The Magnitude 6.0 NAPA earthquake

A strong earthquake hit the Napa valley yesterday. The US Geological Survey has provided a detailed summary of the quake and the possibilities of both strong aftershocks and the remote potential of an aftershock stronger than the quake (Magnitiude 6.0) The earthquake occurred within a 70-km-wide (44 miles) set of major faults of the San Andreas Fault system that forms the boundary between the Pacific and North American tectonic plates. The persistent northwestward movement of the Pacific plate relative to North America primarily causes right-lateral slip across the major faults, but also causes deformation between the major faults. The ongoing complex deformation field is revealed by modern geodetic surveys and earthquake patterns as well as the regional geologic structure.

How Cutting Emissions Pays Off

Lower rates of asthma and other health problems are frequently cited as benefits of policies aimed at cutting carbon emissions from sources like power plants and vehicles, because these policies also lead to reductions in other harmful types of air pollution. But just how large are the health benefits of cleaner air in comparison to the costs of reducing carbon emissions?

How Geckos can walk on the ceiling

Ever wonder how lizards like Geckos can walk up walls and even across the ceiling? Is it sticky feet, anti-gravity, or what? Researchers at Oregon State University have developed a model that explains how geckos, as well as spiders and some insects, can run up and down walls, cling to ceilings, and seemingly defy gravity with such effortless grace. This ability, outlined today in the Journal of Applied Physics, is a remarkable mechanism in the toes of geckos that uses tiny, branched hairs called "seta" that can instantly turn their stickiness on and off, and even "unstick" their feet without using any energy.

Electricity from silk cocoons?

Researchers in India say they have developed a prototype of an energy-harvesting device from the cocoons of a domesticated species of silk moth. They hope to put the technology to practical use while also tackling waste materials from the silk processing industry.

How did sea life end up living in outer space?

Russian astronauts, or cosmonauts, have discovered living organisms clinging to the exterior of their International Space Station. The microscopic creatures were discovered during a space walk to clean the surface of the vessel, and they’ve reportedly been identified as a type of sea plankton. But scientists have no idea how they got there.

Do we really need to kill wild animals that attack or threaten humans?

In Italy, a man foraging for mushrooms was attacked when he happened upon a mother bear and her cubs. Part of a reintroduction and conservation program in Italy's northern Dolomites, the bear, named Daniza, was ordered to be captured and possibly killed. This has sparked social media outrage, prompting those on twitter to hashtag #iostocondanzia (I'm with Danzia). The outrage stems from a revelation that when mauling victim Daniele Maturi happened upon the bear, he did not immediately leave, but rather hid behind a tree to watch him. It is said the bear only charged when it spotted him watching from behind a tree (like a predator would do, thus provoking the bear).

Levels of Air Toxics decreasing across US Cities

More and more people are living in our cities. They are great places to live, exciting, good jobs, great night life, but also sometimes congestion and unhealthy air quality. The latter problems are improving, however. Efforts to make cities livable without driving are paying off. Bike lanes, bike sharing, and efforts to reduce auto traffic and congestion are helping to improve the air quality in our cities. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) this week released its Second Integrated Urban Air Toxics Report to Congress - the final of two reports required under the Clean Air Act (CAA) to inform Congress of progress in reducing public health risks from urban air toxics. "This report gives everyone fighting for clean air a lot to be proud of because for more than 40 years we have been protecting Americans – preventing illness and improving our quality of life by cutting air pollution - all while the economy has more than tripled," said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. "But we know our work is not done yet. At the core of EPA's mission is the pursuit of environmental justice - striving for clean air, water and healthy land for every American; and we are committed to reducing remaining pollution, especially in low-income neighborhoods."

Fracking’s Chemical Cocktails

Fracking is once again in trouble. Scientists have found that what gets pumped into hydrocarbon-rich rock as part of the hydraulic fracture technique to release gas and oil trapped in underground reservoirs may not be entirely healthy. Environmental engineer William Stringfellow and colleagues at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the University of the Pacific told the American Chemical Society meeting in San Francisco that they scoured databases and reports to compile a list of the chemicals commonly used in fracking.

Grizzly Bears in the North Cascades

The National Park Service this week took an important step toward recovering grizzly bears in the North Cascades in Washington state. The agency says it is beginning a three-year process to analyze options for boosting grizzly bear populations in the area, including the possibility of translocating bears and developing a viable population. "We're happy to see the Park Service begin the long-overdue conversation about bringing grizzly bears back to the North Cascades," said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director with the Center for Biological Diversity. "Grizzlies have lost more than 95 percent of their historic habitat in the lower 48 states so we welcome any step that brings them closer to returning to some of their ancestral homes."

How does CO2 go from Permafrost into the atmosphere?

The vast reservoir of carbon stored in Arctic permafrost is gradually being converted to carbon dioxide (CO2) after entering the freshwater system in a process thought to be controlled largely by microbial activity. However, a new study – funded by the National Science Foundation and published this week in the journal Science – concludes that sunlight and not bacteria is the key to triggering the production of CO2 from material released by Arctic soils.