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In Photos: Huge landslide in China
The News - Natural Disasters
July 28, 2010
massive landslide china

A village in southern China is suffering after an enormous landslide - triggered by an overwhelming rainstorm - buried dozens of homes, the Associated Press reports. Photos of the aftermath paint a stark picture of lives and livelihoods destroyed.

This is only the most recent flood and landslide to strike China. So far this year, floods have killed at least 823 people and inflicted tens of billions of dollars in property damage - and more rains are expected this week.

[ In Photos: Huge landslide in China ]

Asteroid Might Collide With the Earth in 2182
The News - Science-Astronomy
July 27, 2010
asteroid impact earth 2182

The potentially hazardous asteroid '(101955) 1999 RQ36' has a one-in-a-thousand chance of impacting the Earth, and more than half of this probability indicates that this could happen in the year 2182, based on a global study in which Spanish researchers have been involved. Knowing this fact may help design in advance mechanisms aimed at deviating the asteroid's path.

"The total impact probability of asteroid '(101955) 1999 RQ36' can be estimated in 0.00092 -- approximately one-in-a-thousand chance -- but what is most surprising is that over half of this chance (0.00054) corresponds to 2182," explains María Eugenia Sansaturio, co-author of the study and researcher of Universidad de Valladolid (UVA). The research also involved scientists from the University of Pisa (Italy), the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (USA) and INAF-IASF-Rome (Italy).

Scientists have estimated and monitored the potential impacts for this asteroid through 2200 by means of two mathematical models (Monte Carlo Method and line of variations sampling). Thus, the so called Virtual Impactors (VIs) have been searched. VIs are sets of statistical uncertainty leading to collisions with the Earth on different dates of the XXII century. Two VIs appear in 2182 with more than half the chance of impact.

Violent Spacequakes Shake Earth's Magnetic Field
The News - Science-Astronomy
July 27, 2010
violent space earthquake magnetic field

Like an earthquake in space, so-called spacequakes are temblors in Earth's magnetic field caused by plasma flying off the sun that could help generate the colorful auroras that dance high in Earth's atmosphere, a new study suggests.

While felt most strongly in Earth orbit, these quakes can also reach all the way down to the surface of Earth itself.

"Magnetic reverberations have been detected at ground stations all around the globe, much like seismic detectors measure a large earthquake," said Vassilis Angelopoulos of UCLA, principle investigator of NASA's THEMIS spacecraft. And these rumbles can pack a punch.

"The total energy in a spacequake can rival that of a magnitude 5 or 6 earthquake," according to Evgeny Panov of the Space Research Institute in Austria. Panov is first author of a paper reporting the results of a study on spacequakes in the April 2010 issue of Geophysical Research Letters.
Man hit by six meteorites is being 'targeted by aliens'
The News - Weird-Strange
July 27, 2010

A Bosnian man who claims he is being targeted by extraterrestrials after a series of meteorite strikes on his house has now been hit by a sixth space rock in the space of a few years.

Radivoje Lajic first came to international attention in 2008, shortly after the fifth meteorite had crashed into the roof of his house in the northern village of Gornji Lajici.

And now, within the past month, another rock has hit the roof of his house, in defiance of all the odds - making it six strikes since the plague of meteorites began in 2007.
Scientists Confirm Underwater Plumes Are From Spill
The News - Climate-Environment
July 26, 2010
gulf oil spill plumes

Florida researchers said Friday that they had for the first time conclusively linked vast plumes of microscopic oil droplets drifting in the Gulf of Mexico to the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

The scientists, from the University of South Florida, matched samples taken from the plumes with oil from the leaking well provided by BP. The findings were the first direct confirmation that the plumes were linked to the spill, although federal scientists had said there was overwhelming circumstantial evidence tying them to BP’s well.

The discovery of the plumes several weeks into the oil leak alarmed scientists, who feared that clouds of oil particles could wreak havoc on marine life far below the surface. Plumes have been detected as far as 50 miles from the wellhead, although oil concentrations at those distances are extremely low, about 750 parts per billion.This is well below the level considered acutely toxic for fish and marine organisms, but could still affect eggs and larvae, the scientists fear.

NASA's Deep Space Camera Locates Host of 'Earths'
The News - Science-Astronomy
July 26, 2010
planets like earth found

Scientists celebrated Sunday after finding more than 700 suspected new planets -- including up to 140 similar in size to Earth -- in just six weeks of using a powerful new space observatory.

Early results from NASA’s Kepler Mission, a small satellite observing deep space, suggested planets like Earth were far more common than previously thought.

Past discoveries suggested most planets outside our solar system were gas giants such as Jupiter and Saturn -- but the new evidence tipped the balance in favor of solid worlds.

Ex-CIA chief: Strike on Iran seems more likely now
The News - War-Draft
July 26, 2010
A former CIA director says military action against Iran now seems more likely because no matter what the U.S. does diplomatically, Tehran keeps pushing ahead with its suspected nuclear program.

