Wednesday, December 29, 2010

GLOWING MUSHROOM : Psychedelic New Species Seen

Glowing nonstop in the Brazilian rain forest, the newfound mushroom Mycena luxaeterna (pictured both in daylight, top, and in the dark) is indeed a source of eternal light, as its Latin name--inspired by verses from Mozart's "Requiem"--implies.

The tiny mushroom is one of 7 new species of glow-in-the-dark fungi found around the world, bringing the total known to 71, according to a study that appeared October 5 in the journal Mycologia.

San Francisco State University's Dennis Desjardin and colleagues scouted for mushrooms during new moons, in rain forests so dark they often couldn't see their hands in front of their faces, he said.

But "when you look down at the ground, it's like looking up at the sky," Desjardin said. "Every little 'star' was a little mushroom--it was just fantastic."

M. luxaeterna has a distinctive sticky gel on its stem that probably keeps it moist during the heat of the day. Unwitting insects get trapped in this natural fly paper, said Desjardin, who discovered the fungi with the University of Sao Paulo's Cassius V. Stevani.

Desjardin's colleague, Timothy Baroni of the State University of New York at Cortland, received funding to research the mushrooms from the National Geographic Society. (The National Geographic Society owns National Geographic News.)

--Christine Dell'Amore
—Photograph courtesy Cassius V. Stevani, Chemistry Institute, University of Sao Paulo

Monday, December 27, 2010

Motocross Biker, Colorado

Photograph by Rayner Marx, My Shot
This Month in Photo of the Day: Travel and Adventure Photos
Track owner Donnie Burns hurls into a dark heaven at Wild Rat Motocross in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

Solenostemon scutellarioides

Scientific classification
Kingdom : Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order : Lamiales
Family : Lamiaceae
Genus : Solenostemon
Species : S. scutellarioides
Binomial name
Solenostemon scutellarioides
* Coleus blumei Benth.
* Coleus blumei var. verschaffeltii (Lem.) Lem.
* Coleus hybridus hort. ex Voss
* Coleus pumilus Blancoright
* Coleus scutellarioides (L.) Benth.
* Coleus verschaffeltii Lem.
* Ocimum scutellarioides L.
* Plectranthus scutellarioides (L.) R. Br.

The Coleus plant has very colorful foliage and is popular as a houseplant and in gardens. Its geographic origin is Southeast Asia and Malaysia. The plant has various names, including "Coleus blumei".
The Coleus are very easy to propagate by cuttings, and they like partial shade, though can stand a bit of direct sunlight. They are not frost tolerant.

Parasitism of Cuscuta

After a dodder attaches itself to a plant, it wraps itself around it. If the host contains food beneficial to dodder, the dodder produces haustoria that insert themselves into the vascular system of the host. The original root of the dodder in the soil then dies. The dodder can grow and attach itself to multiple plants. In tropical areas it can grow more or less continuously, and may reach high into the canopy of shrubs and trees; in temperate regions it is an annual plant and is restricted to relatively low vegetation that can be reached by new seedlings each spring.

Dodder is parasitic on a very wide variety of plants, including a number of agricultural and horticultural crop species, such as alfalfa, lespedeza, flax, clover, potatoes, chrysanthemum, dahlia, helenium, trumpet vine, ivy and petunias, among others.

Dodder ranges in severity based on its species and the species of the host, the time of attack, and whether any viruses are also present in the host plant. By debilitating the host plant, dodder decreases the ability of plants to resist virus diseases, and dodder can also spread plant diseases from one host to another if it is attached to more than one plant.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Evolutionary relationships among major groups of cetaceans

Pictured: Mesonychidae, Pakicetidae, Ambulocetidae, Remingtonocetidae, Protocetidae, Dorundontidae, Basilosauridae, Mysticetes, Odontocetes

Geologic age: Modern

Evolutionary chart of relationships between tetrapods‚ leading to split to Amniota

Geologic age: Modern

Description: Evolutionary chart of relationships between tetrapods‚ leading to split to Amniota

Conocoryphe sulzeri

Conocoryphe sulzeri, Jince formation, Czechoslovakia. Pete Lawrance collection. Although eyes are normally an extremely important survival feature, there are situations under which loss of eyes might occur. For example, trilobites that took advantage of deep-water benthic (bottom-feeding) habitats where light was dim or lacking might have gradually lost their eyes without suffering an adaptive disadvantage. Such eyeless trilobite assemblages are called atheloptic.


Pictured: Mortoniceras
Geologic age: Cretaceous

Hydrologic Cycle

Water is the source of all life on earth. The distribution of water, however, is quite varied; many locations have plenty of it while others have very little. Water exists on earth as a solid (ice), liquid or gas (water vapor). Oceans, rivers, clouds, and rain, all of which contain water, are in a frequent state of change (surface water evaporates, cloud water precipitates, rainfall infiltrates the ground, etc.). However, the total amount of the earth's water does not change. The circulation and conservation of earth's water is called the "hydrologic cycle".

image from

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Integral ln x dx

Strategy: Use Integration by Parts.
ln(x) dx

u = ln(x), dv = dx
then we find
du = (1/x) dx, v = x


ln(x) dx = u dv

and use integration by parts

= uv - v du

substitute u=ln(x), v=x, and du=(1/x)dx

= ln(x) x - x (1/x) dx
= ln(x) x - dx
= ln(x) x - x + C
= x ln(x) - x + C.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Solar Snake

Image courtesy SDO/NASA

A long loop of plasma that had been snaking around the sun erupted on Monday, and NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory was on hand to catch the action.
Known as a solar filament, the loop is a cloud of relatively cool gas held aloft by magnetic forces. Such features are unstable, though, and often break away from the sun.
The pictured filament grew extra long, according to NASA: It spanned almost 621,000 miles (a million kilometers) before snapping.

New Chemistry, Less Energy Could Yield Greener Cement

A factory in southwest China's Sichuan province for making cement, among the most carbon-intensive industrial processes. German researchers have made a breakthrough in reducing emissions, in part by using special silicon materials like the one below, characterized by its flower-like crystals.

Chemicals in Apple Skins, Wine Could Help Fight Alzheimer's

A type of chemical derived from curry, wine and apple skins may help protect nerve cells from Alzheimer's.

Supplements derived from apple skins, red wine and tumeric might someday help slow the onset and progression of Alzheimer's and related diseases, according to accumulating evidence.
The details are complicated and still a matter of debate. But the scientists involved are basing their strategy on what they say is a new way of thinking about Alzheimer's.
In their view, a group of chemicals called type-2 alkenes, which are widespread in both the environment and the brains of Alzheimer's patients, act as major drivers of the disease. In turn, said chemical neurotoxicologist Richard LoPachin, neutraceuticals of the future could stop these brain-damaging chemicals in their tracks.
Already, LoPachin's group has developed just such a compound that, in Petri dishes at least, sops up type-2 alkenes and protects nerves from harm.
"If you talk to someone else, they may tell you I'm nuts," said LoPachin, of the Montefiore Medical Center in Bronx, New York. "We know that humans are pervasively exposed to type-2 alkenes, but nobody has ever considered the possibility that type-2 alkenes in the environment might be involved in Alzheimer's. It's a new theory of Alzheimer's."
Alzheimer's is a multi-faceted disease and efforts to understand it have followed a variety of paths. One line of research focuses on the endings of nerve cells in the brain, which degenerate as the disease progresses.
When that happens, communication among nuerons breaks down, leading to confusion, forgetfulness and other hallmark symptoms of Alzheimer's.
While scientists disagree about what causes nerve-ending degeneration, studies have clearly shown that the progression of the disease itself produces type-2 alkenes in the brain. Chemicals in this group, such as acrylamide and methylvinyl ketone, also show up in car exhaust, cigarette smoke, industrial settings, even French fries.
Exposure to type-2 alkenes in the environment has already been linked with cancer, heart disease, and other problems. For Alzheimer's patients, LoPachin argues, the double whammy of exposure from both within the brain and from out in the environment could accelerate the onset and progression of the disease.
As evidence, he points to studies showing that Alzheimer's patients have large amounts of type-2 alkenes in their brains. The chemicals appear to selectively target the ends of nerve cells, which are highly vulnerable to damage. And cigarette smoking increases the risk of Alzheimer's by more than 150 percent, possibly because of the type-2 alkenes in tobacco smoke.
If LoPachin is right, then mopping up type-2 alkenes in the brain should help fight Alzheimer's as well as other problems, such as Parkinson's, spinal cord injuries, and strokes. In a new paper in the Journal of Neurochemistry, LoPachin and colleagues report the development of just such an antidote.
The researchers drew inspiration from a group of well-studied chemicals made by some plants, including resveratrol in grapes, curcumin in tumeric, and phloretin in apple skins. These compounds, which are all similar in chemical structure, have promising characteristics, but the human body does not easily absorb them, and they can be toxic at very high doses.
Instead, the researchers used the structure of these natural plant compounds to develop a new chemical, called 2-ACP.
In their lab studies, 2-ACP latched onto a type-2 alkene called acrolein and prevented the toxin from damaging nerve cells.
Years of testing -- first in animals, then people -- await the new molecule, LoPachin said. But he thinks the research is an important step in the battle against Alzheimer's.
Other experts are more cautious. Neutralizing type-2 alkenes in the brain will likely be a good strategy for fighting Alzheimer's, said D. Allan Butterfield, a biological chemist at the University of Kentucky, Lexington. And the new study confirms many details that other studies have already showed.
But he disagreed with the argument that type-2 alkenes in the environment are part of the story.
"There's no evidence at all that these cause Alzheimer's," Butterfield said. "I'm an expert on Alzheimer's. I can't claim to say they might not be important in something like cancer. I don't know. But in Alzheimer's, I'm convinced that's not the case."
He also questioned the practicality of a supplement like the kind that LoPachin and colleagues are working on. At this point, he said, the doses in question are far too high to be safe for people.
"If you slowly increase the concentration of molecules like curcumin, you find ever increasing benefits, but at some point, there is a very sharp decline such that there is horrendous harm," Butterfield said. "The therapeutic level and the harmful level may not be that far apart from each other. One would have to be very, very careful."

