Archive for December, 2009

Eight ancient drinks uncorked by science

Publication:   Date: December 15, 2009   View Article

Throughout human history, alcoholic beverages have treated pain, thwarted infections and unleashed a cascade of pleasure in the brain that lubricates the social fabric of life, according to Patrick McGovern, an archaeochemist at the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology.

For the past several decades, McGovern’s research has focused on finding archaeological and chemical evidence for fermented beverages in the ancient world. The details are chronicled in his recently published book, “Uncorking the Past: The Quest for Wine, Beer, and Other Alcoholic Beverages.”

Photos: Ten Environmental Losses of 2009

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: December 15, 2009   View Article

2009 saw vast patches of the planet protected and world leaders pledge to fight global warming, but the climate continued to change dramatically–putting it in the “loss” column for the environment this year, according to experts who spoke to National Geographic.

2000-2010: A Decade of (Climate) Change

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: December 10, 2009   View Article

A decade ago, global climate change was largely considered a problem for the distant future. But it seems that future has come sooner than predicted.

One of the most remarkable, and alarming, environmental changes to occur over the last decade is the melting of Antarctic ice sheets and the recession of Arctic glaciers at speeds much faster than climate change models had predicted, according to environment experts.

Mystery Volcano Solves Global Cooling Puzzle

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: December 9, 2009   View Article

A newly detected 19th-century volcanic eruption may solve the mystery of a strangely cool decade in the early 1800s, researchers say—but the location of the volcano itself remains a puzzle.

Scientists have long blamed the 1815 eruption of an Indonesian volcano, Tambora, for a worldwide cold snap the following year—the so-called year without a summer.

Photos: Ten Environmental Wins of 2009

Publication: National Geographic News   Date: December 8, 2009   View Article

A giant woolly rat found in Papua New Guinea is just one of hundreds of species previously unknown to science that were brought to light in 2009. These discoveries are just one of ten things the environment gained in 2009.

Top 11 planet-hunting telescopes

Publication:   Date: December 7, 2009   View Article

What’s a “planet”? That common term sparked an uncommon controversy when scientists announced the discovery of what they believed to be a much-fabled Planet X out beyond the orbit of Neptune.

The icy world, which was initially nicknamed Xena and was later dubbed Eris, is more massive than Pluto. That finding prompted the International Astronomical Union to reclassify Pluto as a dwarf planet and designate all Plutolike objects beyond Neptune as plutoids.

As the planethood debate continues, astronomers also continue to probe the skies with the latest and greatest telescope technologies, learning more and more about distant worlds.

7 ways microbes may solve our energy woes

Publication:   Date: December 2, 2009   View Article

Microscopic organisms — archaea, bacteria and fungi — have the potential to reshape the world’s power supply. Microbes could provide a vast energy resource that is as efficient and portable as coal, oil and natural gas, said Bruce Rittmann, director of the Center for Environmental Biotechnology at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute.

Some microbial processes, such as using yeast to turn plant sugars into ethanol, already account for a few percent of the energy mix, noted Arnold Demain, a microbial biologist at Drew University in Madison, N.J. Other processes, such as using bacteria to derive electricity from fuel cells, are still in the research and development stage but show potential for deployment a few years down the road.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach