Earth

WASHINGTON, D.C. November 18, 2009 -- To design a lightweight anchor that can dig itself in to hold small underwater submersibles, Anette (Peko) Hosoi of MIT borrowed techniques from one of nature's best diggers -- the razor clam.

"The best anchoring technology out there is an order or magnitude worse than the clam - most are two or three orders worse," says Hosoi, whose group is presenting this work next week at the 62nd Annual Meeting of the American Physical Society's (APS) Division of Fluid Dynamics will take place from November 22-24 at the Minneapolis Convention Center.

WASHINGTON, D.C. November 13, 2009 -- If a nuclear weapon were detonated in a metropolitan area, how large would the affected area be? Where should first responders first go? According to physicist Fernando Grinstein, we have some initial understanding to address these questions, but fundamental issues remain unresolved.

"The predictive capabilities of today's state-of-the-art models in urban areas need to be improved, validated and tested," says Grinstein. "Work in this area has been limited primarily because of lack of consistent funding."

(Washington, DC • Nov. 20, 2009) – Scientists from the Marine Biogeochemistry and Geology and Geophysics sections of the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) organized and led a team of university and government scientists on an Arctic expedition to initiate methane hydrate exploration in the Beaufort Sea and determine the spatial variation of sediment contribution to Arctic climate change.

A research team led by the University of Colorado at Boulder has found a clever way to use traditional GPS satellite signals to measure snow depth as well as soil and vegetation moisture, a technique expected to benefit meteorologists, water resource managers, climate modelers and farmers.

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) –– Physicists at UC Santa Barbara have made an important advance in electrically controlling quantum states of electrons, a step that could help in the development of quantum computing. The work is published online today on the Science Express Web site.

Washington, D.C.— Much of our planet's mineral wealth was deposited billions of years ago when Earth's chemical cycles were different from today's. Using geochemical clues from rocks nearly 3 billion years old, a group of scientists including Andrey Bekker and Doug Rumble from the Carnegie Institution have made the surprising discovery that the creation of economically important nickel ore deposits was linked to sulfur in the ancient oxygen-poor atmosphere.

MADISON — Roughly 15,000 years ago, at the end of the last ice age, North America's vast assemblage of large animals — including such iconic creatures as mammoths, mastodons, camels, horses, ground sloths and giant beavers — began their precipitous slide to extinction.

A new study of Antarctica's past climate reveals that temperatures during the warm periods between ice ages (interglacials) may have been higher than previously thought. The latest analysis of ice core records suggests that Antarctic temperatures may have been up to 6°C warmer than the present day.

The findings, reported this week by scientists from the British Antarctic Survey (BAS), the Open University and University of Bristol in the journal Nature could help us understand more about rapid Antarctic climate changes.

NEWPORT NEWS, VA, November 18, 2009 - A recent experiment at the Department of Energy's Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility has found that a proton's nearest neighbors in the nucleus of the atom may modify the proton's internal structure.

The result was published in the November 13 issue of the journal Physical Review Letters.

WASHINGTON -- Nine research challenges and four research initiatives that are poised to advance the study of how Earth's landscapes change were unveiled today in a new report by the National Research Council. These challenges and initiatives could open the path to resolving environmental issues, from coastal erosion to landslides, by helping predict how processes such as wind, ice, water, tectonics, and living organisms drive changes in the Earth's surface.

ROME, ITALY (18 November 2009)— Alarmed by a substantial oversight in the global climate talks leading up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen next month, more than 60 of the world's most prominent agricultural scientists and leaders underscored how the almost total absence of agriculture in the agreement could lead to widespread famine and food shortages in the years ahead.

Everybody loves a race to the wire, even when the result is a tie. The great irony is the ultraprecise clocks that could result from this competition could probably break any tie.

First, it was the soccer-ball-shaped molecules dubbed buckyballs. Then it was the cylindrically shaped nanotubes. Now, the hottest new material in physics and nanotechnology is graphene: a remarkably flat molecule made of carbon atoms arranged in hexagonal rings much like molecular chicken wire.

A team of physicists has, for the first time, seen convincing experimental evidence for directed percolation, a phenomenon that turns up in computer models of the ways diseases spread through a population or how water soaks through loose soil. Their observation strengthens the case for directed percolation's relevance to real systems, and lends new vigor to long-standing theories about how it works.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A new study indicates that major chemicals most often cited as leading causes of climate change, such as carbon dioxide and methane, are outclassed in their warming potential by compounds receiving less attention.

Purdue University and NASA examined more than a dozen chemicals, most of which are generated by humans, and have developed a blueprint for the underlying molecular machinery of global warming. The results appear in a special edition of the American Chemical Society's Journal of Physical Chemistry A, released Nov. 12.