Archive | Science, Space, & Technology

Meteor Sightings Puzzle Oklahomans

A blue-green meteor shot across the night sky above Oklahoma on Tuesday, prompting perplexed locals to call local police stations and report an unidentified flying object.

According to KTHV of Little Rock, Arkansas, the “big ball of fire” that streaked the sky likely struck near Poteau Mountain, Oklahoma.

The meteor was “no bigger than a pebble” and may have gotten its greenish tint from copper content, CBS News reported.

Meteor sightings matching the description of the Oklahoma ball of fire cropped up in various areas of the U.S., from the Florida Panhandle to several areas in Mississippi.

Florida’s WKRG said it began receiving reports of a “bright flash of light and a boom” at about 8:30 p.m. reports that the meteor came from the southeast and zoomed northwest. The science news website says it was emerald green with a red-yellow tail.

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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.

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SpaceShipTwo Tested over Mojave

MOJAVE, Calif., March 22 (UPI) — SpaceShipTwo, the rocket plane being developed by Virgin Galactic for space tourism, flew for the first time Monday in California, the company said.

The craft — named the VSS Enterprise — was carried to an altitude of 50,000 feet in a flight originating at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, Virgin said in a news release. In what it known as a captive-carry flight, SpaceShipTwo flew for almost 3 hours, supported by twin fuselages of WhiteKnightTwo.

In the next test, WhiteKnightTwo will release SpaceShipTwo and its pilot for a gliding flight and touchdown on the Mojave runway, MSNBC reported.

Virgin Galactic says it has collected an estimated $45 million in deposits for reservations from more than 330 people who want to travel to space.

The project — bankrolled by British entrepreneur Richard Branson — employs technology developed in part by Burt Rutan, whose Scaled Composites constructed the craft.

“This is a momentous day for the Scaled and Virgin Teams,” Rutan said in a statement. “The captive-carry flight signifies the start of what we believe will be extremely exciting and successful spaceship flight test program.”

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.

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Safer Uranium Fuel Change for MIT's Nuclear Reactor Delayed

CAMBRIDGE, Mass., Dec. 29 (UPI) — The nuclear reactor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology won’t be converted to a safer fuel for at least five years, authorities said.

The university’s 50-year-old reactor is to be switched from highly enriched uranium to low enriched uranium, which cannot be used to make nuclear weapons.

The safer fuel, however, will require at least five years for design and testing to ensure it provides the same performance as the current fuel, said David Moncton, who oversees the reactor.

The delay in converting the university’s reactor could be used as a reason for countries to delay converting reactors of their own, The Boston Globe reported Tuesday.

The United States has been pressuring other Iran and other countries to switch to low enriched uranium to prevent the spread of atomic weapons.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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South Korea's Carbon Dioxide Emissions Rise to 620 Million Tons in 2007

SEOUL, Dec. 29 (UPI) — South Korea’s carbon dioxide emissions increased 2.9 percent — totaling 620 million tons — in 2007, the government announced Monday, Xinhua reports.

That represents the highest growth rate since 2002 and is nearly three times faster than the growth rate in 2006. It is also a 103-percent increase from 1990 greenhouse gas emission totals.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, South Korea’s emissions are the fastest growing of all industrialized states.

Seoul attributes the sharp rise to increases in fossil fuel output because of a fall in nuclear power generation as well as energy consumption in the country’s steel and petrochemical sectors.

Yet South Korea regards carbon dioxide reduction not as a burden but a “business model,” the country’s climate-change ambassador, Rae-Kwon Chung, told Der Spiegel during the Copenhagen climate-change conference.

Rae-Kwon, who has been active in climate negotiations since they began internationally in 1991, is sometimes referred to as the “godfather” of the green growth movement, which contends that countries can boost wealth by reducing emissions.

In an interview with The Los Angeles Times during the Copenhagen talks, Rae-Kwon said world leaders need to capture the “opportunity” of renewable energy technology. To do so, he said, they need to rethink some fundamentals of daily life: tax structures, transportation patterns and, most importantly, to accept that cheaper energy is better for economic growth.

