Sound science policy center gets a million-dollar boost

Sound science policy center gets a million-dollar boost

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) has received a $1 million donation from physicist and former IBM vice president Lewis Branscomb (pictured) to set up a Centre for Science and Democracy. The Center, to be launched on 17 May, aims to combine the Cambridge, Massachusetts, -based Union’s previous work beating back political interference in federal science, with an ongoing mission to ensure that US policy is based on sound scientific evidence.  Read more

Oil sands monitoring plan gears up

A plan for monitoring the environmental impacts of Canada’s oil sands operations now has a roadmap for its implementation. More important, commentators say, is whether there will be an additional move to have an independent panel oversee that monitoring, rather than relying on government or industry to act as watchdogs.  Read more

Hole in the ground available for hire

Hole in the ground available for hire

When researchers drilled a hole into California’s San Andreas fault, they dropped a string of instruments down into its depths in 2008 that they hoped would take readings of seismic and magnetic activity for years. But that experiment, called the San Andreas Fault Observatory at Depth, failed just days into its run. Last year, when researchers pulled the instruments back up for examination, they brought with them a batch of stinking mud and some bad news. Analysis of the string suggested that these sorts of instruments just aren’t up to surviving in the hot, acidic conditions down the hole, says National Science Foundation (NSF) EarthScope programme director Greg Anderson — at least not with the technologies available at present. “It will take years before we might try again,” he said at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco this week.  Read more

Western Himalayan region faces big quake risk

Western Himalayan region faces big quake risk

The Kashmir region in northwestern India could experience a magnitude 9 earthquake — several times larger than previously assumed. The revised risk estimate is worrying, says Roger Bilham of the University of Colorado, Boulder, who presented the results on 7 December at the American Geophysical Union meeting in San Francisco. “There are many cities and megacities in the region. And there are a couple of nuclear power plants there too,” he says. “You have two nuclear powers facing each other, armed to the teeth, facing a huge amount of damage”. Bilham speculates that perhaps 300,000 people might die in such an earthquake, not counting subsequent problems from political turmoil between India and Kashmir, or flooding.  Read more

Fracking caused British quakes

Fracking caused British quakes

A UK energy company has admitted that their hydraulic fracturing project (commonly known as ‘fracking’) probably caused a few surprisingly large earthquakes in Lancashire this spring. But, their report into the events concludes, it should be safe to continue operations in the area. Protesters disagree.  Read more