The Myriad Planets of the Galaxy

At one time there was serious debates that planets were a rare phenomena, few and far between. Our Milky Way galaxy contains a minimum of 100 billion planets, according to a detailed statistical study based on the detection of three planets located outside our solar system, called exoplanets. The discovery, to be reported in the January 12 issue of Nature, was made by an international team of astronomers, including co-author Stephen Kane of NASA's Exoplanet Science Institute at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, Calif. The survey results show that our galaxy contains, on average, a minimum of one planet for every star. This means that it's likely there are a minimum of 1,500 planets within just 50 light-years of Earth.

The Great Extinction

Some 250 million years ago, the earth suffered the greatest biological crisis in its history. Around 95% of all living species died out--a global catastrophe far greater than the dinosaurs' demise 65 million years ago. How this happened remains a mystery. But there are many competing theories. Now, they have discovered a new culprit likely involved in the annihilation: an influx of mercury into the eco-system. "No one had ever looked to see if mercury was a potential culprit. This was a time of the greatest volcanic activity in Earth's history and we know today that the largest source of mercury comes from volcanic eruptions," says Dr. Steve Grasby of the University of Calgary, co-author of a paper published this month in the journal Geology. "We estimate that the mercury released then could have been up to 30 times greater than today's volcanic activity, making the event truly catastrophic."

EPA Report Identifies Toxic Contamination in Communities Across the Country

Yesterday, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its annual report of the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI). The TRI consists of information on toxic chemical disposals and toxic air emissions, as well as waste management and pollution prevention activities. The EPA report covers neighborhoods all across the United States for the year 2010. Many of the facilities identified in the TRI are regulated by the EPA and state agencies through various programs such as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and Community-Right-to-Know (CRTK). Total toxic releases for 2010 were higher than the previous two years, but lower than 2007 and 2006.

China Partners With Better Place On Electric Vehicle Center

China Southern Power Grid (CSG) and Better Place, the Israeli provider of global electric car networks, announced the opening of their Switchable Electric Car Experience Center in Guangzhou's Pearl River New Town. The center will demonstrate the technology behind Better Place's "battery swap stations" for electric cars.

US Beats Expectations Saving Energy

Americans tend to beat themselves up over their imperfections. We eat too much, watch too much TV and owe China too much money. Despite all of our sloth, we can feel good about one area: our progress saving energy.

EPA may retest PA. water near fracking drilling site

Federal regulators are considering retesting water supplies at a small town in Pennsylvania that residents say have been contaminated by natural gas drilling. Just a month after declaring water in Dimock safe, officials from the Environmental Protection Agency are taking another look after new evidence provided by residents suggested that drinking water could be more polluted than originally thought. "We believe that additional information is needed to better understand the situation in Dimock and respond appropriately," an EPA spokeswoman told Reuters on Thursday, after receiving hundreds of pages of data from Dimock residents. "EPA is considering next steps including conducting some samples of well water in the area," the spokeswoman said.

‘No evidence’ of links between Pacific earthquakes

Scientists have rejected fears that a series of highly destructive large-scale earthquakes in the past few years, in countries bordering the Pacific Ocean, signal an increased global risk of these deadly events. Several vast earthquakes have taken place since 2004 — in Chile, Indonesia and Japan — leading some academics to express concern that they may be linked.

The Perils of Vacuum Cleaners

A vacuum cleaner is a device that uses an air pump to create a partial vacuum to suck up dust and dirt, usually from floors, and optionally from other surfaces as well. Does not sound so bad does it? Some vacuum cleaners — those basic tools for maintaining a clean indoor environment in homes and offices — actually contribute to indoor air pollution by releasing into the air bacteria and dust that can spread infections and trigger allergies, researchers report in a new study. It appears in the ACS' journal Environmental Science & Technology. Lidia Morawska and colleagues explain that previous studies showed that vacuum cleaners can increase levels of very small dust particles and bacteria in indoor spaces, where people spend about 90 percent of their time. In an effort to provide more information about emission rates of bacteria and small dust particles, the scientists tested 21 vacuum cleaners sold in Australia. The vacuums came from 11 manufacturers, included those marketed for household and commercial use, ranged in age from six months to 22 years and cost from less than $100 to almost $800. They looked at the effects that age, brand and other factors had on the amount of small particles and bacteria released into air.