Developing Countries Inundated with E-waste; Google Street View of Distant Galaxies; Setting Sun Gives Bats Direction
Where Does the World’s E-Waste Go?
When you replace a PC, tablet, mobile or any kind of electronic device, do you ever wonder what happens to your old equipment?
A new study finds that about 25 percent of all e-waste discarded by developed countries ends up in seven developing nations, posing severe health risks to people living there.
The nations where this e-waste is dumped includes – China, India, Nigeria, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Benin and Liberia.
The problem of e-waste or electronic waste is proving to be a growing struggle for local and national governments worldwide.
Astronomers Develop Cosmological Google Street View
Australian astronomers have come up with a cosmological “Google Street View” of a number of distant galaxies.
Constructed of bundles of optical fibers, the home-made device called the Sydney-AAO Multi-Object Integral field spectrograph (SAMI) also provides astronomers with very detailed images of the galaxies.
The research team that developed the device said that astronomers used to only be able to study one galaxy in detail at a time, but this device allows them to make simultaneous, detailed observations of multiple galaxies.
NASA Astronomers Spot a Transformer Pulsar
NASA astronomers recently spotted a Transformer Pulsar.
They found it after noticing some unusual behavior of a pulsar (rapidly spinning neutron star) located in a binary star system some 4,000 light years from Earth.
Late last month, the astronomers were making measurements of the binary star system when they noticed the radio beacon being transmitted by the pulsar suddenly disappeared, while at the same time, the system’s gamma rays increased five times.
“It’s almost as if someone flipped a switch, morphing the system from a lower-energy state to a higher-energy one,” said Benjamin Stappers of the UK’s University of Manchester, who led the international research team’s effort.
Gamma rays are the most powerful form of light in the universe.
Bats Rely on Polarized Light to Reset Their Internal Compasses
A species of bats, called Greater mouse-eared bats, use the polarized light of the setting sun to calibrate their internal magnetic compass, which helps the flying animals travel in the right direction, according to a new report.
The sun usually gives off unpolarized light, which means that the light waves bounce all over the place. However, at sunset the light waves interact with the atmosphere in such a way that the unpolarized light becomes polarized, meaning the light waves travel in one direction.
Outlining their findings in a study published by in Nature Communications, the researchers admit that they have no idea how the bats are able to detect polarized light.
Popular Cooking Herbs May Someday Help Those with Diabetes
Rosemary and oregano are two popular herbs cooks use to enhance the flavor of foods, but new research shows they might someday also be key ingredients in medications for type 2 diabetes.
Research led by Elvira Gonzalez de Mejia of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, finds that oregano and rosemary are also jam-packed full of healthy compounds.
Writing in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, the researchers said tests found the popular herbs could very well work in much the same way as prescription anti-diabetic medication.
While encouraged by their findings, the researchers said more studies are needed to understand the role that compounds contained within the herbs have in reducing the risk of type 2 diabetes in humans.
While those radioactive materials naturally mix in the air, the quantities are usually low — typically less than one part per million.
The international research team from England, France and the United States, outlined its findings in Nature Materials.
Current methods for removing xenon from the air involve chilling the affected air to a temperature that is much further below the point where water freezes. This can be very expensive and use a lot of energy.
The new technique centers around a new material, CC3, which was developed by research team and members from the University of Liverpool. It’s a molecule that contains a number of cavities, or cages, structured to such an exacting size and shape that radioactive gas molecules of elements like xenon and radon fit very precisely into them.
“If you imagine sorting marbles, then you see the problem with sorting these atoms,” said chemist Andy Cooper from the University of Liverpool and lead study author in a press release. “They are round in shape and of a similar size, not to mention that only one marble in every million is the one you are looking for.”
Researchers performed laboratory experiments and simulations in order find out how effectively the CC3 material was able to separate these radioactive gases.
The CC3 absorbs all types of molecules or atoms that stick to the material’s surface. While only the radioactive gas molecules remain locked into place within the molecular cavities of the CC3, other molecules, such as water or nitrogen, are released.
The scientists say that their approach in removing these radioactive materials could prove helpful not only in removing these dangerous airborne elements that result from nuclear fuel clean up or naturally occur in buildings, but could be used to help recycle these elements for future use.
“Xenon, krypton and radon are noble gases, which are chemically inert. That makes it difficult to find materials that can trap them,” said study coauthor Praveen Thallapally of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “So we were happily surprised at how easily CC3 removed them from the gas stream.”
Krypton and xenon gases are used in the manufacture of specialty lighting such as flash lamps and are most popular in photographers’ flash units.
Science Scanner: Bacteria Go Dormant Until Antibiotics Wear Off, Spacecraft Dives by Saturn’s Ring, and Antartica’s Disappearing Penguins
NASA Launches Mission to Study Atmospheric C02
NASA’s successfully launched its Orbiting Carbon Observatory-2 (OCO-2) from California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base Wednesday morning.
OCO-2’s mission, which is expected to last at least two years, will study atmospheric carbon dioxide, which scientists say is not only an important element of Earth’s carbon-cycle, but also the primary human-produced greenhouse gas that’s been singled out as playing a role in global warming.
Throughout the course of its mission, the spacecraft’s lone instrument, which contains three high-resolution grating spectrometers, will collect space-based global measurements of atmospheric CO2 as well as locate sources of and storage places for this greenhouse gas.
Mission officials say OCO-2 will take the study of the global carbon cycle to a unique new level. They said it will create the most thorough picture that’s ever been taken of Earth’s natural carbon dioxide sources and their “sinks”, which are areas where the CO2 is removed and stored.
Up to 50% of Antarctica’s Emperor Penguins Could Disappear by Century’s End
The population of Emperor penguins living in Antarctica is at risk of severe decline by the end of the century because of climate change, according to a new study by an international team of scientists.
