An exceptionally young supernova might be the key to solving a long-standing galactic mystery
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.15.2008 at 1:56 pm 2 Comments
(NASA/CXC/NCSU/S.Reynolds et al.); (NSF/NRAO/VLA/Cambridge/D.Green et al.); Infrared (2MASS/UMass/IPAC-Caltech/NASA/NSF/CfA/E.Bressert)
Supernovae are responsible for producing and distributing the elements at the base of life, specifically oxygen and carbon. Every galaxy should have a certain number of them, according to known distributions. But the Milky Way is a strange exception. Our galaxy comes up far short in its count and that's got scientists wondering where they're all hiding. One possibility is that they're all younger than we'd expected and so we weren't looking in the right places. A newly rediscovered object called G1.9+0.3, located about 26,000 light-years from Earth, could provide the answer.
An artwork exploring the question of life gains an unexpected facet when it must be killed
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.15.2008 at 12:36 pm 6 Comments
The Museum of Modern Art in New York has had to kill one of the works currently on display in its recent Design and the Elastic mind show. Literally. The piece is called Victimless Leather. It's an incubator built from a series of flasks which provides nutrients to feed a miniature living coat. The tiny coat was comprised of a biodegradable polymer matrix in the shape of a doll's jacket covered in a layer of living tissue made up of mouse stem cells. When the cells began growing to quickly, the curators of the show had to cut off the nutrients—effectively killing the cells.
An unknown species of ant is wrecking havoc in Texas
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.15.2008 at 12:34 pm 7 Comments
First came the killer bees and now comes the crazy ants. Houston is home to a new invasive species of ant, thought to have arrived via a container ship in 2002. The as-of-yet unidentified species is colloquially referred to as the crazy rasberry ant for its erratic foraging habits, appearing to dart in every direction but straight ahead. The ant has quickly become a nuisance both to the local ecology and to the people living with them. They are omivorous and will eat everything from flora to other insects and even the hatchlings of a local grouse called the prarie chicken.
Decades of poor irrigation and diverting practices destroyed the Aral Sea; now the Great Lakes face a similar fate
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.15.2008 at 9:49 am 2 Comments
The Great Lakes
The Aral Sea, located between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, was once the fourth largest lake on the planet. Decades of irrigation works diverting water from the two rivers which fed it have left the sea today at 10 percent of the size it once was. Much of what remains is heavily polluted, devoid of fish, and surrounded by a great empty bed of salt which often blows into the surrounding areas, wrecking crops and contaminating drinking water. We might be tempted to write off the disaster as a consequence of the lumbering Soviet bureaucracy, something that could never happen in the States. But as the Plains face consecutive droughts and the Western states continue to burn, all eyes turn to the Great Lakes to fill the growing voids.
A miniature ethanol distiller lets you make your own fuel—but can it possibly be a money saver?
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.15.2008 at 6:47 am 2 Comments
For those looking to get themselves off the grid—or at least move toward that ideal—a number of options are currently available. You can tack solar panels onto the roof of your house. You can erect a small wind turbine in your yard. You can now even distill ethanol in your garage. The EFuel 100 MicroFueler is a device the size of two very large refrigerators which will convert 490 pounds of feedstock (sugar and yeast) into 35 gallons of ethanol over the course of a week. Plug it in to any standard outlet and it will consume 150 watts for each batch. But while the concept of manufacturing your own fuel sounds appealing on its face, I'm not entirely sure the numbers add up to make it worth it.
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.14.2008 at 4:05 pm 1 Comment
The Plagues of Egypt in the book of Exodus are horrible, fantastical events we have yet to witness on Earth: rivers running with blood, hail mixed with fire, the deaths of firstborns. Some plagues, however, we do see from time to time. For modern-day farmers, locusts are very much a real, destructive force. Swarming in groups by the billions, locusts can travel hundreds of miles, stripping vegetation bare as they go. Scientists have never entirely understood the phenomenon, although one study has suggested swarming results from a lot of banging around as a consequence of overcrowding.
New research indicates that individual cells may need guidance in times of stress
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.12.2008 at 1:24 pm 1 Comment
It is well known how we humans respond to immediate stress—through a phenomenon we share with all animals known as fight or flight. During these times of increased threat, our bodies' systems work in concert to raise our heart rate, pump adrenaline, and sharpen our focus. Now scientists working at Northwestern University have discovered that these responses may be coordinated by special stress-receptor neurons, rather than in each cell individually.
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.12.2008 at 12:42 pm 2 Comments
Mass transit systems across the country are experiencing surges in ridership, pushing many of them to the brink of capacity for the first time. As the price of oil continues its inexorable climb—now past $125 a barrel—some metropolitan areas have seen an increase in use as large as 15% over this past year. While cities with integral systems, like New York, have reported a small bump, it is municipalities in which car transport has been the norm which are now overflowing with new subway, light rail, and bus riders.
Despite food shortages worldwide, a culture of waste pervade the U.S. and Britain
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.09.2008 at 7:08 am 0 Comments
In the current climate of rising gas and food prices, it should stand to reason that people would find ways to change their most wasteful habits. According to new research from the UK, we need look no further than our own refrigerators. Fully 18 percent of all food purchased for household use in England and Wales is thrown away. The number is even higher for families with children at 27 percent. A now four year-old study of similar measure in the U.S. puts the American number around 14 percent, with nearly half of all food readied for harvest never making it to a dinner table.
An innovative plan to bring high-speed Internet through electrical outlets may not see the light of day
By Matt RansfordPosted 05.08.2008 at 11:52 am 2 Comments
Broadband over Power Lines, or BPL, is a technology developed to send data over lines also used for electric power transmission. Simply put, it's high-speed Internet through your electrical outlets. Right off the bat, the appeal of a system like this is attractive for a lot of reasons. It could provide broadband service to rural areas without the physical infrastructure for DSL or cable and would require only minimal hardware installations by the power utilities.