Archive | Science, Space, & Technology

Possible Cause of Arsenic in Water Found

DHAKA, Bangladesh, Nov. 15 (UPI) — Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said they may have discovered what caused arsenic to appear in drinking water in Bangladesh.

Researchers at the U.S. school’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering said in an MIT release Sunday the arsenic concentration found underground in Bangladesh may be due to the use of irrigated agriculture as well as the construction of villages with ponds.

Bangladesh began struggling with widespread arsenic poisoning after the country’s residents began consuming groundwater instead of water from surface sources like ponds and rivers.

MIT researchers suggest the excavation of ponds in Bangladesh may serve as the source of the organic carbon that helps arsenic infiltrate groundwater after dissolving off soil and sediments.

“Our research shows that water from the ponds carries degradable organic carbon into the shallow aquifer. Groundwater flow, drawn by irrigation pumping, transports that pond water to the depth where dissolved arsenic concentrations are greatest and where it is then pumped up into the irrigation and drinking wells,” said Charles Darvey, a civil and environmental engineering associate professor at MIT.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Drinking Water, Engineering, Science, Space, & Technology0 Comments

High Altitude Wind Power Possibilities Explored

OROVILLE, Calif., Nov. 9 (UPI) — If the plans of innovators in the emerging high-altitude wind power sector come to fruition, huge floating helium devices and whirlybirds could be part of the aerial landscape.

For the first conference Nov. 5 on the subject at Oroville, Calif., inventors, engineers, researchers, entrepreneurs and university representatives came together from the United States, Japan, Germany, Italy, Canada and Ireland.

High-altitude wind power, they say, is worth pursuing because winds aloft tend to be more powerful and consistent than winds close to the ground.

“It’s a somewhat early technology — it still sounds like science fiction to most people,” said conference Chairwoman Cristina Archer, an assistant professor of energy, meteorology and environmental science at California State University, Chico, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The school was one of the conference’s sponsors.

Some of the models previewed during the conference:

Ottawa-based Magenn Power sees possibilities for its Magenn Air Rotor System to power remote communities, such as villages in rural India or for mining operations in locations in which it is difficult to connect to an electrical grid.

Filled with helium and tethered to the ground, the huge, lightweight MARS rotates about a horizontal axis in response to wind, generating electrical energy, which is transferred down the tether for consumption, or to a set of batteries or power grid. It is designed to float 1,000 feet in the air.

Made of the same flexible material as airships, MARS would be easier to ship than conventional wind turbines, said Tony Asterita, one of the company’s founders. MARS could be produced in a range of sizes, with larger versions able to generate 1 megawatt in steady wind, enough to provide electricity to about 750 homes.

Unlike the sharp edges of wind turbines, the company says the soft surface of MARS is bird and bat friendly. “If a bird for some reason does fly into us, he would just bounce off,” said Asterita.

Another example of high-altitude power is Oroville-based Sky WindPower’s Flying Electric Generator, which resembles a tethered elementary helicopter with no cabin. Four rotors lift the device into the air and rotate in the wind when the generator has reached the appropriate height, anywhere from 6,000 to 24,000 feet in the sky. The tether carries power to the ground and also keeps the “helicopter” in place.

Larger versions of the device, said Len Shepard, Sky WindPower’s chief executive, could generate up to 20 megawatts of electricity.

The generator, like many high-altitude wind-powered devices, would likely require restricted airspace.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Consumption, Electricity, Energy & Fuels, People, Science, Space, & Technology, Wind1 Comment

Study Uncovers New Fact of Coral Spawning

MELBOURNE, Fla., Nov. 9 (UPI) — U.S. scientists say they have determined why corals spawn for just a few nights in some locations, but elsewhere the spawning continues for several months.

It’s long been known corals synchronize their release of eggs and sperm into the water, but scientists were unsure how and why they did so.

Florida Institute of Technology Professor Robert van Woesik says he’s determined corals spawn when regional wind fields are light. When it is calm the eggs and sperm have the best chance to unite before they are dispersed.

Corals off the coast of Kenya have months of light winds so they can reproduce for much of the year, Woesik said. On the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, calm weather is short-lived and the coral reproductive season is brief.

Woesik said his findings are critically important for effective reef conservation.

