Thursday, September 30, 2010

Argentine Congress votes to restrict mining near glaciers

Argentina's Congress passed a law early Thursday that seeks to protect environmentally sensitive glaciers by imposing strict limits on mining, potentially affecting foreign investments.
read here 

Rivers around the world are in a crisis

The vast majority of the world's rivers are reeling from pollution, over-development and excessive extraction, and billions of dollars of investment by rich countries to avert water stress have damaged biodiversity.
click here to read 

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Extinction threat to one fifth of world's plants

More than a fifth of the world's plant species faces the threat of extinction, a trend with potentially catastrophic effects for life on Earth, according to research released on Wednesday.
read here 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Impacts of Too Much Communication

Individuals within a networked system coordinate their activities by communicating to each other information such as their position, speed, or intention. At first glance, it seems that more of this communication will increase the harmony and efficiency of the network. However, scientists at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have found that this is only true if the communication and its subsequent action are immediate.
read here

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Cassini Dives Inside Saturn’s Radio Aurora

The Cassini spacecraft has made the first observations from within the radio aurora of another planet than Earth. The measurements, which were taken when the spacecraft flew through an active auroral region in 2008, show some similarities and some contrasts between the radio auroral emissions generated at Saturn and those at Earth. Results were presented this week by Dr Laurent Lamy at the European Planetary Science Congress in Rome, and recently published in Geophysical Research Letters.
read here

Friday, September 24, 2010


The world's largest offshore wind farm opened in Britain on Thursday, as part of the government's bid to reduce the carbon emissions that drive climate change.

The project received a qualified welcome from environmental campaigners.

The site, a forest of giant turbines in the North Sea off the east Kent coast, has 100 turbines installed so far with a total of 341 planned.
full story

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A New Tropical Storm Lisa forms

read here

Hot Atmosphere of Venus Might Cool Interior of Earth’s Sister Planet

The heat in the atmosphere of Venus, induced from a strong greenhouse warming, might actually have a cooling effect on the planet's interior. This counter-intuitive theory is based on calculations from a new model presented at the European Planetary Science Congress (EPSC) in Rome.
read here

Sunday, September 19, 2010


Workmen constructing a storm water equalization tank this week at the San Diego Zoo dug up a surprising find: a 3-million-year-old whale.
The construction crew was using an excavotor to dig through fine grain sand, when suddenly the machine struck a solid item. Further investigation revealed that this obstacle was an enormous prehistoric whale.The 24-foot baleen whale appears to be very well preserved, with much of the fossilized skeleton present. Finding an intact skull, along with the vertebrae and flippers, is quite rare, according to Sarah Siren, San Diego Natural History Museum paleontological field manager.
read here

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Glaciers Help High-Latitude Mountains Grow Taller

Glaciers can help actively growing mountains become higher by protecting them from erosion, according to a University of Arizona-led research team.The finding is contrary to the conventional view of glaciers as powerful agents of erosion that carve deep fjords and move massive amounts of sediment down mountains. Mountains grow when movements of the Earth's crust push the rocks up.
read here

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

World Population Growth Since the Year One

The world population has grown tremendously over the past two thousand years. In 1999, the world population passed the six billion mark.

Latest official current world population estimate, for mid-year 2009, is estimated at 6,790,062,216.

The chart below shows past world population data back to the year one and future world population projections through the year 2050.

World Population
 GrowthYear              Population
1                                200 million
1000                          275 million
1500                          450 million
1650                          500 million
1750                          700 million
1804                          1 billion
1850                          1.2 billion
1900                          1.6 billion
1927                           2 billion
1950                          2.55 billion
1955                          2.8 billion
1960                          3 billion
1965                          3.3 billion
1970                          3.7 billion
1975                          4 billion
1980                           4.5 billion
1985                          4.85 billion
1990                           5.3 billion
1995                           5.7 billion
1999                          6 billion
2006                          6.5 billion
2009                          6.8 billion
2011                          7 billion
2025                          8 billion
2050                          9.4 billion

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Supernova Shrapnel Found in Meteorite

cientists have identified the microscopic shrapnel of a nearby star that exploded just before or during the birth of the solar system 4.5 billion years ago.
read here