Michael Hayden, a CIA chief under President George W. Bush, says that during his tenure a strike was "way down the list" of options. But he tells CNN's "State of the Union" that such action now "seems inexorable."

He predicts Iran will build its program to the point where it's just below having an actual weapon. Hayden says that would be as destabilizing to the region as the real thing.

U.S. officials have said military action remains an option if sanctions fail to deter Iran.

Iran says its nuclear work is for peaceful purposes such as power generation. [ YAHOO NEWS ]

Solar sail camera spots cosmic explosion
The News - Science-Astronomy
July 23, 2010
gamma ray burst camera

A camera riding on the world's first deep space solar sail has caught managed to observe a violent gamma-ray burst, one of the most powerful explosions in the universe, Japanese space officials have announced.

The Ikaros solar sail detected the first gamma-ray burst with its onboard Gamma-ray burst Polarized light detector (GAP) on July 7, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said in an announcement.

Gamma-ray bursts are the dying explosion of large stars that have run out of fuel. The collapsing star cores can form either black holes or neutron stars, and emit an intense burst of high-energy gamma-rays. [ MSNBC ]

Tropical storm warning for site of BP oil spill
The News - Current Events
July 22, 2010
gulf spill tropical storm

BP workers in the Gulf of Mexico have stopped drilling a relief well and are preparing to evacuate the oil spill site as a tropical depression nears.

There is a 20-30% chance of tropical storm force winds (39mph/63kph or more) at the spill site by Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center says.

Because of the slow-moving vessels at the spill site, evacuation plans are already well under way. Work on the relief well could be suspended for up to two weeks.

A "packer" - a plug used during storms - has been placed in the relief well to stabilise it. The government's incident commander, Thad Allen, along with BP, must decide whether to leave the well shut during any storm, or to open it and allow oil to gush out into the sea.

The tropical depression is over the Bahamas but is travelling west-northwest at 15mph. It could become a tropical storm later day. Storm warnings are in force in the Bahamas and on much of the Florida coastline. [ BBC NEWS ]

Largest ever tornado study ends
The News - Natural Disasters
July 21, 2010
largest tornado study ends

Storm-chasing scientists have wrapped up the most dangerous stage of the largest-ever study on why some storms become tornadoes and others don't.

While their mission didn't produce any "Aha!" moments, the storm hunters were able to study more than 20 tornadoes and gather more information on these storms than ever before, said team member Joshua Wurman of the Center for Severe Weather Research in Boulder, Colo. The findings are leading to a greater understanding of tornadoes, and scientists expect they will ultimately improve tornado warnings and short-term severe weather forecast.
Large China oil spill threatens sea life, water
The News - Climate-Environment
July 21, 2010
china oil spill
China's largest reported oil spill emptied beaches along the Yellow Sea as its size doubled Wednesday, while cleanup efforts included straw mats and frazzled workers with little more than rubber gloves.

An official warned the spill posed a "severe threat" to sea life and water quality as China's latest environmental crisis spread off the shores of Dalian, once named China's most livable city. One cleanup worker has drowned, his body coated in crude.

"I've been to a few bays today and discovered they were almost entirely covered with dark oil," said Zhong Yu with environmental group Greenpeace China, who spent the day on a boat inspecting the spill.

"The oil is half-solid and half liquid and is as sticky as asphalt," she told The Associated Press by telephone.

The oil had spread over 165 square miles (430 square kilometers) of water five days since a pipeline at the busy northeastern port exploded, hurting oil shipments from part of China's strategic oil reserves to the rest of the country. Shipments remained reduced Wednesday. [ YAHOO NEWS ]

Avoidable Disasters - Major (and Deadly) Human Screw-ups
The News - Current Events
July 21, 2010

While BP seems to have gotten the flow of oil in the Gulf of Mexico under control for now, investigations suggest corners were cut for the sake of profit and expediency, leading to the Deepwater Horizon rig explosion and fire that killed 11 workers and started the oil leak.

Taking shortcuts is one thing; purposely shutting down existing safety systems is a very different matter, and according to new information, serious safety violations may have led to the worst mine disaster in the last 25 years, the West Virginia mine explosion that killed 29 workers in April.[ LIVE SCIENCE ]

2010 U.S. hurricane forecast now 19 named storms
The News - Natural Disasters
July 21, 2010
Private weather forecaster WSI Corp cut its forecast for named storms in the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season on Tuesday, but still sees an active season with water temperatures and wind conditions conducive to violent storms.

In its latest tropical storm update, WSI called for 19 named storms, down from 20 in its June forecast, but maintained its outlook for 11 hurricanes and 5 intense hurricanes of category three or higher. The 2010 forecast is well above the 1950-2009 averages of 10 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 intense hurricanes.

