U.S. to halt 33 exploration rigs in deepwater review

The U.S. government ordered a temporary halt to drilling at 33 deepwater exploration rigs on Thursday, part of a broader response to the massive BP oil spill that threatens efforts to tap offshore fields seen as crucial to increased U.S. oil output. The move may potentially delay project development plans by companies like Chevron Corp in the Gulf of Mexico, where rising production has helped offset shrinking domestic onshore supply. Unlike the administration's six-month extension of its ban on new deepwater drilling permits, and cancellation of a much-anticipated lease sale offshore Virginia, the pause for existing deep-sea exploratory rigs threatens to affect proven oil discoveries rather than untested areas.

Chasms on Mars

Large sheets of ice and snow form on the poles of both Earth and Mars. On Earth their formation is shaped by ice and water flows. On Mars there is an oddness of spiraling troughs and a giant canyon. What in the climate of Mars does this? Data from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter have helped scientists solve a pair of mysteries dating back four decades and provided new information about climate change on the Red Planet.

LEED System Expands to Include Neighborhood-Scale Developments

The U.S. Green Building Council ("USGBC") recently released a certification system for green neighborhood development, known as LEED-ND.[1] LEED-ND expands the well-known LEED system for green buildings to larger-scale projects ranging in size from two buildings to multiple buildings on sites up to 320 acres. The system incorporates the principles of new urbanism, emphasizing mixed-use planning and walkable neighborhoods, and was developed in concert with the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Congress of the New Urbanism. While LEED-ND is primarily designed for neighborhood-scale projects, it may also apply to campus-style developments, such as university campuses, military bases, resort developments, religious retreat centers or summer camps.

U.S. Environment Not the Best for EVs

The enthusiasm is building -- we’re just a few months from the U.S. launch of the first electric vehicles aimed at mainstream consumers. Nissan is touting the success of the registration program for its upcoming Leaf EV, boasting 13,000 orders for its vehicles. It is hoped across the industry (and in Washington DC) that sales of EVs will revive the American auto industry. While Pike Research believes that sales of EVs will grow relatively quickly, EV sales would likely grow much higher if it weren’t for our relatively cheap gasoline.

Mediterranean Sea Getting Saltier, Hotter

The Western Mediterranean Sea is heating up and getting saltier, a new study finds. Each year the temperature of the deep layer of the Western Mediterranean increases by 0.0036 degrees Fahrenheit (0.002 degrees Celsius), and its salt levels increase by 0.001 units of salinity, researchers monitoring the sea found. The change is consistent with the expected effects of global warming.

Oil spill a nightmare for Obama

Up from the briny deep of the Gulf of Mexico came a nightmare for President Barack Obama. Unlike Hurricane Katrina and its immediate, frightful images of people in crisis, the gushing BP oil well has been a slow-moving behemoth that is now taking a political toll on the U.S. president. Obama was already immersed in a long list of problems -- pushing a financial regulation overhaul, prodding Europe to stem a financial crisis, pressuring Iran and North Korea. And don't forget the 9.9 percent U.S. jobless rate, two wars and Obama's hopes for immigration and energy legislation before Washington stops for November 2 congressional elections. Now the greatest environmental calamity since the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 has fallen into his lap. He declared it "heartbreaking." "We will not rest until this well is shut, the environment is repaired and the cleanup is complete," Obama said on Wednesday. He makes his second visit to the Gulf on Friday.

The Brains of a Locust

Locusts are notorious as being indiscriminate devourers of everything and somewhat mindless in their attack. Although desert locusts are infamous for their swarming behavior, they usually occur in a solitary form, living alone and actively avoiding fellow locusts. The difference between a swarming locust brain and a solitary locust brain is quite extraordinary. Despite being smaller than solitary locusts, swarming locusts developed brains that were 30% larger. Not only that, regions of the brain that are dedicated to different tasks had very different proportions in the two phases.

Termite Power

Humans have the unparalleled ability of altering their environment to suit their needs. We have shaped the entire face of the planet, from the densest cities to the rural countryside. Yet, on their own small level, other creatures in the animal kingdom can affect their environment as well. Amazingly, a tiny organism like the termite can create a huge effect.

Arizona’s Smoking Ban Reduced Hospital Visits

ScienceDaily (May 23, 2010) — Two University of Arizona researchers have studied the relationship between Arizona's 2007 law that bans smoking in public places and hospitalization rates for a range of ailments related to secondhand smoke exposure. Their results: Admissions for acute myocardial infarction or AMI, stroke, asthma and angina decreased following the implementation of the ban.

BP readies “top kill” to try to plug well

Dogged by delays and intense pressure from the Obama administration, BP Plc faces a pivotal day on Wednesday as it attempts a tricky plan to clog the gushing Gulf of Mexico oil well five weeks into the disaster. If the "top kill" procedure joins the list of BP failures to plug the leak, U.S. President Barack Obama's government may have no choice but to take central charge of the response to what is considered the worst oil spill in U.S. history. Obama has told aides in recent days to "plug the damn hole" and he will head to the Louisiana Gulf coast on Friday for the second time since the April 20 rig blast that killed 11 and unleashed the oil.