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Better Earth

Rocks evolve too, geologists claim

A landmark scientific study co-authored by a Canadian geologist has identified a sudden explosion of mineral diversity after the emergence of life on Earth, and advanced a "revolutionary" theory that rocks have been evolving -- much like plants and animals -- throughout the planet's history.

Wouter Bleeker, an Ottawa-based researcher with the Geological Survey of Canada, is one of eight members of an international team whose theory of "mineral evolution" -- the idea that many of the Earth's rocks are dynamic "species" which emerged and transformed over time, largely in concert with living things -- is generating a major buzz in the global scientific community since its publication last week in a U.S. journal.

"The key message," Mr. Bleeker told Canwest News Service, "is how closely intertwined the mineral world is with life and biology." He said human teeth -- with their key ingredient of apatite -- are vivid reminders that the "seemingly static, inorganic" physical Earth should be viewed more like a "living organism" underpinning the biosphere.

But the new theory is also being hailed as a potential tool in the search for life on other planets since it offers new ways of perceiving the interactions between rocks and living things. Probes of distant planets should be seeking evidence of biological processes that may have shaped alien landscapes, the scientists contend.
Phoenix

Underwater volcano found off Washington coast

Crew members of a research ship say they were surprised to find a volcano more than 10,000 feet underwater off the coast of Washington.

Jeremy Weirich, the operating officer on the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration ship Okeanos Explorer, said the volcano was found while crew members were testing a new mapping program on underwater topography 200 miles off the Washington coast, The Seattle Times said Monday.

"It turns out we had this great volcano in the spot we were testing," Weirich said.
The discovery of the large underwater volcano was not an entire surprise to researchers as NOAA scientists have estimated that 95 percent of the world's oceans haven't been explored.
Igloo

410 low temperature records set in the US during the past week

US record lows
© Hamweather
Fish

Ocean Growing More Acidic Faster Than Once Thought

University of Chicago scientists have documented that the ocean is growing more acidic faster than previously thought. In addition, they have found that the increasing acidity correlates with increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, according to a paper published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences on Nov. 24.

"Of the variables the study examined that are linked to changes in ocean acidity, only atmospheric carbon dioxide exhibited a corresponding steady change," said J. Timothy Wootton, the lead author of the study and Professor of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Chicago.
Dead mussels as well as live mussels
© C.A. Pfister, University of Chicago
Dead mussels as well as live mussels with open, eroded shells are possible symptoms of stress from declining ocean pH and increasing acidity.

The increasingly acidic water harms certain sea animals and could reduce the ocean's ability to absorb carbon dioxide, the authors said. Scientists have long predicted that higher levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide would make the ocean more acidic. Nevertheless, empirical evidence of growing acidity has been limited.
Bizarro Earth

Stubborn glaciers fail to retreat, awkward polar bears continue to multiply

Second only to the melting of the Arctic ice and those "drowning" polar bears, there is no scare with which the global warmists, led by Al Gore, more like to chill our blood than the fast-vanishing glaciers of the Himalayas, which help to provide water for a sixth of mankind. Recently one newspaper published large pictures to illustrate the alarming retreat in the past 40 years of the Rongbuk glacier below Everest. Indian meteorologists, it was reported, were warning that, thanks to global warming, all the Himalayan glaciers could have disappeared by 2035.
Igloo

Snow depths in Switzerland up to five times normal

Here's an email from skier Rhys Jagger

The chart below documents snow depths in Switzerland compared to the long-term mean.
Fish

Researchers Discover Secret Of Speedy Dolphins

There was something peculiar about dolphins that stumped prolific British zoologist Sir James Gray in 1936.

He had observed the sea mammals swimming at a swift rate of more than 20 miles per hour, but his studies had concluded that the muscles of dolphins simply weren't strong enough to support those kinds of speeds. The conundrum came to be known as "Gray's Paradox."
© Rensselaer/Tim Wei
A single frame from a research video tracking the flow of water around Primo, a retired U.S. Navy bottlenose dolphin, with visualized information illustrating the water flow. The arrows indicate in which direction the water is moving, and the colors indicate the speed. The red and dark blue arrows signify the fastest-moving water.