“They’re walking the walk” in South Korea, Jake Schmidt, international climate policy director for the Natural Resources Defense Council, who has worked closely with Chung on climate issues, told the Times. Schmidt said Chung “has had a very big impact in how South Korea views their role” on emission limits, domestically and internationally.

Recent announcements may confirm Schmidt’s observations.

Last week South Korea said it plans to officially register by the end of January its goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent from the projected emission level in 2020 compared with 2005.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak announced Dec. 17 that $10 million would be used to establish a Global Green Growth Institute, bringing economists and top researchers together to develop new ideas.

And South Korea said Monday it would launch a carbon emissions trading scheme aimed at reducing the country’s emissions 1 percent to 2 percent of 2005 to 2007 averages, reports Xinhua.

The Korea Stock Exchange would serve as a platform for the three-year pilot program, starting as early as late 2010, said the Ministry of Environment. A total of 641 organizations will participate, including South Korea’s 14 local governments and 446 public organizations.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Air Pollutants, Air Quality Standards & Emissions, Air, Atmosphere, & Weather, Consumption, Energy, Ideas, Humanities, & Education, Organizations, Science, Space, & Technology, Transportation, Walking0 Comments

Soil Studies Find Antibiotic Resistance

NEWCASTLE, England, Dec. 28 (UPI) — Soil studies show antibiotic resistance in nature is growing despite tighter control over antibiotic use in medicine and agriculture, British scientists said.

Bacterial DNA taken from soil samples collected between 1940 and 2008 in the Netherlands revealed a rise in the level of antibiotic resistant genes, said David Graham, a professor at England’s Newcastle University.

Scientists fear a resistant gene in a harmless bacteria could be passed to a disease-causing pathogen, Graham said in this month’s issue of the journal Environmental Science and Technology.

“The big question,” Graham said, “is that with more stringent European regulations and greater emphasis on conservative antibiotic use in agriculture and medicine, why are antibiotic resistant gene levels still rising?”

Graham said he and his team expect to find similar results when they expand their study to include soil samples from other parts of the world.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Land & Soil, Other, Science, Space, & Technology, Soil Ecology0 Comments

Refurbished Computers Aid Kenyan Farmers with Weather Conditions

KATUMANI, Kenya, Dec. 26 (UPI) — Refurbished computers are changing the fortunes of farmers in central Kenya by accurately and instantly predicting the weather, officials said.

The digital age arrived two years ago and since then has often meant the difference between a good crop and no crop at all, The Independent reported Saturday.

“It’s helping them to decide which crops to plant, which fertilizer to use and when to plant,” Jackson Mwangangi, who runs the local weather station near Katumani, told the British newspaper.

Local farmers had no quick and accurate access to weather information until the British charity Computer Aid equipped Jackson’s station with refurbished computers and taught him how to use them.

Now forecasts are available to anyone with an Internet connection or phone, and they’re also circulated via a motorcycle rider who carries the forecasts to hundreds of small farmers in the region.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Air, Atmosphere, & Weather, Electronics, Farming & Ranching, Science, Space, & Technology0 Comments

Plastic Bags Recycled into Batteries at Argonne National Laboratory

ARGONNE, Ill., Dec. 22 (UPI) — Plastic bags found in abundance at grocery stores could be recycled into carbon nanotubes, a component in lithium ion batteries, an Illinois scientist said.

Vilas Pol, of Argonne National Laboratory 25-miles southwest of Chicago, developed the process as a way to turn plastic waste into an energy resource, the Southtown Star reported Tuesday.

With cobalt acetate as a catalyst, plastic bags were heated to 1,292 degrees Fahrenheit, which caused the carbon in the plastic to grow as nanotubes on the cobalt particles, Pol said, noting the process could be used on plastic water bottles and plastic cups.

The cobalt acetate, which is relatively expensive, could be recovered when the batteries were recycled, Pol said. Performing the process without cobalt acetate yields carbon spheres that could be used in printer ink.

