Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Eight Million Year Old Cypress Trees Found in Turkey with Perfectly Preserved Wood

Miners digging for lignite, a type of coal, discovered a patch of cypress forest that's eight million years old. The palaeontological site is in Bukkabrany in northeastern Hungary, and it has been luring scientists because of the perfect preservation of the wood of the trees, which, logic would dictate, should have been petrified after so long.

The state of the trees may give climatologists clues to what happened to the region at that time, when the Pannonian lake, which submerged much of Hungary began to retreat and caused much of the Mediterranean sea to dry up.

"How to Enhance Children's Imagination of the Past When Teaching History"

Bulusan Volcano Erupts in the Philippines Again

Bulusan volcano in Sorsogon in the Philippines erupts anew, endangering nearby towns. If things get worse, an evacuation of the vicinity will be undertaken.

This satellite image on the left, depicted in exaggerated, elevated 3D shows the Bulusan landscape. The volcano itself is 1,559 meters high. It has a 1,000-foot-diameter crater.

The ash spewed by the eruption, if massive enough, like what Mt. Pinatubo ejected, can theoretically become distributed around the globe and help cool the atmosphere to counter global warming.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Saturn's Rings from Different Perspectives

The rings of Saturn represents perhaps the most awe inspiring structure in the solar system. See a couple of views of them by the Cassini spacecraft. The upper photo shows giant Titan and Ephemesus while the lower one includes shepherd moons Prometheus and Pandora with Mimas in the distance.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Mars Warming in the Past May Not Have Been Caused by Carbon Dioxide

This is Mars as it would look if it had flowing water like on Earth. Water on Mars is not possible because it is dry and cold. But based on the photographs and studies from several planetary probe data since the 1970s, Mars was most likely wet and warm in the past. The plentiful clay deposits and flow patterns left on the surface suggest that water was responsible for shaping the landscape in the past. It suggests that carbon dioxide may have been thicker and more active in creating a greenhouse effect in the Martian atmosphere just like what is happening today on Earth. What happened between then and now is a mystery. Scientists have discovered water on Mars, but it's frozen. However, there are indications of temporary flows, like what's imaged below. As for the carbon dioxide, it's now taking up 95% of the atmosphere. Yet in spite of this, it's cold. It's likely due to the fact that the atmospheric pressure is not enough to produce any significant warming effect and water vapor in the atmosphere, which also traps heat, is also largely absent.

But scientists have discovered something lately which puts the theory of carbon dioxide as the cause of the warm phase of Mars, called the Noachian period, at risk. It's the fact that there are no carbonates on the surface---or at least none have been found yet. Carbonates are a byproduct of clay formation in a carbon-doxide-rich environment. Vincent Chevrier of the University of Arkansas and Jean Pierre Bibring of the University Paris-Sud say that with a thick atmosphere of carbon dioxide, there should be abundant carbonates, which is the case on Earth.

So, if the carbon dioxide in the Martian atmosphere did not cause the Noachian period, as depicted above in an artist's rendering, what did? And what caused Mars to cool up in spite of an atmosphere rich in carbon dioxide? Is it its distance from the Sun? Is it a thinning of the atmosphere? Maybe these questions will be answered as humans explore more of the Red planet. In the process, we might learn something about what's happening to the Earth's own climate and if global warming is really something serious to worry about.
Above is a picture of a section of the Martian canyon Valles Marineris, which shows evidence of ancient "plumbing" through which may have flowed liquid water or carbon dioxide, leaving white mineral depisits. Click here for the full news.
Read more about the new findings in this link to TheNewsRoom where you can find great news you can use: http://www.thenewsroom.com/details/513859?c_id=wom-bc-ar

Find out how TheNewsRoom can help you promote awareness on global warming, other environmental issues, and news in general. Many have already found great content from TheNewsRoom and you can also do the same. Email jtowns@voxant.com and discover how you can make TheNewsRoom your partner in information dissemination.

- Alvin from TheScienceDesk at TheNewsRoom.com

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Pluto's Moon Has Ice Volcanoes

Charon, Pluto's sole moon has been discovered to have volcanoes that spew water ice into space. Water apparently is liquid inside the moon, probably due to an ammonia mixture that acts like an antifreeze. The water instantly turns to ice when they hit the cold of space. The volcanoes were detected with the Gemini observatory on Mauna Kea in Hawaii. The picture above is an artist's rendition.

The 60th Moon of Saturn is "Frank"

The NASA probe Cassini has discovered Saturn's 60th moon and it's been called Frank. But until a really suitable name is given it, it's will have to be identified in the record books as S/2007 S 4. It's only a mile wide and is thought to be made of rock and ice. Frank is thought to be one of the remains of a larger satellite which shattered when another object hit it in a cataclysmic event a long time ago.

