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Typhoon Rains Expected To Cause More Fukushima Leaks
The News - Current Events
May 28, 2011
fukushima typhoon radiation damage
The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says it is closely monitoring contaminated water levels in the facility as heavy rain is forecast next week.

Tokyo Electric Power Company is continuing to inject water to cool reactors. As a result, the level of highly radioactive water around reactor buildings is rising.

The company is concerned that contaminated water in the basement of reactor buildings and nearby tunnels may overflow and seep into the ground and the sea. Rain is forecast on Sunday and Monday because of an approaching typhoon. [ nhk ]
 
Why NASA Chose Potentially Threatening Asteroid for New Mission
The News - Science-Astronomy
May 28, 2011

When it comes to visiting asteroids, NASA doesn't pick run-of-the-mill space rocks. The target of NASA's latest asteroid mission is not only thought to be rich in the building blocks of life, it also has a chance - although a remote one - of threatening Earth in the year 2182.

The asteroid 1999 RQ36 is the target of a new unmanned spacecraft, which NASA plans to launch in 2016 to collect a sample from the space rock and return it to Earth by 2023.

The mission's leaders spent a long time surveying possible destinations for the mission, and finally settled on 1999 RQ36. NASA calls the mission OSIRIS-Rex, which is short for Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer.

"We went through a whole series of selection criteria," OSIRIS-Rex's deputy principal investigator Dante Lauretta, a planetary scientist at the University of Arizona, told SPACE.com. "There are over 500,000 asteroids known. [1999 RQ36] looks really optimum." [ yahoo ]
 
Seismologists Tried for Manslaughter for Not Predicting Earthquake
The News - Natural Disasters
May 27, 2011

Earthquake prediction can be a grave, and faulty science, and in the case of Italian seismologists who are being tried for the manslaughter of the people who died in the 2009 L'Aquila quake, it can have legal consequences.

The group of seven, including six seismologists and a government official, reportedly didn't alert the public ahead of time of the risk of the L'Aquila earthquake, which occurred on April 6 of that year, killing around 300 people, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

But most scientists would agree it's not their fault they couldn't predict the wrath of Mother Nature.

 
Death toll rises to 132 after Joplin, Mo., tornado
The News - Natural Disasters
May 27, 2011
joplin tornado damage natural disaster

The death toll from the massive tornado that devastated Joplin, Mo., reached 132 Friday, a city spokeswoman said, while the state worked to pare down the list of people missing and unaccounted for since the storm.

Joplin city spokeswoman Lynn Onstot confirmed the new death toll to The Associated Press shortly before state officials announced that the missing list had been trimmed to 156 people.

Officials were working around the clock to account for everyone on the list, Missouri Department of Public Safety deputy director Andrea Spillars told a morning news conference.

Spillars said at least 90 people on the original list had been located alive. But at least six were identified as among the dead, and some new names had been added to the scroll of the missing. [ ap ]

 
Will 10 Billion People Use Up the Planet's Resources?
The News - Climate-Environment
May 26, 2011
planet rosources population demand

The human enterprise now consumes nearly 60 billion metric tons of minerals, ores, fossil fuels and plant materials, such as crop plants and trees for timber or paper.

Meanwhile, the seven billionth person on the planet is expected to be born this year - and the human population may reach 10 billion by this century's end, according to the latest United Nations analysis. Hundreds of millions of people in Europe, North America and Asia live a modern life, which largely means consuming more than 16 metric tons of such natural resources - or more - per person per year.

If the billions of poor people living today or born tomorrow consume anything approaching this figure, the world will have to find more than 140 billion metric tons of such materials each year by mid-century, according to a new report from the U.N. Enviromental Programme. [ sciam ]

 
2011 Tornado Season - Science Behind This Terrible Tornado Season
The News - Natural Disasters
May 26, 2011
2011 tornado season natural disaster

So far, 2011 has proved a year destined for the tornado record books. Nearly 1,200 tornadoes have swarmed the United States this year, according to preliminary numbers from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Four of these storms have been rated at the highest tornado strength, an EF-5. The death toll from these tornadoes has likely topped 500, a number not seen since 1953.

But why has this year seen so many and such devastating twisters? Scientists point to several large-scale climate factors, some of which have been at work behind the scenes since winter. And at least some of the mind-boggling tornado numbers, believe it or not, can be chalked up to humans — there are more of us around to see them. [ livescience ]

 
NASA mission aims to bring back pieces of asteroid
The News - Science-Astronomy
May 26, 2011
NASA mission to bring back asteroid

NASA will launch a sample-return mission to an asteroid in 2016, agency officials announced Wednesday.

The mission, called Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-Rex) will reach an asteroid called 1999 RQ36 in 2020. The unmanned spacecraft will use a robotic arm to snag some samples.

