Hinterland Green

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Scientists Identify Dominant Chemical That Attracts Mosquitoes To Humans

ScienceDaily (2009-12-30) -- Scientists have identified the dominant odor naturally produced in humans and birds that attracts the blood-feeding Culex mosquitoes, which transmits West Nile virus and other life-threatening diseases. The groundbreaking research explains why mosquitoes shifted hosts from birds to humans and paves the way for key developments in mosquito and disease control.

The groundbreaking research, published this week in the early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, explains why mosquitoes shifted hosts from birds to humans and paves the way for key developments in mosquito and disease control.

Entomology professor Walter Leal and postdoctoral researcher Zain Syed found that nonanal (sounds like NAWN-uh-nawl) is the powerful semiochemical that triggers the mosquitoes' keen sense of smell, directing them toward a blood meal. A semiochemical is a chemical substance or mixture that carries a message.
"Nonanal is how they find us," Leal said. "The antennae of the Culex quinquefasciatus are highly developed to detect even extremely low concentrations of nonanal." Mosquitoes detect smells with the olfactory receptor neurons of their antennae.

Article continues:  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/10/091026172056.htm

Photo credit:  A side view of a Culex mosquito, an important vector in West Nile Virus transmission. (Credit: iStockphoto/Douglas Allen)

Report: World's Oceans are Becoming Noisier Thanks to Pollution

Getty Images
According to a study published in the science journal Nature, the world's oceans are becoming noisier thanks to pollution, with potentially harmful effects for whales, dolphins and other marine life. Scientists said the low-frequency sound in the ocean is produced by natural phenomena such as rain, waves and marine life, and by human activities such as sonar systems, shipping and construction. The report said the sound is absorbed mainly through the viscosity of the water and the presence of certain dissolved chemicals.

Article continues:  http://www.breitbart.com /article.php?id=CNG.5315a8879e53e0d27d665433910c4641.1211&show_article=1

U.S. Corn Yield Loss Could be as High as 100 Million Bushels Due to Heavy Snowstorms

CHICAGO (Reuters) - As much as 100 million bushels of U.S. corn could be lost after heavy snowstorms in recent days likely delayed until spring the final stages of an already historically slow harvest, analysts and meteorologists said on Monday. The harvest delays helped to push up corn futures more than 1 percent to a six-month high on Monday at the Chicago Board of Trade. The U.S. Agriculture Department last week in its final harvest update of the year said five percent of the corn crop was still in the fields. And after much of the U.S. Midwest and Plains regions were pounded by heavy winter storms in past several days, it's likely to stay there until next year.

Article continues:  http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE5BR2T520091228

San Francisco's Famous Sea Lions Leaving in Droves

Scientists at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, Ca., counted more than 1,500 sea lions on Pier 39 last month. This month, however, the story is vastly different. Almost all of the sea lions are gone and experts are baffled as to where they went and why. According to the Associated Press, Jeff Boehm, executive director of the center said the animals began leaving the day after Thanksgiving. He said the fact that so many sea lions stayed for so long is even stranger than their disappearance. Read more:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/12/29/san-franciscos-famous-sea_n_406702.html

Photo credit: Sea lions at Pier 39, Trip Advisor.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

German Billionaire Prince Albert of Thurn and Taxis Proposes World's Largest Solar Park in German State of Bavaria

German billionaire Prince Albert of Thurn and Taxis wants to build the world's largest solar farm in the German state of Bavaria. The project, estimated to cost about 115 million Euro ($171 million), could prove to be lucrative in terms of generating electricity sales for the family. There is, however, one hitch -- local resistance to the project.

The family, one of Germany's wealthiest known from the 16th to the 18th century for delivering mail, plans to build solar panels across 20.5 million square feet of land, which, Der Spiegel estimates to be equal to 280 soccer fields, in the town of Harthof, located near Straubing. The farm would reportedly provide up to 65 megawatts of peak power, making it the world's largest.
But Prinz's plan to draw power from the Bavarian sun has run into resistance from local citizens, who object to having such a large solar set up right in their backyard. Indeed, the solar farm would stretch from the Harthof border three kilometers (1.9 miles) towards the neighboring town of Alburg. "We have nothing against solar energy," Barbara Unger, mayor of Feldkirchen, told the FT Deutschland. But the concern, she added, is that the size and breadth of the solar panel project would destroy the land. "Where now the eye glides over the Gäuboden countryside, our citizens will only see a gleaming glass desert," Unger said.