The Northern European Hemisphere at Night

This is a composite image made by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) of the Northern Hemisphere in Europe and part of Africa and Eurasia. At the top is the Arctic, which Russian scientists and members of parliament are currently exploring, going down in a submarine called Mir to the bottom of the Arctic Sea, 14,000 feet below the surface. The Russians have laid claim to much of the Arctic, asserting that a seabed ridge called the Lomonosov Ridge, which extends to Northern Canada, is really part of the Russian continent.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Between Cold Mars and Hot Venus Lies Tepid Earth

I find it strange that carbon dioxide is identified as the main culprit in global warming. Many might find this statement outrageous. It is after all, a greenhouse gas, and the carbon dioxide hothouse that is Venus is incontrovertible proof of what can potentially happen to the Earth if there is too much carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Venus has an atmosphere that is 96.5% carbon dioxide. Earth's carbon dioxide content is only at .03%. There is a big difference. If you think that carbon dioxide is already turning the Earth's atmosphere into a furnace, wait till you get to Venus. It is a smelter. The greenhouse effect there produces enough heat to melt lead on the surface!

The reason why I think it's strange is that Mars is cold, with a temperature range of –140 °C (−220 °F) to 20 °C (70 °F), even with an atmosphere that is 95% carbon dioxide. That's almost the same as the level on Venus. Why is it that the greenhouse effect works differently on Mars?

Of course, there can be many answers to this question. Things like the low gravity, distance from the Sun, atmospheric pressure, environmental particulates, and even the dryness of Mars may be to blame. Still, there seems proof that Mars was once like Earth, a very warm and wet one at that. What made it turn cold and dry even with the extreme level of carbon dioxide it has?

It's hard to imagine Earth turning into a Venus. On the other hand, it's also unappetizing for us to imagine that our planet is turning into a frigid desert like Mars. But whatever the outcome, I do like to think that it is possible for us to counter the effects of global warming and even make it stop. But it requires a concerted global effort. Scientists believe that it is possible to terraform Mars into something like the Earth with a breathable atmosphere of oxygen by seeding it with carbon-dioxide-feeding blue green algae.

I'm not an expert, but if simple algae can change a whole planet, then maybe we can just plant trees and ease on using fossil fuels. It's possible this warming trend is only temporary. If that’s the case, then we really have little to worry about. The Earth's climate has cooled and warmed in the past even without the artificial infusion of greenhouse gases. The most dramatic change was in the last million years during the last ice age, which ended only 10,000 years ago. It was then that the Earth warmed, humans migrated, and species disappeared.

Changes were happening as late as medieval times. The Medieval Climate Optimum is one example. This was a period of warmth, particularly in the North Atlantic Region, that lasted between the tenth and fourteenth centuries. It was followed by what is now known as The Little Ice Age in Europe. Considering these things, climate change may really be a pretty normal thing for the Earth to go through.

The environmental group Greenpeace has made a forecast on how global warming can potentially create 200 million refugees worldwide by 2040. You can read more in this link to TheNewsRoom:


The urgent question now is whether we have the will to act on global warming, or will we be lukewarm to it? The decision will be hard as economic factors will have to be considered. But if our fervor for the cause is as hot as the Earth is getting, we may yet pull through.

Many individuals and groups have found great content on global warming in TheNewsRoom like the one provided in the link. There are thousands more available that you can use to promote awareness on the subject. If you'd like to know more, email jtowns@voxant.com. TheNewsRoom is happy to be your partner against global warming.

- alvinwriter from TheScienceDesk at TheNewsRoom.com

For an in-depth discussion on this, go to the CNET forum.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Video Games Are Good for You

Lo and behold! Positive news on how video games can be good for you. Yes, after James Gee, professor of learning at the University of Wisconsin found out about the wonders of video gaming from playing his preschooler kid's learning game, Pajama Sam: No Need to Hide When It's Dark Outside, and hitting it off with solving problems in The New Adventures of the Time Machine, he decided to do a study on how video gaming affects the brain. What he has found out will delight video gamers. Apparently, video gaming sharpens thinking, social skills, and perception. Read more about this here.

Copycat Nintendo Wii abound. Click here to read the article.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Mars Before and During Planet-Wide Dust Storm

This is Mars as it looks in 2001 before a planet-wide dust storm, and during the storm, which engulfed the entire planet. A similar far-reaching dust storm recently observed on the red planet caused initial concern regarding the roving robots there, Spirit and Opportunity, but it seems they'll be okay once the storm passes.

Indonesia's Mt. Gamkonara Erupting

This powerful photograph of Mt. Gamkonara in Indonesia shows the recent activity of the volcano which erupted explosively in 1673. Eight thousand people have already been evacuated from the danger zone vicinity. Mt. Gamkonara stands at 1,600 meters and is the tallest in the island of Halmahera.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

AKARI Shows a Hidden Side of the Universe

AKARI, the infrared satellite of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), is reportedly doing well, sending back images of the known universe using infrared cameras. It has given us stunning views of commonly-viewed sky objects like the constellation of Orion, here shown in visible light (left), and in infrared (right). Notice how nebular structures are shown in greater detail. See the nebular ring surrounding the star (actually, it's a trio) that represents Orion's head, on top in the infrared snapshot? What do you think caused it?

