Earth

Jülich, 9 January 2011 – Although the storage of films and music on a DVD is part of our digital world, the physical basis of the storage mechanism is not understood in detail. In the current issue of the leading journal Nature Materials, researchers from Jülich, Finland, and Japan provide insight into the read and write processes in a DVD. This knowledge should enable improved storage materials to be developed. (DOI: 10.1038/NMAT2931)

College students lack scientific literacy, study finds

EAST LANSING, Mich. — Most college students in the United States do not grasp the scientific basis of the carbon cycle – an essential skill in understanding the causes and consequences of climate change, according to research published in the January issue of BioScience.

Collaborating with an international research team, an economic geologist from The University of Western Ontario has discovered how gold-rich magma is produced, unveiling an all-important step in the formation of gold mines.

The findings were published in the December issue of Nature Geoscience.

An international, NOAA-led research team took a significant step forward in understanding the atmosphere's ability to cleanse itself of air pollutants and some other gases, except carbon dioxide. The issue has been controversial for many years, with some studies suggesting the self-cleaning power of the atmosphere is fragile and sensitive to environmental changes, while others suggest greater stability. And what researchers are finding is that the atmosphere's self-cleaning capacity is rather stable.

Ibn al-Haytham's 11th-century Book of Optics, which was published exactly 1000 years ago, is often cited alongside Newton's Principia as one of the most influential books in physics. Yet very little is known about the writer, considered by many to be the father of modern optics.

January's Physics World features a fanciful re-imagining of the 10-year period in the life of the medieval Muslim polymath, written by Los Angeles-based science writer Jennifer Ouellette.

Artistry from science: Cornell University researchers have unveiled striking, atomic-resolution details of what graphene "quilts" look like at the boundaries between patches, and have uncovered key insights into graphene's electrical and mechanical properties. (Nature, Jan. 5, 2010.)

Researchers focused on graphene – a one atom-thick sheet of carbon atoms bonded in a crystal lattice like a honeycomb or chicken wire – because of its electrical properties and potential to improve everything from solar cells to cell phone screens.

Six years after the tsunami disaster of 26/12/2004, the set-up of the German-Indonesian Tsunami Early Warning System for the Indian Ocean (GITEWS) has been completed. The project ends on 31 March 2011. After that, Indonesia accepts the sole responsibility for the overall system.

 A methane-metal marriage

For the first time, chemists have succeeded in plugging a metal atom into a methane gas molecule, thereby creating a new compound that could be a key in opening up new production processes for the chemical industry, especially for the synthesis of organic compounds, which in turn might have implications for drug development.

Nuclear magnetic moment provides a highly sensitive probe into the single-particle structure and serves as a stringent test of nuclear models. In recent decades, the facilities with radioactive ion beam models to study nuclear magnetic moments make it possible to measure the magnetic moments of neutron-rich and proton-rich nuclei with high precision. On the theoretical side, many nuclear structure models, including advanced shell models, and self-consistent mean-field theories, have succeeded analyzing many nuclear structure properties.

Growing hypoxic zones reduce habitat for billfish and tuna

Billfish and tuna, important commercial and recreational fish species, may be more vulnerable to fishing pressure because of shrinking habitat, according to a new study published by scientists from NOAA, The Billfish Foundation, and University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 22, 2010 -- What can scientists learn from watching a group of people sitting around, chatting, playing movies, reading, and happily making new friends? Quite a lot, says University of Melbourne, Australia acoustician Adam Vogel, who carefully observed this sort of group in a fatigue management study he and his colleagues describe this month in The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America.