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    Showing posts with label Science News. Show all posts

    New IPCC climate report predicts significant threats to Australia

    Australia's multibillion-dollar mining, farming and tourism industries face significant threats as worsening global warming causes more dangerous and extreme weather, the world's leading climate science body will warn.

    A final draft of a five-year assessment by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) - seen by Fairfax Media - details a litany of global impacts from intensifying climate change including the displacement of hundreds of millions of people, reduced crop yields and the loss of trillions of dollars from the global economy.

    The report is the second part of the IPCC's fifth major assessment and focuses on climate change's impacts and how the world might adapt. It will be finalised at a meeting in Japan next weekend before its release on March 31.
    The final draft Australasia chapter also outlines significant local threats if human-caused climate change gets worse, in particular high confidence that fire seasons, particularly in southern Australia, will extend in high-risk areas.


    There is also significant risk of increased damage and death from heatwaves resulting from more frequent extreme high temperatures. Flood risk too would be worse.
    The draft says these new extremes imply Australia's mammoth mining industry is increasingly vulnerable without adaptation measures. The report points to significant loss of coal exports revenue of $5 billion to $9 billion when mines were flooded in 2011.
    Tourism also faces some significant threats, the draft says. The Great Barrier Reef is expected to degrade under all climate change scenarios, reducing its attractiveness to visitors.
    Australia's $1.8 billion ski industry is identified as most negatively affected, with little option for it to counteract threats.
    For Australian farming a 4 per cent reduction in the gross value of beef, sheep and wool is expected with 3 degrees of warming above a 1980-99 baseline.

    Dairy output is projected to decline in all regions, except in Tasmania.
    Out of the major risks identified for Australia in the draft, the loss of montane ecosystems and changes in coral reefs, appear to be very difficult to avoid. The draft also finds modelling consistently indicated the range of many wildlife species will contract.

    And there is high confidence climate change is already affecting Australia's oceans, with climate zones and species shifting hundreds of kilometres southwards.

    Professor Jean Palutikof - a review editor of the assessment and director of Australia's National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility - said while adaptation measures were important, there were limits to what the world could do and it was important to cut global emissions to ensure these thresholds are not reached.
    ''I think it is quite black and white, there is a risk we will go beyond the limits of the natural environment and human society to adapt to the climate'' she said.

    A spokesman for Environment Minister Greg Hunt said the government recognised the importance of adapting to the impacts of climate change, pointing to the refunding of the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility, which it has asked to ''focus on putting practical adaptation information in the hands of decision-makers so we can build a stronger, more resilient Australia''.

    Lost Moon Probes Scientists Search Lunar Surface For Signs Of Historic Spacecraft

     The moon is the final resting ground for scads of landed and crashed spacecraft, many of which have been pinpointed recently by sleuthing scientists.

    Using observations by NASA's sharp-eyed Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter, for example, researchers have located and imaged Apollo moon landing leftovers, old Soviet-era spacecraft and, more recently, the impact locales of NASA's twin Grail spacecraft that were deliberately driven into a mountain near the moon's north pole.

    But the search is ongoing to find the exact location of several pioneering moon landers. [The Moon: Space Programs' Dumping Ground (Infographic)]

    No luck so far

    "We are still looking for [the Soviet Union's] Luna 9 and 13," said Jeff Plescia, a space scientist at the The Johns Hopkins University's Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Md.

    "Those were the small 'beach ball' shaped spacecraft," Plescia told SPACE.com "The beach ball might be hard to find, but it made a descent on a larger vehicle which then popped the beach ball off."

    Plescia said he had assumed that it would be possible to find the landing sites of Luna 9 and 13 by spotting albedo marks — a change in the lunar surface brightness made by their descent engines.

    Plescia is joined in the hunt by Mark Robinson of Arizona State University, principal investigator for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera, or LROC.

    "We've both looked, but no luck so far." Plescia said.

    Yet another search involves the impact sites of Apollo lunar module ascent stages, hardware discarded once moonwalking crews were snug within their respective command modules. Ascent stages were intentionally impacted into the surface as part of the Apollo Passive Seismic Experiment that studied the propagation of seismic waves through the moon to yield a detailed look at the body's internal structure

    First Woman In Space, Valentina Tereshkova, Honored 50 Years After Historic 1963 Flight

     It was another Soviet first in space 50 years ago – putting a woman in orbit. And 26-year old Valentina Tereshkova carried her part with grace, shouting "Take off your hat, sky, I'm coming!" as she blasted off.

