Is War becoming less frequent?

Nations have been going to war against other nations since before recorded history. There have been periods of peace, and then periods of war. As our societies become more advanced, do they become more civilized, does war decrease as less destructive ways are found to settle differences? Interesting research by Ohio State University sheds light on this. While some researchers have claimed that war between nations is in decline, a new analysis by Bear Braumoeller, associate professor of political science at The Ohio State University suggests we shouldn't be too quick to celebrate a more peaceful world. The study finds that there is no clear trend indicating that nations are less eager to wage war. Conflict does appear to be less common than it had been in the past, he said. But that's due more to an inability to fight than to an unwillingness to do so.

Invasive species threaten Europe’s towns and cities

Europe's towns and cities are particularly vulnerable to the threats posed by invasive alien species, and experts say that action needs to be taken to control them. Invasive alien species are plants or animals that are not native to an area and which therefore lack natural predators, meaning they are able to spread rapidly. Urban areas are at high risk from invasive species because of their large number of transport links, with many non-native animals and plants arriving accidentally at ports and airports. Some species also arrive through the plant and pet trades.

Two new Species of Octocorals Discovered in the Pacific Ocean

The vast expanse of the Earth's oceans makes finding a new species like finding a needle in a haystack. In fact, finding a needle in a haystack may be easier than finding a new species of octocoral in the Pacific Ocean. But Gary Williams with the California Academy of Sciences has recently found not only one but two new species, including a new genus of octocoral. In a recent paper published in the journal Zookeys, Williams provides a taxonomic assessment of two new colorful species of soft coral and a new genus to accommodate a bright red sea fan.

Hawaii Coastlines on Track to Lose 100 Feet of Beach

Hawaii is known for it's pristine beaches and it's 750 miles of coastline. However with looming sea water rise due to melting ice caps and climate change, a new study by the University of Hawaii shows the state is on pace to lose 100 feet of beach in the coming decades. According to the study, Maui beaches are most at risk as the sea-level rise is approximately 65% higher compared to the island of Oahu. While many beaches have been faced with erosion for years, predictions show that beaches will start to disappear even faster.

Train or Pipeline, the Answer is the Same

The catastrophic crash of an oil-carrying train in the province of Quebec last month, which devastated the town of Lac-Mégantic and killed dozens, has brought the Keystone XL pipeline into the headlines again. For many environmentalists, the train crash is just one more reminder of the risks of fossil fuel production – that the train was carrying tar sands oil was, as it were, the icing on the cake. Conversely, for many supporters of the pipeline, the train crash proves that we need Keystone. But first a word on tar sands and the other unconventional oil sources now being extracted such as shale oil. Unlike conventional oil wells, shale and tar sands do not contain liquid oil. Oil must be extracted from them in a process that is quite similar to mining. The development of Canadian tar sands requires vast deforestation in order to dig up and process the sands, and shale oil extraction requires that massive amounts of rocks be mined and processed.

Wheat production would be reduced by rising temperatures

Any producer will tell you, growing a healthy, high-yielding wheat crop takes skill and hard work. Quality drought-tolerant varieties that are resistant to pests and disease are important. And cooperation from Mother Nature in terms of temperature and precipitation doesn't hurt, either. To quantify the impact of genetic improvement in wheat, disease and climate change over a 26-year period, a team of researchers at Kansas State University examined wheat variety yield data from Kansas performance tests, along with location-specific weather and disease data. Their results showed that from 1985 through 2011, wheat breeding programs boosted average wheat yields by 13 bushels per acre, or 0.51 bushel each year, for a total increase of 26 percent.

Could alkaline batteries be the future of electric vehicle power?

While lithium ion batteries are all the rage in the electric vehicle industry the US government has confirmed that researchers at Princeton University have been awarded a near $1 million grant to look at developing commercially viable alkaline batteries for the electric vehicle industry. This is part of the $36 million Department of Energy’s "Robust Affordable Next Generation Energy Storage Systems" program which was announced recently.

Rhode Island school sets an example in waste reduction

Sophia Academy is an all-girls middle school on Branch Avenue with less than a hundred students. During the 2011-12 school year, the academy’s 62 girls sent 10,000 Styrofoam lunch trays to the landfill. "We did some simple 'tray math' in class," said Alyssa Wood, science teacher at the school. Wood had her students multiply the 180-day school year by the 62 students enrolled at Sophia Academy, almost all of whom receive a free or reduced lunch. The students were amazed by the result, she said.

Oceanic plume of radioactivity predicted to reach US by 2014

A radioactive plume of water in the Pacific Ocean from Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant, which was crippled in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, will likely reach U.S. coastal waters starting in 2014, according to a new study. The long journey of the radioactive particles could help researchers better understand how the ocean’s currents circulate around the world. Ocean simulations showed that the plume of radioactive cesium-137 released by the Fukushima disaster in 2011 could begin flowing into U.S. coastal waters starting in early 2014 and peak in 2016. Luckily, two ocean currents off the eastern coast of Japan — the Kuroshio Current and the Kuroshio Extension — would have diluted the radioactive material so that its concentration fell well below the World Health Organization’s safety levels within four months of the Fukushima incident. But it could have been a different story if nuclear disaster struck on the other side of Japan.

Are sea turtles responsible for lower fish catches in India?

Fishing communities on Agatti Island in Lakshwadeep, India, blame their reduced fish catch on green turtles; according to them, green turtles chomp their way through the seagrass beds lining the shallow reef waters that are essential for fish to breed. This leads some in the community to clandestinely kill sea turtles and destroy their nests. Wildlife happens to intrude on human "space" mostly while searching for food, and this can result in human deaths, or destruction of human livelihood. The perception of people living close to wildlife in such conflict areas shapes the interaction between them and the wildlife.