Month: February 2010

  • New Standards Developed for “Natural” Cleaning Products

    The personal care industry has long demanded stricter standards for products labeled “natural,” and in February, the Natural Products Association (NPA), the group representing retailers and manufacturers including Whole Foods and Clorox Co., has released new standards for home-care products. These include household cleaners for bathrooms and kitchen countertops and laundry detergents. Up until now, there has been no definition of the term “natural” within the home-care products industry.

  • The Language of Bees

    Bees communicate their floral findings in order to recruit other worker bees of the hive to forage in the same area. There are two main hypotheses to explain how foragers recruit other workers; the “waggle dance” theory and the “odor plume” theory. The dance language theory is far more widely accepted, and has far more empirical support. Honeybees do not only waggle dance to tell hive mates the whereabouts of good eats, they also bump and beep to warn others when big trouble awaits at some of those floral diners according to a recent study.

  • Marine Reserves Work

    The creation of marine protected areas can lead to the rapid recovery of depleted fish populations, according to several new studies presented at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. One study, conducted in a network of 12 marine reserves covering 188 square miles near Los Angeles, showed that since the area was closed to fishing in 2003, heavily-fished species such as blue rockfish have increased by 50 percent.

  • Do you believe in global warming?

    Over the past few months, polls show that fewer Americans say they believe humans are making the planet dangerously warmer, despite a raft of scientific reports that say otherwise. This puzzles many climate scientists — but not some social scientists, whose research suggests that facts may not be as important as one’s beliefs. Take, for example, a recent debate about climate change on West Virginia public radio. “It’s a hoax,” said coal company CEO Don Blankenship, “because clearly anyone that says that they know what the temperature of the Earth is going to be in 2020 or 2030 needs to be put in an asylum because they don’t.” On the other side of the debate was environmentalist Robert Kennedy, Jr.

  • Chile committed to biofuels based on algae

    With a public-private investment of $ 31.6 million, Chile will bet this year for research and development of technologies that can produce biofuels from algae. The funds will support three consortia – Desert Bionergy, Biofuels AlgaFuels and BAL-Biofuels -integrated by private companies and universities. These were awarded in a competition launched last January by the National Energy Commission and the state development corporation of productive CORFO.

  • Other Life, Other Universes

    Whether life exists elsewhere in our universe is a long standing mystery. But for some scientists, there’s another interesting question: could there be life in a universe significantly different from our own? Science fiction has often explored other universes such as those of alternate history (where the South won the Civil War and not the North for example). Science fiction has also explored universes where the laws of physics are different. In this case scientists have explored this concept and have come up with some interesting extrapolations.

  • Could toxins from plantation trees be causing cancer?

    A local medical doctor, a marine ecologist, and oyster farmers are raising an alarm that a nearby monoculture plantation of Eucalyptus nitens may be poisoning local water reserves, leading to rare cancers and high oyster mortality in Tasmania. However, the toxin is not from pesticides, as originally expected, but appears to originate from the trees themselves. “The toxin is actually coming from the monoculture trees,” Scammell said on Australian news show, Today.

  • Whales object to whaling compromise

    A new draft compromise on whaling released by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) today set a dangerous precedent that the international community must reject, WWF said. A working group within the IWC today unveiled a new compromise aimed at unlocking the stalled negotiation process between countries fundamentally opposed to whaling and states that support it. While the compromise contains many positive elements for whale conservation that would help bring the IWC into the 21st Century, the compromise could legitimise “scientific” whaling by Japan in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

  • Insecticide beats DDT in early trials

    Malaria researchers in Benin say they may have found a replacement for DDT in areas where mosquitoes are resistant to common insecticides. Indoor residual spraying (IRS) of insecticides is a major part of malaria control. But worries over toxicity and environmental persistence have led to calls for DDT to be phased out, and mosquitoes are growing resistant to widely used pyrethroid insecticides. Alternatives are expensive and short-lived.

  • Tiny Dinosaurs

    The idea of dwarf dinosaurs on Haţeg Island, Romania, was proposed 100 years ago by the colorful Baron Franz Nopcsa, whose family owned estates in the area. He realized that many of the Haţeg dinosaurs had close relatives in older rocks in England, Germany, and North America, but the Romanian specimens were half the size. Insular dwarfism is the process and condition of the reduction in size of large animals – typically mammals but also dinosaurs – when their population’s gene pool is limited to a very small environment, primarily islands. This natural process is distinct from the intentional creation of dwarf breeds, called dwarfing.