Despite a petition to block the solar farm, the Straubing City Council voted to approve the project, which would bring in approximately €1 million of taxes to the city from the €18 million in annual electricity sales the House of Thurn and Taxis hopes to earn.  Source: Der Spiegel
According to Der Spiegel, the House of Thurn and Taxis dates back to 12th century Italy. During the 16th century, the family began a postal service that lasted until the 18th century. During that time, the family changed its name to Thurn and Taxis in 1650 and receiving their princely title from Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I in 1695. Since their time in the postal service, the family has owned various breweries and built several castles.

Prince Albert wants to enter a booming sector, which is aided by the sunny climate, state-guaranteed prices for green electricity, as well as rapid price declines. According to FT Deutschland (German), this year alone, the region between Landshut, Regensburg and Straubing will see about 60 new large solar farms installed, with approximately 60,000 new roof installations are being erected across Bavaria.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

NewsDaily: Oklahoma-Based National Steak & Poultry Company Recalling Beef Products in Six States

NewsDaily (2009-12-26) -- An Oklahoma company said it was voluntarily recalling 248,000 lbs (112,000 kg) of beef products in six states following an outbreak of illnesses involving E. coli bacteria. In a recorded telephone message, National Steak and Poultry of Owasso, Oklahoma, said it was recalling various products in Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, South Dakota, Michigan, and Washington state.


NewsDaily: Meddling in Mosquitoes' Sex Life Could Cut Malaria

NewsDaily (2009-12-26) -- Interfering in mosquitoes' sex lives could help halt the spread of malaria, British scientists said on Tuesday.  A study on the species of mosquito mainly responsible for malaria transmission in Africa, Anopheles gambiae, showed that because these mosquitoes mate only once in their lives, meddling with that process could dramatically cut their numbers.

Researchers from Imperial College London found that a "mating plug" used by male mosquitoes to ensure their sperm stays in the right place in the female is essential for her to be able to fertilize eggs during her lifetime.


Science Daily: Scientists Take Important Step Toward 'Fountain of Youth' Through Calorie Restriction

ScienceDaily (Dec. 26, 2009) — Going back for a second dessert after your holiday meal might not be the best strategy for living a long, cancer-free life say researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. That's because they've shown exactly how restricted calorie diets -- specifically in the form of restricted glucose -- help human cells live longer. This discovery, published online in The FASEB Journal, could help lead to drugs and treatments that slow human aging and prevent cancer.

"Our hope is that the discovery that reduced calories extends the lifespan of normal human cells will lead to further discoveries of the causes for these effects in different cell types and facilitate the development of novel approaches to extend the lifespan of humans," said Trygve Tollefsbol, Ph.D., a researcher involved in the work from the Center for Aging and Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "We would also hope for these studies to lead to improved prevention of cancer as well as many other age-related diseases through controlling calorie intake of specific cell types."

To make this discovery, Tollefsbol and colleagues used normal human lung cells and precancerous human lung cells that were at the beginning stages of cancer formation. Both sets of cells were grown in the laboratory and received either normal or reduced levels of glucose (sugar). As the cells grew over a period of a few weeks, the researchers monitored their ability to divide, and kept track of how many cells survived over this period.

They found that the normal cells lived longer, and many of the precancerous cells died, when given less glucose. Gene activity was also measured under these same conditions. The reduced glucose caused normal cells to have a higher activity of the gene that dictates the level of telomerase, an enzyme that extends their lifespan and lower activity of a gene (p16) that slows their growth. Epigenetic effects (effects not due to gene mutations) were found to be a major cause in changing the activity of these genes as they reacted to decreased glucose levels.

Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (2009, December 26). Calorie restriction: Scientists take important step. Science Daily

Photo credit:  Glucose molecular model. (Credit: iStockphoto/Martin McCarthy)

Purdue University Develops New Method to Rearrange Distillation Sequence Needed to Separate Crude Petroleum into Products

ScienceDaily (Dec. 25, 2009) — Refineries could trim millions of dollars in energy costs annually by using a new method developed at Purdue University to rearrange the distillation sequence needed to separate crude petroleum into products. The researchers have demonstrated their method on petroleum plants that separate crude, showing that 70 of the new sequences they identified could enable oil refineries to improve the energy efficiency of this step anywhere from six percent to 48 percent, said Rakesh Agrawal, the Winthrop E. Stone Distinguished Professor of Chemical Engineering.

"This is important because improving efficiency by 10 percent at a refinery processing 250,000 barrels per day would save in excess of $12 million a year if oil were priced at $70 a barrel," said Agrawal, who is working with doctoral student Vishesh Shah. "And that's just a single refinery. For the U.S. petroleum industry as a whole, this is a huge potential savings."

Research findings appeared online this month in the AIChE Journal, the official peer-reviewed journal of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, and will be included in a future issue of the magazine.