Friday, September 10, 2010

China to launch next lunar space mission

China is on track to launch its second lunar satellite by year's end, as the country pursues its plans for a manned mission to the moon by 2020.
The Chang'e-2 mission "is currently undergoing pre-launch testing and preparations -- the plan is to carry out a trial flight mission by the end of the year," the paper quoted Wu as saying.
Space programme officials had said previously that the mission would be launched in October, but no precise date has been given.
The lunar probe will test soft-landing and other technologies in preparation for the launch of the Chang'e-3, which is slated for launch in 2013 and aims to be China's first unmanned landing on the moon, the report said.
The Chang'e programme, named after a mythical Chinese goddess who flew to the moon, is seen as an effort to put China's space exploration programme on a par with those of the United States and Russia.
China launched Chang'e-1, which orbited the moon and took high-resolution pictures of the lunar surface, in October 2007 as part of China's ambitious three-stage moon mission.
China's lunar programme hopes to bring a moon rock sample back to earth in 2017, with a manned mission foreseen in around 2020, according to state media.
Chinese scientists ultimately plan to build an observatory on the surface of the moon, previous reports said.
China became the world's third nation to put a man in space independently -- after the United States and Russia -- when Yang Liwei piloted the one-man Shenzhou-5 space mission in 2003.
In September 2008, the Shenzhou-7, piloted by three astronauts, carried out China's first space walk.
The Americans have achieved the only manned lunar missions, making six trips from 1969 to 1972.
Beijing has other significant Asian competitors to reckon with as it vies to become the second nation to put a man on the moon.
India landed a lunar probe in 2008, and a top official said in January it was targeting a manned space mission in 2016. Japan, meanwhile, launched its first lunar satellite in June last year.

Peru water wars threaten agricultural export boom

Peru is South America's third-largest country and a top exporter of high-value specialty crops like asparagus. Farmers say it could become a breadbasket like Brazil or Argentina, well-positioned to feed a growing global population.
But it suffers from acute water shortages on its Pacific Ocean coast and they are expected to worsen as its ice fields in the Andes, the world's largest collection of tropical glaciers, melt because of climate change.
read here 


Astronomers are predicting that a massive solar storm, much bigger in potential than the one that caused spectacular light shows on Earth earlier this month, is to strike our planet in 2012 with a force of 100 million hydrogen bombs.

Several US media outlets have reported that NASA was warning the massive flare this month was just a precursor to a massive solar storm building that had the potential to wipe out the entire planet’s power grid.

Despite its rebuttal, NASA’s been watching out for this storm since 2006 and reports from the US this week claim the storms could hit on that most Hollywood of disaster dates – 2012.

Similar storms back in 1859 and 1921 caused worldwide chaos, wiping out telegraph wires on a massive scale. The 2012 storm has the potential to be even more disruptive.
read it here

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Colorful Mix of Asteroids Discovered, May Aid Future Space Travel

New research from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope reveals that asteroids somewhat near Earth, termed near-Earth objects, are a mixed bunch, with a surprisingly wide array of compositions.
read here

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Himalayan Tourism : Effects on Environment