According to the plan, the probe will return these bits of space rock to Earth in 2023 so scientists can study them for clues about the solar system's origin — and possibly, how life may have begun on our planet. [ msnbc ]
 
Extensive map of universe that extends to 380 million light years away
The News - Science-Astronomy
May 26, 2011
universe map 380 million light years

The most complete 3D map of the local universe has been unveiled by British astronomers.

The 2MASS Redshift Survey (2MRS) from the University of Portsmouth extends to a distance of 380 million light years and has taken 10 years to complete.

It extends closer than previous surveys to the galactic plane - a region that is generally obscured by dust. [ dailymail ]

 
Storms killed 4th in Ark.; toll at 14
The News - Religion
May 25, 2011
storm damage tornado hail natural disaster

A violent storm system rumbled through the central U.S. on Wednesday, spawning tornadoes that turned homes into splintered wreckage, killing at least 14 people and hampering rescue efforts in a city slammed by a massive twister days earlier.

The new system, which followed closely behind the one that spawned the massive twister that struck Joplin, Mo., and killed more than 120 people, moved into the Oklahoma City area Tuesday evening as worried commuters rushed home from work.

Several tornadoes touched down in Oklahoma City and its suburbs, killing at least eight people and injuring at least 70 others, authorities said. Among those killed was a 15-month-old boy, and searchers were looking for his missing 3-year-old brother. [ yahoo ]

 
Unusual Earthquake Gave Japan Tsunami Extra Punch
The News - Natural Disasters
May 25, 2011
japan tsunami earthquake suduction zone
This diagram shows the March 11 fault motion sequence. 1. Rupture of the fault plane begins at the epicenter. 2. Rupture travels westward, down the fault plane towards Honshu. The island suffers violent shaking for 40 seconds. 3. The upward sloping east side of the fault plane begins to rupture, continuing for 30 to 35 seconds. The sediments overlying the east side expand up the fault plane in response to the force of the rupture. 4. The water above the sediments is pushed into an unstable dome that then flows out in all directions as a tsunami.

The magnitude 9 earthquake and resulting tsunami that struck Japan on March 11 were like a one-two punch -- first violently shaking, then swamping the islands -- causing tens of thousands of deaths and hundreds of billions of dollars in damage. Now Stanford researchers have discovered the catastrophe was caused by a sequence of unusual geologic events never before seen so clearly.

"It was not appreciated before this earthquake that this size of earthquake was possible on this plate boundary," said Stanford geophysicist Greg Beroza. "It was thought that typical earthquakes were much smaller."

The earthquake occurred in a subduction zone, where one great tectonic plate is being forced down under another tectonic plate and into Earth's interior along an active fault. The fault on which the Tohoku-Oki earthquake took place slopes down from the ocean floor toward the west. It first ruptured mainly westward from its epicenter -- 32 kilometers (about 20 miles) below the seafloor -- toward Japan, shaking the island of Honshu violently for 40 seconds. [ sciday ]

 
Japan's TEPCO admits further reactor meltdowns
The News - Current Events
May 24, 2011
tepco japan nucler meltdown disaster
The operator of Japan's tsunami-hit Fukushima nuclear power plant on Tuesday said it believed fuel had partially melted inside three reactors, as long suspected by experts.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said new readings on water gauges indicated that the fuel had dropped to the bottom of the containment vessels of units two and three, matching its earlier assessment of unit one.

In all three reactors, relatively low temperatures indicated that the fuel was now mostly covered by water that has been pumped into the vessels, meaning there was no immediate threat of an uncontrolled full meltdown. [ yahoo ]

 
2011 Tornado Death Toll Is Worst Since 1953
The News - Natural Disasters
May 24, 2011
2011 tornado death toll natural diasasters

2011 has a grim new place in the record books: the deadliest year for tornadoes in more than five decades, with 481 people killed by the storms as of this writing.

It's the highest number of fatalities from tornadoes since 1953, when twisters killed 519 people, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the home agency of the National Weather Service.

As of Monday evening, the death toll from the devastating tornado that smashed through Joplin, Mo. on Sunday (May 22) had risen to 116, and could continue to rise as officials sort through the wreckage of the town, home to almost 50,000 people. [ live science ]

 
Failed Doomsday Has Real Deadly Consequences
The News - Religion
May 24, 2011
failed doomsday apocalypse rapture armageddon disaster

Harold Camping, the 89-year-old leader whose study of the Bible convinced him and his followers that the world would end, has been described by his wife as "flabbergasted" that the apocalypse didn’t start over the weekend. There are some red faces out there. And if that's all it had been, then one could argue no great harm had been done.

But while Camping and his followers try to figure out what went wrong (or right) — with news Monday night that he now says Judgment Day will come on Oct. 21 — the failed prophecy did more than just damage Camping's credibility: It also appears to have caused death and serious injury to true believers. [ yahoo ]

 
Not again! October 21st now "doomsday"
The News - Religion
May 24, 2011

All warnings of the end of the world have apparently been "raptured" off the homepage of a doomsday preacher who wrongly predicted the return of Jesus over the weekend, and made a new prediction tonight that the end would now come on Oct. 21 of this year.

