Sunday, May 31, 2009

Watermelons Tapped For Ethanol

With their sweet, refreshing juices and succulent interior, watermelons are a favorite summertime treat, especially around July 4th. But now this Independence Day favorite could become even more of a patriotic commodity.

Agricultural Research Service (ARS) studies in Lane, Okla., have shown that simple sugars in watermelon juice can be made into ethanol. In 2007, growers harvested four billion pounds of watermelon for fresh and cut-fruit markets. Around 800 million pounds--or 20 percent of the total--were left in fields because of external blemishes or deformities.

Now, instead of being plowed under, such melons could get an economic "new lease on life" as ethanol. Normally, this biofuel is produced from cane crops like corn, sorghum or sugarcane as a cleaner-burning alternative to gasoline. The watermelon work reflects a national push by ARS to diversify America's "portfolio" of biofuel crops that can diminish the reliance on petroleum, especially from foreign suppliers.Chemist Wayne Fish's ethanol studies at the ARS South Central Agricultural Research Laboratory in Lane complement ongoing research there to commercially extract lycopene and citrulline from the crop. Both are valued nutraceutical compounds thought to promote cardiovascular and other health benefits.In publication-pending studies, Fish showed ethanol can be fermented from the glucose, fructose and sucrose in waste-stream juices--what's left after lycopene and citrulline are extracted. Making ethanol offers the potential benefits of helping to defray sewage treatment costs associated with nutraceutical extraction, and providing watermelon growers with a new market for their crop.On average, a 20-pound watermelon will yield about 1.4 pounds of sugar from the flesh and rind, from which about seven-tenths of a pound of ethanol can be derived. To extract all the possible sugars, Fish is seeking to degrade the rind with chemical and enzyme treatments. He's also evaluating different combination of temperatures, yeasts, antifoaming agents and pH levels to optimize the system.Lane scientists also are examining annual ryegrass, sorghum and other crops that could be rotated with watermelons to furnish processing plants with a year-round supply of nutraceuticals or ethanol.


Thursday, May 28, 2009

NASA Supercomputers Advance State of the Art of Ocean Circulation Modeling

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Astronomers probe close to supermassive black hole's edge

stronomers have used new data from ESA's (European Space Agency's) XMM-Newton spaceborne observatory, to probe closer than ever to a supermassive black hole lying deep at the core of a distant active galaxy.

The galaxy - known as 1H0707-495 - was observed during four 48-hr-long orbits of XMM-Newton around Earth, starting in January 2008.

The black hole at its center was thought to be partially obscured from view by intervening clouds of gas and dust, but these current observations have revealed the innermost depths of the galaxy.

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Greenland ice could fuel severe U.S. sea level rise

New York, Boston and other cities on North America's northeast coast could face a rise in sea level this century that would exceed forecasts for the rest of the planet if Greenland's ice sheet keeps melting as fast as it is now, researchers said on Wednesday.

Sea levels off the northeast coast of North America could rise by 12 to 20 inches more than other coastal areas if the Greenland glacier-melt continues to accelerate at its present pace, the researchers reported.This is because the current rate of ice-melting in Greenland could send so much fresh water into the salty north Atlantic Ocean that it could change the vast ocean circulation pattern sometimes called the conveyor belt. Scientists call this pattern the meridional overturning circulation.

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Tuesday, May 26, 2009

IIT Mumbai’s low-cost GIS software for resource management

MUMBAI, India: The Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) here has developed a low-cost Geographic Information System (GIS) software which can be used for resource management by community development programmes, government sectors, NGOs and industries. "The software is now made commercially available so that developing countries could make optimal use of their resources," Dr Parvatham Venkatachalam of IIT said. The software will be distributed in the market by Bhugol GIS Pvt Ltd under the Society for Innovation and Entrepreneurship of IIT. The software is a GIS planning tool and is tailor-made for users with wide range of operations such as map database creation, query and retrieval, analysis and visualization. Giving examples of some of its uses, Venkatachalam said, "The software can help calculate the shortest route, locate the most vulnerable areas in flood prone Mumbai before every monsoon, indicate what crop a farmer can cultivate in his land so that he gets better yield or what is the optimal location for building a water harvesting structure in a village."

