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Haiti Earthquake Devastation blamed on lack of building codes
The News - Natural Disasters
January 14, 2010
haiti earthquake death destruction
In many ways, the catastrophic quake that struck Haiti on Tuesday was the perfect storm: A massive, shallow eruption below a densely populated city with few, if any, building codes.

The magnitude 7.0 quake occurred along the boundary separating two major tectonic plates, the Caribbean and North American plates.

Most of the movement along these plates is what is known as left-lateral strike slip motion, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, with the Caribbean Plate moving eastward in relation to the North American Plate.

Kate Hutton, a seismologist at the California Institute of Technology, said the quake was similar to quakes seen along the San Andreas Fault: It was shallow, a fact that enhances the intensity and makes it more localized to the region right along the fault.

"We are not surprised by any of it," Hutton said.

The Haiti quake had many similarities with the 1989 Loma Prieta quake in Northern California. That quake, said Tom Heaton, director of Caltech's Earthquake Engineering Research Laboratory, "caused a lot of damage, but it wasn't a disaster like this in terms of the number of people injured and killed."

Haiti Earthquake Disaster Little Surprise to Some
The News - Natural Disasters
January 14, 2010

The devastating magnitude 7.0 quake that ripped through Haiti Tuesday, reportedly killing thousands, did not catch everyone by surprise.

In an interview last week for an unrelated story, Robert Yeats, a professor emeritus in geoscience at Oregon State University in Corvallis and co-author of a June 1989 article for Scientific American "Hidden Earthquakes," said that an imminent big west coast earthquake concerned him far less than a "big one" that might occur in Haiti, due to the large fault near the capital city of Port-au-Prince - and the poverty-driven low level of earthquake-preparedness there.

"If they have an earthquake on this fault that runs through Port-au-Prince," the death toll would be tremendous, he said January 6.

Haiti Earthquake Occurred in Complex / Active Seismic Region

Doomsday Clock - Six minutes to midnight
The News - Current Events
January 14, 2010

The minute hand of the famous Doomsday Clock has been moved to six minutes to midnight - one minute further away from human annihilation than before.

The timepiece in New York conveys how close humanity is to catastrophic destruction, which is represented by midnight.

It is changed periodically by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists board, which includes Professor Stephen Hawking and 18 other Nobel scientists.

Haiti earthquake death toll around 50,000+
The News - Natural Disasters
January 14, 2010
haiti earthquake death toll
The Red Cross estimates 45,000-50,000 people have died in Haiti's devastating earthquake, as rescue teams race against time to find survivors.

The US is sending up to 3,500 troops and 2,200 marines but correspondents say aid is so far only trickling in.

President Barack Obama pledged one of the biggest relief efforts in recent US history and said Haiti would "not be forgotten" in its hour of need.

Aid groups say they need food, water, medical supplies and lifting equipment.

The Red Cross estimates that up to three million people in Haiti have been affected by Tuesday's earthquake.

Haiti Earthquake - "Hellish" - Thousands feared dead
The News - Natural Disasters
January 13, 2010
Haiti Earthquake massive
Haitians piled bodies along the devastated streets of their capital Wednesday after a powerful earthquake flattened the president's palace, the cathedral, hospitals, schools, the main prison and whole neighborhoods. Officials feared hundreds of thousands may have perished but there was no firm count.

Death was everywhere in Port-au-Prince. Bodies of tiny children were piled next to schools. Corpses of women lay on the street with stunned expressions frozen on their faces as flies began to gather. Bodies of men were covered with plastic tarps or cotton sheets.

President Rene Preval said he believes thousands were killed in Tuesday afternoon's magnitude-7.0 quake, and the scope of the destruction prompted other officials to give even higher estimates. Leading Sen. Youri Latortue told The Associated Press that 500,000 could be dead, although he acknowledged that nobody really knows.

"Parliament has collapsed. The tax office has collapsed. Schools have collapsed. Hospitals have collapsed," Preval told the Miami Herald. "There are a lot of schools that have a lot of dead people in them."

