Archive for September, 2004

Penguin Tags Are a Drag – Can Rubber Improve Them?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 29, 2004   View Article

At a glance, it is nearly impossible to identify an individual penguin in a colony of several thousand. That’s a serious problem for researchers who want to identify and track individual birds as part of their efforts to protect them.

To overcome the problem, many researchers attach stainless steel identification tags to the penguins’ flippers (wings), but some long-term studies suggest these tags rub at the birds’ insulating feathers and slow the birds down as they swim through the water.

Asteroid Close Encounter Today

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 29, 2004   View Article

Tumbling through space like a fumbled football, a peanut-shaped asteroid named 4179 Toutatis is expected to pass within a million miles (1.6 million kilometers) of Earth today.

“The September 29 … approach is the closest in this century of any known asteroid at least as big as Toutatis,” said Steven Ostro, who studies asteroids at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.

Invading Bullfrogs Nearly Unstoppable

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 28, 2004   View Article

The North American bullfrog population is booming. That may sound like good news, but it isn’t—not when the frog has leaped far beyond its native habitat.

“They are one of the most successful amphibians in the world, and they are causing trouble in several countries,” said Cecil Schwalbe, a biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey at the University of Arizona in Tucson.

Why Does Earth’s Magnetic Field Flip?

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 27, 2004   View Article

Earth’s magnetic field has flipped many times over the last billion years, according to the geologic record. But only in the past decade have scientists developed and evolved a computer model to demonstrate how these reversals occur.

“We can see reversals in the rocks, but they don’t tell us how it happens,” said Gary Glatzmaier, an earth scientist and magnetic field expert at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Pre-Dinosaur Reptile Discovered – Long Necked Hunter

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 23, 2004   View Article

With its body obscured by murky waters, an ancient fanged reptile may have used its long neck to lunge at fish and squid. The scenario is based on analysis of a 230-million-year-old fossil discovered in southeastern China.

The new creature appeared long before the dinosaurs and is named Dinocephalosaurus orientalis, which means “terrible headed lizard from the Orient.” It was a protorosaur, part of an order of diverse, predatory reptiles that lived as far back as 280 million years ago.

Shampooing to Stop Oil Spill Bird Deaths

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 21, 2004   View Article

Every year at least half a million water birds die from encounters with spilt oil, according to Jay Holcomb, executive director of the International Bird Rescue Research Center in Fairfield, Calfornia. But on occasion rescue teams arrive on scene in time to scrub the birds’ feathers clean and prevent calamity.

Take, for example, the response when approximately 1,300 tons of oil spilled from the bulk ore carrier Treasure. The ship sank in the Atlantic Ocean in June 2000 about 20 miles (30 kilometers) from Cape Town, South Africa.

At New American Indian Museum, Artifacts Are “Alive”

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: September 21, 2004   View Article

When the Smithsonian Institution’s new National Museum of the American Indian opened today in Washington, D.C., visitors got their first glimpses of many artifacts that, in the eyes of Indians, are literally alive.

“The items are alive, just like Indian people are alive,” said historian Clifford Trafzer, director of American Indian Studies at the University of California, Riverside.

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