Source :

IIT-Kanpur to launch nano satellite by December

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Friday, May 22, 2009

Owls replace pesticides in Israel

Many farmers are installing nest boxes to encourage the birds, which hunt the crop-damaging rodents. 

In Israel, where there is a drive to reduce the use of toxic chemical pesticides, this has been turned into a government-funded national programme. Scientists and conservation charities from Jordan and Palestine have joined the scheme.

According to the charity BirdLife International, hundreds of birds of prey - including many endangered species - have been killed in Israel through eating rodents containing poisonous "rodenticides" sprayed on to crop fields.


Bangalore sewerage board implements GIS in core area 14 May 2009

Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) has implemented GIS in the core city area. This is the biggest e-governance initiative of the Board and it will take another two years to complete the entire BBMP limits. The GIS will help BWSSB to store, access, query and analyse data, which in turn will help to take quick management decisions.The BWSSB has been working on the GIS for the last seven years. So far, the board has updated all details covering the 229 sq km of the core city and is in process of dovetailing the GIS with revenue billing, employee database and other details. According to the BWSSB officials, the data related to the newly added areas of the city would be updated in the GIS by 2011. GIS performs four kinds of operations — data integration, data storage, data processing and data outputs. Data processing includes data viewing, data querying, data crossover and spatial analysis.At present, 22 layers of information are available with BWSSB. The most important among them are water supply features like water pipes, valves, reservoirs, fire hydrants, and pumping and sewage features like sewers, manholes, connections in cross roads, consumers, administrative boundaries and BWSSB offices.GIS provides solutions to implementing a sustainable and durable water supply and sewerage network management information system, and acquiring geographic description and analytical knowledge of BWSSB’s assets, both over ground and underground.
Source :

Puducherry embarks on 'mapping work' for census 13 May 2009

Puducherry, India: The Directorate of Census Operations of Puducherry government has introduced 'mapping work' to prepare the census pertaining to the areas within the municipality.Assistant Director of Census Operations said the work for updating the existing maps was introduced by associating students of Motilal Nehru Government Polytechnic College as 'temporary investigators'.They would collect details of street names, door number of the buildings, type of houses, number of floors, purpose of their use, total population and other miscellaneous remarks. The students collecting the details would be supervised by the officials of the Census Directorate.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Israel, China to map the world

 Survey of Israel – the National Agency for Geodesy, Cadastre, Mapping and Geographic Information – has signed an agreement for cooperation with the Chinese government's Bureau of Surveying and Mapping. The deal was signed as part of the International Federation of Surveyors (FIG) convention which is being held in Eilat this week and is attended by some 600 representatives from Israel and more than 60 other countries. The deal signed Monday was an agreement on principles for the cooperation, which will be defined in detail during talks held in the near future. This was the first agreement of its kind to be signed between the Chinese Mapping Center and a Western body.The agreement will lead to technological cooperation between the two countries in all mapping fields, including mapping via satellite, mapping of the earth, satellite mapping for GPS, mapping of automatic processes related to geographic processes, real estate mapping, etc. The head of the Chinese organization stressed that one of its main goals was to sign similar agreements with the West. The director of Survey of Israel briefed the Chinese guests on the fields the center deals with, and future cooperation was discussed. Source :

Astronauts complete tricky Hubble surgery

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Saturday, May 16, 2009

Hurricane intensity forecasting remains a puzzle

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Algae may help corals withstand warmer waters

Certain types of algae can help corals withstand higher sea temperatures and prevent them from bleaching, scientists in Australia have found.

Coral reefs are vulnera"le to climate change and without rapid genetic adaptation, they will not survive projected sea temperature increases over the next 50 years, experts say.But in an article published in latest issue of the Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, the researchers said they may have found an answer to why some corals continue to thrive in warmer waters when others die.The answer appears to lie in a heat-tolerant single-celled algae which lives in coral tissue, said Ray Berkelmans at the Australian Institute of Marine Science.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Fears of collapse as coral reefs feel the heat

 THE most spectacular stretch of coral reefs on the planet is in danger of collapse from climate change, overfishing and pollution, according to a report being presented today at the World Oceans Conference in Indonesia.