Quake-stunned Haitians pile bodies...

France fears everyone inside U.N. HQ dead...

Presidential Palace Collapsed in Haiti Earthquake

Map of Haiti Earthquake and Locations

Up to 3 million in need...
US Red Cross runs out of medical supplies...
VIDEO: Dog bolts from office before quake tremors strike building... 

Doomsday Clock moved today
The News - Current Events
January 13, 2010

The minute hand of the famous Doomsday Clock will be moved at 3pm tomorrow afternoon, for the first time in two years.

The timepiece in New York conveys how close humanity is to catastrophic destruction, which is represented by midnight.

It was created by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists in 1947, two years after the U.S dropped the first atomic bombs on Japan in World War II. It was originally set at seven minutes to midnight.

The clock has been altered 18 times since then by the Bulletin's scientific board. This now includes Professor Stephen Hawking and 18 other Nobel laureates.

The latest recorded time was two minutes to midnight in 1953 as the Cold War heated up between the U.S and Soviet Union.


Mystery object will whiz past Earth
The News - Science-Astronomy
January 12, 2010
mystery object past earth
A near-Earth object that could be human-made has just been discovered hurtling toward us. On Wednesday, the object called 2010 AL30 will fly by Earth at a distance of just 80,000 miles (130,000 kilometers). That's only one-third of the way from here to the moon — that is, very close.

It will miss us, and if it did hit us, it wouldn't do any damage anyway, but I managed to pick up on some chatter between planetary scientists and found out that the "asteroid," or whatever it is, gives us a new standard: A 10-meter-wide (33-foot-wide) asteroid can be detected two days before it potentially hits Earth. A pretty useful warning, if you ask me.

Expert astronomers will be able to observe it shining with a brightness of a 14th-magnitude star (the approximate brightness of Pluto's weak glow as seen from Earth) as it dashes through the constellations of Orion, Taurus, and Pisces. (Further details about the orbit of 2010 AL30 can be found on NASA's Solar System Dynamics Web site).

Doomsday clock will be moved January 14th
The News - Current Events
January 11, 2010
doomsday clock will move january 14th
Factors In Change to Include Nuclear Proliferation, Weapon Stockpile Shifts, and Climate Change -  Bulletin of Atomic Scientists Will Open Event to World With Real-Time Streaming Web Broadcast.

NEW YORK CITY - NEWS ADVISORY - January 14, 2010 - The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS) will move the minute hand of its famous "Doomsday Clock " at 10 a.m. EST/1500 GMT on January 14, 2010 in New York City. For the first time ever, the event will be opened up to the general public via a live Web feed at http://www.TurnBackTheClock.org.

The last time the Doomsday Clock minute hand moved was in January 2007, when the Clock's minute hand was pushed forward by two minutes from seven to five minutes before midnight.

The precise time to be shown on the updated Doomsday Clock will not be announced until the live news conference in New York City takes place on January 14, 2010. Factors influencing the latest Doomsday Clock change include international negotiations on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation, expansion of civilian nuclear power, the possibilities of nuclear terrorism, and climate change.

Now we're back to global cooling? WHICH IS IT!?
The News - Climate-Environment
January 11, 2010

Britain's big freeze is the start of a worldwide trend towards colder weather that seriously challenges global warming theories, eminent scientists claimed yesterday.

The world has entered a 'cold mode' which is likely to bring a global dip in temperatures which will last for 20 to 30 years, they say.

Summers and winters will all be cooler than in recent years, and the changes will mean that global warming will be 'paused' or even reversed, it was claimed.

  Cyclists ride through the snow in Richmond Park
'Fossil' Fireballs from Supernovae Discovered by Suzaku Observatory
The News - Science-Astronomy
January 11, 2010
fossil fireballs supernova
Studies of two supernova remnants using the Japan-U.S. Suzaku observatory have revealed never-before-seen embers of the high-temperature fireballs that immediately followed the explosions. Even after thousands of years, gas within these stellar wrecks retain the imprint of temperatures 10,000 times hotter than the sun's surface.

