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Mass Extinction of North American Mammals
The News - Science-Astronomy
November 27, 2009
mass extinction american mammals
Years of scientific debate over the extinction of ancient species in North America have yielded many theories. However, new findings from J. Tyler Faith, GW Ph.D. candidate in the hominid paleobiology doctoral program, and Todd Surovell, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Wyoming, reveal that a mass extinction occurred in a geological instant.

During the late Pleistocene, 40,000 to 10,000 years ago, North America lost over 50 percent of its large mammal species. These species include mammoths, mastodons, giant ground sloths, among many others. In total, 35 different genera (groups of species) disappeared, all of different habitat preferences and feeding habits.

What event or factor could cause such a mass extinction? The many hypotheses that have been developed over the years include: abrupt change in climate, the result of comet impact, human overkill and disease. Some researchers believe that it may be a combination of these factors, one of them, or none.

 
What ever happened to global warming?
The News - Climate-Environment
November 27, 2009

Planet Earth (Nasa)
This headline may come as a bit of a surprise, so too might that fact that the warmest year recorded globally was not in 2008 or 2007, but in 1998.

But it is true. For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures.

And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise.

So what on Earth is going on?

 
Supervolcano Eruption In Sumatra 73,000 Years Ago
The News - Natural Disasters
November 24, 2009
Sumatra supervolcano Indonesia
A new study provides "incontrovertible evidence" that the volcanic super-eruption of Toba on the island of Sumatra about 73,000 years ago deforested much of central India, some 3,000 miles from the epicenter, researchers report.

The volcano ejected an estimated 800 cubic kilometers of ash into the atmosphere, leaving a crater (now the world's largest volcanic lake) that is 100 kilometers long and 35 kilometers wide. Ash from the event has been found in India, the Indian Ocean, the Bay of Bengal and the South China Sea.

The bright ash reflected sunlight off the landscape, and volcanic sulfur aerosols impeded solar radiation for six years, initiating an "Instant Ice Age" that -- according to evidence in ice cores taken in Greenland -- lasted about 1,800 years.

During this instant ice age, temperatures dropped by as much as 16 degrees centigrade (28 degrees Fahrenheit), said University of Illinois anthropology professor Stanley Ambrose, a principal investigator on the new study with professor Martin A.J. Williams, of the University of Adelaide. Williams, who discovered a layer of Toba ash in central India in 1980, led the research.

The climactic effects of Toba have been a source of controversy for years, as is its impact on human populations.

 
Ontarioís deadly Swine Flu surge, 24 dead in 72 hours
The News - Current Events
November 24, 2009
In a shocking surge, 24 Ontario residents have died in less than 72 hours from Swine Flu, the Public Health Agency of Canada reported on its website.

Ontario’s fatalities reported between November 10 and 11 a.m. EST on November 12 catapults the death toll from 37 reported on Nov. 10 to a total of 61. That is twice the figure of dead in Quebec and the highest of any province in Canada.

 
Earth Resources to fail by 2030?
The News - Climate-Environment
November 24, 2009
earth resources failing 2030
Humanity would need five Earths to produce the resources needed if everyone lived as profligately as Americans, according to a report issued Tuesday.

As it is, humanity each year uses resources equivalent to nearly one-and-a-half Earths to meet its needs, said the report by Global Footprint Network, an international think tank.

"We are demanding nature's services -- using resources and creating CO2 emissions -- at a rate 44 percent faster than what nature can regenerate and reabsorb," the document said.

"That means it takes the Earth just under 18 months to produce the ecological services humanity needs in one year," it said.

And if humankind continues to use natural resources and produce waste at the current rate, "we will require the resources of two planets to meet our demands by the early 2030s," a gluttonous level of ecological spending that may cause major ecosystem collapse, the report said.

 
Does Climate Change Cause Conflict?
The News - War-Draft
November 24, 2009
climate change wars
Some experts call the genocide in Darfur the world's first conflict caused by climate change. After all, the crisis was sparked, at least in part, by a decline in rainfall over the past 30 years just as the region's population doubled, pitting wandering pastoralists against settled farmers for newly scarce resources, such as arable land.