"Record warm tropical Atlantic Ocean temperatures and an enabling wind shear environment should result in a very active tropical season this year," said Dr. Todd Crawford, WSI's chief meteorologist. The disappearance of the El Nino event and a decrease in vertical wind shear both point to the potential for more Atlantic storms, WSI said.

Earth at risk as Solar flare activity rises
The News - Science-Astronomy
July 20, 2010
solar flare activity increase

Scientists say the sun's volative behavior could cause widespread problems on Earth.

The sun's erratic and sometimes volatile behavior has the potential to cause real problems here on Earth, and protecting our planet will require an international effort - according to scientists who gathered recently for a meeting about the effects of solar activity.

Streams of charged particles that fly off the sun can interfere with electronics on Earth and satellites orbiting our planet. For example, during a particularly intense solar storm in 1989, power to an entire Canadian province was knocked out. Since then, other storms have knocked a handful of satellites out of service.

With Earth becoming more and more dependent on technology, the risk from solar flares is only going up, according to experts.

Supernova - Hunt for ticking time bomb stars
The News - Science-Astronomy
July 20, 2010
supernova exploding star

In this negative image of the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101), red squares mark the positions of "super-soft" X-ray sources. The Pinwheel should contain hundreds of accreting white dwarfs on which nuclear fusion is occurring, which should produce prodigious X-rays. Yet detected are only a few dozen super-soft X-ray sources.

Why certain stars explode in supernovas is a mystery to scientists, and a new study finds the situation is even murkier than thought because some of the light from these stars may be blocked.

To understand more about these cosmic explosions, astronomers are hunting for ticking time bombs stars that are on the track toward becoming supernovas. Yet the missing light could make the search even harder.

Death of a star

Supernovas mark the death of a star, when it stops shining light created through nuclear fusion and instead collapses into an extremely dense black hole.

A subset of supernovas called Type Ia supernovas are the gold standard in astronomy. They are thought to erupt when a dense, dim star called a white dwarf hits a certain upper limit in mass and explodes.

Thus, each white dwarf erupting in a Type Ia supernova will shine at roughly the same brightness. This allows astronomers to spot them across the universe and tell how far away they are by how bright they appear, compared to their known intrinsic luminosity. (They are called "standard candles," for this special distance measuring feature.)

But astronomers are still confused by just what cases white dwarfs to hit that mass limit and explode. MSNBC

Can Humans Survive?
The News - Current Events
July 19, 2010
can humans survive

Humans have survived ice ages and deadly pandemics to become the dominant species on Earth, even if our reign over the planet barely represents a blip in a geological record that has seen countless living organisms come and go. We have adapted to live almost anywhere, and have harnessed the power of nature by splitting atoms and splicing DNA to reshape the world. Yet those same technologies could also doom humanity to extinction if misused.

Can humans survive? 

A few doom prophets say no. More experts say yes, but caution that humans must learn to wield technology more wisely to fend off natural threats such as asteroids . Wisdom can also teach humans to avoid destroying themselves with biotechnology or nanotechnology run amok. 

25,000 new asteroids in just six months... and 95 are close to Earth
The News - Science-Astronomy
July 19, 2010

More than 25,000 new asteroids have been discovered in just six months by Nasa’s newest space telescope.

The Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) has discovered 95 of these asteroids are classified as ‘near-Earth' objects , meaning roughly 30 million miles from the planet. WISE completed its first survey of the entire sky on Saturday and has generated more than one million images so far, of everything from asteroids to distant galaxies.

near earth asteroids nasa
Oil Spill Threatened by Possible Tropical System this Weekend
The News - Climate-Environment
July 19, 2010
tropical storm gulf oil spill

A well-developed tropical wave currently bringing strong winds and rough seas north of Puerto Rico could develop into a tropical system by the weekend.

According to AccuWeather.com hurricane meteorologist Dan Kottlowski, there is high potential for this tropical wave to evolve into a tropical depression later on this week.

Wind shear is currently hindering any tropical storm organization of this system. However, as the wave moves swiftly west, this shear will diminish over the next few days.

If the wave were to develop into a tropical storm, models predict the system moving into the eastern Gulf of Mexico by the weekend.

Experts fear long oil effect on marine life, food chain
The News - Climate-Environment
July 18, 2010
gulf oil spill disaster
Scientists studying the massive BP oil spill fear a decades-long, "cascading" effect on marine life that could lead to a shift in the overall biological network in the Gulf of Mexico.

With some 400 species estimated to be at risk -- from the tiniest oil-eating bacteria to shrimp and crabs, endangered sea turtles, brown pelicans and sperm whales -- experts say the impact of oil and chemical dispersants on the food chain has already begun, and could grow exponentially.

"A major environmental experiment is underway," Ron Kendall, director of the Institute of Environmental and Human Health at Texas Tech University, told AFP.

"We are already impacting the base of the food chain," he said, including plankton, which provide crucial food for fish, and juvenile shrimp in intertidal marshes along the Gulf Coast.


[ Seep found near BP's blown out oil well ]

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