Thursday, April 30, 2009

Great Wall of China longer than believed as 180 missing miles found

The Great Wall of China is even greater than once thought, after a two-year government mapping study uncovered new sections totalling about 180 miles, according to a report posted on the website of the country's national mapping agency.

Using infrared range finders and GPS devices, experts discovered portions of the wall concealed by hills, trenches and rivers that stretch from Hu Shan mountain in northern Liaoning province to Jiayu Pass in western Gansu province, the official China Daily reported

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Monday, April 27, 2009

GPS on tankers to check water theft

RAJKOT, India: Rajkot Municipal Corporation (RMC) has decided to fit GPS on water tankers that supply drinking water to the city. This has been done to check rampant water theft. Officials of RMC said that in many areas of the city, drinking water is still provided through tankers but before the water can reach its destination, some people take it out and sell it at a premium. This has been going on for a long time. A Pune-based agency has shown its willingness to make the GPS systems at a low cost . Dinesh Brahambhatt, municipal commissioner of the city, said, "Every system costs Rs 20,000 but the Pune company will make it at Rs 6,000 for RMC. We will buy 50 such systems initially." Once this system is fitted on a tanker, it will be possible to track the route, amount of water filled and water supplied at a particular place. If the tanker goes on an unassigned route, then it will immediately give out a signal and beep.

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California's low-carbon fuel standard has oil companies anxious

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Plants could override climate change effects on wildfires

Scientists predict that global climate change will make many regions around the world warmer and drier, a factor which, taken by itself, would seem to increase the risk of wildfires.

But a new study led by a Montana State University researcher shows that changes in the types of vegetation covering an area play a major role in determining how often that area is burned by fires and could even counteract the effects of changes in temperature and moisture.In the study, MSU earth sciences post-doctoral researcher Philip Higuera and his colleagues show that the risk of wildfires can be either reduced or increased by changes in the distribution and abundance of plants. The study will be published in the May issue of the journal Ecological Monographs.

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Largest disease association database ever

 A team of researchers from Northeastern University and Harvard University has created a map summarising disease associations expressed in a population of more than 30 million people. Using a database of insurance claims, the researchers have created the largest disease network database ever built.

Reflected by the Phenotypic Disease Network map, the study found that patients affected by diseases that are connected to other diseases tended to die sooner than those affected by less connected diseases.

The authors have made the network data publicly available through an interactive website (

“Mapping disease networks using digital medical records dramatically change the way we understand diseases in general,” said César A. Hidalgo, researcher at the Center for International Development at Harvard University and lead author of the study. “Disease networks can also be used to inform patients of diseases they may be at risk of developing based on the patient’s medical history. This opens new potential applications and opportunities for digital medical records.”

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Saturday, April 18, 2009

How much energy can algae produce?

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Lack of permanent Arctic ice surprises explorers

The head of a British team walking to the North Pole on a mission to gauge how fast Arctic ice sheets are melting said on Friday he was surprised by how little permanent ice he had found so far.

Pen Hadow and two other adventurers set off in early March on a 1,000-km (620-mile) trek from Canada's Arctic to the North Pole. The team was set down in an area where scientists had been sure there would be permanent multiyear ice.

But so far, the average depth of the ice has been just under 1.8 meters (6 feet), suggesting they are finding predominantly new first-year ice that is likely to melt in summer months.
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Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Biomass energy 'could be harmful'

Biomass power - such as burning wood for energy - could do more harm than good in the battle to reduce greenhouse gases, UK's Environment Agency warns. 

Ploughing up pasture to plant energy crops could produce more CO2 by 2030 than burning fossil fuels, if not done in a sustainable way, it said. Its study found waste wood and MDF produced the lowest emissions, unlike willow, poplar and oil seed rape.

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Monday, April 13, 2009

Japan kills 680 Antarctic whales, below target

Japan's whaling catch in its latest Antarctic hunt fell far short of its target after disruptions by anti-whaling activists, the Fisheries Agency said on Monday.

Japan, which considers whaling to be a cherished cultural tradition, killed 679 minke whales despite plans to catch around 850. It caught just one fin whale compared with a target of 50 in the hunt that began in November.

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

U.S. to upgrade volcano, earthquake monitoring

U.S. government will spend $15.2 million to modernize equipment for monitoring U.S. volcanoes and improve warning systems.

