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Oil Prices Dip Slightly

Oil prices settled at $91.12 per barrel of benchmark grade crude on the New York Mercantile Exchange Wednesday, and other energy commodities fell as the East Coast worked to dig itself out from Monday’s snow storm.

Energy prices usually climb as the weather gets colder, but industry analysts say that most traders have locked in their energy contracts for the year, and investors still buying are looking ahead to 2011, The Associated Press reports.

Heating oil for January delivery fell less than a penny to $2.524 per gallon, gasoline for January delivery fell 1.47 cents to $2.3909 per gallon, and natural gas for February shed 3.1 cents at $4.257 per 1,000 cubic feet, AP reports.

At the pump, the national average price of unleaded gasoline was $3.061 per gallon, up 1.2 cents from Tuesday’s $3.049, AAA said.

Posted in Energy Industry, Natural Gas, Oil & Petroleum0 Comments

Gas Prices Will Rise to $5 by 2012, Shell Exec Warns

Gas prices will climb to $5 and rationing will be necessary by 2012 if ineffective governing continues, a former Shell executive said Tuesday.

John Hofmeister, former president of Shell Oil, told the Platts news service that political indecision could lead to all-time high prices at the pump and national shortages as soon as a year down the road.

“The politically driven choices that are being made, which are non-choices, essentially frittering at the edges of renewable energy, stifling production in hydrocarbon energy — that’s a sure path for not enough energy for American consumers,” Hofmeister said, according to UPI.

He predicted that lawmakers will panic when they “suddenly” realize they need to rework the U.S. energy strategy around 2012.

“When American consumers are short or prices are so high — $5 a gallon for gasoline, for example, by 2012 — that’s going to set a new tone,” he added.

Hofmeister also expects that the newly Republican-controlled House will make for political gridlock in 2011, fixing energy dependency on hydrocarbons and preventing the exploration of sustainable methods.

The national average price of unleaded gasoline rose Tuesday to $3.049 per gallon, up from $3.042 Monday, AAA said. Oil was up 10 cents at $91.03 a barrel on the Nymex.

Posted in Biofuels & Biomass, Energy Industry, Natural Gas, Oil & Petroleum0 Comments

China Cuts Rare Earth Exports; U.S. Concerned

China plans to slash its exports of rare earth minerals used worldwide in high-tech products and clean energy, a decision that could cause strain with the United States.

The Commerce Ministry said Tuesday that it will scale back the export quotas 11 percent in the first half of 2011.

China churns out 97 percent of the global supply of rare earth elements, which are essential components of high-technology products like cell phones, computer drives, and hybrid cars, AP reports.

The U.S. Trade Representative’s office voiced concern over the move.

“We are very concerned about China’s export restraints on rare earth materials. We have raised our concerns with China and we are continuing to work closely on the issue with stakeholders,” a USTR spokeswoman said, according to Reuters.

The announcement comes amid growing tensions between the U.S. and China. China lowered its export quota by 40 percent in 2010 and last week shot down U.S. requests to end the restraints. The USTR says the United States may bring the dispute before the World Trade Organization, Reuters reports.

China is allocating 14,446 tons of rare earths among 31 companies.

Posted in Energy Industry, Engineering, International Relations & Treaties0 Comments

Los Angeles Rain Causes Mudslides, Flooding, Evacuations

Heavy rain hammered Southern California relentlessly this week, prompting Gov. Arnold Schwartzenegger to declare a state of emergency for six counties in the Los Angeles area.

The torrential downpour caused major flooding in the Orange County coastal community of Laguna Beach, forcing officials to close the downtown area, which was several feet underwater.

Police evacuated several thousand residents in areas near Los Angeles in danger of mudslides, UPI reported.

A rain-swollen hillside collapsed onto a busy highway road east of Los Angeles, AP said.

In San Diego and southern Orange County, about 13,000 lost power, San Diego Gas & Electric said.

Wednesday’s storm followed nearly a week’s worth of heavy rain in the region.

According to UPI, the severe flooding caused sewage and petroleum leaks in San Diego, Fresno, and La Mesa.

Posted in Atmospheric Science, Wastewater & Runoff, Water Pollution, Water, Ecosystems & Agriculture0 Comments

Baikonur Cosmodrome: Astronauts Blast Off on Space Station Mission

The Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan Wednesday bid farewell to a trio of astronauts bound for the International Space Station.

According to a NASA release, the Soyuz TMA-20 spacecraft blasted off at 2:09 p.m. EST, carrying Russian austronaut Dmitry Kondratyev, NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman and the European Space Agency’s Paolo Nespoli of Italy.

The capsule is expected to dock at the International Space Station’s Rassvet orbiting laboratory Friday afternoon, United Press International reported Wednesday.

Cmdr. Scott Kelly and Flight Engineers Alexander Kaleri and Oleg Skripochka have been working in the station’s mini-research module since Oct. 9. They are scheduled to return to Kazakhstan aboard the Soyuz TMA-01M craft this March.

Kondratyev, Coleman and Nespoli will continue working on the station until May.

The space shuttle Discovery will bring a new crew delivering supplies to the ISS in early February, UPI reported.

Posted in Science, Space, & Technology0 Comments

Love May Be As Good As a Pain Reliever

STANFORD, Calif., Oct. 14 (UPI) — The brain systems involved with intense, passionate feelings of love are the same as those feeling pain, and U.S. researchers say they want to modulate both.

Dr. Sean Mackey, chief of the division of pain management at the Stanford University School of Medicine, and Arthur Aron, a professor of psychology who has studied love at the State University of New York at Stony Brook, met several years ago at a neuroscience conference.

“Art was talking about love,” Mackey says in a statement. “I was talking about pain. He was talking about the brain systems involved with love. I was talking about the brain systems involved with pain. We realized there was this tremendous overlapping system.”