"This is the first evidence of a new type of supernova remnant -- one that was heated right after the explosion," said Hiroya Yamaguchi at the Institute of Physical and Chemical Research in Japan.

A supernova remnant usually cools quickly due to rapid expansion following the explosion. Then, as it sweeps up tenuous interstellar gas over thousands of years, the remnant gradually heats up again.

6.5 Earthquake Northern California
The News - Natural Disasters
January 10, 2010
A powerful offshore earthquake that struck near the Northern California coast left a hodgepodge of debris for communities to sort through Sunday but spared residents any serious injury.

Power was mostly restored and phones were working again Sunday in Humboldt County, where residents were cleaning up and checking for structural damage in the aftermath of the 6.5 earthquake that hit late Saturday afternoon.

A mall in Eureka likely will remain closed for a few days so crews can clean up broken glass and water damage from activated sprinklers. But injuries were minor, according to hospital officials. Transportation authorities said Sunday there were no accidents or significant bridge damage attributed to the quake.

The temblor was centered in the Pacific about 22 miles west of Ferndale. It was felt in towns more than 300 miles south into central California and as far north as central Oregon, the U.S. Geological Survey said. Ferndale is about 240 miles north of San Francisco.

Dozens of people suffered minor injuries and thousands lost power.

How Earth avoided falling into the sun
The News - Science-Astronomy
January 08, 2010
earth falling into sun
Just how Earth survived the process of its birth without suffering an early demise by falling into the sun has been something of a mystery to astronomers, but a new model has figured out what protected our planet when it was still a vulnerable, baby world.

In short, temperature differences in the space around the sun, 4.6 billion years ago, caused Earth to migrate outward as much as gravity was trying to pull it inward, and so the fledgling world found equilibrium in what we now know to be a very habitable orbit.

Planets like the Earth are thought to form from condensing clouds of gas and dust surrounding stars. The material in these disks gradually clumps together, eventually forming planetesimals – the asteroid-sized building blocks that eventually collide to form full-fledged planets.

Economy loses 85K jobs as employers remain wary
The News - Economy
January 08, 2010
Lack of confidence in the economic recovery led employers to shed a more-than-expected 85,000 net jobs in December even as the unemployment rate held at 10 percent. The rate would have been higher if more people had been looking for work instead of leaving the labor force because they can't find jobs.

The sharp drop in the work force - 661,000 fewer people - showed that more of the jobless are giving up. Once people stop looking for jobs, they're no longer counted among the unemployed.

When discouraged workers and part-time workers who would prefer full-time jobs are included, the so-called "underemployment" rate in December rose to 17.3 percent, from 17.2 percent in November. That's just below a revised figure of 17.4 percent in October, the highest on records dating from 1994.

Midwest down to -50 wind chills, UK Freezing
The News - Climate-Environment
January 08, 2010
Snow was piled so high in Iowa that drivers couldn't see across intersections and a North Dakota snowblower repair shop was overwhelmed with business as residents braced Thursday for heavy snow and wind chills as low as 50 below zero.

Frigid weather also was gripping the South, where a rare cold snap was expected to bring snow and ice Thursday to states from South Carolina to Louisiana. Forecasters said wind chills could drop to near zero at night in some areas.

Dangerously cold wind chills were anticipated in the Midwest overnight, including as low as 35 below in eastern Nebraska, minus 45 in parts of South Dakota and negative 50 in North Dakota, according to National Weather Service warnings. (Source : YAHOO )

Britain in grip of coldest winter for 30 years

Britain remained in the grip of the coldest winter for more than 30 years today, with conditions set to feel even more icy in the coming days.

Temperatures were already on a par with the South Pole after the country suffered its coldest night of the winter so far. (Source : INDEPENDENT UK )

Supernova could wipe out Earth
The News - Science-Astronomy
January 06, 2010
supernova may blow up earth

A STAR primed to explode in a blast that could wipe out the Earth was revealed by astronomers yesterday.