The United States and its territories have 169 active volcanoes, and 54 of them need improved monitoring so scientists can warn the public about explosive disruptions, alert aircraft to ash clouds and inform communities of falling ash, lava and mud flows. March 22 eruption of the Mount Redoubt volcano, 106 miles southwest of Anchorage, Alaska, showed the need for adequate monitoring.When the Redoubt volcano erupted 19 years ago, a Boeing 747 passenger airliner flew into its ash cloud and nearly crashed.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Obama climate adviser open to geo-engineering to tackle global warming

The global warming situation has become so dire that Barack Obama's chief scientific adviser has raised with the president the possibility of massive-scale technological fixes to alter the climate known as 'geo-engineering'. John Holdren, who is a member of the president's cabinet, said today the drastic measures should not be "off the table" in discussions on how best to tackle climate change. While his office insisted that he was not proposing a dramatic switch in policy, Holdren said geo-engineering could not be ruled out.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Climate Change To Spur Rapid Shifts In Wildfire Hotspot

Climate change will bring about major shifts in worldwide fire patterns, and those changes are coming fast, according to a first-of-its-kind analysis led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, in collaboration with scientists at Texas Tech University.

The findings are reported in the April 8 issue of PLoS ONE, an open-access, peer-reviewed journal of the Public Library of Science.

Researchers used thermal-infrared sensor data obtained between 1996 and 2006 from European Space Agency satellites in their study of pyrogeography – the distribution and behavior of wildfire – on a global scale. They not only got a global view of where wildfires occur, but they determined the common environmental characteristics associated with the risk of those fires. They then incorporated those variables into projections for how future climate scenarios will impact wildfire occurrence worldwide.

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Monday, April 6, 2009

Indian maps available for Garmin GPS

New Delhi, India: MapmyIndia, India's map and GPS navigation services provider, has announced that users of Garmin GPS devices can now install MapmyIndia’s highly detailed and accurate India maps on their devices. With this new development Garmin device users will have access to maps of 202 cities, 130,000 towns and villages, 450,000 point of interests, and navigate to 640,000 unique reachable destinations across India. Garmin device users – especially foreign travellers to India – who have so far been unable to make full use of their GPS devices, can now use MapmyIndia maps to make travel in India, safe, secure and stress free.

With the launch of maps for Garmin devices, MapmyIndia has opened a new market in India for retailing of maps for GPS devices popular in other countries. Till now users could buy GPS devices abroad but these became almost useless because of a lack of exhaustive and accurate maps dataset in India. The availability of MapmyIndia’s maps for Garmin GPS devices provides them the familiarity of the Garmin device interface with India’s most exhaustive navigable GPS data set powering it.

The MapmyIndia maps for Garmin devices are available at INR 7000 (MRP). The maps can be bought online at MapmyIndia customer care will take users through the process of installing MapmyIndia maps on their devices.

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Friday, April 3, 2009

Black Carbon Responsible for Half of Arctic Warming

An article published  in Nature Geoscience shows that black carbon is responsible for 50 percent, Arctic warming from 1890 to 2007. The paper by Drew Shindell of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space (GISS) and Greg Faluvegi of Columbia University also notes that most of the Arctic warming occurred from 1976 to 2007.

The study is the first to quantify the Arctic’s sensitivity to black carbon emissions from various latitudes, and concludes that the Arctic responds strongly to black carbon emissions from the Northern Hemisphere mid-latitudes, where the emissions and the forcing are greatest.Black carbon is an aerosol produced from the incomplete combustion of fossil fuels and biomass and is estimated to be the second or third largest contributor to climate change. Its emissions cause damage in two ways: while in the atmosphere, the dark particulates absorb sunlight and emit it as heat; when it falls back to earth it can darken snow and ice, reducing their reflectivity and accelerating melting. Arctic warming is more than twice the observed global average surface warming above pre-industrial levels. According to another study published by Lenton, et al. in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences last year, this increased warming may soon lead to the disappearance of the Arctic summer ice, which would in turn accelerate Arctic warming by exposing darker heat-absorbing water now covered by heat reflecting ice. This would also increase the risk of releasing methane and other greenhouse gases from permafrost and from methane hydrates in the ocean, which could lead to a runaway feedback process.The mission of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development is to promote just and sustainable societies and to protect the environment by advancing the understanding, development and implementation of effective, accountable and democratic systems of governance for sustainable development. The Institute brings together professionals from around the world who are committed to strengthening environmental law and institutions to promote sustainable development. For more information on the Institute, please visit