“Coral reproduction is a very local event,” Woesik said. “This means local conservation efforts will maximize reproductive success and give reef systems a chance to adapt to global climate change.”

The study appears in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Conservation, Regional, Science, Space, & Technology, Wind0 Comments

Experts Believe Copenhagen Climate Treaty in Danger

BARCELONA, Spain, Nov. 9 (UPI) — Experts are increasingly doubtful that the Copenhagen climate-change conference can produce a binding climate treaty, less than a month before the U.N.-mandated meeting is due to start.

The latest round of negotiations in Barcelona last week revealed the growing frustration over the slow progress when it comes to stopping global warming.

Frustrated by developed countries’ unwillingness to make firm commitments on emission cuts, delegates from the African nations decided to boycott the negotiations in Spain.

U.S. negotiators in Barcelona disappointed representatives from developing countries. Despite a strong campaign pledge from President Barack Obama to inject new life into climate-protection negotiations, the United States has not stepped up to the challenge, developing nations say. A U.S. climate bill is delayed in the Senate, and Washington’s negotiators in Barcelona were not ready to back concrete emissions-reductions targets that would be ensured by U.N. oversight.

On the sidelines of the Barcelona summit, some delegates were thus “contemplating the increasingly clear high-level messages that a legally binding agreement at COP 15 will not be possible,” the Earth Negotiations Bulletin reports. “Some observers were visibly disappointed, while others tried to stay positive as they speculated about prospects for a legally binding instrument sometime in 2010.”

The accord to be born at Copenhagen — to feature binding emissions-reductions targets, adaptation measures and their funding — is due to replace the Kyoto Protocol, which runs out in 2012. Key to the new accord are ambitious commitments from the United States and leading developing economies such as India and China.

But some experts now say the Kyoto Protocol may be extended beyond 2012 in case the world fails to agree on an ambitious new treaty at Copenhagen or in the months after that.

Connie Hedegaard, the Danish climate and energy minister who will chair the Copenhagen summit, said that the Dec. 8-17 event will be “a moment of truth.” The Barcelona conference showed that “countries are very worried about the consequences of global warming and expect the developed countries to perform in Copenhagen,” she said in a statement. “Although the blockade slowed down negotiations, it is encouraging that Africa speaks with one voice. It sends a clear signal to the countries that there should be numbers on the table in Copenhagen — regarding reduction targets as well as financing.”

Yvo de Boer, the United Nations’ top climate-change official, said the Barcelona talks did produce some progress on technology cooperation, stopping deforestation in developing countries and adaptation.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Energy, Global Warming & Climate Change, Science, Space, & Technology1 Comment

NASA Highlights 49 Technologies and Innovations in 2009 Edition of "Spinoff"

WASHINGTON, Nov. 9 (UPI) — The U.S. space agency says it’s released the 2009 edition of “Spinoff,” which shows how NASA technology is being put to use in everyday life on Earth.

The 2009 edition highlights 49 examples of NASA innovations that have been transferred to the commercial marketplace, resulting in healthcare advances, transportation breakthroughs and new consumer goods, among other things.

Highlights of Spinoff 2009 include:

– Hubble Space Telescope scheduling technology is adapted to help hospitals handle dynamic rescheduling issues.

– A NASA-developed life raft used for recovering pioneer astronauts after ocean splashdowns is used to save more than 400 lives.

– Using NASA satellite data, WorldWinds Inc. supplies about 8,500 XM satellite radio subscribers with its FishBytes fish locator service, helping anglers target areas most likely to be frequented by their favorite types of sport fish.

Print copies of Spinoff are available on request at 301-286-0561. An online version is available at

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Fish, Other, Science, Space, & Technology, Transportation0 Comments

Poor Countries Threaten to Walkout of Copenhagen Climate Change Summit

BARCELONA, Spain, Nov. 6 (UPI) — Poor countries Friday threatened to walk out of next month’s Copenhagen climate change summit if developed countries do not pledge greater emissions cuts.

The Group of 77, an organization representing 130 developing nations, made the threat as the final round of preliminary negotiations ended in Barcelona, Spain, The Guardian reported. Lumumba Di-Aping of Sudan, who heads the G77, said the United States and Europe must also provide more aid to help poor countries update technology to cut emissions.