The Himalayas offer tourists a variety of scenic beauty. To them it is a paradise, its gushing rivers are laden without and the varieties of fish. To trekkers and hikers it is a challenges, its canyons, deep valleys and escarpments are eye-catcher. The snow-peaked mountains, gliding glaciers, grass meadows and hot springs invite tourists from remote corners of the world. The ever-increasing tourist influx is creating great impact on ecology and environment. The problem of litter, noise pollution and damage to natural assets is causing great anxiety to environmentalists. The unmanaged influx of tourists destroys the natural architecture of the rocks and natural surroundings. The development and construction of new hotels involves the destruction of vegetation, feelings of trees and erosion of the environment. Tourism should be considered as on alloy and not an adversary in conserving the ecology in the Himalayas. It should be in the fitness of the things if master plans are prepared and new areas are developed to meet the unending demand of tourists’ resorts. There should be a close coordination among the planners and the promoters of ecology and environment of the Himalayas.
Land Resources and Tourism
          The construction of roads and other infrastructure are indispensable for efficient transport and communication system for tourism development, but these unavoidable activities are mainly responsible for destruction of Himalayan land resource along its vegetation and animal wealth. A careful study shows that the construction of 44,000 km. Long roads in Himalayan region produced 2,650 million cubic metres of debris and each kilometer of already constructed roads generates; 550 cubic metres of debris by landslides and rock falls. Thus nearly 24 million cubic metres of debris slide down damaging vegetation and chocking the springs etc. (Valdiya 1985). These activities accelerate hill slope instability deforestation, soil erosion, pollution of water and air, etc, especially along the road sides and around the most of the Himalayan tourist resort like Nainital, Simla, and Mussoorie etc.
          The use of powerful explosives like dynamite and frequent heavy traffic create vibrations which cause cracks on rocks and earth which in turn lead to land slides and erosion along with adverse impact of the flora and fauna. The construction of roads etc. along geologically active zones like at Kaliasur Satpuli (Garhwal) is also responsible for degradation of land. The construction for accommodation facilities like rest houses, tourist bungalows, buildings and seasonal accommodation units, recreation centres, etc., have posed the most serious menace to the land resources of the region; not only does it accelerate soil erosion but it also causes damage to crops, animals and plants, housing and public properties. It is also a contributory factor in causing floods with heavy siltation in valleys and adjacent areas. In Chamoli district alone from 1971 to 1978, 48 human lives, 949 heads of cattle, 601 houses, costing nearly about 173 lakhs of rupees, as also the crops, were destroyed by mass movements. In the year 1972 owing to the landslides, the Gohna Lake was formed and its breaching has resulted in a large scale destruction in the Alaknanda valley and the plains of U.P. The flash flood engulfed 2000 sq .k. m. paddy crop, 10 k.m. roads, 6 motor bridges and 24 buses, 366 houses while 138 villages were effected; by landslides along in the year 1979.
Agricultural & Tourism
          Agriculture is one of the main occupations of the Himalayan inhabitants, but it does not give quick and heavy economic gains like tourism. At present during the tourist season (mainly May-June) tourism has become the main source of income, as a result of which agricultural system has miserably regressed. Enormous agricultural land is being occupied for development of infrastructure facilities. These activities create dependence system in addition to adverse impacts on economy and ecology of the area. These activities create dependence system in addition to adverse impacts on economy and ecology of the area. The farmers who are living in the vicinity of these tourist resorts leave their traditional farming and either work or conduct different types of business for prompt and easy economic benefits. In many such developing and well-developed tourist places, tourism has almost overlapped agriculture. Fields around the famous tourist places like Mussories, Nainital, Simla, Darjeeling, etc. are the result of this type of tourism impact.
Forest Wealth and Tourism
          The beauty of the Himalayan forest, alpine meadows and peaks is the main sources of tourist attraction. The Continual flow of tourists, mountaineers, trekkers, etc. is likely to have positive as well as negative impacts on these natural resources to a certain extent. Mythological beliefs and tradition which are prevalent in the Himalayan region are also responsible for adverse effect on the flora, specially in those localities adjoining the shrines. Religious tourists habitually collect flowers and colourful herbs to offer to temples like Gangotri, Yamnotri, Badrinath, and Kedarnath, etc. Consequently, many species which are part of our cultural and religious heritage are beginning to get wiped out. It was noticed by the authors during the Roopkund trekking in Chamoli district that at the Bedney Bugayal and Roopkund  (places of mythological importance along the trek) thousands of Brahmakamal flowers (Saussurea obvollata) were offered which were plucked from vicinity area. A recent sample study of Surkanda Devi (a place about 25 km. From Mussorie towards Tehri), which is situated at a most picturesque spot in the highest (2750m) peak of outer Himalayan range, indicates that about 10,000 people gather there for a week on the occasion of Dashera (celebrated festival of Hindu) and practically every one offers few flowers with twigs of Ronsli (Abies Pindrow) to Goddess Surkanda along with their other fights. Every visitor roughly plucks ten flowers and two twigs. In this way about 10,000 flowers and 20,000 twigs are lost annually, as a result of which a virgin Abies pindrow forest and densely grown different colourful flowers which we have seen during childhood (about 23 years back) have nearly disappeared now, and in their place scrub forest and flowers like Primula denticulata, Anemone vitifolia, etc. are sparsely found. In addition to this, severe trampling by visitors is also responsible for damage.
