Archive for August, 2010

Five Years After Katrina, Big Alien Rodents Return

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 26, 2010   View Article

Five years after Hurricane Katrina whacked down the population of the invasive, wetland-munching rodents in Louisiana, nutria have bounced back.

At the same time, some coastal marshes are rebounding too, because of a boom in Louisiana’s nutria trappers.

Seven deep mysteries of history

Publication: MSNBC.com   Date: August 24, 2010   View Article

What happened to Amelia Earhart?

Amelia Earhart raised the spirits of Depression-era America as she soared into the aviation record books with feats of altitude, distance and endurance. The mood took a gloomy turn, however, when she and her navigator Fred Noonan disappeared over the Pacific Ocean on July 2, 1937, during a much-heralded attempt to fly around the world. Their fate remains one of aviation’s greatest unsolved mysteries.

Theories abound: They ran out of fuel and crashed into the Pacific Ocean. They were captured by the Japanese and executed. They survived, and Earhart lived out her life as a housewife in New Jersey.

A prominent theory with tantalizing clues holds that they survived the crash landing and but perished as castaways on Nikumaroro, an uninhabited island in the republic of Kiribati. An expedition to the island in 2010 recovered pieces of a pocket knife and a glass jar that may have belonged to the castaways. If DNA analyses on these and other items match Earhart’s, the mystery may finally be resolved.

Check out six more stories of historical mysteries.

Photos: Honeycomb Clouds “Communicate,” Rain in Unison

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 20, 2010   View Article

Wisps of clouds form a honeycomb-like structure (center) over the Peruvian coast.

Such open-cell marine clouds “communicate” with each other so that they constantly oscillate, or rearrange themselves, in a synchronized pattern, according to a new study from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Inside the thick clouds of the cell walls, water droplets grow, then fall as rain, and the walls dissipate. The raindrops evaporate as they fall, cooling the air, which generates downward air currents.

When the downdrafts hit the ocean surface, they flow outward and collide with each other and “force the air to move upward again” and “form new open cell walls at a different location,” explained study co-author Hailong Wang, a cloud physicist at the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Richland, Washington.

Seven rock-solid careers from the Stone Age

Publication: MSNBC.com   Date: August 7, 2010   View Article

If nuclear war, the Great Recession or some other calamity turns the economy back to the Stone Age, what kind of jobs and industries will pay the bills?

Archaeologists, for reasons more to do with academic curiosity than preparing for doomsday, have been hard at work looking for an answer.

Moon Not So Watery After All, Lunar-Rock Study Says

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 5, 2010   View Article

The inside of the moon isn’t as watery as previously reported, according to a new study that found a high variety of chlorine atoms in Apollo moon rocks.

For decades scientists had thought the moon is bone dry inside and out. But recent moon-impact missions found water ice on the lunar surface, and reanalysis of rocks brought back by Apollo astronauts found evidence for significant amounts of water inside the moon in the form of hydroxyl (-OH), a hydrogen compound formed by the breakdown of water (H2O).

In a new study of Apollo moon rocks, geochemist Zachary Sharp of the University of New Mexico and colleagues measured the moon rocks’ chlorine isotopes, or different forms of the chlorine atom.

Universe’s Existence May Be Explained by New Material

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 3, 2010   View Article

About 13.7 billion years ago, the big bang created a big mess of matter that eventually gave rise to life, the universe, and everything. Now a new material may help scientists understand why.

The material was designed to detect a theorized but unproven property of electrons, subatomic particles with a negative charge that orbit the centers of atoms.

If this “new” property of electrons exists, scientists say, it would help explain the current imbalance between matter and antimatter in the universe.

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