Researchers recruited 15 undergraduates — eight women and seven men — who were in the first nine months of a romantic relationship, who were feeling euphoric, energetic, obsessively thinking about their beloved and craving their presence.

The researchers asked each to bring a picture of their beloved and a photo of an equally attractive acquaintance.

The pictures were flashed before the subjects while their hands were subjected to mild pain and their brains were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging. The study subjects were also tested for levels of pain relief while being distracted with word-association tasks.

The study, published in PLoS ONE, showed both love (looking at the picture of their beloved) and distraction (word games) equally reduce pain, but at much higher levels than focusing on the attractive acquaintance. But both methods of pain reduction used very different brain pathways.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Art, Other0 Comments

Men and Women Have Equal Math Skills

MADISON, Wis., Oct. 13 (UPI) — Men and women have equal skills in math, something widely accepted among social scientists, but not by parents and teachers, U.S. researchers said.

Chief author Janet Hyde, a professor of psychology and women’s studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, says the meta-analysis involved looked systematically at 242 articles that assessed the math skills of 1,286,350 people from 1990 to 2007.

Hyde and colleagues looked at students in grade school to college and beyond. A second portion examined the results of several large, long-term scientific studies, including the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

The meta-analysis, published in the journal Psychological Bulletin, finds in both cases, the difference in math skills between the two sexes was so small as to be meaningless.

Nonetheless, teachers and parents often guide girls away from math-heavy sciences and engineering classes, Hyde says.

“Parents and teachers give little implicit messages about how good they expect kids to be at different subjects and that powerfully affects their self-concept of their ability,” Hyde says in a statement. “There is lots of evidence that what we call ‘stereotype threat’ can hold women back in math. If, before a test, you imply that the women should expect to do a little worse than the men, that hurts performance. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Engineering, Other0 Comments

University Researches Missile Software

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind., Oct. 12 (UPI) — U.S. academic researchers say they are working with the U.S. Defense Department on software meant to improve missile defense during an enemy attack.

Scientists at Purdue University say the work is meant to manage the large volume of incoming data during an enemy attack for better battle management and command and control of the missile defense system, a university release said Tuesday.

“New software algorithms are needed to determine if it’s a missile and what type, then engage our missile defense system to bring it down,” Saurabh Bagchi of Purdue’s School of Electrical and Computer Engineering said.

The project will create software that will analyze data from radar, satellites, reconnaissance aircraft and ships and compare it to aerospace modeling of the flight characteristics of enemy missiles and interceptors, researchers say.

The Purdue research is being funded by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency with $4.8 million for the three-year project.

“The key aspect we’re reaching out to universities on is how to handle larger ballistic missile attacks, which we refer to as raid events,” Lt. Col. Reid Vander Schaaf, program manager, said.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Engineering, Other0 Comments

Some Supplements May Help Treat Anxiety

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 8 (UPI) — A systematic review by U.S. researchers finds some nutritional and herbal supplements can be effective to treat anxiety without serious side effects.

Shaheen Lakhan and Karen Vieira of the Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation — a non-profit organization in Los Angeles that advocates for advancement of neurological and mental health patient welfare, education and research — says the research indicates strong evidence that extracts of passionflower, or kava, and combinations of L-lysine and L-arginine can help alleviate anxiety.

The researchers pooled the results of 24 studies involving more than 2,000 participants. Included in the review were 21 randomized-controlled trials, and of these 15 showed positive effects from either a nutritional or herbal remedy. Any reported side effects were mild to moderate, the researchers say.

“Our review and summary of the literature on herbal remedies and dietary supplements for anxiety should aid mental health practitioners in advising their patients and provide insight for future research in this field,” the researchers say in a statement. “We found mixed results — while passionflower or kava and L-lysine and L-arginine appeared to be effective, St. John’s Wort and magnesium supplements were not.”

However, for the kava, L-lysine and L-arginine supplements, more research needs to be done to establish the most effective dosage and to determine whether this varies between different types of anxiety or anxiety-related disorders, the researchers add.

The findings are published in the Nutrition Journal.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Education, Literature, Other0 Comments

High Fish Oil Link to Colon Cancer in Mice

EAST LANSING, Mich., Oct. 6 (UPI) — In a study of mice, U.S. researchers found high doses of fish oil induced severe colitis and colon cancer — a finding researchers described as “surprising.”

Study leader Jenifer Fenton, a food science and human nutrition researcher at Michigan State University, said the researchers hypothesized feeding fish oil enriched with docosahexaenoic acid to mice prone to inflammatory-like bowel disease would decrease their cancer risk.

“We actually found the opposite,” Fenton said in a statement. “We found that mice developed deadly, late-stage colon cancer when given high doses of fish oil — more importantly, with the increased inflammation, it only took four weeks for the tumors to develop.”

The study, published in the journal Cancer Research, found an increase in the severity of the cancer and an aggressive progression of the cancer in not only the mice receiving the highest doses of DHA but those receiving lower doses as well.

However, Fenton cautioned people may not need to avoid fish oil — with any nutrient, there is a “bell curve” effect, with those on the left deficient in a nutrient and those on the right in excess.

“Currently, there is a call by academics and the food industry to establish dietary guidelines for omega-3 consumption,” Fenton said. “Most Americans are deficient in omega-3 fatty acids, and there is substantial evidence supporting the beneficial effects of the consumption.”

The findings support a growing body of literature implicating the harmful effects of high doses of fish oil in relation to certain diseases, Fenton added.

Copyright 2010 United Press International, Inc. (UPI). Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI’s prior written consent.

Posted in Consumption, Fish, Food Industry, Literature, Other0 Comments

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