          A recent field survey of the world famous valley of flowers also shows that its flora and fauna was under major attack and influenced adversely after 1975 when this area was opened to visitors. De to increasing rate of tourism traffic and direct (like trampling and plucking etc.) and indirect activities of tourists, many important and charming species of flowers like blue-scented Primulas (most beautiful), red Potentilla spp., creamy Anemone spp., blue Meconopsis spp., etc. are now found in reduced abundance along the treks, road sides and other easily accessible areas. This degradation will definitely occur in the entire area with increasing number of tourists. In addition to this, other factors like overgrazing, low grazing etc. are also responsible for ecological imbalance. Overgrazing prevents plants from flowering and fruiting willow orgngrazing accelerate the growth of unnecessary weeds and grasses, which create hindrance in growth and blooming. The growth of unwanted grass and weed has become a major problem of the valley after the ban imposed on grazing by the government and it seems to be only one reason for low flowers occurrence n the valley even in peak season (August-September) in comparison with the situation obtaining some years ago.
          This fact leads to the conclusion that a scientific and controlled grass cutting or grazing is necessary for maintaining the importance of the valley of flowers. If the sensitive ecosystem of the valley will not be given proper importance and attentions along with the promotion of tourism, Smyth’s silent valley of Garhwal Himalaya may one day cease to show its visual spectrum, of nature’s beauty. The damage in the Himalayan environment has reached a critical level and beyond the carrying capacity; therefore, in order to overcome this problem, it is the need of time that certain more landscapes with unique type of vegetation and wildlife should be conserved as “Biosphere Reserves”.
          The tourist concentration in the Himalayan alpine pastures is increasing day by day, more than the carrying capacity, while the area under vegetation is decreasing due to accelerated human activities.
          A considerable area of virgin forest is also being replaced for providing necessary amenities to visitors for tourism promotion. It has been estimated that 234.25 sq.k.m. Forest area has been destroyed only by road construction from 1951 to 1979 in the U.P. hills (forest statistics 1981). Deforestation not only result into resource depletion but also deteriorates fresh and underground water, wildlife and other related resources along with acceleration of disastrous phenomena like heavy soil; erosion and landslides etc., which mainly provoke flash floods.
Wild Life and Tourism
          The forest provides the best shelter and source of food for most of the wild animals; hence the quality of forest affected by vast tourism directly influences the wildlife of the respected area. The ever-increasing influx of tourists exerts an adverse impact on the unique Himalayan wildlife.
          Tourist activities like invasion in wildlife habitat, close view watching and photography, hunting, plundering, and other disturbances etc. have created a problem for wild animals. Mammals and birds are affected in large extent more than reptiles, insects and other small animals. Owing to the large interference of man in the habitat and life style of animals specially in national parks, wild life sanctuaries etc., the ferocity of animals is being lost which is the only quality of wildness that differentiate them from domestic animals. The act of providing bate to tiger or lion for close view in national part etc., spoil the quality of wild life and is destruction of wild animals in the name of tourism. These activities further affect the feeding and breeding habits and ultimately the entire life cycle. The small animals die due to heavy and frequent traffic which affect the food chain in wild life system.
          The habit of tourists to provide ready-made food to wild animals is also responsible for loss of ferocity. During the year 1975 in the Corbett National Park a wild boar popularly known as Buddha (innocent) had become a purely domestic one. Owing to the availability of ready made food like bread, biscuits, chapati, etc. from tourists he had later on developed the habit of stealing edible items like lunch packets, chocolates, jam butter, even tinned meat and fish, sauce and drink bottles, etc., from tourist tents, kitchen, or even open car, jeep etc. thereby a purely herbivorous wild animal had changed his wild habits. Recently in the year 1987 is has been observed by the authors in Corbett National Park that young chittal (spotted deer) is also frequently visiting the Dhikala complex of the park to eat cooked food material like bread, etc., from the hand of tourists and officials.
          It is also noticed that during night time; few wild animals like wild boar (Susscrofa), fox (Vulpeseulpes), chital or spotted deer (Axis) etc. reach close to the Dhikala complex and feed on thrown away ready made food or ga5rbage etc. sometime even together also. So it is necessary to protect these animal habits and habitat along with their natural ferocity to maintain the wildness and ecosystem balance of natural food chain system between predator and the prey or between the herbivorous and herbs for total ecological system. The crowded gathering of people religious places and resorts bring marked change to ecosystem as a whole. The direct and side products of tourists like litter, polythene bags and wrappers, garbage piles and related materials attract rodents and crow, which in turn draw bigger animals and birds, thus changing the entire habit and habitat.