“Little progress was made on the key issues of emission targets and finance that would allow developing countries to limit their emissions and adapt to climate change,” said Yvo de Boer, who was directing the talks for the United Nations. “Without these two pieces of the puzzle in place we will not have a deal. Leadership at the highest level is now required to unlock the pieces.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Global Warming & Climate Change, Science, Space, & Technology0 Comments

Brazil Subsalt Oil Exploration Project Receives $10 Billion in Chinese Funds

RIO DE JANEIRO, Nov. 6 (UPI) — Brazil’s gigantic subsalt oil exploration and development project has received a $10 billion cash boost from China at the same time as the Chinese state oil company has bought its first oil asset in the United States.

In the clearest indication yet that China is intent upon building up its energy portfolio in the Americas, Petrobras and Norway’s Statoil have welcomed Chinese partnership in lucrative oil projects that guarantee China an assured supply over the coming decades.

Brazil’s Petrobras oil and gas group said it signed a contract permitting the first payment from a $10 billion Chinese loan. The government-managed group said the funding would be used to help it finance undersea exploration and development in an area said to contain huge reserves of oil and gas.

The 10-year contract for $10 billion financing by the China Development Bank Corp. follows negotiations begun in May 2009, China’s Xinhua news agency said. China’s interest in the subsalt oil reserves was first mentioned in the summer, but news of progress on the talks remained scant throughout.

Petrobras said the funding marks a new stage for relations between developing countries’ markets. When news of the huge subsalt oil discoveries first broke last year, Brazil indicated it was not interested in partnerships with Big Oil and would seek to develop the fields through its own resources.

The loan contract will be followed by a long-term agreement between Petrobras and UNIPEC Asia, a subsidiary of China Petroleum and Chemical Corp. Sinopec expects to secure delivery of 150,000 barrels of oil a day in the first year, and 200,000 barrels in the nine subsequent years. The subsalt oil is not due to come on stream for some time, suggesting China in the initial stages will lift oil produced elsewhere in Brazil.

Despite the size of the Chinese loan, it represents a small part of the $174 billion Petrobras plans to spend within the next four years.

Analysts said this suggests Brazil may be conducting negotiations elsewhere to raise additional financing for the subsalt exploration project.

Brazil is currently awash in cash but has opted to spread the risk by enticing foreign partners it can work with on its own terms.

The Brazilian Congress is currently busy overhauling the country’s oil legislation to give the government greater control over the new offshore reserves. Brazil is unlikely to enter into deals that will require it to cede control on its reserves.

Development of the oil fields could entail investment of up to $400 billion but also transform Brazil into one of the world’s major oil exporters. Brazil’s foreign reserves totaled $232.9 billion at the end of October, up from $224.2 billion at the end of September, but new state spending is also being channeled into military and social welfare projects.

A new bill before Congress would create a fund to ensure oil revenues go into education, healthcare and environmental cleanup. Chinese exporters have set their sights on the potential for exports to Brazil of a wide range of equipment, as well as expertise and technology transfers.

In the United States, China National Offshore Oil Corp. made small gains with the acquisition of equity in four deepwater exploitation licenses in the Gulf of Mexico. It was the first Chinese acquisition after the debacle of an unsuccessful Chinese bid for U.S. energy firm Unocal. The $18.5 billion CNOOC bid was withdrawn amid U.S. reservations over the sale of strategic assets to China.

Analysts said the Chinese could still begin making deeper inroads into U.S. energy markets because they appeared poised to part with cash where other investors stayed away.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Education, Energy, Energy & Fuels, Military, Other, Science, Space, & Technology0 Comments

Boat Tails on Trucks Reduce Fuel Consumption by as Much as 7.5%

DELFT, Netherlands, Nov. 6 (UPI) — Tapered devices — boat tails — fitted on the rear of trucks can reduce fuel consumption by as much as 7.5 percent, scientists in the Netherlands said.

Researchers at Delft University of Technology experimented with varying lengths of boat tails for a year to determine which was most fuel efficient.

Working first with small models in wind tunnel experiments and computer simulations, the researchers then spent a year testing varying lengths of boat tails on trucks on public highways, the university said in a release Friday.