    President Vladimir Putin praised her during a meeting at his residence Friday, marking the anniversary of her flight, which came a little more than two years after the Soviet Union put the first man into orbit. Putin awarded her the Order of Alexander Nevsky for meritorious public service, one of the highest Russian honors.

    Tereshkova's three-day mission instantly made her a global celebrity and a poster image for Soviet space glory.

    However, behind the scenes there were strong concerns about the flight and Tereshkova's account of the mission differs dramatically from recollections of other veterans of the nation's space program.

    Recalling her flight, the 76-year old cosmonaut says she felt no fear despite what she described as a glitch that might have stranded her in space. Others have faulted her performance and questioned whether she was able to deal with an emergency on descent.

    Soviet space officials started considering a space mission by a woman soon after Yuri Gagarin's flight in April 1961, seeing it as another chance to advertise the nation's prowess.

    To make the mission even more spectacular for propaganda purposes, Moscow decided to score another first by making it the first simultaneous flight of two spaceships. Valery Bykovsky blasted off aboard the Vostok-5 ship on June 14, 1963, and Tereshkova followed him on June 16.

    Tereshkova, who was given the call sign of Chaika (Seagull), blasted off faultlessly and stayed in good shape until day two, when flight controllers noted that she was slow or unable to fulfill their commands and looked tired and unresponsive.

    "She sounded apathetic in conversations with ground control," Vladimir Yazdovsky, the chief doctor of the Soviet space program wrote in his memoirs. "She largely limited her movements and kept sitting almost motionless."

    Tata Docomo Reduces Tariff Rates for Photon Plus (up to 60%)

    Now it offer unlimited 6 GB usage for only Rs 950 rental or unlimited 11 GB for only Rs 1,200. These 2 unlimited plans also offer cashback of Rs 100 per month for 12 months.

    Tata Docomo, the unified telecom brand of Tata Teleservices, has announced the tariff reduction of up to 60 per cent for Tata Photon Plus postpaid and prepaid customers across India.

    Under the new plans Tata Docomo Photon Plus postpaid customers have two unlimited data plan options- 6 GB for Rs 950 rental and 11 GB for Rs 1200. Post consumtion of the data limit of 6 GB and 11 GB consumers will be able to consume data but at a reduced speed. These two unlimited plans also offer cashback of Rs 100 per month for 12 months from date of purchase.

    Tata Docomo reduces data tariff

    On the other hand, prepaid customers can get 2GB dat plan on recharge of Rs 700 and post the 2GB data limit them can continue consuming data but at a reduced speed.

    Also, Tata Docomo entry level packs now cost Rs 250 that offers 1GB of data download as compared to Rs 650 earlier. Likewise Rs 450 pack which earlier cost Rs 750 will offer 2GB.

    Similar to Airtel's Smartbyte, Tata Docomo has launched reload packs, which allows users to buy extra data if they cross their high speed data limit. There are two plans in this category for Photon Plus postpaid customers with 1GB data for Rs 200 and 2GB data for Rs 350. What this essentially means, that customers can now continue to enjoy uninterrupted high speed internet post consumption of their data limit.

    Tata DoCoMo Photon plus service is a CDMA based high speed data service offering speeds up to 3.1 mbps.

    Academy Of Natural Sciences Offers Rare Look Inside

    The Academy of Natural Sciences has never been one to brag.

    Its 225,000 annual visitors may associate the nation's oldest natural history museum solely with dioramas and dinosaurs, but behind the scenes there is groundbreaking research conducted by world-renowned scientists and an enviable collection of some 18 million specimens representing all manner of animal, vegetable and mineral.

    In celebration of its bicentennial this year, the museum has finally decided that it's OK to boast a little. For what's believed to be the first time in 200 years, curators will bring the public into the labyrinthine museum's normally off-limits nooks and crannies for daily tours.

    "This is a rare opportunity to get a firsthand look at some of the most stunning, and sometimes bizarre, creatures you've ever seen," said Academy president and chief executive officer George Gephart Jr. "We can't wait to open our doors and show off nature's, and the Academy's, wondrous bounty."

    The Academy will highlight a different part of its collection starting with minerals in April and ending with fossils in February 2013. Other months will focus on birds, fish, insects, mollusks, amphibians and reptiles, plants and mammals.

    "We've done behind-the-scenes tours with school groups, and with donors and members, but not anything like this," said Ned Gilmore, an Academy collections manager.

