by paper-thin digital wireless devices, always online, within 10 years. [Full Story]
LUNG CANCER KILLS NON-SMOKERS TOO
Lung cancer is one of the most dangerous and widespread diseases in the United States. An estimated 170,000 Americans will be diagnosed with lung cancer this year. Six in ten will die within one year, and eight in ten will die within the first two years after being diagnosed.
It is commonly assumed that only smokers develop lung cancer, because the habit so drastically increases the likelihood of diagnosis. But as many as 17% of new diagnoses are made for lifelong non-smokers. [Full Story]
IS YOUR CEREAL BROADCASTING YOUR SECRETS?
How much do you know about your cereal, and how much does it know about you? What about your money, your passport, your boarding pass? These are just some of the items in your personal sphere which may soon be broadcasting radio frequencies, testifying to your habits and your movement. RFID, or Radio Frequency IDentification technology, is the reason why.
Various private firms are currently researching, designing, producing and selling RFID chips similar to a grain of rice in size and shape, which can be implanted in human beings in order to verify their identity. This is not a far-fetched paranoiac vision of the future; it is actually happening, and the powers that be are excited about it. [Full Story]
BILINGUAL MINDS ARE BETTER GUARDED AGAINST AGING
A new study shows that people who speak two languages from the age of 10 are more resistant to mental deterioration associated with aging. The study focuses on the fact that "crystallized intelligence", or early-learned habitual knowledge, is better retained than other intellectual capabilities. The findings seem to indicate that having two distinct cognitive resources for organizing information about the world trains the bilingual mind to focus on multiple stimuli with more ease, and to respond to their environment more efficiently. [Full Story]
TRANSIT OF VENUS
For the first time in 122 years, the planet Venus passed in front of the Sun in a phenomenon known as the transit. It was visible as a small round spot slowly passing across the disc of the Sun, and has not been seen by any living human being. The phenomenon was first witnessed in 1639, seen by only two people in the world. Astronomers remind that, like a full eclipse, it is dangerous to look directly at the Sun. [For more: BBC]
POSSIBLE TENTH PLANET: SEDNA
Scientists have discovered an icy red planetoid, 3x beyond the orbit of Pluto, which they say may be the 10th planet in our solar system. The object is smaller than most planets, and has been described by some as resembling an asteroid. Some have even speculated its discovery might place in jeopardy the planetary status of Pluto. Sedna is a cold place, far enough away from the Sun, that the Sun would appear as a bright star from that distance. [For more: SFGate | The Age]
HUBBLE PROGRAM TO BE ABANDONDED
The program to maintain and upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope will no longer be funded by the NASA budget, according to a ruling made by NASA Administrator Sean O'Keefe. The decision sparked a backlash of criticism and second-guessing, with many astronauts saying they had and would again risk their lives to maintain Hubble. The telescope has been called "the greatest instrument that ever was" and has produced more revolutionary discoveries in astronomy than any other single device. [Full Story]
NASA has announced it will no longer fund maintenance for the Hubble telescope. While the cost of maintaining and refurbishing the telescope is high, its scientific yield is virtually without parallel. Many of the most important discoveries in astronomy in recent years have been achieved through use of the Hubble. It is now thought that the telescope has only a 50% chance of surviving till 2007. [Full Story]
'SPIRIT' ROVER DEPARTS LANDER TO EXPLORE
NASA's pioneering Mars rover has now successfully 'egressed' from its landing apparatus, and was tentatively set in motion across the Martian surface. Photographs already returned from the rover are the clearest ever achieved of another planet's surface, and are said to mark a great moment in the history of human exploration. Scientists are seeking evidence of an ancient presence of water, and the possible existence of frozen seas or underwater reservoirs, where there might be evidence of extraterrestrial microbial life.
BUSH ANNOUNCES PLANS FOR SPACE EXPLORATION
President Bush today announced that his administration will begin planning for a new revival of space exploration. The plans as outlined include enhancement of the International Space Station project, the creation of a new space-travel vehicle (the Crew Exploration Vehicle), designed to carry human beings into space, to the Moon, and eventually to Mars. The plan, while ambitious, employs a long time-frame, not inaugurating the new vehicle until 2014 and not seeking a Moon-landing until 2020.