Scientists consider the region known as the "coral triangle" to be the centre of marine life on Earth, teeming with fish and almost one-third of the world's coral reefs. Covering 1 per cent of the planet from South-East Asia to the Pacific, the area also supports about 100 million people.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Scientists expecting massive iceberg from glacier crack

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Changes In The Sun Are Not Causing Global Warming

A troubling hypothesis about how the sun may impact global warming is finally laid to rest.

Carnegie Mellon University's Peter Adams along with Jeff Pierce from Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada, have developed a model to test a controversial hypothesis that says changes in the sun are causing global warming.

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Sunday, May 10, 2009

Styrofoam to Power Biodiesel Engines

Scientists study found that by dissolving polystyrene packing peanuts in biodiesel, scientists can actually increase the power output of the fuel, while finding a solution to disposing of the material at the same time. The polystyrene, a polymer used to make disposable styrofoam, can be dissolved into biodiesel at a concentration of 2 to 20 percent, though power output tends to decrease as polystyrene concentration increases. Although plastic doesn’t break down easily in petroleum-based diesel, it breaks down almost instantly in biodiesel.

Iowa State University researchers Najeeb Kuzhiyil and Song-Charng Kong tested the polystyrene-biodiesel blend in a tractor engine. They found that power output increased as polystyrene concentrations increased to 5 percent. After 5 percent, however, power output tended to drop off as the polymer increased the biodiesel’s viscosity.

When the fluid gets too viscous, it doesn’t completely combust in the engine, leading to a power output decrease and potential for overheating of the fuel injection pump.Though it is usually more energy efficient to recycle trash rather than convert it to fuel, polystyrene may be an exception as it’s not as easily recycled, economically speaking, in the industry. This makes the material a likely candidate for fuel conversion.While the biodiesel mix has both environmental and economic advantages, it is not free of problems. As the concentration of polystyrene in the mix increases, so do the emissions of carbon monoxide, soot and nitrous oxides, which don’t completely burn off in the engine. The study co-authors hope to refine the engine’s fuel injection system to yield a more complete burn and fewer emissions.


Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Saving Seahorses: Marine Biologists Work To Protect Seahorses By Developing A Breeding Program

Marine biologists, worried that regular harvesting of wild seahorses may threaten the creature with extinction, have begun breeding them in home aquariums. Caring for seahorses requires a three-step water filtration process, three feedings a day, and careful temperature and water chemistry monitoring.
They're mesmerizing to watch, but seahorses may go the way of dinosaurs. One researcher concerned about their depletion is studying ways to help them survive.

They are unique and mysterious. But did you know these creatures mate for life? They must eat constantly to stay alive … did you know wild seahorses are disappearing?

Aspiring marine biologist, Katherine Bernabeo is concerned about their survival. They're being traded on the black market, made into Asian medicine, kept in aquariums, pollution is killing them off and their costal habitat is disappearing.

"Twenty million seahorses are being traded globally each year and they're depleting the natural stock and this is a huge strain and I just want to make sure we are not having a huge gap in the ecosystem," Bernabeo told Ivanhoe.

That's why Bernabeos goal is to breed a sustainable supply of the seahorse native to long island sound as an alternative to depleting seahorses in the wild. With the high school students she mentors, Bernabeo carefully monitors the sea horses.

"I have to make sure they are always full, they're happy and let nature take its course," Bernabeo said.

Seahorses are unique because the male gives birth.

Bernabeo wants to breed more seahorses, hoping to save this animal from extinction.

What is extinction? Animals are all classified by biologists into separate species (as well as bigger groups of classifications, such as a genius or family.) When no more individuals of a species can be found anywhere on earth, the species is considered extinct. 

Many animals have been classified as on the endangered species list because their populations are close to becoming extinct. If one animal relies on another for its food or protection, it can become part of the extinction chain. 