Climate Change Threatens Archaeological Treasures

Melting ice can help unlock ancient secrets, but warming temperatures could imperil many more historic sites.

Mummies decaying in Siberia, pyramids vanishing under the sand in Sudan, Maya temples collapsing: Climate change risks destroying countless treasures from our shared past, archaeologists warn.
Melting ice can unlock ancient secrets from the ground, as with the discovery in 1991 of "Oetzi", a 5,300-year-old warrior whose body had been preserved through the millennia inside an Alpine glacier.
But as ice caps melt, deserts spread, ocean levels rise and hurricanes intensify -- all forecast effects of man-made global warming -- Henri-Paul Francfort of the CNRS research institute fears a heavy toll on world heritage.
Francfort is head of a French archaeological team in Central Asia that played an important part in excavating the Kurgans, or frozen tombs, of nomadic Scythian tribes in Siberia's Altai mountains.
He fears they now risk being lost.
"The permafrost, the constantly frozen layer of earth that protected them up until now, is melting," he said. "There are mummified, tattooed bodies, buried with sacrificed horses, furs, wooden objects and clothes."
"With my Russian colleagues, we are watching the part of the soil that melts each season, and which is getting deeper and deeper," he added. "Unless we take preventative action, it will soon be too late."
According to Francfort, Oetzi's remains were most certainly uncovered due to a receding high-altitude glacier in the Italian Tyrol region.
"Melting glaciers, especially in Norway, now regularly reveal other treasures," he said.
Like a modern-day Atlantis, experts warn that rising ocean levels -- which some forecast could jump a meter (three feet) by 2100 -- stand to wipe out dozens of coastal archaeological sites, with Pacific islands on the frontline.
In Tanzania, maritime erosion has already destroyed a wall of the Kilwa fort, built by Portuguese colonialists on an island just off the coast in 1505, Francfort said.
And in Bangladesh, the ruined city of Panam in Sonargaon, the heart of the kingdom of Bengal from the 15th to 19th centuries, is regularly hit by flooding.
Today, Panam is one of 100 sites listed by the UN culture agency UNESCO as threatened by climate change.
A forecast spike in unpredictable weather events -- hurricanes chief among them -- is another major source of concern, says Dominique Michelet, a specialist of American archaeology at the CNRS.
He cites the case of Chan Chan in Peru, former capital of the Chimu civilisation and the largest pre-Colombian city in Latin America, which is already severely exposed to flooding linked to the El Nino weather pattern.
Likewise, the Maya temple of Tabasqueno in Mexico had to be largely rebuilt after it was badly damaged by two tornadoes -- Opalo and Roxana -- in 1995.
"Archaeologists had managed to stabilize the main temple, but the buildings became saturated with water and collapsed inward," Michelet said.
Sand is one of the worst enemies of archaeological sites, like in Sudan where dunes are encroaching on the burial pyramids of Meroe, the capital of a flourishing kingdom from the third century B.C. to the fourth A.D.
"In Oman, two cyclones -- Gonu un 2007 and Phet last year -- totally buried in sand sites that date back to the fifth and sixth millennia B.C.," said Vincent Charpentier, of the INRAP archaeological research center.
Michelet warns that UNESCO's efforts so far to identify at-risk sites do not go far enough, calling for the world to "sound the alert" over the threat.
"Archaeology is part of human memory," said Francfort, who suggests radical solutions may be needed to protect past treasures from climate change, citing the case of the Abu Simbel rock temples in Egypt.
Following a concerted international effort, the entire complex was relocated in the 1960s to prevent them being submerged by the building of a dam on the River Nile.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Triassic Fish