Yet to be determined is how to collect enough bags to make the project cost efficient, Pol said. Recycling programs find the bags difficult to collect because they often get swept up in air currents, causing a problem for curbside collectors and recycling centers.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Consumer Products, Consumer Waste, Electronic Waste, Electronics, House & Home, Packaging, Recycling, Recycling & Waste, Science, Space, & Technology0 Comments

China Continues Grip on Coal

BEIJING, Dec. 17 (UPI) — While the Chinese government is embracing energy efficiency and investing in new green technology, China continues to burn coal at record rates.

Between 2002 and 2007 China doubled its coal consumption, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

This year, China is on track to burn 3 billion tons of coal, nearly three times as much as the second-largest consumer, the United States, and about 40 percent of total global consumption during the same time.

While China has pledged to produce power more efficiently, saying it will reduce carbon intensity by 40 percent from 2005 to 2020, its energy requirements keep skyrocketing.

“For China to keep its rapid economic growth going, the only economic option is to burn more coal; renewable energy simply cannot compete,” said Tristan Edmondson, founding partner at Mint Research, a Beijing-based consultancy, The Washington Times reports.

Even by conservative growth rates, China would double coal burning to 6 billion tons by 2025, or more than the entire world consumed in 2004.

China is the world’s largest emitter of carbon. According to environmental group Greenpeace, 80 percent of China’s carbon dioxide emissions and 85 percent of its sulphur dioxide pollution come from burning coal. Every seven to 10 days a new coal-fired power station is built somewhere in China.

But China is also fast becoming a global leader in green energy.

In 2008 China was second only to the United States in terms of investment in renewable energy — $176 billion versus $200 billion — according to the global research unit of international banking giant HSBC.

HSBC estimates that China has allocated $221 billion of its recent economic stimulus money to green projects, more than twice as much as the United States and equivalent to 5 percent of China’s 2008 gross domestic product.

For its part during the Copenhagen climate-change conference, China has been pressuring the United States and other developed nations to curtail emissions and increase subsidies to developing nations’ efforts to adopt clean energy technologies.

An announcement of China’s new energy development plan, drafted by the National Energy Administration, is expected sometime after the conclusion of the conference.

Published reports suggest that the plan will raise the country’s 2020 targets, last set in 2005, to aim for a five-fold increase in wind power and a ten-fold increase in the solar power feeding its electricity grid.

In September President Hu Jintao said China would raise the share of non-fossil fuels in its energy mix to 15 percent by 2020 from an estimated 9 percent last year.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Coal, Consumption, Electricity, Energy Efficiency, Other, Science, Space, & Technology, Solar, Wind0 Comments

NASA Remembers Its 2009 Accomplishments

WASHINGTON, Dec. 17 (UPI) — NASA says it will remember 2009 as the year during which it discovered water on the moon and mapped Earth’s location in the Milky Way galaxy.

It was also the year the Hubble Space Telescope was upgraded, the number of people living on the International Space Station was increased and an unprecedented survey of polar ice was started.

Here are some of the other events NASA considers among the year’s top space-related accomplishments:

– Four shuttle flights were made to the International Space Station to complete its power-generating capacity, activate Japan’s Kibo laboratory and expand the station’s interior volume to nearly 26,000 cubic feet.

– The initial flight of the Ares I-X test rocket was conducted to help develop future launch vehicles.

– NASA scientists, aside from discovering water molecules in the polar regions of the moon, also found hydroxyl, a molecule consisting of one oxygen atom and one hydrogen atom, in lunar soil.

– The space agency’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter began mapping the moon’s terrain from an altitude of 31 miles, to return more data about the moon than any other previous satellite.

– NASA scientists determined methane and carbon monoxide have a significantly more powerful impact on global warming than previously thought.

– Space agency scientists achieved the first definitive detection of methane and its global variation in Mars’ atmosphere, suggesting the planet is biologically or geologically active, or both.

– NASA celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 lunar landing by highlighting 49 notable examples of how space agency innovations result in significant advances in healthcare, transportation, consumer goods, environmental protection, computer technology and industrial productivity.

People can vote on which event they consider the top NASA event of 2009 at

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Hydrogen, Other, People, Science, Space, & Technology, Transportation0 Comments

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