Chemical plants spend from 50 percent to 70 percent of their energy in "separations," which are usually distillation steps required to separate a raw material into various products. In the case of petroleum, four distillation columns are needed to separate raw crude into five separate components -- naphtha, kerosene, diesel fuel, gas oil and heavy residue. Some of these components are later used to make gasoline.

To read the entire article, CLICK HERE.

Purdue University (2009, December 25). Method makes refineries more efficient. ScienceDaily.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mount Mayon Volcano in the Phillipines Threatens Villages, 20,000 Evacuated

Times Online -- One of the world’s most perfectly formed volcanoes oozed lava and ash overnight, threatening to explode over a picturesque tourist town in the Philippines.

Many of the 50,000 villagers living within the 6-8 km (4-5 mile) danger zone around Mount Mayon, around 310 miles (500 km) south of Manila, the capital, were evacuated earlier today. The glowing volcano loomed large over the town of Legazpi, in the Albay province, spewing lava and ash that reached a height of about 330 feet.

Renato Solidum, head of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology, said magma has been rising at the volcano over the past two weeks and an explosion could be imminent.

Mount Mayon is an active stratovolcano and regarded as one of the world’s most perfectly formed volcanoes because of its symmetrical cone.

Two Australian Scientists Filmed Veined Octopus Carrying Coconut Shells for Shelter (VIDEO)

Australian scientists, Julian Finn and Mark Norman, have discovered an octopus in Indonesia that collects coconut shells for shelter. This behavior is considered unusually sophisticated and researchers believe it is the first evidence of tool used in an invertebrate animal.

The veined octopuses, scientifically known as Amphioctopus marginatus, were filmed by scientists filmed, selecting halved coconut shells from the sea floor, emptying them out, carrying them under their bodies up to 65 feet and assembling two shells together to make a spherical hiding spot.

The two scientists from the Museum Victoria in Melbourne observed the odd activity in four of the creatures during a series of dive trips to North Sulawesi and Bali in Indonesia between 1998 and 2008. Their findings were published Tuesday in the journal Current Biology.

While octopuses often use foreign objects as shelter, it seems that the veined octopus went a step further by preparing the shells, carrying them long distances and reassembling them as shelter elsewhere.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Lowe's Launches Energy Centers in 21 Stores in California, Additional Roll-Out in Other U.S. and Canadian Stores to Come in 2010

Twenty-one Lowe's Cos. locations in California will include new Energy Centers, which will provide information and products related to measuring, reducing and generating energy. Lowe's created the Energy Centers to provide a one-stop location within stores for energy needs.

According to Green Biz, each center will include a touchscreen display with product demonstration videos, energy tips and a tool from ChooseRenewables.com that helps customers assess their home's potential for solar and wind power.
For energy measurement, the Energy Centers will feature power monitors that monitor real-time energy use and offer other features like energy bill projection. On the energy reduction side, the centers will include compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) and programmable thermostats.

And for those who own homes that are a good fit for solar and wind power, Lowe's offers a couple different solar panel products and will soon offer utility-connected wind turbines by special order.

The Energy Centers will pop up in Lowe's stores in Antioch, South Antioch, Burbank, Cotati, Dublin, North Fontana, Fremont, Livermore, Pacoima, East Palmdale, Palmdale, San Bruno, East San Jose, East Santa Clarita, Simi Valley, South San Francisco, Sunnyvale, Union City, Vacaville, Victorville and West Hills. Source: Green Biz
Lowe's will roll out more Energy Centers to other U.S. cities and Canadian stores in 2010.

Two Proposed Changes being Made to the Washington D.C. Green Building Act of 2007, Apply to the Surety Industry

Several revisions to the Green Building Act of 2007, which phased in green building in Washington D.C., are being proposed to clear up some of the confusion surrounding what it covers and to update the act. There are two proposed changes that apply to the surety industry. The first, proposes that the phrase "performance bond" be replaced with the word "bond." Companies in the surety industry, such as Surety Bonds, guarantees the completion of construction projects by issuing a wide variety of bond. These companies have been questioning the enforcement tactic in the current act, by saying the provision is patently unclear and saddled with more risks than relief. 

In essence, if a project fails to meet the green requirements, Washington D.C. would obtain funds from a performance bond that has been posted for the project in an amount of up to four percent of the building costs, or $3 million. That money would then be put into a new city green building fund, whose primary aim would be helping to implement legislation. This mandate has left surety companies, such as Surety Bonds, puzzled as to which party in the project, whether the building owners, the contractors or the designers, would have to pay for the performance bond and ultimately bearing the risk of failing to comply with the Act.