Photograph by O. Louis Mazzatenta

This Triassic-era fish is among the thousands of fossils uncovered in the mountains and karst formations of China's Guizhou Province. Much of this region was under a shallow ocean during the Triassic period, and sediments there teem with the ancient remains of fish, dinosaurs, and marine reptiles.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Peran PGRI Dalam Meningkatkan Profesionalisme Guru

For my friends who want to download files about the role of PGRI can download at the link below

Gaya Kepemimpinan Seorang Kepala Sekolah

For my friends who want to download files about the various styles of leadership of a school principal can download at the link below
Gaya kepemimpinan.docx

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

TAXABLE MANY SERIOUS CUTS FUEL; Sardjito and Bethesda hospital Absorb Merapi Victims 27/10/2010 05:17:02

YOGYA (KR) - Hospitals in Yogyakarta, respectively, this hospital, Bethesda Hospital preoccupied with the many victims of burns due to exposure wedhus gembel (heat clouds). Hospital staff seemed very busy helping the victims who generally suffered burns.

Two of the victims wedhus gembel Merapi was referred to Bethesda Hospital Pujo Miyono respectively (60) and Wakijan (40) residents Pakem Sleman. Both suffered burns over 80 percent even Wakijan suffered 90 percent burns. They are patient referrals from hospitals Grasia and RS Panti Nugroho.
Pujo Miyono arrived at Bethesda Hospital emergency department at 20:15 pm and the second interval of 30 minutes an ambulance arrived with the patient Wakijan.
On arrival at the ER, their skin peeled off and flushed from the tip of the foot to the face. They immediately received treatment in emergency medical team.
Bethesda Hospital physician, Dr. Sri Rasmiati Spb Pudji to the KR suggests nearly half the body both victims suffered severe burns. Ample burns require treatment long enough. In addition to treating injuries, it also provides treatment for burns heavy breathing greatly affects the power of breath.
"After a given treatment in ER patients will we move into the Intermediate Care. How long will it be treated still do not know depends on his condition. If patients with severe injuries like that it takes a long time, "said Dr. Pudji.
When given treatment in both patients with ER room wailing moan in pain. If not treated immediately and was given breathing treatment of patients would be jeopardized his soul. Burns to the face will affect the performance of the respiratory tract.
In this hospital, also received a referral of disaster victims of Mount Merapi. Until this news was revealed, this hospital continues to accept delivery of the victim.
Meanwhile, the Bethesda hospital also sent medical teams to assist the handling of victims of Merapi. One ambulance containing about 4 people consisting of doctors, nurses and medics have been dispatched. Medical teams are also carrying medicines, medical equipment, blankets and other emergency needs.
In the meantime, RS PKU Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta also deploy medical teams to the location of Merapi refugees. According to RS PKU Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta Public Relations John Firsad SIP medical team that descended onto the field led by the Director of Medical Services Dr. Joko Murdianto Span (expert anatesi) equipped with two ambulances. The team's first wave of RS PKU Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta as many as 21 people joined the team from other hospitals.
"PKU Muhammadiyah Hospital Unit II in Gamping ready to accommodate victims of Merapi. These include the addition of beds if needed. All medical personnel RS PKU Muhammadiyah Yogyakarta standby. Including those who are down the task should be ready at any time if needed, "he said. (Team KR)-f

based on

Monday, November 08, 2010

Antarctic territorial claims

Seven sovereign states had made eight territorial claims to land in Antarctica below the 60° S parallel before 1961. These claims have been recognized only between the countries making claims in the area. All claim areas are sectors, with the exception of Peter I Island. None of these claims has an indigenous population. The South Orkney Islands fall within the territory claimed by Argentina and United Kingdom; and the South Shetland Islands fall within the areas claimed by Argentina, Chile, and the United Kingdom. The UK, France, Australia, New Zealand and Norway all recognize each others' claims,[#] which do not overlap. Prior to 1962, British Antarctic Territory was a dependency of the Falkland Islands and also included South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. The Antarctic areas became a separate overseas territory following the ratification of the Antarctic Treaty. South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands remained a dependency of the Falkland Islands until 1985 when they too became a separate overseas territory.