For decades the puzzle prompted much attention, speculation, and conjecture in the scientific community. But now, armed with cutting-edge flow measurement technology, researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have tackled the problem and conclusively solved Gray's Paradox.

"Sir Gray was certainly on to something, and it took nearly 75 years for technology to bring us to the point where we could get at the heart of his paradox," said Timothy Wei, professor and acting dean of Rensselaer's School of Engineering, who led the project. "But now, for the first time, I think we can safely say the puzzle is solved. The short answer is that dolphins are simply much stronger than Gray or many other people ever imagined."
Bizarro Earth

Missing Radioactivity In Ice Cores Bodes Ill For Part Of Asia

Naimona'nyi's frozen ice cap
© Thomas Nash 2007
Naimona'nyi's frozen ice cap lacks critical radioactive signal.
When Ohio State glaciologists failed to find the expected radioactive signals in the latest core they drilled from a Himalayan ice field, they knew it meant trouble for their research. But those missing markers of radiation, remnants from atomic bomb tests a half-century ago, foretell much greater threat to the half-billion or more people living downstream of that vast mountain range. It may mean that future water supplies could fall far short of what's needed to keep that population alive.

In a paper just published in Geophysical Research Letters, researchers from the Byrd Polar Research Center explain that levels of tritium, beta radioactivity emitters like strontium and cesium, and an isotope of chlorine are absent in all three cores taken from the Naimona'nyi glacier 19,849 feet (6,050 meters) high on the southern margin of the Tibetan Plateau.

"We've drilled 13 cores over the years from these high-mountain regions and found these signals in all but one - this one," explained Lonnie Thompson, University Distinguished Professor of Earth Sciences at Ohio State.

The absence of radioactive signals in the top portion of these cores is a critical problem for determining the age of the ice in the cores. The signals, remnants of the 1962-63 Soviet Arctic nuclear blasts and the 1952-58 nuclear tests in the South Pacific, provide well-dated benchmarks to calibrate the core time scales.

Comment: See this article for an explanation on the thinning of Himalayan glaciers and a better picture of global warming (or lack of it).

Info

Changing Organic Matter In Soil: Atmosphere Could Change As A Result

New research shows that we should be looking to the ground, not the sky, to see where climate change could have its most perilous impact on life on Earth.

Scientists at the University of Toronto Scarborough have published research findings in the journal Nature Geoscience that show global warming actually changes the molecular structure of organic matter in soil.

"Soil contains more than twice the amount of carbon than does the atmosphere, yet, until now, scientists haven't examined this significant carbon pool closely," says Myrna J. Simpson, principal investigator and Associate Professor of Environmental Chemistry at UTSC. "Through our research, we've sought to determine what soils are made up of at the molecular level and whether this composition will change in a warmer world."
Cow Skull

What is killing the bees?

For several years I have been curious and concerned about reports from many parts of the world that bee colonies were vanishing or dying. Because of their ability to pollinate fruit and vegetables bees are of enormous importance to mankind. Finally a breakthrough in understanding this problem has appeared on the scene. Whether this solves the whole bee problem or is simply one part of a more complex issue remains to be seen.

An article in Natural News by David Gutierrez on September 30, 2008 has linked the bee die-off in the Baden-Wurttemburg state of Germany to direct contact with the insecticide clothianidin found on corn seeds (German Research Center for Cultivated Plants). This pesticide had been applied to rapeseed and sweet cornseeds in the Rhine River Valley. Piles of dead bees were discovered at the entrance of hives in early May 2008. Clothianidin was found in the tissues of 99% of the dead bees. This is the time when corn seeding takes place according to Walter Haefeker, president of the European Professional Beekeeping Association. The Julius Huehn Institute (federal agricultural research agency) stated "it can be unequivocally be concluded that a poisoning of the bees is due to a rub-off of the pesticide ingredient clothianidin from corn seeds." This chemical is estimated to have killed two-thirds of the bees in this state.
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