The D.C.-based National Association of Surety Bond Producers and the D.C. Building Industry Association have asked the D.C. Council, which passed the Act in 2006, to amend the language in the act because they claim it is wrong. They maintain that if the phrase "performance bonds" remained, it would result in reluctance from the surety companies to back the bonds. Developers must provide these "performance bonds" for each project seeking green building certification, such as LEED.

The second major change that is being proposed to the act is to force compliance to the latest Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, or LEED, standards published in 2009. Starting January 1, 2012, all new construction projects in Washington D.C. will be required to report energy usage to the U.S. Green Building Council to ensure LEED certification. A public hearing on the revisions is set for December 14.

According to the Department of Consumer & Regulatory Affairs, the Green Building Act of 2006, requires that commercial buildings be certified, using the LEED Green Building Rating System. LEED is a nationally-renowned benchmark for green building design, construction and operation. It is a whole-building approach to sustainability. The Act also launches a green building incentive program, a Green Building Fund and a Green Building Advisory Council.

Photo credit:  Building Commissioning

Monday, December 7, 2009

Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo, "Space Tourism Craft" To Be Unveiled in Mojave Desert

Virgin Galactic will unveil its long-waited SpaceShipTwo Monday in the Mojave Desert. After five years of secret construction, the cloak will come off the privately funded spacecraft designed to fly tourists, albeit well-heeled ones, into space. The project is bankrolled by Virgin Galactic founder, British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, who partnered with famed aviation designer Burt Rutan, the brains behind the venture. It is based on Rutan's design of a stubby white prototype called SpaceShipOne, which captured the $10 million Ansari X Prize in 2004, by becoming the first privately manned craft to reach space.

Since the historic feat, engineers from Rutan's Scaled Composites LLC have been laboring in a Mojave hangar to commercialize the prototype in heavy secrecy. Branson said he, his family and Rutan would be the first people to make the trip in space aboard the craft, ushering in an era when people can "become astronauts." "What we want to be able to do is bring space travel down to a price range where hundreds of thousands of people would be able to experience space and they never dreamed that could happen in the past," Branson said in an interview on CNN.

The first SpaceShipTwo test flights are expected to start next year, with full space launches to its maximum altitude by or in 2011. According to the company, about 300 clients have paid the $200,000 ticket or placed a deposit. Virgin Galactic plans to operate commercial spaceflights out of a taxpayer-funded spaceport in New Mexico that is under construction. The 2 1/2 hour trips – up and down flights without circling the Earth – include about five minutes of weightlessness.

SpaceShipTwo is built from lightweight composite materials and powered by a hybrid rocket motor. It is different from its prototype cousin in three ways:  it's twice as large, measuring 60 feet long with a roomy cabin about the size of a Falcon 900 executive jet; it has more windows including overhead portholes; and while SpaceShipOne was designed for three people, SpaceShipTwo can carry six passengers and two pilots.

SpaceShipTwo will be carried aloft by White Knight Two and released at 50,000 feet. The craft's rocket engine will burn a combination of nitrous oxide and a rubber-based solid fuel to climb more than 65 miles above the Earth's surface. After reaching the top of its trajectory, it will then fall back into the atmosphere and glide to a landing like a normal airplane. Its descent is controlled by "feathering" its wings to maximize aerodynamic drag. Virgin Galactic expects to spend more than $400 million for a fleet of five commercial spaceships and launch vehicles.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Nepalese Government To Hold Highest Cabinet Meeting Near Mount Everest

A group of ministers from Nepal have reached the Mount Everest region for a cabinet meeting being billed as the highest ever, a stunt meant to highlight the threat global warming poses to the Himalayan glaciers. The meeting comes ahead of the international climate change conference slated to commence next week in Copenhagen, Denmark. The Nepalese meeting is meant to draw attention to the effects climate change is having on the region surrounding the world's highest peak.

The 23 ministers flew to the airstrip in Lukla, a town at an elevation of 9,180-feet (2,800 meters) that is considered the gateway to the Mount Everest region. They were to stay overnight before flying by helicopter to Kalapathar for Friday's meeting at an altitude of 17,192 feet (5,250 meters). Scientists say the Himalayas' glaciers are melting at an alarming rate, creating lakes whose walls could burst and flood villages below. Melting ice and snow also make the routes for mountaineers less stable and more difficult to follow.

Due to the high altitude and risks involved, Friday's mountainside meeting will be brief, with the ministers soon flown down to the town of Syangboche, at a safer 12,800 feet (3,900 meters). Nepalese Prime Minister Madhav Kumar Nepal was scheduled to attend the meeting. Rescue helicopters and doctors have been positioned at Lukla, Syangboche and at the meeting venue, according to the Himalayan Rescue Association.