# Rogan-Finnemore, Michelle (2005), "What Bioprospecting Means for Antarctica and the Southern Ocean", in Von Tigerstrom, Barbara, International Law Issues in the South Pacific, Ashgate Publishing, pp. 204, ISBN 0754644197

Malnourished Sudanese Children

Peter Onuar, a three-year-old malnourished child, sits on his mother Nyayok Biel's lap in an emergency feeding center in Malakal in Southern Sudan's Upper Nile state, April 12, 2010. The U.N. recently called parts of Southern Sudan "the hungriest place on earth" after years of failed rains and tribal clashes that killed more then 2,000 people during the past year.

Victim of the Volcano

Photograph by Dwi Oblo, Reuters

Covered in ash from Mount Merapi, a man is wheeled into a hospital in Sleman, Indonesia, on October 26.
As of Tuesday afternoon, eastern time, the latest Mount Merapi eruptions were known to have killed 18 people, the Associated Press reported. Fast moving clouds of hot ash have been the biggest threats—and there could be much more to come.
Tuesday's eruptions could be a warning of a huge blast—or a sign that the volcano will slowly let off steam. "It's too early to know for sure," government volcanologist Gede Swantika told the AP. "But if it continues like this for a while, we are looking at a slow, long eruption."

Published October 26, 2010

Eruption at Mount Merapi, Indonesia

Signs of the eruption at Mount Merapi managed to puncture the persistent cloud cover over Java on November 5, 2010. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this natural-color image the same day.

The volcano’s plume formed a V shape, fanning out to the west from the summit and casting shadows on the surrounding clouds below. According to the Volcanic Ash Advisory Center in Darwin, Australia, the ash plume rose to at least 55,000 feet (16 kilometers) in altitude and stretched 220 miles (350 km) to the west and southwest, as of 12:13 a.m. local time on November 6 (17:13 UTC, Nov 5).

The Eruptions volcanism blog and the Associated Press reported a death toll of at least 122 people, more than 100,000 people evacuated, and homes and fields covered in volcanic ash. The Indonesian government declared the event a national emergency and extended the “danger zone” for the eruption to 12 miles (20 kilometers), including the ancient capital of Yogyakarta.

Among Indonesia’s most active volcanoes, Merapi sits in one of the world’s most densely populated areas. Recorded eruptions have included multiple pyroclastic flows—searing avalanches of ash, gas, and rock fragments—and lahars—flows of water, rock debris, and mud caused by rainwater mixing with ash and other volcanic material. These eruptions have repeatedly devastated nearby communities and croplands.

  1. References

  2. Klemetti, E. (2010, November 5). Friday Flotsam: Merapi now a “national emergency.” Eruptions. Accessed November 5, 2010.
  3. Associated Press (2010, November 5). Indonesia volcano burns whole villages; 122 dead. Yahoo News. Accessed November 5, 2010.

Earth Aglow

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


Chrysanthemum flowers are a source of pyrethrum, a natural insecticide.

William P. Cunningham on Environmental Science : a global concern McGraw-Hill


Mangosteens from Indonesia have been called the world's best tasting fruit, but they are practically unknown beyond the tropical countries where they grow naturaly. There may be thousand of other traditional crops and wild food resources that could be equally valuable but are threatened by extinction.

William P. Cunningham on Environmental Science : a global concern McGraw-Hill

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sea Turtle Casualties

Photograph by Guy Marcovaldi, Projeto Tamar Brazil, Marine Photobank

A diver frees one of 17 sea turtles drowned by a discarded fishing net off the Brazilian coast in the winning shot of Marine Photobank's 2010 Ocean in Focus Conservation Photo Contest.

Marine Photobank's mission is to advance ocean conservation by providing free, high-quality marine pictures to media and noncommercial outlets. For this photo contest, Marine Photobank was looking for powerful images that "illuminate the many threats facing our ocean." (The National Geographic Society, which owns National Geographic News, donated prizes for the contest winners.)