          The increasing tourist’s craze for the Himalayan wild life and their products is also responsible for its destruction as it increases the demand of stuffed animals, ivory ornaments, furs, tails, quills, feathers, horns, skins, musk and wild-life souvenirs, etc. This demand provokes the curio trade, resulting into poaching and slaughtering of animals. The musk deer, (Moschus moschiferus), blackbear (Selenaretos thivetanus), snow leopard (Panthera unica) leopard (P. pardus), bharal (Pseudois nayar) monal (Lophophorus impejanus), etc. are few well known animal species which are in great danger due to poaching.
          To prevent or reduce degradation of the Himalayan natural resources, there should be scientific and well planned growth of tourism in which experts of different disciplines like geology, botany, geography wildlife, environment, etc., and technocrats like engineers, architect etc. along with local people should have close involvement in planning. There should be recreation between natural resources and tourism development, which should be according to the carrying capacity of particular resorts, so that space action does not affect their ecosystems and ecological balance. If these protective measures are not given due importance in tourism planning and development, the Himalayan would be damaged beyond the limit of repair of regeneration.
          Industrial development in the Himalayas is slow but the rapid population explosion and urbanizations has changed the trend. In the Kashmir Himalayan, the Himachal Himalaya, the Kumaon Himalaya, the Assam Himalaya and in many other parts of the Himalayas fruit processing, wool processing cottage industries, cement industry, paper and pulp industries, resin processing and other forest based industries, such as watch factories, tool factories, television factories etc., with pollution control devices would be vital for the rapid economic growth of the Himalayan belt.
Measures to Preserve the Ecology
          The Himalayas provides a variety of natural resources to the sub-continent of India, including the life-giving water. These resources have been threatened largely by human negligence and activities. In order to improve and regenerate degraded hill environment, scientific approach involving hazard zone mapping and banning engineering development activities in such zones, drainage control and dewatering measures, protection of slopes through vegetation, modification slopes where necessary, application of engineering technology and improved agronomic practices should be carried on priority basis.
          The ecological balance can be maintained and improved by reforestation, by checking the illegal felling for tree, controlling the course of floods by construction bounds, retaining walls, checking landslides, rocketry’s, sinking of the soils, protecting the watersheds, etc.
          Laws should be enacted to stop indiscriminate timber trade, installation of new cement factories, stone crushers, state factories, industries, etc which in turn cause air, water and noise pollution. The mining operations should be done using modern methods and techniques to minimize the pollution of atmosphere, the ruthless and haphazard mining activities greatly affect the health of the workers and also create ecological imbalance by rock debris, dumps and quarries wastes. The greenery of the soils is lost and fertility of lands is decreased. Constructional and developmental works also destroy the natural setting of the scenery and landscape.
          Soil and land use inventories need to be taken up on priority basis and the Himalayan belt may be divided into viable seacoast for the purpose of land use, planning and management. Modern techniques of remote sensing and aerial photo interpretations are very vital ion conserving the soil and soil programme.  Soil maps may be employed to carry out the forestation programmes and proper land use. Aerial seeding should be carried out to reclaim the barren lands.
          To prevent or reduce degradation of the Himalayan natural resources, there should be scientific and well planned growth of tourism in which experts of different disciplines like geology, botany, geography, wildlife environment, etc and technocrats like engineers, architect etc. Along with local people should have close involvement in planning. There should be correlation between natural resources and tourism development which should be according to the carrying capacity of particular resorts, so that the space action does not affect their eco-system and ecological balance.
          If these protective measures are not given due importance in tourism planning and development, the prosperous heritage and environment of the Himalaya would be damaged beyond the repair of regeneration.
          To protect our environment we have to protect our wildlife, rare birds and unique plants. Proper education on environmental rehabilitation and conservation must be initiated at the grass root level. Rehabilitation and conservation programmes should include such measures as finding alternative sources of energy, self employment, agriculture sericulture, horticulture, social forestry, cottage industries, small scale industries, etc. The human and animal husbandry programmes should also be taken up to improve the lot of the Indian village folks. Women are the backbone of human ecosystem in the Himalayan hills. It is, therefore, necessary to improve their lot. An all-out effort should be made to maintain the enchanting beauty of the Himalaya.

New Animation on Giant Greenland Iceberg

ESA's Envisat satellite has been tracking the progression of the giant iceberg that calved from Greenland's Petermann glacier on 4 August 2010. A new animation shows that the iceberg, the largest in the northern hemisphere, is now entering Nares Strait -- a stretch of water that connects the Lincoln Sea and Arctic Ocean with Baffin Bay.
read  here

Friday, September 3, 2010

Ancient Brew Masters Tapped Antibiotic Secrets

A chemical analysis of the bones of ancient Nubians shows that they were regularly consuming tetracycline, most likely in their beer. The finding is the strongest evidence yet that the art of making antibiotics, which officially dates to the discovery of penicillin in 1928, was common practice nearly 2,000 years ago.The research, led by Emory anthropologist George Armelagos and medicinal chemist Mark Nelson of Paratek Pharmaceuticals, Inc., is published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.
read here