Environmental Issues, Geology, News

California issued rights for five times the water it actually has

How bad is California's drought? Just look above. Photo: Wiki

California is facing one of its direst drought streaks, and only last year it came out of its warmest winter on record. Clearly, things aren’t looking that good and the most vulnerable resource to these conditions is at the same time the most valuable: water. Desperate times, call for desperate measures, and this means in some instances policymakers need to cut the chord. But where should regulators first stop water access given California has allocated five times more surface water than the state actually has? Ted Grantham and Joshua Viers of UC Davis  explored the state’s water-rights database only to come to this confusing and disheartening conclusion. To be more exact, water-rights allocations…



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Environment, Great Pics, News

Antarctica from Pole to coast, captured in stunning detail


A mosaic of more than 3,150 high-resolution satellite images creates the best continent-wide view since 1997. The result is the one you see below: The over three thousand pictures were taken in the Southern Hemisphere’s autumn of 2008, and tiled together into a coast-to-coast view of the entire continent with its coastal waters. The result is not only lovely to look at, but it’s also very useful – enabling researchers to better study the ice changes that occurred in Antarctica, says Ellsworth LeDrew, director of the Canadian Cryospheric Information Network and a professor at University of Waterloo. This will enable a better understanding of how climate change affects Antarctic ice, and will…

Biology, Diseases, Health & Medicine, News

Fat grizzlies stay diabetes free thanks to protein shut down


The shutdown of a key protein allows grizzly bears to go through tremendous weight gains without loosing insulin sensitivity. Thus they’re never at risk of getting diabetes. What if we could shut this protein down for humans too?…

Chemistry, Green Living, News, Renewable Energy

Popeye’s secret: spinach provides key insight that might one day lead to artificial photosynthesis


While scientists have been studying and incrementally increasing solar cell efficiency, we’ve yet to reach nature’s magnitude of solar energy conversion through photosynthesis. Artificial photosynthesis is a goal in alternative energy research, yet the process is extremely difficult to mimic since, in nature, the process involves numerous stages and transformation of matter and energy. Purdue University physicists used spinach and applied novel techniques to understand what happens during one of the photosynthesis stages. Just add water, CO2 and sunlight Photosynthesis is the process plants employ to convert carbon dioxide using energy from the sun into chemical energy in the form of hydrogen-carrying carbohydrates and oxygen. This process is achieved with massive energy…

Chemistry, News, Research

Why your battery is dying – the answer could vastly improve battery life

Materials scientist Huolin Xin is the lead author of the two studies that sought to find which are the dominant factors that lead to life cycle degradation in rechargeable batteries. Photo: (Brookhaven National Laboratory)

If you’ve owned a smartphone or laptop for more than two years and use the gadgets frequently, then you’ve most likely noticed, to your exasperation, how short the battery life is compared to when the product was first shipped. Rechargeable batteries have been around for more than 100 years, but it’s only recently that scientists are beginning to understand what forces degrade batteries from cycle to cycle. Identifying these forces is the first step in designing truly long-lasting batteries, helping curve rare earth minerals and toxic elements demand, cutting costs and quite possibly aid electric vehicles on their quest of becoming mainstream. The short life of a battery The researchers…

Materials, News, Science

Adding lithium makes graphite both transparent and conductive. A great game changer for the industry

Better, far more responsive touchscreen displays might be developed as a result of these findings. Photo:easy-it.ro

Materials found in nature often speak of at least one comprise. Metals for instance are highly conductive, but not transparent. Plastics on the other hand can be made to be transparent, but they’re very poor electrical conductors. This annoying tradeoff has aggravated scientists for some time in their efforts to design better solar cells or touchscreen displays, which need the best of both worlds. A team of researchers at the University of Maryland Energy Research Center and Monash University in Australia may have come across a solution after they report the development of a nearly transparent, highly conductive ultrathin graphite sheet. Most solar cells, high end touchscreen and flexible displays…

Mind & Brain, Neurology

Addiction is a disease that first starts with dopamine overcorrection in the brain


Drug and alcohol addiction affects millions of people around the world, but despite decades worth of research and billions of dollars, our understanding of addiction is still far from being complete. Brigham Young University professor Scott Steffensen and his team have recently contributed with a few pieces in the addiction puzzle, which are of vital importance. Their work suggests that addiction starts with the brain’s attempts to correct excessive dopamine levels triggered by drugs. “Addiction is a brain disease that could be treated like any other disease,” Steffensen said. “I wouldn’t be as motivated to do this research, or as passionate about the work, if I didn’t think a cure…

Health & Medicine, News

Link found between nearsightedness and years spent in school


A common stereotype is that people who wear glasses are labeled as nerds, but sooner than later most people from the developed world will end up wearing glasses, if the current trend continues. There are many reasons why more and more suffer from nearsightedness, ranging from urbanization, spending more time indoors and in front of the computer and so on. A new study published in this month’s Ophthalmology journal eyes in on one particular cause for increased rate of nearsightedness – education. Namely, the German team of researchers involved in the study identified that attaining a higher level of education and spending more years in school are two factors associated…

News, Observations, Space

Supernova study might change how speed of light in vacuum is measured

SN 1987A

Einstein’s theories suggest that light can not travel faster than c, a constant equal to the speed of light in a vacuum, which is 299,792,458 metres per second (by definition) or about 186,282.4 miles per second. All of our standing physical models are based on this assumption, and so far this idea has yet to be proven wrong, despite the neutrino incident from CERN which was later found to be false (at some time neutrinos were found to travel slightly faster than photos, but this was later proven to be due an error in measuring). A study of a 25-year old supernova may lead to a revision of “c”, if…