"Is Darfur the first climate change war?" asked economist and Scientific American columnist Jeffrey Sachs at an event at Columbia University in 2007. "Don't doubt for a moment that places like Darfur are ecological disasters first and political disasters second."

But new research would suggest the answer to Sachs's question is no, at least regarding the novelty of Darfur. Agricultural economist Marshall Burke of the University of California, Berkeley and his colleagues have analyzed the history of conflict in sub-Saharan Africa between 1980 and 2002 in a new paper in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
 
2012 vs Science Fact
The News - Science-Astronomy
November 23, 2009

Listen up! Only three years from now, on Dec. 21, a violent flameout on the sun will blaze and the world will come to an end... almost. The science gurus of Hollywood are at it again, this time in the apocalyptic movie "2012" now playing at theaters near you.

Science it isn't...

There's this Indian astrophysicist who calls the sun's major burps an eruption, and warns his American geologist pal at the White House, who has apparently never heard of what the sun can do. Solar physicists know that even the sun's biggest burps are exotic but harmless (except to satellites and power grids) coronal mass ejections - CMEs for short.

 
Surprise Surprise - 17.5% Of Workers Are Unemployed
The News - Economy
November 23, 2009
As experts debate the potential speed of the US recovery, one figure looms large but is often overlooked: nearly 1 in 5 Americans is either out of work or under-employed.

Unemployment

According to the government's broadest measure of unemployment, some 17.5 percent are either without a job entirely or underemployed. The so-called U-6 number is at the highest rate since becoming an official labor statistic in 1994.

The number dwarfs the statistic most people pay attention to—the U-3 rate—which most recently showed unemployment at 10.2 percent for October, the highest it has been since June 1983.

The difference is that what is traditionally referred to as the "unemployment rate" only measures those out of work who are still looking for jobs. Discouraged workers who have quit trying to find a job, as well as those working part-time but looking for full-time work or who are otherwise underemployed, count in the U-6 rate.

With such a large portion of Americans experiencing employment struggles, economists worry that an extended period of slow or flat growth lies ahead. (Source : CNBC )

 
Meteor lights up early morning sky
The News - Science-Astronomy
November 19, 2009
utah meteor fireball
A fast-moving meteor lit up the night skies over most of Utah just after midnight Wednesday. Moments later, the phones lit up at KSL as people across the state called to tell us what they saw and ask what it was.

Scientists are calling it a "remarkable midnight fireball." The source of all the excitement was basically a rock, falling from space.

In addition to KSL, witnesses to the meteor quickly began call 911.

"I'm currently driving, but I just saw a giant blue flash in the sky, and it came down into the city," a caller from Ogden said.

A caller in Bountiful told dispatchers, "It flashed from the west, and it lit up the whole freakin' neighborhood."

A Salt Lake City caller said, "Ma'am, I'm not kidding you. I am terrified."

Professor David Kieda is chair of the University of Utah's astronomy department. He said the energy of the meteor coming into Earth's atmosphere was so powerful it has to be measured in Terawatts.

"It's almost like the consumption of the United States all at once. It was a fraction of a second," Kieda said.

When a meteor enters the atmosphere, it gives off a lot of heat and light. Folks at the Clark Planetarium say this rock was big--between the size of a microwave and washer-dryer unit. (VIDEO HERE )

 
Last Ice Age took just SIX months
The News - Climate-Environment
November 16, 2009
last ice age

It took just six months for a warm and sunny Europe to be engulfed in ice, according to new research.

Previous studies have suggested the arrival of the last Ice Age nearly 13,000 years ago took about a decade - but now scientists believe the process was up to 20 times as fast.

In scenes reminiscent of the Hollywood blockbuster The day After Tomorrow, the Northern Hemisphere was frozen by a sudden slowdown of the Gulf Stream, which allowed ice to spread hundreds of miles southwards from the Arctic.

Geological sciences professor William Patterson, who led the research, said: 'It would have been very sudden for those alive at the time. It would be the equivalent of taking Britain and moving it to the Arctic over the space of a few months.'

Professor Patterson's findings emerged from one of the most painstaking studies of climate changes ever attempted and reinforce the theory that the earth's climate is  unstable and can switch between warm and cold incredibly quickly.