It will self-destruct in an explosion called a supernova with the force of 20 billion billion billion megatons of TNT.

New studies show the star, called T Pyxidis, is much closer than previously thought at 3,260 light-years away - a short hop in galactic terms.

So the blast from the thermonuclear explosion could strip away our ozone layer that keeps out deadly space radiation. Life on Earth would then be frazzled.

The doomsday scenario was described yesterday by astronomers from Villanova University, Philadelphia, US.

Next arctic blast to be worse!?
The News - Climate-Environment
January 06, 2010
arctic cold blast
Snow and strong winds will engulf the Midwest with a renewed batch of arctic air following close behind through Thursday.

Accumulations of 3 to 6 inches (locally up to 8 inches) are possible along the path of this latest winter storm. Cities included are Omaha, Neb., Kansas City, Mo., Des Moines, Iowa, Moline, Ill. St. Louis, Mo., and Indianapolis, Ind.

Moisture from Lake Michigan will enhance snowfall in the Milwaukee, Wis. to Chicago, Ill. corridor. Total accumulations of 8 to 12 inches are in the forecast for Thursday.

Behind the snow, strong winds gusting between 30 and 40 mph will develop through the Plains by tonight and spread eastward to the near the Mississippi River Thursday. Blowing and drifting snow is likely to lead to dangerous travel and the potential for near-blizzard or blizzard conditions in some locales.

Bitter cold air will keep the mercury from rising above zero in the Dakotas, northern Nebraska and western Minnesota Thursday. Wind chills will bottom out in the -20s, -30s and even -40s across these states.

Russia may try to divert asteroid
The News - Science-Astronomy
December 31, 2009
russia divert asteroid impact earth
Russia’s space agency chief said yesterday a spacecraft may be dispatched to knock a large asteroid off course and reduce the chances of Earth impact, even though US scientists say such a scenario is unlikely.

Anatoly Perminov told Golos Rossii radio the space agency would hold a meeting soon to assess a mission to Apophis. He said his agency might eventually invite NASA, the European Space Agency, the Chinese space agency, and others to join the project.

When the 885-foot asteroid was first discovered in 2004, astronomers estimated its chances of smashing into Earth in its first flyby, in 2029, at 1 in 37.

Further studies have ruled out the possibility of an impact in 2029, when the asteroid is expected to come no closer than 18,300 miles from Earth’s surface, but they indicated a small possibility of a hit on subsequent encounters.

NASA had put the chances that Apophis could hit Earth in 2036 as 1-in-45,000. In October, after researchers recalculated the asteroid’s path, the agency changed its estimate to 1-in-250,000.

How Asteroids Built the Continents
The News - Science-Astronomy
December 29, 2009

asteroids built continents

Did asteroid strikes during the earth's youth spawn the earliest fragments of today's landmasses?

  • Asteroid collisions rocked the earth for much more of its early history than previously thought.

  • New evidence reveals that nine major strikes occurred between 3.8 billion and 2.5 billion years ago—the eon during which the planet’s first continents were coming to be.

  • A bold, new hypothesis suggests these rogue space rocks were not totally destructive; they might have helped trigger the formation of continents.
Dinosaur Killing Firestorm Theory Questioned
The News - Natural Disasters
December 29, 2009

New research challenges the idea that the asteroid impact that killed the dinosaurs also sparked a global firestorm.

Scientists modeled the effect that sand-sized droplets of liquefied rock from the impact had on atmospheric temperature. The asteroid is thought to have gouged out the Chicxulub crater on the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico.

It was previously thought that the falling spherules, as the tiny rocks are called, heated up the atmosphere by several degrees for up to 20 minutes - hot enough and long enough to cause whole forests to spontaneously burst into flames.

As evidence for this, scientists pointed to what appears to be carbon-rich soot from burned trees discovered in the thin band of debris dating back to the impact some 65 million years ago, a shift in geologic time called the K-T boundary.

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