Possibly the most famous extinction happened at the end of the Cretaceous period, about 65 million years ago, when most of the species on Earth were wiped out by a large asteroid's impact with the Earth. That was when all the non-bird-like dinosaurs went extinct.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

NASA's Fermi Explores High-energy 'Space Invaders'

Since its launch last June, NASA's Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has discovered a new class of pulsars, probed gamma-ray bursts and watched flaring jets in galaxies billions of light-years away. At the American Physical Society meeting in Denver, Colo., Fermi scientists revealed new details about high-energy particles implicated in a nearby cosmic mystery.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Survey Finds Mercury in Fish in West

Scientists looking for fish tainted by mercury found them in every fish and every river they sampled across the West, suggesting that industrial pollution generated around the world is likely responsible for at least some of it.

The survey of 2,707 fish randomly collected from 626 rivers in 12 states represents the biggest regional sampling yet of mercury in fish in the West, said Spencer A. Peterson, senior research ecologist EPA's National Health and Environmental Effects Research Laboratory in Corvallis.The findings by scientists from the EPA and Oregon State University were reported in this month's issue of the journal Environmental Science & Technology and came out of an EPA survey of various environmental factors in rivers conducted between 2000 and 2004.Though the survey found some fish with elevated mercury levels, suggesting a local source such as an old mercury mine, most levels were low, in line with canned tuna found in grocery stores, said Alan T. Herlihy, associate research professor in the OSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife.No attempt was made to specifically link the mercury in the fish to mercury in the atmosphere, but the low but widespread levels suggest the mercury came from deposition -- mercury in the atmosphere falling to the earth in rain and snow, Herlihy added.While generally below levels considered unsafe for people to eat from time to time, the mercury could pose a danger to fish and wildlife that depend on fish for their diet, said Robert M. Hughes, a fisheries and wildlife research associate professor at OSU who took part in the study.Levels were generally higher in fish-eating fish, such as bass, walleye and pike, than in insect-eating fish, such as trout."What's important to note is that the levels are below what we consider a health concern in most fish," said EPA spokeswoman Suzanne Ackerman.Elevated mercury levels have been linked to learning disabilities and developmental delays in children and to heart, nervous system and kidney damage in adults. Out of concern for the health effects, several states and the federal government have taken steps to cap mercury emissions.It has long been understood that industrial emissions, such as coal-fired power plants, are responsible for some percentage of the mercury found in fish, said Steve Lindberg, a retired research fellow from the Oakridge National Laboratory, who did not take part in the study. The question is how much.About two thirds of the mercury circulating in the atmosphere is generally considered to come from industrial or human sources, with the rest from things like volcanoes and other geologic sources, Lindberg said.Lindberg said he is involved in research that has been tracking specific isotopes of mercury introduced into a lake watershed in Canada as they show up in fish, and will go on to see how mercury levels in the fish react when the mercury is cut off."It does suggest that concentrations in fish from mercury from the atmosphere are highly responsive to the amount of mercury being deposited from the atmosphere," he said. "We would argue in support of the notion of reducing industrial emissions to reduce the concentrations of mercury in fish."

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Southern California Beetle Killing Oaks

U.S. Forest Service scientists have completed a study on a beetle that was first detected in California in 2004, but has now attacked 67 percent of the oak trees in an area 30 miles east of San Diego.

Their report appears in the current issue of The Pan-Pacific Entomologist and focuses on Agrilus coxalis, a wood-boring beetle so rare it does not even have an accepted common name. Scientists have proposed the Entomological Society of America common names committee call it the goldspotted oak borer.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Scientists put carbon ceiling at a trillion tonnes

Scientists hope a new approach to assessing carbon build-up in the atmosphere will simplify issues for policymakers and economists.

Two papers published in Nature  show that the timings of carbon emissions are not relevant to the debate — it is the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted over hundreds of years that is the key issue. 

Rather than basing negotiations on short-term goals such as emission rates by a given year, the researchers say the atmosphere can be regarded as a tank of finite size which we must not overfill if we want to avoid a dangerous temperature rise. 

Climate policy has traditionally concentrated on cutting emission rates by a given year, such as 2020 or 2050, without placing these goals within the overall context of needing to limit cumulative emissions.

Both papers analyse how the world can keep the rise in average surface temperatures down to no more than two degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. This figure is widely regarded as the threshold beyond which the risk of dangerous climate change rapidly increases. Policymakers around the world have adopted this limit as a goal.