    Depending on the tour, visitors might see drawers filled with exotic colorful birds, cabinets holding polar bear skeletons, jars of preserved snakes, boxes of beautiful shells that when alive can kill a human, a wall of enormous elk skulls, a narwhal tusk and a mounted – and extinct – Caribbean Monk Seal.

    An accompanying exhibition, "The Academy at 200: The Nature of Discovery," puts dozens of the academy's show-stopping treasures on public display – many for the first time – and highlights research that museum scientists are conducting worldwide on hot topics of climate change, biodiversity, water quality and invasive species.

    Otzi The Iceman's Genome Reveals Evidence Of Lyme Disease, Lactose Intolerance And Distant Relatives

    The 5,300-year-old ice mummy dubbed Ötzi, discovered in the Eastern Alps about 20 years ago, appears to have had the oldest known case of Lyme disease, new genetic analysis has revealed.

    As part of work on the Iceman's genome — his complete genetic blueprint — scientists found genetic material from the bacterium responsible for the disease, which is spread by ticks and causes a rash and flulike symptoms and can lead to joint, heart and nervous system problems.

    The new analysis also indicates the Iceman was lactose intolerant, predisposed to cardiovascular disease, and most likely had brown eyes and blood type O.

    To sequence the Iceman's genome, researchers took a sample from his hip bone. In it, they looked for not only human DNA — the chemical code that makes up genes — but also for that of other organisms. While they found evidence of other microbes, the Lyme disease bacterium, called Borrelia burgdorferi, was the only one known to cause disease, said Albert Zink, a study researcher and head of the European Institute for Mummies and the Iceman at the European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano (EURAC) in Italy.

    "Our data point to the earliest documented case of a B. burg­dorferi infection in mankind. To our knowledge, no other case report about borreliosis [Lyme disease] is available for ancient or historic specimens," Zink and colleagues write in an article published on Tuesday (Feb. 28) in the journal Nature Communications.

    Discovering evidence of Borrelia is an "intriguing investigative lead," said Dr. Steven Schutzer, an immunologist at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-New Jersey Medical School.

    Schutzer is a lead investigator on a National Institutes of Health-funded project that has sequenced at least 17 strains of the modern bacterium, and has published 13 of those so far.

    The discovery of the traces of Borrelia within the sample taken from the Iceman still needs to be confirmed, he said. "Now we know what we want to look for, now that we know there is a possibility of that being here, we can do a very targeted approach that looks for Borrelia," Schutzer said.

    Lyme disease is transmitted by ticks in North America and Eurasia. It was first found in the United States in Connecticut in the mid-1970s; a similar disorder had been identified in Europe earlier in the 20th century.

    Schutzer said he is discussing follow-up studies with Zink.

    Previous work had examined genetic material within the Iceman's mitochondria — the energy-producing centers in cells. His mitochondrial DNA,which is inherited through the maternal line, did not reveal any living relatives.

    Best Time To Observe Moon's Craters, Mountains

    Most astronomy neophytes might say the best time is when the moon is at full phase, but that's probably the worst time. When the moon is full, it tends to be dazzlingly bright as well as flat and one-dimensional in appearance.

    In contrast, the interval when the moon is at or just past first quarter phase, or at or just before last quarter phase, is when we get the best views of the lunar landscape right along the sunrise-sunset line, or terminator. (The terminator can also be defined as that variable line between the illuminated portion and the part of the moon in shadow.)

    Along with the fact that a half moon offers more viewing comfort to the eye than a full moon does, using a telescope with just small optical power (magnifications of 20- to 40-power) or even good binoculars allows us to see a wealth of detail on the surface. Around those times when the moon is half-lit or in its gibbous phase, those features lying close to the terminator stand out in sharp, clear relief. [Photos: Full Moon Captivates Skywatchers in February 2012]

    Next chance

    The moon next arrives at first quarter phase on Leap Day: Wednesday (Feb. 29) at 8:21 p.m. EST. That will be the moment when its disk is exactly 50 percent illuminated. Lunar mountains will be visible as the sun lights them from the right.

    How does the moon's brightness compare now with full phase? Most would probably think it's half as bright, but in reality astronomers tell us that the first quarter moon is only one-eleventh as bright as full. This is due to the fact that a half moon is heavily shadowed, even on its illuminated half. And believe it or not, it isn't until just 2.4 days before full that the moon actually becomes half as bright as full.

    In contrast to a half moon, a full moon is almost completely illuminated, especially right around its center, where the sun shines straight down into all the microscopic crevices. Except for perhaps around the moon's immediate edges, you will find no shadows at all.

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