The plan includes an ambitious strategy to build the first human colony on the Moon. From this colony, the President wants the space program to then gain the information necessary to carry human beings on to Mars. The Moon base would be used to conduct research for the creation of advanced propulsion and life-support systems required for long-distance, manned space flight. [Full Story]
NEW EVIDENCE OF DANGER FOR WOMEN WHO SMOKE
A new study indicates that women who smoke are 2.7 times as likely to develop lung cancer as men. According to NBC Nightly News, the new study shows that women are smoking, and starting to smoke, at higher rates than men, and that their risk is significantly higher. [Full Story]
The Big Bang theory posits that a single cataclismic explosion initiated our universe, and that this same event gave rise to the expansion and differentiation which describe the physics of nature as we know it. The Multiverse variation of this theory proposes the possibility that the Big Bang was one in a long series of such beginnings, which mark the eruption of an entirely new universe out from an older one. [Full Story]
Current biotechnology research is working on the tracing of genetic markers, certain genes which show statistical coincidence with higher rates of certain diseases. Without legislation to prevent abuse of this information, without what would amount to the most sweeping privacy protections yet explicitly passed into law, an industry of discrimination is thought the likely result of this research. [Full Story]
The President of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute has called for a comprehensive cleanup initiative in Iraq, aimed at reducing the danger posed by Depleted Uranium, left over from artillery shells launched against Basra, Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.
According to Dr. Helen Caldicott, founder of the NPRI, Uranium 238, the radioactive isotope present in Depleted Uranium, has a half-life of 4.5 billion years. That means that the level of radioactivity of the molecules in a mass of Depleted Uranium will be halved only after 4.5 billion years. This means that land contaminated with DU spilled from exploding artillery shells, used by the US military against enemy tanks, artillery depots and fortifications, will still be radioactive and uninhabitable 4.5 billion years from now. [Full Story]
CYANIDE SPILL POISONS ROMANIAN RIVER
Romania's Siret River, a tributary of the Danube, is now reported to be contaminated by cyanide. The chemicals involved in the spill leaked from a deactivated chemical processing plant, where storage conditions may not have been up to international standards. Estimates are that "10 tons of toxic substances leaked into the river", according to Ioan Jelev, of Romania's Environment Ministry. [For more: Reuters]
THE SIXTH GREAT EXTINCTION: A Status Report
Almost 440 million years ago, some 85 percent of marine animal species were wiped out in the earth's first known mass extinction. Roughly 367 million years ago, once again many species of fish and 70 percent of marine invertebrates perished in a major extinction event. Then about 245 million years ago, up to 95 percent of all animalsnearly the entire animal kingdomwere lost in what is thought to be the worst extinction in history.
... After each extinction, it took upwards of 10 million years for biological richness to recover. Yet once a species is gone, it is gone forever.
The consensus among biologists is that we now are moving toward another mass extinction that could rival the past big five. This potential sixth great extinction is unique in that it is caused largely by the activities of a single species. It is the first mass extinction that humans will witness firsthandand not just as innocent bystanders. [More EPI at EcoVaria.com]
MACAL RIVER VALLEY FACES DAM PERIL
A project in the works between the Belize government and a Canadian corporation to dam the Macal River. The dam would flood 22 miles of the valley's pristine habitat, considered indispensable for various endangered species, "including Morelet's crocodiles, tapirs, jaguars, and the last 200 birds remaining in a local subspecies of scarlet macaw." (BioGems) The government of Belize sidestepped public hearings (required by law) and conducted no critical review of the project's environmental assessment, which experts say is suspect in its findings.
The London-based assessment company has reportedly been contracted to participate in the construction of the dam, which suggests improper dealings and undermines public confidence in the project itself. Observers also speculate that the project as planned would not significantly improve the energy market in Belize and would therefore not decrease costs to consumers, considered the only long-term governmental justification for damming. [For more: BioGems]
MERCURY HOTSPOTS THREATEN PUBLIC HEALTH
In November, the Center for Science and Environment published a report indicating that India is on the brink of an environmental disaster, due to mercury-contaminated hotspots. The report says according to UNEP "chlor-alkali industries located on river basins in eastern India have released 60-320 times more mercury than the permissible limit into the rivers". Mercury is a contaminant of particular concern for opponents of pollution credits, because it accumulates, is highly toxic in all its forms, and penetrates into the food web through fish, water and plantlife. [For more: CSE Press Release]