 
Annual Leonid meteor shower 2009
The News - Science-Astronomy
November 16, 2009
2009 Leonid meteor shower
One of the best annual meteor showers will peak in the pre-dawn hours Tuesday, and for some skywatchers the show could be quite impressive.

The best seats are in Asia, but North American observers should be treated to an above-average performance of the Leonid meteor shower, weather permitting. The trick for all observers is to head outside in the wee hours of the morning — between 1 a.m. and dawn — regardless of where you live.

The Leonids put on a solid show every year, if skies are clear and moonlight does not interfere. This year the moon is near its new phase, and thus it won't be a factor that detracts from the show. For anyone in the Northern Hemisphere with dark skies, away from urban and suburban lighting, the meteor shower should be worth getting up early to see.
 
New plague 'worse than swine flu'
The News - Current Events
November 16, 2009
deadly plague
A DEADLY plague could sweep across Europe, doctors fear, after an outbreak of a virus in Ukraine plunged the country and its neighbours into a state of panic.

A cocktail of three flu viruses are reported to have mutated into a single pneumonic plague, which it is believed may be far more dangerous than swine flu. The death toll has reached 189 and more than 1 million people have been infected, most of them in the nine regions of Western Ukraine.

President of Ukraine Viktor Yushchenko has called in the World Health Organisation and a team of nine specialists are carrying out tests in Kiev and Lviv to identify the virus. Samples have been sent to London for analysis.President Yushchenko said: “People are dying. The epidemic is killing doctors. This is absolutely inconceivable in the 21st Century.”

 
2012 - Predicted Disasters
The News - Current Events
November 14, 2009
2012 disaster
During an early screening of Roland Emmerich's latest disaster flick 2012, which opens today, laughter erupted in the audience near the end of the film thanks to corny dialogue and maudlin scenes (among the biggest guffaw getters: a father tries to reconnect with his estranged son on the telephone, only to have the son's house destroyed just before he could say anything). Nobody wants to take anything seriously in a movie like this, in which digital mayhem is the draw. But if it were an audience of physicists, the laughter probably would have started in the first five minutes. You can't take any of the science seriously, although I give the filmmakers credit for creativity.

If you haven't heard, December 21, 2012 is supposed to be the day that the Mayan calendar ends (it doesn't really) and therefore somehow marks the end of civilization as we know it—notwithstanding the fact that the Mayan civilization ended centuries ago. (NASA has a good Q&A site that debunks the 2012 apocalypse nonsense.) Thankfully, the movie 2012 doesn't dwell on ancient predictions. Instead, it takes us straight to the, er, science. (Full story : Scientific American)

I would just like to clarifiy that this site does NOT make predictions or state anywhere that a disaster will in fact happen (2012 or otherwise). As much as I enjoy sifting through the e-mails I get... sometimes people get the wrong impression - and end up calling me "scare" or "fear monger". Nowhere does the site have a view on 2012 other than speculation, hype, and internet chatter. We have never stood behind any "predicted" event or disaster, the ultimate goal is to explore the potential ones that we may face. So please, before you e-mail me and say I'm trying to "scare" people.... read over the site and then give me your opinion. I think you'll find at no point to we make such assumptions, but instead try to approach the topics from a "what if" or "science fact" point of view. 

PS: To the people that mail me just to insult me, thanks anyways. I still love ya Wink

 
Early life on Earth may have developed more quickly than thought
The News - Science-Astronomy
November 14, 2009
The Earth's climate was far cooler -- perhaps more than 50 degrees -- billions of years ago, which could mean conditions for life all over the planet were more conducive than previously believed, according to a U.S. research team.

Mike Tice, a researcher in the Department of Geology and Geophysics at Texas A&M, says the findings could change current ideas about the earliest forms of life on Earth. The team also includes scientists from Yale University and Stanford University, and their work is published Wednesday in the current issue of Nature magazine.

Tice says the team examined rocks from the Buck Reef Chert in South Africa that are known to be about 3.4 billion years old, among the oldest ever discovered. They found features in them that are consistent with formation at water temperatures significantly lower than previous studies had suggested.

