Archive for August, 2003

Weird Plants Taking Root in Everyday Gardens

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 28, 2003   View Article

Some smell like putrefied meat, others have stalks reminiscent of male anatomy, and others are outrageously big, or black, or carnivorous, or explosive. The world is full of weird plants and more and more people are encouraging them to take root in their gardens.

Space Dust Flooding Our Solar System

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 27, 2003   View Article

A flood of interstellar dust is breaching the sun’s weakened magnetic shield and drifting into the solar system, according to European astronomers.

The interstellar dust particles measure about one-hundredth the diameter of a human hair. The bits are thought to supply the building blocks of all solid bodies in the galaxy, including the planets and humans.

Astrophysicist Recognized for Discovery of Solar Wind

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 27, 2003   View Article

In 1958 Eugene Parker discovered that a stiff wind blows incessantly from the sun, filling local interstellar space with ionized gas. The discovery forever changed how scientists perceive space and helped explain many phenomena, from geomagnetic storms that knock out power grids on Earth to the formation of distant stars.

Now, for his groundbreaking discovery more than four decades ago, Parker, a professor emeritus of physics, astronomy, and astrophysics at the University of Chicago, will receive the 2003 Kyoto Prize for Lifetime Achievement for Basic Science on November 10 in Japan. The award, which comes with a gold medallion and a check for about U.S. $400,000, is one of three annual Kyoto Prizes that recognize significant contributions to the scientific, cultural, and spiritual development of humankind.

Photo Tips: Mars Is Ready for its Close-Up – Are You?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 26, 2003   View Article

Stargazers in a frenzy by the spectacle of Mars’ closest approach to Earth in nearly 60,000 years Wednesday may be compelled to snap a photo of the once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon. They’ll need some patience and a little luck.

“The big challenge is that we are viewing Mars through the Earth’s turbulent air, and you have to wait for moments when the air is steady,” said Michael Covington, an Athens, Georgia-based author of several books on amateur astronomy, including Astrophotography for the Amateur and Celestial Objects for Modern Telescopes.

Chilean Mystery Blob Identified as Sperm Whale Skin

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 25, 2003   View Article

A mysterious, 41-foot by 19-foot (12.4-meter by 5.4-meter) gelatinous mass of flesh that washed ashore in southern Chile this June came from a sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus), not a giant octopus (Octopus giganteus) as some sleuths suspected.

“Two independent DNA analyses confirmed the identification as belonging to a sperm whale,” said Elsa Cabrera, director of the Center for Cetacean Conservation in Santiago, Chile.

Oceans Suffer Attention Deficit in Journals, Experts Say

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 19, 2003   View Article

The world’s oceans are in crisis. Pollution, overfishing, invasive species, habitat destruction, and a myriad of other human impacts are impeding the oceans’ ability to feed us, control the weather, and maintain Earth’s chemical balance.

Despite the human race’s dependence on the oceans for survival, however, attention to marine conservation science lags far behind that paid to conservation of firm ground, according to Phillip Levin, a marine scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, Washington.

Hawaii Ridge Helps “Stir” Ocean Waters, Study Says

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: August 18, 2003   View Article

Imagine a cup of black coffee. Add a spot of cream. Watch. The white glob swirls, tendrils stretch to the rim and get thinner. Black and white meld to milky brown but black patches remain, white tendrils linger. Grab a spoon. Stir. The patches and tendrils disappear. Sip. Enjoy.

The interactions of motion that mix the coffee and cream are difficult to understand, says Dan Rudnick, an oceanographer at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California in San Diego. His task is even more difficult. He and his colleagues are on a quest to understand how mixing happens in the oceans.

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