Currently, the Emperor penguin is being considered for inclusion on the endangered species list, a move the study researchers support.
The researchers pointed out that since Emperor penguins depend so much on sea ice in their daily lives, any changes in the amount of local sea ice concentration (SIC) would have serious effects on their well-being.
In making their analysis of future Emperor penguin population, the researchers included all current and projected drops in sea ice concentration where the penguins maintain their colonies. They found that, due to ongoing climate change, the penguin numbers could drop as much as 50 percent by the end of the century.
Cassini Grand Finale
NASA’s Cassini Mission, which has been studying Saturn, its famous rings and its moons for a decade, is readying for its final mission phase which is expected to begin sometime in 2016.
With help from 2,000 members of the public and those involved with the mission, the space agency has named the unmanned spacecraft’s swan song mission, “Cassini Grand Finale”.
In this final portion of the Cassini Mission, the spacecraft will be put through a “daring set of orbits” that in some ways will be like an entirely new mission, NASA says.
The spacecraft will frequently climb high above the ringed planet’s North Pole as it soars just outside of its narrow F ring. Mission officials said that Cassini will also study the water-rich geyser plumes found spouting high above the surface of Saturn’s moon Enceladus, and will dive between the planet and innermost ring 22 times.
Fish Have Better Memories than Thought
Canadian scientists have found that fish have a better memory that was previously thought. Fish were thought to have a memory span of only about 30 seconds, but the researchers said the fish they studied disproved that notion by remembering context and associations for as long as 12 days.
The African Cichlids (Labidochromis caeruleus), a species many people put in their aquariums, exhibited a number of intricate behaviors, including aggression. This led the scientists to think that the fish might be capable of performing some advanced memory tasks.
So, the researchers trained each of the fish used in their experiments to navigate itself into a specific area of the aquarium where it was given a food reward. Each training session lasted about 20 minutes over a three-day period. The fish were then removed from their training area and allowed to rest for 12 days.
After this rest period, the fish were reintroduced back into their training environment where their movements were tracked with motion-tracking software.
The fish showed a preference for the area of the aquarium that had the previous food reward, which indicated that they were able to recall their previous training.
After the researchers put them through additional training, the fish were able to disassociate themselves from the original reward area in favor of a new location where the food was placed.
How Does Bacteria Become Antibiotic Resistant?
Have you ever wondered how bacteria mutate to a point where they build up a resistance to medication designed to kill them?
Researchers from Hebrew University of Jerusalem were able to precisely measure how bacteria respond to antibiotics, which allowed them to develop a mathematical model of the process.
The model they developed showed that giving the bacteria daily three-hour doses of an antibiotic provided it with the ability to predict just how long each dose was effective and then allowed it to go dormant for that period of time. The bacteria were able to evolve to where it was able to develop biological timers so it could outlive the effectiveness of the antibiotic.
New evidence suggests there might be oceans of water far beneath Earth’s surface.
Northwestern University geophysicist Steve Jacobsen, along with University of New Mexico seismologist Brandon Schmandt, found evidence of water in pockets of hot magma about 645 km beneath North America within the transition zone between Earth’s upper and lower mantle.
“It alters our previous understanding of the composition of the Earth,” said Jacobsen, adding that Earth might have far more H2O than was previously thought.
“It [also] has some implications for where Earth’s water came from, from inside [the Earth] versus comets,” Jacobsen said.
Even though this deep-Earth water isn’t in the form we’re used to, such as liquid, ice or even vapor, researchers say their discovery could still turn out to be one of our planet’s largest water reservoirs.
Not only will the findings help determine just how much water is trapped inside rock in the transition zone, but they will also provide scientists with unique insight into the composition of Earth’s structure, how it was formed, and the complex processes that are taking place deep inside our planet.
The study augments another, by a Canadian-led team, that discovered water deep within Earth hydrous minerals that were pushed to the surface by volcanoes.
Jacobsen and Schmandt believe that plate tectonics may be responsible for driving water so far down into the Earth.
There are instances where tectonic plates come together and one of them dives deep down from the crust into the mantle, beneath the other, in a process called subduction.
There are times during subduction when water is taken down into the mantle in the form of hydrous minerals, such as ringwoodite. This form of water often doesn’t make it that far down into the mantle.
Typically, within the upper 100 kilometers or so into the mantle, temperatures become so hot and the pressures become so high, that those hydrous minerals begin breaking down to form other minerals. But, in doing this, the minerals also release some water in a process called dehydration melting, which Jacobsen said is also the source of magma in all volcanoes .
The huge amounts of water described by the researchers are trapped within the molecular structure of minerals that are contained in the mantle rock.
The researchers say that even if only 1percent of the weight of transition zone rock had trapped water inside, that amount of water would be equal to about three times the water that’s held in our oceans.
Since the minerals are subjected to such immense pressure and high temperatures, water molecules that become bound within the mineral’s crystal structure actually split and form something called hydroxyl radicals.
As these OH rich minerals come up to the surface of the Earth and are melted through geological events such volcanic eruptions, the OH molecules regroup and form actual water (H20) molecules and are expelled as water vapor.
The research team believes that this deep Earth water is connected with surface reservoirs.
“You can probably recycle all of the water in the oceans, through the upper mantle, once every 100 million years or so,” said Jacobsen.
The research Schmandt conducted was based on seismic data produced by USArray, a network of some 2,000 seismometers that have been placed throughout the US. Jacobsen replicates the pressure and temperatures found deep inside the Earth through various laboratory experiments and then studies the geophysical processes that are taking place so far beneath the surface of the Earth, that direct observation isn’t possible.
“We don’t know much yet, about this deeper reservoir, which could be potentially as large as the oceans or maybe even more than that,” said Jacobsen.