"Turtles are in serious trouble," commented marine ecologist and National Geographic explorer-in-residence Sylvia Earle. "Their numbers are even more depressed than [other] ocean wildlife. Maybe 5 percent of some species remain." (Take an ocean-issues quiz.)

"The good news is the ocean is large and resilient. The bad news is that there's a limit to resilience," Earle added. "We see 90 percent of many of the big fish gone, 40 percent of the plankton gone, half the coral reefs gone or in a state of serious degradation, [and now] hundreds of dead zones. All this is serious, bad news.

"The good news is that there's still plenty of reason for hope. The ocean is not dead. We still have 10 percent of many of the species that are in sharp decline. ... We still have a chance, but we have to hurry."

—Sean Markey

Thursday, October 21, 2010

How Warm Was Summer 2010?

June–August 2010

June–August 2009

An unparalleled heat wave in eastern Europe, coupled with intense droughts and fires in Russia, put Earth’s temperatures in the headlines this summer. Likewise, an exceptionally warm July in the eastern United States strained power grids, forced nursing home evacuations, and slowed transit systems.
But from a global perspective, how warm was it? And was global warming the cause of the unusual heat waves? Scientists at NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS), led by James Hansen, released an analysis that addressed these questions.
The global maps above show temperature anomalies; that is, how temperatures in June through August 2010 (top image) and 2009 (bottom) differed from the mean temperatures from 1951-1980. Shades of red represent warmer than normal temperatures, with blues depicting cooler. (Click here to learn more about the GISS temperature models.)
Globally, 2010 was the 4th warmest summer in GISS’s 131-year-temperature record. The summer of 2009 was the 2nd warmest. The slightly cooler 2010 temperatures were primarily the result of a moderate La Niña replacing a moderate El Niño in the Pacific Ocean. Note in 2010 that much of the eastern Pacific, the west coasts of North and South America, and much of Antarctica were cooler than the long-term mean. Temperatures were extremely warm in western Russia and the Antarctic Peninsula.
The unusually warm summer temperatures in the U.S. and Eurasia created the impression of global warming run amuck; last winter’s unusually cool temperatures created the opposite impression. But extrapolating global trends based on one or two regions can be misleading.
“Unfortunately, it is common for the public to take their most recent local temperature anomaly as indicative of long-term climate trends, ” Hansen noted. “People need to understand that the temperature anomaly in one place in one season has limited relevance to global trends. ”
The intensity of the Russian heat wave exceeded anything scientists have seen in the temperature record since widespread global temperature measurements became available in the 1880s. But can global warming cause such extreme weather events? The answer—both no and yes—is not simple. Weather within a given region occurs in such a complex and unstable environment, driven by such a multitude of factors that no single weather event can be pinned solely on climate change.
However, if you frame the question differently—Would an event like the Moscow heat wave have occurred if carbon dioxide levels had remained at pre-industrial levels? —the answer, Hansen asserted, is clear. “Almost certainly not. ”
The frequency of extreme weather events increases disproportionately as global temperatures rise. “Were global temperature not increasing, ” he said, “the chance of an extreme heat wave such as the one Moscow experienced, though not impossible, would be vanishingly small. ”
Will 2010 shape up to be the warmest on record? During the warmest year on GISS’s record—2005—temperatures were especially high during the last four calendar months, and it’s obviously not clear yet how the rest of 2010 will stack up. “What is clear, ” said Hansen, “is that the warmest 12-month period in the GISS analysis was reached in mid-2010. ”

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

New Map Offers a Global View of Health-Sapping Air Pollution

Global satellite-derived map of PM2.5 averaged over 2001-2006. Credit: Dalhousie University, Aaron van Donkelaar

In many developing countries, the absence of surface-based air pollution sensors makes it difficult, and in some cases impossible, to get even a rough estimate of the abundance of a subcategory of airborne particles that epidemiologists suspect contributes to millions of premature deaths each year. The problematic particles, called fine particulate matter (PM2.5), are 2.5 micrometers or less in diameter, about a tenth the fraction of human hair. These small particles can get past the body’s normal defenses and penetrate deep into the lungs.

To fill in these gaps in surface-based PM2.5 measurements, experts look toward satellites to provide a global perspective. Yet, satellite instruments have generally struggled to achieve accurate measurements of the particles in near-surface air. The problem: Most satellite instruments can't distinguish particles close to the ground from those high in the atmosphere. In addition, clouds tend to obscure the view. And bright land surfaces, such as snow, desert sand, and those found in certain urban areas can mar measurements.