For many months, Oakland, Calif.-based Family Radio and its main voice Harold Camping had been thundering warnings that Judgment Day was to take place May 21, 2011, and that it would be a certainty with "no Plan B."

 
Twister Season Proves Deadliest Since 1953
The News - Natural Disasters
May 24, 2011
tornado season deadliest 1953 natural disaster

Despite the heavy toll, the storm system that spawned the tornado wasn't unusual for this time of year, say meteorologists. The high death toll resulted from the twister's path through a commercial area including a hospital, a nursing home, a row of crowded restaurants and several large stores. The winds, while as high as 198 miles per hour, weren't unusual for powerful springtime tornadoes in parts of the U.S.

Highlighting the unpredictability of such lethal storms, the weeks before the twister marked an unusual lull in the number of tornadoes that normally occur this time of year, experts said. More than half the season's severe tornadoes usually strike in May and June. During the first three weeks of May, however, the number of powerful twisters had dipped to historic lows, federal meteorologists said.

"We were so far below normal in the first three weeks of May that we may not catch up to normal for the month," said meteorologist Harold Brooks at the National Severe Storms Laboratory in Norman, Okla. [ wsj ]

 
Joplin tornado toll climbs to 116
The News - Natural Disasters
May 23, 2011
joplin tornado natural disaster
A massive tornado that tore a 6-mile path across southwestern Missouri killed at least 116 people as it slammed into the city of Joplin, ripping into a hospital, crushing cars like soda cans and leaving a forest of splintered tree trunks behind where entire neighborhoods once stood.

Authorities warned that the death toll could climb as search and rescue workers continued their efforts. Their task was made more miserable as a new thunderstorm with strong winds and heavy rain pelted part of the city with quarter-sized hail.

City manager Mark Rohr announced the number of known dead at a pre-dawn news conference outside the wreckage of a hospital that took a direct hit from Sunday's storm. Rohr said the twister cut a path nearly 6 miles long and more than a half-mile wide through the center of town. Much of the city's south side was leveled, with churches, schools, businesses and homes reduced to ruins by winds of up to 165 mph. [ stltoday ] - [ Three-Quarters of Joplin, MO Destroyed ] - Threat of more bears down ] - [ 116 dead, nearly 500 twister deaths this year ]

 
Really? Doomsday prophet, followers ‘flabbergasted’ world didn’t end
The News - Religion
May 23, 2011
harold camping failed doomsday armageddon apocalypse prediction
It's hard to feel bad for someone whose doomsday predictions caused so much anxiety, but 89-year-old Harold Camping's recent admission that he's "flabbergasted" the world didn't end last weekend sounds somewhat pitiful.

"It has been a really tough weekend," Camping said Sunday, after emerging from his Alameda, California home for the first time to talk to a reporter from the San Francisco Chronicle. "I'm looking for answers ... But now I have nothing else to say," he said, adding that he would make a full statement today.

Camping's PR aide, Tom Evans, told the L.A. Times that the group is "disappointed" that 200 million true believers weren't lifted up to heaven on Saturday while everyone else suffered and eventually died as a series of earthquakes and famine destroyed the Earth. "You can imagine we're pretty disappointed, but the word of God is still true," Evans said. "We obviously went too far, and that's something we need to learn from." The group posted 2,000 billboards around the country warning of the rapture, while Camping--an uncertified fundamentalist minister--spread the word on his radio show. [ yahoo ]

 
Missouri officials say at least 89 dead in tornado
The News - Natural Disasters
May 23, 2011
89 dead missouri tornado natural disaster

Authorities say at least 89 have died in the massive tornado that struck the southwest Missouri city of Joplin.

City manager Mark Rohr announced the number at a pre-dawn news conference outside the wreckage of a hospital that took a direct hit from Sunday's storm.

Rohr said the twister cut a path nearly six miles long and more than a half-mile wide through the center of town.

Much of the city's south side was leveled, with businesses, homes and restaurants reduced to ruins. [ yahoo ]

 
Tornadoes batter central US, kill unknown number
The News - Natural Disasters
May 22, 2011
midwest tornadoes natural disaster
Tornadoes ripped through parts of the Midwest on Sunday, killing at least one person in Minneapolis and an unknown number of others in Missouri, where a massive twister flattened a large area of one city and heavily damaged a hospital.

Damage was widespread across part of the southwest Missouri city of Joplin. Many streets on the city's south side were described as impassible, littered with downed trees and utility poles. Emergency vehicles were racing across the city, taking injured residents to hospitals.

John Campbell, operations director for the Missouri State Emergency Management Agency, confirmed fatalities have been reported, but he did not have an exact number or specifics. Phone communications in and out of the city of about 50,000 people about 160 miles south of Kansas City were largely cut off. [ yahoo ]

 
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