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Queen Hatshepsut's Large Breasts Indicate Obesity

Queen Hatshepsut, the most powerful of female pharaohs in ancient Egypt was obese, say scientists. Paleopathologist Bob Brier says "Breasts are one clear indication of obesity in female mummies. It is fairly simple: fat is deposited there, the skin stretches and that skin does not retract with mummification. So it is easy to see excess skin in the area of the breasts." Zahi Hawass, Egypt's secretary general of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, says Hatshepsut's breasts are "huge and pendulous" even for a mummy's.

Click here to view Queen Hatshepsut's headshot.

"How to Enhance Children's Imagination of the Past When Teaching History"

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Ghost Orchid Materializes in Florida Park

Ghost orchids (Dendrophylax lindenii) are rare. Not only are they shaped differently from most flowers, they are also endangered. This is why it was a pleasant surprise to find one growing on an old cypress tree in the Corkscrew Swamp Wildlife Sancuary in Naples, Florida. It was spotted with nine magnificent flowers, the size of the hand, by visitors who were on the lookout for owls. It was 45 feet over the ground and had a mass of old root growth which meanth it had been there a long time. Park Manager Ed Carlson says it must have been hidden by leaves since it blooms in June and July when cypresses are leafed out. "We've just never seen it before," he says.

The ghost orchid blooms for only two weeks, so if you want to see it, you'd better get to the sanctuary before it wilts. It is the first ghost orchid discovered in the park in 12 years. The ghost orchid is featured in the movie "Adaptation," which was inspired by the novel "The Orchid Thief."

Learn about the amazing hair cleansing and conditioning properties of the oil from the flower of the shampoo ginger (Zingiber zerumbet) plant. Click here.

Step-by-Step Guide to Increase IQ

Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Deep Lake in Russia Vanishes Overnight

Local fishermen in the village of Bolotnikovo in Russia who went out to fish in their favorite lake got the surprise of their life when they saw a deep hole with a muddy bottom instead where the lake used to be the day before. "I lookedand there was no water," said one of the fishermen. "I thought: Oh, my God, what's going on?" Rescuers were called out to see if anyone disappeared with the water, which is believed to have drained into subterranean cave systems.

According to local official Dmitry Klyuev, whole houses were swallowed under similar circumstances 70 years ago.

The superstitious locals believe otherwise. Youngsters who used to swim in the lake have heard of stories, including that of a church that lay under the water. "We used to go swimming there, but we were rather afraid of its depth, and there were various rumors that the lake had appeared during the reign of the feared Tsar Ivan the Terrible. It had been "shrouded in dark mystery" ever since. Coincidentally, the name Bolotnikovo translates roughly as "boggy."
Strangely, another lake in Chile also disappeared.

In a related event, see how this circular, 100-meter-deep sinkhole swallowed up half a building in Guatemala.

This is sourced from BBC news.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Villagers Dine on Dinosaurs in China

Villagers in central China have acquired a taste for dinosaur bones, thinking they are the bones of flying dragons. Valued for their supposedly curative powers, the bones are extracted from the ground, pound to a powder, and used as ingredients in food and medicine. The concoctions are fed to children to alleviate dizziness and cramps, among other ailments. Scientist Dong Zhiming said that the dinosaur fossils were being sold in markets in Henan province as "dragon bones" since 2006 at about fifty cents per kilogram, until the villagers were told they were actually the remains of dinosaurs. They promptly donated 200 kilograms to him to study. The villagers had been selling and eating dinosaur bones for twenty years.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

What Can Make a 2-Hectare Lake Vanish?

In Bernardo O'Higgins National Park in Magallanes, Chile, a 2-hectare glacial lake has disappeared in what appears to be another case of global warming. The whole body of water simply seemed to evaporate in a span of two months. The discovery was made in late May by park rangers who were shocked to find a huge crater where the lake had been. No, it's not the Silver Surfer's fault. Geologists have concluded, after some deliberation, that melting glacial ice caused the lake's level to swell, putting more pressure on a glacial dam which eventually gave way. It makes us wonder how other bodies of water will fare in these times of warming.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Jupiter's Upper Equatorial Stripe Disappears

These pictures of Jupiter's clouds were taken by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST). It has captured a dramatic change in the upper equatorial band of Jupiter. It appears to have disappeared and merged with the darker bands. Something is going on in Jupiter's atmosphere that we can only guess on. The two white stripes of Jupiter had always been a favorite sight to see by amateur astronomers using their small-aperture telescopes.

Mars Rover Oppurtunity Takes a Chance in Victoria Crater

The Mars-roving robot Opportunity will soon take its chances in the Martian Crater Victoria in order to analyze a layer of light soil exposed to the elements when the crater was made. Will this be the robot's last mission? The top photo shows a view of the crater with the rover's track seen as white lines. It was taken by the High Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera on NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter spacecraft. The bottom photo is a view from the crater's edge taken by Opportunity itself.