Biology uncovers prehistoric Antarctic seaway

Biology uncovers prehistoric Antarctic seaway

Scientists have found compelling evidence that a water channel flowed through the West Antarctic ice sheet just 125,000 years ago. And the researchers used a tiny seafloor dwelling marine animal, the bryozoan, to prove it. The seaway, a result of melting ice sheets during the last interglacial warming, would have contributed to a rise in global sea level five metres higher than today. The finding sheds new light on the stability of the West Antarctic ice sheet, the third largest ice mass on the planet.

Biosynthetic cornea implant in humans is a resounding success

Biosynthetic cornea implant in humans is a resounding success

Scientists have reported a resounding success 24 months into a clinical study to produce a biosynthetic alternative to the human cornea. The research, published in Science Translational Medicine today, is the first clinical study to implant biosynthetic cornea’s in humans. Currently, the best way to correct corneal damage is through implanting a human donor cornea. However there is a huge shortage of corneas available and waiting lists of millions worldwide. The new findings by Per Fagerholm, Professor of Ophthalmology at Linköping University and his colleagues could make the long waiting lists for replacement cornea implants a thing of the past. “Produced from human collagen the artificial biological cornea mimics the corneal structure and is aimed at promoting regeneration.” explains Fagerholm, also a corneal surgeon who carried out the implant operations.

Hope for ESA’s Gravity Mission

Hope for ESA’s Gravity Mission

The European Space Agency is one step closer today to restoring data transmission from it’s Earth Observation satellite. First launched on 17 March 2009 (see ‘Gravity Mission to launch’) the Gravity and Ocean Circulation Experiment (GOCE) is renowned for it’s high resolution datasets on earth’s gravity gradients. However on 18 July 2010, 17 months into the mission, the satellite lost telemetry of science data. The satellite had previously developed computer glitches in February 2010 and data transmission was finally suspended when the back-up computer system developed communication problems.

Plastic patch in Atlantic Ocean probed

Plastic patch in Atlantic Ocean probed

Researchers have confirmed widespread plastic pollution across areas of the Caribbean and the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. First announced at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in Portland, Oregon, US (see BBC) the two-decade-long study is published in Science today. “It is the most extensive description of plastic in the North Atlantic Ocean” says explains Kara Lavender Law, Oceanography Faculty Scientist at the Sea Education Association and lead author of the study. The plastic in question is swirling around a vortex of ocean currents called the North Atlantic Gyre and, according to the researchers, is comparable in size to the better-known ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch‘ (see also Dilbert carton).

Human hunters off the hook? Climate change caused wooly mammoths’ extinction, say scientists.

Human hunters off the hook? Climate change caused wooly mammoths' extinction, say scientists.

Climate change, rather than human hunters, drove the wooly mammoth to extinction. That’s the claim from scientists who say that the hairy beasts lost their grazing grounds as forests rapidly replaced grasslands after the last ice age, roughly 20,000 years ago.

Pakistan braced for more flooding as disease spreads

Pakistan braced for more flooding as disease spreads

As the appeal for the Pakistan flood victims continues, the UN secretary general Ban Ki-Moon has urged the world to respond to the escalating humanitarian crisis (see BBC). The official number of people affected has increased to 20 million people. After Nature first reported on the crisis (see Pakistan’s floods: is the worst still to come?), there have been fresh flood warnings and the situation for the flood victims appears to be worsening.

France catches up as Kyoto crunch time looms

Why have we seen two decades of static emissions in France? A report from France’s ministery of sustainable development states that between 1990 and 2007 France carbon emissions have not declined. This is a little puzzling given that France is signed up to the Kyoto Protocol, an environmental treaty binding 37 countries to reduce emissions by 2012. It is still further perplexing when you consider France has been championing nuclear power since the 1970’s and relies heavily on this ‘clean’ energy for over 75% of it’s electricity, according to IAEA statistics. With 58 nuclear power reactors in operation across the country, France has more reactors than any other country except United States. So if France relies so little on carbon dioxide-producing fuels for energy then why haven’t the French managed to bring down their emissions of the greenhouse gas in recent years? WIth crunch time for the Kyoto protocol looming, it’s worth asking what has happened.