A boat tail about 6-feet long improved aerodynamics enough to reduce fuel consumption by as much as 7.5 percent, while also reducing the amount of carbon dioxide released into the air.

The studies were supported by road transport manufacturers, transport companies and shippers looking to reduce fuel consumption by as much as 20 percent by 2020, the researchers said.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Consumption, Energy & Fuels, Science, Space, & Technology, Wind0 Comments

Obese Women Less Likely to Get Pregnant

EAST LANSING, Mich., Nov. 4 (UPI) — Obese women are less likely to become pregnant and if they do get pregnant, they have a higher risk of problems, U.S. researchers found.

Barbara Luke of the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine examined data on nearly 50,000 women using assisted reproductive technology.

Luke’s findings, which also can be applied to women not using assisted technology, showed women who are overweight are 14 percent less likely to have a successful pregnancy. That increases to 28 percent among obese women.

“The results are not surprising. Obesity is a state of inflammation and is not a good environment for conception or fetal development,” Luke said in a statement. “The key message is to lose weight, prior to conception, and focus on pre-conception health issues.

Luke was awarded the Scientific Program Prize Paper for her presentation on maternal obesity research at the American Society of Reproductive Medicine international meeting in Atlanta.

The study also found for obese women who were able to become pregnant, the odds of stillbirth were increased more than twofold, Luke said.

“If you are thinking about starting a family, get into the best physical shape possible,” Luke said. “Control the factors you can — such as drinking alcohol and smoking — and remember, body weight is just as important.”

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Human Health & Wellness, Science, Space, & Technology, Smoking0 Comments

Organic Animal Feed Extracted from Cactus Emerging as a Growing Industry

MIAMI, Nov. 4 (UPI) — Organic animal feed extracted from cactus is emerging as a major growth industry, with China pushing forward into the market as a producer of a patented hog feed extracted from the plant.

Cactus is indigenous mostly to the Americas, but various species of the plant are now grown across the world, either in the wild or in nurseries. In China, cactus has earned a huge following as a curative plant alongside traditional Chinese medicine and modern modifications on ancient herbal remedies.

The latest cactus product to emerge is a patented animal feed marketed by China Kangtai Cactus Bio-Tech Inc., a U.S.-listed Chinese company based in Harbin, northeast China. China Kangtai engages in the production, research and development, sale and marketing of products derived from cacti in China.

A spokeswoman for China Kangtai Cactus Bio-Tech Inc. told United Press International she had no immediate information on the company’s plans to compete in Western markets with the innovative animal feed.

Kangtai has signed a strategic cooperative production agreement with another Chinese company, Helongjiang Songnan Feed Technology Co. Ltd., to produce the patented animal feed.

Studies of animal nutrition and immunology indicate that cactus-derived feed provides nutrition, boosts immune systems and prevents inflammatory illnesses, the company said. Production plans include cattle feed, fish feed and hog feed — and a poultry feed by 2010.

Kangtai says it has implemented stringent quality controls of raw cactus materials that exclude chemicals or pesticides in planting and processing.

Kangtai produces nutraceuticals, nutritional food, liquor, beer and wine, even a “cigarette” and cactus raw and intermediate materials.

Kangtai CEO Jinjiang Wang said, “China is the world’s largest hog producing country, having slaughtered 625 million hogs in 2008, compared to approximately 100 million hogs in the U.S. China also has the world’s largest consumer base for pork consumption.”

He said more than 65 percent of all meat consumed in China is pork. The cactus hog feed market shows huge growth potential. “Hog producers are constantly seeking ways to improve the health and productivity of their livestock. Our cactus products are proven to enhance pork production,” Wang said.

Based on scientific studies of animal nutrition and immunology, he said, cactus-derived hog feed provides nutrition, boosts immune systems and prevents sepsis and inflammatory illnesses. Studies have shown that Kangtai’s cactus feed substantially increases productivity, quality and health of hog herds thereby improving the quality of pork, Wang added.

China Kangtai was awarded patents from China’s State Intellectual Property Office in 2008.

Industry analysts said the cactus hog feed could pose a challenge to animal feed producers in the Western Hemisphere. China Kangtai has already drawn attention from investors in the West.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

Posted in Chemicals, Consumption, Fish, Office, Science, Space, & Technology2 Comments

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