However, the view got a bit clearer this summer with the publication of the first long-term global map of PM2.5 in a recent issue of Environmental Health Perspectives. Canadian researchers Aaron van Donkelaar and Randall Martin at Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, created the map by blending total-column aerosol amount measurements from two NASA satellite instruments with information about the vertical distribution of aerosols from a computer model.
Their map, which shows the average PM2.5 results between 2001 and 2006, offers the most comprehensive view of the health-sapping particles to date. Though the new blending technique has not necessarily produced more accurate pollution measurements over developed regions that have well-established surface-based monitoring networks, it has provided the first PM2.5 satellite estimates in a number of developing countries that have had no estimates of air pollution levels until now.

The map shows very high levels of PM2.5 in a broad swath stretching from the Saharan Desert in Northern Africa to Eastern Asia. When compared with maps of population density, it suggests more than 80 percent of the world's population breathe polluted air that exceeds the World Health Organization's recommended level of 10 micrograms per cubic meter. Levels of PM2.5 are comparatively low in the United States, though noticeable pockets are clearly visible over urban areas in the Midwest and East.

"We still have plenty of work to do to refine this map, but it's a real step forward," said Martin, one of the atmospheric scientists who created the map."We hope this data will be useful in areas that don't have access to robust ground-based measurements."

Wildfires: A Symptom of Climate Change

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA's Terra satellite shows fires around the world. Credit: NASA

This summer, wildfires swept across some 22 regions of Russia, blanketing the country with dense smoke and in some cases destroying entire villages. In the foothills of Boulder, Colo., this month, wildfires exacted a similar toll on a smaller scale.
That's just the tip of the iceberg. Thousands of wildfires large and small are underway at any given time across the globe. Beyond the obvious immediate health effects, this "biomass" burning is part of the equation for global warming. In northern latitudes, wildfires actually are a symptom of the Earth's warming.
'We already see the initial signs of climate change, and fires are part of it," said Dr. Amber Soja, a biomass burning expert at the National Institute of Aerospace (NIA) in Hampton, Va.
And research suggests that a hotter Earth resulting from global warming will lead to more frequent and larger fires.
The fires release "particulates" -- tiny particles that become airborne -- and greenhouse gases that warm the planet.

Human ignition

A common perception is that most wildfires are caused by acts of nature, such as lightning. The inverse is true, said Dr. Joel Levine, a biomass burning expert at NASA Langley Research Center in Hampton, Va.
"What we found is that 90 percent of biomass burning is human instigated," said Levine, who was the principal investigator for a NASA biomass burning program that ran from 1985 to 1999.
Levine and others in the Langley-led Biomass Burning Program travelled to wildfires in Canada, California, Russia, South African, Mexico and the wetlands of NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Biomass burning accounts for the annual production of some 30 percent of atmospheric carbon dioxide, a leading cause of global warming, Levine said.
Dr. Paul F. Crutzen, a pioneer of biomass burning, was the first to document the gases produced by wildfires in addition to carbon dioxide.
"Modern global estimates agree rather well with the initial values," said Crutzen, who shared the Nobel Prize in Chemistry 1995 with Mario J. Molina and F. Sherwood Rowland for their "work in atmospheric chemistry, particularly concerning the formation and decomposition of ozone."

Northern exposure

Whether biomass burning is on the rise globally is not clear. But it definitely is increasing in far northern latitudes, in "boreal" forests comprised largely of coniferous trees and peatlands.
The reason is that, unlike the tropics, northern latitudes are warming, and experiencing less precipitation, making them more susceptible to fire. Coniferous trees shed needles, which are stored in deep organic layers over time, providing abundant fuel for fires, said Soja, whose work at the NIA supports NASA.
"That's one of the reasons northern latitudes are so important," she said, "and the smoldering peat causes horrible air quality that can affect human health and result in death."
Fires in different ecosystems burn at different temperatures due to the nature and structure of the biomass and its moisture content. Burning biomass varies from very thin, dry grasses in savannahs to the very dense and massive, moister trees of the boreal, temperate and tropical forests.
Fire combustion products vary over a range depending on the degree of combustion, said Levine, who authored a chapter on biomass burning for a book titled "Methane and Climate Change," published in August by Earthscan.
Flaming combustion like the kind in thin, small, dry grasses in savannahs results in near-complete combustion and produces mostly carbon dioxide. Smoldering combustion in moist, larger fuels like those in forest and peatlands results in incomplete combustion and dirtier emission products such as carbon monoxide.
Boreal fires burn the hottest and contribute more pollutants per unit area burned.