"Our research shows that the water temperature 3.4 billion years ago was at most 105 degrees, and while that's potentially very warm, it's far below the temperatures of 155 degrees or more that previous research has implied," Tice explains.

 
Climate change not man made say Britons
The News - Climate-Environment
November 14, 2009
Less than half of Britons believes that human activity is to blame for global warming, according to a poll carried out for The Times newspaper and published on Saturday.

Only 41 percent accept as an established scientific fact that global warming is taking place and is largely man-made.

Almost a third, or 32 percent, believe that the link is not yet proved; eight percent say it is environmentalist propaganda to blame man and 15 percent believe the world is not warming.

Only slightly more than a quarter (28 percent) think climate change is the most serious problem that the world faces.

 
2012 Doomsday Hype - The Truth
The News - Current Events
November 13, 2009

2012 is coming very soon. The movie, that is — the disaster film directed by Roland Emmerich depicting global catastrophe of Biblical proportions. The year itself is of course a few dozen months away, and there is growing interest, excitement, and concern for both events.

The film "2012," which opens Nov. 13, takes place, rather obviously, in the year 2012, though it could have been set in 1995 or 2013. The movie's disasters have no particular link to that year, it's just when the Earth happens to start burping earthquakes and farting fire. 2012 made a perfect promotional hook for the film, because the ancient Mayans predicted that the world would end that year, if not specifically on December 21, 2012.

That's one story, anyway.

Whether or not 2012 will bring cataclysmic volcanism or a great flood, it has undeniably brought a flood of books. New Age and doomsday authors have been cranking out 2012-themed books at an amazing pace over the past few years; there are literally thousands of such titles in print, with more on the way.

While many authors and 2012 "experts" are playing up the doomsday scenario, others believe that the year will bring not disaster but a new era of global harmony (as in what did not happen with the so-called Harmonic Convergence in 1987). It seems that anyone with access to a keyboard and an opinion on 2012 (or prophecy in general) is trying to cash in. (It will be interesting to see how many of those books will be for sale on Amazon.com for one cent on Jan. 1, 2013.)

 
Water evidence found on the moon
The News - Science-Astronomy
November 13, 2009
water on the moon

Scientists announced tonight that they have discovered “buckets” of water on the Moon following the analysis of data from a spacecraft that was deliberately crashed into a lunar crater last month.

The researchers said the evidence for the existence of significant bodies of water ice hidden in polar craters on the Moon is “definitive” and that the total quantities could be big enough to support a permanently-manned lunar base.

It is the first time that the US National Aeronautics and Space Administration (Nasa) has been so categorical about the discovery of water on the Moon. Previous studies had only suggested that the presence of water might be possible and then only in trace amounts.

 
10 doomsday predictions that epic failed
The News - Current Events
November 12, 2009

With the upcoming disaster film "2012" and the current hype about Mayan calendars and doomsday predictions, it seems like a good time to put such notions in context.

Most prophets of doom come from a religious perspective, though the secular crowd has caused its share of scares as well. One thing the doomsday scenarios tend to share in common: They don't come to pass.
Here are 10 that didn't pan out, so far. (MSNBC) - See also :  Whoops! Failed Armageddon Prophecies + Predictions

 
2012 Mayan fears and the long count calendar
The News - Science-Astronomy
November 12, 2009
2012 mayan calendar
Fears about the year 2012 rest on just one of at least three Maya calendar systems unearthed by scholars, the "Long Count," which began on Aug. 13, 3114 B.C.

The Long Count tracks the duration of what the Maya called "great cycles" of time. The cycle we're currently in ends on 13.0.0.0.0, what we non-Maya call Dec. 23, 2012.

"I tell my students it is similar to an odometer," says archaeologist Lisa Lucero of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "After it hits 100,000 miles, it starts again – but there is no new car, nor does the car self-destruct."

Worries about the date rest from a Maya inscription fragment suggesting the date's importance at the site of Tortuguero in Mexico, says archaeologist Kristin Romey, science adviser to Asylum.com. "The only problem is the Maya had Long Count calendar inscriptions mentioning baktuns (millennia) much further in the future at other sites, so 2012 hardly seems the end of the world."

 
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