'Eerie experience'

Being near large wildfires is a unique experience, said Levine. "The smoke is so thick it looks like twilight. It blocks out the sun. It looks like another planet. It's a very eerie experience."
In Russia, the wildfires are believed caused by a warming climate that made the current summer the hottest on record. The hotter weather increases the incidence of lightning, the major cause of naturally occurring biomass burning.
Soja said she hopes the wildfires in Russia prompt the country to support efforts to mitigate climate change. In fact, Russia's president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, last month acknowledged the need to do something about it.
"What's happening with the planet's climate right now needs to be a wake-up call to all of us, meaning all heads of state, all heads of social organizations, in order to take a more energetic approach to countering the global changes to the climate," said Medvedev, in contrast to Russia's long-standing position that human-induced climate change is not occurring.

Michael Finneran
NASA Langley Research Center

Twitchell Canyon Fire

The Expedition 24 crew aboard the International Space Station photographed the Twitchell Canyon Fire in central Utah on Sept. 20. The fire near central Utah’s Fishlake National Forest is reported to cover an area of approximately 13,383 hectares, or 33,071 acres. This detailed image shows smoke plumes generated by several fire spots close to the southwestern edge of the burned area. The fire was started by a lightning strike on July 20, 2010. Whereas many of the space station images of Earth look straight down (nadir), this photograph was exposed at an angle. The station was located over a point approximately 316 miles to the northeast, near the Colorado/Wyoming border, at the time the image was taken. Southwesterly winds continue to extend smoke plumes from the fire to the northeast.

Image Credit: NASA

Celestial Wonderland

This high forward oblique view of Rima Ariadaeus on the moon was photographed by the Apollo 10 crew in May 1969. Center point coordinates are located at 17 degrees, 5 minutes east longitude and 5 degrees, 0 minutes north latitude. The Apollo 10 crew aimed a hand-held 70mm camera at the surface from lunar orbit for a series of images of this area.

Image Credit: NASA

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Hypsilophodon foxii — a vegetarian sprinter

Animals similar to Hypsilophodon appeared early in the history of dinosaurs and persisted until the last dinosaurs became extinct 65 million years ago. They were small, fast-running herbivorous dinosaurs, related to the larger hadrosaurs and Iguanodonts. Hypsilophodon lived in Europe, but fossils of similar animals are known from every continent, including Antarctica and Australia.

Hypsilophodon ran on its long hind legs, with its body held horizontal. Its long tail accounted for half its body length and was stiffened by bony tendons. It is presumed that this helped to hold the tail off the ground while it was running. Recent research suggests that these tendons aided the efficiency of Hypsilophodon when running.

Hypsilophodon, like other ornithopods, had a small beak, broad chiselled teeth that formed a continuous cutting edge, and cheek pouches for storing food for a short time while it was chewed.

Early palaeontologists thought that it looked like a tree kangaroo, and for a period thought that it may have perched in trees. These ideas have now been discounted and Hypsilophodon is thought to have lived very successfully on the ground as a small, fast sprinter.

Mamenchisaurus hochuanensis — a long-necked sauropod

Mamenchisaurus was a giant sauropod with a very long neck — amongst the longest of any animal that has ever lived. Measuring up to 11 metres, the neck was almost half the overall length of the animal. Its long neck and its tail were held in position by a series of ligaments anchored at the hip — a bit like a suspension bridge. Mamenchisaurus would have walked with its stiff neck held almost horizontal. All the vertebrae of its neck, body and tail were hollow and light, while its leg bones were quite solid. This kept its centre of gravity low, which helped the animal maintain its balance.

Like all sauropods, Mamenchisaurus was a plant-eater. Its spoon-shaped teeth were not for chewing, but were used like a rake to strip leaves off plants. These were swallowed into its huge vat-like stomach. Its long neck allowed it to reach food otherwise inaccessible to an animal with such a huge body.

Mamenchisaurus, like all herbivores, would have had to eat continuously to get enough nutrition to sustain its massive body.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Palouse, Washington

Photograph by Anil Sud

Sunrise lights up the verdant hills of Palouse, Washington, beneath the watchful gaze of a lone early bird.

Endeavour Shuttle Launch

Photograph by Robert Garrett

A tail of smoke chases the space shuttle Endeavour as it lifts off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on March 11, 2008.